Olly Olly Oxen Free
Through your nose, Musgrave cautioned himself again, breathe through your nose.
Stretched out on his belly on a bed of pine needles, branches and cones covering his shoulders and arms, Musgrave was positioned between two trees behind a rock the size of a snow tire. Like everyone else tonight, he had on dark clothes: jeans, a sweatshirt, and a watch cap. Also, he had removed all the loose change from his pockets along with his car keys and, just moments ago, had smeared a handful of mud across his face so it wouldn’t shine in the moonlight. He was practically invisible, he thought, a creature of the forest.
“Paul Dietrich! Paul Dietrich!”
At once, Musgrave peered around the rock and saw Tribe racing back to the front porch of the dilapidated old government cabin just a few feet in front of the lumbering Dietrich. Damn, he fumed. Tribe had spotted another one, his fourth so far in the version of hide-and-seek they were playing tonight. He was “it,” the seeker, and the front porch was home base. Once he found a player he had to get back to the base before that player and call out the person’s name otherwise the player was safe. Then he resumed his search until all the players were found or, if he was unable to locate everyone, he yelled, “Olly olly oxen free,” which alerted those still hiding to come out and return to the base.
His left elbow was in pain. It was lodged against the end of a split branch, and though he tried to ignore how much it ached, he knew he could not ignore it much longer. He had to move it but was afraid Tribe might spot him if he did because he was lying less than twenty yards from the porch. Shutting his eyes then, as if that would somehow make him less visible, he slid his elbow a fraction to the left and immediately the pain subsided. Quickly he looked to see if Tribe noticed him but he was looking in another direction.
Thank God, he thought, his eyes riveted on the base.
He had not played hide-and-seek since he was nine years old, he guessed, and needed someone to remind him of the rules. He and the eight others participating in the game all worked for the city in the Bureau of Transportation. Aaron Tribe was the parking manager, and it was his idea to spend the weekend in the woods in order for members of his staff to get to know one another better and develop some genuine camraderie. He really invited them because he was scared about losing his job. Not everyone but a couple members, including Musgrave, had expressed concerns to their supervisor that Tribe and maybe some others in the bureau were involved in a scheme to skim parking meter money. So far, it was just speculation but Musgrave was sure it was true because Tribe had a reputation for taking benefits only he thought he was entitled to take. He suspected Tribe was aware of the rumors about his scheme otherwise he would not have arranged this outing in the woods but he doubted if he knew anyone had actually reported him because the whistle-blowers were assured their identities would be protected.
“Andy Clausen! Andy Clausen!”
Clausen was almost as big as Tribe, half an inch shorter with a similar protruding belly and double chin, so Musgrave was not surprised that he was unable to out run Tribe back to the base. Now just three people remained in hiding. Musgrave wondered if he had the patience to stay where he was because he believed if he hadn’t been spotted by now he probably wouldn’t be because he was so well hidden. Half smiling to himself, he suddenly thought of Pudge, a kid he used to play hide-and-seek with who had the patience of a polar bear once he found a hiding place because he would not budge from it until the person who was “it” eventually gave up in frustration. If he were Pudge, he had no doubt he’d outlast Tribe but he wasn’t and he knew he wanted to beat Tribe back to the base. It’d be like scoring a touchdown, he reckoned, a much more emphatic way of defeating the crook.
“Lem Musgrave! Lem Musgrave!”
“Tribe tagged you pretty hard,” Nola remarked to Musgrave after the game.
“You think so?”
“The slap sounded like a dictionary had been dropped on a hardwood floor.”
He grinned. “I really didn’t notice I was so focused on getting back to the base before he did.”
“It sounded pretty hard to me, Lem.”
“If you say so.”
Anxiously she drew a finger around her left eye. “You think he knows we reported him?”
He glared at the concerned woman. “Now why would he think that, Nola? We were promised what we said would be kept in strict confidence.”
