The Sixth Man – Episode 69

th934NZ81TChicago

There was a wretchedness in Wilson’s mind. Something he could not dissolve by any sort of mental process or by simply saying the picture of Everett Carpenter, a name he could not recall laying in mangled display that he did not remember. The image gruesome and haunting rotted in his mind. “Please go away,” he said and drove on.

His only stops were for gas, the restroom, and coffee. There was a weariness on his face. He tried to dig deep into his brain to pull from its depths a single memory of that action that laid Everett Carpenter to rest.

Wilson drove until his eyes became heavy and could not stay open. He stopped at a motel off the interstate in Mitchell, South Dakota. He didn’t bother to remove his clothing. He fell on the bed and slept until day break.

The drive to Chicago was morose. He forced other thoughts into his head. There was a conflict that gnawed away at him in the pit of his stomach, his wife Gayle and Marti the woman he fathered a child with years ago in Indianapolis. He wondered if Chicago might reveal another surprise.

However, the only thing to relieve his mind of that nettlesome situation, that would likely be worked out, was the intrusion of Everett Carpenter’s image. The simple solution was to ram his car at full speed into a bridge piling. The thought was more than a passing one. Yet, Wilson was driven to know the full extent of his being. He had to know and then decide what to do with what he knew.

The address led him to a small barbershop on West Diversey Avenue. Wilson parked the car and walked into the barbershop. There were no customers. Two barbers sat in the barber’s chairs waiting. One was Vietnamese the other was black.

The black man stood. “What can we get for ya taday?”

No haircut,” Wilson said politely holding out his hand

Wilson looked at the Vietnamese man still sitting in the chair He was small with thinning hair and wore thick glasses. “Are you Chung Quang Dung?”

Yes,” Dung said and raised from the chair. “Have we met?”

Yes,” Wilson said. “Many years ago.”

Dung slowly moved forward curiously examining the face of Wilson. Dung nodded slowly. “It has been many years.”

My name is Wilson Gentry,” Wilson said.

Yes,” Dung said. “I know and I have been expecting you.”

Expecting me?” Wilson said.

Yes,” Dung said. “For over thirty years. How did you find me?”

Burton Parnell,” Wilson said.

What is it you want?” Dung said.

Honestly, I‘m not sure,” Wilson said. “You said you were expecting me, why?”

You do not need to be coy with me,” Dung said. “You have something to do, something I’ve been expecting.”

What are you talking about?” Wilson said.

Dung turned to the black barber, “Jerry, watch the place by yourself for awhile.” He motioned to Wilson toward a hallway to the back of the shop. “Come with me.”

Wilson followed Dung down the short hallway that led to a set of stairs, upstairs and down. Dung flipped a light switch on and stepped downstairs. He turned and walked to the front of the basement.

A steady slow drip of water came from a storm drain pipe in the dimly lit brick surroundings. It was dank and mysterious. Neither man feared the other. It was as if this meeting had been planned and rehearsed well in advance and the outcome already known.

Dung stopped below a hanging light bulb. As soon as Wilson positioned himself facing Dung, Dung turned to a file cabinet against the wall and opened it.

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Sixth Man – Episode 68

thGQDVVQL8The Chung Quang Dung Letter

The next day Wilson awoke from an upstairs bedroom and walked down the open stairway to the living room. He was greeted by the aroma of coffee, bacon, and the warmth of crackling fireplace.

Temperature dropped last night,” Burton said from over the stove in the kitchen. “Were you warm enough?”

I had plenty of covers,” Wilson said.

Coffee’s on the counter,” Burton said. “Pour yourself a cup. How do you like your eggs?”

Scramble ‘em,” Wilson said.

Scrambled coming up,” Burton said.

When I woke up this morning I was thinking about something,” Wilson said moving toward the coffeemaker on the counter.

That’s good,” Burton said.

What was the name of the informant?” Wilson said pouring the coffee.

That’s strange that you should mention that,” Burton said.

How so?” Wilson said sipping the coffee.

I went to sleep last night thinking the same thing,” Burton said. “But let’s eat some breakfast first.”

After breakfast was eaten they placed the dishes in the dishwasher.

Have a seat at the table,” Burton said. “I have something for us, but mainly you.”

Burton opened a desk drawer in study just off the kitchen. He pulled out a letter and handed it to Wilson.

Wilson looked at it. “It’s old; post marked 1973 from Chicago, Chung Quang Dung.” Wilson appeared puzzled.

That was the informant,” Burton said. “I’ve kept that letter separate from the file. It’s up to you to open it.”

You never wanted to know the truth, did you?” Wilson said.

I know the truth,” Burton said. “That’s a letter from a small man hoping to extort money. Dubious at best.”

Wilson tore open the envelope. “Sort of like Pandora’s Box,” Wilson said. He unfolded the paper inside. He pressed his lips tightly and read. “Dear Mr. Parnell, I have information about terrible thing done by Wilson Gentry.”

Wilson let the letter drop. “His address is on the bottom. It’s in Chicago.”

He had nothing,” Burton said. “He was a worm. He was the enemy. Don’t put any stock in it.”

That’s all I have to go on,” Wilson said. “That’s my truth.”

Evidence has to be scrutinized and questioned,” Burton said. “It takes a critical eye and dispassionate approach.”

Thanks, Burton,” Wilson said, “but you believe what you want to believe. I don’t have belief. I don’t have passion. I have facts.”

I think you should talk with a professional,” Burton said.

Thanks, Burton,” Wilson said. “It looks like you poured your heart and soul into this case. I’m going to Chicago and find Chung Quang Dung.”

Against the advice of Burton Parnell, Wilson was on his way to Chicago within an hour.

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The Sixth Man – Episode 66

Intuition

He said you took a rifle and held it to another soldier’s head and shot him,” Burton said. “Like an execution.”

Wilson began to breath heavily. “I can’t even comprehend that.” He slowly reached for the bottle. Burton grabbed and placed it on the counter behind them.

When I talked with you while preparing your defense I felt the same way about you,” Burton said. “I was convinced you could not have done such a thing.”

What happened at the trial?” Wilson said.

There was no trial,” Burton said. “The charges were dropped.”

So in the eyes of the Army I’m still a killer and traitor,” Wilson said.

I suppose you could make that inference,” Burton said.

I would think the best way to proceed was to go to trial so my innocents would be a part of the public record,” Wilson said. “My name would have been cleared.”

A good lawyer never lets his client go to trial,” Burton said. “If they had a case they would have proceeded, but I worked hard to keep it from going before a court marshal. Strange things happen when you turn things over to a judge or jury. I was completely convinced of your innocents. When they knew the only reliable witness they had was an unreliable witness they dropped the charges.”

Who was I suppose to have killed?” Wilson said. “What was his name?”

He was a buddy of yours,” Burton said. “Everett Carpenter, does that name mean anything to you?”

No,” Wilson said.

Stay here,” Burton said. “I have the file in a box in the basement. I’ll get it. It has pictures and statements and some of my notes and things you wrote, maybe they will help you.”

Burton opened a door off the kitchen and stepped into the basement. He was back in a moment with a cardboard box. “W. Gentry” was written on the front of the box in black. Burton sat it on the floor next to the table and fingered through it.

He pulled a photo out and handed it to Wilson. “That’s me and you.”

He looks like my son,” Wilson said. “I have a son. I want to believe that is me, but I just don’t feel it. Do you have a picture of Everett Carpenter.”

Burton bent down and rummaged through the file. He pulled out a snapshot of Wilson and Everett sitting together at table in a mess hall.

That’s him?” Wilson said.

Yeah,” Burton said.

I suppose I should feel sad or something,” Wilson said, “but I don’t even know those two soldiers. We must have been good friends.”

You were,” Burton said. “That was another reason I thought you were innocent.”

Seems like you go a lot on intuition,” Wilson said.

When there are no facts that is what remains,” Burton said. “Intuition is assembled facts and experiences in a flash; it’s not magic or mystical, it’s real. You don’t have to assemble a car in your head to know it’s a car; that’s as much intuition as anything.”

What does your intuition tell you now,” Wilson said. “Here I am 30 years later and I don’t remember a thing; that might mean I’m repressing a horrible memory.”

I think you are repressing a horrible event,” Burton said, “but not what happened to Everett Carpenter. I had you hypnotized by a psychiatrist. He could not dig any sort of memory from you subconscious.”

Why was the Army so convinced?” Wilson said.

They had their quack,” Burton said, “and he was convinced you were faking.”

Did they give me a lie detector test?” Wilson said.

Yes,” Burton said, “but they were sure you fooled the apparatus. It was a time when everyone was willing to think the worst of Americans soldiers. There were all sorts of reports of atrocities against other soldiers, the enemy, civilians, and so on. It was a tough time to be a soldier. They were all viewed as psychopaths.”

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The Sixth Man – Episode 67

th45LJ9Z98The Photo

Burton reached down into the cardboard box and grabbed a thick file. “Here’s some transcripts of interviews the Army had with you.” He hoisted them onto the table. An 8 x 10 black and white photo slid from the file onto the floor. Burton had a panicked look on his face and he quickly lunged to pick it up. It slid too far away from his grasp. It was face down on the floor. “I’ll get it.”

