Chapter 17

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After Petronia completed her shift, she sat at her desk at the state police barracks and fired up her computer. It had been a long day, not from anything that happened while she was on patrol, but from thoughts swirling in her head.

The words: administratively closed, continued to invade her thoughts along with Morg Johansson's threat of her possibly being fired if she poked around in the Harrisburg convention center robbery. It grated on her sensibilities how investigation of a felony could be roadblocked due to politics. Someone was being protected. Who? What gave them the right to consider themselves above the law?

The whole situation didn't sit well with her.

Petronia stared at her computer screen. The only information provided in the case file was the name she had previously noticed, that of lead investigator Detective Custer Graham, the man she had never heard of. Since striving to become a detective, she was familiar with the hierarchy. Both the state police and state attorney general office had bureaus of criminal investigation. Detectives from the AG office specialized in narcotics investigations.

Was that why she wasn't familiar with Detective Graham? Did he work for the AG? If so, how were drugs involved with the Harrisburg convention center robbery or with the young man, Neil Mantener, crashing his car into the river?

She should just let it go.

She should, but she couldn't. Petronia picked up her desk phone and dialed the main number for Troop H headquarters in Harrisburg. When the receptionist answered, she identified herself and asked if Detective Graham worked in her office.

"I've been here less than a year," the receptionist told her. "Let me transfer you to one of the sergeants in personnel."

A few moments later, a gruff male voice picked up and identified himself as Sergeant Tanzin.

Petronia introduced herself again and stated the purpose of her call.

"Yeah, I know Custer Graham. A good detective. He retired about eight years ago."

That explained why she had never run into him before. He had been before her time with the PSP. "I'm working on an old, unsolved case of his. Can you give me his home phone number? I have some questions he might be able to clear up for me."

The line went silent. "Hello?"

The sergeant cleared his throat. "Who did you say you were again?"

She repeated her name and badge number. "Is there a problem?"

"We don't normally give out that information over the phone. You'll have to go through channels."

Petronia wouldn't want her phone number given out either, but she had hoped he could make an exception. "What's the procedure to go through official channels?"

"Have your barracks commander submit the request in writing on PSP letterhead."

"I don't have time for that." Her words came out harsher than she wanted. "I apologize. It's been a long day."

"I understand," Sergeant Tanzin said, his voice friendly and sympathetic. "Custer was a thorough detective and kept meticulous case files. If there's anything you need to know, I'm sure you'll find it in his files."

Petronia took a breath. "I really need to talk to him."

"Maybe I can help. What's the name of the open case you're working?"

She almost told him before remembering Morg Johansson's warning words: "Continue poking around an administratively closed case, and you'll likely be fired. Or worse."

"I have another call coming in that I have to take," she lied. "Thanks for your time. I'll submit my request through channels as you instructed." She ended the call, realizing she needed to find another way to track the man down.

On a whim, she found phone books for the three surrounding counties: Dauphin, Cumberland, and Perry. Since the detective worked out of Harrisburg, it seemed likely he lived in the area, that is, if he hadn't moved away. It didn't surprise Petronia when she found no listing for Custer Graham in any of the directories. Law enforcement officers shied away from making their personal information public for obvious reasons.

She tried a Google search and got a promising lead. A man named Custer Graham worked as a resource officer at a local high school. He appeared on Google as part of a newspaper article for instructing an in-service teacher education class on recognizing the signs of child abuse. Petronia knew school resource officer or SRO positions were often filled by retired members of law enforcement.

This could be her guy. Obviously, the school district wasn't going to give her his number either. She'd have to visit the high school and find him which presented her with a dilemma. Hobby cases were to be worked on her own time. School was in session during the day when she was supposed to be on duty. The high school was located outside her barracks patrol area.

Petronia contemplated asking Lieutenant Jardine for permission, but then she'd have to let him know why. Given the case was politically sensitive, he would order her to stand down, and she wasn't ready to do that yet. The old axiom played in her head: Better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. Chances were she wouldn't be caught leaving the area. It would be a low risk move.

"You're going to get me into so much trouble, Barlow," she mumbled. His request had certainly set her on the path, but this was bigger than Barlow now. The case had gotten under her skin. An injustice was being perpetrated, and she wasn't going to let it stand.

 An injustice was being perpetrated, and she wasn't going to let it stand

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Do you admire Pet's determination or she is being foolish?

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