The Charity Case

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 12 (v.1)

Submitted: June 04, 2013

Reads: 58

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 04, 2013

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He sat at his desk, staring at the drawing he had pulled out earlier to look at. Just the most recent of the dozens of times he had pulled out the picture since he originally drew it. It was of his old boss, lying dead on a stretcher having bled out from a gunshot wound that just happened to nick the wrong spot in his arm.

 

Larson had drawn himself in the foreground, heading back to his car with a tear in the corner of his eye. Similar to the one he had in his eye right now. The dead guy was the man he always called Boss. But to the public, he was Captain Charles Cooper. Apparently he was Amanda Cooper’s father as well.

 

Larson remembered that in all the conversations he had the old Captain had never been one to talk about his past. But as far as Larson knew at the time, his past had been in the military. It was understandable to not want to talk about his time as a marine. Out of respect Larson never asked.

 

But now it looked like he had been a husband and a father before that. The biggest secret in the world to have and he never once told his closest friend. What else had the man kept from him? What other secrets did he have that he kept to himself?

 

There was one final mystery, and that was the answer to the question he had been bugging Cooper with the whole time the two of them worked on this abduction case. What was it her father had done to make her hate him enough to not want to talk to him for all these years?

 

Larson heard a knock on the door and it interrupted him from his haze. Speak of the devil, Larson thought. He knew it was Cooper at the door, probably with another flimsy lead she wanted him to help check out.

 

He opened the door and before he could blink, Cooper had already pushed past him. Yeah, sure... just barge into my house without permission, Larson thought.

 

“I just broke the case.” Cooper couldn’t contain her excitement. There was something different about her this morning and it bugged Larson that he didn’t know what it was.

 

“What are you talking about?” Larson wondered.

 

“I looked into his credit records. Hummel bought twenty bus tickets... all to different locations… all set to leave at around the same time.”

 

“Don’t you need a warrant to get that kind of information?” he asked. He thought about it for a moment before remembering the person who had sent her a text the other day. “You didn’t get a warrant. Your friend told you about this.”

 

“You are worrying about the wrong thing.” she said. “Hummel is on the run. You know what this means right?” 

 

“That he embezzled money from his company and thought it would be better to just take off than pay it back?”

 

“No… he’s behind the kidnapping!”

 

“So he embezzled money from his charity, felt the need to add to that by abducting a kid for no reason.”

 

“No, it works like this.” Cooper began to explain. “He was in need of money. That’s why he decided to embezzle in the first place. Bennett ruined that plan and forced him to pay the money back. Then he got the idea that he could kidnap one of the kids from the charity and have Alan Woods, the president of the charity, pay the ransom. All he had to do was find a kid that had a history of running away from home.”

 

While he loved a theory that involved Woods paying the ransom of some random kid in his charity despite not being related to the kid in any way, there was just no way it was possible.

 

“We interviewed Woods yesterday. Why didn’t he tell us this story when you asked about David?” Larson asked.

 

“Because the kidnappers told him not to. Isn’t that usually how it works? He was afraid if this kidnapping became a police case that David would’ve been gone forever.”

 

“A police detective asked him about the disappearance of David. We had already passed the point of this being a police investigation.”

 

“It wasn’t an official case though, remember? This was something that I was looking into on my own.”

 

“There’s no way he could’ve known that. And if the kidnappers were keeping tabs on him, wouldn’t he feel nervous talking to the police at all?”

 

Larson had figured he would hear more desperate theories that didn’t involve the kid just running away, but this one took the cake. Cooper didn’t immediately respond to his latest statement, and he couldn’t tell if she was trying to come up with more facts to support her theory or if she was finally accepting that her theory was a giant bust.

 

He realized there was something different about Cooper when she arrived at his house and forced her way inside. Something wasn’t right, and he hadn’t been able to put his finger on it since she entered his home suddenly, but after only a few more moments he finally noticed what had been bugging him this whole time.

 

“Where’s your badge and gun?” Larson asked.

 

“I-uh…” Cooper didn’t realize he would notice she wasn’t wearing her badge this quickly.

 

“You got suspended, didn’t you?”

 

“Yeah.” Cooper admitted. “I find out this morning that a nameless person complained about me regarding what happened yesterday. Of course, you were there, and nothing that warranted a complaint happened. So this is obviously an attempt to get me to stop investigating. It was probably Bennett that filed the complaint or perhaps even Hummel himself.”

