© 1998 Robert M. (Bob) Leahy

2110 E. Crosby Road
Carrollton, TX 75006
(972) 416 - 6098

 

 

Against the Wall

(part six--conclusion)

 

 

That afternoon, while waiting for Gus to finish preparing their dinners, Bob Trout told Nolan that the police asked him some questions. "I told them I warned you about Hargrove. And they wanted to know what I meant. I told them that when we were in junior high, Hargrove got revenge against this kid named Jeremy Lupus."

"I donít guess I know this story," Nolan said.

"It happened the year before you moved to town. Lupus and Hargrove were real good friends during most of junior high. When it came time for the end-of-year dance, Hargrove told Lupus he was gonna ask CindyÖSomething--I can't think of her last name right now. He told Lupus that he better stay away from her. Lupus said it was too late. Heíd already asked her to go and she said she would."

"I bet Hargrove was mad," Nolan said.

"Not just mad," Trout continued. "He told Lupus he would never make it to the dance. Lupus didnít take Hargrove serious, though. He told Hargrove it was just a dance. It wasnít like they were getting married. Besides. Hargrove should have asked her earlier. Or, at least told Lupus what he was goiní to. Lupus told Hargrove he didn't

know Hargrove even liked Cindy. But everybody knew how Lupus felt--he was crazy for her."

"So what happened?" Nolan asked.

"A few days later, Lupus was out riding his bike and one of the brake cables snapped when Lupus tried to stop at the bottom of Elmwood and Fourth. You know the place. Thereís that long, steep hill. On the other side of the street, thereís that big retaining wall. The back brake cable broke when Lupus tried to slow down at the bottom of the hill. And, I guess, the front brake locked, too. Anyway, Lupus flipped over the handlebar and scraped across Fourth into the retaining wall. He cracked his head open. Broke an arm. Had some pretty scratched up spots on his body. They kept him in the hospital a few days for observation after they got his head sewn up and his arm set."

"Man," Nolan whispered.

"Nobody ever said it was anything but an accident. But Hargrove told me that Lupus was warned. He didnít come right out and take credit for what happened. But I thought then, and I think now, that he did something to Lupusí bike."

"But you don't have any real proof?" Nolan asked.

"No. Not really. And it was so long ago now, no one will ever find out. I told the cops that. But just because I canít prove it, and just because no one looked to see if someone had messed with the bike doesnít mean it didnít happen. I remember Derrick Springer sayiní he was never goiní to cross Steve Hargrove after that accident. And, before that, those two hardly ever hung around together."

"I didnít know Hargrove and Springer had been best friends that long."

"I think that really started the next year, when Hargrove stayed back in junior high. They were both in ninth grade that year, but Springer only went through the grade once."

"When did Kramer become part of the group?"

"You know, Iím not real sure. I guess it was the year he got his license. He got to start driviní a pretty cool car--a green Camero--right away. Hargrove didnít have a car and needed wheels. I donít know why Hargrove picked Kramer to be his driver, but thatís what I think happened. And they been together ever since."

"Well, I know what that being picked stuff is like," Nolan said. "And it ainít no fun."

"Yeah. I know," Trout agreed. "Cops also wanted to know if you were afraid of Hargove."

"What did you tell them?"

"I told them I was afraid of him, and he had no reason to do anything to me. If Hargrove thinks youíre saying something to get him in trouble, then you have every reason to be afraid."


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Larry Hargrove, a well-known Lewisville businessman, was among those arrested as part of a sting on an illegal gambling ring. Others picked up today include Tom Hooks, Glenn Thompson, and Harry Knowles of Dallas, Don Kindell of Plano, and Martin Weeks of Garland. A police spokesperson said other arrests are likely in the near future. The gambling syndicate has been operating across the metroplex for more than a year, concentrating on high school football and baseball games.

Kevin?" his mother asked, knocking on his bedroom door.

"Yeah, Mom?" he answered after turning down the radio.

"Lt. Bagwell's on the phone."

"Okay. I'll be right there. The teen rolled out of bed and grabbed his jeans, pulling them on as he crossed the room. Before opening the door, he buttoned and zipped his jeans. He ran his fingers through his hair as he headed into the kitchen to take the call.

