Authors: MK Alexander
“Wait a second…” Chamblis looked at both policemen. “What the hell are you trying to do here?”
“We are all patient men, I should say.” Fynn smiled. “Perhaps you would like some refreshment?”
“Not thirsty.” Chamblis crossed his arms and looked around the tiny interrogation room. He glanced over at the mirrored wall as well.
“Of course, Mr Chamblis, you have every right not to speak with us. Detective Durbin has not charged you with anything as of yet.”
“As of yet?”
“Honestly, things don’t look very good.”
“For who? For you, the police? You got nothing on me.”
“But I am not the police exactly. I represent Interpol.”
“Interpol? What the hell?”
“Do you travel abroad often?” Fynn asked.
Chamblis said nothing but stared back and screwed up his face.
“I would hate to see any sort of blemish appear on their files… it can make things so difficult at the airports.”
“I’m not saying a word,” Chamblis resisted.
“This is your legal right. And I agree everything you say should be on the record… This is crucial to me. We should not make a… how do you say? …
Such might be counter-productive to the truth.”
“The truth?” Chamblis asked though it seemed more like just a reaction.
“Oh… yes, what Eddie told us. We are wondering if that’s the truth as well.”
Chamblis’ face collapsed into anxiety. “Eddie…” he muttered mostly to himself. “What did Eddie tell you?”
“Best we wait for your solicitor.” Fynn smiled again and then nodded at Durbin. The detective reached behind him and took something off the shelf, a plastic bag with a pair of shoes inside. He put them on the table and stared hard at Chamblis.
“What size do you wear, Mr Chamblis?” Fynn asked and then interrupted himself. “Oh, I’m sorry— I should not be asking such questions… yet.”
“I can explain those.”
“There’s no need to. We should wait, I think. On the record, yes?” Fynn smiled at Chamblis. “Perhaps I now have time to read this rather interesting forensics report… What was it about again, detective?”
Durbin looked over Fynn’s shoulder. “Oh yeah, the forensics… it matches the dead girl at Sunset Park to the trunk of Chamblis’ car.”
“That hardly means anything…” Fynn said pleasantly.
“What are you talking about?”
“The trace evidence in the boot of your car. Hair and fibers. Her DNA is a match.”
“Well, who the hell is she?”
“That’s what you’re going to tell us,” Durbin said sharply.
“Let’s amend that to, we are certainly anxious to verify her identity.”
“So you know who it is?”
“I don’t suppose it would help your case if she is well known to you. A friend? An employee? A casual acquaintance? A paramour even...”
“I don’t know who she is.”
“Perhaps not, but your associate does.”
“Ha, I have lots of associates. Who are you talking about?”
“The man you work for.”
“I don’t work for anyone. People work for me.”
“As you say…” Fynn rose quite suddenly and stretched. “Well, since it’s going to be such a long wait, I suppose I’ll find some lunch.”
“Wait a second,” Chamblis said and looked at his watch again, “Lunch? It’s like eight-forty-five. I didn’t even have breakfast yet.”
“Is it that early?”
Chamblis said nothing for the moment. I could almost see his thoughts churning. “This is like some kind of friggin’ nightmare,” he finally blurted. He looked at Fynn and Durbin helplessly. “Okay, what do you guys want to know?”
“Best we wait for Mr Dean,” Fynn said, still on his feet. “I’m quite sure you have nothing to tell us about your mysterious associate. The man you call so much on your cell phone.”
“Well, I might… why are you so interested anyhow?”
“No reason in particular.” Fynn smiled and put his hand on Durbin’s shoulder. The detective also rose from his chair.
“Wait a second,” Chamblis said. “Off the record?” he asked.
Durbin nodded and sat down again. He took over the questioning: “Want to tell us how you met this guy?”
“I never did, not face to face. Strictly on the phone,” Chamblis started, “and he had a bogus cell number. It never worked more than twice.”
“How did you make contact then?”
“He called me.”
“When was this?”
“I don’t know, it was early March… Called me up and introduced himself as Dean’s associate.”
“Dean’s associate? Your lawyer?”
“Is that true?”
“Don’t think so… I asked Dean about him later. Said he never heard of the guy.”
“The guy… what’s this guy’s name.”
“Yeah. Never gave me a last name.”
“So what did this Jasper want, the first time he called you?”
“He didn’t want anything. He told me he could fix things.”
“Fix things, like how?”
“I don’t know how.”
“Alright, what then— what did he say he could fix?”
“I was having trouble with the zoning board, the Woodlands expansion. The city kept shutting me down, wouldn’t even give me a hearing. All that freaking money I was pouring into Dean’s pockets, going nowhere.”
“And he told you he could fix this?”
“No. I told him. I said, if you fix this, we could do business.”
“Like a dare?”
“Proof of service, let’s call it.”
“So what happened?”
“Next day, I got preliminary approval from the z-board.”
“That’s the kicker. It was so easy, so obvious… Somebody, I guess it was him, just changed the application form… changed it from one acre lots to two. It was a whole new ball game. Two-acre lots are classified as a farmstead. And the board had a legal obligation to hear the case. I tell you, that blew Dean right out of the water. This guy was smart. I was impressed.”
“What did he want in return?”
“Nothing… not money anyhow.”
“What do you mean?”
“I offered to pay him… he turned me down.”
“He must have wanted something.”
“Not at first. But he told me he might be asking for a favor from time to time, nothing much really.”
“He wanted me to find a dog.”
“I don’t know. I never found him. He didn’t even know what kind.”
“The car, the goddam Pontiac.”
“You sent Eddie to buy it.”
“Eventually... Took forever to find.”
“He wanted info about Jardel too. Anything I knew… his past, his parents, where he’s from.”
“I couldn’t find anything.”
“I sent Dean around to talk to him.”
“Nothing, that’s it… But that’s when things got weird.”
“In what way?”
“The girl in the freezer. She just showed up there one day.”
“That was his doing, this Jasper guy?”
“How come we found trace in your car then?”
“Oh yeah, that…” Chamblis squirmed a little. “He borrowed it.”
“Told me to park it in front of Fish City, with the keys in it.”
“Nothing happened the first couple of nights. It was still there the next morning.”
“Not sure I’m buying this.”
“Okay, well, I zeroed out the odometer… On the third night, somebody drove it about nine miles.”
“Somebody? You’re saying it was Jasper?”
“Who else?” Chamblis looked at both policeman. “The girl was gone… that’s all I know.”
“When was this?”
“Beginning of March, I think.”
“Then it was the goddamn cane.”
“He told me it belonged to Bobby Baker.”
“The ball player?”
“That’s what he told me…” Chamblis said and paused with almost a cruel smile. “I could tell he wanted it back real bad.”
“Why is that, if it wasn’t even his?”
“Don’t know exactly, but I sent Eddie out to look for it on the bike path.”
“Nothing. Never found it.”
“What about these shoes?”
“The fucking shoes… they just showed up in the mail one day.”
“Really… What size?”
“What size are you?”
“I foresee a great danger for you tomorrow night, Patrick,” the inspector said as he hoisted himself from my car.
“What? From Mortimer?”
“Not necessarily… a different kind of danger awaits and I’m very curious to see how you will divide your time.”
“What are you talking about, Fynn?”
“I’m thinking about who will be at the Policeman’s Ball.”
“Amy, Jo-Anne, Alyson, Suzy, and even Anika... There maybe more. All these girls in one place? One misstep and I fear you’ll meet your doom.”
“Very funny.” I laughed nervously. “What about you?”
“Me? Mortimer has never seen me at this age, I am certain. I doubt he’ll recognize me.”
“Don’t be so sure. You’re kind of hard to miss.”
Anika came out to the driveway as we arrived. She had a very concerned look on her face. “Pader, this is terrible,” she began mostly in English.
“What is it, my dear?” Fynn asked somewhat alarmed.
“My shoes… they’ve all gone missing. Did you forget to pack them?”
“Missing? I seem to recall many boxes of shoes, Anika.”
