When we talked about it later, Lynnie still wanted to go to the cops—and I still didn’t want to. I’m sure my fucking affect showed I didn’t want to, but since I didn’t really have any coherent argument against going to the cops, I gave in. We’d go talk to the cops.
So, on Friday, after the last day of fall semester classes, I picked up Lynnie and we drove downtown.
“I’ve been thinking about this,” Lynnie said. “I sort of think I need you to stay in the car.”
“Sure,” I said. Shrugged. I was okay with that—I didn’t want to talk to the cops, anyway. But Lynnie was sitting looking at me like this was important. I asked, “How come?”
“Because you’re the natural suspect,” Lynnie said. “Right? The boyfriend or the ex is always a suspect when a single woman dies. I want to keep you way far away from the cops. I don’t want them to even think about you.”
I said, “Huh.”
“I know that’s why you don’t want to go down there,” Lynnie said.
“No—” I started. But. Really—I hadn’t ever considered that I might be a suspect. Did anyone think I was a suspect? Should I be worried? No one had ever asked me anything—I didn’t think. Still, I guess it made sense. I said, “Yeah….”
We crossed the railroad tracks by the sports bar, and a big HEAL THIS LAND billboard, and kept going. The football stadium and the university were a sort of dull brown in the dim winter light.
“So, I’m going to keep it simple,” Lynnie said. “I’m just going to sort of tell them that I heard that there was a party over at Devon’s the night she died, and that they might want to look for the people who were there.”
“Okay,” I said. “And if they ask you how you heard this?”
“Oh!” Lynnie laughed. “I’m going to say that I overheard Courtney and Nancy talking about it in the library! I mean—where’s the evidence that I didn’t hear it, huh?”
Well, she had me there. I parked across the street from the police station, next to the post office. Lynnie hopped out of the car and trotted across the street, her shoulders bulky under a leather jacket, a lavender scarf fluttering behind her in the wind.
Well. Maybe she could get the cops moving. I’d never count Lynnie out about anything. But the Weirton cops were notoriously hard to move—there were lots of stories about assaults and rapes that went unsolved. The Weirton cops had a reputation for being incompetent, or lazy, or not caring, or—everything.
I sat across from the police station, waiting.
A car pulled up in front of me and a woman popped out—Constance Olmanson, from the English Department. A rhetoric teacher. She had what looked like a handful of Christmas cards in her hand and she trotted up the steps and into the post office. Christmas. The holiday meant nothing to me. I had no plans. Lynnie was going to go see her parents in Denton and then hang around with her girlfriend in Dallas. She was anxious to get her grades posted and get out of town—I knew she had better things to do than play detective and talk to the cops. Maybe I had better things to do, too. I couldn’t think of anything, though.
Constance came out of the post office, and as she was getting into her car she looked up and saw me. She brightened—smiled, waved. She acted like she was happy to see me, for some reason. I waved back. Constance got into her car and drove off.
A dull red pickup pulled into Constance’s parking spot, and an old gray farmer got out and made his way slowly up the steps into the post office. Looked like his knees hurt. A cop came out of the police station, big and fat and bald and lumpy and funny-looking with his flak vest on, and he walked around to the other side of the station and disappeared.
Cars went by, people.
Then I saw Lynnie coming across the street with quick determined steps. She got in the car without saying anything and buckled her seat belt. I could tell she was pissed.
“Let’s just go,” Lynnie said. “Let’s drive somewhere.”
I put the car in gear and pulled around the red pickup. I looked over at Lynnie.
“Kansas is the most unnecessary fucking state,” Lynnie said. This was an argument she often made. “You could get rid of it and nobody’d notice.”
I imagined Kansas a big hole in the ground—a nothing. Though of course Devon thought I was a hole in the ground, too. I hoped Devon thought I was better than Kansas.
“What would you do with it?” I asked. “Practically.”
“I don’t know,” Lynnie said. “Give most of it to Nebraska. Some of it to Oklahoma.”
“What about Weirton?”
“Give Weirton to Missouri….” Lynnie was frowning, looking out the window at the cold sad town. Rusted cars, boarded-up storefronts.
