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Authors: Stephen White

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BOOK: Dry Ice
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    He didn't sound sorry. "You're not serious, right?"
    "Do I look like I'm not serious?"
    I added up the negatives before I responded. No, he didn't look not serious. Not even a little.
    He used his cell phone, not his radio, to call dispatch. He requested two cruisers and a full forensics response. Without removing the phone from his ear, he turned to me and asked, "What's the address here? The number?"
    I told him. I didn't feel like telling him, but I told him.
    Since the New Year began I'd been working on my pettiness.
    My next thoughts? My appointment calendar was sitting open on my desk. My file cabinet was unlocked. Three different clinical case files were in a clumsy pile on the top of the cabinet. I absolutely could not leave any of that information out for casual perusal, let alone detailed examination, by anyone from the Boulder police department. The cross-dressing man who owned the busy nightclub on The Hill would not be happy with me. His wife and her ancient affair? God. I didn't think I had those details in the chart, but I wasn't totally certain.
    I gestured in the direction of my desk. "Those are clinical records, Sam. You guys can't examine them. You can't even see them."
    "Please don't tell me she's one of your patients."
    "Who?"
    He thought for a moment about how to answer the ques- tion. He finally settled on "The purse lady." Although by then we both knew the grand jury witness's name, he didn't want to say it out loud.
    Some sort of bad grand jury karma.
    After a moment's reflection, I decided I could ethically an
swer the simple question about whether the purse lady was one of my patients. That didn't happen a whole lot when Sam, or anyone else, was asking me questions about my clinical practice. The only reason I could answer is because the owner of the purse wasn't a patient. "No," I said, "she's not one of my patients."
    "Then don't worry. She's all we care about. We don't want to read your crappy files."
    "There are names on the files. Those files, right there." I pointed. "On the outside, you know, on the tabs. You can't see those names. The identity of those patients is privileged, and you know it."
    "I said I'm sorry. You're the one who invited me in."
    "I invited my friend in so he could pick up a lost purse and get on with his grand jury investigation." I emphasized "grand jury." "I didn't invite a cop in so he could start being an asshole. I was being nice."
    "That may prove to be an interesting distinction for your lawyers to argue with the supremes someday at a time very, very far in the future, but it doesn't interest me much right now. If we end up collecting any information that we're not entitled to have you can ask a judge to suppress it."
    "But you'll already know it, Sam. It's my responsibility to keep you from even knowing it. I take that responsibility seriously."
    "You invited me in."
    "How about this?" I said, bargaining. "What would you do if I, say, walked over and put those files away? Locked the file cabinet, put that appointment calendar in a safe place?"
    "You're not going anywhere near your desk, and you're not touching those files until forensics is done working this room. There might be trace on those files from the purse. We need to know exactly how the purse got into your yard, Alan. We need to know how long it's been there and, most importantly, we need to know who put it there."
    I said, "You know how the crime-scene people work. It'll take them all day to do this room." He didn't disagree with me. I babbled on. "The files are on the cabinet, Sam. The purse is on the desk. Locard's principle, you know? Remember that? The purse never got anywhere near those files. I guarantee it. Hell, there's much more likely to be trace on me than there is to be trace on those files."
    I regretted the argument the moment I made it.
    "Thanks for that. I'll keep you here, too, until the forensics guys can examine you for trace."
    "I'm not leaving those files out, Sam."
    "I'm not offering you a choice. The crime-scene van will be here before long. I'm sure we can work something out."
    Over the years, I'd heard Sam pander to a lot of citizens. The "we can work something out" sounded like he was pandering to me. I knew he wasn't planning to work anything out, at least not to my satisfaction.
    "Sam, come on."
    "Don't beg. It's unbecoming. This is a crime scene."
    "I'll call Cozy," I said, feeling like a wimp being terrorized by a bully, threatening to call a big brother to defend me. Cozier Maitlin was my lawyer—a big, tall, smart, arrogant son of a bitch whom even Sam respected. Sam had once enlisted Cozy to defend his partner when a capital charge was looming.
