Armed with two plates of food, I walked into the police station around 9 p.m. after I got a text from T.J. telling me they were there. Becky, the new night dispatcher, waved at me as I went down the hall to Owen’s office. “Anyone hungry?” I said as I walked in.
T.J. took the plates from me, and handed one to Owen. “Thanks. I thought I was going to have to raid the vending machines down the hall.”
“I wouldn’t,” Owen replied. “The chips in there are about two years old.”
I waited a few minutes while they ate before asking any questions. “So, did you find out anything about our dead guy?”
Owen and T.J. looked at each other before Owen answered. “You know, sometimes you are scary.”
I looked at him, shocked. “What did I do? I just got here!”
“I’m talking about your instincts when it comes to sensing when things are wrong.”
I leaned forward. “So Coogan is dirty.”
“Well, don’t keep me in suspense, Owen! Tell me!”
“There is no record of an Oliver Coogan anywhere.”
“No driver’s license, no Social Security number, no criminal record?”
“Nope, nope, and nope.”
“Wow. Have you run his fingerprints yet?”
He shook his head. “I’m waiting on Doc to bring the body back so we can get a clean set of prints. He wanted to check for trace evidence under our dead man’s nails first.”
“Have to talked to Dale yet?”
“We went by his house and office before we came here, but he wasn’t at either place,” T.J. said. “Do you have any idea where he might be?”
“Me? Why would I know?”
“He’s your boss. Surely you know the places he might go to when he’s not working.”
“Your guess is as good as mine. Dale doesn’t share his personal life with any of us. Did you try his secretary?”
“Got the same answer from her that we got from you,” T.J. replied. “For a normally nosy person, you don’t know very much.”
“There are certain things that you do not ask him about, and his private life is strictly off-limits. He has made it perfectly clear that what he does outside of the office is none of our concern.”
“Like that’s ever stopped you before,” Owen snorted.
“Did you check the club?” I shot back. “Every other male in town hangs out there, why should Dale be any different?”
“Trixie said she hasn’t seen him out there in months,” Owen said.
“Maybe he went out of town.”
I shrugged. “He’s working on a story. Maybe he is chasing down a source.”
“Then I feel sorry for his source,” Owen said, “considering the last one is dead.”
“Maybe you can get your tech guy to trace his last call. Maybe they can tell you where he was calling from.”
“That’s a great idea,” T.J. said, “if we knew who he called last.”
“That would be me, as far as I know.”
Owen looked at me. “Why didn’t you say so?”
“You didn’t ask,” I said, handing T.J. the phone.
“Anything else you want to share with the class?” Owen said.
I bit my lower lip. Would Dale want everyone to know about his personal business? If he wasn’t at home or the office, where was he?
“Spill it, Lizzie,” T.J. said. “What do you know?”
“I talked to Mother about Dale. The person she told me about is not the same person that we know. Did you know that he used to be married?”
“Are you serious?” Owen said. “Someone actually married the Grump of Texas?”
“And he had a daughter.”
“Wait, you said ‘had’,” T.J. said. “She’s dead?”
“So is his wife. According to Mother, his wife and daughter were killed in an accident about thirty years ago.”
“Whoa,” Owen said.
“He was living back east when it happened. Mother said he quit his job and moved back home.”
“What does this have to do with our dead guy?”
T.J. looked at me. “You think it does.”
“I don’t know if it does or doesn’t. Dale told me to stay out of his business or he’d fire me. That tells me that something is going on, and he may be in over his head. Thirty years of depending on no one but yourself, he probably doesn’t know how to ask for help.”
“Considering his past, he probably won’t,” Owen pointed out.
A knock on the door interrupted us, and we turned to see Doc standing there, looking nervous. “What are you doing here?” Owen said.
“We have a problem,” Doc said. “I seem to have lost the body.”
“You what?!” Owen said. “How do you lose a body between the crime scene and your office?”
“I have no idea. I stopped at the convenience store to get something to drink, and…”
“You stopped? You left the body unattended so you could quench your thirst?”
“Well, I didn’t expect the man to climb out of the body bag, open the back door and run off. He was DEAD!”