Thirteen thousand six hundred fifty nine words! Here’s another excerpt for your perusal and comment if you feel so moved.
At his desk, the Sheriff pored over the notes he’d complied on the murder investigation. It made no sense. What was a complete stranger doing in Charlie’s office? It was obvious, at least to Jeff, that Joseph Minnelli was anything but a tourist. His clothing alone gave that away. Who would believe the guy in the designer suit was here to visit the arboretum or the naval museum?
Jeff heard the bell ring as the outside door opened into the reception area. He listened as Mandy pushed back her desk chair and crossed to the taller counter which spanned the width of the room except for the swinging gate at one end. It was remarkably like the gates you might see in an old courtroom where the witnesses would push through on their way to take the stand. In fact, it had been recovered form the old courthouse before it was torn down several years previously. Jeff liked the connection between the old and the new.
In the outer office he heard Mandy ask how she could help the visitor and then he heard Luke’s voice. Even if he hadn’t heard Luke was in town he’d have recognized that voice. It had echoed in enough of his teenage nightmares, he recalled with a touch of the old self-disgust. Jeff started to stand intending to… what exactly? Staying in his chair, he rubbed his hand over his face. Am I really going to go punch him in the face because he was with Carolyn before me? God, am I losing it or what? He dropped his head into his hands for a moment and there was a tap on his door.
“Jeff?” Mandy slipped into his office, closing the door behind her. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just having a little argument with myself,” he smiled. “What’s Luke want?”
“He has information on the murder victim he thinks you might find helpful.”
“Oh really?” Jeff smiled. “Well send him in then. Is there any coffee left in that pot?”
“Well yeah, but it’s from three hours ago.”
“What? I can make a fresh pot…”
“Sure, make a fresh pot but bring Luke a cup of the old pot first please.” His eyes fairly twinkled with the anticipation of watching Luke take a polite sip. Who said he was a goody two shoes!
Jeff stood up, might as well take every advantage he could. Being a few inches taller than Luke might seem like a small thing but it made him feel better. He squared the pile of paper on his desk and looked up to watch Luke enter. Luke tried on a grin, holding out his hand.
“Jeff, nice to see you though I wish it was under better circumstances.”
“We can agree on that,” Jeff nodded. He indicated the visitor’s chair with a tilt of his head and took his own seat. Mandy came in and set a chipped china mug on the corner of Jeff’s desk near Luke.
“Thank you,” Luke smiled pleasantly at her. Picking up the mug he took a healthy drink and manfully tried not to let it show on his face that the coffee was awful.
Jeff raised his brows. “Everything okay Luke?” He watched as Luke forced himself to swallow the sludge. He had to hand it to the guy, the smile faltered just a tad but it stayed in place. Jeff relented in spite of himself.
“Fine,” Luke got out. “Coffee’s a bit stronger than I’m used to.”
“Ah, well we can fix that.” Turning to Mandy, Jeff smiled. “Will you start a fresh pot please?”
Mandy, bless her, got it. She gave him back a smile and nodded. “Sure thing Sheriff.” Mandy exited the office, drawing the door closed behind her.
Returning his attention to Luke, Jeff pulled over a notebook and pen. “Mandy said you had some information about Joseph Minnelli?”
“Yeah. First, he goes or he went by Joey. He was the second son of Alfredo Minnelli. Minnelli was a crime boss in New Jersey a few decades back.”
“Do you have any idea what Joey was doing in Manning?”
Luke hesitated and Jeff studied him. “What is it Tyler?”
“I think he was looking for Charlie’s father,” Luke’s shoulders slumped for a moment, as if all the air had gone out of him.
“Charlie’s father? Who has been gone for over 30 years?”
Luke nodded. “I know it sounds crazy. Actually I’m in town looking for Jack too. Or at least some sign of where he might be.”
Jeff tossed down the pen and leaned back in his chair. “So 30 plus years later you, and presumably Joey Minnelli come looking for a man who walked out on his family. Luke, what’s wrong with this picture?”
“Look, I realize how it sounds. I can fill you in on the background if you’ll give me a few minutes.”
Spreading his hands wide, Jeff met his eyes. “I’m all yours; I can’t wait to hear this.”