It's a beautiful day here. A few clouds in the washed blue sky. Cool but nice. I hope we have a large crowd tonight. I'd like the play to make some money. The community theater group sure needs the funds.
As promised yesterday, here are the two excerpts from Murder by Dewey Decimal. The chief starts digging. We learn more about Lisa, and Bernard receives an unsettling visit.
Excerpts 2.3 & 2.4 from Murder by Dewey Decimal
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
The chief sighed. Two murders in one day. The City Council would holler to high heaven. "You know," he said to the room at large, "being a police chief is like trying to applaud with your buttocks. It's practically impossible, and it rubs you wrong."
Lisa, Bernard, and Sims just looked at him. They were back at the police station in the chief's office. Lisa and Bernard perched on his couch, and Sims sat at a small writing desk, ready to take their statements.
The chief sighed again. "Lisa, would you go over this again so that Sims can get it down."
Lisa nodded. "Leonard and I went to Roger's Bar and Grill last night along with some of the other pressmen at the paper. We were all down about the paper closing. We stayed until about midnight. Leonard invited me over so I went. I stayed the night. When I left this morning, I forgot my purse. It has my recorder in it so I stopped by Leonard's to pick it up after Bernard picked up his medicine. That's when I found him."
"What time did you leave Leonard's this morning?" the chief asked, watching Bernard. He seemed to draw away from Lisa. She sat stiffly, not looking at him. Interesting, the chief thought.
"It must have been about ten because on the way home, I saw your cars at the library."
The chief looked at Bernard. "Mr. Worthington, would you step outside for a moment?"
Bernard looked startled but nodded. "Is there a water fountain here?"
"Sims, show him where it is," the chief directed. "We've also got a pop machine back there. And some coffee."
Sims and Bernard left.
Lisa twisted her hands, looking nervous.
"Lisa, I wanted to ask you a few questions that I thought you might feel more comfortable about if they left," the chief began. "But first, are you okay?"
She nodded. "It just shook me up."
"Were you and Leonard close?"
"No." Lisa looked away. "Actually, if I hadn't been drunk, I wouldn't have gone home with him. I thought he was sleazy."
"Did anything happen?"
"Well, like maybe he was interested, but you weren't?"
"And, in the struggle to preserve my virtue, I stabbed him? Is that what you getting at?" Lisa asked.
"Not exactly, but is that what happened?" The chief leaned forward, studying her closely, watching her pale face and trembling hands.
"No. Leonard was alive when I left. We didn't fight. In fact, I don't think we did anything. I mean, nothing."
The chief raised his eyebrow in a silent question.
"Look, let me be blunt. We were both drunker than skunks. Leonard's car had a flat on the way home. When he got out to change it, I passed out. I woke up in his bed with my ... shirt and bra off. He was naked and passed out. I dressed and got out. I don't think we had sex, and we certainly didn't have a fight!" Lisa finished in an angry rush.
The chief sat there quietly, giving Lisa a few moments to calm down. "What do you think of Worthington?" he asked suddenly.
"He's okay, I guess," she said. "I just met him today. Why do you ask? Do you think he murdered Agatha?"
"Do you think he did?" the chief asked.
She frowned. "I don't know. He doesn't seem the type."
"He disliked her and he had opportunity. Why shouldn't I think he did it?"
"Do you think he did?" she asked.
"Off the record?"
“No, I don't. Same reason as you. But, he might surprise us. Some people hide their bents pretty deep."
"Do you think I killed Leonard?" she asked.
"No." The chief shook his head. "His billfold was cleaned out just like your purse. I'd say someone decided to rob him while he was in the shower and he caught them at it. But, understand me, don't you go leaving town. Besides making you seem guilty, it would look bad on me. And, you'd better be ready for what people are going to say about you."
She smiled grimly. "They've said it before. I'm used to it."
"Did Brewer fight with anyone last night?"
"No, I don't think so. Although, I think the guy who helped change the tire was pretty irate. We were blocking his drive or something."
"Do you remember where you had the flat?" the chief asked.
"Not really. Maybe near Fourth Street," she said. "I'm not sure."
The chief thought for a moment. "Let's see. Coming back from the bar, you probably came straight down Main."
"I guess so."
"So you would have came right past the library. In fact, Fourth is just before the library. Did you notice anything?"
"I'm sorry I have to keep saying 'no' all the time, but I was totally wasted."
