Authors: Maddie Cochere
The desk officer was frownin
when I ran through the doors.
“Almost get hit jaywa
lkin’, did ya?” he asked. “
I saw ya runnin’
across the street.”
“I’m sorry, officer. I won’t do it again
,” I said trying to look sheepish.
“I’m Susan Hunter. Detective Bentley asked me to stop in
He continued to frown
, probably contemplating whether or not to write out a citation
for the jaywalking
. “Have a seat,” he said as he motioned to a bench. He picked up the telephone, punched a button, and simply said, “Susan Hunter.”
on the bench
and waited. Fifteen minutes later, Detective Bentley, dressed casually in jeans and a black pullover sweater, strode across the large lobby toward me. I stood up
, aware my palms
were wet with perspiration
, and hoping he wouldn’t want to shake my hand
. At a height of over six feet, he presented an intimidating figure, and my heart immediately started to pound.
me. “Susan Hunter,” he said coldly, “walk this way.” He
spun on his heel
and headed back to
ward the hallway
I swear the man thought he was a comedian. Who says
walk this way
? At least he didn’t break
into an Egyptian walk or, worse, a duck walk.
We entered his office. H
e motioned for me to take a seat
, and he
sat facing me on the edge of his desk. Even though I had done nothing wrong, his close proximity made me even more nervous
. I felt cold and clammy over my entire body
My mouth was dry and swallowing
He was staring intensely at me with his smoldering blue-gray eyes. His square cut jaw with the cleft was clenched. I could feel his anger. He finally spoke. “Sooo
…,” he drawled. “The F.B.I. tells me you were the last person to see Bernardo Angelo alive, and now you’re a murder suspect.” He deepened his frown.
What?! A murder suspect! No one said anything about me being a suspect. My mouth fell open, my eyes popped out, and no words came out. I was pretty sure my heart stopped. I gripped the edge of his desk for fear I would pass out.
Detective Bentley stood up and laughed. “Susan, you gotta stop comin’ in here being so scared. It’s just too easy to mess with you.”
I put my hand on my heart, and screeched at him, “What is wrong with you?! I swear I’m going to get an attorney and sue you for trying to induce a heart attack!” I stood up to walk out of his office. There was no way I wanted to talk
“Oh, settle down,” he said still laughing at me. “It was all in good fun. Come on. We didn’t send men out to arrest you, we simply asked you to come in and talk to us. Every time I see you, you look guilty
like you murdered someone.” He leaned toward me, “Did you?”
ing out loud,” I snapped at him. “O
f course not! And you know it!” My voice was still raised.
Not able to contain his smile, he pointed to the chair for me to sit down again. He walked around
his desk and sat in his
chair. “Ok, Susan, let’s hear it. What do you know about this case that I don’t know?”
I took a couple of deep breaths. This man s
ure knew how to push my buttons
ot in a good way. I simply did n
ot get his sense of humor. “I only know a few things that might help
,” I told him
I overheard a man in New York say something to Bernardo about a river. He may have been threatening him, but that’s speculation. I heard Bernardo say very clearly,
Armand doesn’t know
I also know the F.B.I. is looking for the U.S. contacts
delivered the merchandise on a regular basis to Bernardo.” Detective Bentley nodded his head at this comment. I leaned in toward him, and said, “And I know where they are.”
“You do?” He furrowed his brow at me for real this time.
back in my chair
and said smugly,
“Right here in Carbide City
“How do you know that?” he practically growled at me.
“Because they’ve been following me and threatening
me, that’s how,” I said
Detective Bentley had the good sense to look shocked, and his mouth fell open. He immediately sent for a stenographer
so she could take my statement. I told him everything I knew right down to the car trying to run me over on my way into the station.
He had to tell me several times to quit calling the man in the hat
, but I didn’t have another name for him. “
Try Mr. Ross, or the man in the hat
,” he had barked at me. The only information I held back was when I would be getting the necklace from my mom. There was no explanation for it, but something deep in my core told me to keep that one tidbit of information to myself.
“The necklace is the key to all of this,” Detective Bentley told me after hearing my story. “You said there
was a gold piece
on top of the jade?”
I nodded and said
, “Yes, an ancient Chinese musical symbol in gold.”
“Susan, this doesn’t leave this room
,” he said
I’m guessing all of the information is in a microchip under the gold piece.
necklace may have all the information the F.B.I needs to bring this r
ing down. That’s why they’re
desperate to get it back. Has your mother already shipped it?”
“She should have
it this morning,” I told him. It was a truthful answer.
“It’ll probably be here Friday or Saturday,” he said. “I’ll send a man down to the post office Friday morning. If he misses it, and it comes to you instead, you call me the minute it hits your hands. You understand?”
“I understand,” I told him.
Detective Bentley had already put out an all-points bulletin for the Caprice, Indiana Jones, and Mrs. Ross
, when h
e asked an officer to walk with me across the street to my car.
