Dean Mitchell was the only lawyer in town. He’d thought about advertising as such but decided it would be an invitation for competition. Put that truth on the door and watch one of the big shots in Harrison open a satellite office across the street, and he couldn’t have that. Dean Mitchell, Attorney at Law, had come to the hills to be the one and only.
Ellingwood was four hundred strong, and shrinking. But Dean stayed busy, thanks in part to the strong presence he’d established in Harrison. He made a good living. He fed his ego. And he was his own boss. Was he happy? Hell no. But his unhappiness was no fault of his setting or profession. He was simply a wretch and considered himself wise for being aware of it.
He was sipping coffee and wondering why—why everything—when a black Civic pulled up in front of his office, right on time. His first potential new client of the day, Savannah Golding, slung her purse over her right shoulder and checked her look in the window. She was going on fifty but looked closer to forty, despite her fondness for cigarettes and alcohol.
She entered his office and the corners of her mouth pulled up a bit—he wouldn’t quite call it a smile—and he motioned her back to his desk.
They took their places, Dean in his fake leather chair and Savannah in the little plastic one across from him, and Savannah kicked things off with the bluntness that was so typical of her: “I’m divorcing him. But you know that.”
She was much too happy, Dean thought, and really, he wanted no part of it.
He clicked open a pen, flipped to a clean page in his legal pad, and wrote her name at the top. Then came the basics: When they were married (May, 2005), where they lived (Ellingwood, the whole time), children (one), expected children (none, dear God). And then, of course, the big question: “Why are you divorcing him?”
Dean Mitchell expected the answer to be as blunt as usual. But for a moment, she simply looked away, back toward the door, and watched the snow flurries that had just begun to fly.
“He’s never been violent.” She looked at her lap. “But things haven’t been good for us. You know. We basically haven’t communicated in a month. I never see him. He knows I don’t love him.”
Dean didn’t want to think about it. He tried to focus on nothing but his writing as he scribbled down a few words.
Savannah said: “And our daughter. I haven’t heard from her since last week. Thursday, I think. It’s Monday now. I blame him.”
“Is she okay?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t heard from her.”
“Where is he?”
“He’s been working out at the Evenware House. I assume he stays out there. The old lady is paying him to tear it down.”
“Tear it down?”
The half smile returned. “It’s appropriate, isn’t it? Anyway…”
She didn’t stay long after they finished talking. She simply wrote him a check, smiled sweetly (her full smile), and said, “Thank you.”
This was not at all what he’d expected, but maybe that wasn’t a bad thing. Maybe Nathaniel Golding wouldn’t fight this divorce at all. Maybe the whole thing would go smoothly.
After she left, he sat at this desk, drumming his fingers and thinking about what all she’d said. She no longer loved her husband, Nathaniel. He was a nobody handyman, void of ambition, content to roof sheds and renovate trailers and spend his evenings burning through Natural Light watching Netflix; that she’d ever reproduced with him was depressingly remarkable, and his lackadaisical attitude toward life had “rubbed off” on Marion, their daughter. She’d never considered college, just gone straight to work at the gift shop in the ranger station north of town. (“And that old black man, Robert, she works for is so sweet, but Dean… Does she intend to stay there?”)
Savannah, frankly, was a snob. She’d moved to Arkansas from Memphis and had always thought she was too good for the area. Why was she here? “I wanted out of the city. I met Nathaniel. I just knew I loved him. He was something totally different, like a stupid fantasy. Till he wasn’t.”
This was all fine, Dean Mitchell thought. Very typical, actually. If not for love that wasn't love and the children it usually spawned, small town lawyers would struggle to pay their light bills. But what was this about Nathaniel staying out at the old Evenware House? Surely not. The Evenware House was a ruin; the Evenwares hadn’t lived out there since the eighties or nineties, at least. Who could stay out there for any prolonged period? Surely Savannah was mistaken, or for whatever reason seeing if she could make his job just a little bit more complicated. But why would she do that?
It didn’t matter. He had work to do. Not just drafting Savannah’s divorce complaint, either. That would take all of ten or fifteen minutes. No, he had several tasks to complete today. Deeds to draft, a power of attorney to draft; he had to call Emily up in the prosecutor’s office in Harrison, had to call Judge Benedict’s office and set a hearing date for a strung out fool who’d attempted to steal a trampoline… and if he was totally honest with himself, he needed to call and set up a meeting with, speak of the devil, Mary Evenware herself. He dreaded it. Hopefully her son would be there to help the communication, because Mary Evenware seldom knew who she was and was getting worse all the time. Yes, he dreaded it, but when he faced reality, he knew that the last few months had yielded nothing but the minimum, just enough piddling crap to pay the bills and stock the refrigerator. Mary Evenware was worth at least a couple of million. He wanted in on her estate, and he had to make that call.
