SMALL TOWN X

      By DKN Burke.   

   Contributions By Eve.  
 Based on an idea from the bulletin boards at Literotica.  Thank you all who contributed ideas for small town x.  Especially Wildsweetone.  Your characters did not make it into the book lest I be accused of stealing them, but the spirit of what you all wrote helped guide the book.
 


 There is a small town in Ohio named X.  It started as a cross roads where the farmers met at the trading post to buy, sell, and barter.  As things like that often happen the trading post gave way to a more respectable general store.  The store was joined by a drink house first, then by a stable.  It was more for the buying and selling of farm animals than sheltering strange horses.  The town continued to grow until the depression.  It, like a lot of farm towns, survived, but went into a replacement mode.  It never really grew much after.

 Its one claim to fame was an early statue.  The statue was dedicated to a famous civil war era union general.  Tourist came along once in a long while just to see it.  There just weren’t enough civil war buffs to fill the three bedroom Bed and Breakfast.  Most of the buildings in town dated back to the 1930's and 40's.  Fortunately the population swelled on the weekends.  It was enough to keep the town alive, but not enough to attract the fast food joints.   The consequence was that the town remained quaint, as it would later be described.  There were a ‘bushel’ of stories in the town.  Some of them fascinating, some of them ordinary.  Welcome to life in Small Town X.

   Eddie’s Place.

 If anything on the raw side of life happened, it always began in Eddie’s place.  Eddie’s was the only beer joint in town.  Small Town X was just too small for a real bar.  At Eddie’s, the jukebox played country music. The farmer’s sons and daughters, danced beside the towns working class.  There was not a real cowboy for a thousand miles but that didn’t bother a soul.

 Eddie wasn’t the owner’s name but nobody ever called her anything else.  It was because nobody knew her real name.  She kept it a secret.  The sign read Eddie’s because it had read Eddie’s before the present owner collected her debt from the previous owner.  Word was that the previous Eddie had owed the present Eddie’s former friend a wad of dough.  Eddie had just collected the debt for her.  How she wound up with the place was anyone’s guess.

 Even though Eddie was a woman on the spring side of middleage, she was still hard enough to keep the crowd in line. shotgun which everyone knew was under the bar.

 Eddie also had an eye for the ladies.  A proclivity she acquired while doing her time.  With Eddie, what began as a prison necessity became a life style.  

 Eddie looked up at the large man who entered.  The man was in the full bloom of middleage.  Since Eddie knew everyone in town the stranger had to be from somewhere else.  

 “Howdy stranger,” she said with a grin.  “I always wanted to say that.  We don’t get many strangers here.”

 “Well Miss Kitty, you just feel free.  Course I do have a name you know.”

 “Tell me what you want to drink, while I don’t listen to it.”  She grinned to show she was not upset.

 “Draft and I will keep it to myself then.”  The older man smiled.  

 His smile bothered Eddie.    She wasn’t sure why but he seemed to smile like a man who knew more than she knew.

 “Well now,” Eddie said as she placed the wet glass on the black bar top.  “I am curious about you, just not your name especially.

 “Well I am a writer.  No, not published just a hobby with me.”  He responded to her curious look.  “People always ask what I have written.  They really want to know what I have publish, and am I a real writer.”        

 “Well are you?” Eddie asked with a grin.

 “By my definition yes, however I am not a professional since I have never been paid for it.”

 “In that case let’s use your definition.  So what brings you to Small Town X?”

 “I came to write a novel about your big murder case.”

 “What big murder case?” Eddie asked.

 “Why Maggie Evans, how many unsolved cases do you have?”

 “Who the hell is Maggie Evans?  I never heard of her.”

 “She was a stranger like me.  Just a woman passing through a while ago.  They pulled her body out of the Small Town X reservoir.”

 “Oh now I remember, the lady in the yellow convertible.  Since she was a stranger, I never paid any attention.”

 “So I guess you don’t know anything about her.”  

 “Nothing more than you just told me.  Excuse me I got to get back to work.”

 He watched as she moved on down the bar to refill a draft glass.  He wondered if she indeed knew nothing.  It was the old cop in him.  In his mind everyone was a suspect,.

 He looked around the dimly lit room.  Without a doubt someone in the room knew something.   Murder and unsavory characters went together.  All the unsavory characters in Small Town X seemed to be gathered at Eddie’s.  He knew that it was not true at all.  Still so many in such a small town,  They must bus them in, he thought.

 The writer watched as Eddie went from patron to patron.  She was no doubt filling them in.  It was exactly what he had hoped to accomplish by the visit.  The writer put three bucks on the bar then walked out the door.

 He was almost to the van when a voice shouted.  “Hey Writer.”

 “Are you really a writer?” the voice belonged to a woman of about thirty.  She had a slightly elongated face and a slightly thick jaw.  She wore her hair much too long for her age and face shape.  She did have an attractive body even though it was a bit thick at the hips.

 “Like I told Eddie, I am an unpublished writer.  That makes me a bit like a starving artist.  To answer your question I do write yes.”

 “Then I need to talk to you.”

 “Is it about Maggie Evans?” he asked.

 “No it is about me.  I think I have some great stories to tell.  I think I could get them published.”

 “Well...”  He intentionally left it so that she would be forced to answer.

 “Sammie, my friends call me Sammie,” She said it extending her hand to the writer.

 “Well Sammie, everyone has stories to tell.  I don’t ghostwrite, I am sorry to say.”

 “Let’s go to my place and we can talk about it.”  Sammie was offering something the writer just wasn’t sure what.

 “I am tired tonight but I am staying at the state park just outside of town.  If you want to talk come on out one day and we can discuss your life.  I have to warn you though I do not expect to change my mind.”

 “Well honey, if anybody can change your mind it is me.”  She grinned what had to be nothing less than a hungry wolf's grin.



 She watched the writer drive away in the mini van with blacked out windows.  Sammie went back into the dim light of Eddie’s.  She knew that she was almost gorgeous in the darkened beer joint.  She also knew that before the night was over some drunken drugstore cowboy would hit on her.  It always happened.  She seldom said no to them.  She seemed to be horny all the time since she moved to Small Town X the year before.  She credited her traveling salesman husband and the freedom he afforded her for her new found sexuality.  

 She found her seat at the bar.  At first she had hated the custom of women displaying themselves at the bar.  She didn’t like Eddie flirting with her either.   Well in all honesty she had been flattered at first.  She sort of felt that one night when she couldn’t find a cowboy, she would give Eddie a try.  Some of the women had talked about how great Eddie was with her tongue.  It might be nice to find out even if there were cowboys around.  Most of them just knew one trick.  She wasn’t complaining though.  She had finally learned to orgasm from intercourse.  

 “Hey Sammie, you wanna dance?”  The man who asked was a tall thin man somewhat less than her age.  At Eddie’s age didn’t seem to matter.  Men seemed to be attracted by a woman’s looks or personality more than her age.  At least it seemed that way to Sammie, who had slept with older and younger men.  

 “Sure why not Martin.”  Martin held her close during the dance.  It took about thirty seconds for him to get an erection.  The feel of his penis laying against her belly was all it took.  Sammie melted into him.  She hoped desperately that he would ask to take her home.

 “Sammie, how about me and you take a walk.  We can get a couple of beers to go, drive out by the late.  Would you like that?”

 “Oh yes Martin,” Sammie replied.  “But could I have another drink first?”

 “Sure, I wouldn’t mind having one myself and then maybe another dance.”

 “That would be nice,” Sammie agreed.

 Very few things were overlooked by Eddie.  She saw Martin and Sammie hook up.  She also cursed her luck.  She felt that she was on the verge of seducing Sammie.  Oh well, so she liked the challenge of virgins most, there were plenty around who fondly remembered their time with Eddie.  Some were in the club at that moment.  Some preferred men but some preferred Eddie.  Even the ones who preferred men got to looking hard at her when closing time approached.  Eddie always had her choice at 1 a.m.

 Eddie was working on half a dozen women who had never had a lesbian experience before.  She had turned on twice that many already.  The town’s women were rapidly becoming bi.  Eddie was right proud of herself for it.  She wanted to set some kind of record.  She smiled as she watched Sammie’s ass wiggle against Martin’s erection.

 When the song ended the two of them moved to a table far from anyone else.  Eddie knew from having talked to Sammie that Sammie would have Martin’s penis in her hands any second.  Sammie was just as much a slut as any of the other women in Small Town X.

 The thoughts that triggered in her mind were anything but ladylike.  Eddie was getting tense as she always did when she felt she had lost a woman.  It didn’t much matter that she had never had Sammie, she knew Sammie was close to coming over.

 Sammie turned her beer glass up and took a long drink.  When she finished, she smiled at Martin, then she led him out the door.

 As they passed, Eddie smiled on the outside but inside she was furious.  She just wasn’t sure who she should be furious with.  Martin was just acting like and man.  If Sammie hadn’t been such and easy slut, she wouldn’t be Sammie, Eddie thought with a smile.

 “Hey Eddie, what’s a girl gotta do to get a drink around here?” the twenty pound overweight redhead asked.   

 Eddie moved slowly down the bar to the redhead.  She didn’t want Rusty to get any ideas.  Rusty was a sweetheart all right, but she was just a little to possessive.  It took Eddie a couple of days to extract herself every time she played with Rusty.  The woman was just too damn clingy.  Sure, she had her childhood issues, but so did everyone else.

 Just as Eddie reached for Rusty’s glass, a siren began to intrude on the country music.  The siren blast grew in intensity then faded away.   Since it didn’t stop in her parking lot, Eddie ignored it.

 The Ambulance roared past Eddie’s without the drive, or attendant noticing the beer joint.  The driver was intent on the narrow road.  The roads in Small Town X definitely could use an upgrade.  All the county’s emergency personnel cursed the roads in Small Town X, but still were forced to provide service to the burg.

 Nobody gave all that a thought at the moment.  Just a few blocks from Eddie’s joint, a subject was barricaded inside a house.  The sheriff’s deputies had the house surrounded.  The ambulance personnel had no idea what else was going on.  
   
 The state police’s swat team was on the way in addition to the ambulance.  The damn woman in the house had her husband’s deer rifle.  She was threatening to kill herself, and anyone who approached the house as well.  It was a first for the sheriff’s deputies.  At least no one could remember ever having a woman threaten such a thing.

 The ambulance was almost run off the road by the state police swat team bus.  

 “Oh hell Lucy, we are in for some shit now.”  The voice belonged to Jonathan Simpson.  He was the driver of the ambulance.  Lucy was the paramedic.  Jonathan also was an Emt but with a lower level of training.  That small fact made Lucy the team leader even though she was newer to the field.

 “How so?” she asked.
 “Those state police swat guys always shoot somebody.  They are the most blood thirsty bunch I have ever seen.  It is a fucking macho thing.”

 “Well I hope they hold off this time.  I hate fucking gunshot wounds.”

 “Honey, if they start shooting, the only thing we will do is transport the body.”  Jonathan could call her honey since he was at least thirty years older.

 “That bad huh?” Lucy asked.

 “Yep, it will be a miracle if she comes out of this alive.”

 The two medics stood behind the ambulance drinking coke from the cooler they carried.  They watched as the cops talked to the distraught woman on the phone.

 “Hey lady,” One of the deputies said to Lucy.  “I need your help.”

 “Okay, is somebody hurt.”  Lucy couldn’t think of any other reason they would want her.

 “Not yet, I need you to talk to the lady in the house.  She just told us she wouldn’t speak to us again.  Said that we were all men and couldn’t understand.”

 “Well, I haven’t been trained for this kind of thing.  What if I say something wrong?”

 “If you don’t do something, I am going to have to let the swat team take the building.  If I do that somebody is probably going to die.”

 Lucy reluctantly accepted the cell phone he thrust at her. “Her name is Joyce.”

 “Hello, my name is Lucy.  I am a paramedic.  I want to help you, Joyce.”
 “Oh Lucy, I need help.  They are going to kill me.”

 “Not if you put down the rifle and walk out.  If you do that I will personally see to it that you get whatever help you need.”

 “Even if I put down the rifle and walk out they are going to kill me.   They can’t let me live.  I know too much.”

 “What do you know honey?” Lucy asked.

 “If I tell you what I know, you will be in great danger too.”

 Lucy looked at the deputy who made a circular motion with his finger against his head.  He indicated that she was crazy.

 “I want to help you but I can’t unless you tell me what is going on.”  Lucy covered the phone.  “What can I do?  Can I go in there?”

 “Absolutely not,” the deputy said.

 Lucy ignored him.  “How about if I come in and we talk?”  The deputy shook his head.

 “No Lucy, if you do that they will find a way to kill us both.  They don’t want me to tell what I know.”

 “Who doesn’t want you to tell?  Most of us out here Joyce don’t know you honey.” Lucy continued.

 “Where do you live Lucy?” Joyce asked.

 “Taylortown,” was her only reply.

 “Good, then don’t pry into this honey.  It is best that you don’t know.”

 “Joyce how about this?  I come up there and you come out with me.  I will carry you to the state hospital in Raleigh.  I will take you there myself.  Nobody will be able to get you there.”  Lucy figured the doctors there could deal with her delusional paranoia.

 “Joyce, you know this has to end soon.”  Lucy hoped it was the right thing to say.
 
 “Okay, you come up here alone and I will go out to the ambulance with you.”

 Lucy was terrified as she walked to the door of the small frame house.  Joyce turned out to be far from a gun toting redneck.  She looked more like a church lady. Still she came to the door with the rifle.  

 She was looking all around as Lucy said, “You have to leave that rifle in the house honey.”

 At that very moment a shot rang out from behind her.  Joyce crumpled back into the house.   Lucy rushed in to help the fallen woman.  As she did the state and local cops surrounded her.  Lucy looked up at them with anger and hurt in her eyes.  She intended to slap hell out of the first one who started any macho shit.

 Even on the summer night, it was well past dead dark when the writer arrived back at the campground.  He had checked into the state park just until he had his research completed.  After that he would have to decide where to go.  He could stay in Small Town X to write the story since he was pretty much free to come and go as he wished.

 Still, he might go home to write it.  The white frame house stood almost empty at the moment.  It would be that way until he returned.  His country club wife would be, god only knew, where.  

 In his week of reading files and talking to cops, he had learned little.  All anyone knew was that Maggie’s body had been pulled from the lake used for the town’s drinking water.  Since Maggie was not a local, nobody knew much and cared even less.

 The writer had read the police reports, such as they were.  From them he had learned that Maggie was from a couple of hundred miles away.  She had been on her way to a sales call when she disappeared.  Maggie sold computers and software systems.

 “Hello in there,” the woman’s voice interrupted him.  The voice belonged to the park ranger.  She was the ranger who made the night patrol of the campgrounds.  The writer had seen her around but had never spoken to her.

 “Hello,” he said after leaving the van.  He had been sitting in the passenger seat reviewing his notes when she spoke.  “What can I do for you Ma’am.”

 “Gee don’t call me ma’am it makes me sound so old.”  She smiled giving him a chance to respond.

 “Didn’t mean it that way.  It is the southern raising I expect.  Besides I am at least twenty years older than you.”

 “Oh I doubt that.  The reason I am here is because you have to move tomorrow.  You are only allowed to camp for a week here.  It is the rule.”

 “Damn, If I had known that, I would have found some private park.”
 She saw the look of dismay on his face.  He was a good looking old man with the silver hair and beard.  The number of wrinkles put his age in the forties range.  He must be one of those guys with premature grey hair she thought.

 “Tell you what writer,” She began.  “Come to the office tomorrow and check out, then back in again in another space.  It is legal.  We got a couple of people who do it.”  He looked as though he really did appreciate the information.  Jane thought, it might be nice to have the writer owe her a favor.  She did like his looks, a lot actually.

 “Thank you for the advice.  I will definitely take it.”

 “Good, I kind of like having you around.”  She smiled her most seductive smile.

 That smile made the writer shiver, but it wasn’t in fear, even though it was the smile a cat wore as it toyed with a mouse.  It was more a shiver of fascination.  The fascination of looking into the face of evil while waiting to see what will happen.

 Ranger Jane, as he began to think of her, moved to stand close in the black night.  She wasn’t so close that a camper might think anything of it.  She was just close enough to speak without fear of being overheard in the camper no more than a few feet away.

 “Why don’t you take a walk tonight writer.  Walk on down to the office.  I think something interesting might happen.”

 She had him on the spot and he knew it.  He didn’t know exactly what to say but he knew he had to say or do something.  If for no other reason than he was a gentleman.   She hadn’t exactly promised him anything.  Maybe she knew something about Maggie Evans.  He knew better, but he fooled himself with the lie.

 “Sure, when would be the best time for that walk?”

 “I would think about midnight.”  The writer just nodded.

 The writer stood outside the locked office waiting for Ranger Jane to arrive.  The black Ford Bronco arrived five minutes after midnight.  The truck pulled up beside him.  The passenger side window lowered as if by magic.  

 “Get in writer.”  It wasn’t quite the demand it sounded.  It was more and invitation.

 He didn’t speak until he was in the truck.  “So Ranger are you kidnaping me?”  The writer was almost laughing.

 “I thought for a while I might have to,” the woman in the green outfit replied.
 He didn’t know what to say so he changed the subject.  “Where are you taking me, not that I mind.”

 “We rent cabins as well as camp spaces.  We have an empty one away from all the others.  The office workers rent it last.  I checked , no one is using it, so I thought we might sit on the porch and talk a little.”

 “That sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing for us to do.”  The writer did not mean for to come off nasty by any means.  He meant it to sound like a non committal remark.

 The cabin didn’t seem just right to him when he arrived.  It wasn’t logs, as it should have been.  It was called board and batten construction.  Just a bunch of vertical boards with a second board nailed over the joint cracks.  

 The cabins were rustic at best.  They had no electric power.  They did have running water.  A propane gas cylinder could be purchased from the office.  The cylinder supplied enough power for the hot water and even a small heater, if need be. The gas would last only a day or so if used for heat.  If it was used only to heat water, it would last a week or more.  Light was provided by kerosene lamps.  The feeling was a mixture of wilderness and comfort.  The comfort from the indoor bathrooms and running water.  Rustic because of the lack of modern conveniences.

 Jane turned to him, then pushed him onto a hand hewn bench.  

 The writer could feel Ranger Janes’s hand under his shirt, her tongue down his throat, and the large buckle of her gun belt pressed into his crotch.  It was an interesting set of feelings to be having all at once.  Everything was a turn on except the pistol belt thingie.  Even it wasn’t enough to calm him down.  He had her blouse out and was reaching for the buttons when the serious knock sounded from the front door.

 “Busted,” he said.

 “Ah but by whom?” she asked, as she quickly stuffed her shirt inside the uniform trousers.

 Ranger Jane moved to the door but much slower than the writer would have.  She seemed to have at least a sense of who the person standing in the night would be.  The writer couldn’t see the intruder since Jane kept the door mostly closed.  He could hear their voices though.

 “Hello, am I interrupting?” the voice on the porch asked.

 “Of course you are.  You know I don’t come inside unless I am with someone,” Jane replied.

 “I just needed to talk with you but I will come back later.  Can I meet you at your place.”  The voice was definitely female.  She sounded young to the writer but then what can you really tell from a voice on the other side of a wall.

 “Alright, come to my place in a couple of hours.”  Jane seemed to be less annoyed all of a sudden.

 “Thanks,” The voice replied.  Jane closed the door, as she removed the pistol belt.

 “Now where were we writer?” she asked with a grin.


 STX Lake was a popular spot for lovers in the small lonesome town. There wasn’t much to do after dark except sit at home watching TV with the family, hanging out at Eddie’s, or screwing by the lake.  For some, most nights consisted of doing all three in that order. The finding of Maggie Evan's body and possible murder there, hadn’t stopped that routine.

 Martin took a hand off the steering wheel, then pressed Sammie’s hand harder against him.

 “Feels good baby,” he murmured, reaching over and giving Sammie’s breast a squeeze. Sammie winced in slight pain but also moaned with genuine pleasure.

 “Hey honey, we keep this up and you’re gonna run the truck into a tree,” she said it with a sensual laugh.

 “Always like to give my ladies a good bang for the buck,” he joked in response.

 “I’m sure you do,” Sammie told him, teasing him harder with her hand; “Feels like you’re packing a nice wad of ‘cash’ in there.”

 “Never had no complaints,” he said, smiling oddly to himself with the satisfying realization that it actually was the truth.

 The occasional flickering of headlights and random ignition of car engines created the nightly ambiance of STX Lake. Martin found his favorite spot by the lake, then stopped the pickup. It was an unspoken understanding.  Everyone knew it was Martin’s spot. They all had one, and rarely did an interloper enter another’s territory. Most knew better than to do so. Iother man’s lakeside territory was grounds for having one of Eddie’s beer mugs ground into your face. Eddie was more than happy to hand over another cold mug to complete the job. Eddritory at STX Lake as well.  Actually, she had several…

 Sammie climbed out of the pickup, then took Martin’s hand.  ed her lips with his mouth. Ma wrists and moved her hands down to his jeans to encourage her to unzip them.

 She needed no such encouragement. Sammie adeptly unzipped Martin’s jeans, then wrestled them down just far enough to find his considerable size. She moaned her approval.

 Martin’s mind was fading into blind ecstasy as he felt her stroking him. He wasn’t even aware he was ripping the flimsy cotton Tshirt down the front.  It was in uncontrollable lust to feel her naked body.

 He pushed her to the ground knelt over her, quickly unzipped her blue jeans, then forced them down past her hips.  Martin held her wrists penned to the ground.  He then moved his knees between her legs to spread them apart. His fierce entry into her felt excruciating, but also wonderful to Sammie.  However, as she looked up into his face, she wasn’t sure that she liked what she saw.  He was staring at her intensely.  He wore a wicked grin on his face.  He seemed to be enjoying the pain his forceful thrusting caused her.

 “Hey lover, take it easy,” she managed to gasp between staggered breaths; “I ain’t going anywhere.”

 “You love it,” Martin panted, thrusting harder.  “You love being a little slut.  Come on baby say it.”

 “I love being a slut,” Sammie responded automatically in a slow breathy moan. She was so close to orgasm, she didn’t care what she had to do or say to feel it.

 Hearing Sammie’s words was all it took for Martin. He jerked back and then forward in one violent move and released inside her. He fell on top of her in exhaustion.

 Sammie was still squirming in sexual arousal. In less than 30 seconds Martin was climbing to his feet and rearranging his clothes. She laid there for a moment, trying to clear her mind and understand that it was over for her. Without satisfaction. She was pissed.

 Martin looked down at Sammie’s disheveled, halfdressed body and smiled with macho arrogance and almost a hint of cruelty.

 “Come on, baby,” he said, reaching down his hand to her; “I’ll take you home.”

 Sammie slapped his hand away and stood up on her own. She tried to pull the ripped Tshirt together and tuck it in her jeans to secure it.

 “You’re a real bastard,” she told him.

 Martin laughed “Yeah, but you love it.”
 He took her hand and bent to give her a quick kiss on the cheek.

 “You were wonderful Sammie; best I’ve had,” he lied sweetly, trying to appease her.

 Martin led her to the car then got in behind the wheel.  He handed her a can of warm beer from under the driver’s seat. Sammie begrudgingly took it.

 “How about I take you for an early breakfast?” Martin suggested it as he drove away from the lake and onto Route 60. “Know a great little place about 20 miles from here. Open all night best scrambled eggs and coffee within 100 miles.” He looked over at Sammie, tweaking her cheek with a hopeful smile.

 Sammie turned to him and reluctantly but helplessly began to smile back.

 “Sure, why not?” she answered with a casual shrug. It was the very least he owed her, and Sammie was by god gonna collect something from him before going home. Even if it was only breakfast in a greasy highway diner.

 “Cutting it close ain’t you Martin?”  It was his brother who asked.  What the hell was Tommy doing down here, he wondered.

 “Well, a little I guess.  Where is Harvey?”

 “I sent him on home when I got here a few minutes ago.  I didn’t need him.  You haven’t been drinking have you Martin?”

 “Not for the last couple of hours.  I had a couple of beers earlier.”

 “Marty, I wish you would quit altogether.  It is not good for you to drink.  You know how you get after you have had a couple of drinks.”

 “Come on Tommy, I haven’t been in trouble like that for years.  I can handle it now.”  There was a long pause while each brother came to grips with their situation.  It was humiliating for Martin to work for his younger brother.  It was also the only job he could find.  He had never been in jail, but he might as well have been.  The reputation as a brawler followed him even into adulthood.

 “That is true Marty, you seem to have calmed down but you really shouldn’t drink at all.  You know what that Doctor said.”

 “Like I said, my only defense is, I haven’t been in trouble in years.”  He waited a moment then went on.  “What brings you down here so late.”

 “Oh hell same old thing.  Mary and the whelp are at it again with me in the middle.  Don’t ever marry a woman with kids.”  

 “Not much chance of that.  Ain’t no woman gonna want a gas station attendant.  Even if I don’t pump no gas.”

 “I told you Marty, any time you want you can come on days and work with the mechanic.  Learn yourself a good trade.”

 “I don’t want to fix cars neither.  I know I need to learn something, but fixing cars ain’t what I got in mind.”

 “Okay Marty,” It was the close of that conversation.  “I fixed your register for you.  I’ll be back in the morning to take over.”

 “Tommy, sleep in, I can handle the place till you get some rest.   You don’t look so good.”

 “Thanks Marty, I just might do that.”  It sounded good, but Marty knew that Tommy would be in to count the register and take over at exactly seven a.m.

 Martin settled in for the long boring midnight shift.  None of the locals would be around until five in the morning.  Some would stop for gas, or coffee, on the way to work at one or another of the small plants in the area.  From one until five it would be out of town motorists from the highway.  Some nights he stayed busy, but most he barely took in enough to pay his own salary.  Some of those night he locked the door and took a nap.  Hell he knew from experience that nobody would miss him.  That thought brought a smile to his lips.

 “About here I think,” the writer said taking her into his arms.  He should have asked about the woman on the porch, but somehow his mind was on more urgent things.  Although the swelling had gone down the thickness in his mind had not.
 As the kids would say they swapped spit and other bodily fluids for the next hour.  When it was over and they were lying on the floor, the ranger said,  “Writer you better be planning to hang around a while.”

 “Why is that?” he asked it lazily.

 “Because I am not through with you.  I am one of those bitchy women who wants things to end on her terms.  I can get down right nasty, if they don’t.”  She laughed to break the tension her words had caused.

 “I expect I will be here a while longer.  I am still doing research.  Did you ever meet Maggie?”

 “I am not sure she ever met anyone in town.  She might have just been driving by,” Jane replied with a dark look on her face.  It looked as though she took murder seriously.

 “One person for sure met her.”  She looked curiously at the writer as he spoke. “Her killer.”

 “We don’t know that the murderer was from here.  She might have met someone on the road or maybe she had the killer with her.”

 “If that were the case, he had a long fucking walk out.”  The Writer replied.

 “Well whoever dumped her in the lake had a long walk out,”  Jane replied.

 “Unless they went to the lake in two cars.”

 “That is possible, the lake is the towns make out point form all ages.  It could have been anyone writer.”

 “Truth is Jane, I don’t care who killed her.  All I am going to do is use it for the basis of a story.  If I can figure it out that would be great, if not so what.”

 “While you are figuring come here,” she said pulling him to her breasts.  She ran her hands through his long wild hair as he dry nursed on her.  She not so gently pulled him free to kiss his lips, then pushed him back to her breast.

 “Harder,” she mumbled.  “Yes hurt me.”

 The writer was reluctant until Jane pulled his hair hard.  At that point he bit into her breast just past the nipple.  He did it as much as a reflex as anything.  

 “God yes,” she moaned.   

 He drew the line when she tried to force his head lower.  Some things were just a little too kinky for the writer.

 Back in his van the writer tried to process all he knew.  It was hard to think with the haunting thoughts of Jane running through his mind.  He finally gave up.  He slipped into the back of the van, lay on his air bed, turned on his fan, then fell into a deep sleep.

 Meanwhile, several miles away, Ranger Jane was making coffee on the gas stove of her twentyfive foot camper.  The living space wasn’t much, but it was almost free, one of the perks o bad it wouldn’t last, they never did.  Something or someone always came along to screw things up.  It didn’t help that she couldn’t control her urges since she had moved to Small Town X.  

 She had always been sexual, but since coming to Small Town X she had become absolutely slutty.  Anywhere else, it would be a terrible problem.  For some reason people in Small Town X tended to ignore it. They didn’t have any idea how kinky she could get.  She had no intention of telling them.

 She had been lucky with the Writer.  He had been forceful in his reaction to her opening.  He had made it plain that he was not interested in moving even to the suburbs of bizarro land.  Well straight lovers were nice too.  Especially since Small Town X was full of kinky people, men and women.  Speaking of which little miss ‘hit me hurt me’ was on the way.

 Thoughts of her job intruded just once more.   If it didn’t get too bad, she should be able to stick around a while, she decided.

Sammie gazed out the dirty windshield of Martin’s pickup truck and smiled at the pale yellow moon hanging over STX. Her hand cupped Martin’s crotch, rubbing him slowly as he drove and hummed along with the radio.


 “The black SUV pulled to a stop by the gas pumps.  Martin recognized the car/truck.  He smiled at the thought that he might be able to swing a second piece of ass in the same evening.  Eve almost never said no to him.  For that, he had his mother to thank.  Martin was a good looking guy.  It sure, as hell didn’t come from his dad’s side of the family.  His side of the family looked like a bunch of bridge trolls.  Why his mother married into that family was a mystery.  Why she left wasn’t.  His dad had a nasty temper and could get violent.  It was a trait he and his dad shared.  Since his mother and father hadn’t lived together since he was ten, he found out about his dads temper as a teenager.

 Martin was big enough, and strong enough, so that when he found out first hand, he kicked his dad’s ass.  The old man was a tough one, but no match for the younger stronger Martin.  Martin shouldn’t have been proud of doing it, but he was.  The old man had slapped him up side the head, so he just went about the business of destroying him.  His dad never spoke to him again.  Martin was just as glad.  He did miss the extra few bucks the old man slipped  him once in a while, but he learned to do without it.

 Before Eve got out of the truck, he turned off the computer link to the pumps.  The little screen would read please pay inside.  He had learned to hate those damn things.  The pretty women could slide in a card and buy their gas.  Most of what he liked about the job was the women.  He had convinced the technician, who repaired the pumps, to explain how to kill the credit card link.  After that he would kill it when an attractive woman pumped gas.

 “Your damn credit card reader is broke again Martin.  You should do something about that, I am in an awful hurry tonight.”  Eve spoke after having hurried into the store.  In her almost jog she had displayed her bouncing breasts admirably to Martin.  Eve was just a little over weight.  Not all but a lot was in her breasts.
 “Damn Shame you are in such a hurry Eve.  I thought maybe we could spend some quality time together.”

 “I am sorry Martin but the old man is baby sitting Sherry.  She has some kind of virus.  He came over to take care of her while I worked.  He is gonna be raisin’ hell, if I am late.  Maybe we can get together when Sherry is better?  You know how I love the time I spend with you.”

 “I know you do my little slut.”  He smiled wickedly as he processed the card.  

 Eve left with a smile on her lips.  After she had gone Martin removed a Hustler Magazine from the stand.  He carefully worked it from the brown wrapper then made sure everything was turned off.  He went into the bathroom to look at the pictures.  


 “Lucy honey, you did everything you could,” Jonathan Simpson said. He was using his most paternal tone in trying to appease his ambulance partner. Lucy was obviously upset, stomping around in the back of the EMT truck with a vengeance, as she cleaned up the bloody litter of their last patient.

 They didn’t have to fucking blow her brains out,” she responded with a glare before jumping out of the truck, carrying a biohazard bag full of crimsonsoaked gauze and IV remnants. Why Lucy had fiercely insisted on trying to revive the woman was beyond Jonathan.  He said nothing as they’d driven to twoman was DOA. she’d stood just a few feet away as the SWAT team had taken the woman down. But if it had made Lucy feel better to try, then let her. It was after all what she was trained to do.

 I warned you the cops might do that,” Jonathan responded. “Told you those guys work on the concept of “shoot first, who gives a shit about questions later”.

 “She was just a terrified, delusional woman. She didn’t want to hurt anyone.  She was just afraid someone was gonna hurt her.”

 “You don’t know she wouldn’t have used that rifle on someone,” Simpson responded, handing Lucy the last remaining Coke from the ice chest.  “Even you,” he added.

 Lucy was not convinced.   “No, she wouldn’t have. I was talking to her. She was calming down. She had agreed to let me take her to the hospital to get help. I told her I wouldn’t let anything happen to her.” Lucy followed her last words with a sniffle and turned away.

 Jonathan followed her to the locker room.  “Lucy, I know you wanted to help her, and maybe could have gotten her out of there alive. Who knows. We’re just ‘crash and carry’ men, honey. The cops had other plans.”

 “But why? Why would they be so goddamned bound and determined to shut her up?”
 “Shut her up? Now Lucy, don’t start taking anything that woman said seriously. She was a paranoid delusional, they think everyone is out to get them. She was a menopausal middleaged woman, probably on Zoloft, Prozac, Valium and god knows what kinds of hormone replacement therapy. That stuff’ll fuck up your mind. Believe me, I have a menopausal wife.” Jy.

 But Lucy wasn’t in the mood to be joked out of her dark thoughts.

 “I don’t know, Jonathan. She seemed genuinely fearful, and not irrationally so. You only had to look in her eyes to see it. I think she’d really been threatened with her life. You saw those bruises on her arms. a perfect hand print match. That lady had definitely been abused by someone.”

 “You don’t know that Lucy.  That is pure speculation,” Jonathan replied. “You're letting your Sisterhood mentality convince you that all men are wifebeating pigs, and it's getting the best of you.”

 “Hey old man, it happens all the time,” she said. “You know what they say about STX. Man, that place is a fucking Sodom and Gammorah! Glad as hell I don’t live here. Taylortown may be white trash central, but at least our trailer park don’t have red lights outside every front door.”

 Jonathan chuckled. “Well honey, just you remember the first rule of riding as an EMT. Do your job, and don’t get emotionally involved. Hell, the cops shouldn’t have let you get involved at all, stupid bastards.”

 “She was terrified of them, like she knew they were out to get her. Like maybe she had something on them, or they had something on her.”

 “Hell , everyone thinks that about cops!”

 “No, this was different,” Lucy replied.
“She did know something, and knew it was going to get her killed. I think she’d gotten to the point where she thought the only way out was to kill or be killed. She said she knew too much, and for me to stay out of it. Problem is John, some people considered delusional are really telling the truth. Got tons of sane people in looney bins; no one will believe them.”

 “Sure Lucy, it happens,” Jonathan replied, hoping to see Lucy calm enough to get her on her way home and punch out himself. It had been a hell of a long, ugly night. “But that lady was just nuts. Sorry honey, but it’s true. You need to try to forget about this and move on. Hey, there will be plenty more psycho ladies in need of our care,” he smiled wryly; “Let’s just hope they aren’t toting loaded guns.”

 Lucy tried to smile, but it was hard. She knew Jonathan was just trying to be a good partner and help her through a bad scene. But Lucy couldn’t forget it; she wouldn’t allow herself. Something deep down told her that the woman had been telling the truth, or at least, a partial truth. Those cops had seemed way too eager and happy to take her out. They had an EMT in there who was on her way to getting that gun away from the woman; there was absolutely no reason why the need to shoot her was eminent at that point. Not only was it seemingly against protocol, but it was just too damned excessive. Not to mention, those guys shouldn’t have shot with a civilian – even a trained EMT – so close to the suspect. Lucy up to this point hadn’t really let that sink in. She’d been only a few feet away from the woman when they shot her. One hiccup from the sharpshooter and it could have been Lucy lying down in the hospital morgue now. Despite her emotional distress over the whole incident, Lucy still was not convinced that there wasn’t more to this than met the eye.

 After moving his van to a new space in the Park, the writer drove into town.  He stopped in the one  convenience store out near highway 60.  It was ten a.m. so the day shift was working.  That morning the man who usually sat in the office working on papers was missing.  The woman just past her teen years was the sole occupant.  She was fairly attractive until she opened her mouth.  She like a lot of others in Small Town X had bad teeth.  It was obvious that the Convenience store had no dental insurance.

 “Good Morning,  I have a question for you.” 

 “You that writer guy ain’t you?” the post teenager asked.

 “I suppose so.  Everyone in town seems to know me somehow?”  It was a question.  One she recognized.

 “Small Town you know.  We tend to be a nosey lot.  Comes from not having much else to do around here.  

 “Then let me ask you a writer question.  Since you are a woman.”

 “Sure, I always wanted to write you know.”

 The writer nodded.  He got that a lot.  “So, if you were driving from one place to another alone, why would you get off the highway in Small Town X.”

 “You mean, why do I think Maggie Evan’s got found in our lake.”

 He nodded, “I would think a woman traveling alone would be more careful.”

 “I expect she had car trouble, or needed gas, or more likely a bathroom.  You know a woman has to go about twice as often as a guy.”

 “If that was the case, all three would have brought her in here.”
 
 “Could be she stopped in some other gas station, got lost and ran her car into the lake accidentally.”

 “I suppose,” the writer agreed knowing she was wrong.  Maggie Evans was dead before she hit the water.  The autopsy found her lungs dry, not to mention the cracked skull.  He was lost in thought when she spoke again.

 “So where does your stuff get published?” she asked.

 “It doesn’t really.  This is just a hobby with me.  I am retired.”

 “You are mighty young to be retired.”

 “I am far from young.  Take a look at this grey hair.”

 “Well writer, when I look past it, I don’t see that old man skin.  You ain’t near as old as most of the retired men around here.”

 “Okay the grey hair runs in the family. I am fifty five.  I retired with thirty years as a cop.  I have been traveling around and writing ever since.”

 “Holy shit, my two favorite things all wrapped up together.  A cop and a writer,  I could just about rape you.”

 “No, you couldn’t honey.  It is impossible to rape the willing.”

 “Another time writer, my boss is due back in a couple of minutes.  I sure want to take my time with you.”

 “Then another time it is.”  The writer was sure it was all talk.  

 “I know where you are staying.  If I can find an excuse to get away from my husband, I am gonna come out to see you.  Would that be okay?”  The smile she wore told him she was dead serious.

 “Sure, if the van is there, I am too.”

 She nodded with a smile.  “Now about that other, do you want me to ask the others, if they saw that little yellow car.  I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t have said something already if they had seen it.”

