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Sunday, September 15, 2013

(“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due. When it is in your power to do it”…) Proverbs 3:27

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration


"THE MIGRANT"
Chapter Thirteen


San Francisco, California...10 December, 1968

KC Littleton stared at the cup of yogurt in front of her and then glanced over to her neighbor’s desk and studied the corned beef on rye and two dill pickle spears, fresh from the ‘Brooklyn Deli’ over in North Beach. She was three weeks into a do or die diet, determined to be ready for the paper’s New Years Eve party this year! She had already bought the perfect black sequined gown from Sac’s Fifth Avenue and the cutest shoes ever, so she just had to be strong. Visibly shuddering she reached for the yogurt and started stirring the fruit up from the bottom of the cup. Oh well she thought, it was strawberry, her favorite right? KC lifted a spoonful to her face then took one more sideways peek at the sandwich.

“Oh what the hell,” she said under her breath, and scooted over to Jordan Chen’s desk on her four-wheeled wooden chair. Looking around guiltily, she lifted the top slice of the sandwich and removed a generous helping of corned beef and stuffed it into her yogurt cup. Then after licking the mustard off of her fingers, she hastily reassembled the huge sandwich, mashing the pieces together and gently patting the top as if to say, ‘hey, thanks a lot!’ She then rolled quietly back to her desk, using her spoon to fold the meat in with her dairy lunch as nonchalantly as possible. Gross you say, maybe, but to someone who hadn’t eaten a regular meal in weeks, it was five star baby! KC scooped a spoonful into her mouth and closed her eyes, a look of shear ecstasy spreading across her face.

“Oh God, this is sooooo good, almost better than, now what was that called again, oh yeah, sex,” she muttered softly.

It was totally unladylike, but she didn’t care, she just chewed the corned beef slowly, savoring each and every morsel. Actually, it had been a tad longer than her current diet since she had experienced that little bit of human distraction. Alright, alright, it had been much longer. OK, OK, OK, maybe it had been a whole YEAR longer! Who had time for boyfriends and relationships with this job anyways? And forget about one night stands, not to brag or anything, but she was really good, and men were like puppies once she took them home. The only way to get rid of them was to stop feeding the poor babies and then change her telephone number and the locks on her doors. What a ‘catch 22’ situation, by New Years Eve she would be the perfect bait weight, but she’d only be trolling for nibbles, life really sucked! She took another spoonful of her odd concoction and pushed off from her desk with her right foot, spinning the chair in a series of 360-degree turns.

“WEEEEE,” she squealed, this weird mixture was actually pretty good, and she was already fantasizing about how to market the stuff. Now, what could she call it?

“OOOH I know,” she whispered to herself.

“Fruit Crème a la Boeuf,” she said in her most flagrant French accent. Isn’t it queer she thought, how even the most disgusting phrase can sound positively regal en Francias?

“Enjoying yourself KC,” asked Jordan Chen, leaning back against the side of his desk, arms folded in front of him? She stuck out her leg and stopped her spin in mid revolution, her back to him and the spoon still in her mouth. She started to mumble a response and bit down on the spoon, which flipped the handle up into her face, causing a decent amount of pain when her teeth slipped from the spoon to her tongue.

“OWWW, shit Jordan, don’t sneak up on me like that, you know I hate when you do that!”

“Sorry shrimp, guess I should have known better than to leave all that temptation on my desk while I washed up for lunch,” Jordan said, sitting down and examining his significantly smaller ‘Mile High’ from the deli.

“Hey I told you to stop calling me that too! For Christ’s sake Jordan, I’m three inches taller than you Kato, and that’s without the heels!”

“OK, OK, truce, no more ribbing about your name Miss LITTLEton and no more quips about the Green Hornet’s driver, deal?”

“DEAL, now hurry up and cut that sandwich in half, I’m starving over here,” KC said finishing her yogurt concoction as fast as she could.

“My God KC, how can someone so beautiful be such an oinker when it comes to food?”

“No wonder it’s been so long between dates for you!”

