Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning.
JD walked across the hallway to the microfiche room, and fully expected to find Dillon sleeping.
In the nearly 80 minutes since they'd last spoken, he hadn't heard a sound out of Dillon. That was pretty much unheard of in his experience, so he was convinced that Dillon would be laying on the floor under the desk soundly sleeping, or that he'd actually already left the room and was off doing something else instead.
What he found make him freeze in his tracks inside the doorway.
Dillon was reading.
He was staring intently at the microfiche screen, and occasionally panning about on the page to move from one to the next. He was actually sitting forward on his seat, leaning in toward the screen.
JD stared in wonder for another moment, then knocked lightly on the open door so as not to elicit another screaming fit from him in the library.
Dillon whirled rapidly around to face him.
"Oh, hey, dude, whattup?" he said casually.
"You're doing the research. You're actually doing the research."
"Yeah, I toldja I would. You owe me lunch, too, by the way."
"Pff ... yeah, dorkwad. I don' work fer free an' shit."
"No one's paying me," JD protested.
"That's YOU, bro. You gotta feed me if ya want work done, dude."
"What have you learned so far?"
JD blinked in surprise. "I mean, what have you found out?"
"Well, a couple things," Dillon said, panning the page again.
JD waited for a moment. "Such as?"
"Oh," Dillon said, and turned back around. "Such as, comics in papers ain't funny at all, dude. Not at all."
"Wh ... what?"
"Yeh, I been readin' Sunday comics an' stuff. None of 'em're funny at ALL, man. It's like, lame or for little kids er somethin'. Stupid."
"Dillon, what are you reading?"
"I jus' told you, dude. Comics."
"Did you even bother to read the articles that Bea found for us?"
"Yeah, I read 'em."
"Before I started readin' comics. Duh, dude. You sure ask dumb questions for a smart guy."
"Dillon, what did you learn??"
"About what, Homey?"
"About the case!"
"Oh, yeah," Dillon said, turning back to JD. "Keep it down, dude, we're in a library an' shit. You wanna get us thrown out or somethin'?"
"Yeah, right," Dillon said, adjusting his seat to face JD more fully.
"So ... there was this cop, see ..."
"Yes, Robin Brown."
"Right, Robbie. So anyways, he's doin' stuff ... you know, cop stuff ... and he goes missin'."
"Yes, he disappeared investigating a rash of robberies in the neighborhood of our supposedly haunted house."
"You heard this one before'r somethin'?"
JD closed his eyes. "Just ... go on, please."
"So Robbie gets a call t'go check this dump out, an' he goes missin', right? So then nobody finds 'im. Ever."
"Yes, the last contact police had with him was as he was going to check the house out. Then radio silence."
"Yeh. So he's missin', an' nobody can find 'im and shit."
"For nearly thirty five years."
"Yeah. An' the cops don' keep lookin', neither, 'cause right after that the crap in that neighborhood stops, an' they figger it's ol' Robbie doin' it."
"Yeah, ain'tcha heard that part?"
"No, there was nothing like that on the Internet."
"No? Damn, you must suck at searchin'. Anyhoo, ol' Robbie's gone, an' all the B.S. down in the 'hood stops."
"The robberies stopped after his disappearance, yes."
"Yeah, an' ol' Robbie's partner, who ain't workin' with 'im that night, says he figgered Robbie was the one doin' all the stealin' and shit, an' then he took off with the loot an' stuff."
"Several hundred thousand dollars in cash and merchandise were stolen over a very short period of time."
"Yeah, like, three, four months. So dude, can we eat now?"
"What of the partner? What was his name?"
"I dunno ... Stinkins, Pinkins, some crap ... he just slammed Robbie pretty good an' then nothin'. Papers don' say nuthin' 'bout him no more."
"Dill, do you remember the name? The exact name? I can look it up."
"Naw, man, y'can't look it up ... I gotta eat."
"I'll feed you, I'll feed you ... IF you find the name."
"Dude, the food's for all the stuff I done already."
"You receive payment when I receive a name."
Dillon sighed in an over-exaggerated and dramatic way, flopping his arms over the desk to work the microfiche reader again. He buzzed about for a few minutes, and then swatted JD's arm.
"Here," he said firmly, "now frickin' gimme some food, dude."
"Yes, yes ..." JD said, bending to read the article. "Darren Jenkins. How'd you get Stinkins out of Jenkins?"
"Whatever. I'm hungry, brain ain't workin' right."
"It never has, why is hunger the reason now?"
"You're a butt-head, dude. Seriously. A butt-head."
JD read on unperturbed. He made careful mental note of the name, and he made careful mental note of the article.
Both Brown and Jenkins had been under investigation. Both were taking rotating second shifts to go on beat patrol in that neighborhood. The affluent tax payers were pressuring city officials, not least of whom was the mayor, for action. Several houses had been robbed, in an area where crime had not existed before, and in each case, the police had failed to apprehend or even identify a suspect. In each case, the complaints were filed but nothing ever substantiated. In several cases, the paperwork about the incident had been lost, so that when the homeowners tried to follow up, there was no record of a report ever having been filed. Pressure was being put on the city to do something about the crime wave, and some residents had threatened to go to the county or even state authorities to get resolution.
JD knew most of that; the Internet information he'd uncovered from the local town paper had most of that information online. What was conspicuously absent from the information currently online, but was clear in the original articles, was that the entire police department was under investigation. Rumors of corruption and suspicion of dirty cops and bribery were rampant.
At the center of that investigation were officers Brown and Jenkins.
Brown volunteered to go on beat duty there to clear his name, vehemently protesting accusations of his involvement in any corruption or conspiracy within the police department. Jenkins took offsetting shifts to assist his partner. On one or two occasions, Jenkins had been summoned to a robbery either in progress or upon discovery by the homeowners. In every case, the perpetrator, or perpetrators, got away and nothing was ever uncovered by investigators. Brown only received one call while on beat patrol in the neighborhood the one he never returned from. That brought suspicion to him more fully. The police suspected that he cased homes on patrol and returned when off-duty to perpetrate the crimes. His partner Jenkins was thought to be involved because he never apprehended the perpetrator or perpetrators, even when he received notice that there was a robbery in progress.
After Brown's disappearance, the police closed the investigation. Jenkins was cleared of all charges, and Brown was considered to be the perpetrator of most, if not all, the robberies. Any accomplices he had disappeared with him, vanishing into the dense fog rolling in off the river. His car was found but never a body, despite a search of the river banks, bed, the home where he'd been dispatched, and the surrounding neighborhood. He simply ... vanished.
JD noticed the address of the last call the officer was dispatched too, also. It was the same address as his client's house, that ancient old Victorian near the river.
"Very, very interesting," JD said slowly and softly.
"Yeah, like watchin' grass grow. Can we eat now, dude?"
"Sure," JD smiled. "I just want to ask Bea one more thing on the way out."
"Whatever, dude, I'll be at the car."
"Sure," JD said, still eyeing that article as if it were a treasure.
He wondered about the events the three of them had seen the night before. They seemed to contradict the story in some senses. Why would Brown be killed if he'd been the perpetrator? Who were the murderers? Under what conditions had that murder taken place?
Was Brown even the one being murdered?
JD stood upright at that last thought. Maybe ... just maybe ... they'd misinterpreted what they saw. They didn't see the whole thing play out. The heavy fog and the immediate belief that he was an actual, living police officer made them hesitate before they followed through the yard. There were likely events being played out they hadn't seen, perhaps a conversation.
What if Brown had been the murderer and not the victim? In the dimness he could only see a figure with a flashlight. Because of what he'd seen before, he assumed it was Brown, but there was a period of time in which other things could have taken place. In fact, he may not have even seen contiguous events. These things, if played back through some mechanism LIKE the Water Tape Theory, may not have all been the same night, or even the same decade. There was no way to know for certain what they'd seen.
"DUDE," Dillon said impatiently, leaning back in, "FOOD. NOW."
"Okay, sorry," JD said and he strode out of the room behind Dillon. They passed by the front desk where Bea was busying herself with librarian tasks, humming ever so softly to herself.
"Excuse me, Bea," JD said softly, and she looked up, tipping her head far back to see through the spectacles that slid far down her nose, and smiled broadly.
"Oh, were the fiches of any help?"
"Incredibly so," JD said warmly. "I don't know how to thank you, and I hate to be a pest, but ..."
"Oh, not at all, that's what I'm here for," Bea said, coming around toward JD and pushing her glasses back on her face. "What can I do for you?"
"Well ... I ran across a name in my research, and wondered if you might have some actual memory of the person, being that you've lived here for so long."
"I can try, but I can't promise anything," Bea said, less enthusiastically.
"I was wondering if you remember a police officer, around the time of the disappearance, named Jenkins ... Darren Jenkins."
"Oh, heavens yes," she said, waving dismissively. "I remember when he was a boy coming in here for his school papers. He lived here most of his life."
"Do you recall what became of him?"
"Oh, yes ... he stayed here in town and did well with the police force for a bit. Then he decided to try his hand at politics. Most folks here were convinced he had something to do with that other officer being missing though. No one voted for him. After that, he left. A few years later, I read in the paper he'd committed suicide."
JD started. "Suicide??"
"Yes, it was terrible. No one knows why. He didn't even leave a note."
"Did he have a family?"
"Oh, not that I know of; his parents passed away long ago, and he didn't have any siblings. He never married, either, that I recall. It was sad, really."
"Oh, God," JD whispered, genuinely surprised.
"Yes, and the worst part of it was that the people found him outside their home, below a window."
"Who? Who found him?"
"The homeowners ... they live in the same house where his partner was last heard from. They came home and found him outside of their parlor window."