Chapter 7

Bedraggled Detectives. The detectives had their hands full over the next several days vetting tips and Bonét sightings, but they failed to make headway. They couldn’t nail anything down; what seemed logical and true one moment turned out to be hollow next. DeMarco worried that the trail would grow as cold as the trail they were chasing. Fitzy was concerned that he couldn’t tease a response from Bonét to help him zero in his mental laser-like focus. Depression reigned; it was into this fog that Froggy and Elizabeth entered ready to add their fresh spirit. They had departed from the Durham train station and connected with the transit to Chapel Hill after talking to Fitzy earlier that miserable afternoon. Froggy was pretty much up to speed before he entered the special ops room. Liz’s ability to garner information from inferences was a remarkable tool for the two dejected detectives.

… if I place the 229th tip in this quadrant of the city then we have a triangulated cluster …” DeMarco trailed off as Liz stepped forward to shake his hand. Her eyes pierced his heart and he shuttered, goosebumps rising on his forearms.

Fitzy welcomed Liz with a hug, a first for them, as he unsuccessfully tried to noodle her brain – he was shoved away politely; she mentally scolded him with a steely tsk, tsk.

How did you guys get so tanned did you hike along the lower Occoneechee before you came to the station?” Fitzy couldn’t help the edge to his voice, he was exhausted and ticked off that his natural talents were stymied by prevailing voodooo vibes. He seemed out of his depth.

Froggy rebounded with news fresh out of New York City tabloids; the dailies were claiming that Bonét could fly and that the dog was a figment of Southern superstition. They claimed that the cold case was incest riddled mischief gone insanely wrong and if the loaned-out detectives couldn’t solve the case then they should admit defeat, pack it up and hightail it home. Reporters were in the midst of drumming up readers and didn’t bother checking any of their sources, preferring instead ribald humor and conjecture.

What do you think of taking a break – Lizzie and I are starving! We won’t take no for an answer,” Froggy said, winking to DeMarco. “Let’s find some of that southern hospitality.”

I wish we knew where to find it,” DeMarco answered back, shaking his head. “We’ve been so busy that we barely take time to sleep let along eat anything more southern than Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

Fitzy removed his headset and called it a night knowing that he wouldn’t stop tossing around the possibilities in his brain all night long. His gut always brought him back to Bronson’s, or whatever they called it, he figured the mill complex could hide a troop battalion including machinery without the least hint they were in the area. Yet nothing had come up when the mill buildings were investigated earlier in the week. No tire tracks, no human or dog prints – it was as if the whole place had been dusted and more than that, it appeared to be totally unused in an unnatural way that Fitzy couldn’t put his finger on.

Back in the old west when a party on the run didn’t want to be traced they would drag fur tree branches behind their horses to wipe the trail clean of any evidence of their existence – not even the policemen investigating the mill could retrace their own prints.

Note: The town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is known as ‘Southern Part of Heaven’.

A Collection of Teething Rattles. Froggy tried to pull Fitzy out of his funk but he couldn’t hold him for long, he had never known Fitzy to wallow so long in triple-guessing himself. Froggy felt that if Fitz stayed down too long it would break him; it seemed that he was stuck in quicksand – the more he tried to rise to the top the deeper he got pulled down.

Where did you say you were staying in Chapel Hill?” Liz asked Fitzy. “It sure is pleasant weather …” God, she thought to herself, I have to resort to discussing the weather, THE WEATHER! as if I didn’t even know Fitzy at all.

Well, here’s the thing, I’m not staying in a place, you know, with walls and a ceiling. I’m sort of roughing it in a hay-field in my tent,” Fitzy said, talking to his feet. “It’s where we first assembled and I thought that if Bonét ever got free then he’d find me out there.” It sounded like a feeble excuse to be alone when in fact he hadn’t really slept that much the whole time in North Carolina.

I’m at the Best Western not far from Fitz’s tent,” DeMarco piped in. “I can’t camp, I mean I don’t know how to camp in a tent with mosquitoes and spiders and those million legged things crawling around. I can’t even start a fire with my Bic lighter.”

Okay, cool. Liz and I will bunk with you tonight. I brought my harmonica and Liz can rustle up some biscuits n’gravy for breakfast, right hun?” Froggy ignored the gesture Liz made and went on trying to lighten Fitzy’s mood. “We just so happened to bring our sleeping bags – I think they are in my duffel. And the pup tent must be in there, too. I am a pro at folding things into the tiniest littlest shapes to stash in my backpack … hey, I’m dying here!” The group broke into peals of laughter, their morose mood was finally broken which meant they could eat and drink, joke and talk about anything except Bonét for the evening. A good sleep could almost ensure positive energy for the next day.

After Froggy had declared that they had supped well and DeMarco left with apologies for his queen-sized mattress and air conditioning, the threesome made their way to Fitzy’s tent. By the time they arrived the grass was damp, the gas lamp wouldn’t light, and they were left with one sleeping bag for Liz and a couple of musty car blankets to wrap themselves up in. That, and one skinny bedraggled dog would keep them warm throughout the night. But when they awoke the next morning there was no sign that Bonét had visited them during the night. How weird was it that they all had shared the same beguiling dream?

On day 4, tip #297 did the trick: a sanitation worker noticed a silver sports car make a turn onto to Bronson’s Drive and disappear into Rick Morrison and Sons Wallpaper Distributor’s underground garage. The tipster knew about the garage because he had once worked for Rick and their parting was definitely not a beneficial parting of ways. Dropping a dime on Rick was justified by the caller because not only was the he fired unjustly — he wasn’t given his last paycheck. With search warrant in hand, DeMarco and Fitzy lead the team to the mill complex expecting resistance but on securing the building they found the garage empty. However, signs of occupancy remained for the forensics team to gather – when one of the officers found a spent bag of cheap dog kibble it gave the detectives incentive to double check the premises with new-found zeal.

In a second level basement DeMarco found a stool besides an unchained tool shed door, inside the darkened room lined with bins of dusty tool parts a pit surrounded with mounds of dirt could be seen. In the darkened corner of the shed a dog-sized tunnel had been dug. On close inspection the hole was found to have never reached open air although the occupant was not to be found anywhere. Fitzy’s eye caught a faint glimmer of something near one of the ancient wire tool containers and when he brought it out into the beam of his flashlight it was another worn teething rattle; number five in his growing collection.

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