One Hundred Five

A quiet night, no more thunder anyway. We decide to skip loaves and fishes, opt for fastie, which I fetch and take back to the room.
‘What room did Dead Daddy and daughter stay in?’
‘The Inquisition Chamber, I took a walk, it’s still closed, crime scene tape across the door.’
‘Figure out how to get Morshchiny in to sniff around.’
‘I’ll lift a housekeeper’s universal key cross, they wear them around the neck, I’ll need a distraction to snip the cord…no…wait, we brought the drugs. I’ll get one in a room and stick a needle in her neck, we don’t need but ten minutes or so.’
Half hour later Zero, Zoe and Morshchiny are in. Zero shut the door, I’m the hall monitor, make sure nobody’s around when they’re ready to leave.
The door cracks open, ‘It’s clear, if you’re done let’s get gone.’
Skip the elevator, we take the Stairway to Heaven to our floor. Morshchiny sniffs the carpet, then the concrete steps, she wants to go down, we follow to a hallway that leads to the lobby. The scent goes out the side exit, not down the hallway.
Zoe, ‘Morshchiny covered the room, spent the most time on the sheets and pillows. One pillow had traces of makeup, blush , and had a red smear we thought might be blood, but it was lipstick. Zoe took the pillowcase,’ she pulls a plastic trash bag from under her shirt, the pillowcase is inside.
We follow Morshchiny alongside the building, then to the parking lot. A bus stop, then nothing.
Zero, ‘So she gets on a bus, what busses pass here? And can we figure out what time she got on one, if she did?’
‘Take the dog up to the room, I’ll ask someone, bellman probably knows.’
They return the way we came, not through the lobby, I approach the bellman, or valet, not sure, they’re all dressed like Roman gladiators.
‘Excuse me, are you familiar with the bus schedule?’
‘Got one right here, where you need to go?’
‘Not sure, just need the schedule, do they run on time?’
‘To the minute, once in a while there’s a delay, breakdown, traffic accident might delay an arrival, don’t happen much.’
‘I heard about a girl, a death in one of the rooms, then the girl disappears.’
‘Oh yeah, four days ago, cops everywhere I was told, wasn’t my shift.’
‘What time was it, I mean, best guess when he died.’
‘During the night, after ten, one of the staff saw him at the elevator around then.’
‘Anyone see the girl?’
‘Lucretius, he was on duty, said he didn’t see any kid, I think she was fifteen or sixteen, what’s the cops told him anyway.’
‘What’s his shift?’
‘Four ‘til midnight.’
‘When did they find the body, you know?’
‘Housekeeper went to the room at three, but rumor has it the guy was dead long before that.’
‘And the daughter was gone.’
‘Not a trace, I mean, they knew she was in the room, some people think she wasn’t his daughter, only one bed was used. Most dads don’t sleep with their teenage daughters, particularly when there are two beds. I think he picked up the girl, maybe a prostitute, he got too happy and his heart popped. Girl gets scared, bolts.’
‘Sounds reasonable, thanks,’ he nods, I walk through the lobby and up to the suite.
I give the schedule to Zero, ‘Bus comes every half hour  to nine at night, then every hour until six the next morning. One of the staff saw the man at ten that night, he didn’t look dead then. Problem is, housekeeper found the body, but it was three in the afternoon.’
She looks over the schedule, ‘Seventeen hours later. Technically, she could have gotten on any of the eight busses before six am, or any of the eighteen between six and three. Let’s assume she took a bus between eleven that night and six in the morning, eight busses. We need to talk to drivers, it can’t be more than a couple, according to the schedule the bus route has twenty stops each way. A driver would remember a teenage girl, where she got on and where she got off.’
‘Wouldn’t the cops have already checked bus drivers?’
‘Must have, or a driver may have reported seeing the girl, but maybe not.’
CC, ‘Why not?’
‘It’s late, likely nobody on the bus, or a very few passengers. At some point it’s possible he’s alone with the girl. He’s going to think twice about volunteering that he saw her.’
