This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1300 words.
I had guessed Doherty would be on time, and he was. He was like no detective I had ever seen before. Stick-thin, and dressed in a dark suit, he looked more like an undertaker than a cop. Cropped black hair, and pale skin that didn’t seem to have ever seen sunlight. He insisted on showing me his shield to identify himself, and refused my offer of coffee. “I don’t drink coffee, Sheriff”. I started to be concerned about him right off. Who doesn’t drink coffee?
He wasn’t a man for pleasantries either. No small talk, straight down to what he had come for.
“Sheriff, I will need to speak to various people around town, and also to Frederick Hayes, who I believe has moved south. I have already contacted County Hospital with a request to go and talk to Thomas Clinton. As for Edward Silverman, I have spoken to him on the telephone, and I am happy with what he told me. I just wanted you to know that I will be around, out of respect for your position here. However, I do not need you to accompany me. I will stay at the motel for now, as I would like to speak to you once I have made my investigations”.
There was something strange about the man. It was as if he wasn’t all there. I had let him ramble on without interruption, but it seemed to me he didn’t really know how things worked outside of Renton. “Detective Doherty, I am sure you will agree that it might be better if I went along with you? People don’t take kindly to strangers in towns like Riverdale, and me being there might make things easier for you”. He carried on staring straight into my eyes as he spoke. “I’m afraid that will not be possible. You were one of the boys at the river that day, and it would not be appropriate for you to listen to what anyone tells me”.
I knew I wasn’t going to like this man. Not one bit.
“Then you do what you have to do, detective, and good luck with that. It all happened a long time ago, and memories play tricks. Besides, you won’t get anything out of Tommy. He’s been on the Mental Ward since that Sunday, and has shut down completely. I tried to get Duke to talk to me, but nobody knows where he is. Last I heard, he had gone to Chicago”. Doherty opened a leather briefcase and removed a slim folder. “Paul Tyson is still in Renton, Sheriff. He works at an engineering company. I have already spoken to him”.
So the couple had lied to me that day. I should have known better than to believe them. I hadn’t bothered to check afterwards, and now this strange guy was making me look stupid.
Removing another folder from his case, Doherty carried on. “Milly Hooper. I understand she was working that night? I have an address for her here in Riverdale, but I have been unable to contact her”. I shrugged. “Milly’s long gone, detective. She seemed like an old lady when I was sixteen. She retired when I became a deputy, and died maybe ten years later. You will only find her in the cemetery”. I was sure he already knew that, and wondered why he had mentioned her. “Pretty much all of them have gone now, Doherty, so other than me and Freddie, I don’t really know who you expect to be able to speak to”.
Sliding his files back in the case, he stood up. “That’s all for now, Sheriff. I will call you in a couple of days to arrange to speak to you. Once I have done what I need to do around here”.
He didn’t offer his hand, so I kept mine in my pocket. I walked out behind him so I could see what car he was driving. The black four-door was a typical detective car, and would be easy to spot around town. I intended to keep an eye on this guy.
Liam drove out to the motel and booked a room for two nights. He had easily spotted the new Jeep Cherokee in his rear-view mirror. Dark Red, and hanging back just far enough not to seem too obvious. When he had turned into the driveway leading to the motel, it had carried on up the road at normal speed. In the room, he unpacked some clothes and hung them up in the wardrobe. But he wasn’t about to leave any personal stuff around. And his files and notebooks would all be locked in the trunk of his car. He knew enough about small town motels to know that the manager wouldn’t hesitate to let a deputy or the Sheriff into his room when he wasn’t there.
There was still plenty of time to drive down to Fairview. Liam called from a public phone rather than use the one in his room. Best if nobody knew who he was calling. He spoke to Hayes, and told him he was on his way. When he drove out onto the road from the motel, he soon noticed the Jeep again, parked to the left of the bridge. But this time, it didn’t follow him.
Freddie Hayes was a lot heavier than he had been in his youth. Marriage and good food had filled him out, and thickened him up. Since his Dad had died, he had expanded the dealership, and was doing real good, as far as he was concerned. The last thing he needed was some pencil-neck cop asking him all kinds of questions about that Sunday. But here he was, sitting across from him at the desk.
“Like I told you detective Doherty. When I got to the deep water, I didn’t really feel like swimming. The girls were in the water for so long I got bored. When I suggested we go into town for some ice cream, they said they wanted to stay in the water. Duke had already left. He was awkward around girls, you know? So I went home. It was awful hot that day, and I went up to my room and lay on my bed. My folks gave a statement that I was home, you must have read that?” Doherty didn’t answer that question, and asked more of his own instead. “What about your friend Tommy? What was he doing all this time?” Freddie smiled. “Well we all knew he was sweet on Donna, and supposed she liked him too. But when we got down there she kind of ignored him. She was chatting and laughing with me and Mel. Tommy got in a sulk, and stomped off into the bushes. I didn’t see him again that afternoon”.
Liam was writing in a notebook, and spoke again without looking up. “And Clayton Farlowe?” Freddie smiled again. “Hell, Clay’s the Sheriff up in Riverdale, you can ask him yourself. Far as I recall, he stayed on the bank at the usual spot. Said he didn’t want to come with us to go swimming”. Still writing, Liam pressed the point. “So you didn’t see him anywhere around the swimming place? According to Paul Tyson, he thinks he saw him heading there as he walked home”. Freddie shook his head. “Nah, Duke’s got that wrong. I was there for a good while. When I left, the girls were still in the water, and Clay wasn’t around. Besides, he was still at the same spot when Tommy showed up, all crazy and cut up. He was the one that went for help”.
The detective closed his notebook and stood up.
“Thanks for your time, Mr Hayes. Be aware I may need to talk to you again”.