Tuesday, January 2
The Tuesday after New Year’s Day, Daniels picked up Maureen and punched Christopher Chesswood’s address into his car’s GPS. Chesswood lived on a rural road in western Fairfax County. An elderly woman Daniels assumed to be his wife answered the door. Maureen introduced herself by showing the woman the press pass they had made for the occasion.
Mrs. Chesswood didn’t give them a chance to state their names. “He changed his mind. He doesn’t want to talk to you.” She would have closed the door in their faces had Daniels not stuck out his hand.
“Why is that?” he demanded.
“He doesn’t want to go to jail.”
“Go to jail!” Maureen said. “Why would he think that?”
“He got a call telling him it would be a violation of the oath he signed when he gave his statement.”
“Nonsense,” Daniels said. “There’s no such law. Someone’s trying to scare him.”
“Well, they did a good job of it. Kept both of us up most of the night.”
“Did the person who called give his name or the name of his agency?”
“Can’t say for sure. Chris, did they say where they were calling from?”
“Said it too fast,” came the answer from somewhere inside the house.
“Mr. Chesswood. We’re not asking you to violate any law. The Constitution protects your right to talk to us.”
“Leave him alone,” Mrs. Chesswood said, “or I’ll call the cops.”
“We’d better go,” Maureen said.
Daniels wasn’t ready to give up. “We’re leaving, Mr. Chesswood, but it means the truth about what happened to Ethan Garvin may never be known.”
“What happened is that he drove into a ditch and got himself killed,” Mrs. Chesswood said.
“We think there’s more to the story than that, Ma’am. He knew that road and had even called the county about putting up guard rails.”
“Young people drive like maniacs around here. I’ve seen it plenty.”
“I’m not denying that, Mrs. Chesswood,” Daniels said. “I’m just saying that Ethan knew not to speed around that curve. Something caused him to speed. We’re trying to find out what it was.”
“And how is my husband supposed to help you figure that out?”
“Maybe he can; maybe he can’t. We won’t know unless he’s willing to tell us what he saw.”
“I’m not going to let you put words in his mouth.”
“Of course not,” Daniels said. “As Ms. Thornberry here told him yesterday, we won’t use his name, your address, or anything else that someone could use to bother you folks.”
“Well . . . you seem like nice enough folks. Let me go talk to him.”
She left the door ajar as she disappeared into the house.
Daniels showed Maureen he had his fingers crossed.
“Silly,” she said punching him in the arm.
A minute later Mrs. Chesswood returned. “I guess you can come in, but only for a minute.”
She led them into a dark, but homey living room where Mr. Chesswood was sitting in a large easy chair with a blanket covering the lower half of his body. He had stringy white hair, wore a plaid flannel shirt, and was unshaved. He put on his wire-rim glasses as they approached and started to pull the blanket aside.
“No need to get up,” Daniels told him.
“He’s been napping since breakfast,” said Mrs. Chesswood. “Too tired to do anything else.”
“We won’t stay long,” Daniels assured her. He stepped forward and shook the elderly man’s arthritic hand.
“I’m not this way usually,” he said in a thin voice, covering himself up again.
“No need to apologize,” Maureen said. Having asked permission to record the conversation, she placed her iPhone on the coffee table.
“Please tell us what you saw that morning,” Daniels said.
Chesswood cleared his throat. “That weren’t the first car I seen in a ditch on that road, but it were the worst.”
“What did you see?” Daniels asked.
The old man tugged on the blanket and sat up a little straighter. “All I could see at first was smoke coming from around the curve. Naturally, I slowed down. When I turned the corner, I could see the wheels of a car up in the air. I pulled up ahead about fifty yards onto the shoulder where I wouldn’t get rear-ended and got out. When I came back, the tires on the car were still spinning. I couldn’t go down there, it being too steep, so I went back to my car and hit the emergency button. I’ve got that service, you know, where you hit that button if you need help.”
“Did you see anything else? Any other cars, for example?”
“Funny you should ask. The police never did.”
“Never asked what?”
“Whether I saw any other cars.”
“Yep. When I started to pull over I noticed a SUV up ahead. I wondered why he hadn’t stopped. He must have seen the car go in the ditch. If he’d stopped they might have got to that poor boy in time.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish