Disclaimer:All of the characters are the property of Dick Wolf. I thank him, the writers, the directors and all the great actors who brought them "to life" for our benefit. Any "liberties" I have taken with them is motivated only by my fond admiration.
AN:This story is not set entirely within the accepted "canon" or strictly within the "storyline" for the characters as it is only officially portrayed by the TV series. Please note:"Bethlehem, AZ" and the people who live there are entirely fictional…and everywhere else I ever went across that beautiful state was full of wonderful people. I've also taken liberties with legal process…hey this is fiction…
I got to thinking about Goren and Lewis off on their road trip and wondering what sort of trouble they could get themselves into…but I still can't decide if writing a sequel to "A Wide Open Country" is a huge and presumptive arrogance…or not?
A FRIEND OF MINE
Wednesday 6th October
Mesa Creek Ranch, Bethlehem, Nr Flagstaff, Arizona
The Sheriff's Department of Bethlehem County, AZ had six officers and three vehicles. As dawn broke that morning all of them were turning slowly between the brick pillars of the ranch entrance. In the lead, the big Toyota Land Cruiser, usually favoured by Sheriff Arthur "Art" Drummond for his leisurely drives round his domain and sometimes required for off road duties in rough "high desert" terrain. And hauling "numbnuts" from ditches in winter.
Occasionally they were locals got unlucky, but most often they were dumb tourists who laboured under the misconception all of AZ was a hot, dry desert all year round. Like Phoenix, about one hundred and fifty miles to the south. Didn't know this far north you got "winter". Days when the temperature rarely got above freezing and when sudden and heavy snow could fall from October through to May.
People who would head up towards the Grand Canyon nearly ninety miles to the north and suddenly hit ice and snow, often in unwieldy RV's and ill equipped in every sense. That season was just about due to start and would keep Art Drummond and his five, all male deputies as busy as catching them speeding off Highway 40 did in summer. The two Chevy cruisers used for that and patrolling the town of Bethlehem, were in behind Drummond, who on this occasion had surrendered the driving to his newest and part-time Deputy, Walt Winterbottom.
The kid, for that was what he seemed to Sheriff Drummond, had likely suffered ragging all his life for that name, same as his father and grandfather had before him. But keeping Walt with him that morning achieved two things. Meant Art could keep his eye on a rookie, whose most dangerous job so far was to help break up a couple of bar-room cat fights on a Saturday night. And left his hands free to load the pump action shotgun.
There hadn't been a real murder in Bethlehem County, for thirty years. Not since Abe Tuckett caught his wife under some ranch hand in the barn and shot the pair of them. An action many felt he was justified in carrying out. But Art Drummond was taking no chances. The men he was after were city types from back East and that alone told you to expect trouble.
The small convoy stopped just short of the ranch yard that consisted mainly of corrals, in which a few horses stirred and looked hopeful that breakfast had arrived. And the sort of confused maze of outbuildings the Fraser family had constructed at various times since they staked out the place in the mid nineteenth century. When horsepower was the only form of transport and you often literally fought the weather, rustlers and the local Native Americans for every side of beef.
The entire police department of Bethlehem County got quietly from their vehicles, armed like they had an appointment at the OK Corral and spread out through the yard. Advancing from all angles on a beat up VW camper parked up close to the old bunkhouse. They just about had it surrounded when the sliding, side door creaked and moved. Luckily, that jumpy kid Winterbottom had his shotgun pointed upwards or any of them might have been killed when it went off.
As it was, a skinny dude, half asleep as he emerged part fell or part threw himself to the ground. Pants barely hitched and no shirt, the only thing he had in his hand was a pair of dark rimmed spectacles. Spectacles he even let go of when ordered to do so by Art Drummond as he lay there, well aware there was probably more than one gun pointed at him. But Art, Gary Newcombe and Jay Weaver had their guns levelled at the guy inside they had really come for. Big son-of-a-bitch like the witnesses said, as he sat up in the confined pull out bunk, his hands empty and in the air. Just as well, because Gary Newcombe had good reason for his trigger finger to be extra itchy that morning.
