Molly Poole, a fifteen year old sophomore walked alone on her way home from play practice at the high school. Even though she had been in the new school for only three weeks, having moved to town from a farm in another district, she had been given a part in the one-act play. The moon, mostly obscured by dark clouds offered little light and the street lights seemed awfully dim to Molly. She hurried on home and felt safer when she closed the front door behind her. She was alone in the house; her widowed mother worked late and wasn’t expected home till after midnight. Molly poured herself a glass of milk and watched some of Johnny Carson on TV before going to bed. She quickly fell asleep, leaving the front door unlocked for her mother.
When she awoke during the night she assumed the figure sitting on her bed was her mother. By the time her eyes became adjusted to the dim light offered by the street light outside her window, the figure had pulled back the covers and was getting into bed with her. Suddenly she realized the person was a man and she let out a terrifying scream. The startled man jumped up grabbed his clothes and ran from the house. Molly called her mother at work, who in-turn called the sheriff’s office. When I arrived at their home, Molly was near hysterics and her mother was both frightened and angry. They showed me a pair of brown wing-tips, size 12, the intruder in his haste had left behind.
Sometimes, in small towns, a person can know way too much about people. Often for a sheriff, though, it can come in handy.
“Do you think the man was drinking, Molly?” I asked. “Could you smell liquor?”
“I think so,” she replied.
“I calmed the mother and daughter down and told them not to worry. I was pretty sure this was just a case of mistaken identity. I told them that the lady who lived in the house previously had an occasional visitor who took a drink now and again. I thought perhaps after imbibing he may have forgotten the lady had moved to another house.
“I’m pretty sure I know where to take the shoes,” I said. “And I’m positive there is nothing to worry about, but I’ll get back to you.”
I took the wing-tips with me and a couple of days later pulled up to the gas pumps outside Charlie Benson’s country store near Wykoff. Charlie was known to take a drink or two from time to time. There wasn’t self service in those days so Charlie came out to pump the gas.
“Five dollars worth Charlie,” I said. “Nice day.”
Charlie looked a little sheepish while he pumped the gas and cleaned the windshield. When he was through I looked in my billfold.
“I’m a little short of cash today Charlie,” I said. “Could I charge it?’
“Sure,” he said. I got out of the car and went to the trunk.
“Maybe you should have some collateral Charlie,” I said. I opened the trunk door and brought out the wing-tips. Charlie turned seven colors of red and shook his head.
“You sum-bitch Neil,” he muttered.
“I handed Charlie the shoes and a five dollar bill and was on my way.