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The guys on the porch were watching football. Dale had cast the deciding vote on which game would be on. He had voted for the Chicago Bears because he thought his dad liked them.
In the first quarter the butler interrupted them. "Mister Hinerick, there are two gentlemen to see you. They are in the music hall. I am sure the you will be able to catch the end of the game, they promised to be brief." The butler knew Dale didn't know the shotgun from a safety, but just enjoyed the excitement.
One of the men stood and stuck his hand out to Dale. "Mister Hinerick. Sorry about the Bear's game. I'm Matt Franks from the State Fire Marshal, this is Henry Kim-Sung from the city police/fire arson task force. We would like to ask you a few questions if you don't mind."
"I was here when the fire started... I swear." Dale spurted.
Maggie parked the old car between a Kenworth and a battered tow truck, after she shut the engine off it continued running until they were all out and walking away. Then it clanked to a stop, only to backfire thunderously several times. Everybody in the restaurant looked their way, Maggie waved to them.
"They're just jealous, Bertha farts louder than any old truck." Maggie chuckled.
"Why Bertha?" Mary asked her.
"It was my grandmother's name, and it was her car. It's never been sold, just passed down through the family."
They found a table, Jack had picked up a paper off another table, they shuffled through it waiting for the waitress.
Maggie ordered a big country breakfast with extra potatoes. Mary had a short stack of light pancakes, Jack went with the special with extra sausage gravy. The waitress smiled and left.
Maggie looked at her reflection in the side of the napkin dispenser. "God, its been a long day." She told them she was going on just catnaps of sleep, and lots of coffee. She had spent the night calming girls, doing reports and interviews, and several trips to the building with different groups of inspectors and investigators.
They looked through the paper until the orders came. "Maggie, you're in the paper." Mary said looking at the front page. "I think that's you in the picture with the fire chief."
She nodded, she had already seen it early that morning. "So are you guys, there's a picture of you on the roof with the hose." Maggie took a bite of the potatoes. "A little salty." She said around the food. "Jack's in there twice. He's mentioned in the sports section, talking about the basketball team losing part of its season."
"What?" Jack said reaching for the sports section, he had been reading the funnies. Jack shuffled through the pages until he found the article. Mary looked over his shoulder at it.
Maggie continued her assault on her plate. She was plotting a way to get a nap a little later, somewhere without a phone.
Jack was getting mad, but there was nothing he could do. The paper said the conference was canceling the first two weeks of their basketball season as a sanction against the team for having several players busted in the drug raid. Jack was listed as one of the ones arrested but not charged.
"We know Mister Hinerick," He paused as Peggy walked in with the butler. "Miss High. May I call you Peggy and Dale?" Mr. Franks said with a gentle smile to them. They nodded, he continued. "We just want to know what you did for chief Majors, and did you see anything out of the ordinary. You had the best seats in the house."
Mr. Kim-Sung spoke up. "We appreciate your help, and Mister Burrows as well, he has already given us a statement and is helping in the investigation, we just need you guy's statements for the record."
"Did anybody in the crowd look out of place, or stand out in some way, do anything unusual? Anything at all." Franks asked them.
Dale and Peggy looked at each other.
"There was one guy." Peggy said softly, the investigators looked at her intently. "He kinda stood out, I noticed him right by the chief's truck when we first got there, then he seemed to follow us around back. He did stand out, he looked, well, funny, you know."
Dale was thinking, "With the big earrings?"
She nodded. "I thought it was strange that he wasn't cheering with everybody else when it started raining. He just stood there."
Dale remembered him, "He stood right by my window for a long time watching."
Franks was nodding his head in short quick moves, "Can you describe him? We need a good clear description."
"I can do better than that." She said. "I'll be right back."
In a few minutes Peggy came back with Colleen. Franks and Kim-Sung both snapped to attention when Colleen walked in with her sketchpad. Peggy did the introductions, Kim-Sung seemed to be having trouble focusing his eyes, he kept blinking.
Franks was rather blunt, "This will be used to track down a prime suspect in the fire investigation. Can you give us a good police sketch, the descriptions we have so far from Barrows and some others are a little vague, but these kids seem to have had a good look at our man."
Colleen nodded and smiled. "I will do my best sir."
