This story started here.
Sometimes when my employer sends me off to investigate something, it’s because she actually wants the information that I might unearth.
Sometimes it’s because she has writing to do and is finding my presence in our room to be distracting.
And sometimes it’s because she doesn’t want to say something to me — something specific — and so she needs me to be elsewhere for a while.
I had a pretty good idea which category this fell into, but I didn’t say so. I just nodded, bade her a cheerful good day, and set out on my assigned task.
(Of course, it could have been two or even three of those explanations. Or something else entirely.)
The first part — traveling to Heron Island without being seen by the residents of Heron House — was easier than it might have been. My friend Millie had recently found herself in need of a new job, and she had become a cab driver.
I called her and she picked me up about forty-five minutes later. I outlined the plan as she drove toward the highway.
Her cab was an old Checker, with jump seats and a sizable tonneau, and I figured there was plenty of room for me to get down on the floor and be invisible to pedestrians and other drivers without being especially uncomfortable.
“Heron Island, huh?” she said. “Your boss is hunting ghosts now?”
This caught me by surprise, and she tossed a newspaper into the back seat with me. It was the Claremont Crier, and the lurid headline and the beginning of the article told me that our quiet, isolated murder mystery had become, or was in the process of becoming, a local sensation.
“Ah,” I said. “Well, we think — or at least I’m pretty sure we think — that it’s not supernatural.”
“Did you read the end of the article?” she asked as she pulled out onto the highway. “Nobody’s being allowed on the island who doesn’t live there. If they’re checking, I’m pretty sure they’ll see you down on the floor there. You want me to stop so you can go hide in the trunk?”
Checker cabs have a large trunk, but this was not an appealing idea, so we stopped at the house of my friend Professor Lebrun and borrowed a couple of things.
When we approached the police car which was blocking the road to the island, I was behind the wheel, peaked cap on my head and cigarette in the corner of my mouth. Millie was in the back seat, wearing a pair of dark glasses (hers) and a sailor’s hat which she’d found in Lebrun’s closet.
We stopped as the deputies approached, and Millie rolled down her window in order to hand them a note that I’d written, explaining who I was, and who I worked for, and my desire not to be seen, as myself, making the crossing to the island, as part of assisting the sheriff with her investigation.
My employer hadn’t mentioned keeping my visit a secret from the police, after all.
I had met one of the deputies before, and he shrugged and motioned for us to proceed. It seemed like maybe we’d over-prepared, but that’s not a bad thing.