Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal - Chapter Two Hundred and Thirty-Nine: Meeting of the minds

CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and THIRTY-NINE

Thursday afternoon — 3:35 p.m.

“Before we start,” FBI Special agent Angela Montiz gave a hard look to the Homeland Security Agents Colin Hargreaves and Arthur “Raz” Rasmussen. “I’m wondering why Homeland Security is involved in this situation at all. It’s way out of your jurisdiction and, although I can’t quite determine what team you’re on, you don’t appear to be on DHS’s High School Sex Crimes Team because there isn’t one.”

Raz smiled at Agent Angie and she sneered back. They were sitting around a small table in the office above Sandy’s hair salon. Colin sat between the Deputy District Attorney in charge of District Court and the commander in charge of Major Crimes for the Denver Police. Raz sat next to the Denver Police commander and Agent Angie.

“I know the charming smile of a snake when I see one, Agent Rasmussen,” Agent Angie said. “You’re going to have to come up with something a lot better than that.”

The men chuckled and Raz looked down at his large hands.

“I teach martial arts to a boy who was sent a video clip of a girl being beaten and raped. I brought the video to the attention of Denver Police,” Colin said. “We discovered that the assigned detective and his Sergeant didn’t appear to be functioning in this case.”

“I spoke with the investigative supervisor,” the commander in charge of Denver Police Department major crimes. “Because we weren’t certain what was going on, I requested DHS assistance. DHS has assisted with other cases and we’ve found Agent Rasmussen and Agent Hargreaves to be helpful.”

“Our primary assignment is flexible enough that if we have time, we’re happy to assist where we can,” Raz said.

The door to the room opened and Seth O’Malley stepped inside.

“Sorry I’m late,” Seth said. “What did I miss?”

“I just found out why Homeland Security is involved in this, “Agent Angie said.

Seth put his hand on her shoulder and she looked up at him.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Seth said.

“Were you going to tell me why I’m here and not someone from the large Denver FBI office?” Agent Angie asked.

“In our review of the case, we discovered that there is an FBI agent already assigned to this case,” Raz said.

“An FBI agent, a DPD investigative team, a slew of forensics professionals, plausible leads, solid forensics, and …” Seth shrugged and sat down next to Agent Angie.

“No action,” Raz said. “That’s what concerned us. Prior to our initiation into this case, the investigative team has done exactly nothing to pursue these cases.”

“Not nothing, Raz,” the Denver Police Commander said. “They’ve obstructed the investigation where they can.”

“All right,” Agent Angie said. “Why me?”

“You were assigned to a case with us last year,” Seth said. “We found you to be extraordinarily competent, smart, and efficient.”

“We have two problems, Agent Angie,” Raz said. “One is the brutality of these crimes. They are not date rapes or even violent attacks. These girls are drugged and brutally assaulted in every way. Their lives are assaulted through the sale or malicious distribution of videotapes of their assault to every sick mind with a keyboard.”

“There’s money in the middle of all of this,” Seth said. “We’re concerned the money had perverted the course of the investigation both at the Denver Police and at the FBI.”

“Any proof?” Agent Angie asked.

“Only the lack of activity,” Colin said.

Agent Angie nodded.

“Today, a member of the investigative team stepped forward with his younger brother,” the commander in charge of Major Crimes said. “He admits to delaying the case because he knew his brother was involved. With the agents’ help, he and his brother have turned themselves into me, personally. The young man in question was the videographer for one of these crimes. He has turned in more than thirty video recordings of the group. He’s given written testimony as well as interacted with the District Attorney’s office.”

“Is he willing to testify?” Agent Angie asked.

“He appears to be,” the Commander in charge of Major Crimes said. “He states that this situation ‘just happened’ one night and then became a regular thing. He tried on a number of occasions to get out of the middle of this thing, but either he or his mother were threatened with violence. He saw them perpetrate violence against a mother as a reprisal for one of the boys leaving the group.”

“And the mother?” Agent Angie asked.

“She never came forward,” Colin said. “We found evidence that, around the dates of her assault, she went to one of the larger free clinics in town, but that’s all we have.”

