The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 46

When Pete had settled down next to him, Ray headed for the clubhouse. Just as he pulled into the parking lot and turned off the golf cart, he spotted a man on the green who looked like he might be Judge Christopher Lawson. Ray watched as Lawson and another man played the 9th hole.

“I don’t know, boy­­. Could be a judge. Guess I’d better go ask, huh? ”

Ray looked down at Pete and said,

“According to the scary clown guy, Lawson’s innocent. But I can’t just take the word of a strange man in a clown mask. I mean how crazy would that be?”

Ray chuckled but stopped when Pete tilted his head with a puzzled look.

“Oh hush,” Ray grumbled.

Ray turned on the cart and slowly pulled up behind the two men.

“Judge Lawson?” he called out.

The older of the two men looked up and answered,

“Yes?”

Ray turned off the cart and climbed out.

“I’m terribly sorry to interrupt your game, sir, but I just wanted some information,” Ray explained.

“That’s fine. What can I do for you,” Judge Lawson asked.

“I was hoping you could answer some questions about Damien Pena,” Ray continued.

At the mention of Pena’s name, the other man stepped in front of Lawson.

“I am Judge Lawson’s legal counsel. He won’t be answering questions at this time.”

“It’s all right, Charles,” Lawson said stepping to the side.

“I was sorry to hear about Pena. Truly a shame what happened.”

Ray studied Lawson’s face for a moment then remarked,

“You really mean that.”

Lawson laughed, “I know Pena wasn’t very popular, but he had potential. It is unfortunate that he threw it away on drugs and groupies.”

“I’m just surprised to hear someone say they didn’t want him dead,” Ray smiled.

“Before I answer your questions,” Lawson began, “let me ask you one. You’re too old to be a police officer. You might be a reporter, but I’d be willing to bet your job is less public.”

“Well. . . ,” Ray paused.

Ray had not stopped to consider that he could be fined or jailed for investigating a crime without a license.

“Relax, Detective. I remember reading Raymond Chandler as a boy. I understand that the pursuit of truth waits for no one.”

Lawson laughed then added, “You won’t hear any complaints from me.”

“Thanks, Judge Lawson,” Ray responded.

“Now back to your questions. Why you’re here,” Lawson said. “I certainly had motive to kill Pena. He was trying to have me removed from the bench because of a ruling I made.”

“What ruling?” Ray asked, his curiosity piqued.

“Paternity suit. A local woman claimed her child was his. Pena was unyielding. Denied the claim. Normally, I would not have presided, but one of the judges was out sick, and the case landed on my desk. A paternity test was the simplest proof one way or the other, but Pena refused and filed a lawsuit against me claiming that my decision was compromised. He said he had seen me with the woman in a bar. I was put on suspension until the lawsuit was considered. The entire episode was outrageous.”

“What judge was out sick?” Ray asked.

Lawson took a moment to remember the name then said, “Judge Matthews. Conrad Matthews.”

Ray nodded as the judge continued.

“Your next question I’d guess is where I was at the time of Pena’s murder. I spent the evening at home with my wife. She had been out of town for two weeks prior, so we had a quiet supper and an early night.”

Ray nodded and let his shoulders droop in defeat.

“Is something wrong?” Lawson asked.

“I was told you were innocent before I came to speak with you, and now that it’s confirmed, I’m out of suspects,” Ray explained.

“Why don’t you ask Pena’s girlfriend?” Lawson suggested.

“He didn’t have a girlfriend, just a laundry list of women he had upset,” Ray said, shaking his head.

With a look of confusion, Lawson glanced at his attorney then pointed out,

“Not this one. Pretty girl. I spotted them on several occasions dining out. She was very  pregnant. Can’t be many girls fitting her description.”

Ray listened as Lawson described Rosalie Cruz.

“Thank you, Judge Lawson,” Ray said. “You have helped me out more than you realize.”

“Good,” Lawson smiled. “And, Detective, if you solve this one, come and see me. We’ll talk about getting you a license.”

“Thanks,” Ray said, a bit sheepish.

Turning back to the game, Lawson replied, “It’s the least I can do.”

Ray slipped into the golf cart, and he and Pete made their way back to the front gate. Scooping up Pete in his arms, he exited the cart and gave the guard a friendly smile as he returned the key.

“I’m really sorry. Thank goodness he didn’t bite anyone, but I’m afraid he may have left a little present on the 6th hole. Sorry.”

With a scowl on his face, the security guard turned his gaze from Ray to the course.

Ray put Pete down and whispered, “Get to the car!”

Pete bolted.

“Hey!” the guard barked at Ray. “You can’t just leave it there.”

“I was going to go back and pick it up, but he just ran again. Let me go find him first.”

Before the guard could respond, Ray hurried to the Cadillac and opened the door for Pete. Hopping behind the wheel, Ray quickly started the engine and pulled away.

 

 

*          *            *

As Ray headed for the hospital and Rosalie Cruz, he thought about what Lawson had told him. Pulling into the hospital’s parking lot, Ray turned off the engine and told Pete to stay. When Ray reached Rosalie’s room, a nurse was just helping her back into bed.

“Is everything okay?” Ray asked as she slowly slid under the sheet.

“Yes,” she sighed. “I had my baby, a beautiful girl. Would you like to see her?”

“Yes,” Ray smiled.

“How’s your investigation going?” Rosalie asked when the nurse left the room.

“I’ve struck a dead end. I had three solid suspects, but it’s unlikely that any of them killed Pena. I’m afraid I’m back to square one. That’s why I came to see you,” Ray said.

Before Rosalie could answer, a nurse entered the room holding Rosalie’s baby.

As she handed the newborn to Rosalie, she said, “Okay, little one. Back to Mama.”

“She is doing very well, Mrs. Cruz,” the nurse assured her. “Let me know if you need anything.”

“Thank you,” Rosalie said.

Then looking at Ray, she asked, “You want to hold her?”

“Please,” Ray answered, coming to the bed.

When Ray reached out, Rosalie gently laid the baby into his arms. Ray tenderly cradled the little girl and smiled up at Rosalie.

But when the baby opened her eyes, the smile fell from his face.

“What’s wrong?” Rosalie asked.

“She has pale green eyes,” Ray said, raising his eyebrows.

A look of guilt filled Rosalie’s face, speaking volumes.

“This isn’t your husband’s child, is it?” Ray asked.

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Published in: on February 16, 2014 at 3:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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