Jo Naylor's adventure began with The Shattered Figurine Feb/2013- then Near Death in Oct/2013, it continues...
On the Edge of Danger
Inspector Murdoch Maloney feels sorry for Jo Naylor. He tries to imagine the fear she must’ve experienced with a garrotte tightening around her neck less than eight hours ago. He doesn’t need to see the red mark. The black turtleneck she wears under her jacket covers it well. He’s faced dangerous people enough times in his life to know how nerve wracking it is to come close to death. He admits to himself that the ordeal over her father last year can be overwhelming also but he didn’t get to be Inspector by being a candy ass. He just finished ragging her and her partner Adam out big time, especially Naylor. This was the second time she had ventured into a potentially dangerous situation on her own. She had just come from a check up at the hospital.
After his last remark of how close she came to dying, the small office became quiet. The computer tower under his desk hums in the silence. The noises from the outer offices, chatter, phones ringing, chairs creaking, are mostly muffled by the closed door behind the two detectives. Adam Thorne is sitting on the left facing his superior’s desk, the chair closest to the exit. Naylor is to the right. Thorne has his elbows on the armrests of the chair, his fingers steepled. He’s gazing at his knees, unfocused, chewing on his inner lip in concentration. He’s only been a constable detective two weeks short of a year, he knows when to keep his mouth shut. Maloney chews everybody out, a tough old bastard.
Naylor is looking her boss in the eyes; she catches the glimmer of compassion in them, contrary to the firm set in his jaw. Hoping he sees the determination in hers, she holds his gaze until he says,
“Get outta here; go find that man that did this to you Naylor. Watch her back Thorne!”
Their chairs scrape across the hardwood floor in quick response as the two hasten from the office, faster than twelve year olds when school’s out. Through the door before the Inspector can even remind them to close it as they leave, Naylor is two steps ahead of her partner almost at a jog saying,
“What were you able to dig up on Dunsmore?”
The admin staff and another detective are in the outer office, a cluttered area, fashioned in ‘institutional dull’. New and old desks, computer stations, a work table form islands that the pair weave amongst as they head for the front door. Thorne digs a leather bound note pad from the inside pocket of his sport coat while saying,
“He is...or was...living in a rooming house downtown off east main. Twenty one years ago, Dunsmore worked for your father at the prison, the parting was not sweet.”
Thorne almost bumps into her as she abruptly stops to face him. Her auburn ponytail swings from her cocked head as she says,
“Is that so?”
Thorne backs off a step as she mulls this over.
“There seems to be lot about your father you don’t know.”
“Well, certainly nothing about his work. It stayed there.”
A few seconds go by and she waves him along.
“That’s interesting Adam. You’ve been busy. Tell me the rest as we head to the rooming house you mentioned.”
Back into a trot again, Naylor heads for their car in the side parking lot as she listens to Thorne’s narrative. He’s walking as if he’s in a marathon trying to keep up, glancing at his notes, relating what he’s discovered in the last four hours. A few clouds bunch up here and there in the mainly clear sky but it’s still cool enough this spring day to lightly see his breathe. Several other cars are leaving and the air smells like exhaust.
A Crown Victoria, cop grey, waits for them at the rear of the lot. The car looks police; they don’t. Naylor’s tall for a lady, her workouts keep her buff. The women that she works with enviously nicknamed her “Shape”. The guys might think it but they know better than to say it. Her dark jeans, the black sweater, the short grey jacket fit her loosely yet define her pleasing curves. She moves fluidly like a gymnast, she kicks like a double barrelled 12 gauge.
Thorne looks like he’s going to a photo shoot. Black slacks, open necked black dress shirt, grey sharkskin sport coat, shiny shoes, a black hankie artfully tucked into the outer breast pocket makes him trendy and serious. He’s an inch shorter than Jo, wider and just as lean, maybe a little too thin for his muscled frame. He’s wears a happy grin most of the time, seemingly pleased with his life. Eager to be a good detective, he’s attentive and works far too hard.
They’re climbing in the car as Thorne says, “He just got out of jail about six months ago after doing time for aggravated assault. He almost killed his victim he beat her so bad.”
Naylor is backing the car out from the painted lines.