‘Cause he becomes a suspect.’
‘Right. On the other hand, if he completed his rounds on time, then the possibility he did something with the girl is most unlikely, when could he have done it and still kept to the schedule?’
‘I need to find out who the driver, or drivers, are.’
Zero, ‘I don’t know how it helps, the police must have interviewed all the drivers between ten and three the next afternoon. The cops aren’t going to cough up their names just because we ask. On the other hand, no driver has been arrested. If they were interviewed then released, the police might already know if she got on a bus and where she got off, unless the driver didn’t register her, or she didn’t get on a bus.’
‘Then we need to find out from the driver. I have an idea.’
I go back down to talk to my pal the bellman.
He’s pushing a roller cart full of luggage to the curb, then helps the guest stuff it in the back of an SUV. A family, mom’s toting a Bible, two bored to hell kids, boy and girl, climb in the rear, dad drives, mom in the passenger.
Mom, ‘I’ll read from Matthew while we ride.’
Girl, ‘Moooomm, we just spent three days up to our ears in Jesus, how about giving it a rest?’
Mom says something, but she shuts her door, and dad dries off. Two kids trapped in mom’s delusions, bet they can’t wait to bail for college.
Bellman, ‘Back again?’
‘Out of curiosity, how many teenagers that come are into religion?’
‘None. At least it’s my general impression, I suppose a few are. Don’t you have kids here?’
‘Observant. Yes, but we aren’t here to soak up Jesus, we’re here because my daughters are curious about the missing girl. They like mysteries.’
‘Better than staring at a phone hoping for likes on their last post. My daughter is glued to the damn thing.’
‘You religious? I mean, none of my business, just that you work here.’
He grimaces, ‘Pay is good, tips okay, it’s a job. I stand around in a ridiculous costume and welcome the sinners. Personally, I could give a…well, you get it.’
‘I do. My girls don’t do social media. I wouldn’t object, they just don’t.’
‘Wish mine didn’t, seeking approval from a bunch of moronic teenagers, or worse, some dork bugging her for pictures of her tits. She barely has tits. She is a good student though, active in sports, I can’t gripe about the phone.’
‘You’re right, she’s doing well, don’t make a problem where there isn’t one. Mine have a question or two. None of the bus drivers was arrested, right?’
‘Right, and we know them, mostly men, a few women drivers on the day shifts. Some guys like the night shift, not many passengers, little traffic. Drivers are like me, working stiffs, trying to raise kids without totally screwing them up. And the drivers involved have been on those routes for years. Besides, they have pretty good alibis, the route schedule. Three drivers during the time in question, ten at night to three the next afternoon, none were late.’
‘Did they report seeing the girl, did she get on a bus?’ 
‘Didn’t tell us jack, cops probably told them not to talk, give the detectives a chance to follow up. You should talk to Lucretius, he chats with the drivers. They go inside to use the restroom, maybe grab a coffee. Hotel has one of the single serve things, you know, the pods, it’s free if you claim Jesus as your personal savior.’
‘I will, thanks. On a different topic, I get the impression that much of the religious bit is tongue in cheek, you know, not meant to be taken seriously.’
He grins, ‘I didn’t say so, but the owners are Jews, this place is a private joke. The rubes come in, get a dose of Holy Ghost, drop a ton of money.’
‘I saw a bar and grille, they serve liquor?’
‘Oh yeah, both the lounge and the bar and grille, the take there is enormous.’
‘Well, not much point in forgiveness if you don’t ever sin.’
He laughs, ‘And we get Jewish guests, usually guests of the owners, they get discounted rooms, sometimes free. The whole thing is a slap in the face of Christianity, I never said that by the way.’
‘Your secret is safe with me, my tribe has nothing to do with religion.’
‘Your detective girls will want to know where she got off, I don’t know, but I bet Lucretius does, or at least he knows what drivers to ask. He comes on at four like I said. I’ll mention you to him, kind of an introduction since he doesn’t know you.’
‘Be back at quarter to, thanks for the help, the girls will be delighted.’

