A Gathering of Clowns
Chapter 20 And With The Rising Of The Curtain, The Final Act Begins
A Gathering of Clowns
it’s a three-ring world and all the while,
we’re the ones to make you smile;
so grab a grin and come on down;
it’s a gathering of clowns.
Another early June morning, only now it was 2016.
Tad Allan was crouching behind the largest tree in the back area of the Hawkins’s home; really the only place of concealment. He was thinking back on the conversations and the decision; Emily, or ‘the bitch’ as he was now thinking of her, offering him an escape from the debt load he was dying under.
Borrowing money from those guys at the strip club was a bad, bad idea; he knew they would carry out their threat of cutting off fingers if he didn’t do something about the money he owed them; on top of the money he owed ‘the bitch’; though at least the six grand she gave him bought some time.
The bottom line was that all of that would go away with one little act; one swift, decisive plunge of a needle. And he, of course, was very familiar with needles.
At this moment; however, he was feeling so agitated and nervous that he expected to puke any second. He jumped as his cell buzzed. It was the bitch, with the message that her father was just heading outside.
After sending the text, Emily left; climbed into her Camaro, put on her shades and roared off, leaving her cousin to his task; in a few minutes she would be on the freeway, with her car stereo blasting out Sharon Van Etten’s You Know Me Well.
Before heading into work, Carman, with last night’s late call from Emily in her mind, decided to pay a surprise visit to Raisha Douak. Carman learned one lesson, people like Raisha are not at their best first thing in the morning. But she was able to discover something interesting; Tad was already up and gone, and he was meeting Emily or doing something for her this morning.
“The guy was up at fucking five o’clock, sorry; anyway, he was out of here twenty minutes ago and whatever he was doing he wasn’t talking, but I know he got a text message, and that phone he used is strictly for the lady. When he was in the can I looked at the messages.”
“And?” Carman asked.
“Nothing, like, specific; just said get over here now.”
“And it was from Emily, er, the lady as you call her?”
“She gave him that phone to use with her only. So, yeah, it was her.”
Carman nodded and left. What on earth could he be doing this morning for Emily, at her place. She called Ivy and told her she wouldn’t be in until later. She needed to check this out. But when she got to the house, Emily’s car was already gone.
Strange. And where was Tad?
Carman sat in her car for a few minutes, and then made a decision. Five minutes later she was in the house and heading up to Emily’s room, having giving Chantico a convincing story. The girl was easy to please and wasn’t going to question someone like Carman. Feeling guilty and excited, Carman entered Emily’s room and was delighted to see her laptop just sitting there.
She took out her notebook as she started the device, then entered the password she had written down from watching Emily one night. It worked and she was in. This was good; it would be necessary for moving the money, but it wasn’t quite time for that just yet.
What Carman was interested in was Emily’s browsing history and she was not surprised to find that the girl had deleted nothing. Of special interest, and what froze Carman before the screen, was the browsing of drugs that mimicked a heart attack. She called Emily, but the call went to message.
Tad, heart beating furiously, maintained his crouch behind the tree as Hawkins came from the house and wandered over to sit on the series of steps that were like a little set of bleachers. To Tad’s mind, the man looked thin and old, and he was looking off into the distance at something.
Chantico now came into view, walking over to her boss. She did her thing, and in a few moments his injection was complete and then Hawkins just sat as Chantico went back inside; he hadn’t even put his jacket back on; it was a warm day. Tad waited.
Carman then went down to the kitchen and saw Chantico, who had just come in from the back. Their brief conversation revealed what Chantico had just been doing, that Mr. Hawkins was in the back; no, she hadn’t seen Tad Allan; she didn’t know where Emily was and that was odd, her being gone this early in the morning; and finally that Ms. Da Costa could look out at Mr. Hawkins, if she wanted to.
Chantico then led the way to a hallway and showed Carman the back stairs.
Finally, summoning his nerve, telling himself it would only take a moment and then he could be free, Tad moved with stealth as he came up from Hawkins’s left. When the man, deep in thought over something, became aware of him, moving his head slightly to look, there was only a moment of surprise before Tad plunged his hypodermic into Hawkins’s left arm. The solution, whatever it was Emily had given him, acted rapidly.
The look of surprise on Hawkins’s face changed to fear, and then the man clutched at his heart and then his throat, and then just wildly in the air, clawing at nothing. Tad looked away, unable to watch this grotesque pantomime.
Hawkins then collapsed to his knees; the look on his face now a combination of fear and also bewilderment. Then he began to fall, almost in slow motion, down the series of small steps, his body jarring with each one, his blond hair jouncing with each jolt, until finally coming to rest at the bottom, in an obscene tangle of long arms and legs, with a face whose eyes lay open and staring at the clown fountain. Emily would have found that an amusing touch.