I asked, “What’d Missouri ever do to deserve Weirton?”
“Fuck Missouri, too,” Lynnie said. “Let’s go get a drink.”
I made a right on Front Street and headed north. I asked, “So, what about the cops?”
“Non annuit coeptis,” Lynnie said. “I don’t think I was wrong to want to go there, but I sure as fuck didn’t get anything done.”
“No?” I asked.
“Oh, they’re just lazy and stupid,” Lynnie said. “I was talking to this guy named Lundgren, who’s in charge of the non-investigation, and I told him that, you know, that there were people over at Devon’s house that night—that there was a party going on.”
“But that Facebook post, Tommy! Lundgren said it sounded to him like a suicide note.”
“Yeah. And unless they hear different from the coroner, they’ll close it out as a suicide.”
“Fuck the cops,” I said. I pulled into the drive-thru window at Mocol’s Liquors, and when old Mr. Mocol came to the window, I ordered a 12-pack of Boulevard Pale Ale.
“So I guess we know what they’re thinking,” Lynnie said. “Or what they want to tell us they’re thinking.”
“Or they could be liars,” I said.
“Or they could be stupid! This is Kansas.”
Mr. Mocol brought out the beer and I paid him—Mocol’s offered faculty members a 10% discount, something I deeply appreciated—and drove off. Lynnie found an opener in the ashtray and opened a bottle and took a long swallow. I turned onto 37th Street and headed back to my place—but then I hit the brakes.
“What?” Lynnie asked.
On the north side of the street—my left—was the Strip Pit, Weirton’s only titty bar. In the parking lot I spotted Ted Shuey’s cheerful green Volvo station wagon—just like it was in Devon’s photograph. The most easily recognizable car in the Reeb Hall parking lot, or in the Strip Pit parking lot.
“Ted Shuey,” I said. “That asshole.”
I made a block and came back around the Strip Pit again, from the other direction. It was Ted’s car all right. I guess there wasn’t anything wrong with that. I mean—in general, I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with going to a strip club. I’d even been to the Strip Pit a couple of times myself—once one drunken night with Lynnie and Devon—and it was exactly the kind of titty bar you might expect in Weirton—sad, scary, disturbing, depressing. Perfect for Weirton.
But—there was Ted Shuey hanging out at the Strip Pit at noon on a Friday. That might be good to know.
“He’s probably in there writing poems about boobs and herpes,” Lynnie said. “Should we join him?”
“Not yet,” I said. “Look.”
I slowed down again. A shiny white Ford pickup was pulling into the parking spot next to Ted’s Volvo. I recognized the truck from the Reeb Hall parking lot, too—it belonged to Fred Van Buskirk, that other asshole.
“Tommy?” Lynnie asked. “What’re we doing?”
Fred got out of the truck in a puff of smoke—he’d finally had a chance to light that fucking pipe. He straightened his antique jacket and headed toward the door of the bar, his belly leading the way, a big shot.
Those two assholes were up to something. I made a right and headed up a side street past the Strip Pit into a neighborhood of rusted crumbling warehouses. I turned around at an abandoned loading dock and parked sort of behind an ancient dumpster. From the car I could see a corner of the Strip Pit and Ted’s green Volvo in the parking lot. Lynnie handed me her open beer and I took a long drink.
“So, Tommy,” Lynnie said. “Talk to me. What’re we going to do about all this?”
People didn’t ask me for decisions very often. I wasn’t used to it. But—sitting there, Ted’s green Volvo up the block, Fred’s truck parked next to it, a thin stream of gray grease smoke rising from the bar’s kitchen—I guessed that it was all up to me.
So. I tried to think.
What would Michael Corleone do?
I said, “The cops aren’t going to do anything.”
“Doesn’t look that way,” Lynnie said.
Okay. I thought about that. Lynnie said she hadn’t been trained as a vigilante. I hadn’t, either. But how hard could it be? Plenty of stupid people throughout history were vigilantes. If they could do it, we could do it. We were smart. We had targets. All it would take was will.