The Matter of the Spillway Absconder

When Noonan called the number he had written down from the Mephistophelian electronic agent, he finally got the name of the Trooper who had called him: Sarah Sanchez.

“My husband is Filipino,” she said by way of explanation. “I’m a Smith from Iowa.”

“We all have to come from somewhere,” Noonan said. “A couple of quick questions before you give me your answers. First, the packing crates for the slides. Where were they found?”

“Vacant pullout alongside the highway. There was a lot of trash there. We, that is, the Troopers, knew of the slide theft and the boxes were large. Hard to miss. One of the Troopers checked the boxes and, bingo, we got a hit.”

“But the boxes weren’t covered or broken down?”

“Nope. Just tossed with the rest of the trash.”

“What was the ‘rest of the trash?’”

“Oh, the usual, squashed boxes, rusting beer cans, empty water bottles, plastic bags, some plastic bags of newspaper. Nothing we could link to the slide crates.”

“OK,” Noonan said as he opened his notebook to a fresh page. “Now, my answers.”

There was shuffling of papers on the other end of the electronic connection. “Here goes,” Sanchez said. “In the order you gave them to me. The jewelry store is small, a family-owned affair. Everyone in the store is a relative. It’s a husband, wife, daughter, son, daughter-in-law operation. I know what you are thinking but no, no trouble with the police, no charges of any kind. The family has been in business for two decades, is financially successful and, according to state auditors, does not have a single blemish on its record. Let’s see, the security cameras, top of the line, went in when the shop was opened. Same for the other businesses in the mall. The pictures we saw were clear. From the last security camera to the start of the bridge is about 25 yards and the slides were placed 57 yards further down the bridge. I had to measure it out for the crime report. There were no photographs of the footsteps leading away from the bottom of the slide because the whiteout was filling them too quickly. By the time the forensic people got there, they were just depressions in the snow. I don’t know what you mean by anything in the snow besides the footsteps leading away from the bottom of the slides because, well, like I said before, the footsteps were almost filled in with snow by the time the forensic people got there. We did a search under and around the slide for the gems and found nothing. We did not take an inventory of the trash in the warehouse but it is still there. The warehouse staff was scattered throughout the building and they took breaks as their work gave them the opportunity so there is no way to verify who might have been missing for the time it took to commit the robbery. The perp could not have exited the warehouse because there were no tracks in the snow leading away from the buildings and we locked it down when we got there. The tracks went into the building and never came out. The perp was wearing a dark jacket and jeans. Just about everyone in the warehouse was wearing jeans. Their jackets were on pegs and most were dark.”

“OK,” Noonan said as he was writing. “One more question. What you said was the perp on the fat tube bike rode down the bridge. There was a walkway on the side of the bridge. Was the bike rider on the roadway or the walkway?”

“I was the Trooper doing the chase. Snow was blowing pretty hard but I could see the fat tire mark ahead of me as I drove over the bridge. I had to be careful because I knew someone was chasing the perp and I did not want to hit the pursuer. I caught up with the pursuer where the slide met the bridge.”

A dull chime clanged in Noonan’s brain.

* * *



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