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Cole Matthews

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Everything posted by Cole Matthews

  1. Cole Matthews

    Discovery 10

    Excellent observation. However, these are teens who happen to be gay. They are very group oriented and status driven. Teens are usually clannish and look at others with suspicion. Clay's different with a history that is daunting. He's coping the best he can. I'm sure being seen as ordinary is solace to him. Thanks for the insightful comments.
  2. Cole Matthews

    Discovery 10

    The deposition is the examination of a witness. The ADA knows the whole story already. This is the formal questioning, but they've been interviewed and have the reports from the event already. There are no secrets revealed in most depositions. Great question!!!
  3. Cole Matthews

    Discovery 10

    Clay's doing all right. He's coping with things and there may be hint spring in the air soon!!! We will see. They are definitely rushing to stop the investigation. I think you'll see in the next chapter why the plaintiff's counsel is so nervous and edgy. Thanks for lovely comments and observations!!!
  4. The next chapter of So Weeps the Willow is out.  Rush and the cop, Hammond, meet and discuss cases.  Jake's family has a memorial service for him.  The two expert reports have been delivered to both sides and so Ben and Rush meet with the client, Sawyer Bailey.  

  5. Cole Matthews

    Discovery 11

    Discovery 11 “Meet at Hen House 1 pm for brief,” the text message read. It was from Detective Hammond’s personal phone, not his official cell or his office number. Rush really didn’t want to go. He knew Hammond wanted his help and working for Hammond in the best of times was painful. However, the cop had assisted a bit with the space heater case. Rush sighed, and that made Ben ask, “What’s wrong?” “Hammond,” he answered, clearing his screen and popping his phone back into his messenger bag pocket. “He keeps bugging me about this guy they found in the bridge along Minnehaha Parkway.” “He thinks your gaydar will show you the way to his killer.” Ben laughed, looking around his laptop screen at his partner. “Hammond really doesn’t get it.” “No.” Rush shook his head, but a bemused grin cracked his face. “He’s not that bad. He does think I have some insight into the gay mind, or something.” The detective made air quotes with his fingers. Finally, he concluded, “I just don’t like him.” Rush watched his partner’s reaction. There was a kind of dawning on the other man’s face, a realization. “Maybe you can help,” Ben said. “I’ve been reading in a couple of local blogs. There are people in the leather community who are scared and anxious. They feel like they’re targets.” “I think that’s what someone is suggesting.” Ben didn’t respond. He was keying away at his computer and then said, “Listen to this; ‘the only community more marginalized than the trans community are the leather folk. When violence happens to our people, society thinks we asked for it’.” Ben paused and added, “They aren’t wrong, not really. That’s what people have always thought about violence in the gay community. They think two guys together are asking for trouble.” Rush considered Ben’s observation. “Does Hammond really want help?” Ben continued working at his computer as he said, “I think we need to support where we can. If we want justice, we need the guilty to pay.” “And the innocent to be exonerated,” added Rush without pause. He was now reading a text from his phone. “Listen to this, Hammond confirms the Hennepin County DA is charging the owner of Sunset Pawn with arson and insurance fraud. Hammond was right. It wasn’t the heater after all.” Ben stopped and looked up. “So, your friend Hammond is giving you valid information that helps your case. The asshole is a homophobic prick, but he is delivering. I just wish he wasn’t such a hater.” Rush shook his head. “Hammond is an insensitive prick and the police are like any other bureaucracy; impersonal and distant, but not necessarily apathetic. I think Hammond is really concerned about this poor dead guy shoved onto a cement pillar and left to the birds.” Rush considered his next words carefully, “He seems to be personally offended by it.” The younger man shook his head, but then stopped and tilted his head, reflecting for a moment. The look on the Ben’s face was so special, concentrated, serious, yet almost innocent. The man’s thoughts translated into reflected colors of his skin and tics on his face. His anger showed at bright magenta, and above it was a pink of excitement. Also, his underlying color was a little anemic, gray, for the gravity of the situation. Ben was animated, the corners of his mouth twitching, as he thought. After a few moments, he gave Rush a resigned smile. “Then you should help him,” Ben said. “I think something hinky is going on.” Rush said, getting out of the kitchen chair and hefting his bag on his shoulder. “Maybe Hammond will have more to help my case.” “You scratch his back…” “Please don’t suggest I touch that guy’s pimply back.” Ben laughed as his partner headed through the hall to the front door. *** “So why am I here?” Rush asked, watching Hammond take a bite of his pancakes. A drip of syrup escaped the corner of his mouth and leaked down onto his chin. The man wiped his face with the sleeve of his dark gray suitcoat. Rush shivered in disgust. “I can’t get my head around this guy’s deal,” Hammond said. Rush noticed the cop hadn’t swallowed his mouthful of food yet and his voice was muffled, accompanied by a spray of moist bits. “Why would he hide in this day and age?” Rush shuddered, and then answered. “There are still people who aren’t comfortable with gays and other groups of people in the community.” Hammond swallowed and shook his fork dismissively, nodding in agreement. “I know that. But, it’s not like it’s illegal or anything. If two guys want to use whips and chains on each other, who cares?” Rush screwed up his face in puzzlement. “What are you talking about?” “This Steve guy, he was into bondage or something. That’s why he was dressed like he was and, well, other stuff as well.” “The guy found in the park?” Rush asked, trying to get up to speed. “You mentioned he had some leather community items like the flag and some cards in his wallet, but that doesn’t really make him part of the kink community. Hammond took a long drink of his coffee, emptying his cup. “We found a couple of rather suggestive items in his apartment as well, but the clincher is the ad.” Rush shook