(Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning.)
They inspected the pipe carefully, trying to assess how they'd get into it. The tiny ivory section of schedule 40 was probably about a foot long, and perhaps 2-1/2 or 3 inches in diameter. The ends were capped with bull-nosed PVC end caps, fitted over the outside of the pipe itself, and beneath those caps a tiny run of thread was visible.
"Hmm," JD muttered, turning his head over on its side as he lowered for a closer look. "It looks as if he had threads cut into it, and just screwed the end caps on."
"What're you, a plumber, dude?" Dillon snorted. "Hey, that means you're just like those guys on TV. They're plumbers, too. Maybe all ghost dudes are plumbers. Wouldn't that be funny?"
"Dillon," JD said patiently, "I'm not a plumber. I just have eyes. See the thread in the pipe?"
"Like for sewin' an' whatnot?"
"Okay then," Wendy interjected, "it should be no problem to get them off, right?"
"Well, I don't know about that. It's been 15 years. They could be frozen in place just from being sealed for so long. Besides, it was in the ground through a decade and a half of weather. It could be quite a chore to get them off. I don't know."
"Well, at least we won't have to cut the pipe, right? I mean, we can just unscrew the cap and take the stuff out, can't we?"
"Normal people can, yeah. JD makes everything harder though." Dillon chuckled. "He's the opposite o' the button in them commercials an' stuff."
"No, I don't. It's just that we may still not be able to open this like it's a bottle of soda pop. It may still require tools ... a vice, a pipe wrench or channel lock pliers, something like that. I just can't tell."
"Well, how y'gonna know 'less ya try it, studly?"
JD looked up at him, arching his brows. "Maybe YOU should try it, Dillon -- since it's so easy."
"Um ... nah, I'm good."
"Oh? What's the matter?"
"I ... well ... dude, you sure it ain't a bomb or nothin'?"
"Fairly sure, yes. I can't be positive, of course, but why let that stop you? Open away." He held his palms up with fingers pointing at the pipe on the table.
"Mmm ... Nah. I'll let you handle it. You're th' expert an' stuff."
"I thought as much. So ... I suppose it would be prudent to gather tools for this."
Wendy sighed in exasperation. "Why don't we just try unscrewing it first? If we can't, we can get the tools later."
"I don't think we should handle this any more than we have to. I think if we use tools to open it, we can preserve more of whatever may be --"
"Jaded, damn it, there's NOTHING on it already! Just open it!"
"But I --"
"OPEN IT!" Wendy and Dillon both shouted at him in unison, then they chuckled. JD shook his head.
"This isn't smart," he muttered as he picked the little section of pipe from the table by the caps on the ends.
He tried to twist them in opposite directions. They resisted. He glanced at the two of them as they stared intently at him, waiting. He drew a breath and tried again. The caps still wouldn't budge.
"I think they're frozen," he said softly.
"Why don'tcha let somebody with some GUTS and BALLS try it, homey -- give it a shot, Wen."
"Thank you, Dillon, I can manage by myself," JD sneered. "But they're stuck."
"Try using your sweatshirt to hold them, babe," Wendy suggested. He shrugged and tucked his hands into his pockets and held the end caps through the fabric.
He twisted again. Nothing. He redoubled his efforts and really turned them hard. They were still locked in place, unmoving. He exhaled sharply and relaxed, setting the pipe back on the table.
"Anyone else care to try?" he mocked, gesturing at the pipe.
Dillon wordlessly grabbed the pipe and grunted loud and long while he strained, his face turning red as he exerted himself against the plastic. For long seconds he kept the pressure on until he finally collapsed panting and face beet red onto the table. The pipe rolled away from him as he puffed through his deformed mouth, crushed from the weight of his head laying on his cheek.
"It's stuck," he raked out. "Real stuck. Like, forever stuck."
"I told you," JD taunted, self-satisfaction dripping from his words.
"Go Wen," Dillon huffed, "maybe you can do it."
