MMM and so it begins again

CHAPTER  37

For Ben Perrini, reading Fusner his rights, writing up the charges and attending the arraignment hearing could have been the end of it. It wasn’t. Ben’s life, what he thought and had always lived by was once again being challenged and he was still up to his ass in this case. His sphere and scope of serve and protect had expanded. As the arresting officer, he knew he would be called to testify for the prosecution. Now, with the case on the docket and with the arraignment and preliminary hearing out of the way, things were moving in the direction of a pretty much open and shut case. It was ready to be cut and dried.

With the DA’s review of charges, the negotiated decision for a jury trial, appointing a defense attorney, getting the trial on the court docket, it was dragging on. The trial itself attracted an eager and aggressive media blitz. And with a new cast of participants in the wings, storm clouds were gathering on the horizon.

To say that the Chief Prosecutor for this murder trial came with a colorful past would not give credit where it was due. Frank Fairweather came from Bend, Oregon. His mother was a member of the Kalapuya Tribe and his father had been an itinerant Mexican farm worker. After being a promising scholar/athlete in High School he had gone on to Linfield College. As an under graduate majoring in Sociology, he left school before finishing the degree. Out of school, out of work and in need of money he got hired by the US Forest Service as a Forest Fire Lookout on the East side of Mount Hood. One season of terminal boredom pushed him to the edge of discovering that he needed to go back to school. Searching for alternatives, he discovered that being fifty percent Native American he was entitled to federal grant money for tuition. After scoring just good enough on the LSAT, he applied to Lewis and Clark University Law School.

Three years later, after passing the multi-state bar exam he was armed with a bright and shiny JD. Although Frank didn’t have any specific career plans, he eventually got hired as an Assistant District Attorney in Spokane County, Washington. Due to retirement, death in the saddle and normal attrition the position of Chief Prosecutor eventually fell in his lap.

Getting ready for what just might turn out to be the trial of the year in Spokane County, DA Fairweather felt compelled to do more than his usual perfunctory study of the evidence before writing the charging documents.

“I need to have everything you have on this case on my desk before tomorrow morning, Perrini”

“I’ve got two separate files, one on Riago Restorini and one on Virgil Fusner. They both have a significant bearing on how you end up charging Virgil Fusner. I hope you take the time to review both before you get to court.”

In a feeble attempt to be more personal than professional, Fairweather continued.

“No worries, Ben. You know we always do a thorough job in this office.”

“Right, your reputation precedes you. That’s why I’m insisting. Are you going to be there for the arraignment or will it be one of your Assistants?”

“ln order to save time and energy, we usually share the burden. The Assistant DA will do the prelim arraignment and hearing. I’ll be there for the arraignment in Superior Court, the pretrial hearing and the Jury trial, if it gets that far.”

“It’ll get that far, Frank. You or whichever Asst. DA draws the shortest straw have got plenty to look at before charging Fusner at the first arraignment and hearing.”

“Ben, just be damned sure you’re around for all this prelim stuff.  You will be a prime witness for the prosecution. Understand?”

“Understood. Are you gonna want to brief me, so I don’t point the finger at the wrong guy?”

 

MMM find, catch and contain

CHAPTER 36 

After dropping the boys off at the hospital Perrini couldn’t wait to get back to the Courthouse. With the murder weapon now in his possession, a renewed sense of mission and direction swept over him. Back in the office he felt compelled to move on this new information right now. It was 6:30 in the early evening but most of the checking and tracing could be done online., Booting up the computer, Ben immediately searched for the weapons screening and print scanning software. He plugged in all the data in the forms on screen and all results came back positive. Ballistics identified the SR22 as the murder weapon and the bore markings matched the slugs removed from the victim’s body. The prints on the hand grip were smudged with grease from the engine but were a perfect match for one Virgil Fusner, a known small-time felon.

Virgil Fusner was born in Shelby, Montana. He grew up as the singular spawn of a white trash couple. Neither of them would acknowledge that he was anything but a drunken mistake. Each blamed his existence on the other and neither took responsibility for his upkeep or bad behavior. His juvenile rap sheet was a classic tour of what kind of trouble can I get into next.

