After listening to the welder, the corporal dismissed him. He might need to talk to him again soon, he said.
Mr. Talma had explained all he knew about Sam’s mission and purpose in town, and that he was a man of integrity. He would never have opened that trunk if he had known the body was there, or even taken the car from Dondus in the first place, Mr. Talma said. The corporal seemed to buy this argument.
Sam explained his story from the moment he had seen the car on Desperation Hill, the choke problem, their ride back into town with Father Dondus. He told about Father Dondus looking for something frantically at his house before he gave Sam the car key and logbook.
“Did he say what he was looking for?” the corporal said.
“No, he never said,” said Sam. “But he seemed real disturbed at that time.”
The corporal looked to his left on the floor and pointed. “I bet you he was looking for that briefcase,” he said. “He reported it stolen to me this morning. He told me it was supposed to be in the car. He was going to leave town for a business trip. This morning it was found in the garbage dumb at the market.”
“That figures then,” said Talma.
“Figures what?” the corporal said.
“I think he had planned to drive off into the sunset. Something happened on the road, or the car died on him and he had to come back. Sam here just happened by on his way here when they met on the hill.” Mr. Talma looked sideways at Sam.
The corporal eyed Sam pensively, nodding. Apparently Mr. Talma’s theory made sense. “Is that all that was wrong with the car?” he asked.
“That was it,” Sam said. “The choke had stuck. The older Volkswagen carburetors are known for that. It cuts off fuel, and if you don’t know what to do, you can walk a long way.”
“So you guys drove down, and just out of gratitude he gives you the car?” asked the corporal.
“That’s what he told me. I was very surprised, sort of couldn’t believe it.”
“And he didn’t give you the key to the trunk, you said,” the corporal said, although he had been told this before.
“No. he only gave me the ignition key on a ring,” Sam said.
“It’s seems to me he wanted that boy’s body driven away somewhere,” Mr. Talma said. “And I think he had planned to leave town for good. Either the missing briefcase brought him back or the car breaking down, or both.”
“Probably so,” the corporal said. “Anyway, we are going to get the statements of a few more people and compare them.” He was quiet for a moment.
“So where are you from, Sam?” John Legiot said.
“Tagat. It’s about thirty kilometers west from here.
“I know Tagat. Is there a place I can reach you if I need you again?”
“Yes. You can call the local police station, and they’ll let me know. I fix their station vehicles.”
“Very good,” the corporal said. “I’ll let you go, Samuel. I have examined the car owner’s documents and I am satisfied that Father Dondus signed them and meant for you to really have the vehicle. I’ll need you to leave me a copy of the documents. I want you to clean up the car and get it out of town right away. I don’t want any speculation and incidences just yet from this story. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” Sam said.
Mr. Talma smiled.
After Sam left, Mr. Talma had a few words with the corporal, thanked him and left.
Job stepped in next. He sat across from the corporal, studying his fingernails as though he had just discovered them.
“I’m all ears, Job,” the corporal said. “I missed my lunch. How about we go for lunch, then you can tell me what wise prophesies you have brought to make my life easier today.”
“It’s a good idea, John. You bring up lunch, you pay for lunch. And I think I am worth several lunches over this time.”
“I bet you are,” the corporal said, picking up his button and radio. “I can’t afford your expensive lifestyle on my corporal salaries though,” he added as they stepped out.
“You can afford to support me though,” Job said as they stepped out of the building. “This town needs a mayor and two councilors. Mr. Talma has seconded my idea, and I will nominate him for councilor. Him and that Henry at the petrol station. They are good steady fellows.”
“I can afford that kind of support. You have been good help, Job. But on one condition.”
“And what’s that?” Job said, hurrying to keep up with the longer strides of the tall corporal.
“You have to declare to the townsfolk your real names,” John said. “We can’t elect a town mayor who only has one obscure name he picked up on the street somewhere.”
“Aaw! You got me by the short hairs, Chief. I‘ll work on it.”
“You do that. And get yourself a wife while you are at it.”
“Now that’s driving a man too far in a corner. What would I want a wife for, John? Huh?”
“If you want my support, you find one fast and see what she can do. I have never heard of a mayor that didn’t have a wife. Then we can begin the campaign.”
“Ouch. You are too expensive.”
“It makes a pair, ha!” the corporal laughed as they entered his favorite café.