Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cookie Jack's Adventure - Part 3 Final Segment

By the time I finished relating the events of the day, I was sweating. There didn't seem to be any air-conditioning on in the interview room. Is this how criminals felt when they were being questioned? 

The Lieutenant didn't say anything while I was relating my day's events. I put my hand up to my throat, and swallowed. My mouth was as dry as a wood chip that had been baking in the sunshine all month. 

"Hm-hm-hm," clearing my dry throat, I croaked out, "could I please have a drink of water or something wet?" 

"Why, sure, AnnaBelle." Opening the door to the interview room, he spoke to one of the other detectives to bring me a soft drink. Then he closed the door again, and asked if I could remember any thing else or if that was it.

"Yes, I believe that is everything that I did, all the people I saw, and what we discussed."

"Okay, Ms. Chasteen. Now, please write down everything that you have told me and sign it. I'll bring some water for Clancy while you begin. Edwards should be in with your soda in just a few minutes. He probably had to go upstairs to the break room to get it.

He left the room and I began writing. What was he going to do with me after he got my statement. Was he going to throw me in the clink? Why was he making me write it all down? He had it on the tape recorder, already. I was certainly going to ask him.

The Looie came back into the room with water for my little buddy about the time that Detective Edwards came in with my cola, smiling at me smugly. Oh yeah...Edwards knew I was finally on the hot seat, and was enjoying it. I would certainly hear about it from him and the other guys later on. They loved to razz me, cause they knew Mike and I were close friends. Well, right now, I didn't feel like such a close friend. I felt like a criminal. It was not a good feeling. 

"Say, Lieutenant, why am I supposed to write it all down? You have  my statement on tape and all."

"This way, AnnaBelle, we have the written word which always has to be done, and besides, having gone over your story orally, when you write it down, you may remember something you forgot to tell me on the tape. It is just good police procedure. When you finish, we'll check it against the tape and see how they both tally out."

Sitting back a few minutes, I drank the cola slowly and just watched Mike Shannon. He was a good cop and a good person. Was all this necessary, or was he just trying to teach me a lesson? Was he really worried about my safety or just irritated that I was messing into police business or was it maybe a little bit of both? Anyway, I knew he was madder than a wet cat when he had brought me back to the station. That's pretty angry, don't cha know?

"I have plans for you when we are finished here, AnnaBelle Chasteen."

Uh, oh! That sounded a little ominous.

Lieutenant Shannon took me into another room, and sat me down; of course, we brought Clancy and my cart along so neither would be misplaced, so to speak. 

"Now, I want you to watch something," he informed me. We were sitting in front of what looked like a computer monitor. He turned it on, and there I was, relating the day's events. He had been videotaping my interview! If I had not known I was innocent of a crime, I would have convicted me on appearance alone. I looked guiltier than a chicken thief caught with the hen in his hands.

I realized then that I had no business wandering around town asking questions like I was an investigator in search of clues. I was seeing myself as the Lieutenant had. I was hemming and hawing, and looking for all the world like a common criminal, as I talked about all the people I had questioned that day. No wonder the Looie was worried about me. 

"Say, Mike, how did you know where to find me, anyway?," I wanted to know. 

"Have you forgotten that I have someone following you? I knew where you were every minute of the day. She stays in contact with me, as you move from one person to another. You seem to forget that these are days of modern technology, Miss Nosy Parker!"

"She? You have women in the police squad these days?"

"Where have you been? Don't you know we have several police officers that work in our station? They are some of our most valuable assets. Now, she is going to take you to a safe house for a few days until we can follow up on some of the leads you have provided for us."

"Ah! So I was helpful to you! Which one do you think will provide the best lead?" I was still anxious to be in on the 'bust' and find the guard. 

The Lieutenant waggled his forefinger at me, and shook his head "no", smiling all the while. 

Well, I had certainly learned a lot this evening about police procedure, and I didn't think I wanted to go through that again any time soon. I shuddered to think about what "real criminals" were put through. I was sure glad the Looie was on my side. 

He took out his cell phone and called someone. Pretty soon, in came a petite woman, wearing a long-sleeved button up blouse, and knee-length slim skirt. She also had a badge clipped onto her waist band. Her hair was a dark auburn, and she smiled at me, held out her hand and spoke to me.

"Hello, Ms. Chasteen. I'm Detective Sgt. Judy Allen, and we're going to be best buds for a few days. I've enjoyed watching you work. You seem to have a natural talent for getting answers to questions, er.. also for getting into trouble, if you don't mind my saying so. I've been a fan of yours for quite some time."

Glancing over at the Looie, I smiled and said, "Well, Sgt., thankye for those kinds words. I think maybe you'n me are gonna get along mighty fine. Maybe we can even do a little detectin', ya reckon?" I felt like I had found a willing ally. She was gonna be a pushover!

"I began following you when you left the station house this morning, Ms. Chasteen. You sure do seem to get around mighty good for a lady of your years. You kind of seem to have a nose for trouble, too, if you don't mind my saying so."

"Well, thankye kindly, Sgt. Allen. Say, do ya mind if we go to a first name basis, here? You can jist call me AnnaBelle, or AnnaBee or AnnieBee, whatever ya like. I answer to all of 'em. Is it okay if I jist call ya Judy?" I was wanting to make friends with the young woman as quickly as I could. She seemed like a right likeable lady.

"Well, sure, that would be just fine with me, AnnaBelle. Shall we go, now? Lieutenant, are there any last minute orders?"

"Just keep alert and keep your eyes open for any thing that could happen. We're up against some desperate people here, and I don't want anything happening to our witnesses. We still haven't located that guard, and AnnaBelle has stirred up what looks like a hornet's nest with her questions. You know where to take her, right?"

"Yes, sir."

Mike turned to me and said, "AnnaBelle, I'm trusting you to behave yourself, okay?" Giving me a hug, he sent us off. I grabbed Clancy's leash, and Sgt. Allen took my cart in one hand and my left arm in the other. Out we went. 

Just as she hustled us into her unmarked vehicle, I noticed a young man loitering on the street corner under the street light. He appeared to have a do-rag wrapped around his head. Was that the same person I had seen in the bar?

I turned to tell Judy about him, but when we both turned to look, he was gone. Was I just imagining it was the same fellow? What if it were? It wouldn't necessarily mean he was out to harm me, would it? Heck, he might even be an undercover policeman, mightn't he? I figured I would probably never know.

Within minutes, we were out in the country, driving into the sticks. I had lived in the area for years, but I didn't recognize the area we were driving into. It looked like a new development. How could the department afford this kind of housing? 

We pulled up into a driveway of a pretty ranch style brick home. 

Judy parked the car and we got out. Clancy sniffed all around the driveway, getting acquainted with his new surroundings. He ran over and found a bush to mark his territory. 

Judy went to the side of the house and opened a gate to the back yard. "You can turn Clancy loose back here. I think he'll like having all that space to run in."

"What is this place, anyway?" I wanted to know. 

She smiled, and opened the front door with a key. "Mi Casa Es Su Casa," she replied. 

"You mean, this is where you live? You brought me to your own home?"

As she closed the door, we didn't notice the old Chevvy driving slowly past the house. 

Upon entering the house, I looked around. I was delighted by how charming it was. Judy took me on a tour through her home. It was just a six room house and had two baths, and an attached garage. You are probably wondering why we didn't pull into the garage, and I will explain that in a bit.

She took me on a tour of the bedrooms, and indicated one on the left side of the hallway that would be mine and it was next to what she said was the guest bath. One of the rooms looked like an office set-up and I asked  her if that was hers. She said, "No, that is my husband's office that he uses when he is not traveling."

That perked up my ears, because I was interested, of course, and so I asked her about his occupation.

 "He is a representative for a small manufacturing company, and has to travel quite often. So, I am happy to have you staying with me for a few days. It gets quite lonesome here, sometimes."

We continued our tour through the house, ending up in the kitchen. It had blue pull-back curtains, which she immediately closed. She had been closing drapes as we walked through the house. 

As I mentioned earlier, the back yard was fenced in with a privacy fence. That was a bit unusual, because it was one of only a few such fences in the neighborhood. 

Going into the kitchen, I noticed a door that didn't seem to go anywhere special, and I asked her about it. 

"That door goes to the garage, which we can't use because the outside door to the garage is broken, and I haven't had time to get it fixed. My husband has been gone for a few days and is not due to return till next Tuesday, and I am at work all day, sometimes into the night. It is just really difficult to schedule getting it repaired."

"Well, maybe we can get it done while I'm here, ya reckon?"

"Now, that is a good idea, AnnaBelle. Say, how about some supper? What do you like to eat?"

"Oh, jist about anything that don't bite me first, don't cha know?"

