David A. Schwinghammer
· Soldier's Gap
· Fisher of Men, Chapter 8
· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer, Chapter Eight
· Mengele's Double, Chapter Eight
· Bereavement Blues
· Fisher of Men, Chapter 7
· Speed Dating With 'Janeane Garofalo'
· The Cynic
· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer - Chapter Seven
· Mengele's Double, Chapter 7
· A Boy Named Bentley
· The Nuclear Option
· Empty Mansions, book review
· Pilgrim's Wilderness, book review
· WWII Cartoonist, book review
· Write Yourself Into a Corner, book review
· Roanoke Island, book review
· Billboard Theology
· Baghdad Without a Map, book review
· Into the Wild, book review
· The Zookeeper's Wife (review)
· Alumni Game
· Girls Who Wear Glasses
· The Do Drop Inn
· Ode to Neve Campbell
· Jacks or Better 101
· Never My Love
· 3 O'Clock
David A. Schwinghammer, click here
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Charlie, Angela, and the cat head for Mason City in Charlie's VW.
Nick and Nora
"The longest journey
Is the journey inwards
Of him who has chosen his destiny.”
Snow was falling in huge, gummy clumps the day Charlie and Angela left Hydrangea. Charlie merged the VW with a row of yellow headlights streaming toward the south side of town. Of course, they would get stuck behind a funeral procession. “Who died?” he said.
“Ollie Olmquist,” she said. “He was mayor during the forties and fifties. Eighty-seven years young and still a Casanova. Four wives. Married the last one when he was eighty, with a mistress on the side.”
As they passed St. Stanislav’s, stragglers from the funeral mass, blurs of red, blue, and green set off against the milky snow, drifted toward their cars in the parking lot.
Charlie couldn’t believe Angela was really sitting in the passenger seat next to him. And here she was telling him all about the sexual adventures of a horny old mayor. “More power to him,” he said.
She looked at him as though he’d advocated serial murder, then rummaged through her purse, and came out with a book. MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather.
“Never read that one,” he said.
“I’ll give it to you when I take over the wheel.”
It was pretty much a straight shot to Mason City. They could hardly get too lost. Just keep the nose of the VW pointed south. He couldn’t get over the feeling he’d forgotten something, though. Let’s see, he thought, I have an extra coat, my knit cap with the eye holes in case we encounter a blizzard and run off the road, five books of matches and a tin can for heat, a box of O’Henrys for energy, a snow shovel in the trunk. He’d even remembered the patchwork quilt he’d found at a yard sale. Couldn’t sleep in a strange motel room without it. What else could he have forgotten?
As they drove down the tree-lined main street, past the the vacant railroad terminal, past Al’s Drive-in, the last structure on the outskirts of town, he had a melancholy thought. “You never really know when you’ll see something for the last time,” he said to the rearview mirror as he straightened it.
“I guess so,” she said and went back to reading her book. This was going to be a long trip if she kept this up.
Charlie felt like Bilbo Baggins must have felt when that wizard asked him to find the ring. He was a little round fellow with four toes on each foot (Okay, so he had five on the left one) just like Bilbo, and he was supposed to find Dorie when the police and the state cops, and maybe even the FBI, couldn’t.
When they got to the old outdoor theater about a mile out of town, he realized they had company. It was the scrofulous cat. The cat crawled into the front seat and from there jumped up on the dashboard for a better look. The cat was edgy, moving back and forth on the dashboard, both left feet synchronized, then both right feet.
“Marley!” Angela shrieked. “I was wondering where you got to.” The cat hopped down and curled up in her lap. She put her book aside and stroked the cat, but her eyes started watering and she sneezed. “I’m allergic,” she said.
“I can turn around,” he said.
“No, that’s all right. I have some pills.” She dug around in her purse and came out with a little bottle.
“Oh my God!” he said. “I forgot about the goulash. The stuff will grow mold before I get back to Hydrangea. I’ll have to throw out the refrigerator!”
Angela thought that was hilarious; she was still laughing when they got to Anoka.
Charlie concentrated on the road. He had to find his way around the Twin Cities, no mean task. The tall buildings, the six lanes, and the cars whizzing by doing a good seventy-five, eighty miles per hour made him feel as if he were teetering on the edge of a precipice. Angela and the cat went to sleep, and once he cleared the Cities, Charlie fell into the throes of asphalt dementia. Doltish billboards bartering banality. Winnebagos blocking what little view there was. Giant trucks exuding diesel fumes.
