Colonel Shay picks up Frank and Marka, heading to his house. There, they are met by Frank’s friend, James. A police officer, he’s been given permission to let them go into the house and look around. Frank finds his suits in tatters, his shirts shredded. That, more than anything, makes him feel like this is all a personal attack. Shay tells them that this was, indeed, someone looking for evidence Frank might have about Clay’s death.
Shay cleared his throat. “One reason we recruited him was his photographic memory.”
“Really?” Marka gazed at Frank with new respect.
“Anything I see or hear, it’s there. Perfect recall too.”
Marka bit her lip, staring past him as if he were suddenly invisible. She said nothing, licking her lips as her mind worked.
“I can hear the gears clicking.” Frank tapped her forehead. “Mind sharing?”
“No, nothing. Well, maybe something. When the pieces come together. . . .” She waved her hands, erasing something from the air in front of her.
“Obviously, these guys don’t know Frank well,” Shay said.
“I spent twelve years in school with him,” James added. “Smartest kid in every class from Kindergarten on. Valedictorian of his high school class. We would have hated him if he’d ever gotten a big head over it. Not our Frankie.” He chuckled, shaking his head.
Marka was hardly listening, though Shay was spellbound. He hung on every word James said. Marka, on the other hand, gazed at Frank’s profile, frowning, lips pursed.
“Problem?” Frank mumbled, glancing at her furtively.
“Mm mm,” was her non-committal reply. “Can you draw?”
“Sort of. Why?”
“Just thinking. Arnold.”
He stopped with his coffee cup halfway to his lips. “Yes, Marka?”
“Do you have an artist on tap. Someone who could sketch something from a description?”
“I can find someone. Why?”
“Just a thought. Sorry to interrupt. Excuse me.” She went to the kitchen and started cleaning up.
Frank followed her. He took the broom from her hands and turned her to face him. “What’s going on behind those big brown eyes?”
“Still in the planning stages. When I think, I clean. Grab that dustpan and help me.” She swept the broken dishes into a pile.
Frank dutifully held the dustpan for her. Dumping it in the trash, he watched as she swept more. Marka was obviously in a place unreachable by ordinary means. He waited, helping her clean up his ruined kitchen, mentally cataloging the broken items as he went. He was glad he didn’t have expensive tastes. As it was, it would take nearly a month’s salary to replace what was ruined—not including his suits. Those would take much longer.
They finished the kitchen and Marka led him down the hall to the visitor’s bathroom. The voices of James and Shay droned in the living room. With renewed vigor, Marka attacked the bathroom. It had escaped the trashing the rest of the house had undergone, but the shower curtain was torn and the towels had been stuffed in the toilet.
“That was mature,” Frank said as he pulled out the sodden mass. He dropped them in a garbage bag, knowing he could never use them again.
“Must have potty training issues,” Marka quipped. Planting a kiss on his lips, she moved past him to the next room, the office.
This room had received the most attention. The search had been thorough and organized. Frank surmised the trashing of it had happened after the thief realized he’d found nothing of use. Marka started picking up, but Frank walked over to the wood paneled wall behind his desk. He pressed on one panel and a section of wall swung out revealing a small, sophisticated safe.
Marka stopped working, staring in amazement. “That was there all this time?”
“Did he get in it?”
“Even if he found it, he couldn’t get in it without extensive safe cracking or taking the wall out. The opening is smaller than the safe. It’s too much for one man to break out and carry himself.”
“Maybe he was going for someone else to help him when he fell.”
“Or maybe no one knows it’s here but us.” Frank deftly tapped in a long code. He opened the door and reached slowly inside. “I never kept anything on the computer, but I did keep track of my time in the Army.” He held several small essay books, held together with an industrial size rubber band. “I didn’t want electronic records, but I didn’t want to forget.”
“You don’t forget, Frank.”
He shook his head, holding up a hand to stop her protest. “I didn’t want this forgotten,” he amended. “If something had happened to me, I wanted my family to have these to remember me by. And my son. . . .” He blinked hard, his lip trembling for a second. “I asked my parents to make sure that my son got a copy when he was old enough.”
“Did you make a record of the day. . . .”
“That Clay died?” He handed her the stack. “I don’t remember.” Hands jammed in his pockets, he hung his head.
Marka held the notebooks like they were made of fine China. “Do we tell Shay?”
“If we find something.”
Marka nodded. She picked up a stack of books and carried them to the living room with the notebooks concealed in the stack. She set the books down on the couch with a thump.
© Dellani Oakes