Alt-130 Enterprises
alt | the banner years | chapter 6

by John Lavallée

      I restrain myself from throwing Ward down the basement steps, mainly because I don't know where they are.

      Ward hangs up the phone, and beams. "It looks like the Globe has the scoop on this one."

      Tim looks puzzled.  "Don't you mean the Exami..."  He is cut off by my elbow.

      "Well," I say, "we better call the police".  Ward reaches for the phone.  "Let's use the kitchen phone, shall we?" I say, herding the group out of the living room.


      The police are probably considering opening up a precinct at the Examiner.  I wouldn't blame them.  This mystery seems far from over. The police have no idea what happened to Tip.  We are waiting for the official word from the coroner, but I suspect the cause of death is probably a facial wound.  Suddenly,  Dan Blander barges into my office without notice.  Actually, I shouldn't say that because I heard him coughing all the way down the hall.  "What is it, Dan?" I ask.

      "I have a [cough] problem, Winst.  It's ab..." he starts.

      "Do not call me Winst.  How many thousand times have I told you that?" I break in.

      "Yeah, OK.  Well anyway, Winst, I need to ask [cough] you for help,"  he says.  I let that one go.  "I have a Dear Auntie letter here, but I [cough] don't understand it.  What does it mean?"

      As I skim over the letter, I realize that this is not the typical Dear Auntie letter.  In fact, it looks more like it has something to do with our ongoing mystery.  "Dan, I don't think this was meant for you," I tell him, trying not to divulge too much. "In fact, I know it isn't. I'll have to look it over some more.  Come back in a little while.  And do something about that cough."

      Dan leaves without incident, mainly because he is getting tired of people telling him that.  As his coughing recedes, I turn my attention back to the letter.  This is serious.  If this means what I think it does, we are in deeper than I thought.

      As I am leaving the office, with the letter tucked safely away in my briefcase, I am especially cautious trying to escape Ward.  I have no such luck.  "What are you doing, leaving so early?" he demands.

      "What do you mean?" I ask, puzzled.

      "Why, it's only just past noon, according to my watch," he says accusingly.

      "Hey! How did you get that ba--uh, I'm afraid your watch is set incorrectly.  I'm actually a bit late punching out," I tell him.

      "Well, see that it doesn't happen again," he says, voice softening.

      "Uh, yes sir," I say, grateful to get off that easy.  As I step into the parking lot, I realize that my car is missing again.  I walk to the street corner to catch a cab, but change my mind.  As I stumble through the darkened streets of Boston towards my home, which is too far away, I vow that from now on  I will not park where Ward can find my car.  The good news is that this may finally get me some exercise. Upon arriving home, I'm too tired to even take off my shoes.  I collapse on the couch.

      About six hours later, I am awakened by a loud knocking on my door.  I manage to stagger over to the door, and open it to find--my towels.  I try again at a different door and am pleased to see I have found the right one.  Unfortunately, nobody's there.  I step outside to see if my visitor is still around, and THUD, I'm lying on the ground.  Of course, there's a package on the ground.  Well, no harm done (except that Mr. Henderson is laughing his head off.)  I dust myself off and bring the package inside.  It looks like some sort of book or magazine wrapped in brown paper. Could it be?  No, I just received the Margaret Thatcher centerfold issue last week.  I quickly unwrap the package and gasp.  This is becoming more and more complicated.  I dread having to explain this to Ward.


      As I come into the office Friday, I'm greeted by Brad Vayer. "Winston,"  he calls, "Why do you look so haggard?"

      "I fell asleep on my couch." .

      "Ouch.  I always get a kink in my neck when I do that.  My couch is way too short."

      "Yeah, thanks for reminding me," I say.  "Any calls for me?"

      "I don't think so.  Malin's looking for you, though."

      "You mean Marlin."

      "Hey," he says indignantly, "a lot of people work here.  You try to remember everybody's name."

      "He is your best friend," I point out.

      "Whatever.  Hey, do you know when Wad is going to be in?"

      I turn away, and attempt to walk to my office. I wonder if Brad will ever get a better job than this one.  I doubt it.  I'm snapped back to reality as I bump into Macadamia.  Watch where you're going, you oaf, she mutters as she walks away.  I wonder if the cranky bug is going around the office today.  I guess everybody's a bit upset over the recent events.  I find Cassandra waiting by my office door.

      "I need to talk to you," she informs me.

      "I don't have time to look at your horoscopes," I tell her, as I try to get past her.

      "This is about Tip," she tells me.  "It's important."

      I immediately usher her into my office.  I notice Brad looking on with keen interest as the door closes.  "What is it?" I ask bluntly.

      "The autopsy results are in.  They found bite marks on his face," she says.

      "Bite marks?" I ask incredulously.  "Is this the work of a cannibal?"

      "No," she says,  "it appears to be the work of a rodent."


      Against my better judgement, I knock on Ward's office door. "Hello?" I hear him say from inside.  "Hello?  Is anyone there?"

      "Ward, I'm out here--outside your office."  I open the door.  I see Ward sitting at his desk holding a carrot up to his ear.  I don't say anything about it.

      "How did you get out there?" he asks, puzzled.  "Weren't you just talking to me on the phone?"

      "Ward," I say ignoring the question, "has Cassandra talked to you today?"   Ward just stares at me.  "Apparently, the autopsy results revealed that Tip was killed by  loss of blood caused by rodent-sized bite marks on his face."

      "Do you think somebody at the Examiner is responsible?" he asks, confused.

      "No!  It was rodents.  Squirrels to be exact.  All  the evidence points to it."

      "Hmm... yes," Ward responds, still obviously confused;  "but what killed Tip?"

      "One or more squirrels killed Tip by chewing on his face," I explain again.  "They still have to check the teeth marks to see if it was more than one rodent."

       "But what good does that do us?  There must be dozens of squirrels
   in this city."

      "I think you're underestimating the situation a bit.  We do have something to narrow down the search.  The police found a little rubber ring from a set of braces near Tip's head.  There was squirrel DNA. on it."

      "How did squirrel DNA get on Tip's braces?" Ward asks, becoming more confused.

      "Tip didn't have braces," I tell him, my patience waning; "Obviously, the killer was a squirrel with braces."

      "Oh, how cute!"  Ward coos.

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