“I know that, Lem. I do. But he tagged you so hard. Why would he do that if he wasn’t angry at you?”
“He didn’t tag me any harder than anyone else.”
“That’s not what I heard.”
He shrugged in frustration, doubting if he could ever convince her the tag was nothing out of the ordinary. She was just so paranoid. Ever since she received an invitation to this outing she was worried that Tribe had found out that she and Musgrave had reported him to their supervisor.
Musgrave first became aware of the possibility that parking meter money was being skimmed when Spragg, a repairman, informed him that the meters were not collecting as much money as expected the past four months even though rates were raised at the beginning of the summer. The repairman also voiced his concern to Tribe, who was in charge of the collections, but the parking manager was dubious and thought that because of the persistent downturn in the economy people weren’t driving into the city as often to shop and dine out and go to concerts. Musgrave was inclined to agree with him although it was hard not to notice that Tribe had spent a lot of money recently for someone employed in the Transportation Bureau. Only a couple of months ago, he purchased an expensive new SUV, even though the one he was driving was less than three years old, and instead of going camping as he usually did on his summer vacation, he took his wife to Costa Rica. Tribe claimed he had inherited some money from a very well off aunt in Vermont but Musgrave was skeptical because he had never heard him speak of the aunt before and Tribe frequently talked about his relatives in New England.
“So what do you think?” Spragg asked after disclosing his suspicion.
“Well, I doubt very much if Tribe ever had any rich aunt in Vermont.”
“I doubt it, too.”
“He had to get the money from somewhere then because he’s never been one to borrow a lot and get himself in serious debt.”
“As I said, I think I know where he got it, Lem. He put his hand—both his hands—in the cookie jars that are the coin collection bins.”
“You don’t have any evidence of this, though? Anything that proves that’s what he’s been doing?”
Glumly he shook his shaggy head. “I don’t. It’s just a hunch, I’m afraid, but I am convinced it’s true. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been going on a lot longer than just this summer. It’s just that he’s become a lot bolder now for whatever reason.”
“Probably because he doesn’t think anyone suspects anything.”
“Probably so,” he sighed. “What we should do is report the bastard.”
“But what good will that do if we don’t have any proof? It’d just be our word against his and whose are they more likely to believe?”
“We ought to do something, though.”
“I know, I know,” he stammered, not really knowing what to do about the stunning allegation.
Later that afternoon, while drinking coffee with Nola in the cafeteria, Musgrave disclosed what Spragg told him. He didn’t have any qualms about revealing the allegation to her because he knew he could trust her not to tell anyone else. They had worked together for close to nine years, were each other’s closest confidant in the bureau, so he wanted to know what she thought he should do about the charge.
“First of all, do you think he’d really get involved in such a scheme?”
He shrugged. “He’s a slippery eel, always squirming to be in positions that are likely to benefit him, so I wouldn’t put it past him. Not at all.”
“Neither would I.”
“But just because we might think someone is capable of doing something as wrong as stealing meter money, doesn’t mean it’s so.”
“What we need is evidence … something really concrete but how are we going to get that?”
She thought for a moment. “We could follow him some morning when he makes rounds with the parking enforcement officers while they collect the meter money. Maybe we’ll see something that we can take upstairs to management.”
“You’d be willing to do that?”
“Of course. If Tribe is skimming meter money, he has to be stopped.”
He grinned. “We’ll have to set our alarm clocks then because when Tribe goes out it’s usually at the crack of dawn.”
“That’s fine with me, Lem. You just tell me when you want to go.”
“I will,” he said, gently squeezing her wrist.
Three mornings later, well before sunrise, Musgrave and Nola followed Tribe as he accompanied a parking enforcement officer on his collection rounds in Chinatown. A full coin canister contained close to one hundred dollars so several thousands of dollars were collected each day by the enforcement officers. Nothing suspicious occurred the first couple of hours as Tribe watched the officer empty the contents of one canister after another into the three huge bins in the trunk of the patrol wagon. But then, just moments after Musgrave suggested they call it a day and return to the office, Nola noticed Tribe scooping coins from one of the bins into a large canvas messenger bag slung across his chest.