Judy got busy and fixed us a salad and some spaghetti with toasted french bread. While she worked, I sat there and asked her a few questions. The more I knew about her, the better. 

"Say, have ya been here in town very long? I don't remember seein' you around the station house when I've been there."

"No, I'm mostly working undercover. I used to live in this town a long time ago, though, with my little sister, Lily, and we moved away while she was still in school. We lived here with our parents, and they were killed in an auto accident and we were sent to live with an aunt and uncle."

"Oh, I'm sorry!" I replied, tears welling up in my eyes in sympathy for this young woman and her sister. "Tell me how you came to be back here after so many years?"

"Well, my aunt and uncle sold their home and decided to buy a motor home and travel around the country. Lily and I wanted to come back here. By that time, I had met my husband and we got married. We couldn't let Lily come back by herself. Our grandmother, who lived here, had just passed away, and left her house to the two of us. Jordan and I decided to just let Lily have the house, and we are buying this one."

It began to dawn on me...Judy's sister, Lily, might be Jack's Lily...could it be? 

"Do you know Jack Jones?" I asked, eyebrows raised in surprise.

She smiled, knowingly. "Yes, I've met Jack. Lily introduced us to him just a few weeks ago. He is a lovely young man. Lily met him in school in the sixth grade and has never forgotten him. I think they are serious about one another."

"Well, what a small world it is!" I exclaimed. "And now, you and I are getting to know one another! What a coincidence!"

"Actually, I asked the Lieutenant for this assignment," she revealed to me.

"You did? Why ever would you do that?"

Judy looked at me and seemed to think a minute or two before answering.

"For one thing, since you are such a good friend of Jack's and he thinks the world of you, I knew you would be worth getting to know. For another thing, I have been observing you today, and you have a good instinct for getting information. I believe that together, we could maybe figure out the solution to the whole business. I have read the file that the Lieutenant has on you, and it's quite impressive in its length."

"The Looie has a file on me???" I nearly staggered and put my hand over my heart in amazement when she said that. A file on me??? I just couldn't believe it. I nearly looked up to the ceiling and said, "It's a big one, Billy, I'm comin' !" Ha.

She laughed and put her finger over her lips as if to say, "Shh! Mum's the word! He'd have my head on the proverbial platter if he knew I had said anything to you about it. I'm trusting you to keep our little secret. Okay?" 

I knew now that Judy was an okay gal. 

"Okay, Judy, when do we begin? I'm ready ta start right now."

"Well, right now, why don't we have our supper? It's ready to eat. Would you like to say Grace?"

"Well, sure, I would."

We bowed our heads and I asked God's blessings on our meal. We sat there chatting and eating our meal. I certainly felt so welcome and comfortable there in Judy's home. 

After supper, we cleared away the dishes into the sink. She began washing them, and I just naturally went over and began rinsing and drying them. I set them on the counter so she could put them where they belonged. As we worked, I began asking her questions. 

"How did you happen ta get inta police work, anyway? You're such a little gal, and don't really look strong enough ta take down a criminal."

"Oh, you'd be surprised, AnnaBelle...I learned a lot in police academy and was first in my defense class. As the saying goes, 'the bigger they are, the harder they fall!' No doubt, I'll be up long before you are awake in the morning. I have to get in my five miles before breakfast every morning, unless I'm on duty. I like to run outside, but when I can't, I am on the treadmill in the garage.

Well, needless to say, I was quite impressed by Judy and could hardly wait to start our work together. I went to the back door and called in Clancy. He came bounding in, happy to see me. I was amazed to see another, bigger dog come running in as well. 

Whoa! What is this? The big boxer stopped dead in his tracks, and growled at me. Judy spoke to him. "Boomer! Stay!" 

Then Judy came over and knelt down next to him. "Boomer, this is AnnaBelle. Friend."

I reached out my hand to him and let him smell it. He sniffed and then wagged his tail, and I petted his head. Whew! 

Judy reached into the pantry and got two bowls and a bag of dog food. She poured some into each bowl and got two bowls of water for them. After they ate, we took them out for a short walk down the street. It was dark out, with only the street lights to see by. It looked like a very peaceful neighborhood.  Only one old Chevvy passed by, cruising along. 

After the short walk, we turned and headed back to Judy's home, and just before we got to the walkway to her house, I noticed the Chevvy coming back our way. she grabbed my arm and headed up the side of the house to the back gate. 

"What are you doing? Why are you going this way?" I protested. 

"We need to get these dogs inside the fence, now, along with ourselves. Just walk normally, but make it quick. No, don't turn around, just keep walking."

Just as we got inside the gate, I heard the Chevvy pick up speed and leave the neighborhood.

We got into the house through the back door and Judy was on the phone as soon as we were inside. 

"Lieutenant, they know we're here at my home. We have to leave at once. They know my car. We're going to leave by the back alleyway. Can you have a car for us in about twenty minutes at the corner of Maple and Ash? Yes, we can walk there without any problems. We'll go by backstreets. Both dogs will be with us. I'm not leaving Boomer here to be hurt if they decide to break in to the house. I will leave the lights on a delay so that it will look like we're still here. Yes, yes, okay."

By now I was shaking in my shoes, thinking how we were all in a jam just because of my stupidity. I was feeling lower than a skunk. 

Judy ran into her bedroom and grabbed up a small bag, and I pulled a trash bag from my cart and was going to put my clothes in it. Instead, Judy handed me a small tote bag and I put my clothes into it. 

"Thank you, Judy, you're the best!"

"You're welcome, AnnaBee, now let's get out of here."

Going out the back door, we put the leashes back on the dogs and proceeded out the back gate of the fence into the alleyway. Looking up and down the alley, Judy turned to the right, and I followed. We moved quickly and it wasn't long till I was just about out of breath, but I did my best to keep up. Judy was sure fast on her feet!

I was beginning to lag behind and struggled valiantly to stay beside Judy. I knew I was slowing her down. We were in another alleyway and I was bent over, trying to catch my breath. "Just...go...on...without...me. I'll...be...okay."

"Here, give me your tote bag, I can carry both of them. I'm sorry, I sometimes forget how fast I am walking. They'll wait for us. I wouldn't dream of going on without you. Rest a minute or two and then we'll go on.

Taking out her cell phone, she called someone and told them we would be about five minutes later than she had originally thought.

After I had a few minutes rest, we continued silently on our way, and I did find it easier walking without the tote bag. It wasn't long before we reached the corner of Maple and Ash. There was the car waiting for us. I had expected to see it idling, with someone behind the wheel, but it was empty. 

Judy knelt and reached under the front passenger's fender and brought out a key. She unlocked the rear door and we put the dogs in, then I climbed into the passenger front seat. I saw Judy looking up and down the street before she got in. She told Boomer to get down in the seat, so he did. Clancy lay down beside him without my telling him to. Good boy!

She started the car and we were on our way. Where to, I didn't know. 

Judy kept watching her rear view mirror as she drove. I just sat beside her, worrying about the fix we were in. There was no conversation, just silence.

We drove for only about thirty minutes, toward the other side of town and finally stopped at a small house that was not nearly as nice as Judy's. It did have a working garage door; we entered it and Judy parked the car. As the door slowly closed, Judy began telling me about the new location.

"This is a house the department just came into possession of about a month ago. It's not as good a location as my house would have been, but it will suffice for now. Fortunately, it does have a fenced-in back yard, too, but the fence is not as high as mine was. Boomer is a great watch dog, though and won't let anyone sneak up on us." Judy was talking as we left the automobile.

We entered the house and I could tell it needed some work done on the inside. Some of the cabinets in the kitchen were in disrepair and the house needed to be swept. Well, I could take care of the cleaning. I looked through the cabinets and fridge and found that we needed some groceries if we were going to be camping out here for any time.

I made mention of the fact that we needed groceries for breakfast, and maybe we could go pick some up?

"No, we can't. I'll make a call and have some delivered."

Taking out her cell phone, she made the call. I went on through the house, investigating the bedrooms. Well, they didn't look too bad. I leaned over to smell the bedsheets. Yeah, they seemed to be clean, too. Someone had done some work here not too long ago. Just a little dusty and unused. I closed the blinds.

I walked into the bathroom. It was definitely 1960's decor, but fairly clean. One bathroom, so we would have to share. Wonder if she was a morning showerer or night time? I liked to take my shower at night. I'll bet she took hers in the mornings after her run. 

Walking back into the kitchen, I could hear Judy still talking on the cell phone. 

"Yes, Lieutenant. Yes, we are here and settled. If you could just see that we get the groceries, right...right."

Turning, she saw me standing in the doorway. Smiling, she suggested we turn in pretty soon. 