his head in confusion. “Start at the beginning. I thought this victim was a gay guy with a bit of a kinky side. What are you saying now?” Hammond cleared his throat, pushed his plate away, and licked his lips. “The deceased’s name is Steve Wylie. He was found on the bridge’s undercarriage dressed in jeans and a leather jacket. He had his wallet and there were business cards from local establishments catering to the kink community like Leather and Latte and a couple of sex toy places. “That doesn’t mean much, except the woman and kids that found him, did so because a handkerchief identified with the leather scene was doused with his blood. Putting two and two together, we realized this must be a guy with gay fetishes.” Hammond stopped and took another huge bite of pancakes, chewing with an open mouth. Rush interrupted, “I think you’re jumping to conclusions. I have a card from that same coffee house and Ben has a red handkerchief, but the kinkiest thing we do is watch Jason Strahan action movies after sex.” Hammond grimaced at the man’s comment, but continued, “The kicker is we found an ad on a website saved to his computer looking for a date to dominate him. It was found on some kink site for gays. It wasn’t hard to find. We didn’t assume because he has a black and blue bandanna, he’s into leather. The ad was pretty clear he was a submissive looking for a master. “I did some investigation. I talked with witnesses who knew him. The thing is, none of his family, his friends, hell, his roommate, knew anything about that side of him. As far as they knew, he’s a straight guy who’s single and loved the ladies.” “Perhaps it’s something he’s exploring. Maybe it’s new and something he’s not comfortable with yet.” Hammond nodded. “But, his roommate is gay. She doesn’t think he ever expressed interest in men. His coworkers were pretty sure Steve Wylie wasn’t into men, but certainly had a ‘healthy’ interest in women. None of his friends ever heard him talk about kink or domination or anything like that.” “He could be straight and likes being dominated by women,” Rush suggested. “Do most straight guys have gay porn DVDs and very large sex toys, the kind you stick up your yoohoo?” Rush admitted he didn’t know about that. Hammond picked up his fork and drew lines in the maple syrup pooled on his plate. “There is one other thing that makes this case weird. In fact, it’s the main reason I called you.” Rush nodded to the other man. “Steve Wylie knew Jake Ogden.” “What?” Rush asked, leaning forward. Hammond smiled ruefully. “According to Wylie’s friends, Jake and he were drinking buddies at their usual hangout after work, Gallivant’s. It’s a bar in the neighborhood where both men lived.” “That’s an unusual coincidence,” Rush said after a long pause. “It sure is. Apparently, they liked to get drunk together, pretty often. I spoke with the staff at Gallivant’s, and Wylie wasn’t as ‘regular’ as Ogden, but they were frequently seen drinking and chatting together. “Did they say anything about being more than friends? “No, but one of the bartenders was under the impression Jake’s ex wasn’t a big fan of Steve’s and vice versa.” “That’s interesting,” Rush said quietly, thinking and sipping at his own cup of joe. “Did they know anything else about Ogden and Wylie?” “I was only pursuing Wylie’s back story, and it was only in passing someone mentioned Ogden. There was some kind of altercation involving the two of them. I’m not sure what it was about, but the bartender who usually works nights and the manager were both pretty sure Jake and Steve were just friends.” “But, it’s possible Wylie was testing the waters.” “Maybe. Who knows. Apparently, Wylie was quite the ladies’ man, or as the bartender put it, ‘pussy hound’.” Rush took out a notebook and started writing down notes, questioning the detective further. Hammond made sure his information was off the record. *** Defense Expert Report in the Matter of Jacob Ogden, Decedent Clifford J. Tomlinson, CID, CSP, BCEE As a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Certified Safety Professional, he has conducted thousands of safety surveys of consumer products. He has conducted indoor environmental quality assessments of many commercial buildings, and several thousand air quality and causation assessments of residential buildings. He has served on the national Board of Directors of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (www.aiha.org), as Chairman of the AIHA Management Committee, and is currently Chair of the AIHA Indoor Environmental Quality … … examination of the heater and parts showed no deficient components. The carbon monoxide switch was damaged and the result was a heater that wouldn’t turn on. The connections between the electronic ignitor and the burner were incomplete and so without completely replacing the switch, the heater was inoperable. Further examination showed arcing around the site of the switch which may be a missing link or other artificial and external addition. Kerosene heaters of this type with a ‘fail-safe’ switch, shouldn’t operate if the mechanism didn’t perform properly. The switch worked perfectly by not allowing a flow of fuel to reach the burner. There was no flow of electricity to allow operation of the heater. The arcing soot source isn’t clear. There was probably tampering of the switch which allowed the heater to run in a dangerous manner. The safety device operated as designed. Plaintiff Expert Report The Estate of Jacob Ogden and Special Administrator, Twyla Smith v. Bailey Safety Systems, et al. Janet C. Bloomington, Ph.D, Consumer Product Safety Analyst … present during the destructive testing of the space heater responsible for the death of the Jacob Ogden. While the kerosene heater wouldn’t operate at the beginning of the testing, it was clear the product had operated recently. There were soot marks showing poor fuel oxidation and burned wires. In addition, the safety switch was broken with the dial and the connections severed. This shows the device was inoperable. As the product was subsequently tested, it was obvious there was some kind of alteration done at some point, because the heater wouldn’t fire until the switch was replaced. This could be as a result of a few things. 1. The faulty switch failed to stop the electronic connection between the ignitor and the burner. The new switch operated as it should. 2. This connection was somehow either removed or fell off during preservation of the product at the scene. 3. The connection was removed or fell off after the preservation of the product during transport to the testing facility. 