“Oh, and by the way, I don’t look anything like Bruce Lee so stop stereotyping me and my people! Didn’t they teach you any social skills at Radcliffe,” he asked, handing her half of his sandwich, stopping to count his fingers, making sure that he got them all back!

KC grunted a response as she took a healthy bite, savoring the experience like it would be her last. Watching her eat was more like reading a romance novel; she didn’t consume her food so much as she actually seemed to make love to it. Jordan marveled at the way she would chew and then sensually lick the Russian dressing that ran down her arm from the palm of her hand. Breaking his trance, he closed is mouth and cleared his throat, getting back to his lunch and sorting through the papers on his desk.

“So what’s got you so cranky today KC, you nearly snapped my head off before I left for lunch!” Taking a sip of her diet cola she spun her chair in his direction and answered him.

“I don’t know Jordan, do I really need an excuse to abuse you darling?”

Slowly crossing her legs, she made sure to bat her eyelashes that cute and coy way that he liked so much. Then she placed her chin onto her laced together fingers and stared at him until he was obviously uncomfortable. To be honest, this was really unfair. It was a near lethal dose of sex appeal, especially where Jordan was concerned. The tossed hair, her cute freckled face resting daintily on her delicate hands, her arms raised and tucked in close to her body, causing the maximum amount of cleavage to be revealed through her sheer cream blouse. Oh my gosh she thought, this might actually kill him, huh, he should be so lucky! The two of them had dated early in her career at the Daily News, and it had gotten pretty serious she had thought. But proving true to his gender, he was really only interested in an open relationship, a fact he revealed one night about a year ago when she ran into he and a friend at her favorite Italian restaurant in North Beach’s Little Italy. After introducing her as a colleague from the paper to his friend, she decided to totally swear off men, for a little while anyway!

“Come on KC, I thought we were past all of that,” Jordan said, involuntarily watching her pose for him, twitching the ankle of her crossed leg steadily and rhythmically.

“Yeah, well I am, but I can see that you’re not,” she said sarcastically, sitting straight up in her chair and turning back to her desk. She started humming ‘Just You Wait Henry Higgins’ from ‘My Fair Lady’ and turned a page in the newspaper that she was studying. She had been reading up on a series of stories from a local paper in Bakersfield about the capture of a serial rapist. There had been some rather odd circumstances surrounding the event. It was some sort of religious phenomenon, something to that effect. Jordan interrupted her concentration when he tossed his table scraps into the waste bin and opened his can of soda with a loud pop.

“Do you mind,” she snapped, giving the paper a good shake as she leaned back in her chair using it as a shield between the two of them. She continued to read when she saw a pencil appear at the top of the paper. Jordan slowly scrunched the newspaper down and looked at her from over the top.

“Come on Kathy (KC was short for Katherine Charlotte), be nice, what has the boss man got you working on anyway?”

KC lowered the paper into her lap and stared at him for a moment, God he was cute she thought. Shaking herself back into reality she turned the paper to page eight and folded it in half. She pointed to the piece about the serial rapist and tapped it with her index finger.

“That’s it right there, no big deal, just a follow up on some dirt bag that got cuffed and scuffed down in Fresno,” she said matter of fact like. He walked over to her desk and stood behind her. KC turned quickly and socked him in the arm, hard enough to make him flinch.

“And I told you not to call me that, we’re not that close anymore, get it,” she snapped, spinning back to face her desk.

“Ouch, you’re a real piece of work KC, a real piece of work, you know that,” he snapped back, rubbing his arm where she had made contact with her bony little fist. Jordan read over her shoulder for a second or two and then returned to his desk.

“See, now that wasn’t so hard, was it? Why do you have to make such a drama out of everything KC, I mean really, it’s getting to be a drag you know?”

She ignored him and went back to reading the story. She smiled to herself and secretly thanked him for just being himself, reminding her how lucky she was to have broken free of his spell before any real damage could have been done to her heart. KC was one of those people that protected themselves with a hard shell, one that shielded her softer, truer, secret self from the big bad world.

“Hmmmm,” she uttered softly, “This Murray Katz guy had quite a little racket going,” she continued talking to herself.