"Sure. Say, do you mind if I take a shower right now, and then call Clancy inside? He always sleeps near me, and I'm afraid he might begin howling if he thinks he can't come in tonight."

"Of course. Why don't you do that? I have some thinking to do, and some reports to write, so you go ahead. Good night, AnnaBelle, I hope you sleep well."

After a quick shower, and getting dressed again into my one clean nightgown, I padded into the kitchen and called Clancy in. Judy was seated at the kitchen table working on her reports, and just nodded to me, absentmindedly, as I walked past her, with Clancy in tow.

In the bedroom, I turned down the covers and climbed into the bed. Since I was used to sleeping just about anywhere I could lay my head or even just prop my head against a doorway, I didn't think it would take me long to go to sleep. My mind had other ideas, however, and it just didn't want to stop thinking. Something was hovering on the edge of my memory, just out of reach. 

I felt Clancy's nose at the edge of the bed, and heard him begging to climb into bed with me. He was lonesome, poor fellow, so I said. "Okay, come on up, little buddy." Reaching down, I picked him up and brought him up into the bed with me. He snuggled near my chest and we were both soon asleep. 

When I awakened the next morning, I heard the rumble of a man's voice in the kitchen. 

Hurriedly, I got some clothes out of my tote bag, and going into the bathroom, I rinsed out my mouth, used the bathroom, and got dressed. Clancy followed me into the bathroom and sat watching me as I washed my hands. Just as I left the bathroom, I heard the front door to the house close quietly.

We went into the kitchen, where to my surprise, I saw Jack and Lily sitting at the kitchen table. Running around to Jack, I hugged him and then Lily. Clancy ran over to Jack and began wagging his tail and jumping up to Jack's knee to be petted.

"What are you two doing here? How did you know we were here?" I queried. "Who just left?"

Judy spoke up. "Good morning, AnnaBee! Lieutenant Shannon decided that since Jack is being protected as well as you until the guard is found, that we all should just be together in one place. Lily is not staying, however, since she is not in any danger, as far as we know. She is having breakfast with us this morning, and then being taken back to her car so she can drive to school, where she teaches."

"How did they get here? Who brought them?"

"One of the detectives brought them along with the groceries. Are you about ready to eat? I've been preparing our breakfast while you were asleep. They've been here for about twenty minutes or so. But we need to get Lily out of here in the next little while."

Jack and Lily hadn't been talking, but just sitting there holding hands, smiling at each other. Ah, young love! Then I noticed Lily's left hand was sparkling. 

Leaning over her hand, I said, "Um, hm, what do we have here, kiddos? Are we engaged to be married?"

Jack laughed and said, "Well, Lily and I are!

Laughing along with him, I said, "Congratulations, Jack, and best wishes to you both! I hope you'll both be so very happy." I hugged them both again, then turning to Judy, asked her, "What do you  think, Judy?"

"I think it's wonderful, AnnaBee. They both deserve a lot of happiness."

Clancy barked as if in agreement. We all laughed. 

By that time, a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, with hot coffee was ready. The four of us sat down to eat. Jack asked Grace and we chowed down, chatting while we ate.

Judy made a call on her cell phone as we ate, and as soon as we were finished, a knock came on the front door. Lily's ride had come for her, and Jack accompanied her to the front door. We soon heard the sound of a car leaving, and Jack came back into the kitchen. I remained at the kitchen table, and gave Clancy a piece of toast from the leftovers, and some water.

Judy had begun to clear the table, and I got up to help her. It only took the three of us a few minutes to clean up the kitchen. Judy got a couple of pans of water to put outside in the back yard for the dogs. Then we put Clancy out back with Boomer.

"Okay, guys, we need to sit down at the table and pool all our information, so that we can see if we can come up with any answers. It's possible that together, we might know more than we realize, about what has been going on. AnnaBelle, you need to tell Jack and me about what all you did yesterday, and who you spoke to, and what they said. Maybe you remember something more than what you told the Lt. last night."

I know I must have grimaced, because I sure hated to go over all that again, but if I must, I must, I reflected. So, I began again.   

"Okay...yesterday mornin', I decided to stake out the kindergarten and see if I could detect any strange goin's on out there. I sat down on a park bench in that little park across the street from the kindergarten, and I jist sat there readin' an old newpaper. There was low branches on the tree behind the bench that kinda hid me. I seen the fellows drivin' up in the limos and takin' the kid outta the back seat and walkin' 'em up to the security guard at the door. They handed the guard somethin' and the guard handed a package 'a some kind back to 'em.

"The same thing happened every time a limo drove up. I got tired of watchin', so I decided to take a walk through the park, and had ta chase Clancy, and that's when I discovered the body."

Jack leaned over toward me and exclaimed, "You found a body? Whose was it, the guard's? Had somebody killed him? Where did you find it? Are you okay?"

"Whoa! Wait a minute! Of course, I'm fine. It belonged to Willie the Wino."

Jack's face turned white.


Looking closely at Jack's face, I asked him, "What do you know about Willie? Have the two of you talked recently?"

"Yeah, I saw him downtown the other day, and he said he was onto a big case that he was gonna crack. He'd been askin' around town about one of his friends that was spendin' a lotta money, buyin' drinks for everybody. He was sure it had somethin' to do with your kidnappin' and that kindergarten guard. He was gonna stake out the kindergarten."

"Have you told any of this to the Lieutenant, Jack? I'm sure he'd want to know," interjected Judy.

"Well, to tell the truth, I've been so busy with Lily, I had forgotten all about it until AnnaBee was telling about findin' Willie's body. Where was the body, AnnaBee? Was it in the park?"

"No, it was floatin' out in the lake, jist like a big blob with clothes on it. So, when I found out who it was yesterday mornin', I decided I'd do a little questionin' around town and see what I could find out. But jist about everybody I asked about him seemed to have more questions than answers. Only one person I talked to seemed to know more and that was Eddie the Moocher."

"Yeah, yeah... I talked to Eddie the other day, too. He claimed he and his cronies were gonna be on easy street one of these days cause they had somethin' on somebody and that somebody was gonna pay good. I just took it with a grain of salt, if you know what I mean."

" AnnaBee, who was the fellow yesterday that was waving his arms around, spouting poetry?" This came from Judy.

"Oh, that was Hamlet. I don't know his real name, just that he was once an English professor, and seems to think he is another Shakespeare. He seems to be harmless enough. Why do you ask?"

"Hmm. Well, I thought it was strange that he took out a cell phone and called someone as soon as you left him," Judy replied.

"Well, I didn't even know he had a cell phone...most street people can't afford 'em, much less even know how to use 'em. I know I wouldn't know anything about this new-fangled technology. If we could afford cell phones, we wouldn't be livin' on the streets, don't cha know?" 

"I'm calling the Lt. to tell him about what Jack told us about Eddie and also give him a reminder about Hamlet, even though I put that into my written report. I didn't have his street name when I wrote up the report. That way he'll have all the information that I have." 

After placing the call, she turned to us. 
 
"Okay, you all, he's going to send someone to keep an eye on Eddie and Hamlet. Hopefully, it won't be too late. They know AnnaBee has been asking questions, and probably know by now who all she talked to. One of our men who is working undercover may already have a lead on this whole thing. I certainly hope so. Listen, Jack and AnnaBee, I know you both described the guard, but did you talk to a police artist or look through mug shots to see if you could find his picture? If we had a good idea of what he looked like, he might be hiding out in this area still."

Jack and I looked at each other. I don't know why we hadn't been asked to do that, I thought. We could still do it, if Judy thought it would be a good idea. I guess we were both just so tired from the ordeal and the Lt. was so worried about the both of us, that nobody even thought about having us do that. I knew that they had the name Mrs. Wilson had finally given them, but it could be a fictitious one.

"Okay, I'm going to take you all down to the station so that you can take a look through the mug books and if you can't find his mug, we'll let you both describe him to an artist so he can draw him. It will help to have a picture of him."

"Now, we're cookin'" I said to myself. It was killing me to just sit around doing nothing. I was ready to get back into the saddle.

Judy, Jack and I went out into the garage and climbed into the car. I had decided to leave Clancy with Boomer in the back yard. It was the first time in a long time that he had been able to run around and play with another dog, so I knew he would enjoy it. 

When we got to the station, Judy parked the car at the back door of the station so that if someone was watching the station, we could go in unobserved. She took Jack and me to the area where the mug books were kept and we spent several hours looking through them. You know, after a while, all criminals begin to look the same. Then I saw it...it was the ugly face of the guard. Even in the picture, he looked menacing!

"Jackie! Ooops, I mean, Jack, look here! Isn't this his picture? What do you think? Doesn't this look like him?" I shouted, jumping up and running over to Jack.

Jack got up from the mug books he was combing through, and came over to look at the one I had been perusing. 

