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 Six
· A Boy Named Bentley
· Dems Invoke 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
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Charlie is arrested as a suspect in the Dorie Bendix kidnapping.
In the Belly of the Whale
"The Questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to Reply.”
Charlie met Angela at The Holiday Inn lounge. He ordered Ginger Ale.
“You can order a drink,” she said. “I’m having one. I’ve been trying to think of this as a kind of holiday, in the event that we don’t find Dorie.”
“I’m fine,” he said.
She hadn’t had any luck with her half of the jewelry store list. He told her about the little man driving the Trans Am.
“We’re doing much better than I thought we would,” she said, chewing on the cherry that came with the Manhattan she’d ordered. “Tomorrow we can try Dorie’s apartment.”
“It’s only six o’clock,” he said. “This would be the best time to go; her neighbors should be home.”
He finished his Ginger Ale. She tried to down her Manhattan, grimaced and pushed the glass away. “I don’t know what possessed me to order that,” she said.
Twenty minutes later he, Angela, and the cat, who’d been sleeping in the backseat of the VW, arrived at Cedar Grove, an older apartment building, one of those ugly, make-a-buck-quick structures.
Somebody had done a nice job on the grounds with lots of benches and snow-covered birch trees evenly spaced. Cedar Grove II, facing the parking lot of the original building, offered an unobstructed view. “I’ll take that one,” Angela said. “Meet you back here in an hour.” She draped the lilac kerchief over her hair, tied it at her chin, and headed for the yellow-brick structure.
Charlie parked the VW on the street and trod through the slush to the entrance where he rang the security bell, the cat sticking close. Charlie buzzed the button labeled “Rory Treblinka, manager” a couple of times before Treblinka finally trotted down the entryway steps, ducking his head out into the frosty air.
Showing his identification, Charlie said, “I’m a reporter for a newspaper in Dorie Bendix’s hometown. I wonder if you’ll let me have a moment--”
"Come on in out of the cold,” Rory said. His long hair was parted in the middle and tied in a ponytail in the back; he was wearing a sleeveless black T-shirt with a Metallica logo on its front. Charlie stepped into the vestibule, holding the door open with his foot for the cat to scamper through.
“I won’t take up a lot of your time,” Charlie said.
“Time is one thing I’ve got a lot of,” Rory said. “Haven’t had a gig in a while.”
"You’re a musician then?” Charlie said.
Rory nodded. “Yeah, took this job for a break in the rent. Got a six-month-old kid.” Rory led Charlie up worn, maroon carpet steps to this display above the mailboxes in the lobby. Pictures of all the tenants. There were thirty-five of them. No little guys with ineffectual mustaches. Charlie described the man who’d purchased the cameo down to the dirt under his fingernails, asked if Rory’d seen anybody like that hanging around the complex acting suspicious. Rory thought for a moment, but couldn’t think of anybody even close.
“I’d like to speak to Dorie’s neighbors,” Charlie said. “If it wouldn’t be too much of an intrusion.”
“I don’t see why not,” Rory said, “but I can tell you up front none of them saw or heard anything that morning. I’m in and out of most of the apartments quite a bit, so I’m pretty up on what’s happening around here.”
Rory tapped on a door next to what he said was Dorie’s apartment, introduced Charlie to Shirley Anders, a Mary Kay saleswoman, then left. “Zaftig” would be the word Charlie’d use to describe her. Brown eyes and big hair. Bigger than Dolly Parton’s, only hers looked real and was piled on the top of her head in layers.
“Oh, look at the puddy tat,” Shirley said.
Over in a corner of the room, a cockatoo, the most beautiful bird Charlie’d ever seen–-snow white with a dashing yellow crest--began squawking, “Aak, killer cat, killer cat,” as the intrepid mouser set about stalking it.
Shirley didn’t seem too worried. “Did you know your cat has the mange? We’ll fix him right up; I have some medicine that’ll do the trick.”
Thankfully, she was willing to apply the cream for Charlie, since he was afraid to even touch the mangy mouser.
Shirley and Charlie settled across from each other at the kitchen table. “Would you like some coffee?” she asked.
“Love some,” he said.
Shirley set a cup and saucer in front of Charlie with a plate of chocolate chip cookies. He took a cookie. “Ms. Anders, have you seen anyone around here wearing a knit stocking cap with a droopy mustache, short in stature, not too well dressed?”
