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PROLOGUE

Friday, July 31, 1959

Given his time on the job, Sheriff Woodrow Kennedy—Wood, to friends and family – had seen his fair share of dead bodies. Not a whole lot of dead bodies, mind you, but his fair share.

Five or six were from wrecks out on the highway where the four-lane all of a sudden narrowed to two. One was a soldier by the name of Arch Crowder who blew his wife’s brains out when he came home from Korea in the summer of ’53 and found her asleep in bed with another man.

Arch let her lover live because he was an infantry man; a grunt like him. The soldier’s uniform was neatly folded and resting on the chair next to the bed.

Crowder told Wood if the son of a bitch had been a Navy man he would have killed him where he lay. And the last dead body Wood had seen was that of a city slicker from Birmingham who came out on the bad end of a redneck bar fight at one of the juke joints out on the county line a year or two back.

Despite all those dead bodies, Wood had never seen anyone – let alone three people he knew reasonably well – bound and gagged and stuffed in a tiny broom closet like sardines in a can. He knew such things happened all the time in big cities like Birmingham and Atlanta, but never in Liberty, Alabama, population now 3 residents shy of a couple thousand.

Wood had proudly worn the six-pointed gold star of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department on his chest for 27 of his 48 years. It wasn’t just a badge. It was a badge of honor.

For the past 8 years he had proudly served the good people of Liberty as their duly-appointed Sheriff. The 19 years before that were spent as a deputy under his daddy, Sheriff Wallace Kennedy. Wallace had held the office for nearly thirty years; as had his father Wilford before him. Wood Kennedy was a third generation Liberty County Sheriff and he fully expected his boy, Tommy, to someday carry on the tradition.

Wood stood in the narrow doorway with his thumbs hitched in his gunbelt, studying the scene. He was a big man, standing 6’4 in his uniform boots, with broad shoulders and a thick chest. His size had served him well over the years. Like his daddy and granddaddy before him, he could be an intimidating son of a bitch, especially when circumstances called for him to do so. There weren’t too many people who would choose to go nose to nose with Wood Kennedy in a fight; fair or otherwise.

He leaned hard against the door jamb and blew out a long breath. Hell of a way to start the day. Finding three people tied up and shoved in a tiny closet that was barely big enough for one man to stand in. Shot to death at pointblank range. This is more than murder, he thought. Arch Crowder shooting his wife was murder. This was something else entirely. This was an execution. The three cups of coffee he had that morning gurgled in the back of his throat. He put a fist to his mouth and let go a low burp.

Wood had known Harold Keener since grade school. Keener had been the manager of the Farmer’s Credit Union since its founding in ‘49. Harold was the friendly type, always had been, always smiling, always the first one willing to lend a hand to folks when times got tough. Wood and Harold’s wives were friends, their kids grew up playing together, they’d hunted, fished and drank together for forty years. But never again.

Harold Keener wasn’t Wood Kennedy’s very best friend, but he was second in line, and seeing Harold stuffed into that closet with his hands tied behind his back and his own necktie stuffed in his mouth and two bullet holes in his face made Wood mad as hell. He was a man given to anger, not tears, but his eyes started to water up on him. He rubbed his eyes and forced the emotion back down his throat where it could join the great ball of anger that was building in his gut.

There was no doubt in Wood’s mind what he’d do to the son of a bitch who had shot his friend when he caught up with him. He wouldn’t waste the taxpayers’ money on a trial. He’d take the son of a bitch out to the rock quarry and administer justice befitting such a horrific act. He pushed the cowboy hat back from his forehead with a stiff finger and leaned in for a closer look at Harold’s wounds.

There was a hole the size of a nickel at the center of Harold’s forehead and another of the same size below his right eye. A peppered ring of black gun power was burnt into the skin around each hole. Wood knew that meant the gun barrel was less than an inch or two away from Harold’s face when the killer pulled the trigger. That word came to mind again: execution.

