CHAPTER THIRTEEN

The television had been droning on all day yesterday, more to fill the long silences than to watch. When the local news came on, no one really noticed at first. Not until they heard their client's name mentioned. The police had identified the woman at the clock tower as Constance Tovey, and after speaking with Mr Tovey, they were satisfied it had indeed been a suicide.

Hannibal and the others had been sitting in the kitchenette, going over every detail of the previous night's events with Amy. Face had moved from his table to one of the beds, and lay with his head buried under the pillow. He still hadn't spoken to anyone, wouldn't even look them in the eye. He didn't seem to care about "rational explanations". When the identification was announced, he walked rapidly into the bathroom and closed the door.

Murdock was sent to listen at the door. Just in case.

Hannibal pulled Amy's attention back to the task at hand, knowing BA was watching Murdock over Hannibal's shoulder for any signals. Once Amy was back on track, Hannibal took a quick glance himself. From the look of Murdock, Face was probably losing anything he'd eaten that day.

It was several more minutes before Face came out, brushing past Murdock like he wasn't even there. Though all had been shaken by the news, Face looked pasty and worn out. He sank back on the bed, once again shutting himself off from the others. When Hannibal tried to talk to him, he just turned on his side and pretended to sleep. He knew what he'd done, and his only reaction was shame. Knowing the name of the woman he'd killed made little difference.

The next morning, Amy sat at the small table in the kitchenette, notepad in front of her. She was finishing up her plans for the next few days, She had appointments to meet with the head of the local historical society, the archivist of the local rag, and the local police department. Visits at the college, library, and county courthouse were also planned.

One way or another, she was going to find out what was going on. Hannibal was having BA and Murdock go along, as both helpers and for moral support. He also wanted time alone with Face.

He had a job to do.


*****

"Hey, BA, look at this."

He moved over to the microfiche Murdock was perched in front of. On the screen was a short article from a nearby "big city" newspaper, telling about a woman who had donated her land to the state so they could build a local college.

"Mrs Merringer?"

"Yeah, but that's not the point. Look at the date of the paper."

BA squinted. The print was faded and hard to read, even on the machine. Stepping back, he shook his head. This was just crazy.


*****

Hannibal sat on the bed. Now and then he would remember to knock the ashes from his cigar, which smoldered in his fingers. He watched Face, who had moved back to the table, where he could look out the window, or into the kitchenette, or at the wall. Anywhere but at Hannibal.

Hannibal knew better than to give Face sympathy. He neither wanted it, nor needed it. Not now. Now he needed someone who would look at things objectively, someone who could help him sort out what had really happened. Hannibal had Amy's version, but there were a lot of gaps. All the times they'd been separated. Something had to have happened to cause Face to act the way he had. Something that Amy didn't know about. Maybe Face didn't even know.

Yet.

Hannibal stubbed out the cigar and moved to sit on the bed nearest the table.

"All right, Lieutenant. Time to debrief."


*****

The detective, obviously close to retirement, sat back in his chair and stared at Amy. She forced herself to look back calmly, though inside she was shivering. She thought Detective Dresser probably knew who she was, and who she was connected to. She would have to tread carefully.

"So, you want to know about murder, eh?" Dresser sat up in his chair, leaning now on the desk. "Kinda coincidental, you coming in here right after that suicide. I know Mr Tovey wasn't happy with our investigation into those threats; heard he hired some private help. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you? Something that might cast a little doubt on Mrs Tovey's death?"

"No, I don't, Detective. My paper's looking into a series on family violence, and how it's escalated. A friend of his suggested we check up here, that something had happened that we would be interested in. The Tovey misfortune happening now was, in fact, a coincidence." She was skating on thin ice, she knew, but maybe...

Dresser chuckled. "Yeah, like they don't have enough of that down in LA. Well, miss, I'm too old, too tired, and too close to retirement to get involved with...certain matters. As to 'family violence', I think I know the incident you're talking about. A big deal. Happened years ago, though, long before I came on board. If you have a few minutes, I'll see if I can round up the report for you."


*****

"And then what?"

Hannibal waited patiently for the next answer. Face seemed to accept that he had to tell his version of what had happened, but Hannibal had to push every step of the way.

Face was staring out the window. Again. He had yet to look at Hannibal.

"And then she was accusing me of wanting to...hurt them."

"And...?"

"And I started getting angry."

"At Amy?"

"Yes. No. Not...Amy. At...her, and at the girls. I hated them. I wanted them gone. And she was stopping me. I wanted them all...dead."

"Why?"

"To teach her a lesson."

"Teach who a lesson?"

Face did look at Hannibal now, lost and confused.

"My wife..."


*****

Amy climbed into the van, and BA pulled into traffic. He'd parked several blocks from the police station, but it still made him nervous. Murdock turned in his seat, noting immediately that Amy looked shaken.

"You okay, Amy?"

"Yeah. Yeah, just..." She closed her eyes, trying to bring her thoughts together. "Okay. Did you find anything?"

"Well, kinda. The land was donated for a college, but that was back in 1947. So I don't know how that house could've..."

"Who donated it?"

"A woman named Merringer."

Amy swallowed. She felt cold suddenly.

"Amy?"

"In 1936, a man committed suicide after murdering his three daughters and their nanny. His wife was out of the house that night, or she probably would've been killed, too. Their name was Merringer."


*****

"Mrs Wherry, we've got a problem down in the stacks."

Mrs Wherry sighed. "Can't you deal with it, Melinda? I have an appointment and..."

"I can't, Mrs Wherry. We must have had a tremor or something last night, because the files all fell off the shelves, and they're scattered all over the floor - it's a mess!"

"Oh, good grief, they'll be ruined! And I have a reporter coming. Well, she'll just have to reschedule." Mrs Wherry scribbled a note and tacked it hurriedly to her door, then bustled after her assistant.

A few moments later, a light breeze came through, and the loosely tacked note soon floated along with it down the hall.