Saturday, September 09, 2006

Players - 9

Denise Childers was patient and meticulous, drawing out Randy Farrell on every point, making notes in a rounded hand. Summer prompted him to tell the story about how he had spotted Edie and her boyfriend in the shopping mall. Jerry Hill, leaning by the door with his arms folded across his chest, watched impassively. It took half an hour. At last Denise Childers closed her notebook and thanked Randy Farrell again, told him that the information he had given would greatly help the investigation.

She added casually, ‘By the way, is the name Joseph Kronenwetter familiar to you?’

‘Is he the guy that killed Edie?’

‘Have you ever heard the name before?’

Randy Farrell shook his head.

‘Did Edie ever mention it to you?’

Randy Farrell shook his head again. ‘She never mentioned this place, either. I don’t know what she was doing here.’

‘That’s something we’d very much like to find out too,’ Denise Childers said.

From his sentry position by the door, Jerry Hill said that he would take Summer and Randy Farrell to the hospital, get the chore of identifying the body out of the way. That was the word he used: chore. When Denise Childers gave him a sharp look, he said amiably, ‘You go ahead and write this up. I promise to take good care of them.’

As he drove Randy Farrell and Summer through the town in his cherry-red Dodge Ramcharger, Jerry Hill explained that Denise Childers was a good detective who liked to do things by the book, but sometimes the book got in the way of ordinary human decency. He, on the other hand, didn’t have a problem with letting them know about the latest developments in the case; in fact, he said, he considered it to be his Christian duty to enlighten them.

‘Denise spotted what she thought were marks made by some kind of shackle on one of the girl’s legs. When the ME confirmed her guess, all of a sudden we were looking at a potential kidnap/homicide. We started canvassing the area yesterday afternoon, and that’s when I had my lucky break,’ Jerry Hill said, smiling at Summer.

Randy Farrell said, ‘You found this guy. Kronenwetter.’

‘It’s better than that,’ Jerry Hill said. ‘Yesterday evening, I paid him a visit to ask him the questions we were asking everyone in the area. Mr Kronenwetter is known to us from various incidents involving trespass and poaching, and he’s done jail for assaulting a police officer. When I banged on the door of his shack, you can bet I had my pistol drawn and a couple of deputies at my back. The guy comes out reeking of whiskey, he’s shouting all kinds of wild nonsense, and he has a handgun stuck down the front of his pants. I arrested him for threatening a police officer, brought him in, booked him. When he went up before the judge for arraignment this morning, he was sent to the county jail for psychiatric evaluation, and around the same time we get a phone call telling us to take a look in his cellar. Which is where we found a set of leg-irons, the girl’s driver’s licence, her social security and library cards, her dress, and panties with blood on them that we’re gonna send off to Eugene for DNA typing.’

‘Son of a bitch,’ Randy Farrell said.

Summer, riding shotgun beside Jerry Hill, turned to Randy Farrell and said, ‘Are you all right hearing this?’

Randy Farrell ignored her, asked Jerry Hill who had made the phone call that fingered this creep, he’d like to shake their hand.

‘Some guy who didn’t leave his name,’ Jerry Hill said. ‘We figure a neighbour. Joe Kronenwetter pissed off just about everyone unfortunate enough to live close by him. We went straight to the county jail and explained to him exactly how much trouble he was in, asked him if he had anything to say for himself. He didn’t say a word, just kept shaking his head and moaning. He wouldn’t even talk to the public defender. We left him there to be evaluated by the shrink, and to think about just how much trouble he’s in. When the District Attorney has finished the paperwork we’ll bring him in and charge him and go around it again.’

‘Son of a bitch,’ Randy Farrell said again.

‘Don’t you worry, Randy, even if he keeps up the crazy-man act we have enough to put him away for a very long time.’ Jerry Hill aimed his grin at Summer. ‘So tell me, detective, you ever get this much excitement up in Portland?’


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