Chapter 8: Samson's truth
"Hey Poncherello, I'm only tryin' to make a livin'. Why are ya bringin' me down to the station? You know I've been clean since that last bust with Baker four years ago. Whad I do, huh? What gives you the right to muscle me off the beach?"
"Samson, relax. Who says I'm bringing you in for a criminal charge?"
"I know you cops, you're all alike. Always tryin' to pin one on the little guy. You're interrupting my sales. That's the only way for me to make some bread, ya dig?"
"Yeah, I dig. But we need your art expertise, Samson. And everything you know about a man named Christian Davidson." Samson froze and then attempted to run away, but Ponch held his arms tight. "Not so fast. You'll go when I say so."
"Oh no man, I'm not talkin'. He's big time. No way, no how are you getting any dirt out of me. Oww! Take it easy there, hombre! Or do I have to cry out Police brutality! Police Brutality! Police…!"
"Aye dios mio! Knock it off! And thanks for the tidbit, now we know Davidson is involved in forgery."
Ponch had to laugh at the skinny weather-beaten man. Samson Ludwig was a bearded, middle-aged artist who often wore a beret, Tye-dyed shirt, and paint splattered bell-bottoms. He was a throw back to the beat and hippie generation of the sixties and sold his custom prints along Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier. Samson was also one of the most talented forgers in the country. Ponch knew better to believe he kept clean since he and Jon nabbed him. They couldn't make charges stick and he went right back to the beach and promised to be good. He even painted an abstract portrait of him and Jon and had it sent to the station. Jon took it with him when he left.
Ponch led him straight to Getraer's office and plunked him a seat. The Sergeant and Bruce waited inside.
"Here he is, Sarge. I told you I had connections. He'll talk."
Samson stared at them bug-eyed. "I ain't gonna talk. I'm not a fink."
"Why? Is Davidson giving you a pay-off or something? Do we need to hold you here for further investigation?" Getraer wondered. "Or maybe you'll feel more comfortable in a jail cell?"
"You have nothing on me!" Samson whined. "I wanna lawyer! This is false arrest!"
Bruce banged the table and startled them. "Listen you! There are people's lives at stake, a young woman and my brother! If you don't start answering the officer's questions, you're in hot water! And I'll be the one to dunk you in there."
Ponch patted Bruce's back. "Don't worry, Bruce. We'll get this straightened out."
"You don't get it do you, Chips, if I do talk, I'll end up like Jordan…jeeeeeshhhhh!" Samson held his head. "Forget I said that."
"Jordan. Thanks. Now we got a name for our corpse in the oil drum." Ponch lifted the Picasso painting and held it up for Samson to observe. "Look familiar? It's funny how I thought of you after we found this."
Samson's eyes brightened. "This was one of my best! Where'd you find it?"
Bruce and Ponch shared a cynical glance. "We found it at the same warehouse where Jordan bit the bullet." Bruce noted. "Why do you bother to forge art anyway?"
Samson shook his head disdainfully. "Commoners will never understand the mind of a true artist. Don't you see? I do this to pay homage to the greatest artists of all time! Go to any museum and what do you notice? A bunch of no talent hacks with their little easels, copying off the paintings. Why don't you arrest them? That's no different than what I'm doing."
"Oh yes it is. They're doing it for art practice; you're doing it to line your pockets." Bruce said. "Are you the one painting all of Davidson's forgeries? The ones he's selling on the international market for millions?"
Samson frowned and looked up at Ponch with a wounded expression. "Do I have to answer that?"
"If you don't, we'll throw you behind bars right now." Getraer warned him. "You're on thin ice, hippie."
Ponch tossed a file down and opened it. "Maybe this will get him to talk. Take a good hard look, Samson. That could have been you, man."
Samson gaped at the photos of Jordan's blood soaked body. "Oh jeesh! Okay, okay! I was one of them. A great businessman like Davidson has connections to artists all over the states. We're all a starving bunch, at most we make a thousand or two and Davidson is very careful not to tell us what he's doing with the art. He just commissions us to design them. No questions. I did the Picasso sets nearly a year ago, because he's more my style. Scored a couple of grand. Davidson probably just shipped them now because it takes that long to dry completely. Not to mention I had to put them through an aging process." Samson giggled to himself. "I don't let my work leave my hands without giving myself some credit. There's a definite way to tell this one is mine."
"How?" Bruce asked.
Samson grabbed the painting. "May I?"
"Be our guest. This is fascinating." Ponch sighed.
"If you look really carefully in the right hand corner by her blouse, you'll notice a few little strokes. Kid, come here, you got bright, young eyes, check it out."
Bruce looked very closely at the area until he finally saw them. "You're right. It's faint, but it looks like…a column or something."
Samson slapped his knee and laughed. "That's right! That stands for Samson of old! The strong Biblical hero who knocked down the pillars on the Philistines. I've always wanted to be a big dude like him, so that's my logo. I make it more visible on all my original work."
"But why take the chance on a forgery?" Getraer asked.
Samson shrugged. "Force of habit. And frankly I'm getting tired of this forgery game. These dealers want everything for nothing and Davidson's the worst. He never pays up on time. So I decided to leave my little mark here and there. Most people would never know. Not Davidson, he couldn't tell you a Monet from a Degas. He's only in it for the money."
"How long did you work for him, Samson?" Ponch asked.
"On and off for fifteen years. He'd show up at my areas around the promenades and slip me a sheet with his requests and then I'd do my magic. You'd be surprised at the hard work that goes into copying these things."
"Like what?" Bruce asked upset. "You shouldn't brag because you're unoriginal."
"Hey blondie! I'm very original! It takes loads of talent to make a perfect copy. And all mine are perfect with a capitol P! For one thing, you gotta mix the right paints to get the exact shades, then you gotta take into account the type of oil paints and canvases they used from their respective eras. You can't just throw any old oil paint on a brand new canvas. Davidson hooks me up if I need something specialized for the job. That's why I also chose Modern art; the paint is closer to the kinds we use now, if not exactly the same. Comprende?"
"Yeah, we got it. Now we want proof of all your transactions with Davidson, man." Ponch demanded.
Samson wagged his finger. "No can do, amigo. I work for cash only, no muss no fuss. I hand him the finished canvas and he hands me my money and we go our separate ways." He rose to leave. "Are we done here?"
Bruce shoved him back in the seat. "I'm gonna separate you four ways to Sunday if you don't give us more information!"
"Bruce! I don't want another Nelson suspended for disorderly conduct." Getraer warned him. "Cool off!"
"Nelson huh…Ohh! You must be related to that Chip who caused the accident. Poor Stacey." Samson hung his head and toyed with his love beads. "That girl was a ray of sunshine, she knew I had an infamous rep for being a forger, but she never said a word. She loved my original work and promised me one day I can have my own gallery showing. I believed her, but that jerk Davidson always quashed our plans. As long as I was working for him no one was allowed to make the art connection. Ya see in art, every stroke is individual to the artist. I can copy Picasso perfectly, but there will always be a bit o' Samson in there. That's just the way it is."
"That could make Stacey an accessory to certain forgery crimes." Gertraer mused.
Samson wagged his hands. "Hey wait a minute. Don't go pinnin' any of this stuff on her now! She had no clue about the work I was doing for that man, okay?"
"All right, we know that. This is why it's so vital you help us with as much information about Davidson as you can. We have a strong reason to suspect he's the one who orchestrated her kidnapping and when that failed, ordered a hit and run on her." Getraer said. "You read all about it in the papers. The details of the accident are true at least."
Samson looked genuinely surprised, then his brow furrowed and his hooked nose curled up in a snarl. "That rotten, no good…look, nobody is gonna pin me with a murder wrap either! I would never kill nobody, I love and respect life, and especially a woman! Never Stacey, this is just like what happened to Ilana…"
"Ilana? Her mother? What's she got to do with this? She died years ago in a break-in." Bruce said.
"Sure she did." Samson rolled his eyes and gazed firmly at them. "I'm warning you Chips, that man Davidson is a real killer and if Stacey and your brother Nelson meet up with him…there's no telling what he'll do."
Bruce ran to the doorway. "Ponch, we gotta get to Stacey's house. Bobby gave me the address! He was bringing her home from the hospital today, if Jordan's dead, then Davidson is definitely here!"
"Sarge, can we split?" Ponch asked worried.
"Go! And be careful! Call for back up if you need it, I'll have Grossie and Linahan troll the area. I'll see what else I can squeeze out of our artist."
Ponch and Bobby thanked him and sprinted out. Getraer patted Samson hard on the shoulders and sat back in his rolling chair. "Now, you just relax and tell me more about Ilana Davidson."
When Stacey opened the door she was greeted with a jovial hug from Davidson that threw her off guard. Ignoring Bobby, he led her into the living room and presented her with three gift boxes.
"Straight from Japan. I hope they fit."
Stacey glanced at Bobby and sank into the couch cushions. "Um, thank you, Christian. You shouldn't have." She quickly opened the first one and pulled out a long, black and pink silk kimono. She had to admit it was stunning. In the box beneath it was a pair of matching tatami sandals and the last one contained a beautiful Japanese Geisha doll.
Stacey ran her hand across the silk appreciatively. "I don't know what to say…they're gorgeous, really. I'll try them on later."
"Fine, fine. Stacey, I really should have came home sooner to make sure you were okay. I heard about the accident but I wasn't able to get a flight fast enough."
"I'm okay now, really." She looked at Bobby and her gaze urged him to stay close. Bobby sat next to her and leaned over to shake Davidson's hand.
"Hi, I'm…Robert, Robert Torvald. A good friend of Stacey's."
Davidson narrowed his eyes. "I thought I knew all of Stacey's friends. Forgive my rudeness for not introducing myself, that was just my way of trying to figure out if I knew you."