4. There was tampering of the equipment by the operator, who then was poisoned by the heater. This tampering should have been prevented by the safety switch, but because of inadequate design, allowed operation when damaged. 5. There was something about the safety device that allowed the operation of the heater, but after being turned off, was no longer connected. …in conclusion, the safety switch failed to stop the heater from operating in a dangerous manner with a clogged intake vent. The safety device design was inadequate to sense and stop the flow of fuel to the burner causing excess amount of carbon monoxide to be produced which poisoned the decedent. *** Twyla looked at the poster board sitting on a tripod at the front of the chapel and mused. It looked sad, with the pictures of Jake plastered all over it. There were water stains evident on the dark blue background and her mother had placed glittery dollar store stickers all over it. Jake’s handsome smiling face was surrounded by tacky rainbows and tawdry sports symbols. Neither of which reflected any sense of her brother’s character. Behind this bizarre remembrance of her brother were flowers. There was an impressive spray of gladiolas from his employers at Fisherman’s Wake. There was another from his ex, an urn of red and white carnations. Someone whose name she didn’t recognize had sent a pot of rust-colored mums. There was the white bouquet of roses from her family and next to it was a vase filled with drooping, wilted lilies which had started to shed petals. That was from his friends at the bar, Gallivant’s. It was a depressing scene and she wasn’t sure why they’d even held it. Jake’s funeral had been a private affair, just their immediate family. Her mother had wanted it that way. So, they’d kept it small and intimate. Then Winnie got a notion that her beautiful baby boy should have a memorial service for all his near and dear. She had pestered Twyla for weeks after Jake’s funeral to put together this assemblage. Jake had died almost six months ago, and yet here they were. Again. There weren’t many people here at all. Perhaps thirty had come and she didn’t really know many of them. Twyla had met a couple of his coworkers and his manager who showed up and introduced himself. One of his professors from the university came, telling her how Jake had so much promise and it was tragic he was taken so young. Of course, Eddie, his ex, had shown up. He was dressed in black jeans and a blue button-down shirt and white tennis shoes, which seemed to gleam brightly even in the quiet, subdued light of the chapel. Eddie looked down and depressed, barely speaking a word to them, though he had embraced Winnie upon entering. Nats came, dressed in a black dress with sensible black shoes. She fidgeted pensively in the back row of the white-painted wooden folding chairs. Twyla knew Jake and Nats had a falling out before he’d died, but Jake had never said why. Apparently, the roots of their friendship had run deep enough she showed up to pay her last respects. Twyla noticed her father was standing to the side, looking out of the leaded glass windows. He was probably watching the rapidly melting snow and thinking about his son under the earth. She’d think the same thing, considering her husband’s situation. Winnie was at the front entrance, greeting each person who arrived. Twyla had been surprised at how sober and awake her mother was. At the beginning. After setting up the easel with the photos of Jake, her mother had grabbed her purse and fled to the restroom. Every fifteen or so minutes, Winnie would disappear and return with a hint of whiskey clinging to her. Her sobriety had eroded away as the afternoon unfolded. Now, the woman practically teetered on her low heels. Twyla couldn’t stand watching her unravel as the event unfurled. “Are you doing okay?” Steve asked, taking her hand. Twyla squeezed his hand and smiled thinly at him. His face was wan and gaunt, with deep, dark circles under his baby blue eyes. Atop his head was a stocking cap she’d knitted for him. His hair had fallen out and not grown back yet. Steve was still weak from his surgery, but he’d insisted on coming. His cane was next to his chair, announcing his infirmity to the world. “I’m fine,” Twyla answered. “I wish we hadn’t done this.” “It’s for your mother and father. And Jake’s friends too,” he added. Twyla pointedly looked at the score and a few more of mourners and then back at her husband. “Not much of a turnout.” “He was buried months ago. It’s unusual to have a memorial this long after the death,” Steve answered. “I’m glad we didn’t bring the kids though. It’s more sad than mournful.” Twyla nodded. “Are you doing okay? Should I take you home? I can come back and—” “No, I’m fine,” her husband assured her, tapping her arm. “There’s the minister.” Twyla watched as a somber looking man greeted Winnie. He had a black shirt, dark suitcoat, and white collar, and he was taking her hand in both of his. At first, he appeared to be consoling her, and Winnie was nodding. Then her mother opened her mouth. Twyla giggled to herself as the minister recoiled while her mother spoke to him. No doubt, he’d gotten a smell of her whiskey breath. Winnie was suddenly a mess. She was now crying on his shoulder and he was gently patting her on the back. A woman came up beside the minister, and she was wearing a hat, a rather large one, black with a black crepe band on it. She was wearing black lace gloves and talking with Winnie. The woman also leaned away from Winnie as she turned and spoke animatedly. Her mother’s presence was a powerful force, apparently. The woman whispered to the minister and then walked over to the piano situated below the leaded windows next to the flowers and easel with Jake’s photos. With a flourish, she took off her gloves, opened up the instrument, and began playing Amazing Grace, with a great deal of panache. The piano sang in mournful tones and chords. Twyla shook her head again at the absurdity of it all. “What’s the matter?” Steve whispered. “Why did my mother choose spiritual hymns for Jake’s service. He was about the least religious person I’ve ever known.” “They aren’t about Jake. They are about the bereaved,” Steve whispered back. “If it was for my mother, it shouldn’t be Amazing Grace. It should be, There’s a Tear in my Beer,” Twyla snorted derisively. Steve snorted back, holding his hand to his mouth to mask his laughter. Twyla leaned over and placed her face on his chest. It rumbled with his wheezing breath. She looked at him as he put his