As a fourteen-year old homeless on the street vagrant, Virgil Fusner stole a car in Polson, Montana and drove South to Missoula and ultimately West into Northern Idaho. Using an Oklahoma credit card (rubber hose) to siphon gas from parked cars, he finally ran completely out of gas in Spokane, Washington. Caught trying to suck the gas out of a parked Police vehicle, he was apprehended and taken to jail. After a sleepless night in a communal cell shared with a couple of sleep it off street drunks, he was arraigned before the on-duty Justice of the Peace the next day. Because of his age the magistrate gave him six-months jail time and six-months’ probation. After sentencing, he was sent to Echo Glen Youth Reform School. His roommates there quickly saw his potential. On release, his associates and reputation helped him fit into a series of burglaries, muggings and a number of other gang-related incidents of note. In a developmental curve to be admired, all of this schooling helped establish him as a successful low-level career criminal. As of now, Fusner’s rap sheet included such exotic material as doing time as an adult in Montana State Penitentiary in Deer Lodge. While incarcerated there he had shared a cell with Chief Crooked Arrow, a well-known Native American indigent drunk.

The county, state and federal data bases all pointed in the same direction. Now all Perrini had to do was find him, make the arrest and turn it all over to the DA. The new evidence would clear up everything but why the murder happened. Whatever alibi or explanation Fusner might have wouldn’t be able to erase his prints from the murder weapon. Ballistics confirmed the SR22 was the gun. And motive didn’t seem to be an issue. At any rate it would all be over soon.

According to google, Fusner’s last known address was a cheap motel in Airway Heights, a suburb located on the western outskirts of Spokane. Airway Heights, has the dubious distinction of being the home of the Lucky Seven Tribal Casino. The Humvee the victim had been driving was registered to the Tribe. Airway Heights Correctional Center, a State criminal custodial facility was located just a couple of miles away.

With staff help in the office next day, Perrini had narrowed the search down to the All Climate Rooms/Motel on Sunset Highway, not too far from the Correctional Center on West Sprague.

When the Swat team and Perrini arrived at the motel, Fusner was just getting out of bed. Answering the door in his underwear, he wasn’t in any mood for visitors.

“What the hell, ya want at his time of day?”

Remembering the mug shots of record in his office and comparing them to with what he was looking at, Ben Perrini began,

“Virgil Fusner, you are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand?”

Fusner, no stranger to this line of attack said,

“I need some duds on if you’re hauling my ass outta here.”

 

MMM evidence beyond a shadow

CHAPTER 35

It didn’t make any sense. A gun stuck in an engine. What the hell could that mean? Forensics went over that vehicle with a fine-tooth comb. They even ran a video lead up the exhaust pipe. It’s unimaginable they would have overlooked the engine compartment. These kids are having another laugh at my expense by dreaming up another Scottish wild haggis hunt.

DI Perrini’s brain was running a complete disk search looking for a reason to ignore Sean’s remark.  The search ended with zero results. Ben terminated it by locking the office and strolling out to his car.  With the boys hard on his heels the trio set out on another mission. If successful it would add a whole different slant on who they were looking for. Sean and Randy were nervous, charged and resolute. Perrini was nervous and charged but still skeptical and definitely not resolute

“Get in, you two. We’ll go take a look at what you found.”

With one foot on the accelerator and one hand on the emergency brake, he sped away from the courthouse and headed for the Sports Complex parking lot.

The drive took all of about ten minutes. Plenty of time for Perrini to remember, Fool me once, it’s on you. Fool we twice and I’ve got no one to blame. Once burned, forever shy, Ben wasn’t about to get snookered again. However, by the time they got to the Humvee his imagination had taken charge and was driving the action. Slipping under the tape, the boys were anxious to prove their find and Ben had his hopes up for a positive outcome. All three were operating at a feverish pitch to find what they came for.

“Remember, this is still a crime scene.”

“As if we could forget it.”, muttered Randy.

Sean added, “Yeah. This is personal. Your opinion of Indians is hanging out again, Detective.”

Out loud this time Randy pitched in.

“And when we found this thing, we ran all the way to the courthouse to find you.”

“You guys stand clear. I’ll pop the hood.”