He’d make it today.
He’d get a little drafting done this morning, including Savannah’s complaint, have lunch with his wife… maybe go see Mary this afternoon.
If he was lucky, maybe he’d leave with a check. Or cash.
Katelyn met him at The Painted Lady, the only restaurant in town. It was a one-room cafe owned by Riley Saunders, who was better known as the Ellingwood constable. The Painted Lady, the post office, and Dean Mitchell’s building were all that remained of Ellingwood’s “downtown.” The other three buildings—a gas station, a hardware store, and an antique shop—had been destroyed during 1985’s Christmas Day tornado.
Katelyn did a decent job of acting like she was in a good mood, but the truth was there, all over her. Dean had been married to her for eleven years. She wasn’t happy with him, hadn’t been in years. She’d grown to despise his profession and “what it was doing to him.” She’d thought getting out of Little Rock would do him good, but Ellingwood had apparently just “inflated his ego” which had wiped out what sense of “humanity” he had left. Such were her thoughts.
Just last night, she’d accused him of never being romantic, probably being unfaithful, and quashing her creativity: Katelyn was a songwriter. Or, she wanted to be.
Sometimes, Dean Mitchell thought, the woman acted like she’d give up everything they had if he’d just quit work and sit and listen to her play her goddamned guitar. He didn’t mean to be disinterested… he just didn’t give a damn and couldn’t fake it.
“Did she actually show up?” Katelyn said. “Savannah, I mean.”
“Why does she want a divorce?”
“She’s too good for him.” He sipped his Pepsi, hoping the answer was enough and knowing she was not a fool. “You know that.”
After lunch, Dean Mitchell returned to his office and sent emails, organized his desk, and called Mary Evenware. Her son, Lewis, picked up and said hello.
“This is Dean Mitchell.” He sat down on the front edge of his desk. “Your mother contacted me two weeks ago about a trust. I’ve got time this afternoon to come by.”
“You’re welcome to come by, Mr. Mitchell,” Lewis said. “She has a check here for the first third of the amount, like you agreed, but I don’t know how much you’ll get from her. Today isn’t a good day.”
“If tomorrow would be better…”
“There’s no guarantee of that, unfortunately. Do you have enough information to get started?”
“I do. She’d been writing things down.”
“Then yes, see her. She asks about it. She worries you’ve forgotten.”
Dean was not going to argue with anybody who had a check written. He told Lewis he’d be right over and drove south on 307, the only main road through town, until he reached the ranch house at the intersection with Evenware Road on the right. Keep going on Evenware Road till it narrowed and became a nearly impassable driveway, and you’d eventually reach the old Evenware property, where Savannah had claimed Nathaniel was spending his days… and nights.
Dean had never been out there, wasn’t even sure his truck would make it.
And, there was no check out there.
Lewis met him at the front door and said Mary was in the kitchen, anxious to talk to him.
“She’s better, then?” Dean said. “I’m glad to hear that.”
Lewis was a homely, awkward fellow, the kind of adult child you’d expect to be living with his elderly mother. Just now, he flashed Dean a glance that said no, probably not better, but certainly insistent.
Dean followed the man into the kitchen and found Mary sitting beside a window at a small round table. She was stirring a cup of coffee and studying the khaki-colored drink intently, until she heard her lawyer speak her name. Then, the old lady raised her head and beamed and told him to sit down.
“How are you, Mr. Mitchell?” she said.
Dean told her he was doing fine, he just wanted to get some more information from her about the documents he was drafting.
“The trust? The trust. I’d almost forgotten. No, I did forget.”
Lewis leaned against the counter behind her, shaking his head.
Dean simply needed a few moments of clarity from the woman. She’d been remarkably sharp just a couple of weeks ago. Do these things really happen so quickly?
He opened his briefcase and withdrew a legal pad and pen, and Mary Evenware focused again on her coffee.
“Would you like coffee, Mr. Mitchell?” Lewis said. “Soda? Water?”
Dean told him he was fine, thank you.
Mary looked again and exclaimed surprise that her lawyer was here. “How are you?”
Again, Dean said he was fine. He also accepted that this was not going to happen. Not today.
“I was just stopping in to say hello, Ms. Evenware.” He tucked his things away and clasped the case. “I hope you’re doing well.”
