Lawrence peddled his bike hard up the hill to where the parked police cars overlooked the cliff. The Pacific Ocean filled the horizon and splashed against the rocks below.
“What’s going on?” The ten year old stopped beside Deputy Reynolds. “Is it a jumper?”
The officer put up his hand. “Stay back. You’ll mess up the evidence.”
“Evidence of what?” Lawrence got off his bike and bent to study the footprints in the mud. “You know I never touch evidence, Deputy.”
Nearby, policemen took pictures and made plaster casts of the footprints.
“Big feet,” said Lawrence when one of the men held up a plaster cast to show Reynolds. Another cast came up. “And small feet. Two men.”
“How do you know it was men?” Deputy Reynolds sounded annoyed.
Lawrence, the town’s junior detective, pulled out a magnifying glass he carried in his back pocket instead of a slingshot.
“If the smaller one’s a woman,” said Lawrence, “she’s still got feet bigger than my Aunt Evie.”
Lawrence nodded toward a sedan parked nearby. “Two men. In a stolen car.”
“If the sheriff catches me talking to you, Lawrence, she’ll put me on dispatch duty until Christmas. What makes you think it was stolen?”
“I heard it on the scanner. That’s Judge Brown’s car. Since he reported it missing, I’m guessing he didn’t drive up here and jump. You don’t have to keep information from me, Deputy. I know about the jail break last night.”
Reynolds sighed. “The sheriff says the two escapees probably couldn’t face going back to jail, so they decided on a suicide pact. Case closed. You can run on home.”
Lawrence examined the footprints close to the barrier tape. “I don’t think so, Deputy. If their feet were such different sizes, I’m guessing their weights were different, too.”
“True. Rosen weighed twice what Lynn did. Read all about it in the paper tomorrow. We’ll look for their bodies, but the tide’s already gone out.”
“This case isn’t closed,” said Lawrence.
“What makes you say that?” asked Reynolds.
“The depth of both sets of footprints is the same. They didn’t jump off the cliff.”
“But there are two sets of tracks leading to the cliff and none coming back,” said Deputy Reynolds. “Did they walk to the edge and fly back?”
“Loan me your boots, Deputy. It’ll keep the sheriff from making a tragic mistake.” He waited while the deputy reluctantly complied.
Lawrence stomped to the edge in his tennis shoes, paralleling the police tape. When he got there, he slipped Deputy Reynold’s large boots over his shoes. Then he stomped his way back, walking backwards.
“I’ll be darned,” said Reynolds, taking back his boots. “They wanted us to find the car and the footprints. Our convicts are still on the run.”
The boy smiled. “Glad to help. I won’t tell the sheriff how you figured it out.”
The deputy stood with his boots in his hand as the young detective waved and sped off down the hill.
Tom Howard is a science fiction and fantasy short story writer in Little Rock, Arkansas. He thanks his family for inspiration and the Central Arkansas Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group for perspiration.
Copyright © 2018 Tom Howard. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.