by Barb, in her first post as a fulltime resident of Maine! (Please, don’t ask me about all the boxes.)
But the strangest interaction I ever had with the police wasn’t in Boothbay. It was in Newton, Massachusetts, where we lived for eighteen years and where we raised our family. Newton is a close-in suburb of Boston, and despite its location and size (population nearly 90,000) it’s usually a pretty mellow place.
It was a beautiful summer Sunday in the early 1990s. So beautiful Bill had cooked our dinner on the grill. There had been reports on the news that a murderer had escaped from Walpole prison and that he might return to Newton where he’d executed a man years before.
I wasn’t really worried about it. It seemed much more likely he’d go to the South Shore of Massachusetts where he had family and associates, or head out for the border.
After we got the kids to bed, Bill and I settled in to watch TV. WGBH had run a marathon of the first season of Prime Suspect in preparation for the second and we’d recorded it on our VCR. We were entirely enthralled with Jane Tennison. There was no word for binge watching in those days, but that’s what we were doing. We kept saying, “Just one more. Just one more.” It got quite late.
Finally, we had to face the reality that we both had work in the morning and kids to get off to day camp. While I turned off the TV, Bill went out to check to make sure the coals in the grill were completely out, as he always did.
I will never forget the look on his face when he came back inside. He said, “I found some stuff in the backyard.” He handed me several 8 x 10 pieces of paper. They were black and white autopsy photos! And I could tell, looking at the first one, they were from the autopsy of the murder victim whose killer had just escaped from Walpole. Bill said, “They were all along the back fence.” I said, “We have to call the police.”
The police told us a patrol car would be right over to collect the photos. A young officer appeared on our porch within a few minutes. We handed over the pictures. “Are they really gory?” he asked, laughing.
He told us one of the sergeants had pulled the files on the murder to see if he could learn anything that would help track down the escapee. He’d sat in his cruiser parked in a cul-de-sac around the corner from us, reading the files. Because it was such a beautiful day, he decided to get out, and took one of the files with him, to read on top of he car as he stood beside it. Suddenly, he got an emergency radio call. Not thinking, he jumped into his cruiser and sped off. “The file blew all down the street,” the young patrolman said. “We’ve been getting calls from your neighbors all day.” We were the lucky yard that won the autopsy photos.
The story has always sounded a little hinky to me. But what worse story could it possibly be covering up? So it must be the truth, right?
By the way, the escaped criminal was caught. On the South Shore, not far from his mom’s house.