“And this boy; the brother of your investigator,” Agent Angie said. “Do we believe him?”

“He makes no excuses for himself or his actions,” Raz said. “He seemed … in over his head. He lives with his single mother. His brother is the only male in his life. This thing was like a rolling stone he couldn’t stop. The boy has made serious suicide attempts on at least three occasions.”

“You liked him?” Agent Angie asked.

“I believed him,” Raz said. “He participated in something that goes way beyond the meaning of the word ‘wrong.’ But I believe this is a case of a kid getting in over his head and almost drowning. He also seems redeemable.”

“I believed him too,” the Deputy DA said. “And I like his brother. I think they’re credible witnesses.”

“So we know why one party of the investigative team slowed the investigation down, but not the other,” the Commander said. “We’ve allowed the Sergeant to stay in his role in the investigation to see if we can get to the bottom of what’s going on there. He will resign from duty as soon as the case is resolved.”

“I’m still not sure how I can help,” Agent Angie said. “Why don’t you gentlemen just work your case?”

“The bottom line, Angie, is that we believe the young men are using the distribution channels that were created by other perpetrators,” Seth said. “We’re hoping, with a little luck, we’ll be able to finally put this distribution channel to rest.”

She scowled at Seth and then looked from face to face around the table. Her eyes leveled at Seth again.

“You realize I was pulled from that case,” Agent Angie said.

“Not by anything we did,” Seth said.

“That’s correct,” Agent Angie said. “I have a full case load of my own. I don’t want to get involved here and then …”

“I understand,” Seth said. “But if you were involved, what would you do first?”

She squinted at Seth and he smiled. Her eyes went up to the ceiling as if to implore God himself before leveling her eyes at Raz.

“Good looking man like you, I’d go to the free clinics, put the word out that you want information about any woman who has been assaulted,” Agent Angie said. “Whatever happens, you’re going to need a lot of credible witnesses because what usually happens in these cases is that the community closes ranks. What’s a few raped and brutalized girls in comparison to the entire future of our star football players? Our basketball stars? Those girls were sluts and whores; our boys have athletic scholarships and you know, boys will be boys and crap like that. I don’t want to spend my free time on this case and find out that the City and County of Denver would rather cover over the ugly in favor of a few privileged boys.”

Raz nodded.

“And you, blondie,” Agent Angie nodded to Colin. “Isn’t your daddy a Senator?”

“He’s retired, but yes,” Colin said.

“I’d get my famous father to start making noise about this case,” Agent Angie said. “Give the case some public clout so that this scum can’t crawl into their holes.”

“Good idea,” Colin said. “My mother has been looking for a cause to champion.”

Agent Angie nodded.

“As for you,” Agent Angie pointed to the Deputy DA and the Denver Police Commander. “You need to find people in your departments who are willing to prosecute and investigate this case because when the media gets a hold of it, they are going to take the heat. Look for men, not just women.”

“Why not women?” the Deputy DA asked.

“Had someone in mind?” Agent Angie asked.

The Deputy DA nodded.

“If you have a woman lead, the case will be marginalized as a woman’s problem,” Agent Angie said. “It’s hard to believe that this is the world we live in, but it is. And, there are plenty of men who are disgusted by this type of crime – men who like women, men who were raised by single mothers and understand the pressure that your investigator’s brother lives with every day. These men exist and are chomping at the bit to do something to help protect women, but no one asks them; the women haters are loud.”

The Denver Police commander nodded.

“Anything else?” Seth asked.

“You need someone to put some money behind this,” Agent Angie looked at Seth. “Money gets attention and shifts the focus. Set up a reward for information. Make a show of hiring private investigators. Better you yet, you’re the famous Magic O’Malley, investigate this thing yourself. You need to change the dialog about this case before it ever hits the media.”

The men nodded.

“Officially, I’m not involved,” Agent Angie said. “I’m going skiing for the weekend and then home to Arizona. But when it comes down …”

“We’ll put you front and center,” Raz said. “Because after all, this is out of Homeland Security’s jurisdiction.”

