The Reckoning39 mins 59 39 mins 59
A Death In The Middle Of Tomorrow
Vy O’lens Murder Mystery
Donald Harry Roberts
Tomorrow. Who the hell would name a town Tomorrow? Why would anyone live there and worst of all things, who would have a kid there?
Daddy was a jerk. An important man in Tomorrow but he was still a jerk. We could have lived anywhere. He was a lawyer. But, no, he was born and raised in Tomorrow and Tomorrow needs a lawyer. He was also the mayor for a session and advocate for keeping Tomorrow Wood Industries afloat so the people of Tomorrow wouldn’t lose their jobs and cause the damn, stupid little town to fold in on itself and probably become a ghost town. I always thought that would have been a good idea. Who needs a furniture town named Tomorrow.
Daddy arrange for the companies employees to buy the place. That means they bought their jobs and all 285 of them had a share.
It worked. Seven of the share holders worked hard to find buyers for the furniture the factory made. It was good furniture, not the slap together with glue stuff made out of wood chips and plastic.
It was going strong when I left for college. Daddy wanted me to become a lawyer and take over his practice. I had no intension of doing that. If I got involved with the law, it would be law enforcement, which I did. I became a cop. Climbed the ladder against all odds and got my Detective Sergeant’s badge.
Three months later I got shot up in a drug raid and lost my left leg from the knee down. I still had the knee. Below that was a state of the art prosthesis. If you didn’t know I had a fake leg you never figure it out by the way I walk. I got that down pat, fast. But I couldn’t be a cop anymore. Instead, I got a PI license.
Who the hell would name their kid Vyolet, with a last name like O’lens knowing their name would probably get cut down to Vy. Nonetheless Daddy named me Vyolet, after his mother, and when I hung my PI shingle it read Vy O’lens Private Investigator. If anyone catches on and asks about it I just tell them it’s an Irish thing.
Tomorrow is a town smack in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a million acres of forest, well, maybe not a million, and lots of it is new forest. The company has its own lumber mill and reforests when ever it clears an area. Daddy was the one who insisted on the reforestation when he was mayor. It keeps the population of Tomorrow employed and recently they even opened there own store, on line, that keeps the whole damn place going.
I only visited home once after I left. I went to attend Daddy’s retirement party and try and talk him into coming to the city to live with me. Mom died a long time ago. I never went to her funeral. I’ll never tell anyone why I hated her, but I think Daddy figured it out, only too late. She died because she drank to much one night, mixed in with a few pills I heard. That was after Daddy was mayor.
Daddy remarried. Her name was May. I saw her a few times when they visited the city. The last visit ended in a shouting match and she slapped me.
I would never have gone back again, but dumb luck made me. I took on a client who was looking for her brother.
It went like this.
The middle of the night in the heart of Manhattan’s Lower east side is not the best place to be out and about alone, but Amy Core had a problem. In her mind, a very big problem. She came banging at my office door at three am. I was camped out on the couch, which I do regularly. She knocked so hard I jumped up and ran for my gun hanging on a hook on the coat rack in its holster.
My shingle is visible from the street but my office in on the third floor of a refurbished department store, now an office building. The door is a wooden thing with a frosted glass window. My moniker is etched into the glass. It was a gift from my old police cronies.
Her silhouette looked like something out of a bad slice and dice movie, something horrible in a hood with a dark shadow for a face. I didn’t know it was a she at the time. Just a shape in frosted glass.
Gun in hand, hammer drawn and creeping up on the door like my version of a ghost I said cautiously, “This better be good or I might get scared enough to shoot.”
The answer came back in a voice that reminded me of a little brown cartoon mouse, “I need help Ms. O’lens. I was told you’re a good Go To.”
“Who told you that?” I demanded.
“Detective Lownder.” She squeaked.
I opened the door, cautiously. “Push the hood back.” I ordered. She did and said, My named is Amy Core.”
She was soaked through and through and shivering. She held her hands like she was praying, thumbs pressed against her lips and an expression on her face that spelled despair in capital letters.
I let her in. I told her to pull her hoodie off and while she did that I found a towel so she could dry her hair off. It was short cut and dried off easily. Then I made coffee.
While the coffee was brewing we talked. It was a talk that sent me on a journey I was hard pressed to believe could ever happen.
She started, “I have lost my brother. I mean I have really lost him. He has gone off before but usually only for a few days, a week once or twice, but he has always showed up sooner or later. But this time it has been a month and I am afraid…” her words trailed off.
I didn’t need to hear the rest. That part of the story told itself. People disappear all the time. Some come back. Some don’t. Some show up in the wrong places, like the morgue or the East River, but never, ever in the middle of Tomorrow. But that tidbit of info came later. The story started out in a dark little hole in the wall beer joint crammed in between and laundromat and a finger nail parlor.
Amy Core gave me as much of her brother’s story as she knew. Long story short. Eddie Core was one of those characters I call the lost people. Sad as it was his story is so common that it’s almost a cliché. College kid finds drugs, gets hooked, goes rouge and starts stealing, get kicked out of college and his digs because he can’t pay the rent and buy drugs to, and ends up a street creep scrounging for anything that’ll buy him one more day without a room at the morgue and a John Doe tag tied to his toe.
