Down the Rabbit Hole part 4 by Paty Jager

The deputies arrived in two vehicles. Scott instructed one deputy to take Dela back to the casino and the cufflink to the Sheriff’s department.

He and Deputy Jones entered the tunnel. They traveled close to a quarter of a mile when they found the end of the tunnel and what looked like gold ore. He pocketed a piece to be examined.

It was growing dark when they exited. If the GPS was accurate, the ore and end of the tunnel were on the edge of the victim’s property.

“I don’t think Tommy Joe would have killed over gold. He’s spent his whole life looking for it. Kind of a hobby,” Deputy Jones said.

“You know Tommy Joe?”

“Anyone who’s lived here more than a year knows Tommy Joe.” The deputy gave him a stare that said, ‘where have you been working?’

Scott had arrived in the area and started his job as Deputy with Amador County eighteen months ago. This was his first encounter with Tommy Joe.

“Enlighten me,” he said, as they walked back to their vehicles.

“Tommy Joe lives simple. You saw his tent and camp.”

“But does he live that way because he wants to or because he has to?” Scott asked.

The deputy stopped. “I always thought because he wanted to. He’s always happy.”

#

Scott shook his head and climbed into his SUV. Tommy Joe was high on his list of suspects. He called in an All Points on the man. He’d get some sleep and be at the casino bright and early to talk to the hostess and waitress.

The yeasty scent of rising donuts and sweet icings had started Scott’s stomach rumbling as he walked by Margaret’s Café in the casino. He glanced in and spotted Dela sitting in a corner booth. He changed course and approached the table behind a man carrying a plate with a maple bar and a cup of coffee. After the man placed the two on the table, Scott stepped around him and sat in the booth. “I’ll have the same.”

The man glanced between the two.

“It’s okay Jerry, he’s not here to arrest me,” Dela said, picking up her coffee.

Scott laughed. “She’s right.”

Jerry nodded and disappeared.

“How did you find me? This isn’t the Lone Wolf.” Her eyelids were half shut as she sipped the coffee and looked at him over the rim of the cup.

“I wasn’t looking for you. I expected you to be tucked in bed after missing sleep yesterday.”

Jerry reappeared with another cup of coffee and a plate with a maple bar. He walked away, and Dela picked up her bar.

“I figured you’d be coming in to talk with Tina and Ruth. I planned to be at the restaurant when all of you arrived.” She yawned before taking a bite.

“I’d say after missing your sleep yesterday and working all night, you better let me drive you home.” He sipped his coffee, watching her.

A myriad of emotions flexed the corners of her mouth as she swallowed and stared at him. “Why? Do you think I don’t have a friend who would give me a ride home?”

He held up his hands. “I didn’t say you didn’t. I just wanted to make sure you made it home without an accident. Safety is a Police Officer’s main goal.” Setting his cup down, he picked up the pastry and ate, not saying another word. When he’d finished, he asked, “What time will the hostess and waitress arrive?”

She nodded to the door. “They’ll be coming in here before they check in. It’s kind of the hangout of employees either before or after their shifts.”

“Is that the real reason you were sitting here? To talk to them before I did?” Now he was wondering if she was interfering with his investigation. And why?

“I was sitting here to detain them if you were late.” She took another bite of her maple bar and chewed, her brown eyes daring him to think otherwise.

The more he was around this woman the more intriguing he found her.

She sat up. “There’s Tina.”

A tall thin woman in her fifties walked through the door.

“Tina, come have a seat with us. Detective Harper has some questions for you,” Dela said, patting the seat beside her.

The older woman studied him for several minutes before sliding onto the bench beside Dela, making her slide around toward him. “Why do you need to talk to me? I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“It’s nothing you did. I’m hoping you can remember who Mr. Forseth had dinner with the other night, and what they were talking about.”

Jerry appeared from the back with a cinnamon twist and cup of coffee for Tina.

“Thanks Jerry. Hey, bring out Ruth’s usual, too, please.”

The man nodded and retreated.

Tina raised her hand and waved. Another woman, this one a bit younger with bright red hair, walked toward the booth. She scooted in beside Tina, who made the introductions.

Dela shifted closer to him, but still remained closer to the women. He wondered if it was to show solidarity with the women or avoid being close to him.

 Scott repeated what he’d said to Tina. “Do you remember waiting on Mr. Forseth two nights ago?”

Tina’s nose wrinkled. “I always remember when Tommy Joe comes around. I have to spray the booth to get rid of his body odor.”

“Tommy Joe? Is that who Forseth was having dinner with?” Scott asked.

Ruth shook her head. “Mr. Forseth had dinner with Mr. Ensley. When Mr. Forseth left, Tommy Joe sat down with Ensley.”

“Did you, by any chance, hear what they were talking about?” Scott pulled out his notepad and wrote this information down.

“Bits and pieces. Ensley lowered his voice when I’d walk up, but you know Tommy Joe…he would just keep on talking as if I wasn’t standing there.” Tina folded a paper napkin. “Seemed to me there was mention of gold, boundaries, and Ensley said he’d take care of Forseth.” Her eyes widened as she stared at Dela. “Do you think he killed Mr. Forseth?”

Scott had to give Dela credit. She just shrugged and said, “I don’t know. But I’m sure Detective Harper will know what to do with this information.” She twisted her neck and stared at him.

“I never believed Elwin killed Mr. Forseth,” Tina said.

“Me either,” added Ruth.

Dela smiled. “Detective Harper didn’t have to hold Grandfather on the murder charge. But he’s still in trouble for removing the rabbits from Caswell Park.”

Tina laughed. “You know, only he would have thought to use an animal to get the building stopped.”

Scott grinned. “Thank you for the information ladies. Come on, Dela, I’ll drive you home.”

The woman blushed as he slid out of the booth and offered her a hand to help her slide out his side.

Continuing next week…

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