"Yes! Yes! That's him!"

We headed out to another room to find Judy, and ran into Lt. Shannon, who was talking to another detective.

"Mike! LIsten, I found the guard's picture in the mug book. I'm sure it's him!"

He accompanied us back to the area and looked at the man's photo. 

"Well, what do you know! I'm pretty sure I know where this guy is, without looking any further!"

"Really, Looie! What do ya mean? How could ya know where he is? Have you arrested him?" I wanted to know.

"We have him here in the basement. The coroner has him in custody, so to speak," replied Lt. Shannon.

"Hey, that means I don't need anybody following me around now," realized Jack. "I can go about my business of living again. Yippee! Wait till I see Lily again! She'll be as happy as I am!" 

Judy came back into the area and we shared the news with her. 

"Wait a minute! Wait just a minute!" I interjected. "What happened to the guard? Where did you find him? How did he die?"

"He was discovered yesterday in the city dump. It's like someone just killed him and left him amongst the garbage piled out there. We ran his prints through and discovered he had been in prison, doing time for auto theft, among other things. It seems that is how he knew Hank Jones and his boys. He had done time with Mickey and Mike, and when he got out, he got in touch with them. He was using an alias when he worked for Mrs. Wilson. That was the name that Hank and his boys gave to us," explained the Lieutenant. 

"So," I reasoned, "you didn't know his real name when he came in, and couldn't identify him as the guard. I see! But who killed him, and why? Did Mrs. Wilson have him killed? Maybe she couldn't have him out and available to be picked up to be questioned. Do ya reckon, Mike?"

"Well, that is pretty good thinking, AnnaBee. In fact, that is exactly what I'm thinking right now."

"Maybe we need AnnaBelle on the police force, Lieutenant," joked Judy.

Lt. Shannon looked alarmed. "Please don't encourage her, Detective! I don't think that would be a good idea at all."

"Ah, she was only joshin', Michael! Don't go gettin' all upset, now." I poked him a little bit in the ribs with an elbow. "Now, we need ta be thinkin' about that bunch down on River Street. Have ya come up with any more ideas on them?"

"WE don't need to be thinking about them," retorted the Lt., looking at me askance. "WE need to be thinking about taking you and Jack down to make a definite identification on the fellow in the morgue, so we can wrap up that part of the case."

Well, I wasn't really looking forward to that, but I considered that I should go ahead and get it over with, so I agreed. The five of us went down in the elevator to the basement where the morgue was located. Brrrr. I was shivering, partly from nerves and partly from the lack of any heat in that part of the building.

Going through the doors into the morgue was definitely close to the bottom of my list of things preferred to do. We did not speak as we entered the cavernous room. There was no one on duty and so the Lieutenant went over to one of the drawers and pulled it open. There on the slab that he pulled out lay the remains of the man that I only knew as "the guard". He looked so peaceful lying there, all trace of evil gone from his features.

Seeing no evidence of how he died, I asked again, "How did he die, Lieutenant?"

"It was a knife in the back, AnnaBelle. Apparently, from someone he trusted enough to let them get that close to him. We also know that he was brought to the dump after he was killed. He bled out somewhere else."

"Hmmm, so the person would have had to have transportation to get him there. Wouldn't that let out the people who live on the street? I don't think any of them have cars, at least the ones that I know don't."

"Good thinking. But a street person could still be the one who killed him, he would just have to be teamed up with someone who had a car. We don't know yet where he was killed; we're still looking for the place. When we find the murder scene, we'll have a better idea who did it. From the threats that you received, AnnaBee, plus what you remembered this morning, we know street persons are involved in some of this whole mess. Now, you  and Detective Allen need to get upstairs and back to your safe house. Jack, you are free to go on your way."

Jack smiled, and said, "Good, I have some things to do today." Giving me a goodby hug, he was on his way, but little did any of us know the trouble he was heading into.

We walked back to the elevator with the Lieutenant, and rode quietly to the first floor. As we got off the elevator, he turned to me and cautioned me again about sticking close to Sgt. Allen and told her not to let me out of her sight. Bidding each other goodbye, he went on upstairs and we exited the back way to the alleyway and the car. We were on our way back to the safe house. 

Noticing again that Judy was watching traffic in her rear view mirror, I began observing as well. Then I saw it...the same old Chevvy that we had spotted yesterday. At least, I thought it was, so I mentioned it to Judy. 

"Yes, I see it. It is the same one we saw yesterday. I need to lose him; somehow he knows we are in this car. They must be watching all the exits to the police station.

Judy put her foot to the floor and we took off. She radioed another car and gave them our location. Pretty soon, the Chevvy was cut off by another car, and the last we saw of them, the police had them pulled over.

"I guess we showed them, didn't we, Judy?" I chortled, giving her the high five. 

She just laughed and replied, "I guess we did, AnnaBee!"

We continued on to our designated location without further incident. 

"We're going to have to be doubly cautious now, AnnaBee," Judy told me as we pulled into the garage. 

Going through the kitchen to the back door, I opened it and Clancy and Boomer rushed into the kitchen. They were bouncing around us like they hadn't seen us in days. We played with them for a few minutes and then Judy put some food in their bowls and added more water to the water bowls.

"Now, we need to fix us a sandwich and salad for our lunch, then put on our thinking caps." This came from Judy. 

We sat down to our lunch and munched away, as we drank glasses of iced tea, sweetened only the way you can get it in the South. 

We spent the rest of the day trying to figure out all the possible angles on the puzzle of who could have killed the guard and why, along with the drug angle and the connection to the street people I had talked to the day before. Of course, we had turned the dogs back outside for the afternoon. They needed the exercise and we needed the quiet. 

About seven in the evening, Judy's cell phone rang. 

"Yes, hello, Lily. Jack? No, we haven't seen him since around noon today, when he left the police station. What? He was supposed to meet you two hours ago? Where? Why there? What were you all going to do? Oh! I see. No..no.. don't panic. I'm sure he's okay. Are you there right now? You're at home? Good, you stay there. I'll send an officer to check it out, okay? Right...right... Don't worry, he's a big boy, he'll be okay. He may have just gotten busy with something else and forgot."

Turning to me, Judy said, "Jack's in trouble. He is the soul of reliability and Lily knows it. She's worried and rightly so. Jack went to check out the building his uncle owns with the idea of seeing if it would work for him to use as a motor repair shop. She was supposed to meet him there after school, and waited for an hour. He wasn't there. So she went to the library to see if he was there...then she went home to see if maybe he had gone there...then she waited awhile and then called me."

Judy called the station to dispatch an officer to check out the Jones Auto Repair and Body Shop. 

Now I was worried for sure. What had happened to my friend, Jack? 

We sat there and waited a few minutes, then the Judy's cell phone rang.

"Yes, Sgt. Allen here...Oh, they did? What did they find? Hmmm., I see. No sign of Jack? There was blood on the floor of the office? Papers scattered everywhere...but no sign of a struggle? Have you put out a BOLO? You have...okay, good. No, I'll contact Lt. Shannon, too.

I heard the facts as she related them on the phone, and I was really worried. How could we tell Lily all that had happened? Well, we had to, that was all there was to it, she had to know, in all fairness to her

"We need to go over and tell Lily in person, AnnaBelle. We just can't do it over the phone. Hopefully, we can do so without being spotted, now that the Chevvy is not out there to tail after us. They never saw us at this house, anyway."

So we got into the car, and left the safety of the house, heading for Lily's home. Her home was located in one of the older neighborhoods of the city. It had been in the family for several generations, because her great grandparents had built it, back in the 1940's. It had seen the birth of many children, and now it was Lily's and hopefully, soon to be Jack's, when they got married. 

I was struck by the charm of the house, with flower beds in the front of the house, and a little picket fence and old-fashioned gate. It was a very welcoming house. We had no sooner pulled up in front of the house and parked on the street, when Lily came running out.

"Have you heard from Jack? Do you know where he is? Is he all right?" She was wringing her hands and just about in tears. She suspected something was wrong by the looks on our faces, I realized.

"Let's go inside, Lily," replied her sister. "We don't want to put on a show for the neighbors, do we? You know old Mrs. Brooks next door just loves to gossip, and we don't want to provide any fodder for her news mill. She'll be over before you know it, if we don't get inside. Then she'll want to know who AnnaBelle is, and may recognize her from television. There goes the secrecy angle."

"You're right, Judy. Hello, AnnaBelle, come on in."

Just as soon as we got inside, we all sat down in the living room. Judy took Lily's hands in her own, and told her what we knew about the situation, which, of course, wasn't much. 
She assured Lily that the police had a bulletin out to be on the lookout for Jack, and that he would surely be found soon. 

"Jack is a strong young man, Lily. He has a good sense about him, too." reassured Judy.

