Drownings (part four)
Three stacked windows bloomed onscreen.
“I confess, I’m not in Herbertson’s department. I’ve got Carmadge down…” McAlley patted pockets. “Dustin is one of my own lads, so the name comes to mind. Here.”
He laid the ID under her eyes.
“Young,” she said. “I think it isn’t possible. But look, if you can stomach it.”
He looked, and with forgivable delicacy, glanced away here and there. He gestured for Faia to have her turn. No instruction for his trustworthy angel; they would compare notes to prove their memories matched, on all proper nouns discernable among Mrs. Blaney’s papers, the password posted on her monitor, anything a shy side-eye’s view of her bulletin board offered…besides restaurant menus.
“And Dustin’s dentist?” Mrs. Blaney said.
“That, we’re hoping to learn. All suicides?”
“Misadventure. Probables…but it takes more, doesn’t it?”
Her peeve, he ruminated, when they’d got clear of Mrs. Blaney, and were making for a lunch spot, betokened some disappointment in Herbertson. Herbertson had claimed he knew nothing of these people, was only following protocol, a task he implied was beneath him…
Faia, walking next to McAlley, entered things into her phone. McAlley ducked inside Lolo’s, a preference of Mrs. Blaney’s. Like the mortuary, the outer room sat devoid of both custom and staff. He eyed the counter-length for a bell.
His partner freed a chair and began a conversation. “Ma’am, is Dennis available? Ah. It’s only a scribble I’ve got on my paper…Dustin? Oh, likely not. Julia from Bitterroot. Well… Yes do. Just have him ring this number. Terrible.” The word seemed an emphatic echo. Faia lowered her voice. “I have someone who’s seen the body, whom Mr. Herbertson may want to speak to…”
“Surely not a Dennis.” McAlley joined her with a tray, two coffees. “We’ll lunch on grilled cheese in a moment. Speciality of the house, herb-battered onion crisps over Havarti and white cheddar.”
“A Stephen. What sort of bread?”
“Whole grain sourdough. I take it I’m cast as the man who’s seen the body?”
“I didn’t say a man. I don’t mind playing both roles. Bit of fun.”
“Safer me. But he may not ring back. You assume, rightly enough, that he won’t know he hasn’t got a Julia working for him…”
“Easily could have. B’root is simply not listed as such. Is that even legal?”
“It will be listed as something else. Put in local employment. They’ve been lacking a few of late. We don’t suppose the work is unskilled. And the rules of dress are rather specific.”
She nudged her phone across. The notetaking app held a list, an accurate list, of Mrs. Blaney’s purloined intelligence.
They would retain the password, of no foreseeable use. Wm Tambinder, NOK (next of kin), unless this were another company employing one. Jellison, TBC (to be contacted). Dr. Ka.
“Pathologist,” McAlley said, knowing.
An address: 61 Bell Court. Their sandwiches came; at the same time a group of four entered, splitting into couples, bookending Faia and McAlley between two other of the small tables.
“Tambinder,” McAlley said aloud, tackling what he found most curious.
Faia assumed her part. “I’m on the fence. There’s an exposure danger. It’s a good job, and I’ll probably only be in the office…”
“What I hear about the cooperative I’d call mixed at best. I almost say, don’t chance it. Did you know they found another one today?”
(2021, Stephanie Foster)