Doreen Patrick was banking on her powers of persuasion, as well that her bosses were suckers for a worthy cause. These facts in mind, when the sixty-five year old graying redhead entered Sunset Investigations on a crisp fall morning, she did not go to her island positioned reception desk, facing the newly remodeled offices. She barged into the closest of two, private offices, from where the murmur of voices could be heard.
"Happy Wednesday, Detectives Ryan and Curtis," she chirped, taking in the relaxed scene.
Mugs of aromatic coffee and a plush lamb were on the otherwise cleared off desk, items that had been on the desk were now stacked on the sofa across the rectangular room. Three bloated logo bags from Wal-Mart, a fourth from K-Mart and a white, generic plastic sack were piled high in the swivel chair. The men, both three decades her junior, were hovering on either side of Frank's desk. Glancing up, their expressions were comparable to those on the faces of kids caught with their hands in a cookie jar.
"Uh oh, we're in big trouble. The old bat used the 'Detective' word," Frank muttered. He put on the act of dismay their girl-friday would expect to see, that of sliding the fingers of his empty hand back through his neatly cut black hair.
"We can always ignore her," Marcus replied, taking his partner's gesture one step further by using both hands. In his case, the wayward lock of brown strands that persistently drooped onto his forehead over his left eye, were left sticking straight out, giving him a rather unkempt look.
"I'll get right to the nitty-gritty," Doreen announced, folding her fleshy arms across her very well padded ribs and assuming a purposeful stance. "One of my neighbors, a very nice couple..."
"You have Siamese twins for neighbors, Mrs. P." Marcus couldn't resist interjecting to provoke. As if his legs had become too weak to hold him because of her disclosure, he sank heavily onto a corner of the desk. His production was extended with groaning in astonishment.
"No, but I have clowns for bosses!" she hissed, tilting her rotund self menacingly toward him. "What I'm trying to explain, is that my neighbors have a relative who has been convicted of child molestation."
"There are, unfortunately, bad apples in every family tree," Frank said, pulling several receiving blankets out of the K-Mart bag and stacking them on his desk beside the lamb.
Doreen's further disclosure came in starts and stops. "The Worley's also have a five year old son. Toby. They're worried sick about him. Their detestable relative is Mr. Worley's half-brother. The Worley's are in their late twenties, this ... creep is in his early forties. Granger Worley, is his name."
In the process of placing tiny tee shirts atop the blankets, Frank arched a brow. "Wasn't he convicted on three counts, several years back?"
"You have a good memory," Doreen offered as praise. "The problem is that he was released about six months ago. The Worley's aren't satisfied the therapy he received did the trick. They don't want him anywhere near Toby, but he persists on dropping by for social visits. So far, his conduct has been exemplary. Proverbial worms do tend to turn!"
"Why don't they just tell him not to come around?" Frank asked. He wadded up the empty sack and tossed it into the wastepaper basket beside his desk. The plastic immediately began to fluff.
"Oh, they have been telling him. Granger swears he's reformed and refuses to stay away. Says he wants to prove himself."
"Is what you've told us speculation, or do you know for a fact?" Marcus felt himself being drawn into a non-case.
"Both. Nancy, that's Mrs. Worley, not only confided in me, but I've had the awful pleasure of meeting Granger."
"Just what is it that you're getting around to asking us to do?" Frank questioned, withdrawing a zebra shaped baby rattle on a plastic bubble card from one of the Wal-Mart bags. He had captured Mrs. P.'s undivided attention, her barrage of upcoming questions were undoubtedly going to be directed at him.
"How about scaring Granger into keeping away?" she began by firmly requesting.
"Okay, then what about a restraining order?"
"The Worley's would have to file for one. Have they done that?"
"I doubt it. They don't have much faith in the legal system. Can I file for one that'll keep the creep from getting within a hundred feet of my house? Then he wouldn't be able to step on the Worley's property, either, because that distance would encompass their place, as well."
Swift thinking, Marcus thought, and made a suggestion. "I know you're concerned, but let your neighbors handle their own business."
"Mr. Ryan, are you calling me a busy-body?" Doreen muttered in a huff. Quite a royal one. Her nerves were strung out these days, and the blame lay squarely on Granger Worley.
"Certainly not. You're a kind and caring individual who is prone to meddle, is all."
"Now I'm meddlesome?"
"How about if you hand us a script," Marcus suggested, nodding toward Frank, "so we'll know what it is that we're supposed to say and do."
Doreen flinched, muttering, "Oh, dear. I am being bossy, aren't I?"
"That's one question that deserves a positive reply!" Frank stated assuredly, punctuating each word with the zebra rattle. He grinned when her pudgy cheeks flushed.
Doreen regained her composure immediately. "You've got children of your own, Mr. Curtis. If you could only see Toby, see what a nice little boy he is, then you'd be thinking like I'm thinking, and we'd get something done about the problem of child molester Granger Worley hovering like a Great White Shark!"
Marcus stood up from the corner of the desk. "Are we d..."
"Think about it, Mr. Curtis," Doreen continued as if Mr. Ryan hadn't attempted to say something. "How would you feel if someone like Granger Worley was stalking your children?"
Since her glare was intent enough to melt an anvil, his initial reaction was to conceal honesty by being humorous. "I'd try out a new baseball bat on the pervert's head, and hit a driving homerun to the moon." Seriousness set in. "If my kids were in jeopardy, there isn't anything I wouldn't do to protect them." Including emptying his hand-gun, at point blank range.
"Do you understand that there's nothing we can do at this point?" Marcus inquired, smiling when Mrs. Patrick redirected her glare onto him. "We know that you're concerned, but there has been no crime. There isn't a legal thing we can do, except wait, and hope that it won't become necessary for us to become involved."
"I guess that's the way it has to be, but I don't have to like it!" Desperate to sidetrack her fearful thoughts, she squared her shoulders, muttering, "So what'll we talk about instead?"