The line under the picture of the current Sherriff said “To Serve Man” stood just inside the door. It a twist on the old “To protect and serve” most departments use. I look a little harder while I’m waiting in the security line. He is a clean cut, military looking guy. It makes me wonder what secrets he’s keeping.
Yeah, I’ve gotten cynical.
I had texted McMillan of my arrival. “Come on in” was the immediate replay. I sigh. I was hoping for a minute in the parking lot to collect my thoughts. I put my gun in the lockbox under the dash and head on in. As I get out of the car, I notice the sign on a post next to my car: “Directions to the Travolta Farm here!”, with a box of maps. You would think you were in L.A. or something. I guess this backwater place has to have way to fight the Holiday Blues.
I empty the pockets at security. No issues. I didn’t think there would be. A couple seconds I see McMillan. He was a dead ringer for Derek in Criminal Minds, a touch over 6 feet, cue ball head, six pack visible through the green golf shirt. The badge was on his belt and I could see where his holster would clip to his hip.
“Mr. Holden?” The voice didn’t match. It was high pitched, almost feminine with a distinctive southern lilt. He held out a beefy hand and continued the introduction. “I’m Angus McMillan. I’m glad you could come down.”
“We are happy to be of service.” The grip was softer than I expected. “My client is interested in the remains of the boat.”
“Come on back.” We walked down a row of cubicles toward a glass walled conference room. “We’ve got some questions of our own.”
The lock clicked with a swipe of his badge and he pointed me to one the side seats. A second Deputy with cat-like eyes was waiting inside. He introduced himself as George Hollings and he took the seat across from me. McMillan had the end seat. On the table a speaker sat like a large spider. Everything had to be recorded these days for posterity.
A lady stuck her head in asked me if I needed something to drink. “Black Coffee.” I responded. It appeared and McMillan pressed the record button on the speaker, With a few remarks about the interview and the players, the chess game began.
“Mr. Holden, we are investigating a incident on the 25th at Lake Orange where the burned hull of a boat, The Sunset Dream” was discovered. It is being investigated as an arson case. We understand you may have some background on the boat.” He shuffled a tablet in front of him to take notes. “How do you know the boat?”
“My client, the late Donna Bartlett hired me to track it down as part of a divorce settlement.”
“Late?” McMillan wasn’t expecting that. “When did your client pass?”
“She was found on the 16th.” McMillan scribbled down the information.
“How did she pass?”
I picked up my cup and stared at it. “The police advised me she had been shot.”
Deputy Hollings spoke up.
“Routine question. We’re you involved in her death?”
I put down my cup and said .”No, Sir.” maybe with too much earnestness. “It was a shock when I got the call.”
“Understood.” McMillan went on. “And now you are working on behalf of her estate?”
The next questions involved how I originally got the case and what progress I had made in the asset search. I knew the murder was only tangential to their case and referred them to Sgt. Williams for more info.
The interview then turned to the boat. McMillan pulled out the pictures. Most of the damage was forward toward the bow like someone lit a fuel can, which I found interesting. The script “Sunset Dream” peeked out from the blackened stern.
“Mr. Holder, have you ever seen this boat?”
“Only pictures.” I looked at my empty cup. “Ms. Bartlett had told me the boat was moored at Holidayland Marina in Cumming, GA. When I went to check on it, it was gone, apparently moved a few days earlier.
Deputy Hollings asked. “Which lake is that?”
“Lanier.” I wanted more coffee. ” 40 miles north of Atlanta.”
“I remember that place.” McMillan smiled. “My Scoutmaster sponsored a trip when I was a kid. First time on a boat.”
Hollings laughed. “Now we can’t keep you off them.”
“Yep. Gotta get them fish.” McMillan rubbed his cueball head. I knew this was a tactic to get me to relax. It didn’t take long to get back to business.
“Mr. Holden, what methods did you use to track down the Sunset?”
I provided a copy of the internet contact list, including the dealer who informed me of the boat’s demise. Hollings spoke up.
“Had you done business with the dealer in Cross Creek before?”
“He’d helped me track down a couple of boats in the past.”
McMillan changed tack. “Who was the titled owner of the Sunset Dream?”
I looked at my notes. “Donna Bartlett and her estranged husband, Jerry Herrington owned it jointly. They had bought it last August.”
“Do you think it was burnt to keep it out of the divorce?”
I scratched the side of my eye. “I think it was why it was moved. Anything beyond would be a guess.”
Hollings had the next question. “What do you know about Jerry Herrington?”
“I used to work with him a long time ago as a salvage diver, but I hadn’t seen him in at least ten years. It was a surprise when i found they were married.”
“I see.” McMillan scribbled down the information. “What kind of character is Herrington?”
I shuffle in my seat a little. I don’t like being a rat. But in this case, it’s necessary.
“He’s always been shady, looking for a profitable angle.
Hollings asked the next question. “Would that include insurance fraud?”
McMillan continued. “Going back to the beginning, you said you met with Ms. Bartlett on the 6th. What day was it when you went to Holidayland?
“The next day, the 7th.” I know they are fishing now. “It took a while to confirm the date the boat moved, but it left the Marina on the 4th on a trailer.”
“Would Herrington had been served with the divorce papers by then?”
I’m ready to get out of here. “Ms. Bartlett said he’d been served a day or so before our first meeting.”
Hollings looked like he’d caught a canary. “Did you have any contact with Ms. Bartlett after your first meeting?”
“Only phone and text to confirm items in the file.”
They both nodded. Suddenly, McMillan stood up.
“That’s all we need, Mr. Holden. We appreciate your time and cooperation. If you will follow me, I’ll show you out.”
I wonder if they know where Herrington is? I’d have to guess they do.
Pic-Colleen Keller Bruenig
Pic guesses- Caught a canary (in blog), cat eyes (in blog), Human?, Dinner time, What’s that?, Kitty, tabby.