"Yes, and he's been building up his muscles and running, as well. I know he's in good physical shape and smart. Oh! I just hope he's okay!" cried Lily.

"Why don't we just have a short prayer for his safety?" I asked. "I know God can keep him safe, if it is His will." 

That is what we did.

"Now, what? Can we go look for him, Judy?" Lily inquired.

"No, I don't think that would be wise. You need to stay here, so that if Jack calls you, we won't miss the call. In the meantime, we'll stay with you for a couple of hours, just in case Jack turns up here. The dogs will be okay for awhile."

You know how nerve wracking it is to sit around waiting for the other shoe to drop? Well, that is what it felt like just sitting there staring at one another for two hours. By this time it was around ten o'clock and we were like three wrecks waiting to happen. We had a pot of coffee consumed between the three of us, and if I had been a nail-biter, I wouldn't have had any nails left to chew on. 

"How about a game of cards?" I asked. "Ya got any cards, Lily?"

"Yes, I think I have some around here somewhere." She rummaged around in her desk drawer and pulled out a worn deck of playing cards. 

We all sat down at the kitchen table again, and Lily shuffled the cards and dealt them. "How about Hearts?" she sniffled, then laid her head on her arms and boohooed

Judy and I both jumped up and ran around to her and hugged her. 

"They'll find him, Sis! He'll be fine. Jack is strong and smart, too. Just have faith, he'll be okay. He may be on his way back to you right now, even as we speak."

"But...what if...if...oh, I just can't think about it!" She jumped up and ran out of the room, heading for her bedroom.

"Judy, we can't leave her like this. We just can't. We're gonna have to stay here til we hear somethin', don't cha know?"

"Okay, AnnaBelle. The dogs will be okay, I'm sure, and since no one knows that we are here, you're safe for right now."

"Well, I guess we'd best bed down for a few hours. I can take the couch and why don't you go on in and stay with Lily? Then if the phone rings out here, I can get it before it wakes her up."

"Okay, AnnaBelle. That sounds like good thinking. Be sure to wake us up if you hear anything."

"Of course, I will. Good night."

It was a long night for us, and, as we found out later, it was even more so for Jack.

I was dreaming that I was on a submarine and there was a ringing of the alarm signal that was telling everyone to man their battle stations, but somehow I was tangled up in rope or some such thing. All at once I awakened to find I was tangled in the blanket that I had pulled over me to sleep on Lily's couch, and Judy's cell phone was making a buzzing sound. She had inadvertently left it on the kitchen table when Lily had gotten so upset. 

Rolling off the couch in haste, I realized my old bones weren't moving too fast. I landed on my hands and knees, then pushed to my feet, and ran into the kitchen, to get the phone before it woke anyone else up. 

"Hello...no, I'm not Sgt. Allen. This is AnnaBelle Chasteen. Oh, Lieutenant Shannon....Hello, Looie...yeah, she's asleep in there with her sister, Lily. Any news? Oh, you need to speak with her.  Oh, uh ..well, listen, what about those jerks in the Chevvy that was following us yesterday? Were they arrested? Oh, you need to speak with Sgt. Allen, okay, hang on." Darn! I wasn't getting a thing from him.

Taking the phone with me, I knocked on the bedroom door quietly. Judy came to the door and I told her that the Lt. was on her cell phone. She came out, and closed the door behind her. 

"Lily is asleep. I gave her a mild sedative so she would get some sleep."

Taking the cell phone from me, she went into the kitchen and I followed, not wanting to miss anything that was being said. I got busy and put on a pot of fresh coffee and then began rummaging around in the fridge to find something to make for breakfast. Lily happened to have a few eggs and some milk, plus a few more staples that should be in anyone's fridge. I got out the eggs and a rasher of bacon. Ah, there was some butter in the door tray, too. All the while I was listening to Judy's end of the conversation.

"Yes, sir... yes...no, nothing yet.... I see...Oh, they did...you have? Yes, I'll do that sir.  Yes, we'll take her with us. No, sir, I don't mind...no.. okay. Yes, sir after Lily wakes up. Goodbye, sir...no,no, yes, you can count on me, sir." 

Well, I certainly learned nothing from that conversation that  amounted to anything. Seems like the Sergeant was really good at keeping tight-lipped. I guessed I was just going to have to do a little tactical digging for my information. 

As I stood there watching the bacon frying, and  contemplating how I was going to find out the answers to my questions, Judy turned to me and said, "I need to go wake up Lily, so we can have our breakfast and get out of here."

I put up my hand to keep her there for a couple of questions, but she just walked past me and headed for the bedroom. Well, now...that went well, I thought. Where were we going, and why? Had they found Jack? Could I maybe yet get any information from Judy before we got on the road, going to who knew where? 

Judy came back into the kitchen telling me that Lily would be with us as soon as she got dressed. By the time Lily came in to the kitchen, the bacon was done and the toast was ready to come out of the toaster, and the eggs were scrambled and ready to eat. Since the coffee had been made earlier, we were ready to sit down and say the blessing. 

They asked if I would do the honors, so I did. I looked at Lily's face and saw the ravages that worry and anguish had made. She didn't look like she was going to eat anything; but sat there nursing a cup of coffee, looking bewildered.
 

"Now, Lily, you must eat something, even if it is only toast and jelly," her sister urged her. "We are going to find Jack and we need to keep the faith that we will. We're going to go feed the dogs, then pick up AnnaBelle's friend, Lucy Mae, from the kindergarten this morning. We'll be AnnaBelle's nieces from out of town, come to visit."

When Judy said that, coffee spluttered from my mouth all over the table in front of me. That was the first I'd heard of that plan! I looked at Judy with my eyes bugged out and said, "Who dreamed up that plan?"

Judy and Lily both laughed out loud at the sight of my reaction. It was good to hear Lily laughing. I jumped up and grabbed a paper towel to wipe the table in front of me, embarrassed at my reaction. Then I had to laugh, too. After all, it was funny!

"Lt. Shannon knew that you wanted to talk to Lucy Mae, and also he wants to get her input on how things are run at the kindergarten. He knows that everything all kind of ties in together. He is sure that Mrs. Wilson is involved in the drug business and is still looking for proof. So we need to get busy here and finish breakfast. Lily, the Lieutenant is sure they are on the track of what has happened to Jack."

We finished up breakfast and cleared up the dishes into the dishwasher. Then we were out of there, on our way back to the safe house to feed the dogs and give them water.

Needless to say, they were overjoyed to see us and we had to spend a few minutes with them before putting them back under the shade trees in the back yard. Judy and I changed clothes while we were there, and then we were all off to the kindergarten. 

We parked the car several streets over, and walked to the kindergarten, so that Mrs. Wilson who ran the kindergarten wouldn't be able to identify the car to investigate.

Going around to the back, we knocked on the door to Lucy's room. When she came to the door and saw us, she gave me a big smile and threw her arms around me. 

"AnnieBee! Oh, my goodness, it's wonderful to see you again! I know it's only been a week since I came here, but it seems like forever since I've seen you! Who are these beautiful young ladies?"

Just about that time, Mrs. Wilson came around the building, apparently out for a walk. 

"Hello, Mrs. Chasteen! I see you've come to visit with Lucy Mae. She is such a wonderful lady and really knows her business about managing a cafeteria. I don't know what I'd do without her!"

"We'd like to take her out for awhile, if that is okay?"

"Yes, of course, her weekends are hers to do what she wishes with them. Are these two ladies friends of yours?"

"Hmmm. Yes, actually, they are my nieces and have just come for a short visit."

Lucy Mae started to say something like, "But, AnnaBelle, you don't..." but I gave her a swift look that told her not to say it.

"I know, I don't have any place to offer them to stay, but they checked into a motel for their brief stay."

Lucy knew that neither Billy nor I had any siblings, so I couldn't have any nieces, but Mrs. Wilson didn't know that, at least I assumed so. 

"Come on, Lucy. Time's a wastin' and we got lots of things we want to do today. You do want to come with us, don't you?"

"Yes, of course, I do. Just a minute and let me get my key and purse."

"Well, Mrs. Wilson, it was nice to see you again. We'll bring Lucy Mae back this evening or tomorrow afternoon. Okay?"

"Surely... You all have a good time. See you tomorrow, Lucy." She was on her way around the building and out of sight. 

"I'll bet she wasn't just out for a stroll," I whispered. "I'd lay odds on the fact that she is dying to know what we're going to do today."

We walked back to the car and the four of us climbed in, only to see Mrs. Wilson cruising past us. 

"Wonder if she saw us?" I asked Judy. "That would defeat the purpose of our walkin' from here earlier so that she wouldn't see our car."