“You say something,” Jordan asked?

“No, just thinking out loud.”

KC read on and circled the paragraph about the fire and the arrest. There were no photos of the guy in bandages at his arraignment; he looked pretty normal to her? But the story said that one of his victims had been arrested for setting him and the clinic on fire, what gives, she thought. KC read the article a third time looking for facts that she may have missed, she hadn't missed anything. She opened the Fresno newspaper and read the related articles there as well, none of them seemed to touch on this anomaly, and she wondered why. She unhooked the handset from her telephone and dialed extension 51 and waited.

“Mr. Williams office,” a cheery voice answered.

“Hi Connie, its KC, is Brian in?”

“Sure, he just got out of a meeting, let me check and see if he’s free, hold on.”

KC drummed her fingers on the photo of Murray Katz in the Bakersfield newspaper.

“What’s your story morning glory,” she whispered to herself.

“KC, I’ll connect you now,” Connie said into her ear.

“Thanks.”

“Yeah KC, what do you need,” her editor said, sounding busy and tired.

“Hi Boss, I know you’re busy, this won’t take a minute.”

“Come on KC, get to the point, I’m actually busy this morning.”

“OK, listen, I’ve been researching that piece you asked me to look into on the serial rapist in Fresno.”

“Yeah, and?”

“Well, I think I have found something inconsistent here. I’m not exactly sure what, but my gut is telling me that something is pretty hinky about the facts, something nice and juicy!” she said enthusiastically.

“Really, like what? Whatever it is you better be darn sure about it. I just don’t have the budget to let you chase after butterflies every time your stomach turns!”

“NO, it’s not like that boss, I really think that there is a story there, gimme a day or two to check things out, OK?” There was an uncomfortably long silence before she heard her editor answer.

“You’re really sure about this hunch of yours?”

“Yeah Brian, I really am!”

“OK, take a couple days and run this down. But no airfare, drive down there and stay in a cheap motel this time KC, not the Ritz Carlton like your last assignment!” As if there actually was a Ritz Carlton in Fresno California, what a nerd!

“Don’t worry chief, I’ll stick to the Holiday Inn’s of the world this trip.”

“Do you need a photographer for the piece,” he asked?

She thought about it a minute, not likely she thought, but then her instincts corrected her snap decision.

“Yeah, I think that might be a good idea, who’s available?”

“Take Jay with you, I think he just finished his assignment with your pal Saundra on the Wine Country.”

Saundra Callaway was no friend of hers, she was in fact the queen bitch of San Francisco journalism, but Jay was a pretty cool guy and fun to travel with, so this was a good teaming she thought.

“Great, I’ll give him a call and make the travel plans, I’ll have the itinerary on Connie’s desk in half an hour, thanks a lot Brian.”

“Good hunting girl, bring me back a winner, we could use a check in the win column right about now, and be careful,” he said, the line disconnecting.

KC scribbled a quick note onto a scrap piece of paper and turned in her chair to get up. She stuck her tongue out at Jordan and went off to find her photographer Jay Namura. A transplanted Hawaiian, Jay was a fish out of water wherever he went. Now he wasn’t gay, not in the least, but if she ever needed to send someone into that world undercover for a story, he would be the first one she recruited. The man was fussy about his attire, was eclectic in his taste toward food, wine and décor, and had the most beautiful posture she had ever come across. Hell, if she were a man, she was pretty sure that she would be gay on him. At least then she would always know which wine to order with the entree. But all of that aside, he was a really cool guy to hang with. He knew just enough facts about just enough topics to be engaging and fun in most conversations, which was perfect given that they would be trapped in her close quartered VW van for about four hours on the way to Fresno.

