“Where to, Chief? Back to HQ?”
Goon grunted. Fatty slipped in the clutch and pulled out of his parking slot outside the tiny coffee shop. Goon wiggled to make himself comfortable in his seat. Fatty gave him a sidelong glance.
“So what really happened, Chief?”
“Inspector Jenks. You know what I’m talking about.”
“No. I don’t know.”
“Come off it, Chief. Something happened. No one wants to talk about it to me. I hear murmurings, so there is something.”
“Nothing happened. He died. Drowned in the River Taw.”
“Yes. I heard that. But in late August, it’s kind of hard to drown in the Taw. It’s not exactly flooding over. So how did he manage it?”
“Well, he did.”
“And what was he doing way out in Barnstaple anyway? Devon is an awfully long way away from his usual beat. He was stationed in Dover, wasn’t he?.”
Goon didn’t say anything.
“Chief, I need… want to know. Why won’t anyone tell me what happened?”
“He.. he had gone to Barnstaple. Chasing a lead. He was investigating a case. It seems he slipped and fell. He must have hit his head against something hard.”
“I see. He slipped and hit his head and drowned.”
“Yes. It’s in the report. You can check for yourself.”
“I did. It said exactly what you said.”
“So why did you ask me?”
“It seems the report was based primarily on the testimony of a local police officer named Theophilus Goon.”
A grunt from the big man next to him was the only response. Fatty drove on through the streets, navigating through the heavy traffic.
“That would be you, Chief. You had moved to Barnstaple and joined the force there. After…”
“After you ruined my career in Peterswood?”
Fatty shot a glance over at Goon who stared straight ahead.
“I will say that it wasn’t your fault. Jenks let you get away with too much. He supported you over me.”
“I am truly sorry, Chief. We kids were horrible to you, I suppose. We baited and tricked you.”
“Obstruction of justice, I call it. But Jenks didn’t see it.”
Another ten minutes passed as the unmarked police car inched forward in traffic. Both Goon and Fatty were silent.
“If it makes you feel better, Chief, I apologize.”
“What’s the point. It’s done and over now. Look ahead.”
“Don’t you think we should learn from the past? The lessons of history? You know we read up on old cases to get a pattern.”
“In this case, I’d say it’s all done. Case closed. Inspector Jenks died from an injury sustained in the conduct of his duties as a police officer.”
“Did he, now?”
“Yes. He did. It’s in the report.”
“The official report.”
“And what would the police officer who filed the report say, unofficially?”
“Same as the report.”
“You know, there is a persistent rumour that you were there and that the Inspector died of excessive bleeding. He was rescued from the river by a brave police officer and taken to hospital where he died. He was still alive when he got to the hospital.”
“That is not what the report says. He drowned. The death certificate is attached to the report. The cause of death is listed as drowning.”
Fatty found the traffic clearing and the car picked up speed. They drove for another five minutes before Goon shifted and cleared his throat.
“Jenks was a good man. He made his peace. You should simply remember him as you knew him. He was good to you kids. He was a good police officer too.”
“Yes. That’s what I thought. But there is something, isn’t there, Chief?”
“He made his peace. You should too, Trotteville. Let it go.”
“I can’t quite put my finger on it. There is some mystery behind his death. And what was he doing in Barnstaple, Devon? Chasing down a lead from a case in Dover? That’s across the country. Something doesn’t add up.”
“The police report has all the details. You’ve read them.”
“Multiple times, Chief. I’ve spoken to a few people. I went down to Barnstaple myself.”
Goon sat up straight.
“Now, I strongly advise you to stop wasting official time on a case that is closed, Trotteville. That’s an order.”
Goon’s voice was sharp and incisive as Fatty had never heard before.
“I took time off and went on a holiday, Chief. I understand the case is closed. Officially.”
“Well, mind that you keep your mind on the case you’re on now and not some old dead case.”
“Or an old dead police officer and the mystery behind his death. I get it.”
He pulled the car over into the vacant slot in the parking area behind the office. The two of them walked down the street and up the stairs into the office.
Goon heaved himself into this chair and switched on his computer. He stared at it for a while.
Fatty looked up from his own terminal.
“Are you going to use the keyboard, Chief? It helps to enter commands.”
“Some day, Chief, you’ll figure out how to use the computer without a kid next to you.”
“And some day, I will find out the truth..”
“Now, look here!”
Fatty was staring at the screen of his computer, which had just refreshed itself with the report Fatty had asked for.
“Uh, Chief, you need to see this. I think I found something.”