 

“You think Bennett is involved in this scheme as well?”

 

“It’s a possibility.” Cooper pointed out. “Someone complained to the Lieutenant about me showing up at the charity event, and only a few people were even aware of our presence there. You of all people should know that when you encounter resistance in an investigation, it only means you are on the right track. So that’s another point towards my kidnapping theory.”

 

Larson couldn’t immediately come up with a good reason to discount Cooper’s latest point. Cooper got suspended because of this last complaint, which meant she could no longer act as an official agent of the police department and it limited her options. There was plenty of reason for the person behind this abduction to tip the Lieutenant off as to what Cooper was doing.

 

Maybe there was something to her theory after all.

 

“Why don’t you tell your boss what you know? Then they could start a proper investigation and get the man power that might get some actual work done.” Larson asked.

 

“That won’t work. Because when I tell him everything that happened, he’s going to want to know how I came across the phone records and credit card information of Bennett and Hummel. We won't be able to try them in court with evidence that was illegally obtained.”

 

“Maybe you can ask another detective for help. Don’t tell him about the phone or credit card evidence, and you can incidentally come across this information with him. That way the resultant investigation that is spawned will be legit.”

 

“It would take too much time. Hummel is gone by the end of the day.”

 

“What about Woods? If we go back to him and get him to admit that David is being held for ransom, and that would certainly get a case started.”

 

“If Woods is just going to pay the ransom, he has no reason to admit anything to the police.”

 

“What if we just wait it out, then? Let Woods pay the ransom, get the kid back. Problem solved.”

 

“Besides the fact that we would be letting at least one kidnapper get away with a crime, I wonder if Hummel even plans on giving up the kid. He thinks the police are onto him and he’s running away.”

 

“Do you have a plan, then?” Larson wondered. Larson was officially out of good ideas.

 

“If he’s bought all of these bus tickets, it most likely means he plans on getting on one of them. The simplest plan would be to stake out the train station and wait for him to show up and take him out there.”

 

“That’s stupid. You don’t know anything about this guy or what his mindset is. For all you know he’s expecting the police and is packing heat as he gets on the bus.”

 

Her idea was to go behind the Lieutenant’s back and run into danger head on. There was a reason why he vehemently against the idea before even asking her for more details. This was essentially the same reckless idea that had gotten her father killed six years ago.

 

“I’m a trained police officer. I know not to underestimate a criminal.” Cooper said.

 

“Yeah, but you will still be going in alone with no backup.” Larson said.

 

“It’s a risk, but this is what I signed up for. We put our lives on the line every day in order to make the streets safer.”

 

“Don’t give me that savior bullshit. This isn’t what cops do! They don’t just rush into danger without knowing what they are up against!” Larson’s voice was getting higher and higher as this argument went on. “What if you are wrong about him? What if this is just about the embezzlement and has nothing to do with any kidnapping? Then you would be risking your life for no one!”

 

“I know what is at stake here. I realize it’s in the realm of possibility that I’m wrong and this will all blow up in my face. But I still need to do this. That’s why I came here to ask for your help.”

 

“You know the risks. And you admit that you might be wrong about what is going on. And yet you still want to put your life in danger on the off chance that everything works out in your favor? Why?”

 

“Because I made a promise to Ashley that I would find her brother and punish the person responsible for taking him away. And I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do everything in my power to bring him back.”

 

“This isn’t about doing the right thing, or helping out a person in need! This isn’t even about catching the bad guy! This about you and your damn hero complex!” Larson shouted.

 

“Larson…” Cooper began to say.

 

“If you want to kill yourself, do it on your own.” Larson cut her off and left the room before she could respond.

 

Cooper was shocked at Larson’s recent outburst. In the few days she had worked with him, she had gotten used to his cold cutting remarks devoid of any emotion. He never had to raise his voice to get his point across. He could just calmly say exactly what he needed to say, pushing the buttons of the person he was talking to in just the right ways to sway the argument in his favor.

 

It seemed like something she said that touched a nerve, and he decided instead to just go off on her in a way that was uncharacteristic of how he normally acted. But she didn’t know what it was. There was no way she could’ve seen the similarities that this conversation had with the one Larson and her father had before he got shot, to the point where at times she was quoting him almost word for word.