Mary Evenware beamed and said it was a great day.
Dean stood and said to Lewis. “We’ll talk some other time.”
He was stepping out of the room when Mary said, “I’m paying somebody to take care of the old house. Don’t go out there now. The berries are toxic.”
Dean looked straight at Lewis.
“She didn’t want me out there, either,” Lewis said.
When Dean Mitchell arrived home that evening, his dinner was on the table—spaghetti and garlic bread—and the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar was audible from Katelyn’s upstairs “studio.” The presence of food with the absence of his wife was not an anomaly.
She probably still loved him, but she wanted no part of him.
Dean Mitchell supposed his thoughts were similar. Katelyn was a talented songwriter, as talented in that particular art, Dean had to admit, as he was at practicing law. And in the early days of their marriage, in Little Rock, they’d offered one another new perspectives; they’d balanced their individual viewpoints. Time, however, revealed that life was expensive, and law paid more than songwriting. After Dean pointed this out, Katelyn suggested they move to Nashville, where she might make “connections.” Dean scoffed; he’d just passed the Arkansas bar two years ago; he was not moving out of state. Compromise? Head to the hills. They’d both enjoy the scenery; they’d both enjoy cheaper living; and Dean, secretly, had become very overwhelmed by his Little Rock gig. Carrying a briefcase and working out of the fourteenth story of a glass building made him feel important, but he was the low guy; he was doing the work of three lawyers while those above him golfed. Katelyn wanted to move? Glory to God, he was all about it, just not out of state. Living cheaper would benefit them both, he argued, and she could write her songs anywhere. That’s what the Internet was for.
So here they were.
Dean took a beer from the refrigerator, ate his supper, dwelled a bit longer in the past, and wondered if he hated himself. He decided he actually didn’t. He was simply angry. And he had a right to be! Katelyn lived perpetually in a fairytale, believing that geography was the sole reason she wasn’t raking in cash for her songs; she blamed him for her struggles, which angered him, which caused him to spend more time at work… or with Savannah Golding… and then Katelyn, again, blamed him.
No wonder he and Savannah had joked that night about killing their spouses.
Dean had to admit, he’d been a little bit spooked, and still was, that he hadn’t been totally joking.
He pushed his plate away, sat back, and sipped his beer.
One of his wife’s songs had been floating around Nashville for over a year. The likes of Tim McGraw and Billy Currington had supposedly given it more than a passing glance, and a big name from the nineties—Mark Chesnutt, Dean believed—had supposedly been sitting on it for six months.
Dean wondered what she was working on now. Anything? Or was she simply up there ignoring him?
After he rinsed off his plate and put it in the dishwasher, he went to the bottom of the stairs and listened.
The music eventually stopped. The only sound was the neighbor’s yowling husky, Doris.
But Katelyn did not come downstairs.
Dean Mitchell knew what that meant, and there was no point in arguing.
He drove to his office slowly, silently. Snow flurries emerged in slow motion from the darkness and danced amidst his headlight beams.
He parked in the wide alleyway between his office and The Painted Lady, grabbed a gym bag he’d packed with various items from his passenger seat, and went around to the exterior staircase at the back of the building. The room above his office was only accessible from back here. And because of its low ceiling, it wasn’t obvious from the road that it existed at all. Back during their first year here, Dean had considered renting this room out. Now, it was too precious to him; that very few knew about it only added to its value. He’d rather come here and be alone than go to the End Zone, Ellingwood’s only bar, and put up with the ruckus of drunken fools shouting over ballgames.
This cold and empty little room with one window and surely a few dozen mice was much more peaceful.
He locked the door behind him and sat down in the room’s only piece of furniture, a frayed armchair he’d found in a ditch a few months back. He sat down, retrieved a paperback novel and a bottle of Coors from the gym bag, and attempted to settle in. His plan was to pass the evening and night away here and leave about eleven or midnight, after his wife was surely in bed.
But he realized, after reading and re-reading the same page in the paperback two or three times, that he could not relax. And he realized, too, that he could not stop thinking about the Evenware House. How interesting that both Savannah Golding and Mary Evenware had mentioned it to him. That uninhabitable ruin out in the middle of the woods! Abandoned sometime after… Mary’s husband died? Went missing?
Dean Mitchell finished his second beer of the evening, opened the third, set down the paperback, and let his mind go wherever it wished.