Carman stood, frozen, unable for a moment to comprehend what she had just witnessed. Coming to her senses, she hurried back down the stairs, to the hallway by the room that Emily used for her ‘fun’ and then around the wall and into the kitchen, where Chantico was preparing a meal.
Fighting to appear and act ‘normal’, Carman asked how one got out to the back area. “This way,” the girl smiled, and led Carman to the other side of the kitchen and behind this wall was another hallway which one could only see when you were here. She pointed to a solid and imposing door; “That leads out,” she said.
“So, that is how, um, Mr. Hawkins comes and goes?” Carman asked; for some reason this seemed odd.
“Oh no, Miss; on the other side of that wall is Mr. Hawkins’s elevator. There is another door outside; this one and that one.” She smiled again.
Carman was confused for a moment. “But I thought Mr. Hawkins could walk directly from his car to the elevator?”
Chantico smiled again, “He can, Miss. The back area is completely fenced; you can only get to it through this door or the elevator door. But there is another door, on the other side of the fence, that opens to the elevator as well. Mr. Hawkins did not want to, um, run around much, I guess. It seems like too many doors for me.”
Carman thanked her and headed out the front. She needed to get away from here. How Tad got in and out was not her concern, probably jumped the high fence; but Carman was now in danger. She was on site, and when they found Hawkins’s body, she could be suspected. But with the entry to the back area restricted, Chantico would be her alibi.
She had never gone out that door, or any of the ‘too-many-doors’.
Tad waited and then looked around in fear, but he was alone, at least no one was near him. He didn’t want to look at Hawkins, but finally he moved over to the body. The face was white, the lips blue. Tad felt for a pulse and found none.
He put the syringe in his pocket and then bolted, moving quickly up and over the fence and then down the alleyway, for a block, two blocks, just running madly until finally stopping behind a fence, where he fell to his knees and began vomiting.
He rested there, kneeling, desperately trying to regain composure while fighting the urge to scream. He had murdered someone! Panic seized him for a moment and he fought madly to control his breathing.
It seemed to take forever, but when he had regained control, Tad took out his cell and sent the message that should free him.
He had done his awful part.
Emily Hawkins was on Ventura Highway, not going anywhere, just driving, her top down and her blond hair blowing wildly, waiting for news. She was amazingly calm.
As she drove, she heard her cell buzz and looked down, as it was sitting on the passenger’s seat. The message was simple: “It’s done,” was all it said, but Emily let out a shout, and then pressed down the accelerator, blasting along the freeway. Holy Fuck!!
After a few moments she exited, and when she had slowed to a more reasonable speed, she sent Tad the address of the place she had found for him. She’d give him a while to get there and then follow up.
Right now, she placed a call to Ryland Ross, and pressured him into contacting the doctor Hawkins had used all those years ago, to sign the death certificate for Sarah. The man, now in his late-fifties, was still practising; Emily had already confirmed that. Whatever Hawkins had leveraged him with back then was still of use, and Ross would do what Emily wanted and the Alex Vargas information would go away.
“But why is this necessary, Ms. Hawkins. And why will he need to go to your house?” Ross asked this with a sense of foreboding.
“You’ll know soon enough, Ross-o; just get on it.”
Tad was now sitting on a cement block in an alley five or six blocks from the Hawkins’s residence. He had vomited again, even though there was nothing left, and now he felt like he might pass out. Having sent out his message to ‘the bitch’, he had waited, and now came the reply; an address. He’d need to take a cab.
Twenty minutes later, Tad paid the fare and looked around the unpleasant part of town he had been sent to; he followed the directions on his cell and five minutes later was reaching under a fence and finding a key, then unlocking a graffiti-covered door and heading down the stairs to a dingy apartment. Turning on the light, he looked around at the sparsely furnished room and then noticed what was on the coffee table: a syringe, a packet of powder and a note. The note said, “Thank You.”
“Fuck you,” he said with feeling, pulling the strap out of his pants pocket and binding his arm.
In a few moments, as he lay against a wall, the drug hit him and he smiled and closed his eyes. After a few more minutes, however, an odd feeling overcame him; something he had not felt before. He tried to stand but was unable. He thought he might be sick again, but nothing happened, just a slow wave of darkness that seemed to rise and overtake him.
He felt very tired now, and needed to close his eyes. He needed to sleep, just for a minute. Sleep. But then his breathing became rapid, and he hyperventilated briefly and then it slowed again.
It then slowed even more. Finally, it stopped, as Tad’s eyes opened slightly, and he stared unseeing at this cold, stark room, his final space.
Carman made one stop on her way back to the office; back to Raisha’s. She wanted to see if Tad returned there. After waiting out front for a while, she went to the door and knocked, with Raisha coming again to answer.
