Five Dollars and a Seed
Aaron rubbed the brush in small circles in the dish of shoe polish. Specks of black stained the knees of his jeans, but overall he avoided messes. The man on the bench didn’t look up from his paper as Aaron polished the black leather of his shoe.
“Look at the front page,” said a black-haired Italian-American in a tidy suit who sat at the bar. He was apparently new to this town.
His friend on the bootblack bench shuffled through the pages. “I saw the headline, Dave. I just want to know what leads the police have.”
From where he knelt, Aaron could glance up and see the headline too. DOUBLE HOMICIDE GRIPS SMALL CITY! Below the bold text was a jail mugshot of a bald, mustached man with wide eyes. It was the same man who broke out of jail recently.
“I say if the county can’t keep its scoundrels locked up, the police won’t be much good in finding them,” said Mr. Brooks, as opinionated as ever.
“Says here they found the throats slashed wide open,” said the man on the bench, ignoring Mr. Brooks. “Somebody was angry.”
Aaron wanted to know more. He knew this was something he’d have to shield Haley from, but in his own time, the details intrigued him. How could someone do something so evil? The same question that came up whenever his mother slapped him around, only in this case on a much grander scale. Mother seemed innocent by comparison.
“What’s the relationship between the victims and the killer?” Aaron asked suddenly, not stopping the polish.
The man peered over his newspaper. “Pardon?”
“Well, sir, I just wondered how the victims are related to the killer. I can’t imagine someone committing such a violent murder against people he didn’t know.”
The man frowned, studying Aaron. He had tightly curled, short brown hair and a face full of inquiry. He wore a brown corduroy jacket and red collared shirt, and there was something very official about his neat appearance. He and his friend at the bar were probably in their late twenties.
“You think they knew each other? What else do you think?”
Aaron scraped the brush in more powder as he thought. He really hadn’t had time to develop his theory, but he wanted very much to engage in a discussion about this interesting subject. “I do wonder how the killer slit both victims’ throats. Did one watch while he did they first one? Were either of them bound and gagged? Or maybe he incapacitated them first. But why? Was the actual cutting of the throats the thing that he looked forward to?”
“What do you mean ‘looked forward to’?”
“I don’t know, really. Maybe he enjoys cutting throats. Or maybe it symbolizes some other fixation or frustration. He could have... maybe he wanted to cut off their voice. Maybe he planned that part purposely. I don’t honestly know, sir. I’m just spitballing.”
The man at the bar pulled at his tie and raised his glass to his lips. “You’ve got half a bag more brains than our supervisor does, young man,” he said. “Maybe you should be working the case with us.”
Aaron paused the circular motion he was making on the other man’s boot. “You’re working the case?”
The Italian-American nodded. “Your chief of police wanted the FBI looking at it since it’s such an unusual case for the area.”
Aaron’s jaw went a little loose. “You’re FBI?” His neck swiveled to look at the man whose shoes he was shining. “And you too?”
“That’s right,” said the man on the bench, smiling a little. “But don’t let that throw you. We’re decent fellas.”
“You, maybe,” snickered the man at the bar.
“What’s your name, son?” asked the man on the bench.
“Aaron Hotchner, sir.”
“Nice to meet you.” The man reached down over his paper to shake Aaron’s stained hand. “I’m Special Agent Jason Gideon.”
Aaron was speechless. He polished the shoe of a federal agent!
“And my friend over there is David Rossi,” Gideon went on.
Rossi gave a half-salute. “Pleasure meeting you, kiddo.”
“It’s an honor to meet you both,” Aaron stuttered. He now realized he had spilled a dash of polish on his light blue longsleeved shirt.
“Now, why are you so interested in this case?” Gideon asked.
“I don’t know, Agent Gideon. I guess I’m always curious about why people do evil things. I want to better understand why crime happens.”
“That’s something you’ll never understand. But you can know it’s evil, and you can fight it with all your might.”
“Are you planning to join the FBI, Hotch?” Rossi asked.
“It’s Hotchner, sir, and no, I hadn’t thought of that. I think I want to be a lawyer, like my dad was.”
“Well, the FBI can always use good lawyers,” said Gideon.
Aaron finished polishing the other shoe. He could barely contain his excitement. If only Haley was here today instead of at another dance rehearsal.
Gideon reached into his pocket and withdrew a five dollar bill. “You’ve done a fine job on these old shoes, and I enjoyed talking to you. Here’s a tip.”
Aaron couldn’t believe it. “But Agent Gideon, I can’t accept...”
“Go ahead,” said Mr. Brooks while he bent over to reach under the bar. “You earned your money, boy.”
Aaron gingerly took the large sum. “Thank you, sir.”
Gideon had one more thing for him, a small card embossed with a number. “If you want to reach my office, call in a tip or just ask a question, don’t be afraid to dial me up. And keep up with this case, son. You might learn something more.”
“Yeah, like murder really sucks.” Rossi gave a crooked smile as came up beside his friend. “Ready to go, Jason?”
Gideon folded up the newspaper and left it in its rack. Aaron stood, and the agent shook his hand once more. “Keep watch,” Gideon said.
Before following his partner to the door, Rossi also shook Aaron’s hand. “Take care of yourself, Hotch. You’re a good kid. And get yourself a bite to eat; you look starved half to death.”
Aaron nodded. “Good luck to you both,” he said as they turned away. “And stay safe.”
“Bright kid,” he heard Rossi mutter to his friend as they left.
Aaron turned to Mr. Brooks, who looked less than impressed by the visitors.
“Wow!” was all Aaron could say.