The Other Side.
Clark Scanlon was standing at the valet stand outside the club, waiting for the arrival of his BMW 6 Series to be brought around. He had his overcoat slung over his arm, the cool April night air felt good. The single malt scotch had made him feel slightly flushed and he could feel his head clearing already. The valet pulled up, a little to quickly for Clark’s liking and locked up the brakes right in front of him. The kid made quite the show of leaping out of the car and holding the door open.
It was then that Clark realized he had given his last small bill to the coat check girl. He was damned if he was going to tip this pimple faced kid with a twenty. Without a word of acknowledgement he brushed past the young man and climbed behind the wheel. He wasn’t sure if he was too embarrassed to make an excuse or just tired of shelling out money to help. He liked belonging to the club, but goddamn it, somebody was always standing there with their hand out.
Cassie Schultz left her friend Heather’s house around the same time. Heather and Jamie were going out but she had to get up early for class. She would be through in two weeks and would have her G.E.D.. As bad as the class had been at least she could move on with her life now. Many times she wondered how she had fucked up so badly when she was younger. Problems with her mother and step father, getting kicked out of school. She often wished she could travel back in time and give old Cassie a well deserved ass kicking.
Not that life was perfect. Her father had reluctantly let her move in after her last dust up with her mom. He seemed to have gotten used to the bachelor life after five years of it and when Cassie showed up with a suitcase and tears in her eyes he had taken his sweet time about deciding to let her stay. She tried to stay out of his way and show her appreciation by doing the cleaning and washing his filthy work clothes. She got a job at the supermarket near his apartment and went back to school. She knew it was time to grow up. Her father eventually came to appreciate the effort she was making and told her when she got her diploma he would help her with the tuition to Cosmetology School. He even let her borrow his car from time to time.
Clark took a right down Schuyler Road, the road cut across a field near his house. A local developer was building a new subdivision on Schuyer much to Clark’s chagrin. Not that the town couldn’t use the taxes, but the thought of suburban sprawl coming right up to his doorstep made him uneasy. The houses on his tree lined street were all over forty years old, built on large lots with plenty of privacy. Soon, less than two miles from his home, there would be a slew of “McMansions” crammed into a few acres that had been deforested, bulldozed and divided. The only thing done so far was Schuyler Road itself, construction was due to start in the summer. As he revved the engine to put the dark street behind him there was a loud bump and the sound of metal hitting the pavement.
“Goddamnit.” he said as he regained his wits and put the car in park. He climbed out, the cold night air showing his breath. He stepped away from the Beamer and surveyed it in the dim light. He saw right away that the hubcap had come off from the front driver’s side. He walked around the rest of the car but nothing else seemed to be damages. He couldn’t see what he had run over, and after looking around a little more he discovered that he didn’t see his hubcap either.
Cassie was running late. She missed her friends from her old school and didn’t get to see them too often and tonight she had lost track of the time. Moving in with her dad meant moving two towns over and she still hadn’t met anyone her own age. There were a few kids at the grocery store, but they came off as a bunch of snobs. It felt like they took one look at her piercings and wanted nothing to do with her. Her dad had warned her about staying out late with his car and she didn’t want to lose the privilege. The problem was she had gotten lost.
She pulled up the map function on her phone and tried to figure out where she was. If she took the next left she would be able to get back on the main drag and maybe find a familiar point of reference. The phone buzzed, she had a text from her friend Holly.
She looked up from the phone and saw him.
Kenny Schultz knocked on his daughters bedroom door and pushed it open. Cassie lay in bed, fully clothed with her back to the door. He was trying not to panic.
“Cass?” He said quietly. She stirred slightly and then curled up into a ball.
He walked up to the side of the bed and looked down at her. Her hair fell over her face covering her eyes and showing only a tightly drawn mouth.
“Cassie, what happened to the car?” Still nothing. He waited a beat and then put his hand on her shoulder. Her body tensed.
“Are you alright?” He asked. He thought about reaching out to her again but then pulled back. She had grown up considerably while she had lived with her mother and Kenny was aware that she wasn’t a little girl anymore.
“Cassie...Cassie...” he waited. “Damn it Cassie, look at me,” he said raising his voice.
She finally rolled over. She couldn’t bring herself to open her eyes. “I think I hit someone,” she said quietly.
It took him the better part of a half hour to talk her out of her room and into the bathroom to clean herself up. As soon as he heard the shower running he went back to her room and booted up her laptop. He logged on to one of the local TV station’s web sites and there it was, right on the front page:
Local attorney in critical condition after hit and run.
“Shit,” Kenny said out loud. He read the story underneath quickly and picked up the major points. A local attorney from a well known law firm had been hit while walking outside of his car on a dark street. The driver had left without offering assistance or notifying the police. He logged off and closed Cassie’s laptop.