 “No, don’t bother. Like you said, they would have mentioned it if they had.  I need to do a little background on the town.”  Just then a couple of people entered the store.  “Looks like you are about to get busy.  Do you know anyone familiar with the history of the town?”

 “I would be the wrong one to ask anyway.  I am way too young.  Try the town library.  The old bat who runs it has been here about a million years.  If anyone knows the dirt she does.”

 “Thanks, by the way I paid with my credit card.”  The writer smiled at her as he spoke.

 “I know you came to see me.  I noticed the card before you came in.  I been wondering when you would talk to me.”

 Her comments were baffling to the writer.  He was holding up paying customers so he left.  In the car it came back again.  Why would a young woman seem interested in him.  He supposed that it was just a friendly little town.  With that thought he chuckled.. 

 The writer left the convenience store quickly.  He wasn’t sure about the cheap blonde with the bad teeth.  He would have no trouble sleeping with the woman half his age.  He just couldn’t understand why she would want to get involved with him.  Still he was flattered so he decided just to let it happen.

 Before he knew it he was downtown.  He had meant to head out to the bypass for a grease biscuit.  He took a look around, then decided instead on the diner nestled behind the statue of General ‘Bloody Bill’ Sherman.  The town had that one central circular road around the statue, from it other roads took off like bicycle spokes.

The diner he found to his pleasure was old and dark.  The aluminum and glass front was just a disguise for the old time diner.  It was obviously his kind of place.  The walls were coated with the atmosphere created by every burger fried, and every bit of bacon cooked on the large flat grill.

Just like everywhere else he went, the waitress recognized him.  He must have been pointed out a hundred times in the week he had been in Small Town X.  It was the only way everyone could have known him.  The writer was a marked man.  So far he enjoyed it.

While he ate his bacon and egg sandwich on a hamburger bun, it was the closest thing to a biscuit in the joint, people whispered about him.  
 

 “So Lottie?”  He asked reading her name tag.  “If I wanted to know a little about the history of this town who should I ask, you?”

 “Not bloody likely, I just moved here a couple of years ago.”  She moved on down the counter to pour another glass of ice water for the teenaged girl sitting with her legs sprawled open. Her shorts were so small that there was a tiny wisp of hair visible around the small strip of cloth hiding her crotch.

 “You should try Doris,” One of the men dressed as a laborer suggested.

 “Yeah, Doris is who you should ask,” his buddy agreed.

 “Who is Doris?” The writer asked tying to avoid staring at the teenager’s crotch.

 “Doris, is the town librarian.  She knows about everything that ever happened here.  Well at least in the last twenty years.”

 “Make that fifteen Bobby,” the woman behind the cash register said.

 “She knows more than that Jen.  She just wasn’t here for the rest of it.  She has that oral history of Small Town X thing going.  All the old people have been in to record.”

 “I guess that is true.  Damn, I should have gone down there.”  The voice belonged to one of the older customers.

 “So where is this library?” The writer asked.  The writer must have made an impression because three different people gave him three different sets of directions.

 Doris Masters was waiting for the writer when he walked through the door.  She looked up from her pretend work to watch him enter.  “Could I help you?” she asked in a strong voice.  There was no shush rule in her library.

 “Are you Doris?” The writer was at a slight disadvantage.  She recognized him as being both a stranger and someone who had been pointed out to her.

 “I am, and what can I do for you?”  The writer flashed on her mind set.

 “How long have you been off the phone with the woman at the diner?”  He smiled to show that he didn’t object.

 “So how did I give it away?”  Doris was all smiles even though she had been busted.

 “Just a look that wasn’t quite curious enough for a Small Town X resident to have when meeting a total stranger.”

 “Yes we are a bit clannish here.  The lady at the diner said you would be along to ask me some questions about Small Town X.

 “Yes but I don’t know exactly how to ask.”  The writer knew how to ask.  He just wasn’t sure how he wanted to begin.

 “Let me help you then.  For one thing if I am going to be a source, I expect to be paid.  I also do not expect to cheat the county out of their money.  In other words writer, we have to do this somewhere else.”

 “Frankly, I don’t usually pay for information.  I don’t really publish the books.  Well, I probably would if anyone wanted to publish them.  I just write as a hobby at the moment.  So I really can’t afford to pay you.”

 “Then we have a problem writer.  I will not work free or on county time.  How about this?  You go to the diner at exactly five till noon.  I will have called in an order.  You pick up that order then carry it to the park across from General Sherman’s statue.  We can have a picnic while you ask your questions.”

 “Fine, but what if I can’t finish by the end of your lunch hour?”

 “Writer there is dinner and after dinner.”

 “Well Mrs. Masters,” he said looking at the name tag on her desk.  “It sounds like I am going to be the only winner here.  I get to pick your brain and the pleasure of your company to boot.
 
 “I would be surprised if you are the only one who enjoys this little exercise.”  Doris looked down at the pile of books in front of her.  The move effectively ended the conversation with the writer.  She had meant to be slightly rude.  No need for him to know how nervous she was.  The writer turned then walked out the door.  Doris smiled, thinking he would be the one for sure.

 The writer drove from the library to the mall on the highway just outside Small Town X.  He went to the drugstore to pick up the prescription he had left the day before.  While he waited for the final typing of the label he contemplated buying condoms.  He laughed at his egotism.  Odds were that he was a legend only in his own mind.

 The writer went to the park just to check it out.  He never liked to go anywhere cold.  It was a product of his years spent undercover.  Even though those years had passed long ago, he could never shake the habits they ingrained in him.  He picked a seat across from the statue but turned to the side.  He didn’t intend to spend his morning looking at Sherman.  

 “Hey there, you want this?”  The voice came from an even older man.  The writer looked at the newspaper the man was offering.

 “Anything interesting in there?”  He noted that it was the local weekly paper.

 “Not unless you care about the daughter of a teacher.  She is getting married to a doctor from New York.”

 “Since I don’t know anyone, I guess I will pass.”

 “You probably should read about all the doings around here.  Hell, you never know, you might want to go to that church bake sale tomorrow.  Some of them ladies cook really good cakes and pies. Can’t say that they all do though.”  The old man smiled at the writer.  He took the paper with a nod of his head.  The old man stood, then walked toward the hardware store.  He passed by the store as he continued on into the residential area only a single block from the downtown.

 As he had expected there was nothing of any interest in the paper.  There was an half interesting article on some out of town folks who were thinking of buying the local bed and breakfast. According to the paper they had been in town off an on for a year checking it out.   It was located in some kind of historical residence.  The writer never could get the straight of it.  He also had little interest.

 He did note one interesting fact.  It seemed that a garage offered 24 hour tow service.  The writer wondered how one would find them without prior knowledge.  If you had a little yellow convertible breakdown on the highway, how exactly would one find a tow service.  He was running it around in his mind trying to determine at least who he could ask.  Nothing presented itself to him before Doris Masters came walking up.  It was then that he realized he hadn’t taken care of lunch. 

 “Grab a seat and don’t move I will be right back.”  The writer set off at as fast a pace as his bad heart would allow.  He passed the smiling Doris as he hurried to the café.  His mind took her in, even after he had past her.  Doris was a lot shorter when she stood.  She was barely five feet tall.  She was a bottle blonde in need of coloring her roots, otherwise she was unremarkable.  Her body could best be described as average for a woman of her age.  Her age was somewhere in the downward spiral of thirty.  

 The order was ready at the diner, so the writer was gone only seven minutes.  When he returned to the park, he found Doris sitting on the same bench he and the old man had occupied earlier.
 He took a seat on the far end as he sat the large white bag between them.  

 “So much for brown bagging.”  He motioned toward the bag as he spoke.

 “Yes progress destroys yet another cliche’.”  She seemed proud of her witty response.  The writer smiled what he hoped wasn’t his sarcastic smile.

 “What did you order for us?”  He asked it in fear.  He was sure that lunch would be something green and leafy.  Women tended to do that to him.  Yes, he did carry a few extra pounds, so it might be called for, but still not appreciated.

 “I have a very nice salad.  They made the most delicious salads at the café.  For you,” She pulled a Styrofoam box from the paper sack.  Since she already had the Styrofoam bowl of salad out, it appeared the new box belonged to him.  “I chose the B L T on white toast.  They make the best ones in town.”

 “Thank you for thinking of me.  Most people would get me the salad.  They think I could use the low calory lunch.”

 “The BLT was my compromise over the fatty burgers.”  She was serious.

 “I wonder why that is?” he asked shaking his head at her.

 “Why what is?”

 “Why I bring out the mother in women.  Everyone tries to take care of me, when all I really want is sex.”  He laughed making it a joke.

 “Writer, I have a feeling there are plenty of women who want to give you that too.  Hell, you never know I might be one of them myself.”

 “Since I have been in Small Town X, I have had a lot of promises.”  The writer shook his head gently.  “Just to change the subject before I get into trouble, have there been many unsolved homicides here?”

 “Damnit writer you don’t waste anytime at all.  What ever happened to small talk.  You know it is kind of like foreplay.”

 “Oh well, I just thought you would want to get on with it.  I can do small talk honest I can.”  The writer got quiet while he tried to think of something to say to the Librarian.  “Nice weather today.”  She burst into laughter.  It took him a second then he joined in.

 “Writer give it up.  You are never going to be a conversationalist.  You just don’t have small talk in you.”

 “No, but I am great at foreplay.”  He looked at her with a smile.  It was his genuine smile not a contrived one.  The writer had a large bag full of contrived smiles.

 “Okay writer, I will make you a deal.  You ask your questions now, if you need more time or you think of something later, the cost will be that great foreplay you are so proud of.”  Being so bold didn’t bother her a bit.  She was a little surprised that it didn’t.  After all it was the first time she had acted so around a man.  She had a reputation as being a lesbian, because she didn’t put out for just any man who asked.  The truth was that she was not a lesbian.  Doris was a far worse thing to be in Small town X,. She was a virgin.
     
 By the time Doris returned to her desk, the writer had learned a few things.  In fact although he promised to call her, he had no plans to do so.  He had learned about all of any value he expected to pick up from the librarian.  Not only that, her look gave him an uncomfortable feeling.  He felt as though he was on display.  Almost like a horse in a show ring is on display.  He smiled at the thought.  He also mumbled that he hoped he fetched a fair price.  He would hate to be judged a second rate stallion.

 He thought about what he had learned as he drove to the campground.  There were not a lot of homicides of any kind in the area.  As far as the librarian knew all of them were solved. The latest one had been a police shooting, so it wasn’t really anything that would interest him.  According to Doris the victim just went off her nut.  Things like that happened from time to time she assured him..  He had a stray thought about that but it slipped past him as he looked up at the sound of screeching brakes.  The near collision between two cars reminded him again about the tow service.  He almost asked Doris but decided to ask Ranger Jane instead.

 While the writer slipped into a shallow sleep, Ranger Jane dressed for her nights work.  She was looking forward to getting out of the trailer and back to work.  Her day had been spent with hit me hurt me.  She loved having the little slut around, but she also became boring rather quickly.  Jane had been able to run her off, only when she began dressing for work.  It had to do with ‘hit me hurt me’s’ hubby being out of town on business.  The errant wife swore that her husband would kill her if he found out about Jane.

 “Hell, he might even kill you,” she suggested.

 Jane wasn’t afraid of ‘Hit me’s’ hubby but she would surely lose her job if she killed him.  After the slut’s departure Jane decided it was time to break it off with her.   How to do it would be a bit of a problem.  ‘Hit me’ had been talking about how Jane was all that kept her going.
 
 “Bullshit,” Jane mumbled to herself.

 Even though the sun was still bright at five, Jane began her patrol of the campground.  She drove through just as the writer awoke from his nap.  He almost flagged her down but decided to hold off.  He did something that for him was unheard of.  He began to cook his own dinner.  Since he really didn’t sell the books, and it was another week before his retirement check was deposited in the bank, he was going to be forced to be a little more careful with his money.  

 Most folks cooked on the wood grill furnished by the park.  The only problem is that the wood for the grill was not furnished.  The amount needed to cook dinner was about three bucks.  That sounds pretty reasonable until you figured out that you couldn’t turn off the wood after you finished.  The wood burned up completely, leaving one to spend three dollars more the next meal.  It was cheaper to eat at the rainbow steakhouse.  

 If he had done that he would have gained about a hundred pounds.  He chose a lesser approach.  He bought a small propane burner ring.  The cylinders were a buck.  They could also be used for at least three meals usually more.

 “Hey writer, if I bring my own steak can I have dinner with you.”

 “If you bring your own steak, me and my hamburgers are going to be embarrassed.”  The writer smiled up at the black car/ruck with the Ohio seal on the door.

 “In that case I will stop by with my burgers.  What else you having.”

 “Don’t worry I have enough for you.  Just come on by in about twenty minutes.”

 “You sure?”  Ranger didn’t want him bad mouthing her.

 “Sure, this stuff wont keep anyway.  My frig is way too small for it.”

 “Well I can’t have any until Midnight but I got a couple of sixpacks and plenty of ice.  I will bring them when I come back to dinner.”

 Ranger Jane was as good as her word.  When she returned with the beer, she also brought coke for herself.  Several of the other campers were cooking out.  Everyone spoke to her so she was forced to reply.  Also with all the attention she had to keep her hands off the writer.  That was more of an inconvenience than anything else.  She was satiated from her encounter with ‘Hit me hurt me’.  Still she wouldn’t mind having the writer wrap her in his arms again.  He did that so well.

 The writer and Jane sat at the wooden picnic table.  The thick paper plate was filled with something under a layer of cornbread.

 “This is some kind of Mexican dish isn’t it?” she asked.

 “Yes but I left out most of the spice for you.  I figured you were spicy enough without the extra.”

 “Writer, I am going to have to read something you wrote.  You got a pretty slick way with words.”

 “Jane, I wish it was so.  If it were, somebody might want to publish some of the other books I wrote.”  He was washing down the hamburger mess with iced tea when he remember the tow truck question.  “Jane tell me, if a person breaks down around here at night who would they call for a tow?”

 “Why Everett of course,” she replied.

 “I see, but what if it were a stranger.  Who would they call?”

 “Everett has the only tow truck in the county after five.  Everybody else goes to bed like sensible people.”
 
 “But would a stranger know to call him?”
 “I see what you are asking.  If Maggie Evans broke down on the road, could she have called Everett?”

 “Yes, I suppose that is what I am asking.”  The writer watched as Jane gave it some thought.  He could tell she was also deciding how much she should edit her answer.

 “It is possible I suppose but I doubt it.  If it was early someone would have seen her car stuck out there.  If not that, then Everett towing her around on the hook.”

 “Okay, so if it was late enough that most people would have been asleep?”

 “Then how would she get his number?”  Jane had just asked the question going around in his mind.  “I suppose she could have called that highway assistance number on a cell phone.  Did she have a cell phone?”

 “Hell Jane, I don’t know.  I will have to check.”

 “You also need to check to see if the roadside assistance number will give Everett’s number for a tow.”

 “I suppose I do at that.”

 “Well I have a couple of more things to check on this round.  You want to come to the house for a snack... or maybe to be a snack?”  Jane gave him the wicked grin she had mastered.  It sounded like as good a way to spend the evening as any.  He could make the calls as well the next day.


 “Sure Ranger, you want to swing by for me later?”  He asked it knowing she would want to wait until after dead dark.

 “Let me stop by when I finish my rounds.”  She gave me that smile again.  I felt like that mouse.  The one who can’t quite get away from the cat.

 True to her word, Jane came for Him around midnight.  They began shedding their clothes upon entering her trailer.  It was only a short distance from the door to her multi purpose bed.  It was the design of the manufacturer in any case.  She might have used it for many things, but the writer was sure that not all of them were what the builder had in mind.

 They made it to the bed with very little covering  them.  Jane had panties but no bra.  He had his boxers but they were on the way off, as he sat on the edge of the bed converted from the dining booth.  Jane and the writer made love in a fever.  She was a most demanding lover.  She guided him through the things that would please her.  She cared little for his pleasure.

 “I know men writer.  You always take care of yourselves in the end.  I just want to make sure you don’t forget me in the process.  Doesn’t that seem fair to you?”  She answered in response to his question about it.  It seemed fair, and even if it hadn’t, he was too exhausted to care.

 He sensed her leave for what might have been her final round before sunup.  He definitely awoke when she slipped into the bed beside him.  The writer drifted quickly back to sleep even with her hand surrounding him.  Even in his sleep drugged mind he knew that it as a sign of getting old.

 “Writer, wake up,” He felt someone shaking him.  He smiled at Jane thinking that it was either time to leave or that she was ready for another round.  The smile was false bravado.  He was not sure that he could perform again so soon.

 “Damn it wake up writer, I got to go and you better come with me.  Something is on fire in the park.  Come on damn it.”

 “Son of a bitch,” He said as He suddenly moved from sleep to being wide awake.  Dressing was easy.  The writer slipped into his pants then pulled on the dirty shirt.  It was still damp from the muggy night before but it didn’t matter.  Ranger Jane didn’t realize how fast he could move.  He was dressed before her.  He was also out the door so that she could finish as quickly as possible.  The writer saw the glow in the night sky, coming from what had to be the park.  There were also sirens heading down the park road.  He had a dread in his gut.  He had no idea how he knew, but he was absolutely sure that  it was his camper.

 The ride to the park was nerve wracking.  Jane was a terrible driver.  Worse still was the dread of what he would find.  The glow was gone from the sky when they pulled into the campground.  It didn’t matter they followed the lights from the volunteer fire department's truck.  The burned out shell of his van looked pretty bad.  He knew from past experiences it would look just as bad in the daylight.  He looked at his watch and found it to be five a.m.

 “What time were you through here last?”  He asked it as Jane pulled to a stop.

 “My last round was at two.  I was due to make the final one at six.”

 “Wonder how the fire department got the word?”  He asked it looking at her.

 “I can check.  I expect it was a 911 from a campers cell.  Someone will be rushing up to tell me what a good citizen they are any minute."

 “Well don’t wait ask around would you.  Somebody must have seen or heard something.”  She nodded.  The writer followed her around as she talked to the firemen, who were busy packing up their equipment.  It was a 911 call for sure.  Their call came from the county operator

 The Ranger and the writer began talking to the other campers.  To a man or woman, their response was the same.  “The sirens woke me.  It was like daylight here the flames were so high.  Must have been that electrical cord running to the camper.  That thing never looked safe.”

 After he heard that ten times, the writer found the fire chief.  “I own this pile of junk.  Do you have any idea what started it?”

 “Not at the moment, but it started from the back.  It could be electrical.  We were damn lucky that it was a weekday.  The park was pretty empty.  If anyone had been parked around you, they would have gone up with that gas tank.  Some of them are going to have been scorched as it is.  

 The writer took a quick look around before the firemen did anything much to the scene.  The glass of the broken liquor bottle stood out like a sore thumb on the asphalt.  Most of it was gone but the parts hanging to the Jim Bean label were still intact.  he showed it to the fire chief.

 “It probably got blown out of the trash can over there.”

 “That is my trash and trust me, I don’t drink Jim Bean.”

 The fire chief shook his head as he evidently decided to ignore him.  He was probably right to ignore the writer, odds were that the fire was started by the unplugged electrical cord.  With that thought the writer turned angrily to walk to the bathroom.  

 To his surprise, but not amazement he found a note scrawled on the mirror.  ‘Writer go home’ it read.  Even the note didn’t stop him from using the bathroom.  When he finished, he took another long look at the mirror.

 Obviously the fire bomber knew he hadn’t killed the writer.  Whether that made a difference to him was not clear.  He might have been waiting for the writer to leave, or it might have been a lucky break that the writer had been gone.  The writer supposed that whoever tossed the bomb had waited for him to leave.  He didn’t think anyone would have the balls to write that note after he threw the bomb.  He also didn’t believe he or she would have wasted the note, if the writer was meant to be dead.  It would be a dead give away that the fire was no accident.  What to do about it was another matter entirely.

 The writer gave the message a couple of minutes thought.  Since he didn’t need a police report for his car insurance report, he took the coarse paper towels from the dispenser.  He wet a couple of them, then he removed the message.  He was more than a little surprised to find it was written in soap.  It didn’t take much of a search to find a nub of soap.  Some camper had left the tiny bit laying by the sink.  Strange, he thought, but did not pursue it.

 “So what are you going to do writer?”  Ranger Jane asked the question as he returned.  She did have a look of concern on her face.  He knew her only slightly but felt she had her own situation in mind somehow.
 “I am going to find my telephone, then I am going to call my insurance agent.”  He thought it sounded logical.

 “You might want to wait a bit.”  Ranger Jane looked at her watch.  “It is a little before 6 a.m.   Your agent might not be in the office.”

 “Oh no, the son of a bitch advertises twenty four hour, nationwide claim service.  I am about to see how real that is.”

 “Chief do you need him anymore?”  Ranger asked it with a serious expression on her face.  She didn’t fool anyone.  Everyone in the county knew Jane would screw anything that walked.  

 “Just one more question, where were you when it caught fire?”  The writer squirmed not at all sure that he wanted to involve Jane.

 “He was with me,” The Ranger said it without batting an eye.  She obviously had nothing to fear from the fire department report.
 “Fair enough,” He handed the writer a card.  “Have your insurance company call that number tomorrow.  I will have filed a report with the Sheriff by noon.”

 “Thanks Chief,” the writer said.  The writer was about to speak to the ranger but instead he opened his cell phone.  He dialed the highway patrol emergency response number.

 “Ohio highway patrol roadside assistance,” the voice informed him.

 “Yes, I have had a car fire.  It is out now but I need to have the car towed away.”

 “Is the car blocking traffic sir,”

 “No ma’am it is well away from the road.”  The ranger watched curiously.

 “Sir, you may call this number.  It is the only tow service open all night.”  She read him Everett’s number.  “Or you can wait till in the morning, there well be several others available then.”

 He thanked her, but did not make the car just then.  Instead he turned to Ranger Jane.

 “Writer, you are welcome to stay with me tonight.  You can even use my car tomorrow, but that is all.  I am sorry, but the park does not allow me to have any long term guests.”  The writer could tell she was lying, but he didn’t mind, since he had absolutely no intention of staying with anyone.  It was half a freedom issue and half a desire not to endanger anyone else.  Odds were good that he hadn’t seen the end of the pyromaniac.

 “It is a good rule.  I need to at least rent a car tomorrow.  For that I do need you to drop me in town, otherwise I should be fine.”  He smiled at her, as he watched her peel the uniform from her body.  He couldn’t find the enthusiasm to make love to her.  He did manage to hold her and pet her to orgasm.  Jane was a demanding woman, but he knew that already.

 Later that morning the writer rented a five year old four door sedan.  The only used car lot in the car rental business had no vans.  The choice was the larger sedan or a tiny econobox.  It was his desire to meet Everett so he called him for the tow.  Everett took the burn out to his salvage yard to await the insurance company claims agent.  He was also going to get a visit from the writer, but other things had to be taken care of first.

 The writer had never thought much of his camping experience.  Oh he loved the camping bit but he felt the cost of the van space was too much for his budget.  He had put too much into the camper conversion not to use it.  Since he was free of the albatross he had other plans.


 Since he had no doubt that the insurance company was going to pay off on the van, he began looking for a vehicle immediately. Looking for a car was both easy and a pure mother.  The money part was easy.  When he left home his banker had arranged automatic transfers between checking and savings.  His only problem, and it was a problem, was to find a car he wanted at a price he thought fair.  He had bought his van at a wholesale auction.  It was one of the many cop perks.

 He discreetly asked about.  He found that there was a auto auction open to the public.  His luck seemed to be holding, the auction was that same night.  It was not unusual for the sale to be on a week night.  The sale to dealers, where he had bought the van, had been held on a Wednesday night.  The sale was open to the public.  That was unusual, but not unheard of.  His luck ended right there.  The auction was in a slightly larger town about thirty miles away.

 After looking at every available car in Small Town X, he decided to make the trip.  The auction was being held at night for a reason.  Sellers loved the dark. It hide so many flaws in the cars.  Since it was summer the sale was being held in the evening light.  Not as good as pure darkness, but still better than full daylight, if you were a seller.

 The writer registered as a non dealer buyer.  He was forced to put up a five hundred dollar deposit in cash.  He had expected it, since he called ahead to get the details.  The writer didn’t keep much cash on hand so he had visited his bank for it.  At the same time he moved another two thousand over to the checking/ debit card account.

 He walked the large parking lot filled with cars, mostly on the brink of being worn out.  He was looking for a jewel mixed among the gravel.  He had a lot of company in the search.  It appeared that the sale was a popular one.  The others walking about, seemed for the most part to be immigrants or sharp traders.  The immigrants were trying to avoid being cheated, and the traders were looking to buy for resale.  The traders would drop from the bidding early.  Most likely they were the sellers come to shepherd their cars through the sale.
 The writer picked out four cars.  He had come to buy something good on gas to use in his travels.  None of the four was a van.  He had decided that the cost of van camping outweighed the benefits.  That might not be true in the giant motor homes, but the minivan camper had been less than cost efficient.  He paid the same price to park it as the larger motor homes.  It was however useless for anything but sleeping.

 Cars arrived while the sale was in progress.  He promised himself that he would not bid on any car which he had not inspected prior to the sale.  The dealer, who had taken him to the sale where he bought the van, had repeated that bit of advice over and over.

 Three of the four cars were sold when he broke his own rule.  The previous cars had gone for several hundred more than he felt they were worth.  They all went to immigrant families.  He felt, as though it was going to prove to have been a long drive for nothing.  

 The immigrants seemed to choose the powerful, flashy asian cars.  When the small underpowered Metro convertible came on the block, it didn’t get any interest at all.  The body had dents and the top had a rip.  He had watched it drive up to the door.  He even spoke to the driver, but then he had spoken to several of the drivers.  They never said much about the condition of the cars.  Occasionally they would let him know the condition of the transmission or clutch in a given car.  The little yellow metro looked pretty beat up but it also seemed to run well enough.  The inspection the writer noted was current.

 When the little beast went onto the block, he was the first  bidder.  You could tell from the look on his face that he hoped the observers didn’t know something about the car that he didn’t.  The auctioneer got down about as low as the writer thought likely, before sending the car around again.  His first bid was five hundred dollars.  

 The auctioneer pretended to be incensed.  Truth was he didn’t care.  It was just a job to him.  The second bid came from a dealer.  He was bargain hunting just like the writer.  The dealer and the writer went back and forth till the dealer gave up.  It was one bid before the writer told himself he would have given up.   He had it set in his mind, that he would not pay a thousand dollars for such a ragged out car.  He bought it for nine hundred and fifty dollars.

 He gave his name and bidders ID to the clerk.  He could have gone inside the building, to join the long line of immigrants waiting to pay for their new cars.  Since he had no way to get it home, he didn’t bother. The rules gave him until five the next day to settle up on the car.

 The Rent a wreck sedan made it back to Small Town X but the writer had his doubts.  It was running a little hot.  He had expected it to blow at any moment.  The writer mumbled, “I will be glad to get this wreck back to the car lot.”

  When he hit the city limits his other problems closed in on him.  It was typical that his mind had prioritized the problems.  When he solved one, others would become first on his list.  “I don’t have anywhere to stay or any clothes to wear tomorrow.  I have been in the ones I am wearing for two days, that seems to be plenty.”  He said it out loud because that was the way he thought when alone.

 He drove the overheating sedan back onto the highway.  He did manage to make it to the Walmart store in the next town.  There he spent a hundred and fifty bucks on clothes.  It became obvious that even at Walmart you cant get much for a hundred and fifty bucks.

 Two pairs of cotton work pants, three sport shirts, two bags of underwear and a bag of socks took up the whole buck and a half.  The complete purchase filled only four of the little blue plastic bags.

 He almost decided to check into a motel near the Walmart.  He didn’t only because he wanted to stay in Small Town X.  He knew his pyro was there.  He wanted to be close just in case anything came to him.  He didn’t really expect that it would.

 Even though it was very late, the one motel with twenty units was still booking rooms.  He entered the office to find the place smelled of curry.  Not an unusual thing even in those days.  The middleaged woman with almost pure black hair, save the one silver streak running down the middle of her head, came to the desk.

 “Can I help you?” she asked in a heavily accented voice.

 “Yes I would like a room for tonight.”  He said it with a smile.

 “How many people?”  She was all business.  He expected she would have used the same tone no matter what his attitude had been.  I wasted a perfectly good smile, he told himself.

 “Just me, and I will be leaving in the morning.”  She gave a fee twice that of the campground.  He paid it with his visa card.  The room he found to be adequate.  The bed and the shower were nice he had to admit.  Just as he drifted off to sleep, he realized that his cell phone battery could not be charged.  The charger had no doubt melted along with the van.  He made a mental note to call his insurance agent the next day, so that he could check on the claim.

 As he dressed for the day, he had plenty on his mind.  It was actually a nice feeling to have things that needed doing for a change.  He knew only one person who did not work during the day.  He called Ranger Jane yet again.  The writer figured she owed him.  He smiled knowing it was crap but it sounded good.

 “Oh Jane, I need a favor.  I bought a car over in New Philly, at the auction last night.  I need a ride over to get it.  You can drive this piece of crap that I rented if you like.”

 “Okay writer, but we have to go right now.  I need to get back.”

 “Why don’t we meet across from the town square.  We can leave your car there.”  He expected her to be driving her old beat up Honda.  The state truck could not leave the park.  The writer went to the café for breakfast while he waited

 “So, I hear you got burned out last night?”  Juanita the waitress asked.

 “Night before but Yes, my van caught fire.  Terrible accident.”

 “Sure are a lot of accidents around here lately.”  Juanita was not smiling he noted.  “So what is with you and Doris?”

 “Why, are you writing a book too?”  He asked it with a great smile.  He didn’t intend to hurt her feelings.

 “Come on writer, this is a small town.  You might as well give it up.”  Juanita was far from offended she seemed to be enjoying the interaction with the smart mouthed writer.  He was, for sure, enjoying it.  

 “Tell you what Juanita, you get me another piece of toast and I will tell all.”  The writer grinned at her again.  Since they were being overheard by everyone in the place he was acting.

 Juanita slammed the toast on the counter as her part of the act.  “Now spill it,” she demanded.

 “She told me the fastest route to the hospital in case of food poisoning.”  The place broke into laughter.  Even Juanita laughed.

 “I never thought there was anything between you two.  She is a lesbian you know, not that there is anything wrong with that.  When I look at my old man, I wonder if I made the right choice.”  The customers again broke into laughter.

 “You know we probably should ask him that,” the writer suggested.  The place again broke up.  

 “We could get a cover charge if you came in more often,” Juanita said only a little sarcastic.

 The writer kept looking out the window as he answered. “Sure put some hand bills up all over town.”  In the middle of his sentence he saw Jane drive by the diner.  She parked in a long term space, near but not in front of the hardware store.  “Well ya’ll I got to run, see you.”  With that the writer placed a five on the counter then left the café.

 He drove his car over to Jane’s Honda.  “Come on hon, let get a move on, if you are in a hurry.”  He said it through the open window.  Jane worked her way into the car.   The writer pulled away from the curb immediately.  During the drive to the auction site he explained about the heating car.  He also told her to keep an eye out for him.  He had no idea what kind of condition the little car was in.
 Everything proved to be anticlimactic.  The car was paid for in record time.  He drove back with no tags at all on the yellow beast.  His tags were completely unrecognizable as license plates.  He and Jane returned the rental car to the used car lot, then he drove her to her Honda.  Since she was in a terrible hurry to leave, the writer figured rightly she had a date.  He didn’t know it but Jane was off to meet ‘hit me hurt me’ at her house.

 With Jane gone a license plate became urgent.  The writer first called the insurance company then visited the local dept of motors.  He got a thirty day paper tag.  It was the best he could do.  After that it was either go home or buy an in state tag.

 The tiny metro had  more space inside than the Miata that Maggie Evans drove the night she was killed.  It wasn’t near as classy, but then it wasn’t thirty k either.  The writer checked the car out, as best he could.  He determined that it would run for a while without giving him too much of a problem.  He knew he should at least tune it up, but there was just no time.

 He  was determined not to spend another night in the motel.  He knew the temptation of a convertible top might just be more than some of the, not so good, old boys could stand.  The one small rip in the top wasn’t bad.  He didn’t want to see it become several slashes.  The memory of the burning van was too recent to allow him any peace.  

 The writer decided that he and the bomber were the only ones who knew the fire had not been accidental.  For the time being he preferred to keep it that way.  So far the writer had not even let the ‘who’ of it cross his mind.  He knew that he would have to sit down, when he had a quiet moment.  If he did that, he could probably figure something out.  That kind of thinking was impossible as long as he had survival issues to deal with.

 He found himself again in the town diner having a meatloaf plate lunch, when he gave voice to the plan.  It had been floating in his mind since he saw the van in flames.  He turned from the counter to the café in general when he spoke.  


 “Anyone here know where I can get a tent cheap?”  He sat waiting but nobody answered for a few minutes.

 “There is an Army and Navy surplus store over in Taylortown.”  The information came from a man whose clothing was covered in paint splatters.

 “I was hoping to get one used.  I need a deal.”  He paused a moment then went on, “I hoped someone would have pity on me since I am homeless.”  The writer grinned at the assembled working class patrons.  No one offered any suggestions so he turned back to his meal.  It appeared he was in for a drive over to the closest moderate sized town.

 He looked toward the door as the tall thin older man entered.  The man walked behind him to sit at a table with two women, who looked as though they might be bank tellers.  The writer hadn’t seen a bank, but it was possible that there was one.  Nobody bothered to whisper so he heard every word.

 “Mac you got any idea where the writer could get a tent?  He got burned out night before last,” one of the tellers asked.

 “Now Sammie, you know I got that whole camping outfit for my son.  Bought it off Ebay, I did.  Then of course he went into the marines, after he took that cross country trip.”

 “There you go writer, here is a man with a whole pile of camping gear.  I bet he would sell it all cheap.”  Sammie smiled at the writer.  He hadn’t exactly ignored her since their chance encounter, but it was obvious he wasn’t interested in her stories.

 “You really looking for a tent Writer,” the man asked.

 “Yes Sir, what kind is it?”  The writer asked even though he couldn’t afford to be choosy.

 “Don’t know the brand but it is a twelve by fourteen cabin tent.  At least I think that is what the box said.  “If you want it, I will let you have it and all that other junk I bought the boy.  Price is a hundred bucks.’  As an after thought he added. “It is supposed to be almost new.”

 “If everything is there, you got a deal,” the writer replied.

 “I am pretty sure it is all there.  The son put it up in the yard when he got back from the trip.  Then his buddies went into the Crotch so he went too.  Damn shame but I suppose that one trip was worth it.”

 “Followed you into the Corp?”  The writer asked it with a smile.

 “Told him too many stories about the Nam, never should have done that.”  The look on the old man’s face was pained.

 “It is good that you can talk about it. Probably keeps you sane.”  The writer had a look on his face that the other man recognized.  

 “Wasn’t always that way, guess I just got old.”  The man grinned at the writer.  “You just give me a few minutes to get this slop down, then we can go pick up the tent.  I ain’t working today.”

 “Hell Mac, you don’t work, when you work,” Sammie said with a smile.  She loved the older man and it showed.  “By the way Mac, when is your son coming home on leave again.  Last time, he looked good enough to eat in that uniform.”

 “I told him to stay away from here.  He don’t need the kind of trouble you have planned for him,” Mac was smiling broadly.

 “Now Mac honey, won’t be no trouble at all.  I will enjoy every minute of it.”   Everybody in the place laughed.

 “Damn that Sammie is a pistol,” Juanita said as she refilled the writer’s iced tea glass.

 “It does seem so,” he replied smiling.

 “Doin’ both the father and son would be a novelty, even for Small Town X.”  She walked away without any explanation for the remark.  On second thought the writer decided it didn’t need to be explained.

 Mac lived in a trailer at the edge of Small Town X.  There were about half a dozen in the park.  The trailers were older and were not as well kept as they should have been.  Still there were seedier places in Small Town X.

 After the yellow tent was loaded into the trunk of the Metro, Mac began sliding smaller boxes around it until the trunk lid was in danger of not closing.   It took a serious push to get it closed.  The writer handed Mac a hundred dollar bill to pay his debt.


 “You got no idea how much I appreciate this,” he stated seriously.

 “No problem Writer, I am glad to see somebody get some use out of it.  We miss you down at Eddie’s.  Ain’t seen you in a couple of days.”

 “I know.  I’ve been busy, but I will try to get in one night this week.”

 “I hope so.  It ain’t good for a man to spend too much time alone, ‘specially not us.”

 “That much is true.  So thanks again Mac,” the writer extended his hand as he spoke.

 After the transaction was finished the writer drove directly to the campground.  He made a payment for the week, then drove to the tent site he had been assigned.  The tents were twenty yards or so farther from the bath house and toilets than the van space had been.  There was also no electricity in the tent spaces.  

 The tent spaces had a slightly raised flat area on which to pitch the tent.  The slight elevation should keep all but a torrential rain from seeping into the tent.  The writer lay everything out and began planning the erection of the tent.  He quickly found that the directions were needed badly.  They were on the box which had been stained.  He was lost before he began.

 “Hello there friend, looks like you need a hand?”  The voice belonged to a younger man, hell almost boy, who was camped a few spaces down.

 “Either that or a ten year old.  The box said a ten year old could do it.  I guess they meant only a ten year old could do it.”  The writer laughed at himself.

 “Naw, we can do it.  Two grown men equal one ten year old.”  The younger man laughed along with the writer. Since the younger man was a tent camper, the frame gave up it’s secrets to him.  The writer watched closely so that he could duplicate his moves later.  Once the frame was up it was just a matter of hanging the tent from it.  The writer was happy to find that the zipper, which always jammed, had given way to velcro strips.  The tent was a shade of yellow which did not come close to matching the car, still it was humorous that yellow seemed to be suddenly everywhere in his life.

 “I appreciate the help young man.  Can I pay you for it?”  The writer was doing his southern gentleman imitation.

 “No thanks, glad I could help.  It is the neighborly thing to do after your van burned.”

 “I am going to the store this afternoon.  I am going to buy marshmallows in case it happens again.  If it does you are invited.”

  It wasn’t long until the writer had all the camping gear out and ready for use.  There were a lot of extras in his trunk.  Everything from an eight inch air bed to a boy scout mess kit.  He wasn’t planning to use it but hey, it was his anyway.