I got it,” Wilson said.

Don’t look at it,” Burton said reaching out for the photo.

Wilson pulled it close to him.

Don’t look at it, Wilson,” Burton pleaded. “You don’t want to see it.”

Wilson turned the photo over and looked. The photo was of Everett Carpenter laying in on the ground with the front of his skull missing.

Wilson dropped the photo and raced to the back door. He leaned over the porch railing and vomited. Burton waited until he stopped and brought a wet cloth.

Here ya go, Wilson,” Burton handed the wet cloth to Wilson.

Wilson’s hands trembled as he grabbed the cloth. His hand shook as he wiped his chin. He groaned, cried out, and sobbed.

Burton rested his hand on Wilson’s shoulder and directed him off the porch and walked past equipment barn and down a path that led to a grassy meadow.

I guess you warned me,” Wilson said.

That was your reaction the first time I showed you that,” Burton said. “But listen to me, Wilson, you did not do that. There is no proof that you did.”

The real question is, is there proof that I didn’t?” Wilson said.

Burton tapped his heart. “Here, here in my heart.”

There is something more about you, Wilson,” Burton said. “I have was never able to put my finger on it. You were always sort of a mystery.”

In what way?” Wilson said.

Sometimes when we talked,” Burton said, “off the record, you’d hit a wall. Just stop. I always thought you were hiding something.”

They walked until they came to a stand of trees at the end of the meadow and walked back to the house.

Let’s look over the transcripts and see if we can jog a memory,” Burton said kindly. “I’d like for you to spend a couple of days with me. It will take you at least that long to pour over things. More than anything you need some rest.”

How do I get that image out of your head?” Wilson said.

I don’t know,” Burton said, “but I think you found a way.”

They walked up the steps to the back porch and into the house where they began to go though the files of a hidden event that took place 30 years ago.

I remember how confused you were,” Burton said.

What was my side of the story?” Wilson said.

It’s all in the files,” Burton said, “But basically you…”

Couldn’t remember,” Wilson said.

Yes,” Burton said.

I can see why the Army thought I was guilty,” Wilson said.

But they had no evidence,” Burton said, “no witnesses.”

Except the informant,” Wilson said.

Dubious at best,” Burton said.

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The Sixth Man – Episode 65

thPMHL1V8JMeeting Burton Parnell

After turning down a gravel road leading to a dirt drive that twisted along the side a gentle slope Wilson slowly ascended until he reached a butte. It was a fair green piece of land with a stiff wind swaying the grasses.

Wilson followed the lane for about half mile winding through a stand of Ponderosa Pines. He came to an opening where a two story log house stood. To the right a wooden barn that looked as if it housed horses. To the left stood another barn. A tractor and truck were visible from and open door.

Wilson got out of the car stepped onto the porch. He looked for a doorbell. There was none. He knocked hard. There was no answer. He stepped off the porch and looked around the house. “Hello! Hello! Hello! Anybody home!”

What can I do for ya?” said a man coming from the horse barn. He wore Levis, a red flannel shirt, and western boots. He had a weather worn face and massive grey hair.

Wilson walked toward Burton.

They both studied each other.

Do I know you?” Burton said.

I hope you remember me,” Wilson said.

The army guy,” Burton said. “That’s been years ago.”

Wilson Gentry,” Wilson said.

Yes,” Burton said and shook Wilson’s hand. “How could I forget. It was quite a case. What brings you there?”

I’m in desperate need of your help, Mr. Parnell,” Wilson said.

Call me Burton,” Burton said. “How can I help?”

I don’t have any memory of Wilson Gentry,” Wilson said. “With the help of some old friends I’ve been able to trace Wilson Gentry’s existence to you.”

No memory, huh,” Burton said pulling at his chin. “Let’s walk inside and I’ll put some coffee on and you brief me on what you know; bring me up to the present.”

Wilson spoke for about 30 minutes at the kitchen table with and Burton listened carefully.

“…and that’s about it,” Wilson concluded.

Burton poured the coffee and spiced his with quick tilt from a bottle of whiskey. He motioned to add some to Wilson’s and Wilson held his hand over the cup. Burton sat across the table from Wilson. “What do you want to know?”

What was I on trial for?” Wilson said.

Murder,” Burton said. “As out-of-date as it sounds you faced a firing squad.”

What did I do?” Wilson said.

You didn’t kill anyone,” Burton said. “Just because the Army thought you did doesn’t make it so. The had no evidence. Only the word of a Vietcong informant. Which is slightly less reliable than Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.”

Wilson stared into Burton’s eyes. “What did the informant say I did?” Wilson said.

Burton grabbed the bottle of whisky and poured a little more into his cup and forcefully tried to pour some into Wilson‘s.