“He didn’t even give you time to turn your head, old pal,” Wood said quietly. Harold had looked his executioner squarely in the eye; had probably looked straight down the barrel of the gun. Or maybe he’d squeezed his eyes shut and hoped the son of a bitch would just go away. Wood wondered what he would do if ever put to such a test. The good news, if you could call it that, was that Harold never even heard the first shot, never felt the force of the slug slamming into his skull, plowing its way through his brain and blowing away the back of his head.

The wall behind Harold was splattered in dark blood and bits of bone and brains. Wood figured the slug that torpedoed through Harold’s head was in the wall there somewhere. He’d dig it out later.

He straightened his back with a grunt and stood holding on to the doorframe for support. Just getting up and down played hell on his back and knees these days. He was getting too old for the job and he knew it, but his boy wouldn’t be eligible to wear a deputy’s uniform for another year, then he had to get at least five or six years under his belt before the town council would appoint him sheriff. That meant Wood Kennedy was on the job at least another eight or nine years. The thought made him tired; this morning more so than usual.

Evelyn Moody, the Credit Union’s only teller, was wedged in behind Harold Keener. They looked like toppled dominos. Like Harold, Kennedy had known Evelyn his whole life, even took her out a few times in high school, though he never got very far with her, which is probably why they didn’t date long. Wood had one thing on his mind at that age. Just like his boy Tommy now. Looking at Evelyn now he was glad he didn’t marry her. She hadn’t aged well. She looked older than she was; bone thin, hair back in a bun, streaks of gray in the brunette, deep wrinkles set at the corners of her mouth and eyes. Harold had said she came to work most mornings smelling of perfume and mouthwash; probably to mask the gin on her breath. Wood thought it showed on her face.

Evelyn had been shot twice in the chest. The front of her bright yellow blouse was covered in blood that had pumped from her wounds. She didn’t die right away, Wood figured. It probably took several minutes for her to bleed out, given the size of the stain. He closed his eyes and prayed to the God he didn’t talk to very much anymore that she didn’t suffer in the process.

Odell Crutcher, the Negro security guard who seemed to be an old man even when Wood and Harold were kids, didn’t have a bullet hole in him that Wood could see. His lanky frame was folded up like an accordion behind Harold and Evelyn at the back of the closet. He was clutching his chest with both hands. His head was back, eyes wide open. He seemed to be staring at the bare bulb that was hanging from the ceiling by a wire. Wood wondered if maybe Odell had thought it was the bright light of Heaven calling him home.

Wood called back over his shoulder without turning around. ““What’s your read on Odell, Doc?”

“Heart attack, most likely,” Doc Watson said, coming over to stand next to Wood. Dr. William Watson was the town doctor, county coroner, medical examiner, pharmacist, mortician, and veterinarian of animals large and small. He also owned the only funeral home in the Liberty County. If anything ailed you or your animals in Liberty County, before or after death, Doc Watson was the guy to see.

“Odell was older than dirt,” Doc said with a sigh. “I’m thinking his ticker probably gave out when the shooting started. He should have never been placed in this position, security guard at a bank at his age. What the heck was Harold thinking?”

Wood took off his hat and smoothed back his thinning hair. His hand came down covered in sweat. He wiped his hand on his trouser leg and set the hat on the back of his head. He said, “Odell’s family had worked the fields for Harold’s family since before the Civil War. Harold gave Odell the security guard job the day the FCU opened, figured it would be an easy job that’d give him some spending money. I can’t imagine he would ever think that something like this could happen.”

“And yet it did,” Watson said. He took off his glasses, held them up the light and blew dust off them. “This is why I prefer the company of animals to people. Man is the most heartless of animals.”

“I’m with you on that one.” Wood tugged a handkerchief from his back pocket and mopped his face and neck with it. The Alabama heat was stifling and the credit union had no air conditioner. The coffee bubbled up into his throat again. He put the hanky to his mouth and swallowed hard.

Watson gave him a concerned look. “You OK?”

