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Authors: Nancy Hogue

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery, #Retail

With His Dying Breath (5 page)

BOOK: With His Dying Breath
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“Well, I’ve seen a lot of strange things happen in the two years, I’ve been a deputy sheriff, and it’s definitely something odd to me, too. I mean, you don’t know what people are capable of. Could she have killed somebody? Sure, we probably all could in extreme circumstances, but intentionally murder somebody, nah; I don’t think she could do that. Are you gonna be back to see her tomorrow?” He certainly hoped so.

“Probably not tomorrow. I’ve got school and a makeup test afterwards,
and then I’ve got to work till seven tomorrow night.” JJ turned to see a familiar face enter the lobby.

“I’d like to visit with Mrs. Samantha Brockton,” he said. Chip told him she had visitors and asked if he could wait.

“Sure. Okay if I just sit over here?” Chip asked him to sign in first, and JJ noticed his name said Bill Fritz. She knew he worked in the Brockton Real Estate office. Chip’s attention turned back to JJ. “Where do you work?” he asked.

“I’ve got a job at a beauty shop up off of City Boulevard, in River Town, Exquisite You.”

“I know the place.” He shifted his weight. “My...”

“I’m not a beautician. I just clean up the mess the stylists make. I don’t mind though. It’s fun and
it pays good.” JJ loved talking about her job. “Those women really crack me up. We just laugh all the time. We cry over all the sad stuff we hear on the TV. And it’s the first place you hear the news, you know secrets, that become news! That’s how I know Sammi, Mrs. Brockton, she gets her hair done there, and Mr. Brockton owns, well owned, the place.”

“My sister works at the music store next door, uh, it’s called, Take Note.” JJ took note of the deputy’s beautiful smile.

“Oh, you know, Mr. Brockton, owned that store, too. He must have owned half of Macon.” Deputy James laughed. JJ laughed. “Well, Deputy James, I need to get on home. I’ve got to study a little bit for that test tomorrow.”

“Oh, sure, my name’s actually Chip.”

“Chip, I’m JJ. Stop by the beauty shop sometime when you’re at the music store. Maybe I’ll be there. Well, if it’s after three, I’m there—except for tomorrow,” she added.

“Great.
How about if I stop by tomorrow about six fifty-five if you get off at seven! Do you already have plans?” Chip had his fingers crossed that she was not dating anyone.

“No, that’s g
reat I’ll see you tomorrow night. Bye,” JJ smiled that big flirtatious smile as Chip’s heart fluttered. Just twenty-two more hours.

“Bye, for now, JJ. See you tomorrow.”
Come on seven!

“Bye, Chip, take care of
Sammi!”

The waiting visitor gave
the thumbs up sign to Chip.

Mitch and Wilson Lopez left Sammi about ten minutes after their arrival. As they left, Mitch spoke to Bill. “Hello sir
.”

“Hi Mitch, I take it you’ve seen Sammi.”

“Yes, this is my brother, Wilson. We came by to check on her.”

“This has been a bad day,” he said, shaking hands with the two brothers. “How is she considering the circumstances?”

“Well, you know Mrs. Brockton better than us. But I know she’s gonna be okay.”

“I agree. She’ll be okay.”

The Lopez brothers left, and Chip announced the visitor to Mrs. Brockton.

JJ popped back in laughing, “I forgot my keys.” She saw him going into see Sammi. “Hi, again” she said.

“Mr. Fritz, let me tell Mrs. Brockton you’re here.

JJ left again, mouthing to Chip “tomorrow night.” He smiled back at her.

“Bill’s here?” Sammi asked.

“Sammi, Sammi, I’m so sorry, so sorry about all that’s happened. I just don’t know what
the cops are thinking to arrest you. Why was that? Have they said anything?”

“No, I’m in the dark. But Mitch’s brother, you remember Mitch?”

“Of course, I just talked to him for a bit.”

“Well, he may have told you that Wilson will represent me.”