“You see that?” she said, rising in her seat.
Urgently she jabbed a finger in the direction of Tribe who was bent over one of the collection bins. “There.”
“All I see is Tribe’s big rear end.”
“Look at the way his arms are moving. Doesn’t it look like he’s transferring coins into that messenger bag?”
He stared for a minute. “I don’t know. I can’t really see what he’s doing.”
“That’s what it looks like to me,” she said sharply.
“You may be right. I just don’t know.”
“Well, whether I am or not, I’m going to take a picture of him,” she said, lifting the small disposable camera from her lap. “At the very least, what he’s doing looks pretty damn suspicious to me.”
Quickly she snapped a picture then another one then, even more quickly, turned away as Tribe stepped back from the trunk of the patrol wagon.
“It looks like he’s got a bowling ball in that bag.”
“It’s bulging, all right.”
“I’ll bet anything it’s stuffed with coins. Anything, Lem.”
He smiled, wishing he could be as certain.
The next day, after the photographs were developed, Nola showed them to Musgrave, conceding that they were not as dispositive as she hoped, but still believed they presented Tribe in a very awkward situation. And suggested they show them to Rick Pickard, the executive assistant to the bureau director, and report the rumor going around about Tribe skimming meter money.
Musgrave considered the suggestion for a moment. “I don’t know if that’s a very wise thing to do at this time, anyway. All we have are pictures of someone standing in front of the trunk of a patrol wagon. Hell, it’s not even clear it’s Tribe.”
“But we know it is.”
“Sure, we do but is Pickard going to take our word for it?”
“We’re just asking him to look into a rumor some repairman told you about. That’s all we’re asking him to do.”
“Before we say anything, though, we have to get him to promise that he won’t reveal our names.”
“Should Tribe or any of his cronies find out we reported him, there’d be hell to pay.”
Pickard, as requested, agreed not to reveal their identities to anyone outside his office so they reported what they had heard about Tribe and showed him the photographs. He was stunned, did not appear to believe them, but said he would have Jennifer, his chief assistant, look into the allegation at once. Relieved, they decided not to pursue the matter further, confident they had done all that was expected of them. Time and again, Pickard and others in upper management encouraged members of the bureau to speak up if they saw something that was not proper otherwise they were not doing their duty.
“Blowing a whistle is something to be admired not ridiculed” was one of the hortative messages posted on the bulletin board in the cafeteria.
Musgrave was mortified then, a week later, when he and Nola were summoned to the conference room to discuss their allegation with Jennifer. Such a meeting, he believed, should be in a private office, not the conference room with its transparent walls that allowed anyone who wished to observe them. By that time, to his amazement, several people in the bureau had learned that Tribe had been accused of skimming meter money so he assumed that Pickard had not kept what he and Nola told him in confidence as he pledged. So far, apparently, he had not disclosed their names but by having them meet in the conference room he and his assistant were certainly exposing them. As a result, he declined to meet with the woman, as did Nola, until a more discreet venue was found.
“I don’t trust her,” Musgrave admitted later. “Not any of them.”
Nola agreed. “We probably should have kept our damn mouths shut.”
“We’d be a hell of a lot better off then. That’s for sure.”
The following week, Tribe had his outing in the woods, aware by then of the rumor that he had been accused of skimming parking meter money. He didn’t mention a word about the accusation but others Musgrave spoke with that weekend did.
“I don’t believe it,” more than a few co-workers told him adamantly. “Tribe has been with the bureau too long to do something that foolish.”
“Even sensible people do dumb things sometimes,” he replied to Clausen who joined the bureau around the same time as he did.
“You really think he could’ve done such a thing?”
