Doris watched and decided Hugh’s microphone needed adjustment so she added softly, “Just think about the last time you had an interesting discussion with somebody. No TV on. Just some interesting talking and listening. Give it a shot.”
The mike came on.
“Walt does have that set of encyclopedias. Dark blue, aren’t they?”
Doris murmured agreement. She added, “Who else can you think of?”
“Not Walt and DJ, at least not in their front room. Dave and Irma Tompkins have a couple of series books I think. One even looks a bit like The History of Civilization series we’ve been getting.” Hugh frowned and picked up one of the books. “Yeah, it is, I think. Look—”
He pointed to the spine of the book and held it up for Doris to look at. “On the bottom. There’s that blobby, weird logo you can’t make out.” He held the book closer and up to the light. “Yeah, it’s printing, isn’t it? Time/Life written in a block so pushed together you can’t read it.”
Doris frowned. She didn’t remember that, but it didn’t matter. That was the thing about memory. People hooked on different things. A lot of times, that was all there was left of a memory after a couple of years. That’s why people’s memories never seemed to agree. People’s hooks didn’t hook together well.
Hugh’s expression looked serene for a change. “Yeah, there’s Elmer Hawksley. He’s got two or three shelves full, now that I think about it. John McKenzie too.”
Softly, “Bingo.” Doris’s memory clicked. She could recall a whole bloody wall full of books, now that Hugh had mentioned it. And the kicker was that John McKenzie, now retired, had worked at the Toledo Post Office for almost forty years. “John has a lot of them, doesn’t he?”
Hugh looked startled for a moment and then nodded, a sly grin stealing over his face. “That he does. Indeed yes.”
Hugh’s expression had taken on a predatory aspect that would have worried Doris, had she been inclined to allow civilians such luxury. But she wasn’t and consequently, didn’t. “Do me a favor, Hugh. Take the afternoon off and put on some nice quiet music, stuff you normally read to and then see if you can come up with more names. John and Elmer are good starts but I think we need a few more before we stand a chance of figuring out who our BMOC Santa Claus is. What do you say?”
Hugh sighed, again proving that he could have made a name for himself in some off-Broadway melodrama troupe. “If you insist. But I think…”
“Thanks Hugh. I’ll let you know what I learn from Elmer, John and the Tompkins. See you later.” Doris bounced up and was gone, accelerating out the door quickly to ensure Hugh couldn’t come up with any objections or complications.
Things were quite complicated enough, Doris figured. She may have a suspect, but she still lacked a motive and that meant she still didn’t have the foggiest idea of what really was going on. She didn’t question that whoever was sending these surprise packages was acting in a completely legal manner. She couldn’t find a crime anywhere in the entire situation, unless of course irritating a police officer constituted a crime. As far as she knew, that law still hadn’t managed to squeak by the Legislature yet.