arm around her, pulling her closer. She now knew how bad it really was. *** Ben watched as the older, well-dressed man shrugged off his coat and hung it on the rack next to the door. He was proud of their new office, a place that was only for work, away from the house. Finally. They’d rented this space just a couple of months back, now that they had law firms and clients and the money was flowing in steadily. Ben had painted and decorated the place himself. The entryway to Rush’s tiny office space was tight; two chairs opposite each other in front of a short, squat desk behind which the paralegal was seated. He’d volunteered to man the “reception area” for his partner today. Basically, it was a hallway from the door to Rush’s small inner office. They wanted it to seem so much more. “Mr. Bailey?” He stood and offered the man his hand. The client smiled broadly and grasped Ben’s hand firmly, pumping it eagerly. “Yes. And you must be Romer’s husband? Boyfriend?” he asked looking Ben up and down. “We’re partners,” Ben clarified. “In life and work.” “That’s great. Will you be joining us in this impromptu meeting?” Ben blinked. “I wasn’t planning on it, but sure. If you’d like.” “The more the merrier,” Bailey said. “Rush says you’re his researcher and sounding board. I’d like any insights you may have as well.” Ben agreed and coming around the desk, he knocked on the door. “Come on in,” Rush responded. Ben opened it and the client followed him inside. Rush’s desk was covered in papers, as usual. His laptop was situated in the center of piles of folders, notebooks, and a couple of racks of magazines spilling over the wired sides. Ben could never understand how Rush could think in such a messy space. He certainly wasn’t that untidy at home. Bailey sat in a folding chair close to the door. Ben picked up a pile of red-roped files, tied tightly up with string and set them next to the armchair. He was about to offer the client the better seat when Rush spoke up. “I’m glad you could come so quickly. We have a lot to discuss since we received the final reports from the experts. Also, there’s a new development I want to share with you.” Bailey said, “Did their expert admit my switch worked?” His tone was sarcastic and bitter. “Not exactly,” Rush said, picking up a bound sheath of pages. “She admits there is something missing from the heater and basically claims the police screwed up preserving the evidence.” “Did they?” Bailey asked quickly, leaning forward. “Not that I can see. Our expert reports the heater was complete and there are some problems with the evidence, but not with the forensic team or the custody of the evidence.” “Can I see them?” Bailey said, reaching out toward the pages. “I’ve read our expert, Tomlinson’s findings, but not the other side’s final writeup.” Rush handed over the hefty softbound collection. Bailey took it and immediately started reading. Ben smiled at Rush. The detective grinned back and gestured to him. Ben stood and scooted over to his partner’s side. Rush whispered something to him. The paralegal nodded and then returned to his seat. Bailey read silently turning the pages quickly until he finally grunted. “What does this ‘destructive testing’ mean? Why would they destroy the heater?” Ben replied smoothly. “Experts in civil matters sometimes need to take things apart to see what went wrong. In order to do so and preserve the original evidence, they work in tandem in a lab space recording what they’re finding. It’s not destruction of the heater, but destruction of the original state of the evidence.” “Oh. So, their expert and our expert are both present when the thing is taken apart. That way no one can claim the other did something tricky.” “Yes,” Ben said. “That’s true. Both reports contain identical photos and descriptions of the heater in question.” “How can they come up with such different results?” Bailey asked gruffly. “Basically, the plaintiff’s expert is claiming missing evidence or a magical missing wire has vanished.” “That’s the gist of it. Neither expert understands how your switch failed to stop the heater or prevent it from turning on in the first place. They tried all sorts of ways to turn the heater on and it wouldn’t. Your expert says the switch isn’t to blame and doesn’t know what happened. Their expert also doesn’t know what happened, so she blames the switch, but doesn’t know why.” Bailey handed the report back to Rush. “A jury is going to be as confused as I am.” “Maybe not,” Rush said. “Plaintiff has the burden of proof showing the switch caused the accident. Their own expert doesn’t know how and that is huge.” “Why is it huge?” Bailey asked. “The guy died and the jury will want someone to blame.” “True,” Ben said. “However, the expert findings are both rather conclusive. Both say the heater shouldn’t have worked and something extraordinary must have made it run.” “We have something else too,” Rush said. He looked at Ben. Ben nodded. The detective continued. “We have reason to believe something strange is going on.” The businessman looked startled. “What’s happened?” Rush continued. “My contacts in the police are looking into this case because of another matter. There was the murder of a guy in south Minneapolis who was friends or at least an acquaintance of Jake Ogden’s. The cop I spoke with thinks these two deaths may be related.” “Are you serious?” Bailey said incredulously. Quickly, he said, “They think it’s murder?” “They aren’t jumping to that conclusion quite yet. It could be a case of suicide or it could be foul play. The police are very quietly checking into this, and I’ve supplied them with copies of the expert reports. These suggest perhaps someone did something to the heater causing it to poison Ogden.” Rush said. “When I read it in the reports, I thought that sounded kind of far-fetched. I mean, wouldn’t someone need to be an engineer or mechanic of some type to do this?” “We don’t know anything yet, and don’t get your hopes up,” Ben added, “However, if this is a criminal case, it means your switch wasn’t the culprit. It means someone probably killed Jake Ogden by tampering with the heater.” Bailey leaned back. The look on his face was shock, bordering on thrilled. “This is the best news.” “The police are looking into it, but they are skeptical,” Rush said. “Two people are dead,” Ben added. “Of course, it’s terrible. I hate to think someone killed those young men, but it is good news for me.” Bailey said in a kind of dazed state. “Yes,” Rush and Ben said together. They were both still a little shell-shocked as well.
  6. Cole Matthews