Being an adult, Marion Golding, Savannah and Nathaniel’s daughter, wouldn’t play a huge role in the divorce, if any at all. That was his original thought. But a few beers in, this thought morphed into something else. Because he thought of Savannah, of Nathaniel, thought about how Nathaniel was working for Mary Evenware out at the old house, doing something, tearing it down, something, for God knows why, and yes, it was strange that he’d grown so estranged from his wife that he wasn’t coming home at all, as he was basically—what?—camping out there? Strange, no, downright weird. Okay. And so now (and wasn’t this interesting) Dean moved onto Marion, grownup daughter who just wanted to sell maps and tee shirts at the ranger station, but now she was gone. Savannah had told him she hadn’t heard from Marion in several days. Savannah believed, or wanted to believe, that her daughter had grown frustrated with her parents and split town—maybe she’d gone to apply to some colleges! But what if it were something else? Oh God, the places Dean Mitchell’s mind was going. He hated himself for grinning about it, but when you’re cracking open beer number four, what do you expect?
What if Marion Golding was out at the old Evenware place with her dad? Dean Mitchell had never known Marion, and he didn’t really know Nathaniel, either. She could be out there helping him out. Conspiring against her mother? What else? There were possibilities here that would be a blast to write into a divorce complaint. Truly, Dean, he thought, you are a sick, sick bastard.
He decided that, when he was done with this beer, he’d drive out there. He had nothing else to do with this night. He wasn’t entirely sober, but he wasn’t drunk, either, and he only had a couple of miles of highway to cover before he reached Evenware Road, where there was a zero percent chance he’d meet up with a law enforcement officer.
He had to see if Nathaniel Golding was truly out there. And if he was, was he alone?
Less than ten minutes after making this decision, he was turning onto Evenware Road and saying a silent prayer that his truck could handle what was to come. It didn’t help his effort that the road was dusted with snow, and the flurries were still coming down. For the first two miles, the terrain was flat and the gravel was packed and smooth. But somewhere between mile two and three, as the woods crept in close and the pathway narrowed, he passed a sign that read ROAD ENDS: PRIVATE PROPERTY, and the path deteriorated as it descended toward the Harrelston Bayou.
Dean Mitchell realized he’d made a mistake. He had no business out here. This wasn’t a road anymore; it was a private drive that hadn’t been maintained in at least thirty years. He was looking for a place to turn around—to hell with this—when he found himself at a place where the trees retreated from the drive and the landscape flattened, and his headlights revealed a rotted, skeletal corpse of a house. It sat about fifty yards away, across a rugged tundra of rocks and snow.
“No way he’s here,” Dean Mitchell said.
He dared not drive any closer, as the driveway had faded entirely and he feared he’d damage his truck on some unknown obstacle if he tried to cross the property in the dark.
So he left it where it was and hiked up the lawn. He took his phone out of his pocket and turned on its flashlight before stepping through the jagged, open portal that was the front door.
He tested the floorboards before going too far. And, satisfied that they weren’t going to give way beneath him, he set about exploring.
There was nothing to find, of course. The dilapidated building was empty of everything except dirt, cobwebs, scattered trash, and a plant growing up out of the floorboards in a far corner. His thought that there was no way anybody was living out here was confirmed. Or so he thought. Until he spotted the Nissan Frontier parked behind the house.
Dean stood before the broken back window for a moment, staring, his mouth agape. Not only was he now convinced that he was not alone, he somehow also knew that something was terribly wrong.
He pulled himself away from the window and cautiously ascended the staircase he found in the northeast corner of what had once been a den.
Somehow, it was not nearly as cold upstairs, and the unnatural warmth only unnerved him more.
No. He should not be here. It had seemed so fun and amusing, come out here and, what? Catch Nathaniel passed out drunk? With his daughter? What had he thought he was doing? Clearly, he’d been ignorant of how far out this place was, how bad the road was… how bad the house was.
I need to know where he is. How do you serve a man with his divorce papers if you don’t know where he is?
Foolish. He should not be here. Period.
The warm humidity hung in the air and thickened as he proceeded across a landing, into a small room about the size of a child’s bedroom. In here, the humidity was so thick it was visible as a glimmering mist.
And the room stunk. The ripe smell of rot. Death.
He convinced himself to leave, get out, do whatever it took, go back to his office, go back home, sleep the beer off, forget he’d ever been here—but then he saw the splatters on the wall to his left and the heap on the floor directly below it. Nathaniel’s body. Dean had never known the man well, but sure, he’d seen him around. And who else would this be, this dried out, sprawled dead thing with various substances leaking out of its head?
