Whenever Cindy Ramos sold the Delta 88 at a reduced price due to the damage, she told the boy who purchased the vehicle how it’d incurred whenever she’d struck a deer driving home from work late one night as the ill-fated creature darted out in front of her too late to avoid and that was why the grill was caved in like that and how the hood and driver side fender was dented but otherwise drivable. The boy’d smiled and picked a particle of blue cloth from a crack in the grillwork and wondered how funny that deer must’ve looked what with wearing blue jeans and all.
Later when the state troopers rolled up to her door, Cindy Ramos reminded herself how even if that boy decided to share that privileged information with anyone, anyone like the police or other suitably well-placed authorities, wouldn’t nobody much care how Jesse Allen was gone from the world anyhow. Just up and dead. Roadkill. On the other, a person like, were, say, Marisela Pope to disappear, what with being a deputy sheriff and all, well, it might cast suspicion not only Cindy’s way but toward James Harold too. And that would never do.
It was so warm she felt she was wearing the sun on her head and when she walked out front to take in the morning the explosive sky wasn’t blue so much as a blinding white, the exposed heart of God thrumming to a tune maybe only the revenant could perceive.
The baby was fussing again and James was off toting high water because in this weather he said how the plants grew fast and wasn’t it even hotter today than yesterday and Cindy was hoping little Jimmy wasn’t coming down with something what with the way he kept squalling each and every time she tried to lay him down and Jesus. James said the baby was teething was all and that made sense but wasn’t she Jimmy’s mother and wasn’t she supposed to know what was best?
She ought not to’ve quit her job. Then they’d have insurance and even though it wouldn’t pay the whole bill at least it’d be less expensive than having to handle the entire two hundred fifty dollar office visit on their own and she could get James to drive them to the pediatrician when he got back. If the baby didn’t stop screaming screaming screaming soon, she’d have him take her anyhow and damn the expense.
She supposed it wouldn’t bother her so much about that Marisela Pope girl if she’d quit poking around the farm like that. Seemed like not two days went by and there she was again driving up Thunderhawk Road. Knocking at the door. Peeking in the window. Pretending to be friendly. Asking if she could run by the store for Cindy. Saying how she was on her way anyhow and if she couldn’t bring her anything. But Cindy saw how Marisela’s eyes were all the time doing double. Shifting this way and that. Taking in the scenery. Cataloging everything she saw. Making inventory, like they used to back at Walmart.
And yes, she knew Uncle Jake lined up on their side, or so said James, but come push and like as not the man’d roll opposite ways. She saw how Uncle Jake was around Marisela, the way he looked at the girl. Staring at those bouncing ta-tas of hers if not all the time at least half. And didn’t the girl own a bra or maybe two? You know those puppies tend to settle whenever you get to be your age.
But still and all, James’d said how it wasn’t only Jake what’d saved him that day out in the forest but Marisela too. How those pirates come upon his grow unexpected. How they were fixing not only to steal his crop but to make it so James Harold wouldn’t be able to do any identifying as to who’d done it. But why Marisela’d stepped up like that? Wasn’t that question worth asking? She could see Jake doing it. But that girl? No. Not without reason. And James just went and took his luck for granted but Cindy well she’d been brought up to know better.
Cindy read how some mothers went and let their babies cry themselves out rather than rushing to cuddle them whenever they started into squalling but she couldn’t do that. Not with Jimmy. Maybe it was on account of how she was raised, what with momma pretty much leaving Cindy alone from the time she could remember coming aware of herself and she swore how if she ever had herself a child she’d do better.
Now, though, Cindy felt like she might be suffering some sort of test. Oh, she didn’t believe in the vengeance of the Lord, not the same way James did, but she’d lived long enough to realize how the universe bent back on itself in ways undiagnosed. How if a person were to take off traveling one direction and go that way long enough they’d end up back at the start. Only changed, somehow. She imagined how maybe Jesse Allen understood that too. Maybe better than most. If of course he still had a brain to undertake such doings.
