“I Know Nothing”
Sure enough, bright and early the next morning, Wilbur’s barking heralded the arrival of the shiny black fedmobile. This time, alone, without the sheriff for backup but there were two people in the car, as Lynn had predicted. Charlie went through the same rigmarole with Schultz and Wilbur. Schultz shouted through the open window of the car, “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to chain your dog up.”
Charlie said, “Why? He won’t hurt you. He just doesn’t like you, that’s all.” He could see the other person in the car, turn her head away from Schultz, with a huge smile on her face. This could be a positive sign, thought Charlie. With the use of Lynn’s treats, Charlie managed to get Wilbur calmed down and the two visitors into the house without incident.
Charlie had started calling special agent Schultz, sergeant Schultz, from the old TV show, Hogan’s Heroes. He was dying to be asked a question so he could reply, “I know nothing,” with a bad German accent. Schultzie, true to form, pulled out his badge and introduced himself, yet again and then introduced his partner as SAC, special agent in charge, Kayla Lawrence. Charlie offered coffee which they all accepted. As planned, Lynn waited until everyone was settled before making an entrance. She had explained to Charlie that legal work was sometimes a lot of theatrics. Charlie didn’t understand this but willingly went along.
Following a repeat performance about privacy and witnesses, Charlie was permitted to “observe,” as sergeant Schultz put it. SAC Lawrence remained silent, as did Charlie. After all the formalities were completed, Schultz started his questioning. They established Lynn’s presence at the motel on the night in question although Schultz still refused to accept Lynn’s answer that she, like any other guest, was there solely to spend the night.
Special agent in charge Lawrence spoke for the first time, and Schultz looked put out. “Ms. Ashcroft, do you know Mr. …?” and she gave someone’s name.
“I wouldn’t say I know him, but I have met him,” replied Lynn amicably.
The when, where, how and why of that particular meeting was established before agent Lawrence asked, “Would it be fair to say, Ms. Ashcroft, that things got a little heated during that deposition?”
“Yes, I allowed my personal feelings to interfere with my professional conduct.” Lynn said this without remorse or pride.
Wow, score one for Lynn, thought Charlie.
“And did this person threaten you, Ms. Ashcroft?” asked Lawrence.
“Yes, several times,” replied Lynn.
Schultz butted right in, “Do you have a gun, Ms. Ashcroft?” Lawrence shot him a look that would have crumbled a weaker man.
“Were you aware, Ms. Ashcroft, that Mr….was going to be at the Sunset Inn on the night you checked in, last Friday I believe it was?” Lawrence continued with her line of questioning.
“No, not at all,” replied Lynn.
SAC Lawrence went to great lengths in her questioning to establish the fact that Lynn was at the Sunset Inn purely by happenstance. That it was by mere chance that she happened to be in this town at all.
“Do you have a gun, Ms. Ashcroft?” Lawrence didn’t even let Schultzie have his chance.
“Yes, and I have an open carry permit,” replied Lynn.
Charlie was shocked again, thinking even more layers. We’re getting down to the nitty gritty now.
Lawrence asked why she had a gun and Lynn simply said, “Where I live and with my job…” and that was the end of that line of questioning.
Charlie was shocked again to learn that Lynn had the gun with her.
There followed some back and forth between Lynn and Lawrence about letting the agents see the gun. Lynn finally relented and went upstairs to fetch the gun. Meanwhile Charlie refreshed everyone’s coffee.
Lawrence, who by now was completely ignoring Schultz, asked, “Mr. Stone, how old is this house?”
“It’s over eighty years old. My parents built it before I was born,” answered Charlie.
“Built it themselves?” asked Lawrence.
“Mostly, I think,” Charlie replied.
“It’s beautiful,” said agent Lawrence.
“Thank you, ma’am,” said Charlie politely.
They could hear a couple of thumps from upstairs. Lynn was in a panic. She could not find her gun. She looked in her suitcase. She looked in her large tote bag. She looked in her suitcase, once more. The gun was nowhere to be found. “Oh my god, oh my god,” she said over and over, her heart racing. She checked under her pillow. It wasn’t there either. She wondered if Charlie had taken it when she’d gone to Wal-Mart. Then she had a vague memory of taking it with her to Wal-Mart.
“Oh, please, please, please,” she said to herself as she dashed down the stairs, through the kitchen and out the back door. Schultz thought she was making a run for it as he stood up and pulled out his gun.
“Easy,” said Lawrence as she put her hands on Schultz’s gun and gently made him lower it. With her other hand on her own holstered gun, she moved to the door and looked outside. Lynn was frantically trying to get the passenger side door open. This is probably what saved her from being arrested and handcuffed or possibly shot by the over-zealous Schultz.
Lynn then raced around to the driver’s side, yanked open the door, threw herself across the seats and opened the glove box and reached in. When she felt the gun, she almost peed herself in relief. She dropped her head onto the seat saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
By now the two agents were standing either side of the front of the car, in combat stance. Schultz still had his gun out and Lawrence had her hand on the butt of her gun.
