Justin is accused of doing something he says he didn't do.
Will he be cleared, or will he be found guilty?
The next day, Friday, Devin met me before homeroom.
“Hey, back actcha, Justin. I have some news for you.”
“Shit, don’t tell me there are more rumors!”
“I won’t, because even though you are still at the top of the rumor popularity list, that’s not what I have to tell you. Remember I said that I would do a little researching for you?”
“Yeah. And I told you I promised my Aunt, the one who’s an assistant district attorney, that I wouldn’t look for anything about Susan Carver.”
“And you haven’t.” Devin pulled a flash drive out of his pocket. “I have. It’s all on here. I copied the most important and shorter stuff into separate Word docx files. There’s also a separate file with a bunch of links for stuff that was too long to copy; you can go look at where the links take you on your own. I know you said you’re not supposed to look up stuff about her, so it’s up to you to decide if you want to look at what’s on this flash drive, or not.”
“Did you find much?”
“I found much. I’ve got her address, what high school she goes to, where she was born, the names of her birth mother and father, where she went to elementary and middle school, and why she’s in the foster program.”
“Damn! How did you get some of that information? Especially the stuff about why she’s fostered?”
“It’s amazing what you can find if you just do a little digging.”
“But she’s a juvenile, so most of the stuff you found you shouldn’t have been able to find.”
“It’s there if you dig a little.”
“This wasn’t stuff you went to the dark web to find, was it?”
“Nah, I don’t mess with the dark web. All it took were a few purloined passwords to get me into some interesting databases and, voilą, lots and lots of information. I only included things that were confirmed across at least three data sources. There’s a lot more I could have included but it might be unreliable, so, no-go.”
I looked at the flash drive, then at Devin. “How much did all of this cost you?”
“For the data, a couple hours of my time, provided free and clear. For the flash drive, one buck at Fry’s in one of their bargain bins the last time I was there. I bought ten of ’em.”
“Just out of curiosity, how big is this flash drive?”
“Whoa. 8 gigs for a buck. That’s a good deal!”
“Tell me about it! Anyway, for a buck it’s my gift to you, Justin.”
“Thanks, Devin. You’re my numero uno best friend.”
“Ah, shucks, pardner!”
We laughed, and I put the flash drive in my pocket. We heard the first bell and headed into homeroom for the start of yet another scintillating day of the Los Arcos High School experience.
Almost as soon as I got home from school Aunt Beth phoned and asked Dad to put the call on the speaker so I could hear it too.
“Rob and Justin, Susan’s interview by the CPS case worker and the deputy district attorney who handles juvenile cases was just unsealed by the court. I want to have you come to my office and I’ll explain what we learned. I don’t want to do it over the telephone. Even though the interview was unsealed, it is still confidential. When can you be here?”
“It’s four o’clock now,” Dad said. “Justin, is there any reason you can’t go to Beth’s office now?”
“Nope. It sounds like we’re finally going to get some answers. Let’s do it.”
When we got to the district attorney’s office in the County Office Building in Martinez, we were ushered into a small conference room.
After the receptionist left, I laughed. “Dad, this is like the conference room that Aunt Beth told us was small when I asked about looking through a one-way mirror into the interrogation room.”
“And she told you that you watch too much TV.”
I started to tell him that I didn’t watch too much TV, but I was interrupted when Aunt Beth entered and shut the door, then sat down across from us.
“I know you want to know about Susan,” she began without even saying hello. “We had to obtain a court order to bring her in for the interview. Let’s just say that Mr. and Mrs. Gage were less than cooperative.
“Present at the interview were Susan Carver; her foster mother, Mrs. Linda Gage; the Gages’ attorney, Lawrence Wilde; Lisa Werth, Susan’s case worker from CPS; and Taylor Berman, one of our staff who handles cases where a minor is involved. Mr. Gage wasn’t able to attend the meeting. Because Susan is a minor, the interview was automatically sealed. Justin, being sealed means that her interview was not provided to me or anyone else in the department including Taylor Berman who was present at the interview. So I wasn’t able to see what she had said.
“Taylor and I went to the judge who had sealed Susan’s interview and argued that since both parties were juveniles and because Justin had agreed to have his interview open — which means it wasn’t sealed and could be accessed by her attorney — that in the interest of fairness, Susan’s interview should be unsealed. The judge agreed, much to the consternation of Mr. Wilde.”