 The writer sat on a folding camp stool while he smoked a cigarette.  The director type seat had turned tubular legs so they wouldn’t puncture the tent floor.  At that moment he was sitting outside the tent taking a well deserved break.  He was also contemplating dinner.  He was torn between the diner and the burger, burger joint on the highway.  The third option, of cooking his own dinner, didn’t surface until after he had determined that neither of the others sounded good to him.

 He had no food and no way to preserve it even if he did.  He let that run through his mind.  The true value in cooking for yourself, he determined, was in the left overs.  If you couldn’t save the left overs then the cooking was actually more expensive.  That was the case in cooking for one at least.  If one figured in the cost of the ice to preserve food, then it became even more expensive than eating out.  

 The exception he found in the supermarket just outside the camp.  If he shopped carefully, there were several canned items that would not need refrigeration.  There were dry items for which the surplus could be could transfer into jars for storage.  It took a massive amount of shopping that afternoon to locate them, but he managed.
 I should write a book on camp cooking, he decided.  Then he thought, no every woman probably already knows all this crap.  The purchases ran from powdered milk to canned beans.  The beans were in the smallest possible can.  Since he hadn’t emptied enough jars to use, he bought plastic bags and ties for the left over powdered milk and bisquick.

 Mac had included a book on camp cooking.  The book was new, since the kids probably ate at McDonalds during their travels.  After trying to cook in the Boy Scout mess kit, he could see why no one in their right mind tried to cook in one of those things.  He doubted that cooking at home saved anything, but the trip out for a double cheese burger.

 After washing the dishes, another time consuming project, it was almost eight p.m.  The writer decided on a whim to stop in at Eddie’s for a beer.  He didn’t want to do any deductive reasoning that night.

 The writer entered the dark cavernous room alone.  He moved to the bar to sit alone.  He fully expected to remain alone to observe the others.  It was what he did.  He tried not to engage in conversation, it tended to at the very least split his attention.

 “So, you didn’t die after all,” Eddie suggested.

 “No, I have just been keeping busy the last few nights.”

 “Let me see, you are staying at the park.  In that park is the second horniest woman in town, me being the first of course.  The second horniest woman is bisexual and you aren’t all that picky.  Now I understand what you have been busy doing.”

 “Well damn Eddie, you won’t sleep with me.  What is a man supposed to do?”  He expected no answer.  The grin from Eddie was all he expected or got.

 After she had gone leaving a Draft beer in her wake.  The writer took a hard look at the people sitting here and there throughout the bar.  He had already classified Sammie as a female predator.  He was sure Sammie was in it for the hunt more than the sex.  It was a thought that would be alien to her.  He guessed that from her constant flirting.

 He saw Martin sitting alone at a table for two.  Martin was a bit anti social, he decided.  In a far corner were five people at a table.  That was unusual for Eddie’s.  It was hardly the kind of place for group socializing.  It was intended to be a meat market.  Or was it meet market, the writer was never sure how to phrase that.

 “How about drinking a little faster Writer, I need the money.”  The smile on Eddie’s face convinced the writer that it was a joke.  For some reason the two of them understood each other.

 “So who is the table full of people back there.  Are you going into the catering business?”  

 “I guess I can forgive your nosey assed attitude, since you write.  They are county paramedics.  Good thing too, look who just walked in.”
 The writer turned to see a man about thirty five enter the bar.  He looked fit enough but not weight lifter fit.  He was heavy looking but it was all muscle not fat.  

 “So who is he?” the writer asked not recognizing him.

 “That writer, is Stan the Animal.  He is about the meanest prick I ever met, and I knowed my share of bad asses.”

 “So should I leave or can you protect me?”  The writer was kidding.  Eddie recognized it as such.

 “No, but I got a sawed off, if it gets too rough.  Otherwise, I let them fight it out in the parking lot.”

 “Got to love a bar where you take your life in your own hands to drink.”  The writer smiled at Eddie to show that he was only half kidding.

 “Writer, if Stan gives you shit just ignore him.  I will protect you.”  The smile she showed him was not a pretty thing to see.

 “Well I came to drink not fight so I just might let you.”

 “Don’t worry writer he won’t stay.  I don’t serve him.  He came in to see someone.  That is all I allow him to do.”

 “Martin,” The writer heard the deep base voice say.

 Martin who had somehow missed Stan’s entrance looked up at him.  “Hey Animal, what you want man?”

 “I come for that twenty bucks you owe me.”  The animal seemed to be unhappy.

 “Sure Animal, here.”  With those words Martin handed him a twenty dollar bill from his pocket.

 “You should have paid me last week.  I don’t like hunting people down to collect my money.”
 “Well frankly Animal, I just forgot all about you.”  It looked as though Martin was not afraid of the animal either.
 
 “Next time, I will remind you a little harder,” Stan said menacingly.

 “Well Animal, if you wasn’t the only decent motorcycle mechanic in town, nobody would ever use you.  You got no manners at all.  You come in here and now everybody is watching to see what is going to happen.”  Martin gave him a wicked smile.
 Just as the animal moved toward Martin there was a loud thump at the bar.  The sound was Eddie laying the sawed off shotgun on the bar.  The noise stopped all the action.

 “You know better Stan.  I don’t allow no fights in here.”
 Stan turned his attention to Martin again.  “You got a lot of mouth Martin.  Why don’t you come on out back?  We can settle this out there.”

 “If that is what you want sure,” Martin smiled again.  The smile chilled anyone who saw it.
 Eddie had slipped down the bar to stand in front of the writer.  She seemed to want to fill him in.


 “If those two really go at it, you need to go out and watch.  Martin is the only man in town, who can whip the animal.  It is always a hell of a show.”

 The writer nodded then tore his attention from the two men.  He wanted to see the reaction of the other bar patrons.  Sammie’s mouth hung open, she was breathing deeply, while taking it all in. He thought she might just have an orgasm from it all.

 The paramedics were not impressed.  They were just being cautious so that it did not spill over onto them.  The writer noticed Mac for the first time.  He was ignoring them both.  He looked at the writer with a smile.  His smile said that he found it foolish.  How he could ignore it all would be difficult for most people to understand.  The writer knew exactly how he felt.  Those two were playing bad guy.  Mac didn’t need to play.  If it came to him, he would cut out Stan’s heart while it was still beating.  It was the way of the really hard men.

 The writer took notice of the paramedics again.  He especially noticed the two women.  One was  middleaged while the other was in her twenties.  The older one was a bit overweight, while the younger one wy tired.  He had known people who worked long hours before.  It was the way they looked during their ‘hen it was back to the ‘stretch.’   He would bet anything that they were either in the middle of the ‘stretch’ or just finishing up one.  The younger one caught his eye, but turned away quickly.
 “Just don’t you never call me again to work on that piece of shit bike of yours.”  Stan said it as he turned to walk away.  Nobody laughed as he skulked from the place.  Martin turned back to his beer with a happy smile on his face.  He had been seen by everyone as he backed the Animal down.  That would surely raise his standing with the drunks.  

 He didn’t know that most of them lumped him in with the Animal as people to be avoided.  Most of them avoided his brother’s gas station after eleven p.m. for that reason.  It was the reason he had almost no local customers at night.  He got only the occasional highway traveler, or one of the women who followed the hard men.  Most of those were there only when that particular urge needed scratching.  Nobody wanted Martin on a regular basis.  A steady Martin diet was a little too rough for them all.                    
 
 Snough to be seen with romantically..  Not even in Eddie’s crummy bar.  Oh, when they wanted to get laid they were all, “Come here Sammie, let’s me and you talk Sammie.”  

 Any of those little pleasantries, from a man not on the make, would have brightened Sammie’s miserable existence considerably.  It would have been dangerous to the men though.  Sammie probably would have followed them around like a puppy.  Since it was never likely to happen the male population of Small town x was safe.  Sammie resigned herself to being the town slut.  Every small town had one, larger towns had many more.

 The writer moved on making mental observations of each member of the bar’s clientele that evening.  Most were just traits he assigned them for purposes of the book he was writing.  Sammie or someone like Sammie he expected to play a pivotal role.  Every book, even in those days, needed a little hot sex to sell.  Not that anyone could tell from the zero books he had sold.

 He couldn’t quite pigeon hole the Paramedics.  They should be way to normal to be in Eddie’s.  Most people went to Taylortown to have a beer.  Eddie’s seemed to be almost exclusively for the bottom feeders.  He supposed there was some reason for the table full of medics to be in the beer joint.

 He moved his attention to the two young women sitting alone at a table.  It was ten p. m. and still early by Eddie time.  They were looking to pick up a couple of men.  Since they each had hair the color of a home done bleach job, the writer figured them to be trailer trash.  It sounded harsh even to the writer, but he had to classify them something in order to catalogue them.  Also the harshness came from the obvious fact that they found him of no interest.  He could only guess it was the white hair that put them off.  He didn’t mind he really wasn’t out to get laid.  Even if he were, it would be with someone who had voted in the last presidential election.  

 “So writer, no excitement for you tonight.”  The writer wasn’t sure if Eddie meant the fight or the lack of women.

 “I will survive.  I don’t exactly live for adventure in my regular life.”  He knew most folks had the wrong idea about cops.  He had been involved in about three months of excitement but it had been spaced over thirty years of boredom.  The one thing that kept him sane had been the writing.  He had begun by writing just a few times a year.  Then over the years he wrote more and more often.  The last year the cop business got in the way of the writing.  He was glad to prick the cop balloon, to just put it behind him.

 “Well hell writer, I hate to see someone like you bored.  Hell you might burn the place down.”  Eddie was smiling but not as lightly as before.

 “What does that mean?”  The writer asked it in total bewilderment.

 “It means, I have seen your type before.  The boredom will kill you, not the guns.”

 “Well I have lasted thirty years," he replied.

 “Yes but you are out looking for excitement now.  If you wanted more boredom, you would have stayed home and gotten a rocking chair.”  The writer was amazed.  Eddie had at least opened a new can of reasons for the trip.  He would have to give that some thought when he got home.  He put it from his mind at the moment so that he would concentrate on the latest entry.  

 There was no question the couple was on vacation.  The loud shirts, with their larger than life flowers, hanging over their tan Bermuda shorts was a dead give away.  Not only that, it was the look of disdain from the regulars that was the clincher.  The writer had gotten it himself the first few times he dared venture into the unknown of Eddie’s tavern.

 Eddie happened to still be standing nearby when she mumbled.  “If they think I am waiting on tables they are fucking nuts.”  The look she had on her face was ominous.  She walked to the end of the bar nearest the new arrivals.  “Don’t have no table service,” she said loud enough to be heard by the people in the Laundromat next door.

 The man looked up in shock.  He mumbled to the middleaged woman with him, then he placed his order.  “Give us two frozen daiquiris.”

 Eddie actually burst out laughing to hide her anger.  “Look, I got bud on draft and about ten kinds of bottled beer.  I even got a gallon of Chablis here, but I ain’t got no liquor license.  If I did have, I still wouldn’t make no faggot drinks.”  The regulars broke into snickers at the minimum, with Martin laughing hard and loud.

 The two strangers held a quiet consultation then stood.  The man just couldn’t leave without making a comment.  “Not a very friendly place you run lady.  I should complain to the owner.”

 “You really should do that,” Mac said breaking his silence.  “I expect the owner will fire her ass.  She ain’t much of a beertender anyway.”  He should have been smiling at least, but he was dead serious.

 “You know Mac, you can do your drinking at home.  I don’t need you in here every night with that hangdog look on your face. You know damn well I ain’t never going out with you.”  

 The writer watched the man they called Mac for some sign that he was going to get violent.  He didn’t make a move.  Instead he smiled across at the bar owner.  “You know Eddie, you got a mean mouth even for an ex con.  How many men did you kill?”  He still looked hard into her eyes.

 “The couple hurried out the door at the mention of the background of Eddie.  I expect they thought twice or three times about complaining to the owner.  It didn’t matter since Eddie was the owner anyway.

 “Thanks Mac, that tied a can to their tails.”  Eddie put a draft in front of Mac then pointedly skipped taking his money.”

 The incident left the writer wondering if Mac was really tracking Eddie.  Even more he wondered what her relationship was with Mac.  He had never seen her refuse anyone else’s money.

 As was the case with all rental property, the writer had to return the beer.  He walked through the mostly empty bar toward the men’s room.  Martin gave him a nasty look as he past.  The writer returned a smile.  He found the small town bad guy to be humorous.  The man could no doubt whip everyone in the small town.  But then again, it was a small town.

 As he passed by the table filled with medics he heard a snippet of their conversation.  “I am telling you there is something strange about this town.”  The young female said to the older man beside her.

 The writer continued on to the bathroom.  After he did his thing, he began the walk back to his seat at the bar.  “Hey writer, I got a message for you.”  The voice belonged to one of the young bleached blondes.  It must not have been a very private message since she almost shouted it from half way across the building.  He wondered, why she hadn’t spoken when he passed her table.  She had instead waited until he was again at the bar.

 “From anybody I want to know,” he asked.

 “I don’t know hon.  You gonna have to tell me that one.”  The woman was playing to the crowd.  

 Before she could speak again the writer had one of those light bulb moments.  He realized that there were way too many women in the bar, or way to few men.  He had been to bars off and on most of his life.  The men always, without exception, outnumbered the women.  Eddie’s always had more women than men.  Before he could get lost in the thought the woman went on.

 “Doris Masters wants you to call her.”  The woman looked as though she expected applause from the other bar patrons.  She was disappointed by their reaction.  They could have cared less.  All except Eddie that is.

 “You been trackin’ Doris?” Eddie asked with a real edge in her voice.

 “Nope, she helped me some with the book.  Gave me a little background on the town.”  He took a look into the beer glass then asked, “Why, are you chasing after her?”
 “Not really, she is just one of the few les chicks I haven’t been able to score with.”


 “Jesus Eddie, I thought you had been with all the women in town.”  The writer was grinning wickedly at her.

 “No writer there are several on my list.  Sammie over there and Doris head it up though.”

 “Sammie is gay?”  The writer asked it in disbelief.

 “Not yet,” Eddie answered.  “Besides men are gay, women are lesbians.”

 “I suppose,” the writer stated.

 “Anyway, why would Doris want to talk to you?”  Eddie asked it with her eyes locked on his.

 “Maybe she has thought of some more unsolved murders in the area.”  

 “You aren’t going to try to make that poor Maggie Evans woman Ted Bundy’s victim are you?”

 “Na, Bundy fried a long time ago.  I was just ruling things out hon.”  

 “Or, were you trying to rule Doris in?”  Eddie was not smiling.

 “They tell me Doris is not into men.”  It was indeed the word going around town.

 “Hell writer, I ain’t convinced yet that you are much of a man.”  He couldn’t tell, if she was being nasty or not.  It didn’t matter, he paid his bill then turned to the door.  Might as well try to call Doris, then head on home, he thought.

 Once outside, under the light coming through the large glass window of the Laundromat, he found Doris’s number in his address book.  He dialed it.  He did so even though he was afraid he might be waking her.  Old maid librarians might go to bed early, he thought.  

 “Hello?” The sleepy voice of the old maid librarian was sexy, the writer thought.

 “Did I wake you?”

 “Writer is that you?”  She sounded more awake.

 “Yes Ma’am, I got a message that you wanted to speak to me.”

 “Not at midnight, come by the library tomorrow morning,” she demanded.

 “I guess it isn’t true then?”

 “No, I have some information for you, but it is at the library.”

 “That isn’t what I meant. I guess every woman doesn’t want to talk to a drunken stranger at midnight after all.”
`
 She laughed then said, “It isn’t true in this case anyway.  Come by tomorrow you will find it interesting.”

 “Ah, I do love a mystery,” he said as he clicked the phone shut.  It was almost one when he settled in for his first night sleeping in a tent since the sixties.  The smell was not the one he remembered from those days.  It smelled of chemicals that night. not sweat and fear.

 Not to mention the eight inch airbed was a lot different from sleeping on a ground sheet.  He slipped off into a hard sleep helped along by the lateness of the hour.  To his great pleasure, Ranger Jane ignored him that night.  He had a complete uninterrupted nights sleep.  
 After his morning shower which was a slightly longer walk than before, he dropped the top on the convertible.  Might as well have some fun, he decided, as he drove away from the space.  He had decided, before he left home, that he would always have breakfast out.   It was by far the least expensive of his meals.  That morning he went to the fast food restaurant in a nearby town.  A double order of pancakes with a side of link sausage seemed a good idea.

 The restaurant even let him use his own coffee cup.  The delta cup rode with him everywhere.  He could drive down the road without spilling a drop.  When he left the restaurant, it was with the cup full.  Doris and the library seemed a good second stop.  After that he was going to be forced to do some real investigating.  He had been gathering background long enough.

 “So writer, had any more fires lately?”  She asked it with just a hint of humor.
 
 It struck a chord in his mind but he dropped it.  “No, just the one.  It seems to have been more than enough to render me homeless.”

 “I heard you were reduced to tenting?”  He recognized it as a question.

 “Yes that is me tenting in the ole campground.  Something rather fitting about that in the home place of bloody Bill Sherman.”

 “Come on, don’t tell me you find something conspiratory in the fire.”

 “Let me see, in the land of Bloody Bill Sherman, Southern boy’s house, such as it was,  gets fire bombed.  No, I don’t find that at all strange.  I bet it is a regular occurrence up here.”

 Since the writer had a huge grin on his face Doris laughed.  If the tent gets to be too much roughing it for you, you can come bunk in my spare room.  I would love to see how a writer’s mind works.”

 “Wouldn’t you rather hold out for a real writer,” he asked.

 “Not much chance a real writer will come to Small Town X,” she declared with good humor.  “I guess I will just have to settle for an Internet writer.”  She took a figurative deep breath then went on. “So, you interested in a home away from Ranger Jane.”

 “Not just yet, but I will keep it in mind.”  The writer said it as he tried to keep his good humor.  “So what did you remember that will help me write my book?”

 “I just remembered the details of a murder about ten years ago.”  He looked down at her curiously.  “Hey, I almost forgot am I gonna get paid for this.  I want a commitment before I go on.”

 “Depends, do I have to eat in one of those fancy places?”  The writer asked it knowing he would pay either way.  He didn’t want to go though years of back newspapers to find what she already knew.

 “Tell you what, there is a steakhouse outside Taylortown.  It has the atmosphere of an old time speakeasy.  How about we go there?”

 “I don’t know the place but you can show me the way.” The writer had a feeling that something was going to happen on that date.  He just wasn’t sure he was ready for it.

 “Okay, about ten years ago they pulled a woman from the lake.  She had the proverbial blunt instrument trauma.”

 “Now that is interesting,” the writer said.

 “There is only one problem.  Jason Thomas went to prison for it.  He is doing fifteen years on a plea bargain.”  Doris said it tossing a newspaper on the desk.

 “Any chance he got out on parole a couple of months ago?”  The writer knew better but he had to ask.

 “I called.  He is tucked nicely away in his cell.  Not expected to get out for at least three more years.  He will probably do the whole fifteen.  He has been turned down for parole twice.  The victims family goes to all his hearings.  They want to keep him in jail.”

 “Okay who would remember the case best?”  The writer asked it knowing there had to be more than the librarian could get from the papers.  There always was.

 “I just knew you were going to ask that.  Writer, I have again done your research for you.  I will give you that information over dinner.”

 “I am sorry Doris, that just won’t do.  I will have wasted a day.  I want to see the person today, so that I can get this project moving.”

 “Well writer, like I said, tonight.”  She gave him a quiet smile.  

 She did not look at all like a woman who wanted to help him.  She looked more like a woman who wanted to help herself.  He just couldn’t figure, why she needed to black mail him to get a dinner date. Then again she was called the old maid librarian for some reason.

 The writer left disgusted with himself and her.  Her for not understanding his need for haste, and himself for not doing his own damned research.  He decided to fix that immediately.  He drove to the sheriff’s office in Taylortown.

 “Can I help you,” Deputy Conn asked.

 “I hope so.”  The writer had a pretty good idea that he couldn’t.  He knew a bit about police departments and sheriff’s too for that matter.  “I want to check the records on a murder.”

 “Not another one,” Conn mumbled.

 “I’m sorry, what was that?” the writer asked.

 “Nothing, who you want to look at?”  Conn didn’t look happy.

 “Do you have the records here?” the writer knew he wouldn’t have them available that easily.

 “Hell no, the records section is in the basement.  I call down they either send it or copy it.  Copying can get expensive they are a buck a page.”

 “In that case, I just want to know who the investigating officer was in a homicide about ten years ago.  It was a homicide where the woman’s body was found in the reservoir.”


 “I need the victim’s name.”

 “Louise Soloman,’ The name meant nothing to either of them.  The young deputy made a call to the records clerk who did the research.  Conn spoke again into the phone in a mumble, then hung up.
 “Investigating officer was Louis Sabine.  Before you ask, he is retired now.”

 “Well I sure hope he ain’t dead.”  The writer gave the young deputy a look that said, we have wasted enough time.

 “No, he runs a bait ranch on the road down to the lake.  You can’t miss it he sells gas and groceries too.”

 “How about the killer’s lawyer?  Do you happen to know his name?”

 “Wouldn’t be in our file.  The court would know though.  The court records section is upstairs in the lobby.  You can’t miss it.”

 Even if he couldn’t miss it, the writer did.  He had to ask directions from a clerk in the tax office.  Once he finally found the court records section, he found that the lawyer for Jason Thomas had been the public defender.  Odds were real good that there would be no information available from that office.  Those guys were notoriously lax back home, he thought.

 However, since their office was across the street from the courthouse he walked over.  He got a break without knowing it.  The head of the public defenders office at the time of Jason Thomas’s trial had retired.  He had not died yet, so nobody was especially interested in protecting his image.

 “Well writer, the file shows that Jason Thomas entered a plea bargain after Old Perry talked to him.  He had shouted to the world that he was innocent right up  till the trial began.  Frankly Perry got everybody to plead.  It was the way he did things.”

 “Well was Jason guilty or not?”

 “He thought that they were all guilty as sin.  If not for the crime they were charged with, then ten others."

 “Nice attitude,” the writer said it even though he was a law and order person.  Not much chance of getting a fair trial, if you were poor in Small town x. or the whole damned country for that matter.

 “Hey that was Perry’s attitude not mine.  So if you are asking me if Jason did it, I have no idea.”

 “Anybody had any contact with Jason since the trial?”

 “Nobody from this office.  You might try his sister.”

 “Okay, I will.  Who is the sister?”
 “Joyce Jenkins,” the lawyer said.  

 The name sounded familiar to the writer.  It took  a while for him to remember.  He was on the way to the address given him by the lawyer when he remembered.  Joyce Jenkins was the woman who had been killed in the police standoff thing.  He had read about it in the paper.  He had wasted all afternoon securing information Doris could have given him over dinner.  What an ass, he thought.

 The writer walked back across to the Sheriff’s office.  The traffic in Taylortown was only slightly more than Small Town X.  The writer did have to wait for a farm tractor to pass.  That struck him as slightly odd.

 “So, you forget something?” Deputy Conn asked.

 “Not really something else came up.  So Deputy tell me about Joyce Jenkins?”  The writer gave him a look that said volumes and nothing.  When cops kill a civilian who is not in the commission of a crime there are always a lot of whispers.

 “Nothing to tell, she went off her nut and almost killed a paramedic.  The sniper had to shoot her.  She had a deer rifle you know.,

 “Then it had nothing to do with her brother?  The one who put his exwife in the lake?”

 “Not a thing.”  Conn suddenly realized he should keep his mouth shut.  “That is all I am going to say writer.”

 “Oh you said plenty.  What you didn’t say is even more interesting.”  Even the writer had no idea what that meant.  He did know that, while running an investigation, it was a good idea to let people think you knew more than you did.

 The writer left the building quietly.  He decided he had better drive the little yellow convertible very carefully for a while.  He suddenly had a desire to see the car Maggie Evans had used for a coffin.  

 He drove back toward Small Town X.  Halfway between Small Town X and Taylortown sat a service station complete with fenced yard.  The fence surrounded the impound lot, he presumed.  He realized quickly that the fenced area was too large for a simple impound, unless the sheriff impounded every car in the county weekly.

 “Help you?” an almost young man in greasy jeans asked.

 “I expect so.  I need somebody to take a look at this engine, it sounds a little rough to me.  I don’t have time to get it tuned today, but do you do that kind of stuff?”

 “We sell gas, fix cars, sell used parts, if it breaks down we tow it, in other words there ain’t much we don’t do.”  He raised the hood to listen to the car.  “This one sounds like a typical three cylinder engine, just noisy as hell.  You might want to have it tuned up but I don’t expect it will be any quieter.”

 “Thanks, what do I owe you for listening?”  

 “Nothing, just bring it back for the tuneup.”  He closed the hood then started to walk away.

 “By the way what is your name?”  The writer asked it even though he had a pretty good idea. 

 “Tommy Burton,” the man replied.
 
 The writer nodded then followed him inside.  “Tommy tell me something, do you have any of those beasts in the yard?”

 “You mean like that Metro?” he asked in return

 “Yeah like that.  It is missing a couple of control buttons for the heater.”  It was the only thing the writer could think of right off the top of his head that was wrong with it.

 “Those things are hard to keep on.  I am not real sure what year it is but there is a red hatchback out there.  If it isn’t a newer one, it has them.  Go down the road till you get to a high pile of cars, then start looking in front of them.  The car is red.”

 The writer nodded then walked outside.  He saw the yellow convertible in the front of the yard.  It was in an area of cars that looked newer and complete.  The young man’s boss obviously kept the impounds there.  The canvas or whatever they made car tops from was ripped.  Probably by the diver who removed the body of Maggie Evans.  The writer wanted to take a closer look but decided it might be a really bad idea.  

 He had walked very slowly down the road while he made his observations of the car.  He continued on to the pile of cars making only a slight attempt to locate the red Metro.  He gave it a few minutes then went back to the building.  

 “Tommy, I couldn’t find the metro but don’t worry, I will come back when I have more time.”

 “When I do that tune up, I can take a look for you,” Tommy said helpfully.

 “So Tommy where do you keep your junkyard dogs?”  The writer asked it as he turned toward the door.  He had meant it as a throwaway question.

 “Old Elmer stays at the boss’s house during the day.  Boss thinks the dog should have a time clock.  He brings him in when we close.  Then takes him home in the morning.  His kids love to play with Old Elmer."  He though a minute then asked to the writer’s back.  “Why?”

 “Nothing Tommy, I just never seen a junkyard without a dog tied up someplace.”

 “Yeah, I guess that is true.”

 So much for climbing the fence to see the car.  For one thing Old Elmer would not listen to any bullshit stories, for another the chain link fence had barbed wire on it, and finally there was nothing to be learned from the car anyway.  He had noted that his metro looked a lot like a pregnant version of Maggie’s Miata.  That and thirty k was the only differences.

 The writer drove his Metro down the lake road.  About a quarter mile down it, he came to the
concrete block building with the live bait sign out front.  It was by far not the only sign.  There were signs for the gas prices, signs for the cigarette prices, signs with the name of the ice cream to be found inside.  There were signs of about every type, except one with Louis Sabine’s name on it.  The writer put two dollars and twelve cents worth of gas into his tiny car.  He had already fallen in love with it.  He walked slowly inside to pay.

 Just as soon as he entered, he knew he was in the right place.  The man behind the counter stood ramrod straight.  A sign of either military or paramilitary training, that wouldn’t let him go.  Then there was the handle of the stainless steel automatic pistol inside the pancake holster.  The writer supposed that it was the real tip off.

 “Twotwelve,” the man of the writers own age demanded.  “Anything else for you?”

 “Actually there is something.  I am here writing a book about the woman they found in the lake.”

 Sabine took a hard look before he asked, “Which woman?”


 “Good question,” the writer replied.  “Seems Maggie Evans wasn’t the first woman to try swimming with a car wrapped around her.”

 “Nice way to put it.  Then again like you said you are a writer.  Sorry friend, don’t give out information.”

 “Would it make a difference if I told you I was a retired cop too?”  The writer waited.
 
 “Yeah, I for sure wouldn’t talk to you.  You cops turned writers feel like you have to expose everything.  I liked the job myself.  I did thirty damn fine years on the sheriff’s department.”

 “I’m writing about Maggie Evans.  I am just interested in the other one for background.”  He probably knew it was a lie.  It was just to give him an excuse to talk.  Everybody likes to talk about themselves, unless they have something to hide.  At least that was his cop impression of people.

 “Ain’t nothing similar about them.  Evans was passing through.  She was some kind of salesperson.  Best I can figure from what I read between the lines in the paper, she was also something of a slut. Probably picked up a hitchhiker and he killed her.”  The cop gave the writer a hard look.

 “Louise Soloman got done by her ex.  They were in a squabble about child support and visitation.  Happens all the time writer, nothing sinister in that.  The killer pled guilty.”

 “Now that bothers me.  See, best I can tell he had a lawyer, who prided himself on convincing everyone to plead.  I imagine the DA was selling, either plead and get fifteen to life, or I go for death.”

 “Not too many innocent men plead guilty.”  The cop had the tough to beat comeback all right.

 “Not too many, but some do.  So did you find anything that you couldn’t explain?”

 “Not a thing, everybody but him had an alibi.  Her new husband was at work surrounded by twenty people all night.  Best we could tell, if there was another man in her life she had him hid pretty deep.”  The writer found it a little strange that the xcop brought that up at all.

 “Was there some reason you thought she might have a lover?”


 “Writer almost everyone around here has a lover.  It is just the nature of small towns, not enough moving picture shows I guess.”

 The writer shook his head.  He had no idea what that meant.  Small Town X wasn’t the only small town around.  He had never heard it expressed so matter of factly.  The cop didn’t find it odd that he suspected everyone in town was having an affair.

 “Just tell me this one thing.  Did you ever have any other suspect that looked good to you?”

 “Well, she had run with some tough guys before she remarried.  One of them has a pretty violent temper.  We took a good look at him.  You know, thought he might have resented her marrying someone else.”

 “So who were you looking at?”

 “Why not tell you, don’t make no difference now?” the cop suggested.

 “Exactly,” the writer agreed.
 “Martin, down at the gas mart.”

 “Did anyone work on the random killer bit?  You know, who it might be if it wasn’t a friend or relative?”  The writer asked it without much hope that they had.  Most killings were family or someone the victim knew well.  It just worked that way statistically.  He also realized too late that the question made it sound as if they hadn’t done a thorough investigation.

 “Writer are you stupid, or just trying to insult me.  We looked at everything for awhile.  Since we never did get a confession from her Ex.  We looked everywhere before we charged him.  In the end he was the only one who made sense.”

 “Was there a lot of physical evidence?”  The writer was pushing his luck and he knew it.  He really did not want to read through the case file, even if he could get it.
 “Almost none, she was last seen having a very noisy row with him.  They arrange a meeting for later, since Eddie tells them to take it out of her place.  She goes to the meeting and is never seen again.  We figure he killed her at the lake.  That is where the meeting was supposed to happen.”

 “So what is his version?”  The writer hoped to wrap up the earlier death easily.

 “He says she never showed.”  The writer smiled.  “Writer what would you expect him to say?”

 “That she never showed of course.  It would be the truth or a lie depending on whether he killed her or not.”

 “Not much to pen a tail on him with though.  Sounds like a lot of reasonable doubt to me.”

 “Mike Soloman was fit to me tied.  We looked at him about why his wife had met Jason at the late.  That place is famous for being a make out spot.  Why she agreed to meet Jason there was a bit of a controversy, but Mike swore he didn’t even know she was meeting him.  Mike was in Wilson working on a new Kmart store.  Had a tight alibi so we were back to Jason.”

 “How about a murder weapon?”  The writer asked it hoping to pry something useful out of the detective.

 “Jason had a nice set of tools in his truck.  Them expensive snap on tools, he used them to work on motorcycles, boat motors, and such.  He had a place for everything and everything had a place.  There was a missing space where a half inch drive puller bar should have been.  We searched the lake but never did find it.”

 “You mean to tell me he pled guilty because of a missing tool?”  The writer asked it shaking his head.

 “No, he pled guilty because he killed her.”  Even the retired cop’s voice sounded shaky on that one.

 “Anything else you can tell me?” the writer asked.

 “Just that you ain’t gonna find nothing more about Louise Soloman.  We looked that one over real good.  If Jason didn’t do it, nobody is ever gonna pay for her.”

 “Oh, I don’t care myself.  I write fiction.  In my book whoever I want to put in did it.”  The write smiled as he turned for his car.

 “If you make it too a real, don’t come back here.  These folks get real nasty when they are riled.”

 “I already noticed that,” the writer said from his convertible.

 The writer drove his little toy car on down to the lake.  He didn’t have a plan.  He simply wanted to see the spot where Maggie Evans had been pulled out.  There was no way to be sure exactly where it had been, since the police tapes had long since been removed.
 
 His curiosity got the best of him, so he used his cell phone to call the library.  “Doris, I am down at the lake.  Could you tell me where they recovered Maggie’s body.”


 “Sure, did you go all the way to the boat ramp?”

 “The concrete incline that goes into the water?” he asked.

 “Yes that spot, they brought her out there, but they say she went in about a hundred yards to the right of there.  I would think their would be some signs of it still.”

 “Thanks, I will take a look.”

 “I expect to see you at my place at seven,” Doris stated, then hung up before he could answer her.

 Just like a woman, he thought as he moved down the bank.  He was looking for the broken bushes or bent saplings.  Sure enough he found the spot.  As he expected the spot was much less than a hundred yards.  The wrecker would never have had enough cable to reach a hundred yards up stream.  It had been that far the car would have had to come out the same place it went in.  The distance was less than thirty yards.  

 With it being so close he had to wonder, why the killer hadn’t driven her to the boat ramp.  Probably expected her to be hidden longer a few yards away.  Even so, he must have somehow gotten a lot of speed from the Miata to get it out as far as he did.  It would have floated out some, the writer guessed.

 He knew from Doris’s conversation at the library that Louise’s body had been pulled out at of the middle of the lake.  She had become a floater rather quickly since the body was not weighted.  It was probably the reason the state asked for so little time on Jason.  No evidence of a planned killing.  Therefore there was no capitol case to bring.  If Jason’s lawyer had cared, or if Jason had known the law,  he would have known there was no death penalty case anyway.  There would have been no real reason for him to plead to it.  Odds were better than fifty, fifty that he would have walked.

 The writer was hungry when he left the lake.  He knew he had the right, it was after two p.m.  He drove his convertible back to the campground.  He intended to try out his camp stove.  It was something he had never seen before so it would be an experience.

 The stove came from a boy scout’s nightmare.  It was a gallon steel can.  Probably the resting place for some industrial sized portion of green beans.  One end had been completely removed.  Holes had been cut on the side of the end that was left intact.  They had been made with a beer opener.  Holes had been drilled all around the end with the missing top.   According to the instructions, typed on a plain piece of paper, one was to make a small fire with a couple of charcoal briquettes.  After the briquettes were glowing, the stove was to be placed over them.  It supposedly got hot enough to boil or fry.  

 The writer had his doubts.  His expectation was that the only thing to get burned would be his hand.  He cheated a little due to his advanced age.  He placed three bricks on the wooden picnic table.  Then he sat a disposable pie pan filled with sand onto the bricks.  In the pan he placed the two charcoal briquettes.  Since they were matchlite types he lit the newspaper under them.  It took several minutes for them to glow.

 The writer was truly amazed when after only a few more minutes, he was able to heat the beans and franks he had opened for his lunch.  Not only that, he found he could have cooked for at least  half an hour with the charcoal.  His mind began to fill with fantasies of things he could cook.  He laughed at himself when he realized how foolish a pursuit it was.  He was about as likely to actually cook on the little camp stove as he was to solve the Maggie Evans murder.  Both things had a probability rating of 0.

 The day shift ranger had driven by while he cooked his food.  The ranger stopped by after, supposedly to say hi.  His real reason was to make sure he hadn’t damaged the table.  Even so the writer enjoyed the talk with the man who was at least sixty.  He had the day shift because of his seniority no doubt.  He was even less willing to talk about the happenings around Small Town X than Jane.  It seemed they all felt, that they were not really a part of the town, since the park was located seven miles from the city limits.

 “Oh, they use the place for meetings and get togethers once in a while, but mostly we get tourists like you.  Well not exactly like you,” Jane had once said.

 “Well, I said my hellos,” the day ranger said.  “Guess I should get back to the office.  This place keeps everyone busy.”

 “What does a ranger do when he is not patrolling the park?”

 “Paperwork during the day shift.  Make reservations that kind of thing.  At night the ranger patrols a lot more often.  She also has to keep a close eye on the cabins.  We get a rowdy bunch up there once in a while.  Can’t have them fucking up those nice cabins.”

 “No, don’t want a bunch of kids messing up the place.”  The writer was shocked by the word coming from an older man.  Men his age just didn’t come out with that word to almost total strangers.  He tried to ignore it as best he could.  

 “Yeah, well writer you need to come by the office for a cup of coffee some morning.  I know the ladies in the office would love to hear what you are up to out here.”  He smiled an almost wicked smile. He was in the SUV by the time he finished.

 The writer nodded his agreement, then watched him drive away.  The writer shook his head.  He just wasn’t used to being treated so well.  He smiled, thinking that he had finally gotten sexy but it was to old ladies.  He laughed out loud but quietly. 

 The remainder of his day was spent in a stupor brought on by the heat and his inactivity.  Even in the stupor his mind worked.  It just didn’t bother telling him what it was doing.  When he awoke from the heat drugged sleep, he looked at his watch.  He realized that he was going to be early, if he began moving around so quickly.  

 Instead of rushing to prepare for his date with Doris, he drank a very large amount of iced tea.  He figured that the ice would be gone by the time he returned from his date anyway.  That was one reason, but the main reason was his dehydration from sweating in the tent.  He figured the sheets would dry by the time he got home, but they would still be limp.

 Sleeping in his cutoff work pants had a definite advantage.  He was able to walk to the shower carrying only a towel and clean jockey shorts.  While he stood on the very uncomfortable shower floor, he tried to make his mind remember all the things he had learned that day.  The heat had washed them from his mind.  The day was gone, as though it had never happened.

 Soaking his head probably helped him avoid a heat stroke, but it did nothing for his memory.  The tent had done more to empty his mind than all the years of drinking.  Hell it was probably a combination of the two, he thought.