One Hundred Six

‘The family’s function is to repress Eros; to induce a false consciousness of security; to deny death by avoiding life; to cut off transcendence; to believe in God, not to experience the Void; to create one-dimensional man; to promote respect, conformity, obedience; to con children out of play; to induce a fear of failure; to promote a respect for work; to promote a respect for respectability.’
RD Laing, The Politics of Experience

Zoe, ‘Will you keep Morshchiny company, Commandant? We want to tour the place, we’re thinking about converting, maybe even entering a convent.’
‘Uh huh, you check with Zero on that?’
‘Not yet, first Zoe has to pray for her immoral soul.’
‘Good luck, but sure, Morshchiny and I will play solitaire.’
CC and Zero come from their bedroom, if they plan to enter a convent, they’ll need different outfits. CC has on a t-shirt that she converts to a dress with a waist chain. Other than platforms, she’s wearing nothing else. Zero has black shorts that give new meaning to snug and short. Zoe wears a pleated skirt that’s either a tennis outfit or a schoolgirl dress. I decide tennis, it’s white, not plaid or navy blue. She’s got knee socks and sneakers, she spins in front of me, no panties. I could have figured, they don’t own panties, the display is intoxicating even without alcohol.
Zoe is grinning at me, ‘CC has turned Zoe into a slut.’
CC, ‘You were always a slut, I just gave you permission to be your authentic self, I may write a self-help book, Awaken Your Inner Slut.’
Zoe, ‘You help yourself to me often enough.’
‘Too much?’
‘Don’t be absurd.’
They go out to enhance the guests’ opportunity to sin. They don’t look older than twelve or thirteen, Zoe is actually twelve, CC and Zero are older but as you know, quit aging at twelve. I figure a fair number of Christian bumpkins will be on their knees pretending to talk to God while they fantasize about being on their knees for other, more explicit, reasons.
I get caught up in stillness, Morshchiny is either asleep or meditating on food opportunities. While our meditation sessions have produced no blinding insights, no shift in perception, they have at the least expanded my capacity for doing nothing. It turns out nothing is pretty good.
All meditation practices, whether for a specific purpose or, like ours, just to see what happens if we blank thought for a time, are about calming the brain, thought control in a positive way. Thought control to the point we can quit controlling; control is, after all, more activity of thought.
We have discussed the parallels between thought-free meditation and psychopathy.
If you rise above, or escape, suffering, the objective of practices like Buddhism, what you are essentially doing is dropping attachment, to anything. A psychopath is already detached, no meditation required.
On the other hand, there’s always another hand, for every yin there’s a yang, the experience of losing self, or giving self up to the whole is the opposite of a psychopath, who is always about the self. Buddhists attempt to become one with everything, psychopaths are more like none with everything and one with themselves. Buddhists have no God, psychopaths are God, to themselves anyway.
Like the good Hannibal Lecter said, referencing the fact that God kills people all the time, ‘If one does what God does enough times, one will become as God is.’
According to the Gospel of Lecter, the girls and I are Gods, which CC would agree with regarding herself, but that’s her playfulness, not a Goddess complex, although any Goddess worth the name would hand her soul to Satan to look like CC.
I drift, not asleep, not attending to anything consciously, my brain will attend without me, it can’t help itself.
Morshchiny’s ears pick up, she stands and shakes, goes to the door. It clicks open, the girls come in, the dog heard them before I did.
Zoe, ‘Hey Morshchiny, keeping Commandant company?’
A grumble, she pokes her snout into Zoe’s tummy, ‘Big girl has to go out, be back in a minute.’
I start to tell Zero to go with her, but she’s got a hundred thirty pound beast at her side, Zero doesn’t weigh close to that. Nobody’s going to pick a fight with Morshchiny.
‘Find anything interesting?’
CC, ‘Us, based on ogles we are the prime attraction at the High Holytel Complex. I heard several people saying ‘Jesus, check that’ or ‘Thank you God’
Two teen boys stalked us like prey, until mommy showed up and dragged their lustful hearts off to a different kind of pray.’
Zero, ‘Aside from the thrill of exhibitionism, there’s not much thrill here unless you count corn dogs and cotton candy as thrilling. Naturally the tubs eating that stuff were the poster children for why you don’t eat that stuff.’
‘It’s America, Land of the Obese, Home of the Saved.’
Zero, ‘I’m still twitchy after our outing. CC, you need to be attended to, to the bedroom.’
CC, ‘You may have whatever you desire.’
‘I want it all, and I want it right now…does that make me capitalist?’
‘Like a Real American, consume until bankruptcy.’
They go off to their bedroom, I think a glass of wine is in order, distract my libido.
I open a bottle, pour a healthy glass of red, park on the couch. Zoe returns with Morshchiny, refreshes her water bowl and fills a second with dog pebbles.
She takes the other side of the couch, ‘CC giving it up for Zero?’
‘I suspect that’s the objective, I’m sure you would be welcomed to join the explorations.’
She turns to face me, hikes one leg up, leaves the other stretched to the floor. I do my part and enjoy.
She giggles, ‘Zero has infected Zoe with show off.’
‘I’ll be sure to thank her.’
She stands, walks to my side, ‘Share the wine.’
I hand her the glass, she finishes it off, unzips the tiny skirt and strips off her shirt.
‘Wow.’
Zoe, ‘Zoe is still skinny.’
‘You are slim, with mile long legs and a granite tummy.’
She holds out her hand, I take it, she pulls me up, ‘To the bedroom, it’s time.’
Wherever she learned what to do, she was well instructed. She takes control as soon as I lay down. It occurs that her general technique strongly resembles Zero’s, with a touch of CC. They have strap-ons, and it isn’t that complicated, more a matter of pace and pressure than anything complicated.
Definitely worked up, she goes off twice, once riding me on top, again missionary, appropriate considering where we are. Then I’m certain Zero has a hand in this when she tells me to fire it in her mouth and over her face. Obedience-R-Me, Zoe giggles while she swipes the stuff down her cheeks and into her lovely mouth.
‘That was fun! Zero’s is right, your cum is comely, how was it for you?’
‘No words are sufficient, turn over, I want to reward your expertise.’
‘You going to….oooohhh, you are.’
By rewarding her, I’m rewarded with my favorite sounds, sighs, and shivers. She rolls over on her back.
‘I love analstim, CC addicted me, thank you for feeding my need.’
‘My pleasure.’
‘Bathe me, Studley.’
Another delight in the shower, Zoe against the wall, me on my knees, she’s so excited she squirts in my mouth. Then we switch spots and I go off again.
Zero and CC appear, Zoe turns to them with my wilting cock in her hand, opens her mouth to reveal the product of her efforts, then swallows.
Zero, ‘We’ve created a sex monster. Rinse off pervs, CC and I will dry, then we need to feed.’
Zoe, ‘I got two appetizers,’ more giggles.
While they dry us, Zero asks, ‘Did you do it all, or only oral? Not that it’s any of my business, I wasn’t in Commandant’s head.’
CC, ‘It’s my business, and I want to know what the brute has done to my play buddy.’
Zoe, ‘Zoe had no idea her little puss could handle that size, none of our toys are that…large. It felt dreamy creamy.’
‘Commandant is gentle in matters of intimacy, our preferred style.’
‘He was a true gentle-man.’
CC, ‘You going straight?’
Zoe, ‘Zoe will always be bent, she has two steaming hot girlfriends and one hunk, just the right mix. Well, maybe not, I’m thinking of seducing the twins.’
Zero, ‘The twins require no seduction, you need only wait, they will kidnap you and keep you in a state of delirium until you have met every demand.’
Zoe, ‘Perfect. Um, do they play with Commandant? Zoe is being nosy.’
Zero, ‘The twins are lesbian, not bi, at least not so far. If they want to expand horizons, they’ll do it in their own time. They don’t do seduction, or get seduced, don’t need to. Nobody is going to turn down an evening of fun and frolic with our twins, they’re seductive just being.’