“Come out slowly, with your hands where I can see them,” commanded Lawrence. Lynn had a struggle flipping over on her back with her hands in the air, but she managed it and wiggled, legs first out of the car.
She was panting heavily as she started to speak to Lawrence. “I couldn’t find my gun upstairs. I panicked. Then I remembered it was in the car. It’s in the glove box. Go ahead and check.”
Lawrence said, “Move away from the car,” as she came over to the driver’s side and deftly unlocked the passenger side door. Then she went around the car, opened the door and found the gun in its holster in the glove box.
Meanwhile Schultz had put his gun away and was patting Lynn down, checking for weapons. Finding none, he stepped back and brought his gun up again.
“Stand down,” said Lawrence curtly.
Even though Charlie had had to physically restrain Wilbur from taking a bite out of Schultz’s leg, he felt useless. He knew better than to interfere in a police action, but he felt helpless and a little like a coward for not doing anything to protect Lynn. Schultz was very close to firing at Lynn, and he was fearful for her and for what he might have to do himself. He was so relieved when everyone calmed down that his legs almost gave out and he flopped down to sit on the steps.
SAC Lawrence examined the gun and smelled the barrel. “This gun’s not loaded, and it hasn’t been fired,” she said to no one in particular. “It hasn’t been cleaned recently either. I can barely smell any oil. Have you ever fired this gun, Ms. Ashcroft?”
“Only when I was taking the course for the carry permit. At first, I thought I’d be a badass with a gun – a female Dirty Harry. But after that course, I decided I didn’t like guns. They scare me. I just carry it because it makes me feel safer, like carrying pepper spray.” Lynn said this as if she were having a conversation with a friend, not being interviewed by an FBI agent.
“Pepper spray might be more effective than an unloaded gun,” was all SAC Lawrence said.
Charlie held on to Wilbur while everyone went back inside, then he let him go. He could tell Wilbur was still upset because he ran around in circles, sniffing where everyone had trodden. Schultz, Lynn and Lawrence had resumed their places at the table. Lynn’s gun, in its holster, was on the table next to Lawrence. She’d also asked to see Lynn’s carry permit, which now also lay on the table.
SAC Lawrence began, again. “I doubt very much that this gun, Ms. Ashcroft’s gun, was the one used in the shootings. This is a .22. The ballistics won’t match, so we can rule that out. Ms. Ashcroft’s fingerprints were not found at the crime scenes. Let me ask you this, Ms. Ashcroft, even though you had a very poor opinion of Mr….and he had made threats against you, you had no wish, no desire to harm him; to kill him in fact?”
Lynn replied calmly, “I did not like the man. I thought he was a scumbag and quite honestly, because of how…the ways in which he abused children, I am glad he is dead. But I had no desire to kill him myself. I did not kill him.”
“Alright,” said Lawrence. “Just to set the record straight and to assure special agent Schultz that I did ask the question; do you know who killed those two men at the Sunset Inn?”
Lynn said, “No ma’am.”
“And did you ask, contract or hire someone to kill those two men?” Lawrence asked.
“No, I did not,” replied Lynn emphatically.
“Then we are done here. We have no further questions,” said Lawrence looking directly at Schultzie who looked well and truly chastised.
Like a dog with a bone, Schultz wouldn’t give up. “What about a written statement from the witness?” he asked.
“My report should suffice, special agent Shultz. If, at some future date we were to require a signed and written statement, I’m sure Ms. Ashcroft would do so.” She looked sternly at Lynn, who nodded her assent. “I am aware of the valuable work you do, Ms. Ashcroft, and your colleagues speak very highly of you. Should we have any further questions, Ms. Ashcroft, we know where to find you. Here’s my card. Now you know how to reach me. Thank you for your cooperation.”
SAC Lawrence stood up, followed quickly by special agent Schultz. Lawrence turned to Charlie and said, “Thank you for your hospitality and for the coffee, Mr. Stone. It was delicious. If you ever want to sell this house, please let me know. Here’s my card.”
She turned and walked to the door closely followed by Schultzie who bumped into her when she suddenly stopped and turned. She looked at Lynn and said, “Luck and folly often go hand in hand, Ms. Ashcroft. Please don’t ever run like that again. You don’t know how close you came. Good day.” She turned and walked out of the door.
After they had gone, Charlie and Lynn looked at each other and simultaneously breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Charlie said, “Dammit. I never got to say, ‘I know nothing’,” and plopped down on a chair. He pushed Lynn’s gun towards her and said, “Please put that away. And after you do, I think we need a little bite at the diner. My treat and besides, I had a dream about Trixie last night.” Unexpectedly, he winked, and, in that instant, Lynn saw the young, mischievous, and very handsome man that Charlie once was.
© John Longbottom 2021