|alt | the banner years | chapter 7|
by Bob Chanter and Jeff Carrie
Marlin wanders into the room, holding a sheaf of paper.
"Just on the off chance, I thought I'd check his files. The guy was thorough," he says, tossing a couple of sheets on the table.
"Well, well, look at that. His own obit."
"Yeah, that's the obit we ran on the front page today", Ward exclaims.
"Hmmmm, Ward, did you bother reading it first?", I ask.
"Yeah, pretty impressive list of achievements."
"I always wondered who invented duct tape."
"Source of the Nile", Cassandra notes. "Nice work."
"Ooh, look! Says here he won the Kentucky Derby in 1964."
"Oh, and this one. Sang backup vocals for Bachman Turner Overdrive",
I continue reading aloud, "Known to his many friends as `Tiny Tip', he had the hit single `Tiptoe thru the tulips' and was married on Carson"
"Twice, he was on Carson twice".
Our reverie is rudely interrupted by a car pulling up in Washington Street. Not a police car thank goodness, we're out of doughnuts. This one has the Coroner's Office badge. The guy getting out doesn't look like you'd expect a coroner to; nice suit, cashmere overcoat, rolex - flash as a rat with a gold tooth, I can't help thinking. As the door swings open, the strains of whatever it was he has on the car radio drifts toward us.
He walks in through the open door and we all sort of mill around, not knowing quite what to say or who should say it. Ward already spoke to his office on the phone, so we've got a fair idea what to expect. Of course, what we are about to find out is nothing we could ever have guessed.
He extends a hand toward the group in general. Ward takes it. "Brad Dunstreet, Coroner's Office." Ward says nothing, so Cassie breaks the silence:
"So, this is about Tip."
("...As we followed in the dance....")
The coroner seems distracted by Paige who gives him her coy schoolgirl smile. He snaps back to attention in mid-sentence.
"Umm, no I get paid a salar...oh the deceased, yes, of course."
Paige continues to flirt.
("...and were pressed in love's hot fevered iron...")
Cassie asks, "has there been anything unusual?"
("...Like a striped pair of pants....")
"Yes, ma'am. The deceased suffered numerous tiny head wounds
(..."All the sweet green icing flowing down"....)
"Uh, the ... squirrels?"
("... left the cake out in the rain ...")
"Well, yeah, that's the thing." He pauses, shuffles his feet. "It seems there's more to it than that. The cause of death was, as we suspected, squirrels. But squirrels alone could never have overpowered a man his size. Even quite big ones."
("... recipe again ...")
For the sake of dialogue, somebody had better state the obvious. It might as well be me. "So you're saying the squirrels weren't acting alone."
"That's right. Someone -- or something -- had to help them subdue him."
("... I recall the yellow cotton dress...")
"Only one lead, but it's got us all baffled. We thought one of you might be able to help."
Another one of those awkward silences. Then, Ward figured it was his turn to join the dialogue. "How?"
("...Foaming like a wave...")
"Thanks for asking.
Well, blood tests showed signs of asphyxia. But not
from anything familiar to us. No sign of chloroform, or ether either. And
lying not far from his body, we found this."
("... On the ground around your knees....")
From his overcoat pocket, he pulled a clear plastic evidence bag. Inside it was something nasty, grey, and apparently putrid.
("And the old man playing checkers...")
On closer examination, it looked like a sock. A monogrammed sock. The second letter was half chewed away, but the monogram looked like RA. Paige suddenly goes pale.
("...I don't think that I can take it,...")
I think I'm the only one to notice.
("...'Cause it took so long to bake it,...")
Paige catches my eye before regaining her composure. "I think, Mr. Dunstreet, that you and I ought to have a quiet talk outside."
("...And I'll never have that recipe again,...")
She escorts him down the steps and back to the car. Several minutes pass and we watch as Paige heads towards the coroner's car and gets in the front seat, a first time for everything I suppose. The coroner listens to the confessions whose pantomime we can only guess at. He turns and asks her some questions, she nods and turns to look at the office. We all avert our eyes and pretend to busy ourselves with the ceiling tiles, save for Ward who really is transfixed.
"I wonder who makes all those tiny holes."
Meanwhile, I wonder about this new twist, A monogrammed sock? Ra? And why would a Sun God use a sock to subdue an obit guy? Perhaps it has something to do with the Egyptian exhibit at the museum, maybe the big dig has produced something more than just kickbacks and political greed. Were the Egyptians so paranoid about looters disturbing the rest of pharaohs that they had them buried several continents away? How did they get them here? If they really wanted his remains to be hidden away never to be found, why didn't they just fly him as luggage on United Airlines? Why send him to Boston? If I was going to be buried, I'd want to be buried in the Caribbean.
Paige walks back inside the building trembling.
"Are you all right princess?" Ward asks.
"Oh Daddy, you'll never believe it."
"What is it?"
"We're getting married!"
TO BE CONTINUED...
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