After a few minutes of idle chitchat, Bagwell came to the point. "What can you tell me about Butch Kramer?"

"What do you want to know about him?" Nolan asked.

"Anything you can tell me.

"Not much. He usually drives Hargrove around. That's about all I know. He was at the party, but I already told you that."

"You ever spend any time with him?" Bagwell asked.

"Not really. ĎCept for yesterday. I talked to him after school."

"What did you talk about?"

"Oh, I donít know. I told him about the accident that killed my father and about my promise not to drink. Thatís about it," Nolan replied. "Why?"

"Iím just trying to figure why he came in and talked to me this morning. I had already questioned him once. He didnít tell me anything then. But today, he said that Derrick Springer and Steve Hargrove had planned to get you drunk the first time he talked to you about driving him around. He also said that those two picked you up and carried you out of the garage after everyone else was asleep."

"Kramer wasnít in on it?"

"Says he didnít know what was goiní on. The only thing he knew was that Hargrove wanted to use your car for something," the lieutenant said.

"So Springerís the one who spiked my coke?"

"Thatís what Kramer said," Bagwell replied.

"So, now what?" Nolan asked.

"Iím having Springer and Hargrove picked up right now. Maybe I can push Springer a little and find out what really happened the other night."

A few minutes later, Nolan found his mother in bed, reading. "You okay, Mom?"

"My back was a little sore, so I thought I would lie down. Nothing major."

"Can I get you anything?"

"No. Really. Iím fine.

The teenager took a shower, then returned to the kitchen to make some coffee. Just as he started to fill the pot with water, the phone rang.

"I thought I better warn you."

"Warn me?" Nolan asked. "Who is this? Warn me about what?"

"It's Butch--Butch Kramer. I went down to the police station today and talked to that cop, Bagwell."

Nolan didnít respond.

"I told him who spiked your coke."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. It was Springer. He and Hargrove wanted to get you drunk. Course, it was Hargroveís plan. Springer just did what he was told."

"And you didnít have anything to do with it?" Nolan asked.

"No, I didnít. Honest I didnít. I knew they were cookiní somethiní up, and I knew you were involved. But I never knew none of the details. Mostly, I just take Hargrove around. Thatís all I do. He doesnít tell me anything. I donít ask. What he does is his business."

"So why did you go to the cops?
"I thought I had to," Kramer said.

"Well...thanks," Nolan said.

"Hey, wait a second, okay?" Kramer said as Nolan started to hang up the phone.

"What?"

"I really think you should stay off the street. I donít know whatís gonna happen. But if the police even look at Hargrove, heís gonna be after you."


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On Monday, Kramer stopped by Nolan's table. He got close to the sophomore's ear and whispered, "I think that cop is here?"

"Who? Bagwell?"

"Yeah. I saw him drive into the front lot on my way past this morning. What do you think he wants?"

"Probably wants to talk to some more people. Itís easier to catch them here than just about anywhere," Nolan replied.

"Think he wants to talk to you?"

"No," Nolan said. "I don't know. I just talked to him on Saturday."


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Nolan got home later than usual after making deliveries for the Beetle Diner. He found his sister curled up in the corner of the couch, hugging the remote, sound asleep. Nolan shook her gently, "Come on, Mol. Go to bed."

The little girl looked at the clock. "Itís not nine oíclock yet."

"But youíre already sleeping."

"No, Kevin. Not until nine," she whined.

"Okay. But you only have about two more minutes."

"I know," she replied.

Just as Nolan turned to go into the kitchen, the headlines were announced on the TV. He stopped to listen.

In the news tonight, a surprising turn of events has two high school seniors arrested in connection with the death of Edward McAfee, long-time football coach at Parkview High School here in Coppell. In a prepared statement, Lieutenant Bagwell said evidence suggests that the body of the deceased was moved, and the apparent traffic accident was staged to make it look like Kevin Nolan was responsible. Details on what led the police to arrest the two young men are not available at this time. In other news, the price of gasoline is declining, and storms for the weekend. Join us for the Update.

