Please read The Ravine parts 1-4 before continuing.
Under the Bus
“That’s what I’m trying to tell ya, he just took the thing.” Tony said, covering his tracks.
“Thank you Tony, I appreciate your honesty about Hunter.” the policewoman said, as she jotted down the details.
Her name was Melanie Giles, and she had been on the force for the better part of a decade. She started as a beat cop – like everyone else – but when that got too dangerous, and quite frankly too boring, she moved up the ranks to detective. She regretted a lot of the horrible things she had witnessed, things people had done to each other, done to their loved ones and even children, but she knew the work was important. Plus, she felt women were better suited for the job because of their inherent ability to empathize with people. Whether that was actually true or not, it helped her get through tougher cases and sleep better at night.
Growing up, she lived with two younger brothers, an alcoholic mother, and a cop for a father. Maybe he was the reason she wound up where she was by following in his footsteps. Or, maybe it was to gain his approval because she was the only child of his that wore a bra. Regardless, she was now in her late thirties and twice the cop he ever was in his fifties.
“So what happens now? Is Hunter under arrest? I mean, I don’t want him to get in too much trouble.” Tony pleaded.
Detective Giles and her partner, a thirty-three-year-old Hispanic-American, named Carlos, looked over towards Mr. Radcliffe, Tony’s boss. He seemed shorter than he was, as he stood in the back room of the Goodwill store with piles of clothes, household items, and stacks of toys, reaching clear to the ceiling.
“Well then,” Mr. Radcliffe replied as he scratched his balding head. “fired for sure I guess, but it’ll be up to the people at corporate if they’ll hold the charges against him. Either way, the detectives have a job to do so let’s let them do it.”
Tony turned pale from his boss’s words. He didn’t want his friend to get arrested. But when Mr. Radcliffe questioned him about what they put in Hunter’s trunk the other day, he had no choice but to come clean. He also knew it wasn’t right to take things from dead lady’s houses, especially paintings that may be worth more than his middle-class mind could imagine. In the past, both men had taken small objects and kept them for themselves. Things such as pocket knives, t-shirts, and other items that wouldn’t be missed. But this was different. Why Hunter was even interested in that painting in the first place was beyond him.
Later that evening, detective Giles and her partner found themselves knocking on Hunter’s door. After several knocks, Hunter’s wife answered the door.
“Can I help you?”
“Sorry to bother you Mrs. O’Connell.” detective Giles said, while showing her badge. “Is your husband home?”
“No, I’m sorry. He’s out with a friend.” she replied, looking concerned. “Can you tell me what this is about?”
“We just need a quick talk with him that’s all.”
The detective reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a business card with her details. She handed it to Mrs. O’Connell, then asked if she would pass it along to her husband. As she turned to leave, she peered into the front room and noticed something half-covered by a large fabric sheet.
Something in the shape of a painting.
“I’m sorry to bother you Mrs. O’Connell, but do you mind if I take a quick look at what’s under that sheet?”
Hunter’s wife stood silent as her mind raced to fashion a response. First, she thought of saying no, but felt that would raise too much suspicion. However, if she allowed the detective to see the painting, then that would be like telling her Hunter was in the next room, which he wasn’t.
After a moment of anxious contemplation, she decided she had no choice. Even now, she wasn’t sure what was going on with Hunter, recalling their visit to the gallery last night. The drive home didn’t offer any details either as Hunter never spoke a word. The best she could do for him now, was put an end to any trouble he may have found himself in before things got worse.
With hesitation, she responded the best way she could.
“Um, sure. Come on in.” she replied, stepping aside and allowing the detectives to pass.
As detective Giles stood in front of the covered object, an overwhelming sense of being watched came over her. Instinctively, she turned towards the dark hallway on her left. When doing so, she noticed something move across the thresholds of two adjacent rooms. Shaking it off, she turned back towards the object and pulled the fabric from its frame.
As the detectives stood in front of the painting, detective Giles’s partner Carlos, let out a chuckle. He then turned towards the front door, and began to exit the house shaking his head.
“I’ll be in the car.” he said, as he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a cigarette.
Standing in front of the painting, detective Giles looked at Mrs. O’Connell and smiled.
“Dogs playing poker, hmm.” she whispered, almost clenching her teeth. “I’ve never actually seen one of these in the flesh.”
“Well detective,” Mrs. O’Connell said, as she took a grateful breath of air for her husband’s cleverness in covering his tracks. “now you have.”
As the detective turned to leave, she saw the dark form in the hallway appear once more. This time, she made out the black and grey stripes, with a small white spot on the cat’s head.
“I used to have a tabby just like that.” she said, as she covered the dog painting back up. “He even had the same white spot on his head.
Mrs. O’Connell turned towards where the detective was looking, then lifted her hand and touched her lip in an unconscious sign of confusion.
“I’m not sure what you mean?” she responded, dropping her hand to her side.
“We don’t have a cat.”
Part Six coming soon