“That’s Miss Anders. I’m not much of a feminist. How about you, Mr. Zelnick? I’ll bet you break all their hearts.” She sat down next to him, touched his arm. He was getting a real boner.
“Nope,” he said. “Still the gay blade I’m afraid, in the original sense of the word.”
She smiled, pulled her chair even closer. “Droopy mustache, huh? Sounds an awful lot like Marv, the tree guy. Whenever Rory needs a tree trimmed or cut down, he hires this little scruffy-looking fellow to do the job. Looks like he’s homeless he dresses so bad. Nice guy, though.”
“Any last name?”
“God, I can’t remember. If he was a customer, I would, but Marv isn’t the type to care about toiletries and such.”
Charlie thanked her. At the door she gave him her card and made him promise to send her a copy of his story. She also hinted at the possibility of having dinner if he was in Mason City for an extended period of time. They shook hands. Her stiletto nails and warm, satiny fingers made the hair on the back of his neck rise. Everything else, thankfully, had gone flaccid.
Staggering down the steps, still under the influence of Shirley’s Chanel No. 5, Charlie found Rory’s apartment just off the lobby, rapped on the door.
Rory answered in his dressing gown, rubbing his hair with a towel. “Sorry to bother you again, Mr. Treblinka, but Shirley says you have a groundskeeper who fits the description I told you about.”
“Must mean Marv. Never heard a last name that I can recall. You can probably get it from Butler Plumbing who own the apartments. Marv stops by about once a month to ask if I have any yard work for him. Think he lives in the country; he’s always bitching about how much he hates the city. And, oh yeah, he stutters. Be sure to put that in the story, that I told you he stutters, right? If it’s him, I mean.”
“Keep this under your hat, Mr. Treblinka. I wouldn’t want to get anyone in trouble who hasn’t done–-“
Rory made a zipping motion across his lips. Somehow Charlie doubted his sincerity, what with Rory being in and out of all those apartments so much.
Angela had to hurry. There were twenty-four apartments on the three floors facing the parking lot. The first five on the third floor didn’t answer Angela’s knock.
Then she had her first success; a sniffling man answered the door in his bathrobe. Mousey hair standing straight up, his complexion that of a street mime. She had trouble controlling the intake of her breath; the man looked like one of those murderers she’d seen on “Most Wanted.”
She shook off the ominous feeling. “My name is Angela Martin,” she said. “I’m here about the Dorie Bendix kidnapping. I’m wondering if you--”
“Come on in,” he said, yanking her into the room. He introduced himself as Wiley Reems. A TV set blared behind him. Some Mary Hart clone gushing at Mel Gibson.
She was reluctant to let Wiley get between her and the door, but she wanted to see the parking lot from this vantage point. Get a grip on yourself, she told herself; the kidnapper would never live in the same building. She waded through the refuse, X-rated magazines and newspapers strewn about the room, a bottle of cough medicine and a tablespoon positioned on a cluttered coffee table in front of the easy chair, the bed unmade. There were obvious semen stains on the sheets.
"I didn’t know anyone had been kidnapped,” Wiley said. “I’m afraid I don’t watch the news much.” The room had the smell of boredom, like a rotting TV dinner. "Won’t you have a cup of coffee?” he said.
She moved toward the shadeless window and a view of the parking lot where Dorie had been kidnapped. If he’d been up at that hour, Wiley could have seen what happened. She shivered, experiencing a sense of vertigo when she looked out. The lot was packed with tenants’ cars, some of them parked at odd angles; a custodian was clearing the driveway with a snowblower, the roar of the engine audible three flights up, further fraying her nerves.
“I don’t know what possesses people these days,” he said, pouring water into a kettle. "Everybody’s so obsessed with sex. I’m doing an article on the effect of soft-core pornography on our nation’s youth; I’m a free-lance writer.” He put the kettle on the burner and prepared the coffee cups.
What would she do if Wiley tried to get friendly? A copycat; he could be a copycat! "I’ve gotta get this place cleaned up; been in the hospital; doctor said absolutely no stress.” He pushed the bed, sheets and all, back into the couch with a jarring thud, causing Angela to flinch. “Have a seat,” Wiley said. He sat down with a yard or so distance between them. She felt in her pocket for her house keys; if he came any closer, she’d key his forehead.
“I’ve made a study of this sort of thing,” Wiley said. "Do you realize sexual assault has risen three-fold since the advent of television? Would you like to read my article?”