KC squinted in the sunlight as she tried to scan the road map lying across the wheel that she was also trying to steer with. She adjusted her sunglasses by wrinkling her nose and worked one arm over the left side of the map. Her eyes darting from the road to the map about fifty times she finally ascertained that they were about seventy miles from Fresno on Interstate 15, at least she was pretty sure. Her traveling companion had talked himself to sleep about an hour ago and was resting peacefully with his head rhythmically bouncing on the window to his right. KC wadded up the open map and tossed it into the back of the van before it flew into her face and caused an accident. She pulled her knees up and steered with them for a second while she peeled off her jacket, it was getting warm now that the sun was full up and they were out of the gloomy overcast skies of the Bay Area. The van swerved a little towards the shoulder and KC grabbed the wheel and quickly compensated, causing Jay’s head to smack the window hard enough to wake him.

“Hey, watch the road speedy,” he said rubbing his noggin and looking at her from under his arm!

“Sorry, I was a little hot in that jacket,” she said apologizing.

“We almost there,” Jay asked?

“Yeah, we’re close, about an hour or so by my calculations.”

“What’s the plan when we hit town anyway?”

“I want to stop by the District Attorney’s office and ask about the status of the case. Find out who is representing Mr. Katz, and then go by the lock up and see if I can interview the arresting officer.”

“WHOA, WHOA, when were you planning to feed me anyway? You know I can’t create my special magic on an empty stomach!”

“Give me a break Jay, I only need you to shoot pictures of the dirt bag himself, not for any of these yokels. I’ll drop you at the hotel and you can check us in and run up a tab with room service, OK?”

“Alright, but you’re going to have to upgrade us from the Holiday Inn sweetheart, I am not going to subject my delicate palate to their sort of low brow cuisine, I mean really!”

“Oh man Jay, you know Brian has us on a shoestring budget this trip!”

“Look KC, we always produce beautiful work together, always right? I’m sure that he’ll look the other way after we bring home the winner he’s hoping for.”

“Yeah but Jay, it’s my ass, beauty or no beauty, a budget’s a budget!”

“Awww, come on KC, it’s only money, small price to pay for beauty,” he said, winking at her and putting on his designer shades. KC hung her head in submission and shook it slowly.

“This better be one hell of a hunch KC girl,” she murmured, straightening up and grasping the wheel firmly, her knuckles turning white with the tension.


Fresno, California

After she dropped off Jay along with the bags and equipment at the local Sheraton (oh God), KC skillfully wove the VW through the mid-week traffic towards the downtown section of the small city, located in the heart of California’s agricultural district. Straining her eyes trying to read the street addresses on the buildings, while carefully trying to avoid a fender bender in the process, she finally came upon her destination, 13374 Broadway, the Superior Court building which housed the offices of the District Attorney. She pulled into the driveway and took the ticket from the machine, which prompted the mechanical arm to raise and allow her entry. She exited her vehicle and locked the door behind her, a girl couldn’t be too careful, right? Entering from the street side of the building she felt the rush of cool air as the large glass door closed behind her. She walked towards the reception counter manned by uniformed Marshals, and inquired as to the floor of the District Attorney’s office.

“That would be the third floor ma’am, you can get the room number from the directory on the wall next to the elevator,” the Marshal said politely.

That pleasant exchange put her in a better frame of mind and her kinder instincts took over, guaranteeing that the next person she ran into would be met a big beautiful smile. She scanned the directory, found the room number, and pushed the arrow pointing up and waited for the next car. The bell rang and the doors opened in front of her, and she stepped aside as a group people wearing jurors badges exited, no doubt heading for the cafeteria for a coffee break. She got in and pressed the big number three on the panel and watched her reflection appear in the shiny stainless steel doors as soon as they closed shut. She adjusted her skirt after giving her pantyhose a tug or two and then fine-tuned her short-cropped hair. The bell rang again, announcing her arrival, and KC exited the elevator. She walked right up to the reception desk and introduced herself.

“Hi, I’m KC Littleton from the San Francisco Daily News, I believe I have a 10:30 appointment with a Mr. Jeffery,” she said with a great big smile.

“Hello, yes, well let me check with his secretary, please have a seat while I announce you,” the pretty young woman said as she directed KC with her hand toward the set of rather large leather Queen Ann chairs stationed against the wall across from the mahogany counter. She walked over and sat down, sitting toward the front of the chair and not leaning back, she didn’t expect to be waiting long. KC watched the receptionist dialing on the PBX and smiled at her again when they made eye contact. She looked around the lobby and nodded her head approvingly, nice set up she thought, top cabin all the way.