    "It won't change anything. Not today. Not about this." He exhaled audibly through his nose. "You shouldn't have invited me in," he said.
    "This is bullshit," I said.
    Sam shrugged. As always, being his friend turned out to be much easier when he and I were on the same side.

THIRTEEN

THE SILENT standoff stretched from one minute to two. Sam didn't want to get physical with me. He wasn't eager to order me to assume the position, and he didn't want to resort to cuffing me. I didn't want to make a mad dash to my desk to lock up my files. Had I run, Sam probably would have tackled me. Even before he'd lost all the weight he had been quick on his feet. Any physical contest between us would have been no contest. If he could catch me he could subdue me.
    Diane saved us from our bad choices and interrupted our standoff by pulling her latest convertible into the driveway. Her tires made a popping racket on the gravel path, drawing Sam's attention outside.
    Our long driveway runs down the side of the house to a decrepit single-car garage that I'd always assumed was built originally for either a horse-drawn buggy or one of Henry Ford's first models. Diane and I were convinced that any attempt to actually open the barnlike garage doors would cause the structure to tumble over, so we parked our cars side by side about ten feet away.
    For a decade we'd been waiting for a good Chinook to blow the thing over and end our ambivalence about what to do with it, but the predominant tilt of the structure was to the west, allowing it to lean into the Chinooks, which always originate in the mountains. We'd long guessed that when the thing finally fell it would tumble toward the setting sun, and that our cars were safe when they were parked on the north side.
    Sam turned and watched Diane shut down her Saab, gather her things, and then climb out of the car. When she started schlepping everything toward the yard and not toward her office door—probably drawn by the unusual lure of Sam's presence in the open back door to my office—he adjusted his position so that he could stand in the doorway and prepare to stop her advance.
    "Diane, don't go there," he said. "Stay out of the yard. That's a police order."
    She replied with a non sequitur. "Hi, Sam. Did you see the new waiting room? What do you think? Pretty cool? Like that fountain? That's soapstone, by the way. Just in case you were wondering." She thought he was kidding about the "police order" part. Not that it would have made a whole lot of difference to her if he wasn't. She knew Sam well enough to know he wouldn't give the soapstone a moment's reflection.
    "Diane, you can't go— Stop right where you are. It's a crime scene. There's been a— Please don't— Diane, goddamn . . ." He raised his voice and yelled, "Hey!"
    The "hey" was Sam's acknowledgment that Diane had kept right on walking as though she hadn't heard any of his admonitions. Diane generally wasn't amenable to authority. If the authority was trying to tell her what she could and couldn't do on her own property, the rebellious streak in her nature would be aggravated.
    "Yeah, right," she said to him, confirming my thesis.
    Diane was in my line of sight by then, and she was heading straight toward my open door to see what was up. Diane was a fine clinician. She also had an intuitive nose for controversy, conflict, and gossip. She must have detected molecules floating in the air indicating the presence of all three.
    Sam stepped outside and jumped down the two steps to get physically between her and his suspected crime scene.
    I hopped forward, slammed the french door shut behind him, and turned the lever that locked the deadbolt. "You're officially uninvited," I said to him through the glass.
    
Petty?
God yes.
    A second later his eyes told me all I needed to know about his reaction. He was furious. I forced myself to walk in measured steps across the office, where I gathered up the clinical files I'd left in view, put them away where they belonged, locked the filing cabinet, and put the key inside my appointment book. I then packed my calendar into the shoulder bag I carried each day and slung it across my body. I scanned the office to see if anything remained in view that could reveal the identity of any of my patients.
    My phone memory. I dialed my home phone from my desk phone so that the last number dialed would be my own. I then cleared the call history from my mobile phone.
    Satisfied, I walked back across the office and reopened the french door. Diane hadn't moved. She was arguing with Sam about where she couldn't go, and why.
