The Simsville Inheritance
Copyright ©2006 Elizabeth G. Cox. All rights reserved.

Chapter 20 - Can't Keep This One Under Wraps

Johnson and I had both headed to the back door of the bank with Jones hard on our heels, even though the chief was trying his best to dissaude any of us from entering the building.

"You said it was just smoke!" Johnson snapped, determined to see for himself. The other council members had edged closer, some at the front window, some just behind us, whispering to themselves. The fire hoses had been stopped and the firemen were straightening up their gear.

The building was definitely devoid of people, and except for the remnants of smoke and the puddles of water nothing inside the bank looked out of the ordinary. Desks, chairs, the usual office paraphernalia of pens, paper clips, deposit slips, all seemed as usual for a work day. The wooden gate to the deposit box section was closed and the heavy vault was shut. That seemed a bit odd; during business hours the vault door would stand open, unlocked by an automatic timer. This not being an ordinary bank, I wasn't sure that was the practice here. In any case, there were no signs of a struggle, no overturned furniture, no blood. I was grateful for that.

"Guys, this is a crime scene, we'd better not touch anything." Jones turned a slow circle in the middle of the room and I saw a flicker when his eyes paused for a split second at the vault door. He added another few words under his breath to Johnson, and reluctantly Johnson stopped in his tracks. He had been on the verge of pulling open a cash drawer, presumably to see if any money was missing.

"Chief, check the cash drawers, please." Johnson's voice was strained. "Use your glove to slide the drawers open." I knew he was thinking about Charlotte. Her kidnapping had not been reported to anyone and the chief knew nothing about that. I wondered how anybody got past both Jack and Alice without one of them setting off an alarm. A familiar face, maybe? But Charlotte's kidnapper was a stranger to town...

"All the cash drawers are empty, folks. Guess we'd better get the sheriff over here. He's going to want the FBI, I imagine," the chief announced as he slid the last drawer back into place. "We'd better check the vault too." He motioned Johnson over. "Can you get this thing open?"

Johnson pulled his keys out of his pocket, selected and inserted one into the lock. After entering a series of numbers into the security panel on the vault entrance, he swung the heavy door open. No people inside and no bodies either. I breathed a sigh of relief.

"Nothing seems touched in here." The deposit boxes were closed and seemed intact, just as they should be. Jones and Johnson glanced into each other's eyes. Johnson's face had something of a question mark expression, and I thought I saw Jones give a little nod with his chin.

"We'd better clear the scene outside, chief." Jones rubbed his hand over his face, squeezing his eyes shut, then back open. "Then you and Johnson and I'd better talk a minute before you make that call to the sheriff." I didn't envy him that conversation.

I touched Jones on the arm. "I'll head back at the house." He just gave me a nod as the chief walked outside to give some instructions to his men. The fire trucks were idle and the firemen had pulled off their heavy coats and hats. A couple of them started rolling crime scene tape in a wide swath around the bank and parking lot.

Asa McCants and Jeffrey Cloninger leaned against the closest storefront listening to the remaining council members who stood facing each other, speaking in low voices. I could almost see the wheels turning in their minds, pretty much the same way they were in mine. I walked over in time to hear Green's suggestion.

"Let's finish up this talk back at to the saloon, guys. I'll make us a pot of coffee." She got no argument from anyone and the group turned away from the bank.

"I'm going to skip it for now, I'm going to go bring Smith up to speed." Green waved okay as I started walking towards the house. This whole thing seems too amateurish, I thought. Why take the staff, why not just tie them up and rob the bank?

"Avery?" Silver called to me before I had gone ten feet. I turned to see him walking briskly towards me. "I'll walk with you a ways, if you don't mind." I wondered what was on his mind. This direction was out of his way, not towards the saloon or the Town Cryer office.

"What do you think about all this, Avery?" There seemed to be a touch of anxiety in Silver's tone of voice.

"I think it's peculiar, to say the least. Do you think this is related to Charlotte's kidnapping, Silver? If it's not it sure is a very strange coincidence."

"Oh, I'm afraid so. Question is, with Charlotte home safe and sound, that kidnapper is bound to be identified sooner or later. Why risk something else now? Seems quite a large risk to take two more people, and not just any people, either. If it's even an amateur, that is. That's truly worrisome."

Silver didn't have to explain what he meant. Alice held the electronic keys to everyone's offshore accounts, all their retirement funds, their investment funds, everything. Even my inheritance, all the cash generated by Simsville itself. This didn't sound like an amateur to me. I'm sure it didn't to Jones and Johnson either.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 |