“Miss Littleton, I’m afraid that Mr. Jeffery is tied up in conference at the moment, would you like to wait or re-schedule?”

“Oh, I really do need to speak with him today, this morning actually, I have several other stops to make and I will only be in town for a couple of days. May I ask how long he might be tied up, maybe I could come back this afternoon?”

“Let me check with his office, one moment please,” the receptionist said, her tone and demeanor changing slightly, and her cheerful smile was absent this time.

“OK, thank you so much,” KC replied, wrinkling her nose suspiciously, watching the young woman sit back down and disappear behind the large countertop.

“This is bullshit,” she muttered, loud enough to be heard.

“Brian’s office made this appointment yesterday before I even left work for the day, wonder what gives?” she added for good measure.

“I am sorry Miss Littleton, but Mr. Jeffery will be tied up the rest of the day. However his Supervisor will be happy to meet with you in his absence if that will be good enough for you?”

“Oh yes, that would be wonderful, please thank her for me,” KC said, making a mental note to find out why Mr. David Jeffery would be ducking her?

The receptionist returned to her call for a moment and then came from around the counter to escort KC to her revised appointment. They walked through the paneled double doors and entered the inner-sanctum of the halls of justice in Fresno California. It was a maze of hip high cubicles with scads of people smartly dressed running around busy as beavers, filing this and typing that. They turned a corner and passed a water cooler and a small table that contained a percolator full of coffee and some Styrofoam cups. Finally they stopped at a good-sized secretarial desk, complete with a side table where a rather large and new IBM select-writer was perched. The young woman introduced KC and then excused herself, walking back the same way they had just come. KC looked over the woman sitting behind the desk and quickly extended her hand.

“Hello, I’m KC Littleton, I am very grateful for a chance to meet with…?”

“Hi, I’m Lois, and you’ll be meeting with Mrs. Hall, Lou Ann Hall, she is the Supervising ADA (assistant district attorney).

“Let me just tell her that you’re here, I’ll just be a sec,” Lois said, knocking lightly on the door and disappearing into the office behind her. She reappeared instantly and motioned for KC to go on inside.

“Thanks,” KC said as she passed her and walked into the ADA’s office.

“Hello Miss Littleton, please have a seat, I am Lou Ann Hall, what can we do for you today?”

KC walked over to one of the two chairs in front of the woman’s desk and sat down. She suddenly wished she had buttoned the top button of her blouse before she had entered, that information-coaxing tactic wouldn’t be very effective now.

“Hi, Mrs. Hall, thank you so much for seeing me on such short notice.”

The woman leaned forward in her seat, placed her elbows on her desktop, laced her fingers together slowly and rested her chin on the knuckles of her folded hands.

“Now, what has brought someone from the great San Francisco Daily News all the way to the sticks today?” KC snickered nervously under the woman’s cool gaze and cleared her throat.

“Um, really Mrs. Hall, we are not out here looking for dirt or anything like that. Actually I am doing some follow up for a piece I am writing about sex offenders, and I wanted to do some research on the case your office is prosecuting against a Dr. Murray Katz.” she explained. KC didn’t like the way the supervising ADA was scowling at her. She waited a reasonable amount of time for a response, and when none came, she continued.

“I would really appreciate any information you could share with me so that I can use it as reference material to profile his crimes and compare them with other cases that I have been researching.” KC knew that she was lying, actually she was a pretty good liar when the need arose, but she wasn’t sure that Mrs. Hall was buying any of it.

“Mrs. Hall, ma’am, have I said anything wrong here,” KC inquired?

“No dear, not at all, but I am afraid that we will not be able to help you, that case is still under investigation.”

“I understand that Mrs. Hall, but are you sure that I couldn’t just tag along with the detectives that are working the case, just be a fly on the wall so to speak?”

“Young lady, we do not try our cases in the newspapers around here!”