 

Cooper decided to try to talk to Larson again. Not necessarily because she wanted to once again convince him to help her, but also because she sensed something was wrong and it was her nature to be there to help.

 

She walked into the hallway and noticed two doors where Larson’s room could’ve been. One was at the end of the hall and the other was a bit closer. She opened the closer door first, knowing that it would either be his bedroom or… something else.

 

It was something else alright. She almost reflexively closed the door before curiosity got the best of her. The room had pictures hung all over the wall. Except they weren’t pictures of his family or something that one would normally see hung on a wall. They weren’t even technically pictures: they were drawings.

 

There were at least a dozen hung around the room. A few of them contained realistic depictions of Larson. Others were just very detailed scenes of various places around Houston she assumed. She recognized the bar that Larson played poker at the day before in one drawing. It surprised her that Larson was as good an artist as this.

 

As she took in all of the artwork, her attention was drawn to the one on his desk. He immediately recognized Larson in the foreground. It looked like he was walking away from a man that was on a stretcher. At first she couldn’t tell who it was because he was in the background, but his face was turned toward the front and as she moved closer she was able to identify the man as her father.

 

She gasped as everything finally started to make sense. Larson and her father had closely worked together back when he was alive. That’s why Larson quit being a consultant and virtually fell off the grid around the same time her father died. It also meant his interest in her past wasn’t necessarily a cheap way to mess with her as they investigated this case.

 

Cooper heard a sound behind her and turned around to find Larson standing in the hallway. He didn’t look angry. He looked more sad than anything.

 

“I’m sorry.” Cooper said.

 

“There’s no reason to apologize.”

 

“I didn’t know the two of you were…” she paused, looking for the right word “…coworkers.”

 

“Well, I guess the secret’s out.”

 

“It’s understandable to be curious.” she continued. “Thinking that you know someone until you realize that you don’t. I’ve certainly been there before.”

 

She’s talking about her father… and my old friend, Larson thought. Larson didn’t say anything, opting to just silently wait for Cooper to finish. He didn’t want to ask for an explanation, but he held out hope that she would give him one.

 

“I didn’t grow up here. I was raised in North Carolina, almost primarily by my mother. You know already that before my father was the Captain of the Homicide Division, he was a marine that had a great military career overseas.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“He actually fought in the Gulf War, received a few medals for some of the things he did. We heard about the good he was doing all the time.” she explained “I imagine that other kids grow up and they idolize some super hero that they see on TV every week. I didn’t have to do that, because I had someone that was real. Someone that fought for people that didn’t have the power to do so themselves. I decided from an early age that that was the type of person I wanted to be when I grew up. I was the proudest kid on the block.”

 

Cooper sounded like she was recalling a great story from her past. But Larson obviously knew that it was going to take a bad turn. He was already seeing holes in the logic of the story, but figured that everything would be clear at the end of it all.

 

“I had never met my father growing up. And my mother would always tell me that he was overseas fighting the bad guys.” she said. “I probably should’ve noticed something was fishy. But when you are a kid, and you don’t have real world experience, you just believe what they tell you and don’t ask questions. But eventually I found out that he was retiring as a marine and accepting a law enforcement position with the Houston Police Department.”

 

She had never met her father growing up? Something about that didn’t sound right, Larson thought.

 

“I was deciding what college to attend at the time. I picked Texas A&M. It would be close to Houston when I finally decided to meet my father for the first time. My mother was against it but they gave me a full scholarship so I went anyway. And before I moved into my first dorm room, I already had plans to reach out to my father in Houston. And that’s when my mother decided that she had something she had to tell me.”

 

Cooper’s face seemed to darken as she prepared to recount this final part of the story.

 

“She told me she met my father when he was stationed at a base nearby. She had been hanging out at the local bar, and some idiot was bothering her that hadn’t gotten the hint. Things turned ugly and my father stepped in to deal with him. One thing led to another and she ended up pregnant with me. I was an accident. He felt responsible for what had happened, but he was about to get deployed overseas so he wouldn’t be able to help raise a baby. So he did the next best thing… he married her.

 

“They had only known each other for a couple of weeks, so both of them knew that any real relationship would probably not work out. But he knew that the benefits he got as a result of being a marine would be more than enough to help pay for basic necessities for their kid.