Aunt Beth took a deep breath and got started. “First, Taylor asked Mrs. Gage if they had taken Susan to the hospital when she told them about the rape, and Mrs. Gage answered that they did so immediately. I asked if the hospital collected samples into a SAFE kit, and Mrs. Gage said she didn’t know the answer to that question. I explained what a SAFE kit is, and she said she hadn’t been told if that had been done. I asked her if there was evidence that Susan had been raped and she answered yes, that the doctor at the hospital said that she had signs of having sexual intercourse including a torn hymen which was the source of blood on her panties. She said that she found them when she took the trash out to the bin. She added that the doctor said there was nothing to collect because the male probably had used a condom.”
I interrupted. “I don’t have any condoms, and other than trying on the one that they gave to us during the freshman health class, I’ve never put on or used a condom.”
Dad waved his hand indicating I should keep quiet, and Aunt Beth continued.
“I asked where the rape took place, and she didn’t want to answer that question so I didn’t push it and planned to get back to it later. I asked when the rape occurred and Susan said it was on Saturday, October tenth.”
I laughed out loud. That interrupted Aunt Beth, and I noticed Dad was grinning.
“Last Saturday?” I said. “She has got to be kidding! What time, last Saturday?”
“Instead of my telling you,” Aunt Beth said, “how about you tell me, Justin. I need to know everywhere you were on Saturday, everyone you were with, and the starting and ending time you were with them. And I want to record it.” She opened her briefcase and pulled out and turned on one of those little digital voice recorders.
I started laughing again. Aunt Beth looked irritated, so I decided to stop laughing and answer her questions, in detail. “You know that I’m on the Los Arcos cross country team, right?”
“Yes, I know that, Justin.”
“Okay. On October ninth and tenth we had a two-day cross country meet in Clovis, that’s near Fresno. I was with 41 of my teammates and four coaches and three team managers. We were released from our classes at ten-forty-five Friday morning, October ninth. We left from school at about eleven o’clock that morning. We took a bus from Los Arcos High to Clovis High School. We got there at about two-thirty. The preliminaries started at three o’clock and were over around six. We had dinner at a steak house, Cool Hand Luke’s. We stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Express, four guys to a room, two in each bed. The entire team had breakfast together Saturday morning. The meet on Saturday started at nine-thirty and was over at three-thirty. We left Clovis at about four-thirty. I slept most of the way home. When we got to Danville Phil Nakamura woke me up and I called Dad so he could be at school when the bus got there. Our bus arrived at about eight o’clock Saturday night.
“Dad, can you fill in your part for Aunt Beth?”
“I can do that. I arrived at Los Arcos High at about seven-forty-five Saturday evening. The bus pulled in about ten minutes later. By the time Justin got his gym bag and we left it was almost eight-fifteen. We drove home and Justin took a shower. He said he was hungry, so we went to the Cheesecake Factory for a late dinner. We got there at about nine-fifteen. I had the Santa Fe salad. Justin had shrimp gumbo, and he had cheesecake for dessert. What kind was it, Justin?”
I grinned. “My favorite, Dutch Apple Caramel Streusel cheesecake with two big mounds of real whipped cream.”
Dad grinned at me, shaking his head, before returning to his statement. “I had coffee. We left at about ten-fifteen, and we got home around ten thirty. Justin went right to bed. I watched the eleven o’clock news. When the news was over I locked up the house, turned on the alarm, and checked on Justin. He was asleep and snoring softly. Then I went to bed.”
“I totally crashed,” I said. “I woke up at nine-thirty Sunday morning. I’d set my alarm for that time because Ryan was coming over at ten-thirty. I got up, showered and brushed my teeth, got dressed, and had breakfast. I wasn’t real hungry because I’d had such a big dinner, so I had four toaster waffles with fresh strawberries and maple syrup, and a cup of coffee to help me wake up.”
Aunt Beth interrupted. “You call that a breakfast that you’d eat when you weren’t real hungry?”