Dean retreated into the doorway, and a splinter of wood from the frame caught the side of his neck, just below his left ear. He cursed, staggered, and stepped onto a plank that was not there. He overcompensated in his attempt to not fall completely through the floor. He fell forward and landed face-first on Golding’s left shoulder.
The body was damp. Sticky. He wanted to cry out and couldn’t. Jesus Christ, what had he done?
I’m okay, he thought, rising, pulling his foot out of the hole in the floor, wiping his face. But he’d dropped his phone, the light was out, and the gash in his neck was bleeding. He put a hand up to the wound, cursed, then knelt down and reached for his phone. Not there, which was ridiculous; it had landed right in front of him! He’d heard it. No way it had fallen through the floor. No way—here it was. Right here.
The clouds broke. Moonlight beamed through cracks in the roof and ceiling. Faint silver illuminated the dampness in the room and contrasted with the corpse on the floor and the darkness that leaked from it.
And there was a shadow of a man, or something like a man, on the wall across from him. It wasn’t his shadow, and it certainly wasn’t Nathaniel Golding’s.
Nor was it there for more than a second.
Just long enough to drive Dean Mitchell out onto the landing and down the stairs.
Katelyn Mitchell awoke at eight ‘o clock the next morning to the sound of the husky, Doris, making her typical racket.
Katelyn was confused, until the previous evening returned to her. She was upstairs in her attic studio, next to her guitar and an empty bottle of wine, dressed in socks, panties, and a half-buttoned flannel shirt. She felt okay, somehow, with only a slight headache, and she almost smiled. She was forty-three, and it had been at least ten years since she’d woken up scantly dressed in the middle of a floor, next to a drained bottle of booze.
Almost smiled, but a subtle frown, when she thought about how her circumstances had changed, was much more appropriate. Her friends from college and Little Rock were scattered, and even their minimal, meaningless social media contact was rare. She was a grownup now, a woman; she’d been a little girl then, though Katelyn the brilliant college student (and graduate) had never thought of herself as immature. But it was all about priorities. Young Katelyn was going to change everything, be brilliant, have fun. Now, Grown Katelyn only wanted to make a living doing, hopefully, something she loved. Be married to someone she loved. And she still sometimes hoped for a family.
She’d seen enough to know how unreachable some or all of these modest goals might be. That was the difference. The craft she loved only occasionally paid a bill. She wondered sometimes if she still loved Dean and assumed he’d fallen out of love with her a long time ago, possibly before they ever left Little Rock. And there was the whole mortality thing, too. Had Young Katelyn even considered kidney stones, aching joints, miscarriages, constipation, debilitating periods, or breast lumps (which had been benign, thank God)? No, Katelyn thought, smiling. Young Katelyn had been such a naive little nymph.
She propped her Breedlove against a broken Line 6 amp, thinking it was probably a good thing she’d drank an entire bottle of wine last night. She’d been furious. At Dean. Mostly at herself. She’d known for weeks he was going to represent Savannah Golding in her divorce, yet after his lunchtime confirmation that he’d met with her and drafted the complaint, it happened anyway—the avalanche of grief, anger, and self-loathing. If not for the wine, who knows what she might’ve done with the previous evening.
She went downstairs, brushed her teeth, peed, showered, and dressed in a pair of jeans and one of Dean’s Dallas Cowboys sweatshirts. It occurred to her, as she stood before the mirror in the master bath, pulling her hair back in a ponytail and studying this sweatshirt that she loved to wear because it was way too big and thus very comfortable, that Dean was not in bed.
No, Dean was nowhere.
His absence did not surprise her, and she barely cared. If she had the house to herself all day, then God was indeed good.
She was eating a piece of toast and waiting for a pot of coffee to brew when the doorbell rang.
It was Ellingwood’s only law enforcement presence, the constable, Riley Saunders. Riley was a petite yet firm little thing, somewhere around thirty-five. As far as Katelyn knew, she wasn’t paid a cent to be the constable; she earned whatever income she had with The Painted Lady, the diner she’d inherited from her parents. Yet, most of those in Ellingwood thought of Riley Saunders only as the constable; Riley was almost always in uniform (cargo pants and a buttoned shirt with a constable star on the sleeve) and was not a smothering business owner; The Painted Lady had been in the hands of a capable manager since long before Riley inherited it.
This was the extent of Katelyn’s knowledge about Constable Saunders. She’d only ever spoken to her in public, casually. Until today.
Riley was on her porch, smiling pleasantly, hands in the pockets of her Columbia jacket.
