TC-Porter

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IIA: Scissors, paper, rock, two out of three times, and Deputy Bob Lurz had to be the one to climb into the garbage truck at the place where 6th made a little jog north and 7th took its place. Paul Bergin lived on N Street and 6th. Deputy Bill Holsinger drove down to L and 7th.

IIB: The fellow driving the truck and the fellow dumping the cans were duly deputized. At O street Bob was told that Paul Bergin was making a last minute addition of a grocery bag to the can already out on the street. Two more pickups and Bob had this grocery bag in his hands.

IIC: "Jesus Christ, Bob, you reek!" gasped Bill when his partner piled into the truck with the evidence.

"All in the line of duty. Look what we got." He let Bill peek inside at a wooden knife block. The handles were the same as the murder weapon. One blade was missing.

IID: "So it's Deacon Paul Bergin for sure," said Deputy Bill. "I'm with the sheriff on this one. When the perpetrators make catching them this easy it's no fun at all."

"There should be nothing fun about any of this, Bill," his partner admonished. "Kimberly Zinter is dead."

IIE: At the sheriff's station the deputies, Roddy Walker, and even Special Agent Mark Felt donned gloves before the knife holder was removed from the grocery bag. Photographs were taken. One blade was removed and photographed next to the tagged murder weapon for comparison.

IIF: The knife handles were not identical, but that was to be expected in a hand-crafted set. Everything was dusted for fingerprints and photographed as well.

Felt began to interrogate the deputies as though he were some pricey high-caliber city lawyer Paul Bergin might retain.

IIG: "Are you sure this came from Mr. Bergin's house, Deputy?"

"I counted four stops after I got in the truck. There are three houses on 6th between the Bergin place and where I crawled inside."

"But did you actually see that you were in front of his house?"

"No, Agent Felt.

IIH: I was inside the garbage truck."

Deputy Bill shook his head when Felt glanced at him. He had also been well out of sight. "But the driver of the garbage truck and the pick-up man both said they saw Paul Bergin throw this bag in his trash can," he said.

"Sheriff Walker, I'm pleasantly surprised by what you've managed to get so far, but do you see the glaring hole in our case?"

III: "I can give you their names if you wish, Agent Felt. The trash men were deputized for this operation. That gives them legal standing."

"It also gives them elevated responsibility, Bill," said Roddy, "and I hope you explained that to them when you swore them in."

IIJ: "That doesn't matter, Sheriff," said Felt. "Please pick them up and see Judge Porter again. We might have just enough now to fingerprint Mr. and Mrs. Bergin."

Roddy walked over to look at photographs pinned to a cork board.

IIK: "And if his boots and tires match what we posted here, Special Agent Felt, then we will have a little bit more than just enough."

Felt nodded. The case was only starting but so far it was moving quite to his satisfaction.

IIL: But the homocide investigation experienced the first headwind from Judge Karl Porter when he declined to allow the sheriff to bring the Bergins in for fingerprints as he had previously ruled for Robyn. He mused, aloud, that the case was becoming a fishing expedition.

IIM: If Special Agent Mark Felt was disappointed it didn't show. "Let's go visit the Bergin place anyway," he told the Sheriff outside the courthouse. "I want to see if I can shake something loose."

"Do you want Bob and Bill to tag along?" "No, I need them to make a phone call.

IIN: Tell your men to get the number of Bergin's plates, then have them go up to the temple and take photographs of his tire treads."

"Oh, we already have Bergin's plate on file," Roddy said. "He doesn't think the wartime speed limit of 35 miles per hour applies to deacons."

IIO: Agent Felt smiled in admiration. "Sheriff, this is one of the smallest towns I've ever seen, but the way you run your department is a G-man's dream." When they arrived at Bergin's home Mark Felt took copious notes beginning with the fact that no vehicle was present.

IIP: Felt thought the most striking thing about the woman who answered the door was how singularly unattractive she was. If she hadn't worn a dress Mark might have thought Deacon Paul himself was standing there. He cleared his throat and identified himself and Sheriff Walker.

IIQ: "Yes?" she snapped. "How may I help you?"

"Is Mr. Bergin at home?"

She shook her head. "Paul works at the Temple. I'm his wife Ruth."

"Perhaps you can help after all, Mrs. Bergin. It seems a young woman was attacked with a knife recently."

"Good God, is she well?"

IIR: "It's hard to say at this point," said Felt. "What I can tell you is that we think we have the knife that was used in the attack. It has a very unique wooden handle. It's hand-crafted, you see. Only a very few sets were sold, Ruth, and we think you might have one of them."

IIS: Ruth gasped. "You can't think that I, that Paul did this."

