When Mac met Ben at the hospital and reported his fruitless search of the crime scene at the orchard, he made a tactical decision.
Even though the victim had Native American connections there wasn’t enough similarities between the First Nation Bands of British Columbia and the Native American tribes of Western Montana, Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington to warrant spending any more time in the US.
“Since I didn’t find a weapon or any new evidence, that puts a different spin on it, Ben. I think I need to bail out of this investigation and get back to Trail.”
“Damn it all, Mac. I thought we were a team again. Why, now?”
“Job and family, Ben. Not necessarily in that order, but . . . “
It took all of about five minutes to explain his thinking to Ben and another ten to hit the highway back to BC and the duties he’d been ignoring.
Tuesdays were Edna’s first day off. Like a weekend, with four on and three off, shift work at the ER always left her tired and run down. Faced with being a mother of two teenage boys and keeping a household together was a lot to ask of a single parent. Going back to the Court House for more questions wasn’t very high on her list of things to do. The thought of being arrested made finding out what the detective wanted was her best option.
On edge, but alert she waited for Ben Perrini to show up.
“Thanks a lot for coming in again, Mrs. Running Eagle. That’s quite a mouthful.”
“If that’s too much for you, you can call me Edna.”
“OK, then. Edna it is. I imagine you’re wondering why we wanted to talk to you.”
“Right, or I wouldn’t be here. I think an explanation would be a good place to start.”
“Well, we’ve gotten some facts from our online data sources, but we need more specifics.
Federal and State sites have indicated that there may be a connection of some sort between you and our victim.”
“Really? And what might that be?”
“It’s not clear at this point but we thought you might be able to shed some light on it.”
“We found out that your husband was killed in Viet Nam.”
“That’s right. The only way I was able to go to college and Nursing school was to use his survivor benefits from the government.”
“That checks out, so the first question is what was your maiden name?”
“Grimaldo was the name on my birth certificate. My mother was married to a drunk when I was born. She divorced him when I was about ten but I was stuck with the name.”
“It turns out the dead guy’s name was O’Brien, not Grimaldo. That rules out blood, but we’ll need a DNA sample to be sure.”
“Right. I’ll be glad to provide one. So, are we finished here?”
“Not completely. We need to dig a little deeper. What was your mother’s maiden name?”
“OK. Maybe we’re on to something there.”
“Oh yeah? You mean you are still trying to pin this murder on some injun in the woodpile?”
“No. Not at all. We just have to touch all the bases, that’s all.”
“Do I need an attorney?”
“We’re not charging you with anything, Edna. This is not a witch hunt or fishing expedition. We need to eliminate the possibility of any connection. It looks like we can cross off Running Eagle, Grimaldo and Eagle Creek, but there’s still a break in the line.”
“I asked the Medical Examiner for a photo and would like you to take a look at it. It’s post-mortem but that shouldn’t bother you. Have you ever seen this guy?”
“You’re too quick. Take a longer look. I need you to be sure.”
“All Indians look alike, the only good one is a dead one, seen one seen’em all, Right?”
“No disrespect intended, Edna. I’m just trying to get to the bottom of this and make sure we find who did it.”
“Can we hurry this up? I need to be at the Hospital before the swing shift starts. My kids are at home alone after school and on their own until I get home after midnight,”
“That’s not the best of plans for two teenage boys, Edna.”
“I know that, but there’s no extended family available for supervision. Any suggestions?”
“How about signing them up for a little after school learning? They could volunteer to ride around with one of our neighborhood patrols. Come down, sign in, ride around and then have the cop on duty drop them off at the hospital when your shift is over.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes. We have an open-door policy. It’s In the best interests of community input and police department transparency. Having another pair of eyes in the car makes the job more accountable. What a cop has to do is open to public scrutiny and that’s a good thing.”
“Is anybody else doing this on a regular basis?”
“We’ve got a couple of retired military that put in a shift or two when they feel like it.”
“That’s different. They’re experienced adults.”
“And except for the coffee and doughnuts, they’re sleepy most of the time.”
“Are they armed?”
“No. Of course not. They just ride along and sometimes take notes. It would be a great way for your boys to learn police protocol.”
“What would happen to my kids if they got an armed robbery call?”