As they neared the Iowa border, Angela opened her eyes and smiled at him. “Are you hungry?” he said. “I saw a sign advertising the best chili in the world a while back.”
“I could eat,” she said.
“You’re not a vegetarian, are you?” he said.
She gave him a throaty laugh. “That would get me blackballed in hotdish country. What gave you that idea?”
“You’re so thin. I thought . . .”
“I’ve always had a high metabolism. My dad was a beanpole, and mother was a tiny little thing.” The cat squeezed its eyes shut, rolled over and began doing what looked like a bicycle exercise.
Just after they crossed the Iowa border, Charlie left the freeway and followed a snowplow down the two-lane past a teetering sign announcing “Frontier, population 85.” He watched as the plow ascended a hill on the edge of town, where a farm with a swaybacked barn perched among a grove of trees.
Frontier consisted of a grain elevator, a few lonely, desolate houses and a place called the Grotto, where Charlie parked the VW. The Grotto was combination meat locker, gas station, antique store and café.
A Great Dane was rooting through a garbage bag out front. The cat darted out the open window and disappeared around the corner of the building; the dog perked its ears and was after him like a shot.
Charlie and Angela had to climb some cement steps to get to the door. An iron railing bracketed the building, and one of those old-fashioned freezer-like pop machines stood out front. The place had been yellow once. Stickers and advertisements adorned the opaque windows, one of them an NRA admonition which said, "If you give up your gun, freedom’s on the run.”
Glancing back over his shoulder at the highway, he saw that a fog had descended; he could barely make out the mud-spattered cars and grinding trucks as they rushed by, exceeding the speed limit by a good ten, twenty miles per hour. He had an eerie feeling that if they went through the door of the Grotto, the highway would be gone when he returned.
A young girl wearing a baseball cap and a much-too-large Twins jersey was standing behind a counter display. “Fill her up, Mister?” she said. Charlie nodded. The café section was in a room behind the counter; there were three booths positioned next to a picture window with a view of a rock pile. The menu was on a blackboard near the cash register. Amazing prices: chicken breast and the fixings eighty-five cents; chili con carne thirty-five cents; coffee free with the meals!
The waitress’s name was Maude; she wore a floor-length peasant dress with the puffed-out sleeves, straight grey-streaked hair flowing down her shoulders. Charlie ordered a quarter chicken with hash browns and milk; Angela had the chili. "How can you afford these prices?” Angela asked.
“Oh, we have our own chickens up at the farm,” Maude said. "There’s virtually no overhead. And my man was an army cook so we can make soup by the barrel.”
Surprisingly, no one else was in the restaurant. Maude sat down at their table and they talked about where they were from and what they were up to. "You look like one of those writer fellows that pass through here on their way to the workshop at Iowa U.,” she said to Charlie. He told her he was from Hydrangea. She recognized the name right away, and they talked about the kidnapping. "I’d never want to be a celebrity,” she said. “This sort of thing happens all the time. There’s that woman who’s been stalking David Letterman. And there was that weatherlady in the Cities who was being harassed by that basketball coach. I don’t know what the world is coming to.”
“You can say that again,” Charlie said. He left her a dollar tip and felt cheap for leaving so little.
The cat was back when they returned to the car. No sign of the dog. He let it in, and it immediately curled up in Angela’s lap and went to sleep. “Maybe we should check on that dog,” he said.
“He’s quite the roughneck, isn’t he?” Angela said, stroking his patchy fur.
The fog had lifted somewhat, but he could not see the Minnesota border sign in his rearview mirror. According to his map, Mason City was only about twenty miles from the Minnesota state line, but the fog made it hard to see the road signs. As he was about to stop and get his bearings, Mason City loomed up out of the fog. He drove around for a half hour or so searching for a gas station and a cheap motel; but you could never find a gas station when you needed one, and he didn’t think there was such a thing as a cheap motel anymore. His peripatetic fumblings gave him a chance to familiarize himself with the town somewhat.
They drove by an acre of farm implements adjacent to a used car lot, followed by a boat dealership. Just when he despaired of ever finding a gas station, a Fina station materialized. The natives were friendly. He got directions, carefully wrote them in his notebook and had the attendant repeat them twice, for the police station, TV station, the newspaper office, and the cheapest motel in town, the Hawkeye Inn across the street from a Holiday Inn, which Angela chose. He checked her in, wrote down her room number. “I’ll call you in a half hour,” he said.
