Page 35 of Rage of Angels

Late one afternoon as Jennifer was getting ready to leave the office, Cynthia said, "There's a Mr. Clark Holman on the phone."

Jennifer hesitated, then said, "I'll take it."

Clark Holman was an attorney with the Legal Aid Society.

"Sorry to bother you, Jennifer," he said, "but we have a case downtown that no one wants to touch, and I'd really appreciate it if you could help us out. I know how busy you are, but - "

"Who's the defendant?"

"Jack Scanlon."

The name registered instantly. It had been on the front pages of the newspapers for the past two days. Jack Scanlon had been arrested for kidnapping a four-year-old girl and holding her for ransom. He had been identified from a composite drawing the police had obtained from witnesses to the abduction.

"Why me, Clark?"

"Scanlon asked for you."

Jennifer looked at the clock on the wall. She was going to be late for Joshua. "Where is he now?"

"At the Metropolitan Correctional Center."

Jennifer made a quick decision. "I'll go down and talk to him. Make the arrangements, will you?"

"Right. Thanks a million. I owe you one."

Jennifer telephoned Mrs. Mackey. "I'm going to be a little late. Give Joshua his dinner and tell him to wait up for me."

Ten minutes later, Jennifer was on her way downtown.

To Jennifer, kidnapping was the most vicious of all crimes, particularly the kidnapping of a helpless young child; but every accused person was entitled to a hearing no matter how terrible the crime. That was the foundation of the law: justice for the lowliest as well as the highest.

Jennifer identified herself to the guard at the reception desk and was taken to the Lawyers' Visiting Room.

The guard said, "I'll get Scanlon for you."

A few minutes later a thin, aesthetic-looking man in his late thirties, with a blond beard and light blond hair was brought into the room. He looked almost Christlike.

He said, "Thank you for coming, Miss Parker." His voice was soft and gentle. "Thank you for caring."

"Sit down."

He took a chair opposite Jennifer.

"You asked to see me?"

"Yes. Even though I think only God can help me. I've done a very foolish thing."

She regarded him distastefully. "You call kidnapping a helpless little girl for ransom a 'foolish thing'?"

"I didn't kidnap Tammy for ransom."

"Oh? Why did you kidnap her?"

There was a long silence before Jack Scanlon spoke. "My wife, Evelyn, died in childbirth. I loved her more than anything in the world. If ever there was a saint on earth, it was that woman. Evelyn wasn't a strong person. Our doctor advised her not to have a baby, but she didn't listen." He looked down at the floor in embarrassment. "It - it may be hard for you to understand, but she said she wanted it anyway, because it would be like having another part of me."

How well Jennifer understood that.

Jack Scanlon had stopped speaking, his thoughts far away.

"So she had the baby?"

Jack Scanlon nodded. "They both died." It was difficult for him to go on. "For a while, I - I thought I would...I didn't want to go on living without her. I kept wondering what our child would have been like. I kept dreaming about how it would have been if they had lived. I kept trying to turn the clock back to the moment before Evelyn - " He stopped, his voice choked with pain. "I turned to the Bible and it saved my sanity. Behold, I have set before you an open door which no one is able to shut. Then, a few days ago, I saw a little girl playing on the street, and it was as though Evelyn had been reincarnated. She had her eyes, her hair. She looked up at me and smiled and I - I know it sounds crazy, but it was Evelyn smiling at me. I must have been out of my head. I thought to myself, This is the daughter Evelyn would have had. This is our child."

Jennifer could see his fingernails digging into his flesh.

"I know it was wrong, but I took her." He looked up into Jennifer's eyes. "I wouldn't have harmed that child for anything in the world."

Jennifer was studying him closely, listening for a false note. There was none. He was a man in agony.

"What about the ransom note?" Jennifer asked.

"I didn't send a ransom note. The last thing in the world I cared about was money. I just wanted little Tammy."

"Someone sent the family a ransom note."

"The police keep saying I sent it, but I didn't."

Jennifer sat there, trying to fit the pieces together. "Did the story of the kidnapping appear in the newspapers before or after you were picked up by the police?"

