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Mookie came into work after school on the Monday. He came along the lane and saw that the back door was propped open with a brick to let out the stale air. He stepped inside, resisting the urge to run off.
Mrs. Twilling was behind the counter and there was a tall man in a dark suit standing beside her. He had his arm around her waist and was smoothing his hand up and down her back. Mookie was suddenly angry. He had an urge to charge the man and put him down, though he was tall and fit-looking, unlike Mr. Twilling who was just tall and had a beer gut. The man’s cell phone rang. Mookie stepped back into the lane for a minute and reined in his anger. Then he took the brick out of the door and went through into the store.
“Morning,” he called, as he came in.
The man in the dark suit was gone from sight. There was just Mrs. Twilling there.
Mookie stopped and stared at her.
“Stuart, come here.”
She sounded and looked frightened. Mookie could hear a man talking on his cell phone in the office. Mrs. Twilling tilted her head and they moved away from the office door.
“That man in the office is a police detective.”
“You tell him about the dog?” A neighborhood dog had been bothering Mrs. Twilling and Mookie had put an end to the problem.
“Shush,” Mrs. Twilling said in a whisper. “No, I didn’t tell him about the dog. It’s not about the dog. He’s investigating the disappearance of my husband.”
“That’s all. What do you mean ‘That’s all?’”
“We both know he hasn’t disappeared.”
“I don’t know that at all.”
“You’re hanging me out to dry.”
“I’m not doing anything. The police have been in and out of here all morning. Of course they want to talk to you, it’s only… I don’t know what it is.”
“Right. The detective and I are old friends. We went to the same high school. He knows my husband owed a lot of money around town. He knows that Gary hung out with some serious crooks. It shouldn’t be too bad.”
The detective stepped into the door frame. He was still on the phone. He pointed to Mookie and motioned him to come inside the office. Mookie followed the detective in.
“Close the door.”
Mookie closed the door. The detective sat behind the desk. He spun the cell phone on the desk top and watched it twirl until it stopped.
“You can sit,” the detective said.
“I’m okay,” Mookie said.
“You planning to make a run for it?” the detective said. He took out a police note pad and a pencil.
“If I did, you think you could catch me?” Mookie said, testing the waters.
“Yeah, no problem,” the detective said, no hint of a smile.
“Guess not, then,” Mookie replied, stepping forward to sit down stiffly on the chair in front of the detective.
“I’m detective Ridley. I’m investigating the disappearance of your boss. When was the last time you saw Gary Twilling?”