Author's Note: The characters Boonwell Lanier, Evan Dodger Winslow, Sweetness, and KC belong to the show China Beach and whoever owns it.
Thanks to AnneWithAne for beta-ing this story and for loaning me Laura Daniels. If you all want to know more about Laura Daniels, then please read her great stories on this site. "No Longer a Rumor" and "A Test of Brotherhood"
Chief Gillespie's POV
I watched the young man sitting in that cell carefully. He seemed to be in a state of shock. I was truly afraid for him. I was afraid he was going to have one of those flashbacks. I had only seen him to do that once before, after we worked a car wreck in the pouring rain. A little girl died in his arms. It wasn't until we were back at the station and he saw that his uniform was covered in poor child blood that he went off.
It was terrifying for me to just watch. I can only imagine they're like for him.
I'm lucky, I suppose. All I remember when I think of my time in the army is my Anna.
Parker, well, he remembers things that are a whole lot darker. He's real secretive about the things his platoon went through, and even more so about his time as a POW.
Considering what he's told me the few times I have gotten him to open up, it surprises me he can be a happy-go-lucky as he usually is.
That said, I still do not believe he is capable of murdering anyone. I've known Parker Williams since he was a boy. He was always a good kid and he grew up to be one of the better men in this town.
I remember when he left for Viet Nam, all dressed up in his class A's. Evie had to practically wrench poor little Austin's arms from around his neck.
I remember when he first came home from Viet Nam too. Not two days after he came home, Tom Dugan and I had to run him and a couple of smart-mouthed kids in for fighting. We let him go, though, when we found out they'd been calling him a baby-killer.
"Chief?" Bubba's voice broke the silence. "Austin's waiting in your office."
"Oh, right." I got up to leave. I started to say something to Parker, but truth was, he wasn't really with us at that moment. "Bubba, I want you to wait here with Parker."
I could tell he was uncomfortable about seeing Parker in a cell, but I didn't want to leave Parker alone with the MP's.
"Yes, here. Sit down in this chair here and stay there."
"Yes, sir." He reluctantly sat down.
Austin was leaning against Virgil's desk when I walked into the office. She looked at me with scared eyes that reminded me of how she looked the day Parker left.
"Chief, what's going on? Can I see him?"
"Yeah, sho' you can, in a minute." I wasn't sure if they'd let him have visitors but this was still my jail. Besides, if push came to shove, I'd just tell them she was his lawyer and they'd have to let her see him. "Did Bubba and Lonnie tell you what was going on?"
"Here's the warrant they gave me. I thought maybe you'd know the other men on it."
She read the names and shook her head. "No, just Parker's. Wait. Boonwell Lanier. I think I do know him. Beau calls him Boonie. He called Beau, not to long ago, when I was still staying with him. They had a very…, odd conversation."
"What do you mean 'odd'?" Jamison asked from his place by the door.
"I think I mean cryptic," she replied, looking at him.
"You think they were hiding something?"
"I wouldn't say that, exactly. More like they just didn't want to say something they both knew." She looked back at me. "May I see him now?"
"Sugar, you know your brother went through some pretty bad stuff over there, right?" I asked.
She nodded again.
"Well," I didn't know what I wanted to say.
"Chief," She interrupted me. "It's okay. I know whatever he did, he only did to survive."
"Yeah." I fell silently. That was exactly what I had been wanting to convey to her.
I know everyone thought I had lost mind. I guess I had in a way. I was in shock, I suppose. I thought I had prepared myself, but I hadn't. Not really.
I didn't want to go over there. I never wanted to be in the army. I was drafted. I just wanted to stay here and take care of Austin.
Ever since the first time I held her, that's all I wanted. Poor little forgotten thing. She just needed somebody to love her. Some people said I shouldn't have been the one. My own mother still says shouldn't love her like I do. I don't know why. It isn't her fault, how she came into this world.
I didn't even notice the Chief had left, until he came back.
"He has a visitor," he told the MP's. "His lawyer," he added before they could argue.
Lawyer? Had to be Austin. I didn't want her to see me in jail. I probably should have told him that.
"On your feet," Sergeant Silmon said. He opened the door and stepped into the cell with cuffs in his hand. "Turn around."
I don't know why, but that was the last thing I was going to take. "You are not going to put those on me."
"I said, turn around."
"And I said, you are not putting those on me."
We stared at each other a minute before he finally backed down.
I followed them to the booking room. Austin was sitting at the table, biting her finger nails. She must have been really nervous or really scared.
When I stepped in the door, she jumped from her seat and rushed to me, throwing her arms around me. "Oh, Beau, I was so afraid. I thought…, Are you okay? What's going on? Why did they arrest you?" She was crying.
I hate it when Austin cries. "Shh…, it's okay, Sweetheart. Don't cry. I'm okay. Don't cry." I rubbed her back and smoothed her hair. "It's going to be fine. Don't you worry."
After she had calmed down and stopped crying, she wiped her eyes and stepped away. "Beau, why are they doing this? You didn't murder your commander, did you?"