With Sean and Randy in front of the Humvee, Perrini found the hood release under the dash.

“Can you still see it?”

“Yep. It looks just like what I saw in computer class this morning.”

Perrini set the brake, jumped out and joined Sean’s head under the hood.

“Did the computer name the parts?”

“No, but I know what a radiator looks like. You can see all the belts. Do you know what any of this is?”

“That belt runs the fan and the alternator.”

Randy, pointing at it,

“There’s the thing.”

“Where?”

“There between the alternator and the intake manifold?”

Still needing to be in control, Perrini reminded them.

“Don’t touch it. It does look like a gun.”

Sean, no longer hesitating, “Suspicions confirmed.”

Adding this discovery to his disappointment and frustration over the Italian snow job, Ben Perrini was both startled and breathless. When he saw the SR22 lodged between the alternator and the intake manifold, he couldn’t help sucking air. Quickly pulling on the blue gloves before reaching for it he removed and bagged the piece.

“If this hasn’t been wiped clean. We’ll get the prints into the system and find who shot Michael O’Brien.”

“Hey, that’s your name, Sean.”

“So, what, Randy? There’s more than one dog named spot and probably quite few O’Briens.”

On the way back to the office, Ben dropped the boys off at the Hospital ER right on time to catch their ride home. Not wanting any more surprises, he launched a gag order.

“Remember, you two. Don’t tell anybody about this. Not even your Mom.”

MMM discovery and confirm

CHAPTER 34

With Riago Restorini in custody, Ben Perrini wanted to ignore the facts. They had no gun, no forensics and just a bunch of circumstantial rumors, attitudes, societal norms. No real evidence that he was the one.

All he could do at this point was arrest and cite him for reckless endangerment. Not even a speeding ticket, since Ben’s need to take him alive had caused Restorini to obey the signs on his flagrant romping rampage.

It was looking like that after summary judgement by the local magistrate, Restorini would relinquish ownership of all weapons and get off with four weeks in jail. With time off for time already served, he would be back on the street. After sentencing he would have to do one-year public service and be on probation for two years.  His Parole Officer and the Civic Service committee in Clayton were to determine what, where and how.

For Ben this whole shitty investigation had turned out to be one of the most frustrating time-wasters  in his twenty years of public service in law enforcement.

Late Monday afternoon when Sean and Randy came in looking for him, Ben Perrrini was dead ended more or less right where he had started out before convincing himself that the Italian was the guy.

Dismal as the prospects were now, Ben Perrini was at his wit’s end. He was unprepared for the boy’s abrupt interruption in a miserable day.

“What are you two doing here?”

In unison and loud, “We’ve got something new for your murder investigation.”

“Look, guys. I’ve almost given up on this one. It’s getting colder by the day. After your mother’s help, I came out looking like a fool or a tool, depending on who you’ve been talking to.”

“That wasn’t her fault.”’ said Randy.

“Of course not. But It sure sounded like the painter was the right guy.”

Hearing that this line wasn’t moving in the right direction, Sean interrupted.

“Take us back out to the Humvee. It’s still there and there’s a thing under the hood.”

“What the hell were you doing there? It’s still a crime scene. Didn’t you see the yellow tape?”

Early on, Sean had learned that a good offense was the best defense. His flanking move was to sidestep and thrust.

“This morning, Mom transferred us in to Deer Park High School. It’s not the friendliest place but she thinks we’ll get a better shot at making a living when we get out. Anyhow, we had time to kill waiting for her to get off work.”

Randy supported the attack with,

“Yeah, and so we just went over and slipped under the tape. We didn’t move or break anything.”

“Well, I took a Forensics Team out there last week. Took the side panels off, pulled up the floor boards, looked under the seats and dash, crawled inside and underneath, checked the wheel wells and spent two hours with a spectroscope looking for blood or any other evidence. They didn’t find diddly squat.”

Randy felt the need to parry.

“That’s too bad. But the reason we ran over here is because, when we got to school this morning, we saw the Humvee still sitting there. Sean googled the Humvee in computer class and wanted to look at the engine.”

“OK. Got that. And?. . . . .”

Sean’s “coup de tete.”

