Solitary - 7. Chapter 7
For the next few days, Elena and Don mainly ignored the situation. Following what Kye Cooper’s doctors advised, they still couldn’t talk with him or his parents, though they occasionally looked at information about Jess Timmons that needed to be verified, updated, or explored. Plus, they checked to see if she’d used her cell phone or credit and ATM cards. They also drove past the house she shared with Mira Banerjee in Montague and by the closed, two-car garage off their rear alley.
“We could get permission to hide a camera back there,” Don suggested, “ and see if the garage is empty when Mira Banerjee comes home.”
“If she uses it at all,” Elena countered. “It might be for storage. And now that I see the house – and especially the downstairs windows and upstairs hallway, almost none of which have curtains – I think it might be hard for anyone to move around without being seen – particularly at night.”
“So you think she’s not here?” Don asked. “And possibly never has been since early Tuesday?”
“Yes – maybe not after that quick stop.”
“How long do you think she stayed?”
“Who knows? It could’ve been just enough to write that note and pick up some things from the ground floor – like a heavier coat. Though that might’ve already been in her car.”
“What about her computer?”
“Did we ever ask about that?”
“I don’t think so. Still, if her office is upstairs – if they each use one of the spare bedrooms – she couldn’t grab her laptop.”
“Could she use her phone off-line as a computer? On airplane mode and not be tracked?”
“I’m not sure how wide that accesses would be. We’ll have to ask Rob. Though if I were hiding, I wouldn’t use my phone.”
“Then I don’t think she saw Mira Banerjee. Because then she wouldn’t’ve been so surprised that Jess started the fight. Jess would’ve told her.”
“I’ve been thinking about that myself.”
So they waited until they could talk with Kye Cooper after the weekend. If he wasn’t planning to press charges, and if Jess Timmons wasn’t – or if she somehow never came back – then their job was done. Instead, they got a phone call.
It came from a pawnbroker in Springfield. “I’m just curious,” he began. “Did anything ever happen after that stabbing in Waldron – the one in the rest home? I saw it on the eleven o’clock news.”
“You saw it last night?” Don asked. “Again?”
“No – a couple of days ago. Then it went away.”
“Yes,” Don said more comfortably. “There was nothing further to report.”
He didn’t tell the guy that they didn’t want any new coverage because they wanted Jess Timmons to come home.
“And no one got arrested?” the man went on.
“Then everything got settled?”
Don thought he could go on answering casually but also felt the call was interesting enough for Elena to pick up. “As you probably know,” he continued, “once there’s no arrest, the problem goes out of our sight.”
“Is it in public records?”
“What little there is.” He laughed. “But lemme tell you, it’s mainly a boring police report. And I should know ‘cause I write half the damn things.”
“But anyone can read them?” the man pursued.
“Most of the time. Unless they’re sealed for privacy – like if someone’s underage.”
“Is this one sealed?”
Elena shook her head, and Don answered, “No.”
“How would I make an appointment?” came the next question.
“Don’t bother – just stop by,” Don offered. “We’re hardly ever so busy, we can’t set you up in a private room.”
“I can’t read online?”
“Unfortunately, we’re not there yet.” Don hoped he was done and started to ease away. “Now what else I can help you with?”
The man seemed to think. “Well, actually,” he went on, “I may be able to help you. It doesn’t seem like you’re looking for information... Or even that you need any... But if you’d like a little background...”
Don laughed. “Are you looking for a reward?”
The man seemed surprised. “No – I hadn’t even thought about that.” Then he immediately followed, “Why? Is there any?”
Don grinned, though he knew the guy couldn’t see him. “No,” he insisted. Which he again thought would end things.
It didn’t. “I still have something I could show you,” the man said.
“What?” Elena wrote on a pad, and Don asked the question.
“A picture – a photo,” they were told.
“Could you send it to us? Scan it into a file?”
“Yeah – I could. But there’s a story that goes with it, and I’m too lazy to write it down.” The pawnbroker laughed.
“You’ve got me on the phone,” Don pointed out. “Just keep talking and I’ll take notes.”
“Nah, it’s a really slow day, and it’d be fun to have the cops visit.” He laughed again. “It might even get me some publicity.”
Don looked at Elena, who nodded. “Where are you?” Don asked.
“Mulberry Strip. Only the best neighborhood.”
“We’ll be there in a half hour.”
“You don’t think I’m coming alone.”
After Don chuckled and hung up, Elena asked, “What do you think that’s about?”
“I don’t know. But we’re about to find out.”