    Prologue

    Yeah! Thank you.
  7. Cole Matthews

    Prologue

    Hmmm! It is based on my experiences. The story unfolding is about what these characters would have faced. It’s a good question, and I think it requires more reading. 😘 there is a case with a person who died, and it spurred a case. It was suspect. Keep reading. Not everything is cut and dried 😎 Thanks!
  8. Valkyrie’s surgery went well.  She’s recovering nicely and in good spirits.  Thanks for all your well wishes!

    1. CassieQ

      CassieQ

      Good to hear!  Thanks Cole!

    2. Puppilull

      Puppilull

      Thanks for the update! 

    3. Defiance19

      Defiance19

      Wonderful! Thank you, Cole. 

  9. Cole Matthews

    Morton's Fork

    This is the continuation of the story that becomes SWTW. It’s the guts of the story. These are people finding family, and it is reflected in the next generation of the story. Thank you so much!
  10. Cole Matthews

    Boy River

    Amen. This is a huge problem we don’t deal with. People use children and this falls through the cracks. Sadly it doesn’t seem a priority to some people. It is to me. Thanks for your comments and observations.
  11. Cole Matthews

    Boy River

    Thanks so much. The story needs to be considered. There are too many sexual predators and the prey who live with the consequences. I appreciate the comments.
  12. Cole Matthews

    Boy River

    Thanks so much for the thoughtful comments. This story came about because of my witnessing a debate about sex predators and abuse of children. Clay’s story isn’t unique. It touched me deeply. More of Clays struggles are part of my work. Thank you!
  13. You got it exactly. Ryan loves Darren. They have a family and a life. What does Ryan do? Does Darren have an excuse? I love these explorations. Thanks for some interesting thoughts.
  14. Great questions, which I love you for asking. Are intelligent people wiser? Do they make better moral judgments? What does the doctor think about a life taken, and their family’s life lost? Is this even possible? After all, they are going nowhere fast, as a result of your prompt. The car won’t start.👍
  15. I don’t think its done. I started it with the idea we are all susceptible to doing something extreme. No one is immune from that. The second one was someone pays for it. This final one was suggestive that it isn’t just the guilty who pay. Is Ryan a victim? What about Christian? Is he guilty at all? How do we stop it? Thank you you for the probing ideas. This is why we interact!
  16. Cole Matthews

    Discovery 9

    Twyla's very astute, like her brother. Her attorneys are pretty sure of themselves. We will see what happens next. Rush is happy Clay is communicating with him. I think Clay is happy in their home. Even the best relationship isn't all candy and flowers though. Thanks for some great comments. Very much appreciated!
  17. Cole Matthews

    Discovery 9

    I have a suspicious mind as well. Hammond thinks it may be a serial killer at work. Twyla isn't sure what to think. Rush doesn't buy easy stories. There are facts and suspicions galore, but there is clarity coming. Thanks for the interesting comments.
  18. Cole Matthews

    Discovery 9

    There is plenty of suspicion to go around. Twyla did see the issue and it's a problem that needs to be understood. The firefighters are key investigators, and they have parts to play. At this point, the case is a civil one, and the discovery process of collecting evidence is the stage we are in. As we clear up ambiguities, the picture will become more clear. Thanks for an energetic comment. I'm glad you're invested!! Makes me happy!
  19. Cole Matthews

    Discovery 9

    You are getting the hang of it quite well. You're right about Twyla, for example. She saw flaws or inconsistencies, and they abound. Sure, the story is complex, but we will take apart each knot carefully together. We are already resolving one problem in the next chapter. Thanks for the lovely comments and insight. It's very much appreciated!
  20. Cole Matthews

    Discovery 9

    Thanks so much!!! I appreciate your sentiment. Another chapter out today.
  21. New chapter in So Weeps the Willow has been posted.  We find out how Sawyer's switch works, the trauma Twyla is enduring due to her husband's illness, and Clay goes out for ice cream. Enjoy!