The Hawkeye Inn was next to a Denny’s Restaurant and charged only $29.95 a night. The cat honed in on the Denny’s dumpster; Charlie stashed his stuff in Room 219, then dialed Angela’s room. She was still getting settled, but he’d meet her at the TV station in an hour. In the meantime he’d visit the newspaper office.
The Mason City Bugle was on the outskirts of the city near a shopping center. A flagpole at the edge of the parking lot flew Old Glory and the Iowa state flag. Charlie had expected the Bugle to be one of the many local papers that had been swallowed up by one of the syndicates, but there was no visible evidence of a corporate logo. He found Dennis Swegman, who’d written the story he had read on Dorie, in a cubicle off in a corner. An IBM computer with a Fourth of July screen saver took up most of the available space.
Swegman looked more like a computer programmer than a reporter, with horn-rimmed glasses, corduroy pants, a thinning crewcut, and a Rolling Stones sweatshirt. His desk was cluttered with candy wrappers, empty potato chip bags, and crumpled pop cans.
“I don’t know what I can tell you,” Swegman said. "It’s all in the story. No new developments since then.” He took a drink of his diet cola. There was a huge zit in the center of his forehead.
“Ah, what you wrote about a stalker . . .” Charlie said. "I have a source who says Dorie went to the police about a man who’d been following her in the park where she jogged. The man had a German shepherd.”
Swegman rubbed his chin with long, tapered, piano-man fingers. "That asshole Black never mentioned any German shepherd,” he said. "He’s the detective in charge of the case. Thinks he’s Sam Spade. Who told you about the dude in the park?”
“I’m Dorie Bendix’s former teacher. She has a best friend she talked to once a week.”
Swegman grabbed Charlie’s arm. "Spill, spill. What’s her name?”
Charlie freed himself. "Trade you. You tell me the best way to get in to see this Black person and I tell you my source’s name.”
“I wouldn’t even try if I were you. Talk to the dispatcher. She hates Black’s guts; she’ll talk your ear off. Name’s Lila Crohn.”
“My source is Jill Jondura. She lives in Hydrangea. Tell her Charlie Zelnick said it was okay to talk to you.”
Swegman gave him a buck-toothed smile. “Sure appreciate this. My editor was really on my ass to get something new. Stay in touch, will you?”
“I can’t promise you anything, Dennis. I have a story to write myself.”
“Wait, leave me the number of your motel,” Swegman said. “I may want to interview you, or maybe we can work on the story together.” Swegman couldn’t have been more than twenty-one, probably his first job. Besides, Charlie didn’t know anyone else in town; he could brainstorm with Swegman. He left his number.
The police station was a red brick building, circa 1920's. A parking spot opened up a block down from the station, and Charlie parallel parked between a Volvo and a little red Mustang. The dispatcher was home sick with the flu. Charlie asked to see Detective Black but was told by the desk sergeant he wasn’t talking to any reporters.
Charlie insisted he had some information pertinent to the investigation.
The sergeant, a bald man with a little fringe of grey hair above his ears and a protruding lower lip, laughed. "We have thousands of tips. Call this number if you have any new information.” The sergeant gave him a slip of paper with the number of a task force who was trying to sort the kooks from the legits. Charlie put it in his pocket.
“Was there a description of the man with the German shepherd?” Charlie asked.
The sergeant said, “Who told you about the German shepherd? That’s never been released.”
“So then, there was a German shepherd?”
Charlie could see the sweat begin to form on the poor man’s shiny dome and on his upper lip. "If Black took a description, I’m not aware of it, now leave me alone.”
His next move was to call the dispatcher, but there was no answer. So, this is what police work is like, he thought. He looked at his watch; he was already fifteen minutes late.
When he got to the TV station, a two-story building that must have been a bank at one time (The words "First National” were chiseled out of cement above the second story) Angela was waiting for him in the lobby.
He gave his credentials to the lady at the desk. She stared at him, as if she couldn’t believe a shopper was covering this story. After a few seconds of indecision, she directed him to the public relations person, a Miss Bobbi Layne.
Miss Layne’s dark-brown hair was swept back, held in place by a plastic blue headache band; gold earrings matched her gold lame’ blouse.
Charlie introduced Angela as a family friend. “I like your dress,” Angela said.
“Thanks. Got it on sale.” While they were talking, Miss Layne took a call. Apparently she doubled as an ad salesperson for the station. “No rest for the wicked,” she said when she hung up, snapping her gum. "The on-air personnel don’t do half of what I do. They think they’re so superior.”