“This isn’t San Francisco! We’re not as liberal with our respect for the constitutional rights of our citizens under the law,” the ADA snapped!

KC looked sheepishly back at the woman and frowned; obviously she had struck a nerve, but why? This was an open and shut case according to the known facts as far as she read them. The guy had been abusing women and girls through his capacity as a doctor in a free clinic, as a trusted member of the community for goodness sake. Why would the District Attorney’s office care if her paper ran a piece about their stoic persecution of such a terrible man? It didn’t make sense to her and that bothered her, and KC Littleton did not like loose ends, they screwed up her nightly hibernation!

“I apologize if I gave you the impression that I would be anything but professional with regard to any reference to your office or its investigation. Nothing could be further from the truth, I am just doing some basic research, and this case has some similarities to others that I have been looking into,” KC said in as soft a tone as she could muster.

“Never the less, as I have said we are not able to share any information with you or any other publication at this time. Perhaps once the case is closed we can send you whatever data you may require,” ADA Hall said, also in a softer tone.

“Look, I apologize for my harsh tone, but you must understand, this particular case has been a personal nightmare for me as well as many others. We're embarrassed, angry and frightened that something like this could happen in our community, this isn’t the big city, we don’t expect that kind of behavior, we’re not used to that kind of evil,” she finished.

“I understand how you feel Lou Ann. You know, we aren’t accustomed to this kind of thing any better in the big city,” KC said, trying to sound consoling and not angry, which is what she was after the woman attacked her sensibilities.

“I guess maybe I should go now. Thank you for seeing me, and again, my apologies.”

KC walked toward the door and then stopped when the ADA called to her.

“Miss Littleton, for what it’s worth, I really would like to help you, but my hands are tied.”

“However, our Police Department did not actually arrest Dr. Katz. He is in the custody of the local Sheriff’s Department.”

“You might try talking to Sheriff Cardwell over in Firebaugh, it’s not far from here, he may be able to fill you in on things that I am not free to talk about.” Lou Ann Hall offered all too sweetly.

KC shot the woman a crooked little smile.

“Thanks,” she said, sourly, getting up slowly to walk out the door. Once out of the room she went quickly to the elevator. As she waited for the elevator to arrive, a hand touched her on the shoulder, startling her. It was Lou Ann Hall.

“One more thing KC, a request really,” she said. Mrs. Hall looked at her for a moment before continuing. The bell rang suddenly and the doors opened to an empty car. KC reached inside with her hand and held the doors open. She ignored the buzzers clambering inside the elevator letting her know in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t the only person anxious to go up or down.

“Yes,” KC said, looking back at the supervising ADA?

Lou Ann Hall reached out and gently rubbed KC’s arm, smiling at her as she did so.

“I’m sure you are very good at your job, I can see that in your eyes.”

“But I suspect that you’re also kind, and have a conscience. I can see that in your eyes as well. When you finish gathering your information, and you have all the facts that you need, please, leave the child out of your story, there’s no need to include her,” ADA Hall said, her eyes betraying her concern. She didn’t wait for an answer. She just turned and walked away quickly, back toward her office. KC was perplexed and she knew her face probably gave that away easily.

“Hey wait a minute! What child, what’s the deal anyway,” KC called after her.

There was no reply, ADA Hall had already turned the corner and disappeared. The urgent buzzing requests kept coming, and KC finally entered the elevator and watched the stainless steel doors close. She looked back at her reflection and noted the puzzled look on her face. She reached for the cross she wore around her neck, not really knowing why. It was an involuntary reflex she had whenever she was nervous.

“What was all that about,” she wondered out loud. The bell rang and the doors opened, she passed sideways like a crab through the herd of people entering and made her way out of the building. Suddenly this assignment gotten very interesting, this girl loved a good mystery, what reporter didn’t, and she was world class nosy! KC smiled and put on her sunglasses as she exited the building into the bright noonday sun.

“Beautiful day,” she said to a stranger passing her, as she turned right toward the parking lot. Taking out a spiral note pad she jotted down a couple key thoughts, then listened to her stomach growl.

“Hope Jay is still hungry, I’m starved!”







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