The window air conditioner she’d put on layaway and paid for a little each week before she quit her job was a good idea even though James had to knock out a hole in the tin wall of the pole building to install it and sometimes it drew so much power that the breaker’d kick. Still, if it ran an hour maybe two and she kept the other doors shut at least the living room was cool enough the baby could sleep comfortably and thank all the gods at least little Jimmy was doing just that for a chance of peace. Oh, but he sleeps now he won’t sleep the night, Cindy. I don’t give a care, James. Let him be.
Funny how she heard his voice even when he was off tending the plants. There were days she’d hold entire conversations with James and then find herself surprised how when he got home he didn’t seem to remember any of them.
It was almost like he had a regular job what with how he scheduled his time. In the beginning she wondered to him why he didn’t go out there to the patch at night whenever nobody could see him for sure but then he said how he’d read how other growers’d been busted on account of the flashlights they used to see by and how he felt safer during the heat of the day when most sane folk were inside hiding in the cool air and she had to agree.
She got to where she could just about set a clock to him. Here it was nearly 3pm and she knew James’d be coming through the door any time now hungry and dirty and ready to maybe drag her off into the nether regions of the pole building which of course she’d have no objections to. Sure enough, the door opened, and in he walked, brawny brown and bronzed like a newly minted god.
“So he’s feeling better, then?”
“Who?” Cindy was momentarily flustered with wondering who’d been sick but the same time she said it she knew who James meant. She couldn’t help it how she was stunted, though. Mentally. Just like momma used to say. “Oh, you mean Jimmy. I think so. At least he went to sleep finally when I laid him down for his nap just before you come home. And his fever’s broke. That’s good, right?”
“I think it’s fine. Shall we…” he took her into his dirty arms with a practiced move like some intricate dance he’d done performed more than once guiding her gently into where the bed lay waiting, his mouth groping for hers, hands busy, clothes dropping to the floor as they went.
“But ain’t you hungry, James? I done fixed you a couple hard salami sandwiches,” she said, breathing hard now and excited and hoping he’d say he’d wait to eat. Which of course he did.
“Why don’t we stick them in the frig and see if we can’t sneak us a moment maybe two before Jimmy wakes.”
“They already’re in the frig. I figured how you might be hungry for something other.”
And now she was lingering his arms, satiated. Whenever she met James it was like discovering a new state of substance, one she never even expected existed. And funny as it seemed no matter how many times they made love, the contentment she felt after never faltered. Something bothered her just a bit, though.
“Reckon we maybe haul her down and bury her, James? Them bones? She’s been gone nearly a year now. Ain’t nothing left up there but skeleton.”
It only made sense not to leave the carcass hanging up in that tree where anyone might walk by and spot it sure. And Cindy’d watched CSI Los Angeles and Criminal Minds and them crime shows on television enough to know how they had all manner of sophisticated forensic technology that could help trace the killer. Wasn’t it better to dispose of the evidence? Dig a hole like they’d done with Eddy Ford?
“We can’t do that, Cindy. Ain’t how things work. Never was.”
“Well, now that just don’t seem right, sweetie. Come on and lets me and you and Jimmy plan us a picnic for later in the evening when it ain’t so hot and we’ll get her down from up there. Won’t take but a minute now that she’s but bone and all. And it ain’t like we’d have to dig as deep as we did for Eddy Ford, either. Plus on the way I want to stop by the library and return these old books. Get some new to read. That’s all I got to do out here whenever you’re off, you know.”
James wordlessly shook his head. She should’ve known better. Whatever James said when things came to family was last word. Not that he ever got ugly. Not like Cindy was used to, what with the way momma made a habit out of doing. And Jesse Allen. And okay, yeah. Eddy Ford. Nope. James’d just say how things had to be and leave it like that.
“A picnic sounds good fun then, Cindy. Let’s plan later today. Before the library closes. Only we won’t go by Sherry’s Place. We’ll head over to Karbers Ridge, what say. And let’s wait till Jimmy wakes. Reckon?”
