Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)
TITLE: She had Moxie and $100 for her Trouble
By Julie Arduini
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Jenna Thomas was a junior transfer student at the State college in my jurisdiction. It was my last day at Troop E Headquarters in Canandaigua, New York. I was counting the minutes till retirement. Jenna strolled in with a tentative smile, a fair grip of a handshake, and a nervous wreck of a mother by her side. Jenna’s long brunette hair had one of those banana clips. Though I was mindful of my pending retirement I was still focused enough to discern Jenna didn’t strike me as a criminal.
Jenna was my last lie detector test of probably thousands. She spent the previous summer as a third manager at a shoe store in her hometown about an hour south. The bank never received the bag Jenna allegedly dropped the night before into their deposit. She closed with her boss and admitted she was last to touch the bag. The local police, drooling over a drama on Market Street, pressured Jenna to confess or else. Jenna, full of moxie, suggested they focus their energy on the drug deals she had to confront nightly when she had to walk to her car alone. The senior manager ran behind Jenna’s back to the police to accuse Jenna of taking the money, a small take of $1200, mostly in checks. Insurance covered the loss for the store. An open case, sure, but life and death? Naw, this was a breeze for my last day.
With kids like Jenna I liked to start off with small talk before taking them in the interrogation room. Although she was nervous, she was friendly. I learned when I was the county sheriff I interacted with her dad, part of the highway department. With that, Jenna trusted me. Her mother, what a tightly wound lady. I encouraged mom to get a cup of our hair on the chest coffee and relax. Jenna followed me.
I explained the entire test process. It’s hypocritical to put wires everywhere and say don’t worry, so I kept the fatherly chat going.
I could’ve asked the basics with my eyes closed. She hesitated when I asked about her alcohol consumption because we both knew she was under twenty-one. I asked the last question forty five minutes later. Jenna tried not to stare at the paperwork. I pushed the papers away and put my hands on the table.
“Jenna, overall you passed.”
She gave thanks to God and me and then stopped.
“You’re observant Jenna. There was one question you failed on. Want to know which one?”
Jenna drummed her fingers for about five seconds.
“Was it the one that asked do I know who did it?”
I nodded. She sighed.
“I don’t, yet I have a suspicion. Did my boss do it? I touched the bag last. I heard the coins.”
Before we finished out my career that afternoon I shared with Jenna her circumstances around the case. There was a rumor going around the famed street the store was located that a loan shark made a deal with a local businesswoman and they were looking for payment. All legitimate eyes were on the boss, not Jenna. Yet the boss was desperately trying to throw attention any direction but her own. The boss miserably failed the lie detector test. Jenna thanked me but I saw so many emotions on her face. Relief. Grief. Anger. Betrayal.
A month later at my retirement banquet my boss confirmed Jenna was in the clear, but there was nothing concrete against the boss either. The company wanted to put it behind them, but not before making the boss present Jenna a $100 check for her trouble. I can only imagine the tensions at that little party.
That was 17 years ago. I’ve made my retirement as far away from snow and law enforcement as I can, boating my way south. My sister let me know Jenna graduated and got a nice PR job with the county. Ironically, one of their organizations employed a director Jenna would supervise: her former boss. Whether Jenna handled her emotions with grace or revenge, well, that’s one I never heard anything more about.
Oh right---All these years later not one person called on the checks from that missing bank bag to say they never cleared.
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