“And if you take us out there, we can show you what we found.  It looks like a gun stuck in the engine.”

MMM finding the evidence

CHAPTER 33

All day long in each class Sean had been thinking about the Humvee across the road. As soon classes were done for the day and Randy got out to the track, Sean’s curiosity took charge.

“There’s nobody over there at this time of day. Let’s go take a closer look.”

“Good idea. I’ve always wanted to see one up close.”

Trying to look nonchalant and casual they crossed the road and moved closer to the Humvee. Looking around in all directions, Randy decided it was safe to approach. Sean did his own 360-degree visual survey before giving his OK. Then both sidled up to the vehicle.

“If it’s not locked, we can get inside and check it out.”

“Try the driver’s side door, Randy.”

“Hey, it’s unlocked.”

Once inside, Sean took the back seat and began rummaging around, behind, in front of and under everything.

“What are we looking for, Sean?”

“Anything the police might have missed.”

“Like what?”

“When you and I were doing the breakfast dishes Saturday, I overheard that detective tell Mom he was still hadn’t found the gun.”

“What kinda gun was it?”

“I couldn’t hear what he said. Anyhow, after the cop and I found this Humvee, he told me the detective and his boys checked it out and came back empty handed.”

“Those guys don’t miss much.”

Jumping in the driver’s seat, Randy grabbed the steering wheel started making engine sounds and pumping the pedals.

“Randy, pop the hood. I want to look at the engine.”

With Sean outside again, Randy found the hood release under the dash.

“What dja see?”

“It looks pretty complicated, but it’s just like the picture I googled in computer class this morning.”

Randy exited the front seat and joined Sean’s head under the hood.

“Did the picture show you a parts list?”

“Nope.”

“Do you know what any of this is?”

“I know where the radiator is and I can see all the belts,”

“Can ya see what the belts do.”

“One of ‘em runs the fan to cool the engine and it looks like the same pulley drives the alternator.”

“OK. I give up.”

“Wait a damn minute, Randy. What ‘s that thing there between the alternator and the intake manifold?”

“Where?”

Pointing at an object that hadn’t been in the googled picture,

“Don’t touch it, Randy. It looks like a gun. Slam the hood down. We better high-tail it over to the Police station and bring that detective back with us.”

Sixteen blocks on a dead run. Randy got there first. Sprinting across the Court House lobby, they both skidded to a stop outside of Police HQ. Bursting into the front office, the Desk Sergeant met them.

“Hey, slow down, you two. What are you doing here? Your shift doesn’t start until Wednesday.”

“We found something. We need to report it. Is DI Perrini here?”

 

 

MMM thinking ahead

CHAPTER 32

“Up and at ‘em, sunshine. You too, sad sack. Time to get up.”

Monday morning arrived without being asked. Edna was performing the morning ritual for Mondays and ruminating about her role in the warped world of single parenting.

Out loud for the boys to digest while they were grousing about having to get up.

“Your Grandma used to say, Man works from sun to sun but woman’s work is never done. Now get up or we’ll be later than usual.”

Sean dressed quickly and headed for the kitchen. Randy scrambled along behind. Two glasses of orange juice and a couple pieces of toast were waiting. Jumping in the Camaro, the mixed trio left Wellpinit half an hour earlier than usual. Edna had built in extra time for a stop at the high school.

As she pulled in to the parking lot school bussess were unloading. She took a visitor spot close to the entrance. Sean and Randy were all eyes and ears and a bit intimidated by the size and sound of things. Somewhat in avoidance mode, Sean nudged Randy and pointed across the road at the Sports Complex parking lot.

“It’s still there, Randy.” Sean muttered sotto voce.

“What’s still there?” Randy replied in kind, avoiding what they were there for.

“The dead guy’s Humvee.”

“Is that the one you and the cop found last week?”

“Right.”

“What are you two muttering about?”

“Nothing, Mom.”

Randy’s parallel response, “Just wondering if we’re goin to fit in here.”

Provoked Sean to venture, “Yeah. Like round pegs in square holes.”

Enrolling, registering and transferring records for the boys took all of about fifteen minutes. The Principal’s secretary called in the Freshman Counselor. The hustling hurried informal welcome took even less time. Edna needed to get to work.