“When was this, the assault?”
“It’ll be four years ago this autumn.”
While she waits for a gap in the traffic to head east, they eyeball each other, the date is significant. Naylor says what they both know,
“That’s must be just after his daughter died.”
Thorne is nodding his head. He knows she’s thinking of her father right now. “Yeah it was.”
“Who did he assault?”
Naylor sees a gap in the traffic, a kind civilian giving her the right-of-way waves her on. She does something else Maloney doesn’t like. She floors the grey whale and it tears out of the lot. The back wheels chirp for fifteen seconds as the black rubber scars the concrete driveway of the police station and a foot or so of Robinson Avenue as she speeds out into the flow of traffic. Even though they don’t have a light flashing, her haste is evident to the other motorist’s and they make room for the cop car to pass them. The rooming house is across town, maybe fifteen minutes. She can flip the siren for a few lights, so maybe ten minutes. Thorne is holding his note book in his left hand; his right holds the overhead safety strap He’s too nervous to watch the road when she’s in a hurry, so he stares at the lines of his neat script as he relays the details.
Eleven minutes later they turn off east Main onto Blueberry St. and pull up on the wrong side in front of a tall narrow house, two floors and a tall attic. The siding is wide Masonite, popular in the seventies, dark brown paint making the house overly serious. Paint peels around the edges of the dirty windows and top of the front entry. A dingy white aluminum door with a torn screen hangs open; the bottom hinge is wobbly as if only one screw holds it.
It’s the first building on the left, just after a half empty car lot called ‘Jonahs Pre-owned Autos’ where used vehicles are shuffled about by the owner and single salesperson, Gaspar Jonah, a man known for his dishonesty and wide colourful ties.
He’s in the lot now clapping some young man on the back but stops his spiel when he sees Naylor and Thorne pull up to the building next door. He knows this ‘ghost car’. He knows the coppers by reputation. He means to talk to them about the big man he saw checking out the cars last night just after he closed. He was going to go out and inquire if the man was interested but when he saw how big he was, how menacing the heavy brows were, the face shaded in the yard lights, he lost interest, was scared actually. He’ll sell this naive lad a car first, and then go talk to them.
As the detectives get out of the car Thorne is saying,
“...so he trashed your old man’s office, beat up one of the office clerks. He was physically restrained and arrested. He spent three nights in jail until the charges were dropped. I didn’t have time to find out why.”
Naylor is standing on the fractured sidewalk facing the front of the house. There is a four foot uncut lawn, two cracked concrete squares for a path to the front stoop which is weathered but the two steps are new, rough cut but the wood is recent. A dirt driveway runs to the right. Her ponytail swings as she surveys the structure. Her nose is scrunched from the smell of old tires piled at the end of the driveway, cooking in the sun.
“How do you know this Adam? I never heard any of this at home.”
“Well, like you said, he never brought his work home. I bet there was always some weird crap going on in a prison. Anyway, my Dad is a regular at the curling club up on Lutz Street and George Zawacki is on the same team, has been for many years. Mr Zawacki is the...”
“Yeah, yeah I know who Zawacki is, took over the warden’s job.”
“That’s the one. It was quicker this way than through our office channels. So he let me dig through some of the files, I talked to one of the older guards, he remembered the incident.”
Naylor is not saying anything. She stares at the bent front door although it is faint and blurry in her vision. She is oddly struck with a memory of the story of the Dunsmore girl, front page of the daily. She feels a terrific hurt in her heart for the pain her father wrought. Naylor has her hands on her hips when she turns to face her partner. The dark eyes are shiny and sad. Her lips are upturned as she concentrates trying to keep her emotions in check before she speaks. She doesn’t know if she can keep doing this, maybe she’s too close. She’s suddenly scared. Her voice is tiny, just above a whisper.
“Then seventeen years later, my father kills Dunsmore’s daughter. Now Dunsmore is trying to kill me.”
To be continued...........
Next Friday is Valentines Day, read about Love in its many shapes and forms of expression.
February 21st, please be here to read a witty short story called Kennyisms from Lockie Young, his second appearance as a guest writer. Feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for visiting the South Branch Scribbler