My bad

Mitchell called me into his office that afternoon.

‘You found your kidnapper yet?’ I said.

‘I’ll ask the questions here.’  Mitchell wore a starched beige uniform top with a pressed pair of olive cords.  His badge shimmered with recent attention from across the desk.

‘Ask away,’ I said.

‘Tell me again what happened that day.’

‘We’ve been over it three times already.’

‘Make it four.’

‘Don’t you have any leads, Mitchell?  Don’t you have anything?’

‘I’ll ask the questions here!’

‘Just trying to help.’

Mitchell looked to his right, consulting the wall.  He shook his head and pulled open a drawer and removed Eleanor King’s pine letterbox, holding it casually with a manicured hand.  ‘About all we have are these.  Let me tell you, the letters don’t help much.’

I looked at the box I had left with my father.  The menacing wooden top hinted at what lay within.

‘Well they’re evidence,’ I said.  ‘Just not in this case.’

Mitchell shook his head and set the box down on the desk between us.  ‘They don’t say much of anything.’

‘Have you read them?’

Mitchell set his jaw.  ‘Yes.  Back and forth.  I don’t see what the big deal is.’

‘You’re kidding.  They lay out the whole thing.  They place my dad and Peter Bingham outside Clyde King’s cell.’

Mitchell suppressed a frustrated sigh and shook his head.

‘What are you talking about?’

I could feel the teeth in the back of my mouth gritting together.  ‘You must be thicker than I thought.’

‘Show me.’  Mitchell pushed the box toward me with presumption.  ‘But first put these on.’  He dipped into a drawer and pulled out a pair of latex gloves.  With traceless fingers I began to flip through the worn envelopes.  One, two, three…  I came to the bottom of the box.

‘There’s something missing,’ I said.

‘What?’  Mitchell leaned over the desk to look into the wooden bottom of the box.

‘Some of the letters are missing.’  Mitchell got out of his chair and came around to my side of the desk and looked down at the box.  ‘There are three letters here,’ I said.  ‘There were five.’

‘You’d better not be messing with me,’ he said over my shoulder.  I could smell the cologne with Mitchell so close.

‘No joke I swear.  There were five of them when I left my dad’s house.’

‘Well maybe he got rid of them.’

‘Maybe he did, but I told him when I left that he didn’t have the only copy, so it’s not like there was any point.’

‘What?’  Mitchell’s latched onto my last sentence.  It dawned on me that I’d just revealed more than I’d meant to.  I resigned myself to the truth.

‘I sent copies to David Drysdale with the Jackson Clarion Ledger.’

Mitchell slapped his hand to his forehead and muttered a few f-bombs.  He began to pace around the room, cursing and shaking his head and running his hand through his hair.

‘Drysdale,’ he said, speaking the word like a curse.  He returned to his seat and sat down hard in the wooden chair and leaned across the desk.  ‘Why didn’t you say anything about this before?’

‘I didn’t think it was relevant.’

‘Damn right it’s relevant.  Drysdale.  Damn.’  Mitchell shook his head.

‘What gives?’

‘Nothing.’  Mitchell shook his head again.  ‘Do you have copies of the missing letters?’

‘Yeah, I can get them for you if you want.’

‘Yes, please do.  Drysdale.’  Mitchell shook his head.  ‘Of all the people, why him.’

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