Bad News Travels Slow – Continued
“We’re not doing a damn thing.”
Well, that little bulletin left Dinwiddie grinning, the Police Chief looking like a Pekingese who didn’t make it to the backyard in time, and me wondering what to say next. Dinwiddie jumped into that uncomfortable gap.
“Does that surprise you, my friend?”
The whole place was beginning to smell less like cookies and more like sour milk.
“Surprisingly – No.” I said. I figured at least one of us had to be honest.
Dinwiddie turned to the Chief who was left hanging there. “You can go now, Chief. We’ll talk later.” Without saying another word the Chief nodded and walked out the office door. I wonder if he said goodbye to Miss Quick on the way out?
Dinwiddie now put his focus on me.
“You’re not surprised? Why is that? I would think that you would be, outraged, even.”
“Nothing surprises me anymore, Mr. Dinwiddie. I’ve been in this town most of my life, looking up from the bottom. From down where I’ve lived you can see under the skirts. There are no more surprises, just disappointments.”
We just stared at each other for a few seconds, until Dinwiddie got uncomfortable looking at me. I don’t think he felt that way very often up there in his Crow’s Nest of an office.
“I’ll be in touch, Mr. Dinwiddie. Thank you for your time and the “Top Hat and Cane” number.”
He stood up when I did. He extended his hand. I didn’t take it.
On my way out I could see his secretary shuffling papers on her desk, looking busy to avoid looking at me. I gave her a cheerful farewell.
“You might want to go in there, Dorothy; I think your Wizard might want to click your heels together about now.”
I learned a lot from my visit with Granny Sweet. It didn’t answer any real questions for me, but it told me that I needed to start asking more of them.
When I got back to my office I called Mrs. Sweet’s number. I told her that I needed to talk with her again. She gave me their address – about a fifteen minute drive – if traffic was light and I didn’t get lost. Her part of town was not where I spent a lot of time.
The Sweets lived on a street with trees. The only trees in my neighborhood had telephone wires hanging on them.
The houses were big, but not what I would call “mansions.” There was only one car in the driveway. I guess I expected more. I parked on the street.
Mrs. Sweet answered the door herself and led me into the kitchen. She had set out two big coffee mugs; one already had some coffee in it. Without asking, she poured a mug full for me. We sat down and she started right in while I poured real cream into my coffee.
“What have you learned? Have you found my husband?”
I took a sip while she talked. When she stopped for a breath I jumped in.
“No, I haven’t found him yet. I have learned some things and that’s why I’m here.
“When you first came to me and I asked you if you had gone to the Police about your husband, you said that you thought that it might be the Police who made him go missing. Right?”
She nodded, so I went on.
“What makes you think that?”
She peeked at me over the lip of her mug. She was trying to avoid looking at me.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, lowering the mug. “You know how things are in this town. You don’t know who you can trust” A non-answer answer.
So far the only person who’s given me a straight answer is the Police Chief and he had to be ordered to do it.
“Mrs. Sweet, when you said that to me back in my office you had a reason. What is it? Have the Police said something to you, threatened you? Has Dinwiddie threatened you?”
“Mr. Dinwiddie? Heavens – No. He’s the one person I feel I can trust – other than you, that is. He has been very comforting.”
I stopped in mid-sip. That was a very naïve comment from a very suspicious lady. Dinwiddie – “comforting?” I’d call a rattlesnake comforting before I’d use that word on him.
“Very comforting,” she repeated even though I hadn’t said a word.
The coffee was hot, but not hot enough to make me sweat. Maybe hers was a little hotter, because I could see little beads of sweat on her upper lip and forehead. She wasn’t this nervous when she first came to me about this mess. It was time for me to either jump in or get out because the truth was being shoved into the attic like the crazy uncle nobody wants to talk about.
“One more question, Mrs. Sweet, then I’ll be going.”
“So soon?” She dabbed at the sweat on her lip and smiled.
“I need to know, Mrs. Sweet, have you heard from your husband? Tell me. Now”
Her smile melted as she looked at me. Her lower lip started quivering.
“Have you spoken with him?”
“Yes, but…” I cut her off before she could continue.
“What does Dinwiddie want?”
— To be continued —