Thursday, April 11, 2013

Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland - Chapter 27


            I called the Drakes and told them what had happened. “Don’t wait up for me. I’m going to hang around here for a while.”
            At midnight, Rudy and Dee helped Mrs. Jefferson to bed. “How long before we can get somebody else involved besides the local police?” I asked Mitch.
            “Without more to go on, a long time. Danny didn’t run away, and Chief Everton knows it, but he’s not going to do anything about it. The question is, why?”
            “What about what Danny told me? Don’t the police need to know?”
            “In other circumstances, I’d say yes, but if the chief is protecting Parker Aiken…”
            Rudy and Dee came back. “Danny wasn’t taken off his bicycle in that vacant lot,” he said. “There was no sign of a struggle, but I’m betting he didn’t go without a fight.”
            “Did you back-track along the route he’d have taken from the Drake sisters’ house?” Mitch asked.
            Rudy nodded. “Twice. Not a clue.”
            “Any ideas about Candace and Lindy?” Mitch asked.
            “Not unless Candace murdered your father and ran off, but I don’t think she did.”
            “It was my mother Danny saw coming out of the hotel,” I said.
            “Do you think she killed him?” Rudy asked.
            “I don’t want to think so. She’s my mother, after all. But Danny said she bumped him and kept going. That indicates to me she was upset about something.”
            “I tried calling Anne Aiken several times,” Mitch said. “I can’t get hold of her either.”
            “She drives a silver Camry,” Dee said. “It’s the only one in town as far as I know.”
            “Are you suggesting we go look for her?” Mitch asked. “It’s dark.”
            Dee shrugged. “I have to stay here in case Mom wakes up, but the rest of you could go.”
            “It’s something to do,” I said.
            Mitch nodded. “Okay, I’m game.”
            Rudy stood up. “Dreamland was laid out pretty much in a square,” he said. “I’ll take everything south of Main Street, and you and Trixie go north. It’s dark, but we can check the places she’d be—the historical society office for starters.”
            “How about Hetty Evans’ place?” I asked. “They work together at the office. Maybe Anne’s hiding out over there. She took my mother some personal items when she was in the hospital. Maybe she’s at the condo with her.”
            “So we find her, and then what?” Rudy asked.
            “I’ll talk to her,” Mitch said. “I have a vested interest in Candace and Lindy. We weren’t exactly family, but the three of us got along.”
            “We’ll check in by phone every fifteen minutes,” Rudy said. “If one of us finds her, we’ll decide what to do and how to do it.”
            It took exactly fifteen minutes to find the silver car parked in front of the historical society building. A light burned over the door, and I could see a sliver of light behind the blinds in the single window. “Call Rudy,” Mitch said. He parked a little removed from Anne’s car and cut the engine.
            Rudy pulled up beside us in minutes and got out. “You going in, Mitch?”
            “I’m going in. You stay with Trixie.”
            “Are you armed?”
            Mitch’s face registered shock. “You’ve got to be kidding!”
            “I’m dead serious. Want my piece?”
            “I do not. Why would you even think I need it?”
            Rudy shrugged. “Okay.”
            We watched Mitch knock on the door, then the window, but if Anne was inside, she wasn’t responding. “Try the door,” Rudy called in a stage whisper.
            When it swung open at a touch, I panicked. “I don’t think he should go in,” I said.
            “I don’t either.” Rudy stuck his head out the window. “Mitch, don’t…”
            Mitch hesitated, then came back to the car. “The last thing in the world I want to do is walk in on a crime scene.”
            Rudy opened the car door. “We’ll do it together.”
            I hugged the seat. “I’m already in enough trouble. If there’s another body in there…”
            Rudy took my arm. “Come on.”
            Inside, the eerie stillness set my teeth chattering. We walked down the long hall to the back room which Anne and Hetty used to catalogue material, but it was empty. The storage room was empty, too. That left Candace’s office. No light came from under the door. “Mitch, we have to call the police,” I stage-whispered.
            “What good would that do?”
            “It would keep us from buying ourselves a one-way ticket to the gas chamber,” I retorted.
            He shook his head and put the back of his hand against the door. Like the outside door, it swung open, too. “Anne?” he called.
            “Turn on the light,” Rudy said.
            Mitch did. Peering around his broad back, I saw Anne Aiken’s body sprawled on the floor in front of the desk. From the amount of blood around her, I knew she was very dead.
            We were back on the street in seconds. “Drive to the Twilight,” Rudy said. “Around back.”
            The bar was closed, but the bartender we’d spoken with earlier was still cleaning up. “Three stiff ones, Bill,” Rudy said.
            We slid into the back booth and drank in silence. “Now what?” Mitch asked when our glasses were empty.
            “We have to report Anne’s…murder.” I stumbled on the word.
            “How?” Rudy asked.
            “I’ve got a law license to protect,” Mitch said. “I don’t have any choice. Look, you take Trixie back to the Drakes’ and then go on home yourself. I’ll give you time enough to do both, and then I’ll drive to the police station and tell them about Anne.”
            Rudy frowned. “I don’t know…”
            “I’ll keep you and Trixie out of it.” He glanced at the bartender. “What about him?”
            “If I tell him we were never here tonight, we were never here,” Rudy said.
            “Good.” Mitch stood up. “Let’s get going.”

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