"Before. I remember wishing they'd stop writing about it. I wanted to go away with Tammy and I was afraid someone would stop us."

"So anyone could have read about the kidnapping and tried to collect a ransom?"

Jack Scanlon twisted his hands helplessly. "I don't know. All I know is I want to die."

His pain was so obvious that Jennifer found herself moved by it. If he was telling the truth - and it was naked in his face - then he did not deserve to die for what he had done. He should be punished, yes, but not executed.

Jennifer made her decision. "I'm going to try to help you."

He said quietly, "Thank you. I really don't care anymore what happens to me."

"I do."

Jack Scanlon said, "I'm afraid I - I have no money to give you."

"Don't worry about it. I want you to tell me about yourself."

"What do you want to know?"

"Start from the beginning. Where were you born?"

"In North Dakota, thirty-five years ago. I was born on a farm. I guess you could call it a farm. It was a poor piece of land that nothing much wanted to grow on. We were poor. I left home when I was fifteen. I loved my mother, but I hated my father. I know the Bible says it's wrong to speak evil of your parents, but he was a wicked man. He enjoyed whipping me."

Jennifer could see his body tighten as he went on.

"I mean, he really enjoyed it. If I did the smallest thing he thought was wrong, he would whip me with a leather belt that had a big brass buckle on it. Then he'd make me get down on my knees and pray to God for forgiveness. For a long time I hated God as much as I hated my father." He stopped, too filled with memories to speak.

"So you ran away from home?"

"Yes. I hitchhiked to Chicago. I didn't have much schooling, but at home I used to read a lot. Whenever my father caught me, that was an excuse for another whipping. In Chicago, I got a job working in a factory. That's where I met Evelyn. I cut my hand on a milling machine and they took me to the dispensary, and there she was. She was a practical nurse." He smiled at Jennifer. "She was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. It took about two weeks before my hand was healed, and I went to her for a treatment every day. After that, we just kind of started going together. We talked about getting married, but the company lost a big order and I was laid off with the rest of the people in my department. That didn't matter to Evelyn. We got married and she took care of me. That was the only thing we ever argued about. I was brought up to believe that a man should take care of a woman. I got a job driving a truck and the money was good. The only part I hated was that we were separated, sometimes for a week at a time. Outside of that, I was awfully happy. We were both happy. And then Evelyn got pregnant."

A shudder ran through him. His hands began to tremble.

"Evelyn and our baby girl died." Tears were running down his cheeks. "I don't know why God did that. He must have had a reason, but I don't know why." He was rocking back and forth in his chair, unaware of what he was doing, his arms clasped in front of his chest, holding in his grief. "I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you."

Jennifer thought, This one the electric chair is not going to get!

"I'll be back to see you tomorrow," Jennifer promised him.

Bail had been set at two hundred thousand dollars. Jack Scanlon did not have the bond money and Jennifer had it put up for him. Scanlon was released from the Correctional Center and Jennifer found a small motel on the West Side for him to move into. She gave him a hundred dollars to tide him over.

"I don't know how," Jack Scanlon said, "but I'll pay you back every cent. I'll start looking for a job. I don't care what it is. I'll do anything."

When Jennifer left him, he was searching through the want ads.

The federal prosecutor, Earl Osborne, was a large, heavyset man with a smooth round face and a deceptively bland manner. To Jennifer's surprise, Robert Di Silva was in Osborne's office.

"I heard you were taking on this case," Di Silva said. "Nothing's too dirty for you to handle, is it?"

Jennifer turned to Earl Osborne. "What's he doing here? This is a federal case."

Osborne replied, "Jack Scanlon took the girl away in her family's car."

"Auto theft, grand larceny," Di Silva said.

Jennifer wondered if Di Silva would have been there if she were not involved. She turned back to Earl Osborne.

"I'd like to make a deal," Jennifer said. "My client - "

Earl Osborne held up a hand. "Not a chance. We're going all the way on this one."

"There are circumstances - "

"You can tell us all about it at the preliminary."