“Look guys, my shift is over at 11:00 this evening.  When schools out I want you to chill and hang at school or in the neighborhood. Meet me at the Hospital for the ride home. Understand?”

Sean and Randy weren’t exactly overwhelmed. But nudge, nudge, wink, wink, and they were rushed off to their first period class. Since their records had already been faxed, the first required class was 9th grade Math. It was being taught by a grim looking Ms. Wastradowski. And so, the different school thing began and went.

The boys made it through the rest of the day with very little help. In transit getting to class they came in contact with and were confronted by all the archetypical cliques and unorganized groups that can be found in most small-town high schools. They weren’t exactly an oddity but were definitely not part of the main stream. Subjected to improvised war hoops and sideways sneers, they were able to maintain and survive their first day more or less unscathed.

While going to their 6th period class Sean reminded Randy to meet him out on the track after class.

 

MMM chase parade

CHAPTER 31

Approaching Restorini’s dinky house on the outskirts of Clayton, DI Ben Perrini, with the DP SWAT Team standing by, walked up to the dilapidated front door.

Insistent knocking to the accompaniment of, “Police” and a pause for response, followed by “Deer Park Police”, again. Louder this time.

When the door remained unopened he moved out to the gravel street. Armed with his trusty bullhorn Perinni, shouted. “This is the Police, Restorini.” Come out with your hands in the air and you will not be harmed.”

This too got no response. It was late afternoon and the sun was setting in the west edge of town. With dusk approaching they needed to speed this arrest up.

Bluffing and hoping to avoid a confrontation, Ben continued with,

“The place is surrounded. Give it up and come on out, now!”

Meanwhile inside the dumpy little house, things were moving quicker. Restorini grabbed the AK47 from under his sleeping bag on the cot he used for a bed. Gambling on calling the bluff, he darted out the back door and jumped into his old red Chevy pickup. Gunning the whining engine, he emptied the first clip for cover and broke through to the street and on to the highway.

The SWAT Team had been on smoke break. Perrini hadn’t anticipated this ballsy move. Taken by surprise all they were able to do was crouch for cover and wait to see what would happen next.

“Follow him. Don’t fire. I want him alive not dead.”

The Police vehicles quickly responded and with lights blazing and sirens blaring took off in pursuit. Except for the speed it could have been mistaken for after dark funeral procession.

With DI Perrini in front of the after-hours law enforcement part of the parade, Restorini sped south on SR395. He fired the AK47 at oncoming vehicles and anyone else that came into view. Doing a steady 65 accompanied by an occasional burst of fire the red pickup raced by Deer Park, Half Moon Prairie, Commelini’s Cutoff, Wandermere Golf Club and the Y without hitting anything.  The Junction with SR195 put it on track with North Division. At the Y the Spokane County Sheriff and 3 deputies cars joined in and at the city limits the Spokane Police joined the parade. Adjusting his speed to accommodate the cities speed signs, Restorini continued south on Division and turned left on East Sharp Avenue. One clip away from empty he stopped abruptly at the statue in front of Gonzaga University. At the end of his shooting rampage as the police closed in, Riago Restorini climbed the pedestal of the statue of St. Ignatius, the Jesuit founder of Gonzaga Preparatory School. Wrapping himself in the flag of Vatican he straightened his arm in a Fascist salute.

Restorini’s motive seemed to be to avenge the “blaspheming of the Papacy” In the Italian’s mind, he was a patriot. But to Roman Catholic leaders, progressive liberals and anti-fascist groups, he was a terrifying omen.

Getting him down off the statue didn’t take much effort.  He had lost his need to set an example of militant Roman Catholicism. Now in cuffs and disarmed he was at the mercy of the justice system.

Riago Restorini’s only crimes, other than firing his AK47 in public without hitting anything or anybody were talking too loud, bragging and painting unpopular subject matter. He hadn’t killed anyone. He had made his meta-religious point in spades and decided to let the rest of the world figure it out for themselves.

Finally relaxing in the Police cruiser, Restorini continued mumbling in Italian. He had never made a Novena before, but was thinking this might be a good time.