"Not at all ma'am. A criminal investigation is much like tracing out every rabbit trail even when they just come to a dead end. If you show us your own kitchen knife set then the sheriff and I will be on our way."

IIT: "We never bought our knife block," Ruth said. "It was made by Owen Bergin when Headwater was first settled and has passed down from father to son ever since."

Felt made a note of that on his pad, then broke into a smile. "You see? I knew we must be wasting our time."

IIU: "I'm sorry, Ma'am," said Sheriff Walker, "but we had to be sure. Still, do you mind if we take one little peek at what you do have?"

Mark Felt admired how Roddy caught his little game and slid right into his role without clashing gears. And Ruth went inside to fetch it.

IIV: The fact that Ruth didn't know she was missing her knife set was recorded in Felt's notebook. As he expected, she returned emptyhanded and Felt recorded that too, not so much that he didn't know it, but for the affidavit he would have the sheriff type up for Judge Porter.

IIW: "I don't understand," Ruth said. "I used a knife from the block just this morning when I made breakfast for Paul and the children, but now everything is gone."

"Oh no, Ruth, that's just what I didn't want to hear," Roddy said "But I'm sure there's a good explanation."

IIX: "Ruth, do you mind if the sheriff and I come in so all the heat in your house doesn't escape through the front door?"

She thought about that for longer than Felt liked but in the end Ruth nodded and opened her screen door to let them in. She asked them to sit on a couch.

IIY: Roddy thought Ruth's home was very similar to Kim Zinter's place in size and design but different in almost every other way. There were no decorations at all, no paintings, no rugs, not even a single knick- knack. Only two books were in sight, a Bible and the Green Book.

IIZ: Another difference: when he visited Robyn she was playing music, but here it was silent. No record collection, no Victrola to play them on. Roddy marveled how religious folk were so keen on a life in the hereafter when their life here on Earth was so miserable, by choice.

IJA: "I see you don't have a radio, Mrs. Bergin."

"There's only one station in town, Sheriff, and more often than not they play race records. Paul says that's the devil's own music. Why, even the children in the Temple high school are playing that garbage if you can imagine."

IJB: "The girl who was attacked sang in the Temple school band," revealed Felt. "Do you know somebody who might have stabbed her because she sang race music?"

Ruth's eyes said yes but she shook her head no.

"It was very generous inviting us to come indoors, Ruth," he said.

IJC: "I have no right to ask this of you, and don't believe for an instant that we really think you attacked the girl, but if I could just get one print of your thumb I could compare it to what we found on the knife and completely eliminate you as a suspect in this case."

IJD: The sheriff had to restrain himself from whistling in admiration at Agent Felt's performance, it was so beautifully done. Ruth would be thinking of self-preservation in the face of her own husband framing her for the crime. And Roddy thought that wasn't far from the truth.

IJE: "Will you have to take me down to the station for a thumbprint?"

"Not at all," said Felt, and he used his pencil to make a thick dark spot on a page in his notebook. "Are you right or left handed?"

"Right, of course," Ruth said, as though southpaws were somehow immoral.

IJF: And so with Ruth Bergin fully and freely willing, Special Agent Mark Felt rubbed her right thumb in the spot of graphite, then flipped to a fresh page in his notebook and rolled her thumb across it to get a perfect print. He dared not close the book until it was lacquered.

IJG: "This schoolgirl who was attacked, she was Erik Zinter's kid, wasn't she?"

Felt stood up from the couch still holding his notebook carefully open. He said, "I've been careful not to say too much and upset you, Mrs. Bergin.

"I suppose it couldn't be helped," she sniffed.

IJH: Sheriff Walker scrambled to his feet at that remark and politely asked Ruth what she meant by making it.

She said, "I think only a believer would fully understand me, but Erik was putting our most holy relic to common purposes, digging coal! Our God is a sovereign God."

IJI: Roddy made eye contact with Agent Felt, who raised his notebook a bit and shrugged. He already had what he came for.

Roddy said, "So God wasn't content to take Erik's life for what he did? He had to take the life of his daughter as well?"

Ruth was shocked. "She's dead?"

IJJ: "Yes, Ruth, she's dead. What a terrible thing for Clara, don't you think, losing her entire family? But whoever did it has a death wish. He elevated it to a federal case. It was already the Chair if I caught him..."

"...but the Bureau always gets its man," Felt finished.

IJK: Judge Karl Porter was directly descended from Alfred and Caroline Porter, who were part of the first wagon train to set down roots in Headwater. In any other town of the West, where family trees actually fork, this would be like tracing one's family back to the Mayflower.

IJL: From his corner office on the second floor of the courthouse Judge Porter could look down upon his ancestral family home on the north bank of the river. Most of the land of the homestead had long been sold off for the homes and apartments of the northwest quadrant of town.