Lordy, wasn’t it hot, though. And was that why they named it Karbers Ridge? Like how now they called that spot Sherry’s Place now?
But for the nightmares coming here was like a new beginning.
Clover County had less than five thousand people. In the entire county. Chicago on the other hand had single blocks packed with that many. And Golconda, the county seat, was a thriving metropolis of just over seven hundred. Period. People.
And speaking of Metropolis it was a city of sixty five hundred not all that far round the river from Golconda. The home of Superman and the land of cornfields and trees going on near enough to forever you’d spit at it and not even miss and a Harrah’s Casino so big it’d pretty much taken charge of downtown with a flood of octogenarians and money.
Thing was, Mari had a time grabbing hold of her bearings. Her sense of direction was all off on account of how the streets weren’t arranged like back home in Chicago and she ended up lost not once but several times which played with her mind since that’d never happened before. Bewilderment like that.
Maybe that loss of direction had something to do with the play of the river south of town. All that water rolling by like some greenish-gray great snakeish magnet pulling her mind in ways the Lake back home’d never done. Mostly though she did like the way the people had of talking here. That hint of southern accent but not so heavy she kept going: what? At least not any longer.
Golconda. Why was that name somehow familiar? And what was it that’d drawn Marisela to Clover County, so far from her home in the north by the shores of Lake Michigan?
“They’ve been finding bones in the forest forever, even back in the cowboy and Indian days. You know that, right?” Maggie Truman, the librarian, seemed about the same age as Mari maybe a year or two younger possibly older and she was one of those touchy feely types continually reaching out to caress the back of Mari’s right hand. Thing was, Mari found herself liking it. Maybe too much. That touch.
Maggie was the kind of girl who’d be pretty if she let herself go just a bit. Mari figured it must be on account of her job that she wore that awful pantsuit and those glasses what took up her entire face and her hair all pulled back tight like that into a hard bun giving Maggie the wicked witch look. Austere. That was the word that came to mind whenever Mari looked at the librarian.
Mari’d never been attracted to women. As in not ever. Alex was not what anyone in the world would consider at all feminine. At least not in public. Her husband captivated Mari from the first night they met, his enormity, his way of bulling his way through the world and its obstacles, forcing into being his vision of cultural reality even if it meant hurt feelings and shattered bones. And the way those muscles of his rippled with each step he took… oh my.
She’d never witnessed a mixed martial arts fight before. Didn’t even know such brutality existed. Her daddy boxed. In fact, he’d been the champion of his battalion while stationed in Germany, where Marisela’d been born. She grew up sitting in the front row, watching daddy’s fights, witness to blood and gore. But somehow civilized too, a gentlemen’s game if there ever was.
“I can’t go tonight, Cici. I’ve got to be up early.”
Mari lived above Cici Connors in a two-room flat on Oakdale just off Racine not far from the Vic. Cici worked nights at Advocate Medical two blocks over but Mari was making her way toward a law enforcement degree at DePaul in Lincoln Park where classes started weekdays promptly at 8am.
“Oh, stop, girl. I got front row and center tickets. And they’re free. Don’t even be telling me you gotta be up early. We going. Don’t worry. I’ll get you home before you turn into a pumpkin.”
There wasn’t any telling Cici no. The girl was a force of nature. And yes. Why not a night out for a change? Mari’d been grinding things out for nine maybe ten months in a row now and so what if she lost an hour of sleep?
The first two fights were meh. It seemed strange how the combatants could use kicks and wrestling moves expressly forbidden in boxing but as Mari watched she began to appreciate the subtly of the fighters, the way they set up their opponents, lured each other into traps.
And then her life changed.
Alex Pope vs. Raul Martinez was the main event. Heavyweights. Martinez was a big man with an announced weight of two hundred thirty pounds but he was dwarfed by Alex Pope. Plus while Martinez seemed flabby around the middle, Pope was sculpted as if carved from granite. It was like watching an adult school a child. The fight lasted less than two rounds.
