Saturday, March 23, 2013

Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland - Chapter 14


            The good feelings engendered from dinner with Mitch Langworth lasted until I got off the elevator at the Lloyd House and walked down the corridor to my room. The door stood ajar. I took a step back, then turned and ran back to the elevator which opened at a touch of the button.
            “Call the police,” I told the clerk at the desk. “Someone’s been in my room.”
            Two young officers who, in my opinion, still looked wet behind the ears, showed up fifteen minutes later and went upstairs with me. One of them toed my door the rest of the way open, yelled “Police!”, and stepped inside with his gun drawn.
            I followed the second officer inside. The room had been thoroughly ransacked. Feeling nausous, I sank down on the sofa and looked around again in disbelief.
          “They’re gone,” the first officer said.
          “Tell me something I don’t know,” I snapped.
          He blinked. The second officer glared at him and turned to me. “Is anything missing?”
         “How should I know?” I asked. “I’ll have to look around.”
         “Well, why don’t you?”
          I rose and began to check through my belongings which were strewn around the room. The jewelry box in one of the drawers appeared untouched—or someone had recognized the contents as inexpensive costume pieces. My suitcase, containing only a plastic bag with laundry to be done, also appeared undisturbed. But other clothes, flung from drawers and the closet, lay on the bed and floor, and in the bathroom, the items in my makeup case had been dumped into the sink.
         “Well?” asked the first officer who had followed me around.
         “I don’t think so,” I said.
         “What would someone have been looking for?”
         “I don’t know,” I replied and then thought of the manila envelope Candace King had suggested I have locked up in the hotel safe. “I don’t know.” It seemed useless to try to explain anything to these rookies.
         “Trixie?” Chief Doug Everton stood in the door, a look of confusion on his wrinkled face.
         I stared at him. A paunch replaced his once-lean abdomen, and his hair had turned completely white since the last time I’d seen him. Rudy James was right—the police chief was an old man.
        “What’s going on here?” he asked, stepping inside.
        I shrugged. “I came in about half an hour ago and found this mess.”
        “Anything missing?”
        “Not that I can tell.”
        “So it wasn’t burglary,” he observed. “Somebody looking for something maybe?”
        “Maybe.” I couldn’t like to him, but I didn’t intend to say more than absolutely necessary.
        “Tell me,” he said, motioning the other two officers out and shutting the door.
        “I can’t be sure,” I said, “but it might be what Candace King gave me this morning.”
        “And that was?”
        “Just some research she’d done on my family,” I said evasively.
        “The Quimby Building?”
        “Among other things.”
        “Did they find it?”
        “No, it’s in the hotel safe downstairs.”
       He sighed and sat down heavily. “Trixie, I’ve known you all your life, and this is your hometown all right, but you’re not really part of it anymore. Don’t get involved in things you don’t understand.”
     “Excuse me?”
     “You heard me. Just get things taken care of and go home.”
     “Sell my building, you mean.”
    “What do you want with it?”
    “I don’t know, but nobody is going to run me off the way they did the Drake sisters.”
     He sighed. “They imagined things.”
    “I don’t think so,” I said, not backing down. “I talked to them. They’re not stupid. I just don’t understand why you didn’t investigate what was going on.”
    He scowled at me. “I sent some officers out.”
   “Like the two who answered this call?”
   “Don’t be sassy, girl.”
    I looked away. “Sorry,” I muttered.
    He got to his feet with difficulty. “Trixie, I’m an old man, and all I want to do is retire and spend the rest of my life chasing the biggest bass in Porter Lake, not ghosts or bad guys. Just wind things up here and get on with your life back in Dallas.” He walked to the door.
    “Is that all you’re going to do about someone breaking into my hotel room?” I asked.
     He turned the knob. “If you find anything missing, let me know.” Then he was gone.
    I was picking up my clothes when someone knocked on the door. “What happened?” Rudy asked.
   “How do you know anything happened?”
   He looked at me with disgust. “I saw the patrol cars in front of the hotel, and the clerk said someone had broken into your room.”
   “Chief Everton didn’t ask any serious questions. He just dismissed the whole thing. You’d think he’d have at least checked out the door.”
    Rudy checked the lock. “It wasn’t forced, but it’s not much better than the one in the Quimby Building.”
   “So a credit card would open it?”
   “Lock it,” he said, backing out and closing the door after him. I locked the door and then watched a plastic card slip across the facing. In a few seconds, a click signaled the door had been unlocked.
   “It’s not hard.”
   “Does that make you a suspect?”
   He flinched. “That was mean, Trix.”
   “I’m sorry. I wasn’t serious.”
   “No, but you’re not sure who you can trust, are you?”
   “I guess not.”
   “Look, go downstairs and ask the clerk to move you to another room.” He hesitated. “If you’re going to stay, that is.”
   Anger surged through me. “Of course, I’m going to stay! Nobody’s running me out of town with amateurish stuff like this.”
   “Then change rooms and make sure no one knows which one you’re in.”
   “How did someone know which room I was in now? Did you?”
  "No. I ran into Chief Everton in the lobby, and he told me.”
   “So much for police confidentiality.”
   “And you invited Dee up here,” Rudy went on.
   “You don’t think Dee had anything to do with this, do you?”
   “Not intentionally, but she could’ve let something slip.”
   “Parker Aiken again.”
   Rudy shrugged. “I’m going back across the street. Just get yourself moved and be careful. I’ll be in touch.”
   It was midnight before I’d moved to a suite on the third floor, accommodations the clerk assured me would be billed at the same rate as a single room for the duration of my stay. I put a chair against my door and went to bed, but my turbulent thoughts wouldn’t let me sleep.

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