Monday, November 6, 2017

There is No Proof at All

The following morning, the Sheriff turned his attention to John Barker. He asked Mike what thoughts he had about the case. Mike didn't hesitate, "I still think it is an open and shut case. Dr. Sadler has been very clear that the pastor died of a massive coronary from the beginning."

The Sheriff sighed,"I know. Hollis is standing by that but I still question Barker's widow."

"You have to remember she is grieving."

"Even so, it seems she is no one's best friend. In fact, I have yet to find anyone who likes her." The Sheriff paused and drummed the pencil he was holding on his desk."Yet why are folks like Wade and Anna Belle pleading her case? What dog do they have in the fight?"

"Can't help you there. I still say Dr. Sadler is right. Even if he's not, you're not concerned about some serial killer running around or some conspiracy are you?"

The Sheriff laughed quietly, "No, I can assure you I am not chasing windmills here. I don't have the energy or imagination."

"So why are you asking me?"

"Believe it or not, I value your opinion. Sometimes you have a natural instinct for seeing something I miss."

"Is that a compliment? Coming from you?" Mike asked sarcastically.

"Every once in a while I feel I better make you think I value you. Otherwise, you may do something stupid like quit. Then I'd have to find another idiot to hire." The Sheriff gave a wry smile that made Mike laugh.

"Well, now that I know my value."

Their conversation was interrupted by the phone on the Sheriff's desk. It was Sam, "Sheriff, we have an issue."

"About what?"

"The cases of liquor I picked up from your office and delivered to Atlanta," Sam paused, "seems the bottles were not filled with liquor."

"So what were they filled with? Water?"

"Yep, 100% crystal clear water."

"You're kidding me?"

"No, I'm deadly serious."

"I don't understand. When I read the notes from that night, it clearly said that you had tasted it and checked the alcohol proof."

"I did, it checked out as 170 proof."

"That's 85% alcohol. How does clear water test at 170 proof?"

"It doesn't. Obviously the cases were switched somewhere along the way. I know we had the real stuff when the Eldridges delivered it to the distributors. The ATF confiscated it from the distributors, then they brought it to you. I have the paperwork for all that." 

The Sheriff thought,"Then you came and got what, 2 cases? "

"Yes,  2 cases. So I need you to go test the proof of what you have there."

"Give me 30 minutes and I'll get back to you." The Sheriff rang off and explained the problem to Mike. "Get me the test kit and let's find out what the deal is."

Mike headed toward the back room where they kept all their gear, supplies, and weapons.

While the Sheriff was checking the proof of the Eldridge's elixir, a haggard looking women in well worn clothes came into the Sheriff's station. Mike walked out of She had in tow a man, who looked like he had been on the streets for a while. Neither of them smiled. The woman said, "Sheriff, this here is my husband, Delmar. He has sumpmen' to tell you."

Before poor Delmar could speak, Mike smiled and said,"Mrs. . ."

"Flynn, Ruthanna Flynn."

"Mrs. Flynn, I'm Deputy Sheriff Mike Pace. The Sheriff is tied up right now. Can I help you?"

"Reckon so." She turned to Delmar,"Tell 'im what you told me."

Delmar looked as if he had seen a ghost. Mike wasn't sure if he was more scared of what he was going to tell him or Ruthanna. He stepped forward. "You see Sheriff," before he could go any further his wife elbowed him in the ribs, "Deputy Sheriff."

"Deputy Sheriff, here's what I saw. About a week ago I was walking home and I cut through the front lawn of the Baptist church. As I came around the side, I saw 2 cars drive into the church parking lot. One parked in the minister's spot. The other pulled in behind."

Delmar hesitated. Ruthanna added,"That was the night the pastor was killed." Delmar did not say anything but looked back at his wife. She nudged him. He continued, "Anyway, I saw the driver of the first car get out and pull sumpmen' heavy over the seat."

"Then what did you see?" asked Mike as Delmar hesitated.

"That man got in the other car and they drove away."

"Can you tell me what kind of car you saw?"

"Nope."

"Colors?

"Nope, it was dark."

"Did you recognize the two men?"

"No sir, like I said, it was dark."

"What time was this?"

"Don't know, don't remember, don't have no watch."

"OK, so you saw 2 men and a car, but you cannot tell me any details about the men, the car, or even what time it was?"

" 'Bout the size of it."

"Mr. Flynn, I really appreciate your coming in with this information but can you think of any thing else. Something else you saw? Any other cars? Anything the men said?"

"No sir. It was late and I had just left Henry's."

"Henry's, the bar?"

"Yes sir. I had been there since about 2 that afternoon." Delmar looked at his wife. "Me and the boys were playing cards."

"And, drinking some?

"A few."

"Ruthanna interrupted them, "Deputy Sheriff Mike, there has to be some reward or sumpmen' for this information."

"No one has offered an award. We just appreciate good citizens like yourselves coming forth with any information that could help us."

The Sheriff walked out. Mike introduced the Flynns to him and told him what he had learned. The Sheriff asked Delmar the same questions Mike had earlier. "Mr. Flynn, we really appreciate your telling us this, however we need a few more details to follow up on this."

They spoke for a while. Finally the Fynns walked out. "The Sheriff looked at Mike, "So what do you think?"

Mike laughed,"Well sir, considering the gentleman had been in a bar drinking with his buddies for most of the day, was walking home and saw people he cannot identify, in cars he cannot give any details about, not even sure what they were doing, I don't know any more than I did before the Flynns walked in."

"Well, when you put it that way. Personally, I think Mrs. Flynn was behind it. To not have been there, seems she knew more about the situation than he did. I'm afraid that's not much help." The Sheriff paused,"He didn't mention seeing a woman that night did he?"

"No, in fact, he did not. No mention of a woman." Mike laughed, then he continued,"You won't give up will you?"

The Sheriff grumbled."I just don't feel like we know what really happened." He walked over to Mary Lou's desk and picked up a pad of paper. "Tell me why would Mr. Flynn make up that story?"

"My guess is, like you say, Mrs. Flynn saw some money in it. Either she knew the route her husband took home from the bar. Poor Delmar was probably so soused, he could not have told you how he got home. So she made the story up from whole cloth and convinced or Delmar came up with the story to save his soul from the wrath of Ruthanna."

Mike pivoted, "On another subject, what about the proof test?'

"Every bottle in the case tested out as 170 proof."

"What about the 2nd case?"

"Same for every bottle in the 2nd case. I guess we need to test the other 7."

Mike headed toward the evidence room, "I'll finish the testing."

"Thanks. I'll call Sam and let him know what we have found so far." He picked up the phone but put it down. "And, Mike, I'll close the Barker case. It's one thing for me to have my doubts, it's another for every yayhoo in the town to come out with their own version of the story, especially those witnessed in a drunken haze." The Sheriff laughed, "I don't have enough proof that she is guilty of anything."

"Well, seems Sam doesn't have enough proof either." 

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