Di Silva was grinning at her.

"All right," Jennifer said. "I'll see you in court."

Jack Scanlon found a job working at a service station on the West Side near his motel, and Jennifer stopped by to see him.

"The preliminary hearing is the day after tomorrow," Jennifer informed him. "I'm going to try to get the government to agree to a plea bargain and plead you guilty to a lesser charge. You'll have to serve some time, Jack, but I'll try to see that it's as short as possible."

The gratitude in his face was reward enough.

At Jennifer's suggestion, Jack Scanlon had bought a respectable suit to wear at the preliminary hearing. He had had his hair cut and his beard trimmed, and Jennifer was pleased with his appearance.

They went through the court formalities. District Attorney Di Silva was present. When Earl Osborne had presented his evidence and asked for an indictment, Judge Barnard turned to Jennifer.

"Is there anything you would like to say, Miss Parker?"

"There is, Your Honor. I'd like to save the government the cost of a trial. There are mitigating circumstances here that have not been brought out. I would like to plead my client guilty to a lesser charge."

"No way," Earl Osborne said. "The government will not agree to it."

Jennifer turned to Judge Barnard. "Could we discuss this in Your Honor's chambers?"

"Very well. I'll set a date for the trial after I've heard what counsel has to say."

Jennifer turned to Jack Scanlon, who was standing there, bewildered.

"You can go back to work," Jennifer told him. "I'll drop by and let you know what happened."

He nodded and said quietly, "Thank you, Miss Parker."

Jennifer watched him turn and leave the courtroom.

Jennifer, Earl Osborne, Robert Di Silva and Judge Barnard were seated in the judge's chambers.

Osborne was saying to Jennifer, "I don't know how you could even ask me to plea-bargain. Kidnapping for ransom is a capital offense. Your client is guilty and he's going to pay for what he did."

"Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers, Earl. Jack Scanlon had nothing to do with that ransom note."

"Who you trying to kid? If it wasn't for ransom, what the hell was it for?"

"I'll tell you," Jennifer said.

And she told them. She told them about the farm and the beatings and about Jack Scanlon falling in love with Evelyn and marrying her, and losing his wife and daughter in childbirth.

They listened in silence, and when Jennifer was finished, Robert Di Silva said, "So Jack Scanlon kidnapped the girl because it reminded him of the kid he would have had? And Jack Scanlon's wife died in childbirth?"

"That's right." Jennifer turned to Judge Barnard. "Your Honor, I don't think that's the kind of man you execute."

Di Silva said unexpectedly, "I agree with you."

Jennifer looked at him in surprise.

Di Silva was pulling some papers out of a briefcase. "Let me ask you something," he said. "How would you feel about executing this kind of man?" He began to read from a dossier. "Frank Jackson, age thirty-eight. Born in Nob Hill, San Francisco. Father was a doctor, mother a prominent socialite. At fourteen, Jackson got into drugs, ran away from home, picked up in Haight-Ashbury and returned to his parents. Three months later Jackson broke into his father's dispensary, stole all the drugs he could get his hands on and ran away. Picked up in Seattle for possession and selling, sent to a reformatory, released when he was eighteen, picked up one month later on a charge of armed robbery with intent to kill..."

Jennifer could feel her stomach tightening. "What does this have to do with Jack Scanlon?"

Earl Osborne gave her a frosty smile. "Jack Scanlon is Frank Jackson."

"I don't believe it!"

Di Silva said, "This yellow sheet came in from the FBI an hour ago. Jackson's a con artist and a psychopathic liar. Over the last ten years he's been arrested on charges ranging from pimping to arson to armed robbery. He did a stretch in Joliet. He's never held a steady job and he's never been married. Five years ago he was picked up by the FBI on a kidnapping charge. He kidnapped a three-year-old girl and sent a ransom note. The body of the little girl was found in a wooded area two months later. According to the coroner's report, the body was partially decomposed, but there were visible signs of small knife cuts all over her body. She had been raped and sodomized."

Jennifer felt suddenly ill.