 Dressing for his date with Doris was simple.  He slipped into an uncut version of the shorts he wore.  He hadn’t worn anything more than cotton work pants, since his retirement from the department.  Both the cutoffs and the long pants he wore that day were tan.  He also had those same pants in navy and grey.  

 He sat at the picnic table drinking the last of the iced tea before he left for Doris’s house.  He drank so much tea that he finally overcame the dehydration.  He was forced to make a pit stop on the way out of the campground.

 On the way out of the park, he passed Ranger Jane.  She smiled as if she knew and approved of his evening out.  Ranger Jane seemed to have plenty of friends.  It was most unlikely that she would miss me, the writer thought.

 As a matter of fact Ranger was very happy to see the writer leave.  It solved her problem.  She had been trying to make up her mind, between the writer and Hit Me Hurt Me all day.  She craved the things the writer could do for her, but she also needed the release that a session with Hit Me could provide.  The writer was hardly out of sight, before she dialed Hit Me’s number.

 “Hello,” the male voice said.

 “Is this the county health clinic?” Jane asked knowing full well it wasn’t

 “No damn it, do I sound like a fucking nurse?”  The voice was angry.  The man on the other end of the line didn’t bother to wait for an answer.  The phone got slammed in her ear.

 So much for a night with Hit Me.  Jane couldn’t help but wonder if all the things Hit Me said were true.  According to Hit Me, no body else knew of her secret life.  Oh they all knew she was a slut, but they didn’t know that she was also a bisexual.  She hid that fact well.  As a matter of fact she couldn’t do it with Jane without being forced.  
 
 “Can you call it forced, if a woman comes to me for the express purpose of being abused until she does my bidding.  That isn’t really force,” she said aloud.  Jane was getting a little tired of Hit Me anyway.  She didn’t really want to be around Jane except to be abused.  There was no friendship let alone romance in it.  Most of the time she just showed up after Jane’s shift.  Well that had been the case before Jane ‘took up’ with the writer.  She and Hit Me had begun to make appointments.

 Jane saw Hit Me out now and then but she had been warned to ignore her.  If she did more than say a friendly hello, Hit Me would stay away for weeks.  Hit Me, for all her slutty ways, was terrified that her husband, or even the town might find out about her perversions.

 Jane changed her thought train.  She left Hit Me at the station then moved on to Doris.  The writer was off to see Doris she was sure.  What he saw in Doris only a few people understood.  Jane was sure Doris would be a fireball, when she finally gave it up.  Jane had even considered trying to take it from her.  Half the town was convinced that she was les anyway.  Jane wasn’t sure of anything except that, neither she, nor Eddie had been with Doris.  If neither of them had made it with her, odds were she wasn’t really les.  “That story was probably made up by some man who couldn’t get her panties off,” Jane mumbled to herself just before she broke into laughter.

 Then again she had never tried.  She doubted that Eddie had either.  Neither of them had exactly been forced to go out recruiting.  The women of Small Town X were the horniest bunch Jane had ever seen.  She had turned down several of them.  It was something she had never done before her arrival in Small Town X.

 While Jane absentmindedly drove around the campground, the writer drove the twisted roads toward Doris’s house.  His mind worked on trying to remember the things he had learned that day.  They still alluded him, but that was okay.  He knew they would come back to him one day.  He wasn’t planning to sit down at the computer right away.

 Doris answered the door in a simple black dress cut low in the front.  The vee went well below where her bra cups should have joined.  The writer didn’t know that, but he knew it was low enough to show a very deep cleavage.  He wondered why he hadn’t noticed before that Doris had great breasts.   Doris filled the top of the simple straight cut black dress.  She also filled the rest of it.  Doris had thick hips and a bit of a tummy which showed in the dress.  It wasn’t enough to be a major problem, at least not for the writer.  He considered the meal just payment for research anyway.


 “I like the dress," he said as she turned around.  He immediately noticed that the dress was cut far too low in the back, for Doris to be wearing a bra.  He wondered why her breasts weren’t sagging in the tight black dress.  What he didn’t know was that the dress was an engineering fete, equal to a suspension bridge.,

 “Wow,” he exclaimed.  “I really like that dress now.”

 “Calm down writer.”  Doris said it sternly but she was secretly pleased with the impression she had made.  Yes, she thought, he may well be the one.

 “So would you like a drink before we go?” Doris asked.

 “I guess not.  I tend to drink too much, when I start before nine.  I am trying to be good tonight.  The writer did not bother to tell her the real reason.”

 “Now why in the world would you want to be good.  Or are we talking about a different kind of good here?”

 “Well I think behaving myself is in order tonight.  I have to keep my wits about me.”

 “Why do you think that writer?  I haven’t attacked a man in months.”
 “Not that, I think you are just a wee bit smarter than I.  I want to be able to keep up.”

 What a sweet thing to say, but I try not to show off my intelligence.”  She smiled at him as she closed her front door behind them.

 “You seem to have plenty to show off.”  The conversation had moved them from her front porch to the convertible.   “I am not just talking about your brain either.

 Doris smiled at him, then said, “Writer, I am going to have to watch you closely.  You are about the most charming rascal I have met.  I am serious, you are a real sweet talker.”

 “Get it from my mom.  She was a real charmer she was.”  His poor excuse for an Irish accent made her laugh.

 “Let me give you the directions to the restaurant before you talk me into stopping at the lake instead.”  She spent a few minutes explaining all the twists and turns it would take to get them to the restaurant.

 The drive did take them by the lake.  He didn’t stop though.  Hell he didn’t even slow down.  “Would you mind, if I put the top down after dinner?” he asked.

 “That is what I like about you writer.  You make sure that you are going to get the answer you want before you ask”

 “How so?” he asked.

 “You set that up, so that I would have no excuse.  If you had asked to do it now I could, and would have asked you not to do it.  My hair and the restaurant you know.  Since you made it clear that it would be after, how could I say no.”

 “Please, I am not that smart Doris.  I just put it off because I figured you would want to keep your hair in place till after dinner.  It had nothing to do with all that thinking.  You make it sound like a plot to get you out of that black dress.”

 “Isn’t it?”  Doris asked it turning to face him.  It wasn’t dark enough yet for him to hide his embarrassment.  

 “Maybe it is.  I am not smart enough to know that either.”

 “I see.  You are one of those guys who works on instinct?”  She asked it with a smile he couldn’t see.

 “I don’t know about that.  I don’t make a lot of big plans, I do know that.  Like now, my big plan revolves around what to have for dinner, nothing beyond that.”

 “I would suggest steak, since it is a steak house.”

 “I do hope they have a band there.  Since you seem to be dressed for it, we really should dance a bit.”

 “Oh I think we are probably going to dance a bit.”  

 The Cattleman’s Restaurant and Bar was full of surprises.  It had a small front that had once been the original home of the place.  The front had been a Service station when the concrete block building had been erected.  To turn it into a southwestern bar motif, the new owners had covered it with stucco, then painted the stucco the color of adobe.  

 There never had been enough space in the building.  One big screen TV occupied most of the room used as the seating area in the early days.  The new part of the building was added onto the rear.  It stuck out on each side like wings on some hideous obscene experiment in evolution gone crazy.  The owners had planted fast growing tall shrubs to cover the addition rather than make the walls match the front part of the building.  

 The effect had been fine till they added to the parking lot.  The new parking lot addition was built around a corner.  The cheap concrete block walls could no longer hide their shame.  The building went from a fairly unique picturesque spot to an eyesore overnight.  To make matters even worse the owner at the time went belly up.  The new owners were from, and stayed, out of town.  They cared nothing for the looks of the building.  So long as the money from overpriced steaks and drinks flowed, they would do nothing.

 Doris’s slinky dress was out of place in the restaurant.  It was obvious, she wore it only for the fiveminute effect it had on the writer.  Still, the place had a manic charm about it.  Once inside the writught those to the walls of the Cattleman’s.

 The old service station part of the warehouse style building, served as the lobby and most of the bar.  He supposed that on truly busy nights people waited to be seated. in the area.  On nights like the one when the Writer and Doris arrived, it served only to remind the customers that there was a bar available.

 “Walk this way,” the hostess said.

 “Since we are in a restaurant that screams old vaudeville jokes, I ain’t never gonna be able to walk that way.”  The writer almost screamed it at Doris.  The scream served as a whisper since the noise level was very high.

 “Yes Groucho,” Doris answered.  She was wearing a broad smile the writer noticed.
 “Smoking or non smoking?” the hostess asked as they reached the opening to the large dining area.

 “Do you have a 'hear yourself think area'?”  The writer was only half kidding.

 “Smoking it is.” The youngster replied.
'
 The smoking area was smaller and cut off by a concrete block wall from the remainder of the restaurant.  The noise was considerably less.  It seemed as though the noise in the dinning area was enhanced by the hard wall coverings.  It was the writers guess that the noise was intentional.  Somehow it was supposed to add to the saloon image, he supposed.

 To his surprise Doris opened her purse then removed a pack of cigarettes.  She lit one, then did a female thing.  She waved her hand in front of her face to disperse the smoke.  She noticed the writer looking at her so she spoke.

 “It is a fairly harmless vice, though less than I thought previously.”

 “Oh come now, they called those things coffin nails in the period this place is supposed to represent.”

 “Oh I knew they were dangerous to my health.  I just didn’t know they were dangerous to yours.  I am sorry, but I really do need this.”

 “Not to worry, I love the smell of a cigarette with my meals.”  She looked as though she were going to snuff it out.  “Hey I am not kidding.  I am a reformed smoker.”

 A careful drinker and reformed smoker, I do hope you haven’t given up all the vices.”

 “No, I still eat donuts.”  The writer smiled at her.

 “Good, I just hate perfection in a man.”  Doris was smiling mysteriously at him

 “Well then you and I should get along just fine.  I am a long way from perfect.”  The writer stopped talking a moment then continued.  “By the way you and that dress are a big hit.  While we followed the hostess, I looked up from your ass in time to see the guys staring at you.  If I were you I would carry a gun, when I wore that dress.”

 “What makes you think I don’t?” she asked with that wicked smile returning.

 “Good point,” he agreed.

 “Since we are tossing out compliments, I went on the net yesterday and read a couple of your books.  You are a much better writer than most of the people publishing up there.  Your books should be in paperback.”

 “You know that is humorous,” he said close to open laughter.  “Paperback was once an insult to a real writer.  Now it is real publishing and the ebooks are an insult.”

 “I am not trying to insult you.  I just think you should be paid for your work.  It is certainly good enough.”

 “So which one did you read?”  The writer asked seriously.

 “The one about the cop who murders his wife.  I think it is was, “Cowboys And Killers.”

 “Close enough,” the writer said with a grin.

 “What was it then?” Doris asked embarrassed.

 “The killer and the Cowgirl.”


 “Yes that is it.  The cop who killed his wife because she was a lesbian.”

 "Is that what it was about?.  I thought it was about the cop, who killed his wife, who happened to be a lesbian.”

 “Is there a difference?” She asked.

 “Maybe not,” he admitted.

 “So did you like it?”  He knew he should not have asked.  No matter what she said it was going to be a problem for him.  He already sounded like he was fishing for a compliment.

 “Truth?” She asked.

 “Only, if you must,” he replied.

 “You knew I was going to say it, whether you gave me permission or not.  The book is very interesting.  The characters are quite good.  The grammar is not all that bad.  I expect to all, but us English majors it would be passable.  Somehow I don’t think you wrote it for an English major.  So now, to what I found impossible to ignore, you have spelling and typo mistakes in it.  Far too many to be accidental.  Obviously you don’t spell worth a damn, but you do get it close enough so that spell check can’t find them, as in thing, when you mean think.  The book needs a careful proofreading.
 “I agree with that.  I have proofread it about a hundred times.  Frankly I am sick of proofreading it.”

 “Then hire me.” The look on her face told him that she was serious.  “With a bit of proofreading your stories would be much better, even if you don’t want to publish them.”

 “Ah, I am tempted, but can I afford you?”  

 “You can.  I am a librarian, I always wanted to see my name on the shelf.  You let me work with you on this book and I will do the grunt work.  You write it and I will rewrite it.  I will even print it out and find you an agent.  In other words writer, I will get it publish on paper.  That is assuming we write one good enough.”

 “I have never written one good enough before. What the hell why not?  If you screw it up, I will just put it on my web site with a comment about it being your fault.”

 “How trusting of you.”  Doris said it sarcastically.

 “Lady, I have no idea whether you can spot a typo or not.”

 “Obviously I can do it better than you.”

 “Better than me means nothing my dear.”  The writer was filled with good humor all of a sudden.  He had been made the offer before, but no one has ever gone through with it.  Everyone thought writing was easy till they tried it once.

 “Well Writer, wouldn’t you like to tell me what your plans are?”  Doris asked it innocently enough.

 “Yes, I plan to eat the T Bone when it arrives.  Then I plan to go somewhere quiet.  If you still want to talk about the book, then I will tell you all about it.  It is not my first choice of topics however.”

 “Are you hitting on me Writer?”  She saw him trying to think of a way out of it.  “Well, don’t look so shocked, I don’t mind.”

 The arrival of the food prevented him from putting his foot deeper into his mouth.  The steaks were exceptional, as Doris knew they would be.  Doris had a bottle of wine with dinner.  For some reason, she didn’t understand, the writer did not touch his.  She knew he drank because she had been told of his visits to Eddie’s.  She knew he had visited the evil woman’s place more than once.

 “Writer, are you trying to get me drunk?” She asked it as he poured the last of the wine into her glass.

 “Do I need to?” He asked it, as he smiled suggestively at her.

 “In spite of me talking a good game, the jury is still out on that one.”

 “It is okay Doris, I am not sure, I may disappoint you anyway.”

 “Now see you have me on the defensive again.  Writer, you are insidious.   I think you have talked a lot of women out of their panties in your time.”

 “Now wouldn’t you like to rephrase that.  You make me sound about a hundred.”

 “I think I will wait to rephrase it, until I see how old you act.  Now, I want a piece of that chocolate cheesecake before I leave here, even if I don’t need it.”

 “Oh I think you can handle the cheesecake just fine.”  The writer was not just being nice.  Doris, though not skinny by any means, did have a long way to go before she reached anything near unpleasant in her body type.

 “Damn right I can, I don’t go to that gym three times a week for nothing.”

 
 Dinner came and went without much fanfare.  The writer found that Doris was pretty good company.  She had a few theories on life, that were a little out of plumb, but not so many as most folks.  The writer couldn’t quite put a name to her interest in him.  He began to think toward desert that she just wanted to get her name on a book jacket.  The Internet book jacket wasn’t really much of an honor.  Since he was grateful for the help, he didn’t bother telling her that.

 “Well Doris, they don’t have a band, I guess dancing is out of the question.”  The writer said it but to Doris he didn’t seem sorry at all.

 “No writer no band at all.”

 “You are the local here.  What shall we do after dinner.”  The writer didn’t have any ploy in mind at all.  He hadn’t given a thought to any romantic involvement with Doris.  With the dress Doris was wearing, it should have been obvious what she had in mind.

 “I am going to let you put the top down on that rag you call a convertible, then we are going to go to the lake, so that you can see what goes on out there.  It might give you a new insight into what happened to Louise and Maggie.”  

 “I have been there.  All I saw was a dirt road that circled the lake.  There will be even less to see at night.”  The writer didn’t really have any idea.  He was simply talking hoping to learn something.

 “Humor me writer,” Doris suggested.

 Several minutes later the writer paid the bill while Doris went to the ladies room.  Not only did she use the facilities there, she also inserted a small sponge and gel into her vagina.  She had plans for the writer.  Plans meant to finally take care of her shameful problem.

 The very first thing the writer had done after buying the convertible was learn to put the top down.  He quickly released the latch then lifted the top.  It dropped easily into the holder inside the rear of the car.  He debated whether to put the plastic covers on it.  It was a lot of trouble for a very few minutes.  Still the car looked so much better with them on.  He broke down and ran around the car attaching the covers.   

 While he did all of it, Doris stood patiently.  She was pleased with the idea of riding in the convertible on a warm summer night.  She was especially pleased with her plan, she had worked on it diligently all day.  She not only planned to weasel her way into the book, but to seduce the writer in the process.  It was a twofer for her.

 If it had been a movie, or even one of the writer’s books, there would have been the smell of Jasmine in the air.  The air that night was scented with cut hay, fertilized fields, and of course dry vegetation, as Ohio was in yet another drought.

 Doris knew a stretch of back roads that led them from Taylortown to the reservoir in Small Town X.  Even with the excess wine Doris got him to the lake without too many missed turns.  As he began to circle the lake the driver noticed the tail lights of cars parked between the dirt road and the lake.  They seemed to have pulled off randomly as they drove along.  They each left a reasonable space between themselves and the last car they had passed.   It seemed that way to the writer.

 “So the lake is the town’s lovers lane?”  The writer asked it curiously because there seemed to be an awful lot of cars.

 “The town, and the county too, the best I can figure,” Doris replied.  “Hell Writer, some of these folks are even married, a few to each other.   If you look close, you will see two cars parked together here and there.  Those are married people not here with their spouses.”

 “It seems rather dangerous to me to be meeting someone here like that.  Look at all the cars nearby, someone is bound to see.”

 “Yes but there is an unwritten law, no one ever sees anything here.  That is carved in stone.”

 “Don’t husbands or wives ever come up here looking for a wayward spouse.”  The writer asked it simply.  It seemed the logical place to look.

 “I don’t really know, but if they do they go home and wait for them.  No one has ever been confronted here to my knowledge.  If they did, the offending party would be ostracized by the whole town.  It would be the ultimate in bad form.”  Doris laughed.

 Doris wasn’t shaking but she was nervous.  She couldn’t believe that she was going to be forced to make the first move.  She really didn’t want to do that.  It was how she got in the trouble before.  The trouble she needed the writer to get her out of.

 Doris had been the librarian ten years before Louise had been murdered.  She hadn’t forgotten it at all.  She just needed time to decide whether or not to tell the writer about Louise.  In the end she had decided to tell him some of it, just to keep him coming around.  She needed the writer to clear up the rumor that she was a lesbian.  It was only a rumor because no one, man or woman, could say they had ever been with Doris Masters.

 The rumor got started, because Louise thought she was a poet.  She came to the library to write.  She thought she would be inspired by all the books Doris supposed.  Anyway they had struck up a friendship.  One of those kinds that men don’t understand at all.  


 The Friendship was confined to the library since Doris didn’t go out at all.  Also, because Louise had married again.  Doris would often put her hand on Louise’s shoulder as she showed her a book.  Louise always looked up and smiled at her.  Doris had no way of knowing that Louise had misunderstood her meaning.

 It was Louise, who had followed her into the large bookcases.  It was Louise, who had tried to kiss her.  Doris had been shocked but determined to never say a word about it.  She just planned to cool it around Louise.  That is exactly what she did.  Louise on the other hand started the rumor, but didn’t name herself as the object of Doris’s affections.

 In Louise’s version, long since forgotten, she had been told by a friend in confidence, that Doris had touched the friend in a place she shouldn’t have.  Doris hadn’t bothered to deny it.  She thought, that will only make matters worse.  The story actually didn’t cause her all that much pain.  She just had to be careful so that when she lost her virginity it didn’t seem a cover.  That is why she had waited for someone special.  The waiting had dragged on much longer than she had anticipated.  It got harder and harder to find someone special enough.  The writer appeared to fit that bill.  

 “I have been waiting for the right man.  That is why I haven’t had sex before.  No I didn’t have sex with women or men hon,  I was waiting for just the right one.”  That was how she planned to tell it.

 The really sad part was, that if she had been les, after the rumors began, she could have had her pick of a dozen women.  For a while they seemed to come out of the woodwork.  Mostly they weren’t true lesbians, but rather curious women, who felt Doris would be safe to play around with.  She choked down the urge to scream at them, while she calmly explained they were mistaken as to her sexual orientation.
 With just a little luck and a few days time that should all be behind her.   There were plenty of people to see her, and the convertible was perfect.  She couldn’t have asked for a better situation to put this all behind her.  Everyone at the lake, and there would be plenty, would see the convertible and know it was the writer.  She planned to make sure at least some of them saw her face clearly. It was for sure one night she wanted to be recognized.

 “Writer why don’t you park on the end there, while we talk about the Maggie Evans murder.  I might be able to offer some new insight into your information.  I am a local you know.”

 “Sure, but do you really want to do it here.  People will talk about us.”

 “Writer do I have to hit you over the head?”  She asked it with what could only be described as a catlike grin.
 
 The writer pulled into the next vacant piece of dirt.  He noticed just in passing that there seemed to be drives.  The residents of Taylor County seemed to have use the reservoir often enough to have killed the grasses around the lake.

 To his great surprise Doris came to his arms without any coaxing.  The hand brake and gear shift made kissing her uncomfortable.  He would have pressed his body hard against her, if he could have.  He could  though find her breast with his hand.  

 Under her breast he found a kind of platform built into the black dress.  The straps, which tied behind her head, held her breast supported.  It was pure genius in design.  He didn’t appreciate it though, he just felt her marvelous soft breast in his hand.  It had the effect Doris wanted.  His breathing became hard as well as a certain appendage.  There was nothing he could do about it in the tiny convertible.  That also pleased Doris.  It meant that the desired effect on him would last a while longer.

 The writer kissed and fondled Doris for several minutes before he pulled back.  She took a deep breath then said, “Writer, I want you but not like this.  Can we just hold it at this level for a while?”

 “In this car I don’t see how we can do otherwise.”  His smile was there but there was no humor in it.

 “We could go to my house, but Writer I would really like for this to last awhile.  I am sure you know this is my first sexual experience.  I would prefer it be more than a quick roll in the hay.

 “Well Doris, to be honest there is no future between us.  You do know I have a family back home.  Once this book is finished, I will be headed back.”  Doris had made the writer nervous.  The family wasn’t much of an excuse.  He might never be free of them, but they could not, and would not try to keep him from the road.  Hell, they probably enjoyed seeing him gone as much as he enjoyed being gone.
 “Writer, I did not mean, forever after.  I meant simply I would like to build up to sex, not just make it the beginning and end.”

 “Well it has been a long time since I courted anyone.”  The writer smiled even though it was mostly inward.

 “It is okay writer, I will help you along.”  She paused to make sure he was still interested.  Since he had pulled away, Doris bent over the shift leaver to kiss him again.  With a free hand she untied the top of her dress.  Her soft, slightly sagging breasts fell free.  The writer could feel her movements, while her tongue darted into his mouth.  He was gasping for air by the time the kiss broke.

 “There is no way to move in this clown car that doesn’t hurt,” she said with a giggle.  Lets get out and sit on the trunk or something,”

 “Are you kidding?  The trunk will collapse.  We can lean against the damn thing so that I can hold you.”  It was a plan they both could live with.

 The writer went to her side of the car.  He helped her out and into the view of anyone passing.  It was her plan.  Doris was setting her plan into motion.  If nothing else she was a master strategist.
 
 She hadn’t bothered to retie her dress.  That surprised the writer. He expected her breasts to be visible to any passerby.  On the one lane road there would be many, as they all had to go around the lake to leave.  It was not possible to pass another car on the road.  The writer didn’t mention it.  He had long before learned, that women knew full well what they were doing at any given minute.  They knew the right thing, but did what they wanted anyway.

 She turned her back to him so that he could wrap his arms around her ending with a breast in each hand.  She moaned her pleasure, as she leaned her head back against him.  When the first car passed, she turned her head to the side, put her hand in his hair, then pulled him to her lips.  The kiss was passionate all right but more than that, it was visible to Martin and his date.  Doris didn’t know that it was Martin, but then it didn’t really matter who the first one was.  There would be others.  Her plan would begin to run its course.  When the pickup had passed, Doris broke the kiss.  

 “So Writer,” she said leaning back against him.  “What can I do to help you with the book?”

 “At the moment nothing I can think of.  I have all these possibilities but can’t get any conformation on any of them.”  It was true the local Sheriff and his men avoided telling anyone anything.  They had seen too many cases get into the media before they were ready.  Hell, cops were never ready to be looked at by the public.  Their desire was to be more like the Army.  But alas, they had to deal with the people who paid their salaries.  That one fact caused them to be looked at a bit.  

 “Is that all?” Doris asked breaking into an unladylike laugh.  “Honey the chief investigator on this is Wilson Short.”
 “Don’t tell me you and Wilson have a thing?”  The writer knew better.

 “No dear, but Wilson, like all men, talks to his wife.  Laurel Short has two preteen kids.  She brings them to the library a couple of times a week during the summer.  She and I talk some, while the kids read, or do whatever kids do in a library.  They probably look at boobs in the National Geographic.”

 “So, you can probe her so to speak?”  The writer asked.  He knew it sounded a little suggestive, but then he was also a little curious.

 “Writer, I am going to let that pass.  If you have anything you want to know about me, ask don’t hint.”  The writer nodded.  “Now, what is it you want to know.”

 “Okay, what I want to know is what the sheriff’s people know., but that is more than the detective’s wife would know.  I don’t care how much he talks to her.  I expect it would just be in broad strokes.  The first thing is why Maggie Evans came down from the highway and what time it was.”

 “So Writer, what do you think it was.”

 “I expect it was something to do with the car.  Either she needed gas, or something else.  It could have just died.  Either way, I need to know what got her down to Small Town X.”

 “Would the cops know?” Doris asked.

 “Yes, they should have looked to see if the car had gas.  Either an empty or full tank would help.  She probably used a credit card.  The sheriff’s deputies have access to those records.  They also have access to the cell phone records.  They should know, if she called anyone for help.  The deputies should have a pretty good idea by now who it was that she spoke to last.

 “So, that is my first assignment, to figure out what the cops know?”  She smiled at the writer.

 “Yes dear, see if you can weasel it out of the wife.”  Doris turned to him then pressed her lips hard against his.  He could feel the heat between them.

 “Anything for you lover,” she whispered.  With those words she dropped her hand to his pants.  In front of anyone who happened by she unzipped his pants.  She then removed him from the folds of cloth.  She kissed him hard on the lips with her tongue in his mouth, while her hand stroked him.  He was sure that she would give up, since he knew it would take a while.  For one thing he was no kid, for another he had spent a lot of time with Ranger Jane.


 To his surprise, within a few minutes he felt the pressure in him rise.  He tried to move away but Doris held him tight.  He felt the release and knew that her black dress would join the famous blue dress in the cleaners.

 “I am sorry Doris.  I tried to stop you.”  Rather than answer she reached town to her belly, coated a finger with the thick white liquid.  She slipped the finger into her mouth.  She made a face, one the writer couldn’t figure out, till she repeated the action again.  He wasn’t quite sure what it all meant. He wasn’t, however, the kind of man to look a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak.   

 Doris was satisfied with how the date had gone.  She was absolutely sure he would call her.  At the very least, he wanted the information she could supply.  She expected that he also wanted something else which she could supply.  Since he had walked her to the door, then kissed her goodnight, the sponge had been wasted.  Too bad, since they had to come from Canada in those days.

 The writer wasn’t sure why he had chosen not to press Doris when he took her home.  Something about the woman bothered him.  It didn’t bother him so much that he couldn’t make love to her, but he would be sure to clear the room of weapons before he did.   He supposed that it might be a foolish concern.  One fostered by the knowledge that she was an old maid librarian.  An old maid who had suddenly decided that he was the one for her.  That in itself made her suspect.  That kind of thing just didn’t happen to the writer.

 The writer knew that even though the tent was miserably hot in the daytime, it was very cool in the evening.  Once the sun went down the air moving about was quite pleasant.  The writer was tempted to do some work on the novel but decided against it.  His power supplies were limited.  It just didn’t seem like the right time to put a dent in his batteries.  

 Instead of writing, he slipped into his cutoffs, then onto the eightinch air mattress.  He tried to sleep but it just wouldn’t happen.  upt her travels?  What would make me leave the highway?” he asked himself.  It had to be car trouble or gas.  Nothing else was likely to have brought her down.

 Right or wrong, the writer believed that he could figure it out, if only he knew why Maggie came down from the highway.  He felt strongly that she was a target of opportunity for her killer.  He bolted from his bed, suddenly wide awake.  The half sleep fog failed to hide his thoughts.  If Maggie was a target of opportunity, then the killer had done it before.  Louise Soloman was not just likely to have been another victim, but one of many other victims.  

 “Jesus,” he said aloud.  “How could a serial killer go unnoticed?”  He knew damned well how.  Cops didn’t like open cases, so they often closed them out the easiest possible way.  Linking open cases together was definitely not the easiest way.  Add to that the multiple jurisdiction problems, and you had the nightmarish possibility for a serial killer to go undetected.”

 He was going to need a lot of evidence to convince the cops to hunt a serial killer.  For one thing, they had at least one innocent man doing time for a probable victim of the serial killer.  They were not going to be easily convinced that they had convicted the wrong man.  Most of the victims would not be listed as homicides.   Most would be missing persons, cops didn’t look very hard for missing adults.

 The writer’s mind raced, sleep was going to be impossible.  The writer didn’t spend a lot of time on the decision, he simply got into the convertible.  The drive to the town’s only all night market wasn’t short, but it was necessary.  The writer was about to break a very long fast.

 He was more than a little surprised to see a droopy eyed Martin behind the register.  “This your place?” he asked.

 “Not likely, it belongs to my brother.  I just work here most nights.”  

 The writer nodded.  That was going to prove interesting.  Martin, one of the suspects in the Louise Soloman homicide, worked in an all night gas station.  The writer shook his head, way too easy he thought.  Then again he had learned long ago, that most of the time it really was the most obvious suspect.  Only in movies did they come out of nowhere.  The real whodunits were few and far between.  Even with those, the most heard comment after you busted the mooch was, “Oh yeah him.”

 “So what you want Writer?” Martin asked.

 “Give me a carton of the cheapest generic light cigarettes you have.”  He looked around a bit  before he had another thought. “Yeah, and a lighter of some kind.”


 “That will be eighteen bucks and forty cents,” Martin said shortly.  It didn’t look as though he wanted to talk.

 The writer handed him the card.  While Martin processed the card, the writer opened the plain white carton of Dallas cigarettes.  He had the pack open before Martin got the card squared away.  He lit the infernal thing, then sucked his next heart attack deep into his lungs.  He instantly became so light headed that he had to hold to the counter.

 Martin had seen him stagger a little but didn’t say a word.  It was none of his business even if the fucking writer died in front of him.  He noticed the writer weave a couple of second then get control of it.

 “Been a long time between cigarettes,” the writer said.  Neither he not Martin smiled.  The writer almost asked Martin about Maggie Evans, and Louise Soloman but he held off.  He wanted to have his facts straight before he did.  Cops like to know the answers before they ask the questions.

 Since the head rush was gone, he waved goodbye to Martin, then headed out the door.  He put the top on the convertible down, mostly because Martin was watching.  He felt about as good as he had in years.  He was smoking a cigarette, driving a convertible and working on a homicide.  One that might prove to be a big time case.  The kind of case that had eluded him his whole career.

 As he drove to the campground, he knew in his heart, that the case would prove to be routine, the convertible would explode, and he would have the third heart attack before he finished the carton of cigarettes.  It didn’t matter for that little space of time he was happy.  He was doing the jazz with a slightly younger woman, had an even younger and prettier one wanting him, and God only knew what adventure lay ahead.  


 “Shit, if I am not careful, I am going to burst into song.”  He said it as he pulled into the campground.  He wanted nothing more than to sit up all night, smoking, while trying to figure it all out by himself.  Instead the bed called to him lovingly.  He surrendered to its charms.

 “I am going to kick that writer’s ass one day,” Martin said after the writer had gone.  “I never did think much of cops.  He ain’t even a cop no more, but he acts like he owns the place.  Cocksucker comes here from some red neck trailer park town, then he acts like he is somebody.”  Martin turned off the lights, then went into the bathroom with the latest Hustler magazine.

 Doris was asleep in her bed dreaming dreams of marrying some good man, then leaving Small Town X for good.  She tried to see his face for what seemed like hours.  She desperately wanted to know who the stranger was.  He seemed familiar, but even in her unconscious state, she knew no man would leave Small Town X unless forced to do so.   She knew she would have to find a stranger to take her away.

 “Since Ranger Jane made her last round at two, she too was fast asleep.  She was dreaming of Hit Me Hurt Me.  She hated when Hit Me’s husband came home in the middle of the week.  It meant, that she could not see Hit Me for at least a whole week.  Ranger Jane tossed fitfully in the heat of the trailer.  Unlike the writer’s tent, the ranger’s trailer was like an oven.  Jane woke with a tightness in her belly.  She slipped her fingers between her legs.  She manipulated her most sensitive spot while her mind replayed her recent sexual encounters.  The memories were of both Hit Me, and the writer.  Her muscles constricted hard a few times before she could return to sleep.

 Eddie was doing her, after the bar closed, cleaning.  She was thinking about the writer. One of her customers had seen him out with Doris.  Eddie felt a twinge of jealousy.  She was trying to figure out who she was jealous about.  She didn’t think she wanted the writer.  It had been a long time since she had sex with a man.  She told anyone who would listen that she didn’t miss it one damned bit either.  Well if wasn’t the writer, it had to be Doris.  Eddie had heard the stories but had never given the librarian much thought.  After all she was totally different from Eddie, she was polished and ladylike.  Eddie was rough as hell and certainly no lady.
 
 Still Eddie smiled thinking she might just check out a book at the library, or maybe the librarian.  With that thought she tossed the bar towel into the sink, moved to the switch by the door, killed the lights before leaving for home.  Home was the very old poorly maintained apartment over the bar.  Eddie opened the door to the hot empty place.  She thought to herself, God I need a woman.”  Then she smiled as she did most nights.

 
 The writer did a smart thing.  He did it from experience, he made no plans until the sun was up.  Every time he made night plans, they were later proved to have been the wrong move.  Something about the dark clouded a man’s judgement.  

 The fivehours sll lined s his first planned stop of the day.

 The night before, he had decided to have Doris do his research.  When the sun came up, he trusted no one.  Doris was statistically unlikely to be a serial killer, but in the small town, she might unknowingly let some slip to him or her.  It was best if the writer switched to doing his own research.   Well, certainly he would allow her to do some of it.  He just wouldn’t let her know exactly what she was doing.  His new daylight plan for her to work on the death of Maggie Evans.  It would seem reasonable to her, and anyone she talked to.  He would personally look into the serial thing.  He wasn’t convinced that there was a serial killer loose in Small Town X.  It was more a feeling than a fact.  Then again,  it was fiction that he was writing.

 The writer looked around the campground.  He did a quick appraisal, since he was likely to be in the spot for a while.  He had gone from gathering a little background for a mostly fictional account of a murder, to looking for a killer.  When that had happened, he had no idea.  It might well have been when he saw his van in flames.  

 It was possible that he had it in mind all along.  Maggie Evans was the first murder he had written about, in which he had not been personally involved.  The other books were written about cases he had worked.  They were heavily fictionalized, but those who worked with him could pick out the case files, had they so desired.


 Oh well, he thought, I guess I had better start planning for the winter.  It was a joke in his mind.  He sure as hell had no intention to be in Small Town X when the cold winds blew.  A tent was not his idea of how to spend a winter.  The summer was only bearable because he spent his days in air conditioned buildings doing his thing.  The convertible made it more fun to get around, but the van had been air conditioned.  Life was a constant trade off, he thought.

 With the boiling water the writer made instant oatmeal.  The stuff was terrible but he was trying to get into the camping experience.  After lacing the oatmeal with honey, he trashed it after one bite.

 Twenty minutes later found him getting into the Biscuitville experience instead.  He read the Taylortown Gazette as he ate.  The gazette was a weekly paper, something the writer hadn’t seen in years. All the local news could barely fill the front page.  The ten pages were filled mostly with local advertisements and gossip pieces.  The writer was beginning to second guess his decision to search the back copies of the Gazette.  

 He changed his mind yet again, but only when he read the ad for a local computer supply house.  ‘Now available on CD from Amos Computers, county maps, county meeting notes, Taylortown Gazette copies and more.’  The ad listed the address and phone number for Amos Computers.  It seemed as though Amos spent his spare time scanning local interest documents into his computer system.  He must have cut a cd while waiting for customers.  It might not be best selling software, but then again he wasn’t doing anything else either.  It was probably only a slightly better use of his time, than watching Lucy reruns on TV would have been.  However, for the writer it was a truly lucky break.  He no longer had a computer with him, but he knew where he could find one.

 “Hi,“ the young salesman said as he greeted the writer at the door.

 “Hello,” The writer took the old building in at a glance.  The new chrome and glass storefront was definitely out of place on the 1940 brick and plaster building.  It looked as though it were an old finance company conversion.  The writer had no idea if they had those in Ohio, but there had been one on every corner of the mill town where he grew up.  

 “So what are you looking for?” the kid asked.  

 “I saw in the Taylortown Gazette that you had their back copies on cd?”  The writer made it a question with his voice.

 “We sure do, not a big seller but every little bit helps,” he replied with a smile.  He had turned his back on the writer as he walked to a wall filled with metal hangers.  On the hangers were plastic bags with one or more cds in each.  “Here you go, ten years of the Gazette on one cd.”  He seemed proud of his accomplishment.

 “Are you Amos?” The writer had the sudden flash as the kid put the cd on the counter.

 “I am James Amos, my dad owns the place, but he don’t come in much.”

 “I expect he is like me, born before the computer became commonplace.”

 “You seem to at least have made peace with them, daddy just wants to know how much money we are making.”

 “So do you sell many computers?”  The writer couldn’t believe that even in Taylortown there would be a great demand for computers from a small vender.
 “I order a few for the customers, but I mostly do service, and restoration work.  Everybody gets a virus or they just plain fuck it up,” he said.

 “Lady buys a digital camera to make nude shots, then can’t work it,” the writer suggested.

 “Don’t I wish.  It is more like some drugstore employee gets bored, goes up on the Internet, where he picks up a virus.  The whole damn system is infected.  If they backed up the system like they should, I could format the disk and be out of there in a couple of hours, but no they have to have the virus eradicated without cleaning the disk.  I spend days sometimes tracking down every little bit of the bitch.”

 “Sounds frustrating,” the writer admitted.

 “It is,” the kid smiled.  “But it pays well.  When you got no choice, you pay what you have to pay.  Then I can usually sell them a tape drive to do full backups.  Those they use about six months then get tired of wasting their time.  A couple of years from now I expect to do it all again.”

 “So how much is the cd?”  

 “Nineninetyfive,” he said without any expression.  

