“This is the District Attorney’s Office,” Wally pointed out as his voice echoed down the long, wide corridor with incredibly high ceilings. “You said we were going to one of the most dangerous places in the city.”
Bruno stopped short, turned to Wally, and jabbed his finger into his chest to emphasize that he needed to absorb what he was about to say.
“If you learn anything from me, it oughta be that lawyers are evil,” Bruno snarled, but softly so his words would not echo. “They lie, they demand we find more evidence even after we already busted our ass to make their case, and then they try to make us look like fools on the stand. Lawyers ain’t our friends. Simple as that.”
Lecture delivered, he started walking again. Wally hustled to keep up as Bruno strode down the hallway like a man either on a mission, or intent to get the hell out of this place as quickly as humanly possible.
“This ADA we’re gonna see is a real piece of work,” Bruno shared with distaste. “She’s a dragon lady, an ice queen, and hates my guts. But she’s worked our guy’s last coupla cases so we need to place nice. Just let me do the talking, and for once, please let me think that you ain’t even there.”
Wally nodded that he understood, as Bruno opened an office door. He blew past the stunned receptionist, and hurried into another office without knocking.
“Oh what the hell?” the attractive, but pissed off woman in the power suit growled as she looked up from her desk. “Why do we even employ security and administrative assistants if you’re still going to get in unannounced?”
“A pleasure to see you as well, ADA Ambrose,” Bruno replied with his best fake smile.
Wally entered and his eyes immediately lit up. “Michelle Ambrose! I don’t believe it!”
The evil glare vanished from her face, and was replaced with a welcoming smile, as she sprang out from behind her desk.
“Little Wally Wainwright! Is that really you? Come here!”
They met halfway between her desk and where Bruno stood in befuddlement, and embraced.
“You’re not so little anymore,” she observed with a chuckle when they finally separated. “How long has it been?”
“Since you left for college,” Wally replied without hesitation.
Then he turned to Bruno to explain. “Michelle lived across the street from me growing up. She used to date my big brother Chris, and I had a huge crush on her.”
Michelle blushed and swatted Wally playfully on the arm.
“How is Chris?” she asked, her eyes never leaving Wally.
“As you know, he went to college in Oregon. He met the love of his life there and decided to stay. They’re married, with a two year old, and another one due in about a month. He’s a firefighter, and he absolutely loves the Pacific Northwest.”
“And his little brother, who used to follow us everywhere we went, grew up to become a police officer,” she observed with a smile. “You seem too young to be a detective, but that wouldn’t surprise me…”
She reached out to touch his arm and laughed. Wally laughed, too. Bruno simply observed like a scientist absorbing the unexpected results of an experiment.
“I wish,” Wally replied. “I’m just a rookie, but Detective Bruno has taken me under his wing for this case. He’s a great guy, and he’s teaching me so much…”
Michelle nodded, “I used to watch your games on TV, and I couldn’t believe that Chris’ little brother, who used to pout and stomp off angrily when he couldn’t learn to throw a perfect spiral, had become a football star.”
Now it was Wally’s turn to blush. “But as you saw, it wasn’t as a quarterback. I never did get the hang of throwing a spiral…”
Bruno cleared his throat to remind them that he was in the room.
“Perhaps ADA Ambrose and you can exchange numbers and can catch up later,” he suggested. “I’m sure she’s busy, and the taxpayers ain’t paying us to stand around and flirt.”
Michelle and Wally both blushed at the comment, and then quickly pulled themselves together. She walked back behind her desk.
She smiled at Wally and then turned to Bruno with a glare, which wasn’t as evil as her original one, but still up there. “I don’t appreciate unannounced visitors, Detective Bruno, but since you’re here with Officer Wainwright, I’m willing to make an exception.”
“Thank you, ADA Ambrose. We’re here about Charlie White…”
“Oh, Lord!” Michelle interrupted. “What did Charlie do now?”
Bruno raised an eyebrow. “So you remember Mr. White? Hundreds of cases, and that name just jumps out at you?”
“I’m not going to forget a defendant shouting ‘I’m a white man named White, and I still can’t get any justice’ after I decided to drop the charges against him,” she explained.
Michelle motioned for them to sit. More precisely, she motioned for Wally to sit, and Bruno simply piggybacked onto the invitation.