I hit Amy Core with the truth. It included a trip to the morgue for me if I took the case. Before we got too far into things I told her. “I am sorry you are this mess, and if I could afford it I’d help you out of the goodness of my heart, but I can’t. I have bills to pay, a stomach to feed and a bartender screaming at me to pay my tab.”
“I know. I can pay, for a while, a week at least.” Amy replied.
I asked out of context, “Why the hell did you wait until three am to come round and in the middle of a down pour.”
“Detective Lownder was at the place I work. He comes in often. That’s where I talked to him. He put me on to you. He said you are good at your job but told me you were expensive. I had to wait until I got off work. The Detective told me you might be here camping on the couch. So here I am. I didn’t ask for a storm.”
“You Work at the Silhouette Lounge.” I said.
Amy nodded affirmatively.
So far it made sense. A lot of cops haunted the Silhouette and Lownder was a good reference.
I said, “Okay kid. I’ll look into it.” Then a shuffled to my desk and grabbed a client contract. Some of my lawyer father had rubbed off on me. Amy signed up with a hitch. She didn’t even bother reading it over. That was a good sign too.
I poured us both a coffee. Amy cupped it in her hands like it was nectar and sipped it almost ritually.
After a minute I asked, “Did your brother have a place he hung out?”
“Yah. Its over on Stanton. Neddy’s it’s called.”
Amy grimaced and said, “You know the place.”
I nodded. It was a dark thing if a nod can be dark. Maybe it was the eyes that made the mood.
“I’ll need a photo.” I said.
Amy pulled out a cell phone. She tapped on it for a few seconds. A photo came up on the screen.
I gave her my number and told her to sent the picture to me. I said, “I love today’s technology.”
Amy just looked at me as if she didn’t understand and I suppose she didn’t. She was twenty, so she said. Technology was the norm. I thought about explaining myself but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. This wasn’t a time for a history lesson.
Essentially what I had on Eddie Core was booze, drugs and Neddy’s Bar and Grill and a photo. Not a lot but more than I had on other cases like this one. I also had Detective Lownder, my old partner. Not for the first time I wondered why he hadn’t grabbed Detective Sergeant grade. I never got around to asking. It wasn’t my business.
We were done the interview. I called for a cab and noted the address Amy gave. I checked it against the contract details as a last precaution. It matched. That gave my client another brownie point on the legit scale.
It was five am, too early to do much more than take a nap. I did and got jarred awake by the opening chords to Born to be Wild on my phone, turned up full blast. It was eight thirty. The text message read, “Did she find you?”
Me, “Yah. 3 am.”
Lownder, “Good. I am close to you. I’m dropping in.”
Me, “Sure. I’ll check my make up.”
Lownder, “laughing face.” I could almost hear him.
Five minutes later he was shuffling through the door, coffees in hand and a box of muffins.
“Breakfast with Vy.” I joked. It was a private joke that came out of a weak moment a few years back. I am sure Mrs. Lownder never found out. But then…well… you don’t need to know any more, but you can guess at it.
“Extra large and two oatmeal raisin muffins. What do you want?” I teased.
“I need you to keep me up to speed on Eddie Core.” Lownder answered straight out. That was our way.
“Ah. You’ve lost an asset.” I replied.
“Eddie is more than an asset Vy.”
“Cripes. He’s a cop.” I blurted.
“Yah, but you can’t tell your client. She has to believe her missing brother is a dead beat. She floored me last night when she came and made her informal request. I didn’t realize she had no idea that Eddie is a cop.”
“Well. He is a cop for sure but not one of us.” Lownder said.
“Federal. FBI.” I said.
“No. Federal Marshall.”
“What are you getting me into Rod?”
“Nothing Vy if you don’t dig too deep. Just do what you do.”
“You want me to find him.” I accused.
I sat there frowning at him for a minute then cracked a smile and said, “You are smart cop Roddy boy. So why aren’t you a sergeant?”
“I am, as of yesterday, but in two years I am moving on, I hope. I have applied to join the Federal Marshall bureau.”
“Okay. Lets talk Eddie Core and his sister.” I challenged.
Lownder wagged his head. “Just go with what ever Amy told you. Find her brother if you can, just keep me in the loop.”
“I feel like you are settting me up.” I complained.
“I sent you a client Vy. You’ll get your three hundred a day. I guarantee it. That’s all. No one is going to care about a street junkie as long as you don’t let it out that you know who Eddie really is.”
“Alright. I’ll find your Federal Marshall for you and try not to connect any dots in the process.” I reassured Lownder. “I’ll be heading over to Neddy’s before it opens for a private conversation with the owner. He’s a creep but he likes cleavage.” I grinned. What’s funny is I don’t have a lot of it. I’m the petite mousey brown type, but athletic and wiry.”
Rod shook his head, grinned and split.