They took a squad car to give the guy his best shot and even flashed the roof lights as they pulled up. It was into a 10 Minute Zone, but they thought they might be done that quickly. “I always laugh when I’m in this area,” Elena mentioned as they got out. “This street isn’t what it was when Dr. Seuss lived here.”
The pawnshop was no improvement, but it was no worse than they expected. The guy was clean-cut, in his forties, and behind a steel cage and thick Plexiglass. Elena and Don didn’t normally need to, but they showed their badges, and the man grinned.
“This is good for at least ten people coming in. And who knows? They might buy something.”
Since he’d greeted them as if they were friends, Don followed through. “If not, we’ll bust you for false advertising.”
To prove himself, the guy pushed an 8" by 10" print out the slot in front of him. “Look familiar?”
Elena looked at it, and then Don. All Elena said was, “Yes.”
“Taken eight years ago,” the guy went on. “Though I just printed that out.”
“You remembered after all this time?” Don questioned.
“She’s a very pretty girl.”
They all looked again and agreed. “How’d she happen to be here?” Don wondered.
“Well, it’s about this watch...”
He didn’t seem to mean that literally, because he didn’t have one to pair with the picture.
“Go on,” Elena encouraged.
“It belonged to somebody else.”
“How did you know?”
“Because I knew the guy who owned it.”
“And did you ask the girl?”
“Yeah – and she made up some dumb story about it being won in a Poker game – about her boyfriend winning it and asking her to sell it.”
“Doesn’t seem anything wrong with that,” Elena allowed. “She came to the right place.”
“Yep – would’ve been perfect if the guy who owned it wanted to sell. But I knew he didn’t.”
“Because he was really proud of it – always showing it off.”
“Expensive?” Don put in.
“Not originally. It was an old military watch – a pilot’s. It belonged to his great granddad.”
“So the guy wasn’t about to bet it?”
“You got it – and he played Poker all the time. But he’d let go of his pickup before giving up that watch.”
“What did you do?” Elena went on.
“Gave the girl what it was worth. I don’t remember how much – maybe a hundred bucks.”
“Why? If you knew it wasn’t hers.”
“Because it was the fastest way to get it back. And I knew I’d get my money returned.”
“Nice of you.”
The guy shrugged.
“Why’s this important now?” Don pushed on. “If this was years ago?”
“Eight.” The guy pointed to the date on the photo.
“Then why are you after her now?” Elena questioned. “That is what you want? Not your friend’s money?”
“He didn’t even remember how much – or how little. And the girl didn’t seem to care. She just took it and left.”
“And never came back?”
“Not that I recall. Though I think she’d been in here before.”
“Selling her boyfriend’s other things?” Don joked.
“I can’t remember that, either. So it was probably small stuff.”
“Are you sure your friend wasn’t her boyfriend?” Elena wanted to know.
“Definitely.” The guy grinned. “We don’t have that kind of luck.”
As Don smiled, Elena picked up the photo again. It was taken under florescent lights and wasn’t even flattering. But she knew there was no messing with other people’s fantasies. Once more, she asked, “Why are you telling us this?”
The guy seemed to think for a moment then shrugged. “No reason. You see something on TV. You connect. You want to share.”
He smiled at them. They smiled back but clearly didn’t believe him. He cracked first.
“OK, the guy’s my cousin,” he admitted. “He’s the one who remembered, and he called me the morning after the news. He said, ‘Remember when you got great-grandpa’s watch back for me? Remember the picture you gave me?’ I said, ‘Not really,’ so he reminded me some more. Just like you, I asked, ‘Why is this important?’ and he said, ‘Well, she’s on the news.’ ‘In a good way?’ I asked, and he said, ‘Depends if she lives.’ Then he told me the date I’d printed out the photo and asked me to give him a new one. Now I keep my old files – from my video cams – for a couple of years or more, in case the police or some insurance investigator wants to see them. But eight years was two computers ago, and even if I had the files, I’m not sure they’d open.”
“Obviously, they did.” Don said.
“Nah – this is the one my cousin had. Old. Creased. Faded. He sent it to me and I cleaned it up on PhotoShop.”
“And showed it to him?”
“Nah – I called you.”
“Fishing?” Elena asked.
“Yeah,” the guy admitted.
“‘Cause he asked.”
Elena and Don absorbed that and then looked at each other. Neither seemed sure of how to go on.
“Do you mind if I talk with my partner for a minute?” Elena asked.
“Talk all you want.” The man grinned. “I won’t even try to listen. But once you finish, my cousin’ll want to talk with you.”
As they moved away, Elena quietly told Don, “I was gonna suggest we just leave. But this kind of changes things.”
“Yes – I think we should see where this goes before we decide what to believe.”
So they got the cousin’s address.
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