"Sure. Well Stacey and I met…at…uh…at…" He snapped his fingers.
"At the pool in that gym I joined a few months ago, silly." Stacey chided.
"Ohh, right! Duh. How could I forget that day?" Bobby said.
"Rob and I kind of knocked heads when he decided to do a cannonball. He blamed himself for nearly drowning me and offered to buy me dinner once the stars cleared from our heads." Stacey forced a grin. "He and I are seeing each other now."
Bobby took her hand and stroked it. "Yeah, I'm real glad she said yes. Stacey's the best." Bobby's tension rose. This wasn't going as planned. He was dying to confront Davidson outright because the man obviously knew they were lying.
"Oh, well, won't that be one to tell the grandkids?" Davidson smirked. "It looks pretty serious, from what I saw on the pier."
Stacey rose. "Yeah…um, I didn't realize you still had a key. I am going to change my locks. This is my home now. Not mom's."
Davidson and Bobby stood at the same time. "Of course, dear. I figured I'd come in and surprise you. Tell me something, who else have you told about this accident?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, when you woke up, did you talk to anyone about it?" Davidson circled Stacey like a lion going in for the kill. "I know it must have seemed strange that I kept you sedated for so long, but I needed to make sure you didn't say anything to ruin your case."
"The case against the CHP Officer who nearly killed you. We are taking this to court, I already have my lawyer on standby to prepare the papers."
Stacey backed away and went to the kitchen. "Can I get anyone a cold drink? I have lemonade, iced tea…oh, well it's still good, even though I haven't been here for a few days."
"Didn't you hear what I said?"
Stacey poured herself a glass and handed one to Bobby. "Yes, Christian, but there's no need for that. I'm not taking this to court." Her words faltered as she saw Davidson's face darken. "I…um…it wasn't his fault. Someone else deliberately ran me off the road. They shot at my tire and blew it off. That's why I went over the embankment. There's a lot more to this story than you know, Christian."
"You have to be kidding!" Davidson feigned shock. "Why on earth would anyone do that?"
Stacey's glass trembled and she slammed it down. She didn't want to play any more games. Bobby went around the island table and stood next to her.
"Mr. Davidson, this wasn't just a hit and run. Stacey was kidnapped and she escaped, but the kidnappers chased her. They caused the accident. And I think she was kidnapped because she found out some very incriminating things about you."
Stacey gripped his arm. "Bobby don't…"
Davidson flustered. "How dare you? Who the hell do you think you are anyway?"
Bobby stood at full authority. "I'm the CHP officer who was on the road that night. My name is not Robert Torvald. Not really. I go by Bobby Nelson. I'm sure you heard the name by now."
Davidson laughed snidely. "I should have known. You nearly kill Stacey and then you ingratiate yourself into her life with sweet talk and romance so she won't incriminate you! That's deplorable. You know that's what he's doing, don't you, Stacey? He doesn't really care about you."
Stacey looked him straight in the eye. "Bobby hardly knows me, but he cares more for me than you ever did. It's over, Christian. I told the police everything that happened, and my suspicions about the forgeries. They will investigate. They already are!"
Davidson strode to the back of the couch and picked up a briefcase. "I don't think you'll be showing anyone the evidence. I am not a dummy, Stacey. I know you made copies of all the records you found." He quickly dug into the briefcase and pulled up a gun.
Bobby edged himself in front of Stacey. "Listen to me, Davidson, you don't want to do this. You're only making it harder on yourself. Just take the briefcase and leave."
"Are you kidding me? So the moment I'm gone you can call your Chip friends and have them chase me off a cliff? I highly doubt that. Stacey and I are going to take a little drive. We have some unfinished business." Davidson strolled toward them and Bobby backed up against the counter and blocked Stacey.
"I'm not letting you take her!"
"Then I guess I'll just have to pull this trigger." He cocked the hammer on the gun and Stacey boldly came forward. "No! No, Christian! You don't want to kill a cop. I'll go with you." She said teary. "I'll go…"
Bobby tried to pull her away. "No, you're not doing this, Stacey. Look, take me, Davidson, okay?"
"Absolutely not! All your friends will be on my tail."
Bobby wanted to choke him. "You said it yourself, they'll be coming after you no matter what happens. I swear it."
Davidson yanked Stacey away from Bobby and then shoved the gun against her ribcage.
"If you hurt Stacey, I'm coming after you, cop or not!" Bobby knew his threats were weak, Davidson was a loose cannon that just fired. Bobby was ready to lunge but Davidson aimed the gun again.
"Don't come any closer, Chippie. We're leaving right now!"
Davidson shoved Stacey toward the door. She turned just in time to see Eddie creep up behind Bobby.
"Bobby, look out!"
Eddie was about to whack him on the head with a vase. Bobby swung around and punched him in the gut. Eddie cursed and doubled over and a fight quickly ensued while Davidson dragged Stacey outside and sped fast away.