Harry goes to jersey
|The next morning, Harry took his old fading ford over the Ben Franklyn bridge, past the construction on the new Walt Whitman Bridge and down route 30. He didn't know Jersey all that well except for the shore and after getting lost, found then lost again he made his way to a small police building standing alone in the Pine Barrens like a fort on the Oregon Trail. Harry thought he might be in Battso but was not sure. He parked and headed inside. It was freezing.
It was still pretty cold inside when Harry stopped to speak to the receptionist. She smiled and told him that the Chief of Police was very busy having breakfast with friends but he had arranged for the detective from Philadelphia to speak with Smudge. Last door on the left at the end of the hallway and sorry about the cold but the heater was acting up.
Harry knocked on what he believed to be the right door and received a 'Come in.' Harry went in.
Entering an office the size of a broom closet, Harry said Good Morning to the top of a young man's head. At the desk a young uniform was filling out traffic reports. He had ink on his fingers because they had him filling out the reports with a fountain pen, a cheap one obviously. When he looked up at Harry, he had a dark birthmark on his right cheek that ran toward his right ear.
"Hello, Sir. Please have a seat. I'll be done in a second. Just call me Smudge."
"Sure Officer. Thank you. Ah? Does every one call you, Smudge?'
The you man put away his pen and looked quizzically at Harry. Then he laughed and shook his head.
"Yeah, I've been Smudge since grade school. I had a friend in second grade. His name was Bobby Lock. The toughest kid in second grade. The others teased me all the time and I hated it. Bobby put an end to the teasing but he didn't want any of the kids to think he was a soft touch. He started calling me Smudge. From him it was like a term of affection and if any one else call me that they got flattened by Big Bobby. By high school I was Smudge. I'm used to it and don't respond to much else but Officer or hey you. Nice to met you, Detective."
Harry liked the kid already and he hadn't taken off his coat yet. Harry smiled at him.
"Call me Harry. I hope you can help me with some questions about a missing local boy. A musician named Paul Dwyer, A member of the restaurant family. Do you know him?"
"Everybody knows everybody around here. Usually from birth until they move away or pass away."
Harry shifted in his seat of uncomfortable wood and asked, " Do many people move away from the area?"
Smudge stopped just short of a laugh, "Move away, run away, sneak away, marry their way out. Car, bus, you can get a train over in Berlin. The population is always going up a little and down a little more. It's a wonder there are still people here at all but farm families are large and tend to stay."
"Paul Dwyer has been reported missing. Is that right? Have you done any inquireries?"
" I'm sorry Detective but the Chief doesn't want to do any missing persons because so many go missing because people are always leaving here. He won't go looking for every Mother's son or daughter who elopes or goes to Philadelphia or New York. We wouldn't get anything else done. At least that's what the Chief says."
"Do you have a lot of crime here in South Jersey? I had no idea."
"To tell the truth, no. But the Cheif is elected so he stays busy keeping elected. I just finish some traffic reports but they are a couple of months worth that accumulated. I do have a case but it isn't much."
"What are you working? Anything exciting?" Harry asked because he knew that this was a dead end. He had just wasted half a day off and he wanted to get a little warmer before he went home.
Smudge grinned a kind of embarassed grin and hesitated to answer.
"Well, we've had some killings." Smudge said after a long pause.
"Really?" Harry was taken aback a bit. He hadn't expected that. "How many are you talking about?"
"We have three so far but the folks around here are getting upset."
"I'm not surprised by that." Harry was shocked by the kid's blase' statement. "Who were they?"
Smudge scratched his head for another long pause, then said, "Chickens. Well, roosters actually. People around here raise prize winning roosters and we've found three on them slaughtered in the past month. The local farm show is months away but people want it stopped. The competition is fierce and folks think someone's trying to stack the deck."
Harry wanted to leave now. So he did. Driving back to Philly, Harry pondered two different worlds on two sides of the same river.