He shrugged, not wanting to reveal that he was one of those who had accused the parking manager of malfeasance.
“Well, unless those who reported him have proof, I can’t imagine it’s worth all the aggravation that’s bound to come their way. Tribe will fight the charge, tooth and nail. I have no doubt about it.”
Neither did Musgrave who assumed the weekend in the woods was only the beginning of his effort to contest the accusation.
It was nearly two weeks before Pickard agreed to meet with them in his office but he thought it was ridiculous they would not meet in the conference room with his assistant. When they said they were concerned others might figure out they were the ones who had accused Tribe of stealing, he and Jennifer seemed not the least bit sympathetic.
“Who cares if everybody knows?” she snapped. “What’s important is that we find out if there is any basis to your very serious charge.”
At that point Musgrave realized he had made a gigantic mistake in reporting the suspicion he had heard about Tribe and wished to God he had not mentioned it to anyone. Eventually, if the inquiry proceeded, his identity would be discovered he believed and his position in the bureau would then become untenable so he refused to cooperate with Pickard’s assistant. Instead, as he had in the woods, he tried to seek cover as well as he could so no one would discover what he had done.
Just like Pudge, he hoped.
Party of Animals
Schumer left the Greek restaurant alone, his wife having left an hour earlier to visit her sister in the hospital. Slowly he made his way to the crosswalk in the middle of the block, whistling some Gershwin tune whose name he could not remember. Overhead, a passenger plane appeared from behind a cloud, heading east. He had barely entered the crosswalk when a midnight blue SUV suddenly came roaring down the street, its tires splashing through the rain puddles, and before he could step back the vehicle slammed into his chest.
The doorman at the restaurant, not budging from his post beside the door, watched the SUV disappear around the corner.
With one hand on the steering wheel of the rickety patrol wagon, Nicolas Renner, an animal control officer, drove slowly along the shaded street, searching for the stray pitbull he was dispatched to pick up this afternoon. Already today, he had brought in a mangy border collie, retrieved a Persian cat from an elderly woman’s roof, and cited two owners for failing to have leashes on their dogs. Things had been pretty routine so he kind of looked forward to this call because dealing with pitbulls was always an exciting challenge. Five times he had been bitten by such dogs, once so severely he nearly lost a thumb.
A few minutes later, as he approached a modest forest green house, he spotted a man in the driveway, frantically waving his long arms above his head, and pulled over to the curb.
“You looking for that pitbull, officer?”
“I saw it,” the man gasped, “heading up the street.”
“How long ago was that, sir?”
“Not more than five minutes ago. Just long enough for me to call the shelter and I was told someone was already sent out to take care of it.”
He nodded. “Yes, that would be me.”
“I hope you destroy the son of a bitch.”
“No, I can’t do that.”
“Well, you should,” the man snapped. “They aren’t good for nothing but trouble.”
Moving on, he continued down the street, hoarsely humming a favorite Van Morrison song. Then, as he rattled toward a bus stop, he saw the dog barking at a squirrel crouched on the limb of an elm tree. At once, he pulled over to the curb and shut off the engine. He was not more than a dozen feet from the animal, which didn’t even notice him its attention was so fixed on the squirrel directly above it. Quietly he got out and opened the back of the wagon, slipped on a pair of leather work gloves and pulled out the snare pole—a long aluminum stick with a loop on the end of it. After taking a deep breath, he started toward the dog and, almost at once, it saw him and growled angrily, its eyes shining, its teeth too. Slobber drooled from his long tongue.
“Easy now, fella,” he said firmly as he continued toward the dirt-brown animal. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
It didn’t believe him, though, and began to bark again, its powerful jaw snapping up and down so fiercely he was surprised its teeth didn’t break into a mouthful of Chiclets.
“Easy now. Easy.”