“I’m starting to like you,” Agent Angie said.

He smiled.

“One more thing,” Agent Angie said. “You need a PR person on this. I know it sounds crazy but if you really want to prosecute, you’re going to have to manage the jury starting right now.”

“Any ideas who?” Colin asked.

“No, but I bet he does,” Agent Angie gestured to Seth.

He nodded.

“You know where to reach me,” Agent Angie gave each of them a hard look. She got up and left the room.

The men sat around the table for a moment looking at each other.

“I guess that’s it,” Seth said. “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”

The men nodded to Seth and left the room. Colin lingered to talk to Seth.

“How goes the movie making?” Colin asked.

“Good,” Seth nodded. “Done.”

“And Lizzie?” Colin asked.

“She and Schmidty are staying in California for now,” Seth said. “Ava and I are home for a while.”

Colin nodded.

“How is Connor?” Seth asked.

Colin gave him a broad smile.

“I’m thrilled for you,” Seth said.

Colin nodded.

“What would you do if it was your son?” Seth asked.

“I … only hope my son’s would never get involved,” Colin said. “But if he was? I’d stand by him while he felt the consequences. That’s kind of my job as his parent.”

“I feel for the parents who are finding out their son’s are involved in this in any way,” Seth said.

“Heartbreaking,” Colin said.

Seth nodded and they left the room.

~~~~~~~~

Thursday afternoon — 4:05 p.m.

“I don’t know why you even bothered,” Melinda flipped her hair and Nash scowled.

“You said to meet you after school,” Nash repeated what he’d said three times. “We were going to walk to my house, do our homework and go to a movie.”

“That was before I saw you,” Melinda said.

Nash looked behind him.

“Right now?” Nash asked.

“At the Fifteenth Street Bridge,” Melinda crossed her arms. “My mom said, ‘Isn’t that Nash?’ and I saw you.”

“Looking over the bridge?” Nash asked.

“With that girl,” Melinda said.

“What girl?” Nash asked. “My brother Charlie was helping the police with something and …”

“And what’s all this with your brother Charlie?” Melinda shook her head. “You don’t have a brother. I checked.”

“With who?” Nash asked.

“With everybody,” Melinda said. “You only have a sister – Noelle. That’s all. One sister.”

“My dad …”

“Sure, go ahead, blame your lies on your dad,” Melinda said.

Nash squinted at Melinda.

“What?” Melinda asked.

“What what?”

“Why did you look at me like that?” Melinda asked.

“Because I don’t know what’s going on. You seem to know what’s going on but for whatever reason, you aren’t telling me.”

“Hmpft,” Melinda turned slightly away from him.

“What’s going on?” Nash asked.

“I saw you and that girl,” Melinda said.

“What girl?” Nash asked.

“I don’t know what girl,” Melinda said. “Are there more than one? What there are ten or twenty? What’s wrong with you?”

“What girl did you see me with?” Nash asked. “My sister Sissy? Noelle? One of Sissy’s friends? Noelle’s friends? Uh …”

“Oh,” Melinda said. “She’s one of Noelle’s friends?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about so it could be any girl,” Nash said.

“There are lots of girls?” Melinda gaped at Nash. Her face went bright red and tears sprang from her eyes.

“In the world, yes, there are lots of girls,” Nash said.

“I don’t want to go out with you anymore,” Melinda said.

She spun in place and stomped off in the direction of her house. Stunned, Nash watched her go. She walked two blocks before meeting a group of her girlfriends. The girls’ angry and accusing faces turned to glare at Nash. Still not sure what he’d done, Nash blushed bright red. The girls flipped their hair in unison and walked toward Melinda’s house. Nash stared at them until they turned the corner. He began the slow walk home. Alone.

~~~~~~~~

Thursday afternoon — 4:45 p.m.

Bumpy opened the exam room door and went out into the hall. He scowled. Usually his wife and nurse Dionne was waiting here to tell him which exam room to go to next. Dionne was nowhere to be found.

He looked in his office. He glanced in the kitchen.

