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CHAPTER TWENTY

HILL STARED at the evidence board and, try as he might there was just no way of linking it all together. After puzzling at it for a while he picked up the marker. Where Golden had listed the evidence from the costumes and had noted that the button from Samson’s jacket was missing, Hill carefully added the words ‘found in Perkins’ coffin on stage’ and he underlined it for good measure.

He opened the file that contained the statements from the actors. They were not very lengthy. He read through Tom Hanson’s statement. Nothing seemed to send up red flags, yet why was the button from Samson’s jacket in the coffin? He sat for a few minutes thinking about young Hanson before calling him. He tried his home number and was surprised to find that that number had been disconnected. He ended the call, angrily putting the phone down. “Another bloody dead-end,” he said in frustration.

Hill phoned Scarlett, “I understand that Tom Hanson, the young actor who played Samson in the play, stayed in the loft over your garage recently. Is that so?”

“Yes it is…why are you asking?”

“Has he left town?”

“Yes he has. He had packed up his stuff by Monday and was gone.”

“I was wondering if you have a contact phone number.”

“I only have his home number in Toronto.”

“I already have that, but that number is no longer in service.

“Oh! I wonder why?” Scarlett said, puzzled.

 

It took a few minutes for Hill to find the phone number for a police detachment near Tom Hanson’s apartment, in Toronto, and to file a request to have him picked up for questioning. He left his number and hoped for a call back soon.

 

Unable to sit still, Hill left the police station, got into his car and drove downtown. He went to the lighthouse and back before doing as the local kids were so inclined to do: mindlessly driving down Market Street, turning onto Henry Hensey Drive and back onto Main. A few of the mature locals had named it ‘The Idiot Loop’ because it appeared that the young kids had little else to do with their time. There were a number of cars parked next to the Tourist Information Centre. Most of the passengers were either munching on take-away or sipping go-cups of coffee. Hill was pleased to see that they had recently cottoned on to the idea of using the trash bins, instead of dumping everything in the parking lot. Vadoma’s tent still stood on the opposite side of the building as if positioned there to get the best sunset views. A ‘closed’ sign was hung over the door and a few prospective customers were sitting on the picnic bench awaiting her return. He then drove across the Blue Bridge to get a take-away coffee before returning to the station.

 

Just as Hill was leaving the public parking lot at the waterfront, Scarlett pulled up in front of the police station and turned off her car engine. She wrapped her arms over the steering wheel and laid her head against them. She sat like that for more than ten minutes before Hill drove his car alongside hers and parked. He wondered why she had stopped by when she seemed so distressed. He tapped on her window, startling her. When she saw that it was him she gave him a weak smile and opened her door.

“Sorry,” she said, “Sometimes it comes on to me so unexpectedly. I brought you the DVD of the memorial performance that we had done for David’s funeral.” She pulled a slim cassette case from the box on the seat next to her. Hill saw that she had at least ten more deliveries to make.

“Thanks, but I could have stopped over for it. You didn’t have to drive up here.”

“I thought the fresh air would do me good. I’ve been spending too much time indoors,” she said, looking at the blue, cloudless sky. A light breeze rose and she shivered.

“Are you okay?”

“Fine, I guess, as good as can be expected.”

“Come on in,” Hill said, wanting to pick her brain about her play and the KOR. She went in and sat across from him in his office. Neither said anything for a moment. She placed the DVD on the desk.

“Thanks again,” Hill said, picking it up and looking at the label. It showed the portrait of David, the same one that was seen at the funeral. “That performance was great, by the way. It told a very moving story. I assume it was your idea.”

“Yes, but…we all contributed.”

“I have a question and it’s sort of about your play, Perkins’ Ghost.”

“Yes?”

“The King’s Orange Rangers. It’s to my understanding that Perkins felt that if they had been around, before the War of 1812 had started, it would have changed things. Is that so?”

“Oh I don’t know about that,” she said, fingering the button that hung from the string, under her blouse.

“Well that’s the impression that I got from your play. It seemed as though Perkins felt that he had little choice but to take on the responsibility of exposing the traitors himself, or those people he thought were traitors.”

“Gosh, I don’t know what he thought…I just wrote it that way in my play.”

“Then let me shoot something past you. What if someone decided to recruit a team right now, in this day and age? Something like the King’s Orange Rangers for example. Not a real military unit but an organized group of people. What would you say to that?”

“I suppose I would firstly have to ask why…but regardless of the why it sounds pretty far-fetched to me,” she said, stroking the button through the thin fabric of her blouse making it feel very hot.

