The Sixth District Substation was the definition of chaos. Police officers milled wildly. Lieutenant Greaves moved just as haphazardly. But he had a mission. Cross the room and drop off his file while resisting temptation: his eleven-thirty donut.
The room seemed to stretch as Greaves stalked forward, dodging boxes from the local bakery. Commander Strauss’ desk could have been a mile away. Time slowed.
Strauss was polishing off a glazed when Greaves arrived. The Lieutenant threw down the file and hummed a few bars from Rocky.
“What’s this?” Strauss asked. He wiped off the straw fibers surrounding his toothless mouth.
“The Meriwether Case. FBI wants you to report to Langley by one.”
Strauss glanced down at his watch. “Challenge accepted.”
A burly man sat on his coach. An empty apple pie tin sat on the table beside him, along with a Redskins bobble head signed “to George”. He pulled a pocket knife from the chest pocket of his XXL flannel and dug the grime from his fingernails. Bits of rope were amid the usual dirt.
A strange noise hit George’s ears. He glanced around, then locked his eyes on the door to his basement. Patiently, he traversed the room, opened the door, and stomped down his fur-lined stairs.
Sixty gallons of water filled the aquarium taking up the back wall of the cellar. Half a dozen plants seemed to dance as they were buffeted by the bubble-maker on the tank’s gravelly bottom. A single fish thrashed near the surface. A red herring.
George nodded self-assuredly and tossed a soda from a mini-fridge beside his Ping-Pong table into the corner.
Strauss knocked on the door of a humble townhouse a stone throw from DC. The man who answered the door looked both gaunt and puffy. His cheeks clung tightly across prominent cheekbones, yet the skin beneath his eyes was black and swollen.
“DC police,” Strauss said, flashing his badge. “I’m here to ask some questions regarding your daughter’s disappearance.”
By now a woman had appeared as well. Her face was coated thickly with bronzer and vanishing cream. “Please, come in,” she said, not sounding too excited about it.
“When did you see your daughter last, Mrs. Neeson?” Strauss asked once he was seated at the dining room table. He pulled a pencil from behind his ear and opened a notepad.
“Two days ago, during her dance recital,” Mrs. Neeson said.
Strauss nodded. “And when did you notice that she was missing?”
“Sh-she,” stammered Mr. Neeson “didn’t come back on st-stage to take her bow. It was always her…always her favorite part.” He took out a handkerchief and blew into it loudly.
“Where was this dance recital taking place?”
Mrs. Neeson answered, “at the Youth Theatre on Shifty Street.”
Strauss looked up from his pad and gave each of the Neesones a look. “Thank you. I’m on it.”