He looked at his watch. He hadn’t left work before seven in more than twenty years. Hard working people needed doctors who could see them early and late.

Hearing voices, he went toward the front of the office. Dionne was standing in the doorway to the waiting room. He came up behind her and put his hands on her hips.

She looked up and scowled at him.

“What did I do?” he asked.

She shook her head.

“There he is,” a woman’s voice came from the lobby. “You go on. You go on and tell Dr. Bumpy what you did. Go on.”

A medium sized woman dragged her glaring son from a chair and pushed him toward the door. Bumpy glanced into the waiting room.

The chairs were filled with boys and young men. Dressed in low riding jeans that put their boxer shorts on display and jackets two sizes too big, none of the boys looked up at him. Their mothers circled around the room like sharks. He could almost taste the anger in the room.

“Uh huh,” another woman said. “You ain’t going to talk to Doctor Bumpy before he does.”

The woman kicked the chair out from under her son. He fell on the ground.

“Get yourself up,” the woman said.

“Scum like them deserve to slither on the ground,” another woman said.

The mothers started kicking the chairs out from under their sons.

“Whoa!” Bumpy said. “Stop. Everyone stop. Stop.”

He grabbed a tiny woman who was kicking her son’s chair over and over again in an attempt to knock it out from under him. When she looked up at him, he saw her rage and heartbreak. He nodded in acknowledgement and let her go. The moment he did, she started kicking the chair again. Dionne went to her and hugged her. The mother started to weep.

“What’s going on?” Bumpy asked.

“This creature used my money to purchase a videos of poor girls being raped …” The mother kicked her son. “ …and beaten … and … who knows what else. The Denver Police said to bring them in to the police station, but Dr. Bumpy said if this creature ever got in trouble to bring him to talk to you first.”

“Mmm hmm,” the mothers made a sound in general agreement.

“What are you going to say, Dr. Bumpy?” the mother said.

“Should we just kill them now?” another mother asked.

“Once a rapist, always a rapist,” a mother near the corner of the room said.

“I d’n’t rape nobody,” one brave boy’s voice cried out in the middle of this.

“You did just the same,” his mother said.

“Just the same,” the mothers agreed.

“And I want you to know, Dr. Bumpy,” a mother near the door to the street said. “Most of the girls are white girls, but it don’t matter to me. These are precious children of God’s being violated and abused by scum.”

The woman swallowed hard before turning to her son.

“I did not struggle and suffer to bring this boy into this world so he could get his jolly’s watching any girl – white, black, or purple – get abused like that.”

Like a fish out of water, the mother gasped a breath.

“Mmm hmm,” the other mothers agreed.

“I know that in other cities, they cover it up and say ‘not my good son – it’s the girls fault.’ But I won’t do that. My son has done wrong and I won’t stand by and blame some poor defenseless girl for his trouble. He’s going to jail.”

“I won’t either,” a mother near the middle of the room said.

“No way,” a mother near the front said.

“Then that settles it,” a mother near the door grabbed her son’s jacket and dragged him to his feet. “You’re going to jail.”

The mothers started hauling their boys toward the door.

“Stop!” Bumpy said.

The women stopped moving.

“You remember my friend Seth O’Malley,” Bumpy said. “He came by this afternoon to speak with me about this very situation.”

“And what did he say?” a large woman near the center of the room said.

“He said that what they mostly want is information,” Bumpy said. “They want to know who sold the videos, how much they paid, and when. This is a big deal, ladies. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are involved. No one is going to sweep this under the carpet.”

“I ain’t gon say nothin’” a boy near the front said.

“Me neither,” the boys mumbled around him.

His mother picked him up by the back of his collar and carried him to Bumpy. She dropped the boy at his feet.

“You can castrate him now,” his mother said.

“Castrate?” the boy scooted back from Bumpy.

“That’s right,” his mother said. “You’re my son and I say, castrate him.”

“Cut it off,” another mother said. The women nodded in agreement. The boys squirmed in their seats.

“Gentlemen!” Bumpy pointed to the back. “Now!”

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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