Pulpit love, a short story, Part 2
The meeting had turned into a zoo ! As the news of the loss of more than eighty grands sunk into everyone, and the prospect of recovery getting closer to zero by the minute, elders and pastors got into a uncontrollable fury. They lashed out at Pastors Phillip and Gibson for their alleged negligence, in spite of the fact that neither of them had done anything wrong. And plainly forgetting the fact that the decision to keep on hand that much money in cash had been a collective one. Brushing aside the fact that both Phillip and Gibson had, at the time and for obvious security reasons, opposed that very decision. But human nature is such that when the crap gets deflected by the paddles of the fan, everybody runs for cover and tries to pass the blame on someone else. Nobody wants to be responsible for anything these days. So the mood in the conference room was comparable to the New York stock exchange on a day when the Dow Industrials is down a thousand points. With all the animation, nobody noticed the telephone red light had been blinking for nearly ten minutes, nor heard its bell ring. Money, money, money...
Susan Hacquett had knocked nervously on the door, louder and louder, several times but nobody heard her with the brouhaha going on in the conference room. Detective Capella, right on her heels, was getting a little impatient. To say the least. Suddenly, he couldn't take it anymore, and gently brushing aside Susan, he firmly opened the door and marched in. He pulled his badge out of his jacket pocket, held it high at arm's length and yelled from the top of his lungs :
- "Everybody, listen up !" It took that much for the crowd to finally notice him and the noise slowly died down to a near complete silence :
_ "I'm Detective Stephen Capella from the Paradise Pines Police Department. I'd like to speak to the person in charge here". Father Gibson, his back turned to Capella, slowly turned around. His face was red and he was visibly very angry :
- "I'm sorry, but whoever you are and whatever it is you want, this is gonna have to wait, I'm in the middle of an important meeting here and I'm afraid you're not allowed in here, this is a private matter". The group was now silent, but the thick tension in the air was palpable :
- "Very well", Capella said, trying not to loose his cool, something he had been known to do on occasion, "I'll give you two choices and two minutes to make up your mind. First, we can go to a quiet place and talk now, that would be the easy way. Second, I'm taking you Downtown for questioning, regarding the disappearance and possible kidnapping of two young girls whose car is still parked on the grounds of your church. Your choice !" It took Father Gibson a few seconds to digest the news, and when the reality of the facts sunk in, his shoulders collapsed. Suddenly, he looked like a very old man. He took a deep breath :
- "I apologize, Detective , we can go to my office now if you'd like".
- "I'll follow you, Capella said in a neutral voice. "Gentlemen". He nodded at the group, turned around and exited the room right behind Gibson.
Cynthia Randolph had stepped outside the lobby for a few minutes. She looked at her watch nervously again and padded her red crying eyes with a tissue. She had just called her ex-husband, the father of her two girls, and broken him the news of their disappearance. As expected, he had gone into a fury, and immediately blamed her for not taking good care of their children. So she took as much verbal abuse and name calling as she could, but when she reached her limit and couldn't take any more, she yelled "Go f... yourself" in the phone and hung up on him. That was a first, but a long overdue one...
Susan Hacquett was nervous too. And worried. Her stupid loud mouth had done it again. She would never learn, it seemed. Out of control gossip had cost her her marriage many years ago, and now, she may be facing the loss of her badly needed job as a receptionist because she had done it again, uncapable to keep that big mouth of her shut. She was crying too...
- "Please have a seat, Detective, how can I help ?" Father Gibson's tone of voice had changed dramatically. Capella sat in the visitor's chair facing the pastor's desk :
- "We have been informed around 7.30 this morning that two girls, Hattie and Marigold Randolph, who both apparently attended bible study at 6.00 last night, here at your church, hadn't returned home by this morning. Their little Mini Cooper is still on the parking lot of the church. Now, I have inspected the car and so far, there is no particular reason to suspect foul play. However,the two girls are still missing as far as we know. So, my question to you is, what do you possibly know, if anything, about this ?" Father Gibson opened his arms to mimick a powerless gesture :
- "This is the first time I hear about this. Our bible study is conducted by Father Hoffner, our director of education, so he's probably the one who would know the most about this !"
- "Well, would it be possible to ask Father Hoffner to join us ?"
- "Absolutely, let me call him !" Gibson dialed the extension for the conference room, asked someone for father Hoffner to come to his office immediately and hung up the phone.
- "I've known the set of twins for over twelve years now, Gibson said, their family attended our church way before we even moved to this new location. The phone ringing interrupted his monologue and he picked it up, listened to a short message before hanging up :
- "Well, Detective, it seems that we have a small problem here. Father Hoffner didn't report to work this morning and apparently, nobody has seen him yet today."
- "Very well ! I'm going to need some information for him. Address, telephone number, everything you can get me ?"
- "Of course, Detective !" Capella's motto had been for a number of years now : "If I smell a rat, there is a rat". His colleagues never missed an opportunity to make fun of him about that. But he had just smelled one. A big fat one too ! Two girls missing, a large chunk of money missing, and now a pastor, the director of education, the last person known to have been in contact with the two girls missing as well. Capella had been too long on the job to believe in such coincidences :
- "Here we go, detective, I made you a copy of Father Hoffner's personal file, I'm afraid that's all we have, but I hope this will help".
- "I'm sure it will", Capella said. "By the way, Father, what is this missing money business, would you care to elaborate on that for me ?" The pastor looked surprised by the unexpected question :
- "Well, we'd like to keep this a church business if you don't mind".
- "As you wish, but be aware that if this turns out to be related in any way to the vanished girls, you'll have to fill us in".
- "I'm perfectly aware of that", Gibson said sharply.
Money, money, money...
As he exited Father Gibson's office, Capella rushed back to the lobby. He couldn't help noticing Susan Hacquett's red eyes, but nevertheless, threw a jovial "have a good day" at her. He picked up Cynthia Randolph by the forearm and said :
- "Let's get the hell out of here". She looked at him, puzzled.
- "Did you find out anything ?"
- "I may have, but give me a couple of minutes, there are a few things I need to do first".
He opened his car door, grabbed his police scanner, and hit the "transmit" button :
- "P.P.P.D. base, this is detective first class Capella, badge 5697. I need an immediate visual check by uniformed officers on the home of one Karl Hoffner, 287 Humber Street, Paradise Pines. Wanted for questioning in regard of possible kidnapping of Hattie and Marigold Randolph, both eighteen years of age, last seen yesterday around 6.30 PM at Paradise Pines Church of God, 7858 53rd Avenue. Aslo request a check on all vehicles owned by said Karl Hoffner. Please respond ASAP". Then he walked back towards Cynthia Randolph :
- "Let's go somewhere for coffee, Mrs Randolph, I need to talk to you"...
Esther Borrowitz, a poet, short stories and novel writer wannabe, and occasional free lance journalist for the Paradise Pines Bugle, the local daily newspaper, heard detective Capella's transmission over her own scanner, as she was just coming out of the Jewish deli by the Mall where she had a late breakfast . She had smelled a rat too. A big fat one with the word "money" tatooed on it...
To be continued...
Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns.
- Pulpit love, a short story, Part 3
Detective Capella is developing an attitude as his workday unfolds. But then again, so is everybody else, it seems...