Of major importance to the case against Martin Van Peltzer was that his father had been a dedicated supporter of the Sheriff for many years. It was more than a rumor that he and the Sheriff, as well as other local political figures, had a partnership in a very large herd of cattle, resulting in them fighting with the federal government for years over grazing rights on federal land. Because of this relationship Martin’s case was full of political sensitivities. It was known that Karl Van Peltzer would do anything within his power to protect his son, and favors would be called in with results demanded and none willing to deny him his due.
The meeting was in Patrick’s office, a large suite with two walls of glass, floor-to-ceiling. The Pacific Ocean was clearly visible that day, the sun high above the sea as she perpetually returned, pounding upon the shores of sand and rock as she had through the ages. The office environment was designed for beauty and to render the impression elegance, a top-flight law firm. The firm of London, Kyle, Smith & Moynihan was distinguished, high powered, and prestigious in every respect.
Martin and Karl Van Peltzer were seated in black leather chairs in front of Patrick’s desk. Tommy was sitting in his favorite chair to the left of them. From his seat, he saw everything and somehow became invisible to the others in the room—except Patrick. He could sit in a room with people and they would
forget he was there unless he wanted their attention. His ability to vanish before them as he carefully weighed their words and body language was as a silent visitor shielded by some magnetic force enjoyed only by wizards. “I didn’t do it, Patrick. I would’ve if I’d found him first. Someone got to him
Martin’s claim of innocence sounded child-like. Despite not believing him, the reports Tommy provided Patrick from his investigation seemed to support Martin’s claim of absence from the location of the murder; further indication there was a heavy hand at work behind the scenes. However, it was reported by the hotel manager of the Red Lion Inn the night Troy Terry was murdered that Martin came to the hotel with three other men, all of whom looked menacing, while he demanded to know the room number for Troy Terry. When the manager refused to divulge that information, Martin reportedly boasted he had ways of obtaining it, which he did. The manager neglected to mention a payment from Martin for that which he so adamantly desired, leading Martin to the Radisson, where the murdered body of Troy Terry had been found. The bribe was a fact known only to Tommy at that point.
Martin Van Peltzer was five feet six inches tall weighing about one hundred sixty pounds with blond hair and a baby face. He was child-like in his manners and appearance. His body was pudgy, not muscular. He had never been physically fit or assertive. He could have been attractive, but there was something in his eyes that showed distance, an absence of an ability to engage with others on a personal level— a potential for meanness if one were to look closely. Patrick had already sensed something repugnant, a presence that jurors would intuitively dislike.
Karl Van Peltzer said little during the meeting. Unlike his son, he was a large man with white hair and matching bushy eyebrows. His tanned face had wrinkles the size of small highways earned by years in the sun, which gave him a hard and rugged appearance. His hands were tough and calloused.
Karl was known to be a businessman who never made a deal that didn’t require a lot of bargaining. However, he had a weakness when it came to his son. When Patrick told him his fee he made an exception to his rule and simply agreed, promising a check in the morning.
Martin Van Peltzer had done little with his life. He lived off a trust fund created by his father when he was a teenager. Its purpose was to provide him with the necessary money for living expenses and tuition for college. However, Martin never applied to college. Instead, he began to collect classic cars and was a regular participant in the Route 66 car show, an annual event in nearby San Bernardino.
In the early 60’s, San Bernardino boasted fame with its E Street cruising. Hot Rodders from all over Southern California could be found on E Street any Friday or Saturday night. Local radio music blared from cars, and engine sroared. Racing between stoplights brought regular money to the local court, as San Bernardino City Police Officers wrote dozens of tickets for exhibition of speed, and various mechanical violations.
The Route 66 Rendezvous was an annual event to re-live the sixties. Hot rod owners from all over the country converged on San Bernardino once a year to show off their most precious possessions and compete for prize money and notoriety. It was two nights and three days of festivities at the hottest time of the year, September in Southern California. It still drew crowds of at least a million people. As far as Martin was concerned, he was a significant part of the celebrated status of the event. He had shown cars there for a few years and always won a ribbon or trophy.
The meeting ended with Patrick urging Martin to stay at home and not discuss his case with anyone.
“Do you understand that the attorney-client privilege does not apply to anyone else, Martin? Only our conversations are protected, which includes my associates like Tommy. If the D.A. were to get wind you discussed your case with anyone else, he could subpoena them and make them testify under threat of jail. That includes you, Karl.”
Both men nodded as they left. Patrick sensed they believed they were above it all, an accurate assessment. They were the kind of people that went through life with their noses in the air, never thinking of the troubles of others, believing only in their vantage.