Ben was on schedule. Mabel said that Edna Running Eagle had agreed to a short visit on Saturday morning if he could be there by 10:30. The drive to Wellpinit at that time of day was boring but necessary. He hadn’t met one car between Springdale and Ford, but the terrain and winding road on in was entertainment enough.
During the drive he had plenty of opportunity to practice his small talk skills. His career choice in law enforcement had made good use of the government issue stuff he had acquired in the Marines. Taking orders, giving orders, listening for details, search and rescue, silence for safety, but none of the give and take of a normal conversation. Talking is something you can’t do well unless you keep in practice. Now on his way to try and wheedle more detailed information out of someone who already mistrusted his motives was intimidating to say the least. The closer he got to his destination the more unprepared he felt.
Pulling to a stop in front of the address Mabel had given him, Ben gritted his teeth and got ready to go for broke.
One short knock and the door opened.
“Good morning, Detective. What’s on your mind.”
With no small talk options available, Ben shrugged it off with,
“Morning Edna. Thanks for giving us another chance to piece things together.”
“Come on in. The boys are just finishing the breakfast dishes. Have a seat. Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
“No, thanks. I stopped at McDonalds in Springdale and I don’t want to impose on your hospitality. I just have a couple of more questions, but they are more personal than before.”
“This must be turning out to be your case of the year.”
“We just keep getting a very hazy picture of the course of events leading up to the murder. There’s too many pieces missing in the puzzle.”
“Sounds like you need a good strong wind to blow away the haze. Maybe a cup of coffee would help. Sure you don’t want another?”
“Yes, I’m sure, Edna. I just want to get down to brass tacks and let you get on with your days off.”
“I appreciate your good intentions. So, let’s get on with it. What’s first?”
“We know the victim’s name and where he came from but can’t seem to connect him to the old orchard or anyone in the area.”
“Those old trees still bear fruit every other year. Maybe he was just hungry.”
“Be serious, Edna. We’ve also got the cause of death. Gun shots not blunt force trauma as we originally thought. Three bullet holes and he bled out.”
“I understand. But what on earth can I provide that you don’t already have?”
“It’s all just guessing at this point, but I thought that since you work in the ER you might have come in contact with persons who might have a history of gun usage.”
“Most of the stuff we see is traffic or home related accidents. Shootings, accidental or on purpose don’t often end up in the ER.”
“That makes sense, I guess.”
“What are you holding back, Ben. Oh, is it alright to call you Ben, Ben?”
“Yes, of course. As a matter of fact, I wish you would. Maybe a personal conversation will give us both something we haven’t been able to find.”
Banking on their new-found familiarity, Ben jumped right in.
“Have you been in contact with anyone or know anybody that owns or uses a handgun?”
“We live on the reservation, Ben. Do you think I could legally tell you if I knew anyone.?”
“Hey, Edna. This is a murder investigation. I can go through channels if I have to, but since we’re friends now I thought you might. . . .