One of the first things you learn in the business of crime and criminals is, it’s all a big game, a big circular role playing game and it takes some clever to learn how to play it and survive without the advantage of resurrection points. And yah, there’s the dice factor, a crap shoot to be exact. You make your roll then watch what’s going to happen. The dice are made of questions and cleverly placed inuendos, the leading kind that come back to you, one way or another and not always wrapped up in nice. Sometimes it comes back to you hard, fast, and nasty. Your best defense. Be quick on your feet and fast on the gun. It can nasty fast.
I grabbed a cab to Neddy’s. Cabbies are pros when it comes to snaking through Manhattan Traffic. I am good at it, but I don’t like it. When you are behind the wheel you lose half your ability to watch the streets and keep up on what’s going around you. I wanted to keep my attention on spotting my quarry, even though it wasn’t likely he’d be walking the streets.
I got to Neddy’s a half hour before the bar opened. The owner was still in the back room he used for an office. Yah. I know the place. It wasn’t the first time a case dropped me off at its door. Earl Jennick owned the place. He was as greasy as the fries and burgers he pawned off as food.
I slipped in the back door. Not quietly. I didn’t want to sneak up on a creep who kept a shot gun handy.
“Hey Earl. It’s me, Vy O’lens. I want a chat.”
“Get your tight butt in her then girly.”
I opened my jacket and shirt to show off what cleavage I did have. It was always better than nothing.
A chipmunk with stuffed cheeks in a black suit with a loose tie and a face about the colour of a candy apple. His black hair had that little dab’ll do you look, and it smelled like something too sweet.
“Sit down honey.” He pointed at a chair in front of his desk. He closed one drawer and opened another. He offered me a drink. I took it. At least it wasn’t the cheap crap he served his cheap, greasy clientele.
“I haven’t seen you in a while Vy. Was it something I said?”
“Nah. I just got jealous cause you quit ogling me when you hooked up with the red head,” I teased. He took it for what it was and made a lude proposition.
“Later maybe Earl. Right now, I need you to tell me a story.”
Later would never happen but Earl was so conceited he figured someday it might.
“Fairy tale or straight?” Earl replied.
“A little of both. I’ll give you a name and you take it from there.”
“Okay. Who’s your hero?”
“Maybe he’s a victim. His name is Eddie Core.”
Earl Jennick turned a dozen shades of deathly grey before he turned white. It took a couple of hauls on his booze and an easy three minutes to pull himself back to high blood pressure red. Then he said, “You don’t want to walk that walk little girl.”
“Sorry Earl. I have to. I am getting paid for it.”
“Then I’ll start ordering flowers for your grave.”
“Tell me the story Earl.”
He shrugged his shoulder, poured himself another drink, lit a smoke and stared into space for a bit. Then he started a short story.
“He was good. The best, until he slipped up. The wrong people found out who he really is, and I don’t mean the local crowd. I mean the big wigs who collect the cash but don’t live in the neighbourhood. It would like living in a factory you own.”
“Who are these wrong people?” I asked and the answer nearly knocked me mentally ass over tea kettle.
“I don’t know exactly who little girl, but I heard rumour that the who lives in luxury in a little town up state named Tomorrow. Who the hell would name a town that?”
My gut flipped around like I was getting tossed around in a roller coaster car, but somehow I managed to keep a straight face and asked, “When did you see Eddie Core in here last?”
“Last night actually. He came in drunk as a skunk, or it looked like he was and he smelled like it too, but he wasn’t.”
“What did he want?” I asked.
“Well, I don’t know how he knew about it, but he did. Lookee here.” Earl said and climbed laboriously from his chair and waddled through a door way at the back of the room.
I followed. It opened into a big closet. At the back of the closet was a wall. Earl stepped on something on the floor and the wall slid away to the side. “He wanted out this way. I let him go.” The wall closed.
“Then I went back to my desk. Five minutes later a couple of thugs came in looking for the ‘Bum’, they called him. I shrugged my shoulders and let them look around. Then they left. End of story.”
Earl explained the escape route. It use to be a speak easy back in the prohibition days.
We went back to his office and he fell into his chair.
“Epilogue. Where does that tunnel behind the wall go?” I asked.
“Down to an underground parkade.”
“Thanks Earl. Maybe someday I can tell you a nice story.”
“I nice ride would be better.”
I left. The thought of what he suggest nearly made me sick, but it wasn’t near as bad as hearing that I might have to take myself back to the place I swore I’d never go back to. Home. Tomorrow. I couldn’t go back without visiting Daddy and that thing he called a wife.
I called Detective Sergeant Lownder and set up a meeting. Drinks at the Silhouette. An hour later we were nursing a couple of beer acting like two old buddies who hadn’t seen each other in a while.
I gave him a cut down version of Earls fairy tale.
“You figure Eddie went there.” Lownder said when I finished.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know but someone there might knows where he went. I’ll drive up and ask some questions.”
“I could go with you.” Rod offered.
“Nah. I told him why.”
“Hell. That’s rich O’lens” he replied. I think he meant it to be seriously, but he grinned so…who knows?