In response to her query, Raisha surprisingly answered that Tad wouldn’t be returning. “Emily found him a place, a few miles from here. It’s a dump, but he doesn’t plan to be there long.”
Carman looked for a long minute at this young woman, before saying, “We need to talk.”
Emily parked her car, convertible top up, on the street in front of a restaurant; it was a little less sketchy than the alley she now headed for. A couple of buildings down the alley she went through the broken gate, then the nasty-looking door, down the stairs and to the rooms she’d rented for Tad; or at least, had Raisha rent on her instructions.
Entering cautiously, Emily quickly surveyed the dimly lit and sketchy room. Tad was slumped against a wall, the needle still in his arm. Emily looked at him; what did she feel? A little nausea, maybe? Certainly no guilt, at least not at the moment. She picked up the empty drug packet, then reconsidered and placed it back down, but took the note she had left. She glanced around until she spied Tad’s cell. Picking this up, she stood; and with one last look at her cousin, left, leaving the lights on.
She would let someone else discover him.
After leaving the place, Emily walked back up the alley and around to the front. Walking down the street, she removed the cell’s SIM and dropped it into one garbage bin. She bent the cell phone as much as she could, and then dropped it into the next bin.
Turning down another street she picked up her pace and soon was at her car. Then in a few minutes, she was again speeding along the road, heading for the ramp onto Ventura Blvd.
She had done it. Or, at least, it was done. She felt exhilaration.
At Adams Hill, Chantico had been alarmed to see Mr. Hawkins lying strangely on the ground when she went out for a break. She had tried to rouse him, but then realized it was very serious and ran in to retrieve Melanie. In a few minutes an ambulance was heading their way.
And a little while later, the paramedics arrived, surprised to find a coroner already there and heading in with them. “I was close by,” he answered their questions. Soon he was informing Melanie that Stafford Hawkins was dead, and it looked like a heart attack.
Although alarmed greatly, Melanie was not grieved and she was able to sit with her cell and contact Documart, informing Drew, Ross and Da Costa of the news.
For some reason, Melanie was unable to reach Emily.
Ryland Ross put down the phone and sat staring off at the news that the body of Stafford Hawkins had been found. So that was it, damn. How’d she do it, he wondered? Damn. Damn. Damn.
Ross then felt a wave of both nausea and sadness rise within him. Hawkins was not a loveable, even a likable man, but Ross’s relationship with him had been lengthy and very rewarding, in several ways. Ross might in fact be the only person involved who at that moment felt sadness of any kind. He was also alarmed. He called Emily.
Still later, he would also be surprised when Hawkins’s will was opened, showing that it had recently been changed, leaving Hawkins’s Documart shares to Ross. Did Emily know that? Did she set him up?
Drew Downing heard the news, thanked Melanie and asked how she felt, then sat, his mind in a whirl. What did this mean? What would this mean? Had Hawkins left a will? Had it included anything for his sisters? What would happen to the company?
Carman received the call, having just made it back to her desk. She immediately called Folake and passed it along, giving her all the information she had in fact. Damn.
Considering for a moment, she proceeded downstairs and then to the building next door; one of the few that still had pay phones on the wall.
She called the police from one.
Emily felt she had covered her bases and her ass. Her father’s body was on the way to the funeral home; whatever Ross and her father had on the coroner, it was for sure good stuff.
The anonymous tip that the police received had sent Detective Grant Hardwicke to Raisha Douak’s place, where they found ample evidence that one Tad Allan had been staying there; he was Emily Hawkins’s cousin and Emily was connected to the residents. The two women, without a lot of pressure, caved in and began ‘singing like canaries’, to reference an old crime theme. The twenty thousand in cash that Raisha had received from Da Costa, meant that she at least was singing a certain tune.
And that tune directed the police in the direction of one person. Raisha explained how Emily Hawkins had hired her to befriend Tad Allan. How she had supplied drugs to him. How Emily had sent Tad on an errand today, and where Tad could be found now.
The police discovered his body shortly afterwards, and although it looked like an apparent suicide, Raisha’s testimony made Hardwicke consider everything in a certain, different light.
Hardwicke’s partner looked at him across the desk. “You are seriously going to pursue this?” He asked.
“Damnit, Jay, look at what these girls are sayin’. It looks like Hawkins set this whole thing up. With her father dead she’s worth millions. That’s motive in my mind.“
“You gonna’ arrest her?”
Hardwicke tapped his pen on his desk. “I’m waitin’ om the lab results from the Allan guy. I’d start with that, and then look at her old man. We’ll see.”
“You know she’s going to have a hot shot lawyer, if you go where I think you’re goin’?” Jay Crandell noted.