"Dillon, don't be ridiculous, if WE can't do it, how can she --"
"GOT IT!" Wendy exclaimed, as one of the end caps ground free and spun on its thread.
JD's eyes bulged, staring at the open pipe and then at her as she stared into the pipe.
"Oh my God," she whispered, "there's more in there than the note."
"What?" JD said anxiously, jumping up from his seat. "What's inside?"
There was a moment of tension as they all tried to peer into the tiny opening. Their heads clunked off one another as they jostled to get a better look. Dillon strained in hard and the thunk! between his forehead and JD's made Wendy wince.
"OW! Okay, why don't we just empty the contents here on the table so we can all see?"
Wendy slowly and carefully tipped the pipe and there was the sound of something sliding down the length before a flashing, shiny jumble spilled out on the Formica surface.
"Dude! Bonus! Free stuff!"
"We can't keep this, dork," JD admonished, "these are stolen goods."
"Looks like a necklace and ring," Wendy said. "I wonder whose?"
"I don't know. Part of the stolen property obviously. Why would he put those in?"
"Dude, t'prove what th' note says ... DORK."
"All this proves is that Jenkins was part of it. There's nothing here to say Migo and Stanton were in on it."
"Where's the note?" Wendy said absently, staring into the pipe again. "Oh, it's stuck against the side of the pipe in here. Should I ... should I just -- grab it?"
"No," JD said quickly, "no, don't do that. Let's get something we can slide it out with."
Dillon slapped at his pockets half-heartedly. "I got nothin'."
JD shook his head. "Big surprise."
"I'll go look in the kitchen," Wendy said, moving away from the table.
"I'll go ... look at Wendy."
"Never mind, thank you," JD stopped him. "Go look in the basement."
"The basement?? Whaddaya mean, the basement??"
"Which word didn't you understand, brainiac?"
"Oh, dude ... ouch, man."
"Oh, don't like it when it's on you?"
"No. But I toldja that before, dude. I rip on you, you do nothin'."
"Hmm. See if there's something in the duffel bag there that can help."
JD rummaged around the wires and items on the table, looking for anything he could use to extract the note. Dillon sighed a moment later, and stood upright.
"Nothin'," he said heavily. "I wish somethin' would go our way for a change."
"You and me both, bud," JD said, just as Wendy came back in the room.
"I found some silverware. Here's a fork. That should do it."
"Fork yeah, it will. Heh."
"Nice, thanks," JD smiled and pecked her forehead. He took the fork and pressed lightly on the paper, then began to pull it out.
The note slowly emerged from its casing with the hissing sound of paper on plastic.
It dropped free of the pipe, and lay in a curled tube on the table in front of them. They all stared at it, JD setting the fork carefully down, as if the movement might damage the artifact like it were an ancient papyrus.
"Well?" Dillon's voice almost startled JD with its suddenness. "Ain'tcha gonna read it, dude?"
"Uh ... yeah. Yeah."
JD tried to reach for the letter but his hand froze in mid-air. He drew it back quickly, as if it were poisonous to the touch.
"What's the matter?" Wendy spoke, seeing him.
"It ain't gonna bite ya, dude."
"No, I know ... I know. But ... well, I'll have to ... to touch it to read it. Maybe you could get another fork, Wen? So we don't ... you know?"
She sighed, and paced impatiently out of the room.
"You're ridiculous, dude."
"What? I just don't want to damage the only evidence we have. I think it's critical that we keep this note as preserved as we can. That's all."
"Yeah. I think you're scared of it."
"What do you mean?"
"No, what's that supposed to mean?"
Dillon sighed. "Let's just ... just read the note, dude."
Wendy came back in and handed a second fork to JD. "Here. Now read it."
JD drew a deep breath. Taking the forks in his hands again, he gingerly opened the roll of paper and lay the forks over the edges to hold it open. He stared at the words, his brows drawn low over his eyes.
