Sunday, July 22, 2012

The murder of Gerald Weaver

Death roared through the city, an ambulance's flashing light illuminated the shadows and a wailing siren penetrated the silence.

Kara Vallencourt would much rather her 49-year-old bones were in bed at this late hour but the thing about being a private detective was always that the cases dictated the time. The only way to control the hours was to get picky about the cases and, in this economy, that really wasn't an option unless she wanted to give up eating.

Her client was Woodrow Weaver whose son Gerald had been found dead outside a local bar.  Despite the money the Weavers had, the police had no leads and had washed their hands of the case which is how Weaver ended up in Vallencourt's office.

Gerald Weaver had been 25-year-old,  gone to college off and on for about six years with no degree,  never really held a job and now someone had shot him dead outside the bar.


Vallencourt had spoken to a few patrons and no one seemed to want to talk though everyone was happy to drink the round she bought. The bartender, Charlie, said Gerald Weaver entered the bar alone and left the bar alone. And if anything happened in between that, well Charlie was falling back on, "Ma'am, I just pour drinks." Woodrow Weaver had been smart enough to grasp that the police had walked away from the case so he no doubt also grasped that Vallencourt -- or someone like her -- was probably his last shot at finding out who killed his son and why?

Outside the bar, lighting a cigarette she cursed a world that would let you get drunk off your ass in a bar but made you step outside to puff on a Marlboro.  But even she was trying to quit these days.  With all the taxes, cigarettes had just gotten too damn expensive.  Patches and gum hadn't worked.  Currently, she was trying this method she read about online: Smoke only half the cigarette.  The plan was you'd now be spending twice as much money to get the same nicotine fix and the money shock would send you packing.

It hadn't worked for her so far.

As she ground out her half-smoked cigarette with her heel, Officer Bob walked up.

"Tossing your butt around is littering," Officer Bob advised her.

He'd put on probably 30 pounds since they last knocked boots 15 years ago but, yeah, she'd still do him.  Provided he didn't try puns.  He was lousy at puns.

Officer Bob worked the call.  He and his partner had been on duty when the 9-11 call about the shooting came in three days ago.  Trading on their past relations, she'd asked him to meet her here.

Officer Bob popped a stick of gum in his mouth and declared, "I'm not going to be repeating myself, Kara, so make sure you're listening the first time, okay?  It was a pretty nasty scene.  The man was facing north, shot in the back and the blood stains indicate that he attempted to drag himself away from the killer."

"And the shooter was on the street, in a car, what?"

"It appears that the killer was standing right behind him."

 "Was it a mugging?" Vallencourt asked.

"We would have thought that but his wallet wasn't taken and he had a de Grisogono."

"A de-what?"

"It's a watch.  In fact it was a Meccanico dG S25D.  That mean anything to you?"


"It's from somewhere like Geneva or something and costs around $600,000."

Vallencourt watched a car zip by.

"On his wrist, huh?"

 "Yeah, that's all I got.  You're looking good.  We happening tonight?"

"No.  Come on in, I'll buy you a drink."

Officer Bob rolled his eyes but followed Vallencourt into the bar.  She ordered them two shots each.  As they clinked glasses, a nervous woman with her arm in a cast walked up.

"You the one buying drinks?" she asked Vallencourt.

"I was.  Did you see something?"

"I knew Gerry.  He was a nice guy.  He'd come in and, if he knew you, he'd buy you a drink.  You're buying, right?"

Vallencourt gestured for Charlie who walked over as the woman snapped "Jack and Coke."

"Bridget, by the way," she said to Vallencourt.

"So you knew Gerald Weaver?"

"Yeah, he'd been coming her for six months.  Maybe longer.  But, yeah, he was pretty nice.  Not much to look at, you know?  He wasn't going to turn any heads.  But, on a quiet night in here, you could get to know him and he had the personality that just sneaked up on you."

 "He get in any fights here?"

"You mean like punches and stuff?"

Vallencourt nodded but Bridget dismissed the idea with a gesture and grabbed her Jack and Coke from Charlie.

"He didn't seem the type, you know?  I bet he'd never been in a fight in his life.  My boyfriend -- my ex-boyfriend -- used to come in here and sometimes he'd give Gerry a hard time.  And Gerry would always back down.  I felt a little sorry for him."

"This boyfriend, he got a name?"

"Yeah, he's got two of them.  What's your point? You trying to say he shot Gerry?  No.  He was home with me.  We were here that night.  I was.  I was in the booth over by the jukebox.  And Gerry was talking to me.  And Heath, that's my ex-boyfriend's name, came in reeking of weed but so very not mellow.  He barged over to us and started yelling at Gerry and screaming crap about Gerry wanting the coochie and that was not Gerry's style at all.  In fact, I wouldn't have been surprised to find out Gerry was a virgin."

"So the night Weaver dies, your boyfriend's screaming and threatening him and you never thought to go to the police when Weaver turns up dead?"

"Hey, I got my own life and my own troubles, okay? Heath grabbed my arm and dragged me out to his car and when we got home he started beating me.  It's how I broke my arm."

