(Last week: Brazil, after seeing Chartan on the TV news, races to the limo office to find out about Chartan’s mysterious passengers.)
Detective Lt. Moran stood behind a seated Chartan in the same interrogation room where two years ago he had tried to make sense out of how the guru turned limo driver had prevented a troubled woman, Elisa, from shooting her husband at a Sacramento coffee house. Like before, Chartan slid his elbow back and forth over the tiger oak table as if he were summoning up a spiritual being.
“So, you don’t know how you went from four live passengers to three dead ones with one missing?” asked Moran. “I am accustomed to mystery when you’re involved. Did your Green Beret pal have any part in this?”
“Haven’t seen Brazil recently.”
“He wasn’t involved?”
“What do you mean by ‘involved?’
Moran walked to the other side of the table and sat down across from Chartan. “You are a witness to a crime that wasn’t apparently observed. Although, if we find the missing man, we might get somewhere. Did you have any knowledge of who you were driving or why?”
Chartan smiled. He had become skilled at controlling his blood pressure by combining his mantra with deep breathing.
“Sloan gave me a one-page sheet saying that I was to take four businessmen to a winery in the hills overlooking Napa. I’ve never been to the winery and I barely saw these men. Their suits looked alike and they lowered their heads and said nothing to me when I held the door for them. When I closed it, I noticed that none of them made eye contact with me. I never heard from them again. When I told them over the intercom that I was slowing down to get off the freeway, they didn’t respond—that’s when I noticed the video camera was blacked out. ”
“The video cameras were taped over, “said Moran.
”So, I pulled over and opened the door.”
“Only three bodies, right?
“Could the fourth man gotten out without you knowing about it?”
“An alarm goes off if any of the passenger doors are opened—a red light flashes on the dash—there was no red light, besides, the limo was moving the whole time.”
“Until you stopped under that tree.”
“Right. So, I suppose when I got out to check, the fourth man had a few seconds to sneak out the driver’s side door—I went around the front of the limo to the passenger side.”
“Did you walk without stopping, or did you pause, maybe meditate?”
Chartan frowned. The detective was engaging in gentle ridicule. He quickly dismissed the slight as weakness of character. But, then he paused–he truly didn’t remember how long it had taken him to go around the front of the limo—his focus had been elsewhere. Had the fourth man eluded him. Was he the killer? Was there even a fourth man in the limo? Reality was sketchy.
Chartan cleared his throat. “I may have drifted off in thought—I suppose there was time for someone to escape without detection. I know that when I looked at the lifeless faces, I couldn’t hear the passing traffic.”
To be continued next Sunday…