You‘ll need this,” Burton said.

Wilson grabbed the bottle and took a swig from it. “What did the informant say?”

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The Sixth Man – Episode 64

th3F5UBG7ZA Step Closer To Burton Parnell

Two days later by mid morning he was in Missoula.

Wilson located the school of law and waited until Burton Parnell’s class let out. After the students filed out of the classroom Wilson stepped inside.

“Excuse me,” Wilson said to a man behind a desk. “You look too young for Burton Parnell. I was hoping to talk to him.”

“I’m his associate professor, Harrison Ballard,” he said. “Is there something I can help you with?”

“I must speak to Burton Parnell personally,” Wilson said. “I’m an old client and he may be able to help me with a new problem.”

“Burton won’t be back until next Monday,” Harrison said. “He called in,” Harrison chuckled. “He said he wanted to get some things done before the cold weather set in. He lives about 40 miles from here back some dirt road.”

“It’s important I talk to him,” Wilson said. “Do you have a number that I can reach him?”

Harrison jotted a phone number on a scrap piece of paper and handed it to Wilson.

“Thanks,” Wilson said and turned for the door.

As he reached for the door knob Harrison said, “Which client were you?”

“Wilson Gentry,” Wilson said.

“Ahhh,” Harrison said. “Gentry, that’s been some time ago. Burton will be glad to see you.”

Wilson stepped toward Harrison. “You are familiar with my case?”

“Yes,” Harrison said. “We review it from time to time. It’s used as a teaching aid for law students.”

“What crime was I accused of?” Wilson. “I sort of know that, but what was my defense?”

“You don’t know?” Harrison said.

“That’s why I want to see Burton Parnell,” Wilson said. “I don’t remember who I am. I only have my name. I was hoping he could help me.”

“Burton’s the best lawyer I know,” Harrison said. “He a decent and compassionate man. If he can help you, he will.”

“What did I do and by defense?” Wilson said.

“It’s best you discuss that with Burton,” Harrison said.

Wilson paused. He left the room and went to his car. He punched out the numbers on his cell phone. There was no answer.

Wilson hurried back into the classroom and retrieved an address from Harrison. Harrison provided him with directions.

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The Sixth Man – Episode 63

thMS9GFN8DSuccess Rids Fear

Wilson stood and shook Phil’s hand. “I had some good friends back in the day,” Wilson said. “I got to move on. I have a stop in Montana, a lawyer who defended me. They say I killed somebody, but were unable to prove it. That usually means, they didn‘t have the proof or I had a darn good lawyer; that’s what I want to find out.”

Phil stood and hugged Wilson. “You be careful now, will ya?”

“Thanks, Phil,” Wilson said.

Wilson drove Mathias back towards Hecla. They were half way back before a word was said.

“This is how you were the last time,” Mathias said.

“What do you mean?” Wilson said with his attention on the road.

“You went quiet on me,” Mathias said. “It was like you were someplace else.”

“Or someone else,” Wilson said.

“This is where it happened,” Mathias said. “wasn’t it ?”

“What?” Wilson said.

“When we were in Fargo the last time you had no clue who you were,” Mathias said.

Wilson swerved off the road and quickly adjusted back on the road.

“We got up one morning,” Mathias said. “You told me to take off back to Hecla and you’d catch up with me later. You said you wanted to check the town out; you were thinking of finding a job.”

“Yes,” Wilson said. “I remember that, but not you. I recall walking away from the motel clueless as to who I was. I wandered for a while. I ended up in Atlanta a month or so later.”

“Is that where you took on your new identity?” Mathias asked.

“Yeah,” Wilson said. “I got a job at a used car lot washing cars. The name Charles Abbot popped in my head. I got a phony birth certificate and social security number under that name. I talked the guy into letting me open a lot that had all used cars for under $500. In no time I was selling more used cars than anybody in the south. I bought a small new car dealership that was about to go belly-up.” Wilson chuckled. “Everybody I sold a used car to we found them and offered them what ever it was they paid for the car that I sold them as a trade-in for a new car.”

“What motivated you?” Mathias said.

“Fear,” Wilson said. “Fear of finding out who I was. I thought the more successful I was as Charles Abbot what ever I was would be to ashamed to show up.”

“You remember that?” Mathias said.

“Yeah,” Wilson said. “All I new is that I was running from someone, myself. Ain’t that a kick in the pants.”

“I think you will eventually figure it all out,” Mathias said.

“I know I’m looking for something terrible,” Wilson said. “It’s like opening the door to a dark room.”

It was near sundown when they arrived in Hecla. Wilson spent the night and was on the road by sunup the next morning.

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