#freewritechallenge #mondayblogs January 9 (Part Trois)
Donna led them back across the street to the sheriff’s office. As she unlocked the door, she asked. “You don’t mind that I’m helping you out, do you Mr. Coffey?” She smiled as she held the door for him.
Meeting her eyes, he grinned. “Not at all, Deputy Holslaw.” He walked past her and headed for the long table. “I appreciate it very much. I hope I can find a way to repay you.” He sat down and picked up the pen.
“I wouldn’t be a bit surprised that something will turn up. Now, I have to ask. Do you have any kind of record or anything else that would turn up in an background check?”
He smiled. “No. Not even traffic tickets. Or parking, for that matter. I am adopted, so you may turn up more than I’ve ever been aware of.” His smiled dimmed. “My folks are having a hard time right now. That’s why I haven’t contacted them for help. I just told them how I lost my job and was looking for another.” He frowned.
“When was the last time you contacted them?”
“It’s been several weeks.” He gestured. “I haven’t been around anyone to borrow a phone or even scrounge up change for a postcard.”
Donna pulled out her phone. “Here. I’ve got unlimited time, so talk as long as you want.” She pulled a card out of her pocket. “If they want to write, you can use this address. We’ll get you rested up and fed, maybe find something for you to do. You never know how things might turn out.” She smiled and walked over to a door with a glass panel. It had ‘Sheriff’ in black and gold, hand painted on the glass. “I’m going to roust the sheriff from his day off and get things started.” She looked at the clock. “About all we can do today is get things organized to start in the morning. After I get the ball rolling we can swing by the bunkhouse and get it set up.”
She unlocked the door and went inside. Flipping the light on, Donna closed the door, crossed to the chair behind the desk and sat down. She tucked the phone between her shoulder and ear, then dialed. “Shérif, comment va la pêche? Uh hunh? I see. Told you it was too early. It will be another few weeks before they’re ready to start biting.
“No, as a matter of fact things aren’t quiet. Right now, I need your approval to get some things started. No, not that serious. Someone found a briefcase that contained a nice leather box marked Molenaar Jewelers. It was found under a bush out where 6 meets 99, more than half buried in the dirt. Said it looked like the growing bush had pushed it up. Brought it in unopened.” She listened. “Mmm, yes that’s right. That’s what I figured. No. I don’t think it would be worth it to bring in a cadaver dog.” She paused and shook her head. “No. It would take too long to get permission from the state highway department then the state police would want in on it. It would turn into a total cluster. We just need to go out there and dig.” She paused. “We can figure out the most likely placement of a body—if there is a body—and dig according to hunches. If we find something, we treat it like a crime scene. No one around here turned up missing or suddenly left town. If it was a falling out of partners, they would have taken the loot.”
She snapped her fingers. “Damn. I haven’t checked inside the case yet. Maybe it was buried after they put the jewelry in something else. Of course I was waiting for you.” She laughed. “Because if I opened all by myself I might be tempted to run off with the handsome fella that brought the case in. Well, you just take your time. It’s all tucked away under lock and key where it will keep until morning.” She shook her head. “I’ll find some people who’ll help with digging and take care of the landscaping out there at the junction.” She listened. “Well, there are a few strange things. The one I will tell you about is what the fellow first said to me. ‘Bonjour, tu est la joie de ma vivre, Je t’aime.’ And he doesn’t speak French.” She smiled. “Because of the utter shock on his face and he said he had no idea what he said or why.” She listened. “I’m putting him up out at La place de papi for the night. I’ll come right out and ask him, that’s how. Besides, Mabel took right to him. Okay. I’ll see you in the morning. Bye.”
She chuckled and said. “C’est la vie. L’amour n’attend personne.”
She picked up the phone and made a few more calls. She came out and locked the sheriff’s office. When she turned and found Franklin still on the phone, she busied herself with cleaning the coffee pot and other things around the office.
“Thank you. You’ve really helped me a lot today.”
