When I dig around in my top desk drawer, marveling at the personal history contained in its collection of keys, pens, pencils, combs, letter openers, and paper clips (some from various countries, as a whole revealing the evolution of paper clip design), and retrieving Broderick Burkholder’s business card, I’m not playing the game in a completely honest way, although “honesty” in this case has to be defined in totally pure academic terms. To be completely honest, I would do a detailed analysis of all these plastic bags, write a technical report, deliver that report to DCI, and wait for them to respond. The contents of bag number 83172941336120305245 alters that approach. I manage to find my phone, a Motorola Droid 4G, and tap in Burkholder’s number.
“Burkholder here. Got something for us, Marshall?”
I have never called Broderick Burkholder, so there is no reason for him to have my mobile number in his phone, unless he put it there, having gotten that number in some way known only to DCI and other spooks. It’s almost noon on a Saturday morning and he’s at work, at least mentally. We’ll see how ready he is to go to work physically.
“Good morning, detective Burkholder. Got something to write on?”
“Go ahead.” He’s as ready, and efficient, verbally as I imagine him to be in every other way.
“Sample number 83172941336120305245 has something in it that is interesting. I don’t want to know how you got it, or where it came from, but the material in it is probably from Oklahoma. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d put it somewhere down in southwestern Oklahoma.”
There’s silence on the other end. Then “okay.”
“A slightly less educated guess is that it’s from somewhere around a surface pit that’s supposed to hold fluid from a drilling operation. However, it has a collection of pieces that would not occur together in a single formation, or even in a dirt sample from some field. So it’s mixed in a way that suggests several different underground sources.”
More silence. Then
“You free to travel, Marshall?”
“Maybe; it depends.”
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
“Sunday.” There’s a pause. “You folks go to church?”
“I can’t remember the last time we went to church.”
Well, I do remember our wedding, and I remember last fall actually being in a church, talking to a pastor about renting space for classes when our building was sealed off following Stitcher’s murder.
“Good,” says Burkholder. “I’ll be down there about ten.” Detective Burkholder is not much of a talker. I assume he’s equally as efficient in other aspects of his job. His next comment is more conversation than I’m ready for this morning. “Applied for that concealed carry permit?”
“It’s Saturday morning.”
“We talked about this yesterday. You can start the process online.” There’s his typical three-to-five second pause. “We can probably expedite the process.”
“We’ll discuss it tomorrow.”
I am not ready to carry a weapon. I am not qualified to carry a concealed pistol and, with a little bit of somebody’s good judgment never will be. Gideon Marshall and a concealed firearm is, in my opinion, a public health hazard, and not the least of that hazard is to Gideon Marshall. And I am not ready to go to Oklahoma if that’s the plan for whatever trip Burkholder is imagining. Dinner conversation at El Calor this evening will be interesting. Mykala can practice her Oklahoma “shee-ee-it” and I can assess the tamales, in anticipation of comparing them to those I’ll have in the next few days if I end up heading south. I don’t ask him if he knows how to find our house or whether, like officer Branch, he drinks decaf.