When Timothy pulled back up to the FotoMat, there was a handwritten sign in the window:
“Back in five minutes.”
His first thought, of course, was to press his face to the window with renewed vigor to see if the secret trap door could be spied. No luck.
Kickstand deployed, he sat back on his bike. He had a receipt in one pocket and a baseball-sized lump of coinage in the other. He owned the space.
A faux-wood-sided station wagon cruised past. Thinking it might be Brandon’s mother, he leaned over and pretended to adjust the dented chain guard on his bicycle, so she wouldn’t see his face. The investigation was still top secret.
When the station wagon safely passed, Timothy looked back up again and scanned the parking lot. Man, five minutes was a long time.
When he finally spied the bright blue and yellow smock, it appeared the FotoMat attendant was coming out of the Grand Union supermarket. It was the same gal with the boyish haircut who’d taken his film two days before.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she said, unlocking the booth and letting herself back in.
“That’s okay,” said Timothy. “Why’d you go into the supermarket?”
“I was getting something.”
“How come you don’t have any shopping bags?”
Was this kid really going to make her explain this?
“Let’s just say I needed to take a little break, and leave it at that.”
“Gotcha,” Timothy said.
Bathroom mystery solved.
“Do you have your receipt?”
When Timothy pulled the receipt from his pocket, it was more crumpled and sweaty than he’d intended.
“Sorry it’s wrinkled,” he said, momentarily afraid it would be illegible or otherwise invalidated.
“I’ve seen worse,” she said, and proceeded to flip through the envelope bin. “Let’s see, Miller, Miller, Miller... here we go.”
She began to ring up the sale.
“Twelve prints, $2.40... did you want another roll of film with that?”
“Uh... I don’t think so?” he said uncertainly.
“Just 69 cents with developing,” she said, “usually set you back $1.29...”
Timothy tried to think fast, would he need more film for the investigation? Likely, yes, but he hadn’t planned on spending an extra 69 cents today.
“What would you do?” he asked the attendant.
“I would probably...buy another roll now and save the 60 cents.”
A car pulled up behind Timothy. It didn’t honk, but he could feel the heat radiating off its grill.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” he said.
2.40 plus .69 plus .22 tax came to $3.31.
Timothy plopped a sprawling pyramid of pocket change onto the small counter. He started sorting out pennies, figuring these had been weighing his pocket down the most. The attendant, fielding an impatient glare from the driver who’d pulled up behind Timothy, airlifted some quarters to speed up the process.
“Okay, we’re good,” she said, punching the keys of the register to ding the drawer open. She sorted the change quickly and handed Timothy a little bag with his prints and film.
“Make sure you hold on to your negatives, in case you ever want to make any copies,” she said. Then she handed him something else.
“What’s this?” Timothy asked.
“It’s good for fifty cents off your next developing. Our little way of saying Thank you for using FotoMat.”
She didn’t give a 50 cent coupon to just anyone, but she sorta liked the kooky little long-haired kid on some level. Plus, that’d be 50 fewer pennies she’d have to count if he happened to come back during her shift.
Timothy, happy to have basically made out with a new roll of film almost for free, wobbled off with one hand on the handle bars, the other holding the little FotoMat bag.
He couldn’t wait until he got home, so he stopped at a little picnic bench under some trees at the edge of the shopping plaza. He carefully opened the envelope, which contained the negatives in their own little pocket, just like the FotoMat girl had said, the prints themselves were in the larger pocket.
He intended on flipping straight to the crime scene photos, he hadn’t bothered to imagine the first ten prints as anything other than padding. But when he saw the photos, he paused to look at them, one by one.
He’d forgotten about this.
Shortly after his dad had left, his mom had taken him on a vacation to Lake George, just the two of them, just for fun.
There was a photo of Timothy gathering firewood, one of him feeding some ducks, another of him playing a carnival game. There were photos of Timothy’s mom doing stuff too, she’d let him take the photos.
There was one photo in particular that Timothy focused on. They’d taken a two-hour cruise on one of those old-fashioned steamboats that sail up and down Lake George. Someone had volunteered to take a picture of the two of them, and here they were smiling back at the camera, just Timothy and his mom, happy as could be.
