Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland - Chapter 17



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
            We arranged to meet at the Quimby Building on Saturday morning, after which I’d drive up to Mountain View to visit my father. Though I’d enjoyed the pizza—and mostly, I’d enjoyed Mitch’s company—I didn’t feel happy about life in general as I drove back to Dreamland. I wondered if Rudy would be at the Twilight and if he’d mind if I came over while I settled down.
            I parked in front of the Lloyd House and took the elevator to the top floor. There were only two rooms, both of them suites, and as soon as I stepped out into the corridor, I saw my door standing open. “Not again,” I said aloud, grabbing the elevator door before it slid shut.
            This time I didn’t wait downstairs for the police. Feeling sure whoever had broken in had come and gone, I went back upstairs and walked into the sitting room. It appeared undisturbed as well as empty, so I went to the bedroom and opened the door.
            I didn’t remember anything else until one of the rookies jerked me roughly to my feet. Behind him, Chief Everton scowled at me. “What the hell is going on here?”
            I staggered to the sofa and fell onto it. “I came back from dinner and found…that.” The pizza churned in my stomach and threatened not to  stay there.
            Chief Everton strode to the door of my bedroom and looked in, then came back to stand over me. “So what happened?”
            “I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t here.”
            “Where were you?”
            “Having dinner with…with a friend in Benton. I left here about five-thirty.”
            “Name of the friend.”
            I sighed. “Mitch Langworth.”
            “Son of the deceased. That’s convenient for both of you, isn’t it?”
            I struggled with the nausea. “You don’t think…”
            “There were witnesses to the argument you and Guy Langworth had in the lobby the other day.”
            “It wasn’t an argument.”
            “What was it then?”
            “He…it was about the building, and I didn’t like the way he tried to grab my arm.”
            The chief pulled out his cell phone and walked away. I heard the words homicide, coroner, and son. Turning to look at me, he muttered something else I didn’t understand and hung up. “Okay, Trixie,” he said, “we’re going downtown.”
            “You’re arresting me?”
            “Not yet.”
            “If you think I killed Guy Langworth, it’s way past time for you to retire!”
            His face turned a nasty reddish-purple. “You’ve done nothing but cause trouble since you got to town.”
            “I haven’t done squat. All I did was check out my building and tried to make a decision on the best thing to do.”
            “You knew the best thing, and you didn’t do it.”
            “And you know all this how?”
            He fiddled with the handcuffs on the back of his belt but didn’t remove them. “I’m the police chief of Dreamland. Come on.”
            I didn’t stand up. “I want to call my attorney.”
            “You can do that from the station. Get up.”
            It seemed the prudent option to do what he said. At the station, I repeated the request to telephone my attorney. He shook his head. “Plenty of time for that.” Opening a door, he motioned me inside a room furnished only with a table and two chairs.
            “I have a right to have an attorney present,” I said. “That’s the law.” I hoped he wouldn’t ask if I had a cell phone and confiscate it.
            “Sit down.” He closed the door. At the same time I heard it lock, my cell phone rang.  I dived to muffle it against my leg. “Trixie? What’s going on?” Mitch’s voice had never sounded so good.
            “I’m at the police station. Chief Everton locked me in an interrogation room and left..”
            “He just called to tell me my father is dead.”
            “I found him in the bedroom of my hotel suite when I got home tonight.”
            “He said it was a homicide.”
            “I guess so. I don’t know how he was killed, but there was a lot of blood.” I had to put my head down to quell the worsening nausea.”
            “I’m leaving the house as we speak. Just sit tight, and don’t say anything.”
            “I didn’t kill him, Mitch.”
            “I know that, and so, I expect, does Chief  Everton. He’s got another agenda. Just keep quiet, and I’ll be there in forty-five minutes. I can act as your attorney of record. You can call your own lawyer, but he couldn’t get here before tomorrow.”
            “But it’s your father…”
            “Technically, I guess it’s a conflict of interest, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
            I decided not to call Ben Cullen, at least until and if I was charged with something.  Besides, I had an alibi. At least I hoped I did. I slipped the phone back into my purse and looked around. I’d seen rooms like this on television police dramas, but it never crossed my mind I’d ever be in one. The hands on the clock hanging behind me moved at the speed of an arthritic snail. The air-conditioning kicked up and blew a puff of stale, tepid air between my feet. I put my head down on the table again and waited.
*****
             I must have drifted off, but I came alert when I heard the door open. One of the rookies walked in holding a canned drink. “Thought you might like this,” he said.
            “Thanks.” I held out my hand, but he set the can on the table and slid it toward me. Glancing at the clock, I realized that over an hour had passed. Where was Mitch? “Is anyone out there for me?” I asked.
            He dropped his eyes. “Yeah, but…”
            “Mitch Langworth?”
            He nodded.
            “Well, where is he?”
            “Chief’s talking to him.”
            “He’s in custody like I am?”
            The young officer shrugged and walked out, locking the door behind him.
            I didn’t see Mitch until we both walked out of the station at four o’clock in the morning, after Chief Everton had asked me fifteen minutes’ worth of useless questions for which I had no answers. “So where are we?” I asked.
            He shook his head. “Beats me. Your police chief…”
            “He’s changed.”
            “Everton wouldn’t give me a time of death, but it had to be after you left, and I used my credit card at the pizza place, so there’s a record of the time it was swiped.”
            “He was nasty to me, in my room and when he questioned me.”
            “Any idea why?”
            “It all revolves around the building.”
            “Uh-huh, figures.”
            “I need a shower, and I’m starving.”
            “Your suite at the hotel will still be a crime scene,  but maybe you can get your things and go to another room. They say the third time’s the charm.”
            “Maybe. Mitch, I’m sorry about your father.”
            He blew out his breath. “Well, so am I in a way. We weren’t close, and frankly, I didn’t like him.”
            “But he was your father.”
            “I can’t deny that.”
            At the Lloyd House, he followed me inside, saying he’d run interference for me with the desk clerk. We were half-way across the lobby when my mother rose from a wingback chair and rushed toward me, her long red nails poised like claws for the attack. “You’ve ruined my life,” she shrieked. “Why can’t you just go away and stay?”

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