“I would have thought so too if I hadn’t received this,” he said, carefully placing his button on his virtually bare desk. It stood out like a monument against the polished wood. He knew that he was taking a chance in doing that, but instinct told him that he could trust Scarlett.

“Where did you get that?” she almost shouted, horrified.

“Now that’s an interesting question and one that I can’t answer for certain. One might say that I received it. Have you ever seen one of these before?”

“Maybe,” she said, offhandedly.

“Really! Then you must know that they are very, very rare?” he asked.

“Oh Jesus,” she said looking skyward, as if hoping that a solution would fall from the sky. “Then I might just as well tell you that I received one as well,” she said it as offhandedly as possible, pretending it to be a common occurrence. “One exactly like that.”

“You don’t say? When? How?” He was so excited that he practically jumped out of his chair.

“Well actually it was really strange. Marc and I were on the patio, the night before the funeral, looking at the stars and I suddenly felt as if someone had walked on my grave. You know the feeling?” At his nod she went on. He knew exactly what she was saying. “Then when I put my hands in my pocket it was there,” she explained. She removed the thin cord from her neck, where the button hung, and placed it next to his on the desk. The two lay side by side, big and brown like the eyes of an owl.

“Ah ha, it is true.”

“What? What’s true?”

“Someone is rounding up the troops. Glenda must be right,” he thought aloud. “So far we’re a team of two. Do you know of anyone else who might have got a button?” he asked.

“No. No one that I know of.”

“Would you mind keeping your ear to the ground in case there are others? I think this might be important. It looks like we have another mystery to solve. I wonder if they’re connected?” he said. “There is a traitor in our midst. But a traitor to what? The past is tied to the present,” he muttered the words that Vadoma had told him.

“Are you okay? You’re talking in riddles,” she said, uneasily. It made her anxious because she remembered that Vadoma had told her almost exactly the same thing – digging up the past. She tried to remember what else she had said but at the time she had been so upset that she could not think straight.

~ ~ ~

Scarlett had no sooner left Hill’s office when his phone rang. It was a Sergeant Blakely from Toronto. “I know this isn’t what you were hoping to hear but we’ve been over to Tom Hanson’s apartment and it’s been cleared out. We spoke with the landlord and it seems that Hanson returned late Monday night, paid his past due month’s rent, mumbled something about leaving and hasn’t been seen since.”

“Did he give notice on his apartment?”

“Well we’re not really sure about that. It seems that the landlord likes to tip a few and his answers were a bit vague, if you know what I mean.”

“Did Tom Hanson leave a forwarding address?”

“Seems not.”

“A phone number?”

“No, just the one that you gave us. And it’s been disconnected.”

“Did he have family or friends listed as references with the landlord?”

“It seems that it’s not a practice that he follows. The landlord told us that he can tell if his tenants are reliable just by looking them in the eye.”

“Do you have any other leads that you could check out?”

“Only one. The neighbour. A young woman. She has a phone number for his parents in Winnipeg, but they’re away until next week. I’ll call them then of you like.”

“I could call them myself. May I have their number?”

Sergeant Blakely gave Hill the Hanson’s phone number, in Winnipeg, and hung up the phone.

~ ~ ~

Scarlett left the police station feeling more confused than ever. She looked at the box of DVDs that she had yet to deliver. They, along with everything else, felt like a burden. Now she wished that she had not volunteered to take on the task of delivering them.

It was hard enough to do the performance and to edit the video, looking at the same clips over and over to get it just right. Now it was an even bigger burden having to deliver them, to face all of those sad people.

While driving past Christian’s and Karyn’s house, she saw them sitting on their front porch. She pulled into their driveway and they stood at the rail to welcome her.

“Come on in, I’ll get us a lemonade,” Karyn said before Scarlett had even closed her car door.

“I thought I might as well drop this off, since I was passing by,” she said, waving the DVD case.

“Thanks,” Christian said, “Though I can’t imagine if and when I would ever watch it.”

“Yes, I suppose we all feel the same way. But one likes to think that there will be a time when we all feel better about things.”

“I’m glad that you stopped by though,” Christian said, scratching his head. “I sort of have a question for you.”

“Sort of a question? One usually knows if one does or one doesn’t” she said, laughing for the first time in days.

“Well it’s sort of a historical question.”

“And you’re asking me, Mr. Briggs? That is too funny. You better than anyone know that I’m not big on history, not as a school subject anyway.”

“I thought maybe you’d know the answer though with all the research that you had done for the play.”

“Not you too,” she said, laughing. “You got a KOR button didn’t you and you aren’t sure how or why?”

“How did you know?” Christian asked.