Nolan leaned over and took the remote from his sister. As he switched off the TV, he heaved a sigh. "I guess that means itís all over."

"You mean youíre not in trouble any more?" Molly asked.

"Not any more."

"Iím glad," she said, yawning.

"Me, too. Now get to bed." He grabbed her under her arms and pulled her off the couch, set her on her feet, and pointed her toward her bedroom. "You sure are getting heavy."

"Tuck me in?"

"OhÖall right. But youíre getting too big for that."

"I still like it."

Nolan followed his sister back to her room.

"Kevin," his mother called.

"Yeah, Mom?"

"Lt. Bagwell wants you to call him."

"Okayósoon as I put Molly to bed."

"Okay. Night, Honey."

"Night, Mom," Molly said.

"Donít forget to brush your teeth." Mrs. Nolan called after them.

Ten minutes later, after heating a cup of coffee in the microwave, Nolan called Bagwellís pager. A few minutes later, the lieutenant returned his call.

"I heard you arrested Hargrove," Nolan said.

"Yes. And when we started pressing Springer, he got scared."

"So, why did they pick me?"

"According to Springer, Hargrove wanted to use your car because it was easy to recognize. He told us Hargrove was mad at the coach for kicking him off the football team."

"I still donít see whyó" Nolan interrupted.

But Bagwell continued, "Springer's job was to get you drunk and to help Hargrove get you out to your car."

"What happened after that?"

"Springer said he didn't know anything else. He said he went back into the garage after Hargrove drove off in your Beetle."

Nolan shook his head. He was about to ask the lieutenant something when Bagwell spoke again.

"It's been harder getting Hargrove to talk."

"I'll bet," the teen replied.

"Before I tell you the rest of this, Kevin," the police officer said, "I need to tell you I haven't been completely honest with you."

"Oh?"

"Remember your asking me about taking your license?"

"Yes."

"I told you we wouldn't unless we thought you planned the accident," Bagwell said. "But I didn't tell you why I said that. From the beginning, the accident scene looked suspicious. There was blood on your steering wheel, but you had no open wounds. Then, when we got the coroner's preliminary report, it confirmed our suspicion that the whole accident thing was staged because the body had been moved."

Nolan whistled.

"Hargrove didn't say any more. But we'll keep questioning him. It will be harder now, though. He's got himself a lawyer."

"I still don't understand why the need me," Nolan said. "If they were just going to stage the whole thing, why pick on me?"

"I donít have an answer for that. Iím hoping to get all of that by the time I finish questioning Hargrove. But with that lawyer, itís going to be harder to find these things out."

"Has he admitted anything?" Nolan asked.

"Only that you were at his party."

"So what happens now?"

"The district attorneyís already got Springer scheduled to testify before the grand jury. And we are continuing our investigation. Based on what Springerís told us, we should be able to come up with some evidence that links him to the crime."

"And what about me?"

"You're totally in the clear. But I don't want you to tell anyone that."

"Man."

"I know itís hard, Kevin. But thereís just too much at stake here."

"Okay," Nolan said. "Can I at least tell my mom?"

"Yeah. Sure. But don't tell anyone else. At least, not yet."

"All right. I won't," Nolan said. "Thanks for calliní."

After he hung up the phone, he went back to his motherís room. He knocked. "Mom?" he whispered. "Are you awake?"

"Yes, Honey. Come on in."


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Butch Kramer was just getting out of his car when Nolan pulled into the back parking lot by the gym the next morning.

"Hey, Kramer," Nolan called, slamming the door to the red Beetle.

"What?"

"Wait up a sec."

Nolan closed the gap. "I just wanted to say thanksÖyou knowÖfor what you did. I know it wasnít easy."

"I almost didnít do it. But I talked it over with my dad, and he had his lawyer come over and we went over the whole thing together. I was still scared, though. I didnít know what would happen when Hargrove found out."

"I know. I've been afraid to say much to the cops even though I knew I didnít do anything."

"I was thinking about that, too. I got a little brotheróheís still in junior high. But heís just a little kid like youó"

Nolan was about to protest.

"No offense. You just havenít grown up yet. Me, Iím not much smaller than Hargrove. I box and lift weights. But he still scares the Hell out of me."