She turned and smiled. “You’re welcome. Come on, the day’s not over yet.” She watched as he grabbed his backpack and followed her. She waved at the deputy pulling in next to her car. “That’s the evening shift. I asked him to come in early.” She waved as he got out of the car. “Hank, this is Franklin Coffee. I’m putting him up out at grandpa’s bunk house if you need me. It should be just another quiet evening.”
“Sure, Donna. I’ll let you know if a crime wave starts.”
On the way out to the farm at the edge of town, she asked. “How did you get the scar?”
“Playing shortstop at the company picnic softball game. Ball took a wild bounce and caught me on the jaw just right.”
Donna chuckled. “I had my nose broken playing first base. It was at a family reunion. A cousin thought she could knock me off base while I was catching the ball.” She glanced at him, then back to the road. “The shortstop threw to me as she came barreling in. When the dust cleared, my foot was still on the base, the ball in my glove. When she saw the blood dripping and my crooked nose, she threw up and passed out.”
“Is everyone that competitive?” He chuckled.
She signaled to turn left. “Oh yeah. The whole family loves baseball. We play softball until we get good enough then move onto baseball.” After a pickup with a load of hay bales went past she turned down a graveled lane. “Of course some don’t take to playing. But everyone loves watching.” She pulled past the large, two story farm house and parked in between the barn and bunk house. “We’ll turn the power on.” She gestured to the barn, then nodded at building with a long porch and several windows.
As they shut the car doors, Franklin looked around. “This is beautiful. Almost picture book perfect.”
Donna led the way to the barn. “Actually, that pretty much sums it up. When the town was founded before the war, they took ideas from movies and books.” She moved a loose board to the side and placed her hand on a dull silver square. There was a faint click. She let the board slip back into place. She turned and smiled at him. “Worried yet?”
“Not in the least. Whatever caused me to speak in an unknown language—French, wasn’t it?” He continued when she nodded. “Also gave me a feeling of trust.” He shrugged. “I’m guessing you mean World War II?”
“Yes.” She slid the large door to the side and beckoned him to follow her in. “With the growth of fascism in Europe, the family was formed. They converted their pooled assets into easy to carry and conceal items.” She opened a door next to an empty stall and flicked on a light. Stepping in, she opened a large metal panel and flicked two switches. Shutting the panel she came out and crossed the barn to another door. Inside were a number of water valves. She opened one of them. Closing the door, she led him out of the barn.
“After they got to America, they finally settled here.” She closed the sliding door. “I won’t lock this since you’re here. I’ll show you around the place later.” They continued toward the bunk house. “This area was still open to homesteading at the time. One of the terms of the Homestead Act was that it granted citizenship when all the requirements were met.” She paused when they stepped up onto the porch. “With the clouds of war gathering, little attention was paid to the family. They worked hard, created a town and farms. Most importantly, they paid their taxes. Come on, it shouldn’t be too bad inside. It’s sealed so that outside air is filtered before it enters.” She smiled at him as she opened the door. “A result of the fallout scares of the 50s. Before we realized that the human race wouldn’t survive a nuclear war. But it does make housekeeping easier.”
He looked around. “Good idea. Makes it almost like the self-cleaning houses we’re supposed to be living in.” He met her eyes. “Auburn had a theater that showed Newsreels along with old movies.”
She laughed. “That’s almost odd. We still have one that does that.” She led the way to one end of the open room. “In here is the washer.” She nodded across the hall. “The shower is in there, bathroom next to it.” She frowned. “Papi used to keep extra clothes around. Hang on while I look.” She went to a door at the end of the hall and opened it. She entered, then called to him. “Yeah, they’re in here with bedding and towels.” She came out. “Go on in and look around. There should be clothes to fit you. Go ahead and get cleaned up. You can toss in a load of clothes while I go up to the house and see what I can find for supper. We’ll hang them on line after we eat.”
She paused at the door and smiled at him. “Tu ne sais pas de quoi demain est fait.”
[Special thank you to my French coach/advisor/translator, Kira. I’ve run the phases through google translator for those who don’t speak French—like me, and they give you the idea of what they mean. Just not the feeling of when you declare un-dying love in French or the sarcasm of the last line.]
