May 10, 2021

Winter’s Reanimation (Chapter 2)

47

Twenty minutes after I had broken into her home, she had called the cops.

I had tried to warn her that it was a bad idea but she had insisted. Three hours later, standing in her father’s mortuary, explaining the situation to Officers Hammond and Wilding for the hundredth time, her frustration was obvious. Well, obvious to me.

The response from Morland’s finest, however, had been mind-numbingly predictable. Not only were the pair of them oblivious to her irritation but, like all bureaucrats, they were determined to react to my trifling crime with tedious procedures and endless paperwork. Like modern-day Eliot Nesses run amok, the two of them chased the smallest detail of her story with an enthusiasm only a pair of government drones earning a straight annual salary could muster. An hour after they started asking their questions, it became apparent that these two would think nothing of arresting an eighty-year-old nun caught jaywalking on Sunday morning just for the chance to interrogate her for hours.

In this case, Hammond and Wilding had started their laborious hunt for clues by enthusiastically grilling her about everything she knew, regardless of how insignificant or absurd.  While our proximity in age had initially led this brain trust to conclude she was my accomplice, they eventually conceded her innocence, albeit reluctantly, after being repeatedly reminded that she had been the one to report my break and enter to 911. After obtaining that concession, she had then thought to short circuit any further debate by providing them with a clear and concise summary of the evenings’ events.

Ever the panjandrums, however, they were unwilling to relinquish their authority to the sensibility of a 17 year girl and even less inclined to shut down their investigation until they had plumbed every possibility leading to my capture.

Quite frankly, I would have fallen asleep from boredom if it hadn’t been for her presence.  Her name was Alexis Penelope Winter. The super-sleuths had been able to establish at least that much, and although I had never met her before, I certainly wished that I had. Introductions can be awkward when you’re caught in a morgue rummaging through the meagre possessions of a dead man looking for his keys, but awkward doesn’t even begin to describe that first encounter.

Her eyes, a scientifically improbable crimson red, like droplets of fresh blood, had fixed me with such a penetrating gaze that I would have sworn she was conversing directly with my soul. Framed by the silky wisps of her charcoal black hair, the intensity of her eyes had left me tongue-tied and reeling. So much so, I had been only vaguely aware that she had called the cops.

Now, as the night wore on, I had become increasingly distracted by her raw energy. She spoke with confidence and care, each answer measured for honesty, each word spoken without hyperbole or exaggeration.

“That’s what he told me,” she was saying to the Officers, “that he wanted to pay his last respects to his grandfather.”

“But you say he was stealing the old guy’s things?” Hammond said.

“That’s not what I said. I said he was going through Mr. Hughes’ possessions. I didn’t say he was stealing them.”

“Alright. But why was he rifling through the guy’s things if he wasn’t intending to steal them.”

“He told me he wanted to pay his last respects.”

“And you believed him?”

“I called you two didn’t I?”

“Why’d you do that if he wasn’t stealing anything?”

“And what, breaking in to my house wasn’t enough?”

“But you said he was paying his last respects to his grandfather”

“That’s what he said he was doing. I didn’t say I believed him.”

“So you did think he was going to steal the old guys stuff?”

“We’ve been over this. I came downstairs to check on the morgue and found him going through Mr. Hughes’ possessions. It was clear to me that he had broken in and so I called 911. That’s it. That’s all I know.”

“And why were you in the morgue at midnight?”

“I told you. We had been broken into a couple of nights back and my father thought I should come down and check on things. That’s when I found him.”

“So you think he was the one who broke in here before?”

“I didn’t say that. I only know that he was the one who broke in tonight. I wasn’t here the last time, my father was.”

“Where’s your father now, Ms. Winter? We’re going to need to speak with him.”

“He’s on a call.”

“Call?”

“He went out to pick up Mrs. Wilson. She died tonight, well last night now.”

“Alright, well, I suppose,” Hammond said, looking up from his notebook, “that we have what we need for now.” He looked over at me and I shrugged. “Got caught with your hand in the cookie jar this time, didn’t ya, Hughes?”

I was about to offer a witty reply, but a sideways glance from Alexis made it clear that anything I said to prolong her interaction with these two monkeys would be punishable by death. I elected, instead, to say nothing.

“What? No sarcasm for us tonight Hughes?”

I bit my tongue to keep myself from taking his bait and turned to Alexis and said, “sorry.”

“I bet you are Hughes. Sorry you got caught. I told you we would get you, didn’t I?”

Before Hammond could continue Wilding interrupted.

“Thanks for your time, Ms. Winter,” she said. “We will be on our way and let you get back to sleep. Come on Herb, grab him and let’s go.”

“Ya, well I –“

“Herb. Now. Let’s go.”

Shrinking a little under her command, Hammond grabbed me by my elbow, my wrists having been secured behind my back by handcuffs, and led me out the door. As I was dragged away by Morland’s finest, I twisted my head to catch another glimpse of her. She was standing still in the doorway of her father’s mortuary smirking at me. In that instant I knew, key or no key, I had to see her again.

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