She gave Charlie a press release which didn’t tell him a lot. “Miss Layne, could you give me some personal impressions? Did Dorie say anything about being harassed? Did she have any problems with her boyfriends? I used to be her journalism teacher, in high school.”
Her eyes grew misty. "I had such a wonderful time in high school. What they say about it being the best time of your life certainly is true , isn’t it? Too bad most people don’t realize that until it’s over. Wait. Did you say you were her journalism teacher? You’re the famous Mr. Zelnick then. She talked about you all the time. You had an ACLU case?”
“It never came to that,” he said. “Probably should have . . .”
“I have so much respect for teachers. I must say that I thought about it briefly, but then I think about those awful boys . . .
Charlie knew what she meant.
The phone rang again, and she wrote something on a message pad and hung up. "Now, where were we?” she said. “Oh yes, was Dorie being harassed? She got some telephone calls and letters. The guy also sent her presents. She threw them all out. I thought it was an awful waste myself, but then I suppose the janitor’s wife was happy about it.”
“Did she say anything about a man she saw in the park, a man with a German shepherd?” Angela said.
“How stupid of me. Of course, she did. She went to the police about it, started taking self-defense courses. She wanted me to go with her, but I’ve never been the physical type. I’m more the kind of girl who likes to curl up with a trashy novel and a box of chocolates. It’s beginning to show in the hips.”
Charlie chuckled. “So then, you didn’t keep any of the presents the guy sent?” She shook her head no. The girl had a tell; she crossed her arms over her chest when she lied. Used to teach how to spot a tell as part of interviewing technique in his journalism class, so he knew one when he saw one. But he’d let it go for now.
“Let me give you the phone number at my motel in case you think of anything else,” he said.
Her shoulders slumped and she averted her eyes. She knew something all right.
When they left Ms. Layne, they went straight to the nearest phone booth. This time Lila Crohn, the dispatcher, was home; she had such a bad cold she could have passed for a New Yorker.
“I dink she said he was a liddle guy,” she said.
Charlie tucked the phone under his chin, wrote down what she said in his small spiral notebook.
“Can you give me some idea how short the man was comparatively, Miss Crohn?”
“I good get in drouble for dis,” she said. "Don’t you dare dell Black I dold yah.”
“I swear on a stack of blueberry hotcakes. I’m not very religious, you see, but I do worship food.”
“Me neider. She said he wus shorder den she wus. And she wus a real shrimp.”
Miss Crohn could remember nothing else, but she’d try to get a peek at the case file if he’d leave his phone number.
Charlie plugged the VW into an electrical outlet outside his room--the weatherman said the temp was dropping into the low teens that night, and the bug hated frostbite--unloaded his trunk, stripped the bed, and began to make the motel room livable. Much more snug with the patchwork quilt from home draped over the bed. He put the 8x10 picture of Angela coming out of the insurance office he’d shot with a telephoto lens on a bedside table. It had been summer and she’d been wearing a sleeveless blue jumper with the hem just above the knees. She’d had her hair down; she could have been a girl of twenty if that photo was a true likeness.
That night, after Angela had called it a night, Charlie had a few beers in the Hawkeye lounge and struck up a conversation with some of the patrons. They’d heard the Internet rumor; they discussed several possible suspects, including the sales manager at WMCI, who’d been paying too much attention to Dorie, and a local pediatrician who’d been accused of rape and gotten off when he’d hired a slimy mouthpiece.
Charlie had quite a buzz on when the motel manager paged him. It was Bobbi Layne; she’d suddenly remembered she still had one of the presents the creep had sent Dorie.
“I couldn’t stand to see that nice little cameo necklace go to waste. It’s in my desk drawer at the office. I forgot to show it to the police.”
Charlie offered to take it to them since he was going to the police station himself.
“I don’t know if I should . . . I better give it to that detective myself . . . I don’t know what he’ll think of me.”
“I can do it just as easy. You’re awfully busy.”
“It’d save me some embarrassment. I guess it’ll be okay, since you were her teacher and everything.”
Yeah, he’d bring it to the police all right, after he’d done a little investigating himself.
According to the clock behind the manager’s desk, it was two o’clock in the morning. Charlie had never been able to sleep in an unfamiliar room the first night away from home. He was playing gin rummy with Harry Drake, the night clerk. He’d already beaten the kid, an Iowa State sophomore, out of four dollars.
Just as Charlie shouted “Gin”, the phone rang and Harry handed him the receiver. Who could be calling him at two in the morning?
“Zelnick,” he said.
“Charlie, it’s your mother.”
