At 9:45 the next morning Niles tuned on the recorder to his electronic tablet. He placed it in the front window behind the Venetian blinds. He tested it to make certain the angle recorded everything that would take place in the office during his absence.
“Are you ready, Ernie?” Niles said adjusting the blinds to be certain of its concealment.
“I’ve been goin’ over my lines all morning,” Ernie said.
At 10:00 Niles dialed Lucinda.
“Town clerk’s office,” Lucinda said.
“Lucinda, Niles, somebody reported an accident about three miles out. I got Tom clear up at the bridge, can you come down here and watch the office?” Before she answered Niles continued. “The law says somebody has to be here. I got no choice. They said there’s injuries, I got to go now.”
“Lights, action!” Niles said and reached behind the blind to start the tablet recording.
Niles sprinted to the Jeep and turned on his flashers and siren. He raced from the driveway and out of town.
Twenty minutes later Niles returned to the office. Lucinda sat in the desk chair.
“Any problems while I was gone?” Niles said.
“No problems at all,” Lucinda said. “He was a model prisoner. Was it a bad accident?”
“No,” Niles said, “false report.”
“Don’t people have any sense,” Lucinda said. “That’s just a waste of time. What if there had been a real crime someplace else?”
“That’s all a part of police work,” Niles said. “Who knows, some good may come out of it.”
“I don’t see what,” Lucinda said.
“Thanks, Lucinda,” Niles said. “I’ll take you to lunch sometime.”
“That almost sounds like an indecent proposal,” Lucinda said.
“You better get back to work,” Niles smiled.
She walked up the steps to the first floor. Niles checked to make certain she was gone. He grabbed the tablet from the window and turned it off.
“How did we do?” Niles said.
“I ain’t never been to one of those plays down at the Opera House,” Ernie said, “but I think I’m about due to take a lead in one.”
Niles held the tablet for Ernie to watch. He pressed play and they watched.
Ernie did not have to encourage Lucinda in the least. She nearly performed in front of Ernie.
“Why are you doing this to me, Lucinda,” Ernie said.
“All you had to do was be a big boy,” Lucinda said. “I could have given you a little something to show for 250, something you would have remembered the rest of your life.”
“But Lucinda,” Ernie pleaded sorrowfully.
“Are you about to cry?” Lucinda said.
“I never touched you,” Ernie said.
“Of course you never touched me,” Lucinda said, “and frankly you never were. If you try to say anything about our arrangement to anyone, I’m getting a lawyer and changing my story. I was traumatized by you and they will lock you up for a good long time.”
Niles turned off the recorder. He opened the cell door. “Have a nice day, Mr. Appleton. And remember not a word.”
“You got my word,” Ernie said. “I think you’re workin’ on somethin’ really big aren’t you?”
“Have a nice day, Mr. Appleton.”
Ernie smiled, they shook hands, and he exited the office, walking away with the strides of a free man.
A minute later Niles heard Lucinda rushing down the steps and into the office. “I just saw Ernie Appleton walking down the street free as a bird.”
“You said he was a model prisoner,” Niles said. “I reduced his sentence for good behavior.”
“What about what he did to me?” Lucinda said.
“It’s all he said, she said,” Niles said. “We should get cameras installed.”
“Yeah,” Lucinda said, “camera’s don’t lie. They catch everything. I’d like to show a judge and jury what he did.”