 The writer didn’t know if he expected some reaction or not.  He was happy to pay the money to avoid sitting in the newspaper’s cramped office for days, while reading the hard copies.  He figured he could run all the news pages from the paper in a few hours.  If he was going to complain, it would have been about the sales tax.  He never did like paying taxes, even if those taxes had paid his salary for years.

 The ten minute drive back to Small Town X was pleasant enough in the convertible.  The writer enjoyed the looks he got from men and women his own age.  It was one of those lost youth kind of  things they all felt when inside middleage.  He returned all their smi as the flew past him.  

 Even on his first visit the writer had been surprised to find a public library in Small Town X.  It just didn’t seem like the place for it.  He would have been only slightly less surprised to find one even in Taylortown.  Taylortown lost out on the library because it wasn’t at the junction of two state roads.  Access from the interstate was not an issue in the placement of the library.  Access by the citizens of Taylor County had been the issue.  With both the northsouth, and the eastwest state roads ru did feel it was time to give Small Town X something.  Since it had been an election year when the vote came up, the satellite library went to Small Town X.

 The writer didn’t know or care about all that.  His concern was that the library had a computer which he could use to preview the disk.

 Doris looked up from her reception desk at the small frame library.  The library was located in a converted 18th century house.  The house had been bequeathed to the county.  When the county took possession of the house, an auction was foreseen.  Instead the county’s governing board had decided to build a library in Small Town X.  Since the decision was made to build the library within six months of the county's coming into possession of the Reece house, the decision was made to restore the Reece house’s once glamourous exterior.  The interior was gutted to make room for the book cases.

 “Well Writer, what brings you here?  I haven’t seen Laurel.”  She hoped he had come to visit her.

 “I came to borrow a computer to read this.”  He said it showing her his CD.

 “Now, what in the world do you have there.  We don’t allow porno on the computers.”  She laughed out loud.  She was sure that the warning was not necessary.

 “Unless the Taylortown gazette prints porn, then I am safe from the Librarian’s wrath.”

 “You didn’t buy a copy of the Gazette’s back issues did you?”  Doris laughed.  “Didn’t you think I would have one of those?  That one does not cover the last six months since it was scanned.  Those are on paper.  I have copies in the file room.  I can get them if you would like?”

 “I have no idea why it did not occur to me that you might have a copy of this thing.  Well hell now you have two.  Just in case somebody swipes your copy.”  The writer said it as he turned his attention to the computer.

 Doris put the disk into the computer, then closed the drawer.  As she did, she rested her breasts on the writer’s shoulder.  He would have been flustered, if he hadn’t had his hands on them the night before.  

 After Doris started the CD, she smiled then returned to her desk.  She glanced up at the writer often as he worked.  He did not look at all like a writer she decided.  He looked more like a football player gone ever so slightly to seed.  He had to be something over six feet tall, with a frame that made him look blocky.  If the bodytype hid his bent, his clothes did even more to camouflage him.  His dress was far from the hound’s tooth jacket, with leather elbow ts and pants.  Doris sighed at his distance from matching her dream lover’s image.

 Doris watched the writer make notes, as he scrolled through the ten years of small town newspapers.  Under her watchful eye he finished one page after another of notes.  Doris was fascinated but when she approached his desk the writer covered the notes.  He did it casually but she quickly understood he was working on something she could not be a party to.  She was a bit jealous, but not so much that she couldn’t appreciate that his was a solitary hobby.  She couldn’t find it in her heart to call what he did a profession since he was an unpaid writer.

 Doris’s scrutiny did not go unnoticed by the writer.  He wasn’t sure exactly what her interest was, but he expected it to prove harmless.  She might want a little romance in her life.  He had filled the spot in a lot of lives.  Yes, the most recent was Ranger Jane.

       His search revealed a couple of interesting things.  Small Town X had more than its share of whodunit homicides.  Hell, it had more than its share of violent murders.  The reservoir was the resting place of only two, but there were more murders.  Some went unsolved, but a couple had ended in prosecution.  Knowing what the writer knew about Louise Soloman, it was possible that other convictions might have been as shaky.  After all Perry had been the public defender a lot of years

 He had a list of twenty homicides in the last ten years.  Homicides that had not been simple, husband kills his wife because she burned the hamburger, type killings.  The writer planned to get the case files on all of them.  Then there were the cases not in the paper.  The cases not called homicides.  Every police department has a stack of missing person reports.  They seldom make the newspapers. While most are not, a few of them are really homicides.  Without bodies to work with they stay missing persons.  The reason is simple an open missing persons report is acceptable or a hundred of them even.  A hundred open homicides makes a police department look bad.  
 

 The writer stood, then stretched.  He bent slightly to retrieve his pad from the library type table.  The table was where the computer he had used shared a space with its twin.  The writer had that itch up and down his spine.  It wasn’t the kind of itch you could scratch with a pencil.  It was the kind he needed answers to scratch.  He felt a need to speak to Doris on his way out of the library.

 “So Doris, I am going to donate this cd of the Gazette to the library.  Call it payment for use of the computer.”  He dropped the cd inside its plastic bag onto her work desk.

 “Well thanks Writer, should I make an official donation receipt, so that you can take it off your taxes?”  She looked up at him with a good natured smile.

 “That won’t be necessary.  By the way, thanks for the use of the computer.”  He smiled his warmest conspirators smile down at her.

 “Writer, the library is open to everyone.  I never saw anything in the rules about a residency requirement.  It is too bad really, since I could force you to use my computer, if there were a rule.  If you need one after hours, you are welcome to come to my place.”

 “Best offer I have had... well best offer I have ever had.”  He said it turning on the charm.
 “So?” Doris asked.  She was being bolder than she had ever been before.  She would have expected to hate the feeling but she actually like feeling brazen.

 “Fair enough, next time I need a computer after hours, I will come to your place.  By the way, what time does the library close?”

           “I open this place at ten in the morning, and close it at seven in the evening.   It is open the same hours on the weekend but I don’t open it.  We have a weekend librarian named Mrs. Henderson.  Now don’t you go looking for a new assistant.  Harriet is about a hundred, and she doesn’t do anything more than unlock the door and check out books.  You won’t find her very helpful.

 “What do you do, lock the door for lunch?”

 “No, I usually eat at my desk.  If I do want to go to lunch with you, I call Harriet, she comes over for an hour.  That hour of overtime is how I make my car payment.  Librarians are not well paid.”

 “I will make a note, no more lunches, Doris home after seven, and the computer is available.”  The remark would have seemed harmless to everyone else.  Doris read what she wanted into the remark.

 “You need to bring your own floppy, I have seen yours and trust it,”  She grinned wickedly.

 The idea of keeping his notes on a disk appealed to the Writer.  He spent hours on his computer at home.  He had even spent time on the laptop which went up with the van.  He could do his notes on the library computer.  It would be a reasonable thing to do.  

 He said a few goodbyes to Doris thenreet.  The sign read, ‘Taylor County Sheriff’s Office, small town x detachment.

 It was a misnomer when residents called it the Small Town X police department, but it didn’t matter, they did it anyway.  The three Sheriff’s deputies of the substation were assigned to the town of Small town X almost exclusively.  There was one deputy who floated between filling in at the Small Town X station and the main office in Taylortown.  Warren was his name and he was on duty in Small Town X when the writer made his way up the narrow exterior stairs to the Substation office.

 “So Deputy, we meet again.”  The writer was all smiles.  Catching Warren was a lucky break.  He wouldn’t have to explain again who he was, and what he was doing.

 “So we do writer, what can I do for you this time?”  Warren did not seem to share the Writer’s enthusiasm.

 “I need to look at more files,” the writer replied.

 “You know they are in Taylortown.”

 “Actually, I was hoping to talk to some of the officers about them.  Hell most of what is in the file will be cut and dried.  I sorta wanted a breathing account.”

 “I sure as hell won’t be able to help, I am new here.  Hell, all they let me do is answer the phones most of the time.”

 “The information I want spans ten years or more.  Any idea who I should see.”

 “Your best bet would be Louis Sabine.  He knows more about this department than anyone.  He is also in a position to tell it.”

 “I already talked to him and he wasn’t all that cooperative.”

 “Well writer, you used to be a cop.  You should know about timing.  Timing is everything, if you get my drift.”

 It dawned on the writer what Warren was saying.  “Ah and I suppose five is about the right time?”

 “I would say, about anytime after three and before seven would do it.”  Warren gave him that conspirator smile that cops share.  The writer had just been told that Sabine was an alcoholic.

 “Well, I still got a couple of hours, where could I find the missing persons reports for the area?”

 “Taylortown of course,” he replied.

 In spike of the fact that Taylortown was a twenty minute drive the writer didn’t mind.  He dropped the top on the little yellow convertible before he began his drive.  Not even the hot stale air of the rural community, with its smell of fertilizer everywhere, could ruin the sensation of the topless car.   The feel of being part of the landscape as he drove by was heady stuff.

 It was a totally different feel from riding in a closed car.  The writer knew he was going through a mid life thing but he just didn’t care.

 The Sheriff’s office in Taylortown was in the basement of the courthouse.  From the elevator it was a right turn, then down the hall to the big glass doors.  Behind those doors was the records section.  Inside the records section was a woman who could have played line for the Redskins.   The writer tried to bypass the Sheriff by going right to the keeper of the files.

 “Hi there,  I am looking for the case files on these homicides.”  He knew from her body language that he had a minus zero chance to see them.

 “I see, now do you have a form ten, or do you have an ongoing case in which you are the investigating officer, do you want to see a report you wrote, if not then I can not help you.”

 “According to the supreme court a police file is a public record and open for public review.”

 “Are you a lawyer?”  She looked as though she had bitten into a rotten piece of fruit.

 “No ma’am I am a writer,” he replied smiling.

 “Not much difference I suppose.  Either way, I am not allowed to make that decision.  See the desk Sargent for a form ten.  Then you can have whatever files are on it.  If you want to debate the supreme court ruling, do it with him.  Most likely, to get that applied to this department you are going to need a lawyer.”

 It was a speech delivered with a great deal of practice.  He doubted that the supreme court thing had ever come up before, since he had just made it up.  There had never been a specific ruling by the court that he knew of.   At least not one covering police records of an ongoing case.  Old unworked homicides still had the ongoing label attached to them.

 “Fair enough,” the writer replied.  “Where do I find the desk Sargent today?”

 Turn right when you leave here. He is the third door on the left.  If it is closed the sign will be on the door.  Just knock.

 Knocking was not necessary since the door stood open.   The writer was second in line to a young deputy getting his ass reamed quietly.  The writer knew the look on the kids face, he had it on own face a couple of times.  He backed into the hall and out of view until the kid passed.

 “Hi Sarge, I need a favor.”

 “Hell everyone needs a favor, what can I do for you?”

 “I would like to take a look at a couple of old homicide files. The ones I want to see are open but inactive.”  The writer stopped hoping against hope that the Sargent would just fill out the form ten.  What he did was laugh.

 “Why the hell do you want to look at inactive files?” he asked seriously.

 “I am writing about the Maggie Evans murder.  I was hoping to find something in one of the old files to add to the interest.  You know kind of merge the two so it would be more interesting than a tire iron to the back of the head.”

 “Sorry you can’t get into an ongoing file.  We are allowed to keep ongoing investigations secret.”

 “Come on Sarge I am talking about cases that haven’t been worked in several years, not ongoing investigations.”

 “Writer, you can have access to any file that is closed.  An unsolved homicide is never closed.  You should know that, you say you were a cop.”  He didn’t remember saying it to him at all.

 “I never said I was a cop,” He replied.

 “Didn’t you, I thought you did.”  It looked as though Warren called ahead on him.  Either way he wasn’t likely to get any cooperation.


 “Then how about your missing persons files?  I would like to take a look at those.”

 “Old unsolved homicides and missing persons files, what are you really doing writer?  You wouldn’t be going to write a dump piece on us would you.”

 “Dump piece?” he asked.

 “Yeah, one of those inept small town cop things, or small country Sheriff in our case.”

 “Hadn’t crossed my mind,” He lied.  “Are you guys inept?”

 “Get out of here writer before I decide to make your life miserable.”

 “Sarge, my life is already miserable or I would be home puttering in my garden.”

 “Get out anyway,” he declared.

 On the way out he was tempted to try the records clerk one more time.  He stepped to the door but she was with a Deputy.  

 “Look Clark, I can’t get a copy of your report the computer is down.  You are just going to have to wait a few minutes.  It will be back on line soon.”  She turned her attention to the writer.

 “Did you get that form ten?”  He shook his head.  “Then, ain’t no reason for you to wait.”

 “Okay, I understand.”  What she gave him was far better than the records.  At least he hoped it would be.

 The drive back to small town x was boring but the convertible made even that pleasant.  The writer had last owned a convertible in college.  The memories of college filled his mind, as he raced along the highway at a blistering 60 mph.  The metro was small and the engine was just as small.  The three cylinders rattled and banged along as they dragged the car along.   The little car was beat up and ragged out, but in general a lot of fun to drive.  He got a lot of stares since the car was not well known.  The writer loved the attention the little car got him.

 Before he knew it he was back at the convenience store and bait shop of Louis Sabine.  He walked in to find Louis with the ever present coffee cup in hand.

 “You back again, you gonna have to buy something this time.”  Sabine didn’t slur his words but he did have a slightly vacant look in his eyes.

 The writer smiled as he went to the soft drink box.  He removed a Pepsi from the row of soft drink cans.  He carried the can to the counter before he opened it.  The dollar bill came from a roll of bills held together with a clip.  It was not a money clip, but rather the kind of  clip used to attach keys to a belt.

 “You don’t expect no change do you?” Louis asked.

 “Not these days,” the writer replied with a smile.

 “I know what you mean.  Damn things used to be a nickel.”  Sabine seemed a little more talkative.
 
 “So tell me Louis, who tossed Maggie Evans in the lake?”  It was blunt but the writer hoped it would get Sabine talking.  Even it if was to raise hell.

 “How the fuck would I know, I was retired when she took the moonlight swim.”

 “Yeah, I figure she went in somewhere after three in the morning,” The writer said it trying to appear nonchalant.

 “Well maybe you ain’t so dumb.  Tell me why you figure that?”  Sabine watched carefully.

 “Easy, Maggie would have left New York around five, at least that is what the client she met said.  The drive would have brought her here sometime around eleven at the earliest.  I figure it was way after midnight.   It was late enough so that when she went into the lake, the casual lovers had left.

 “Yeah, I figure it just about like that.  Whoever killed her pushed the car into the lake sometime after 2am.  Anybody at the lake after that is seriously involved in screwing.  They ain’t gonna notice nothing.”

 “So tell me why Maggie came to Small Town X?”  It was the number one question on his mind.

 “Best anybody can tell she had no reason to be here at all.  Nowhere in Taylor county or even Ohio that we can figure.  No friends or family at all up here, at least none that anybody could find.”  Sabine might not be working the case but he was being kept informed.

 “Do you reckon it was car trouble?”  The writer asked.

 “That is about all we can figure.  The car had half a tank of gas.  Looks as though she filled up before she left Cedarville.  All anyone here can figure is that some warning light or something else happened to force the Miata in here.”

 “That puts it square on Everett the tow truck driver.”  The writer knew better.  If it had done that, the case would be closed.

 “It would, except Ev never got a call that night.   We checked her records and his.”  Sabine just admitted that he was involved in the investigation.  That fact did not slip by the writer.

 “Okay so she had car trouble but no enough to keep her from driving to the gas station by the highway.  Who was working that night?” the writer asked.

 “Martin was working.  But don’t get your hopes up, Martin didn’t see her.  If he had killed her, he didn’t have time to dump the body and get back to the store without being noticed.  There were at least three deputies who stopped in that night for coffee.  None of them saw the Miata.”

 The writer had a few questions of his own to ask Martin.  He didn’t mention that to Sabine.

 “So tell me Sabine what do you think happened?” the writer asked.

 “If I knew that writer, I wouldn’t tell you.”

 “Why not, I am one of the good guys.”  The writer said it while keeping the smile on his face.

 “In a pigs ass you are.  In your book we are going to look like a bunch of idiots.  This case may never be solved. If it is, the bad guy will probably get picked up for shoplifting and cop to it.  You know how this works.”

 The writer did indeed know how it went.  He had been involved in enough of them himself.

 “Fair enough Louis.  I got a list of a half dozen other unsolved murders, how about telling me what happened to them.”
 “If they was murders that means somebody got kilt.  That is about all I can tell you.”

 “You know what I mean.  How much did you find out about them?”

 “Writer you are determined to make a pest of yourself ain’t you.  No badge to flash, so you just act like a damn flea until you annoy me into talking.”

 “Whatever it takes Louis,” the writer said.
 
 “What homicides do you have in mind Writer?” Sabine asked.  “You aren’t still on the Soloman woman?”

 “Yes and no, this time I got a couple that go back a few years.  For instance nine years ago a young woman named Marcy Rollins got herself killed.”  The writer was looking at his notes.

 “I remember, we found her at the county landfill.  Damn lucky she didn’t get covered over.  Never did find out where she was killed.”

 “Who was she Louis?”  The writer asked it hoping for some information to tie her to the other two women.

 “School teacher, she was killed over the summer.  If she had gotten covered over, she wouldn’t have been missed for weeks.  She was from over in Taylortown.  We never could get a lead on her.  No boyfriends, no enemies that we could find, nothing to tie anyone to her.”

 “So she wasn’t killed at home?”  

 “No her apartment had no signs of any disturbance.  We did a Luminal and got nothing.”  The writer knew that Luminal was a chemical used to detect occult blood.  Even after a place had been washed down, it would glow green when exposed to trace blood.  If the apartment didn’t show traces, then she probably had died somewhere else.

 “She had the old blunt instrument trauma didn’t she?”

 “Writer about half the murders in this country are from getting hit on the head.  Don’t try to make anything of it.”

 “Sorry Louis, you are right of course.  Oh by the way, what was Marcy’s age?”

 “Early twenties best I can remember.”

 “Sally Tuder?” the writer asked.

 “Found in the woods, another dump job.”
 

 “Hit in the head the paper said,” the writer commented.

 “Yeah about ten times, best we could figure somebody was really pissed at her.  Never did have a clue who did her in.  Again, we can’t even be sure where she was killed.”

 She was in her twenties too wasn’t she?” the writer asked.

 “Yes Writer, and if you are saying there is a connection, let me remind you they were a couple of years apart.”

 “Let’s don’t stop there,” the writer replied.  “I have five more leading right up till now.  Young women hit in the head and dumped around here.  It looks to me like you got a serial killer on your hands.”

 “Bullshit, and even if there was, ain’t got nothing to do with me.”

 “Nothing except he fucking outsmarted you for years. He just made an ass of you is all.”  The writer was trying to get Louis upset. He wanted Louis to take a fresh look at the murders.  Louis could get into the files.  It was the same with the writer in his hometown.  You just had to know the right people.

 Louis Sabine was staring hard at the writer when he spoke.  “Get out here Writer or I am gonna kick your ass.”

 “Maybe you can and maybe you can’t.  If you want to help me, I am at the campground.”

 “Get out now,” Sabine said with slurred speech.  It appeared that he had finally had enough booze to effect him negatively.

 After the writer left, Louis Sabine looked at the bottle of jim beam under his counter.  He felt a great anger at the writer rise up in his chest.  The anger was so great that it threatened to swallow him.  Instead of giving in to the anger, he took a long pull on the bottle.  He usually pour it into his coffee but not that time.  He had so much practice that he barely staggered as he went to the bait shop door.  Even though it was an hour before the official closing time he locked it.

 Imagine that writer coming up here and saying he had missed a connection between all those unsolved murders.  What a ridiculous thing to say.  Just a bunch of sensationalism he wanted to write about. Louis had a spotless record as a cop, he sure as hell didn’t need some writer coming around to fuck it up.  

 Well, he would just need a little time to talk to the writer to show him the error in his logic.  The writer had invited him to help, so maybe he should.  He could get his nephew to sit behind the bait counter for a couple of days.  The kid was just hanging around his sister’s house for the summer  anyway.

 That damn writer is pretty sharp, he thought.  I expect, I need to leave the hootch alone till I finish pointing out the error of his thinking.

 After he left the small concrete block bait shop, and convenience store, the writer drove to the campground.  He checked the cooler and found that, as he expected, he needed ice.  The plastic milk jug was also empty.  Before he settled in, he took the cooler and jug on a ride.  

 The convenience store nearest the park was not owned by Martin’s brother.  It was owned by a middle eastern gentleman.  He was a particularly sour individual.  The writer expected that, if a round up came, people would turn him over first thing.

 He should be locked up for the prices he charged, the writer thought, as he silently paid for the bag of ice and 12 pack of cokes.  He filled the ice chest in the parking lot, then returned to the campground.  He sat outside his tent in the shade sipping a diet coke, while trying to figure his next move.  

 He wanted Sabine with him.  The only other way to get the information, would be to see if he could get the kid from the computer store could hack the sheriff’s computer.  It was risky and it would be a mother to find the files anyway.  Not to mention the kid would know what he had done.  He understood suddenly the, I can tell you but I will have to kill you mentality, since he didn’t want to leave any witnesses to an illegal act.  Rather than approach the kid, he decided to let time work on Sabine a day or so.  Then try to recruit him again.

 The writer gave up on all of it later that afternoon.  He decided to go to Eddie’s to have at least a couple of beers.  Not enough to feel but to spend sometime away from the tent and the murders.  Just sit and watch the people pair up for the evening.

 He wasn’t the only one watching.  He was being watched by Martin.  Martin had nights, when he just wanted to break someone in half and he was having one that night.  He had looked around and decided that if the writer made some kind of smug remark, he would break him in two.  It might also have had something to do with Sammie.  

 The writer was oblivious to Martin, since he had his attention on Sammie.  Sammie sat beside him explaining that her husband was out of town again.  She knew when she married him that he traveled in his business.  The writer never did figure exactly what the business was and he didn’t care enough to ask for an explanation.  The thing Sammie mostly wanted to get across was that she was available for some pinch and tickle.  The writer was trying to avoid saying no to her, but he really wasn’t interested.  Ranger Jane kept him pretty well worn out.  He also had Doris to contend with, so he wasn’t in the mood for even more woman troubles.

 It was around nine when the door opened to allow Louis Sabine to enter the bar.  He had been in the last time while on duty as a local deputy sheriff.  Sabine had made the rounds during his last week.  It was a little to say goodbye, and a little to settle any old scores that needed to be settled.  When you are a retired cop, you want to be sure the bad guys don’t come looking for you. Without the badge you have to handle it man to man.  That can be more than some guys can handle.  It wasn’t a problem for Louis, but he still wanted to get all the loose ends tied down.

 “Hello Sabine, what can I get you?” Eddie asked before he was even seated beside the writer.

 “Coke Eddie,” he said with a smile.

 “What you want in it Louis?” Eddie asked grinning at him.

 “Ice,” he replied seriously.

 “You on the wagon?” The writer asked.

 “For a few days.  You and me need to talk.” he said.

 “Sure we can get a table in the back or we can go to my place.”  The writer smiled as Sabine remembered where his place was.

 “Let’s get a table, this ain’t no date.”  Sabine didn’t smile but the twinkle was in his eye.  “Sammie you will forgive us?”  Sammie nodded.

 As he passed by Martin’s table the writer bumped a chair.  The chair shook the table where Martin’s just refilled beer glass set.  The glass shook and the beer sloshed out.  Martin stood quickly, his anger way out of proportion to the event.

 “God damn it writer, who the fuck do you think you are?”  He stood tense with his fist clenched.  He was on the edge of movement.  The movement would have been violent action.

 “Martin,” Louis Sabine said.  “Don’t rattle that dog’s cage.  He will chew your ear off.”  Martin flinched, the writer stared, and Louis laughed.  “Come on writer you didn’t think that I wouldn’t check you out did you?”

 Martin slipped back into his chair.  He wasn’t afraid of the writer or Sabine.  He was sure he could whip either of them, but together they might be more than he could take.  He didn’t know about the writer, but he had been told that Sabine would punish you, when you were down.  He still wasn’t scared but he would prefer them one at a time.

 The two men didn’t gloat, they just moved on to a table in the rear.  The writer took a seat with his back to the wall.  He had chosen the table in the corner since it had two chairs against the wall.  Yes, men like them really did try to keep their backs to the wall.

 “So writer, why do you think we have a serial killer?”  Sabine didn’t believe in small talk.


 The writer gave it some thought before he began.  “Right now it is a hunch and the statistics are right.”

 “Hunches don’t mean shit.  What statistics?”

 “Look my hunches do mean something.  But the numbers are the real kicker.  In the five county area that your little paper reports on, there were twenty whodunit homicides in the last five years.  Yes, I am including some that were supposed to have been solved.”

 “How come you are doing that?” Sabine asked angrily.

 “Because in this county you had a public defender who thought everybody was guilty.  He was a drunk, who didn’t want to be bothered.  He got them all to plead to save their lives.  With him as a lawyer, I don’t blame them for pleading it out.  In the other counties there were more unsolved cases.  The kicker is, you have more missing persons than any other area in the state.  I can’t get the cases, but I can get the crime statistics from the FBI reports.”

 “Come on writer.  Those numbers don’t mean a thing and you know it.  If you are going to have an average somebody has to be higher and somebody has to be lower.”

 “Sabine, you are here because in your gut you know something is wrong here.”  The writer watched the expression on Sabine’s face.  It never changed.

 “If I get you the files, how long will it take for you to decide this is bullshit?”

 “You help me with an open mind and we can prove it in under three days,” the writer replied.  “Well if not prove it, then convince you at least.”

 “I will see what I can do.  I will keep an open mind, but remember I investigated some of those cases you will be showing me.”

 “I know, that is why I came to you.  None of us like to be beaten.  I expect you will be more than happy to take a second look at them.”

 “What makes you think it is a serial killer really?” Sabine asked.

 “You have way too many dump jobs here.  Most killings are family and friends in passion.  Dump jobs are thought out a little bit anyway.  Probably the average is that one in twenty five are dumps, if that many.  Almost all the unsolved cases in this area were dumps.  It makes for a pattern.  The reason you didn’t see it was that most of yours in this county got prosecuted.  You knew a weak case would get you a conviction.  Perry you see.  I don’t think you even realized it in your conscious mind.  The other counties didn’t even try to pin the murder on a boyfriend or exhusband.”


 “You are trying to say I tanked them?”  Sabine should have been angry but he wasn’t.

 “The only one that was yours was the Soloman woman.  The others were before you were the detective for the county.  Some of the earlier ones went down the same.  Look all that is behind you, if we can find the common thread, then we can work this out.”

 “I am sure you are wrong writer.  There will be no thread, because they are not linked.”

 “That will be okay with me.  Even a failure is a book.”  The writer smiled.

 “Very well writer, I will see you tomorrow at the office in Taylortown.   What time can you get your ass moving?”

 “I can be there by ten a.m. for sure.”  The writer smiled at Sabine.

 The writer raised his beer glass to Sabine who returned the gesture with his coke.  “Since I have finished my business here, I am going home to have a real drink.  Writer, I will see you in the morning.”  Sabine finished the coke with a grimace, then stood to leave.  

 The writer noticed that Sabine was tall and thin.  He was in good shape for a drunk.  He must not have been at it long, the writer thought.   

 Sabine walked from the bar.  He stopped only long enough to put a dollar on the bar.  He was quickly followed out by Sammie.  Since she did not return, the writer wondered if she had more success with Sabine or just gave up to go home.

 Eddie came to the table to pick up Sabine’s glass.  She spoke quietly to the writer.  “You better leave.  Martin is looking for trouble, for some reason he has it in his mind to fight you.”

 “Thanks for the warning Eddie, but once you start to run it gets easier all the time.  Pretty soon you are running from yourself.”  The writer didn’t know what it meant, but he decided to put it in the book.  With the warning the writer decided against moving back to the bar.  The bar seat left his back exposed, and the writer didn’t have a lot of faith in Martin’s sense of fair play.

 Nothing happened by the time the writer tired of looking at the still full beer glass.  He decided that he was ready to leave.  He had given Martin plenty of time to jump, if he was truly froggie.  The writer did not intend to stay in the bar all night just to prove his courage.  He didn’t need to prove anything.  He stood to walk out.  He carried the glass just to save Eddie a few steps.

 “Hey Writer, I see your bodyguard has left you.”

 “Damn Martin, I thought I was his bodyguard.”  The writer tried to make it to the bar then out without trouble.  He saw Martin begin to stand.  The decision right or wrong was made in a split second.


 He changed his momentum toward Martin.  Before Martin was totally on balance the writer backhanded him as some men would a woman.  The difference was that the writer held the heavy draft beer mug in his hand.  Martin went down like a tree.  A year ago the writer would have put cuffs on him then called an ambulance  Since he no longer had the whole police department watching his back, the Writer went about punishing Martin.

 First he kicked the downed man in the ribs a couple of times.  Then one well placed hiking shoe to the face.  He finally placed a medium velocity shot to his testicles.  It was a fairly cowardly thing to do, but he did hope it would give Martin pause before he tried to take him again.

 “Should I call him an ambulance?” Eddie asked with an admiring smile.

 “Hell no let me,” the writer said seriously.  “Martin, you are a fucking ambulance.”  Martin moaned.

 “Guess he don’t have no sense of humor,” Eddie said with a grin.

 “Guess not, who is responsible for the asshole?” the writer asked.

 “His brother I guess,” Eddie replied.  Most of the other customers had left at the first sign of trouble.  “Well call him.  I will wait till he gets here. You don’t need the hassle.”

 “Well I ain’t worried but I would love the company.”  Eddie grinned as she moved the phone to the bar.  She also slipped the tiny phone book from the shelf.  She dialed a number then waited.  
 
 “Mary, this is Eddie down at the bar.  Your brother in law is down here and he is hurt.  I need to talk to his brother.”  Eddie waited a long time before she spoke again.  “Eddy, this is Eddie down at the bar.  Martin is here and he is hurt.”   She listened a while then said.  “You want me to send him to the hospital for a check up or not.  I am not his brother you are.”  She had snapped the last at the phone..”

 “Fair enough,” she slammed down the phone.  “Writer you better leave.  The cops are going to come along with the ambulance.”

 “Nope, worst thing I could do is run.  Just gonna have a club soda while I wait.”

 Eddie took it on herself to call Louis Sabine before the ambulance.  

 By the time the Taylor County Ambulance arrived Martin was awake and moaning.  He didn’t look good at all.  When he heard the ambulance pull in, the writer stepped to the rear.  He decided to have a word with Martin.

 “You had a nasty fall Martin.  If I hear anything else, I will be all over you.  You do understand me right?”

 “I took a fall, cause I don’t want you in jail when I get straight.  When I am back to normal, I am gonna kill you.”  His voice ended in a moan.
 
 “Your choice friend.”  The writer would have kicked him again but the paramedics were coming through the door.  “He is back here,” he shouted.  “You need to hurry.  He don’t look good.”

 “What happened?” the young female paramedic asked.  

 “Got me, we just found him in the parking lot like this.  He drove up then fell out of the car.”  It was a poor lie, but hell when he told his story it wouldn’t matter what he said.  They were asking the writer just to see if there was a medical emergency.   He had been careful not to do anything lethal to him.

 “Okay, Jonathan let’s get him on to the Hospital.  He looks like he is in a lot of pain.”  She turned her attention to Martin.  “Sorry Martin, I cant give you anything for the pain, but we wont be but a couple of minutes.”

` “If you can’t give me anything you are useless,” Martin managed to mumble.

 “Be nice Martin, you never know what might happen,” The writer said it before he realized that he had done it.

 The Young woman and the older man rolled him onto the Gurney.   They stopped while Jonathan opened the door.  

 “Writer, Sabine talked to the deputies.”  Eddie said it way to loud.

 “You the writer asking all the question?” The young woman asked.

 “Not now Lucy, we need to get this ‘gentleman’ to the ER,” Jonathan informed her.
 “Writer, you tell Sabine he owes me a couple of dozen night crawlers for looking the other way.”  He turned to the door then turned back.  “What did you hit that prick with?”

 The writer gave it some thought before he answered.  “A punk should not threaten a man while  he is trying to stand up.  He is way off balance and likely to get bitch slapped with a beer mug.  Course I ain’t sayin’ that is what happened.”

 “He looked a lot worse than a beer mug bitch slap, though that could cause a lot of problems.” the deputy said.

 “Sorry, I never said that is what happened to him.  He drove up, then collapsed in the parking lot.  We brought him inside.”

 “That your story?”  The deputy asked.

 “It is and I am sticking to it.”  The writer replied with a grin of his own.

 “How about you Eddie?” He asked turning his attention to Eddie.

 “I was out back washing glasses.  I have no idea what happened.”  She smiled at the deputy with her, ‘I am an excon dyke,' look.

 “Well, I ain’t no kin to the prick so more power to you.”  The deputy said that as he walked toward the door.

 “Don’t thank me writer,” she must have read his mind.  “I don’t stick my neck out for nobody.  I also ain’t no snitch.”

 “Well anything I can do to repay you let me know.”  He said it as he turned to the door.  He had about all the excitement he could stand for one night.”

 “Don’t worry there is, and I will gladly tell you.  How about hanging loose a couple of minutes.  You can take me to breakfast.  That is your charge for me staying out of it, even if it will cost me a regular customer.”

 “I will gladly buy you breakfast for the company.  You will not loose the prick as a customer.  He will be back, if for no other reason than to prove he isn’t afraid.  And just for the record, all you did was say you were washing glasses.  Hell Martin can’t dispute that, he was busy test driving your carpet.”

 She immediately walked to look at the carpet where Martin had laid.  “Well Writer at least you didn’t get blood on the carpet.

 “Come on lock the door, your talk about breakfast made me hungry.”

 “Good, the Pancake House in Taylortown has a breakfast bar.”

 Eddie wouldn’t ride with the Writer, and he wouldn’t ride with her.  So he ended up following her to Taylortown.  It was a good thing since he couldn’t have found the restaurant.

 “So Writer, tell me why you kicked Martin while he was down.” Eddie demanded.

 “Simple.  If a man wants to fight me for no reason today, what is to stop him tomorrow.  Martin is younger and probably healthier.  I don’t want to ever fight him again.  This time was more than enough for me.”

 “Hell, this is likely to make him want your ass even more,” Eddie informed him.

 “It might, but then I don’t know how to take a dive.  If I have to fight, I plan to win.  He at least knows that now.”

 “Well, if I were you, I would sleep with one eye open for a while.  Martin ain’t never been beat.  He especially ain’t never been worked over.”

 “Damn I do hate to take a man’s cherry like that.  That sure is good french toast, you want some more?”  The writer asked it as he stood to return to the breakfast bar.

 “Sure bring me some writer, I am throwing caution to the wind.  No telling what all I might do tonight.”  

 The smile she gave him made the writer finally wonder what the hell was going on.  He was not good looking.  Hell, he had a pot belly.  It was not a giant thing but it was definitely visible to all the women.  

 He had Ranger Jane using him shamelessly, Doris trying to get him to use her, Sammie making hints and now Eddie, the town’s biggest Dyke, making come on noises.  Something was not write in Small Town X.

 The writer returned with the French Toast before Eddie had too much time to think.  He caught her looking at the waitress in the same way she had looked at him.  He was relieved, when the waitress smiled at her coyly.  

 “So Eddie, who is your friend?”  The Writer grinned across at her.

 “Lucille, she and I are old friends.  I come here often after I close.”  They looked as Lucille twitched her ass for them.  “Writer, you can find you way home can’t you?”

 Not only could he find his way home, he did.  He slipped into the tent at three a.m.  As he drifted off to sleep, Eddie’s final words rang in his ear.

 “Writer, watch yourself.  Martin is going to come after you.  He might want to see you in Saint Mark’s.  You do know that is the name of the public cemetery?”

 “I am surprised that you could have a public cemetery with a religious name?”  It was a question and she knew it.

 “Small Town X has been spared the glare of the zealots so far.  Writer, the point is Martin might just decide to fire bomb your tent.”

 “Well, I think I got a couple of days.  Martin is going to be feeling pretty bad for a while.”  The writer smiled at her even though he didn’t feel all that confident.  It didn’t take much strength to toss a Jim Beam bottle filled with gasoline a few feet.

 He drifted off to sleep trying to figure exactly how much time he had before Martin would be up to the task.  He decided, he had better finish his research quickly, or else move his tent.  He hadn’t decided what to do when he slipped into oblivion.

 The writer was awakened the next morning by a female voice he did not recognize.  When he looked out the tent flap, he had the .380 pop gun in his hand.  It was hidden behind his leg, since he didn’t want to frighten anyone.

 “Hi Writer,” the young woman said.  She noticed his look of bewilderment.  “You don’t recognize me, do you?”

 “You look familiar but I can’t place you.”  The writer said it honestly since he had no idea how to hide his ignorance while he probed her.

 “I saw you last night.  I am Lucy, the paramedic.”  She smiled at his sudden understanding.  His face was like that light bulb cartoon.  He suddenly lit up.

 “Sure Lucy, you look different in real clothes,” He didn’t mean it as an insult.  

 She wasn’t offended because she hated the polyester uniform herself.  It made her slightly large hips look even larger. “I suppose I do at that,” she answered.

 “So what brings you to the park?”  He asked it knowing she was going to tell him.

 “First of all, I have a warning for you.”  She gauged his reaction.  He didn’t bat an eye.  “The man we took to the hospital last night mumbled over and over that he was going to get you.  It that was you who did it? you gave him quite a beating.”

 “Well, how long before he will be up to visiting me?”  The writer asked it hoping he could get a better idea of his ‘safe’ time.

 “Depends on what he has in mind.  He can pull a trigger now.  He isn’t up to going ten rounds with you though.”

 “Hell, I’m not up to going ten rounds with him.  Hold on a second,” The writer demanded as he returned to his tent.  Inside he slipped into a clean cutoff sleeved sweatshirt.  He had fallen in love with the look after seeing a character in a movie wear one.   

 “Come on,” he said upon his return.  “Unless you have somewhere to go I will buy you breakfast.”

 “Why?” Lucy asked suspiciously.  She had no intention, of getting involved with a man twice her age.

 “Call it payment for the warning, call it payment for the interview I am about to conduct over breakfast, or call it ego.”  He smiled at her while he spoke lightening the words.

 “Ego?” Lucy asked.

 “Sure it will be good for my image to be seen with a woman so young and beautiful.  Especially this early in the morning, when we both look like we missed a lot of sleep last night.”