My little Austin. All business, or at least, that's what she wants you to think.
"I shot lots of people, Austin. Some of them deserved it, but more didn't. It's not something I'm proud of, but I was soldier and I had no choice. It was either them or my friends and myself."
"You're talking about the VC though, right?"
I shrugged. "VC, NVA, others."
"There were other people out there?"
"The jungles were full of snakes, and rodents. Some of those were the other people." I wasn't trying to be vague, but there were things she didn't need to know. Things I wished I didn't know. Still are.
"Parker, would you ever lie to me?" She asked.
She never calls me Parker. That gave me a jolt.
"I have never, ever lied to you, you know that."
"Then tell me why they say you murdered your CO and who are these other men? What do they have to do with it? And why is Boonie calling you all of a sudden? Why is Ms. KC showing up out of the blue to see you? And what did you go to Hattiesburg for a few months ago? Do you remember telling me once that lying by omission is still lying? Well, you've been lying to me, one way or another, ever since then."
I vaguely remembered having told her that once. I took a deep breath.
"Evan Winslow is Dodger. You know him. You know Boonie, too. Robert Johnson is the guy we called Sweetness, but he's been in jail pretty much ever since he left Nam. KC came here to get me to leave before they arrested me."
"So, why didn't you?"
I looked at her, rather hurt and surprised. "I thought I taught you not to run from problems."
"My problems won't get me the death penalty," she snapped. "I'd rather have you gone than dead."
"So, it's okay to run from big problems?"
"That's not what I said," she replied, then realized I had changed the subject on her. "Damnit, Beau! We aren't talking about me, we're talking about you! Why won't you just tell me what happened that night?"
"Because you don't need to know."
"Then what do I need to know?" She asked.
What did she really need to know? I stopped to think about it.
"I never murdered anyone," I said, finally. "I only shot who I had to shoot to protect my patrol, and myself."
Bubba was waiting to walk me back upstairs. I leaned against him, heavily, for once just wanting to be loved and supported.
"Beau says he didn't commit murder," I told him, Lonnie, Laura, Dee, LuAnn and Chief Gillespie. Sweet was downstairs with Beau.
"Well, then, we just have to prove that," Lonnie said.
"That's not going to be easy," Laura predicted.
"Now, Sugar," Chief Gillespie said. "Officially, I can't say this, but whatever we can do to help, just let us know."
I nodded. "I guess the first thing I need to do is go to Camp Shelby and see if I can get his war records. Wouldn't any missions he went on be in them?"
"Yeah. Take Bubba with you and ya'll go tomorrow," Bill replied. "It might take a few days."
"I'll take care of your cases," Laura spoke up.
I had completely forgotten that I was supposed to be in court the next morning. Darnell was just going to love this.
"Thanks. Janice has all my files." I looked up at Bubba. "Take me home?"
"Yeah, sure, Honey."
At home, I called Darnell. He wasn't happy with what I said, to say the least, but I wasn't sure when I'd be able to get back to work. All my attention needed to be focused on helping Beau.
Twenty minutes later, Darnell showed up at my door.
He looked confused when Bubba answered the door, but quickly regained his composure, "Hello, Bubba, is Austin here?"
Bubba opened the door wider without a word and motioned for him to come in. I don't think he trusted him not to be there to take my job away.
"I'm here, Gerard," I said, standing up. "Can I get you a drink or something?"
"No, no," he shook his head. "I just need to tell you something, then I have to go. Becky has…, something at the school tonight that I have to be there for."
"Okay. Have a seat." I pointed to the sofa, as I sat back down in my chair.
"Thank you," he sat down, looking uncomfortable. "You didn't give me a chance to say this earlier, and well, I wanted to tell you in person anyway."
Bubba had moved to stand behind me. I'm still not sure if he was trying to be supportive of me, or just putting something between his self and Darnell if he was there to fire me. Probably a bit of both.
"I won't lie to you and tell you that I have good relationship with the police, we both know that isn't true."
Well, if I hadn't before, the fact that Bubba was standing over me like a sentry guard would have told me that.
"But, I went to school with Parker. We're the same age. Well, you know how they drafted for Viet Nam with the high/low number system?" He pulled at his collar. "For a lawyer, I'm not doing a very good job of speaking, am I? Anyway, it's just that, it was dumb luck that caused me to get a high number and him a low number. While I don't respect everything he has done as a cop, I have nothing but the highest respect for him for going to Viet Nam and serving our country, while I took the easy way out and went to college. What I'm trying to say is, that if it were me over in that jail, and just as easily could have been, then I'd want to know that I could count on the people I went over there for. I'm putting you on a leave of absence while you work on this. Take all the time you need. Your job will still be waiting for you when you're done."
I was practically speechless. I too had thought he was going to fire me. "Thank.., Thank you, Gerard."
"It's the least I could do," he replied, standing to leave. "If you need any help with the case, just let me know." He shook hands with me, and then Bubba. "I'll show myself out."