Hugh told the Sheriff that he was temporarily in Gallagher while he worked on a contracted project in Bay Minette. He had rented a place in Gallagher. He knew Pearce had bought his family's estate and was going to also be in Gallagher. Hugh's work did not require him to be on site, since almost all of it was computer oriented.
"Who were you working for in Bay Minette?"
"Well, I contracted with a company named BMMS, LLC. But when I got to Alabama, I learned it was a just a holding company. The project I would be working on would be with a sanatorium in Bay Minette."
"What was the nature of your project?"
"Sir, I am a linguistics designer analyst."
"Son, before you, I never knew such existed."
"Not many people have ever heard of one. There aren't many of us around." He paused, "So Pearce explained to you what I do?" Hugh asked surprised.
"He did." With that, the Sheriff was quiet.
Hugh continued. "The project was proposed as work with the company, creating terms that they could use in the facility. The job description indicated that they wanted to develop terms for medical procedures that both explained the procedure, but also made it not sound so intimidating."
Mike asked,"Is that a normal job for you?"
Hugh smiled, "Not much is normal with my expertise. What they proposed did not seem that odd to me." He paused, "However, when I got here, what they actually wanted a bit different."
"And, that was?" asked the Sheriff.
"They wanted me to develop a list of names and addresses."
"Of their patients?"
"No, that was what I thought was odd. They wanted me to create addresses in Atasi county that do not exist. Also, a list of names, both male and female."
"And, you did?"
"Yes sir. However every time I went to visit the sanatorium, something wasn't right. I just got this odd feeling while I was there. Also, they made it clear that I should be working off site. Not knowing the area, I used Google maps to get locations in Atasi county, then created addresses."
"And these addresses do not exist?"
"No, I would use a street that was real, but a street number that did not exist or just make up a street or road."
"And, the names?"
"I had to really be creative. So I used names of things and people from my past. I have a program that takes words and matches them according to whatever criteria I need. For example, in this case, I programmed it to create names that sounded real, but did not closely match any in the county."
"So why did you just up and leave Gallagher?"
"Because, that afternoon, when I had visited the Sanatorium, I could tell something was amiss. The administrators were packing boxes of files. I was told they were ending the project. I tried to pay close attention to what was going on. They were not placing the files in boxes to be transported and refiled. They were just throwing the files in boxes, more like they were discarding them. When they saw I was watching, they shuttled me out of the offices and into the lobby. That was when I was informed that they also wanted my hard drive and anything else I used on the project. When I refused, they showed me the section in my contract that said any work I produced, including work product, programs, and hard drives belonged to BMMS." Hugh paused.
"I protested, but they showed me the signed contract and between 2 paragraphs, they had inserted this wording in a small font. Stupidly, when I originally got the copy of the contract back from them, I just flipped to the last page to make sure it was signed, and that the corner of each page had been initialed."
"Literally, it was in the fine print," said the Sheriff as he shook his head.
"I came back from Bay Minette, got my things, and left. They knew I was in Gallagher, but did not have my address, so I had some time if they were looking for me. Which, I knew they were."
"Where are the lists and the hard drives now?" Mike asked.
"In Pearce's car. I figured you would want to see them."
"I'm not so worried about your end of the story now. We just need to locate the folks who hired you. Sheriff Smythe in Baldwin County and I have exhausted every lead we had." Sheriff Quitman rocked back in his chair. "But I do have a thought."
At the rental company Tim was still bringing single roses to Della on a regular basis. And still there was no note or clue who they were from. She had not heard anything from Sam since he left, but he told her that would be the case. Della wasn't sure if she wanted the roses to be from Sam or not.
Buzz stopped in that morning, just to visit. "Well, I feel like I never see y'all. I was walking past and thought I'd stick my head in to make sure you remembered me."
Della laughed,"Us? Remember you? If I recall you are the one who deserted us."
Buzz noticed the rose on Della's desk, "And who is sending you roses?"
Bunny had just walked into the room. "It's not 'roses', it is just 'a' rose. She gets one every several days." Bunny looked at Della. "I say they are from Sam."
"I can see that being the case."
"But there is never a card and I do not have a clue who is behind this."
"Maybe it's a secret admirer?"
Della laughed,"Seriously? I don't think so."
Buzz visited with Della and Bunny for several minutes before he left. They decided that they needed to have lunch soon. Della laughed, "It's not like we live in separate zip codes. In fact you have to pass our office every day when you go to the Post Office. Gallagher is only so big."
"I don't know about that. Nothing has been the same since the state put that stoplight in last year."
"Hey, every town deserves at least one, whether we need it or not," replied Della.