Harry looked up as the door opened. "Well, look at what the wind blew in."
Bruce Parkins closed the door, walked over to the chair across from Harry's desk. "How are things?" he asked as he sat down.
"Slow and relaxing," Harry replied. "Just the way I like it. What's on your mind?"
"Can't I just stop by to say hello to my former partner?"
"Anytime, but you wouldn't be doing it while you're on duty. So what is it?"
Bruce grinned as he shook his head. "You were always too good at reading me. Do you know Miss Pinkerton, the eccentric old lady who lives out on the edge of town?"
"You mean that huge old two-story house? With the forest of trees, massive lawns and all kinds of flowering trees and shrubs? That Miss Pinkerton?"
"The same. She's still pretty active, by the way, still walks the paths among the trees for exercise. She's a very interesting old lady, likes to talk..."
"But she has a problem of some sort," Harry finished for him.
"Well, yeah, she does. She thinks she is being watched."
"Let me guess... she called the station but you don't have the manpower to handle it. So you thought you'd hand it off to me."
"In all fairness, we did check into it - several times - but we could find nothing. We do have other, more serious, things to handle. So the Chief suggested I run it by you."
Harry got up, went to the coffeepot and poured two mugs of coffee. He handed one mug to Bruce, set the other on his desk and resumed his seat. "Tell me."
Bruce stretched his long legs out in front of him. "She claims that she hears noises and thinks it sounds like someone is trying to get into the house, maybe through a window at the back, or on the top floor. Each time we checked we found nothing. No footprints anywhere close to the house."
Harry nodded and sipped his coffee.
"Each time she calls, the night patrol pays close attention to her house for several days, but there is very little traffic in that area, and there has been nothing out of the ordinary. We're beginning to think she might be lonely out there all alone and... well, you know what I mean."
"Mmm, yeah, you think she's looking for attention."
"Some of the guys have started to joke about Miss Pinkerton's ghost. An elderly lady living alone in a very large, very old house, out there where everything is quiet... I don't know... perhaps what she hears is just the creaking of the house itself."
"That's possible, I guess. Creaking sounds in a house like that at night could sound ominous, I guess, depending on the person. Maybe she needs a security system."
"She had one installed after the fourth time. Several nights later she heard the noises again, but it didn't trigger the alarm. Now she's starting to get a bit paranoid, says she doesn't feel like it's safe to walk among the woods on her own property anymore."
"And what makes you think I can find the answer if the rest of you can't?"
Bruce grinned. "Blame the Chief this time. He said to contact you because you have a knack for sorting out these unusual things. He said you know how to think outside the box."
Harry threw back his head and laughed. "That's a good one. Still, I guess I could be remembered for worse things."
"So, will you contact her, or will I tell her to call you?"
"I'll give her a call and set up an appointment. Give me her number."
Bruce pulled a notebook from the left top pocket of his jacket, flipped a few pages and then passed it to Harry. "Top number. No cell phone, just the landline." He watched Harry write the number on a post-it note and stick it on the desk. "I'll let the Chief know you'll look into it."
"I'm sure he'll be relieved," Harry said.
After Bruce had gone, Harry called Miss Pinkerton and, after explaining who he was, they agreed to meet the following morning at her house.
* * * * * * * * * * * *