“Come on, girl. We got us back stage passes too. Let’s go see if we can meet up with that big homie Pope.”
“I’ve got to get back, Cici. You promised.”
“Girl, you ain’t even one shade of orange yet. No worries. Won’t take us a minute then we’ll be on our way. Promise.”
Mari felt out of place but Cici’d obviously done this before. Attended after-fight interviews. She grabbed Mari’s hand and led her through a crowded room to the front where the fighters were lined up waiting to answer questions from the media.
“Get your behinds out of our seats. Right now,” Cici shouted to a middle-aged white couple sitting together in the front row. The big girl stood with arms akimbo as she hovered over them glaring down. Fear flashed across their faces as they meekly got up to relinquish their spots to Cici and Mari.
“Works every time,” Cici smiled as she pulled Mari toward the vacated seats. “I swear them honkies scared of their own shadows.”
“You gonna get arrested one of these days, Cici.”
“Well, I’m gonna know me a police officer who’ll spring my black ass. Tell me I ain’t right about that.”
Mari felt eyes on her before she saw them. She was a pretty girl and used to being ogled but this was somehow different. Whenever she looked up she caught Alex Pope staring at her but right away he turned, putting his head down as if embarrassed at being discovered. Mari couldn’t be sure afterwards but she thought maybe that was the moment she fell in love with him.
Despite his rugged appearance, Alex Pope was by far the most articulate of the fighters, answering every question flung at him with a calm assurance that bespoke an educated man used to the spotlight. Mari couldn’t help but stare after him after the press conference was over and Alex Pope retreated into the shadows.
“Oh but I thought you had to get home, Mari. We ought to be going, don’t you think?”
“But I wanted to maybe… well, okay. Let’s go then.”
“Girl, don’t you know me by now? Come on with your silly self. I done told you we got us back stage passes. I saw the way you were looking at him. I guess I’m gonna have to find me someone else to party with, ain’t I.”
For some reason, Mari expected a shindig with bottles of champagne popping and boom boxes rattling the walls. Instead, the scene was subdued, almost like they’d inadvertently walked into the losing side’s locker room.
“Looky over there, Mari. Yonder he sits.”
“Stop it, Cici.”
“Go on and talk to him before someone else does. Look at all these skanks, Mari. You gonna let one of them grab that man? If you ain’t going, I am.”
Alex Pope sat cross-legged, alone in a darkened corner, a towel over his head like a monk in a monastery, breathing rhythmically with eyes half closed.
“Well, okay then,” Cici said with a sigh. “Guess I’ll have to saunter on over.”
“I’m going, alright? Just give me a chance.”
Somehow Mari found herself standing in front of the massive fighter but he seemed so docile, so attune with the universe, that she felt like an insect intruding into a picnic. And so she just stood there. Feeling silly and useless and totally invisible.
What to say? Marisela’d been raised in a traditional household where girls did not as in never even think about asking a boy out and when the man spoke the woman listened and did whatever. She was about to turn away, to go ahead and let Cici make her play, until he looked up at her and smiled.
“Did you enjoy the fight?” His voice was like honey pouring into her ears, deeply sonorous and modulated perfectly to cut through the background banter going on around them. Not too loud and yet clearly enunciated.
“Oh. You saw me.” Nice one, Mari. Saw you? You were staring at him throughout the entire fight. He probably thinks you’re a mad stalker woman from hell. Or worse, a groupie.
“I’m Alex Pope.” He held out a hand the size of a basketball. And that smile…
“I know. I mean… sorry. I’m Marisela Rimes. Nice to meet you, Alex Pope.”
“So. Did you enjoy the fight?”
“It was amazing. I’ve never been to one of these kinds of fights.”
“Oh. So you’re a virgin.”
Wait. Why would he think that? A virgin? He just means this is new to you, Mari. Settle down. And if he wants to believe in fairytales, let him. He doesn’t need to know how you got around like that in high school. At least not right off he don’t.
