Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Great Falls, Montana

Monday, June 27, 2005

Around 11:00 a.m., it became apparent time was running out and there was still much to do. Housekeeping was knocking.

The thought occurred to remain another day. “Maybe I can talk them down to a lower rate?”

I went to the desk and inquired “since it’s so quiet here…”

“The rate is the rate. But it looks like they gave you the lowest rate, $84.60.” That Jerry!

They booked me for another day, a reprieve that offered more time to breath.

There are some heavy-duty fireworks in these parts! Every so often, what sounds like dynamite is set off, echoing through the nearby hillside neighborhood.

After 4:00, I started to think about getting something to eat. Looking at the sky from my window, the half on the right was black with storm clouds, to the left pretty sunny. I watched for movement, but the clouds seemed stationary.

Downtown was on the sunny side, so I ventured that way. No idea where I was going, just "cruising", looking for some inviting restaurant to draw me in. I've never seen so many casinos outside of Vegas or Reno. Scores of them. Most restaurants here include a casino.

Within half an hour, thunderstorms converged on Great Falls from all directions. The winds had risen and changed direction. Lightning was everywhere, rain pouring down. I was still puttering about, slowly getting saturated. But it was exciting.

After about 45 minutes, found myself heading south out into the rolling farmland, but towards light. It was apparent that this whole mass was now moving north. Looking back towards the city, a wall of black cloud loomed above, veils of rain reaching to the ground.

It was obvious I wouldn't find a restaurant out here. So, I turned back into the storm. Connected to Lower River Road, following the shallow-banked Missouri River back into town. The homes and farms I passed had a comfortable, country feel about them. Rich foliage, big spreading trees. It almost felt like the south, especially with this stormy weather.

Another pass through the downtown business district reaffirmed that it was pretty dead at this hour. My riding suit was leaking now, at the crotch and under the arms, so it was decision time. "I guess Applebee's isn't such a terrible choice."

Found my way toward the restaurant I had passed earlier. Arriving out front, I noticed another, more interesting one just down the street: Mackenzie River Pizza Co. Relieved to have another option. And, it appeared popular.

The staff was quite attentive from the moment I walked through the door. The establishment had a "good energy." It was basically a "theme restaurant", but if the food and service were good, I didn't mind. And such was the case. A draft "Moose Drool" dark ale (from Missoula), a small Caesar Salad, a thin-crust Chicken Pesto Pizza, a "Mudpie" dessert, and regular visits from staff. I was a (fat and) satisfied customer. As I left, I thanked them for "doing a great job." It's not all that common these days.

7:55 p.m. Returned from dinner a half hour ago to find a business card stuck in the door. From a Police Detective McDermott of the Great Falls Police Department, it had a hand-written note: “Please call me…very important.”

I walked back outside where a sheriff’s car was parked, the officer speaking to a gentleman. “I found this in my door. Do you have any idea what’s going on?”

“Call that number and McDermott can explain.”

Called Detective McDermott and he sounded relieved. “I’ll be right up.”

“You’re in the building, in the hotel?”

“Yes.”

He came up and I invited him into the room. He took a seat on a bench inside the door, pad and pen in hand. I stared at the 45 caliber pistol strapped to his side. He asked me if, during my stay, I had heard anything unusual. I mentioned the demented-sounding voice yesterday morning. He was interested in the time, which I placed at around 11:00. He asked me to describe what I had heard. Could I recall what was said? I was shocked by the absence of detail in my memory. I had been in such a fog.

When I asked what happened, he said they were investigating a homicide in the room directly below mine, 321.

"McDermott" thanked me, saying this was valuable information, and asked if I would mind coming down to the police station tomorrow morning at 10:30 to make a recorded statement. "Not at all. I have to check out by noon, so that won't be a problem."

He was surprised that I had recorded the disturbance in my journal and asked that I bring the computer along tomorrow. When asked how I could be contacted later, should they need to, I gave him my e-mail address.

I began to question how I could have been so disconnected from reality that I failed to respond to the warning signs.

Throughout the evening, there was police activity outside in the parking lot. There was a constant watch on the building. What appeared to be a crime scene investigation van showed up. I assume they finally got the search warrant they had been awaiting.

I worked into the night, trying to make headway on a backlog of journal notes.

Just after 2:00, I heard a woman’s voice outside ask “do you need a body bag?”

“Yes,” came a reply.

It was quite chilling to hear the different teams moving about below, and to think the victim had been down there a day and a half. "They haven't even removed the body yet?"

A few minutes later I watched as they rolled out the white-wrapped body, strapped to a gurney. It appeared to be an adult.

Later, as the activity subsided, participants bid each other "good night", heading home from another job.

1 comment:

otto said...

Was this the Agatha Christie Inn?