This story started here.
On the other side of Pine Street, Main Street stopped being “Main Street” and turned back into a regular Claremont street with modest houses, trees, and a narrow sidewalk which, after the first block or so, petered out completely.
The headquarters of the Claremont Crier, which was about four blocks from Pine Street, did not look very Claremont at all.
The house next to it, for example, looked like it had been there for at least a hundred years (a bit longer, actually, as I found out later). Dark wood, tall windows on the ground floor, ornate front door, decks on three sides — it reminded me a bit of the Devane house, but much smaller and more inviting, surrounded by several tall trees.
I made a mental note of the small sign planted next to the path to the front door: “Used books for sale. Tuesday through Thursday – 2-6pm.”
The headquarters of the Claremont Crier, however, was a flat, uninteresting structure of poured concrete and cinder blocks. It was painted a rather dull color. The sign next to the front door was small and white. The building needed more windows, I thought.
Aesthetics aside, my biggest concern was cars. There was a narrow parking lot in front of the building, just a row of cars side-by-side facing the building (well, one car was cleverly parked facing out). As I got close to the front of the building, still walking across the street, slowly, I saw a secondary lot to the right of the building, mostly containing delivery trucks.
I strolled to the corner and crossed the street.
I was looking for Kate Lane’s car, which wasn’t visible anywhere. That was good. My employer had led her to believe that we had no interest in the Deacon case, so I didn’t want to run into her while I was doing my research.
She would find out eventually that we were investigating a Deacon case (although of course not the exact one she had asked about). My employer had told her the truth, technically, but I preferred to deal with that issue later (or, preferably, let my employer deal with it — this was all her plan, after all).
I went up to the front door and tried it. I expected it to be locked, but it opened.
The small office I stepped into was unoccupied. There was one desk with several issues of the Crier, some rather haphazard stacks of paper, including unopened mail, and a variety of telephones. I could hear a low, steady hum from elsewhere in the building.
There was only one other door in the small room, and it was a dutch door. The top half was open and the bottom half was closed, so I felt ambivalent about proceeding further.
“Marshall O’Connor!” boomed a voice from behind me, and I turned to see a man with short, iron-gray hair come in from outside, carrying a small, greasy paper bag, I had not heard a car pull up.
I have a good memory, and I was reasonably sure I’d never met this man before, but he switched his greasy bag to his left hand and firmly (and greasily) shook my hand with his right. His short-sleeved white shirt was a bit too snug and his necktie was a bit too short.
“Saw your photograph in the ones we took at the Devane trial.” He circled his desk and sat down. “Didn’t publish it, of course. Your boss lady sells more papers.” He leaned back in his chair, which creaked. “I imagine you’re here to do research on the Deacon family, for the case which your boss is not investigating.”
I raised an index finger, for some reason, but he continued. “I get–”
One of his phones rang and he picked it up, motioning me into the inner precincts of the building.