The Unusual Suspect
Here is what I wrote for the Sudden Writing Challenge that Ricky Anderson and I started up the other day. Click here for a full list of participants and the rules we set up for the challenge.
“Okay Mr. Matthews, can you tell me what you saw?”
“You can call me Glenn.”
By this point, Lieutenant Jackson was tired and just wanted to go home. This was to be the last person he had to talk to today, and he knew already that this janitor wouldn’t have anything new to say. Nobody had gotten a good look at the suspect, they only knew that he was a man of average build who escaped to the roof and disappeared. There was no sign of a getaway vehicle and seemingly no lead to go on. Jackson only wanted to finish up and get home before his wife’s meatloaf was too cold to save.
“Mr. Matthews, I just want to finish up and get home before my wife’s meatloaf is too cold to save.”
“Well I’ll try to speed things along, but I’m sure you’ll have plenty of questions to ask me about it.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Jackson replied, slightly under his breath but not enough to seem like he was actually trying to hide his impatience.
“I would. After all, I’m the only one who was up on the rooftop when the guy ran up.”
He looked up from his notepad. Finally, this caught his attention. Finally, something that could make the case make more sense. “You’re telling me you were on the roof?”
The janitor shuffled his feet a little bit. “Yeah I uhh….I go up there sometimes to avoid working. Nobody else goes up there so I can be alone with my thoughts and everything. I keep a journal up there, hidden away on top of the stairwell. A few little toys and gadgets and stuff to pass the time. There’s a little maintenance panel up there with plenty of storage space. Like I said, nobody goes up there so they don’t disturb anything. You know, smokers get a break and the rest of us don’t so I really think I’m entitled….”
“Mr. Matthews, would you just stick to the important stuff please? I don’t want to die of starvation while I’m talking with you.”
Glenn looked at the ground, a little ashamed for running his mouth. “I’m sorry. I guess in all the excitement I’m just getting carried away. It’s not every day somebody breaks into a place like this and makes out with secure client information. Hey, what do you think they stole all that stuff for, anyway? Is it like blackmail stuff? I bet it is. I can’t think of any reason somebody would come into a firm like this and try to steal anything unless they were going to try and blackmail somebody or tamper with evidence or something.”
The Lieutenant cut him off again. “Mr. Matthews, PLEASE stop rambling.”
“You can call me Glenn.”
“I will NOT. And I will not speculate with you over why somebody broke into this firm and stole what they stole. I really don’t care your opinion on it. It’s my job to figure it out, not yours.”
Glenn was again embarrassed by his rambling. “I’m so sorry. Like I said, I’m just a little worked up.”
Jackson sighed. He was only tired and hungry. He wasn’t really angry at the poor custodian. He just didn’t know how else to react. He decided to muster up what little bit of patience he still had left. The guy probably deserved that much. “It’s okay, please just tell me what you saw the man do on the roof.”
“Oh I didn’t see him do anything on the roof.”
Jackson stared blankly at him. “But you told me you saw him on the roof.”
“Well, I saw him pass me on the staircase. He seemed like he was in QUITE hurry so me being the curious guy I was turned around and went BACK to the roof. So yeah, I guess I didn’t see him ON the roof. But I got a pretty decent look at him. Well, sort of. He actually kinda pushed me over so all I really saw was the back of his head.”
“Great, that means you’ve seen the exact same thing all the other people I’ve talked to have seen. Perfect.” He started to put his notepad away but hesitated. “Well, did you at least see something when you got back to the roof?”
“Oh yeah. Well, more so I heard something. There were screeching tires and when I got to the edge of the roof, I saw a black car zooming off down the road. You know what? I bet they were hiding in the alleyway and waiting for him to jump down there! That’s why nobody saw anything after he busted through into the stairwell. Cause the car was waiting for him there! Well, that’s not how I would have planned it, but it’s the only thing that makes sense. Unless he was a ninja and had some sort of smoke pellet he threw down and ninja’d away. Do you think ninjas could just run across these rooftops to escape?”
This time, Jackson put the notepad completely away. He couldn’t hide his frustration any longer. “No, Mr. Matthews, I don’t think they could. In fact, since this building is 20 stories tall and I sincerely doubt anybody PARACHUTED into an alleyway, along with the fact that nobody else has reported any black vehicles zooming down the street or screeching tires, I’m going to guess you didn’t see anything at all on the rooftop, did you?”
There was silence for a second as Glenn stuttered through a few broken words and noises, apparently speechless for the first time in his life. “I uhh….yeah. I guess I really didn’t see anything special. I’m sorry. It’s just that nobody here really talks to me and I thought maybe for once I would have something interesting to say.”
“So were you ever even on the roof?”
“Sure, but once the guy knocked me down in the stairwell, I didn’t bother going back up. I think I hurt my ankle or knee or calf or something because my whole left leg is kind of sore and I’m having a bit of trouble moving it. Do you think I did something to it?”
“I don’t know and don’t care, Mr. Matthews, I’m not a doctor. Thanks for wasting my time.” He checked his watch. “Ah crap. And now I’m gonna miss White Collar.”
The Lieutenant turned around without saying goodbye, hurrying along to join the other officers who were trying to wrap things up. If he cleared a few things with them, he could hit the road and hopefully at least catch something good on TV. Left alone, Glenn shuffled his feet, checked the time, and picked up the garbage bag he had been carrying.
“Well, looks like it’s quitting time,” he said to nobody, with just the slightest hint of loneliness in his voice.
Even if he didn’t care about anything he had just said, Lieutenant Jackson still had to stop and watch Glenn leave. He had sighed a lot that day, but this particular one had more weight to it, almost as if it was relief and entertainment all at once. Sure, it was odd that he was leaving work with a garbage bag in hand, but after that conversation, Jackson wouldn’t put anything past the weirdo.
“Man,” he said to the officers and employees standing nearby, “I don’t think I would put anything past that weirdo.” He snickered, knowing the employees would understand what he meant.
He was greeted with silence. “Who are you talking about?” the receptionist asked.
“The janitor. Glenn Matthews. He just talked my ear off for about twenty minutes.”
She stared at him with a confused look. “Sir, our custodial crew is an outside service that comes in overnight. None of us interact with any of them. And I don’t recall ever seeing a Glenn Matthews in the employee directory….”
At that moment, a handful of officers came in through the staircase. “Sir!” one yelled to the Lieutenant, “Look what we found! It’s some suitcase somebody had hidden away in some maintenance thing on the roof. Had a few articles of clothing in it, like somebody used it for a costume change….”
Before the officer had even finished his sentence, Jackson had bolted to the front door. There was nothing for him to see, though. No sign of anyone around at all. Nothing to see, except one black garbage bag, clearly emptied of whatever was it was holding, being blown by the wind.
From inside the building, he could hear the receptionist say, “Glenn Matthews? That sounds like a TV name.”