M L Gammella’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Another When - Part 9
I refolded the list of items that Roger had in his special room. The paper had quickly become dog-earred with the amount of times I opened and folded it.
I didn’t even need to look at it anymore. I had the list memorized already. The images from that room and closet were burned into my retinas. I never had an eidetic memory but this, with this I recalled everything.
A pretty young waitress brought some fresh tea and toast as I sat looking out toward the street. She smiled politely and let me be before turning to end to her other tables.
Margaret and I had many breakfasts like this. She had a collection of prized teacups and sauces that she’d pick one for each Sunday morning for tea. Each one was different and her selection was never random. Margaret picked whichever teacup and saucer fit her mood and seemed to call to her.
My favorite saucer had a bright pink-red floral print with a delicate scalloped edge. The matching cup continued the floral pattern. It embodied Margaret to me.
I spread some strawberry jam on my toast and considered my next move. Should I try to confront Roger myself? Should I call the cops instead? If I confront Roger, how would I explain my presence in this time? If I called the cops, could they do anything? Would they do anything based on an anonymous tip?
My mind spun as I considered both options.
If Roger really did kill Margaret, then he was the one that framed me. He has more than enough of my things to be able to deflect his crimes on me, which clearly worked since I sat in prison for years on a crime I did not commit.
I had to try ... but would it be worth it in the end? Would it do any good?
If it meant stopping Roger, then yes, it would be worth it. I would gladly spend all that time in prison, and even more, if it meant Margaret lived. Anything would be worth saving her.
I finished my tea and toast and quietly walked out of the restaurant. I took a chance by even going there and I didn’t want to try my luck and be recognized. Sure, I looked much older than my current time self, but someone could still figure out who I was.
I hoped there were still pay phones around. They were long gone in my time. In my time, phones were much smaller and much more portable. However, today was my lucky day. There was a couple of pay phones around the corner from the cafe. It looked like it had seen better days. But, as long as it worked, I didn’t care about it’s appearance.
A well-worn and much abused phone book, missing several chunks of pages, hung limply from a metal cord connected to the phone booth. As I approached, a foul odor wafted from the book. Some desperate individuals had used the phone book for either toilet paper or target practice. With a grimace, I gingerly flipped through the pages, trying to minimize my contact with it.
It was disgusting, but I needed the phone number for the police department. Sure, I could’ve called 911, but it wasn’t an emergency and I didn’t want the call to be traced. I couldn’t take the chance that they would be able to pin me down as the caller. Hopefully, just by calling and giving an anonymous tip, it would be enough to avoid a future emergency.
After slipping the correct change into the coin slot, I dialed the number and impatiently listed to the phone ring. I cradled the phone between my neck and shoulder as I wiped my hands on my pants. They still felt dirty, no matter what I did, after touching that horribly befouled book. I wouldn’t wait to wash them.
“Clarksville Police Department. How can I help you?” a somewhat bored female dispatcher answered.
“Hi, I need to report a crime,” I replied, deepening my voice to help disguise it.
“What is the nature of the crime?”
“Theft, breaking and entering, stalking. I’m afraid he’s going to hurt someone.”
The dispatcher seemed to pay more attention. “Who is that, sir?”
“Roger Lockwood. He stole clothing and personal items from Harry & Margaret Churchill. He has an obsession with Margaret. I’m afraid he’s going to hurt her or Roger.”
The woman cleared her throat. “What is Roger’s address?”
“323 Seminole St.”
“Thank you. And how did you come about this information?”
“I’ve seen it. Roger has a special room on the second floor of his house. It’s full of pictures of Margaret, and their belongings he stole.”
“Why would Roger show this to you?”
“Then how did you see it?”
“I was there. Just believe me, it’s there,” I insisted.
“How do you know Roger, sir?” the dispatcher asked, trying a different tack.
“I’m a ... neighbor.”
“What’s your name and address so we can reach you if our detectives have questions?”
“You can call me John Doe and you don’t need my address. Just believe me, Roger Lockwood is going to do something bad and you need to stop him.”
The dispatcher sighed. “Very well, sir. I will send a squad out to Mr. Lockwood’s house to talk to him. However, we can’t search his house without his permission or a search warrant. A phoned-in tip won’t give us probable cause to search. Margaret or Harry themselves need to come in and file a police report. Will they be able to do this?”
Harry huffed in frustration. “They don’t know. I only came about it on accident. I didn’t want to frighten them by telling them their neighbor is stalking Margaret! Can’t the police do anything?”
“Like I said sir, I will dispatch a car to Roger’s house to see if they can detect anything from talking to him. The officers can ask to search the house, but if Mr. Lockwood says no, then there isn’t anything else they can do without probable cause or a warrant.”
“Thank you. I can only hope that he allows them to, although I doubt it. She’s in danger, she really is.”
“Okay sir, thank you for calling it in.”
I hung up, discouraged. I had hoped that the police would be able to take care of everything. They operate off of tips all the time, why is this any different. Damn laws. Damn probable cause. It looks like I’d still have to come up with a plan of some sort. If the cops show up at Roger’s house and don’t arrest him, all it will do is tip him off that someone knows about his room.
Wait. No. What if ...
I sat down on a nearby bench as my knees gave out.
What did I just do?
Thinking back to the trial, I remembered that there was a brief mention of an anonymous tip shortly before Margaret’s death. I didn’t put much stock on it as it was so incredibly random and the police had no idea who made the call, except for a ‘neighbor’ and he couldn’t be found afterwards for questioning.
Would Roger have killed Margaret if I hadn’t made the anonymous tip? The contents of the room were indicative that he had been watching Margaret for some time. Why did he act out when he did? Maybe he knew someone was onto him and felt pressured to make Margaret ‘his’ before it was too late?
I stared at my hands, all this time thinking I was innocent of Margaret’s murder, when it turned out I’m the one that signed her death warrant.
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M L Gammella lives in Ohio with her husband and their three pets. She is currently working on her first novel, a paranormal suspense based in Maine. Please follow her at @MLGammella and visit her website at Onward to the Written Word.