 Lucy had to grin.  It couldn’t hurt her image either, she thought.  The Writer was a handsome enough old man.  God knows he would be safe to be around, she thought.  He was old enough to be her father and could take care of her as well as himself.

 “I pick the restaurant,” she declared.

 “Absolutely, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  We do take my car, I will bring you back.”

 “I would rather drive my own car,” she replied.

 “Ah, but that will spoil the illusion,” he replied.

 “Writer, I have no idea why I am going along with this.  It can not do my reputation any good at all.”

 “Then don’t,” it was a simple statement that put the decision squarely on her shoulders.  She wasn’t sure how she felt about it.  On one hand it gave her an out, on the other it put her in the position of asking him to take her to breakfast.  She had backed herself into a corner.

 “Oh hell, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”  It was all she said as she walked to his convertible.  She sat in the car as he lowered the top.  She stewed about the position in which she found herself.  

 “So how about it?” he asked as he started the tiny engine.


 “How about what?” she asked defensively.  She was surprised by the shortness of her answer.

 “How about the directions to the restaurant.”  The Writer had not taken offense at her tone.

 “How about the Pancake House in Taylortown.  Can you get to Taylortown without my help?” she asked.

 “Sure, and I even know where the pancake house is.”  He didn’t explain that he had been to the restaurant only hours before.  “So how long you been a paramedic?” he asked without taking his eyes off the road.

 “Three years, since I was twentyone.”  She smiled, thinking to herself that Jonathan still thought of her as a rookie after all that time.

 “So, what interesting stories do you have to tell me?”  The Writer wasn’t going to press her just yet.  He would get around to it soon enough.”

 “None, but I bet you can tell me some.  I hear you have been asking questions all over town.”  Lucy didn’t mind turning the tables on him.

 “I have,” the writer admitted.  He weighed the advantages of waiting till they arrived at the restaurant before asking, but decided to just bite the bullet and get on with it.  “What do you know about the woman the deputies killed a couple days ago?”

 “Why would I know anything?” she asked cautiously.

 “They tell me you were the one who talked to her just before the cops shot her.”

 “I can’t tell you about that,” she replied.  She looked over to seem him still gazing at the road.  “However, I could answer specific questions maybe.”

 The writer felt her smile, more than saw it.  “So did you know her brother is doing time for killing his first wife?”

 “No but so what?” she asked.

 “Somebody dumped his ex in the lake, the same as Maggie Evans.  He swore he was innocent.  Maybe he was?”  The writer was trying to see if she had any interest in it.

 Well, I don’t think that had anything to do with Joyce Jenkin’s murder.”

 “Woah, what murder?” the Writer asked.

 The woman who died.  She told me they were going to kill her to keep her quiet, and they did.”  Lucy wondered, why she had told the writer that.  She hadn’t even let herself think it before that moment.

 “The paper said she was delusional?”  It was a question and they both knew it.

 “Really, now who would know better than me?  She was rational when I talked to her.  She wasn’t seeing little green men, and the neighbor’s dog wasn’t talking to her.”

 “So you are telling me the cops shot a rational woman to keep her quiet.  Quiet about what?”  The writer didn’t believe it for a moment.

 “She wouldn’t tell me.  She said it would be dangerous for me to know.”

 “Could it have been about her brother?” He asked it getting a little into it in spite of himself.

 “I don’t know Writer.”  It suddenly dawned on Lucy that she had gone to see the writer to tell him just that.  All her high ideals were bullshit, she wanted someone to avenge  Joyce.


 All during the breakfast the Writer asked questions.  Lucy answered them as best she could.  Since she didn’t live in X, and spent as little time as possible there, she knew almost nothing of the place.  His questions centered mostly on events which happened when she was a teenager in Summerville several miles away.

 Lucy discovered a few things about the writer that she found interesting.  He was intelligent without being intellectual.  His mind worked twenty ways at once.  He kept her off balance by jumping from one line of questions to another.  He went back and forth between three different incidents at once.  She became fascinated watching his mind race.  
 
 Lucy expected that some of it, at least, was due to the amount of caffeine in his body.  He drank cup, after cup of coffee.  She was surprised that his speech stayed level, she would have expected it to race.

 “Well Lucy honey, I guess I am going to have to consider you window dressing.  You seem to be too young to know what is going on around here.”

 “Window dressing indeed, I am at least as bright as you writer.  Hell, I am probably smarter, even more important people are more likely to talk to me.”  How the hell had that happened, she wondered. She had just cut herself into his research.  She had agreed to help him without being asked.  

 “That might all be true, but you still have to admit you are prettier than me or Sabine.”  He smiled a disarming smile at her.

 “Wait a minute, I am prettier, yes, but how the hell did I get roped into helping you?  More important, what is in it for me?”  Lucy was all smiles.

 “Whatever question brought you to my tent is likely to get answered along the way.  You have a natural curiosity that compels you to go along.”  The writer gave her a fatherly smile.

 “My ass,” Lucy replied.

 “I wish.”  The writer replied with a twinkle in his eye.

 Lucy tried to be serious but broke into a giggle.  “Does anyone ever say no to you writer?”

 “Yes.”  

 His answer was completed with a sad little look which Lucy found compelling.  She wanted to take him in her arms, while whispering to him that it was okay.  Lucy caught herself before she said anything else.  She knew that she was about to spend her vacation playing detective.  It was stupid as hell, but she couldn’t wait to get started.

 “I have a ten o’clock appointment with Louis Sabine.  If you want, I can take you home after, or anytime you decide you have had enough.”

 “I will go to your meeting but I am not going to promise anything more,” Lucy said.  She knew she was hooked.  She just didn’t want to admit it.

 “On the meeting you kind a of have no choice.  You are riding with me, and I have to go to the meeting.  So finish you breakfast and let’s get on with it.”  Yes he was trying to hurry her along.  Sabine wouldn’t wait.  A man with a hangover isn’t especially patient.

 Even though Taylortown was small, the drive still took a few minutes.  The pancake house was on the highway, while the sheriff’s office was downtown.  

 The Writer parked the tiny yellow convertible in the dirt lot beside the building.  He didn’t make a move to open Lucy’s door, because she was already out of the car by the time he managed to drag his old, fat ass out of the low slung automobile

 “Come on old man,” Lucy said it with a smile.  Lucy would never have called anyone else old man.  She had always been sensitive to the feelings of other people.  Not even she understood that it was a defensive mechanism.  It was her way of separating herself from the writer.  It might have worked, if he had taken offense.

 “Not a problem honey,” he said as he stood beside the car.  In a lower voice he added, “Might as well give them something to talk about.”  He motioned to the park bench filled with old men.  They seemed to be basking in the sunlight.  With the words out of his mouth, and her understanding of their significance, she shouldn’t have been surprised when he pulled her to him for a quick kiss.  Nothing sexual just a kiss designed to get the town talking.

 “Damn it writer.  I work for the county.  Someone might well have seen that.”

 “So what?”  He actually didn’t see the problem.  

 She was sure someone in the county office building across the street, would have seen her get out of a convertible, then be kissed by a man old enough to be her father.  She suddenly grinned from ear to ear.  “You know what, I need the reputation.  They all see me as a goody two shoes.”  

 She leaned into the writer and pulled him down for a longer kiss.  She certainly never intended for it to become passionate, but the tongue thing did it without her knowing who started it.  When the kiss ended she was breathing hard.  Her face was flushed she knew.  She just wasn’t sure why.

 “If you can spare the time?” The voice resonated from the rear door of the sheriff’s office.  

 The writer looked up to see Louis Sabine standing on the granite steps.  “Yes mother Sabine, we are on our way.”  He tried to put his arm around Lucy.  She shrugged it off.  The writer shook hands with Sabine even though it was forced.

 “What’s with the girl?” Sabine asked not even trying to prevent Lucy from hearing the answer.

 “Lucy, this is the famous Louis Sabine.” The writer said it in good humor.  “Louis this is Lucy the EMT. She is going to help us wade through the files.”

 “Is there some reason we need Lucy?” the writer asked.

 “Oh let me see, a third party to referee?”  The writer was still trying to maintain a friendly working relationship with Sabine.


 “Look Writer, showing you police files will get us both hung.  Do we really need to bring her into it.”  Sabine was getting close to being argumentative just for it’s own sake.

 “Why, you insufferable prick,” Lucy said.  “I keep more secrets than you ever dreamed.  I know where most of the bodies are buried in this town.”

 Lucy was getting self righteous, the writer knew he had to do something quick.  “Come on kiddies lets just do this thing without bloodshed. Sabine Lucy can give us a different perspective on these homicides.”

 “If we want medical, we need to see a doc.”  Louis wasn’t going to let it go.

 “I had young woman perspective in mind Louis.  The paramedic thing can’t hurt.”

 “Writer if you get me hung by my balls, I am going to kick the shit out of you.”  Sabine had the last word only because the writer gave him a knowing grin.  The grin did not sit well with Sabine.

 Sabine led the others to a room in the basement of the police station.  The room had several folding tables.  On the first table sat a unimposing computer.  The age of the computer was not evident in any of its markings.  They all expected the computer to be old and slow.

 The all stood looking.  “Well Sabine, it is your computer,” the writer finally suggested.  He had instinctively understood that the computer link was the most Sabine could accomplish.  The paper records would be archived somewhere not to be disturbed by anyone but investigators working the case.

 “Writer, you have to be kidding.  I can do this but it is going to take hours just to get one record.  Surely you can work this thing?”  

 “Sabine, I can’t even type a damn letter on one of those in less than a week.”  The writer first turned his gaze onto Lucy.  Then Sabine stared into her eyes.

 “Oh hell,” Lucy said.  “How can anybody work without being able to use a computer?  Is this thing networked or what?”  Both men stared at her, neither had any idea what she had just said.

 Lucy turned the computer on, then began punching keys.  Sabine and the Writer looked on as her fingers flew over the keys.  The Writer couldn’t help the grin he turned on Sabine.  Sabine just watched Lucy work the computer.
 
 When Lucy used Sabine’s old password, she found her way into the network, then into the police files.  After that it was a piece of cake.  She even managed to spread the investigation into the whole Ohio valley, since the three states were hooked into a regional cooperation data base.  

 The list of unsolved homicides grew fourfold.  The task looked impossible until block print read, comparelogicslam.

 “See if you can get this on that thing.  Here are the directions, they might help.”  From the same box he produced a set of typed directions.  Lucy read them quickly before placing the cd into the computer.

 “Writer, are you going to screw up the computer.  If you do, we are screwed as well.”  Sabine didn’t look worried just interested.

 “No, the man, who sent that to me air express, swore it wouldn’t even leave a trace in the machine.”

 “It probably won’t writer, it looks as if the thing runs straight from the cd.”

 “In that case Lucy work magic for us,” The writer was happy to see her fingers fly.

 “So how long is this going to take?” Louis asked.

 “It could be a couple of hours,” Lucy replied.  “Or it could be ten hours.  The input is easy finding the information in the files could take a bit of doing.”
 
 For the next several hours the Writer and Sabine were reduced to getting coffee and cokes for Lucy.  There was nothing more they could do.  

 Sometime around five the Writer asked, “Sabine, what made you go to trial with the Louise Solomon thing?”

 “What do you mean?”  Sabine seemed to get defensive.   He knew that the Writer had pegged that one a bad prosecution.

 “Come on there wasn’t a single thing that pointed to the ex husband.  Nothing except that argument.  I bet they had those regularly.  She just picked a lousy time to get herself murdered, I expect.”  The writer said.  “Lousy for the exhusband at least.”

 “Well Writer, he threatened her that night and the next day we found her in the reservoir.  It looked pretty good to us.”

 “No murder weapon, no witnesses, nothing but some people who heard him say, that one day she was going to push him too far.  That was the statement that hung him.  A decent law school kid could have gotten him off.”  Perry came back into the conversation even if not by name.

 
 The early dinnerlate lunch was plow added to iced tea was no where near the same as southern sweetened iced tea.

 The entries were all made by six p.m.  For the next four hours the three of them ran different matches.  First they matched by murder weapon.  They tossed every case that was murder by gun, knife or poison.  Sabine wanted to toss strangulation but the Writer insisted it stay.  He felt that he could make a case for strangulation being just as hands on as the blunt force trauma.  Next the sex of the victim was matched, all men got tossed.  Age was matched next.  All victims in within ten years of Maggie Evans's age were kept.  That narrowed it to twelve homicides.  

 The Writer and Sabine knew, that if they were all killed by the same person, then there were likely to be at least as many which had been ruled missing persons.  It was part of the reason serial killers went unnoticed so long.  The missing person’s aspect of it kept them below the radar.

 The final factor they used to narrow the scope of the investigation was to go only for the dump jobs.  Victims killed at one location, then the body transported to a second site.  Sabine wanted to include only water dumps but the writer would not agree.  

 “A dump is a dump,” he argued.

 The list was down to ten when they printed them off.  Even with the list narrowed the pages kept rolling from the printer.  It was after midnight when everything was clean.  Even the computer showed no signs of having been used.

 “Well Sabine, I think you not only owe Lucy and apology but breakfast as well.”  The writer said it grinning at Lucy.

 “I will go for the apology, but the breakfast you will have to buy.  I am on a fixed income,” Sabine said it but neither the writer nor Lucy believed him for a moment.

 Lucy rode with the writer in his tiny convertible, while Sabine drove what appeared to be a former county deputy sheriff's car.  The car still had the fade marks showing where a stick on county seal had been attached.

 The pancake house was getting to be a favorite of the Writer.  Not because the food was good, although it was, but rather because he was suddenly keeping strange hours.  While he waited for the waitress to bring their food, the writer looked around the restaurant.  At midnight the place was pretty much empty.

 There was Sabine, the twenty something Lucy, himself, and one lone young woman at the counter.  The woman seemed to be drifting off to sleep.  That in itself would not have been unusual for the time of night.  The thing that made her stand out was the way she presented herself.  Her hair was dyed jet black.  It was far too black to be real.  She was either very pale or wore very light makeup.  Her lips and nails were shockingly red.  Add to all that the black lace over dress covering a very black shiny dress and she screamed Goth.  The writer had seen Goth Chicks before but never bothered to speak to them.  Something about the one at the counter touched him.

 For one thing she was obviously on drugs or drunk.  She could barely stay awake it seemed.  She also had a kind of desperate look about her.  He wasn’t sure why but he was compelled to approach her.

 “I’ll be right back,” the writer said.

 “Where is he going?” Lucy asked.

 “He is an old man,” Sabine replied. “Probably to the bathroom.”

 “My ass, he is hitting on that Goth Chick.”

 Sabine turned to see the writer sit beside the Goth Chick.  He watched closely as the writer removed a card from his wallet.  He wrote something on the back of it, then handed it to her.

 “Damn, I hate recruiters.”  Sabine grinned at Lucy.

 “What you mean like those religious people who go door to door.  The writer don’t strike me as the type.”

 “Don’t worry your lack of religion is safe.  He is a friend of Bills.”  Sabine could tell she didn’t get it.  “Writer is a member of AA.  He just gave her a card to the local AA chapter.”

 “He is no reformer.  I met him in Eddie’s.”

 “That maybe true, but I am telling you, he is up there trying to get that girl to a meeting at this moment.”


 “More likely he is trying to get laid.”

 “Well she is less than half his age, so if he makes it happen, he is a better man than me.”  Sabine grinned at Lucy.

 Why it bothered her to think the writer was hitting on a younger woman, she did not know.  “If he wants to make a fool of himself that is fine with me.”  It wasn’t at all fine with Lucy.  Lucy didn’t know what had gotten into her lately.  Since the shooting, she and Jonathan had been relocated to the base in Small Town X.  The shooting, and the sudden loss of daily contact with her friends at the larger base in Taylortown rocked Lucy’s world.  She suddenly seemed adrift in her new surroundings.  She had begun to look for something.  She wasn’t sure just what it was for which she searched.  She did know that it wasn’t the writer.  Not only was he too old for her, he was also too domineering.  Lucy wanted a man more like Jonathan.  Easy going and not demanding at all.  Of course Jonathan was older too.  A younger Jonathan, that was the ticket.  She giggled to herself as she thought it.

 When the writer returned to the table, he had the Goth Chic in tow.  Since Lucy sat across from Sabine, the Writer and the Goth Chick were going to have to be separated.  For about half a second he considered putting her beside Lucy, then after the look she gave him, the writer decided on the seat beside Sabine for her.

 “Rose, the gentleman beside you is Louis Sabine.  This charming creature is Lucy, the EMT.  Everybody this is Rose.”

 “Gothic Rose, no doubt,” Lucy said scornfully.  The writer cast a curious look at Lucy which she ignored.

 “Are you Sabine the cop?” Rose asked.

 “No ma’am I am Sabine, the retired cop.  I have no power to arrest you for whatever you are on at the moment.”  Sabine smiled warmly or it would have sounded stupid.

 “Good, all I am is public drunk, but I still don’t want to go to jail.”

 “Get this child some food,” the writer demanded of the waitress.  After the food came everyone began to eat.  Rose ate like a lumberjack.  It might have been her first real meal in a while, Lucy thought.  The thought should have softened Lucy but it didn’t.  Lucy had enjoyed the attention of both older men, she didn’t like sharing her toys.  That thought made her giggle silently.   She knew then that she was overly tired.
 The pancake house, through some quirt in city planning, was closer to Taylortown but was in the Small Town X growth pattern.  The diner’s utilities were furnished by Small Town X for a fee of course. It was the reason the iced tea was so much better at the diner than it was at Lucy’s home.  She drank three large glasses.  The iced tea sent her to the bathroom twice.

 On one of those trips the Goth Chick, Rose, tagged along.  Once the door was closed, the two women stared at each other a few seconds before Lucy went into the cubicle.  She was finishing when she heard Rose speak.

 “Lucy, is the writer yours, or are you claiming both of them.”

 “Those two are both old enough to be my father.  I certainly do not claim either of them.”
 “Then stop giving me those evil looks.  I will give you either of them but I want one.  The idea of a sugar daddy appeals to me right now.”  As she spoke, Rose was looking into the mirror.  She was also applying a new layer of eyelash color.

 I think you are wasting your time with those two.  Neither of them have any money.”  Lucy said it not knowing what their status was.  She did feel protective of them though.

 “The one you call writer offered to take me to an AA meeting.  I am sure he had more than that in mind.”

 “You are not only drunk Rose, you are delusional.  The writer is an AA member.  He is just trying to help you.  If you choose to go, I am sure he will drive you.  If you choose not to go, I am sure he will not bother you again.”  Lucy was losing patience with Rose.

 “Okay so I go after Sabine.  All you had to do was tell me you had the hots for the writer.”

 “I don’t have the hots for either of them.  I just think you are wasting your time with them.  Hey take your best shot though.”

 “Will you stop giving me that evil look.?”  Rose asked it with a smile.

 “All right no more evil looks,” Lucy said suddenly finding humor in the Goth Chick hitting on the two former cops.  It should be interesting, she thought.

 When they returned to the table, the writer and Sabine stood.  It was gentlemanly maybe, but mostly it was because they had paid the bill and were ready to leave.  The two of them must have made plans for the next day. 

 “Well Rose, it was nice to have met you.  If you decide that you want a ride let me know.”  With that the writer took Lucy’s arm.  He led her to the car.

 They were on the road back to STX campground when Lucy said, “So writer tell me, was Rose a project or did you like her.”

 “I don’t understand,” the writer commented.

 “Was Rose a project for you to get your next star in AA, or is she someone you want to sleep with?”  Lucy suddenly heard herself.  “Writer, forget I asked that.  I have no idea where it came from.  It is none of my business and I certainly do not care.”

 “Well it is late.  Anything might be said at the moment.  Whatever is said most likely wouldn’t mean anything.  

 The moment she stepped from the yellow convertible she made the few steps to her car quickly.  She stepped into the small four door ford then sped away.  The writer noted that she did not look back.  He did not notice her eyes glued to the rear view mirror.

 The writer slipped into his tent, then turned on the large neon lantern.  The site provided no electricity.  

 As the writer set about his nightly bedtime ritual, Ranger Jane passed his camping space on her fifth round.  There were still more to come.  She could have stopped to say hello to the writer, but she had Hit Me waiting in the trailer.  Hit me was  waiting patiently for her shift to end.  It took all her will power not to rush home to Hit Me instead of doing her job.  She had a good job and she intended to keep it or she would have been in Hit Me’s arms at that moment.  Even though she saw the writer walking to the bathhouse with his bag of toiletries, she passed without speaking.  She wasn’t angry she just had Hit Me on her mind.

 Lucy drove the four door ‘old lady’ Ford toward her small apartment in Taylorville.  She had been anxious to get away from the writer.  At that moment she wondered why.  She peered past her headlights into the blackness of the night and wondered.  She wondered why she had felt to excited all day.  She would have credited it to the computer work and the excitement of the hunt for a killer, except that she had felt it at breakfast.  She resisted the urge to slip her hand inside her jeans.  She knew how dangerous that would be while driving.  Still, the urge was strong.

 The writer was in the midst of brushing his teeth when the cell phone rang.

 “Hello,” he mumbled with a mouth full of toothpaste.  
 “Hello Writer, did you enjoy your date with a woman young enough to be your daughter?”“

 ”Who is this?” he asked.  “The voice was muffled as if the owner were speaking through a handkerchief.


 “I asked you first,” the voice continued.

 “Yes you did, and I will be happy to answer.  That is if you tell me who I am speaking with.”

 “Writer, you need to stick to people your own age.  I just might have to teach you another lesson.  Butt out of this town’s affairs.”  The phone suddenly went dead.  The writer had expected no less.  So the van fire had not been an accident.  Now, who all had his cell phone number, or could have gotten it.  The answer was simple, anyone could have.  It was listed as the primary number on his web page.  His office phone’s answering machine, in the two car garage attached to his home, also gave the number.

 It did not appear to him that the tent would any longer be safe.  Then again, if someone wanted to kill him, walking to his car would do just as well.  He began walking to his tent from the shower room.  He wondered how to best handle the threat.   Calling the Sheriff seemed a cowardly thing to do, but he would have, if he thought it might help.  He knew it wouldn’t.  Even with the previous attempt there were just too many suspects.  If they couldn’t bring the guy in for murder, they sure as hell weren’t likely to get him for making a phone threat.

 On a whim the writer called Doris’s number.  She answered after several rings.  She also sounded half asleep.  She did not get much more awake, when she realized it was the writer calling.  He was almost positive she had been deep in sleep.  He decided that dopey voice was too hard to fake.

 “Call me at work writer.  I can’t think this time of the night.”  Those were about her only words that made any sense.  The writer realized that Doris had been drinking.  It was none of his business so he hung up the phone.

 He gave some thought to going to Martin’s house and kicking the shit out of him again.  He didn’t, mostly because he didn’t think Martin would have threatened him anonymously.  Martin would have wanted him to know who it was.  The writer was stumped.  

 It surprised the writer more than it would have anyone else, that he slept so well.   He should have been up all night agonizing over the threat.  If not that then at least he should have slept lightly.  He did neither, he slept like the dead man that someone had threatened to make him.

 The night started off hot, so he slept nude and on top of the cover sheet.  In the middle of the night it got cool, so he managed to pull the sheet over him.  Then along toward morning, it heated up again.  He was mostly uncovered, when she came to the tent early the next morning.

 Lucy looked through the darkened screen.  It was designed to keep the occupant of the tent from curious eyes.  It worked from a few feet away.  The design was based in the belief that no one would walk close to another person’s tent.  It was not designed to prevent a person standing a foot away from seeing in.  In other words, Lucy got an eyeful of the writers body.

 Lucy decided that for an old man it wasn’t bad.  Lying down she couldn’t see his potbelly.  He looked quite handsome actually, she decided.  His was not the first penis she had seen.  It was not even the largest, but there was something about his that excited her.  As a matter of fact, if she had not been standing in a public place she might had slipped her hand under her sun dress.

 Instead she looked away, took a deep breath then spoke, “Writer get your ass up.  You promised to meet Sabin at the coffee shop in Taylortown in an hour.”

 The writer looked up to see Lucy standing outside looking away from the tent.   He realized his body was mostly uncovered.  “Hold on a minute while I get some clothes on.”  He said it with the sleep still in his voice.  The writer slipped into his shorts then pants.

   He pulled on a knit golf shirt as he said, “You can come in now Lucy.  I am as decent as I get.”

 Lucy didn’t go inside the tent.  “I think, I would just as soon wait out here Writer.”  She said it because she didn’t trust herself in the tent alone with the writer.

 Her refusal caused the writer to rush a little.  He hated starting the day in a rush, and half asleep to boot.  As he walked from the tent, he carried his shoes.   “Shoes might be rough on the tent floor,” he replied to her silent question.

 She just nodded as he slipped into the shoes without bothering with socks.  She thought that it gave him a deceptively casual look.  The writer was anything but casual.  She knew from the day before that he was serious and seriously intelligent.  She had exactly the same thoughts about the even sloppier Louis Sabin.  

 “Lucy, I am more than half asleep, how about you driving for me.”  With those words he tossed the keys to the convertible to her.  Lucy, even though younger, had never driven a convertible.  Especially not a tiny one.  She was terrified of the thought but also slightly excited by it as well.

 “Sure, why not?” she commented as she climbed inside the toy car.

 Sabin was waiting in his car as Lucy and the Writer drove up.  It was half an hour before the meeting time.  Lucy had expected to share a cup of coffee with the writer, while they waited for Sabine. Instead it appeared she would have them both.

 “You got the files?”  The writer asked Sabine.  Sabine had insisted, he take them.  He was, more or less, responsible for them so the writer had agreed.   The files were less important than the yards of paper with the comparisons.  The charts and graphs that the writer’s program spilled onto the pages were the things that had convinced Sabine.  Sabine was just as smart as the writer.  The writer was better with technology but Sabine knew he was the writer’s intellectual equal.

 Lucy had slipped into the booth first.  She was surprised to find Sabine was the one who slipped in beside her.  She would have been disappointed had she not felt Sabine’s heat and smelled his aftershave.  Damn, she thought, I am becoming a real slut.  Both these guys turn me on.  That realization almost made the itch between her legs unbearable.  She didn’t understand it at all.  She also didn’t care because she was involved with them both.

 “This booth is not going to be big enough,” Sabine commented.  “It had less to do with being pressed against Lucy, than the fact that the table part was not going to be large enough for the papers.  He actually found that he liked the warm soft feel of Lucy’s body, and the smell of soap coming from her.  She didn’t smell at all like the Goth Chick, who had shared his bed the night before.  Sabine felt a slight stir from those thoughts.  He wasn’t sure it if was Lucy or the memory of the Goth that did it.

 Sabine was able to promote a table in the closed off private dining area.  They were given their choice of  more than a dozen tables.  Sabine chose a table for ten to spread the papers.  The writer, with coffee cup in hand, lifted the chart he had been waiting to discuss with Sabine.  “Louis, from this spacing of the women who fit the pattern, I think we need to drop the one from ten years ago.”

 “Since I think this is all bullshit, I don’t have a problem with that.”  Sabine was looking at Lucy as he spoke.  
 
 Lucy had been afraid to speak for fear her voice would crack.  “I know you guys are the experts but would you tell me why?”  She forced her eyes to the chart.

 “I don’t think it was our man.  It was four years between it and the next one.   After the next one there were eight in six years with the last two coming only six months apart.”  The writer was pretty sure of what he was saying.

 “Well writer just to gnaw a little hole in that.  If I did buy into this nonsense, there would be the missing persons fitting your victim profile.  The increased around the time of the murder.”

 “So you are saying you believe me?”  The writer didn’t believe that for a minute.

 “I am saying we need to do one more thing before this crap is believable.”  Sabine didn’t change the expression on his face, so it was hard to figure him.  “We need to take a new look at the missing persons reports.  In most of these places, if they don’t get a hit in the first year, they drop it.  We need to get in touch with the families to see if the missing women showed up.  I expect we will find that most of them came, or called home.”

 The writer flipped his cell phone onto the table.  “You make the calls.”

 Sabine took the phone, lifted one of the reports he had singled out, then dialed the number.  That stack of reports convinced the writer that Sabine was at least leaning toward his way of thinking.

 “Hello this is Louis Sabine with the Taylor county sheriff’s department.  I am calling to follow up on  Catherine’s disappearance.  Have you heard anything from her?”  Sabine listened then said goodbye.  He turned to the writer then said, “Still missing.”

 It was hard for the writer not to smile.  Sabine made fifteen calls only three of the missing women had been heard from since they had gone missing.  The twelve were spaced in the first five years of the time frame.  After that the women fitting the profile were zero.  There were missing women but none fitting the profile.

 Sabine looked at the revised chart.  He didn’t bat an eye when he said, “The son of a bitch was in prison.”

 “Could be, but I doubt it, I bet he was in a mental hospital,” the writer replied.

 “Or was living somewhere else,” Lucy added.

 “You know she could be right.” Sabine seemed to have bought into it.  “If it is true, it will make finding our killer easier.”

 “Really how so?” Lucy asked.

 “The tax rolls,” the writer replied.  “Somebody dropped off the tax rolls eight or nine years ago, then returned five years ago.”

 “He won’t be on the roles unless he owns property.  Most likely the Department of Motor Vehicles will be out best bet.”  Sabine said that.

 “Not if they stayed in the state.  Either way it could take years to find them that way.  But if we get a hot suspect we can check that as well as mental hospitals and prison records.”

 “So where do we begin Writer?”  Sabine asked it with a smirk.

 Work on the common elements first.  When we get them all, we will know enough out him to start looking.”

 “Why do you keep saying him?” Lucy asked.


 “Because sweetie, most serial killers are men.  Most of the killings have a sexual element in them.”

 “So all these women were sexually assaulted?”  Well, we will have to read the coroner’s report to be sure, but I am assuming so,” the Writer replied.  “We will have to get back to the computer for that.”

 “We won’t be able to do that for a couple of days.  I think my friend in records went on vacation.”

 “So what, I bet you password is still good,” Lucy suggested.

 “It wasn’t mine it was hers and when she left her password was disabled.  She is just going for a few days. We can hold off till Monday, there are other things we can do.”

 “Since Maggie was found in her car, one of the things I want to know is how many had cars missing?  Lucy did you tabulate them last night before we left?”
 “Yes Writer, about half did, the other half didn’t, but the interesting thing is, almost without exception, the murdered ones had their cars missing.  The missing person’s were a bit less, about half of them took a car.”

 “I would say take a hard look at the tow truck drivers in the area, and the service stations near the murders.”

 “Son of a bitch,” Lucy said.

 “What is it?” Sabine asked in his flat tone.

 “A good fucking Samaritan, it could be a guy who cruses the highway looking for women in trouble.  I bet you they all had older cars or some kind of car trouble.”

 “It is possible but why do you say that.  Evans for sure had a cell phone, she could have called for help.  Why would she wait for a good Samaritan?”

 “I don’t know but I just have a feeling that is it.  Last month, I stuck our ambulance up trying to do a u turn over the median.  A guy pulled in behind me within a couple of minutes.  He had a four wheeler and a chain.  Pulled me right out.”

 “Well most of those guys are lifesavers,” the writer suggested.

 “It only takes one Ted Bundy writer,” Sabine had switched sides.

 “You think somebody has been cruising the highway for ten years picking up stranded women?”  It made nolesssense, than a tow truck driver or a service station attendant.  Hell, they all made sense, the writer decided..

 “So what do you guys propose to do?”  Lucy asked it as she looked at each of them in turn.

 “I think the secret is in the contact,” Sabine said.  “How did he pick his victims?  The problem with the victim of chance theory was that the women would not have all been the same ages or body types, if that had been the case.”

 Sabine had the writer questioning his own theory.  The one that led him to believe he had a serial killer.  Sabine was probably right.  It must have been a gut feeling that put him onto the serial killer idea, or maybe he was just wrong.  Only time could tell.

 “If it wasn’t a tow truck, how did he get the disabled cars off the road?” The question came for Lucy.
 
 After a couple of seconds of thought Sabine said, “The disabled ones he doesn’t kill.  The ones he can fix he kills.  He drives their cars to some deserted place after he dumps the body.”

 “It still doesn’t work out right.”  The voice was that of the writer.  “It just doesn’t work for picking the victims.  Not even for disposing of the cars.”

 “You know what, the cars never showed up.”  Sabine said it. “Maggie sure, but the missing person’s.  Their cars never showed up at all.  If we assume they were murdered what happened to their cars.”

 “I still come back to Maggie Evans.  She is the key.  The killer had to tow her car out there.  I would say tow, except for the tow truck driver having an alibi.”

 “He ain’t the only tow truck.  Maybe our man rides around out on the highway with a beat up old tow truck.”  It was Lucy who said it.

 “All the women who broke down that don’t fit had to go somewhere.  If he didn’t kill them, where did he take them to get repairs.  If he took them somewhere, the repair shops should be able to tell us who has a gypsy tow truck thing going,”  the writer suggested.

 Sabine knew the area, so he left to go visit the repair shops.  The writer had to almost forced him to take Lucy.  The writer had agreed to visit the murder victim’s families.  He was to try getting more information about them.  His first stop was the library.  He wanted to rule Doris out as a suspect in the phone call.  It would be nice, if simple jealousy had been the motive for the threatening call.  He somehow didn’t see Doris threatening violence just to get laid.  Still, she had been fairly aggressive the last time they went out.  He smiled fondly at the memory just as he pulled into the front parking lot of the library.

 Doris was sitting at her desk with those half frame glasses librarians are famous for wearing.  She looked over them to see the writer enter.  She smiled inside herself.  It seemed that her little call had worked.  She would have to keep her wits about her.  She didn’t want him to actually nail her for it.  Well she definitely wanted him to nail her but not for the threat.  It had been just a ruse to get his attention off that EMT slut and back onto her.

 “Doris, I came to apologize for that call last night.”  He intentionally didn’t add anything about the reason for it.

 “Well, if you hadn’t caught me half asleep, I would have invited you over.  Since I sleep in a ratty old gown, I would have had to shower and change for you.  I just wasn’t up to it.”

 “Wow, now that is an image to carry around the rest of the day.”  The writer smiled at her.  Remembering the look and feel of her breasts was a pleasant memory.  It was one he indulged often that last couple of days.

 “So, do you have more questions to ask?”  Doris knew whatever excuse he came up with, would be just that an excuse.  He had come because of her.  She got a pleasant warm feeling from that knowledge.
 
 I just came to see if you had been to lunch yet.  So have you?”  The writer watched her face.  He saw it brighten, even though she tried to hide it.  Doris he decided was the stereotypical small town old maid.  He did not know that she was also a virgin.

 “Not yet, is that an offer or are you just curious?”  She smiled.  She might not have had a lot of experience at being coy, but she had that basic woman’s manipulative ability.

 “Well, since I remember about the car payments, how about I go out and bring a picnic lunch in.  You can grace my table, while keeping your ability to drive a better car than I drive.”

 “Fair enough, but deli, none of the colonel’s chicken for me.”
 
 “No problem, but why is that?”  The writer had never intended to buy fast food but he was curious.

 “Too much fat,” she replied.

 The writer realized again how much differently a woman’s mind worked.  “Fair enough, where is the closest deli?” he asked.

 The closest thing to a Deli, within fifty miles, is a section in the Buy Mart store on the highway.  Go toward Taylortown about five miles.  There will be a Grocery store in the large shopping center.  The center is called the Crossroads Mall.  Of course, it isn’t really a Mall.  Just a big shopping center with a few specialty stores and the Buy Mart.

 It seemed a long way to go for lunch, but he had committed himself, yet again, without first learning the ins and outs of it.  It was a hot day, so the drive in the little yellow convertible would be reasonably pleasant. 

 Picking out the food had been no more than telling the young woman behind the counter, a half pound of this, and a quarter pound of that.  He left the deli twenty bucks poorer.  It was also with a sure and certain knowledge that he could have taken Doris to the diner a damn sight cheaper.

 When he saw the flashing blue lights, it meant nothing to him.  The lights came from a state trouper’s car parked on the shoulder.  The car was parked behind a travelers car, and off the roadway.  Even so the writer slowed down as he passed.  That natural urge to see what was going on, often resulted in a rear end collision.  It didn’t that day.  Instead the writer saw the officer giving the woman directions.  Well probably not directions, but it looked that way as he waved his hands and pointed this way and that.
 The writer drove past the two cars.  It was several minutes before it hit him.  Son of a bitch, he thought.  It made almost perfect sense.  Maggie Evan’s killer was some kind of cop.  He probably pulled her over for speeding.  He knew, Maggie was not the most moral of people.  She might well have offered to work off her ticket.  The cop gave her directions to the lake.  It might well have been late enough for the lakeside to be empty.  If not, the cop car could have passed as someone checking the place out.  The cops must have done that often when bored.  Since it was empty, he did his number on Maggie, then killed her.  The writer forced himself to relax.  If his theory was good, it would hold till later in the day, when he was to meet Sabine and Lucy again.
 
 After he and Doris spread the Deli lunch over the extra desk in the storeroom, she asked with a pickle in her hand, “Writer, what you gonna do when Martin comes looking for you?”

 “If he is that stupid, I will probably kill him.”  The writer did not show any emotion at all.  Doris felt a cold chill run up her spine.  She would have hated to admit, that it was a sexual excitement, but it was.

 
 “You know the tent doesn’t offer much protection,” Doris observed.

 “No, it isn’t a lot but it should do just fine.”

 “Writer, are you open to a business proposition?”  Doris asked it smiling over a sandwich she had made from smoked turkey.

 “Well I can’t afford to buy you your own library but I am willing to listen.”
 
 “You are paying a hundred and a half a week out at that camp.  That is just for water and a bathroom along with a space to pitch that tent.  I don’t know what fringe benefits there are out there, but if the deal is just the space, I can make you a better offer.”  She waited for him to respond.

 “Oh, what kind of offer?” he asked.  He had a pretty good idea but wanted her to spell it out.

 “I have told you that Librarians don’t make a lot of money in small towns, so here it is.  I live in a twobedroom apartment.  I can clean the junk out of the spare room.  In other words writer you can come live at my house.”

 “So how much do you want?”  The writer asked it honestly.  He was trying to decide how much the loss of his freedom was worth to him.  Before he could decide her offer came.

 “A hundred a week, payable in advance.”

 The writer did some calculations while he munched his Danish Ham sandwich.  He figured that he was on the right track with the investigation even if it did have to be penned down.  He probably would be around long enough for Martin to recover and come looking for him.