I arrived in Tomorrow just after six pm and checked in to a room at the Tomorrow Motel at the highway turn off. A small part of me missed the forest, the smell, the sounds, and the deer. I was glad nothing had changed. The motel keeper looked at me like he looked at any other tourist, hunter, kayaker and..until he heard my name.
“Well now. Welcome home.” Mr. Little said warmly.
I smiled. I was glad he didn’t ask why I wasn’t staying with my father. Maybe he knew. Maybe everyone knew that I had absolutely no use for Daddy’s wife. I didn’t have much use for him either. Time hadn’t healed all.
I took a chance. I showed Mr. Little Eddie Core’s picture. “Has anyone looking like him checked in. It might have been earlier today.”
Mr. Little studied the image for a minute then wagged his head. “Can’t say I seen that face.”
I nodded and went off to my room. Then I headed down the hill on foot into town, a half mile away. You could see main Street and the Furniture factory. Most of the houses were hidden by trees. The sign on the road side read Tomorrow. Population 1023. It was bigger. When I left it was just over 600.
I went to the Woodland Restaurant and ordered supper. A sign in the window said, Under New Management. I figured old Martin Poss either sold out and retired or died. “Retired.” The waitress, a kid, said, then expanded, “Mrs. Poss died and Mr. Poss was in a nursing home in Albany. He lost it after she died and they didn’t have kids.”
I ordered a clubhouse sandwich and a beer.
Lew Pratt had been the jock in those nearly forgotten high school days. He still looked like a jock only now he was a jock in a deputy sheriffs uniform. Apparently he had seen me walking into town. I didn’t like him back in the bad old days and I was surprised when he came up to me and politely asked if he could join me.
“Sure Lew. Why not.”
“It’s nice to see you Vyolet.” He said as he lowered himself on to the booth bench across from. The same waitress came, and Lew ordered a coffee.
“What brings you back to Tom?” Locals called the town that.
I almost told him but decided to side step his question. “I never figured you for a cop.”
“Me neither, but when I got back from a tour of duty it was about the only job I could get other than a factory worker. I like sitting on chairs, but don’t much like making them.”
I laughed and said, “I get it. Being a cop is ok. I was one in Manhattan until this,” I showed him my fake leg.
“Jeez Vyolet. Ouch. Bad luck, but I guess that’s the risk you take being a cop in a big city.”
“Yah. I guess, but it got me a bit of a pension, so things are ok. I’m a PI now and sometimes it’s fun.”
“PI huh. Well, that kind of fits you.” Lew replied sincerely.
The coffee, my sandwich and my beer arrived. Lew talked about his service. I think he edited out the bad stuff, but he did say things got tough in Afghanistan.
“Whose sheriff here now?” I asked when he finished reminiscing.
“Do you remember Paul Crossly?”
“His old man was sheriff.” I spouted.
“Yup, but Paul ain’t half what his dad was. I was thinking of running for sheriff next election.”
“I’d vote for you.” I laughed.
“You going to tell me why you are here?” Lew pressed.
“Maybe. Later. I have to go see Daddy.”
“It sounds like a long story.” Lew fished.
“Not really. Just a couple of quick questions as soon as I find out who to ask.”
“Does it have anything to do with a murder. We had ourselves one last night. The guys body was found in the Park, right down town here.” Lew reported.
The Park is the middle of town. Main street splits to go around it.
“Who is the victim?” I asked.
“It’s a John Doe. Maybe you can ID it.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Not likely. I don’t know any one in town any more. There are a lot of new faces.”
“I figure this guy isn’t local.” Lew said. “care to have a look?”
I nodded. “After I visit Daddy.”
“That’s great. Are you staying with your Dad.”
“Nah. I got a room up at the motel. I’ll come round to your office later. Ok.”
“I’ll be waiting. I am on til midnight. The body is at the medical clinic on ice, so to speak, until a CSI from Albany unit can get here.”
Sometimes a gut feeling is dead on, pun intended. My visit with Daddy was about the way I expected. Mostly superficial at first then turned cold when May got involved. I could still her yelling at me, calling me every bad name she could spit out. The whole miserable visit lasted a half hour. I told Daddy to meet for breakfast in the morning, without May.
Lew was at his desk at the sheriff’s office. He was the senior deputy over three others on the night shift. He was also designated the primary investigator in the murder case.
We talked for a few minutes about Daddy then we walked over to the medical clinic. No surprises there. It was Eddie Core. I didn’t deny I recognized the corpse. I couldn’t. Lew saw it in my eyes. Eddie Core had one small caliber bullet hole in the back of his head.
I said, “Classic.”
“You had better fill me in Vyolet.” Lew demanded.
I gave him the run down, figuring I had to trust someone at this end and hoping Lew was as straight as my intuition said he was. He went a little white when I told him Core was a Federal Marshall, but I also saw a light go on in his green eyes. I was sure after that, that he was one of the good guys.
“Don’t say anything about this to the sheriff unless you have to.” He advised.
