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Quarantine Mystery, XVII

April 11, 2020

Every day, I sit on my porch a little longer, it seems, before I get up and do the few things I need to do before I start making my lunch. Not that it matters. If I didn’t eat lunch at all, it wouldn’t matter. My job these days is to do nothing. What I would have given to have some of this free time when Chris was little and I was working full time!

Marian Curtis walks by, sees me, and throws up both hands, her eyes wide. She must have something important to tell me. I open the side door and join her in the front yard. “I have to tell you!” Marian talks with her hands and I sort of lean back because she has a way of grabbing me by the arm while she talks. We’re not supposed to be grabbing one another.

“Frank DiPonte,” she says.

The name makes my shoulders tense up. I haven’t heard that name for fifteen years. Frank DiPonte was the owner of the landfill my husband discovered was allowing big time dumping of hazardous waste that was leaching into our waterways. Richard, my husband, was a surveyor and he had nothing to do with the environment or the law, but he saw what he saw and he refused, in spite of DiPonte’s threats, to keep his mouth shut. DiPonte avoided prison by disappearing. He hasn’t been heard of for fifteen years.

“Frank DiPonte is back in town,” Marian says, her eyes dancing. “He’s been hanging out at his old bars. Talking to his old friends—the ones that Victor didn’t run out of town.”

“How do you know this?” Silly question. Marian’s network of gossips covers every corner of this city. But she has used the names DiPonte and Victor in the same breath, so my interest is piqued.

Marian’s gaze veers toward the Burke’s house. “Jenna says they’re talking about it downtown.”

“Downtown? Nobody’s working there now. How are they talking?’

“Phones, I guess.”

“Right.” I should have guessed that. “How is he hanging out in his old bars? They’re all closed.”

“What is this? Twenty questions? I’m just telling you what Jenna told me.”

“Right. And he might have been here before the ‘stay at home’ rule.”

“The police are keeping an eye out for him. If they find him, they’ll arrest him.” Marian cocked her head sideways as if she knew what my next question would be. “Gary told Jenna it’s all over the fire department. They remember the threats against Victor’s life, and you know? Where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

I squelched the temptation to tell her that made no sense. I knew what she meant. Frank DiPonte would not come back to town for no reason. Was he here to get even with the judge who had pulled the strings that got his whole operation shut down? 

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