Short Fiction for Guests of the WordFeeder
Sunday, January 23, 2010
“Hi, honey. You sound like you’re in your car.”
“Yeah, we’re on the road again.”
“Hey, Mrs. Nunzio!”
“Jessie says ‘Hello,’ Mom.”
“Sure. I heard her screaming.”
“One of the managers wasn’t feeling well, so they called him to do an extra shift. How is everything going?”
“Pretty good. A little work here, a little there, and the money’s been pretty good so far.”
“Will you make enough for tuition? You know, Dad and me will do everything we can to help you.”
“I know, Mom. I know, but we’ll be okay. Waiting tables, temp work. It adds up – and we get to see the country.”
“Pick up some cute guys!”
“Hey,” Mary Louise took her hand off the wheel to push her best friend. “Ignore her, Mom. She wouldn’t know a cute guy if she fell on him.”
“Sad, but true,” Jessica bobbed her head, a little to the left, a little to the right, in agreement. “I should be so lucky.” Mostly talking to herself, she highlighted a couple of lines and turned the page in one of the paperbacks that were required reading for her first semester junior year course in criminology.
“There,” Detective Patricia Zane pointed from the passenger seat of their unmarked police car, “the second driveway on the left. The house number is on the curb.”
“Got it.” Zane’s junior partner, Detective Warren Entenmann was driving and slowed to turn down the long, pipe stem driveway that led to the house that had been robbed. “Geez, nice place. I wonder how they got by the alarm system. These places always have alarm systems.”
“Looks like forensics beat us here,” their panel truck now visible in the driveway in front of the three car garage, separated from the house itself by an enclosed walkway.
“Hey, Pat. ..Warren.” Angela Riley, one of the techs from their forensics lab, had come out of the front door of the house as they drove up, and was in the driveway now, storing her equipment as the detectives got out of their unmarked car.
“Find anything?” Detective Zane wanted hear what Riley had to say before they went inside to meet with the owners, Mr. and Mrs. McPherson.
“Not really. Fingerprints everywhere. We’ll start sorting through them when I get back. Looks like the bad guy, I’m thinking just one, came up to the back of the house on one of the jogging paths through the woods, The yard was wet from the rain we’ve had the past could of days. There were footprints, but the grass is so dense, I don’t think they’ll tell us much. Men’s 10, maybe 11, but we can’t see the tread or make.” She paused for a moment to wait for Entenmann to catch up to her with the notes he was making. “He came into the basement through a large whole he made in a sliding glass door. Very professional. I’m guessing he put on surgical shoe covers and gloves, maybe even a hairnet. There wasn’t a trace of…”
“Hi.” The parents had come around from the back of the house, a teenage daughter and maybe 10 year old son behind them. They were still a few feet away, just on the edge of the blacktop.
“…of anything from the yard. Really clean job.”
The father of the family was the first to introduce himself. “I’m John McPherson.” He extended his hand to Zane first who was closest to him and seemed to be in charge. “This is my wife, Elaine, my daughter, Beth and, uh,” looking around, “my son, Jack, over there,” he added, pointing to the woods on that side of their property. “Jack, come over here. We’ll look for Ralph as soon as the detectives leave. …Beth, go get him, will you?”
“Ralph!” Jack shouted into the woods, his hands cupped around his mouth. “Are you in there, Ralph?! ..Com’on,” he pleaded, clapping his hands. “Com’on, Ralph!”
“Sure Dad. …Hey, Jack!” she shouted walking over toward where her brother was stepping between two trees where the brush was clear. “Ralph will come back. We’ll leave him some food and water on the deck. He’ll probably be back by morning.”
“Missing pet?” Entenmann flipped to a new page, as if whether or not they had pet was significant.