One Hundred Seven

Positively to state what an integrated human being is only creates a pattern, a mold, an example which we try to imitate; and is not the imitation of a pattern an indication of disintegration? Conformity is not integration, is it?
J. Krishnamurti, Commentaries on Living vol. II

I’m late to meet Lucretius, Zero and CC take the Hyundai to round up Chinese, Zoe stays with Morshchiny.
I hold out my hand, ‘Lucretius? I’m the guy with the curious girls.’
He shakes, ‘Yeah, Mike mentioned you, hang on, I gotta shuffle the luggage, back in a sec.’
I stare out at the Jesus hologram, then he returns…not Jesus, Lucretius.
‘So, okay, kids are curious, want to play detective. I hope they do better than the local cops, they can’t find jack.’
‘You know what bus, what driver?’
‘The eleven o’clock, Harry Carry, good guy, loves the night work. She got on here, Harry said she got off near his turn around stop. He didn’t talk to her, she was the only passenger at that point, he figured it best not to make any sort of contact, the world the way it is.’
‘A bogus harassment charge, or worse.’
‘Exactly. I never saw her but Harry told me she was pretty, but had the sense not to put herself on display, not alone at that time of night. She was in jeans, not the painted on kind, just jeans, sneakers and a pullover sweater. Oh, and a cap, the thing with no bill, the knit kind.’
‘A watch cap.’
‘Yeah, that, even it was bland, grey, no cute little ball on top. Like I said, she didn’t say jack, Harry followed suit.’
‘He on tonight?’
‘Yep, eleven, five minutes either way, but he always goes inside to take a leak, get a coffee. He’s a nice guy, come down, he’ll tell you what her knows, even take you to the stop. Harry’s got a kid, not a kid now, grown, but he knows about teens and trouble.’
The girls return with bags of styrofoam boxes, I make a half introduction, ‘This is Sarah and Susan, my two amateur detectives, Mike says we can chat with the driver later, eleven-ish.’
CC blazes a smile, both the girls are in ordinary clothes, nothing revealing, they show off on their terms and this isn’t the term.
‘Thanks for indulging our inner Sherlock, we probably won’t come up with much, but we want to try. It’s more interesting than Facebook, or TV.’
Mike laughs, ‘You sure they’re teens? I thought Facebook came with the birth certificate.’
‘Not our thing, we prefer less exposure, not more.’
I nearly choke, considering how they spent part of the afternoon.
Zero, ‘Thanks Mike, we need to get to the room, starving,’ she holds up one of the bags she’s carrying.’
Mike, ‘Mama Chan’s, I get stuff from them all the time, it’s good, enjoy.’
We skip drinks, got to take a bus ride tonight. What we’ll really do is let Morshchiny check the bus, then Harry tells us where she got off and we drive it. No point in following a bus making a bunch of stops before it gets to the one we’re interested in.
We eat, Mike the Bellman was right, it is good. Our usual, won ton soup, shrimp in garlic sauce, Szechuan chicken, both come with pork fried rice. Our sexcapades have us ravenous, all that’s left are a few spoons of fried rice.
CC, ‘What happens when we get to the stop? Morshchiny sniffs, if there’s anything left to sniff of the girl, what’s her name?’
‘Angela Morrissey. We came on a whim, if we find something, great, if we don’t, we go home, maybe get a Jesus hologram for our place.’
Zero, ‘I have a vision of that. We’d attract a gaggle of Christian gawkers, then Nikita and Natasha would start picking them off. Or worse, CC would parade around in a micro mini while the Christians prayed for a shot at her.’
CC, ‘Hah! You like to flaunt yourself as much, no more, than I do. And now you’ve led Zoe into a life of sin and degradation.’
Zoe, ‘Zoe likes sin and degradation, it feels sooo juicy good.’
CC, ‘See?’
‘Maybe you should go cold turkey on her. Lead her down the righteous path of chastity.’
‘I’ll give up Zoe when I’m dead…oh, wait…we’re immortal, lucky me.’