    "Get your warrant," I said to Sam. "You're not coming back in here without one."
    "Who's missing?" Diane asked me. "What's he talking about? What purse? Why won't you let him in your office?"
    "I'll tell you later."
    "No, you won't," Sam said. "You won't tell anyone a damn thing."
    "Staying out of my office until you get a warrant is a Fourth Amendment thing. Telling Diane whatever I damn well want to tell her is a First Amendment thing. In case you've forgotten the limits of your police power I don't think you have the authority to suspend random sections of the Bill of Rights at will."
    Diane threw in her two cents' worth. "He's right, Sam. I think random suspension of constitutional rights remains the sole purview of the executive branch." Sam and I had wasted a couple of pitchers of beer debating the Patriot Act and whatever the hell the NSA was up to. Diane had no way to know how much he disagreed with the point of view she was espousing.
    "Alan," he said with a sigh. He was holding one hand out, beseeching me to be reasonable while he was holding up the other hand like a traffic cop imploring Diane to wait where she was and, by the way, to shut the fuck up. He'd temporarily lost his advantage and he needed us both to behave.
    "Get your warrant," I said. I closed the door again. I locked the deadbolt, again.
    I pulled out my mobile phone and called Cozy Maitlin's office.
    Sam either heard what I said, or he read my lips. He reacted with a mumbled, "Goddammit. Not him."
    Cozy's assistant, Nigel, said he was with a client.
    "I'm pretty sure I'm about to be arrested, Nigel. It would be nice to talk to him before that happens. I suspect this will be my last opportunity."
    Sam looked at me through the glass like he was about to kick down the door. It wouldn't have surprised me too much if he did. Behind him, Diane's mouth was agape.
    "Now what?" my lawyer said. Hand-holding wasn't his thing.
    I explained the situation to Cozy.
    "What would he do if you tried to leave?" he asked me.
    I thought about it for a few seconds. "I think he'd put me in some kind of custody. Handcuffs, backseat of his car. He wasn't in a good mood when he got here. He's in less of a good mood now."
    "We don't want you in custody. Can you just . . . stay put?"
    "I have patients all afternoon."
    "Don't think so, not today. Given what little you've told me, he'll get the warrant. The only question is whether he's going to let you off the hook about the files you put away. He could go by the book and arrest you for obstruction or—"
    "I screwed up?"
    "Water under the bridge. You made the first mistake by inviting him in. Sam exploited that. But he got sloppy and left an opening. To your credit you bagged one of his pawns. If he's pissed-off enough he may go after one of your bishops or your rooks. Sam is capable of looking a few moves ahead. Will he? Different question."
    Criminal defense was a contest for Cozy. The chess metaphors were a fresh touch—I was more accustomed to hearing sports analogies from him. Usually basketball.
    "Can you come over and . . . act imperious?" I'd seen Cozy do it before. I'd seen it work before, too.
    "I'm touched by your confidence in my abilities, but I have a hearing at one. I'll come over and act imperious after that. I doubt that Sam will manage to get a search warrant before then. Have you talked to Lauren about this?"
    "No. What's going on right now would put her in an awkward position. I'd like you to try to work this out without either of us having to make that call. She's under a lot of stress because of an old case that's resurfaced. A fresh conflict-of-interest between her grand jury investigator and her husband isn't exactly what she needs right now."
    "Bailing her husband out of the slammer wouldn't improve her day much either."
    "I'm counting on you to keep that from happening, Cozy."
    "We'll see," he said, not agreeing to anything. "This one o'clock is a motion to suppress that I absolutely must win, and I can't be late for the hearing. It's Judge Lu. Enough said?"
    "Yes." My wife had suffered the wrath of Judge Lu. Trudy Lu's nickname was "Don't-Be-Tardy Trudy."
    As Cozy hung up, Diane appeared in my office door. She'd apparently entered the building through her office, and then used our shared hallway to come to my door. I barked, "Stop. For your own good, don't come in here."
BOOK: Dry Ice
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