“When you put it like that, yes, I suppose I am.”
And now that same conversation was taking on an entirely new meaning as Mari found herself making eyes at Maggie Truman. Librarian.
It’d been one of those especially thirsty nights what with after a long day dripping sweat in the sunshine rolling out hot tar on that flat leaky roof of the community college across the river in Sheridan the one where he took classes once but punkered out after a semester and a half and Lorie Harold’d been tending bar in that halter that she said tipped so well that every other drink was on the house and Randy knew for a fact how he’d underbid the school job and by the time he paid his help he’d be lucky to break even and so then there it was that thought niggling him all nighty night-night and maybe the situation did get away from him. Just a little.
Still, Randy hadn’t been that drunk, oh no, not in fact. As in falling down. It was just those cops—they had it out for him, crooked, all of them, hands out, whatcha got in that wallet son, all the time watching for his truck from across the street whenever he pulled out from in back of the Romero’s parking lot at closing time where he’d parked on purpose so he wouldn’t be seen in front of the bar and how about all those other jokers on the road and heading for home which was in his case only two blocks away and short ones at that.
Had he chanced it? Yeah. But bells, he’d only had a few beers. Maybe a shot or two. Okay. Three. Or was it five? And so what if Lorie’d been generous and made them doubles. He was fine to drive. Could he’ve left the truck at the bar and hoofed it home? Sure. But then he’d have to get up fifteen minutes early, trudge back down to the bar to retrieve his ride, and then try to make it to work by 6am, which was difficult enough on good days. That and his terminally-ill Chevy Silverado most times refused to start if left outside overnight. Humidity or something suspiciously like it is what his ex-brother in law Skinny the shade tree said.
“So we have a decision to make, Mr. Cross. Either we go to trial or we accept the plea offered by the DA.”
“I wasn’t drunk.”
Attorney James Motte kept an office in a refurbished 1920s bungalow on Gaty which was the only unabandoned on the street and as he sat in front of the massive half-moon credenza taking up most the room Randy Cross noticed a cockroach scuttling along the baseboard on a covert daylight mission probably to reconnoiter the far-flung frontier for a nighttime assault by the full corps.
“Look, Mr. Cross… in the state of Illinois the legal limit for blood alcohol is 0.08. We blew a 0.17. That’s over twice the limit. I’ll be honest… it will be difficult to mount a defense against our arrest. I strongly suggest we accept the plea.”
“So what’s the offer?”
Motte loomed behind the credenza like Jabba the Hut huddled in his pit of inequity. Upon meeting the man for the first time an instant dislike blossomed deep in Randy’s gut like bad sushi and though he washed his hands twice after they still felt sticky icky from shaking Motte’s.
“Time served. Standard fine of twenty five hundred plus court costs. Driver’s license revoked for three years. Two hundred hours community service.”
“And if I go to trial?”
At least fifty but you couldn’t really tell exactly how old the lawyer was what with his shaved head and naked face but shifty eyes like that didn’t happen overnight and that gin-blossom nose’d been some time in the growing. Could be sixty easy. Dude’d been trotting about for a while now chasing ambulances and tripping old ladies. Still, there was a steeliness to Motte’s voice which lent Randy the sense of how the attorney must be at least competent if not an outright arrogant ass in court so there was that.
“We’d need a retainer of five thousand. Up front. And there’s no guarantee we can win this. I’d say the odds are against us, Mr. Cross. Heavily. If found guilty we could face three six maybe nine months in county. Are we willing to risk it?”
Jesus Judas. Who was worse? The cops or the lawyers? All of them were out to skin you standing. Roll you over hump up yank‘em down and screw you right in old blue Uranus. Randy’d already paid the shyster three thousand dollars just to represent him. Now he wanted another five? With no guarantee? Yeah, bud. We’ll hop right on top’ve that one.
“Thing is, if I plead, this’ll make my second DUI conviction in the last three years.”
“I understand your situation, Mr. Cross. That’s why the long license revocation is in force.”
“What about my job?”