Major Case Squad, NYPD, 1PP, New York
Alex Eames was checking the contents page of file "06/MC/601/AE-RG". Better known to her for nearly eighteen months as "The Kersey File". For Doug Kersey, the victim of an unsolved or "cold case" murder that had defied her and Goren to solve and one of the few that blotted their collective copybook of assigned cases.
The call about thirty minutes earlier from a Detective Johnson in Athens, Georgia might be the turn of fortune they had been hoping for during many months of frustrating investigation. He had in custody on other charges a local man, who when he was arrested was wearing a Rolex watch. Quite outside his league to own, but Johnson was a thorough sounding sort of man or one curious to know why the name of "Douglas Michael Kersey" had been inexpertly and partially removed from the engraving on the back.
A few minutes with an electronic database and he'd come up with the name of a victim in New York City, who had lived for the first ten years of his life along the road in Atlanta. It was a fact about Kersey, Eames herself had almost forgotten since it hardly seemed relevant at the time and still might be, as she went through the contents making pencil notations. Of documents and evidence that might be of use to Johnson, though they both suspected the watch could have been through many hands since Doug Kersey was knifed under a railway arch and that watch the only thing which seemed to be missing according to his widow.
Before she turned to her computer to call up the electronic versions to mail to Johnson, Eames out of similar idle curiosity, got out from her desk drawer the US Road Map. It lived there permanently as a useful and regular reference tool. One for the last five weeks she'd been turning to usually twice a week. Each time when the latest postcard arrived from Goren, who had taken to sending them to her with that sort of frequency on this road trip he was making with Lewis. Towns and places famous and obscure between New York and Los Angeles and somewhere in the few lines he wrote, there was usually some piece of mechanical news.
The latest malfunction with that thirty-year-old VW it was insane for them to head off in and which would probably arrive in The City of The Angels with very few of the parts it set out with. Eames sometimes suspected Goren and his college buddy were seeing more of the nations junkyards and parts stores, than they were of its countryside and sights that featured on the postcards. If the camper van reached California it might well sell for more than the pair of them paid for it, which was apparently part of the plan to help finance their flight back. Her suspicion was Arnie might well send them first class on CA's tax dollar soon as it crossed the border. It would certainly fit with his strategic discovery of environmental issues in election year. And be one way of ridding LA of a potential unwanted eyesore.
Eames smiled when she found Athens on the map and realised it was close to Royston or perhaps the other way round. Birth and burial place of Tyrus Raymond Cobb and according to Goren, still the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. They had debated or argued that one over many innings in the past or more accurately, idle moments in the car. Would do so again no doubt, when he got back from the six-month leave he was on and her smile was imagining the kind of clever excuses if he was here now, Bobby would be hatching. To persuade Danny Ross to let them head to Georgia. Mere co-incidence they might have time for a bit of sight seeing of course.
She was just about to begin calling up the sections of the file when her telephone rang again.
"Alex Eames, Major Case" she said shoving it between her shoulder and ear to leave her hands free.
"Detective Alex?" said the male voice on a bad line in a mixture of panic and relief.
Eames frowned, remembering the only person who ever called her that.
"Lewis?" she said. "Is that you?"
"Yes it is oh thank God you're there I need your help Bobby needs your help and…" he was babbling almost incoherently.
"Lewis!" she said firmly to get his attention. "Slow down and calm down!"
Easy to say and her own pulse was racing. There had been some sort of accident with that idiotic VW. Goren was hurt in some way, less than four months since he was almost killed along the hall.
"Okay okay" came the breathless voice she could hear take a deep one.
"Now what's happened?" she asked with a sick feeling.
"There's been a murder in this hick town we are at. The cops turned up at six this morning. They took Bobby too" blurted Lewis. "They held me for almost four hours asking questions and I didn't think…I believe that what I told them…which was the truth may have got him into more trouble…but I haven't seen him and…"
"Lewis!" she barked again. "Where is Goren?"
"In the local cop shop Detective Alex…shit…I think they believe Bobby raped and killed a girl and they can prove it"
To be continued…