“Is he rotten?” I asked.
“I don’t know about that, but what I do know is he is stupid.” Lew replied. “he’d blab off to the mayor and well, you get it I’m sure.”
“I do…get it Lew. It sounds like things have gone a little off here.”
“We grew up a little Vyolet. Not into a big city or anything like that, but big enough to bring something bad along. I’ve noticed something, but I can’t put my finger on it, and Sheriff Crossly, well, like I said, he’s too stupid to figure out how to give a parking ticket.”
My thoughts were reeling. Things were getting messy and all I really wanted to do was turn the whole damn thing over to the cops, and Deputy sheriff Lew Pratt, What I said was, “I will have to let my client know which means I must return to Manhattan.” I announced. I wanted out of Tomorrow, today. “ But first I will call this in to Sergeant Lownder. He’s got an interest in this and maybe he will want to come out and have a look and you had better let the Marshall’s office know about their dead agent.” I advised.
Lew frowned. “Our office isn’t equipped to handle a murder. I took some courses, so I guess that makes me the lead investigator. I could sure use some help.”
I couldn’t help but wonder what changed him from that arrogant high school jock to, well, an intelligent police officer who knew his limits. Then I remembered his service time and guessed what ever happened over seas had something to do with it. And when I looked at him in that light, well, something else switched on in me and I thought, “Well I guess Tomorrow has one redeeming aspect to it.”
“I have see my client in person. That’s the way I work. I don’t want to tell the woman that her brother is dead over the phone or in a text. But I’ll come back, and I am sure Sergeant Lownder will help where he can.”
The Office door opened. Sheriff Crossly came in. He shot Lew a nasty glance then stared at me for a minute. Then recognition set in.
“What the hell is a New York Cop doing in my town?” he snarled. No hello, no nothing.
“I am not cop any more Paul. I showed him my fake leg. He grinned and was going to make a comment but said instead, “That’s Sheriff Crossly to you. What are you doing in Tomorrow and better yet why are you in my office?”
I had to tell him or lie. I looked at Lew. He gave me the ok. It wasn’t something we could get around.
“I came in to identify your murder victim. I came here looking for him for a client. I am a Private Investigator now. This fellows sister hired me to find him.”
Paul Crossly turned about as white as a human can get without being dead. He said, “And your missing person just happens to be our murder victim.”
I said for effect, “Yup, and he is a fed.” I thought Sheriff Crossly was going to feint. I kept going, just to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. “And a New York cop will be coming to Tomorrow. He has an interest in your corpse as well.”
“I’ll was about to call the Marshall’s office.” Lew pushed the button a little harder.
“I’ll call the Marshall’s office.” Crossly snapped. “And I will take over the case. You’re off it Deputy Pratt. You can look into what’s going on with Reemson case.”
“But Sheriff Crossly.” Lew Pratt tried to object but Crossly waved him off, went into his office and shut the door, hard.
“I wonder what he is doing coming in this late. I’ve never known him to be here anytime after supper.” Lew said curiously.
“Maybe he has some smarts Lew. The bad kind of smarts.” I suggested.
“Yah. That’s scary.” Lew replied.
It was after midnight. We went to Addy’s, the local pub. I passed on a drink and had a coffee instead. “I am heading back tonight, before much more can develop. I suggest you call the Marshall’s office in the morning. Tell them it’s a follow up call for Sheriff Crossly.”
“You know as well as I do he won’t call the Marshall’s tonight, and probably not in the morning.” Lew replied.
I said, “I know. That’s why you are going to call.”
Lew grinned. “Going over Paul’s head will likely get me fired.”
“I think not. I’m bringing the cavalry with me. He’ll have Crossly dancing on razor blades in two seconds flat.”
“This sergeant of yours.” Lew shot back searchingly.
I laughed at the inuendo and left him sitting there nursing a beer.
Half way to the door I stopped and turned back. “Lew. What’s this Reemson case about. Anything to do with Core or anything else that might be going on?”
Lew gave me a lights on look. “Not that I know of, but Steven Reemson was killed in a house fire about a week ago. It was interesting timing because he had been talking to the Local DA just a few days before that. I don’t know what it was about, but I think Sheriff Crossly did.”
“Great. You may have just made the plot thicker. Tomorrow is on the radar now. Get ready. If there is bad stuff going on…” I didn’t finish. I got the feeling I needed to get back to Manhattan and then back to Tomorrow before the proverbial shit hit the fan.
I said, “I’ll be back by breakfast” as I headed for the door.
“I’m buying.” I heard Lew call after me.
I went back to the motel to pick up my car. I was on edge. Suddenly, every shadow looked dangerous. I told myself I watched to many conspiracy theory movies but that didn’t help. But that night I got luck. I drove out Tomorrow and made it back to the city without any trouble. And by breakfast time Sergeant Lownder, Deputy Sheriff Pratt and I were having breakfast on Pratt at the Woodland.
I was glad that Lew and Rod hit off personally and professionally. I had a feeling that it could turn out that it would be us against the town and hopefully we would be reinforced by the Marshall’s office.
