Authors: Stephen - Scully 07 Cannell
The private business jet taxied up to the terminal and the door descended. Then Wade appeared in the hatch. For the first time since I'd busted him three weeks ago in his father's million-dollar red Ferrari, he looked frightened and small. He walked down the stairs as everyone surged out onto the tarmac to intercept him at the foot of the boarding ladder.
"You take him into custody," I told Secada. "Your case."
She stepped forward and began to read the Miranda in a firm voice. As she continued reading from the card a tight grimace passed over Wade's handsome face. Murderers, I've come to realize, manifest themselves in two basic categories. You have the trigger
l-do-it-myself variety, and then, there are the Wade Wyatts of the world, the too-smart-to-get-blood-on-me guys. Planners. On a basic honesty level, I have to admit I prefer the former, but generally, the legal system cuts its deals with the latter. Hitters like Mike Church are hard to sympathize with and are perceived to be more dangerous.
"Come with us," Secada instructed Wade as the two uniforms finished handcuffing him and began to lead him away.
"Dad? Do I have to?" Fear of having to take showers with muscle-bound guys named Jesus and Jamal darkened his prep
"We'll post bail. You go with them," Aubrey told him.
"There'll be no bail hearing until my client is out of prison," Vonnie Hope said. "You made a deal for manslaughter, but until we take his statement and the D
. signs off on it and files the lesser charge, your son is still under arrest for Murder One, a nonbondable offense."
"What possible good does it do to lock up Wade?" Aubrey said. "He came back from Cuba on his own. He's not going anywhere."
"Maybe if you hadn't always stepped in to fix his problems he wouldn't be in this mess right now," Secada advised.
Wade was led toward the terminal, but he saw me standing with the others and stopped.
"You did this to me," he said petulantly.
I shook my head. "I think it might just be the Law of Unintended Consequences," I said.
The rest of it took a couple of weeks. Wade Wyatt copped his plea and made his statements. Tito Morales became an accessory to three murders. They arrested him the day before the mayoral election. He was led, handcuffed, from his office amidst a crush of media.
"No comment," he kept saying, as microphone-toting jackals surged around him shouting questions. I thought, despite the circumstances, he looked very media-friendly in his charcoal suit and maroon tie.
The press flurry died down about a week later and Vonnie's writ of habeas corpus was filed without challenge by the District Attorney's office. It was approved by a judge the following morning. Two weeks later Alexa, Secada, and I made our long, triumphant drive up to Corcoran to bring Tru Hickman home.
The day was overcast. Rain clouds hung over the Grapevine Highway and gently watered the hills of Central California. We arrived at the CDC Visitor's Center a little past one o'clock in the afternoon. Tru was waiting for us in the checkout room wearing the same clothes he wore the day he was arrested over a year ago--a frayed gray sweatshirt, baggy shorts, and tennis shoes held together with silver duct tape. His Dumbo ears glowed pink as he nodded his head during my introduction of Alexa. He looked drug-free, but the old needle scars on his arms promised a difficult future. There was a big grin on his face when he saw me.
"Man, you actually did it," he said to me. "I thought this was all bullshit, but you did it."
"It was Secada Llevar. She's the one who got it all going and refused to let the department shut us down," I told him.
"Thank you," Tru said. He took both of her hands in his. "I was so scared. This has been pure hell. I can't believe I'm going home."
We all smiled. It felt good. A good day.
On the return trip, Alexa drove, with Secada in the front seat. I rode beside Tru in the back. The wipers metronomed endlessly on the windshield as Tru talked on and on about nonsense. The more he talked the less sure of his future I became.
"I'm gonna get this new, first-person shooter X-Box Three
sixty game called Halo Three. I'm all about it, dude," he said. "You build fuckin' avatars and shit, which are your own persona
haracters. You get to a high enough level, you can actually sell the icon on eBay. I'm death with the X-Box. I could like make a fortune doing that."
"Maybe you ought to think about getting a job," I suggested.
"Not necessary. I'm gonna sell Ma's house. Y'know, take the money to live. Get a bitchin' new ride, throw down for some great new vines. Start doing some serious fuck-around clubbing."
"Sounds like a plan," I said, and traded wary looks with Alexa in the rearview mirror.
When we got to the Valley near Lankersheim, Secada looked over to Alexa and said, "Turn off here. We need to make a stop."
Alexa made the turn and we were soon heading down Forest Lawn Drive.
"Where we going?" Tru asked.
"You'll see," Secada said. By now, all this talk about the X-Box and nightclubbing had pissed off all of us.
Alexa seemed to know what Secada had in mind because without being prompted, she turned in at the main gate to Forest Lawn Memorial Park and pulled up to the security booth.
"We'd like to go to Olivia Hickman's grave," she said. "Can you direct us?"
The guard checked his computer, and then handed Alexa a map. "East Park Road, plot number E-one-thirty-four. It's behind the Old White Chapel."
Alexa looked at the map and put the car in gear. We wound through the cemetery, and finally parked beside the Old Chapel. Everyone but Tru got out of the car.