“Was this two weeks ago?” Bruno asked.
“Sounds about right,” Michelle replied. “You still haven’t told me what he’s done.”
Wally decided it was okay to ignore his directive to remain silent now that it was clear that Michelle liked him way more than Bruno.
“He might be dead…”
“What do you mean ‘might be’?” she asked in confusion.
“Maybe the kid…I mean Wally…can tell you the very long story when you guys get together to catch up,” Bruno suggested. “Right now, we’re kinda up against a deadline.”
“A deadline to discover if someone might be dead?” she persisted.
Uncharacteristically, Bruno turned to Wally for help.
“We’re operating under the assumption that Mr. White is deceased,” Wally explained. “In the course of our investigation, we learned that he had been behind a rash of crimes in St Sebastian’s parish, but had never done any jail time. We were curious as to why.”
Michelle nodded and turned her glare towards Bruno as if using her eyes to accuse him of implying that she didn’t know how to do her job.
“Charlie was a special case,” she directed her reply to Wally. “He was a petty criminal, who had fallen on hard times and become homeless. His break ins were never anything major. He’d pocket a few bucks if he saw it out in plain sight. He was mostly taking food and water, and it wasn’t just for him. He’d give it to the other homeless people in the area.”
“So he was some kinda Robin Hood and you looked the other way?” Bruno scoffed. “We heard that he was using and gambling. And that maybe he had pissed off the Heathens.”
Michelle leaned back in her chair and looked like she was mulling over whether she should share something. Wally picked up on that as well.
“Michelle, you can trust us,” he cajoled her. “He’s most likely dead, and if you know something that might help us find who killed him, we’d be eternally grateful.”
Bruno cringed at the thought of being in the ADA’s debt, but he understood their best chance to get the info he needed was to let Wally use his connection with her.
She let out a heavy sigh as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
“Charlie was working with us,” she let them into the circle of trust. “He was a nice guy, people opened up to him, and he was very observant. He’d feed us information, mostly on local gang activity, and in return, we’d keep him out on the street instead of locked up.”
“So you let him continue to be homeless?” Bruno challenged.
This time is was Wally who sighed and rolled his eyes at the outburst.
“I made sure Charlie had money, and constantly offered him placements in low income housing,” she countered. “I couldn’t force him to spend the money on food and shelter, though. Our arrangement was that when he had something for us, he’d get arrested. He’d pass along his information, and then we’d cut him loose. In an age of prison overcrowding, it didn’t raise any red flags that we let a non-violent offender walk.”
“Well, there’s a very angry Nun at St Sebastian’s who disagrees,” Bruno said smugly.
Wally and Michelle chose to ignore Bruno’s outburst, and continued the conversation as if he weren’t in the room.
“Did he tell you anything the last time that would lead you to believe he could be in danger?” Wally asked. “Any chance the Heathens found out Charlie was informing?”
“That’s the weird thing,” Michelle answered. “He let himself get caught as per our arrangement, but when I went to see what he had for me, there was nothing. He said he was just tired of living on the street and wanted to be locked up. Hence the outburst when I dropped the charges.”
Bruno rubbed his chin like he was prone to do when he was deep in thought.
“So what changed?” he asked rhetorically. “Why would a guy, who had proven he could get by on the street, and maybe even enjoyed the thrill of ratting out the punks that plagued his neighborhood, suddenly decide to give it all up and become a jailbird?
Michelle shrugged. “I wish I knew. He was helping us build a case against the Heathens, and when I reminded him of that, he told me none of it mattered anymore. I took that to me he’d soured on the idea that we could actually get those guys behind bars.”
Bruno nodded as he processed all the information.
“And you just gave him money and sent him on his way?” he asked.
Michelle nodded. “But this time, I also gave him a card for the walk in clinic for people without insurance. He looked a little pale, and something just seemed off about him, so I told him he should go for a check up.”
“How’d he respond to that?” Wally asked.
Michelle sighed. “He told me to stop pretending I cared about him, and that if I was really concerned, I’d put him in jail.”
Bruno stood up. “Thank you for your time, ADA Ambrose. I’ll give you two a moment to exchange numbers.
“Please keep me posted,” she replied. “I’d really like to know what happened to Charlie.”
“So would I,” Bruno mumbled. “So would I…”
TO BE CONTINUED…