Friday, November 11, 2022

Clayton and Krystal: The Chess Pieces advance across the board

“Mom, I have a problem and I need help” Clayton said into his phone a minute after finishing the call with the lawyer.

“You know I haven’t borrowed a penny from you since I bought my first truck in high-school. But I am in a jam and don’t see any way to get money as quickly as I am going to need it.” Clayton told her.

“What is the problem?” his mother asked. She couldn’t think of anything that could be that urgent.

“Our house burned down last night. Worse, the police are likely to blame me for torching it and might charge me with arson” Clayton said with the finesse of slapping a dead mackerel on to a table. “Lawyers are expensive.”

“How much do you need?” his mother asked. “Do you have a place to stay?”

Clayton looked over at Ed who was making a big show of not listening.

“Uncle Ed and Aunt Alice are letting us stay at their place until we get back on our feet” Clayton said. He was relieved to see Ed nodding in agreement. There had been no discussion about how long they could stay with them.

“I talked to a lawyer and he needs a ten-thousand dollar retainer because arson is a felony and if goes to trial it gets expensive.”

“How soon do you need it?” his mother asked.

“The lawyer said I could probably stall the cops for about a week without them getting too suspicious. He said he needs at least a couple of days to get our ducks in a row. That means that I need it in three working days. Is that possible?” Clayton asked.

“What about Krystal’s folks. They probably keep that much in their checking account” Clayton’s mom asked.

“You know, I thought about that. But they already think I am poor, white trash and they would probably see it as an opportunity to get Krystal to divorce me. I can’t see giving them the opportunity to try to pry us apart.”

There was silence on the line while both parties thought for a bit.

“I think I can get a loan from my retirement account that fast if I use electronic-deposit” Hi mother said. “But I need to ‘pull-the-trigger’ before 4:15 to make it happen that fast.”

“Tell you what. Let me get the process started. I can always send the money back” his mother said. “but I gotta hang-up right now. I will call when I have a confirmation.”

Shortly after 4, his mother called back. “I ran into a few glitches but I should have the money in my checking account in three business days. Ask your lawyer if he accepts certified cashiers checks.”

Clayton made the call and Ken Aarons was just fine with certified checks.


Ed and Alice were not physically intimate as often as when they were younger but they still made “pillow talk” every night. 
They cuddled up in the spoons-position and just talked. It might be five minutes or maybe twenty minutes but it was a quiet time when they could talk about issues that had percolated just beneath the surface. It was a time when there were no distractions.

“When are you gonna tell them?” Alice asked, not for the first time.

“Soon” Ed said. “Not yet, but soon.”
Ed said, "You know we had to be sure that Krystal didn't think this was going to be some kind of vacation and that we were offering some kind of bread-n-breakfast."
"I think the term is 'bed-and-breakfast'" Alice automatically corrected.
“They are good kids. They shouldn’t have to live in the trailer” Alice pressed.

“Are you listening to the news?” Ed said. “Wouldn’t surprise me if we had more folks dropping in. It won’t hurt a thing to have Clayton and Krystal get the trailer ready, even if they aren’t the ones who move in.”


"How much more wood are we going to drag out of this swamp?" Clayton asked.

Even to his practiced eye, it seemed like they had dragged an enormous number of logs out of the swamp.

"All of them" Ed answered.

"Why so many?" Clayton asked.

"Have you seen the price of heating oil? It is over $7 a gallon and LP is almost $5 a gallon" Ed said.
"We gotta heat our house and the trailer" Ed said.

"An' we gotta lot of widows and old people in this neighborhood who struggled to pay their heating bills when the price of fuel was a third of what it is now" Ed said. "That is why we are pulling so many logs out. Because it is bad to be cold and it is worse to have your plumbing burst because it froze."

Clayton got a phone call at 9:30 the next morning. He shut down the skid-steer and told Ed to take a break.

“Hello, Clayton Cummins speaking. Who is this?” Clayton asked.

“I am Detective Willis with the Lansing Police Department. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” Detective Willis asked.

“As a matter of fact, I am not in a position to answer any questions until I consult with my attorney” Clayton said.

An awkward silence ensued with Detective Willis expecting Clayton to break the silence.

He did not.

“Well, when WILL you be able to answer some questions?” the Detective finally said.

Clayton decided to roll-the-dice. “Between my business commitments and my attorney’s schedule, the soonest we can probably talk will be Friday of next week."
Clayton had looked at the weather and that is when a large weather system was predicted to hit the area. As Ed said, "Make hay while the sun shines"

That was ten days in the future.