It was a brief period in Timothy’s life. His dad had gone, but Cathryn had yet to come into the picture. It was the only time in his life he’d ever really had his mom’s full attention.
It seemed like the two of them had made such a good team, just Timothy and his mom. Why did Cathryn have to move in and ruin it? Why did things have to change?
The next few photos were taken shortly after Cathryn had moved in. They were all either of Cathryn, his mom, or the two of them together. Besides a single photo someone had taken of the three of them at the Group Halloween party last October, Timothy was out of the picture.
By the time he got to the last two photos, of the brook flowing out of the quarry and the sign that said IPM, he was pleased they’d both come out, but didn’t think much about them beyond that.
For the moment, his mind was on other things.
# # #
Timothy’s mom would probably appreciate seeing these family photos at some point, but Timothy couldn’t explain why he’d commandeered the family Kodak and developed them. For now, he stuck them in his bottom drawer.
The evidence photos from the quarry went up on the bulletin board, then Timothy sat back to admire his own work.
In addition to the photos, there was a better-drawn map of Tannery Brook he’d sketched out after his first epic bike ride. There were also the results of the water test, plus a few choice notes about chemically smells and whatnot.
The arrangement of evidence was starting to look a little like what he’d seen on the wall in Ken’s kitchen. Taken as a whole, it looked as though the investigation had accomplished a few things. At the same time, Timothy was well aware that he was also looking at a series of brick walls.
With his available resources, how would he up the ante in the testing department to prove whether or not there was benzene in the water like Ken had speculated? How was he going to get past the locked quarry gate to see where the chemicals might actually be coming from? Beyond that, how could he even begin to connect any of this in the real world to what had happened to Ken?
For all intents and purposes, as far as Timothy’s limited detective abilities were concerned, the trail had gone cold, and might have stayed cold, except for an extraordinary occurrence that seemed too significant to be mere coincidence.
Back downstairs flipping through the Daily Freeman, Timothy was reading a seemingly unrelated story about how the Midtown Youth Center had been reopened after a series of renovations. The youth center was being renamed in memory of a respected Kingston police officer who had died in a widely reported high-speed chase a year or so ago. The officer’s name was Detective Charles Lambeau.
Timothy sat there staring at the accompanying photo. The detective appeared kind, capable, confident, but also...white. The Charles Lambeau he’d met the other day was all those things, but black. Perhaps they weren’t related at all.
But in the Kingston universe, most recognizable family names tended to have a Dutch ring to them, or Irish or German and the like. Lambeau was a very particular name. How many Charles Lambeaus could there be in Kingston, NY?
# # #
With Charles Lambeau, Jr.’s calling card in hand, Timothy stood staring at the beige rotary phone hanging on his kitchen wall.
Taking the receiver in hand, he detangled the coiling cord, then proceeded to dial 339-5997.
One thing about a rotary phone, it not only took a while to dial, but you had to wait for the dial to work its way back after each number. Because Charles’ number had so many 9s in it, it took an extra long time, which gave Timothy just enough time to rethink the situation. He hung the phone back up before he finished dialing.
How was he going to begin this conversation? What could he possibly say to Charles Lambeau Jr. that was going to make this seem like a real case and not just some crazy idea? Would Charles even remember who Timothy was and that he had given him his calling card?
If he could just show Charles the case laid out on his bulletin board it would be much more convincing. But how was he going to get a junior high school boy into his room to show him the work he’s done so far? He didn’t even like having friends his own age come over to his house anymore.
A picture, as they say, was worth a thousand words. If he was going to convince Charles to help him, he was going to have to find him and show him what the investigation looked like, then maybe, just maybe, Charles would be intrigued enough to step in and lend a hand.
Timothy looked at Charles’ card again. His address was printed in black and white, not too far from Brandon’s house.
Looks like it was time to saddle up for a trip to Hillside Meadows.
p.s. Adam Snyder live (music) this Friday 1/12, 8pm, Green Kill Sessions Kingston
Intimate venue, $10 in person / $5 livestream