“Very much,” she said. She paged through the ten-page article, liberally sprinkled with graphics no major market magazine could possibly publish. “I have to get on with my canvass now,” she said. “My partner is waiting for me.”
Finally she escaped, thanking Wiley for the coffee as she shouldered her way through the door. Once in the hall, she let loose an explosive sigh, blotting her forehead with a handkerchief.
Moving down the corridor toward the next apartment, she felt disoriented, sluggish. What had made her think she could find an eyewitness when the police couldn’t? Halfheartedly, Angela knocked on what she told herself was the last door.
Mrs. Eve Roberts was a retired librarian who had heard what she thought was a gunshot one day, and when she’d peeked through the blinds, she’d seen the truck. “I hadn’t realized it was an old pickup that had backfired,” she said. "I didn’t think much of it. It was that tree man who works for the manager, but then the next day I heard the honking of a horn. It was the old-fashioned type, my old Chrysler has the same tone. I looked out and it was that pickup again; the man driving it had inadvertently hit the horn, but this time he was sitting there watching the building. I checked my watch, and it was three o’clock in the afternoon. Oh well, I thought, maybe he’s finished for the day and waiting for someone. I wrote it on my calendar to remind myself to look the next day; there are so many terrible stories about monsters preying on children on the news. You can never be too careful. Sure enough, he was there again the next day, still watching the building. But then I had an emergency in my family--my daughter in Anoka had an appendectomy. I’d heard about Dorie Bendix being kidnapped, but I didn’t made the connection. I’m afraid I didn’t know I had a celebrity living practically next door.”
"Do you know the man’s name?” Angela asked, holding her breath.
"If he told me, I immediately forgot it. You know how that is. When you’re first introduced, you’re not always listening. I asked him about my geraniums once; they were wilting. He didn’t know anything about geraniums, only trees.”
Charlie sat at the wheel of the VW, watching the icicles drip from the eves of the apartment building, thinking about his little confrontation with Angela. He was rather proud of himself in that he’d been able to tell her exactly how he felt without wetting his pants. And he’d won a concession. She’d promised she wouldn’t tell the old battle-ax anything unless she cleared it with him. But what was that about liking animals? What did that have to do with the price of tea in Tokyo?
There was a rap on the window. Angela. She got in the passenger side, slipped and fell up against him. She brushed his hand and he caught a whiff of hairspray when he reached out and tried to steady her. “Please,” she said when she righted herself. “I don’t like to be touched.” She straightened her clothes and said, “Met a woman in there who thinks she saw the kidnapper. She doesn’t know his name but he works for the manager; he prunes trees.”
Charlie gave her a knowing smile. “One of Dorie’s neighbors told me about him. Shirley Anders, a Mary Kay saleswoman. Quite the hot number. His name is Marv; no last name that she or the manager could come up with.”
Did he detect a slight coloring on her neck. Was it embarrassment or jealousy? “We’re really making progress, Charles. Where would you like to go next?”
He looked at his watch. It was seven-thirty. “Not much more we can do tonight. Want to see if we can find a restaurant?”
“Do you like Chinese?” she said. “I noticed a China Star across from one of the jewelry stores I checked.”
She ate like a horse: Raindrop soup; sweet and sour prawns; chicken dice with fried walnuts; pork and bamboo shoots; fried lettuce; steamed rice; and gingered fruit. Where did she put it all? While they ate, they talked about their options. They could go back to the yellow pages and hunt for tree services; they could talk to speech therapists, or they could call Butler Plumbing. The last might be a little difficult since Charlie doubted they’d give out personnel information to a newspaperman. He could pretend to be a cop, but he doubted he could carry that off.
Angela agreed to work on the speech therapists, while Charlie would look for tree workers. They both agreed they’d tell Detective Black about anything they found. When she was finished eating, he suggested they see a movie. She said she was tired; she wanted to finish reading MY ANTONIA.
When she went to the ladies room to freshen up, he went to find a phone in the event Black was still at work. It took a while for the detective to answer the page. Charlie spent the time arguing with himself about whether he should take Shirley up on her offer. Angela had to be the world’s coldest fish, always hiding behind that book.
“Black here,” a gruff voice said.
“Detective Black. Zelnick. I have a couple of additional findings. Our man may be a tree specialist and he stutters.”
“How did you learn all this?” Black said.
