Chip Hardwick hadn’t had many opportunities to set foot inside the Fredrickton police department. The geeky recluse in high school doesn’t go to many beer parties or shoplift more than a little, so when he arrived at the station, he didn’t even know which door to go through. In many small towns, the police, the county sheriff, and the jail all shared the same building, often known as the Justice Center. Chip thought the name was a bit high-minded since there wasn’t much empirical evidence that justice was centered there, but there wasn’t a complaints box so he kept his thoughts to himself. He did end up in the jail by accident with not even a friendly receptionist to inform him that he didn’t belong there yet. Instead, a metallic voice came over a loudspeaker asking what business he had. He didn’t have any and didn’t see any visible microphones, so he didn’t even apologize as he backed sheepishly out the door he had just come in.
The next door he tried did offer a barely human response when he asked to be directed to the police. The receptionist just inclined her head to the right and nodded. Chip turned to the right and walked into a nondescript office full of cubicles and filing cabinets, much like those he knew so well from a startup. Apparently government workers had to deal with the same cheap institutional furniture that was procured for them as did technology workers. Only one of the desks was occupied so Chip veered down the aisle towards that desk.
The man behind the desk had a tight, navy blue wool shirt on that probably looked very authoritarian when it had emerged from its hanger that morning. Since then, the dietary rigors of police work had taken their toll on it, both in the form of stains going down the front, and also in the form of the relentlessly stretching paunch that threatened the bottom-most buttons. The brass name tag on the man’s chest was still shiny and read “Parsons”, so Chip tried out a “Mr. Parsons…”
The man’s head shot up from the tablet he had been reading from in both surprise and frustration. Maybe it wasn’t common for people to just waltz in to talk to a police officer. Confronted with such an intruder, Parsons seemed to be considering jumping out of his chair and marching Chip right over to the jail side of the building, but he remained seated, although he did tug on the bottom of his shirt in an attempt to look more authoritarian.
“It’s Detective Parsons to you.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” He seemed to be gratified with the use of the word “sir” and relaxed his abdomen slightly back towards it original extent. “I was told that this would be the place to get more information about the death at last night’s Board meeting.”
“What more information did you have in mind? An old man gets riled up and has a stroke. What’s left to find out?”
“Well, like why did he have the stroke then? He wasn’t that angry, he was just making a speech and …”
“Public speaking can be very stressful. And why do you feel the need to complicate things for me and for you? There is a perfectly logical explanation for what happened that fits the available evidence, that is, unless you have some evidence that I don’t.” Parsons looked archly down his nose at Chip which was complicated because he was still sitting down, but he managed to convey his essential skepticism about Chip’s character and reliability as a citizen with the glance.
“No, I mean, no, sir. I mean, Buck Lemaire was there yelling too, he could have had something to do with it.” The suggestion sounded lame even as he said it out loud, but he wanted to offer something to show that he had at least thought about this before.”
“Lemaire didn’t even touch the guy. Could have stomped the shit out of the old man, he could have, but he didn’t do anything but yell at him. No, Lemaire’s keeping his nose clean because he doesn’t want to jeopardize his sweet gig with the mining company. He’s been their golden boy for getting these permits passed and he doesn’t want them to think or know any different about him.”
“When has Lemaire gotten his nose dirty in the past? Is there something that he might want them not to know? Could he have killed Mockson to keep him quiet?”
“Whoa there tiger. I think you’ve seen a few too many police dramas. There isn’t any real secret about Lemaire if they cared to look. Besides, like we both agreed already, he didn’t touch the guy. You’d know that better than anyone wouldn’t you?” So Parsons had figured out who Chip was. Maybe he had even been one of the officers who interviewed him last night. Given his emotional state, Chip probably couldn’t have identified John Lennon if he had been one of the paramedics. Now that Parsons was onto him, Chip didn’t have the will to keep pushing for more information when Parsons could always just tell him that he should already know what went on there.
“Thank you very much, sir,” Chip offered as he excused himself, backing down the alley between the desks as if not wanting to turn his back on a wild animal. Detective Parsons watched him go until he was about to turn the corner at the recptionist and then blew a snort of disgust and turned back to his paperless paperwork.