Of course, who else would it be? The woman never slept; he could remember waking up in the middle of the night after a nightmare, finding her awake by the fire reading Cosmopolitan or working the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink.
“How did you find me?” he said. “I didn’t tell anyone where I was staying.”
“It wasn’t that hard, Charlie. I called information and asked for the cheapest motel in town, and voila!”
He stretched the phone cord to the window. Outside, the parking lot was lit by flood lights with a higher wattage than the lights at a Twins’ game. Nothing out there except dirty snowbanks and litter.
“Did you find her yet?” she said, then laughed like a whore making fun of an inept john.
“No, but I did find a valuable clue. Can’t tell you about it until I clear it with the local cops.”
“Come on now, Charlie,” she said. “All’s fair in love and the newspaper business.”
As if she’d ever had anything to do with a story more earthshaking than the birth of a two-headed calf. “You wouldn’t want to tip off the kidnapper, would you?” Charlie’s eyes began to go to half-mast, and he yawned so wide and long that he began to worry that the yawn could be lockjaw. Perhaps he could sleep now. “I have to hang up now, Ma; I’ve got an early day tomorrow. I’ll call you as soon as I have something I can print.”
Her tone of voice changed, more clipped and gritty sounding. “Don’t do me any favors; I’ve hired your girlfriend Angela Martin; she was fed up with the insurance office.”
He hung up the phone. So much for Nick and Nora.
In the morning, Charlie met Angela for a breakfast of sausages and eggs runny-side up at Denny’s. She knotted a lilac-colored kerchief around her neck. “The Billmeyer bus will be here by the end of the week. I’m going to have to set up an itinerary for them. I wonder if Detective Black would have any suggestions.”
“You’d think he would,” Charlie said. “Good public relations. Bobbi Layne called last night. Good thing I left my card.”
She blinked but her gaze never wavered. “I take it she had some helpful information.”
Charlie sipped his coffee; it was hot and burned his lip but he wasn’t about to show it. “Before I tell you, we need to get something straight.”
She stirred her coffee. “And what would that be?”
“My mother called last night. She says you’re working for her.”
Charlie’s coffee cup rattled when he tried to take a drink and some spilled over in the saucer. “I need to know if I can trust you.”
“We’ve known each other almost all our lives. Why wouldn’t you–-?”
“You don’t even like me, why should I?”
She shoved her cup aside, laced her fingers. “Just because I won’t go out with you doesn’t mean I don’t like you.”
“You don’t approve of me. You think I drink too much and go out with fast women.“
”How do you know what I think of you?”
“Same way anybody knows anything in Hydrangea, Minnesota. Word gets around.”
“Dottie told you, didn’t she?”
“Are you familiar with the saying ‘trust everybody but cut the cards’?”
“I’ll never speak to that woman again.”
Their conversation was interrupted when the waitress passed with the coffee carafe, freshening their cups. When she left, Angela said. “You like animals. You can’t be all bad.”
“I suppose you mean the cat. We tolerate each other.”
“Are you going to tell me what she said or not?”
“Bobbi Layne. I swear I won’t tell your mother anything about the case unless I clear it with you first. Anyone with a curse jar at home for when she slips doesn’t take swearing lightly.”
He told her about the cameo. “From now on we’ll be straight with each other. Let’s shake on it.” She took his hand. She had a surprisingly firm grip for a woman.
They picked up the cameo at WMCI and stopped at a phone booth to check out the local jewelry stores. The cameo seemed rather expensive. Maybe the clerk would remember who bought it. Charlie and Angela divided up the list of ten stores. He offered her the car, but she insisted on taking a cab.
Clements Jewelry was first on Charlie’s list. It had one of those metal fences in front that pulled down to lock for the night. A bell rang when he went through the front door. A lady with long brown hair with a part in the middle greeted him. Crystal Gayle, he thought. She was wearing those long hoop earrings which stretched the earlobes. He showed her the cameo; she said it would probably go for around two hundred dollars. Clements didn’t have anything like it. She told him to check Malloys a few blocks over.
The man behind the counter at Malloys, middle-aged with tufts of hair growing out of his ears, wanted to know where he got the cameo. Stupidly, Charlie told him he was doing a story on the Dorie Bendix kidnapping and was trying to find out who purchased the cameo. Tuftears felt that was a job for the police. Charlie told him he was on his way to the police station now. Tuftears couldn’t blame him for trying to get a scoop on the big papers now, could he? Tuftears had never seen the cameo before.
