"Leave it alone, Al," she said to me. "We don't go on feelings here and you know it. If you want to do something about your bad feeling, go have a drink. All we have to go on here is a falsified complaint."
"I know," I sighed. "But those two really might be in trouble."
"We'll go over the front desk camera footage tomorrow and see if we can get a positive ID on the guy you spoke to this morning," she said. "We can go after him for false reporting and see what develops."
"That sounds good, Betty," I lied. "See you tomorrow." I left her office and headed for the door, with addresses for Darla Montagne and Simon Sayer in my pocket and dread heavy on my shoulders.
At Darla's house, everything seemed normal. The door was closed and no one was home. I knocked for several minutes and peeked through the front window, but it was already getting dark outside and the house was pitch black inside. I walked down the sidewalk and across the street to the neighbor's house directly opposite.
"Hello," said the elderly lady who turned on the porch light and opened the door.
"Good evening, ma'am," I said, holding out my badge. "I'm Detective Al Hall and I'm investigating a report we got this morning of some trouble yesterday at the house across the street. Do you have a minute?"
"Well, just a short minute, really," she said, opening the screen door to join me on the porch. "My son is here to take me to dinner, but I'll certainly cooperate in any way I need to."
"Thank you, ma'am," I said. "I won't keep you long. Can I get your name?"
"Virginia," she said. "Virginia Tolleson." She spelled it for me as I wrote.
"Mrs. Tolleson, did you notice any trouble yesterday morning?"
"Well, not trouble, really. Like I told the officer yesterday evening," she said, "I noticed the door wide open yesterday morning when I came out to get the paper, and then I noticed a strange car out there for a while."
"There was another officer?" I asked.
"Yes. Yesterday evening."
"Do you remember his name, ma'am?"
"Oh, certainly not," she said. "He was a short man in a dark suit."
It sounded like my "Louis Montagne" from this morning. "Mrs. Tolleson," I asked, "do you know the people who live in that house?"
"Well, sure. I've known Darla since she and Louis moved in there almost ten years ago," she said.
"Her husband," she answered. "He passed away almost two years ago in a terrible car crash."
"Oh, I'm sorry," I said. I took one of the printed sheets out of my pocket and unfolded it. "Is this Louis, ma'am?" I asked.
She took the paper and held it up close to the porch light. "Yes, that's him. Why?" She handed the paper back to me.
"Oh, just being sure," I said. "Mrs. Tolleson, you've been very helpful, and I appreciate your time. Enjoy your dinner."
"Well, okay," she said. She had a worried furrow on her brow as she turned to go back inside, and I felt bad for troubling her.
When I got back to the car, I dug the old Mapsco out from under the seat and got directions to Simon Sayer's place. "Well, I'll be damned," I said. Mr. Sayer lived in the Pine View Apartments, an old complex that I knew only too well, though I rarely went to that side of town anymore. My grandfather built the Pine View apartments almost sixty years ago. We had lived in them when I was a kid, and my grandfather had passed them on to my dad when he died. My dad had always loved the business of maintaining and managing the complex as a side job to his police work. As they got older, though, they were more of a drain than an asset. When my dad passed away, I had wanted nothing to do with them. I sold them to one of Dad's friends, Bill Power, for almost nothing. I didn't keep track of what happened to them after that.
The old neighborhood hadn't changed much in thirty years. Little things jogged my memory as a drove through: a lot with a big tree, a gas station with an old hydraulic car lift in the front, the old 24-hour laundromat and then the Pine Views. They didn't look too bad. Someone was taking pretty good care of them, and they looked fully occupied.
I pulled around to the second building and found a parking place. I was just about to get out when I spotted someone heading from the parking lot to the stair well. My heart skipped a beat, and I decided to stay put and watch.
I could have busted him then and there for false reporting and for impersonating an officer, but I wanted to wait and see what he was doing here. The dread on my shoulders pressed down more heavily as I watched him disappear up the stairs heading, no doubt, for apartment 216.