  22. Cole Matthews

    Discovery 10

    Excerpts from deposition of Novice/Acting Firefighter Brandon Freeman taken on January 7rd 20XX at 9:20 am in the Hennepin County Courthouse, Room F18 In the matter of Sunset Pawn, conducted by Hennepin County District Attorney’s office regarding fact findings leading to. . . ADA: What was the first thing you did after carrying Ms. Thompson from the building? Freeman: The EMT present gave her oxygen and was tending to her, so my supervisor and I returned to the fire suppression by the other members of the team. ADA: By Stangeland, you mean Firefighter Brenda Stangeland? Freeman: Yes. ADA: How long did it take to put out the fire? Freeman: Not too long. We were using water since it appeared to be generated by a faulty heater. It took only about ten minutes after rescue operations were concluded to stop it. ADA: Then what did you do? Freeman: Brenda, I mean, Stangeland and I entered the structure and looked at the patterns in the area where the heater was situated. There were large splattered burn marks on the floor, on the wall behind the heater, and on the counter behind it. ADA: And? Freeman: Stangeland took pictures. I measured the marks, collected samples of the burned surfaces, and recorded her narrative of the scene. Then we secured the heater in an evidence bin and exited the scene. ADA: What preliminary findings did you have about this fire? Freeman: At first, it appeared the heater was faulty, but upon examination, we saw the heater had blisters in the paint on the far side of it. The heater was switched on, but the splatter patterns were inconsistent with any kind of explosion. In addition, from the soot samples we were able to conclude the accelerant was gasoline. ADA: Why is that significant? Freeman: The heater in question is a kerosene heater. It doesn’t use gasoline to fire. It requires kerosene to operate. ADA: So was the fire caused by the operator using gasoline in the heater instead of kerosene? Freeman: No. Chemical analysis from the heater shows it was kerosene in the heater’s tank. Accelerant was splashed around the heater fueling the fire. The heater probably ignited the gasoline, starting the fire, but someone had deliberately used gasoline to spread to the walls, floor, and counter. ADA: You believe this is an arson case? Freeman: We think so. Someone threw gasoline around the kerosene heater, then turned it on, therefore causing the building fire. ADA: I’ll reserve the witness for deposition at a later date. You are released, Mr. Freeman. *** Sawyer Bailey looked eagerly at Rush, waiting for the detective to talk. His gray hair was carefully combed, but his collar was sticking up in back. He’d thrown on the suitcoat without care. The wrinkles on the shirt showed a kind of desperate response. Rush had called the businessman asking for an interview. He felt he needed to clarify a couple of things with the owner of the safety switch manufacturer. First, he needed to know more about the product. Something about the broken switch in the Ogden case wasn’t quite right. He wasn’t sure exactly what, and if Bailey could describe his product, maybe some answers would be forthcoming. Or more questions. That’s the point of an investigation, Rush reminded himself. Investigations were rarely clear forward exercises. In his experience, questions usually lead to more questions. Leads were followed that came to dead ends, cul de sacs which occurred within the facts, and then you had to backtrack and look down different paths asking more questions which brought an investigator into more avenues of inquiry. Only the truth was a final destination. That was immaterial, right now. The goal was still nebulous. Rush decided he’d start with his second reason for the meeting. His good news. Something that would make the guy happy. “You know the accident in Richfield with the kerosene heater?” Bailey’s face fell. His mouth twisted. “I knew that would come back to bite us in the ass. I can’t figure out how—” “It’s not a flaw in your switch. I just got off the phone with a police detective for Hennepin County named Hammond. He told me the fire investigators are sure it was arson, not a failed switch, and that’s what caused that pawn shop fire. You can stop worrying about that. They are looking into the store owner’s finances and some products he’s been moving that aren’t on his inventory lists.” “You mean the news stories all had it wrong?” Rush nodded and handed over a piece of paper. On the top it had the letterhead of the Minneapolis Fire Department. The businessman read it quickly and looked back up at Rush. “This is fantastic news.” Sitting back, he added, “Now if only we could get the reporters to issue a retraction on the ridiculous accusations they’d made.” “That’s not going to happen,” Rush said with a resigned sigh. “Channel Two has a news segment clarifying the situation and the Minneapolis Messenger is printing a story about the arson investigation. These stories are both quite explicit on how it couldn’t have been the heater. Not that it will help.” “No, but it’s better than a kick in the shorts, I guess,” Bailey responded. Then, he perked up. “Any other good news?” “That’s as good as it gets so far.” Rush paused. “I did have a few questions only you can answer.” “Fire away,” Bailey answered immediately. “It’s what I’m paying you for, or perhaps what my insurer is paying you to do.” Rush pulled out a notebook. “First of all, how does this switch of yours work?” “How technical do you want me to be?” the older man asked. “It’s a very simple product that operates on a simple idea, but the application is a little tricky.” Rush tapped his pen against his cheek. “Start telling me about how it works and if I’m confused, I’ll stop you.” Bailey opened his mouth and then closed it. He fidgeted in his chair, then started. “You know what carbon monoxide is, right? “I do. It’s a byproduct of burning fuel and it’s lethal in large doses.” Bailey tented his hands and placed his elbows on the conference table. “Carbon monoxide is a natural substance that occurs whenever we oxidize any fuel. When there is enough oxygen present, the carbon compounds in things like wood or gasoline combust creating heat and that releases carbon dioxide, the main byproduct of burning. There is also a little bit of carbon monoxide emitted even with a perfect burning environment.” “Okay,” Rush said, taking notes. “Continue.” “When there is an oxygen deficiency, there can still be combustion, but instead of carbon dioxide, it will instead produce heat and carbon monoxide, with only one oxygen atom attached to one carbon atom. This is a very unstable molecule.” “Gotcha,” the detective said, wishing Bailey would move along. “Carbon dioxide isn’t dangerous for animals until it gets to really high levels, which hardly ever happens. Also, the air around us contains a small amount of carbon dioxide at all times. But, because carbon monoxide is so unstable, ordinary air contains almost none of it in its natural state.” Rush stopped taking notes. “Maybe I wasn’t clear in my question to you.” “Bear with me,” the older man said. “There’s a reason I’m explaining the chemistry to you.” Rush nodded. “Once I realized I could detect small amounts of carbon monoxide without worrying about carbon dioxide, I could make my