Cautiously he proceeded, his heart pounding against his ribs. The last time he tangled with a pitbull he suffered a deep gash in his left forearm that required nine stitches. When he was within a yard of the dog, he raised the snare pole and, at once, it lunged toward him as he expected and he stepped back and deftly hooked the loop around its neck. The dog howled, straining to shake off the loop. Then he slipped a canvas sack over its head and maneuvered it into the back of the wagon. He noticed it did not have a collar so he doubted if anyone would claim it and the neighbor he spoke with a few minutes earlier would get his wish and the animal would be destroyed.
After he returned to the shelter, he changed out of his wrinkled uniform then, as he did just about every day after work, walked across the street to the No Dogs Allowed tavern and ordered a beer and looked at the morning paper. He was nearly halfway through it when he came across the death notice of Judge Harold Schumer. It said he was struck three nights ago by a hit and run driver the Westover police were still trying to identify. Anyone with any information about the accident was asked to contact the police immediately. To his surprise, there was no mention of a memorial service so he assumed his family wished to grieve in private. He appreciated that but, still, he felt he should pay his respects to the person who gave him his first job after he graduated from community college five years ago. He believed he had to do something more than send a card or a bouquet of flowers.
“You have a good driving record, do you, son?” the judge asked first thing when Renner met with him about becoming his personal driver. An uncle of his, who was a bailiff at the courthouse, suggested he apply for the position.
“Yes, your honor.”
“How many speeding tickets have you received?”
He smiled thinly. “My, you do have a good record. I’m afraid when I was your age I had acquired a shoebox full of tickets.”
Not knowing what to say, he kept quiet, swaying back on his heels.
“Well, young man, I’m willing to try you out for a week and see how things work out, if that’s all right with you?”
“Yes, your honor,” he said excitedly. “Thank you. Thank you very much.”
Things did go well that week and for the next nine months he served as the judge’s primary driver, picking him up nearly every weekday morning at his elegant home high in the hills that surrounded the city. He would have stayed longer but another uncle of his, who managed an animal shelter, invited him to come to work for him at a considerably higher wage so he accepted his offer and submitted his resignation.
For a judge, Schumer was not very temperate. He seemed more suited to be a prosecutor, which he was for many years before he went on the bench, seldom showed much patience for those who did not agree with him. Often abrasive and condescending, especially with people who failed to do as he wished, he was the sort of person others went out of their way to avoid. Yet, curiously, Renner got along with the cantankerous magistrate. He knew what was expected of him and did it so the judge rarely had any reason to complain.
As he approached the judge’s front porch, Renner noticed that a corner of one of the two large bay windows was patched with long strips of electrician tape. That was strange, he thought. The judge was a stickler for making a good impression, which was why he had him wash his Lincoln Town Car nearly every day when he worked for him. So he was surprised the judge did not have the window repaired at once instead of patching it with tape. It was not like him to tolerate such an eyesore.
Almost as soon as the doorbell rang, Mrs. Schumer opened the front door, a cigarette burning in her left hand. “Yes?”
“Hello, ma’am,” he said, a remembrance card peeking out of the side pocket of his jacket. “I don’t know if you remember me but I drove for your husband not quite five years ago.”
“Oh, he had so many young men who did that. I can’t be expected to remember all of them I’m afraid.”
He nodded, a little deflected by her remark.
“And your name is?”
“You’re right. I don’t remember you.”
For a moment, he stared at the petulant woman, wondering if she and the judge had much time for one another. They were both so direct and impatient. “Anyway, I only just found out about the accident and wanted to extend my condolences.”
She leaned a shoulder against the screen door as if ready to close it. “I appreciate that.”
He handed her the card which she stuck, without opening, inside a pocket of her quilted house coat.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to attend any service you had but I live upstate now and, as I said, didn’t find out about his passing until just the other day.”
“There wasn’t any service.”
“Most of my husband’s real friends are dead or too ill to have attended a service so my sons and I decided not to have one.”
“Well, thank you for remembering the judge, Mr.—“
“He was a very special man.”