 “You said yourself, Martin would be looking for me, are you sure you want a piece of that?”

 “For a hundred bucks a week writer, I will kill him for you.”  She grinned so that he knew it was a joke.

 “I come and go at weird hours Doris,” he explained.

 You do now, Doris thought.  Instead she said, “I have an extra key.”

 “I certainly am not in love with the campground.”  He said.  In his mind he added, or anyone in it.  “Sure why not?”

 “I am paid up out there for a couple of more days.  How about I make the move on Friday after you leave work.

 I close the library at seven, so I will be home by seventhirty.  You can come by here for a key, if you want to move in earlier.

 “Sounds like a plan to me,” the writer said.  

 “Now Writer, I have work to do.”  She wondered, if he would invite her to dinner before Friday.  Probably not she decided.  She knew there would be plenty of time to seduce him after he moved in.

 The writer left the library to begin talking with family members of murder victims.  He found three of them in Small Town X.  His questions were based on a different set of parameters.  He, Sabine, and Lucy had decided to concentrate on the cars of the victims.  

 In his interview, the writer found that none of the cars had been recovered.  The bodies were found in isolated areas but no car.  The writer almost tossed his cop idea.  Getting rid of the cars was still a problem.  One thing the writer did find, was that in all the cases, the car was a late model car one not likely to have broken down.  That information supported his cop theory.  He still was puzzled about the disposal of the cars.
 
 At five o’clock the writer returned to the pancake house.  He was sitting in a booth, contemplating a big burger and fries, when the others arrived.  He watched Sabine put his arm protectively around Lucy.  It seemed they had become fast friends.  The writer smiled as he thought about the only slightly over weight but highly sweet Lucy in the arms of the middleaged, gruff Sabine.  It was a nice thought but Lucy chose to sit with the writer in the booth.  

 “So what did you find out Sabine?” the writer asked.  He watched as Lucy smiled.
 “Since there are just a couple of shops doing that kind of business it took only a couple of minutes to find out that we got nothing there.  We had plenty of time, so we looked over the file again.  You didn’t notice that all but three of the missing persons went missing in their car.  We decided to eliminate the others and talk to a few of the families."

 “Nobody could believe the people went missing, everybody was happy and in love, or so our families say,” Lucy was giving the information while Sabine smiled at her. “Writer, none of the cars has shown up.  Sabine got the idea to run a national check on the vin numbers, whatever that is.”

 “Those cars, and your murder victim’s cars just disappeared.”

 “Chop shop?” the writer asked.

 “I think so,” Sabine said.  “I just can’t figure how they done it.”

 “I can,” the writer said grinning at them both.  

 “You can?” Sabine asked.

 “Yep, I know who the killer is.  Well not the name of him, but the identity.”  The writer enjoyed Sabine’s reaction.

 “You have been at this a day and you know.  Writer, that makes you either a genius or an arrogant prick.”

 “Both actually,” The writer smiled. Sabine looked as though he might have a hemorrhage.  “Okay before Sabine has a heart attack.”

 “The killer gets the victim to stop on the highway.  The car is fine.  He then goes to the car.  If the driver fits his profile, he kills her right there on the highway.  They all died in the middle of the night, I can guarantee you.  He puts her body in the trunk of his car then dumps her.  He puts in a call to a chop shop.  They come by to get the car.  It disappears without a trace.”

 “So, you think the chop shop guys are serial killers, and the victims just stop for them?  Writer, you are nuts.”  Lucy asked it


 “The chop shop guys don’t even know there is a murder.  All they know is their contact calls them and they get the car.  They probably send him a couple of bucks.  Everybody is happy.”

 “Who would the women stop in the middle of the night for?” Lucy asked.

 “Cops,” Sabine replied.  
 Either he was really smart, or Sabine knew more than he admitted, the writer thought.

 “It had to be a cop.  The women would stop for a cop.  He would have stopped hundreds who didn’t fit his profile.  They would have gotten tickets and been on their way.”  The writer tried to explain it but Sabine’s mind was racing he was thinking out loud.

 “Put a red sticker on the window so nobody would bother it till the choppers got there.  The car is running fine, so they just drive it off and part it out.  With that sticker on the windshield they can drive down here from anywhere to take the car.”

 “How come you know so much Sabine,” the writer asked it suspiciously.

 “In one of the missing persons cases. A family member swore he saw her car on the side of the highway.  He didn’t pay any attention though.  He didn’t know she was missing at the time.  I went back to check and the car was gone.  I thought he was seeing things, so I forgot about it after I called the Highway Patrol office.  No wonder they didn’t have any record of it.”  Sabine shook his head in disbelief.  “A fucking cop goddamn it.”  Let me make the call to see who fits our profile damn it.”

 Louis took the writer's phone but walked to his car to make the call.  After he stepped out the door, the writer took a sip of his iced tea, then made a face.  Unsweetened ice tea was almost as bad as flat coke.

 “So Lucy did you and Sabine get on Okay?”
 
 “Well, he is a little harder to get to know than you, but he really is a sweet man, one of those father figure types.”

 “Careful, Lucy honey, us old men have incest on our minds sometimes.”  She blushed as the writer leered playfully.  The writer drank he tea as he watched Sabine walk around the parking lot with the cell phone glued to his ear.

 “Well, if we get any cooperation at all, it is going to be a while.  It seems that, when you give up your badge you are considered stupid.  Can’t get anyone to pay any attention to me.”  Sabine looked pissed as he spoke.  He hadn’t even bothered to sit.  He stood over the booth ominously.   “What are you grinning at writer?”

 “Just remember how you treated me when I first suggested this to you.”  Sabine did not look amused.

 “Well writer, watch this,” Sabine said it as he carefully dialed a number on the cell phone.  While he dialed, he mumbled obscenities about the size of Japanese men’s fingers.  “Linda James please?”  Sabine smiled over at Lucy.

 “Linda, it is Louis Sabine.”  He paused to determine whether his call was welcome or not.  Since he was retired, the reporter might not want to deal with him.  “Good to hear from you too.  Linda I need a favor.  I need you to call Adam Sims at the Sheriff’s department.  Just ask him who was on duty the night Maggie Evans Die.  Then do the same with the Highway Patrol.”   

 Sabine listened a bit then said, “If there is a story in it, you will get it first.”  More listening, then, “I know you want to move up Linda, I promise I will tell you everything when it is over.  You can write a real piece.”   More listening.  “Linda, this is not my investigation, but I will ask.”  He covered the phone then grinned.  Sabine unfolded a finger each second until he had gone through his hand twice.  Ten seconds had passed.  “Linda, the writer said you could get updates from me, but you have to pull your own weight.  I need those names, and since you want in, I want their work history for the last ten years.  You can do it Linda and it won’t take you long at all."  Sabine turned his attention to the table, as he closed the phone.  "I should have it in the morning.”


 Lucy spoke again, “Writer put down that menu.  You eat too much junk food.  I am going to cook for you both tonight.” Lucy knew both of them pretty well.  Two older men who lived alone, at least at the moment.  She didn’t exactly feel sorry for them, but she did feel something.  She took another large swallow of the tea made with water from the Small Town X reservoir.

 Sabine and the writer looked at each other with a smile.  Neither of them planned to turn down real food.  Besides Lucy had begun to look better all the time, even if she was young.

 “Well writer, I think we should accept the young lady’s offer.  We can’t do much till we find out who was working that night.”

 “Sabine, we need those coroner’s reports.  We need them right now.  Oh yeah, the dinner sounds fine.   Lucy you cook, Sabine and I will buy the food."

 ”Tell you what writer, why don’t you take Lucy to the store? I will try to find those reports.  I am going to have to go to the station to get them, but I will bring them to dinner,” 

 Lucy felt a twinge of disappointment, but she didn’t know why.  It was forgotten as soon as she got inside the writer’s convertible.  If Lucy had any idea how to be seductive, she would have begun with the writer.  She had a strong desire to put her hand on the writer’s leg, just to let him know she was willing to play.  What has gotten into me? She asked herself.  Lucy felt the perspiration on her upper lip.  Lucy knew something physical was causing her discomfort.  She suddenly fought hard then took a step back. She couldn’t see the whole picture, but she did see part of it.  She had been horny as hell since she and Jonathan had been transferred to the Small Town X base.

 As the landscape moved by slowly outside the car Lucy asked, “Writer, have you noticed anything different about the women in Small Town X?”  As she said it, Lucy began remembering all the jokes, about Small Town X, that the men of the Emergency Medical Units told.  Women with no panties were common, but only in Small Town X they joked.

 The writer thought before he answered.  He had noted that he was very popular in Small Town X .  He had never been that popular before.  He had wanted to think it was his animal magnetism, but he knew deep down that it was something else.

 “Well people do seem uh friendly,” he replied.

 “Yeah, that is a nice way to say the women are all over your ass here.  It ain’t just you writer.  The male EMTs tell me that they love to come here.  Women are all over them in the back of the ambulance.”

 “So why?” he asked.

 “I don’t know why, but now that I am spending time here, I feel it too.  I am beginning to feel absolutely slutty.”

 “Well, it probably needs some looking into, but one thing at a time.  Besides I am going to keep an eye on you.  You know just to see how slutty you get.”  The writer chuckled at his own joke.

 “I should be offended but I’m not.  See something is wrong here.”  Lucy smiled, as she threw out her slightly chubby girl’s chest.  It was the one that could slightly overfill a 36c bra.  Other than the full bra, Lucy was pretty straight she had no waist at all.  Her hips protruded only slightly past her tummy.  Lucy was not offensively chubby.  She was pleasingly so, or so she told herself.

 Actually the writer found her attractive.  It had, as much, to do with her age as her body.  Also, Lucy had a very pleasing personality.  The writer gave Lucy and her statement some thought as he drove along.  What could be the reason the women in one town were sexier than the women in another,  Could it be as simple as the acceptance thing?  There was a theory a few years before, it stated that a woman would be as sexual as the culture allowed.  Could it be simply that the values of Small Town X were different than those of other towns in the area?

 It would definitely be a theory that his shrink friend Smyth would love to indulge.  Smyth was perhaps the worlds largest stick in the mud.  Hair in a tight bun, glasses thick enough to start a fire, if exposed to the sun for any length of time, no figure at all, Smyth was indeed the perfect investigator for the Small Town X syndrome.  He liked the sound of that.  A phone call to Smyth might be a good idea, if it proved to be a case of social acceptance of slutty behavior.  It might be fun to watch her work on the mystery anyway.

 “Tell you what Lucy, do you have a spare room?” the writer asked.

 “Writer, I might be a little horny, but I am not ready to have you move in.  At least not just yet.”  Lucy smiled her first flirtatious smile at him.
 “I had something else in mind, but I like your idea pretty good too.  What I had in mind is a social psychologist I know looking into it.  She is a really uptight woman.  If there is anything to your theory about Small Town X, she will prove it.  When she does, no one will question it either.”

 “She sounds perfect,” Lucy suggested.  “You want her to stay with me?”

 “Well she will never stay in a motel.  She thinks they are dangerous, and the only motel in town is dangerous.”  The writer grinned as he pulled into the parking lot of the same supermarket, where he had bought lunch.

 “Okay, she can stay with me, but she should know I am gone a lot.  I work 24 hour shifts.  If she messes with my stuff, she is out the door.”

 “I expect she will spend all her time in Small Town X.  I would take her with me, but she is definitely not campground material.”  He didn’t mention that he was going to be staying with Doris for a while.  Doris would definitely not approve of his sleeping with Smyth, even if Smyth was sexless.

 While Lucy pushed the cart around the store, he made the call.  He knew the number, since it was one he had called regularly.  The college professor had helped him more than once by profiling a killer.  She had a better than 75% record with him.  He left a long detailed message on her machine.  He gave her directions to call him when she decided.

 

 The first thing that Sabine did, as he walked onto the deck behind Lucy’s mobile home, was to take the writers cell phone.  He had his reporter’s type notepad in his hand, as he dialed his newspaper source.

 “Linda, Sabine here, tell me something good.”  Sabine held the writer’s cell phone on his shoulder as he wrote in his pad.  The writer looked on nervously.  Some of it was anticipation of the hunt, but most of it was concern for his hundred buck cell phone.  Sabine was carelessly moving it about on his shoulder, while making dreadful faces.  The phone was too small to wedge in the space between his head and shoulder.  Even so Sabine wrote furiously.  

 “Writer, you got to love computers,” Sabine said as he hung up the phone.  “Everybody, crams everything into the computer.  Checks and cross checks will tell you just about anything you want or need to know.  Would you like to hear the saga of how Linda got these names?”  It didn’t matter what the writer wanted to know Sabine just went on.

 “Linda got access to the departments computers.  The report on Maggie Evans was written by a patrolman,” Sabine consulted his notes.  “Morris.  Wait, that wasn’t the night she was murdered.”  Sabine held up his hand as he went on.”  She read the follow ups just like we did.  Once they determined when Maggie went missing she pulled up reports written on the day for other things.  She found a report by Morris again about a burglary.  In her thoroughness, she got a copy of every police report written by every cop that day.”

 “That will get some of them,” the writer interjected.  “Some days go by, when you just don’t write a case.”  The writer was more than a little disappointed.

 “But, even if you fake it, you turn in a daily summery that supposedly documents your time minute by minute.  You are supposed to use it to report on your activities.  Most of the time it says just, 'on patrol,' but it still has to go in for each day your platoon works.”

 “So Linda had the platoon from the reports and their times?” the writer asked it for Lucy’s benefit.

 “Yep, there were three deputies working that night, and one highway patrolman assigned to this area.”

 “You aren’t going to check off duty cops?”  Lucy asked it in a small bewildered voice.

 “Not at first Lucy.  We figure, the cop was on duty, because it would be a risk for an off duty cop to stop the wrong person.  Somebody might just report him, and that would lead to all kinds of problems.  If none of these pan out, we will have to take a look at them all.”  The writer suggested it but Sabine nodded his agreement.  “How about the backgrounds?” the writer asked almost as an after thought

 “Linda is checking them out now.  It is hard for her without knowing exactly were to look.  Even so, she will have them by tomorrow at noon.”  The writer nodded, while Lucy seemed lost.  Both men were happy that she seemed impressed.  Lucy suddenly had a different look about her.  Then again, it could have been the smell of burning cow flesh.

 Lucy removed the three steaks from the fire, along with the three aluminum foil pouches.  Each steak was cooked on the rare side of medium rare.  Inside the pouches, Lucy had place, the two halves of an ear of corn, onions, green peppers, and a couple of mushrooms, along with a large scoop of real butter.   Lucy seemed to throw together the salad.  Neither man knew how much thought went into the salad. The thought didn’t matter much, neither man did more than flirt with it.  After all Lucy’s hard work, the hit of the dinner turned out to be the iced tea that the writer had concocted.  

 After dinner and the cleaning of Lucy’s kitchen, the three of them sat on her deck.  The mosquito repellant flames burned, as they asked and answered questions.  Lucy was the lead interrogator followed closely by the writer.  They each had a burning curiosity.

 Sabine, on the other hand, seemed to care little about either of them.  The writer did catch glimpses of Sabine with his eyes locked on Lucy.  She on occasion returned the glare.  After an hour of it, the writer finally got the message.  He didn’t think there was a message going on very long, before he picked up on it.  It was his impression that the LucySabine liaison was one forged over the steak.  An agreement reached without words.


 “Time for me to go to bed.  I am worn out for some reason.”  The writer wasn’t really tired.  He was simply looking for an excuse to get away from the other two.  The writer drove off, for god only knew where, leaving Sabine and Lucy alone.

 Sabine had intentionally waited for the writer to leave, before he attempted to leave.  He had not wanted the writer to hear his goodbye.  “Well Lucy, I should be leaving too.”

 What got into Lucy even she couldn’t imagine.  Before Sabine had time to stop her, even if he had wanted to do so, Lucy kissed him.  It was not an experienced kiss, but there was a passion to it.  
 
 Sabine was amazed by his reaction.  He had been with the Goth Chick the night before, who was the first woman in over a year, now this young woman was trying to seduce him.  Far from passion, Sabine’s reaction was curiosity.  Though he and the writer had not discussed it, they both felt as though something were wrong.  Sure women had come on to him, when he was a cop, but that was the job not Sabine.  The job was gone but still two young women in as many days.  It just didn’t feel right.   

 No matter how it felt, Sabine responded to Lucy.  The kiss by the door let to more kissing and groping, then to Lucy’s uncomfortable bed, The bed was too soft for Sabine’s taste.  He didn’t mind the soft Lucy though.
 
 The sex was passionate, but not especially fulfilling for either of them.  Sabine enjoyed the feel of Lucy’s young body almost as much as the release.  As for Lucy, she just felt embarrassed after it was over.  Lucy was on the point of throwing Sabine out, when he decided to go home.  He explained that it was the bed.  Lucy didn’t much care what the reason, she was just glad Sabine left.  It was unlike her, but Lucy giggled as she drifted off to sleep.

 Sabine drove the old crown vic home.  The thoughts ran through his mind at will.  He was far too sleepy and just generally drained to stop them.  Mainly, he was concerned that Lucy did not get any ideas.  After all, he was thirty years older than she, at least.  He most definitely did not intend to have a younger wife or any wife for that matter.

 The writer pulled the tiny yellow convertible to the rear of the paved parking space.  His tent was pitched a few yards to the side.  He saw the headlights pull into the park.  It wasn’t late enough to concern him, but for some reason he did watch them.  The spacing of the lights told him the vehicle was a car not a camper.  He sat contemplating the job ahead.  The manual raising and lowering of the top was a chore, but it also reminded him how lucky he was to be driving the little convertible.  The yellow, ragged out, drop top, car had stolen his heart from day one.  The other car’s headlight swept over him for a second as it turned the curve a few yards from where he sat.  
 When the strange car slowed down, the writer’s years of police training kicked in.  He dropped below the profile of the car.  He heard the shotgun blast, and felt the car shiver at its contact with the heavy steel pellets.  As he heard the revving engine, he rolled from the car.   The car was no more than thirty feet away when the writer began writing on his palm.  It was the universal pad that all cops use now and again.  The writer was beginning to wonder if he needed a gun.  The problem with a gun, in the hands of an honest man, was that the need for it had passed before you could bring it to play, at least most of the time.  However, shooting at a disappearing car did see like a good idea at that moment.

 Lights had begun to pop on all over the campground.  He postponed the decision about where to sleep until after he talked to the cops, who should be on the way at that moment. He expected the campers all around him to be pouring out to assist him.  It would have been in keeping with the camaraderie of the campground myth.  His expectations were not met.  It took several minutes before the first person appeared.  

 His first inquisitor was a single mom, with a couple of carrot topped kids, of less than school age.
 
 “What the hell was that?” she asked.

 “I am guessing a car backfired.”  The writer replied, Thinking he might be able to pull it off, since there had been only one shot.

 “Well I think you are wrong.  Take a look at your little car.”  The Single mom suggested looking in the direction of the car.  Even in the moonlight the rips in the trunk were evident as hell.  So were the cracks in the windshield.

 “Damn, that rare African metal eating termite has arrived.”  He didn’t want her to know how close his knees were to giving way.

 “Thank God, it didn’t wake the kids.  Kids are lucky, they don’t know anything about guns and dying.”  The young mother seemed intent on staying a while to discuss the event.  Since all the danger was passed, others began arriving slowly.  No one had rushed out to help.  He both understood, and thanked them for it.  he had needed the few seconds to get a breath.

 The heavily freckled red head took over the narrative, while he found his camp chair inside the tent.  Fortunately during the week the campground was more or less deserted.  The single mom, and half a dozen other people were the only occupants.  About half that number stood in a group at the entrance to the short drive.

 The first authority figure to arrive was Ranger Jane.  She had been on her tour of the park when the shooting took place.  She must have been in another area.  The state park she patrolled ran for several miles on both sides of the highway that cut through it.  Jane’s four wheeler was parked beside the main drive, as the writer sat watching the small group of campers crowded around his convertible.

 He watch as Jane walked toward him.  She waited until she was close before she spoke.  “You okay writer?”  he nodded.  “You trying to keep the Sheriff’s deputies busy again I see.”

 “I swear to you I have no idea why anyone would do this.”  He answered her question before she asked it.”

 “Where you been keeping yourself the last couple of days?”  Jane asked.  

  “Hanging out with Louis Sabine.”

 “And what have you and Sherlock Holmes’s grandson been up to?” Jane asked.

 “Nothing interesting, certainly nothing to cause this.”  The writer said it hoping that it was not  true.  If it was connected, the license number in his hand was going to lead them to a killer.”

 While Jane took a look at the car, the writer tried to call Sabine.  At that moment Sabine was in Lucy’s arms with his phone turned off.  Since the writer couldn’t reach Sabine, he sat back to enjoy the show as best he could.  He was about ninety percent calm by the time the sheriff’s deputies arrived.  

 The writer checked their name tags hoping to find one of the deputies from Sabine’s list between the two of them.  He had learned from Sabine’s list that only two deputies worked the after midnight shift.  It was a screwy arrangement but it was small town America. Since neither name appeared on his list, the writer lost interest in them.

 He cooperaty deputy the information would get back to him.  For better or worse the writer was wedded to the lie.

 “Sorry officer it was dark, and I was scared to death.”  The scared, almost to death, statement was true.  The writer had felt a pain in his chest.  Not a significant enough pain to be a warning, but a pain nonetheless.

 When all the interviews and crime scene processing ended, the sun was beginning to rise.  The writer contemplated trying to sleep.  He knew it would be useless for a long time, then he would simply oversleep.  He wanted to make the meeting with Sabine that morning especially

 The writer began the laborious process of making coffee.  He removed the yellow funnel, purchased recently from an autoparts store, from the 25gallon plastic storage briter then retrieved his tea kettle from the floor beside the box.  He fumbled with all the items as he carried them to the picnic table barely illuminated by the breaking dawn.

 He filled the tea kettle with water from the campground faucet, then he placed it on the camp stove.  The kettle set above the small fire as it heated, finally he spooned a measure of coffee into the filterfilled funnel.  The funnel sat atop his twocup sized delta coffee cup.

 When the kettle whistled, the writer poured the boiling water slowly into the funnel.  A miracle took place as the water was transformed into coffee.  It was a laborious process to be sure, but the coffee was the best he ever drank.  The Rube Goldberg contraption was necessary because nobody in the area sold the kind of coffee maker that had been destroyed in the fire.  To the writer’s thinking, coffee at home should be special anyway, he could get bad coffee anywhere.

 The writer sat drinking his wonderful coffee, when the redheaded mother, from the space beside him, appeared outside her tent.  She stretched, accentuating her smallish breasts, then she turned to the writer.  She smiled as she disappeared back into her tent.  A few seconds later she returned carrying a small metal coffee cup.  

 She walked slowly to the writer’s table.  “Could I borrow a cup of coffee?”
 
 “Sure,” the writer replied.   He added a few more grounds to the funnel before put the kettle back onto the stove.

 “While you do that, I need to pee,” the mom said, as she turned to the comfort station.  She was gone much longer than it took to boil water, so the writer removed the kettle from the stove, until he saw her leave the bathhouse for her return trip to the picnic table

 The woman tasted the coffee then said, “Wow, you are gonna make some lucky woman a fine wife.”  

 “Well, I guess if I do that I will go to jail for bigamy.  I have already made one woman a lousy husband.”  He smiled to show that he was not offended.

 “Ah, the good ones are always taken.  So where is the Mrs. while you are being shot at?”

 “Home playing bridge. I expect,” the writer replied.


 “So how long have you been here?  I checked in last night,” the woman informed him.

 “I have been here about three weeks,” the writer answered.  “I am a writer doing a little research for a book.”

 “Have you written anything I would recognize?” she asked.

 “Do you read ebooks from the Internet?”

 “No,” she replied.

 “Then I doubt it, that is where I publish.”

 “Oh,” was her total response.  He had a suspicion that, even if he had a best seller in a tree killer format, she still wouldn’t have read it, not even the Reader’s Digest book club edition.

 “Your wife lets you leave home for so long?” the carrot top young woman asked.

 “Are you kidding, I won’t be home a week before she has me packed up again.  Margaret loves her freedom.”  He smiled at the much younger woman.  He was saved from God only knew what, by her kids.  One of them wandered from the tent.

 “Shit, off to be mom,” she said as she stood.  “I’m gonna be here for one more night.  Maybe I will see you tonight.”

 “Could be,” the writer replied to her back as she walked toward the screaming child.

 “There is definitely something wrong here,” the writer said to himself with a smile.  The writer began immediately to make more coffee.  As he worked, he tried again to reason it out.  Since he knew the car did not belong to Doris, or Ranger Jane. It appeared they were off the hook for trying to kill him.  The hell hath no furry motive was out the window.  Too bad, he thought with a smile.  The idea of stopping him didn’t really seem to work either.  He and Louis had not been working on the case when the van was fire bombed.  Nothing made much sense at the moment, but he knew it would soon.  He sensed that he and Louis were getting close.

 Around seven a.m. the day shift Ranger John came by to check on him.  It must have been when his shift started.  The ranger’s four wheeler pulled to a stop in front of his space.  The man inside looked the convertible over closely.

 “I read the report this morning.  You doing okay wrier?”

 “Well, I didn’t sleep any last night,” the writer replied.

 “Can’t say as I blame you, a tent really ain’t bulletproof.”

 “Not much is,” the writer replied.

 “Guess not, the park manager is gonna want to know how long you plan to stay?  I expect after the fire, and now this, she is gonna be a bit nervous having you around.”

 “It is my plan to pack up today,” the writer replied.

 “I expect she will have me come down to help, if you need it.”  The ranger laughed to show that he was only kidding.

 “I am paid up for one more day, I might stay tonight.  I got a couple of things to do.”

 “Well Writer, it you want to go, we can refund your money.  As for the packing up, it won’t take you long.  I can even help, if you need me.”

 “I get the point.  Tell them to have my money waiting.  I will be by for it later today.”  The difference between a night at the campground or a cheap motel was small.  The writer figured, if Doris didn’t want him he could find somewhere to stay.

 After the ranger left, he sat at the table trying to make the pieces fit.  He knew, that he was missing a couple of very important ones.  The thing that frustrated him most was that he didn’t have a clue what the pieces might be.

 He checked his watch for the tenth time, then he decided to hell with it.  He would just go have breakfast while he waited for Lucy and Sabine.  He intentionally did not take down the tent.  He should be able to find time during the day to pack up his meager belongings.

 The writer found the pancake house full at that time of the morning.  He was much earlier than he had ever been before.  The placed was filled with workers preparing to start the day.  He found a place at the counter, since he didn’t want to take up too much space during their busy time.  

 “What’ll it be writer,” the waitress asked.  The writer was getting a bit paranoid.  He wondered how she knew him,  but then he realized she had been yesterday’s waitress as well.

 “Couple of eggs soft scrambled, bacon, toast and iced tea.  I done had all the coffee I can stand.”  He grinned to let her know the country boy talk was a joke.

 “Honey you ain’t had my coffee, but the tea is just as good.  I will even sweeten yours in the back so the sugar will dissolve before you get it.”  She smiled to let him know it was extra work but she didn’t mind.  Something was definitely wrong in Small Town X.  No waitress had ever been that nice to him, or looked at him like he was on the dinner menu.

 
 It was almost two hours of iced tea, and reading every word in both the local weekly paper, and the Cincinnati paper, before the first of them arrived.  Lucy came into the restaurant first.  She did the most amazing thing.  She walked up to the writer, then kissed him dead on is lips.  There was even a little tongue in the kiss.  She grinned at his bewilderment.

 “Come on Writer, you know you don’t mind.”  She smiled as she picked up the stained menu.

 “Of course I don’t mind.  I am just surprised, maybe even shocked.”

 “Don’t be.  It was just a friendly little kiss.”

 “Lucy honey, your idea of a friendly kiss is not the same as mine.”  He was surprised when Lucy gave a small laugh.  The laugh suggested more than the writer would have expected from her.  

 The writer spent almost a half hour of Lucy grinning at him, while she told him, in more detail that he wanted, about her night with Sabine, before he saw the Crown Vic pull into the parking lot.  As Sabine walked inside, the writer had the distinct feeling, that Lucy was trying to make him jealous.  She didn’t seem to realize that the writer had left them early so that she might have her fling with the other older man.

 Sabine walked to them.  He looked discouraged.  “Writer, none of the cops on duty that night have the right background.  My newspaper friend called this morning early.  I also swung by the station to get the coroner’s report on Maggie Johnson and a couple of the others.  More bad news, none of them had been sexually assaulted.”

 The writer knew that without the sexual element, the serial killer idea would be even harder to sell.  “Son of a bitch Sabine, I was so sure.”  The writer shook his head.  It just has to be.

 “Now you tell me about the holes in your convertible.  They told me all about it at the station.  If we aren’t getting close why would somebody try to wack you?”

 “They tried that before we even started down this road.  Something is nutty about all of this.  Check this license plate for me.”  The writer opened his hand for Louis to read the number and letter combination.

 As always, Sabine took the writer’s cell phone, even though he had one of his own.  He walked outside of the building, as if the reception would be better.  It was actually so that the others would not  know the identity of his cop contact.

 While Sabine made the call, the writer tried to think.  Why had the coroner’s report been negative on the victim’s sexual activity?  Who could have managed to stop the women.  He was almost back to square one, when he remember something from earlier that same morning.

 “Holy shit,” he said aloud.

 “What?” Lucy asked.
 “Stay right here, I need to talk to Sabine.”  He rushed to the parking lot before Sabine had a chance to end the call.  He added one more thing to Sabine’s call list.  Sabine shook him off, so the writer returned to the diner.

 “Now what the hell is going on?” Lucy demanded.

 “You might be looking at a genius,” the writer replied.

 “Or a complete ass?” she asked.

 “That too,” he agreed.

 Sabine walked into the diner.  “The plates came back to this gentleman,” he said placing a note in front of the writer.

 “Well, I don’t know why he tried to off me, but I would bet your pension he didn’t kill anybody.”

 “I agree, I think when they finish with the checks you asked me to have run, we will have the killer.”

 The writer nodded.

 “Who the hell is it?” Lucy demanded.

 “Lucy can you wait just a few minutes while they run the check.  If you do, we will show you.”  Sabine had a huge grin on his face.

 “We ain’t cops Louis,” The writer reminded him.

 “Speak for yourself Writer,” Louis removed a card case from his pocket, then he tossed it onto the Formica topped, table.  The Special deputy’s badge rested on a piece of black velvet inside the leather case.  Across from the badge the identity card, in Louis Sabine’s name, lay behind a clear plastic window.


 “So, up here they never let you retire?”  The writer asked with a grin.

 “Never,” Louis replied.

 “Damn it, if either of you want to ever get laid again, tell me who did it,” Lucy demanded.

 “Well, I personally don’t mind telling you, but not just yet.  We want to know one more thing.”  Sabine said it grinning at the writer.   Sabine had breakfast before the Writer’s phone rang.  The writer answered then handed it to Sabine.

 After about three minutes Sabine said, “Thank you sweetie.”  Then he hung up the phone.  “Well writer ten years ago your suspect was a sheriff’s deputy here.  Left under a cloud, but it was never made public.  Of course the suspect is back now.   I think it is time to go confront the beast.”

 The trailer space didn’t really come with the job, it was just outside the park.  The owner rented it to park rangers as often as possible.  Jane didn’t act all that surprised to see the two excops at her door.  She did stare at Lucy some.

 “So, you moved out yet?” she asked the writer.  It appeared she was going to bluff it out.

 “Not yet Jane, we came to talk about other things,” the writer informed her.  Jane looked from one to the other and she knew.

 “Read me my rights Louis.  You are still a deputy, you have to read me my rights.  I am not gonna say a word either.”

 “Oh, I am not here to arrest you Jane.  I am just here to find out, if the writer got it right.  It looks as though he did.  The five years, as a security guard in Cincinnati, must have been tough on you?”

 “You don’t expect me to make a statement do you?”  Jane asked it with a smile.

 “Writer, I guess we need to take a look at murders in Cincinnati.”  Sabine said that as they all turned to leave.  “If you are going to plead innocent Jane, I wouldn’t run.  It tends to look bad to a jury.”

 “Sabine, I got no where to go.”  Jane said it sadly to their backs.

 They were on the winding drive, when they heard the faint pop.  Sabine turned to look at the writer but he did not turn the car around.  Sabine dropped Lucy and the writer at the diner while he went to explain it all to the Sheriff.

 “I don’t get it Writer,” she said.
 
 “What don’t you get?” he asked.

 “So she stopped them, when she was a deputy sheriff, but why would they stop for her now?”

 “Sweetie, in the dark, a blue light is a blue light.  It could be on a dump truck and you would stop.  The four wheel drive trucks they drive are marked up like a cop car and they have a blue light.  Ranger Jane wore a uniform.  She probably looked like a cop to the women she stopped.  That stretch of road outside the park runs from one piece of the park to the other.  She drove it every night.  I expect she saw Maggie speeding.  She has the power of arrest, so she could have stopped her to warn her.  If a highway patrolman came by, the most he would do, would be to stop to see if she needed any assistance, nothing more.

 “So Maggie and the others were forced to, er er, you know,” Lucy asked.

 “At the point of a gun no doubt.  My guess is that in Maggie’s case it was her idea.  That is why the car didn’t just disappear.  We won’t have to check on that though.  I think it is all over now.”

 “You mean the pop?” Lucy asked.

 “Yes, I expect she saved the state a lot of money.  Not to mention saving Louis’s reputation.”

 “What about you?” she asked.

 “I get to write my book any way. It is going to be fiction anyway, so it don’t matter none.”

 “Hold on I got to make a call.”  Lucy watched while the writer dialed the number.  “Hello, Smyth, you need to cancel that trip to Small Town X.  It wasn’t a social phenomena after all.  Call me back, if you have any problems with it.”

 “What was that all about?” Lucy asked.

 “That was about the whos and the whys of me getting shot at.”

 “Geese, you mean it wasn’t Jane.”

 “No, I was with her when the van went up.  It was part of why I never suspected her.”

 “So, who was it and why?” Lucy asked.

 “The who I do know, the why I don’t.  So lets you and I take a ride.”
 
 “Aren’t we going to wait for Louis?”

 “No Lucy, he is a deputy.  He doesn’t want to know how I ask the professor what I need to ask.”

 “So, you mean to tell me the license plate come back to some college professor?”  Lucy was almost smiling.

 “Yes, and we are going out to the community college to talk to him.”

 “Why would he want to kill you?” she asked not quite so amused once she understood the implication.

 “We will know, when you drive me out there.”

 “I’m not driving that car, the windshield is cracked.”

 “So what, you can see through it just fine.”

 “But it is dangerous.  We might get hit with flying glass at any minute.”

 “Well, you stay here and I will go.”  The writer would have preferred her to drive.  He was way too tired.

 “Oh hell, I will go, and I will drive.  Only, because I have ridden with you and you are a terrible driver.”

 “I know, it is how I find chauffeurs wherever I go.”

 The drive to the community college took only a few minutes.  Lucy was a careful, but quick driver.  She didn’t exactly speed, but she made the car whine getting to speed limit as rapidly as possible. It took longer to find the professor’s classroom, than for her to drive to the school.  They were forced to wait until the class ended, then a couple of minutes more while it emptied.

 After they had entered the writer said to Lucy, “Keep an eye on the door.”  He then turned his attention to the professor.  “Now you and I are going to have a little talk.”

 The stunned professor said something silly like, “Who are you people.”  Just like Martin, it earned him a bitch slap, minus the beer mug.  The professor was also a small man, but not especially effeminate.  He appeared more academic than anything else.

 “You know who I fucking am.  Now you should know what I am going to do to you.  I am going to do to you, what you tried to do to me.  That is unless you talk.”   
 
 The professor tried to protest.  That got him slapped again.  He looked as though he were about to cry.  “Please stop.”  It came out almost as a whine.

 “Let’s have a little talk professor, why did you try to kill me?”

 “I didn’t.”  The protest almost got him another teeth jarring slap.  The writer didn’t, only because the professor cringed then went on.  “I was trying to frighten you away.  I knew you were not in the van when I threw the gasoline bomb.  I shot up you car when you were in the tent.  It was all to frighten you away.”

 “Bullshit, I was in that car, when you shot at me.”  The writer wasn’t sure at that point if the professor had known or not.  He had been sitting in the car while it was parked in the dark.  The professor could have missed seeing him, when the headlights of his Honda swept it, from the curve a hundred yards away.

 “Oh dear god no.”  He seemed genuinely shocked, or maybe it was fear.  He sensed that it was likely the writer would begin pounding on him at any moment.
 
 “I am going to give you one chance to talk.  If you don’t do it right, I am going to beat hell out of you, then I am going to turn you over to the cops.  You are going to be somebody’s girlfriend real quick in jail.”  He paused to judge the professor’s reaction.  He was pretty much whipped.

 “Now how did it start?” the writer asked.

 “You know?” he asked.  The writer had only a clue.  He knew it had to do with something biochemical, since the professor taught it, so he nodded.

 “I developed the synthetic hormone for a drug company years ago.  They sold and marketed it to the veterinary industry.  You know to put female cows and horses in the right mood.  The FDA wouldn’t approve it for humans.  Probably because of all the controversy about some date rape thing.  The hormone is simple to use, and inexpensive to make.   I had proof that it reduced the risk of heart attacks in middleaged women.  It reduces stress by replacing hormones.”

 “How about young women?” Lucy asked from the door.

 “It makes all women a little more sexual, but not so much that they lose the ability to say no”

 “So you have been putting it into the water supply of Small Town X?” Lucy asked.

 “Yes, since the beginning, almost ten years now.  It was to prove that the drug was safe.  I have been keeping a log.”

 “What happens when a disturbed woman get this stuff?”  Lucy asked.  Lucy had the cop shooting in mind.

 “Well, it does tend to increase paranoid delusions, but only slightly.  The woman would have to be a ticking time bomb already.  I don’t think it would make any difference at all.”

 “So a woman, who thought the cops framed her brother, one who was already a little paranoid, might go off the deep end.  She might think they were after her, because she knew he was innocent.”  The writer asked it pretty much without emotion.  His mind had already left all the other stuff behind.

 “Yes she might, but she would have anyway.  This hormone replacement is harmless.”

 “Harmless except that it makes women want to have sex with every man they meet,” Lucy suggested.