He stood outside the bathroom door and waited for her to emerge after what seemed like and hour. When she opened the door steam rushed out of the bathroom and she came out wearing an old terry cloth robe with her hair dripping. She still looked exhausted and distressed but Kenny had to know. He stood in front of her and looked at her.
“Cassie, were you on Schuyler Road last night?”
She closed her eyes tightly and nodded.
“Cass we have to go to the police.”
She opened her eyes and looked at her father. The look on her face passed from confusion to terror to sadness. She started to cry.
“If you don’t it’s only going to make it worse,” Kenny added quietly.
Kenny had totally forgotten about work until his boss from the construction company called him to bitch him out for not being at the site of the remodel they were doing. He didn’t want to get into it with him so he tried to explain it as a “family emergency.” That did little to placate his boss, who warned Kenny that he was on his last strike.
Cassie had finally relented and was getting dressed when the doorbell rang. When he opened the door and saw the two uniformed cops and a man in a suit his heart sank and he thought he might get sick on the spot.
“Kenneth Schultz?” The man in the suit asked. The two patrolmen were glaring at him with there hands resting on their belts near their weapons..
“Mr. Schultz, I’m Detective Cross. Is that your car in the driveway?”
Kenny just nodded. He couldn’t force himself to speak.
The detective went on, “We’re you operating the vehicle last night?”
Kenny’s mind flashed back to the three year old DUI that had cost him his job as a delivery driver. It didn’t matter, he was about to say he had been behind the wheel. Cassie was just starting to get her shit together...
“It was me.” Cassie said as she walked up next to her dad.
Ryan Jacobs was desperate. The hairspray and make-up brigade from the local TV stations had all been to the scene of the accident and had been airing their reports all morning. Since the paper he worked on, the last one left in the city, wouldn’t come out until the following morning, he needed an angle, something the TV people couldn’t cover in a sixty second spot before they threw it over to the weather man. He put out a few calls and glued himself to his police scanner.
The District Attorney’s intercom buzzed. “Lawrence Spencer is on line one. Would you like me to take a message?” His assistant asked.
The DA looked at the intercom and thought for a moment. He knew what this was about. Better to get it over with. “No, I’ll take it,” he said.
“Larry?” He said picking up the phone.
“Phil, thanks for taking my call.”
“Any word on Clark?”
“Doesn’t look good,” Spencer started. “We’ve got a couple of people at the hospital with his wife and they say he’s on borrowed time.”
“This if awful...” The DA fumbled the words out.
“What about your end?” Spencer asked. “Anything yet?”
The DA thought for a moment. Under normal circumstances he would give the question the brush off, especially so early on. But this was Lawrence Spencer, not only the senior partner at Spencer, Scanlon and Phelps, but vice president of the local Bar Association, and an advocate and donor to his re-election campaign.
“On the record no,...” he said. “Off the record, the police ID’ ed a license plate from a security camera at a gas station near the scene. They’ve brought two people in for questioning.”
“Two people?” Spencer asked. “Why two people? Who are they?”
The DA could sense Spencer’s temper rising. “Larry, that’s all I have for now.”
There was a pause and the DA was at a loss for words. After a moment Spencer finally spoke, “Fair enough Phil, but when you find out who it was that ran my partner down like a dog and then left him to die, I want you to promise me that you will pursue the case with all of the prosecutorial zeal you can muster.”
The DA didn’t like being scolded like a first year clerk. He was the one used to doling out admonishments to his staff. Still he had to bite his lounge for now.
“I will,” he said.
Marianne Ward was already two hours late when she arrived at the police station. She’d been running behind ever since her first hearing at 9:00 that morning when one of the clerks misplaced the paper work for the woman she had been assigned to defend. It was bad enough that her own office gave her incomplete files and an impossibly heavy case load, but when the court made a mistake they never seemed to be in a hurry to grease the wheels of justice to get things back on track. Fortunately, Cassandra Shultz was her last assignment of the day. She rushed up to the desk and presented her credentials to the sergeant.
“Who was that?” He asked, seemingly bringing himself out of a fog.
“Cassandra Schultz,” she repeated patiently.
He took the reading glasses off the top of his head and placed them on the end of his nose. He typed a few characters into his keyboard and looked at the screen. His face went from expressionless to confused and then he shook his head.
“She’s not here,” he said without looking up from the monitor.
“What do you mean?”
The desk sergeant looked at her a little sourly and said, “She’s not here.”
Six hours ago Cassandra Schultz had been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, the thought that she had been released without bail seemed unlikely. A knot started to form in Marianne’s stomach.
“What...Where is she?” She sputtered
The sergeant consulted his screen again. “They took her downtown an hour ago.”