Zoe, ‘Zoe hasn’t picked an age yet, she wants to fill out a bit more than her current state of stick-body.’
‘Admirable, although your legs are already curvy-hard from the trampoline and your runs around the property, and your waist size is in negative numbers.’
‘An exaggeration.’
‘To make a point, what is it really, fifteen inches?’
‘Twenty.’
Zero, ‘Still a wasp, most slim twelve year olds have twenty three or four, mine is twenty three, CC is twenty four, she’s taller than I am though.’
‘Comparison is the road to insanity.’
Zero, ‘Good point, let’s drop it.’
We do, they turn on the TV, let the news run with no sound, turn on the subtitles instead. 
At ten thirty we go downstairs to let Morshchiny do her thing, a few minutes before eleven the bus wheels in. After Harry the Driver hits the head and gets himself a coffee, Lucretius explains what we want, Harry nods, turns to us.
‘Glad you’re taking a stab, what do you need to know?’
‘If you remember what she was wearing, good, we’d like to let the dog check the bus, give us the stop where she got off and any details about which way she went, if you know.’
He does well, easier to remember a pretty girl and a near empty bus, empty at the stop except for Harry and Angela.
‘The sweater was dark, red but not bright red, maroon more like it, blue jeans, dark blue but with the fading like they’d been worn and washed a lot.’
‘Shoes?’
‘Sneakers, black, black sole, I noticed because my daughter has the same kind, Sketchers as I recall. Kids usually wear something colorful, girls anyway, this one was bland head to toe.’
‘Maybe didn’t want to be noticed. Did you see which way she went?’
‘Down towards the back of the bus. The stop is on a corner like most bus stops, the cross street is Montgomery, my bus runs on Main Street at that point.’
‘What’s the cross street before the stop?’
‘Cortez.’
‘Anything else?’
‘Maybe I’m overreaching, but to me, she looked grim, determined. I’d expect a girl her age to be staring in a phone the whole time, but she didn’t. If she had a phone at all, I didn’t see it.’
‘Luggage? A carry-all?’
‘Yeah, like a gym bag, not small, not huge,’ he spreads his hands about two feet,’ it was full, you could tell from the shape, but not heavy, she didn’t have any trouble lifting it.’
‘You told all this to the cops?’
‘Yep, wanted me to see a sketch artist, which I did.’
I hold out my phone, ‘This the girl?’
He looks, ‘Yeah, that’s her, you got more than the cops. Think she killed daddy?’
‘Got to admit, looks that way. If he was killed at all, autopsy may find a more natural cause, heart attack or some blown out brain vein, aneurysm.’
‘No reason for the girl to run then.’
‘No, so it leans the story to something else, but we don’t care how he died, we just want to solve the runaway part. You need to get back to the route, the dog has been through the bus.’
Zoe and Morshchiny come along, ‘She must have sat about midway, Morsh showed the most interest in a seat on the left.’
Harry, ‘That’s where she was, got a good sniffer. I gotta hop, good luck.’
Zero brings the Hyundai around, I thank Lucretius, we pile in and head to Main and Cortez.

One Hundred Eight

‘--What has to be understood is that theories and doctrines of all kinds are the fabrication of our mind. It is capable of fabricating some of them diametrically opposed to each other and one will be no truer nor less true than the other because they are all based on false perceptions or, at least, relative ones which are only of value for an observer constituted as we are, placed where we are, and such perceptions have no absolute reality.
--Nothing is produced by one single cause; the combination of several causes is always necessary to bring about a result. The seed without the cooperation of earth, water, and light will never become a tree.’
The Secret Oral Teachings of Tibetan Buddhist Sects, Alexandra David-Neel

Zero maps the site on the drive, I park on the street just down from the bus stop.
‘There are businesses on Main, but the cross streets turn residential, and it’s residential to the east. If she crossed the street west, it’s offices for a couple of blocks, then industrial.’
‘Let’s see where the dog leads.’
Zoe, ‘Find the trail Morshchiny,’ she gets another sniff in the bag with the pillowcase.
