An army of FBI agents, computer experts, lab technicians and forensic analysts poured out of the RV and into the Sitwell Police Department building. They quickly made themselves at home. Maude found herself fielding all sorts of questions to which she had no answers.
“We’re going to need at least seven high speed, fiber optic connections and a designated multi-port router hub,” one computer tech said. “What’s your port to port ratio?”
“I know how to dial a phone, son,” Maude said. “That’s about it.”
“How are you set up for invasive, anthropometric, post-mortem inspections?” a forensic analyst asked.
“I was born when Eisenhower was president,” Maude replied.
“Oh,’ the forensic analyst said. “My condolences.”
The techs and agents went to work – moving desks and office furniture around, installing computer equipment, drilling holes and installing wires, and so on.
Burt perked up out of his slumber. “Should we be letting them wreck the place like this?”
“Well,” Maude said. “Cole said to let them do whatever they want.”
Sharon entered the room. She saw Maude and smiled, then went in for a hug. Maude graciously accepted it, but she had to fight back a yearning to punch Sharon in the face.
“Maude!” Sharon said. “It’s been so long.”
“Yup,” Maude said. “Sure has.”
“How have you been?” Sharon asked.
“Oh, you know,” Maude said. “Everyday I wake up, check to make sure I’m not dead yet and if I’m not I come to work.”
Sharon said. “Same old Maude. You still haven’t lost your sense of humor.”
Maude rested her hand on her oxygen tank. “Nope. Just everything else.”
The old lady watched as the Feds tore the office apart. “Looks like you’ve moved up in the world since you left all of us country bumpkins.”
“Yeah,” Sharon said. “I’m sorry about all the commotion. We’ll be out of your hair as soon as we can.”
“Agent Walker,” one of the computer techs said. “We should be all set up for a video conference call with Quantico within the hour.”
“Very good,” Sharon said.
Freddie Milton was escorted into the department by Gordon and two other agents. Milton was all decked out in an orange jumpsuit, with his hands bound together by a chain wrapped around his waist.
Maude was startled when she found herself staring up at Gordon’s gargantuan, bald head.
“You got an interrogation room?” Maude asked.
“Son, we don’t even have a break room,” Maude replied.
The old gal pointed to the door to Cole’s digs. “I suppose the Chief won’t mind if you use his office.”
Gordon opened up the door to Cole’s office and pushed the prisoner inside. “Move, maggot!”
“He seems charming,” Maude said.
“Oh,” Sharon said. “Agent Bishop may be a knuckle dragging caveman, but he has his own ways of getting things done.”
Sharon was about to enter the office when she stopped and turned around. “Maude?”
“How is Cole?” Sharon asked.
Maude sighed. “You want me to sugar coat it?”
“Since when do you do that?” Sharon asked.
“For Cole?” Maude said. “All day long. I take his words and put them into diplomatic terms to the assorted morons in this town who live to drive him nuts.”
“Right,” Sharon said. “But you always talk straight when you’re among friends.”
Suddenly, Sharon spotted a glare on Maude’s face that gave her a sneaking suspicion that she and Maude might not be friends anymore.
“He’s about as well as you might expect,” Maude said. “All things considered.”
“That was very diplomatic,” Sharon said.
Maude took a seat at her desk. “That’s what I do.”
Sharon entered the office, closing the door behind her. Maude got on her computer and live streamed Network News One. Kurt Manley’s face popped up on Maude’s monitor.
“Our wall to wall coverage of the death of Countess Cucamonga continues with an in-depth look at the pop diva’s life,” Kurt Manley said.
A photo of an eight year old girl with two missing baby teeth appeared on screen. Kurt’s voice continued. “She was born Sally Ann Dubawitz, just a simple girl from a simple backwater Florida town, although no one can seem to pinpoint which town that was…”
Maude squinted at the photo. “I’ll be damned…”
Irving, the Countess’ manager, appeared in a pre-recorded interview segment. “The Countess was very guarded about her past. She grew up around hayseeds and hillbillies but once she became a star, she cast that all aside to become the regal princess-life figure we all came to love and admire.”
Maude paused the stream, then picked up her phone and dialed.
“Bernice?” Maude said. “It’s Grandma. How are you? Uh huh…yeah…really? Oh, that’s wonderful. Yeah….yeah…isn’t that something? Wow…uh huh…well, listen girl, I need you to do your Grammy a favor. You got your high school year book? Yeah…no I know but it’s important….sweetheart, I wouldn’t be asking if it weren’t important….yeah…go find it and send it overnight delivery to me…oh holy shit Bernice you make three times what I make but if you want to quibble then fine, I’ll pay the charges…what? Just a little something I’m working on, never you mind. Yeah…yeah…ok darlin’ I love you too. Talk to you later.”