Our segment News from Lankville returns after a brief hiatus with a look over a mysterious wall. What’s over the wall?
The constable sat at his desk staring languidly at the wall. His barrel chest, which made him look a tad top-heavy, seemed to breathe irregularly and his hands worked the button of a battered fountain pen. The light came through the blinds in grey half-formed shafts.
The sergeant entered and closed the door behind him. I don’t care for him, no, not at all the constable thought.
“Have a chair, Sergeant.”
The sergeant sat and produced an ordinary green file folder. He began looking through it slowly, as if he had never before seen printed pages. The constable eyed the three dirty chevrons on the patch on his sleeve. I don’t know anything about him, after all these years. Not the faintest idea of what his life is like when he leaves this building the constable thought. The light seemed to dim.
“I’m sorry, sir. I don’t particularly have an answer for you,” the sergeant said after a time.
The constable thought about this. For some reason, he stared at the telephone on his desk, as though the ancient machine might have some answers.
“Well, how did he get across, Sergeant?”
The sergeant paused for a moment and stared at the same gauzy light. He started to look at the folder again but stopped himself.
“Sir, I am prepared to blame it on an extraordinary confluence of events, each unlikelier than the one that preceded it.”
“What the hell kind of answer is that, Sergeant? Did he have any jack on him? Did you check to see if the jack was all jack and not just an ace on top backed with a bunch of damn hay?” Although he knew he had been forbidden the pleasure by his doctor, the constable produced a pipe anyway and filled it with tobacco. He lit it furiously.
“No, sir. Well, at least, we have not arrested him yet, sir.”
The constable puffed on the pipe nervously.
“Well, where is he?”
“Well, sir, let me tell you!” The sergeant seemed very pleased with himself and adjusted his thin frame in the stiff-back chair. “A recon team has been dispatched to the area around Cotton Cones– we got a reliable source up there that says that our man was seen at one of those towels-by-the-pound places. They have a million of those up there.”
“At one time, it was the capitol of such things, as they are,” the constable noted. His pipe had gone out and he was tamping the tobacco down with his huge thumb.
“Yes, sir. So, we also have Stakeout Team 7 in an abandoned store front opposite. I believe, in fact, that it was once the site of another towels-by-the-pound shop. A defunct one, you understand. There were a bunch of towels in there at least. Team 7 is on the second floor watching as we speak. Bunch of towels up there too.”
The constable thought about it for awhile.
“When are you bringing him in? Today?”
“Sir, we’re hoping that the individual will return to the towels-by-the-pound shop at some point over the next few days. My source indicates that he was hired to work there and that as soon as the paperwork clears…”
“Is that Trudy Balance’s place? Big woman– big clumps of hair? Her husband was murdered abroad– left her a big boat of gravy? Used it to buy that towels place? That the one?”
“I believe so, sir.”
There was a long silence.
“Fine. Let’s have an update first thing tomorrow morning Sergeant. You don’t know the headache this is causing me.”
The sergeant left the room.
The constable got up and ambled over to the far wall where, encased in an antique gilt frame, hung a detailed map. The constable followed State Highway 10 west until he arrived at the town of Cotton Cones. His eyes rested there awhile.”
“Fifty, sixty miles from the wall,” he said to nobody.
Then he turned his attention away from the map of Craughing.