The dog sniffs the sidewalk, it hasn’t rained while we’ve been in town, don’t know if it rained before we arrived.
Morshchiny’s temperament is not like a beagle or hunting dog, she doesn’t get frenzied about anything, a mastiff is nothing if not dignified. She does seem interested in something and leads Zoe down the block in the direction of Cortez.
At the corner, she takes a left and we follow for two more blocks, condos and apartments become single family homes in the third block with the exception of a school that takes up half a block on the north side, then more houses. Just past the school, the trail goes cold. Morshchiny circles, Zoe tries across the street, up and down the block, back across, nothing.
Zero, ‘Got in a car, if she went in a house the trail doesn’t indicate that, it ends at the curb on this side.’
CC, ‘Maybe she can levitate, or aliens beamed her aboard and she’s headed for a distant galaxy.’
‘Well, she didn’t spontaneously combust, there’d be a mark on the sidewalk.’
Zero, ‘And no cams along here…except,’ she points at the school, cameras at the entrance, and on the four corners of the schoolyard which is surrounded by a chain link fence, an eight foot one. One camera points in our direction, it’s the rear right, meant to monitor the fence line, but the feed would also catch the street.
‘How do we handle asking for footage? They may even erase everyday…no, that doesn’t make sense, if there’s an incident they would want a record, at least for a while. The school isn’t going to let us look based on our curiosity, and we don’t much want even more people aware of why we’re here.’
Zero, ‘We don’t ask, we call the locals anonymously. We could clue in Lucretius, and he could call, no, that’s no good, he’s going to tell them about us. Right now, we’re only curious kids.’
CC, ‘Another problem maybe, one of them calls the cops and tells them people were asking about the girl, and they had a dog check out the bus blah, blah.’
‘Okay, we go with anonymous call, but we need to be gone. Do we return to the hotel, pack up and leave?’
Zero, ‘Let’s be more transparent, we go back, tell Lucretius we struck out. Then we go to bed and get gone in the morning.’
‘We’ve spoken with three people, we’re memorable and they’ve seen not only us but the car. I say we call the cops and be upfront. We have cover, we’re not checked in under any name, just a corporation, the car is in a corporate name, we’ve used aliases, if it comes to it, our driver’s licenses are in our travel names. They can take statements, even better, we meet the cops at the site, not the hotel, maybe even get to see the video if there is any. If she’s on a cam…hold up, do they run the things all night?’
Zero, ‘The cameras are on, they blink a little green light, no light if they’re off. Some school shooter breaks in at night, for instance, hides out waiting for the kids to arrive.’
‘Maybe a bit of luck then. One problem, the longer we wait, the less chance of turning up the girl.’
‘True, then we have to call now.’
So much for invisibility, but I’m pretty sure we’re covered. I call the local precinct.
Sergeant Something answers, ‘I have a lead on the missing girl, Angela Morrissey.’
I listen, he’s reluctant, suppose they get plenty of crank calls. I give him my location.
‘I’m waiting here for fifteen, at least get a patrol car to pass by, if they think I’m full of it, okay, I tried,’ I disconnect, it’s a SAT phone, no number shows on caller ID.
Ten minutes later, a car pulls up, two cops, a sluggish fat guy and a rookie who drew the night shift.
Sluggish, ‘You call in the tip?’
‘Yep,’ I explain what we’ve done, including the pillowcase we swiped from the hotel.
Sluggish, ‘Tampering with a crime scene is..’
‘Skip the shit, your guys were in there with a forensic team, the tampering was done long before we showed up. You need to get someone who can roust the principal or assistant, who can get to the recordings. If there’s nothing, sorry for the trouble. If there’s something, your screwing around jeopardizes the girl’s life, if she’s still alive, which I think probable.’
‘Why, do you know something?’
‘I know she left a dead dad in the hotel, took a satchel or duffle with her stuff, you didn’t find any teen girl clothes in the room. Somebody missed the pillowcase, maybe the pillow was turned over and didn’t raise suspicions, does it matter? Now get on the horn and wake the dead. Keep playing detective and the next people we see will be the press, they love this kind of thing.’
