Over a cup of coffee, the situation looks worse in the morning light. If Dick isn’t guilty—and it’s starting to look like he’s a nonstarter—then where do I go from here? I tried Brandon McDonal’s lawyer but got radio silence, and nothing from my direct request for a prison interview. I fill out another online form, and call his lawyer’s office again, but I just get voicemail. It’s my third message, and I make sure to leave my email as well. Maybe he’s like me and hates the phone.
There’s just one thing left for me to focus on if I’m going to have anything to put in the next show: Len Brockman. He’s a retired detective who was involved in Peg’s case, and though my Dick Carlisle lead is ice-cold, I know I should follow up with him and see what he has to say. I don’t let myself even think what’s next if Brockman doesn’t have new information. I just go.
Len Brockman’s house deserves a description, I decide, and as I stand on the sidewalk in front, I fumble my digital recorder out of my pocket, thumb it on, and start talking. I sound nervous. I try to slow down.
“Setting up for former police detective Len Brockman interview. I’m at his house at 1077 Willowhill Road. It’s a ranch house development, brick and wood. The houses are smallish, with big yards. Mr. Brockman obviously isn’t one of those people who likes to be out in his garden. He’s got patchy grass, overgrown trees, some ragged hedges up near the house. The place seems . . .” I try to figure out how to describe the feeling it gives me. “Neglected.”
I turn off the recorder. The neighborhood is pretty quiet, but then, it’s midmorning, and most people will be at work, or school.
I walk up the cracked path, then climb three steps to a bare concrete porch. Someone once had hanging plants here, but the hooks are rusty and empty now. I have one of those lightning flashes that warns me to turn around, get back in the car. But that’s a Macy instinct.
I will myself into Mackenzie, and ring the doorbell. I don’t hear it sound inside, and there’s no answer, so I put knuckles to the screen door. The mesh that covers it is old and frayed at the edges. Not much of a barrier. But there’s a faux-carved wooden sign hanging on the wall that says THIS PROPERTY PROTECTED BY SMITH AND WESSON, and I feel my throat dry up.
I hear the heavy thump of footsteps coming, louder and louder, and move back to put a couple of feet between me and the door. I wonder if he’s going to answer it with a gun in his hand, and if he does, if I’m just going to run.
I hear multiple locks clicking open on the other side, and then before I’m ready—if I could ever be—the door is swinging open. It’s dark inside, so I don’t see Len that clearly, but my first impression is that he’s big, and was probably athletic once, but not anymore.
“Mackenzie, right?” he says. I called ahead and managed to sound somewhat professional when I requested an interview. “About the Peg Graham murder?” His voice is low and a little scratchy. I smell old cigarettes and nearly gag; the place is going to reek of it. Not that I’m allergic. Just averse.
“Yes, sir,” I say. “I appreciate you giving me your time. Can I come in?”
“Sure, kid,” he says, and stiff-arms open the screen door. I wish he hadn’t, because it doesn’t give me much room to pass, and I end up brushing against him way too closely. He doesn’t seem to mind. I’m extra glad that I texted my plans to Ryan. “Go on into the living room. You want coffee or anything?”
I politely decline, and walk down the hall as he splits off, heading for the kitchen. The hallway is about ten feet long, lined with photos. It’s like a timeline of Len Brockman’s life. A couple photos of him as a kid. One as a gawky teen. One in a formal Army uniform. Then in his mid-twenties, a change to police uniform. A wife drops into the pictures, then out again. No kids, apparently, or if there are, they don’t merit wall space. The last couple of pictures are of Brockman receiving awards from a uniformed police captain, and then a grinning shot of him in front of a HAPPY RETIREMENT banner. He and his buddies are holding up beer glasses shaped like guns.
I realize he looks young to be retired now. Maybe in his mid-fifties?
I step into the living room, and the smoke hits me hard. It’s everywhere: swirling in thin gray clouds around the lights, lurking like a fog over used ashtrays, yellowing the curtains and old Sears furniture. I look around for somewhere to sit that won’t coat me in secondhand nicotine, and finally settle on a battered leather recliner. I perch on the edge of it. I anxiously scan the room and try to commit...