I laughed. “Sure, compared to eight slices of bacon and three or four eggs and two toasted bagels with cream cheese which is what I usually have for breakfast the morning after a meet. Anyway, Ryan arrived just as I finished eating and I told him about the meet. By the way, I finished seventh in the high school boys varsity section. I’ve got pictures Phil took of me and the other guys on our team, using my phone. If you want, I’ll send copies of them to you.
“Ryan and I went out back and shot baskets for about a half hour. Then we came inside and watched football games. The 49ers lost to the New York Giants and the Raiders lost their game to Denver. They both lost by one touchdown. We watched other games and Red Zone, but I don’t remember who was playing. Ryan and I spent a lot of time talking about school stuff and the cross country meet and our upcoming meets.
“I think that answers your where-when-who questions, Aunt Beth. Susan Carver was lying about me raping her on Saturday. What time did she say the rape happened?”
“I asked what time and she said she wasn’t sure, but it was in the afternoon.”
“You said you’d ask her later for where she says she was raped. Did you ask her?”
“Yes. She said it was at Civic Park, in the wooded area near where the park walkway joins the Iron Horse Trail.”
“Beth, since the rape was supposed to have been on Saturday afternoon, and right here in town, they obviously didn’t know that Justin was out of town, several hours away in Clovis,” Dad said. “That means that the rape was a lie, and I know the assertion that Susan is Justin’s brother is also a lie.
“There’s something else that’s been bothering me, and it could be very important,” Dad said. “That’s Lieutenant Brandon Gage. I have a suspicion that he’s involved in this more than we may see on the surface.”
“What do you mean by that?” Beth asked.
“I suspect that someone encouraged Susan to claim that she was raped by Justin,” Dad replied. “I don’t see why Mrs. Gage would have done that. I keep thinking about what the policemen who attempted to arrest Justin said in Vice Principal Pearson’s office. He said that Lieutenant Gage had told them they were to arrest Justin without a warrant. He should have known that wasn’t legal, but he told them to do it anyway.”
“You know…,” I started, chewing on my bottom lip, “…they didn’t know who we were. Susan came home from that summer learning program with a story that she saw her twin brother. What if Lieutenant Gage decided they could get some money by suing us for the fake rape. They wouldn’t know that I’m gay and out because Susan doesn’t go to Los Arcos High. They didn’t know that Dad’s an attorney, or that you’re my aunt. Maybe he figured we were a ripe mark.”
Beth laughed. “Justin, where did you hear the term ‘a ripe mark’?”
I grinned. “CSI.”
She rolled her eyes. “I suppose that’s a possible scenario, if a bit farfetched. Yet, it’s as good as any other conjecture at this time.”
She turned to my dad. “Rob, if this case goes to trial can I assume that you will be Justin’s attorney?”
“Yes, I will. However, I’ve never represented a minor who’s been accused of the rape of another minor. In order to prepare my defense, I’ll need access to the interview she had with your staff member and her CPS case worker. Because she’s the claimant in a rape case, we need access to copies of the original interview documents so we can prepare our case.”
“What I really want to know is why she decided to make false claims about me raping her,” I said. “And that reminds me about something a friend of mine gave me at school this morning.”
I told Aunt Beth and Dad about the Google search a friend did for me. I didn’t tell them I got it on a flash drive, or that it was Devin Wong who did the search. I guessed Dad would figure it was Devin since we were best friends. Aunt Beth didn’t know Devin or that he was my best friend — after Ryan, of course.
“So, I haven’t looked at the information he found. Is there any reason I shouldn’t look at it now?”
“Can you send it to me before you read it?” Aunt Beth asked.
“Alright, why don’t you do that. Is it on paper or is it digital?”
“He said it’s a bunch of data files and links to stuff on the internet. I’ll zip it and send you the zip file as soon as we get home. I’ll password protect it. The password will be ClovisHigh with all run together without a space, and the C and the H capitals and the rest lower case.”
“Thank you, Justin. Now, at this point, I want to close this meeting. I know you want more information, and you deserve to find out answers to the many questions you probably still have. But what you’ve told me has turned this from a juvenile rape case to a felony: making false statements to the police and representatives of the district attorney’s office. Right now I want to meet with the District Attorney before he leaves for the weekend. I want to establish what we’re going to do about Susan Carver and her foster parents.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Justin Carver
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