Wednesday, October 18, 2017

He Left His Calling Card

After lunch, Terse received a call from Chief Pyre. "Terse, we have a lead on the fire at your place. We definitely think it was arson."

"Seriously? What do you know?"

"Do you know someone named 'Owen Davis'?"

"Yes sir, he is an attorney from Atlanta."

"Do the two of you have any issues? Any reason he would want to hurt you?"

"No, well maybe. But if that is your lead, let me come down to the station and talk with you."

The Chief agreed and Terse made his way to the fire station. Terse sat down with the Chief and told him the story of Owen Davis, as it pertained to him.

Terse knew Owen Davis very well after all, and understood the reason he may be a 'person of interest' here. Several years earlier when Terse was doing research for his first book, he stumbled across the story of a private in the Confederate Army, Bethune Bates Davis. In reading up on Private Davis, he learned that he had been blamed on giving  away intelligence on Stonewall Jackson's campaign plans in 1862 in Shenandoah Valley. The dimwit was bragging in a bar that he knew all the plans. When asked, he elaborated. Jackson's troops loss the initial battle but recovered to win the campaign after brilliantly changing strategy.

Private Davis deserted for fear of court marshal and hid until the troops moved on to another area of confrontation. He heard that General Jackson had died in 1863, but he waited until the end of the war to go home. He told his family tales of his 'heroism" during the Shenandoah campaign and how he became one of Jackson's main Lieutenants and spies. The family prospered on his fame, as no one knew any different.

His younger brother who was only 12 at the start of the war had been denied entrance to a prestigious college. However, when the family shared Davis's heroic story, the brother was accepted. He graduated with honors. Finding employment in the south was difficult after the war but the younger brother and a generation or two following lived on the 'legend' of Bethune Bates Davis. The Daughters of the Confederacy raised money and erected a statute in his memory in a downtown park in Atlanta, praising his 'Daunting Courage and Loyal Service to the Cause and to General Stonewall Jackson'.

The truth of Private Davis was buried with him until Terse started his research into the history of Confederate intelligence during the war. He stumbled across a letter in General Jackson's own handwriting sent to General Lee, just after the Shenandoah Campaign, describing the betrayal of Private Davis and the repercussions of his actions. Jackson wanted Lee to be aware of the situation and his plans to court martial Davis, once he was captured.

Always wanting to find the truth, Terse had researched and found a distant relation of Private Davis living in Atlanta - Owen Davis. When he approached Mr. Davis about the story of Private Davis, Owen Davis denied it and was incensed. Terse showed him the letter and explained it had been certified as authentic by not 1, but 2 noted historians.

However, unknown to Terse, Mr. Davis had accepted an advance from a well known publisher for his biography of his 'famous' relative. The advance was substantial and his law career was anything but profitable. All was well until Terse came along with the truth.  If Terse wrote anything about Private Davis in his book, Mr. Davis threatened Terse with defamation of character. Terse quickly told him that he had the facts on his side.

Terse received  threatening phone calls and letters from Mr. Davis over the following months. As it turned out Terse decided not to use Private Davis as a character in his book and went in a different direction. Of course, Mr. Davis was not aware of this.

As the publication date got closer, Mr. Davis got desperate. As it turned out, not only did he fear the truth being revealed, he had no talent in writing the book in the first place and had been stalling his editors. He decided to find Terse, for what end Terse did not know. When he showed up in Gallagher looking for him, Terse realized he needed to leave. Terse had only shared this with his father who was very concerned when he heard that Mr. Davis was in town.

Terse paused reflecting,"But this was well past the time of the fire?"

The Chief leaned back in his chair,"Maybe he wanted to destroy your book before you could publish it?"

"But, I kept all my drafts in the cloud. Anyone would know that."

"Anyone with a lick of sense. Perhaps the halfwit gene runs in the Davis family. Desperate times call for desperate measures."

"Wow. So why come back?"

"Maybe because he learned that the book was going to be published anyway."

"So what made him a suspect? Joe saw his car with Georgia license tags parked on Oak Street the night of the fire. Joe always notes the tags of unfamiliar cars, especially those from out of state. And," the Chief laughed," he literally left his calling card at the scene."

"How did you connect it with the fire?"

"It was found with an empty gasoline container by the dumpster behind your building."

"Well, this would make a great book in its self."

The Chief told Terse where they would go from here. Terse thanked him. Before he left, the Chief opened his desk drawer. "Would you mind autographing my copy of your book?"

"With pleasure," said Terse.

"Oh, and Terse, welcome home."

"Thanks sir, it's good to be home." With that, Terse walked out of the station.

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