Un Lampo di Bianco: Chapter 6

6
Jackson stood on the sidewalk along Campus Boulevard, furious. The eternal calm he’d displayed the night before was gone, and in its place emerged the scowling, angry-eyed look of a man ready to do some damage. Parked directly behind Jackson was the gray sedan, a suit-clad detective at the wheel. So much for that mystery, Tony thought.

“Morning, Avis,” K.J. greeted cheerfully. She seemed entirely unfazed. Tony imagined pissing off the police was a daily occurrence for her.

“Goddamnit, K.J.,” Jackson thundered. “You couldn’t wait for the public information officer to put together a release for you?”

“The PIO is slooooow,” K.J. retorted. “Besides, you know me better than that.”

“I’m surprised to see you caught up in this, Mr. Lang,” he said, redirecting his attention toward Tony. “I thought I had warned you about her.”

“You did,” Tony said. “But you’re right – she’s relentless.”

Jackson stiffened. “All right, people. I am going to say this once. This is an open murder investigation. You do not interfere. You do not withhold information. Somehow, you got to Donald Niccoldi – I assume that’s where you’re coming from – before we did. That CANNOT happen again. I don’t want to find out about something that could have helped us today in tomorrow morning’s paper. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Tony said, a touch apologetic. He felt bad now. Sure, he didn’t care for Jackson’s manner, but the man was committed to his job. It was a more important job than his, than K.J.'s. He got so caught up in the pursuit, in that damn spark, that he forgot what was at stake. Jackson was right. This was a murder investigation and that trumps all.

“So talk to Niccoldi then,” K.J. said. She would not give Jackson the satisfaction of an apology. “I’m sure he’ll tell you everything he told us. Maybe even more.”

“Detective Huber will tend to that,” Jackson said, gesturing to the suit in the car. “You will proceed to your next destination and I will join you.”

“Next destination?” K.J. asked.

“Don’t play games with me, K.J.,” Jackson said, waving his finger for emphasis. “I know Niccoldi sent you somewhere. I saw that ‘get up and go’ look in your eye coming out the building.”

“Why don’t you ask Niccoldi then?” K.J. protested.

“Library,” Tony said. “Special collections. Amy Holden was doing some research there.”

K.J. shot him a dirty look, but Jackson nodded approvingly, his anger abated.

“All right,” he said. “We’re going to the library then. I will ask the special collections librarian – Miss Saruzal, I believe – some questions. You may observe. If I ask you to leave, you leave. Anything we feel comfortable releasing will be released to you later.”

“Whatever you say, boss,” K.J. said. She did little to disguise the contempt in her voice. Tony did not envy Jackson – or any cop, fireman, state trooper, judge, or lawyer – just then. Attractive or not, this woman was a nightmare when she wanted to be.

Special collections was housed in the library’s annex. Like Blair Hall, the annex was newer construction, albeit less grand in its design. Special collections occupied part of the first floor. A large square of a room, it featured high bookcases lined with old leather-bound volumes, handwritten pages tucked safely under display glass, obscure artwork hanging regally from wood-paneled walls and a circular desk dead-center.

The woman behind the desk introduced herself as Emily Saruzal. She was not the looker K.J. was, but Tony found her attractive in her own way. It was the buttoned-up look that did it for him, he decided. She dressed in conservative browns, kept her auburn hair pulled back tight and wore just a hint of a sweet-smelling perfume Tony recognized but could not place. She was quite possibly the only librarian Tony ever met who didn’t wear glasses.

Jackson made the introductions and stated the purpose of their visit. This drew a “my goodness!” from Miss Saruzal. Tony guessed she didn’t have very many visitors in special collections. Those that she did have were not likely to be reporters or cops. The occasional professor of English seemed like less of a stretch.

“That poor girl,” Miss Saruzal said, shaking her head. “She seemed very nice. It’s terrible what happened to her.”

“When did she start coming down here?” Jackson asked.

“She was here a few times last semester, I believe. But much more frequently within the past few weeks. She was here yesterday, as a matter of fact.”

“Ah-huh. And did you happen to notice the materials she took off the shelves? I assume nothing in this room is actually checked out.”

“Yes, that’s correct,” Miss Saruzal explained. “Lately, she had been looking into Simon Valence. Are you familiar…”

“Before my time,” Jackson said. “Tell me, did she talk about her research often? Did she seem upset by anything she encountered?”

“Upset? No, not really. I think she seem excited to be assisting Professor Niccoldi. Although…”

“Yes?”

“She came across some of Professor Valence’s personal papers and wanted to know if there were more. When I told her they were missing, she seemed disappointed?”

“I’m sorry,” Tony interjected. “But ‘missing?’ How does that happen? I mean, it seems like you run a pretty tight ship down here.”

“Thank you,” Miss Saruzal said, flustered. “We used to be housed in the basement of the main library building. When we moved over to the annex, some things got lost. Thankfully, not too many things, but unfortunately, most of Professor Valence’s personal papers were among them.”

“I see,” said Jackson. He unearthed a business card and slid it across the librarian’s desk. “If you think of anything, anything else at all, please call me directly.”

They exited the building at a loss for direction and only Jackson, impassive as when Tony first met him, did not seem disappointed.

“Well that was a dead end,” Tony said. “Look, detective, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but you might want to talk to the former chancellor. Niccoldi said he…”

“Dr. Hand is not well,” Jackson replied in a grave voice. “Dr. Hand is not to be disturbed.”

“Got it,” Tony said.

K.J. yawned and flipped her notepad closed. “Well, boys, it’s been fun, but I need to hurry back to the office and file. At least I have enough for a follow-up piece. Everyone thinks Amy Holden was nice. Lovely. Call me if anyone else drops dead.”

She turned and began walking back toward the visitor’s lot, leaving Tony uncertain whether he was supposed to follow her or catch a ride back with someone else. Jackson shot him an “I told you” look.

“I see what you mean,” Tony said. K.J. bailed on him, Jackson seemed on guard, and he still had no clue what led to the night before. He was having one hell of a day.

Re: Un Lampo di Bianco: Chapter 6

I will ask the special collections librarian – Miss Saruzal, I believe – some questions.

To me…this seems rather unnatural for dialog. I realize that formalities are sometimes necessary with the way a senior cop might speak to civilians, but even so, that sort of deserves a little more colloquialism to it. Considering you give her name later in the chapter, I don’t think the “- Miss Saruzal, I believe -” part is necessary. Just me though.

Otherwise, totally awesome stuff as always.

Re: Un Lampo di Bianco: Chapter 6

The unnatural thing was intentional. It’s Jackson attempting to regain his cool (and he is a character who runs hot and cold). His excessive formality here is him compensating for his earlier flare-up. Thanks for reading/noticing though.