Bridget twirled the cast in the air.

"I was in the hospital and then I was moving my crap out -- my mom helped me -- to a new place.  I didn't even know Gerry was dead until today when I come in here and everybody's talking about how  some screwball shot him."

"Heath's got a last name and a location?"  Vallencourt asked.

Bridget just started at her.

"Another round, Charlie," Vallencourt hollered, her eyes on Bridget.

"Thank you.  His name is Heath Parker.  Where he's at, I don't know.  Ask the cops.  I filed a report but no one's found him yet."

Bridget grabbed her second round from Charlie, nodded to Vallencourt and Officer Bob and then headed back to the booth by the jukebox.

"How'd you miss that?" Vallencourt asked.

"You heard her, she had left," Officer Bob replied.  "We questioned everyone the night of.  We came back the next evening and questioned everyone.  No one wanted to talk and she wasn't here.  It happens.  We're police officers not psychics.  Doesn't seem like it matters, while someone was punching Weaver's ticket, this Heath Parker was apparently beating the crap out of his girlfriend."

"You don't know that, she doesn't know that.  She wasn't even here.  She'd already left long beforehand.  This Parker guy could have wailed on her, she goes running to the hospital, he comes back to the bar and, as he's about to go in, he sees Wilson coming out and bam-bam-bam, he's shot Weaver."

"Maybe," said Officer Bob getting up off his bar stool.  "But it was one shot -- not bang, bang, bang.  One shot.  Which sort of blows away any theories of a crime of passion."


Vallencourt was wearing a black pair of pants and a black jacket.  Her concession to fashion for a funeral.  The service for Gerald Weaver wasn't packed but it wasn't thin.  Mainly family -- extended family -- and a few people who looked to be around Weaver's age.  She made a point to scope out the crowd and, when someone started singing a song, she hit the foyer to look at the registry and get a few shots of the signatures with the camera on her cell phone.

She was just putting the cell phone away when people began pouring into the hall and heading for the front door.  She backed up against the wall to let the flow pass. 

 Woodrow Weaver saw her and, breaking away from some people, stepped over.

"Ms. Vallencourt, so good of you to attend.  Have you learned anything about who killed Gerald yet?"

"I can give you a briefing later today," Vallencourt offered.

"No, join me in the limo, I need to know now.  Today of all days."

In the limo behind the hearse, it was just the driver, Woodrow and Vallencourt.

Vallencourt explained to him about her new lead: Heath Parker.

"He sounds like a thug," Woodrow declared shaking his head in disgust.  "And he broke this woman's arm, you say?  An animal and a thug."

"Well, he may or may not be involved," she said.  "He's a lead right now, that's all."

"Of course.  Well I appreciate the work you're doing.  About your expenses, I don't have my checkbook on me.  I'm sure we've exceeded the thousand dollar deposit I left.  It should have been five thousand but I foolishly made the check out wrong.  Would you like to just make it one lump sum or can I have a check dropped off tomorrow."

 "I'll send you a bill Friday, we'll do a weekly bill if this goes beyond this Friday, if that's alright."

Woodrow Weaver nodded his ascent.

At the funeral, she studied the crowd and was most interested in a man who was probably Gerald Wilson's age.  Black hair, dark eyes, he didn't seem sad, he didn't seem to register any emotion at all.

She caught up with him as he was walking away from the cemetery.

"Hey, did you drive here?"  she asked.

"Uh, yeah.  How come?"

"My car's back at the funeral home.  I rode here with the family but I'm just not up to that again.  Any chance you could give me a ride back to the funeral home?"

They rode in his twelve year old Volvo, indicating to Vallencourt that, unlike the Weavers, this man wasn't rolling in the dough.  Busted radio was another tip-off.

"I'm Kara Vallencourt, by the way."

"Eddie Bragg," the driver said nodding.

"How'd you know him, Eddie?"

"Gerald?  Gerry and I went to high school together.  Actually, we met in 7th grade and were pretty good friends.  Then that changed.  You know, high school."

"High school?"

"Gerry was shy.  And he could also be immature.  It's one thing to giggle about breasts around girls in 7th grade but when you're in 10th grade it's like, grow up, you know?  Gerry really couldn't grow up.  For awhile there, he even flirted with dropping out but his mom wouldn't let him.  But he was a social disaster and I tried to help him but at a certain point, you've got to drown or save yourself."


"So we stopped being friend in the middle of tenth grade."

"And then what?"

"If we bumped into each other, we spoke.  But I stopped going to his house, he stopped going to my house, I made new friends and hung with them."

"And his friends?"

"He really didn't have any.  Probably his last two years in high school would have been better off not happening.  He didn't have any friends and people made fun of him to his face, loudly in the halls.  He should have dropped out."

"But you said his mother wouldn't let him."