“Yes, but my good shoes,” she said.
“How many pairs are missing, my dear?”
“Four, and all the same, my high heels. All in different colors, red, black, a silver pair, and my white ones.”
“Can you make do with what you have?”
“I suppose,” she said, then smiled, and laughed a little when she noticed the expression on my face. “Ah, who needs shoes anyway… it’s going to be a party right on the beach. I’ll just go barefoot.”
Like father, like daughter, I thought to myself.
“But Anika my love, this is my biggest fear… People formally dressed, but without footwear. It makes me think of the
, and you know how I’ve always detested such...”
“What, that silly cartoon from so long ago?” Anika laughed and teased further, “I don’t understand why this upsets you so much.”
“It offends my sensibilities, my innate sense of history.”
“Really father, you’re starting to embarrass me.”
We were ten minutes late to the dance, at least. It wasn’t my doing this time. “Fashionably late,” Inspector Fynn teased. Anika had some last minute preparations that seemed to take longer than expected. She finally appeared at the front door looking quite beautiful and sophisticated: A short black dress, a string of pearls and silver jewelry along her bare arms. Her blond hair was piled high on her head, tiny studs in her ears, and of course black stilettos.
“Well?” she asked us both, while applying a last coat of lipstick in front of the hall mirror.
“Good,” Anika said and smiled satisfied. She straightened her father’s tie, black, and not tucked beneath his collar tonight. She made me turn around then decided to adjust my cummerbund. “You both look quite presentable. Off we go then.”
I turned to see Fynn reaching for the jackal cane resting against the wall. I have to admit it looked quite correct with his tuxedo, but I felt a deep abiding anxiety at the sight of it. I gave him a questioning glance.
“Ah yes, this is essential for tonight’s festivities,” he said rather cryptically.
“For the auction.”
We didn’t exactly arrive in style. No limo, well, no Vespa either, just my Saab. We picked up Eleanor in Cedar Bluffs. She was waiting by the door of her old house and also looked quite elegant, dressed in a white gown that came to her ankles, rather sheer and flowing. She also wore an ornate necklace in gold with small blue stones draped around her neck. Her hair had been recently coiffed, still shockingly white but not pulled back with the same severity as usual. Fynn graciously escorted her to the car, the front seat, and climbed in the back with Anika. A few minutes later we pulled up to the Beachcomber. It was already crowded, the parking lot seemed unusually full. One car there caught my attention, a Pontiac T-37, pumpkin orange, now shiny and polished with gleaming chrome bumpers and wheel rims. Oddly, Cinderella came to mind again. My car was whisked away by the valet.
The night was cooperating weather-wise: warm, a bit muggy perhaps, but a gentle breeze blew off the water with a pleasant cooling effect. And there was the moon. I’d never seen it quite so large and full, rising into a cloudless sky over the ocean. There was that too, the sound of the pounding surf, crashing against the sand with its eternal rhythm, just in the background.
“The super moon,” Anika said almost as if she were reading my mind.
“The rare occurrence when the moon is full and at its perigee, closest to the Earth. It makes it appear much larger than usual.”
“You like astronomy?” I asked.
Anika glanced at me and smiled. “My father’s influence… an astronomer and a policeman.” She laughed a little.
I noticed strains of music coming from inside, low key techno pop just at the threshold of hearing and way below the murmur of conversations… hardly a treble note, but the beat and the bass could be felt as well as heard right through the walls.
I half expected a grand entrance, as if someone might announce our arrival with formal ceremony, maybe Don Pagor, the Voice of Sand City: “Detective Chief Inspector Tractus Fynn and his daughter, Lady Anika… The Duchess Eleanor Woods and Sir Patrick Jardel…” Such was not the case. We handed over our tickets and slipped through the door unattended. Fynn and Eleanor, arm and arm walked off into the main ballroom. The Beachcomber was filling up quickly. There were probably about fifty people or so there already. The inspector seemed completely at ease. In the corner of my eye, I could see him laughing, conversing, happily chatting with the guests.