Playing the Game (37 page)

            ‘For the charge of ‘conspiracy to commit first degree murder’, do you, the members of the jury, find the defendant guilty or not guilty?’

The courtroom was silent. It seemed as though no-one was even breathing. Everyone was waiting with baited breath for the foreman’s next words which, to Conway at least, he seemed to take an eternity to speak.

            ‘Not guilty, your Honour’.

            The courtroom erupted with cheers from Conway’s supporters, of which there were many, and jeers from his detractors, of which there were almost as many. Conway himself simply sat back down as he shook his council’s hands one by one, more relieved than anyone else that those words had been spoken.

            Fearing his courtroom was on the verge of descending into chaos, which he would never tolerate no matter what the circumstance, Walker brought his gavel down hard, several times, appealing for order. As the courtroom became silent for the most part, the Judge spoke once again. ‘Senator Conway, you are free to go’.

            Three hours later, having fulfilled all his media commitments, Conway found himself in his study and poured himself a large glass of scotch. He smiled as he recalled how he played the ‘innocently accused’ card when he had walked onto the steps of the courthouse to the awaiting media frenzy. ‘I will always have my detractors’, he had announced. ‘Those who seek to discourage and discredit me’. The media had lapped it up. ‘However, this afternoon I rejoice at justice prevailing and can assure you that I can now turn my attention back to business with my full focus, now this nonsense has been exposed for just exactly what it is.
Nonsense
’.

            His private line rang and he picked up the receiver, confident that it wouldn’t be a journalist after a quote or anything of the kind. Only his closest friends and most respected business associates had this number and it wasn’t a number that could be easily found or traced.

            ‘Conway’, he answered.

            ‘Congratulations on the verdict, Senator’, a voice spoke. It was a voice Conway had only heard three or four times before, but he knew who it was.

            ‘Thank you, sir’, he replied.

            ‘A most pleasing outcome’, the voice continued. ‘However, the events of the last few months have left us with a problem’.

            ‘I know’, Conway affirmed.

            ‘The Animi must be allowed to continue their work’, the voice said. ‘But McCrane, Burr and Farrington are now out of the picture. As
you
almost were, Senator’.

            ‘What would you like me to do?’

            ‘I am sending a list of suitable candidates for their replacement by the usual means. You are free to suggest any candidates you might have in mind’.

            ‘Thank you’.

            ‘And if I might make one suggestion, Senator?’

            ‘Please do’.

            ‘If you could refrain from sleeping with any of their wives, it would be very much appreciated’.

            Conway nodded, aware that this is what had started Burr and McCrane’s vendetta against him in the first place.

            ‘Of course’.

            ‘In that case, we will speak again once you have had time to vet all the candidates
Chairman
Conway’.

            Conway hung up the receiver, laughing. His, and indeed The Animi’s, work was just beginning.

100

            I hadn’t gone to Conway’s trial myself, preferring to take a personal day, the afternoon of which I was planning to spend with Katie. She had made a full and speedy recovery, for which I was eternally thankful. She had received counselling for six weeks after the event but had returned to college part time four weeks ago, having shown no lasting mental effects of her abduction. She had felt ready and the counsellor agreed. I can’t begin to describe how relieved and happy that made me.

The events that had unfolded during my daughter’s abduction by Sarah Caldwell had uncovered Conway’s involvement with Burr and McCrane but nothing concrete to link him to Sarah Caldwell herself. I suspected he was involved somehow but we had unearthed nothing that could prove that.

            When news filtered through of the court’s verdict that morning on the news channel, I can’t say that I was entirely surprised. I’d been monitoring the case closely and had thought that what evidence there had been to tie him to Burr and McCrane’s deaths had been circumstantial for the most part.

            Nevertheless, Conway was now on our radar and I was certain that our paths would cross eventually; that I would find out to what extent he had known about Sarah Caldwell one way or the other.  For now, I was satisfied that Robert Farrington had just begun his four year stretch in California State Prison for aiding and abetting Sarah Caldwell. I had no doubt that his wealth and stature would ensure that his time there would come with more privileges than most, but he was there at least and in all honesty, that was the best that I could have hoped for. For me, the priority was finding Sarah Caldwell again. Farrington’s warning that another game had been set in motion by one of her followers still echoed in my ears. However, as the days after her escape from the cliff top in Windsor Hills passed, I knew the chance of finding her was passing with them. Now, three months on, I suspected that the next time I would see or speak to Sarah Caldwell was when she decided it was time, and not before.

            The phone rang, and I momentarily hesitated, just as I had every time the phone had rung since Sarah Caldwell had evaded our capture. Was this the call? Was this the time?

            ‘Patton’, I answered.

            ‘Hey, Patton, it’s Jonny Devine’. Devine was a fellow detective and a good friend. He worked vice out of San Fernando Valley and we’d helped each other numerous times when our investigations had sometimes crossed paths.

            ‘You seen the news?’ he asked. ‘Goddamn walked’.

            ‘Yeah I’ve seen it’, I told him.

            ‘Hey how’s Katie doing?’

            ‘She’s doing fine’, I looked up and silently thanked God as I often do now. ‘Picking her up in half an hour as it happens’.

            ‘Hey man, that’s good to hear. I’ll catch you later’.

            I hung up the phone thankful that it hadn’t been Sarah Caldwell. I knew that until she made contact again, not a day would go by that she did not haunt.

            In that respect, even though I’d got my daughter back safely, maybe Sarah Caldwell had won her game after all.

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