The knot turned into a full blown panic. Marianne felt her voice rising involuntarily, “I’m her public defender! Why wasn’t I told?”
The cop glared at her, obviously in no mood to be yelled at by some civil servant.
Marianne was nonplussed. She glared back at him and asked, “Did she waive her right to counsel?”
The sergeant sat back in his chair and tightened his lips. “You would have to ask the detective assigned to her case about that,” he said.
Marianne reached into her bag for her phone and in doing so spilled the contents of Cassandra’s file onto the floor, making her even angrier. “Who is the detective?” she asked, trying to hold herself together.
Another glance at the screen and then, “That would be detective Cross.”
“May I speak to him?”
“I’m afraid Detective Cross has left for the day,” the sergeant said. Marianne wasn’t sure but she thought he was actually enjoying himself.
“How much is it?” Judy asked.
“I don’t know,” Kenny replied. “The bail hearing is tomorrow morning. The lawyer finally called me tonight and said she didn’t think it would be too bad.”
Kenny had dreaded calling his ex wife. In the ten years they had been divorced they had only spoken a handful of times and it was seldom pleasant. The first few years it was usually about alimony, child support or warnings about lawyers and court appearances. When that finally settled down it was about braces, doctors bills and then finally last year, when Cassie got kicked out of school, who was to blame for their wayward oldest daughter. They were two different people from the ones who couldn’t keep their hands off each other before marriage and kids and life kicked in. There was a static filled pause on the line now while he waited for the hammer to fall.
“Christ,” Judy finally said. “This is....” She paused. Kenny waited for the lecture to start, the one about what a fuck up he was. He waited but it didn’t come this time.
“Call me when you find out anything,” she said softly. “Amber is off from school tomorrow or I’d go with you.”
The city editor was new. The old editor had taken a buy-out two months ago after twenty two years at the paper. Ryan Jacobs thought it was a bad thing at first because Marty had been good at his job but then realized that Marty was too old-school and the paper needed a fresh perspective to stay relevant. The kid that replaced him, Peter White, was pretty green but gave Jacobs a little more leeway. Still he took some convincing.
“I don’t know Ryan, the wording seems a little bit provocative.”
Jacobs shook his head and said, “Pete, the TV stations are already kicking our asses on this. We need something a little sharper.”
White leaned back from his monitor and rubbed his eyes. It was ten minutes to deadline. “Alright,” he said. “We’ll run it as is and you can go to the arraignment tomorrow instead of Janice.”
Marianne Ward was livid. She had woken up at five thirty in the morning to get a jump on her day and when she stopped for coffee on her way to the office the headline was the first thing she saw;
Arrest made in Scanlon hit and run.
That was bad enough, but it was the sub headline that made her blood boil;
High school dropout held in death of local attorney.
The rest of the article was none too flattering to her client. It didn’t fit the image that Marianne had gotten from Cassie’s father. No sources were named outright and there seemed to be an awful lot of conjecture. The girl had had her share of problems but this was one of the most prejudicial things she had ever read.
At eight thirty she was at the holding center. They brought Cassie in to the visitors room a few minutes later. Marianne had to remind herself to maintain her objectivity, because what she saw in front of her was pitiable. Cassie Schultz was nineteen years old but she looked much younger now. Instead of the callous young woman the newspaper article had described, Marianne only saw a frightened child. She wore no make up and her eyes were red-rimmed. Marianne knew she had to tread lightly but that she also had precious little time to prepare.
At Ten o’clock court was in session. ADA Brown had just come from a meeting with his boss where he had known better than to ask questions. The boss had been very specific about how he wanted this handled. Brown was trying to get back into the D.A.s good graces after losing his last case, a high profile manslaughter trial, to Simon Greenfield, one of the area’s most sought after defense layers. The presiding judge was Samuel Colvin, a former prosecutor himself, he was known to be a no-nonsense, by-the-book jurist.
“The people versus Cassandra M. Schultz, the charges are vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal accident,” The bailiff read.
“How does the defendant plead?” The judge said without looking up.
“Not guilty, your honor,” Marianne said clearly.
“What is the state asking for bail? “ The judge asked.
ADA Brown cleared his throat. “The state asks that the accused be held without bail your honor.”
For the fist time Colvin looked up. He gazed across the cour at Brown and then frowned slightly. “Excuse me?” He said.
“The accused had no ties to the community and has a criminal record your honor. We feel she could be a flight risk.”
Marianne couldn’t believe her ears at first. Out of concern, she glanced at Cassie. None of this seemed to be registering with her. She finally composed herself and spoke up, “Your honor...”