Sluggish, ‘Hang on, don’t go off half cocked, let me talk to someone.’
He goes to the car, we can’t hear the give and take, but he returns with decent news.
‘One of the detectives is working, I explained what we have, you have, and I told him you were legit, nobody crank calls then stands around waiting with three kids and a dog.’
While we hang, we chat, he takes our fake names, if he’s interested in the car he doesn’t do anything about it. He can search, our guns are at the hotel locked in the gun case and put in a closet. One dad, so he thinks, and three teens, that we might carry doesn’t occur to him. People see what their brains let them see. He takes down my address, which is a city and residence I’ve never been to.
An unmarked pulls up, guy gets out, he’s alone, but big enough to handle most situations.
‘Detective Parker,’ sticks his hand out, I shake it, introduce us, including Morshchiny.
He goes to pet the beast, ‘Not yet, you haven’t been cleared.’
Zoe gives the safe command, in Russian.
‘She’s been told you’re okay, won’t lose any fingers.’
He pats tentatively, then longer when he sees he’s not going to lose the use of his hand.
‘Big dog.’
‘One thirty, my daughter trained her to track, which she does regularly enough to be useful, she’s not a beagle or a hound, but good enough.’
‘Can you go over what you told the officers?’
‘No, I’m not wasting the time. You going to get someone to open the school?’
Parker, ‘I wanted to see for myself before I start waking up citizens, but I can see your logic. That far camera would likely cover this spot, where you say the trail ends.’
‘Fair enough, we went across the street and farther down the block, plus the side streets, the dog didn’t find anything. Wherever the girl went, she left from here. She a murder suspect, or did daddy die of something else? Which doesn’t explain her disappearing act, but people do strange stuff in a panic.’
‘Can’t address that just yet, preliminary…you aren’t going to the press are you?’
‘Not a chance, unless we can’t get to the video.’
‘Okay, preliminary results suggest suffocation, and the blood tests showed a high level of antihistamines. If it wasn’t for the missing girl, it would have been written up as an accidental overdose. Let me make a coupla calls.’
He goes to his car, he’s tied up for ten, then back to us.
‘My brand new not friend the principal is coming down, said he might need to call his AV person to run the video.’
‘My daughter,’ I point to Zero, ‘can do it, kids these days are born knowing how to operate electronics.’
Parker grins, ‘Tell me about it. My kid has our house connected sixteen ways from Sunday, and he did it himself. I still have to guess which remote operates what device. Well, I did, until he got tired of explaining and taped written instructions on everything. Then he got one of those machines you talk to and it turns down the lights and turns on the TV. It’s all magic to me.’
‘Sounds like a good kid, congratulations.’
‘He is. I keep waiting for a shoe to drop, but he avoids trouble, studies, plays soccer and doesn’t have his nose jammed to a video screen all the time. Mostly my wife’s doing, she’s pretty tough, five three and my kid is six feet already. Doesn’t matter, she talks he listens. Hell, I do too.’
‘Smart.’
‘Me or her?’
‘Both.’
CC interrogates, for the next twenty she’s drawn out Parker and the two patrolmen. How many kids, what they do together, how long they’ve been on the force, a few war stories, mostly domestic calls, someone drunk or high. None of them have shot anyone, they have drawn their guns, but just to get a suspect to settle down.
CC, ‘You guys lead interesting lives, get together and write a book, rookie perspective, old warhorse, detective experience.’
Sluggish turns out to have a good sense of humor, ‘Old warhorse is right. I was smashing faces against the wall while Parker was still cleaning latrines for the Marines. At least until he sucked up to the CO and wound up as a Gunnery Sergeant.’
Parker, ‘Respect, I showed respect, which included a bit of suck up.’
A car comes down the street, short man with dweeb glasses gets out, introduces himself as Principal Prince.
‘Don’t go there, I’ve heard it all, let me unlock the gate, then we’ll get inside and see what we see.’

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