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SCARLETT WAS HAVING a hard time because of all the not-knowing about what was happening with the investigation. She picked up the phone, “Sergeant Hill, Scarlett O’Toole. I was kind of wondering how things are going?”
He knew that she meant the investigation so there was no point in pretending otherwise, “Pretty darned slow.”
“Is there anything that I can do?”
“We could hardly ask you to do that,” Hill said, without adding that she was still a suspect. His knowing the entire population of Liverpool so intimately made his job hard at times. He hated looking at his neighbours as though they had committed a crime, any crime, including this one.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking. I just feel so responsible.”
“How’s your Aunt Alexis, she wasn’t doing so well the other day when I saw her.”
“Same as everyone I suppose. Just taking it one day at a time.”
“I do wish there was something that I could say to make you feel better,” said Hill.
“Marc and I were thinking of taking Aunt Alexis up to Halifax for the day. The Jazz Festival is on. Is it okay if we leave?”
“It might be good for all of you to get away, even for just a few hours. Go on.”
He hung up the phone knowing that Scarlett was simply reaching out for news, any news. But why? Was there good cause to suspect her?
Hill knew that he should get on with reading Scarlett’s play. He should have finished it by now. He had the whole of Act III yet to read. Instead he got into his car and drove down to Fort Point Lighthouse. He got out and stood at the rail, watching the sea swaying back and forth. He loved watching the ocean as it helped him to think about things. He wandered back to his car and drove on down Main Street. On impulse, he drove into the parking lot at the Zion United Church. He got out of his car, wandered through The Old Methodist Cemetery behind the church and stopped beside Perkins’ grave. The concrete slab had been moved and it was slightly tilted. He walked completely around the grave, scratching his head, wondering who would have the gall to pull such a stunt. Just then a light breeze came up and he looked up for it felt like something had brushed against his arm. A shiver went down his spine as he turned. He was alone.
He pulled his cell phone out and called the Astor Theatre. As he waited for Paul to pick-up, he shoved his other hand into his pants pocket. Fingering something he pulled out an old Kings Orange Rangers button. He was puzzling over how it may have gotten into his pocket when Paul answered the phone.
“Paul?” he said, distracted, looking at the button. “This is Sergeant Hill. You wouldn’t know who organized and guided the graveyard tour the other night would you?”
“That would be Arthur and Julia. Got a problem?” Paul asked.
“Well sort of.”
“Do you want their numbers?”
“Yes, I do,” Hill said, writing them down.
He wondered why kids had to be so destructive. Last summer three young lads were caught breaking headstones in the Old Common Burial Grounds and then the County Office locked the gates. It did not look good to tourists and made it rather awkward to those who wanted to stroll through the cemetery from time to time, though it was usually only dog-walkers.
The Old Methodist Cemetery did not have a fence or a gate so it was virtually a free-for-all. He was just about to dial Arthur’s number when he saw the graveyard attendant, Ernie Growers, trimming the grass in the far back corner. Hill placed the button deeply into his pocket and walked over to talk with him.
“Ernie, you wouldn’t know who’s been messing around with Perkins’ grave would you?”
“Can’t say as I do. I saw that the slab had been moved. I tried to put it back but I couldn’t fix it myself. Then I decided that if I did that, then there was a good chance that he couldn’t get back in. I was going to report it to the chaplain today.”
“Who couldn’t get back in?”
“Old man Perkins, that’s who. The dead guy.”
Hill shook his head. Ernie had a way of saying such deranged things. “I’ll speak with the chaplain. I’m just going to put some yellow tape around the area. I’d rather that it was left that way for now.”
“No problem. But the grass grows real quick and it’ll look shabby. My job is to keep it neat you know,” Ernie said, giving him a strange look. It was clear to Hill that Ernie was anxious to part company and to get on with his work.
“Don’t worry Ernie. Police business,” Hill gave him a wink, as if letting him into the secrets of the investigation.
Ernie nodded knowingly and smiled, “You don’t have to worry about me interfering and if you’re interested I’ll let you know when old man Perkins comes back.”
“You mean Simeon Perkins?”
“Yea, the one the play was about.”
“Thanks Ernie,” Hill said with a smile. “I’d appreciate that.” He knew that Ernie was challenged and had a habit of dreaming up strange ideas. He paid him no heed. Hill also knew that he would stand on guard to ensure that no one else interfered with anything more in the cemetery. It was actually a good idea to have him in the loop. He turned away and placed the phone calls to Arthur and Julia. Neither had been aware that the grave had been tampered with when they had done the graveyard tour. He also phoned the chaplain to let him know why the yellow tape had been strung around Perkins’ grave and asked him not to have the slab repositioned until he was advised.
Hill got back into his car and drove on down to the Trestle Trail. He parked his car alongside the street, walked onto the old rail bridge and stood looking at the town. It appeared so different from that angle, where the river was wide and slow moving. The tide was coming in and he watched the river bucking against it. In the distance he could see that Vadoma still had her tent set up in the park. She had moved it closer to the Visitor’s Information Centre, probably for the convenience of the washroom, during opening hours. He wondered if she was still open for business…where she came from…and where she went at night. With those thoughts he got back into his car and drove down to the park. Yes, she was open for business, according to the sign anyway. There didn’t seem to be a soul around and he wondered why she bothered to remain in town.
He walked to the water’s edge and watched the river glide by. Two coloured boats were on the water but it would be another year before there would be another line-up of paying customers untying the other boats from their slips.
He wasn’t certain how long he stood like that before he heard a raspy voice, “Great castles were built one stone at a time.” At first Hill wondered if he was thinking aloud. He reached his hand to cover his wallet where the tiny paper, with those words, from the fortune cookie, was pressed between the pictures of his parents.
Vadoma stood alongside him, also watching the water drift by. He turned towards her, uncertain what to say. In the end he decided to remain quiet. Sometimes there was more to be learned by listening rather than speaking. He nodded.
She smiled, satisfied with his response. She admired his wisdom and insight. After a moment Vadoma said, “Pity she had to stir up the past. Tying the past with the present can be a dangerous activity.” She shook her head in disappointment.
END OF CHAPTER FIFTEEN
“Linda has published fifteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish.”