March 19, 1981
Monday morning when I woke up there was a knock on the door. It was 8:30, so apparently regular people were up, but these weren’t regular people. These were a pair of uniformed police officers. It took a minute for me to throw on a pair of gym shorts, and a shirt, and for them to verify my identity.
“Do you know why we’re here, sir?” the younger one asked, he was thirty years old at most. The other one, wandered around pretending to be restless, but looking around.
“No, officer.” They seemed pleased that they had woken me up and caught me off guard.
“Where were you on Saturday around 8 at night?”
“I was at work.”
“And where is that?”
“Market Basket, in the deli department.”
He wrote that down, and then looked up at me.
“Well, I suppose you’ll have some good corroboration for that.” He seemed satisfied.
I nodded. “Yes, there were at least 20 other employees who saw me, and maybe a hundred customers all night.”
“Do you know a Judy Thomas?” He was pulling out a notepad and pen out of his breast pocket.
“Yes, she and I are friends. Is she ok?”
“No, sir. She’s dead.” He said it gently, trying not to be blunt, but it immediately became clear what was going on.
“Oh my God.” I felt an immediate tightness in my chest, and a pit in my gut. I fought hard to fight back tears. He gave me a moment without pressing into the next question, his partner appeared from the bedroom where he’d wandered in to look.
“Sir, were you romantically involved with Miss Thomas?” the older one asked, and although I knew the question was targeted, there was compassion in his voice.
I shook my head. “No.”
“Never?” the younger officer asked.
I shook my head again.
“I’m sorry to ask. I know that there was some speculation that her new baby may have been yours.” The older gave the younger a look to back off as he sat across from me on the couch.
“No. Her aunt suspected me, but we were never romantic, or even sexual. Once the baby was born, she knew it wasn’t mine.” The words came out but I felt like I was hearing them and not saying them.
“How can she be sure that it wasn’t yours?” the older officer asked gently.
“Judy was white, but the baby was black. Or at least half black.” I got up, and went to the fridge for the Polaroid that she had sent me of him.
“I see.” He held the picture for a minute looking at it. “Did you want to be more than just friends with her?”
I shook my head.
“Why not? I understand she was a very attractive young woman.” It was becoming more clear that these two were running an errand for the Scranton Police, and with the level of disconnect, I would imagine they hadn’t even seen a picture of her.
“She was. But we were just friends. When we met, I was focused on the Super Bowl. I was in Las Vegas looking to gamble a little, and then when we continued to talk, and see each other occasionally, I had found a girlfriend.”
“Is your girlfriend home right now?”
“She doesn’t live here. She lives in Tallahassee.”
“I’m going to need her name, address, and place of work.”
I gave him the information he asked for, and the younger officer went off to radio into the station.
“Do you think that Melanie may have thought you were romantic with Miss Thomas?”
“No.” Lying seemed risky, but telling the truth would require more explanation than I could give, and in all likelihood more than they’d understand or believe.
“Well, I’m sorry to do this, sir. But we’re going to have to sit here with you, until officers in Tallahassee have a chance to find Miss Collins.” The younger officer said as he re-entered the house.
“Um… Ok. Am I in trouble?” I realized that this is why H.G. or Marty, or whatever time-traveller pseudonym he was going to use next wanted me to be at work somewhere highly visible. Did he just know she would be killed, or did he have something to do with it?
“Well, you’ve got an alibi, which is good for you, but we can’t let you talk to Miss Collins before the officers get a chance to. They’ll probably send a unit to her residence, as well as one to her work. Assuming there isn’t any issue, it should be less than an hour.”
I nodded, and got up, I felt dazed, and disoriented. “Would either of you like something to drink?”
They both shook their heads, and I got a glass of orange juice. We sat there, and they asked me some other questions, but I suspected they were to fill the time more than being part of the investigation. After twenty minutes my phone rang. I stood up to get it, and then looked at them for permission.
“If it’s Miss Collins please let me know,” the older officer said.
“Hello?” I said as casually as I could.
“Mike?” I recognized it as my grandmother’s voice.
“Hi, Carol. How’re you?” I didn’t give any signal with my voice, but I didn’t call her ‘Carol’ to her face, so I hoped she took the hint.
“Oh, I was just calling to check if we were meeting today, but it sounds like you have company.”
“Yeah, I can’t do lunch today, but I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Ok. Sounds good!”
The officers looked at me as I hung up. They had been clearly listening in fact they didn’t seem to hide the fact, but I hadn’t said anything they could figure was coded. We sat for almost two hours total, before unintelligible police chatter seemed to give them the ‘all clear.’
“Apparently Market Basket corroborated your alibi, and Tallahassee General did the same for Miss Collins.”
As they began to meander toward the door, they told me that they may be in touch as the investigation continues for me to potentially aid as a witness.
“If you don’t mind me asking, why was I so high up on the suspect list?”
The older officer looked directly into my eyes and said, “a few reasons, her aunt, Linda Collins, claimed that you two had a fight a couple months ago in which she returned crying hysterically, and apparently, Miss Collins listed you as the child’s father on the birth certificate.”
“She listed me as the baby’s father?” I wasn’t really asking him, just wondering out loud.
“Yes. Apparently the child was taken into protective custody pending the investigation, however I would guess that now that you’ve been cleared, you could apply for custody.”
I nodded then asked, “what about Linda?”
He shrugged. “They didn’t mention much except what she said about you.”
“Linda must be hysterical if someone came for the baby.”
“Oh did she live with Miss Collins?”
I nodded. “When she got pregnant she moved in with her.”
He furrowed his brow. “She’s probably a suspect, or person of interest as well. At least at first. When someone’s murdered any roommates, live-in family, or spouses always get put on the list. They would take the baby away until they cleared her.”
He shook my hand, and walked out. I immediately called work and told them I would be out, but since they had talked to the police, they understood. Then I called Melanie and told her everything.
“You need to call the police department in Scranton and find out about the baby.” She wasn’t asking but telling me.
“I know. Why would she have listed me as the father, though?”
“It sounds like you were the only consistent male around.”
After Melanie, I called the police department, and was told that Linda hadn’t been cleared, but that since I had, I was able to call the Department of Child Services. There a woman answered.
“Oh, he’s such a sweet little angel, will you be able to take him today? It will be good for him to go home.”
I explained that I was hours away, and that I hadn’t even met the child so I would need to figure out how this whole thing was going to work until Linda was cleared. Between her, and the office at the Scranton PD, I had been informed that there was no other ‘next of kin’ other than Linda and I. I told her that I would try to figure out what I could, and call her back.
Ultimately, I called my grandmother, Melanie again, and a few daycares in the area, trying to figure out what I could do. Then the mail came, and with it a letter.
Pack your bags, you’re going to get the baby. Linda’s not going to be taking him, in fact, Linda’s never going to see him again.
I drove down to Pennsylvania, and got Elliot. Last night in the hotel was horrendous because nothing that I could do seemed to calm him down. Luckily, Carrie, the woman I had spoken to on the phone, gave me very thorough instructions, and her number. She came over and helped me get him down for the night within an hour. Once he calmed down, she left.
This morning, I had to figure out how I was going to manage to drive back to Massachusetts with him. I purchased a car seat yesterday on my way to picking him up, but I hadn’t thought about the fact that he seems sleep in two hour bursts. Once I got him down this morning for a nap, I called Melanie, and her response was that she could fly out, and drive back up with me, but I would have to wait until tomorrow night. As of right now, that’s the best option I’ve got.
Sitting in the hotel room, with him sleeping in his makeshift crib, I wanted to write this all down, but now I think I may try to nap for a few.