“You go right home, ma’am,” the officer told me. “Lock your doors and stay put. Detectiv
e Bentley thinks you’ll be
fine if you stay at home. We’ll send a car by later tonight to keep an eye on your place.”
I thanked the officer,
in my car, and headed for home. I had been at the
station nearly three hours. I was tired, but alert. I watched anxiously for any sign of the Caprice.
continued, and I felt
silly sneaking into my apartment building. I crept softly up the stairs looking carefully to be sure no one was in the hallways. When I reached the top floor, I knocked on Darby’s door. I really wanted to talk to him about Detective Bentley’s theory about the necklace. I knocked again. No answer. He hadn’t been home all day.
Safely locked i
n my apartment, I looked around. I
checked the closets and
under the bed. Everything was fine. I walked into the living room and stood for minute wondering what I should do next. My phone rang.
The number was unknown. My heart jumped into my throat. I didn’t want to, but I had to answer it. “Hello?”
It came out as a whisper
It was a woman’s voice with an English accent. Mrs. Ross, of course. “Liste
n to me you stupid bitch. Your
friend is as good as dead if you don’t do ‘xactly as you’re told. If yo
u make a move toward
the cops again, you’re both dead.”
If I wasn’t in such good health, my heart would have surely
exploded. My chest was tight, I
couldn’t breathe, and my mouth felt like it was full of cotton. I could barely get my words out,
“What are you talking about?”
“Do you have the necklace?” she snapped.
“No, not yet, but it’s on its way,” I said, my voice shaky.
“You have one more day. Bring it to the Smokey Bridge tomorrow night at 7:00. If you don’t have it, Darby dies. If you do
n’t show, Darby dies, and we’ll
hunt you down. If we see any sign of the cops, you both die.”
“You have Darby?” I
are you?” she asked
. “No cops, and you both go free when we get the necklace. Tomorrow night. Smokey Bridge. 7:00.” The phone went dead.
I knew the Smokey Bridge. It was on the northwest end of town in one of the city’s many parks. I sat down on the sofa and put my head in my hands. I spent the next several minutes rocking back and forth. I was on the verge of a breakdown, and I had no one to talk to.
I picked up my phone to call Detective Bentley
but put it right back down again. I simply couldn’t call him. The F.B.I. wasn’t here yet, and I didn’t feel I could trust the local police to deal with these people. If the thieves spotte
d any police at all, they would kill Darby, and I absolutely couldn’t
let that happen under any circumstances. I had to get the necklace and take it to them. I had to get Darby back. I wanted to cry, but I was done crying. Now was the time to be strong and not do anything other than what I was told to do.
The necklace would be at the post office in the morning and delivered sometime in the afternoon. I knew my mail carrier, Kathy. We had graduated from high school together, and I sometimes saw her when she delivered the mail. I went to th
e pantry cupboard in the kitchen.
I kept menus, recipes, and an old telephone book on the top shelf. I took down the telephone book and
flipped through it, hoping
Kathy and her husband still lived over on Elm Street and were
. I found the number and punched it into my phone.
a female voice.
athy? Hi, this is Susan Hunter,” I said.
“Susan! Hi!” she said cheerfully. “How are you?”
I forced myself to put on my own cheerful voice. “Really well, Kathy. How are Steve and the kids?”
“Everybody’s great,” she chirped. “The kids run me ragged sometimes, but they’re happy, doing well in school, and that’s good enough for me. What’s up?”
my mom is sending a package
to me from Texas
,” I told her. “
It’ll be at the post office
tomorrow. Would you do
and leave it at the post office
so I can run in and grab it in the morning? I don’t want to have to wait for it to be delivered in the afternoon.”
“Sure, Susan, no problem.
How are your parents doing in Texas?” she asked.
“They love Dallas, and they’re happier than I ever dreamed they would be
I’m going to fly down to be with them for Christmas.” I paused for a
. “Kathy, I’m sorry, I have to run, but let’s get together soon. It’ll be fun to catch up with each other.”
“That would be great,” she agreed. “By
the way, I saw in the paper
you won a racquetball tournament down in Centertown. Congratulations. You’ll have to tell me all about it.”
I tried to sound cheerful and hoped it didn’t sound forced. “I will, Kathy
. Thank you, and thanks
for setting the package aside for me. I’ll talk to you later.”
I hung up the phone. Now I needed to come up with a plan. Before I could put any thoughts together, my phone rang again. It was Samantha.
I answered the call. “Hi, Sam.”
“Hi, Susan. Are we still on for racquetball tonight?
” she asked. “I think Husky’s
expecting us, too.”
“Oops,” I said
. “I completely forgot about it, and I’m not sure I can make it.”
“That’s perfectly ok by me,” she said sounding relieved. “I’m no
t in a good mood anyway. I’m
upset about the charges against Larry and Ron and the guys from Barney’s. It’s going to cost us a fortune.”