That's ok, I leave out in the morning and won't be back until Sunday. I've done quite a few trucking tales, but this will be my first attempt at mixing in some romance.
My last offering here was PECOS, where I tried my hand at the supernatural.
Rest assured, this will be PG-13, in order to post it here.
Page 2 of 14
Reginald Grofski spent thirty-eight years in the insurance industry. He spent the last seventeen of those years at his employer's corporate headquarters in Cleveland, OH. Seventeen miserable winters.
Upon his retirement, Reginald, and Doris, his wife of thirty years, moved west to California, not only for a more hospitable climate, but to be close to their daughter and grandchildren. Six months after the move, Doris was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. She died eight months later.
That left old Reginald spending his golden years alone. He was a member of the country club affiliated with his neighborhood. But despite a career in sales, he didn't make friends easily and rarely frequented the club. He spent the majority of his waking hours drinking scotch, except for the days when his grandchildren splashed in his pool. They were his reason for living.
Reginald usually had his liquor delivered, but on this particular morning, he felt like taking a drive. His daughter often chided him for never leaving the house. Although she never said it out loud, she felt it might help ease his depression some. Some fresh air and sunlight certainly couldn't hurt.
That was when he realized his 1994 Honda Accord was missing. He bought the car brand new for Doris and she had refused to part with it. Maybe that's why he kept it around. His mechanic told him it needed an oil pump and warned him against driving it until it was replaced or the engine could seize up. Reginald never bothered getting it fixed. He would call his daughter when he returned from the liquor store and ask if she might have borrowed it, though he considered that unlikely. Thinking of the Honda made him think of Doris, as he drove away in his silver Lincoln.
Upon returning from the store, Reginald put away the deli items he purchased in town and promptly poured himself a double shot of scotch over two ice cubes. He was about to call his daughter when the doorbell rang. Leaving his glass on the counter, he went to the front door, curious who this rare visitor could be. UPS he supposed, for his daughter always entered by the patio at the rear of the house.
"Are you Reginald Grofski?" asked the medium sized man in a medium priced suit as he presented a detective's badge, allowing his shoulder holster to show as he removed the badge holder from an inside jacket pocket. Behind him stood two solemn faced uniformed officers from the Madera County Sheriffs Department.
"Yes, I am. And you are?" Reginald answered.
"I am Detective Harry Benson. I'd like to ask you some questions."
"I suppose I couldn't object, even if I was inclined to do so. Won't you come in? I just poured myself a drink. Even though I am certain you will decline, I will go through the ritual of offering you one anyway."
"I would accept some cold water, if you have it." The detective said as the two men walked into the kitchen. "The A/C is not working very well in the government sedan I'm driving."
"With pleasure, sir." Reginald answered, noticing the uniforms had remained outside.
"Do you own a 1994 Honda Accord?" the cop asked, getting right to the purpose of his visit.
"Yes, I do, although it seems to be missing at the moment." Reginald answered.
" 'Missing'. Now that's an interesting choice of words. Have you reported it stolen?"
"No I haven't. In fact, I only noticed it was gone earlier today."
"Hmm." Said Harry, finding Reginald's answers quite curious. "And when have you last driven the car?"
"Quite a while. At least ten years."
"And why is that, Mr. Grofski?"
"Reggie is fine. It was my wife's car. Late wife, actually. She died over a year ago. She had been quite ill, and hadn't driven it herself the final six months of her life. Our mechanic told us there was a problem with the engine. I hadn't planned on getting it fixed. I had planned on buying her a new car when she recovered, but she never did."
"I'm sorry for your loss, Reggie. Now allow me to rephrase the question. When did you last see the car in your garage?"
"A couple of weeks I suppose."
"Can you be more specific, please?"
"Let me see." Reggie said, turning to the magnetic calender on his refrigerator, and dragging his finger across the current week. He dropped down to the next week and his finger stopped on Wednesday. "That's it. Wednesday before last, thirteen days ago."
"Any reason you remember that so certainly?" Harry asked.
"Sure. Wednesday is when I usually have provisions delivered. On that particular day, the market called and said their delivery guy was out sick, so I drove myself."
"And what about today?" Harry asked, as he picked up the receipt on the counter that was laying next to the bottle of Dewar's scotch whiskey, which bore today's date.
"Just felt like getting out." and after a brief hesitation "And I was running low on booze."
"I see. And does anyone else have access to the car? Or have you loaned it to anyone?"
"My daughter has a key. She has used it when her car was in the shop, but not very often. Only once in the last year. I was about to call her when you showed up."
"Do you have a recent picture of your daughter?"
"That's a strange request, detective? Is there a problem? Is she in some sort of trouble?"
"I hope not Reggie. I'm just trying to clear some things up."
Reggie fully intended to cooperate. He was old enough to know to do otherwise was futile, but he felt he was betraying his daughter somehow.
As if sensing this, Harry told him "We plan on talking to her anyway, Reggie. I'm just trying to get some background first is all. Hopefully we can clear this whole thing up."