“Dorie’s next door neighbor says the manager hires this little fellow to prune trees. He fits the description of the man who bought the cameo.”
Charlie could hear Black breathing through his teeth on the other side of the line. “Did you get a name?” he finally said.
“Marv. Rory Treblinka, that’s the manager of the apartment building, doesn’t remember a last name. He says to try Butler Plumbing, who owns the building. You better do that. I doubt they’d tell me anything.”
“That’s true .”
“I have a friend pursuing the stuttering angle.”
“Look, Mr. Zelnick. This is too dangerous. If the suspect finds out you’re snooping around, he could turn on you. If I were you, I’d leave the investigating to professionals.”
“I can’t do that. I’d go crazy just waiting. We’ll call if we get any further leads.”
“Wait. Who’s we?”
“Goodbye, Detective Black.” Charlie replaced the receiver and stood there, watching a little boy trying to manipulate chop sticks at a table just inside the restaurant. Black was beginning to sound like the intrepid Mike Brown.
Charlie was up at seven, ate breakfast by himself at the Hawkeye diner, nursed his coffee as he skimmed the classifieds in the paper for tree services. He circled a few ads and headed for his car on the way to talk to a man at a landscaping company. If Marv was a free-lancer, it might be the kind of ad he’d answer.
Before he could get out of the parking lot, Harry Drake waved at him from the office door. “Another phone call for you,” he said. “Some guy named Swegman.”
Charlie took the phone. “Zelnick,” he said.
“Thought I’d touch bases with you,” Swegman said. “My editor loved the bit about Dorie’s friend Jill. Got anything else?”
“I’ve got a couple leads, but we can’t print any of them. Seems our man stuttered; my friend is looking for a speech therapist who might remember him. Why don’t you call me back at around six tonight? You can give me your expert opinion on what we can print and what we can’t.”
Big, fat snowflakes, like feathers in a pillow fight, filtered down on the windshield as Angela’s cab threaded its way through the sluggish traffic. Through the drifting snow, Angela was surprised to see a black horse and carriage with a bearded driver clopping down Main Street. A triangular sign on the back of the buggy flickered orange through the pristine snow. Angela’d heard that some of the Amish had resisted this effort to protect the buggies in the event that a distracted driver might not see them at night and demolish buggy, driver, and horse. But the triangular warning was only a superimposition away from the dreaded pentagram used by devil worshipers. The cab driver honked and the buggy pulled over and let him pass.
Mason City Central, one of the two high schools in the city, also housed administrative offices. Central looked like all schools, flat as a penitentiary, with four double doors at the entrance, a long, vanilla-tiled hall leading off into a narrowing vista.
A security guard, loitering near the office, stopped Angela, asking what business she had at the school. “I’m a reporter, sort of,” Angela said. “I’m working on the Dorie Bendix kidnapping.” She showed her press pass. “I wonder if you could direct me to your speech therapist.”
The guard introduced her to a secretary who took Angela to the lounge where they found Miss Cleveland, a fresh-faced blonde. “Would it be possible to find a former student with only a first name to work on?” Angela asked.
“That depends on the name,” she said. “I doubt that I’ll be any help, though; I’ve only been on the job two years.”
On the way to Miss Cleveland’s office, Angela filled her in on whom she was looking for and what she knew about him.
“So you’re from Minnesota?” the blonde said.
“Yes, Hydrangea, heard of it?”
“Can’t say as I have. Is that anywhere near Duluth?”
“About a hundred and fifty miles south.”
“Oh,” she said, striding along like a power walker. They passed the media center where a class was watching a movie and some kids outside a classroom, apparently working on a skit. When they got to her office, Miss Cleveland grasped the phone and tapped in a number.
“Hi, Dolly. This is Karen. Good, good. Really good. How’s yourself? Say Dolly, you ever treat a kid named Marv something? Little guy, 5’ 2” or 3”, bad stutter.” Karen held her hand over the speaker and whispered. “Dolly was the speech therapist for Mason City schools for over thirty years. The only Marv she can remember is Marvin Kleinschmidt.”
Angela took the phone. “This is Angela Martin, an investigative reporter working on the Bendix case. We think her kidnapper may have been a stutterer. And your last name is?”
“Mink,” she said. “M-i-n-k as in the little animal with the expensive fur coat. Marvin Kleinschmidt was an incorrigible stutterer. Nothing worked, not singing, not behavior modification, not desensitization. I had the feeling that Marvin was afraid of women.”