“Sour stomach’s all.”

“Need me to give you something?”

Wood shook his head. “I got Rolaids in the car.”

“This ain’t helping, I’m sure,” Doc said. He folded up the glasses and gestured with them. “Any idea who might have done this?”

Wood tucked the handkerchief away and adjusted his hat low over his eyes. “Whoever called it in said they saw Arless Moss run out of the bank and get in an old Dodge pickup truck. Said he was carrying a gun and a paper sack.” He nodded toward the teller window. “The cash drawer is empty and two people shot dead, so it seems pretty clear to me.”

Doc nodded. “Who called it in?”

“No idea, yet,” Wood said with a shrug. “The caller just said what they said and hung up without giving their name. Reckon I’ll drive out to the Moss place after we wrap up here and see what Arless has to say for himself.”

“Arless Moss,” Doc said knowingly, as if things made perfect sense. “That boy has been nothing but trouble his whole life.”

“Yes he has,” Wood said with a single nod. “I expect him and his brothers have spent more time in my holding cell than they’ve spent at home. That whole Moss clan is nothing but white trash trouble. The old man was worse than the boys in his day.”

“Arless has always been full of piss and vinegar, alright,” Doc said. “Still, I never pegged him as somebody who’d do this kind ‘a thing. Those brothers of his, maybe. His old man, for damn sure. But Arless? I never would have guessed.”

“Never know what a man is capable of, Doc -- especially when his last name is Moss.”

Wood turned from the closet and stood looking around the room. The Credit Union was small, probably a few hundred square feet. It was one open space, with Harold’s desk and a couple of chairs on one side and a counter with the single teller window on the other side.

There was no vault like in bigger banks. What little money that was kept on site, usually less than a hundred dollars cash, was stored in a safe that was bolted to the floor behind Harold’s desk.

An armored car came once a week if need be to transport the overage to a larger bank in Birmingham. Harold had said many times if someone wanted to rob the FCU he’d just hand over the money rather than put anyone in danger. Then again, he’d laugh and say, “Who the heck would want to rob the piddly little FCU?”

Wood stepped over to the safe and leaned down to put his hand on the thick steel handle. He gave it a twist. It was locked tight as a drum.

“Can I get them out of there now?” Doc asked. “It’s already ninety degrees outside and if we wait much longer, well sir, they’re gonna start getting’ ripe.“

Wood held up a hand to shush him. He waved over the two deputies who were standing by with their hands shoved in their pockets like they weren’t quite sure what they should do. Wood couldn’t blame them. He didn’t quite know what to do either. This was only his third murder scene and it never entered his mind to call in someone more experienced at handling such things, especially since he already knew who the killer was and where he lived. There wasn’t much to investigate, in his mind. A witness saw Arless Moss leaving the building with a gun and a bag of money. There were three dead people and an empty cash drawer. In Wood’s mind the case was open and shut. Period. The only question was: what would he do to Arless Moss when he found him.

“You boys get them out of there and into the back of Doc’s wagon,” Wood said. Harold’s keys were on his desk. He picked them up and dangled them at the older deputy. “Burt, lock the place up after you’re done and put the keys in my office.”

“Yes, sir,” the deputy said, holding out his hand. He took the keys and gave Wood an inquisitive look. “What are you going to do?”

Wood adjusted the hat low over his eyes and hitched up his gun belt. With determined eyes he said, “I’m going to get Arless Moss.”

CHAPTER ONE

Liberty, Alabama

Friday, September 6, 1978

Clarence Boone was old enough to be the girl behind the counter’s grandfather, maybe even her great grandfather, but there was no harm in looking, he told himself, especially at his age.

The desire was still there, more or less, along with the vague memories of what the naked female body looked like and felt like and smelt like and tasted like, but the get-up-and-go had done got up and went and the plumbing hadn’t worked well in decades.

“All it’s good for these days is to pass water through,” he’d told Doc Watson the last time he’d seen him five or six weeks ago. “And half the time it ain’t even much good for that!”