Katelyn greeted her pleasantly. Riley returned the greeting and asked if Dean Mitchell was home.
“I haven’t seen Dean since yesterday. He left after dinner last night.”
Riley said: “I found his truck parked in the alley beside his office. Unfortunately, his office is locked up and dark and a good bit of his truck is hanging out in the highway.”
“I imagine he was upset when he left here. He probably drank too much. Did you check upstairs?”
“At his office?”
“You can’t tell from the front, but there’s a room upstairs. You get there from the back.”
“I’ve lived here my whole life and didn’t know that building had a second floor. I guess I’ve never been around back.”
“He doesn’t know I know. Sometimes he’s not very smart.”
Katelyn shut the door and tried to decide if she should be concerned or merely confused. If concerned, how much? She suddenly regretted everything about last night. She should’ve been downstairs. She should’ve waited on him and had dinner with him. There had been many times in which Katelyn’s ill feelings toward her husband were grounded in reality and absolutely justified; yesterday, that hadn’t been the case. She had damned good reasons for wanting him to stay away from Savannah Golding and not even think about working her divorce, but they’d been there, argued that, and her pouting last night had been, at best, overkill.
Had he gone to his escape hole and drank himself into a stupor? That’s probably what happened. But why was his truck parked like it was? Had he started drinking before he left the house and driven drunk to his office? She’d never known him to do such a thing. He wasn’t a fool. If he had any inclination at all that he was going to inebriate himself, he typically first got to where he was going.
She was, then, concerned and confused.
There was no reason for his truck to be parked halfway out in the highway unless he’d done something out of character, or last night had been very bizarre.
Riley Saunders returned to Dean Mitchell’s office and parked her Wrangler directly in front of his building. The traffic cone she’d placed in the street in front of his poorly-parked truck was still there; nobody had hit anything yet.
She proceeded up the alleyway to the back of the building.
From back here, looking up the metal exterior steps she’d never seen before, she could see how there was enough space for an upstairs room. It wasn’t nearly as obvious from the front of the building, though Riley now realized this was an illusion caused primarily by the sign and the decorative trim work above the door and window.
Riley also realized, as she stood in the narrow passage between the back of Dean Mitchell’s office and a concrete retaining wall, that she’d only been in this building once. She was thirty-five, almost thirty-six, had lived in Ellingwood her entire life, had passed by this building in car and on foot hundreds or thousands of times, and had only been inside it once, and that was back in the late nineties, when she was still a teenager, long before Ellingwood had ever heard of Dean Mitchell, attorney at law.
Back then, this building had housed an accountant’s office. Then, a used bookstore (this had lasted approximately three months). Then it had been empty. Then it was a hair salon. After that, empty again, until Mitchell had bought it… almost four years ago. Depressing, Riley thought. It reminded her that she was looking directly at forty, that her parents had been dead for ten years, that she’d been a business owner, unfortunately, for nearly a decade, thanks to cancer and suicide.
Funny, the things that took her back to her parents’ deaths. Some things, she thought, you just never accept or get over.
For years, Riley had refused to accept that her dad’s lethal cocktail of antidepressants, painkillers, and whiskey had been intentional. Then she got busy. Finished her associates degree. Fixed up The Painted Lady with money her parents had set aside for just that cause. Ran for constable and won, since she was the only one on the ballot. And somewhere in the midst of all this, she accepted it.
Accepted, yes, but sometimes, like now, her eyes still misted up. Yes. Funny the things that take you back. Just standing here, looking up at this building, thinking about the passing of time.
She forced a laugh. No need to cry. There was nothing emotionally heavy about telling Dean Mitchell to move his truck.
She ascended the steps and knocked on the door at the top. Dean Mitchell answered, dressed in what Riley guessed were yesterday’s clothes. His eyes were red. His hair matted to his forehead.
She let him study her for a moment and asked if he was okay.
“Yes,” he said. “Katie and I argued, so…” He swept his arm into the room as if revealing to her the vast and awesome nature of his hideaway. “You can come in here. It’s cold.”
“I’m fine,” Riley said, “but your truck isn’t.”
“My truck? It’s in the alley, isn’t it?”
“Halfway. The back end is out in the highway, you’ll need to move it. When did you come here?”
“After I had dinner. I don’t know. Six. Seven.”
“Were you sober?”
“Just whenever you came here.”
“Yes, I was sober. I think I had one beer at dinner. I might’ve drank tea. I don’t remember.” And then his eyes widened, and he stepped back and sat down on the room’s only piece of furniture. “Oh shit.”