'Perfect teeth', Kim-Sung thought to himself, 'shame she's not Korean.' What he said was, "I'm sure you will, miss."
Colleen asked them to just describe him first, then she'd work on the sketch, "Was his face thin, or round like Mr. Kim's?" She asked.
"Kim-Sung, Miss." He said smiling warmly at her.
"I think his face was thin, like, like his." Dale pointed to a picture on the wall of President Taylor.
Peggy added detail, "Yes, but thinner in the cheeks, and his chin wasn't as big."
"I think his ears were smaller too." Dale said staring at the picture. Trying to remember the details they wanted.
"Anything unusual about the way he was dressed?" Colleen asked.
"Yeah, he was wearing a Central letter jacket, but I don't think it said which Central, but it was green and yellow. And he was wearing earrings in both ears. Big ones."
Peggy nodded to Dale, "Triangle with chains on them, here, let me." She went to the sketch pad and drew the earrings in one corner. "And he had on false eyelashes, real thick ones."
Dale nodded, "At first I thought he was a girl, but then I noticed he needed a shave real bad, like a TV cop."
Slowly a picture was taking shape on Colleens' pad.
Jack shuddered at the last paragraph in the story, it was about the state's drug investigation, Jack was mentioned again as a possible witness if the case went to trial. "I do not want to testify, they'll find out..." He trailed off, remembering where he was.
"Find out what Jack?" Maggie asked.
"Nothing, just some dumb stuff that will look funny. I know they'll put me through a fire, I just do not want to testify."
Maggie nodded, she wasn't really listening. "Mary, can I borrow your floor shower and an outfit if you got one to fit me? I think I am beginning to smell like a linebacker."
Jack paid the check and greeted some of his friends in the place, Maggie walked through the travel store and picked up some items that had been picked clean in all the stores near campus, Mary paid for them for her. Maggie thanked them over and over again. Then they drove back to campus in old Bertha.
Colleen took all her rough sketches and descriptions to a corner table in the music room, the others chatted while she worked.
Mr. Burrows came in and joined the circle waiting on her. Colleen only stopped a couple of times to asked specific questions about small details. In a short time she stood and walked over to them with her pad.
"That's him." Dale said as soon as she showed them the pad.
"Peggy, is this the guy? You must be one hundred percent certain."
"Yes sir." She said without hesitation.
"I swear she had been looking right at him when she drew it." Burrows added, he had seen the man in question a couple of times at the fire, for that matter, so had Chief Majors and Miss Alice, but they had been too busy to really pay that much attention to the crowd.
"Miss Colleen, could you give us a picture with a little color, like he would have looked that night?" Kim-Sung asked her.
"Sure, give me a minute." She went back to her table. In five more minutes they had several more pictures. A full page one with rain and lights and the glare from the fire in the man's eyes with some of the crowd behind him, except the crowd was obviously happy, he was scowling.
Then there were two other pictures of the face, one with makeup and eyelashes, the other without. "How are these?" She asked presenting them to the investigators.
"That's amazing." Burrows said looking at it. "I want a copy of this to take over to the TV station, they panned the crowd several times, maybe they got him on tape."
"Now then, will you all be staying for dinner?" The butler asked from the door.
Jack was watching two different ball games on the TV. One a football game, then during the commercials, a baseball playoff game. The girls went to wash the smoke smell out of Maggie's hair, she wasn't shy at all about asking for help.
Mary took her shampoo and they went down the all to the bathroom. Maggie's hair was long, down to the middle of her back, but she wore it up most of the time. She loved having long hair, but she hated the trouble she had with it.
Maggie's hair was the subject of an open discussion group in the bathroom, it seemed everybody in the dorm had a different opinion on how to get the smell of smoke out. They tried several different rinses and conditioners, but nothing seemed to help.
Finally they gave up. Maggie smelled her own hair. "Yuch." She said.
Mary sniffed it, "It's not that bad."
"Maybe my nose is contaminated. All I can smell is smoke."
Maggie wrapped a towel around herself and another one around her head. They laughed at her reflection in the mirror. Her hair had not wanted to get wrapped in the towel, and it went every which way.
Maggie made an obscene gesture at the mirror and walked out of the bathroom. Mary laughed with the other girls and followed a minute later.