IJM: The courthouse was five blocks away from the sheriff's office on the same little island in Squaw River that formed the heart of the town. The sheriff himself was in Porter's chambers making another run at Paul Bergin, and this time, Porter suspected, he just might get him.

IJN: The judge glanced once more at the Affidavit in Support of Arrest Warrant submitted by Sheriff Walker. On a personal level he didn't like where this investigation was going. Paul was the deacon of the Church and the Bergins, just like the Porters, were Headwater Old Guard.

IJO: The Church of Green Dome had secrets, the judge well knew. Something happened last summer to bring three agents of the Bureau sniffing around. After a few weeks they had abandoned their trailer outside of town but the death of this girl brought them back with a fourth man.

IJP: FBI Special Agent Mark Felt was seated at the table next to the sheriff. The judge already learned, the last time these two men appeared before him, that Felt had assumed responsibility for the case. He asked Agent Felt why his name did not appear on the Affidavit.

IJQ: "Your Honor, when I assumed overall direction of the case for the Bureau the Sheriff had already acquired a quantity of evidence. The Affidavit before you summarizes the entire case to this point and only Sheriff Walker could testify as to how all the facts were obtained."

IJR: "And do you foresee a time when the Bureau will no longer be acting in co-operation with local law enforcement here in Headwater?"

"Certainly, Your Honor. The individual or individuals responsible for the crime will likely be transported for arraignment in Kansas City."

IJS: Judge Porter said, "Then with the view of hastening that blessed day please lay out your new evidence."

Mark Felt nodded at the sheriff. Roddy opened a briefcase and removed a knife in a cellophane bag, a page from Felt's notebook, and two closeup photographs of these.

IJT: The sheriff said, "Your Honor, Mrs. Ruth Bergin, the wife of Paul Bergin, was kind enough to allow Special Agent Felt to take an impression of her right thumb and as you can see, it perfectly matches the single thumbprint we dusted on the weapon found at the crime scene."

IJU: "What in the name of God would make Mrs. Bergin give you her thumbprint, Sheriff, and why isn't she named as a suspect?"

"I think, Your Honor, the answer to both questions is the same. She was shocked to find her set of kitchen knives had gone missing on garbage day."

IJV: Judge Porter growled while he chewed on that item for a moment. Yes, the sheriff, or Agent Felt, or both, would have led poor Mrs. Bergin to think her own husband was framing her for murder. Still, what's done is done, and it was legally airtight. "What else do you have?"

IJW: The sheriff reached into his briefcase and removed two more photographs. "Your Honor, Paul Bergin's vehicle is parked at the Temple and is under surveillance by my deputies. You can see here that his tire tread matches the tracks we found at the scene of the homicide."

IJX: The judge looked at the photographs and remembered that under wartime rationing Paul Bergin could only own four tires plus one spare. Karl realized the sheriff had enough to justify an arrest warrant. He could hardly refuse after signing one for Robyn Zinter on much less.

IJY: "The court finds probable cause to believe a felony offense, to wit, the unlawful killing of Kimberly Zinter with malice aforethought, has been committed. The arrest of Mr. Paul Bergin at any hour of day or night is so ordered." Karl Porter's law clerk began typing it up.

IJZ: "Special Agent Felt, will it be sufficient to confine your search for more evidence of the crime to the home of Paul Bergin?"

Felt replied, "No, Your Honor. If Mr. Bergin was a layman his house would have been enough. But as a deacon he has access to the whole Temple."

IKA: "Very well, these are the rules of the People for your search: Let's assume Bergin is hiding evidence in the Temple. When you make the arrest you will have his keys. Any door that is locked, but his keys can open, you may enter and search."

"Thank you, Your Honor.

IJB: The Bureau accepts this limitation on the search."

"Proceed with caution, Agent Felt," he said. "The Church of Green Dome is the very lifeblood of Headwater, and the Church was already going through its most difficult passage in nearly eighty years before this happened."

IJC: "The words of Dr. Wahkan and Sheriff Walker have already sensitized me to the plight of the Church, Your Honor," said Felt, "and I will take great care. But if those troubles somehow led to the killing of Kimberly Zinter, I don't know how even more trauma can be avoided."

IJD: Special Agent in Charge Clyde Tolson was waiting in the second-floor courtroom with Special Agent Sullivan when the sheriff and Felt emerged from the judge's chambers. "It's not carte blanche," said Felt when he handed Tolson the documents, "but it's the best we could do."

IJE: When Tolson finished reading he said, "Edgar knew what he was doing when he put you on the case. For six months we couldn't get one foot in the Temple door."

Felt hoped he only heard that wrong. It sounded like Tolson didn't give two floating turds for the dead girl.

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