“I don’t know his reputation. Is he a criminal defense attorney?”

“Yes, in fact, a very good one, according to Mitch, and I trust his judgment, brother or not.”

“Well, great Sammi. I came down to offer you some names for a defense attorney. And since that’s settled, I just want to let you know not to worry about anything—the house, bills, anything that comes up. So you won’t have to deal with any more stress, I’ll have the mail forwarded to the office, and I’ll keep it for you. I would think you’d be going home tomorrow.”

Gosh, I hope not!
She thought better about saying. “Thank you, Bill. I appreciate it.”

“Sammi, call me if you need anything. I have some business to take care of tomorrow. Blake was supposed to meet with three big companies wanting land out near the new bypass. But
that’s so far off, I’ll try to get it rescheduled. I’m not in a mood to conduct business. My best friend is dead. Can’t believe it, Sammi. What’s the world coming to?”


Bill, I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

 

* * *

 

Cain left Yum Yum’s right behind JJ. She turned right toward home. He turned left to go back to the office. He fiddled with the seat belt, seemed tighter than before he ate.

He prepared a
to do list. Check out Penny Reid Skinmore, the phone number she gave, and that recording. He laughed out loud shaking his head at the strange phone call and called information and asked for Penny Reid Skinmore or anyone with the last name.

“Would you check the surrounding areas, please?”

“I’m sorry sir. I show no listings under the last name Skinmore.”

“Okay,
thanks for checking.”

Cain called a friend on his way back to the
Monitor.

“Hey, you all tucked in for the night?” he asked.

“Almost. You got your story done?”

“Yeah, but something’s going on.
In nineteen years of reporting, I’ve never had a caller like I got today using some kind of voice distortion apparatus.” He told her what the caller said.

“You think there’s some truth to it? Or just a
wild goose chase?”

“You mean to get me off the story?”

“Yeah, something like that?”

“But what is the real story? But I’ll figure it out. You go on to sleep and I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Okay?”

“Okay. Watch your back.” Cain smiled that he had a caring friend. He pulled into the parking lot thinking about the sixteen messages to look at, hopefully with more information even another story suggestion.

T
he best thing about having an assigned story is an assigned parking space right at the building entrance. He usually kept a hot story going even if he had to start investigating something in the Mayor’s office or local colleges or even charities headquartered in the area. Something was always brewing calling for investigative journalism. He viewed these stories not through rose-colored glasses or with a chip on his shoulder. He did not hold grudges against county officials even though they were always pushing for more tax revenue or spending money on nonsense projects. He simply wanted to report the story not to take down his hometown.

Cain returned to the office at 9:10 p.m. The city floor was empty except for the night clerk at the copy machine. He walked into his office and realized something was different. The sixteen telephone message sli
ps left on his desk were gone.

He checked his pockets.
The red folder for the Brockton murder. No, not there, either.

“Patsy,” he yelled “Did you get the messages off my desk.”

“No,” she yelled back.

He buzzed downstairs and asked the guard if he’d let anybody up here.
No. Just the cleaning crew. A woman came in earlier to use the restroom. But that was all.

Cain asked, “A woman wanted to use the restroom?”

“Yes sir, she said she was parked on the other side of the hospital and didn’t think she could make it all the way.”

“Did she go anywhere else in the building?” The phone cord stretched so tight, Cain knocked his soda off the desk.

“Well, I didn’t follow her around. I showed her to the bathroom passed the visitor’s lounge. She came out a little while later and thanked me and left the building.”

“You think we got her on the security camera?” he asked wiping up the mess.

“Well, I’ll have to pull the tape from upstairs. It’ll take about fifteen minutes for me to scan it, but I can’t leave my post. Not until my relief comes in at 10:30.”

“Okay, if you don’t mind, please get me a copy of that tape. I need to know who she is and what she looks like. Do you remember?”