Jack was still sitting with the TV on. Maggie was off to one side drying off and getting dressed.
"Jack!" Mary snapped. Maggie seemed more startled than he was.
Maggie didn't seem to be embarrassed at all, Jack smiled broadly, Mary was fuming. "What's wrong?" Maggie asked her.
"Jack, you..." Mary waved her hand back and forth.
"What's he gonna see that he ain't seen before? And if he touches me, I might slug him where it hurts." Maggie said, Jack just smiled.
The vote on supper from the investigators and Mr. Burrows was yes.
In a few minutes all talk of the fire was banned and they sat down at the table with the people of the house.
Before long they were discussing the football season. With only five games to go, they were in second place in the conference, the best the team had done in years. It was beginning t look like the last game of the season, their homecoming, would decide the conference championship, and the winner might have a shot at a minor holiday bowl game bid. With the records of the teams involved, the national championship of 1-AA was out of the question.
Most of those that knew football expected Southern Illinois to beat the snot out of them. The Salukis were an experienced team, with a senior quarterback who was breaking school records at nearly every game.
The butler disagreed, "I see us winning, not by very much, but I think we will win this game."
Only those around the table that didn't know the man smiled at the remark.
Jack left to go check him mail and get a fresh change of clothes.
The girls talked for awhile then left for the mall to shop for Maggie a coat, hers was hopelessly contaminated with smoke.
They found the stores were nearly bare in the women's department. The five hundred displaced girls had had to replace almost every essential of life, from underwear up.
Some local churches had let the girls pick through their clothing banks, the Red Cross had sent some bundles of clothes and bags of personal care items. Many of the girls had taken advantage of this opportunity.
Maggie found a coat that would serve, her being a little larger in build than the average college girl gave her a broader selection of the remaining clothes than somebody smaller would have had. "This is the only time I can remember being big-boned has actually paid off." She told the saleswoman.
Back on campus Maggie said she had to check on Westin, she was supposed to keep an eye on it. Maggie handed Mary a flashlight, they stepped over the police ribbon and entered the hulking ruin.
It was deathly quiet, occasionally the building creaked and groaned. Maggie didn't seem unnerved at all, she looked in rooms and pointed her light up through holes to see what she could see.
"Scavenges have been in here again." She pointed to a dresser where there was a clean spot where something had been removed. "Somebody helped themselves to a TV."
Mary followed her back down the hall. "Why can't they post security in here?"
Maggie shrugged, "They'll probably claim they don't have the money to pay the overtime."
Upstairs Maggie opened her door. Her apartment had been spared fire damage, but the water and smoke had ruined most of what she had. Her stereo had been soaked, her clothes were ruined by falling wet plaster, and then there was the sentimental things partly destroyed by the tons of water the fire department had used on the building battling the fire. They left the apartment with a few of Maggie's things.
Mary started to feel like an explorer. The stairways were little more than open chasms, there were holes in the walls and ceilings. The smell of burnt mattresses and wet plaster was everywhere. Bare timbers stuck up from rubble, and occasionally a wisp of smoke was seen rising from the rubble. Finally Maggie was satisfied, they headed out.
"WHO'S THERE!" A voice shouted from down the dark hall.
"ME! Carmicheal, Dorm Super. Who's there?"
"Thought so. It's Cindy, you were called in as prowlers, the campus police are on the way."
"Wonderful, they let somebody carry out the good stuff but come to arrest me." Maggie shook her head.
"Let's go Mags." Mary said to her friend.
The talk around the supper table turned to the fire, Burrows told about how the girls had been piled into the old Catholic dorm.
"That dorm is ancient, it's only used for visitors now." Benjamin said.
"Who would stay there?" Peggy asked. She had been through the old building on a tour when she visited the campus in the spring.
Burrows answered the question while he stirred his coffee, "Visiting sports teams that can't afford a motel, conventions on campus in the summer, Church functions. It's used quite a bit, which is why it hasn't been torn down. It comes in handy."
Somehow the idea came up that the Roz house had extra room.
Miss Alice immediately seized on the idea of using three of their four guestrooms to have six of the girls move into the house. "Peggy, you and I will drive over there and find six girls who would like to stay here until more permanent accommodations can be found for them."
Cont in Two Dorms Part 13
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