Just sitting across from the man sickened Randy like maybe that beef he ate for lunch’d been bad. Or could be just the thought how breathing the same air’d caused his immune system to go on defensive flooding his blood with what did they call them? Leukocytes. White blood cells. To the uninformed.
“What about it?” asked Motte as he studied a yellow legal pad in front of him. What’d you wanna bet it hasn’t even one thing to do with your case, dude. This asshole’s multitasking you.
“I have to drive,” Randy said with a twinge of panic rising in his gut. Or it might be those leukocytes working their nastiness. His brother Tommy died a year ago tomorrow. Twenty four. Leukemia is what the doctors said. Dosed him good with chemo at least twenty times but nothing. Randy remembered the doctors saying how Eddy’s white blood cells were so heavy in his bloodstream that they were starving the cells of oxygen and how his younger brother spent his last days gasping for breath with that look in his eyes that said things Randy didn’t care to hear.
“That won’t be an option, Mr. Cross,” said the lawyer while nodding his head as if an affirmation might lessen the bad news impact. Did they teach that technique in law school? Maybe. Might be an option in the roofing business too. Just nod and smile as you tell the marks, er, the customers how much it’s going to cost them. “Driving’ll be out. Period.”
“I thought I might be able to get a hardship license. You know. Just to drive back and forth to work. No?”
“No. Not right away. If we do accept the plea, we can petition the court to reinstate your license as a work permit. But it’ll take six months due to this being our second conviction. And we’ll only be able to drive back and forth to work. Nowhere else. We’ll have to pay for a GPS monitoring device to be installed in our automobile. All our movements will be tracked and monitored weekly. Any deviation will result in arrest.”
Well, okay. He’d take the back roads. Wouldn’t be the first time he had to drive without his license. Keep to the limit. Avoid the speed traps. He knew where the cops hung out, drinking coffee and chewing day-old donuts. It’d take him an extra half hour each way but that was how it was. Once he got to the shop one of the guys’d drive to the worksite. Yeah. That’d work.
“What about the community service part? Last time they made me go down to the cop shop and pick up cigarette butts out of the parking lot.”
What if he’d caught what Tommy had? Was leukemia a communicable disease? Oh, the doctors said no but on the other hand when Randy asked how a dude like Tommy’d come down with a disease like that they none of them could say. Genes, maybe, someone stammered. Environmental risks were a possibility. Growing up they’d played on slag piles out by the river. Hell. Randy still coughed up black from those days. Always had as long as he could remember. Wasn’t nothing to do about it so far as he knew. So he just kept coughing.
“Up to you, Mr. Cross. I have a list of non-profit establishments in our community where you might try applying.”
So just what did I hand you three thousand dollars for? To spend five minutes in front of the judge scratching your sack and telling him I’m pleading guilty? Pretty good pay for the day, I’d say. And this is the best you can do when I ask a legit question?
“Applying? It’s free labor.”
“Some organizations frown upon those with criminal backgrounds, Mr. Cross.”
“Who else’d be wanting to work for free?” Randy wondered half facetiously. He knew the score. Lots of poor folk were wrongly convicted of high crimes and misdemeanors because they couldn’t afford decent legal counsel and then expected to walk the gauntlet of the innocent while still chained to the past.
“There are many folk open to volunteering their time, actually. They’re given priority in most cases.”
Sure, dude. Mostly people so old and decrepit they’ve a time getting out of bed by themselves without falling. And what do they do but stand around and talk all day because they’re lonely and that’s why they’re open to volunteering. Not to do any. Work. That my fine and fancy diplomate friend is a four letter word in case you haven’t noticed.
“Oh. Say look. This Catholic church is just down the way from me. Think they’d accept me?”
Oh, sure. Marisela Pope’d come recommended and highly for the deputy sheriff position here in Clover County by one of her superiors on the Chicago Police Department who hailed from this area, one Lou Barnes, a man who still retained deep roots here and who didn’t mind slotting her name in for the opening caused by the sudden death of Wayne Albright, the deputy who died on duty while serving a summons not a month ago and six miles away.