#freewritechallenge #mondayblogs January 9 (Part Deux)
“What the hell?” She muttered. When nothing came charging out, she motioned for him to stay behind her and moved forward. She frowned when the chittering stopped as they reached the opening. Stepping to the side she pointed her pistol into the opening.
Franklin watched her eyes grew wide and she slowly lowered her pistol. She blinked, shook her head and glanced at her pistol. She put it back in her holster. She grinned at him and started laughing as she beckoned him over.
“You’re not going to believe this.” She laughed.
Intrigued, he stepped beside her. “Hmm? Someone is building an eight foot tall beaver?”
“It’s the old school mascot.” She chuckled. “The sheriff wore it when he was in high school. He was mascot during basketball season, his brother was mascot during football season.” She met his eyes. “They were fraternal twins; the sheriff played football, his brother was tall enough to play basketball. It happened years before I was in school, all I saw was photos.”
“Is the sheriff into robotics?”
“His teenage son is. Won a state championship last year.” She looked around the exposed area and nodded. “I’ll ask grandpa, but this looks like a storage room. I bet they got a kick out of hiding it like this.” She shook her head. “I bet this is a surprise for the sheriff’s fiftieth birthday. It’s a month away. His mother may be in on it. She’s the one that talked them into being team mascots for each other. Come on. Let’s close this back up and go get lunch.”
She was still chuckling as they drove back to the sheriff’s office and parked. Grabbing the file, she said. “Come on. The diner is across the street. Don’t worry about your clothes, farmers and mechanics come in all the time.” She smiled as he stepped ahead and held the door for her. “Thanks. Hey Mabel.” She called to the woman pouring coffee at the counter.
“Hey, Donna. Be right with you.”
Donna led the way to a table near the window. “This way Mrs. Crenshaw can keep an eye on us.”
“Here you go.” Mabel handed them menus. “You want coffee, hon?”
“Thank you, Mabel.”
“I’ll be right back to take your orders.” She bustled off, filling several cups along the way.
“It’s okay. Order whatever you want.” Donna opened two creamers and poured them in her coffee. “We’ll take a look at this file. Later, if you like, I can take you out to grandpa’s place. He’s got a bunk house that hasn’t been used in a while, but is still solid. He leases the farm land out. He and grandma are on a cruise right now but I know he won’t mind.”
He glanced at her. “Thank you. It would be nice to get a good night’s sleep. You’ll let people know so that don’t think I’m breaking in?”
She smiled. “I will. But by the time we’re done with lunch, it’ll be all over town.” She nodded to a table with four farmers in caps and overalls. “I’ll introduce you to Bill. He’s got the place next door and keeps an eye on the house. Steve, sitting next to him in the John Deere cap, is the one that farms the place.”
They gave their orders to Mabel.
Donna opened the file and started reading. “Pretty basic.” She frowned as she read the bottom of the third page. She opened the folder and pulled out a manila envelope. Glancing at him, she said. “There’s a sketch of a suspicious person that was hanging around a few days before the burglary. The sheriff,” she looked at him. “The same one as now, Wayne Bradbury, interviewed several people who saw the man. Even made a note that he remembered seeing him, too. However, everyone agreed that the ‘suspicious man’ had caught a ride out of town with Earl as he went to pick up a car that broke down on the freeway twenty miles away. Earl confirmed that he dropped him off at the freeway and watched as he caught a ride on a truck heading east.” She looked up as Mabel set their plates down.
“Thank you,” Franklin said.
“You’re welcome, hon.” Mabel smiled at him and winked at Donna.
Donna set the envelope down and picked up her club sandwich. She figured that he wouldn’t start until she started. She also needed to think about what she’d read in the report. $250,000 worth of gems plus two sets of antique jewelry worth in excess of $100,000 estimated value. They were due to be couriered to New York for appraisal. The sheriff surmised that was a connection to whoever broke into the safe. It was turned over to the insurance investigators. The sheriff had noted updates every month for the first year, then twice the next year. At the end of two years, no leads had been found and the insurance company paid the Molenaar sisters. They held clearance sales, then closed up and moved to Arizona.
“Would like a piece of pie, hon? Donna?”