“You’ll let me know what happens, won’t you, Ms. Martin? I was a big fan of Dorie’s.”
“Sure will, Mrs. Mink. Thanks a lot.” She hung up the phone.
Miss Cleveland got Marvin Kleinschmidt’s last known address from the files. Angela asked to use Miss Cleveland’s phone. When she assented, she called Detective Black. The dispatcher wouldn’t put her through at first, until she mentioned Charles Zelnick. When Black finally took the phone, she gave him the newest info on Marv. Black said he’d look into it. “How many of you are there?” he said.
“I meant to talk to you about that,” she said. “The Billmeyer family will be in Mason City by the end of the week. I’m wondering if you’d agree to help with an itinerary.”
“That’s all I need,” he groaned.
Charlie had struck out on with the landscaping company. The manager told him that unless he was a police officer, there was no way he was going to tell him anything about any of his employees, potential or otherwise. Tom Novak, the same young man who’d picked him up outside the jewelry store, was waiting for him when he got back to the Hawkeye. He opened the passenger side of the patrol car and motioned for Charlie to get in.
“We have to stop meeting like this,” Charlie said. “Detective Black wants to see you,” Novak said.
When they got to the station, Tom Novak read Charlie his rights and put him in a jail cell. A few minutes later, a guard came to get him and led him to a dressing area that reminded Charlie of a high school locker room, the mildew smell making Charlie gag. The guard gave him an orange jumper to put on and placed his clothes in a black garbage bag. Novak had already taken his valuables.
When Charlie was put in lockup, he decided to make the best of it. This was obviously the belly of the whale Joseph Campbell talked about in his discussion of the hero’s journey.
He glanced around the cell. There were two other “gentlemen” in the cage, both of them wearing the orange uniform and the paper sandals the guards gave you. The place wasn’t the black hole of Calcutta he’d expected; it was painted a military green and there was a sink and a commode in one corner, also the same herbal hue. He sank down on one of the bottom bunks.
The guard, a large woman in a meticulously pressed tan and brown uniform, motioned for Charlie to come closer to the bars. “I understand you’re a reporter for a newspaper in Minnesota. My name’s Alice Lang. Detective Black is the biggest pain in the ass in the department. He’s probably trying to run a number on you. Just hang in there. Can I bring you anything?”
A large TV hanging from chains in the ceiling above her head showed the various cells out of view of the guard.
“Something to read maybe?” Charlie said.
“All I’ve got is People magazine. A fancy dude like you wouldn’t want that, would you?”
“Any port in a storm,” he said. Alice went to her desk, retrieved the magazine and handed it to him through the bars. Charlie had a flash of him grabbing her arm, bashing her head against the bars, and snatching her weapon.
Meanwhile, another guard came with a meal. Fried chicken, corn, a roll, and grape Kool-Aid. The chicken wasn’t done; the meat was pink near the bone.
He paged through the magazine. There was an article on George Lucas, supposedly the richest man in Hollywood. Probably from all those special effects. Charlie felt someone breathing on his neck. Thankfully, it was the normal-looking one; the other guy looked like Rasputin. This one was wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap.
“Have you seen Star Wars?” he said, pointing at the Lucas article. “Stupid question. Everybody has, haven’t they? My name is Artie Blayne.” They shook hands. Artie’s hand was damp and doughy.
“I’ve only seen little snatches here and there,” Charlie said. “I’m one of those people who won’t go see a blockbuster. I did see Jurassic Park, though, ‘cause I’d read the book.”
“Ah, a reader. What do you do for a living? If you don’t mind my asking.”
“Newspaperman. I’m down here doing a story on the Dorie Bendix kidnapping. I used to be her journalism teacher.”
Artie raised his eyebrows as if Charlie had just told him he was Mike Royko. “I think I remember her. Usually only watch national news, though.”
“This is all a big misunderstanding,” Charlie said. “I just want to find Dorie and go home. So what are you in for?”
Artie scratched his arm; it was raw he’d scratched it so much. “Same as you, a big misunderstanding. I’m waiting for my wife to come with bail money. I volunteer my time to work with the Scouts, the CYO, midnight basketball, anything to help with young people, and one of them claimed that I touched her.”
Charlie took a step backward. He hadn’t been so spooked since Navy days, during those times waiting in Greyhound Bus stations, where strangers had come up to converse and soon the talk would turn to a request for money or sex.