switch. My switch works because only carbon monoxide reacts to the chemicals in my device. Once the chemicals are altered by the reaction of the gas on the palladium salts, the switch turns off.” “What if the switch is damaged? Then it can’t turn off the heater?” Rush asked, expecting the worst, but hoping. For what? He didn’t know. Bailey shook his head. “What makes my device so useful is it won’t work if it’s damaged.” “That’s the problem. If the switch is damaged, it can’t turn off the heater.” Rush said. “No.” Bailey said slowly. “The heater won’t work if the switch is damaged. My device is in between the ignitor on the fuel line going to the burner. If the device is damaged, the fuel won’t flow and the heater won’t start. If the detector senses carbon monoxide, it cuts the fuel to the burner.” “It’s a fail-safe device,” Rush said, now scribbling furiously. “But, what if the switch is damaged after the heater has ignited?” “It shuts down,” Bailey said confidently. “We’ve tested it carefully in several ways and it only fails to shut down when deliberately bypassed. Otherwise it stops the heater from working.” Rush finished writing and looked at Bailey’s face, which was now puzzled. “They didn’t find anything bypassing the switch, but it was definitely broken. Why didn’t it stop?” “That’s the question that will make or break this case,” Rush said. “Why didn’t the heater shut down?” *** Twyla was sitting in a conference room with her husband’s oncologist. The doctor, in her late thirties with auburn hair and a perpetual scowl, was peering over her glasses at an electronic tablet. Twyla could tell from Dr. Shelby’s facial tweaks that the news wasn’t good. Steve was in his hospital room recovering from the second surgery, the one that removed his other testicle. His cancer was a particularly aggressive one, first showing up as a nodule on his left testes and then spreading to his other. Now a series of chemotherapy rounds and two surgeries later, she was waiting for the news her husband was going to be okay. Okay. That’s all she hoped for at this point. Let Steve be okay and not dying. She didn’t think she could handle anymore death and illness and suffering. Last night, the night before his surgery, he’d cried in her arms, weeping about no longer being a man. He was scared she wouldn’t look at him in the same way, and her words weren’t adequate. In the end, she took him in her hands and showed him. Twyla straddled him and made him feel like Steve again. At least, that’s how he finally fell asleep. Finally, not crying or moping, but with a gentle smile on his face. This morning he’d acted like nothing happened, except the love. He’d kissed her deep and long, holding her chin in his hand. He thanked her, and she felt okay. Okay. “Mrs. Smith.” “Please, call me Twyla,” she answered the doctor without thinking. She was still feeling Steve’s hand on her face from the morning. “The bloodwork we took today is showing signs of additional cancer elsewhere.” Her reaction was instant. “Last week you told us removing his second testicle would stop it.” Twyla heard the bitterness and accusation in her tone. “I’m sorry, but wasn’t that why he had surgery today?” The doctor laid down the tablet. “It’s even more aggressive than we thought. I’m sorry about that, but sometimes really fast-moving malignancies spread quickly.” “Aren’t you supposed to anticipate things like this?” Twyla barked. “Now my husband has lost both his testicles and still has cancer. Is this acceptable?” She stood up quickly. “Don’t you people think about how difficult it is dealing with things like this? My husband is scared. I’m scared. And all you people do is screw with us!” Twyla picked up her coat and bag and stormed from the conference room. She raced to a seat in a waiting room across the hall only a few feet away. As she collapsed into a chair, her tears leaking from her eyes, a hot sense of frustration, and anger washed over her in waves. Twyla rubbed her eyes dry and took a deep breath. They weren’t doing enough. They were doing everything they could. It wasn’t enough. Steve still had cancer. She was all alone in this. Sniffling, she opened her purse and pulled out a tissue. Wiping her cheeks and nose, Twyla saw the doctor exit the conference room. Their eyes met only for a second, and then the doctor nodded once and walked down the hall away from her. Twyla felt shame bubble up in her stomach. The doctor was only doing her job. She’d made a fool of herself, shouting, running from the room, and crying her eyes out. What kind of nut was she? A noise made her look up and over. An older man was sitting in a chair across from her, staring at the TV screen. It was some morning talk show. He was focused entirely on the program, his eyes riveted. Twyla noticed his face was very white, ashen, and his lips were trembling. It was only then she saw his hands had clenched the armrests of the chair so tightly, his veins and sinews bulged. His grip was almost frenzied and yet his attention was on the screen. He was mouthing words to himself. Twyla thought she could read what he was repeating to himself, over and over. ‘Not her. Not her. Not her. Not her.’ Twyla wanted to comfort the man, but he looked like he was barely holding it together. Whatever had happened, she could see he was processing it -- or not. Her phone buzzed and she picked it up. Looking at the screen, she saw it was from the attorney. She didn’t want to take the call. So much had happened in the last few minutes, so many bad things. She wanted to get some water, go for a walk, and then re-approach Dr. Shelby and apologize for her outburst. The phone buzzed again, and without thinking, she answered. “Hello?” “Twyla, this is Laura Hardinger. How are things going today?” Twyla almost laughed at the question. “Fine, I guess. Is there something important?” “I wanted to let you know we are moving into the next stage of the case. We have subpoenaed records from Bailey Safety Systems. We served the deposition notice on the company’s president. He will be questioned about his shoddy product and we will find out what happened.” “That’s quick,” Twyla said. “I thought that wasn’t until later this winter.” “No,” Laura said brightly. “We have decided to pursue this aggressively. We gave Bailey and his insurance carrier a reasonable demand, and in return, his law firm hired a private investigator. We believe they are intending to smear your brother’s name and use every dirty trick they can to stop this lawsuit. He’s been questioning the witnesses in this case and suggesting foul play.” “Foul play?” Twyla exclaimed. “What does that mean?” Laura continued. “This detective of theirs is working for Sawyer Bailey the owner of the company that makes these faulty switches. Our sources have suggested they are trying to make this a criminal case which is ridiculous.” “Who told you this?” Twyla asked. “That doesn’t matter. We think this may be a way the defendant intends to either delay justice being served or blame someone else for their shit--, er, defective product. This is a product that failed to work which lead to your brother’s death.” “How are you going to stop them?” She was really confused now. There were images of Steve in his recovery room, the doctor talking to her, and something else nagging at her. Twyla