"Jackson was acquitted on a technicality that some hotshot lawyer cooked up." When Di Silva spoke again his voice was filled with contempt. "That the man you want walking around the streets?"

"May I see that dossier, please?"

Silently, Di Silva handed it to Jennifer and she began reading it. It was Jack Scanlon. There was no question about it. There was a police mug shot of him stapled to the yellow sheet. He had looked younger then and he had no beard, but there was no mistaking him. Jack Scanlon - Frank Jackson - had lied to her about everything. He had made up his life story and Jennifer had believed every word. He had been so convincing that she had not even taken the trouble to have Ken Bailey check him out.

Judge Barnard said, "May I see that?"

Jennifer handed the dossier to him. The judge glanced through it and then looked at Jennifer. "Well?"

"I won't represent him."

Di Silva raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. "You shock me, Miss Parker. You're always saying that everyone is entitled to a lawyer."

"Everyone is," Jennifer replied evenly, "but I have a hard and fast rule: I won't represent anyone who lies to me. Mr. Jackson will have to get himself another lawyer."

Judge Barnard nodded. "The court will arrange that."

Osborne said, "I'd like his bail revoked immediately, Your Honor. I think he's too dangerous to be walking the streets."

Judge Barnard turned to Jennifer. "As of this moment you're still the attorney of record, Miss Parker. Do you have any objection to that?"

"No," Jennifer said tightly. "None."

Judge Barnard said, "I'll order his bail revoked."

Judge Lawrence Waldman had invited Jennifer to a charity dinner that evening. She had felt drained after the events of the afternoon and would have preferred to go home and have a quiet evening with Joshua, but she did not want to disappoint the judge. She changed clothes at the office and met Judge Waldman at the Waldorf-Astoria, where the party was taking place.

It was a gala event, with half a dozen Hollywood stars entertaining, but Jennifer was unable to enjoy it. Her mind was elsewhere. Judge Waldman had been watching her.

"Is anything wrong, Jennie?"

She managed a smile. "No, just a business problem, Lawrence."

And what kind of business am I really in, Jennifer wondered, dealing with the dregs of humanity, the rapists and killers and kidnappers? She decided it would be a wonderful night to get drunk.

The captain came over to the table and whispered in Jennifer's ear. "Excuse me, Miss Parker, there's a telephone call for you."

Jennifer felt an instant sense of alarm. The only one who knew where to reach her was Mrs. Mackey. She could only be calling because something was wrong.

"Excuse me," Jennifer said.

She followed the captain to a small office off the lobby.

Jennifer picked up the receiver and a man's voice whispered, "You bitch! You double-crossed me."

Jennifer felt her body begin to tremble. "Who is this?" she asked.

But she knew.

"You told the cops to come and get me."

"That's not true! I - "

"You promised to help me."

"I will help you. Where are - ?"

"You lying cunt!" His voice dropped so low she could hardly make out his words. "You're going to pay for this. Oh, you're going to pay for this!"

"Wait a min - "

The telephone was dead. Jennifer stood there, chilled. Something had gone terribly wrong. Frank Jackson, alias Jack Scanlon, had somehow escaped and he was blaming Jennifer for what had happened. How had he known where she was? He must have followed her here. He could be waiting outside for her now.

Jennifer was trying to control the trembling of her body, trying to think, to reason out what had happened. He had seen the police coming to arrest him, or perhaps they had picked him up and he had gotten away from them. How did not matter. The important thing was that he was blaming her for what had happened.

Frank Jackson had killed before and he could kill again. Jennifer went into the ladies' room and stayed there until she was calm again. When she had regained control of herself, she returned to the table.

Judge Waldman took one look at her face. "What on earth's happened?"

Jennifer told him briefly. He was aghast.

"Good God! Would you like me to drive you home?"

"I'll be all right, Lawrence. If you could just make sure I get to my car safely, I'll be fine."

They quietly slipped out of the large ballroom and Judge Waldman stayed with Jennifer until the attendant brought her car.

"You're certain you don't want me to come with you?"