“Not really.” Elaine McPherson looked over toward her children, realizing how concerned her son must be. “We found a stray on our deck a couple of days ago, coming up to the window when we would eat. Jack started taking care of him and then Beth got to like him, and the next thing we know we’re spending our afternoons at Pet Smart and “Ralph,” that’s what they named him, is the family cat.”
Entenmann stopped taking notes, looked over to Zane who had turned to look at him at the same time – and then back at Mr. and Mrs. McPherson.
“Mr. McPherson, you have an alarm system, don’t you?” Zane knew they did. “I see the stickers in your windows.”
“And, let me guess. When you went away for the weekend, you turned off all the motion detectors, didn’t you, so that Ralph would have the run of the house without setting off an alarm?”
They’re lack of response was all she needed to hear.
“And now Ralph is missing? …Mr. and Mrs. McPherson, Ralph’s not coming back. Your robbery is beginning to sound like the third one of its kind, that we know about, in the past month. Probably the same cat, for all we know. I’ll have our lab…”
“He…” Jack was back and standing next to his mother. “Ralph didn’t just wander away?”
“Hop out,” Beth suggested, “through the hole in the glass?”
Zane just looked at her, smiling politely.
“I’ve got evidence bags in the car,” Entenmann folded up his pad. “I’ll get a sample of cat fur for Angela and get it over to her in the morning.”
“Good. We may not be able to do a DNA match, but at least we can see if the hairs are similar.”
“And if they are?”
“To tell you the truth, Mrs. McPherson, it may not tell us all that much – until we find the guy who did this. If he still has the cat, the hairs will be another piece of evidence to help convict him. …For now, how about walking us through your house? Let’s see where he entered and… Jack. Maybe you and Beth can show us places where Ralph liked to hang out.”
“Mr. and Mrs. McPherson,” Detective Entenmann turned over a fresh page on their way up the brick bath to porch and front door, “do you know yet what was taken?”
“As far as we can tell,” Mrs. Entenmann was the one who answered, “just jewelry…”
“Everything that was gold or had a stone in it,” Mr. Entenmann thought that detail might be important. “And cash. I had $2,000 in cash, emergency spending money, in a one of my desk drawers.”
“Glad to hear you and Dad are okay, Mom. We’ve got to go now. I’ll call you in…”
“How’s Frank? …You know, Dad and I would have been glad to take care of him for you.”
“I know, Mom, …” Frank took the opportunity to hop up from the back onto the armrest between their front bucket seats, purring the way he always did when he got up from a nap and was glad to see the two of them. “…but we like having him around. You’d be surprised how useful a really smart cat can be.”
“Yeahhh,” Jessica picked him up, put Frank on her lap, rubbing under his face with the fingers of both her hands. “Did you hear that, Frank? You’re useful,” she laughed. “It’s good to be useful.”
“I’ve got to go. …Right. ..Right, Mom. I’ll call again in a couple of days, in the evening when Dad’s home. …Bye, Mom.” And Mary snapped her phone shut, tossing it into the bin below the radio.
“So what are we up to now?” Mary Louise asked Jessica who, between the two of them, was the one responsible for selling what they stole.
“Roughly $32,000 including what we just took. (Love those diamond earrings.) $8,000 more and we’re done for the summer.”
“…Enough for tuition, savings – and maybe a week at the beach?”
“Well, …” They could have fun, but Mary Louise wanted to make sure they never lost their focus, “..so far, so good. As long as we keep wearing the oversized shoes and the weight belts, and making large holes in the glass. Right now everyone’s looking for a single male burglar. A couple of college girls on a summer road trip hasn’t crossed their minds.”
“Yeah, let’s keep it that way,” Jessica agreed. “And I think we should make sure the places we hit are in different counties so we don’t run into the same detectives.”
“Good point. One more summer after this one, and we’re done. What we’ve saved, plus summer internships and maybe some financial aid or student loans, depending upon where we go, should be all we need for graduate school.”
“Law school,” Jessica raised her voice and left hand for a high-five with her friend.
“…here we come!”
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