"Right.  He was her little prince and she couldn't see that he would ever have any problems in school or that anyone might not want to be his friend or that other kids would make fun of him.  And that's not to blame her.  Gerry was weird.  I remember in 8th grade, we were talking about how we'd lose our virginity and he starts talking about this girl and I'm all, 'Dude, she's your cousin!' and he's like, 'She's a cheerleader!'  Like that makes it okay?  It was like something wasn't connecting up there.  I would've worried about him but, you know, all that money?  It was always obvious he'd turn out just fine.  The little heir."

"Is that a touch of jealousy I hear?"

"Nope.  I'd rather be me with my life.  He was weird."

"Did you ever want to kill him?"


"No.  But when he did something so stupid that he basically begged the whole high school to mock him, I wanted to hit him.  A few times, I wanted to hit him."

At the funeral home, she got into her car and headed for the Weaver residence intending to question some more people but when the front door was opened, the butler told her Mr. Weaver had gone upstairs and wasn't receiving anyone.  Clearly, the butler told her, this was a difficult time.

She checked with Officer Bob who told her that an APB had been put out for Heath Parker but there were no leads at present.

Hanging up, she started flipping through the shots of the funeral registry she'd taken.  Grace Weaver stood out because she lived just a few blocks south so Vallencourt headed there.

"Woodrow's hired a private detective?"  Grace asked clearly surprised.

"The police didn't seem to be getting anywhere."

"Well, come inside and let's talk."

Vallencourt followed Grace to the living room and sat in a chair across from the couch.

"So Gerry was a nice kid.  A fat kid but a nice one.  He related to adults, even as a young kid.  He wanted to hear your problems and your dreams.  And all was fine until it was his turn to talk and not listen and that's when you realized, 'This kid has problems'."

"Such as?"

"Well, he believed in aliens.  I don't mean Star Wars or Star Trek.  In fact, he mocked that sort of thing.  He said it wasn't real.  But the real ones, the real aliens, were communicating with him.  He could talk to them and did talk to them, he'd tell you.  And you'd wonder if it was a put on but he was dead serious.  I'd tell Tracy, his mother, 'You have got to get him some help.'  And she'd laugh and say he was creative and that people just didn't appreciate it properly but that they would.  That never happened so maybe my sister-in-law was lucky to have passed away before that was revealed to be false."

"And your brother?"

"Woodrow?  He didn't kid himself.   Woodrow was probably shocked, actually.  He'd been the Prom King in high school and voted Most Handsome and all this other stuff.  He'd dated the head cheerleader and all that.  He was doing light modeling when he met Tracy.  Of course, he gave that up.  But he was very good looking and very popular and it really hurt him that his own son wouldn't be.  I can remember, at some point, Woodrow taking Gerry on hour long walks every day, each day, for several weeks.  But the kid really didn't lose any weight.  Woodrow got angry then just resigned himself to the reality that Gerry was big-boned. He could have spent more time with him.  A lot of people blamed Tracy but Tracy really loved her son and I always felt she spent more and more time with him because Woodrow made less and less time for their son."

 Vallencourt's stomach was growling.  She'd been rushing around all day and had skipped breakfast and lunch.  No way was she also going to skip dinner.

When the butler told her that Mr. Weaver did not want to be disturbed, she insisted he disturb Mr. Weaver.  Now.

An irritated Woodrow Weaver walked into the study where Vallencourt had been sent to wait.

"Ms. Vallencourt, have you learned something?"

"Many things but I'm hear for payment.  I thought about our conversation and I'd like a check now.  It'll be easier that way especially now that I think I have strong leads."

Mr. Weaver shrugged and opened a drawer of his desk to pull out a check register.

"How much?"

"Make it for ten thousand, that we're covered for the full deposit and the work I've done."

Weaver scribbled out the check and handed it to her.

"Ms. Vallencourt, does this mean that you've located that Heath Parker?"

"No," she answered.  "But there is some good news."


"I think I've located the killer."

Woodrow stared at her expectantly.

"Your son was killed for money.  There was no great mystery there.  He was from a rich family.  His late mother had set up a trust fund.  You managed it for him.  And you lost control of that when he turned 26.  You can thank your sister for supplying that information.  And that really made your own money issues stand out.  With him dead, you got the money in the trust.  With him dead, you didn't have to worry about which bill to pay and who to make excuses to.  Like the ones you made to me."

Mr. Weaver glared at Vallencourt.

"You killed your son and did so in cold blood.  It was you and that's why you could come up to him outside the bar.  He didn't see the gun in your hand.  He thought nothing of walking with you and you thought nothing of putting the gun to his back and pulling the trigger.  It was one shot so maybe you felt bad and that's why you only fired once or maybe, as he realized his own father was trying to kill him and he struggled to crawl away, you could tell he was already almost dead."


"And for $10,000 you're going to be silent," Mr. Wilson asked.  "You're going to cover up what you've discovered?"

"Oh, hell no.  But I don't work for free and I'm not going to stand in line behind everyone else trying to get money out of a convicted murderer."

There it was.  Vallencourt could hear it now, the police sirens.  She'd called Officer Bob, told him to meet her here when she'd pulled up in the drive.

Smiling, she folded the check and tucked it in her pocket.

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