“I just got done pulling the manhole cover in front of the town hall,” Curtis said. “I got the barriers set up, all legal and everything. I have to climb down into the storm sewer and make sure it’s all clear. When this snow melts, if it ain’t open there will be quite a mess ‘round here.”
“I didn’t know there were storm drains her,” Niles said.
“Yeah,” Curtis said, “hardly anyone knows about it. It was put in over 60 years ago. It runs from one end of Main Street to the other. That’s how I got a job for the town. When I applied the mayor ask me what I knew about the town, I told them about the storm sewer under Main street. The mayor didn’t even know about it. So he hired me. It turned out that’s all I knew. I had to learn all about the water and sewage treatment by the seat of my pants and thanks to Mildred, god rest her soul. No offense, Jessica, but I sure miss here.”
“No offense taken,” Jessica said. “I’d gladly give up my job to have her back.”
“So how did you come to find out about the storm sewer?” Niles said. “I think there’s more to this.”
“Like anybody else,” Curtis said, “but with the curiosity of a 12-year-old. I saw a worker climb down in it. Me and old Lute used to run through that drain all the time. It was our secret hideout.
“Now don’t tell Lute I told you about this,” Curtis said. “When we was about 14 we stole an old Model T truck. We didn’t even think it would run. The guy we stole it from was Ole Man Bixel. He called the constable. We had a constable in those days and he worked from his house just outside of town. Earlier Lute pulled three of his plug wires. Little did we know at the time it would be so helpful. So when we were being chased, there was no way he could catch us. We pulled into town, had that ole tuck wide open, all of 35 miles per hour. We was scared to death. We stopped at the east end of Main Street, opened the manhole cover, and crawled down into the sewer. Well, her comes the constable from behind us and he had a couple cars coming from the other direction. They got out of the cars. We could hear every word they were saying. They had no idea what happened to us. Lute and me walked to the other end of Main Street through the sewer. We got out at the other end and walked through town as if we didn’t know what all the excitement was about.”
“That’s quite a story,” Jessica said.
“Every word is gospel,” Curtis said.
“What’s the condition of the sewer now?” Niles said.
“Dry as a bone,” Curtis said, “been that way since early summer.”
“Well I have to get back to the office,” Niles said.
“Me too,” Jessica said.
Niles paid Shelly. He and Jessica walked toward the town hall.
“Go ahead, Jessica,” Niles said as they walked past the barricaded manhole with the cover removed. “I’m going to climb down there and look around.
Niles climbed down the ladder. He pulled his flashlight out and looked around. Next to the ladder rested a spent 30-06 shell casing. He slid his pin inside it, climbed back up the ladder, and walked it to headquarters. He placed it in an evidence bag and labeled it.
“I hope they can get a print off this,” Niles thought. “All along I thought the shot came from a prone position on the sidewalk across the street. It came from the manhole. I walked right over it a dozen times following the trajectory to the sidewalk.”