 

“She quickly realized that this fraud of a marriage was the perfect cover story to tell her conservative parents to explain my existence. They were mad that she wasn’t able to have a traditional wedding, but not as mad as they would’ve been had she told them that he was just some stranger she had just met. The problem was, she never told me the truth either until it was far too late.”

 

Now that she had finished the story, Larson was able to make sense of all the clues she had given him the past few days. First, saying she hadn’t spoken to the man since she was a teenager. Technically she hadn’t spoken to him ever. And second, the fact that he had still been married to the day he died, leaving all of his things to his wife. The whole arrangement had been a fraud made solely because Chuck Cooper felt responsible for his daughter and didn’t want her to grow up with nothing. That sounds like something the Boss would do, thought Larson.

 

“You never confronted your father to explain who you were? Weren’t you working in the same department as he was for a few months before he died?” Larson asked.

 

“You know, I kept playing around scenes in my head where I would go to his office and tell him. But I never got the nerve.” Cooper said.

 

“Why not? You had planned to meet him before.”

 

“I guess I realized that he had no clue who I was.” Cooper admitted. “And everything I knew about him was from what my mother told me. She probably got all her information from articles she read in the newspaper and just added her own flair to the story to make it more believable. So outside of the legend of Captain Cooper that everyone has heard of, I really don’t know anything about who he was or what he was like.”

 

Larson glanced at Cooper for a moment and saw the sense of loss in her eyes. The man she thought she knew about was a lie created by her mother. And in a way that man died the day her mother finally decided to tell her the truth. And with that thought, Larson thought of a way that he could make the legendary Captain more real to Cooper.

 

“You heard about the circumstances that lead to his death, right?” Larson asked.

 

“He got shot responding to a call is what I heard.” Cooper said.

 

“That’s not what happened. We were investigating the death of a retired social worker. And we had a suspect named Cruz that we knew was good for it, but we just didn’t have enough evidence to convince a jury. The Chief told us to leave him alone for the time being, but your father is a stubborn man.”

 

“What did he do?”

 

“He staked out at Cruz’s house, waiting for him to make a mistake. Eventually two angry looking people showed up with guns while Cruz was throwing a party. He gave me an untraceable cell phone and told me to call it in. Then when the dispatch call came out he could tell them using his radio that he was nearby and would check it out. He figured he could contain him until backup showed up, but as soon as he announced who he was, a lot of gunshots went off. One got your father in the arm, and he bled out before I could get him to the hospital.”

 

“Why are you telling me this?” Cooper asked.

 

“Because that’s the type of person he was. He put others before himself. He always made time for someone that needed help, even at the risk of pissing his boss off. And he put his life on the line every day to make this city a better place to live. In many ways he was just like you.” Larson said with a certain edge in his voice. “And I know if he were alive today he would be proud of the person you’ve become.”

 

Cooper was taken aback by Larson’s suddenly serious complimentary words. She had never heard of him sincerely say something nice about another person in the short time she had known him.

 

“But you have his deficiencies too as well. He couldn’t let things go. If he saw a wrong in the world, he just couldn’t quit. And eventually that’s what killed him.”

 

“Maybe I am stubborn.” Cooper said. “Maybe I do have a hero complex. But I know that if there is even the tiniest of chances that this kid can still be found, I’m going to take it. I just can’t waste my time trying to solve the case of the headless man while there are real people in the world that need my help.”

 

“Headless man… what are you talking about?” Larson asked.

 

“It’s a case that came in a few nights ago. Someone cut a guy’s fingers and head off of a body and dumped it in the bayou. We’ve been running around in circles trying to indentify him. We’ve tried everything but the case is moving along so slowly.”

 

Larson didn’t immediately reply. He found the idea of a headless murder victim intriguing. Why would they go to the extra effort to cut off the guy’s head? There must’ve been a reason. He tossed around a few ideas. One idea in particular stuck out. But he had to confirm something first.

 

“The victim.” Larson started to say. “Was he wearing nice clothes?”

 

The shocked look on Cooper’s face was all the answer he needed. “How did you know?”

 

“Well… the good news is you won’t be needing to be making any risky visits to the bus station any time soon.” Larson said with a victorious smile.

 

“Why? What do you know that I don’t?”

 

“I know who killed him.” 


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