Boone sat at his usual spot at the end of Grady’s breakfast counter and watched young Hannah Crowe wiping down the counter at the other end. He liked the way she’d get on her tiptoes to reach all the way across the counter, the way her ankles tensed and her calves tightened up, the way her hips swiveled and her blonde ponytail bounced as the rag went round and round.

Hannah Crowe was a beauty alright, but if somebody asked him and he was to tell the truth, he’d admit that he liked the older waitress better, the one that worked the dinner shift.

Nadine something or other was her name. She was a dye-job redhead with rosy cheeks and a big bosom that practically oozed out the top of her uniform when she leaned forward to pour his coffee.

Nadine was curvy, with wide hips and a big rear end. She had a plumpness about her that reminded him of his first wife back in the day.

Sometimes the girls caught him eyeing them. He’d just let his mouth hang open and cup a hand behind his ear and cock his head to the side and say, “What’s that you’re saying, young lady?” Like he thought they were talking to him and that’s why he was looking their way with such interest and intent. That was one of the advantages of his age; you could get away with pretty much anything if you just acted… old.

Old Mr. Boone, as the whole town called him behind his back, wasn’t fooling anyone but himself. Nadine Johnson and Hannah Crowe, and countless waitresses before them, knew exactly why the old man came in every morning for breakfast and every evening for dinner. It sure wasn’t Grady’s food that kept him coming back. It was because Old Mr. Boone liked to watch the girls. He liked to relive the good old days in his mind. And because he was basically rendered harmless by ailments and age and tipped extremely well, the girls were just fine letting him have his thrills.

With the breakfast rush over, Hannah found herself daydreaming as she worked, wishing she had a nickel for every time she had wiped down the worn Formica counter at Grady’s over the last three years. She would probably have enough to pay her entire tuition to nursing school; maybe even a little more. The thought made her smile as she wiped down the counter for the tenth time that morning. Two more weeks of this, she thought, two more weeks of wiping down this stupid counter, taking stupid orders, bussing stupid tables, filling stupid coffee cups, and putting up with Grady’s stupid teasing about her and Dylan Blue. Just two more weeks, she thought, and I’m off to school and I’ll never have to wipe down this stupid counter again.

His teasing aside, Grady had been good to her. The fact that he was her mom’s older brother probably had something to do with that. He gave her the job when she was still in the tenth grade so she could start saving for nursing school. Her daddy was the town’s Baptist preacher, who believed women should get married and have babies and do what their husbands commanded, so she didn’t expect any help from him. Deep down she knew she was leaving town more to get away from her father than to actually pursue nursing, but she’d never admit that to anyone, not even to Dylan Blue.

Uncle Grady offered her as many shifts after school and on weekends as she wanted. He let her off whenever she wanted and paid her in cash with no taxes taken out. She’d even seen him slip money in her tip jar on slow days. As a result she had saved nearly enough for her first year of tuition, room and board, and books. She’d figure out how she was going to pay for subsequent years when the time came.

Hannah shook out the rag and hung it on a hook under the counter to dry. She looked at her wristwatch, the slim silver Timex that Dylan had given her for Christmas because he said every nurse needed a good watch. He was right; it would come in handy when she went to school, timing out heartbeats and such. Dylan was always thoughtful and supportive of her dreams. For the moment, however, the watch was used mainly to calculate how late Dylan always seemed to be.

It was nearly ten-thirty and the breakfast rush that started at 5 a.m. was over, and still no sign of Dylan, even though he told her he’d be in before nine to have breakfast with her. She used a fingernail to scratch a spot of ketchup off the watch crystal and glanced out the front window again. She knew better than to expect Dylan to be on time. He had never been on time the entire two years they’d been dating. And now that they had graduated all he wanted to do was tinker with the old car his daddy had given him for his 16th birthday. She played second fiddle to a fifteen year old Pontiac Catalina. She could hardly believe she allowed such a thing. She’d have another little chat with Mr. Blue; if he ever got there.