“I’m not sure who, but someone or something has been out making deliveries,” she said, taking her button out from under her blouse and moving it back and forth like a hypnotist’s pendulum.

Christian laughed and took his button out of his pocket. They were an exact match.

“Well, I’m not sure why we have these, or how we got them, but it looks like we’ve been recruited.”

“Recruited for what?” Christian wondered.

“Well if you want Sergeant Hill’s theory, we have a mystery to solve. He has this wild notion that we have been recruited like King’s Orange Rangers. I think that the bigger mystery is why we have these buttons at all…and why us?”

“Instinct tells me that it’s something else. My guess is that it’s more like what you wrote in the play and that Perkins felt that the King’s Rangers should have been here to catch the traitors.”

“But that was fiction. I didn’t base that on fact. I just thought it would make the story more interesting. Besides, those traitors, if ever there were any, would be long dead by now.”

“But it can alter the way in which history was recorded. Why leave people to believe them heroes if they had a different role. I wonder if you accidently stumbled on to some unwritten truth. Perkins couldn’t have written his suspicions down, certainly not if he knew that there were traitors around. Everyone in town knew that he wrote everything in his journals. I would think that he’d be pretty darned cautious, so that the spies wouldn’t know that he was on to them.”

“I never intended to change history.”

“No, not to change it. But to make it seen for what it was.”

“I really don’t know about any of that, but three heads are better than one. I’ll give Hill a call when I get home and maybe we can do some brainstorming. But I had best get on. I also suggest that we keep this a secret for now anyway,” she said, dangling the button between them. “I’ll be in touch.”

~ ~ ~

Scarlett was surprised to see Alexis sitting on Scarlett’s front step, obviously waiting for her to get home.

“Auntie, is everything okay?” she asked, worriedly.

“Yes, I just needed to see you,” she said then stood so that they could hug. They clung to each other. Neither wanted to let go.

“Come in. How long have you been sitting out here?”

“Not long really. It was actually good to just take in the fresh air.”

“Come in, I’ll make us a tea.”

“That would be lovely. Maybe we can sit out on your back deck. I just hate being indoors these days. After David died I just don’t even feel as though I belong anywhere. Everything is out of kilter.”

“I know the feeling. It’s almost as if the walls are closing in, driving me to be out and about,” Scarlett said, putting her hand against her blouse and fingering the button.

Alexis gave her an odd look and said, “That’s partly why I’m here. I have something that I need to ask your opinion about.”

“Let’s sit, tea is ready,” Scarlett said, leading her onto the patio and pouring the tea.

“Oh look, your garden is so lovely,” she said, looking at Scarlett’s flowers. “You certainly have the touch, but when do you find the time?”

Scarlett looked around at her garden and smiled. “I don’t know really. I guess it just happens.” She then flopped into a chair, “Auntie, I love Liverpool so much but this murder is just too damned close to home. Sometimes I feel like I need to run away. I’ve always wanted to live in Europe. That would be a great change.”

“At times like these it would be great if we could all just run away from everything,” Alexis said, pausing. “Scarlett, please don’t think me a fool for asking, but what is your take on ghosts? Do you believe all that stuff?”

“You too?” Scarlett squealed. “Oh…my…God! You have one too, don’t you?”

“One what?” he said defensively, in the way a child would, one whole stole the last cookie from the cookie jar.

“An original King’s Orange Rangers button,” she said, seriously. “I thought I was losing my mind when I got one. This is so amazing. I think we’re on to something. Look here’s mine,” she said, taking it from her neck and holding it in her hand like a gemstone.

Alexis laughed a good hearty laugh right from her belly, the first laugh that she had had since David’s death. “Life is strange,” she said, looking upward, as if David could see them now.

“Yes,” Scarlett said, knowing that what she said was true.

“How many are there?” she asked, placing her own button in Scarlett’s hand. They were an identical pair.

“With yours, four. Mr. Briggs and Sergeant Hill each have one, and then us too of course.”

“Really, what does it mean?”

“Well, I hope you don’t think me loony for going along with this. You remember how the King’s Orange Rangers left Liverpool in 1783. Hill believes that Perkins felt that they should have been here before the War of 1812. If they had been, it possibly wouldn’t have happened, and certainly Liverpool wouldn’t have been so much involved or lose so much.”

“Like in your play?”

“Yes, but when I wrote the play it wasn’t based on fact. I wasn’t trying to write a historically accurate play.”

Alexis said curiously, “Do you think that maybe it’s our job is to reveal who the traitors of 1812 were?”

“That’s interesting that you should say that, Mr. Briggs has the same theory. And Sergeant Hill only talks of ghosts.”

END OF CHAPTER TWENTY

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“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.”