Officer Palin sat in his police cruiser going over the shorthand notes he took, during his phone call with Sage. Someone outside the passenger side window suddenly blotted out the light from the street. Instantly irritated, Palin looked up into the plump, eager face of a man he had never seen before. The stranger motioned for him to let down his window.
It never failed, every murder investigation attracted morbid hangers-on. They attempted to attach themselves and gain inside information, under the guise of being helpful. Palin disliked the authoritative way he was being directed to lower the window. The man started talking, before the window was completely open.
“I was looking for you to be at the crime scene, then someone said you were sitting in your car. Have you started canvassing the neighbors yet?”
“How can I help you sir,” Palin said annoyedly.
“Well, I’ve been waiting for you to come and interview me. When you never came and someone said you had already gone to your car, I figured I’d better come see you.”
“What did you want to tell me,” asked Palin tightly.
“Come on inside, so we can talk in private. I live next door to the…scene of the crime. That’s my house on the left,” he said importantly.
Palin pointedly turned back to his notes, adding more details. This stranger had to be put in his place, otherwise he would become a nuisance trying to insinuate himself into the investigation, calling incessantly and showing up uninvited. Palin sensed the man’s indignation at being kept waiting and took even longer jotting things down.
“If you have something relevant to share, then you can climb into the back and we’ll discuss it. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait,” Palin finally said without looking up.
“I’m not going to sit in the back of a dirty police car like some common criminal. If you’re too busy to walk a few steps over to my house, so that I can share some important information, then I’ll wait.”
“Suit yourself sir. However, I must tell you that withholding vital information in a murder investigation is considered obstruction of justice. That is punishable by anything from a fine to ten years in prison.”
Palin looked up, fixing the man with a stern glare and was gratified to see his bluster wither away. Sufficiently cowed, he climbed into the back seat. Palin made a big show of turning to a blank page in his notebook and looked back at him with the pen poised above it.
“Now then Mr…..” he began.
“As you know, your neighbor died today.”
“He was murdered, I know he was,” blurted Nathaniel impatiently.
“What makes you so certain?”
“I heard the maid talking, before you got here, about how she found him slaughtered like…like a farmhouse pig.”
“You said you have some important information.”
“Yes, as captain of the neighborhood watch I make it a point to jot down the license plate numbers of any suspicious looking vehicles.”
“What constitutes a suspicious vehicle?”
“Oh you know, ones I’ve never seen before or ones driven by…undesirables.”
Palin took one look at the snobby expression and figured he had some idea that Nathaniel considered most people who visited the neighborhood undesirable. After fifteen minutes of listening to suppositions and conjectures, it seemed as though the list of license plate numbers was the full extent of his useful information. Why was Nathaniel trying so hard to insert himself into the murder investigation?
Morbid gawkers were normally content to hover behind the crime scene tape snapping photos and shooting videos on their cellphone to post on social media. Then, there were the crackpots who hung around sharing their conspiracy theories with anyone who would listen. The attention seekers didn’t usually surface unless news camera crews showed up at the scene.
Perhaps Nathaniel Boyce was just a harmless meddler, who overstepped his bounds with everybody. Then again, he might have had some involvement with the murder and the list of license plate numbers could be some sort of attempt to send the police off on a wild goose chase. Palin decided to apply a little more pressure and see what he could squeeze out of Nathaniel.