This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 1070 words.
Detective Doherty wasn’t fazed by the attitude of the staff at County Hospital. He handed over his service pistol as requested, and filled out the required form.
Tommy was sitting at a table in a small room, flanked by a burly attendant, and the lawyer that Doherty had insisted be present. He opened his notebook and clicked the pen, but before he could say anything, Tommy spoke. The attendant almost fell off his chair. He had worked there for sixteen years, and had never heard a word out of Tommy. The voice sounded much older than the fifty-two years of the man suddenly talking. “You State Police, right? Not Riverdale Sheriff’s Office?” Doherty nodded, and flashed the I.D. in its leather pouch. Tommy didn’t really look at it. “Okay then, but I won’t say anything with these two around”.
Liam was always a stickler for procedure. “I do believe it is in your best interests for you to have a lawyer present”. Tommy shook his head, and the attendant spoke up. “He cannot be alone with you. Don’t care if you’re police or what, he don’t get left unattended. They would have my job if they knew”. The lawyer needed no second bidding to depart, grabbing his bag and leaving the room without so much as a word. He would get paid, either way. Tommy turned to the attendant. “You could stand by the door though, will that work?” The big man shrugged. “Fine with me, long as I don’t leave the room”.
Once the man was over by the door, Tommy beckoned Doherty to lean across the table. He began to whisper, close to the detective’s ear. As he listened, Liam wrote hurriedly in the notebook, worried that the man might stop talking all of a sudden. After a couple of minutes, Tommy sat back, indicating the interview was over by staring vacantly at the opaque window and its white-painted bars. Liam stood up, and the attendant let him out.
By the time it got dark that night, Doherty had also taken statements from former deputy Hoogstraten, and Tyler too. Sitting on his bed at the motel, he reflected on a productive day. Then he phoned the motel desk to extend his stay, before calling in to Renton to advise the Captain he would be there the whole week.
I knew that Doherty would have noticed my Jeep, so the next time I followed him I used a rental car, and wore sunglasses. It didn’t take too long to work out he was heading for White Oaks, and when he took the road for the County Hospital, I knew for sure he was off to see Tommy. I stopped and turned around, heading back to Riverdale. The next time I spotted his car, it was outside Tyler’s house. That guy was sure making himself busy.
When Freddie answered my call the next morning, he didn’t seem too concerned by my question. “Yes, I had a visit from that creepy guy. He was asking what I remembered about that day, Clay. He’s a scary dude, for sure. But like I told him, it was just as we all said back then. None of us were anywhere near the girls, so it must have been Old Man Henderson”. I stayed friendly and cheerful. “If you see or hear from him again, Freddie you be sure to call me, you hear?”
Just before lunch, Doherty came into the office, and asked to see me. When he sat down across from me at the desk, he seemed more affable. “Sheriff Farlowe, I thought it only fair to apprise you of my investigations so far”. I spread my hands, and he opened his notebook. “I have just come from speaking to Mrs Riley, the mother of Paul Tyson. Her recollections of that Sunday are surprisingly clear. She has just told me that her son returned quite late that afternoon. She remembers her ex-husband arguing with him about chores that were not done, and that Paul went out again after the bust-up. He didn’t return home until shortly before a deputy came to collect him to bring him here that night. This doesn’t go with what he told me in Renton, so I wonder what your thoughts are?”
It was like having a conversation with a lizard. His face was expressionless, and his mood impossible to calculate. I wasn’t even that sure if he had actually seen Duke’s mom that morning, and I was beginning to wonder if he had ever spoken to Duke in Renton, as he had claimed to. I had got him wrong. The guy knew his stuff. “Duke was always awkward around girls, detective. He didn’t know what to say to them, or how to act with them. If they fooled with him, he would take it personal. Never saw the joke, you know? But I can’t imagine for a second he would ever have hurt Donna and Mel. I never saw him so much as squash a bug”. His face didn’t move, not a feature. I wasn’t sure the guy even blinked. Was that possible? A human who didn’t blink? Maybe Doherty was a new species. I was still staring at him when he spoke again.
“Sheriff, I think it would be most beneficial to get Paul Tyson down here. Along with you, and Frederick Hayes, we could go out to the river where it happened, and perhaps attempt some reconstruction of the movements of everyone that day. You wouldn’t have a problem with that, would you?” I shook my head. “Course not, but what would be the point? Henderson is dead, and memories can play tricks after so long. Besides, who’s to say whether Freddie or Duke have ever told the truth about that Sunday, and if what they say now is to be believed?” I was waiting for him to mention his visit to Tommy, but he said nothing about that.
Before he could reply, the phone on my desk rang. It was a cop from Indiana. My mom had died. Dropped dead in a line at the Post Office in the town where she lived. They found my contact details in her purse. They wanted me to fly up there and arrange her funeral. I hung up, and looked over at Doherty.
“It will have to wait. I’ve got to go to Indiana”.