The chief looked at his desk, picked up a letter opener, and turned it in his hands. "You know, many a time your father was here."
"I know," Lisa said stiffly. "I bailed him out."
The chief met her gaze levelly. "Then, if I were you, I’d watch the drinking."
Lisa started to say something, then looked away.
"Give Sims a list of the people who went to Roger's with you," he said. "He's also going to fingerprint you so we'll know whose prints are whose at Brewer's apartment. You didn't touch the knife, did you?"
"No," she said curtly.
"Well, I'm finished for now unless you can think of anything else."
She shook her head and rose. "What about my purse?"
"I'm afraid it's evidence now. If there's anything in there you just have to have--"
"I'll see what I can do."
She nodded and left.
The chief settled back to think. Leonard's death was easier on his mind than Agatha's. Leonard ran with a tough crowd, and the chief was a firm believer in the old adage that if you lie down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas. It was a shame Lisa happened to be with him. She'd worked hard to gain some respect, and a lot of people would think bad of her for going home drunk with Leonard. The chief had never been able to understand why the children of alcoholics usually drank. You'd think they'd know better.
Agatha's death, however, seemed darker, more evil. Too many puzzling things about it. Why did the killer drag her upstairs? Why lock her office? What could have been hidden in the safe?
He wondered if it was too early to call Dimes. He checked his watch. Four o'clock. Dimes probably wouldn't have anything yet on Agatha and certainly nothing on Leonard. At least this day was nearly over.
The chief searched his pockets and found the number for Agatha’s brother in law, Richard Storer. He dialed it. It only rang twice before it was answered.
"Hello?" A man's voice, deep and pleasant.
"Is this Richard Storer?" the chief asked, steeling himself to deliver the bad news. It was never easy.
"Yes, who is this?"
"This is Police Chief Donaldson from Ryton. Sir, I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. Agatha Ryton-Storer is dead."
"Dead?" There was silence for a few moments. And then, Storer asked, "How?"
"No, she was murdered," the chief said.
"Murdered?! What happened?"
"I'd rather discuss it with you face-to-face," the chief said. "Tell me, would it be possible for you to come up here tomorrow?"
"Yes, I can get off work. Uh, Chief Donaldson, where is she? I mean, who do I call about arrangements?"
"Presently, she's at the County Coroner's. When you decide on a funeral home, tell them. They'll arrange transportation."
"I'll have to get things worked out here. I should be there around noon. Where would you like to meet?"
"I'd like to meet at her house. Do you have keys for it?"
"Yes, I watched the house for her occasionally. Did you need anything else?"
"No. I'd like to say how sorry I am."
"Thank you." Storer hung up.
Sims stuck his head in. "They're gone."
The chief nodded. "Listen, did you get Worthington's hometown?"
"It's Oklahoma City," Sims said.
"Call the police up there and see if they have anything on him. I keep thinking I've heard something about a Worthington before. And have we located Jones yet?"
"No. Hayden and Harris drove over to his place and poked around. They didn't find anything. Do you want me to put out a bulletin on him?"
"Yeah, I think you should. I find it strange that he would come up missing right now."
Sims left. The chief leaned back in his chair. He wondered if his peaches were ripening as they should, but thoughts of the rosy pink peaches kept reminding him of Agatha's throat and Brewer's chest spattered with dark red blood. His stomach pained him. He reached into his desk and grabbed a bottle of liquid antacid. I'm going to catch whoever did this, he thought. And they're going to be really sorry.
Lisa shook her head. He could tell she was furious.
She started the car as he closed his door. He wanted to ask what happened in the chief’s office, but decided she would tell him if she wanted him to know. Besides, what business was it of his? He barely knew her.
Halfway back to the library, she suddenly burst out swearing. She cursed the chief, the city, the world and everything else. The tirade lasted about a minute.
He waited for a moment and then asked, "Feel better?"
“Not really," she said disgustedly. "I'm so mad I could scream."
"What about?" he asked, hoping she wouldn't think he was being nosy. "Surely the chief doesn't think you had anything to do with that man's death?"
"No, he thinks I'm innocent. And although I think I'm not supposed to tell you this, he doesn't think you killed Agatha, either."
"Good. But, that doesn't sound like something that would upset you."
She looked at him and then back at the road. "See, my father was an alcoholic." She paused.
"You know you don't have to tell me anything," Bernard said.
"No, it's okay." She shrugged. "I got used to it, I guess. He was one of Ryton's two town drunks."
