Through the Roof

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Chapter 38: "I didn't promise I wouldn't go look."

Slaughter showed up alone, which surprised me. I thought he’d bring a crew, but he said he preferred to work alone.

“There’s a pot of coffee in the downstairs kitchen,” I told him. “I put clean mugs and spoons out on the counter. I hope regular is okay. I could make decaf if you’d prefer.”

“Regular is fine. I’m here to work.”

“Sounds good. What can I do?”

“Come with me,” he said leading me to the basement.

At the double doors in the basement, he showed me how the intruder had rigged the lock so that it would feel locked from the inside, but not really be locked.

“What you need here,” said Slaughter, pointing at the top edge of the doors, “are latch locks on each door. You won’t be able to use a key to get in this way anymore, but someone would have to break the door down to get in.”

“Great,” I said, “That’s something I can do.”

“It is,” said Bishop, “but before you do that I’d like to run another idea past you.”

“Shoot,” I said.

He grinned. “That’s not something most people would say to a cop.”

I didn’t get it until he pointed at his sidearm. By then it wasn’t funny anymore.

“I’m sorry,” I told him. “I’m a little slow on the uptake.”

“With everything that’s going on it’s understandable,” he said, patting me on the arm. “What I was going to suggest is that we leave the locks alone for now. As far as we know, the bad guy doesn’t know that we’ve figured this out. So I think he might come back if we let him.” He watched me for a reaction, but I was still slow to get it.

“I’d like to put a silent alarm on the door, so we’d know if it was opened.”

“You want me to trap him,” I said as it became clearer to me.

Nodding yes, but clenching his teeth, he said, “I do want to trap him, but not you, me. I can’t make you leave, but if you don’t let me stay here, then I can’t set up a trap either.”

“Are you saying that if I let you stay, you’ll let me stay?”

“That’s a funny way to put it, but yes, that’s what I’m saying.” He extended his hand.

As we shook on it, I said, “I can stay, right?”

“You can stay tonight,” he said. “But right now, while I’m going through your home”—he smiled a salesman’s smile—“it’s better if you go.”

Deciding to leave was the easy part. Deciding where to go was harder. Going to be with Kelly was my first choice, but she was at Bree’s house. The second thought was Atreyu, but that possibility stayed in my head even less time than the thought of spending the day with Bree did. I settled for option three, Mayfield’s to visit my sister, Charlotte.

Charlotte had a pickup and a delivery that I could do for her. While I was running around, I stopped by Berry Home Center and picked up two latch locks that I’d install later. It was nearing five o’clock when I returned to Mayfield’s with two boxes full of old antique wooden toys that I had picked up in Glade Spring.

I was still in my truck when my phone rang. It was Kelly.

“How’s the head?” I asked.

“It’s fine,” she said. “What are you doing?”

“I’m running errands for Charlotte. Why? What do you need?”

“I assume you knew that Detective Slaughter is here at the church.”

“Yeah,” I told her. “I gave him permission to see if there’s something else hidden somewhere.”

“I thought you did. But, Dad,” the pitch of her voice got higher, “he might be making a bigger mess here than you anticipated.”

“Kelly, where are you?” I asked.

“I’m standing in the middle of the shop. I’m here with Mom.”

“Your mother is there, too,” I said before I could stop myself.

“Yes,” said Kelly.

In the background, I could hear Bree say, “I told you he wouldn’t like it.”

“Cool it, Dad. We weren’t going to stay long. I can’t find my keys, and I was going to come and see if they were lying on the floor. When we came by, your truck was gone, so we both came in. Mom wasn’t okay with me coming in by myself.”

“It’s okay,” I said. “I’ve got to unload a couple of boxes, but I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”

“Ah,” she stalled. “The reason I called was to tell you to stay out of the shop when you get home. I’ll come back tomorrow, and we can get it straightened out together.”

“Am I going to be upset?” I asked.

“It’s not as bad as it looks, but there’s absolutely nothing in its right place.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing. I don’t think anything is hurt, but he disassembled everything—and Dad,” she hesitated again.

“What, Kelly?”

“He had to go through every stack.”

The stacks were piles of differing sizes of differing types of wood. I had oak planking of different sizes, as well as cherry and pine. I had different sizes and thicknesses of plywood. What I pictured was a single pile of everything mixed together in the middle of the room.

“Did he find anything?” I asked.

“He’s upstairs now, but not so far. The mess is fixable, but it’s going to take several hours. So, promise me that you’ll wait until I come help before you try to tackle it by yourself.”

I heard Bree in the background say, “I can help too if he’s okay with that.”

Kelly didn’t share that with me. Instead, she said, “Promise?”

“I promise.” But I didn’t promise that I wouldn’t go look.

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