"Oh, you were involved in that?" I asked.
"No, but I think they railroaded those aldermen. Tom Glinnan asked me to look into it for him."
Glinnan was the secretary of the council and, prior to being arrested for accepting a thousand-dollar bribe, had been a leading mayoral candidate. Now he was just hoping to stay out of jail.
"He's what?" I asked. "A friend?"
"Of sorts," Riordan said.
"You think the Burnsies cheated somehow?"
"Tom says they planted the thousand dollars in his pocket. I don't know that he's past looking the other way for a bribe, though. The whole thing just stunk."
"To get back to today," I said. "Do you know the cop? The one who left his post?"
He shook his head. "No. Brennan was probably right about him. He claimed he ate some bad oysters and had to run to the toilet. The odds are good he's lying."
"Listen, you need to protect these women. Someone is trying to kill them. Even if you don't believe me, you know what a divisive issue this is. And you have to admit there are a lot of crackpots out there."
"They've received threatening letters at the office. Someone threw a rock through the window last week."
"Any idea who?"
"What was the threat?"
Shaking his head, he said, "That's confidential information."
"You can't tell me? Why?"
"Because I can't trust you in your current condition. Who knows who wrote those letters?"
"As in I might have?"
"What the hell are you talking about? Why would I threaten Elizabeth?"
"People who've gone through what you have get confused. Sometimes they try to reenact the situation that brought them success before. You've had to save Elizabeth. Maybe you're re-creating that situation."
My heart thumped faster. Blood rushed to my face. "So I threaten her, come backstage and shoot my gun, then claim I was fighting with a nonexistent attempted murderer."
I spat out a laugh. "Is this your theory?"
With his wolf eyes still locked on mine, he slowly shook his head. "But I have to guard against all threats just the same."
Goddamn you! My eyes focused on his nose. The first disorienting punch to the nose, double him over with a shot to the solar plexus, kick him in the face, stomp him into the floor.
Watching me from the corner of his eye, Riordan said, "Now tell me about your gunman. What did the man look like?"
"If you think it's me, what's the sense?"
"I told youI guard against all threats."
I should do it, I thought. Take this son of a bitch to the floor, take out my frustrations. It wasn't like he hadn't done it to me before. But Elizabeth. I had to remember, this was all for Elizabeth. "I couldn't see his face. Frankly, I mostly remember the gun, but my impression was that he was smaller than you or Brennanmore my size. He had dark hair. Gray suit."
He pointed at my head and then my chest. I caught his point. I also had brown hair and wore a gray suit. "Oh, good one, Dr. Freud," I said. "It's my subconscious trying to get me caught."
After watching me another moment, Riordan said, "Anything else you remember?"
"Not very helpful."
"I saw him at a distance and then I saw him in the dark." I stood. "Can I go now?"
Riordan put his hand on my shoulder. He seemed to tower over me in the little room. His six feet in height had me by four inches, but his ramrod-straight posture and ever-present gray fedora made him seem like an even taller man. "Listen, Will, I know you've been through a lot, but you've got to stay away from the campaign. You're not helping."
"You have to be kidding me! I kept that man from shooting"
"Elizabeth needs to get through this election." He spoke over the top of me. "Let her do that. That's a remarkable young lady you have there. Saved my life."
Copyright © 2013 by D. E. Johnson
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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