was numb. “As I said earlier, we are asking for a trial date sooner rather than later, getting the CEO of this company deposed, and looking through his testing records for the flaws and failures which led to this horrific situation.” Laura Hardinger was sounding quite revved up, and ready for battle. “I still don’t understand how you found out this investigator is making it a criminal case.” Hardinger didn’t answer at first. The call was silent for so long, Twyla said, “Are you still there?” “Yeah,” she finally responded. It was now soft and conspiratorial. “One of the witnesses this so-called ‘detective’ has been questioning told us. The guy’s name is Rush Romer and he made the witness think there has been a crime committed. That could blow this all up.” *** “How was your date last night?” Ben asked, scooting the scrambled eggs onto a plate that already contained two pieces of toast and a mound of hash browns. A large bowl of fresh fruit was sitting on the counter, and Rush grabbed it and placed it on the kitchen table. “It was great. We went to the mall, hung out, had some pizza, and chilled out. D’s great.” Ben set the full plate in front of Clay and the teen dug in, demolishing a big forkful of eggs followed by a mouthful of toast. “So, are you seeing him again?” Clay shrugged. “I’m too young to get exclusive.” Ben laughed and Rush sat down at the table. “I think that’s about right.” Clay saw Rush grinning at Ben who beamed back. The two guys were so happy. They were kind of the ideal, to him at least. If only… “Do we have anything else to discuss?” Judd asked, smoothing back his straight, black hair. It wasn’t long or short, just shorn perfectly and framing a face that was oval and handsome, with the dark shadow of a beard most teenaged boys didn’t have yet. “Our meeting should be entirely gender-neutral,” Cammy Stewart announced. She was always bringing up gender this and cis that. Clay wasn’t exactly sure what ‘cis’ even was. “I believe I’ve been gender-neutral this entire meeting,” Judd responded, smiling at her. Clay watched her seethe, because it was true. Judd just refused to enforce it when some of the other people didn’t use her preferred speech codes. At least, that’s what he thought happened. “She just needs a girlfriend,” D said, smirking, with his brown eyes twinkling. D was a football player and a natural athlete in all sports. Clay could only guess how the lanky, handsome, tall, man would be in bed. “That’s offensive,” Cammy pouted. “I’d say,” Kenny added. Kenny was the ultimate sexy, gay geek. He had short light brown hair and wore glasses that glinted silver in the overhead lights. He was the first to raise his hand in class, and Clay could only guess what holding him in his arms would be like; talking about a movie or a museum exhibit or something smart. “Cammy being intimate with anyone is pretty gross.” Some of the GSA laughed. Others rose to her defense, and the meeting ended as it always did. Messy. Incomplete. And without Clay having said a word. Not since the first meeting had ended so poorly, had Clay said a thing. At the first meeting, Clay had talked about being from a small town and how hard it was to meet other boys. Nobody had said a word. After he finished talking, he realized no one was looking at him. Their eyes were trained on the floor, or the wall with the world map, or outside the window, or in D’s case, the closed door. Nobody had acknowledged his experience, and then Judd called the meeting to an end. Clay hadn’t returned for at least a month, but then summoned the courage to go. Encouraged by Rush, who didn’t know they’d given him the silent treatment. Rush thought they had been shy and nervous, not rude, and the teen hadn’t revealed his impressions. People smiled at him. They were cordial, but icy. Cammy kind of walked around him, like he was contagious. Judd was very polite, and then would dismiss him completely. Kenny was sort of friendly, the second time, then he too gave Clay the cold shoulder. D wouldn’t speak to him, at all. It was like Clay wasn’t there. Some of the other kids also were standoffish or worse. He wasn’t sure why, until he asked Kenny out for ice cream one afternoon. “I don’t think that would be a good idea. People like to talk,” was the teen’s response. That made Clay crawl even deeper into his shell, until the day his neck got burned. He didn’t smoke anything, but the only people he could hang out with at lunch were the burnout girls. They’d talk to him a little and then go outside and smoke a cig or some weed. A girl called Jazzmine, tried to tie his hair back. A cig hanging out of her mouth it hit his neck, leaving a little red mark. Clay didn’t even remember it had happened. Ben thought it was a hickey. Clay had been pretending, for Ben and Rush’s sake, that he had friends and dates. If he didn’t, they’d worry, and he was happy enough the way things were. Dating was probably not a good idea for him so soon after…him. But, the hickey changed things, because now he had to give his ‘dates’ names. So, Clay told them about meetings with Kenny, then Judd, and now D. After all, if those boys didn’t think he was creepy, he’d certainly have dated them. Hell, he could see dating the hell out of Judd, with his creamy skin and dark eyes. And then Clay had the fifty-dollar bill from Rush. Following the GSA meeting, he’d asked everyone out for ice cream at the Dairy Queen two blocks from the high school. Six of them agreed, and together they walked down the street, Kenny talking with Judd, D trailing behind with another boy named Cristof, and two girls whose names he didn’t know walked on either side down the street with Clay. He got everybody’s order and Kenny waited to help him carry the various Dilly bars, sundaes, and Blizzards to the group. Kenny never said anything to him. Clay was too nervous to speak. After they collected the treats, Kenny said his thanks quietly, almost like no one else could hear. They walked over to the group and as they neared, Clay heard D say, ‘How do you think he got the money?” The rest of the group laughed, and Clay felt his red, prickly skin try crawling off his face. They were talking about him, and it was the worst. He couldn’t bear it. Their eyes were dissecting him. He handed out the ice cream, took his butterscotch Dilly bar, and walked back to school. Humiliated. “Clay, did you hear Rush?” Ben asked, nudging the teen’s arm. “What? No, I’m sorry,” Clay answered. “So, if D isn’t the one, who’s next on the list?” Rush asked. Clay didn’t answer, but blushed and smiled. “We’ll see.”
  23. Cole Matthews

    Chapter 27 - Private Speech

    I'm glad you liked it. Yes, the first part is Balancing Act, which is when the event happens. The last section is just posted. It's called Salvation Road. Thanks so much!!! Great hearing from you.
  24. Cole Matthews

    Chapter 27 - Private Speech

    Oh, I'm glad it worked that well for you. I was hoping the feeling would be conveyed. I appreciate the compliment and the comment. The last vignette is posted.
  25. Cole Matthews

    Chapter 27 - Private Speech

    It was pretty sad, so I needed to do something positive. Christian surviving is a bit of a miracle, but he was hit with a laptop so there's that. Thanks for the support.
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