Three stores later, just as Charlie was about to give it up and rendezvous with Angela, he found a jewelry store that sold the very same cameo, and a clerk who remembered selling it. This was a charming little place, between a real estate office and a drug store, called Gleasons. Gleasons displayed lots of hanging plants and flowers and portraits rather than art work. Mustachioed fellows in high collars. Charlie wanted to know who they were.
The clerk, a spindly fellow with a Porter Waggoner hairdo said that the place opened in 1888, and two of the mustache Petes were brothers, the original owners.
“That one there is Albert Gleason, my great uncle, who lived until he was 105 and worked in the store until he was 90,” Porter said. “Tough old bird and very rich, never married.” Friendly fellow, the clerk; he wasn’t at all suspicious, as Tuftears had been. His name was Fran Gleason.
“The customer was a short fellow with a droopy mustache, kind of scraggly,” Fran said. “He was wearing one of those navy stocking caps.”
“Do you mean a watch cap?”
“I guess so. It was navy blue if that means anything. I was suspicious of him because he didn’t look like he could afford such an expensive item. The knees were coming out of his jeans, his jacket was torn, and he had dirty finger nails. For a while there, I thought he intended to rob the place. Hasn’t happened to me yet, knock on wood. Happened a couple of times to old Albert during the Depression, though.” Frank showed Charlie the clippings from the Mason City Bugle.
“He paid cash, and I watched him walk away and get into what looked like a Trans Am, blue or green. I couldn’t tell from a distance; my eyes are very bad.”
Charlie felt guilty about not buying anything since Fran had been so helpful, so he promised to send him a copy of his story. Charlie thanked him and left. For somebody who couldn’t see, Fran had seen more than someone with a jones for carrots.
On his way out of Gleasons, a police officer almost ran him down. He asked if Charlie’d been the one asking jewelry stores about a cameo. Tuftears must have given him a description of his car. He could imagine him saying, "The guy looks like that Nazi that killed all those twins in the Nazi death camps.”
Charlie identified himself, and the cop, who said he was Tom Novak, asked if Charlie would mind accompanying him to the station. Charlie didn’t mind. He hadn’t done anything wrong and maybe he could bleed the kid for more information on the kidnapping. He asked if he could leave a message for his friend Angela at her motel; they stopped at a pay phone and Charlie made the call.
Novak was a polite kid with a crewcut, clean-shaven, called him Mr. Zelnick. Charlie asked if he’d played football. Three sports, N.H.S., student council. Charlie would have wanted him in his class.
Charlie apologized for not bringing the cameo to the station immediately. "You know how it is with reporters,” he said.
Novak never took his eyes off the road. The radio was blaring in the background. "You could get yourself in a lot of trouble,” he said. "There are a lot of weirdos out there.”
“I was Dorie Bendix’s high school journalism teacher. You can check with the school if you don’t believe me.”
Novak made a left turn at a drug store. A couple of blocks later, they arrived at the red brick police station with the old-fashioned street lamps bordering the front walk.
“Your being Miss Bendix’s teacher doesn’t necessarily exclude you as a possible suspect, especially these days,” Novak said. He parked the cruiser in a no parking zone. Charlie felt he was in really deep shit until he remembered Mike Brown could alibi for him, if it came to that.
Turned out that Tom was only a rookie, so after a while, he called upstairs, and a detective came down to talk to Charlie. Tall guy with wavy black hair, broad shoulders. Wore cowboy boots with a suit. Name was Jim Black. Black had a deep, Robert Mitchum voice, moved like him too.
Charlie gave Black the cameo and a description of the man who’d purchased it. Black wrote down everything Charlie said on a yellow legal pad, ignoring the lines. When Charlie told Black he’d been Dorie’s teacher, Black nodded, then hit a few keys on his computer. Neither of them spoke for a good two minutes, Black tapping keys, Charlie staring at his fingernails.
“We don’t have you on our sexual predator list, Mr. Zelnick. I’m sure you realize we can’t leave any leaf unturned. You’ve kind of put yourself in an uncomfortable position here I’m afraid. Thanks for the help with the cameo, though. I don’t know how that got by us. We’ll talk to this guy Fran Gleason. Maybe our artist can come up with a composite.”
Charlie knew Black wasn’t about to admit that he’d had a previous description of the man from the time Dorie reported the stalker.
“Don’t print anything about the cameo; we wouldn’t want to tip off the murderer,” Black said.
Charlie swallowed hard; he hadn’t even considered that Dorie might be dead.
Dave Schwinghammer's published novel, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available on Amazon.com.
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