Jürgen Neubert was not a happy man. His promotion to patrolman first class at the end of last year had just added to his responsibilities. Now the grass was turning green and the flowers were starting to bloom and here he was, stuck in the office doing paper work. Not even his new trousers could cheer him up. The trousers were a replacement for the up-time uniform trousers that had finally worn out. Jürgen had been able to have the tailor sew them with a looser cut, more like what he was used to wearing.
The cause of his unhappiness was two-fold. First, and most importantly, being an investigator was not what he had expected. Every case, no matter how minor, seemed to land in his and his partner's lap. He looked down at the case file in front of him, and realized it was typical of the cases he and Marvin had been dealing with. It was a petty theft case. If the officer who responded to the first call couldn't solve the case on the spot, he and Marvin got a report. In Jürgen's opinion, Mr. Hudson's chicken was now resting comfortably in the stomach of a fox, but the man wanted a police report.
The second problem Jürgen had was caused by Chief Frost. Not that the chief had done anything to Jürgen, but because the chief had announced his retirement. Small town police departments are a lot like a family, so Jürgen was not looking forward to getting used to a new father. And then there was the problem of who was going to be the new chief. Rumors were flying; it seemed everyone had an opinion about who was going to step up to chief. Jürgen felt that his partner, Marvin Tipton, had the inside track. Marvin was the oldest of the up-time policemen and had been a policeman for over twenty years. And Marvin was a sergeant, the only sergeant who was not a watch commander, but still a sergeant. Jürgen realized that he was not qualified to be the senior investigator. So if Marvin moved up to chief, Jürgen would get a new senior partner and he wasn't sure he could work with someone else. It would be a difficult adjustment, and he doubted that he and a new partner would have the close relationship he had with Marvin. And now Marvin was in a meeting with the Chief and one of the watch sergeants, Preston Richards. This had to be it.
He looked at the stack of reports, then looked out the window at the leaves just budding on the trees. His mind started to wander. As he read the same sentence for the third time, Jürgen wondered if he could get a little time off to try out the up-time fishing rod he had purchased last week. His thoughts of trout jumping in the Saale were interrupted when he looked up and saw Mimi Rowland, the day dispatcher, looking out of the radio room into the hall where his desk sat.
"Jürgen, come here a minute, you should hear this. I have patrolmen Smith and Kramer on a missing child report."
Jürgen moved to join Mimi. Jonathan Smith, despite his name, was not an up-timer, but an Englishman. He and his partner, Wilhelm Kramer, had been mercenaries in Tilly's army before joining the police. Both had been on the night shift and had just transferred to days.
"What's the problem, Mimi?"
"Well, first off they're using a handi-talkie. Either there's a dead spot where they are or the batteries weren't fully charged, because I'm only getting one word in four."
Jürgen nodded. The handi-talkies were great in town, but without the booster in a cruiser radio they sometimes gave spotty communications.
Jürgen listened in as Mimi tried to talk to the patrolmen. "Base to Patrol Four, Base to Patrol Four, repeat your last traffic. I was unable to hear you."
"Squawk . . . Sputter . . . invest . . . reported . . . sputter . . . a kidnapping . . . hissss . . . "
"See what I mean, Jürgen? I think they want you and Marvin to investigate a kidnapping, but it isn't that clear."
"Do you have a location on them?"
"The original call came from the Cooper's, Mrs. Gladys Cooper. She wanted to report her granddaughter and grandson were missing. She was hysterical on the phone and didn't give any details, so I sent Smith and Kramer to check it out. Now the radio is on the fritz."
"Well, it seems like they can hear you, so tell Smith and Kramer we're on our way. I'll go get Marvin; he's in a conference with the chief."
Jürgen walked across the hall and tapped on the office door. From within, he heard the chief's voice, "Mimi, I told you no interruptions." Jürgen knocked again. "Come in."
When the chief saw it was Jürgen in the door he commented, "Oh, it's you, Neubert. I thought it was Mimi. What's so important that you need to interrupt our meeting?"
"Chief, we have a situation. Smith and Kramer are on a missing child report and we think they want to handle it as a kidnapping."
"A kidnapping!" Chief Frost turned to Marvin. "Tipton, you and Neubert get out there right now. I want to be kept informed. If you need more men for a search, I'll call in the night shift early. Now move it."
While Jürgen and Marvin ran to the cruiser and headed for the Coopers, Jürgen had to ask. "Well, did you take the job?"
Marvin never took his eyes off the road. "What job is that?"
"What job? What job has everyone been talking about? The new police chief when Chief Frost retires. That job."
Marvin chuckled. "Partner, the last time I checked the police chief was hired by the mayor and town council. It's not something passed on from one chief to the next."
"Marvin, I didn't just get into town yesterday. I know that the council is going to hire whoever Chief Frost recommends. Did he ask you?"
Marvin relented. He knew Jürgen was worried about a new partner. "No. I wasn't offered the job as chief. You need to keep it under your hat until the announcement, but Preston Richards is going to be the next chief."
"They should have offered you the job. You're the senior man in the department."
"Actually, I'm not. Oh, I've been a cop longer than Press, but I moved around a lot when I was younger. I worked a couple of years for Morgantown and a couple in Fairmont. I even did four years with the sheriff's department until the politics changed. So Press has been with the Grantville department about a year longer than I have. Besides, he has more education, two years of college and the F.B.I. course at Quantico. I did the F.B.I. course, but I never went to college."
"Oh . . . well, what was the meeting about then, if you're not going to be chief?"
Marvin chuckled again, "You're just full of questions. Chief Frost was just making sure Press and me were on the same page. He's heard all the rumors going around, just like you have. He didn't want to leave any problems behind, so he wanted to know if Chief Richards and me could work together. And, by the way, we both better start thinking of him as Chief Richards from now on."
"What would Chief Frost have done if you had any problems working for Chief Richards?"
Marvin thought for a moment, "Well, I guess I did get a job offer. Chief Frost is going to open a consulting business, helping set up modern police forces for towns in the USE. He offered to take me with him."
"I turned him down. I like it here just fine."
The sight that greeted them in the Cooper's driveway was enough to drive the thoughts of the new chief out of Jürgen's mind. There was Gladys Cooper, all ninety pounds of her, chasing two burly policemen with a broom. Old Tommy, her husband, was hanging on to her from behind. Even though he was twice her weight, he was unable to restrain her. Every time Smith or Kramer stopped moving, Gladys would lash out with the broom. If it wasn't so serious a situation, Jürgen would have burst out laughing. Old Tommy had a bad case of black lung, and he could hear the old man wheezing from across the yard. From the looks on their faces, Smith and Kramer were about to lose their tempers.
Luckily for all concerned, Marvin was able to keep his laughter under control. "Smith, Kramer, go over to the car," he yelled. "Mrs. Cooper, put down that broom. You look silly. And you're about to give Tommy a heart attack."
Gladys stopped trying to get at the two policemen, but didn't put down her broom. And it was obvious she was still angry. "Marvin, I want those two fired. They insulted my granddaughter and they won't do their job. The poor little girl is missing and all they can do is insult her."
"Why don't you tell me what's going on? I'll deal with Smith and Kramer later." Marvin turned back to the car. "Jürgen, talk to those two and find out what they know. With that he started talking to the Coopers, and Gladys soon lowered her broom.
Jürgen went to talk to the other officers. Smith had an obvious red mark on his head and there was straw from the broom stuck on the shoulders of Kramer's uniform. Gladys must have scored more than once with the broom. "Men, what happened?"