Donna looked up. “Sure. Any blackberry left?”
“I’d take piece of apple.”
“Sure thing. Ice cream? I thought so.” Mabel filled their coffee cups then cleared the empty plates.
“Okay, let’s take a look at this sketch.” Donna bent the prongs up and opened the envelope. She pulled several sheets halfway out, frowned and stopped. She stared at the drawing.
“What’s wrong?” He asked.
She looked at him, then at the picture. “You’re about twenty-five or so?”
“Twenty-seven. Born in 1990, September 23.”
“And the scar on your chin?”
“This?” he touched the faint, quarter inch crooked line near his jawline. “Three years ago at the company picnic.”
“Here you go, hon. Donna. Hey, that’s a nice drawing. But she always does good work.”
“Who does good work?” Donna asked.
Mabel laughed. “Look at the signature, deputy.” She walked to take care of the register.
Frowning, Donna pulled the picture out. She sighed, looked at him and turned the sheet around. “Mrs. Crenshaw. Mabel’s right, I should have recognized it. She has butterfly drawings for sale in her shop.”
Franklin looked at the picture of himself. He glanced at the signature. “Dated September 23, 2006.” He smiled faintly as he met her eyes. “The beginning of my senior year in high school. I had a birthday party. I’m sure my mom has pictures.”
Donna chuckled and shook her head. “You didn’t look like that ten years ago. With the scar you received three years ago. Did you get stitches?” After he nodded, she continued. “There would be medical records to back that up. Nor would I consider a close male relative.” She took a bite of pie.
She swallowed. “That is you.” She glanced around at the table of farmers as they stood up. She beckoned Bill over. “Bill, this is Franklin Coffey. I’m going to take him over to grandpa’s place later so he can stay in the bunk house.”
“Glad to meet you, Mr. Coffey.” He winked at Donna as he shook hands. “I’ll make sure everyone hears about it.” He smiled as he glanced out the window. “Between me and Mrs. Crenshaw, word will get around.” He leaned toward Donna. “Thanks for getting me out of paying for coffee.”
She laughed as he went out the door. “Speak of the devil.” She waved. “Mrs. Crenshaw, would you like to join us?”
“I would love to, dear. Oh, just stay sitting.” She smiled at him as she sat down. “Now, I figured out why I thought he looked …” she hesitated as she saw the drawing. She stared at it a moment, then at Franklin. “Good grief. That is strange. How could I have drawn that ten years ago to look exactly like you today?” She looked at Donna. “That’s the file about the jewel robbery, isn’t it?”
“Yes. He had just turned seventeen and started his senior year in high school.” She looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
“Upstate New York, Auburn.”
Mrs. Crenshaw shook her head. “Better than a thousand miles away. And I had already been here ten years.” She looked at Donna. “Why do you have this file out?”
“He brought in a silver briefcase. When I opened it there was a nice looking box with Molenaar Jewelers printed on it. He found it under a bush out where 6 comes off of 99.”
“That’s three miles out!” Mrs. Crenshaw exclaimed. “No wonder you looked worn out.”
Franklin cleared his throat. “Not the furthest I walked today.” He looked at Donna. “I didn’t get a chance to tell you. It was partially buried under the bush. More than half was buried to be precise. Now I’m wondering …” he hesitated.
Donna and Mrs. Crenshaw nodded. “If anything else is buried there.” Donna sighed. “The junction got landscaped that summer.” She looked at Mrs. Crenshaw, who nodded. “It would have been easy to dig up.”
“You finish your pie, dear.” Mrs. Crenshaw patted her hand. She smiled up at Mabel as she set a piece of blackberry pie in front of her. “Thank you, Mabel. How’s your mom doing?”
Mabel laughed. “Looking forward to school getting out. She’s already got their tickets and the suitcases are packed. She’s bound and determined to find that butterfly with your name on it.”
Mrs. Crenshaw shook her head. “I’m sure the nude beaches have nothing to do with it, right?” They both laughed.
********To Be Continued*******
[Ever have a story that takes forever to get where it’s going? And have to keep shoveling snow so that you aren’t buried or the roof doesn’t collapse?]