"Why would you not want her to see the car we are in, AnnaBee?" inquired Lucy Mae. 

Ah...so she still didn't have a clue. That made me wonder if she knew anything at all. Actually, though, I was thinking that maybe she would know more than she was aware of.

"Say...by the way, who are these two young ladies with you? They look like sisters, alright, but I was thinkin' that neither you nor Billy had any siblings. They can't be your nieces! Why don't you introduce them ta me?"

"Okay, the young lady in the front passenger seat is one of Jack's friends, in fact, a very close friend. Lucy, meet Lily Archer. Lily and Jack are goin' together. The young lady driving is her sister, and her name is Judy Allen. She is a police sergeant.

"I'm pleased to make your acquaintance," Lucy replied to the two young women. "AnnaBee, why is a police woman driving us anywhere? Are you in trouble with the police? I warned you about messin' inta their business, didn't I?"

"Oh, pshaw! Lucy! Don't go gettin' all uptight jist cause I'm bein' driven around by the police. They're protectin' us."

"Why do I need protectin'?  I ain't done nothin'. Is this about all that business with that crooked security guard earlier in the week? Ms. Wilson is innocent of any wrong doin'. They don't still suspect her, do they? She was that surprised when the police came to the door a few nights ago. I thought the end a the world was a' comin' when I heard that helicopter overhead. All them lights a' flashin' and that SWAT team come a rushin' in scared the livin' daylights outta us. That was jist awful!"

Well, that left no doubt in my mind that we might not get much out of Lucy Mae, but the least we could do was try. I was anxious for us to get to the station so we could talk to her. The Lieutenant would probably be able to get some answers from her, but by now, I was having my doubts. 

Lily was sitting so still in the front seat, she could have been a statue. I was really worried about her, bless her heart. We arrived once again at the rear door of the station, and as we pulled up, I saw Mrs. Wilson's auto drive past the alleyway. Had she been following us? If she had, she was really good at shadowing. 

We went into the police station hurriedly because as soon as the car stopped, Lily opened her door and ran in. We followed in rapid succession, trying to keep up with her. By the time we got inside, she was already at the front desk, asking the Sgt. in charge if they had any news of Jack Jones. We could see him shaking his head in a negative manner, but didn't know if he meant they hadn't or that he didn't know.

Her sister, Sgt. Judy Allen, ran up behind her and turned her around into her arms, with Lily sobbing into her shoulder. It was so very sad, and the tears ran down my cheeks as well. 

Only Lucy Mae stood there, dumbfounded at the scene in front of her. I turned to her and began explaining that Jack had disappeared the afternoon before and we didn't know where he was.

"We need to go up and find out, too, if they have heard anything about where he is or might be."

"Oh, my goodness! But why did you lie to Mrs. Wilson and tell her that Judy and Lily were your nieces? I don't understand..
Why would you do such a thing? The police don't still think that she is involved in anything crooked, do they? Why, that lady is so very nice, and you should see her with those little kids every day. They jist love her ta pieces. NO, you're all wrong if you think she's a crook! I'll never believe that!"

Uh - oh! Lucy was definitely a staunch supporter of Mrs. Wilson, and we were going to be lucky if we got anything out of her. We had to tread carefully here. We'd have to take another tack on this little job. 

"Well, of course she's not a crook, Lucy Mae, but she may be involved with the whole situation because of the people she helps by hirin'. She believes in hirin' street people, don't she? She likes to help out the community that way, don't she? And you know, that some of the street people have been in trouble with the police....they're not all like you and me, don't cha know?"

"Well, yeah... that's all true."

"Well, the Looie wants to talk to ya about what all goes on, so that we can clear Mz. Wilson and keep ya workin' there. You're happy there, ain't cha?"

"Oh, yeah, I love cookin' fer the little kids. They remind me of my Melvin when he was a little boy. Okay, I reckon maybe I can help the Lieutenant by talkin' to him." Lucy grudgingly agreed. 

We turned then to Lily and Judy, who were already headed up the stairway to the upper floor where the detectives had the squad room and all the working offices were located.  We followed them up and were soon talking to the Lieutenant. 

Sgt. Allen introduced Lily to the Looie. 

"Oh, have you heard anything about Jack? Do you know anything yet?" cried Lily.

"No, ma'am, I'm sorry. We haven't heard anything about him or seen a trace of anything that would lead us to him. But you can be assured we're doing everything we can to find him."
  
He hugged Lucy Mae and told her how glad he  was to see her and would she mind answering a few questions. She grudgingly agreed. 

"I reckon so, if it will get you all off Mrs. Wilson's back. That lady is a Saint, if ever I seen one!" she exclaimed. "She ain't done nothin' wrong."

Uh- oh. The Looie looked at me and lifted his eyebrows. It seemed that she was ready to defend the woman to the death. 

Looking back at him, I smiled as if to say, "You can see which way the wind is blowing here! Go slowly."

"Oh, I'm not saying she has, but we need to find out if she may be in trouble and not realize it. Maybe you can help us clear her name, without us having to bother her any more. Wouldn't that be helpful to her?" The Looie was certainly smoothing it on like melted butter. Dadgum! He was good!

"Yes, it would be helpful to her, I reckon. Okay, what do you want to know?"

"Well, first, do you know what she did about a new security guard for the next morning?"

"Hmmm. Seems like I heard her argyin' with the one she fired. That was around eleven o'clock at night. I was havin' trouble sleepin' and had gone to the kitchen ta get a cup of hot chocolate. She didn't know I heard her, and I didn't mention it to her. I couldn't tell what all they was sayin', but I knew it wasn't a friendly discussion. I did hear her call him a idiot. I was that surprised by her usin' that word. Then I went on back ta bed, only ta be woke up by all that hullabaloo later. Then when morning came and time for school ta start, we had a new security guard on duty. That's all I know about that. Does that help any?"

"It may very well help us. By the way, the new security guard...had you ever seen him on the streets among the homeless?" the Looie wanted to know.

"Well, not that I can recollect. He is a big guy and tough looking, too. I know I wouldn't want to tangle with him. He's got some tattoo's on his neck and ain't none too friendly, neither."

"Lucy, would you be willing to look at some pictures to see if you could identify him for us. Ms. Wilson may be hiring people that would harm her and we wouldn't want that, would we? These guards she is hiring may be using aliases so that she wouldn't know they are bad people. Would you do that for me, please?"

Lucy looked up and smiled at the Looie. "Of course, I would."

"Lt., what about the car that was following us yesterday? What happened when it was stopped? What did they say? Were they arrested?" I was sure that something must have come of it. 

"Well, AnnaBelle, we arrested the two men who were following you and Sgt. Allen. They had been smoking weed; the patrolmen who stopped them could smell it in the car. That gave us cause to make them get out of the car and when we searched it, we found a half kilo of Heroin, along with bags of Meth for resale. One of them was that character that you called Hamlet. He was the passenger. Of course, they aren't talking, but at least we can send them up for a while for possession with intent to sell. This drug ring seems to be pretty big."

"What about the driver? Who was he? Did you know him?" I wanted to know.

The Lt. responded to me very quietly. "You remember the young man you said was wearing a red doo-rag? I believe it was him. He's probably the one who threatened you. It makes sense, doesn't it? Now, let's get Lucy back here in a quiet room so she can look through some pictures. I have several photos of known associates of the guard that worked there before; the one we found day before yesterday, knifed in the back." 

That certainly sounded like a good place to start. The more connections that could be made, the easier to tie it all together. If the people Mz. Wilson was hiring were not street people but convicted felons, that would definitely be a tie-in decrying her innocence. 

Sgt. Allen, in the meantime, had taken Lily into the break room to rest and to have a cup of coffee while she, Sgt. Allen sat nearby and worked on reports that had to be done. She was behind and really needed to catch up, but didn't want to leave Lily alone.

I sat with Lucy Mae while she looked through the photos, and I looked at them with her, thinking maybe I would be able to identify the new guard, because after all, I had seen him from a distance when I was watching the kindergarten a couple of days ago. We both spotted his mug shot at the same time.

"That's him...that's the guard's picture!" Lucy Mae cried out. I went to get Lt. Shannon. 

"She found his picture and I saw at once that it is the same man. I never saw him on the streets. He looks really tough, Mike. I sure wouldn't want to run into him any time on any street."

Mike Shannon accompanied me back to where Lucy sat smiling. "We found him for ya, Lieutenant. This is him right here!"

"Thank you so very much, Miss Lucy Mae! You are absolutely the best! You don't know how much I appreciate your coming in to help us. Now, maybe you can help me a little more by answering some questions about him and his duties?"

"Well, I guess so. What do ya wanta know?"