Hardwicke smoothed his moustache; he had definitely thought of that. “Yeah, I’m aware of that. Big deal. Lots of people have pricey lawyers. She’s young; we get her in the cells she’ll crack. She’s one of them privileged twats. She won’t want to spend an hour here. She won’t be hard to break, trust me.”
Crandell regarded the senior detective; it wasn’t his place to question him. “So, you goin’ tonight or what?”
“No, I should have all I need by tomorrow.”
The discussions about funeral arrangements and services had ended; Emily had not informed anyone that in a few hours Stafford Hawkins would be just ashes. They would find out when necessary.
She sat now alone in the darkened living room; everyone else having finally wandered off to bed. She was sitting and drinking Tequila; she sucked a lime slice and tossed it toward the garbage can. It bounced on the carpet and lay there. “That’s for you, Daddy-kins.” She murmured.
Her cell buzzed; it was Ross. “Yes?” she whispered.
“Ok, it’s set. The body will be cremated tomorrow, early. I stalled the police order to hold the body for autopsy; it won’t be heard until after ten; by then, your father will be, um, ashes.”
Emily nodded her head. “Ok, we’ll have a swap. You get me the urn and I’ll give you the notes on Vargas. They are not easy to find, unless you know where to look. Your secret will be safe.” She said softly.
Ross stood for a moment in thought. “They might still arrest you, Emily.” He said quietly. Emily did not react; that seemed unlikely. Ross continued, “They found Tad Allan’s body. Did anyone tell you?”
Emily weighed her options while considering her response; she hadn’t heard this. It was quicker than she expected. “Where?”
“Some dump; I’m not sure. Were you involved? I’d like to help you but I need all the facts.”
“Thanks,” she said quietly, “I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” The call ended. She poured herself another shot and licked the salt. She closed her eyes. “This one’s for you, mom.” She said, and downed the glass.
Two officers and Detective Hardwicke arrived at the house in Adams Hill just after eleven; the lab results on Tad Allan indicating he died of an overdose. Hardwicke had a statement from Brianna saying that Emily (the blond woman as she called her, but firm on the photo) would prepare the drug packets for them to give to Tad. Raisha, on the other hand, now refused to talk to anyone this morning; Hardwicke would deal with her later. He wished he knew where the anonymous tip had come from.
Once inside the house and after informing Emily of her rights, and that they would be back to search the premises when the warrant arrived (something was holding it up) Emily was placed in hand-cuffs.
The streets outside the home were quiet; no word had gotten out yet of this development. The police led Emily out the front door, her hands behind her; but already waiting for them was Drayton Holding, regarded as one of the top defense lawyers in California. He’d had a call early this morning, plus ten thousand as a retainer.
He was already deep in conversation with Emily even as they made their way to a waiting patrol car. After a moment to load the young woman in, the vehicle pulled out, heading for the county cells. Holding confronted Hardwicke, “I would be very careful with how you handle this, Detective,” he said bluntly.
“Yeah, sure. Thanks councillor; you’re welcome to tag along.” He climbed into his car and headed after the other vehicle.
Carman, waiting and watching from down the block, sat in silence, fighting emotions. A few minutes later a taxi pulled up and Melanie climbed in and drove away. Carman then made her way to the door and entered.
She went to the kitchen and found Chantico, weeping. Carman talked with her and consoled her and then went upstairs to Emily’s room, the housekeeper not concerned about her actions.
Carman opened Emily’s laptop and then put in the password she had used and hoped had not been changed. Emily did not seem the type to worry about passwords and that proved true; in a moment Carman was once again into the device and googling the first of the bank accounts. Working efficiently and steadily, in twenty minutes she was finished.
She called Folake, and when the melodious voice answered, Carman simply said, “The money has all been transferred from my end. You are good?”
“Okay, I am good. You wish to proceed as we discussed?” Carman hesitated for a moment but then confirmed the plans. Folake now paused, then asked, “How are you doing?”
For a moment, Carman could not answer; she swallowed hard then was at least able to say, “Okay.” Then she ended the call and sat, sadness welling up within her.
She had timed things well; thirty minutes after she left the police arrived and searched as they warned, and they confiscated both Emily’s cell phones and her laptop, with certain files recently erased.
Half an hour later Carman was at her office, gathering up a few things which she put then into her briefcase. She stood for a moment and looked around the office. Nothing left here was hers; not the art on the walls or the equipment or the odds and ends on her desk and cupboard. She had removed everything that was personal.
The office was deserted today out of respect for Stafford Hawkins, so Carman did not have to face anyone as she left. She did notice that Ross was in his office, but she had no plans to see him; heading downstairs and to her car; then driving off.
(End of Chapter 20)