The man with damaging accusations had suddenly disappeared. Divine Fury. Chapter 41
March 14, 2013
LONNIE CARTER, HARPER’S accuser, was in hot demand by media outlets all over the country and particularly those based in California. But he seemed to have disappeared as soon as his inaugural press conference ended.
At first, Enzo Lee assumed the Chapman campaign was keeping Carter under wraps for some reason. But Chapman’s people – although happily repeating the molestation allegations while adding their own spin – claimed to have no connection to Lonnie Carter and had no idea where he was. He just seemed to have disappeared.
Lee knew Carter was from Marin County north of San Francisco. He decided to see if Bobbie Connors had any helpful suggestions that would get him closer to finding Carter. He called her cell phone.
“Hmmm,” said Connors. “Let me see if I have this right. Guy’s been convicted of possession and sale. This is meth, right?”
“That’s what his own attorneys said in that press conference,” replied Lee. “I assume they wanted to get his weak spots on the record so no one could say he’s covering it up.”
“All right,” said Connors. “So the guy is – or has been – a meth head. Suddenly, he’s in the spotlight. Lots of attention. Lots of stress. He’s in the middle of a controversy. Probably has a little money. I mean he’s got attorneys. He’s got to have expenses to be paid.”
“So, you think he’s off on a binge somewhere?” said Lee.
“Well, that’s my guess,” said Connors. “Course, I’m just a cynical cop. Always looking for the worst in people. Amazing, though, how often I’m right.”
“Yeah. I know it’s true,” said Lee. “You are absolutely brilliant. And since that’s the case, you’re probably right. Carter probably is off using again.”
“Okay,” said Connors.
“And do you have some way to figure out who his friends are…who he’ll be hanging with if he’s using again?” said Lee. “I can probably get some idea from his arrest reports. But it’s the weekend. That will take me a couple of days.”
“Sit tight, darlin’. I’ll see what I can do,” said Connors.
An hour later, Lee had three names and addresses. Connors had called in a favor with a Corte Madera police lieutenant who retrieved Carter’s records from an electronic database. Two of the addresses were in Marin. The third was in Richmond in the East Bay north of Berkeley.
It took Lee two hours to check out the Marin addresses. Both were apartments where the young men in question had long since moved on. Forty-five minutes later he was driving through a rundown neighborhood in Richmond that consisted of small homes with barred windows, untended lawns, chain-link fences and sliding gates that blocked the driveways.
There were two cars in the driveway – a heavily dented older Ford Taurus painted bronze and a newer Hyundai.
The guy who answered the door was thin, tall and had long black hair and hazel eyes. He wore an AC/DC T-shirt with flames on the front and tattered jeans. The pupils of his eyes looked like small tunnels they were so dilated. As he stood in the half-open door, he was moving constantly, rocking back and forth as he shifted his weight from his toes to his heels. Lee could hear laughter inside the house.
“Yeah. Yeah. Hey. What is it?” he asked.
“Is Lonnie here?” asked Lee.
“Maybe. Who are you?”
“I’m a reporter. San Francisco News,” said Lee.
AC/DC left just a crack in the door. Lee could hear him walking toward the back of the house. The laughing and talking he had heard stopped.
Five minutes later, Lonnie Carter opened the door. He was thinner than he had appeared on the television. Good looking. Blond. Mid-30s. Piercing blue eyes. But a little disheveled. His hair was uncombed. His face had a sheen of sweat on it. He seemed to focus on Lee okay.
“I’m Enzo Lee,” said Lee. “San Francisco News.”
“I’ve heard of you,” said Carter. “You better watch out.”
“Me?” said Lee. “Why is that?”
“I don’t know. You pissed off some people, man. I’d just watch yourself.”
“Well, thanks,” said Lee. “You know why I’m here, right?”
“Yep. Same reason every other member of the media has been ringing me every two minutes,” said Carter. “It’s Harper, right?”
“That’s right,” said Lee. “I guess I don’t totally get it. You drop this bombshell – television…the works – and then you just drop out of sight. What’s that all about exactly?”
“Well, that was my deal,” said Carter. “Do the announcement. TV. Turn over the email. As far as I’m concerned, I’m done. Obligations fulfilled.”
Lee peeked over Carter’s shoulder. He saw a sofa and chairs in the room off the front door. His friends must be in the back somewhere.
“Do you mind if I come in so we can talk for a few minutes?” he asked. “Instead of doing this standing out here?”
Carter paused. He didn’t appear too enthused about welcoming Lee into the house. Finally, he relented.
“Okay,” he said with resignation in his voice. “Just for a couple of minutes.”
Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
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