Small Town, Big Mystery

Chapter 8: Love Thy Neighbour

It took Ralph and Ms. Fannon twenty minutes to drive back to town from the Lincolnshire Air Force base. They hardly said a word, their hearts still pounding with the adrenaline of JUSTICE. At the Hundredth Meridian by The Tragically Hip played on the radio. The setting sun ran across the fields of wheat and mustard and Ralph remembered something he’d read: the marshes turned to follow the sun.

They hung a left at the only traffic light in town, Ms. Fannon accelerating to catch the yellow, and sped towards the high school.

“And what exactly are we doing here?” she asked.

“Just trust me,” was Ralph’s response. “Herr Hansel is telling me we need to be here.”

“You always were an odd one.”

Sylvan Hamburger/Argosy

Ms. Fannon’s red mustang pulled into the parking lot and screeched to a halt. The parking lot was empty, save for a battered old Pinto with a woman standing beside it. It was Ms. Tallrustle, Herr Hansel’s lover.

“Of course!” said Ralph as he leaped out of the car and ran across the sea of asphalt. “Ms. Tallrustle, Ms. Tallrustle! Wait!” As Ralph approached her, he felt her heaviness. Mascara was smudged below her eyelashes, and her face had a staleness about it.

“Ralph. We haven’t seen you in class lately…If you’ll excuse me, I was on my way home.”

“I need to talk to you, Ms. Tallrustle. About Herr Hansel.” At the sound of his name she broke, and leaned back onto the hood of her car to hide the flow of black tears. “Control yourself, Ms. Tallrustle!” God help this suffering soul.

Ralph, frightened by human sadness, could only turn his head the other way. Ms. Fannon had walked over, though. She stood facing Ms. Tallrustle with marshmallow eyes, and reached a hand onto her shoulder.

“There, there, darling. You must miss that man.” Ms. Tallrustle response was a deeper sob. “Ms. Tallrustle, may I ask you a question?” She nodded in consent. “Was Herr Hansel connected, in any way, to the Air Force?”

“No, no,” she gasped. “That man hadn’t a violent bone in his body.”

“And you have no suspicions to who may have killed him?”

“None.”

“What about you, Ms. Tallrustle? Do have any connections at the Air Force?”

“Me!? No, no.”

“Madame, I’ll tell you something. Today I stood by a door at the base, and heard General Howe admit to knowing that Herr Hansel’s body was at the Air Force base.”

Ms. Tallrustle’s silenced her sobs, and a look of curiosity spread across her face. “Who, did you say?”

“General Howe.”

“Howe? Willy Howe? Little Willy Howe?”

“I believe his name is William Howe, yes. You know him?”

“Of course I do. I grew up next door to the Howes.”

Maria Dime