Colvin turned towards her and held up his hand. “Just a minute Ms. Ward, I’ll get to you in a bit.” He sat back in his chair and returned to Brown. Brown withered slightly but then straightened himself up and returned the judge’s gaze.
“Mr. Brown,” Colvin began. “Holding someone without bail seems a little extrreme doesn’t it?”
Brown felt his undershirt starting to cling to his back. “Your honor, given the nature of the crime and the apparent disregard for life that the defendant exhibited...” he held up his hands in a ‘what else can we do’ gesture.
Colvin just stared at him for a moment and then looked towards Marianne. She wanted to scream but held it in. She took a breath and started, “Your honor, my client and her father were on their way to the police station when the police arrived at their residence...”
Brown scoffed audibly and Marianne went on, “ In regards to her criminal record, she was issued an appearance ticket for marijuana possession last year. And as far as her being a flight risk; your honor she has no family outside the area and she had a part time job. She has neither the means to flee nor anywhere to flee to.”
For the first time Colvin looked at Cassie. He sighed and wrote something down.
“Would you like to try again Mr. Brown?”
ADA Brown tried to look indignant. His boss had assured him that Judge Colvin wouldn’t be a problem. He had no plan B. He was getting desperate.
“Your honor, a man was run down and left to die on a cold dark street. A husband, father and pillar of the community!”
Judge Colvin raised his eyebrows as Brown finished. He write somthing down on his legal pad and then looked up. “Mr. Brown, you keep trying to infuse facts that have little to no bearing on the matter at hand. Weather or not the victim is a prominent lawyer or a homeless vagrant, he is just as dead.”
Brown started to say “Your hon...”
“And your implication that Ms. Schultz’s previous arrest for marijuana somehow makes her into some kind of career criminal...That is almost as shameful as the hatchet job that was in the paper this morning.”
In the back of the courtroom, Ryan Jacobs winced.
“I’m setting bail at ten thousand dollars.”
Kyle Vogel had just punched in and was headed out to the Valet stand at the club. It had been a pretty crappy day at school. He’d found out he hadn’t done as well as he thought he had on his SAT. When he talked to his guidance counselor he was told that he could pretty much forget about any kind of scholarship money for college next year.
“Kyle!” His supervisor Steve snapped him out of his funk. “Mr.Hobel wants to talk to you.”
“What about?” Kyle asked. Mr. Hobel was the club’s general manager and barely acknowledged the valet attendants. He wracked his memory for what he might have done to get Hobel’s attention but came up empty. A trip to Hobel’s office was very seldom a good thing.
“How are you Kyle?” Hobel asked from behind his large wooden desk. Kyle had never been there before and doubted he would remember any detail of it after he left.
The big man was staring down at him making him more than a little uncomfortable.
“Fine,” he said quietly.
“You’re a senior this year, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Kyle responded. He felt like an idiot giving one word answers but didn’t know what to say.
Hobel sat forward and pursed his lips. “Pick a college yet?” He asked.
Kyle felt like he had been punched in the stomach. He glanced away and looked out the window. There was a view of the manicured eighteenth green. “Um... I’m still weighing my options.”
Hobel smirked like he knew something Kyle didn’t. Then he grew serious as he looked back at Kyle.
“Kyle, you were on the night before last weren’t you?”
“Yes.” Kyle felt hot all a sudden.
“Mmm, and you brought Mr. Scanlon’s car around for him?”
Shit, Kyle thought. He’d heard that Scanlon had been run down on his way home. He hadn’t liked Scanlon, but then again he didn’t like most of the club’s membership. They seemed like an entitled bunch of assholes with too much time and too much money on their hands. His father had told him he should aspire to be successful and emulate them but he found most of them to be insufferable, the kids were the worst.
“Yes I did,” Kyle responded.
Now Hobel looked down at his hands.
“Kyle, there may be some people coming around asking questions about that night...”
Hobel paused and then looked back at Kyle. “Questions about Mr. Scanlon that the wrong answer may put him and the club in a bad light.”
Kyle said nothing. He just waited for Hobel to say what he had to say. Hobel stared hard at Kyle. “We were hoping that if you are approached you could use some discretion.”
Kyle waited again. He waited to see if there would be anything else; a threat, a bribe a lie to repeat. The truth was that Scanlon reeked of booze when he got behind the wheel of his car. Nothing else came, Hobel just looked at him expectantly.
“I understand,” Kyle finally said.
“Good,” Hobel said rising.
Kyle stood up too and after an awkward pause nodded and made his way to the office door. He closed the door behind him and started down the stairs.
“Fuck that,” he said to himself.
Would anyone ask about Clark Scanlon’s condition that night? Did it even matter?
Kyle didn’t know but he wasn’t going to lie for anybody.
Copywrite Sept. 1, 2014. David C. Coleman