"It's no big deal," she said. "I loved him a lot, and he was a good father. A gentle, good man. He died about four years ago right after Mama did. Everyone thinks that he drank himself to death, and that was how he did it. But he died because Mama was gone, and he couldn't live without her." She ran a hand through her hair. Bernard sat silently. "Anyhow, whenever I drink a little more than I should, someone has to throw him up in my face."
"Who brought it up?"
”I'm sure he didn't mean to be insulting."
"Oh, I know he didn't," she said. "I'm madder at me than him. I know better than to get drunk. I do dumb things when I'm drunk."
"Most people do," he said. “I had some times in college that I’d rather not remember now.” He grinned.
Lisa turned the car into the library parking lot.
"Yeah, I know. It doesn't make me feel any better."
She parked the car. A couple of police cars were still there, and a policeman was walking around the grounds.
"Would you like to go to dinner with me?" he heard himself asking.
She looked at him and frowned. "As long as you're not feeling sorry for me--"
"No, I'm not." He smiled at her.
She smiled back. "Okay, I'd like that. Where to?"
"How about The Senor? I haven't been in a while, but they make good Mexican food."
"Sounds great. Pick me up around seven-thirty. I need to call the Dispatch and file my story first." She gave him her address and left.
He watched her drive away. Absurdly, he was feeling good. Nothing like a couple of murders to brighten a day, he thought.
He went up the steps to the library. Inside he found the police had closed off the second floor and Agatha's office. He asked one of the officers how long the police would want the library closed. The officer shrugged.
Bernard went into his office and looked at the pile of work on his desk. He didn't feel much like working. He stuck his hands in his pockets and felt the shipping form he had picked up outside this morning. He dropped it on his desk. I'll take care of it tomorrow, he thought. With the library closed, I should have plenty of time.
Sherry's voice hit him like a kick in the stomach. She was standing in the office doorway.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"Yes." He found it hard to breathe. "What are you doing here?"
"I heard the news on the radio, and I know how things upset you," she said, coming on in. "I told the officer that I knew you, and he let me in." She cocked her head to the side. "Are you sure you're okay? Maybe I should drive you home?"
"No, thank you." A terrible hope was inside him, tangling up his thoughts.
"Do the police know what happened?" she asked.
"No. They're working on it."
"Do they have any suspects?" she asked.
"I don't think so," he said, his heart pounding. The awkward silence grew.
"Well, I just wanted to check on you," she said finally. "I hadn't seen you in a while."
"I thought that's what you wanted," he said.
"I'd still like us to be friends," she said.
He shook his head. "I don't know if that's possible. I don't think it would be good for either of us."
"Don't be silly," she said, walking over to him. "We were friends before we started dating. There's no reason we can't be friends now. Tell you what, why don't you come to dinner tonight? Mom and Dad ask about you all the time, and I know they’d love to see you.”
"You moved back in with your parents?" he asked.
"Yes, I didn’t like living in an apartment," she said. "They offered, and my old room sounded good to me. So are you going to have dinner with us?"
"Thank you, but I can't tonight," he said. "I have a date."
"Oh?" She raised an eyebrow.
"I'm taking Lisa Trent out."
Sherry frowned. "I don't think she's quite your type."
"Thank you for your opinion."
"Now, come on, Bernard, don't get snippy," she said. "I just mean she runs with a rough crowd. That's all." She paused for a moment.
"Wasn't her father an alcoholic?"
"I don't know," he said.
"You know, I've heard she makes a habit of dating guys with good jobs," she said.
“What does that mean?" He looked at her, angry and confused.
"Nothing. No reason to get upset,” Sherry said, holding up one hand. “She just seems to take care of herself, that's all. Well, I must be going." She turned to go but looked back at him from the door. "Maybe tomorrow night?"
"I'll have to see how my work's going," he said.
"Yes, I imagine you have a lot to do. Daddy said you'd probably get the Head Librarian job," she said. "Daddy thinks a lot of you, you know." She left.
Bernard stood silently, his fists clenched. How could she do this to him? He could never be just friends with her. And how dare she criticize Lisa! Maybe she was jealous? And if she was jealous, perhaps she still loved him. No, he thought. I won't do this to me again. It's over between us. I've been hurt enough.
Even as these thoughts crossed his mind, he had already decided to call tomorrow and accept her invitation.
End excerpt. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.