Between a mouthful of egg and sausage Lew said, “I called the Marshall’s office. You were right Vyolet. The Sheriff hasn’t made his call yet. I was told an agent would be sent out today.”
Rod shook his head. “Sounds like your Chief is a little cockeyed.”
“I think he might have inherited it.” Lew revealed a new aspect. “That’s why he is Sheriff. It can’t be because he knows what he’s doing. His old man must have had secrets and if a new sheriff got in and wasn’t connected then, well, the pot would have boiled over a long time ago.”
“I think killing Core was a mistake.” I put in. “But someone thought it was necessary. I don’t think anyone would have picked up on his disappearance so fast if it hadn’t been for his sister hiring me to find him. I think they would have spirited the body away.”
The street door opened. Daddy walked in. “I gotta go guys. I forgot about making plans to have breakfast with my father.”
I climbed out of the booth and went to meet him. He greeted me with a hug, but it wasn’t anything like warm and fuzzy like he had always tried to do. Then he said, “We have to talk.” My gut churned because I knew the tone. He came as the bearer of bad news.
Daddy said nothing. He just looked at me sadly until the waitress came. He ordered a soft boiled egg, toast, orange juice and coffee. I think he had eaten the same breakfast every morning for as long as I could remember. I wasn’t hungry but I ordered toast and coffee.
The coffee came first. Nether one of us had said anything still, but then, after the waitress departed Daddy came right out with his news. It was twofold.
“Look kid. I got a call from Mayor. He was asking about you all friendly like, but it wasn’t really a friendly call. He was a little too curious about why you are here. Maybe I am too. I know you didn’t come all this way to see me.”
“It’s confidential Daddy.” I replied and suddenly wondered why I still called my father Daddy.
“Ok Kid, but you might want to watch out for things you might not expect out of Tomorrow.”
I replied, “Yah. I kind of got that.” I was going to elaborate but something held my tongue still. Something my gut loathed over. Something I didn’t want to believe.
Daddy went on, a complete subject change. It floored me.
“”I’ll be dead soon. I could drop dead any second and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. I’ve had a bad heart for years. A month ago, it put me in the hospital. The next attack will probably kill me.”
I should have felt something more than, “Well. So. We all gotta go someday.”, but I didn’t.
“I am leaving everything to you, except some money that belongs to both May and I. I can change that. I’d have kicked her out years ago but then a divorce, well you know what that would have cost me. This way, she can’t fight a will and I’ve got it air tight. Any thing I can I am signing over to you before I die. I will need you to come with me to see Arnold, my lawyer. On Friday coming. The house unfortunately is in half in May’s name.”
I couldn’t help but smile despite the nature of Daddy’s news. I smiled because in the end he was protecting me against his wife. A witch if ever there was one.
I took it all in then said, “You know why I am here, and I sense you know something about what is going on.”
Daddy smiled. “That’s my little girl. But I can’t tell you anything. I might die in ten minutes, but I want it to be natural. I don’t want to end up like that Federal Marshall being kept on ice at the medical clinic.”
I went cold. “You are part of it.” I accused.
Daddy laughed. “Kid. In a way I started it, but it got a lot bigger than me and the only reason I haven’t been shut up is I have things in place for my own protection.”
“You should give it up.” I warned.
“I will. After I am dead…naturally. Now let’s eat and talk about your inheritance and step mother.”
We talked for an hour. It was the last time I talked to him. He went home that morning and went for a nap. He never woke up. Nothing got put in my name so it was good that Daddy’s will was air tight and Mr. Arnold made sure May took what she got and shut up.
There are somethings you know that sometimes in the moment slip your mind.
It had made my report to Amy Core when I was in the city. I caught her just coming in from work, a little after four am.
She looked a little sad for a minute, then a little relieved. Then I told her about the situation, and she got mad. She called a few very nasty names before she settled down. Then she said, “I guess I should have known. Eddie wanted to be a cop. I didn’t see him for five years. Then out of the blue he showed up on my doorstep, down and out it looked like. And he never got it together over the next two years. But he did disappear for days at a time.”
I was at the sheriff’s office when she walked in. “I am here to claim my brother’s body.” She announced.
Lew got a real, sincere sad look on his face but said in good ole police fashion. “You can’t take him until our investigation is done. He is a homicide victim and the corner will be taking him to Albany. The coroner won’t be here until Thursday. In two days.”
Amy Core stared coldly at Lew for a few seconds then she said, “You will need official Identification won’t you. I’d like to see him. Now.”
“I’ll take you to the medical clinic now.” Lew agreed.
On the way out he glanced at Rod and I. “This gets messier by the minute.”
I shot back, “Yah, but wait til you her my news. Its going to rock your brain.” I hadn’t told him about my conversation with my father yet.
Lew was gone. Just as Rod and I were leaving a big guy walked into the office flashing a Marshall’s badge. “I am here to see Sheriff Crossly.”
Having heard his name, the sheriff came out from his office. “I am he.” He said. The next few seconds showed us he had no idea that a Federal Marshall was going to land on his door step.