“You can't answer questions any sooner?” Detective Willis said, sarcasm bleeding through every word.

“That is correct” Clayton confirmed. “I need to have you schedule this through my attorney because his timing is more complicated than mine. His phone number 517-867-5309. He will get back to me and tell me when-and-where.”

Detective Willis did not like it, but seven working days was not totally unreasonable.

After hanging up, Detective Willis turned to his junior partner, “This guy is as guilty as hell. I can feel it. I think he is going to run.”

“Go to the judge and get a warrant to pull his GPS phone history. Tell the judge he is a flight-risk so we need access for the next month. We will nail his ass when we show he was at the scene of the crime when it happened.”

“Oh, and while you are at it, get warrants for all of the phones on his plan. This prick is something of a smart-ass. He might have gotten clever and used somebody else’s phone.”


  1. Hopefully Clayton's next move is to call his attorney. I imagine that the Detective's procedures are not that unusual.

    Also, delightful to hear law enforcement has already made up their mind.

    1. I think you are being too hard on Detective Willis.

      There is a lot of research on "clinical judgement". I assume that at least 80% of the people who are most implicated by circumstantial evidence 48 hours after the crime are the ones who generate the most evidence that can be used in a court-of-law to convict them.

      Where would YOU invest your time?

    2. That is fair ERJ, and I am reacting to rather quick character sketch (which is excellently written, elsewise why would I have had the reaction). I believe what I am reacting to is the detective's reaction to Clayton saying he would do no talking without his lawyer - after all, why would you need a lawyer unless you were guilty? At least in my own experience, an unwillingness to free volunteer information at the request of folks is seen as admission of sinister intent, not just other circumstances or, frankly, you do not need to know.

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  2. Got to keep that court/cop/prison machine well lubed . Crown Vics are pricey .

    1. True
      But it's all Dodge Chargers and Ford SUVs now.

  3. And, what will they do when phone records show he was miles away when the house went up?????

    1. Probably ignore them and "find" a CI to testify he was there...

    2. Clayton has multiple witnesses for where he was when the house went up beyond phone info, so the CI would be easily shown to be lying. The downside for him is he has to disclose his location to the system so he is a target again...

  4. I suspect that if Lansing is big enough to have it's investigators specialize, under the conditions described, the arson investigators will probably be getting five or more arsons to work a day. They will probably also be aware of the gang connection, and the plywood nailed over the doors will not be lost on them. Priority will be working arson cases involving death or injury, then arson for it's own sake. If they are not specialized they will usually prioritize cases as misdemeanors, violent misdemeanors, felonies, and violent felonies. Violent felonies are worked to the detriment of the other cases. These stacks of cases to be worked are added to, daily, and mixed with phone calls asking if the lawnmower stolen has been recovered yet, or if the person who killed their cousin has been found along with going to the lab and court.

    Investigators are trained initially to work as hard to prove a suspect innocent as much as guilty. Politics and massive case loads can diminish this. Most understand lawyering up, and don't take it one way or another, except it slows things down.

    Crown Vics are not only expensive, they are unobtainum these days. Wonderful cars. But clearing a case will not buy the department any new cars, that is at the mercy of the politicians. I know of a Crown Vic with over 300 thousand miles on it, still in service. Well thought of for a reason.

    1. " Investigators are trained initially to work as hard to prove a suspect innocent as much as guilty." Heh !

  5. I was pretty sure Clayton's lawyer wasn't named Jenny. Now I gotta go reread it.

    That is shoddy police work. It's been all over TV forever like that. But it burns me up, and I can't watch it. My dad was a peace officer, and he would have had some harsh words for the 'detective'. That kind of prejudice causes no end of problems. It's the global warming of investigations. Find "facts" to fit the theory. I hate it.

    It's human nature, but I struggle not to do that in my life.

  6. Burnt out detective would do that...

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  8. 867-5309. Didn't notice that until the second time through!

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  10. Many years ago, I heard it mentioned in the news that the US government (probably illegally) pulled the lifetime history of some "terrorist's" phone. The pieces also fell into place in regards to what that kind of data could be used for; mapping someone's social circles, shopping habits, work habits, travel history, routes, bunkers, safe houses, entering a lawyer's office and which one, etc.

    I don't carry a phone anymore unless I'm engaged in a high-risk activity, like using a chainsaw; or I want my physical location on record. We live in the surveillance age and knowing how to navigate it is right up with everything else in importance.

    - Arc


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