"Thanks. I'm sure the police will pick him up before morning. There aren't many people walking around who look like him. Good night."

Jennifer drove off, making sure no one was following her. When she was certain she was alone, she turned onto the Long Island Expressway and headed for home.

She kept looking in her rearview mirror, checking the cars behind her. Once she pulled off the road to let all the traffic pass her, and when the road behind her was clear, she drove on. She felt safer now. It could not be many hours before the police picked up Frank Jackson. There would be a general alert out for him by this time.

Jennifer turned into her driveway. The grounds and the house, which should have been brightly lighted, were dark. She sat in the car staring at the house unbelievingly, her mind beginning to shriek with alarm. Frantically, she tore the car door open and raced to the front door. It was ajar. Jennifer stood there for an instant, filled with terror, then stepped into the reception hall. Her foot kicked something warm and soft and she let out an involuntary gasp. She turned on the lights. Max lay on the blood-soaked rug. The dog's throat had been cut from ear to ear.

"Joshua!" It was a scream. "Mrs. Mackey!"

Jennifer ran from room to room, switching on all the lights and calling out their names, her heart pounding so hard that it was difficult for her to breathe. She raced up the stairs to Joshua's bedroom. His bed had been slept in, but it was empty.

Jennifer searched every room in the house, then raced downstairs, her mind numb. Frank Jackson must have known all along where she lived. He had followed her home one night from her office or after she left the service station. He had taken Joshua and he was going to kill him to punish her.

She was passing the laundry room when she heard a faint scrabbling sound coming from the closet. Jennifer moved toward the closed door slowly and pulled it open. It was black inside.

A voice whimpered, "Please don't hurt me any more."

Jennifer turned on the light. Mrs. Mackey was lying on the floor, her hands and feet tightly bound with wire. She was only half-conscious.

Jennifer quickly knelt beside her. "Mrs. Mackey!"

The older woman looked up at Jennifer and her eyes began to focus.

"He took Joshua." She began to sob.

As gently as she could, Jennifer untwisted the wire that was cutting into Mrs. Mackey's arms and legs. They were raw and bleeding. Jennifer helped the housekeeper to her feet.

Mrs. Mackey cried hysterically. "I c-couldn't stop him. I t-tried. I - "

The sound of the telephone cut into the room. The two women were instantly silenced. The telephone rang again and again, and somehow it had an evil sound. Jennifer walked over to it and picked it up.

The voice said, "I just wanted to make sure you got home all right."

"Where is my son?"

"He is a beautiful boy, isn't he?" the voice asked.

"Please! I'll do anything. Anything you like!"

"You've already done everything, Mrs. Parker."

"No, please!" She was sobbing helplessly.

"I like to hear you cry," the voice whispered. "You'll get your son back, Mrs. Parker. Read tomorrow's papers."

And the line went dead.

Jennifer stood there, fighting against the faintness, trying to think. Frank Jackson had said, "He is a beautiful boy, isn't he?" That could mean Joshua was still alive. Otherwise, wouldn't he have said was beautiful? She knew she was simply playing games with words, trying to keep her sanity. She had to do something quickly.

Her first impulse was to telephone Adam, ask him to help. It was his son who had been kidnapped, his son who was going to be killed. But she knew there was nothing Adam could do. He was two hundred and thirty-five miles away. She had only two choices: One was to call Robert Di Silva, tell him what had happened and ask him to throw out a dragnet to try to catch Frank Jackson. Oh, God, that will take too long!

The second choice was the FBI. They were trained to handle kidnappings. The problem was that this was not like other kidnapping. There would be no ransom note for them to trace, no chance to try to trap Frank Jackson and save Joshua's life. The FBI moved according to its own strict ritual. It would not be of any help in this instance. She had to decide quickly...while Joshua was still alive. Robert Di Silva or the FBI. It was difficult to think.

She took a deep breath and made her decision. She looked up a telephone number. Her fingers were trembling so badly she had to dial the number three times before she got it right.

When a man answered, Jennifer said, "I want to speak to Michael Moretti."