I knocked at the fifth door down from the Canns’ home, my eyes bleary from the fruitless monotony. An elderly woman with frayed, artificially ginger hair poked her nose out at me and narrowed her beady eyes.
After waving my badge, I focused on my notebook. “How you doin’, ma’am. I have a few questions about the Canns family if you have a minute.”
She shouldered her way onto the porch with me, her makeup-pasted complexion brightening at the prospect. “Anything to help, officer. I saw the police haul out that Sawyer man and his lady friend. I heard it was a drugs bust.”
“Not a drug bust, but that’s actually not what I’m here to talk about.”
“I really think it was, though. Sheryl said that she’s certain of some kind of drugs deals happening at that house.”
I rubbed my eyes with impatience. “I assure you it wasn’t about drugs. I’m inquiring about Sawyer Canns’ sons, Curtis and Owen, who went missing a couple years ago.”
“Oh, a policeman came asking about that at the time but I’m afraid I wasn’t much help back then and I’m not sure I have anything to add now.”
“So you never heard any rumors about the boys’ disappearance?”
“On the contrary, I heard too many to count,” she chuckled. “But personally, I’m convinced they ran off. Like I said, that father of theirs basically runs a drug cartel out of his house. Curtis and Owen didn’t need to be around that.”
“We really haven’t found any evidence that Sawyer Canns was involved in any drug use,” I sighed, “and we’re not convinced that the boys ran away.”
She pursed her lips so tightly that they whitened to match the tone of her skin. “Mark my words, something sketchy is happening there. I keep an eye on the place. There’s always rusty, junkie cars rolling up there. And how do you think he affords to keep the place so nice? He’s a road worker. Where did he get the money to hire Todd to take care of his lawn? And pay him so outrageous an amount?”
I nodded along. “We know about Sawyer’s financial situation, but thank you for your time. I think I have everything I need.”
She yelled after me as I ambled down the steps, “You know how much money Todd brings in from Sawyer? He doesn’t have another job, you know. He keeps the lawn trimmed once a week, then goes out and buys himself that French car on the salary. It doesn’t make sense.”
I froze in my tracks. “French car?”
“Mm-hm.” She stuck her chin in the air with self importance. “That Bagetti, or whatever it’s called.”
I blinked. “A Bugatti?”
“That’s the one.”
I marched back up to her. “Todd the gardener owns a Bugatti?”
“He’s a lawnkeeper, and yes. How does Sawyer pay him enough for that?”
“There’s no way Sawyer Canns has that kind of money,” I mulled over. “What did Todd do before gardening?”
“He’s always mowed lawns, but Sawyer hired him full time as his personal groundskeeper.”
“When was Todd hired?”
“Around the time the boys went missing, I think. Sawyer’s yard fell into disrepair while he was in mourning and I believe Todd reached out to offer his services. I guess the one time favor stuck long term.”
“Was Todd rich before that, do you know?”
“Well, he didn’t have the Bagutta back then,” she pondered. “But I suppose he has always kept up nice appearances. He’s always been quite the gentleman, especially considering his occupation, always elbow deep in dirt. He seems to be a very caring man.”
“Did he care about Curtis and Owen?” I posed curtly.
“I suppose he did,” she considered. “He used to always say hello when they were playing in the yard.”
“And did we question him back then, after the boys went missing?”
“We were all questioned.” She shrugged. “As far as I know, none of us on the street were ever suspected. There was no reason that any of us would do such a horrible thing. Sawyer is the worst of us, so it only made sense that the kids ran away.”
“Right, where does Todd live?”
She pointed down the street at a pristine house catty cornered from the Canns. Sure enough, a dark gray Bugatti hid in the shadows of the wide open garage.
“Thank you,” I called as I sprinted away without a backward glance.
“Always happy to help the law,” she crooned behind me.
As I drew up to his resident, I slowed until my approach seemed more casual, not wanting to spook the only real suspect I had. My gut writhed with disgust and anxiety as I strolled into the presence of a potential monster. The eeriness that slithered across my skin told me that I was onto something. I clenched every muscle to control my tenacity and tapped at the door.
Several minutes of pounding elapsed before the locks clanked out of the way and the testy gardener scowled out at me. He left his screen door between us.
“Come to mess up my yard too?”
“I really couldn’t care less about how green your grass is. I’m doing a job that contributes to society.”
“A job where you knock down doors and accuse innocent people?”