“Marshall James.” The man flashed his ID again. “We got a call that you have Marshall Edward Core’s body. I am here to identify him and arrange to have him moved into our custody.”
Sheriff Crossly just stood there to shocked to say anything and as pale as a ghost. “But he managed to pull himself together enough to say, “This my case. He was murdered in my town.”
The Marshall replied, “Yah. We know and that’s the problem.”
Sergeant Lownder quickly introduced himself and me. “We will take you over to the medical clinic. Core is being kept there.”
Marshall James replied. “Good. Eddie mentioned you in many of his reports. He suggested you had been helpful. We should talk.”
“But its my body. My case.” Sheriff Crossly insisted.
Matt Arnold sat at his desk perusing Daddy’s files. I was glad he was looking after all the arrangement and had power of attorney to sign anything that needed signing.
I told him about the talk I had with my father. He smiled and nodded.
“The town owes its existence to Wally. Even if he did bend a few rules to save it.” Arnold explained.
“What rules exactly?” I demanded.
“Your father organize a collective loan for the employees of Tomorrow Wood Industries so that they could purchase the company. He did not secure the loan from a bank or any other usually finance company.” Arnold grinned. “You might say he made a deal with the devil. The devil being The Northstates Holding Company with a very interesting list of shareholders with names like Smith and Jones and, well, I am sure you get the idea.”
“Yah. I got it and I suppose it whole kit and caboodle adds up to a major money laundering operation.” I cut in.
“I can not attest to that of course but your guess is as good as any.”
“Ok. Daddy started the whole thing, but he said it got bigger than him.”
“That my dear I know nothing about. I am your fathers lawyer and he told me only the things I needed to know to settle his estate. Which I am now processing and will close it up ASAP.”
“You know something. You can’t do your job right without figuring something out.” I accused.
Arnold sighed. “A few years ago, there was an addition to Tomorrow Wood Industries. I am not privy to the details. The town was told that the factory needed more machines to keep up with the demand and that it would need more workers. The owners, the employees that is were informed that the new addition was a government contract and a matter of national security. In short, they had no idea what the addition was really all about except it did not include furniture. This information is quite well known by most of the people in town. And, the newcomers, nearly 400 new residents work in the extension.”
I interrupted, “Some of them must have said something.”
“You’re right Vyolet. They are open about the work they do. It is apparently a research facility. I do not know the nature of the research.”
“Daddy had no part in that.” I said.
“Your Father was out of it a year after the original loan took place. But he continued to benefit from it, legitimately.”
“And let me guess. This Northstates Holding Company holds the government contract.” I said.
“True. It pays Tomorrow Wood Industries and the town a percentage.” Arnold admitted knowing.
“It sounds legit. Why is it under investigation by the Federal Marshall Office?”
Arnold’s knowledge ended. He shrugged his shoulders and handed me a key. I suppose I should wait to give your this but in the end it won’t matter.”
It was a key to a bank security box.
Mostly what I got from Mr. Arnold was a head full of half information and half curiosity that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to ignore.
I was about to leave when May came charging in. She ignored me. She said in a tone somewhere between hatred and hope, “I don’t want the damned house. I want the estate to buy me out. I won’t be staying in this God forsaken hole of a town.”
I don’t know why but I jumped in. “Can You do that Mr. Arnold?”
“It complicates things a little but sure. I’ll get right on it if that’s what you both want.”
“I do.” May and I said at the same time. It’s the only thing we ever agreed upon.
Later I asked myself, “What the hell are you going to do with a house in Tomorrow? You’re never going to come back to live here.” And I meant it. My life was in Manhattan.
I don’t know where May went, nor did I care, but she left Tomorrow the very next day leaving a forwarding address with Mr. Arnold. The next day I moved into the house for the remainder of my strange visit to Tomorrow.
I met Lew and Rod at Addy’s. They were getting on like long lost buddies. I joined them with a beer in one hand and a burger in the other.
“I got something.” I said a little more excitedly than I meant to.
Rod shrugged his shoulders. “None of it matters. The feds have taken over. The Attorney Generals office is investigating through the Marshall’s office.”
I ignored him and told them about the factory and that half the town’s population was in on a big cover up.
Lew looked at me like I was nuts. “How could they keep 400 hundred people shut up, or what ever they are doing up there quiet. Nothing is that secure.”
“I am going there to have a look.” I said.
“You’re crazy.” Lew burst out in a hoarse whisper.
“She is. Crazy like a fox.” Rod put in. “And I am going with you.”
Lew grinned. “I guess I’m going to. When are you planning your party for.
“Saturday. The Factory is shut down on the weekend.” I announced. “in the meantime, tonight, I am going up to Lookout Cliff with a pair of binoculars. You can see the factory from there. Maybe I’ll discover something useful.”
“I’ll be on duty.” Lew noted.
“I’ll be back Saturday. I have to get home.” Rod put in.
I didn’t mind doing the spying part on my own. Look Out Cliff was kind of a lovers meeting place, or it use to be. And it was half a mile away from factory. I never ask, “What could go wrong. Something usually does if you do ask.