“Not really, seemed kind of innocent, you know, just a woman needing to use the bathroom. Seems like she had black hair, all dolled up, you know, makeup, dressed good. I remember she had on high-heeled shoes those five or six inchers. I remembered ‘em ‘cause I was thinking I wouldn’t want to walk all the way to the hospital in those!”

             
“Okay, thanks! When you get that tape, please call me and I’ll come down to get it, extension three one five.”

Blake reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out the
disc of the recording made earlier. He was so glad he had done that. Why would anyone want his telephone messages?

He walked two cubicle rows over to the receptionist’s desk located near the elevators, staircase and just outside the City Editor’s office. “Hi Patsy, you got the night shift, huh?”

“Yeah, afraid so, anything I can get for you?”

“Well, did you see anybody up here earlier, you know, somebody who doesn’t work here, you know doesn’t belong up here.”

“No, don’t think so. There was a lady about an hour ago. She wanted to know if Miss Hawkins had left a package for her. There wasn’t one here at the desk. She seemed pretty upset and asked if it could still be on her desk. So I walked back to her office, and there was no package anywhere. When I got back to my desk, the woman was gone.”

“What was her name?” Cain needed to know who took his messages.

“She didn’t give her name. The package was for Belium Ronsum Industries. I’ve never heard of them, have you?” Patsy was very upset that she had been duped.

“Yeah, but it really goes by
BelRon that new company that just started up a few months ago. What does Miss Hawkins have to do with them?”

“Well, I thought her duties were school board, principals, you know, anything and everything school related. That’s what I was told. Maybe they’re putting together employee kits or something,” Patsy said.

“Maybe. Did you notice her, remember what she looked like?”

“She was kind of attractive, I guess, in an odd sort of way. She had on too much make-up even for a party. She wore a blue skirt and a blue jacket but they didn’t match. Different fabrics with different tones of blue, you know what I mean. She did have a big purse with her. It didn’t match her clothes, either.”

“Thanks, Patsy. I might need you to help me later. I think she took some stuff off my desk.”

“Oh, Cain, you sure about that? I was just gone for a few seconds.”

“Patsy, did you notice her shoes?”

“Now that you mention it, she had on bedroom like shoes, not fluffs, but soft looking shoes in pink! Didn’t match her outfit at all.”

“When she left the lobby, she had on very high heels!”

“Really?”

“So, yes, I’m sure as sure can be. Yep, we got ourselves a real mystery woman here! You feel like doing a little investigating.”

“Sure.”

“She took some phone messages off my desk. I need you to go through today’s recordings and write down every message I got. I hope they were all on the recorded line. Should be twenty-two of them. Can you do that for me?”

“Sure. I’ll pull the tape right now.”

Cain went back to his office to see if anything else was missing or out of order. His office wasn’t the neatest in the building but he knew right where everything was supposed to be.

He kept a folder of each of his stories that were in some form of investigation whether it was just a thought or almost completed. They were stacked in his middle drawer in colored folders. The various colors did not mean anything
particular. Red didn’t mean a hot story any more than blue insinuated a cold lead. He could just remember the story by color and grab the folder without wasting time.

There should be six folders in his desk drawer. There were only five! The yellow airports folder, the orange Gleason middle school folder, green lotto folder, the white folder for the church charity investigation and the blue taxpayer-fraud program folder were on his desk. The black folder about the Crawford/341 by-pass was missing!

An octopus with eight hands was no match for Cain as he pulled out desk drawers, going through stacks of papers, his briefcase, the file cabinet and two boxes of older files in the corner. The file was simply not there. He was sure it was in a black file folder because the file was getting thicker than the folder was meant to hold, and he was planning to replace it. “Now what!” he said aloud. “What in the world is going on here?” He called down to Patsy and asked if she was able to retrieve any messages yet. She had four that had started at 1:05 p.m. two from that Penny woman and three others. “Patsy, spell Penny’s last name!”

BOOK: With His Dying Breath
11.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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