“Pointing fingers at a few innocents is worth the embarrassment if it uncovers the real criminals.”
“Like Sawyer?” he scoffed.
I cocked an eyebrow. “Unhappy that I arrested your employer?”
“Quite the opposite actually. He was up to some shady stuff. I don’t care what happens to him.”
“Not much loyalty.”
“I reserve loyalty for the people that deserve it.”
I cleared my throat. “Do you have a loyalty to the police department, to justice?”
He straightened up and retorted, “Of course.”
“Then do you mind if I come in?”
“Just to talk. If you want to see justice served you’ll cooperate, right?”
His smirk resembled more of a snide sneer. “Anything for the boys in blue.” He slung the screen door aside and gestured me in.
Though his house was of reasonable size, the sophistication was what you might expect to find inside the mansion of a bachelor. A television spanned nearly the entire living room wall, an intricately sculpted statue of a nude woman balanced on a pedestal in the corner, and his leather sectional with speakers installed stepped right out of the thirtieth century.
“Quite the man cave,” I remarked.
“Gotta entertain myself somehow.”
“I noticed the Bugatti outside too.”
“Are you jealous, detective?”
“Absolutely,” I feigned camaraderie. “My salary could never cover a car like that.”
“That’s too bad. I’d highly recommend it to anyone.”
“I’d imagine your car loans take a pretty big chunk of your paycheck,” I tested the waters.
He lounged back on the couch and kicked his feet up, entirely in his element under the suspicious scrutiny. “Yeah, my finances took a hit, but it’s worth it.”
“But Sawyer paid you pretty well, right? That’s gotta help.”
His inscrutable mask hardened. “Not that I don’t enjoy a nice chat about cars, but I believe you came here to serve justice somehow. Perhaps we should get down to business.”
“Sure.” I contained my resentment and sat down across from him. “I have some questions about the Canns.”
“You mean after what happened today? Terrible thing.”
“That family does seem to have a hard time, doesn’t it?” I prodded. “First the kids, then Risa Mullohan, then Sawyer. If I didn’t know better, it’s almost like someone is out to get them.”
He ground his teeth. “Life can seem that way sometimes. But bad luck is just bad luck, in my opinion. Or maybe we all make our own fate.”
The hairs on the back of my neck pricked up. “You mean to say they deserve what’s happened?”
He drummed on the armrest, lost in thought. “Maybe they do.”
“What makes you feel that way?”
“Well, there’s Risa and her drug problem. An OD was inevitable. And losing the kids? That’s what happens when you neglect them.”
“You seem to know a lot about it. You see a lot from across the street here, don’t you?”
“More than you can know.”
“What about any drug deals with Sawyer? Ever see anything to imply that?”
“Sawyer? No. The guy isn’t smart enough for that.”
“But you’re sure Risa was a user?”
“That’s how she died, isn’t it?”
“Seems so,” I muttered through my clenched jaw. “But some of the neighbors noticed some shady cars pulling up to Sawyer’s place, presumably to get a fix. You’re over there a lot working on the lawn. You’re telling me you haven’t noticed anything like that?”
His eyes narrowed. “You seem to think I’m aware of all the Canns’ business.”
My glare proved insuppressible. “Aren’t you?”
He chuckled. “What are you insinuating?”
Heat flared in my chest. “That maybe those shady cars weren’t there to see Sawyer. It would be a good cover, using a different address so none of the suspicion falls back on you. And everyone overlooks the gardener.”
A shadow cast across his cheekbone as he bowed his head. “This isn’t a game of Clue, officer. You don’t pick a murderer at random, stick them in an envelope, and call it game over. Where’s your proof?”
“Your lavish lifestyle is enough to raise some red flags. Any other officer would agree with me.”
“So, what, you think I’m a drug dealer?”
“A high end one, I’d say.”
“And even if that were the case, what does that have to do with the Canns?”
“It means you might have $200,000 to throw away on some kids that you viewed as ‘mistreated.’”
He rocked forward and his glower burned into me. “Sounds like a noble cause to me.”
Unable to hold back any longer, I bounded up from the couch. “Where are the boys?”
He stood to match me. “Why would they be here?”
I shoved past him and hollered down the hall. “Curtis?”
When no answer came, I whirled around to confront Todd again only to be met with the base of his nude statue cracking against my skull.
To be continued in Bridges 7...
© 2021 by Kelsey Garber