“He was that,” she replied, slowly shutting the door before he had a chance to ask if the person who struck the judge had been found.
Back in his car he sat for a minute, still a little surprised how indifferent, almost rude, Mrs. Schumer was toward him, thought the least she could do was invite him in for a few minutes to share some memories about her husband. He had met her only a couple of times while driving for the judge and she was just as aloof then. So he supposed he should not be that surprised.
Yawning, he stretched his arms above the steering wheel. It was nearly a three hour drive back home and he didn’t feel like driving that distance again today so he decided to get a room at one of the motels just off the highway and return tomorrow. He wouldn’t be as tired then or as irritable.
The next day, as usual, Renner rose at the crack of dawn but instead of starting back right away he decided to pay a visit to the police station after he got something to eat. He wanted to know if the driver who struck Judge Schumer was in custody. There was nothing in the morning paper about the accident. And when he asked the desk clerk at the motel where he was staying if she knew if any arrest had been made, she shrugged in disinterest, admitting she seldom ever paid attention to the news anymore.
Nearly half an hour after he arrived at the police station, he was approached by a stooped man with very dark circles under his eyes. “Hello, sir, I am Detective Grouard.”
“I understand you have some information concerning the collision that took the life of Judge Schumer.”
“Oh, no, I don’t.”
“No, detective. I just wanted to know if an arrest had been made yet.”
The detective, clearly disappointed, slouched against a file cabinet. “I guess there must have been a misunderstanding.”
“I guess so.”
“Well, to answer your question, there has not been an arrest to date,” he said, twisting a paper clip around his left index finger. “Are you a member of his family?”
“No, just a friend.”
“Well, not really a friend,” he admitted. “I worked for him for a while a few years ago.”
“I haven’t lived in Westover since I stopped working for him which is why I just learned about his death the other day. I’m sure it was pretty big news around here.”
The detective nodded. “You were upset when you heard about it?”
“Of course,” he said, finding the question rather peculiar.
“Well, if you leave your telephone number and home address with the desk sergeant, I’ll be sure someone contacts you when an arrest is made.”
“Thank you, detective.”
On the back of one of his animal shelter cards he wrote down the information and went downstairs and handed the card to the desk sergeant. “Detective Grouard told me to give you this, sergeant.”
“What is it?”
“It’s my address and phone number. Detective Grouard said someone would let me know when an arrest is made in the hit and run accident that killed Judge Schumer the other night.”
He snickered. “That’ll be a cold day in hell, mister.”
“There are scads of folks who could’ve been responsible for that.”
“I didn’t know there were any suspects.”
“I didn’t say there were.”
“I thought you just said there were scads of people who could’ve hit him?”
The sergeant sighed. “What I meant to say, mister, is there are plenty of folks who probably think the judge got what he deserved.”
Renner, stunned by the callous remark, stepped back from the elevated desk. “I don’t understand, sergeant.”
“He wasn’t someone folks had much use for. Everyone knows that.”
The sergeant looked at the back of the shelter card. “That’s probably because you’re not from around here.”
Renner left the police station more confused than ever, and as he walked to his car, he realized he couldn’t go home now as he planned. He needed to find out what the desk sergeant meant when he said some believed the judge deserved what happened to him. He was tempted to return to the judge’s home and ask his widow but knew that would be inappropriate and doubted if she would give him a satisfactory answer. When he reached his car, he walked right past it, still trying to figure out who could clear up his confusion. He really wasn’t close to many people when he lived in Westover and didn’t keep in touch with anyone after he left, not even the judge except for the birthday card he sent him every year.
He walked down one street after another, oblivious to where he was until he turned a corner and saw the squat stone courthouse. At one time he was friendly with a clerk in the probate office, Eileen Franklin, and wondered if she might be of help to him. He didn’t know if she still worked there but, just in case she did, he went up to the office on the second floor and there she was, her shiny black hair much longer than he remembered. Smiling, he walked up to the counter and said hello. For an instant, he knew she didn’t recognize him then a smile appeared in the corners of her mouth and she squeezed his wrist.