“Can I get some more coffee down here, girl?” old Mr. Boone called. He held up his cup and wiggled it at her. Hannah picked up the pot from the warmer and carried it to him with a sweet smile. Hannah Crowe was an excellent waitress and a smart girl. She knew that smiles brought tips and she had the prettiest smile in Liberty, at least according to Mr. Boone.

“You sure can, Mr. B.,” she said sweetly, filling his cup and batting her blue eyes at him. Mr. Boone was mesmerized, blinking in time with her. He picked up the cup with both hands and brought it to his lips.

“Careful now, Mr. B., that’s hot.”

“Yes, ma’am. Don’t wanna burn my kisser,” he said with a grin that was missing most of its front teeth.

“And such a nice kisser it is.” She gave him a look that made him blush. She knew how to play old Mr. Boone better than anyone and didn’t feel the least bit bad about it. He got his, she got hers. She considered it fair trade. “I’ve gotta get ready for the lunch rush, Mr. Boone. Do you need anything else?”

“Not unless you got a granny as cute as you,” he said. He cackled and slapped a gnarled hand on the counter. She gave him the smile again and told him he was a devil. She took the ticket book from her apron and tore off his ticket and slid it across the counter to him. His meal was $1.25, the breakfast special: country ham, eggs, biscuits and grits, free refills on coffee.

She had used a red pen to write THANK YOU!! across the bottom of the ticket and drawn a heart with a smiley face in it.

Old Mr. Boone picked up the ticket and brought it close to his eyes, then winked at her. He fished two fingers in the bib of his overalls and pulled out a five dollar bill. He slid it across the counter to her and said, “You keep the change. Put that in your college fund.”

Hannah cooed and patted his arm. “You are the sweetest thing, Mr. Boone. And thank you so much. I swear, I think I’ll be able to go through the whole first year just on your generosity.”

“Aw…” Old Mr. Boone gave her a humble look and told her she was going to make a fine nurse. He brought the coffee cup to his lips and watched her backside swish as she walked away. What he wouldn’t have given to be sixty years younger. Maybe sixty-five.

“You got that old man wrapped so tight around your little finger he’s about to snap,” Grady said, leaning his forearms on the wide pass-through window that separated the kitchen from the back side of the counter. He had a spatula in one hand and a cigarette in the other. “I think you should give me a cut of all them tips you been hauling in. I’m the one doing the cooking.”

“Trust me, Uncle Grady, they don’t tip because of the quality of your food.” Hannah smiled at him. “I couldn’t afford to buy a single text book if that was the case.”

“I’ll have you know a lot of folks think this is the best diner in town,” he said, shaking the spatula at her.

“Uncle Grady, it’s the only diner in town.” She gave him the smile that reminded him of her mother when they were kids. He stuck the cigarette between his teeth and glanced toward the front window.

Dylan Blue and his old car came into view on the street outside, like a film moving in slow motion. He had the driver’s door open and was leaning in to grip the wheel while pushing the car with all his might. Steam was coming from beneath the hood.

The car rolled to a stop in front of the diner and Dylan stepped back and slammed the door. Hannah saw him mouth a word that he’d never say in front of his mother.

“Romeo’s here,” Grady said. “Looks like his chariot’s done broke down on him again.” He tapped the spatula on pass-through to get her attention. It made a loud clanging noise that Hannah would always associate with Grady. He aimed it at Dylan like a tomahawk. “Get out there and tell him to push that hunk ‘a junk around back. Nobody’s gonna wanna eat lunch here if that piece of crap is on fire out front.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Hannah said as she headed to the door. “It might actually draw a crowd better than your food.”

CHAPTER TWO

“Uncle Grady says to push that hunk ‘a junk around back,” Hannah said, bouncing out the doorway and across the sidewalk to meet the love of her young life. Dylan Blue saw her coming and his expression quickly changed from one of frustration to elation.

He came around the front of the car in time to catch her coming off the curb. She wrapped her arms around his neck. He easily lifted her off the ground and spun her around. She kissed him hard on the mouth, then pulled back and made a face.

“Ew! Put me down!”

“What if I don’t want to put you down?” he said with a devilish grin, trying to kiss her again. She turned her head and pushed her bony elbows into his chest until he gently lowered her to the curb. He put on a hurt face. “Ain’t you happy to see me?”

“You’re all sweaty,” she said, stepping back and wiping her hands on her apron. She sniffed the air between them. Dylan loved the way her nose crinkled and lips pursed. “And you smell like a grease monkey.”

“Cause I am a grease monkey,” he said, wiping his face with his hands and holding them out to her. His fingers were smudged dark with sweat and dirt. “You’re supposed to love me no matter how bad I smell.”

“I do love you,” she said, waving her hand in the air between them, “but I don’t want your stinky sweat all over me. I gotta work the lunch shift.”

She crossed her arms and shifted her weight to one hip and gave the car a hateful look. In her mind the old car was her only rival; the one thing she thought Dylan Blue might actually love more than her. “What’s wrong with it now?”

“She just overheated is all,” Dylan said. “Like you.” He grinned at her and she rolled her eyes. He was wearing the Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt she had given him for his birthday. He tugged the t-shirt over his head, balled it up and wiped his face and neck with it.

“Hey! I didn’t give you that shirt to use as a sweat rag.”

“Every shirt I own becomes a grease rag sooner or later,” he said, grinning and wiping sweat from his bare chest. Hannah put her fingers over her eyes and peered through them. Seeing Dylan all sweaty, without a shirt, gave rise to thoughts that her Baptist preacher father would say came straight from the Devil Himself.

She knew that if it was up to her daddy she would be locked away in a room wearing a chastity belt until she was an old maid; forbidden to ever see Dylan Blue again. She also knew that if her daddy ever caught her and Dylan doing the things they did sometimes in the back of his old car, he would condemn them both to Hell. She often thought Hell sounded like a lot more fun than Heaven.

Dylan was tall and lean, with dark eyes and dark skin, and hair as black as a pot of Grady’s coffee. Such a contrast to her own looks, Hannah thought, with her fair Irish skin, strawberry blond hair, and blue eyes. She often wondered what their kids would look like. She hoped the boys looked like their father and the girls looked like her.

“Uncle Grady ain’t gonna let you come in without a shirt,” Hannah said. “And you sure can’t put that one back on. You stink to high Heaven!”

Dylan wiped his underarms with the balled-up shirt. He nodded at the car. “I have a uniform shirt in the backseat. Grab it for me?”

She leaned in through the open back window to grab the shirt with the Gilly’s Garage patch stitched over the pocket. She shook it out good and handed it to him between two fingers. “That one stinks, too. Smells like grease.”

“One woman’s stink is another woman’s perfume,” he said, flashing the grin again.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Trust me, no woman would consider that smell perfume.”

“Maybe you’re right,” he said, bringing the shirt to his nose and making a face from the smell. “Don’t reckon we’ll ever find out.”

“Better not.”

He spread the damp t-shirt out on the roof of the car and pulled on the uniform shirt and buttoned it up. He tugged up the front of the shirt to his nose and inhaled. She was right. The shirt was freshly laundered by his mother, but still smelled of gasoline and grease. Everything he owned smelled like gasoline and grease. Hell, he smelled like gasoline and grease. And that was just fine with him.

“Hey, Romeo, get that piece of junk out of the front of my place!” Dylan looked up to see Grady standing in the door shaking the spatula at him. “You’re gonna scare off the lunch crowd.”

“You’re really expecting a lunch crowd?” Dylan asked, mocking the serious look on Grady’s face. Grady cut the air with the spatula and Dylan held up his hands in surrender. “OK, I’ll just push her around back, get some water in her, and she’ll be good as new.”