"For one thing, what are his duties and how long does he stay on duty? Does he ever get time off? Is he the only security guard there? Do you have any idea what he does or where he goes when he's not on duty? Does he live there during the week like you do?"

"Whoa! Wait a minute...that's a lotta questions. I'm gonna have ta think a bit before I can answer all of 'em."

She sat there for a few minutes, apparently overwhelmed by the intensity of the flood of questions. I hoped the Looie wouldn't stifle her co-operation.        


Turning to the Looie, I asked him a question that I had been thinking about since Lucy mentioned the tattoo on the new guard's neck. It seemed as if I had seen a tattoo on the body of the guard I had identified the day before. 

"Didn't the other guard have  a tattoo on his neck? Wasn't it a red dragon?"

"Say," interjected Lucy, "the new guard's tattoo is a red dragon, as well. Now I remember seeing one on the neck of the guard she fired. What a coincidence that is!"

Poor Lucy! She still was unaware of the many unexplained things that were taking place, but a picture was beginning to form in mine and the Lieutenant's minds about all the connections in this case. Somehow, I knew the guy in the red doo-rag and the red dragon tattoos were related. Turning to the Looie, I asked if the two he had arrested the day before had tattoos. 

He just smiled at me, and I knew the answer to that question was in the affirmative. 

"What can you tell me about the hours of the security guard, Lucy?" asked the Looie.

"Well, as I said, he lives there on the premises in a room not far from mine and has his own entrance to the outside, just like I do. I go to bed fairly early so I don't know when he comes or goes. He has a car that he keeps parked in a nearby garage attached to the building. Mrs. Wilson keeps hers in the same garage, I think. He is always on duty when I get up in the mornings and I think he gets off around 3:30 after all the kids have left for the day and then comes back on around nine at night. Other than that, I don't know.

"Does he ever have any friends to come by that you know of?" I asked her. 

"No, but he seems pretty friendly with the limo drivers that deliver the little kids to school. I've heard them joking with him sometimes about snow and angel dust and how the little kids are a handful sometimes. Spoiled, I guess is what they mean. And everybody knows that we don't get much snow around here at all."

My ears perked up when she mentioned snow and angel dust. Weren't those synonyms for drugs? Little did Lucy Mae know the danger she was in. What could we do to protect her. But wait! As long as she didn't know, perhaps she was okay. Wonder how the Lt. was going to react to this information? 

The look of alarm on his face answered my thoughts when I gazed in his direction. Now what would we do? We sure couldn't tell Lucy what we were surmising from her little bombshell of info. 

"Well, Miss Lucy, I want to thank you  for helping us with our investigation. It certainly seems to clear Mz. Wilson. You were very forthcoming with your answers. Now, why don't you all go with Sgt. Allen and Lily to the break room where you can visit for awhile?" The Lieutenant ushered us out and we followed his directive.

Lucy turned to Lily and asked her to tell her about the romance that had developed between her and Jack. 

"Good," I thought to myself, "that may help Lily to talk about Jack for awhile." In the meantime, I went back in to talk to the Looie. 

Knocking on his door, I waited for his, "Come in," and entered. Closing the door, I went over to his desk.  "What do you think, Mike? Is it safe to let Lucy go back into that den of crooks? Do you think Mrs. Wilson is innocent? Also, I didn't tell you earlier, she left soon after we did and we saw her car go by the alleyway behind the station just after we got here. I believe she was following us. I didn't want to mention it while Lucy was in here."

"Well, AnnaBee, I trust Ms. Wilson about as far as I could throw her, and I don't feel good about letting Lucy go back in there. I really don't think we have any choice, though, without alerting the woman to our continued suspicions. We're going to have to play it by ear."

Just then the phone rang, and when the Lieutenant answered it, he just listened and then looked at me, anxiously. I didn't think it could be good news. 

The lieutenant was speaking to one of his men, I could tell. He was, however, still looking at me solemnly and that made me wonder if the news was going to be bad. He turned his back to me.

"You did? Where did she go? You're still following her? Does she have any idea you are behind her? Okay, you know the evasive procedures. Get another unmarked car to pick up her trail and you turn away. I want to know where she's headed. Don't get tagged. She suspects we're on to her, I know. Okay, keep me in the loop. Right...right...yes."

 Turning back to me, he said, "I guess you heard that. I'm counting on you to keep it to yourself."

"Well, of course, I will. I gather you're having Mz. Wilson followed."

"Yes, actually, we began following her as soon as she left her house. We saw her trailing you all and knew she must be on to us since she followed you here. We've been watching her very closely ever since you were rescued. This may be the break we've been waiting for."

A couple of hours later, as we were sitting around in the squad break room, waiting for news of Jack, Lily jumped up and screamed, "This waiting is killing me...my poor Jack...where is he? Why aren't you all doing anything to find him?  Why are we just sitting here?" Then she burst into tears. 

Poor Lily! Judy and I ran over to her, trying to comfort her, but she wouldn't be comforted, but instead ran to the rest room, and, of course, after giving her a few minutes alone, I followed her.

I found in one of the stalls, sitting down and sobbing her eyes out. I waited for several minutes and then spoke softly to her. 

"Lily, dear, you've got to have faith. I know that sometimes it's hard to believe. They're goin' to find him, and he's gonna be okay. I know we've all been prayin' for his safety, and you know that God hears us. He's gonna be all right, don't cha know?"

I heard the sobbing subside and soon she came out and washed her face and hands. I gave her a hug and asked if she was ready to go back out into the hallway. 

"Yes, I'm sorry to make such a spectacle of myself. I know they're looking for Jack, but how can they look if they don't know where to look?"

"Honey, that's jist it. They're lookin' everywhere  they can think of ta look. They're gonna find him, and he's gonna be okay."

When we went back into the squad room, there was a sense of subdued excitement in the air. Men were putting on riot gear and the Lieutenant was briefing them. Had they found Jack, or had there been a bank robbery....what was going on? 

"We've had a break in one of our drug cases and we've got some dealers trapped in a barn out in the country. We're still looking for Jack, okay? We haven't forgotten him. Why don't you all call in an order for your lunch while we're gone? I know you  must be getting hungry." The Lieutenant was really in a big hurry to leave. 

Sgt. Allen picked up the phone and called a pizza place and ordered a large pizza. I didn't know how we were going to be able to eat anything, what with worrying about Jack and where he might be. The four of us sat there looking at one another while we waited. 

"Tell us about working at the kindergarten, Lucy," I suggested. Just what do you do? Do you have anyone to help you, or do you do all the cooking?"

"No, I don't do any of the cooking, I just plan the meals and see that they are cooked to my specifications. I have to make sure the guidelines for proper nutrition are followed. There is a young woman who does the cookin' under my instructions. She comes in every day around seven a.m. and we get started for the day. Poor girl! I think maybe she is an orphan, because I never hear her talk about her family. I believe she goes to dance classes at night. She is always tired when she comes in, like she's not gettin' enough sleep. She talks about one day bein' a broadway star, but if you ask me, she's a long way from gettin' there."

"Well, now, that's right int'restin', ain't it, Lily?" I said, trying to get Lily to thinking of something besides her worries.

"Hmm? Oh, yes, yes, it is. Do you do all the cooking, Miss Lucy?"

Well, I knew then that she hadn't heard a word out of Lucy Mae's mouth. Lucy looked at me, and smiled and said, "No, Lily, I have a helper that does tha cookin'."

"That's nice, Miss Lucy. It's good to have help, isn't it?"

"Yes, dear, it is nice. Why don't you tell me about how you got to know Jackie?"

"We met when we were both in sixth grade, Jack was bigger than the other boys, but couldn't read very well. Everybody picked on him, including the teachers, but one of them let me work with him on his reading, and pretty soon he was reading on grade level and getting better every day. The next year he wasn't there anymore. He was moved out of the foster home he was in to another one and we lost track of each other. Then my parents died in an automobile accident, and Judy and I were shipped off to another city to live with an aunt, who finished raising us."

"What about now? How did you come to be back here in town after so many years?" Lucy wanted to know, drawn into the story. 

"Well, Judy is older than I am, and she came back here to live with my grandmother. Judy met her husband here in town several years ago and they got married about two years ago. I came back when my grandmother died and left her house to me and Judy. I was at loose ends and had finished at college about four years ago and was teaching in the town where my aunt lived. So after I came back here, I saw Jack one day and we got reacquainted. He is still the same sweet person he was and now...he...he's missing!" The sobbing began again. 

Oh, dear! The floodgates had opened again. Thank goodness, here came the pizza delivery boy. Judy paid him and he left, escorted by one of the detectives that had been left behind with us. 

We decided to turn on the television in the break room while we ate our meal. We had cokes from the machine and soon had the paper plates parceled out. After saying grace, we dug in to the pizza, that is all of us but Lily, bless her heart, she just couldn't eat anything, but she drank part of her soda, so that would at least give her some sugar and Caffiene.

