Stand back,” the Emergency Services Unit officer called out to Janey. “I’ve got the gear to break down the door.”
“What gear?” Janey yelled.
“A hatchet?” Janey cried.
“A hatchet,” he confirmed. “It’s a beauty.”
“Be careful,” she urged, then remembered to add, “please.”
“I’ll try. How much room you got in there?”
Thomas whimpered. He and Regan were standing at the other end of the kitchen. The apartment was full of detectives, patrolmen, and emergency services personnel.
“Well, here goes.” The ESU officer lifted the hatchet over his head and brought it back down against the door. The metal head struck the heavy wood with a snapping, crackling sound not unlike twigs burning in a fireplace.
There goes Ben’s security deposit, Regan thought.
It took several minutes, but finally bits of the door had been hacked away. Another few minutes and Janey was stepping through the jagged opening and running into Thomas’s waiting arms.
Murmurs of relief and “good job” rippled through the kitchen. One of the police officers stepped into the living room to pass along the good news to the cluster of folks out there and in the hallway, including a couple of neighbors and the building’s superintendent.
Regan stood back as Janey and Thomas locked themselves in a passionate embrace. She certainly doesn’t seem as meek as she did this morning, Regan thought. Well, it’s the quiet ones who will get you every time.
“Miss,” one of the detectives said to Janey, when she and Thomas finally unhinged from each other. “I’m going to need to talk to you.”
“May I use the powder room first?”
While Janey disappeared down the hallway with her purse, Regan decided to take a quick look in the bedroom. She hadn’t had a chance to look for Ben’s journal once they realized Janey was locked in the closet.
The bedroom was a mess. Ben’s nightstand had been emptied onto the floor. His closet had been picked apart. Photographs, books, papers, and clothes were strewn all over. Regan lifted up a few of the papers, a couple of pairs of pants, and then she spotted a spiral notebook sticking out from under the bed.
Regan picked it up and opened it. It was Ben’s journal! The first page was marked January 1st of this year. She quickly flipped through the pages. The last entry was dated Wednesday, March 10th. Two days ago. Unbelievable.
It was a fairly brief entry.
Well tomorrow is our big day to break the news to Thomas at the club. It’s exciting. The big party is Saturday. I told Nat I wanted to invite a date. He told me he’s breaking up with his girlfriend. He said it would embarrass him to bring her to the party because of their age difference. I told him fuhgedaboutit!
Regan turned back the pages. There were more brief entries that didn’t reveal much. And then the one marked February 28th was longer.
Today Nat and I went bowling. We got to talking about Sadie Hawkins Day. I said it was too bad there was no February 29th this year. Maybe some nice lady would ask me out. He started to laugh, and I knew something was up. Finally he admits he’s been seeing someone a little bit. The sly devil! He said he likes her, but there’s only one problem. When you get close, her perfume is so strong. I told him to go buy her a new bottle. I said maybe I’ll find someone and we can go to the club’s anniversary party together. Then he said he felt guilty. I said, about what? Wendy? She’d want you to be happy. He just shook his head and said he didn’t want to talk about it. So I let it go. I still say a double date would be fun.
Regan flipped through the remaining pages. No name of the girlfriend. No other references to her. Oh, Ben, why didn’t you ask Nat her name?
Regan dropped the notebook on the bed in frustration and walked into the living room. Thomas was sitting with his arm protectively around Janey as she answered the detective’s questions. “Her perfume was kind of strong,” Janey noted.
Regan paused. Perfume? But then she heard a voice in the doorway and turned her head quickly. Mary Ruffner was scribbling notes as she talked to Officer Dowling. “… so she came here to pick up the food she had dropped off yesterday…”
I can just imagine tomorrow’s headlines, Regan thought.