Here’s the thing…
Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.
I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.
But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.
Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.
The sheriff calls
It’s not often a patrol car stopped outside your residence without a reason for doing so.
I just happened to be looking out the windows when it pulled up, and I first thought it was the sheriff here to visit my mother.
It was hard to imagine my mother being the object of men’s attention, particularly one the top lawman in the county, and the other, a top criminal.
Both were charming in their own way, but it was the baggage both brought with them that bothered me. I tried not to think of the ramifications if she married either one. At worst, I could not see Alex as a brother, nor Charlene as a sister, not after what we had done at the last school summer camp
The pounding on the door interrupted that thought. I heard my mother’s muffled voice from upstairs telling me to see who it was, and when I opened the door, it was one of the sheriff’s deputies, Anderson, big brother to a school friend, and the most unlikely to become a lawman. I guess he turned his life around.
“The sheriff would like to see you.”
“He could have rung.”
“He likes the personal touch.”
It must be serious if he sent a deputy. “When?”
“And if I can’t come now?”
He took a pair of handcuffs out of his belt. “There’s the hard way and there’s the easy way.”
Serious enough then. “Why?”
“I learned a long time ago to follow orders, not question them. I don’t know, and I don’t care. Did you do anything wrong?”
I heard my mother coming down the stairs behind me. “Who is it?”
“What can we do for you?” She asked.
“The sheriff would like a word with your son, ma’am.”
Was that a look of exasperation on his face?
“He didn’t confide in me, ma’am, just asked me to escort him down to the station.”
“This’ll be to do with that Nadia,” she muttered. “I told you she is trouble.”
I shrugged. “Let’s go.” Time to escape a lecture.
I had time to think why the sheriff would want to see me, and remembered that I’d spoken to Charlene, and it had to be that she had as I suggested, spoken to her father and it must have something to do with that.
Anyone outside the sheriff’s office seeing Deputy Joel and I arrive might have got the impression I’d just been arrested, except I was not in handcuffs. There was no doubt Joel had wanted to use them, all the more reason to be co-operative.
We walked through the foyer towards the rear where the sheriff’s office was, and he sat me down on an uncomfortable bench. At the other end was a girl in a party dress looking hungover. The foyer was a hive of activity.
The sheriff put his head out the door. “Sam, come in.”
It was the first time in his office, not the first time in the station. My father had a few run-ins with the law, in the early years of the current sheriff’s tenure, as part of the alumni group of my mother, father, the sheriff, and Benderby. It was the fact he was a friend of and worked with Benderby that he found himself under suspicion so often, and my memories of him were when my mother and I came to bail him out.
It was probably one of the reasons why I couldn’t understand why she let Benderby in the door.
The room was small and it felt crowded surrounded by files and papers. His desk was a mess, with two half-drunk mugs of coffee sitting to one side.
He looked like a man under great stress.
He picked up the phone and pressed a number, then said, “Can you join us?”
A minute later Charlene came in and closed the door behind her. She then sat in the chair next to mine, and rather close.
Was it a form of intimidation?
The sheriff leaned back in his chair and it creaked under his weight. “Charlene tells me you think young Benderby is involved in what happened to the professor. How did you come to this conclusion? You should realize that making accusations such as this against a member of an influential family such as the Benderbys could afford you some unwanted attention, and not only from their lawyers.”
I had considered that but had expected the sheriff would be more proactive in his investigation. It seemed he was taking a more cautious approach.
“You said you overheard Alex at work,” Charlene added a nail in the coffin.
“It seems unlikely that Alex would be that stupid, Sam, so it leads me to believe you either have some other means of identifying him as being involved, or it’s just a petty act of revenge, which, knowing you as I do, is unlikely. Which is it? The fact you know about this so-called room where mall cops were located, the location of a safe, and where the combination is, is very specific.”
Was this a version of good cop bad cop? I hadn’t thought it through, thinking Charlene might want to take a win. It didn’t take in the possibility the sheriff would be overly cautious in taking on a Benderby.
Except that I forgot it was an election year, and there were a few younger and more qualified candidates in the mix. Age and experience were not going to cut this year. He was going to need a win and taking down a Benderby would put him firmly in the public eye.
“You can’t tell me that Rico was responsible for the professor’s death. He wasn’t killed on that boat, despite the way the body was left. I was there, that crime scene was staged.” Time to come out fighting.
“So you’re a crime scene expert now?”
“Keen observation, no indication of blood spatter from the look of the wounds, which to me looked like torture. I did some research, and the professor apparently had a diary that belonged to the pirate that everyone believes hid the so-called treasure somewhere along this coastline. Did you think to find out why the professor was here, certainly his last movements, and whether or not Alex Benderby contacted him?”
I’m sure they did, not that they would probably tell me.
Charlene glared at me. Perhaps insulting her ability put an edge to her tone. “A timeline of the victim’s last movements was done.”
A reproving look from her father, she should not be discussing case details with the public.
She glared back at him. “Damn it, I will not be insulted.”
The sheriff gave me a rather curious look. Perhaps I was not so off the mark, so I said, “He’s been here before, you know when those coins were pulled out if the cove. He came down to identify them. I think he had the diary then, which was why he came back.”
“How is it you know so much about this professor?”
“Unlike Boggs, I have an interest in historical detail, perhaps Boggs should not have asked for me to help him, but if I’m going to do something I like to be thorough.”
“Yes, it’s been noticed. A session at the library, and surprisingly, a stash of documents scooped up from Ormiston. I know you read his diaries. Then you hit the newspaper office and looked at back issues of the paper.”
She or one of the deputies had been following me around. I wondered briefly whether they’d been following Boggs around too.
“And we know you went to the mall with Nadia Cossatino. So, your information was not gleaned from overhearing conversations, you’ve actually been in that room.”
Guilty as charged, but silence might be the better option here until their objective came clear.
“Knowing you as I do, Sam, I doubt it was your idea to go sneaking about that mall. Your association, for want of a better word, with Nadia is going to lead you down a dark path, and I know your mother is worried about you. The Cossatinos and Benderbys are sworn enemies, and you do not want to get caught in the crossfire. She was obviously motivated by causing trouble for the Benderbys.”
Possible, but unlikely, yet what had she hoped to gain by taking me there? And it was clear my mother was using the sheriff to get me to stay away from Nadia.
“I’m not interested in charging you with trespass, or lecturing you on the dangers of wandering around a place like that, but there may be something to the allegations. We managed to get a stay on the demolition for that room, and it’s now an active crime scene. How long have you known about this.”
© Charles Heath 2020-2022