“Nicolas Renner, is that you?”
“My God, it’s been, what, four years since you left?”
“About that, yes.”
Again she squeezed his wrist. “You became a dog catcher, right?”
He grimaced. “Animal control officer is the preferred designation these days.”
“Pardon me,” she said, with a chuckle. “You’re not here looking for a dog, are you?”
Shaking his head, he proceeded to tell her why he was in town and immediately her smile dissolved into a frown.
“I thought you might have an idea why the police seem so uninterested in finding out who ran down the judge.”
“They told you they weren’t interested?”
“No, not in so many words,” he admitted, “but that’s the impression they gave me.”
“That’s probably because it could have been done by just about anyone.”
“That’s what the desk sergeant said and I don’t understand. I mean, not everyone in Westover is a reckless driver I’m sure.”
“No, but few, if any, could stomach what the judge did.”
He rested an elbow on the counter. “What did he do to upset so many people? Sure, he wasn’t the most cordial person, and no doubt lots of people felt the sting of his sharp tongue during his years on the bench but other judges have been just as rude and obnoxious.”
“You mean you don’t know, Nicolas?”
“If I did, I wouldn’t be asking you.”
Sighing, she folded her arms across her bulky lavender sweater. “Not that long ago, two or three months I’d say, this young woman appeared on television and claimed that Judge Schumer had an intimate relationship with her when he was a sophomore in high school.”
“I can’t believe it. No way.”
“That’s what she said, and though the judge denied it at first, he finally admitted it when the woman presented copies of checks he had given her.”
“How long did this go on?”
“The relationship lasted throughout her sophomore year then stopped when she and her family moved out of the city,” Eileen said, unfolding her arms. “But apparently the checks were sent over quite a number of years.”
“I just can’t believe it. I just can’t.”
“Neither could anyone else until he admitted it was true.” She paused, rubbing a spot from her glasses with a sleeve of her sweater. “Of course, the statute of limitations for statutory rape had longed passed so there was nothing law enforcement could do to the judge.”
“And he had retired by then so he couldn’t be removed from the bench.”
“That’s right. So, sad as it is to say, no one was that surprised when he was run down—“
“Like a dog in the street.”
She nodded. “There had been other attacks—fires set on his lawn, windows broken—but nothing this serious but it was bound to happen. People were outraged and they wanted some kind of justice, if you will.”
“He’s about the last person I would have imagined getting involved with an underage girl.”
“I never would’ve imagined it, either.”
“So you think whoever killed him is going to get away with it?”
“That’s outrageous, Eileen.”
She shrugged, seeming almost as indifferent as the desk sergeant. “People didn’t want him to get away with what he did and now he didn’t. And I don’t think anyone is really interested in arresting the driver who ran him down.”
“You really don’t?”
She shook her head. “Oh, sure, there are some who say they are but I’m not sure if they really mean it. The judge did a bad thing and he needed to be punished.”
“He didn’t have to be killed.”
“No, maybe not, but something had to be done. That’s what most people around here believed.”
Heading home, Renner drove down some of the streets he had walked along earlier in the day. Then he was so absorbed in thought he scarcely noticed all the shops and restaurants and coffee houses he passed, almost wondered if he had really been here earlier. He saw an empty pond, a set of swings, a burnt-out delicatessen, a comedy club. He saw oodles of people hurrying in and out of large department stores. He saw a ragged banner floating above a steeple. He saw a mural so bright it made his eyes water. He saw a man on a corner reciting passages from the Bible.
In another moment, as he turned at the corner, he saw a stray dog limping across the street. Out of habit he started to pull over so he could get out the snare pole and take the stray to the shelter then he realized he was out of his jurisdiction and drove by the animal without looking back.