"Come on," Secada ordered, snapping his door open, and motioning him outside. "We're going to pay a visit to your mother. Tuck in your sweatshirt and stand up straight."
We walked up the sloping hillside, with Tru lagging behind. Finally we were at Olivia's grave. The rain, which had followed us down from Corcoran, was covering us with a fine drizzle.
"This is it, huh?" Tru ventured. "This is where they put her." He had been arrested before his mother was buried and had never been to her final resting place.
"Tru, I want you to look down at this headstone," Secada said. "I want you to realize that your mother is only here because of you. Because your life was about nothing she ended up being killed by people you brought into her orbit. She loved you, but now she's dead and it's because of you. You need for her to know that she didn't die for nothing. You need to promise her that you're going to find a new way."
"Do we have to do this right now?" he whined. "I just got out of prison."
"Tru, all of us spent a lot of time and even risked our own lives to make that happen," I said flatly. "It would help us to know that what we saved was actually worth saving. That you aren't just going to play videogames and slide back into the same lifestyle you were in before. That you won't waste the rest of your life."
"I'm grateful, okay? How many times do I have to say it?" he defended. "I loved her and stuff, okay?"
"But you want to go home," Alexa said.
"Yeah, kinda . . . It's raining, you guys."
The three of us looked at each other. Nice try, but it wasn't working. Alexa and Secada walked away from the grave marker leaving Tru alone with me. Instead of following them, he hesitated, and stood staring down at the wet marker, wringing his hands.
After a minute, he looked over at me and in a small voice said, "What do you suppose it was that she saw in me?"
"I don't know."
"Always on me to do better. Always nagging. 'Go to school, get a job.' It was nonstop, you know? But I knew she cared. She wanted the best for me but I never came through. I knew I'd neve
mount to shit, but she never got it. Never gave up. Why, do you suppose?" He looked truly mystified.
"It's never too late, Tru. Why don't you honor her life by writing a better ending to yours?"
He looked at me, and tears welled in his eyes. "Yeah," he said. "That's probably the plan."
WE SAT IN THE BACKYARD UNDER THE EAVES OF OUR ROOF AND watched the light rain dapple the Venice Canal water. It dripped loudly from the roof, splashing on the pavement near our feet.
"We hardly ever get pure victories," Alexa told me. "You shouldn't expect them."
"Is this the new you? First we had confused and angry Alexa, then wild Alexa. Now Alexa the pessimist? Where's that woman I married?"
She smiled over at me. "Tired of my endless permutations? What if I took you inside and practiced some voodoo sex on you?"
"Oh my God, a voodoo priestess, too?" I teased.
"I'm a lot of things," she said proudly. "One of them is the reinstated chief of the LAPD Detective Bureau. Tony called while you were at the market. He's going to give me another shot."
"Way to go!" I grabbed her hand, pulled her over, and kissed her. I could smell her perfume, feel the heat of her. Tonight would be special. The promise was in her kiss.
Just then the phone rang. I got up and went inside to get it.
"Hello?" I said.
"Is this Detective Shane Scully?" a man's voice asked.
"Yeah. Who's this?"
"Sergeant Cooley at the Men's Central Jail. Hold on for a minute, got a guy here wants to talk to you."
Then Tru Hickman came on the line. "You won't believe this, man! This is so fucked! I got popped again."
"Fuck no. Come on. I'm clean, you know that. It's just paraphernalia. But with my yellow sheet, these cops are all up in it, you know?"
"I gotta go, Tru."
"Hey, look man. That wasn't my works. I met some people at this get-down club in Hollywood. The place got raided and this asshole I was with must've put his needle in my jacket pocket. You know what I'm saying? You know me, man. I'm on a new life, like we said. Like I promised my mom. This isn't my artillery. You gotta believe that and come down here and talk to these people."
"Already gave at the office."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You're not gonna be some lifelong project for me, Tru. From now on, you're on your own."
"Hey, hey! Hold it. . . Come on, just this once . . ."
But I was already hanging up. I dropped the phone in the cradle and rejoined Alexa on the back porch. The wind had shifted and now the rain was blowing in on our chairs. Alexa was gathering up her things, getting ready to come inside.
"Who was that?"
"Tru. He got popped for drug paraphernalia. He's in MCJ."
"Didn't take him long, did it?"
"Nope." I was bummed out. Something about him ending up in city jail the same night we got him out of Corcoran sort of ruined everything. Alexa reached out and took my hand.
"It is what it is," she told me. "Tru has to live his own life."
"Yeah, that's what I told him." But I couldn't help it. I felt really bad.
"You're such a romantic," she finally said.
"Come on, where'd that come from?"
"You act all tough and hard-boiled, but underneath you want them all to live happily ever after. You want it neat and perfect. Sometimes that just can't happen."
"It doesn't get you that, after all this, that little putz is already back in stir?"
"Honey, this was never about Tru Hickman."
"Then what was it about?"
"This was only about us. About who we are and how we behave. It was about our values and our principles, fixing our mistakes at great cost when nobody said we had to. It was about doing the right thing no matter the consequences."
Great wisdom from the woman I married.
Our two boats, side by side at last.