Hours later, over coffee in the office of Steve Briggs, a senior investigator for the sheriff’s department, we learned the whole story.
“He’s made a full confession”, Briggs said. “The guy’s name is Brad Parmenter. He’s a grad student in climatology and a member of an environmental guerilla group, The Movement of the 31st of March.”
“What’s the significance of that date?”, I asked.
“It’s Al Gore’s birthday. Anyway, Brad and his compadres were stealing SUV’s and luxury cars and bashing them into scrap with sledge hammers as a protest against anthropogenic global warming.” I gave a derisory snort. “I know, I know”, Briggs held up a placating hand. “But bear in mind, the guy’s a ‘C’ student.”
“What’s the tie-in with ‘Greens for Obama’?”
Briggs smiled. “Ah! That’s an interesting wrinkle. It’s a cover for the guerilla group. They figure Obama’s their best chance for carrying out their radical environmental schemes, so when they stole the cars, they drained the gas tanks before pulverizing the vehicles, and sold it through an informal distribution network to raise funds for the campaign. The distribution network and the end-purchasers, incidentally, include a number of mid- and high-level Democratic Party functionaries.”
I nodded my head in bemused understanding. “I suppose that when Obama’s people hear about this, they’ll…”
“Throw the Greens under the Durango?”, Briggs interjected. “They already have. I just got off the phone with one of the National Campaign’s attorneys, and there’ll be a press release tomorrow morning.”
One thing continued to puzzle me. “If part of the scheme involved siphoning off the gasoline in the stolen vehicles, why would Parmenter have stolen Wronwright’s Durango? It was nearly empty.”
Briggs shrugged. “Like I said: he’s a ‘C’ student. I guess after he had stolen it, he found out too late that he was going to have to put gas in the tank. But the thing was so spanking new, he probably believed that the symbolic value of smashing it was worth the money out of pocket.”
Wronwright’s interest in the criminal’s background and motives was extremely limited. “Mr. Briggs, it’s getting kind of late, so if you’ll just give me the keys to my Durango, I’ll be on my way.”
Briggs shook his head apologetically. “Sorry, Mr. Wronwright, it’s evidence, for the time being. We ought to be able to let you have it in a day or two.”
Wronwright uttered what sounded like a death rattle, and I believe he would have rent his raiment, had the thought occurred to him. At that precise moment, a pretty young deputy popped her head in the office.
“I’m sorry for interrupting, Mr. Briggs, but that man you brought in for grand theft-auto asked for a six-pack of Yoo Hoo. Which interrogation room is he in?”
I am convinced that only the quick-thinking Sheila’s draping of a sympathetic arm around his shoulders, and the pressing of his trembling hand under her soft, but firm one, prevented Wronwright from committing a massacre on the spot.