One of my favorite mysteries. A chance encounter on a cold night, and look what happens!
After work, I drove to the Hopkins Police
Department. I wasn't sure whether to go to Chaska, where the murder occurred,
where the dead cop had worked. But that would mean I'd have to drive around
looking for police stations. This one in Hopkins
was on my way home so it was easy. Besides, cops all talked to each other,
didn't they? If I stopped here, I could make my report then go home and think
about Bill. My worry about Bill was more important than being a maybe-witness
to a maybe-murder.
Satisfied with my logic, I went into the
modern-looking squat brick building. I talked to the desk person, who jotted
information and referred me to another person, who escorted me to a
harassed-looking man seated at a battered desk in a big room with other
I sat down in the offered chair and examined “Detective
Marcus Sloan” if his desk nameplate was to be believed. Sloan had thick,
short-cropped white/gray hair, a tanned and lined oval face with baby blue eyes
and a tight, compact body in a navy sweater and jeans. Very sharp baby blue eyes, I decided, when he
turned to me.
“You heard something on Wednesday night?” he
prompted, tapping a pencil on his littered desk.
“Well, maybe,” I hedged. “I was in that
particular parking garage at four-thirty or so.” I looked warily at the empty
cup of coffee near my elbow. There was something floating on the surface of the
scummy liquid and it smelled a bit rancid. I glanced around the room where
people walked, stood and talked, or drank coffee. It was noisy and very beige.
You'd think they could brighten it up with some paint. They should also get
some nicer furniture.
“And?” Detective Sloan snapped.
Startled out of my critique of the decorating
style of the Hopkins Police Department, I glared at Marcus Sloan. “No need to
get shirty. I'm just doing my civic duty.”
“Shirty?” He looked around the room as though
requesting assistance. “That's a word?”
“It is. It means pissy.” Then realizing what
I said I clapped a hand over my mouth. “Oops.” Was it against the law to swear
at the law? I hoped not.
Sloan sat back in his chair and regarded me
with those sharp blue eyes. “Why don't you just tell me what you heard?”
I decided my best bet was to speak now or
forever hold my peace. “I drove through the parking garage looking for a spot.
I think I saw two men on level three
as I was looking.” I frowned. “Who would've known it was St. Patrick's Day?
Besides, that's such an artificial holiday.” I hurried on before Sloan could
comment. “I finally found a spot on the ground floor. I heard two men arguing
above me. It wasn't Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Cantonese, or Arabic. I
think it was an Asian dialect but I'm not sure. They were shouting. I went to
the stairwell to walk up to the catwalk on level three to go to the hospital. A
man came out of the stairwell at the third floor and accosted me.”
Sloan's eyes widened as I recited my facts.
He opened his mouth, closed it then said, “It wasn't...what did you say—Arabic
or French or—”
“I'm reasonably fluent in those languages.
I'd recognize them. I've never studied any of the Asian languages, except for a
smattering of Cantonese. No, this was something else.”
“The man 'accosted' you?” Sloan asked,
leaning forward. He looked like he was struggling to suppress a grin. I could
see it tugging at the corners of his mouth. His face was weathered and I saw
the crinkles deepen around his eyes.
I leveled a frosty gaze at him. “Yes, he did
accost me.” Heavens, that sounded prim. “He appeared in the doorway as I was
going to the catwalk.”
“So he must have been on the fourth or fifth
I considered it. “Unless he was on level
three and opened the door just as I got there.”
“Can you describe him? I realize you were
probably nervous and the stairwell wasn't well-lighted, but—”
I shot him a pitying
glance. “He was slightly taller than me, perhaps five-foot-seven. He had a
heavy build, stocky and was clean-shaven except for a five o'clock shadow with
a splotchy complexion and red cheeks. He had a very round face with a rather large
nose.” I considered Sloan's nose, which was slender. “Yes. Large nose and dark
hair under a dark brown camo stocking cap. His hair looked long and curling at
the back. Hmm. It might have some gray,” I amended. “Dark eyebrows and dark
eyes.” I looked at Sloan's baby blues. “Brown, I believe, or perhaps hazel. He
had a slight scar near one eyebrow, rather Harry Potter-ish. He was wearing
brown pants, a dark blue jacket with some kind of sports insignia here.” I
gestured vaguely to my right breast. Sloan's eyes followed the movement then
returned to my face. “He was probably in his early to mid-fifties, quite
athletic looking, and very fit.” I sat back. “That's all I remember. But of
course, I was nervous.” I smiled. “And it was dark.”
Sloan's jaw hinged back
up with an audible snap.
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