Pulpit love, a short story, Part 3
Stephen Capella and Cynthia Randolph sat across each other in a quiet corner booth at the Doghouse Cafe on 14th Avenue, which in this city is also Main Street. Go figure ! Cynthia ordered a latte grande, with the proper accent, and the detective had a large black regular coffee, his fourth for the day so far. As he took a first sip of his too hot beverage, he asked himself how proper it was to be sitting here with the parent of two missing teenagers. Screw rules and regulations, he thought, it they don't like the way I do my work, they can just fire me !
- "So, here's what I've gathered so far ! And he proceeded to tell Cynthia about the apparently missing pastor, emphasizing that it was way too early to jump to any conclusion, but not witholding the fact that nothing should be ruled out either. Ms. Randolph was speechless, she just could not believe a single word of what Capella was implying. I mean, one of the most trusted pastors of her church, quite possibly the most trusted of them all, involved with some kind of unthinkable activity with her young daughters ? No way ! And as she was voicing her strong doubts, she actually got mad at Capella for fabricating such non sense. What was he thinking ? What was he after ? A promotion? His name in the paper ? His face on Channel 6? Boy, did she let him know what was on her mind ! And then there was a long moment of deflated silence, during which the new information was sinking into Cynthia's head. Capella was unphased, and never talked back to her while she was angry. He had not told her about the missing money either. Never got a chance, really. Plus, it was too early and somewhat irrelevant to her, and as Father Gibson had said, so far it was still purely church private business. So far !
- "Ms. Randolph, please bear in mind that I am not obligated to release any information to you at all. Ethically speaking, I shouldn't even be here having coffee with you and discussing an open investigation. The only reason I do it is because I can relate to your anxiety of having children missing. And by the way, whatever I tell you is strictly between you and me. Not a single word to anybody else. If you violate that trust in any way, I will not share anything new with you until the investigation comes to a conclusion. Are we clear on this ?
- "Yes, Detective, and I'm sorry I lashed out at you. I am just so worried, you know.
- "I understand, no hard feelings. Friends ?" and he offered his hand across the table for her to shake, which she did hesitantly, with a pale and sad smile.
- "Friends !"
Karl Hoffner looked at the dashboard clock of the converted van he was driving. This thing was running really nice, he thought. Powerful, fast, comfortable. Only twenty more miles on I-95 to the junction with I-10. Radio playing softly in the background. Cruising along !
After Capella's departure, Father Gibson had walked back slowly to the conference room of the church. Very slowly ! Then, he proceeded to break the latest news to the congregation. On top of the eighty grands gone into thin air, they had now to face the disappearance of two young parishioners, last seen in the church mind you , along with the possible implication of one of their own pastors, Father Hoffner, who appeared to be missing as well. Doom and gloom had suddenly replaced the already thick air in the large assembly room, as every one of the participants was assessing the possible consequences of the not so welcomed newest information. A bad day in chuch, indeed !
Capella had driven back to the Paradise Pines Police Department after his meeting with Cynthia Randolph. His first task was to brief his superior, Lieutenant Gretsch, with his latest findings. Then, he sat at his desk for a while and got on the phone with the officer who did a check on Father's Hoffner's house. Nobody had answered the door, so the officer had checked the perimeter of the house, including the backyard, but again, no tangible evidence of any sort of foul play had been detected. There was a thing, though, that may or maynot be of some importance : there was a newer black Chrysler 300 parked in the driveway, with the hood still slightly warm from been driven recently, maybe two to three hours before ? The car was registered to Karl Hoffner. Capella wondered if that fact alone would be sufficient to convince a judge to issue a search warrant for the house. Probably not, he thought, but he decided to give it a shot anyway. He got up and walked towards Gretch's office again. The two men discussed the case for a few minutes, and Lieutenant Gretsch made the decision to call the Court House on 21st Street.
Judge Veronica Pilkington was quite pissed. Your Honor had just broken a nail. Then, the phone rang. All within five minutes of her being due in chambers :
- :Yes ?" The voice was cold, metallic and highly unfriendly. As intended !
- "Your Honor, this is Detective Capella, from the P.P.P.D. I just faxed a request for a search warrant to your office.
- "What is it about ?" Capella had taken notice of the truly hostile tone of voice. How could he miss it ? So, he walked on eggs as he pleaded the reasons of his request.
- "Bring me an original and I'll sign it !" And she hung up on him without warning. Likeness of her and a female dog crossed Capella's mind !
Cynthia Randolph couldn't possibly face the wait by herself alone at home. Understandable. But, what's a woman to do under such circumstances ? So, she headed to the mall. Not to do any shopping ! Just to have other people around her, just not to feel so isolated. Just to look at happy people whose daughters haven't been kidnapped. As she started crying again, she congratulated herself for not wearing any make-up...
Hoffner had just made the turn West on I-10 and was driving a steady seventy miles an hour under cruise control. He smiled at the thought of how well he had played his cards until now...
Capella parked his unmarked cruiser illegally, right in front of the Couthouse, as one of the security guards ran towards the car. He set up his blue flashing light on the roof of the vehicle, got out of the car, and as he crossed path with the guard, he said with a smile : "Sue me!" His good mood was wearing thin. It wasn't even lunch time yet, but it had already been a long day. And there was no immediate sign of relief in sight. He looked back at the unfolding events of the day. He was getting truly worried about the missing twin girls. Forget the eighty grands, forget the missing in action pastor. Finding those girls was what he had decided his mission to be.
- "Judge Pilkington, please ?" he asked the front desk attendant, an older man with a sense of humor.
- "Third door on your right, this way. Watch what you say, she's in a foul mood today. Must be that time of the month. You've been warned !
- Thanks, but I already know, I spoke with her earlier"
- "Then your fate is in your hands, my friend, I feel your pain !" Capella felt naked without his two guns and his equipment he had to leave behind as he entered the Courthouse. He felt much lighter too.
- "Come in !" Same bitching voice. This is going to be fun !
- "Good morning your Honor, I'm detct..."
-"You got your warrant ?" Capella handed the typed two sheets of paper to her. She glanced quickly at the document, drew some unreadable graffiti at the bottom of it and applied her seal next to her signature. Never even looked at him !
- "Thank you, you Hon..."
- "Hurry up, I'm running late !"
Never, ever underestimate the consequences of a broken nail...
To be continued
Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns.