Okay, the post title Bespeckled has nothing do with anything, but don't you think it's a funny word?
On the serious side, (yeah right), thanks to those of you who had the time and inclination to read through chapter one. I'm posting what I have of chapter two here, but don't worry, it's not going to be a month long post after endless post containing only exerpts from my NaNoWriMo novel. But what would you care anyway? You don't have to read it.
I'm posting chapter two because those of you who left plot suggestions in my comments will find your ideas taking shape right here before your very eyes.
So, here all ya'all go.
P.S. Kristin, the stakeout hasn't taken place yet because we have to wait for the cover of darkness. Also, I was thinking the cops could just be "having some milk" if you know what I mean.
Oh, and P.P.S. This chapter boasts a different narrator.
It wasn’t like I was some feminist freak in the 1920s who wanted to force the reading of lewd novels on young women. It wasn’t like I painted them suffrage signs that said, “I want to vote.” It was 2008 and I had just moved to town, gotten a legitimate job at Uncle Webster’s newspaper, and I was pretty sure being a wife and mother were not a requirement to purchase a home in this town, which I was in the process of doing; probably the realtor would have mentioned something like that. In fact, I was to close on the home the following day.
But what the Sheriff had just said, you know about the Dyson? That made me think maybe I needed to rethink my decision to move here.
Sweetwater seemed to be full of freaks. Freaks and bigots. Freaks, bigots, and hicks with names like Thane and Big Jerome. Sheriff had just implied I was a little odd for this town, and what I was thinking was that maybe this town was a little odd for me.
But odd or not, I was here and I was staying.
“I see,” I said to the sheriff. I was staring at his badge. It was shiny. He was up and dressed in his uniform and I was still loping around in my workout clothes. Sounded like women here didn’t work out. They just pushed baby buggies or vacuums. Well, I did those things, too, but there was no way on this green earth I was telling that to this pig-headed, chauvinistic pig-head.
“Look—“ he began.
“No, you look,” I interrupted. “I’ve as much right to live in this dried up prune of a town as anybody else. You don’t like it? You can take Chuck and Norris and just go hunt some jack rabbit.”
To his credit, Sheriff looked a little contrite standing there in the parking lot of the diner, which was, to be generous in my description, a large patch of gravel out front. Honestly, I was surprised there wasn’t a bar to tie my horse to. But I wasn’t judging him. I was willing to believe he had some kind of education, or that he was kind to animals, or that he had at least one redeemable humane or civilized quality. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s not like his day started off with breakfast in bed in the room of an ocean front cottage with a view a blue water and bluer skies. It was possible he wasn’t as backward as he at first appeared, and I was willing to find out for sure before I decided to hate him eternally.
I didn’t think it would be too much to expect in return his consideration of me as a fellow human being. I didn’t even think it would be too much to ask that he suspend his judgment of me until he knew something, anything, about me.
“Ma’am,” he began, but just as he was about to speak more, a large yellow dog trotted across the parking lot, circled around us a few times, and then stopped next to the sheriff and looked up and whined. Sheriff reached down to scratch its ears.
I couldn’t stop looking at the dog. “Why is it wearing a diaper?”
The sheriff grimaced. “Old Leaks here is incontinent. He’s MayJune July’s dog. She lives over on Plummer’s Creek Road. Puts the darn diaper on ‘im cause he won’t housebreak.”
“Where I come from we say Creek.”
“And where would that be, Sullivan? Just where do you come from?”
“That would be a big town up north called None of your business.”
“Never heard of it,” he said and fished his keys out of his pocket.
“Doesn’t surprise me.” I think at this point he might have been flirting with me, though he hadn’t lost his sarcasm, but hey, neither had I. “You should get out more.”
It didn’t escape my notice now that Sheriff had big brown eyes that looked as soft and loving as Leaks’, even though it had escaped my notice before and even though I intended never to notice it again. Big brown eyes and no discernable name besides Sheriff.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
“Yeaht.” He was adjusting his hat on his head.
“Not Sheriff Mayhew or Sheriff Blakely or Sheriff VanHousenhouf?”
“Naht. Just Sheriff.”
“What do your friends call you?”
“Ya’all can call me Sheriff.”