She will never be good as new,” Hannah said with a scowl. She thought it was silly that Dylan called the old clunker her. He thought it was stupid that she was jealous of an old car.

She waved a hand at the car as if she were waving away a bad smell. “Just push her around back before Uncle Grady beats you to death with that spatula. You want a burger and fries?”

“I could eat,” he said, flexing his eyebrows at her. “That’s how much I love you. I’ll even eat your Uncle Grady’s burgers.”

“It helps that you eat free,” she said, looking back toward the diner to make sure Grady wasn’t within earshot. Hannah had been secretly ripping up Dylan’s checks since the day she got the job. Someday she’d confess her sins to Grady and blame it on love. She was sure he’d just tell her to consider all those free burgers their wedding gift and give her a big hug.

Dylan leaned down and pecked her on the cheek. “Go on, I’ll be there in a few.”

Dylan propped his forearms on the roof of the car and rested his chin on them. He watched her saunter across the sidewalk and back into the diner. As he always did, he wondered what on God’s green earth he had done to deserve the love of Hannah Crowe. Hannah was gorgeous, smart, funny, and hot… really, really hot. Like Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Nicks hot. And he hoped that someday he would experience that hotness in ways that he had only so far imagined.

CHAPTER THREE

The other kids in school called Dylan Blue and Hannah Crowe “the Ken and Barbie of Liberty High”. He was the senior quarterback and she was the head cheerleader. They were king and queen of the prom two years running. They dominated the year book.

He was the most handsome guy and she was the most gorgeous girl. They were Most Outgoing. Most Athletic. Most Likely To Succeed. Most School Spirit.

They were the couple all other couples wanted to be. Hannah loved the attention, but Dylan just blew it all off in stride.

“There are only thirty five kids in our class,” he told Hannah. “It’s not that hard to stand out.”

Dylan didn’t care what they said about him, so long as his name was linked to hers. He’d had a crush on Hannah since fifth grade, became her best pal in seventh, dated her best friend to make her jealous in the ninth, and finally got up the nerve to ask her out in the tenth.

Now, with her going off to nursing school for two years and him staying home to attend trade school to get his auto mechanic certificate, he wasn’t sure what the future held for them. He just prayed that one day they’d get married and have a bunch of kids and grandkids and grow old together on his family’s farm outside of town. Oh, and have a bunch of really cool cars.

“I swear to Jesus that is the biggest piece of junk car in all of Liberty County.”

Dylan looked up to see Jake Morris coming around the side of the diner with a bucket of water hanging from his right hand. Jake was the star fullback of the Liberty High Tigers and Dylan’s best friend. He was a big boy, with a wide smile, broad shoulders and a football player’s thick neck. Unlike Dylan, who had adequate skills as a quarterback, Jake was a standout at full back. So much so that he was headed to the University of Alabama in the fall on a full ride to play for The Bear. It was his dream come true.

“I saw you coming,” Jake said as he set the bucket down and waited for Dylan to lift the hood. “I figured she might need a drink.”

Dylan pressed the balled-up t-shirt down on the radiator cap and twisted it off a little at a time, letting the steam escape slowly. He shot Jake a frown. “If you saw me coming why didn’t you come help me push? You know how hard this dang thing is to push?”

Jake two-handed the bucket and carefully poured the water in the smoking radiator spout. “Shoot, man, it’s too hot to be pushing an old car up the street. I figured you’d get here sooner or later if I give you enough time. Besides, I gotta save all my strength for training camp. Can’t let The Bear down.”

“Some friend you are,” Dylan said, waving away the steam that came boiling off the hot radiator. “I hope The Bear gets more use out of


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Tim Knox is the author of over a dozen fiction and nonfiction books. When he is not writing he works as an entrepreneur, speaker, talk radio host, and small business coach. Tim's passion is animal rescue. He helped start Madison Small Pups & Rescue, which rescues and re-homes small dogs in the North Alabama area. That's Tim with his best friend Buddy, a rescue that chose Tim to be his person.


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