“But, this isn’t a cold case; it’s a dead case!” the rookie protested.
Wry amusement passed over her partner’s face. He shook his head and returned his attention to the road. “Welcome to my world, rook,” he said, laughing.
“It’s not funny. He’s sending us to investigate a haunted tunnel.” She paused, breathed in sharply, visibly struggled to control her outrage. “A haunted tunnel!” she exclaimed. She punched the door of the car.
He glanced over again at his partner. “Easy on my ride, there,” he admonished. “Why are you so riled up anyway? We’re just going to interview this cornflake — what’s her name again? — and file some paperwork. No big deal.”
“Yeah, this Ms. Timmons. The old woman that actually thinks that tunnel is haunted.”
The wiper blades began to squeak and rattle across the dried windshield. He turned them off again. The headlights reflected off a street sign ahead.
“Ah, here it is.” He slowed the sedan and turned onto the gravel road. The tires crunched through the loose stones. They were both jolted by a pothole filled with rainwater.
The car came to a stop in front of a squat run-down little cottage. The front door was partially hidden behind overgrown shrubbery, which gave the appearance of swallowing the house. There was a light on inside, bravely fending off the damp and gloom of the day’s storms.
“Well, this is the address, Mitchell,” he said, getting out of the driver’s side door.
The two policemen approached the house. He knocked on the battered wooden screen door. His partner was hanging back, still upset. He chose to ignore it. “Let me do the talking, ok?”
“Yeah, sure,” she said.
The door opened and a tiny figure appeared in the crack.
“Hello? Ms. Timmons? We’re officers Hallstead and Mitchell. We’ve come to investigate your recent report of a murder.”
The door opened further. He could see the old woman, back lit, standing there. She said, “Yes. My grandmother was murdered in 1884. She wants justice.”
Hallstead nodded as if this explained everything. “I see. Well, that was a long time ago. Why do you say she was murdered?”
“She told me,” said Ms. Timmons. She reached into a pocket in her bathrobe and pulled out a small bundle of papers. “And, I have proof.”
She unlatched the screen door and handed him one of the papers, a photo. It was a picture of the Douglas tunnel, now closed. He recognized it. And walking out of the tunnel was a faint image of a woman wearing a bustle and carrying a parasol.
He handed the photo to Mitchell. “When was that taken?” he asked.
“Last week,” she said. She looked at Mitchell and her face looked frightened. “What did you say your names were again?”
“Officers Hallstead and Mitchell,” he said, tossing his head in Mitchell’s direction.
“Mitchell?” The old woman looked scared now. Her shaking hands fumbled with the screen door latch, closing it. “Please, leave now, sir. Both of you.” She shut the door, locks clicking home.
He stood there a moment looking at the closed, locked door, then scratched his head. “What the heck was that all about?” Hallstead asked, turning away, but he was surprised again. His partner had already left and was opening the passenger door to the car.
Copyright © 2014 Eric Schweitz