As was usual in late September, leaves and temperatures were falling as the Good Folks of Lennox Valley woke on Wednesday morning.
In a small town like ours, it was common to rise earlier than most of the residents in Springfield, 11 miles away. We had more than our share of farmers and folks who grew up on farms, so waking up early was just part of our DNA.
A lot of folks missed hearing Raymond Cooper’s voice welcome them at "sign on" each morning on Talk Radio 88.3. The station still played "God Bless the USA," but with the election four weeks past, Cooper still hadn’t returned to the air.
The station carried mostly syndicated programming to fill the void. Valley residents were getting their fill of UFO sightings in England, political conspiracy theories and radio preachers. In an effort to appease his loyal listeners, Raymond asked Marvin Walsh to host "Renderings with Raymond" each afternoon until his return. Wednesday was to be Marvin’s first appearance as host.
Wednesday mornings were special. That’s when the Lennox Valley Hometown News came out each week. You would think as small as our town was, everyone would already know any news before it came out in the paper. Whether they did or not, the Valley depended on Iris Long, editor, for the facts each week and she held their faith as a sacred trust. Sure, there was the usual bickering about slanted reporting during the mayoral election but that was history and just about everyone in the Valley woke up on Wednesday hoping to learn something about A.J. Fryerson’s disappearance.
Iris went back and forth at least a dozen times before settling on a headline. She had been a reporter and editor for longer than most Valley residents could remember and she felt the newspaper should report the news, not create it. She settled on, "Press Conference Breeds More Questions Than Answers."
In essence, she described the eight-minute conference from beginning to end. There were three pesople present: Chief Dibble, herself and the newest member of the press, Marvin Walsh. She didn’t mention it in her story but Iris couldn’t help but note how excited Walsh was about being allowed into the conference.
Apparently, A.J.’s disappearance wasn’t big news in Springfield and it was obvious Chief Dibble was disappointed in the turnout.
The facts were straightforward. No one had seen Fryerson in three weeks. Dibble had obtained a warrant to search the home. Nothing was out of order. A.J. was not present but his car was in the drive. Nothing seemed unusual in the home. There were no signs of foul play.
When it came time for questions, Long asked if the chief had contacted any friends or family. So far, Dibble had been unable to locate any friends or family of Fryerson. He seemed to be a loner.
Knowing the history between Dibble and A.J., Marvin asked, "Did you kill him, Chief?"
At that point, Iris was afraid she was going to have to break up a fight. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed.
"No," Dibble responded, "I did not."
Maxine Miller did not need a press conference to fill her popular column, "Rumor Has It," with less inhibited observations about Marvin’s publicly announced suspicions.
"Rumor has it," she began, "Marvin Walsh caused quite the commotion at the Hoffbrau on Tuesday when he named Chief Dibble his lead suspect in the disappearance of A.J. Fryerson."
Maxine loved to stir things up, and Iris had learned long ago readers expected a well-stirred pot.
Long could only imagine what Walsh would have to say on his show at noon but with all she knew about Marvin, she wasn’t surprised by his opening words, "I smell a cover up!"
Iris felt it best to keep her final letter from A.J. to herself for the moment. There was no telling what might happen if word of its contents got out.