Then we heard a familiar voice and saw what looked like a scene from a television crime show. There were several police vehicles gathered around a big old barn out in what looked like the middle of nowhere. 

Yep... the voice was that of reporter Tanya Jane Harlow...but I didn't see her on the ground anywhere...where was she? Oh, my, she was in a whirlybird, hovering over the barn. We couldn't see her, but we could see another helicopter that belonged to the police. We could also see the car that Mrs. Wilson had been driving that morning. Was she inside the barn? What was going on, anyway? 

Then we heard the sound of rapid bursts of gunfire...who was doing the shooting? Was the Lieutenant there already? He and his men must have been driving at breakneck speed to get there this quickly. There came more police cars and some were stopping near the ones already there, while others went to the other side of the barn, surrounding it. 

As we watched, a window near the top of the barn opened and we could see an assault rifle sticking out of it, rapidly firing on the men below. It seemed the people inside the barn had an advantage, but they had to know they would most likely not leave it alive. What was going to happen? Where was Jack? Was he inside? If so, was he even still alive?
Sgt. Allen picked up the phone and called a pizza place and ordered a large pizza. I didn't know how we were going to be able to eat anything, what with worrying about Jack and where he might be. The four of us sat there looking at one another while we waited. 

"Tell us about working at the kindergarten, Lucy," I suggested. Just what do you do? Do you have anyone to help you, or do you do all the cooking?"

"No, I don't do any of the cooking, I just plan the meals and see that they are cooked to my specifications. I have to make sure the guidelines for proper nutrition are followed. There is a young woman who does the cookin' under my instructions. She comes in every day around seven a.m. and we get started for the day. Poor girl! I think maybe she is an orphan, because I never hear her talk about her family. I believe she goes to dance classes at night. She is always tired when she comes in, like she's not gettin' enough sleep. She talks about one day bein' a broadway star, but if you ask me, she's a long way from gettin' there."

"Well, now, that's right int'restin', ain't it, Lily?" I said, trying to get Lily to thinking of something besides her worries.

"Hmm? Oh, yes, yes, it is. Do you do all the cooking, Miss Lucy?"

Well, I knew then that she hadn't heard a word out of Lucy Mae's mouth. Lucy looked at me, and smiled and said, "No, Lily, I have a helper that does tha cookin'."

"That's nice, Miss Lucy. It's good to have help, isn't it?"

"Yes, dear, it is nice. Why don't you tell me about how you got to know Jackie?"

"We met when we were both in sixth grade, Jack was bigger than the other boys, but couldn't read very well. Everybody picked on him, including the teachers, but one of them let me work with him on his reading, and pretty soon he was reading on grade level and getting better every day. The next year he wasn't there anymore. He was moved out of the foster home he was in to another one and we lost track of each other. Then my parents died in an automobile accident, and Judy and I were shipped off to another city to live with an aunt, who finished raising us."

"What about now? How did you come to be back here in town after so many years?" Lucy wanted to know, drawn into the story. 

"Well, Judy is older than I am, and she came back here to live with my grandmother. Judy met her husband here in town several years ago and they got married about two years ago. I came back when my grandmother died and left her house to me and Judy. I was at loose ends and had finished at college about four years ago and was teaching in the town where my aunt lived. So after I came back here, I saw Jack one day and we got reacquainted. He is still the same sweet person he was and now...he...he's missing!" The sobbing began again. 

Oh, dear! The floodgates had opened again. Thank goodness, here came the pizza delivery boy. Judy paid him and he left, escorted by one of the detectives that had been left behind with us. 

We decided to turn on the television in the break room while we ate our meal. We had cokes from the machine and soon had the paper plates parceled out. After saying grace, we dug in to the pizza, that is all of us but Lily, bless her heart, she just couldn't eat anything, but she drank part of her soda, so that would at least give her some sugar and Caffiene.

Then we heard a familiar voice and saw what looked like a scene from a television crime show. There were several police vehicles gathered around a big old barn out in what looked like the middle of nowhere. 

Yep... the voice was that of reporter Tanya Jane Harlow...but I didn't see her on the ground anywhere...where was she? Oh, my, she was in a whirlybird, hovering over the barn. We couldn't see her, but we could see another helicopter that belonged to the police. We could also see the car that Mrs. Wilson had been driving that morning. Was she inside the barn? What was going on, anyway? 

Then we heard the sound of rapid bursts of gunfire...who was doing the shooting? Was the Lieutenant there already? He and his men must have been driving at breakneck speed to get there this quickly. There came more police cars and some were stopping near the ones already there, while others went to the other side of the barn, surrounding it. 

As we watched, a window near the top of the barn opened and we could see an assault rifle sticking out of it, rapidly firing on the men below. It seemed the people inside the barn had an advantage, but they had to know they would most likely not leave it alive. What was going to happen? Where was Jack? Was he inside? If so, was he even still alive?
Sgt. Allen picked up the phone and called a pizza place and ordered a large pizza. I didn't know how we were going to be able to eat anything, what with worrying about Jack and where he might be. The four of us sat there looking at one another while we waited. 

"Tell us about working at the kindergarten, Lucy," I suggested. Just what do you do? Do you have anyone to help you, or do you do all the cooking?"

"No, I don't do any of the cooking, I just plan the meals and see that they are cooked to my specifications. I have to make sure the guidelines for proper nutrition are followed. There is a young woman who does the cookin' under my instructions. She comes in every day around seven a.m. and we get started for the day. Poor girl! I think maybe she is an orphan, because I never hear her talk about her family. I believe she goes to dance classes at night. She is always tired when she comes in, like she's not gettin' enough sleep. She talks about one day bein' a broadway star, but if you ask me, she's a long way from gettin' there."

"Well, now, that's right int'restin', ain't it, Lily?" I said, trying to get Lily to thinking of something besides her worries.

"Hmm? Oh, yes, yes, it is. Do you do all the cooking, Miss Lucy?"

Well, I knew then that she hadn't heard a word out of Lucy Mae's mouth. Lucy looked at me, and smiled and said, "No, Lily, I have a helper that does tha cookin'."

"That's nice, Miss Lucy. It's good to have help, isn't it?"

"Yes, dear, it is nice. Why don't you tell me about how you got to know Jackie?"

"We met when we were both in sixth grade, Jack was bigger than the other boys, but couldn't read very well. Everybody picked on him, including the teachers, but one of them let me work with him on his reading, and pretty soon he was reading on grade level and getting better every day. The next year he wasn't there anymore. He was moved out of the foster home he was in to another one and we lost track of each other. Then my parents died in an automobile accident, and Judy and I were shipped off to another city to live with an aunt, who finished raising us."

"What about now? How did you come to be back here in town after so many years?" Lucy wanted to know, drawn into the story. 

"Well, Judy is older than I am, and she came back here to live with my grandmother. Judy met her husband here in town several years ago and they got married about two years ago. I came back when my grandmother died and left her house to me and Judy. I was at loose ends and had finished at college about four years ago and was teaching in the town where my aunt lived. So after I came back here, I saw Jack one day and we got reacquainted. He is still the same sweet person he was and now...he...he's missing!" The sobbing began again. 

Oh, dear! The floodgates had opened again. Thank goodness, here came the pizza delivery boy. Judy paid him and he left, escorted by one of the detectives that had been left behind with us. 

We decided to turn on the television in the break room while we ate our meal. We had cokes from the machine and soon had the paper plates parceled out. After saying grace, we dug in to the pizza, that is all of us but Lily, bless her heart, she just couldn't eat anything, but she drank part of her soda, so that would at least give her some sugar and Caffiene.

Then we heard a familiar voice and saw what looked like a scene from a television crime show. There were several police vehicles gathered around a big old barn out in what looked like the middle of nowhere. 

Yep... the voice was that of reporter Tanya Jane Harlow...but I didn't see her on the ground anywhere...where was she? Oh, my, she was in a whirlybird, hovering over the barn. We couldn't see her, but we could see another helicopter that belonged to the police. We could also see the car that Mrs. Wilson had been driving that morning. Was she inside the barn? What was going on, anyway? 

Then we heard the sound of rapid bursts of gunfire...who was doing the shooting? Was the Lieutenant there already? He and his men must have been driving at breakneck speed to get there this quickly. There came more police cars and some were stopping near the ones already there, while others went to the other side of the barn, surrounding it. 

As we watched, a window near the top of the barn opened and we could see an assault rifle sticking out of it, rapidly firing on the men below. It seemed the people inside the barn had an advantage, but they had to know they would most likely not leave it alive. What was going to happen? Where was Jack? Was he inside? If so, was he even still alive?

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