Chief Constable Joe uncuffed Sam and closed the door to Interview Room A. “Now listen, Dan,” he started, his left palm aimed at the Shepherds, like he was directing traffic and trying not to get run over. “I didn’t mean to interrupt your visit with your Aunt Marjorie, I know you haven’t got much time left with her. I only called because that Cunningham kid from the Times wouldn’t stop asking about you and Samantha for his story. But don’t you worry about a thing. We just need to ask a few questions and this whole thing’ll blow over.” Sam watched his eyes dart back and forth between her and her dad, his hand still raised. After a few seconds, she saw the lines in his forehead disappear and his hand fall to his side, seemingly satisfied with the silence or maybe relieved that he wasn’t going to get hit.
“Now, do you guys want anything to eat or drink?” he asked with a warm smile, like he’d invited them over for tea. Sam shook her head while her dad politely declined. The Chief opened the door and swung half his body out. “Maureen! Could you run over and fetch my order from Smoked for me? Thanks a bunch.” He closed the door again and as he sat down at the table across from Sam and Dan, he opened his notebook and flipped through it until he found a blank page. “Now, tell me what happened, young lady,” he said, readying his pen.
Sam started to explain her work on the barrier, but the Chief stopped her.
“I’m sorry, this is from two days ago? Can we just skip to the events of the night? When you noticed Benjamin Black missing and all that?”
Sam started again, but was interrupted by a knock at the door. Maureen dropped a large bag of food and a can of pop on the table.
“Ooh wee! I’m starving! This smells delicious. Dan, have a rib, they’re amazing.” He ripped the bag open and bit into a sandwich.
“No thanks, sir.”
“You wan fum?” A tiny piece of beef brisket flew out of the Chief’s mouth and landed in front of Sam.
“No, thank you, sir,” she said, copying her dad.
“Go ahead, Samantha. Keep talking.” He opened the soda, leaned back and guzzled half the can, his throat bulging and constricting with every loud gulp.
Sam continued, but stopped mid sentence when Chief Constable Joe let out a long belch. She resumed after he prompted her again, “Keep going. I’m listening.”
Sam was describing her search with Drew and Penelope when the Chief burped loudly again and wiped his hands on some napkins, shredding them to bits as the cheap paper clung to his sticky fingers.
“For crying out loud,” he said, rising from his chair. “Lemme go wash my hands, I’ll be right back.”
Dan waited until the Chief left the room before turning to Sam. “You had to pick the smelliest dog in the village?” Sam tried to smile, but she looked at her feet instead. She knew her dad was trying to lighten up the situation and make it less intimidating, but she was still trying to process everything that had happened.
“Dan.” Chief Constable Joe poked his head through the doorway. “The boy’s awake and talking to Carl at the clinic, so I need to head over right away. I think we’re done here, anyway. Come with me for a sec, will you? Maureen needs you to fill in some form or something before you leave.”
As her dad left the room, Sam looked at the notebook the Chief had left on the table. He hadn’t written down a single word.
“Do you want something to eat, Wes? There’s a vending machine by the washrooms,” Drew whispered, standing up from the chairs beside Ben’s bed where he and Wesley had been planted since Ben arrived at the medical clinic.
“Sure. Can you get me a couple of packs of salt and vinegar chips, maybe some chocolates, cheesies and some licorice. If there are sours, get some of those too and a root beer. You got change? I’ve got a twenty.”
“Thanks, I think I saw a machine out there,” Drew said, taking Wesley’s bill.
As Drew left Ben’s room, Constable Carl Monahan entered.
Drew found the change machine and received more coins than he could fit into his pockets. He used some of the coins to buy Wesley’s snacks and then chose a bag of pretzels for himself. As he walked back to Ben’s room, a bag started to slip from his arms, so he raised his elbow, trying to save it. Two other bags fell in the other direction and Drew grabbed for them, dropping a handful of coins that clinked and rang when they hit the floor.
He glanced around him. Smooth move, McConnell, he thought, happy that there were no witnesses. He bent down to collect the coins and snacks, realizing that most of the change had rolled under the nurse’s desk. He had just scooted around to the other side when he heard a deep voice.
“The Black kid said he didn’t see or hear anything. Said they put a balaclava over his head so he couldn’t see and headphones with music over his ears so he couldn’t hear. Couldn’t give details on anything except that he had fallen and broken his leg and was left abandoned in a cave.”
“Is that so, Carl. Hmm. Works for me,” a second voice said.
Drew popped his head above the desk and saw Chief Constable Joe and another officer walking away.
Lorne was sweeping up shards of glass next to Dan’s SUV when Constable Betty Alexander pulled up alongside him, dropping off Dan and Sam.
“Sunny’s getting the shop vac for the bits inside,” Lorne said.
“Anything stolen?” Betty asked, surveying Dan’s damaged SUV.
Sam opened the back door. Her dog was resting on top of the two backpacks, like they were pillows. He looked monstrous, but he whimpered when he saw her. She pulled out some water and food for him while her dad and Betty discussed filing reports and seeking witnesses and dusting for prints and checking security cameras.
“Sam,” a voice behind her called out. Sunny had dropped the shop vac halfway between the community center and the car and was running towards her with her arms held wide. She embraced Sam tightly. “I’m so glad you’re okay. What with Ryder… and when the Chief… I don’t understand why the Chief treated you like that. You saved that boy’s life. And what they’re writing in the Times. It’s unbelievable.”
“Ryder?” Sam looked over Sunny’s shoulder and saw her dad shaking his head. Not now, he was signaling. “The Times? What are they writing?”
Sunny took out her phone and showed Sam the latest article. There was a large photo of Sam in handcuffs in front of Chief Constable Joe with the caption “Person of Interest in Ben Black Kidnapping Caught.” Sam read the article while Sunny continued speaking.
“The whole rescue team is going to call the Times to complain about its reporting. We have a plan. We are going to start calling advertisers and see if we can put pressure on them that way, too. Also, I emailed my cousin in Vancouver. He is a lawyer. Maybe we can sue them for defamation or libel or something. Shut them down. It is such a rag. Are you okay, Sam? You have not said a word. What are you thinking?”
Sam thought about being taken away in handcuffs; about Chief Constable Joe’s blank notebook; about the rock and shattered glass sitting in the front seat of her dad’s car; about Ben suffering from hypothermia with a broken leg, alone in that cave; about her conversation with Lorne under the helicopter, and about a thousand other things that had happened in the last two days. Then, only one thing came into her mind.
“They picked the wrong girl to mess with.”
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