"What?" Wendy said at last. "What does it say, JD??"
"Oh! Sorry," he cleared his throat. "It's ... it's the note."
"We know that, dumb-ass," Dillon spat, "what's the note SAY?"
JD stepped back and gestured for them to read it for themselves.
They eagerly moved in, trying to hover over the page, jostling and bending low.
The room was dead silent while they read it.
The scrawling print was crude and legible, with tight, small lettering made with a pen.
I'm leaving this note to tell whoever finds it what happened in the disappearance of Officer Robin Brown. I am Darren Jenkins. I was Robin Brown's partner for 2 years before he was killed.
Robbie was a good cop. He never had anything to do with the burglaries. The primary people involved were me, Rick Stanton and Stan Migo. All of us were doing the robberies. Migo made sure the paperwork filed was destroyed. When Robbie found out what was going on, he was going to blow the whistle on the whole ring. But the brass didn't want the dirty cops to embarrass them, so they wanted to keep it under wraps. It was easy at first, but Robbie was going to do it. He was going to bust the people involved.
It's my fault he got killed. I tried to bring him in so he wouldn't get killed. I figured if he was involved he'd have to stay quiet and he'd make a few bucks. But he didn't want to get dirty. So he was going to try and catch the ones doing it. I tried to talk him out of it. He told me he wouldn't go. He promised. But he went ahead and volunteered for patrol up there that night and he caught Migo and Stanton red-handed. I was already there. It happened at the house where I've hidden this confession. I was in the basement. I had the stolen items. I've put some of them in with this note to prove what I'm writing.
Robbie was killed by Migo and Stanton. I didn't do anything to save him. I was too scared. I was scared for me and for my sister. My sister was married to Stan Migo. I didn't know what would happen if I came forward, to her or the kids, so I stayed quiet. For 20 years, I stayed quiet. I tried to get elected as mayor a few years ago to try and clean everything up, to try and clear Robbie's name. But I lost, and spent all the money from the robberies doing it. After that, I just left. I didn't know if the mob was involved or what. I didn't know how high up in the brass it went. I didn't know who was left. I was safe for a while after I came out and said Robbie did the robberies. I didn't want Bea or the kids to get hurt. I lied against my partner. He was clean.
I couldn't say anything publicly. While Bea and Migo were still married, it was harder than hell not to say something to her. But I couldn't tell her her husband was a killer. What if he did something to her? What if the mob WAS involved? I couldn't take a chance. And with the kids? There wasn't anything I could do.
I think Migo and Stanton died because Robbie's getting revenge on us. The accident that killed Stanton happened on October 29. That's the same day they killed Robbie. He was driving just fine, and then he went off the road, like he was trying to go around something. I think it was Robbie. It happened right at the quarry, where they buried his body. I drew a map. I followed them and know where they hid his body. The map shows the highway and the quarry access road. Follow the map and you'll find the body.
Migo shot himself. It was October 29 when he died too. I think he was trying to shoot someone else. I think Robbie's getting even for them killing him. And he knows I was there. I think I'm next. I can't live with this guilt. Find his body. Give him a hero's burial.
I just hope Bea will be okay. I hope there's no one else involved that will hurt her.
Robbie, I'm sorry.
They stood slowly away from the note.
"Wow," Wendy breathed. "We were right. We were right about it all."
"It wasn't as ... coherent as I'd hoped. Not as detailed. But, I never suspected he believed that Robin Brown's ghost was murdering the people involved."
"He was about to shoot himself, JD. I bet he didn't have a great self-image at that time, either. The guilt, the fear, feeling like a coward. He probably just wrote stuff down as it came to him. It's not a thesis, it's a suicide note."
"I ... yeah, I guess so. I don't know what I expected. A more organized, detailed account from a cop, I suppose."
"Dude ... that's super-creepy. He even whacked himself 'cause of it. He figgered he was next. Creepy."
"Well ... I guess we'd better ... figure out some way of getting this to the police."