by Stephen Halpert
The next morning while Sippi was going through her mail, a tall lanky young man with freckles and a red crew cut strode into her office. He saw me, leaned over, and petted me. “Hi Magee. I’m Dick Pride, reporter from the paper.” I wagged my tail.
Sippi looked up. “Hi,” she said. “I’m Detective Bopp. Are you hungry? You look like you haven’t had any breakfast.”
“Starbucks,” he grinned. “Triple Espresso and a cheese Danish.”
She had to laugh. “Sorry but to me you look emaciated.”
“Oh no,” he smiled. “I eat all the time. It just burns. You’re related to Bea Bopp, the chanteuse who’s visiting here in town? To me she’s better than Tina Turner.” Sippi grinned. “That’s my Aunt Bea. My mother’s sister.”
“Could I meet her and set up an interview?”
Sippi smiled. “Come over to the Inn this Saturday night. She’s having a party. Lot’s of good folk from around here will be there. You could meet her then.”
“Thanks. I will!” He took his device from his bag and opened it. “Can you tell me anything about this missing woman?” He leaned against Sippi’s desk and hitched his hip up onto it. “I’ve her photo but need a little fill.”
Sippi shook her head. “Sorry, can’t help you.”
Then he looked at me. “Did you find her body Magee?”
I wagged my tail and wondered if he’d once had a dog. He struck me more as a cat person.
“You’ll enjoy meeting Aunt Bea. I’m sure if she likes you she’ll bend your ears into the wee small hours. She loves to reminisce.”
“What brings her here to town so close to Halloween. Coincidental?”
Sippi smiled. She felt like she wanted to take him out and buy him a proper breakfast. “When she was young her gospel choir went on tour. They sang here at the Baptist Church. She made good friends and thought about settling down but something compelled her to go to California instead, and make it as a blues singer.”
He nodded. “And what brings her here now?”
“She had open dates in her schedule and decided to come back and have a party. That’s typical Aunt Bea.”
“Makes sense. Thanks for inviting me.” Then in the same breath, “What about the other body discovered that night. The MO said John Doe. The missing woman is listed as Jane Doe. Don’t suppose they were together? Maybe a couple?”
“Haven’t got a clue,” Sippi said. “Besides anything like that would be classified until the conclusion of the investigation. But we appreciate the paper publishing the photo. That might help.”
He smiled. “Why is it that I feel there’s something buttoned up around here, like mum’s the word?”
Sippi chose her words carefully. “It’s always like that in police stations.”
He smiled ruefully. “I may be young and green but I grew up around law and order. My dad and his three brothers were cops in Philadelphia. I learned to tell when their minds were occupied with a big case.”
“How so?” She wondered if he had a girlfriend.
“Nobody at home said word one. Dad always considered every aspect of evidence in his case. Paid no attention to anything else, much less to me or mom.” He laughed and turned to me. “Like it is around here Magee. You catch murderers don’t you.”
I looked into his eyes and in my mind I saw a picture of him as a boy caring for his pet turtle.
“Let’s keep it low key about Magee,” Sippi said. “He gets plenty of attention as it is.”
He stretched out his legs. “So what’s Chief Mallory really like? “My editor Charley Smiles calls him one of the last of the old school cops. Said he’s a throw back to J. Edgar, Elliot Ness and the Untouchables.”
Sippi laughed, shrugged. “Not sure how.”
“He knows him pretty well; during the summer they go fishing a lot.” He shut off his device and slipped it into his brown messenger bag. “Charley says he’s the sort of old school cop who shoots first and asks questions later.”
“Not Chief Mallory,” Sippi assured him. “Whomever he shoots first won’t be around to answer any questions, that I can assure you.”
He reached down and petted me, stood up and grinned at Sippi. “I’ll be around.”
“That be nice,” Sippi smiled.
He stood by the door. “But if you get an ID on John Doe I’d appreciate a heads up.”
“Sure,” Sippi said. “Anytime.”
All his jumping around had made us both nervous.
“Even for a reporter, Magee, that boy asks way too many questions.”
I wagged my tail and wondered if next time he’d bring treats.
Then Raven came into Sippi’s office. He petted me, slid out of his black leather coat, threw it over my chair and placed three thick files on her desk.
“Here’s everything relevant from the last sixty years: cults, weirdo’s, gangs. Did you know that back during Viet Nam there was a motorcycle gang here in town called The Headless Horsemen?”
Sippi frowned. “You expect me to read all this?”
“I thought we could review them together. You know, sit by a nice roaring fire, have some bubbly, make a night of it. What do you say?”
“I don’t say! You review them. I’ve got enough on my plate right now, at least a dozen cases to bring to closure before they go to trial.” She sighed. “Please, Raven, don’t give me that little boy lost look. Remember sweetheart, I’ve been there, done that, bought the souvenirs.”
“Do you know the trouble I went through getting this stuff?”
“That’s between you and whatever interns you sweet talked into assembling it for you.”
He frowned. “Wasn’t that easy. But listen, those Headless Horsemen were crazies: riding around weeks before Halloween, flinging burning jack o’ lanterns on people’s lawns, decapitating pets. Caused quite a stir.”
“Why don’t you share all this with Aunt Bea. I’m sure she finds stuff like this fascinating.” She pushed the folders back at him. But Raven wouldn’t quit. “They did lots of weird stuff, mostly vandalism– desecrated graves, picked fights, grabbed women and rode off with them. Went on like this every year until Nixon resigned. Then they faded into the woodwork.”
“Sound like anti war hippies with an attitude.”
“Worse than that. Anyway, I think we should check them out you, me and Magee. Last known address was a homestead on Lost Mountain Road.”
“Sounds like a wild goose chase, Raven. If it was during Viet Nam that’s nearly sixty years ago.”
“Wonder if that’s where Chief Mallory came up with his quip about Headless Horsemen? I wonder if he knew about them?”
She looked at Raven. ” You could always ask him. Want to be really helpful?”
His eyes lit up. He smiled. “Sure, anything,”
“Then walk Magee for me. “I’ve still got calls to make and a schedule of cases to get ready for court.” She pulled a small baggie from her desk drawer together with a couple of spiced shrimp balls and handed them to him along with my leash.
(To be continued)