Each studied the other for a moment, then Kramer walked on.

"See yaí." Nolan said.

In the cafeteria, everyone wanted to sit next to Nolan. "Can you believe they arrested those two guys?" "Did you know the police wanted them?" "Did they really get you drunk?" "What did they arrest them for?" "Why do you think they did it?" "What's going to happen next?"

Nolan gave the same answer he always did: "I told you I didn't do anything." His classmates seemed to accept the answer this morning.


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That afternoon, when he got to work, Uncle Jerry was waiting for him. "Kevin, I promised your mother I would have you make this delivery the second you got in." He handed him a big bag of food with a slip attached. "Itís for the lieutenant."

Although he was surprised, the teenager took the food without saying anything.

"Be back here no later than six to make your deliveries."

"Yeah. Okay," Nolan replied, climbing back into the red Beetle and heading for the police station.

A few minutes later, he walked into Bagwellís office with the food.

"Glad you could join me," the lieutenant said, waving Nolan into a chair. "Youíre mother should be here in a minute. And then we can eat."

"I donít understand."

"I told your mother that I had a pretty good idea of what happened last week on Friday night, and I wanted to tell both of you about it. She suggested that we meet here and eat while I told you the story. She didnít think you would want to wait until you got home from work."

"I see Kevin beat me here," Mrs. Nolan said, wheeling into the office.

"I just got here, Mom," he said, helping her get her chair up next to Bagwellís desk. "You okay?"

She smiled.

"Kevin," Bagwell asked, "would you close the door?"

Nolan shut it and returned to a chair next to his mother by the lieutenantís desk. Bagwell had already set out the roast beef sandwiches, cartons of potato salads and cans of soda.

Before he sat down, Bagwell reached over and picked up the wastebasket. He brought it around the edge of the desk where Nolan could see it. The teenager blushed, taking the gum out of his mouth. After returning the wastebasket, the lieutenant sat down and started to eat. He took a bite of his sandwich and washed it down with some soda before he began. "Okay, we think this is the way it happened."

Nolan was sitting on the edge of his chair, but his mother put a hand on his arm and nodded. He sat back, taking his coke and setting it in his lap.

"Hargrove was hoping you would drink beer since you didnít have to drive home. But he had also planned to spike whatever you drank with vodka, so it didnít really matter. The hot peppers, Springer said, were something Hargrove thought up just that afternoon. He figured that if your mouth were burning from the peppers, you would never notice the alcohol."

"It was Springerís idea to give you sleeping pills. He was afraid that if you woke up while they were moving you, you might get away. Hargrove agreed, but he didn't want to overdose you, so he only allowed Springer to give you one at ten thirty and another at eleven thirty."

"They really put some time into this thing, didnít they," Mrs. Nolan said.

"After you were out, Kevin, and almost everyone else went home, Springer and Hargrove took you out to your car. After Springer got you into the back seat--that's when you got that bump on your head--Hargrove took off."

Nolan's hand touched the top of his head, but the knot was now completely gone.

"It took a while before we got enough from Hargrove to put the rest of this together," the lieutenant continued. "We're still tying down a few points," he added.

The Nolans looked at each other.

"Go on," Mrs. Nolan said.

"Apparently, the entire plan was Larry Hargrove's idea. You heard we arrested him on a gambling charge the other day?"

"I heard," the teen replied.

"That will be the least of his worry's," the lieutenant said. "He wanted his son back on the football team. It seems the boy was responsible for keeping Parkview above or below the spread--depending on the week's bets. Anyway, according to Mrs. McAfee, Mr. Hargrove had tried to coerce the coach into reinstating his son. The coach refused.

"We suspect that the vandalism on the coach's car was an attempt to scare him into reinstating the boy. When that maneuver didn't work, the plan to stage the accident took shape."

"I just don't get it," Mrs. Nolan said.

"Well, I can't go into all the details," Bagwell said. "But it looks like Mr. Hargrove killed the coach and brought him out to the construction site. His son was waiting there with Kevin, here, and Kevin's car."

"How did he kill the coach?" Nolan asked.