“I don’t understand, Maggie. What bones’re we talking about?”
Mari’d come to the library on a whim, nothing more. Her new partner and running buddy, Jake Morley, had made an offhand remark about how maybe they the pair of them ought to be checking into the theft of that John Deere tractor last week rather than tracking down silly rumors pertaining to murders taking place in the forest, little no more than bar gossip.
Wait. Driving into town the name struck her. Golconda. Golgotha. Wasn’t that where they supposedly crucified Jesus Christ? Strange how closely the names matched one another. Coincidence, nothing more. But there are no coincidences, Mari. You know that. And so then she had to ask: why was there a Herod not but a few miles north of Golconda? That seemed just a little too weird.
It’d been Mari’s idea to examine the microfiche archives at the library what with the dearth of digital records at the Sheriff’s Department. Her partner, Jake Morley, didn’t seem to cotton to the notion as much as she thought he might. Why, she didn’t understand.
“It’s a waste of time if you’re asking me, Mari. We got better things cooking,” Jake said, with a sort of sneer in his voice and curl to his lower lip that reminded her of her father whenever he went and got himself worked up into a state over something that made no matter anyhow.
Could be Jake was right. These pictures of moldy yellowed old newspapers were nothing much more than boring, that was sure. Why couldn’t these outdated microfiche files be converted into digital? Oh, but Mari… that makes sense. And remember where it is you’re at, girl.
In one sense, being in Clover County helped to salve the wounds inflicted upon her psyche back home in Chicago. In quite another way, though, it seemed to Mari that whenever she moved here she’d stepped back into time maybe a hundred if not two hundred years.
Sheriff Butcher was a Barney Fife lookalike. No. Wait. Scratch that. Barney was the only-one-bullet-allowed deputy. No. Gomer Pyle. That’s who Butcher reminded her of, a folk singing glad handing slow stepper with no law enforcement experience elected apparently on his spaciously specious and charming smiling southern manners and who didn’t even tuck in his shirt, for brawling out loud.
“Here,” Maggie said, sliding into the same chair where Mari sat in front of the microfiche viewer their hips bumping provocatively while reaching over to put a hand over Mari’s, to page forward forward forward to June 1887 and an article written by Francis Masters who owned the Golconda Sentinel in those days. “Let me show you what I mean.”
“Bones,” Mari said, reading the headline out loud. Old Francis definitely had a style to him, that was sure.
Mari’d come to the library more on a genealogy quest, trying to trace the lineage of the Morley family. Something about Jake’s constantly continued evasions concerning his father and grandfather made Mari’s hackles rise the same way they used to do back in Chicago whenever she’d cornered a suspect in a lie but rather than giving in they kept on spreading the nutter butter ever thicker.
“Bones scattered under the trees. Human bones. Not animal. Not like everyone used to say,” Maggie said. And that wink—how was Mari supposed to take that? There. She did it again. Could just be a tic.
“Well it’s probably one of those burial grounds. The sacred type. You’ve heard of them,” Mari offered, tempted to wink back at Maggie just to gauge her reaction. Funny. Mari hadn’t noticed just how strikingly attractive the librarian really was, not until now.
“That’s what they want you to believe,” Maggie said in a low voice more rightly classified as a purr. Perhaps.
“Back in the day bodies used to turn up in the forest every spring. Or should I say bone piles. Mostly disarticulated, of course. Like they’d fallen from on high. Like they’d been up there forever. Coffee, Mari? I’m making a fresh pot.”
She liked how Maggie said her name with that hint of southern accent which Mari noticed right off whenever she moved to Clover County last month and how she kept saying what? what’d you say? to people because her brain couldn’t seem to process the words properly but now she was past all that and she was pretty sure if she recorded her own speech it too would contain that accent. Still, Maggie’s held a kind of allure Mari wasn’t exactly sure could be termed proper or even permissible if it was. Proper.