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It was rare for Brett to miss the morning news shift, but the afternoon anchor covered for him at Brett's request. I had the interview at 2 p.m. with Coach Langley at their practice facility in North Dallas. Still no Brett when I left for the interview. At five-fifteen I was in the production room editing sound bites for my sportscasts in the morning. Still, no one had heard from him all day. I tried calling him several times at home, but his wife, Jean, said she still hadn't heard from him either. At 9 p.m. I was working on a second beer at Ernie's Bar and Grill next door to WFTW in downtown Fort Worth, wondering about what Brett had been up to all day. The beer buzz on an empty stomach got a boost from a tequila shot. The pretty blonde from the dress store across the street walked in and sat down at the end of the bar. She gave me a smile and for the first time in months I smiled back.
"Telephone, Pat," Ernie said and sat a black phone down in front of me.
The second button was lit up and blinking. I looked back at the blonde and Ernie was taking her drink order.
I punched line two, "This is Pat Cassidy."
It was Brett out of breath.
"Champ," he said. "I've hit the jackpot!"
I could barely hear him over the highway noise behind him.
"What's going on?" I said.
"You remember that old abandoned warehouse next to the stockyards? Meet me there as fast as you can."
Brett was on to something. I had never heard him this excited about anything.
"Where are you calling from?" I said loudly into the phone.
"A pay phone! You gotta hurry, Champ," he said. "My source is bringing documents that will prove everything wesuspected."
"What source, Brett? What do you know?"
I had raised my voice above the bar noise and the room got a little quieter. Ernie and the blonde at the end of the bar were staring at me.
"I'll tell you everything when you get here," he said. "I need you to back me up."
"Brett . . . "
"Champ, just meet me there!"
The Pearl Beer clock told me it was 9:15, and it was 'the beer brewed in the country of eleven hundred springs.' If I hurried I could be there in fifteen minutes.
I said, "Brett, don't do anything until...." A dial tone had replaced his voice.
Ernie took the phone, "Everything O.K.?"
"I don't know. Brett's working on a story and needs some help."
The blonde looked at me and smiled again. I tapped on the bar and Ernie knew to put my drinks on the tab.
Brett was nowhere in sight when I reached the abandoned warehouse. The WFTW white station wagon was parked in front with the headlights on and the motor running. I opened the glove compartment of the Malibu and took out my nine millimeter. The clip was engaged and loaded with thirteen rounds. I cocked the Browning with my left hand and slipped on the safety with my right thumb. I looked inside the news car and turned off the engine. A garage door at the front of the warehouse was slid open. I moved up against the wall next to the door and peeked inside. It was dark and empty except for a light coming from an office-like room in the middle of the building. My gut feeling said something wasn't right. I walked across the dark warehouse toward voices coming from the room with the light on. As I got closer to the door the voices became clearer. It was Brett.
"You guys are crazy if you think you can get away with this," he said.
Moving to the edge of the door I looked into the room and saw Brett standing against a wall. Two men stood in front of him with their backs to me. One was tall, had greasy hair and was wearing a dirty, white t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up and blue jeans. The other guy was shorter and stockier and he was wearing all black. A real James Dean and Johnny Cash. Then, I saw the revolver. A .38 caliber revolver was pointing at Brett.
"No . . . !" I shouted.
A second later the man in black shot Brett in the head. 'Dean' turned, pulled a gun and took a shot at me, hitting the door jam above my head. I returned fire and hit him in the throat. He tumbled backward into 'Cash' who had just shot Brett. The shooter pushed 'Dean's' body out of the way and brought his revolver up and took aim. Before he could fire, I squeezed off a round that hit him between the eyes. The bodies of the two men lay clumped together on the dirty concrete floor. Both were dead. Sorry to break up your act, fellas. I looked across the room. Brett's body was slumped against the wall with a bullet in his head. He was dead.
I spent the rest of the night and most of the next day trying to explain what happened to homicide detectives. Since Dad was head of the department, I was treated fairly, until Calloway tried to force him to arrest me on murder charges.
"Self defense, plain and simple," Dad told the Mayor.
Calloway then ordered him to make the charges stick or he'd fire him. Dad stood his ground and forced the Mayor's bluff.
Reporters surrounded me as I left the Fort Worth Police Department. In the past twelve hours, the story had become headlines across the country. Dad stood next to me as we stopped on the steps in front of the F.W.P.D. I tried to explain to the media my take on what happened, but had no proof to back up the allegations I had made against both Calloway and Riley.
A 'Barbara Walters' wannabe with red hair and blue eyes pushed her way between two television cameramen to ask me a question.
She said, "Paula Conn, Channel 8 News. Mr. Cassidy, what evidence do you have that ties the leading candidate in the governor's race to the murder of Brett Tucker?"
The question seemed to come at me like a ton of bricks. Brett was really dead. I had seen it with my own eyes.
"Mr. Cassidy," repeated Ms. Red Hair, "what evidence do you have?"
"I don't have any," I said. "Not yet."
She wasn't pleased with the answer. "But you told homicide detectives that Mr. Tucker had documents tying Mayor Calloway to illegal activities of Big Jake Riley's union."
I looked at Dad.