Before Charlie could react to Artie’s dilemma, Alice came for him and took him to see Detective Black.
Jim Black wore a Stetson, the same color as his name. Either he’d just come in from outside or he was wearing the hat to intimidate Charlie. It had a little red feather in the band.
A large framed picture of a running back, plunging through the line, peeked over Black’s shoulder. Charlie sat in a straight-backed chair facing Black’s desk. The paper sandals kept snagging on splinters in the floor. He rubbed his palms together. “Detective Black,” he said, trying to get comfortable in the hard wooden chair that creaked when he tried to pull it closer to the desk. “I don’t understand what’s happening here.”
Black turned his neck to the left, then back to the right, as if it were stiff. He had a beard that seemed to grow as they talked. “The captain wants you to drop this matter. We appreciate your help with the cameo, but believe me, we would have found out about it sooner or later anyway.”
Black could have been a younger, stronger, better-looking version of Peter Principal. Charlie didn’t really believe Black and the other detectives would have interviewed the Layne girl again.
“Have you ever heard of obstruction of justice, Mr. Zelnick? That’s impeding the progress of a murder investigation. You can go to jail.”
“You’re really worried about how it’s going to look when the newspapers find out some hack writer turned up a clue which led to the capture of Dorie Bendix’s kidnapper, aren’t you?”
Black’s eyes narrowed and he pressed his bloodless lips together.
“Wait a minute!” Charlie said. “This is the second time you’ve referred to the kidnapping as a murder investigation. I thought the first time was a slip, but you don’t believe Dorie is still alive! Is there something you haven’t told me?”
The detective fingered his tie. “Frankly, Mr. Zelnick,” he said, “she probably is dead. I can show you some statistics if you wish.”
“Don’t say that,” Charlie moaned. “This perpetrator is an ineffectual little . . . He wouldn’t dare . . . We know what the guy does for a living . . .” Charlie wanted to grab the detective and shake him.
Black rambled on about statistics. “In these sort of cases the perpetrator is usually a transient. I doubt if we’ll ever find this Marv person.”
“But he works at Dorie’s apartment. He’s bound to go back there sooner or later.”
Black took out a cigar out of his shirt pocket, one of those filtered kinds that stink to high heaven, removed the cellophane, bit down on the plastic filter, but didn’t light it.
“Mr. Zelnick, if you’d recently kidnapped a local TV anchor person, what would you do?”
“I’d get the hell out of here. I’d tie her up, put her in the trunk, and head for Montana, where they wouldn’t be able to find me for eighteen years.”
“Very funny, but I don’t have time for witticisms. We’ve got to come to an understanding here. We can’t allow you to go on bothering the citizenry. I thought I warned you.” Black massaged his sandpaper chin.
“I’m only trying to do my job,” Charlie said. “You have heard of the First Amendment?”
“That’s another thing,” Black said. “We called your paper. Your mother says to send you home if you’re getting in the way. Let me ask you something. Just how well did you know Dorie Bendix?”
Black had eyes that seemed to bore into his forehead. Charlie had to be really careful.
Charlie pulled his chair closer to Black’s desk, losing a paper slipper in the process. “What are you implying?” His underarms were leaking; he was wet all the way down to his waist. Why hadn’t his mother backed him up?
“We called your school. Mr. Nesbit, your former principal, says he got numerous complaints from parents about your being too friendly with some of the female students.”
Charlie slammed his fist down on the desk. “That son of a bitch! When I get my hands on him . . .” He wiped his forehead with his sleeve, said, “Dorie was editor of the school newspaper. I was the adviser. Yes, we were closer than most student-teacher relationships, but there was never anything sexual about it.” God, he hoped he wasn’t blushing.
“We’re going to do some more checking. I hope you realize you’ve put yourself in a very sticky situation.”
“I can assure you I’m just as normal as you are, Detective Black.” Maybe that wasn’t the right thing to say. Probably had a woman’s shoe in his desk or was wearing lace panties.
“You can pick up your valuables at the front desk,” Black said.
Charlie glanced down at the orange uniform.
“The guard will show you where to change. And if I were you, I’d think about heading home.”
“I can’t leave, not when we’re so close to finding Dorie’s kidnapper.”
Black frowned, lit the filter-tip cigar, exhaling noxious fumes in his face.
Dave Schwinghammer's published novel, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available on Amazon.com.
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