Julie's heart stopped. She stepped back from the swinging door.
Mr. Smith's head was poked through the serving window, in full view of the officer.
Alfred's chef hat was pulled down, tightly, over his hair. His face looked naked without his glasses and goatee, and he held a spatula in his hand like he'd been cooking all his life. He looked absolutely nothing like the face in the photograph.
He grinned at Officer Barnes.
"What'll you have?"
Later that morning, my friend William slammed the door of his Jaguar in the parking lot of the police station. He glared at Sam over the top of the car before continuing their discussion.
No one was listening today.
"I'm not obsessed," William said. "He's ruined my life. He pretends to be my friend, and then he ruins my deal…"
Sam let out one of his indulgent little sighs.
"You have more money than you'll ever spend. You know what I'd do?"
Yes. He knew.
"What? Walk away from it."
"Remember the condo complex? I was into the oil thing before they could throw the contracts away."
Had everybody turned against him?
The police station was just as he remembered it—filthy blond woodwork, the overheated air stinking from burnt coffee, constant chatter and joking among the staff. It was a wonder any work got done.
If it did.
Chief Oakes sat on the edge of a desk, a styrofoam cup in his hand, telling a story to a sergeant.
This was going to be so much fun.
The Chief continued his story.
William coughed again.
The Chief kept right on talking.
Oakes glanced up, then grinned at his sergeant.
"I'll tell you the rest later."
He wandered over to the counter.
"I filed a complaint on a Dudley Smith this morning."
Oakes nodded then turned to scan the room. He called out to a officer in the corner. The kid looked about twelve. He was probably in charge of the case.
"Jim! Come here for a minute."
Jim sauntered over.
Sauntered. Did anyone ever hurry around here?
William tried to get the Chief's attention back.
"This man is the worst kind of con artist" he said. "I want him brought to justice quickly, before he can ruin anyone else's life."
Oakes condescended a smile, then turned to the boy wonder.
"Officer Barnes, this is Mr. William Hogan. How's the search for Mr. Smith going?"
He knew it. The twelve-year-old was running the case. The kid grinned his sincere little grin and pulled the picture from his sincere little shirt pocket.
"Nobody's seen him, sir. I've shown this to half the town."
Didn't anyone understand how important this was?
Oakes reached for the picture.
"Let me see that."
William tried to get his attention back.
"I really want to impress upon you just how dangerous this man is…"
He was interrupted by Oakes' delighted laugh.
"This is Smith?"