“Are you saying we’re friends?”
“I’m leaving. Keep yourself out of trouble. I don’t wanna hafta lock ya’all in the hooskow for disorderly conduct.”
“Something tells me you wouldn’t do that.” Like those eyes.
Sheriff turned and walked one long leg at a time toward his county issued vehicle, a large truck that said Sheriff on the door painted inside a picture of a large gold Sheriff’s badge. It was kind of shiny, too.
And that is how I met the Norton County Sheriff.
After I left Mrs. Fancy Pants Sullivan in a spray of gravel at the diner, I headed over to my office to start on that paperwork. I passed Thane Walker on his way back into town. Thane’s the town nutjob. He’s a good guy along about somewheres in his thirties, minds his beeswax, hold down his job at the high school, but thing is, and this is the embarrassing part, Thane thinks he was abducted by aliens when he was a kid. Thane spends a couple nights a week on back county roads looking for evidence of his abduction, or maybe he’s sending up signals so’s he can be picked up again. I dunno for sure. But for all his crazy talk, Thane’s harmless. He passed me in his old rusty Chev and I lifted two fingers off my steering wheel to say howdy.
After lunch, Mary Ellen walked into my office.
“What do ya have?”
“Well, I went out to question Blade. He said Andy come through about ten o’clock.”
“How long did he stay?”
“Blade says he stayed a few hours, left around midnight.”
“Alright. Leaves us about four hours unaccounted. What was Andy’s frame of mind?”
Andy never took a drink in his life until the day he married Juliet. I don’t know what that boy was thinking turning hisself into an alcoholic like that, but he done done it and Juliet suffered the consequences.
Of course, Andy got one thing right back then and that was getting Juliet pregnant. Maybe if I’d thought of that, she’d have married me and Andy would never have taken that first drink. Well, twenty twenty the hindsight and all.
“I don’t understand what makes a boy like that leave a woman like Juliet at home and go out a’drinking.”
“And carousing. Me neither. Blade gave me the names of the girls he danced with while he was there and the description of a man he shared a table with for a short time. Said their conversation was low and short but intense.”
“Blade didn’t know him?”
“No. Said he’d never seen him before. Looked citified. Andy stayed for a while after that and then left alone.”
“Hnnn,” I grumbled. I folded my hands across my stomach. “Work the leads. Have Justin get you a picture drawed up of the citified gent.”
“Yessir.” Mary Ellen was on her way out the door when she turned back and said, “We’ll find him, Sheriff.”
“Yeaht. Close my door on your way out, would ya?”
But before Mary Ellen could close the door, the receptionist, Fannie Sue rushed in.
“Sheriff? Sorry to bother ya’all, but May June’s on the phone. She says her prize winning plum preserves have gone missing.”
“Not the prize winning plum preserves!” I exclaimed with mock indignation.
“Come on now, Sheriff, she says it looks like there’s been a break in.”
I looked at her.
“I told her you’d come right out. I thought you’d want to do this one personal seeing how she’s your Auntie and all.”
I stood up and stretched. Funny thing about paperwork being able to make your whole self sore. “I guess I could use a break. Take my messages and I’ll return calls when I get back. We hear from the coroner yet?”
“No, we haven’t heard anything.”
“I didn’t think so.” I sighed. “Alright, back in an hour.”
Auntie May June was in the rocker on her front porch when I got there.
“Hell of a hot day to be sitting outside,” I called and shut the door to the truck. My boots crunched on the gravel drive as I walked over to her.
“Air conditioner broke. Feels a might bit cooler out here.”
“Ah, May June, I’ll have a look at it when I get a minute.”
“I know you’re busy, son, especially today. I was shocked you know, just shocked at the news. Andy was such a nice boy. Never did give his folks no trouble in all his growing up. Ya’all come sit down and I’ll fetch some sweet tea out.”
May June raised herself from her chair and headed, back bent over from age, for the front door. I rushed up the steps to open if for her.
“You come along inside,” she said. “And get that hat off. I know you weren’t raised in no barn. There you go now, good boy.”
May June took a pitcher from the fridge and poored me a tall glass. I took it and took a large swallow. It wouldn’t be ten seconds before the glass started to sweat condensation.