Carole Owens: Alice in Midland Part 8
‘Sis Baer’s family sent an annual Christmas card with their family portrait: all five looking perfectly groomed and untouchable. Under the photo were their names: Junior Baer, Sis Baer, Baby Baer, and yes indeed, Mama Baer and Papa Baer. How could people who were so simple-minded understand anything?" Alice thought. "Yet, if her father the lawyer thought Billy was guiltyŠ"
Alice had to go to the police. She didn’t know why Billy hadn’t told the police they were together, but she had to straighten this out and save Billy.
Across town, Peter was at the Revik front door. He dreaded a confrontation with a weeping woman but if he was to get the storyŠ
Mrs. Revik was not weeping; she was sitting, staring, and in shock.
"I am sorry for your loss."
She didn’t hear him. "I told her not to baby-sit for the Coleman’s."
Peter sat, took out his notebook, and asked very quietly, "You didn’t trust him?"
"I told her, but she said she needed the money. So she went, and now she is never coming home." She looked at Peter pleading, "I told her not to; why did she go?"
Peter said, "I wish she hadn’t."
That seemed to comfort her, "Thank-you." She sat some more and then, "Why did
the police ask about Billy Anderson?"
"They think he hurt Anna."
"Billy? Why would he? They were friends, Anna and Billy."
"You trusted Billy but not Mr. Coleman?"
"Not just him, Mrs. Coleman too -- I work in a beauty shop; we hear everything."
"They are trying to say Billy is a sexual predator, but maybe Mr. Coleman was a predator?"
"He had a reputation. He liked them young. Mrs. Coleman got tired of sitting at home. While he chased skirts around that office -- you know he was a bookkeeper at Midland Manufacturing -- she went to bars on the Southside. I told Anna they were not nice people."
The police station was in the rear of the town hall. It was a bright open room with four desks spaced just behind a counter. Alice stood just inside the door as if she might still turn and run out.
"May I help you, little lady?"
Alice jumped. She hadn’t seen Chief Little approach. He was a tall man, hard looking, and he did not seem sympathetic.
"No, that is, yes." Alice felt the warmth run up her cheeks and knew she was blushing. She felt betrayed by her body, and could not think what to say. She blurted, "Billy Anderson."
The policeman looked at her and the longer he stared the redder she became.
She had to speak up, but before she could the policeman said, "Come right this way." He led her to the nearest desk, sat, and nodded to the other chair. She sat without a word.
She had to tell this strange man something that it was hard to tell her best friend and if Mary Ellen hadn’t believed her, why should he?
The officer scrolled paper into a typewriter and asked, "Name?"
"How old are you?"
"Anderson is 18," he gave her a penetrating stare, "If he has been messing with you, then that’s a crime."
"Anderson is legally an adult and you are under age. Maybe you think that makes him cool but we think it makes him a bad guy. You understand?"
Alice sat silently working it out. So that’s why Billy wouldn’t say he was with her
"Listen carefully: that poor girl he murdered was your age. So if Anderson has been interfering with you, you could help establish a pattern. Nice girl like you would make a good witness against Anderson."
This policeman would listen, he would believe her, and then use what she said against Billy. So Alice said, "I don’t know him. He’s a senior so we never met."
"Then what exactly are you doing here?"
"I was curious. I mean a boy and girl in my school -- one dead, the other in jail -- I just wanted to know all about it."
Lame, she thought, but better than the truth if the truth was going to hang Billy.
"Out! Out you go, right now. Kids your age shouldn’t know about things like this."
At the doorway, a young man was entering. He stepped aside to let Alice pass. Chief Little saw him, "You too Webber, get out. Had a call from you’re editor, Schumacher, you’re off the story. So don’t waste my time."
Each slightly shell-shocked, Peter and Alice sat down on the bench outside the police station.
"What can I do?" Alice thought.
Aloud Peter asked no one in particular, "Off the story? Just because I don’t want to hang a guy before all the evidence is in, I’m off the story?"
Alice swung around, "What guy?"
"You think he didn’t do it," Alice said "I know he didn’t."
"Tell me how," Peter demanded.
"I was with him when Anna was killed."
"What time was that?"
Alice figured backward, "I left Missy’s at 9:30 and met Billy maybe 5-10 minutes later. We spent an hour together, I don’t know for sure, but I think an hour."
"Not exactly iron-clad: there was just time before he met you toŠ"
In her anxiety, Alice interrupted, "But you don’t think he did."
They stared at one another and then Peter said, "Shake on it."
This is Part 8 of a 10-part murder mystery. The first five parts occurred on the night of the murder, the second five parts on the following day.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.