"He knew the coach ran every night at ten o'clock. He knew the route, and picked a spot where there was little chance of being seen. And he just waited there and ambushed him."

"This all seems crazy to me," Mrs. Nolan said. "And why would the Hargrove boy go along with it?"

"My guess is he wanted to play college ball, but his only real chance of going to college was by getting a scholarship. After the coach kicked him off the team, his chances of getting any offers fell to just about zero, so he needed to find a way to get reinstated. If McAfee were out of the way, then the new coach might put him back on the team."

Everyone was quiet for a moment. Mrs. Nolan dished up potato salad for her son and herself before handing the container to the police officer. She gave Nolan his plate. Then she picked up her own.

"But what about the blood?" Nolan asked after washing down a forkful of salad with some of his coke. "I still don't see where that came from."

"Mr. Hargrove. He apparently cut his right hand when he put McAfee in his trunk. When he drove your car into the wall, he reopened the wound.

Mrs. Nolan asked several questions before her son noticed it was getting late.

"I promised Uncle Jerry Iíd be back by six, Mom," he said.

"You can go, Kevin," Bagwell said.

Nolan stood to leave. "When can I tell everyone about this?"

"Not for a while, yet, Kevin," Bagwell replied. "And you can only tell them about things you've actually seen for yourself."

"Whatís that mean?"

"Well, for example," the lieutenant said, "You can tell people that when you first saw the body, it was lying against the wall at the mall, and that your car was sitting over it. But you canít say the body was moved. You can tell people that the cops thought there was something suspicious because I told you that much. But you canít say that Mr. Hargrove drove your car into the wall. You see the difference?"

"Yeah. I guess. Itís still gonna be tough. But at least I can say something."

"Everything okay?" Uncle Jerry asked when Nolan returned to the diner about ten minutes later.

"Yeah, I think so. It looks like the police have figured out how it all happened."

"Great. Iím glad. You know, Iíve wanted to talk to you about it every day."

Nolan gave his uncle a funny look.

"Bagwell questioned me, too, you know. From what he asked, I thought that maybe something wasn't kosher. But I had no idea what it was. I also knew that you wouldnít drink and drive. That just didnít sound like you. And I told Bagwell that."

"Thanks, Uncle Jerry," Nolan said. "I appreciate it."


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When Nolan finally got home that night, he was really tired. But when he saw his mother up in the living room watching TV, he stayed up to talk.

"Were you there when the lieutenant said the first tip was the fact your car was hardly dented and there were no skid marks or anything?" she asked.

"No," he said. "But you know, I remember thinking that there didnít seem to be much damage to the front of the car. I donít remember when I thought that. But I remember I did."

"Yes. Itís kind of a surprise that after planning everything else, they didnít make the wreck look more real."

"Yeah. But letís not complain. If they did a better job, you might think I actually killed the coach."

"No, Kevin. I would never think that of you. I know you made a promise not to drink. And I know you well enough to know you would never break that promise."

"Then why have you been looking at me the way you have these last few days? I thought you were wondering if I did it or not. If I drank or not."

"I guess I was blaming myself--I shouldn't've let you go to that party. And I was really worried about you."

"Man. I thought I had disappointed you. I didnít think you trusted me anymore."

"Iím sorry, Kevin. I didnít mean for that to happen. I just didnít know what to say. Iím really sorry."

"Itís okay, Mom. Iím just so relieved." The teen reached out and gave his mother a quick hug, the first in more than a week.

Carole Nolan reached up and caressed her son's head, pulling it down so she could give him a kiss. She expected him to protest, but he didn't.

"Do you need any help?" her son asked.

She was about to say no, as she always did. But she changed her mind. "You can help me get my chair into the bedroom, Honey.

As Nolan wheeled the chair out of the room, the TV could be heard in the background:

Tonight's headlines: Larry Hargrove was indicted today by the grand jury for the murder of Edward McAfee. Bond was set at a quarter of a million dollars. Sales tax revenues for the city set an all-time record for the month of October. And in Mark Harper's Parenting Special: Communicating with Your TeenÖ.

 

The End



Revised text placed on
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16 July 98

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