The Trial of Evan Gage
Friday, December 11, 1998
A cat’s distinctive yowl broke the eerie silence, and Maria Costanza didn’t need to be told that something was wrong. She’d known that from the moment she’d had to let herself into the house with her key. Even before, and then all during the election, at 7:30 a.m., the family mansion would already be buzzing with campaign staff. But since his landslide victory, the soon-to-be Governor of Texas had gone back to leading an almost normal life. At this time on a Friday morning, Maria would have expected to see him already seated at the breakfast table.
The cat’s yowl grew louder as the Mexican-born housekeeper stepped closer to a door in the hallway leading to Paul J. Shepard’s basement games room. Maria’s palms were already damp as she tentatively clasped the doorknob. As the door began to open, the lilac-point Siamese shot past her, and skidding his way across the wide expanse of kitchen tile, he flew through the cat door.
Very slowly, Maria forced herself to descend the carpeted stairs, and before she’d even reached the bottom, she could hear someone gasping. When she did look across the big room, it was to see an unknown man slumped in the leather club chair nearest the billiards table, one hand clutching his throat. In her panic, Maria didn’t notice that his eyes were red and swollen, or that he appeared disheveled and unshaven. However, she did notice all the blood and that the fingers of this other hand were curled around the grip of a handgun in his lap. She tried to stifle a cry, and had she remained in the room, she would also have noticed that the man didn’t react at all to her being there.
Following the cat’s example, Maria’s exit from the house was almost as fast.
Her terror continued as she fled across the side lawn and stumbled her way through the shrubbery to the residence next door. Now almost breathless, she managed to hammer on the front door.
After the 911 call was made, it didn’t take long for the peace and quiet of that particular section of the Park Cities to be shattered. With politics playing a very large part, and despite raised voices and angry words, the case was immediately handed over to Dallas jurisdiction, much to the chagrin of the Highland Park Police Department.
Shortly before 9:00 a.m., the murder of the future Governor of Texas, his ex-beauty queen wife and their seven-year-old daughter made the late breaking news on every major network. No details were given, and the homicide detective in charge would say only that the Dallas police already had a suspect in custody, but no name was being released. He also admitted that the deaths had been particularly gruesome.
“At this early stage,” he added, “we’ve got no idea as to the possible motive.” …
Incident at Tybee Island
Off the Coast of Georgia
Tuesday, February 4, 1958
At approximately 1830 hours, when the 19th Bombardment Wing B-47 Stratojet took off from Homestead Air Force Base, Florida, it carried a Mark 15 thermonuclear bomb to add authenticity to the simulated combat mission. The weather forecast had been typical; a chilly February night, but with almost unlimited visibility. After a scheduled air refueling, the B-47 flew north, almost reaching the Canadian border, before it turned back toward the designated target. Over Radford, Virginia, the crew “released” their deadly cargo.
All that now remained was to rid themselves of the chasing F-86 fighters posing as the enemy, and escape to the Carolinas. Using electronic countermeasures, or ECMs, plus some high-speed evasive maneuvers to throw off the fighters, the B-47 reached “friendly territory.” Climbing to a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet, the bomber turned for home.
Up to this point, the mission had gone according to plan, and for the first time in hours, the crew relaxed. Except for Captain Jack Worcek. For despite the cold, sweat trickled down Worcek’s face. His frame of mind was not improved by a raging case of hemorrhoids, or that he’d been a last minute substitute for the regular radar navigator of the three-man crew. The B-47 was the first supersonic swept-wing bomber, with a well-founded reputation for being a difficult to handle erratic boneshaker even under good conditions. The airplane now reminded Worcek, who was raised on a Texas ranch, of a bucking bronco.
The burning and itch was so bad, his knuckles were white as he gripped the metal tubing of the navigator’s seat. Goddamnit! I gotta see a doc when we land.
In the tight constraints of the crew compartment, Worcek tried to lean forward in an attempt to get some relief. As he did, he saw a gray shape.
What immediately followed was a jarring impact, a fiery flash, and a sound that resembled an airplane exploding. It was over in a less than a second. The searing pain in Worcek’s back was not. It was the last thing he remembered.
He was therefore unaware that the mid-air collision with the F-86L had severed the releaseable fuel tank beside the B-47s #6 engine on the right wing. But rather than give the order to eject, the pilot descended to 20,000 feet. After careful consideration to save the airplane and anyone on the ground, somewhere over the Atlantic, he jettisoned the remaining left fuel tank. And the bomb.
Worcek also wasn’t aware that at 0126 on Wednesday, February 5th, the crippled B-47 landed safely at Hunter Air Force Base, near Savannah. Or that one of the ambulances among the many waiting emergency vehicles sped him away on a stretcher to a local hospital.
On regaining consciousness, twenty-four hours later, Worcek was told that his fellow crew members and the pilot of the F-86L had also survived. He made no comment. He didn’t comment either when he was later informed he’d been awarded a Commendation Medal.
Six months after that fateful night, Worcek finally left the hospital in a wheelchair on his way to a rehabilitation center, his Air Force career all but over. He was still unable to walk, but during his time in intensive care, the nursing staff did cure his acute outbreak of hemorrhoids.
Murder in the Park
Tuesday, July 20, 1993
Paul Knight was about to have an accident. The kind of accident he hadn’t had since he was four years old. As the bumper-to-bumper George Washington Parkway traffic crawled to a stop, the fire in Knight’s bladder grew, making him bitterly regret his decision to stay and drink the second beer. If he hadn’t stopped at the bar, he’d probably have escaped the regular nightly exodus, made worse by a five-car pileup. Inching the pickup truck forward, he saw the sign: Fort Marcy Park. Parks usually meant restrooms, and if not, in Knight’s present predicament, with a two-hour drive ahead of him, a tree would have to do.
There were only two vehicles in the small parking lot. At the top of the lot, he could see someone behind the wheel of a dark sedan, and not wanting to attract attention, he stopped beside an empty old Honda.
As he locked the pickup, a man in a business suit got out of the sedan, and from his stance and overall demeanor, Knight was very tempted to drive away. But the pain was now so bad, he only changed his mind about the route he’d planned on taking, and instead, he hurried down the nearest footpath.
Taking the left fork, Knight stopped at the first tree, seventy-five feet away, and finally emptied his bladder.
On his return to the parking lot, the dark sedan was still there, but the man was nowhere in sight. Half expecting him to be laying in wait, Knight was very relieved to reach his pickup unscathed.
Without looking back, he quickly left the park, and headed home to Virginia.
He didn’t give the incident any further thought until the following day. Along with millions of other Americans, he was surprised by the news that a prominent member of the president’s White House staff had committed suicide. Knight’s surprise multiplied when he heard that the body of the deputy legal counsel was found the previous evening in Fort Marcy Park.
Feeling obliged to do his patriotic duty, Knight didn’t hesitate to call the Park Police. After the call was made, he soon realized that his troubles were just beginning. And with what followed, he often wished he’d never heard the name Victor Fallon.