We finished out brews and had another. Rod went to the motel and packed up. Lew went home to catch a few winks. He was doing an eight pm to six pm shift.
I went to the house, napped a little, dug out a set of 50 x 75 binoculars dressed up in shades of grey and waited til night fall. It was dark by eight.
Sometimes stake outs turn out to be a waste of time. That’s what happened up on Lookout Cliff. Hell, kids didn’t even go up there anymore to make out in the back the car. I was surprised to discover that there were hardly any night light at the factory so there wasn’t much to see. Not even the moon was cooperative. But down below the story was different. Not that I could have done anything about it, but I missed all the excitement.
Lew filled me in over breakfast the next morning.
It went like this.
Deputy, Syd Marr radioed in about midnight. Some one was hanging around the medical centre. We’d been watching because twice before in the last three weeks, about midnight, the place had been broken into and some drugs disappeared.
Marr reported a van parked out behind the clinic on the dirt road that goes back into the woods to the pond. He saw lights from a flash light in the windows, but not near the dispensary. “It’s down by the fridges Lew.”
“Stay put Marr I’ll send Jennor to back you up and I’ll be right behind him. Don’t go in alone.” I ordered.
Jennor was there in two minutes. I made it in five and together we moved in. But just as we came round the end of the building the van took off.
We went inside to investigate the break in, checking the dispensary first. It was locked up and undisturbed. Then we went down to the fridge area. That’s where Eddie Core’s body was being kept. The thing is. Some one took him, body bag and all.
I called Marshall James on his cell phone. I gotta tell you, he was some pissed when he heard someone snatched Core’s body. He came down on Sheriff Crossly like a ton of bricks and Crossly came down on us, but none of it added up to much, except it really looked bad for Paul, and election time coming up fast.
I think he would have fired all of us if he could have. But then who would cover the night shift?
“Who would want to steal Core. I can’t see it making any difference. It won’t stop the investigation.” I put in.
“It would stop us cold actually. The sheriff would let the feds take it. I don’t think he wanted it investigated anyway. If he’s not stupid he is real clever and…wait…maybe…” Lew was saying.
“Maybe Crossly arranged the disappearance.” I suggested.
“That would mean he is more scared something he doesn’t want getting out gets out than he is worried about losing his job.” I went on.
“More likely it has something to do with his old man. Cripes what a mess.”
“I showed Lew my key and said, “Daddy said he left something behind that might cause a little trouble in Tomorrow. I’m going to the bank to see what’s in the security box.”
We went to the bank. It was one of those big boxes. Inside there were valuables like a bag of diamonds, thirty grand in cash, a few old coins I found out later were worth a fortune and finally a 32 G flash drive wrapped up in a piece of paper.
On the paper was written. “I am dead. On this flash drive there is information that with turn Tomorrow upside down. I gave my life to keeping Tomorrow alive. They turned their back on me and turned the good I did into something horrible.”
I put everything back in the security box including the flash drive. “Ok Lew. We will see what Daddy knew, but I want to wait until Rod gets back, if that’s alright with you. I have a feeling were are going to open up a can of worms that no one wants open, including the government.”
“Ok. He’ll be back Saturday. He told me he will be here for breakfast.” Lew replied.
“I’ll feed us at my place. We’ll use my lap top. Daddy has Wi-Fi. I never knew he was so tuned in.”
There wasn’t much more I could do until Saturday, so I spent most of my time exploring the house. My old room hadn’t changed. In fact, nothing much had changed. I figured Daddy must have kept May in line. Most women would have made the house their own. At first I couldn’t find anything that suggested May had ever even lived in the house. No clothes, no girly mementos, no jewelry, no shoes, and no pictures. It was like she had cleaned herself out of existence.
The cellar was like any other century and a half old house cellar, not much good for anything except housing the furnace and water heater and a few rodents. It was cold and damp and I wasn’t going to give it much of a search until I found door behind the furnace. I figured it was once a root cellar and was going to give it a pass until I noticed that there was electrical wiring going into it.
I tried to open the door, but it was lock and seated into its frame tightly. What I found curious was, the door didn’t have a handle or a lock.
When I touched the door, something flashed in my mind, like one of those Déjà vu moments that you can never quite keep hold of. All I got out of it was a sense of feeling old, very old, and displaced. But, like I said, it only lasted a second.
“Ok Daddy. What’s the secret here?” I said out loud, and like he answered me I thought. The secret will be revealed on the flash drive. That made me even more intrigued.
You remember say at least a dozen times a year, “If I only knew then what I know now.” I thought that many times after I found that door and read Daddy’s journal stored on the flash drive. Not just a journal of words, but pictures and videos as well.
I went through the rest of the house, room to room and found nothing else of particular interest. But later I learned the house itself was full of secrets.
I spent a lot of time with Lew. It just seemed natural. I even got to thinking it might turn into something more than beer and talking about the case. And it might have, but shit happens and somethings that might have happened didn’t.