Common threads…


If yesterday was any indication of how the rest of the weekend would be, then there would not be enough coffee to get me through it. The drive down was filled with both relaxing and anxious moments. I filled in most of the bald patches of scenery with conversation and quiet reverie. Reviewing interviews in my head and mulling over tid bits of information received which had yet to be clearly understood. I concentrated on the holes of that night. There were still too many inconsistencies between several sources that needed to be laid out upon the proverbial table and vetted before I felt I could move forward with any confidence. Some gave a different view of the body and placement than what has been recorded in print. Some had no idea at all and others stood defiant that there’s was the empirical true representation. Was this a case of over active ego–misguided intentions, misinformation and/or blatant deception? This many years out it is hard to conjecture why so many variations on the theme. I kept private score to myself and tallied the amount of times I revisited each of the descriptions that made no sense. Mile markers clicked their way past my peripheral vision, as I made another mental invitation for Charley to step up to the plate and guide where and when he willed. When we left at 8 in the morning with coffee in hand, the day was pleasant with a touch of cloudiness that lifted the longer I drove. By the time we hit Tifton, the sun was bright and I had received my first phone call. Someone was overheard chatting up a storm at the local barber shop about somebody in the deceased’s family wanting the case reopened and somebody else thought that I should know about it. This individual was reported as saying, he didn’t know why no one had bothered to contact him yet as he had information. First hand information about that night. I was cautious to alert Julie and took down the information to consider my options. I had been warned- not once, but twice to back off and leave this thing alone. I wondered just how serious the consequences of the warning might be, but this person had information that I had been unsuccessful in garnering elsewhere. In fact he might be holding the only remaining file on this case. I thought about the caller who had initiated the warnings. Well intentioned or not, a warning had been made, but I was willing to risk whatever consequence to retrieve what this man had. How ironic…The one person I wanted to approach but had been told to avoid turned out to be the one person I should have been searching for all along. I hung up with my informer and took a deep breath.

I pulled over into a parking lot and took the information from my source and made the first of two phone calls. The first number volunteered no response. With no voice mail attached, I moved to the second number. Heart pounding, palm sweating I punched the numbers in eyeing the traffic from the side of the road. It rang several times before an answering machine kicked in. Disappointed but somewhat relieved I could now compose myself better, I left a brief message and asked for a return call if interested. Many miles later, my contact returned the call.

Just as I pulled off the ramp to head into downtown Valdosta, a deep voice reverberated through the phone with hesitant, but certain compliance. Yes there was a file on Charley. Yes there were photos of the crime scene that night. Yes there was further information he could share with me and yes he would show it all to me if the family wanted. While he spoke about other cases of local renown, I forced myself to breathe and stay in the lane. The last place I thought I would find the missing links in this investigation turned out to be the first place I should have looked. By the time I pulled into the hotel parking lot, I had secured the opportunity to meet with him the following day. The rest of the afternoon was for another important meeting- the first of many. A meeting which would bring some of the most fascinating men and clues to the forefront of my investigation. Men whose entire lives had revolved in and around the law. Men who worked through the insanity of the 60’s, the bug tickets of Bolita, the stills of moonshine, illegal gambling rackets and corruption of every conceivable perversion. Men who shared two common threads… they were all still alive and they had all known Charley!

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