Reggie got a framed picture off of the mantle in the den. It was a professional photograph of his daughter, along with her husband and their two children, a boy and a girl. It was taken at the mall the previous Christmas.
"You can have this one." Reggie said as he removed the photo from the frame. "I have plenty."
Shoulder length dark hair. That was all Harry needed to know, but he accepted the picture graciously. The only useful surveilance photo available was a side shot from a traffic light camera near the scene of the armed robbery. The drivers head was turned. The slender wrist, hand and fingers visible on top of the steering wheel led them to believe the driver was female. The hair was a match, but that was purely circumstantial, especially in California, but it was something.Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
Harry's gut feeling told him Reggie's daughter had nothing to do with any of this, but a good detective followed through on every detail. And the fact that Reggie didn't seem the least bit concerned about the missing car was a tell. Reggie wasn't faking anything. He was just a lonely guy still mourning the passing of his wife and Harry knew something about that. After obtaining the daughter's address and phone number, he bid Reggie good-bye.
Although he was certain back-up wouldn't be necessary, he asked the uniforms to follow him over to the lady's house. He knew they had a print kit in the car and they could take care of that. The new inkless system seemed so much less invasive and people rarely objected. In fact they often seemed amazed at the technology. Harry like the fact that the data went directly into a laptop and the match request was sent out instantly via wireless transmission.
Reggie's daughter was everthing Harry expected. Mid thirties, sucessful husband, two kids in a good school. Anxious to cooperate. Wasn't worried as much about the Honda as she was her father.
"I have told him so many times to use the alarm system." she admonished. "Next time it could be the house. Lord knows I worry about him. He wasn't drinking, was he?"
"He seemed fine to me. I think you worry too much. He's a good man. That's a good neighborhood. Probably just a freak occurence." Harry said gently.
On the way out the door he thanked her for her help and promised to have a patrol car cruise by her father's place a few times a day for a while. At least until they cleared this thing up. She seemed grateful and didn't ask what "this thing" was.
Back at the station, Harry sat down and reviewed the lab results of the investigation of the Honda out in Arizona. Very odd to find only one set of prints in a vehicle, any vehicle. Even a car owned by a single person that never loaned it out will have had occasional contact with another party, whether it be a parking lot attendant, a mechanic or the occasional passenger. This car was too clean, especially for one that was known to have had three, possibly four people in it less than a week ago. It was as if it was thoroughly wiped down before being driven by this person whose prints they found. The prints belonged to a female. A female without any criminal or military history. He was certain it wasn't Reggie's daughter. Was it the dark haired woman in the surveillance photo? Maybe, maybe not.
Detective Harry Benson was visited by his superior officer, Captain Leonard Hornsby. Harry shared the results of his interviews that day and what he had learned concerning the Honda impounded out in Flagstaff, Arizona.
"So you think they are clean, Harry?" Leonard asked.
"Absolutely. No reason to think otherwise. Now tell me about our suspect."
While Harry was talking to Reginald Grofski, Anthony Diaz was picked up at a pool hall five miles miles from the crime scene. A single print was found on the glass door of the Mega Mart where the armed robbery took place.
"The perp claims he was in the store earlier that week. But get this. He doesn't have a car or a license and lives over by Bernies Billiards where we picked him up. Not exactly an easy stroll. Claims he was riding with a friend, who he can't produce." Leonard explained.
"We have anything to shake him up with?" Harry asked.
"Parole violation. He did twenty months on a six year bit for meth. Just got paroled three months ago. Supposed to report to his P.O. weekly. He didn't show last week. Guess what day that was? The day of the robbery. Said he was too sick to get out of bed. No one to alibi him, just like the ride to the Mega Mart."
"We can sweat him big time." Harry said. "Just missing the P.O. can send him back. Rarely happens first offense, but he doesn't know that. We need somebody to play off him, shake him up."
"One more thing, Harry. We might have something out of Flagstaff."
"Oh yeah?" Harry said, eyebrows raised. "Enlighten me."
"Eyewitness reports seeing a woman with shoulder length dark hair walking away from the car in the company of a truck driver. Wit was the wrecker operator on his way to work in his pickup truck. His boss sent him down to get the car a few hours later. He never said anything because he thought it was a routine tow until he overheard two local deputies at breakfast this morning talking about the tie in to the robbery."
"Did he get a look at her face? What about the truck?" Harry asked.
"Said the trucker was walking on the highway side, blocking his view. He just remembers tight jeans and light colored T-shirt. Couldn't swear if she was even hispanic or not. As far as the truck, he didn't get a name. Said he was too busy checking out the chick. Just remembers it being one of those long chromed out jobs. Oh,mud flaps. Said he clearly remembers big chrome roosters on the trailer mud flaps."
"Chrome roosters, huh? I'll be ######. Well, it's something, I guess. I'm guessing there is a BOLO out on the roosters. Meanwhile, let me see the paper on Diaz. I think I'll be having a talk with the young man."
Page 2 of 14