 “But they live much longer.  I have the data to prove it.”  The professor was trying hard to save himself.

 “Am I the only one you ever shot at to keep your secret?”  The writer asked it faking anger.

 “Yes, no one else came to town asking all those questions.”

 “Did you think I was looking for that?”  The writer asked it simply.

 “You were looking into the reservoir.  I was afraid you would have the water tested.  It is hard to find, but if someone were doing a criminal toxicology they might find it.  I figured, if they did, I might somehow be charged as an accessory.”

 If someone did a simple water purity test, would they find it?”  The writer asked it looking at the professor hard.

 “Of course not, they do those all the time.”

 The professor and Lucy watched as the writer paced the floor.  He paced it for several minutes, then returned to the professor.  “Do you want to go to jail little man?”  The writer was almost vicious.

 “God no, I told you I didn’t mean to harm you.”

 “Well this is my price for keeping my mouth shut.  You, me, Lucy, and Sabine are going into the bottle water business.”

 The end.

 

 
  



 
 

 
 
     
 
 

 



        

 

 

 
 


 

 















        .

   SMALL TOWN X

      By DKN Burke.   

   Contributions By Eve.  
 Based on an idea from the bulletin boards at Literotica.  Thank you all who contributed ideas for small town x.  Especially Wildsweetone.  Your characters did not make it into the book lest I be accused of stealing them, but the spirit of what you all wrote helped guide the book.
 


 There is a small town in Ohio named X.  It started as a cross roads where the farmers met at the trading post to buy, sell, and barter.  As things like that often happen the trading post gave way to a more respectable general store.  The store was joined by a drink house first, then by a stable.  It was more for the buying and selling of farm animals than sheltering strange horses.  The town continued to grow until the depression.  It, like a lot of farm towns, survived, but went into a replacement mode.  It never really grew much after.

 Its one claim to fame was an early statue.  The statue was dedicated to a famous civil war era union general.  Tourist came along once in a long while just to see it.  There just weren’t enough civil war buffs to fill the three bedroom Bed and Breakfast.  Most of the buildings in town dated back to the 1930's and 40's.  Fortunately the population swelled on the weekends.  It was enough to keep the town alive, but not enough to attract the fast food joints.   The consequence was that the town remained quaint, as it would later be described.  There were a ‘bushel’ of stories in the town.  Some of them fascinating, some of them ordinary.  Welcome to life in Small Town X.

   Eddie’s Place.

 If anything on the raw side of life happened, it always began in Eddie’s place.  Eddie’s was the only beer joint in town.  Small Town X was just too small for a real bar.  At Eddie’s, the jukebox played country music. The farmer’s sons and daughters, danced beside the towns working class.  There was not a real cowboy for a thousand miles but that didn’t bother a soul.

 Eddie wasn’t the owner’s name but nobody ever called her anything else.  It was because nobody knew her real name.  She kept it a secret.  The sign read Eddie’s because it had read Eddie’s before the present owner collected her debt from the previous owner.  Word was that the previous Eddie had owed the present Eddie’s former friend a wad of dough.  Eddie had just collected the debt for her.  How she wound up with the place was anyone’s guess.

 Even though Eddie was a woman on the spring side of middleage, she was still hard enough to keep the crowd in line. shotgun which everyone knew was under the bar.

 Eddie also had an eye for the ladies.  A proclivity she acquired while doing her time.  With Eddie, what began as a prison necessity became a life style.  

 Eddie looked up at the large man who entered.  The man was in the full bloom of middleage.  Since Eddie knew everyone in town the stranger had to be from somewhere else.  

 “Howdy stranger,” she said with a grin.  “I always wanted to say that.  We don’t get many strangers here.”

 “Well Miss Kitty, you just feel free.  Course I do have a name you know.”

 “Tell me what you want to drink, while I don’t listen to it.”  She grinned to show she was not upset.

 “Draft and I will keep it to myself then.”  The older man smiled.  

 His smile bothered Eddie.    She wasn’t sure why but he seemed to smile like a man who knew more than she knew.

 “Well now,” Eddie said as she placed the wet glass on the black bar top.  “I am curious about you, just not your name especially.

 “Well I am a writer.  No, not published just a hobby with me.”  He responded to her curious look.  “People always ask what I have written.  They really want to know what I have publish, and am I a real writer.”        

 “Well are you?” Eddie asked with a grin.

 “By my definition yes, however I am not a professional since I have never been paid for it.”

 “In that case let’s use your definition.  So what brings you to Small Town X?”

 “I came to write a novel about your big murder case.”

 “What big murder case?” Eddie asked.

 “Why Maggie Evans, how many unsolved cases do you have?”

 “Who the hell is Maggie Evans?  I never heard of her.”

 “She was a stranger like me.  Just a woman passing through a while ago.  They pulled her body out of the Small Town X reservoir.”

 “Oh now I remember, the lady in the yellow convertible.  Since she was a stranger, I never paid any attention.”

 “So I guess you don’t know anything about her.”  

 “Nothing more than you just told me.  Excuse me I got to get back to work.”

 He watched as she moved on down the bar to refill a draft glass.  He wondered if she indeed knew nothing.  It was the old cop in him.  In his mind everyone was a suspect,.

 He looked around the dimly lit room.  Without a doubt someone in the room knew something.   Murder and unsavory characters went together.  All the unsavory characters in Small Town X seemed to be gathered at Eddie’s.  He knew that it was not true at all.  Still so many in such a small town,  They must bus them in, he thought.

 The writer watched as Eddie went from patron to patron.  She was no doubt filling them in.  It was exactly what he had hoped to accomplish by the visit.  The writer put three bucks on the bar then walked out the door.

 He was almost to the van when a voice shouted.  “Hey Writer.”

 “Are you really a writer?” the voice belonged to a woman of about thirty.  She had a slightly elongated face and a slightly thick jaw.  She wore her hair much too long for her age and face shape.  She did have an attractive body even though it was a bit thick at the hips.

 “Like I told Eddie, I am an unpublished writer.  That makes me a bit like a starving artist.  To answer your question I do write yes.”

 “Then I need to talk to you.”

 “Is it about Maggie Evans?” he asked.

 “No it is about me.  I think I have some great stories to tell.  I think I could get them published.”

 “Well...”  He intentionally left it so that she would be forced to answer.

 “Sammie, my friends call me Sammie,” She said it extending her hand to the writer.

 “Well Sammie, everyone has stories to tell.  I don’t ghostwrite, I am sorry to say.”

 “Let’s go to my place and we can talk about it.”  Sammie was offering something the writer just wasn’t sure what.

 “I am tired tonight but I am staying at the state park just outside of town.  If you want to talk come on out one day and we can discuss your life.  I have to warn you though I do not expect to change my mind.”

 “Well honey, if anybody can change your mind it is me.”  She grinned what had to be nothing less than a hungry wolf's grin.



 She watched the writer drive away in the mini van with blacked out windows.  Sammie went back into the dim light of Eddie’s.  She knew that she was almost gorgeous in the darkened beer joint.  She also knew that before the night was over some drunken drugstore cowboy would hit on her.  It always happened.  She seldom said no to them.  She seemed to be horny all the time since she moved to Small Town X the year before.  She credited her traveling salesman husband and the freedom he afforded her for her new found sexuality.  

 She found her seat at the bar.  At first she had hated the custom of women displaying themselves at the bar.  She didn’t like Eddie flirting with her either.   Well in all honesty she had been flattered at first.  She sort of felt that one night when she couldn’t find a cowboy, she would give Eddie a try.  Some of the women had talked about how great Eddie was with her tongue.  It might be nice to find out even if there were cowboys around.  Most of them just knew one trick.  She wasn’t complaining though.  She had finally learned to orgasm from intercourse.  

 “Hey Sammie, you wanna dance?”  The man who asked was a tall thin man somewhat less than her age.  At Eddie’s age didn’t seem to matter.  Men seemed to be attracted by a woman’s looks or personality more than her age.  At least it seemed that way to Sammie, who had slept with older and younger men.  

 “Sure why not Martin.”  Martin held her close during the dance.  It took about thirty seconds for him to get an erection.  The feel of his penis laying against her belly was all it took.  Sammie melted into him.  She hoped desperately that he would ask to take her home.

 “Sammie, how about me and you take a walk.  We can get a couple of beers to go, drive out by the late.  Would you like that?”

 “Oh yes Martin,” Sammie replied.  “But could I have another drink first?”

 “Sure, I wouldn’t mind having one myself and then maybe another dance.”

 “That would be nice,” Sammie agreed.

 Very few things were overlooked by Eddie.  She saw Martin and Sammie hook up.  She also cursed her luck.  She felt that she was on the verge of seducing Sammie.  Oh well, so she liked the challenge of virgins most, there were plenty around who fondly remembered their time with Eddie.  Some were in the club at that moment.  Some preferred men but some preferred Eddie.  Even the ones who preferred men got to looking hard at her when closing time approached.  Eddie always had her choice at 1 a.m.

 Eddie was working on half a dozen women who had never had a lesbian experience before.  She had turned on twice that many already.  The town’s women were rapidly becoming bi.  Eddie was right proud of herself for it.  She wanted to set some kind of record.  She smiled as she watched Sammie’s ass wiggle against Martin’s erection.

 When the song ended the two of them moved to a table far from anyone else.  Eddie knew from having talked to Sammie that Sammie would have Martin’s penis in her hands any second.  Sammie was just as much a slut as any of the other women in Small Town X.

 The thoughts that triggered in her mind were anything but ladylike.  Eddie was getting tense as she always did when she felt she had lost a woman.  It didn’t much matter that she had never had Sammie, she knew Sammie was close to coming over.

 Sammie turned her beer glass up and took a long drink.  When she finished, she smiled at Martin, then she led him out the door.

 As they passed, Eddie smiled on the outside but inside she was furious.  She just wasn’t sure who she should be furious with.  Martin was just acting like and man.  If Sammie hadn’t been such and easy slut, she wouldn’t be Sammie, Eddie thought with a smile.

 “Hey Eddie, what’s a girl gotta do to get a drink around here?” the twenty pound overweight redhead asked.   

 Eddie moved slowly down the bar to the redhead.  She didn’t want Rusty to get any ideas.  Rusty was a sweetheart all right, but she was just a little to possessive.  It took Eddie a couple of days to extract herself every time she played with Rusty.  The woman was just too damn clingy.  Sure, she had her childhood issues, but so did everyone else.

 Just as Eddie reached for Rusty’s glass, a siren began to intrude on the country music.  The siren blast grew in intensity then faded away.   Since it didn’t stop in her parking lot, Eddie ignored it.

 The Ambulance roared past Eddie’s without the drive, or attendant noticing the beer joint.  The driver was intent on the narrow road.  The roads in Small Town X definitely could use an upgrade.  All the county’s emergency personnel cursed the roads in Small Town X, but still were forced to provide service to the burg.

 Nobody gave all that a thought at the moment.  Just a few blocks from Eddie’s joint, a subject was barricaded inside a house.  The sheriff’s deputies had the house surrounded.  The ambulance personnel had no idea what else was going on.  
   
 The state police’s swat team was on the way in addition to the ambulance.  The damn woman in the house had her husband’s deer rifle.  She was threatening to kill herself, and anyone who approached the house as well.  It was a first for the sheriff’s deputies.  At least no one could remember ever having a woman threaten such a thing.

 The ambulance was almost run off the road by the state police swat team bus.  

 “Oh hell Lucy, we are in for some shit now.”  The voice belonged to Jonathan Simpson.  He was the driver of the ambulance.  Lucy was the paramedic.  Jonathan also was an Emt but with a lower level of training.  That small fact made Lucy the team leader even though she was newer to the field.

 “How so?” she asked.
 “Those state police swat guys always shoot somebody.  They are the most blood thirsty bunch I have ever seen.  It is a fucking macho thing.”

 “Well I hope they hold off this time.  I hate fucking gunshot wounds.”

 “Honey, if they start shooting, the only thing we will do is transport the body.”  Jonathan could call her honey since he was at least thirty years older.

 “That bad huh?” Lucy asked.

 “Yep, it will be a miracle if she comes out of this alive.”

 The two medics stood behind the ambulance drinking coke from the cooler they carried.  They watched as the cops talked to the distraught woman on the phone.

 “Hey lady,” One of the deputies said to Lucy.  “I need your help.”

 “Okay, is somebody hurt.”  Lucy couldn’t think of any other reason they would want her.

 “Not yet, I need you to talk to the lady in the house.  She just told us she wouldn’t speak to us again.  Said that we were all men and couldn’t understand.”

 “Well, I haven’t been trained for this kind of thing.  What if I say something wrong?”

 “If you don’t do something, I am going to have to let the swat team take the building.  If I do that somebody is probably going to die.”

 Lucy reluctantly accepted the cell phone he thrust at her. “Her name is Joyce.”

 “Hello, my name is Lucy.  I am a paramedic.  I want to help you, Joyce.”
 “Oh Lucy, I need help.  They are going to kill me.”

 “Not if you put down the rifle and walk out.  If you do that I will personally see to it that you get whatever help you need.”

 “Even if I put down the rifle and walk out they are going to kill me.   They can’t let me live.  I know too much.”

 “What do you know honey?” Lucy asked.

 “If I tell you what I know, you will be in great danger too.”

 Lucy looked at the deputy who made a circular motion with his finger against his head.  He indicated that she was crazy.

 “I want to help you but I can’t unless you tell me what is going on.”  Lucy covered the phone.  “What can I do?  Can I go in there?”

 “Absolutely not,” the deputy said.

 Lucy ignored him.  “How about if I come in and we talk?”  The deputy shook his head.

 “No Lucy, if you do that they will find a way to kill us both.  They don’t want me to tell what I know.”

 “Who doesn’t want you to tell?  Most of us out here Joyce don’t know you honey.” Lucy continued.

 “Where do you live Lucy?” Joyce asked.

 “Taylortown,” was her only reply.

 “Good, then don’t pry into this honey.  It is best that you don’t know.”

 “Joyce how about this?  I come up there and you come out with me.  I will carry you to the state hospital in Raleigh.  I will take you there myself.  Nobody will be able to get you there.”  Lucy figured the doctors there could deal with her delusional paranoia.

 “Joyce, you know this has to end soon.”  Lucy hoped it was the right thing to say.
 
 “Okay, you come up here alone and I will go out to the ambulance with you.”

 Lucy was terrified as she walked to the door of the small frame house.  Joyce turned out to be far from a gun toting redneck.  She looked more like a church lady. Still she came to the door with the rifle.  

 She was looking all around as Lucy said, “You have to leave that rifle in the house honey.”

 At that very moment a shot rang out from behind her.  Joyce crumpled back into the house.   Lucy rushed in to help the fallen woman.  As she did the state and local cops surrounded her.  Lucy looked up at them with anger and hurt in her eyes.  She intended to slap hell out of the first one who started any macho shit.

 Even on the summer night, it was well past dead dark when the writer arrived back at the campground.  He had checked into the state park just until he had his research completed.  After that he would have to decide where to go.  He could stay in Small Town X to write the story since he was pretty much free to come and go as he wished.

 Still, he might go home to write it.  The white frame house stood almost empty at the moment.  It would be that way until he returned.  His country club wife would be, god only knew, where.  

 In his week of reading files and talking to cops, he had learned little.  All anyone knew was that Maggie’s body had been pulled from the lake used for the town’s drinking water.  Since Maggie was not a local, nobody knew much and cared even less.

 The writer had read the police reports, such as they were.  From them he had learned that Maggie was from a couple of hundred miles away.  She had been on her way to a sales call when she disappeared.  Maggie sold computers and software systems.

 “Hello in there,” the woman’s voice interrupted him.  The voice belonged to the park ranger.  She was the ranger who made the night patrol of the campgrounds.  The writer had seen her around but had never spoken to her.

 “Hello,” he said after leaving the van.  He had been sitting in the passenger seat reviewing his notes when she spoke.  “What can I do for you Ma’am.”

 “Gee don’t call me ma’am it makes me sound so old.”  She smiled giving him a chance to respond.

 “Didn’t mean it that way.  It is the southern raising I expect.  Besides I am at least twenty years older than you.”

 “Oh I doubt that.  The reason I am here is because you have to move tomorrow.  You are only allowed to camp for a week here.  It is the rule.”

 “Damn, If I had known that, I would have found some private park.”
 She saw the look of dismay on his face.  He was a good looking old man with the silver hair and beard.  The number of wrinkles put his age in the forties range.  He must be one of those guys with premature grey hair she thought.

 “Tell you what writer,” She began.  “Come to the office tomorrow and check out, then back in again in another space.  It is legal.  We got a couple of people who do it.”  He looked as though he really did appreciate the information.  Jane thought, it might be nice to have the writer owe her a favor.  She did like his looks, a lot actually.

 “Thank you for the advice.  I will definitely take it.”

 “Good, I kind of like having you around.”  She smiled her most seductive smile.

 That smile made the writer shiver, but it wasn’t in fear, even though it was the smile a cat wore as it toyed with a mouse.  It was more a shiver of fascination.  The fascination of looking into the face of evil while waiting to see what will happen.

 Ranger Jane, as he began to think of her, moved to stand close in the black night.  She wasn’t so close that a camper might think anything of it.  She was just close enough to speak without fear of being overheard in the camper no more than a few feet away.

 “Why don’t you take a walk tonight writer.  Walk on down to the office.  I think something interesting might happen.”

 She had him on the spot and he knew it.  He didn’t know exactly what to say but he knew he had to say or do something.  If for no other reason than he was a gentleman.   She hadn’t exactly promised him anything.  Maybe she knew something about Maggie Evans.  He knew better, but he fooled himself with the lie.

 “Sure, when would be the best time for that walk?”

 “I would think about midnight.”  The writer just nodded.

 The writer stood outside the locked office waiting for Ranger Jane to arrive.  The black Ford Bronco arrived five minutes after midnight.  The truck pulled up beside him.  The passenger side window lowered as if by magic.  

 “Get in writer.”  It wasn’t quite the demand it sounded.  It was more and invitation.

 He didn’t speak until he was in the truck.  “So Ranger are you kidnaping me?”  The writer was almost laughing.

 “I thought for a while I might have to,” the woman in the green outfit replied.
 He didn’t know what to say so he changed the subject.  “Where are you taking me, not that I mind.”

 “We rent cabins as well as camp spaces.  We have an empty one away from all the others.  The office workers rent it last.  I checked , no one is using it, so I thought we might sit on the porch and talk a little.”

 “That sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing for us to do.”  The writer did not mean for to come off nasty by any means.  He meant it to sound like a non committal remark.

 The cabin didn’t seem just right to him when he arrived.  It wasn’t logs, as it should have been.  It was called board and batten construction.  Just a bunch of vertical boards with a second board nailed over the joint cracks.  

 The cabins were rustic at best.  They had no electric power.  They did have running water.  A propane gas cylinder could be purchased from the office.  The cylinder supplied enough power for the hot water and even a small heater, if need be. The gas would last only a day or so if used for heat.  If it was used only to heat water, it would last a week or more.  Light was provided by kerosene lamps.  The feeling was a mixture of wilderness and comfort.  The comfort from the indoor bathrooms and running water.  Rustic because of the lack of modern conveniences.

 Jane turned to him, then pushed him onto a hand hewn bench.  

 The writer could feel Ranger Janes’s hand under his shirt, her tongue down his throat, and the large buckle of her gun belt pressed into his crotch.  It was an interesting set of feelings to be having all at once.  Everything was a turn on except the pistol belt thingie.  Even it wasn’t enough to calm him down.  He had her blouse out and was reaching for the buttons when the serious knock sounded from the front door.

 “Busted,” he said.

 “Ah but by whom?” she asked, as she quickly stuffed her shirt inside the uniform trousers.

 Ranger Jane moved to the door but much slower than the writer would have.  She seemed to have at least a sense of who the person standing in the night would be.  The writer couldn’t see the intruder since Jane kept the door mostly closed.  He could hear their voices though.

 “Hello, am I interrupting?” the voice on the porch asked.

 “Of course you are.  You know I don’t come inside unless I am with someone,” Jane replied.

 “I just needed to talk with you but I will come back later.  Can I meet you at your place.”  The voice was definitely female.  She sounded young to the writer but then what can you really tell from a voice on the other side of a wall.

 “Alright, come to my place in a couple of hours.”  Jane seemed to be less annoyed all of a sudden.

 “Thanks,” The voice replied.  Jane closed the door, as she removed the pistol belt.

 “Now where were we writer?” she asked with a grin.


 STX Lake was a popular spot for lovers in the small lonesome town. There wasn’t much to do after dark except sit at home watching TV with the family, hanging out at Eddie’s, or screwing by the lake.  For some, most nights consisted of doing all three in that order. The finding of Maggie Evan's body and possible murder there, hadn’t stopped that routine.

 Martin took a hand off the steering wheel, then pressed Sammie’s hand harder against him.

 “Feels good baby,” he murmured, reaching over and giving Sammie’s breast a squeeze. Sammie winced in slight pain but also moaned with genuine pleasure.

 “Hey honey, we keep this up and you’re gonna run the truck into a tree,” she said it with a sensual laugh.

 “Always like to give my ladies a good bang for the buck,” he joked in response.

 “I’m sure you do,” Sammie told him, teasing him harder with her hand; “Feels like you’re packing a nice wad of ‘cash’ in there.”

 “Never had no complaints,” he said, smiling oddly to himself with the satisfying realization that it actually was the truth.

 The occasional flickering of headlights and random ignition of car engines created the nightly ambiance of STX Lake. Martin found his favorite spot by the lake, then stopped the pickup. It was an unspoken understanding.  Everyone knew it was Martin’s spot. They all had one, and rarely did an interloper enter another’s territory. Most knew better than to do so. Iother man’s lakeside territory was grounds for having one of Eddie’s beer mugs ground into your face. Eddie was more than happy to hand over another cold mug to complete the job. Eddritory at STX Lake as well.  Actually, she had several…

 Sammie climbed out of the pickup, then took Martin’s hand.  ed her lips with his mouth. Ma wrists and moved her hands down to his jeans to encourage her to unzip them.

 She needed no such encouragement. Sammie adeptly unzipped Martin’s jeans, then wrestled them down just far enough to find his considerable size. She moaned her approval.

 Martin’s mind was fading into blind ecstasy as he felt her stroking him. He wasn’t even aware he was ripping the flimsy cotton Tshirt down the front.  It was in uncontrollable lust to feel her naked body.

 He pushed her to the ground knelt over her, quickly unzipped her blue jeans, then forced them down past her hips.  Martin held her wrists penned to the ground.  He then moved his knees between her legs to spread them apart. His fierce entry into her felt excruciating, but also wonderful to Sammie.  However, as she looked up into his face, she wasn’t sure that she liked what she saw.  He was staring at her intensely.  He wore a wicked grin on his face.  He seemed to be enjoying the pain his forceful thrusting caused her.

 “Hey lover, take it easy,” she managed to gasp between staggered breaths; “I ain’t going anywhere.”

 “You love it,” Martin panted, thrusting harder.  “You love being a little slut.  Come on baby say it.”

 “I love being a slut,” Sammie responded automatically in a slow breathy moan. She was so close to orgasm, she didn’t care what she had to do or say to feel it.

 Hearing Sammie’s words was all it took for Martin. He jerked back and then forward in one violent move and released inside her. He fell on top of her in exhaustion.

 Sammie was still squirming in sexual arousal. In less than 30 seconds Martin was climbing to his feet and rearranging his clothes. She laid there for a moment, trying to clear her mind and understand that it was over for her. Without satisfaction. She was pissed.

 Martin looked down at Sammie’s disheveled, halfdressed body and smiled with macho arrogance and almost a hint of cruelty.

 “Come on, baby,” he said, reaching down his hand to her; “I’ll take you home.”

 Sammie slapped his hand away and stood up on her own. She tried to pull the ripped Tshirt together and tuck it in her jeans to secure it.

 “You’re a real bastard,” she told him.

 Martin laughed “Yeah, but you love it.”
 He took her hand and bent to give her a quick kiss on the cheek.

 “You were wonderful Sammie; best I’ve had,” he lied sweetly, trying to appease her.

 Martin led her to the car then got in behind the wheel.  He handed her a can of warm beer from under the driver’s seat. Sammie begrudgingly took it.

 “How about I take you for an early breakfast?” Martin suggested it as he drove away from the lake and onto Route 60. “Know a great little place about 20 miles from here. Open all night best scrambled eggs and coffee within 100 miles.” He looked over at Sammie, tweaking her cheek with a hopeful smile.

 Sammie turned to him and reluctantly but helplessly began to smile back.

 “Sure, why not?” she answered with a casual shrug. It was the very least he owed her, and Sammie was by god gonna collect something from him before going home. Even if it was only breakfast in a greasy highway diner.

 “Cutting it close ain’t you Martin?”  It was his brother who asked.  What the hell was Tommy doing down here, he wondered.

 “Well, a little I guess.  Where is Harvey?”

 “I sent him on home when I got here a few minutes ago.  I didn’t need him.  You haven’t been drinking have you Martin?”

 “Not for the last couple of hours.  I had a couple of beers earlier.”

 “Marty, I wish you would quit altogether.  It is not good for you to drink.  You know how you get after you have had a couple of drinks.”

 “Come on Tommy, I haven’t been in trouble like that for years.  I can handle it now.”  There was a long pause while each brother came to grips with their situation.  It was humiliating for Martin to work for his younger brother.  It was also the only job he could find.  He had never been in jail, but he might as well have been.  The reputation as a brawler followed him even into adulthood.

 “That is true Marty, you seem to have calmed down but you really shouldn’t drink at all.  You know what that Doctor said.”

 “Like I said, my only defense is, I haven’t been in trouble in years.”  He waited a moment then went on.  “What brings you down here so late.”

 “Oh hell same old thing.  Mary and the whelp are at it again with me in the middle.  Don’t ever marry a woman with kids.”  

 “Not much chance of that.  Ain’t no woman gonna want a gas station attendant.  Even if I don’t pump no gas.”

 “I told you Marty, any time you want you can come on days and work with the mechanic.  Learn yourself a good trade.”

 “I don’t want to fix cars neither.  I know I need to learn something, but fixing cars ain’t what I got in mind.”

 “Okay Marty,” It was the close of that conversation.  “I fixed your register for you.  I’ll be back in the morning to take over.”

 “Tommy, sleep in, I can handle the place till you get some rest.   You don’t look so good.”

 “Thanks Marty, I just might do that.”  It sounded good, but Marty knew that Tommy would be in to count the register and take over at exactly seven a.m.

 Martin settled in for the long boring midnight shift.  None of the locals would be around until five in the morning.  Some would stop for gas, or coffee, on the way to work at one or another of the small plants in the area.  From one until five it would be out of town motorists from the highway.  Some nights he stayed busy, but most he barely took in enough to pay his own salary.  Some of those night he locked the door and took a nap.  Hell he knew from experience that nobody would miss him.  That thought brought a smile to his lips.

 “About here I think,” the writer said taking her into his arms.  He should have asked about the woman on the porch, but somehow his mind was on more urgent things.  Although the swelling had gone down the thickness in his mind had not.
 As the kids would say they swapped spit and other bodily fluids for the next hour.  When it was over and they were lying on the floor, the ranger said,  “Writer you better be planning to hang around a while.”

 “Why is that?” he asked it lazily.

 “Because I am not through with you.  I am one of those bitchy women who wants things to end on her terms.  I can get down right nasty, if they don’t.”  She laughed to break the tension her words had caused.

 “I expect I will be here a while longer.  I am still doing research.  Did you ever meet Maggie?”

 “I am not sure she ever met anyone in town.  She might have just been driving by,” Jane replied with a dark look on her face.  It looked as though she took murder seriously.

 “One person for sure met her.”  She looked curiously at the writer as he spoke. “Her killer.”

 “We don’t know that the murderer was from here.  She might have met someone on the road or maybe she had the killer with her.”

 “If that were the case, he had a long fucking walk out.”  The Writer replied.

 “Well whoever dumped her in the lake had a long walk out,”  Jane replied.

 “Unless they went to the lake in two cars.”

 “That is possible, the lake is the towns make out point form all ages.  It could have been anyone writer.”

 “Truth is Jane, I don’t care who killed her.  All I am going to do is use it for the basis of a story.  If I can figure it out that would be great, if not so what.”

 “While you are figuring come here,” she said pulling him to her breasts.  She ran her hands through his long wild hair as he dry nursed on her.  She not so gently pulled him free to kiss his lips, then pushed him back to her breast.

 “Harder,” she mumbled.  “Yes hurt me.”

 The writer was reluctant until Jane pulled his hair hard.  At that point he bit into her breast just past the nipple.  He did it as much as a reflex as anything.  

 “God yes,” she moaned.   

 He drew the line when she tried to force his head lower.  Some things were just a little too kinky for the writer.

 Back in his van the writer tried to process all he knew.  It was hard to think with the haunting thoughts of Jane running through his mind.  He finally gave up.  He slipped into the back of the van, lay on his air bed, turned on his fan, then fell into a deep sleep.

 Meanwhile, several miles away, Ranger Jane was making coffee on the gas stove of her twentyfive foot camper.  The living space wasn’t much, but it was almost free, one of the perks o bad it wouldn’t last, they never did.  Something or someone always came along to screw things up.  It didn’t help that she couldn’t control her urges since she had moved to Small Town X.  

 She had always been sexual, but since coming to Small Town X she had become absolutely slutty.  Anywhere else, it would be a terrible problem.  For some reason people in Small Town X tended to ignore it. They didn’t have any idea how kinky she could get.  She had no intention of telling them.

 She had been lucky with the Writer.  He had been forceful in his reaction to her opening.  He had made it plain that he was not interested in moving even to the suburbs of bizarro land.  Well straight lovers were nice too.  Especially since Small Town X was full of kinky people, men and women.  Speaking of which little miss ‘hit me hurt me’ was on the way.

 Thoughts of her job intruded just once more.   If it didn’t get too bad, she should be able to stick around a while, she decided.

Sammie gazed out the dirty windshield of Martin’s pickup truck and smiled at the pale yellow moon hanging over STX. Her hand cupped Martin’s crotch, rubbing him slowly as he drove and hummed along with the radio.


 “The black SUV pulled to a stop by the gas pumps.  Martin recognized the car/truck.  He smiled at the thought that he might be able to swing a second piece of ass in the same evening.  Eve almost never said no to him.  For that, he had his mother to thank.  Martin was a good looking guy.  It sure, as hell didn’t come from his dad’s side of the family.  His side of the family looked like a bunch of bridge trolls.  Why his mother married into that family was a mystery.  Why she left wasn’t.  His dad had a nasty temper and could get violent.  It was a trait he and his dad shared.  Since his mother and father hadn’t lived together since he was ten, he found out about his dads temper as a teenager.

 Martin was big enough, and strong enough, so that when he found out first hand, he kicked his dad’s ass.  The old man was a tough one, but no match for the younger stronger Martin.  Martin shouldn’t have been proud of doing it, but he was.  The old man had slapped him up side the head, so he just went about the business of destroying him.  His dad never spoke to him again.  Martin was just as glad.  He did miss the extra few bucks the old man slipped  him once in a while, but he learned to do without it.

 Before Eve got out of the truck, he turned off the computer link to the pumps.  The little screen would read please pay inside.  He had learned to hate those damn things.  The pretty women could slide in a card and buy their gas.  Most of what he liked about the job was the women.  He had convinced the technician, who repaired the pumps, to explain how to kill the credit card link.  After that he would kill it when an attractive woman pumped gas.

 “Your damn credit card reader is broke again Martin.  You should do something about that, I am in an awful hurry tonight.”  Eve spoke after having hurried into the store.  In her almost jog she had displayed her bouncing breasts admirably to Martin.  Eve was just a little over weight.  Not all but a lot was in her breasts.
 “Damn Shame you are in such a hurry Eve.  I thought maybe we could spend some quality time together.”

 “I am sorry Martin but the old man is baby sitting Sherry.  She has some kind of virus.  He came over to take care of her while I worked.  He is gonna be raisin’ hell, if I am late.  Maybe we can get together when Sherry is better?  You know how I love the time I spend with you.”

 “I know you do my little slut.”  He smiled wickedly as he processed the card.  

 Eve left with a smile on her lips.  After she had gone Martin removed a Hustler Magazine from the stand.  He carefully worked it from the brown wrapper then made sure everything was turned off.  He went into the bathroom to look at the pictures.  


 “Lucy honey, you did everything you could,” Jonathan Simpson said. He was using his most paternal tone in trying to appease his ambulance partner. Lucy was obviously upset, stomping around in the back of the EMT truck with a vengeance, as she cleaned up the bloody litter of their last patient.

 They didn’t have to fucking blow her brains out,” she responded with a glare before jumping out of the truck, carrying a biohazard bag full of crimsonsoaked gauze and IV remnants. Why Lucy had fiercely insisted on trying to revive the woman was beyond Jonathan.  He said nothing as they’d driven to twoman was DOA. she’d stood just a few feet away as the SWAT team had taken the woman down. But if it had made Lucy feel better to try, then let her. It was after all what she was trained to do.

 I warned you the cops might do that,” Jonathan responded. “Told you those guys work on the concept of “shoot first, who gives a shit about questions later”.

 “She was just a terrified, delusional woman. She didn’t want to hurt anyone.  She was just afraid someone was gonna hurt her.”

 “You don’t know she wouldn’t have used that rifle on someone,” Simpson responded, handing Lucy the last remaining Coke from the ice chest.  “Even you,” he added.

 Lucy was not convinced.   “No, she wouldn’t have. I was talking to her. She was calming down. She had agreed to let me take her to the hospital to get help. I told her I wouldn’t let anything happen to her.” Lucy followed her last words with a sniffle and turned away.

 Jonathan followed her to the locker room.  “Lucy, I know you wanted to help her, and maybe could have gotten her out of there alive. Who knows. We’re just ‘crash and carry’ men, honey. The cops had other plans.”

 “But why? Why would they be so goddamned bound and determined to shut her up?”
 “Shut her up? Now Lucy, don’t start taking anything that woman said seriously. She was a paranoid delusional, they think everyone is out to get them. She was a menopausal middleaged woman, probably on Zoloft, Prozac, Valium and god knows what kinds of hormone replacement therapy. That stuff’ll fuck up your mind. Believe me, I have a menopausal wife.” Jy.

 But Lucy wasn’t in the mood to be joked out of her dark thoughts.

 “I don’t know, Jonathan. She seemed genuinely fearful, and not irrationally so. You only had to look in her eyes to see it. I think she’d really been threatened with her life. You saw those bruises on her arms. a perfect hand print match. That lady had definitely been abused by someone.”

 “You don’t know that Lucy.  That is pure speculation,” Jonathan replied. “You're letting your Sisterhood mentality convince you that all men are wifebeating pigs, and it's getting the best of you.”

 “Hey old man, it happens all the time,” she said. “You know what they say about STX. Man, that place is a fucking Sodom and Gammorah! Glad as hell I don’t live here. Taylortown may be white trash central, but at least our trailer park don’t have red lights outside every front door.”

 Jonathan chuckled. “Well honey, just you remember the first rule of riding as an EMT. Do your job, and don’t get emotionally involved. Hell, the cops shouldn’t have let you get involved at all, stupid bastards.”

 “She was terrified of them, like she knew they were out to get her. Like maybe she had something on them, or they had something on her.”

 “Hell , everyone thinks that about cops!”

 “No, this was different,” Lucy replied.
“She did know something, and knew it was going to get her killed. I think she’d gotten to the point where she thought the only way out was to kill or be killed. She said she knew too much, and for me to stay out of it. Problem is John, some people considered delusional are really telling the truth. Got tons of sane people in looney bins; no one will believe them.”

 “Sure Lucy, it happens,” Jonathan replied, hoping to see Lucy calm enough to get her on her way home and punch out himself. It had been a hell of a long, ugly night. “But that lady was just nuts. Sorry honey, but it’s true. You need to try to forget about this and move on. Hey, there will be plenty more psycho ladies in need of our care,” he smiled wryly; “Let’s just hope they aren’t toting loaded guns.”

 Lucy tried to smile, but it was hard. She knew Jonathan was just trying to be a good partner and help her through a bad scene. But Lucy couldn’t forget it; she wouldn’t allow herself. Something deep down told her that the woman had been telling the truth, or at least, a partial truth. Those cops had seemed way too eager and happy to take her out. They had an EMT in there who was on her way to getting that gun away from the woman; there was absolutely no reason why the need to shoot her was eminent at that point. Not only was it seemingly against protocol, but it was just too damned excessive. Not to mention, those guys shouldn’t have shot with a civilian – even a trained EMT – so close to the suspect. Lucy up to this point hadn’t really let that sink in. She’d been only a few feet away from the woman when they shot her. One hiccup from the sharpshooter and it could have been Lucy lying down in the hospital morgue now. Despite her emotional distress over the whole incident, Lucy still was not convinced that there wasn’t more to this than met the eye.

 After moving his van to a new space in the Park, the writer drove into town.  He stopped in the one  convenience store out near highway 60.  It was ten a.m. so the day shift was working.  That morning the man who usually sat in the office working on papers was missing.  The woman just past her teen years was the sole occupant.  She was fairly attractive until she opened her mouth.  She like a lot of others in Small Town X had bad teeth.  It was obvious that the Convenience store had no dental insurance.

 “Good Morning,  I have a question for you.” 

 “You that writer guy ain’t you?” the post teenager asked.

 “I suppose so.  Everyone in town seems to know me somehow?”  It was a question.  One she recognized.

 “Small Town you know.  We tend to be a nosey lot.  Comes from not having much else to do around here.  

 “Then let me ask you a writer question.  Since you are a woman.”

 “Sure, I always wanted to write you know.”

 The writer nodded.  He got that a lot.  “So, if you were driving from one place to another alone, why would you get off the highway in Small Town X.”

 “You mean, why do I think Maggie Evan’s got found in our lake.”

 He nodded, “I would think a woman traveling alone would be more careful.”

 “I expect she had car trouble, or needed gas, or more likely a bathroom.  You know a woman has to go about twice as often as a guy.”

 “If that was the case, all three would have brought her in here.”
 
 “Could be she stopped in some other gas station, got lost and ran her car into the lake accidentally.”

 “I suppose,” the writer agreed knowing she was wrong.  Maggie Evans was dead before she hit the water.  The autopsy found her lungs dry, not to mention the cracked skull.  He was lost in thought when she spoke again.

 “So where does your stuff get published?” she asked.

 “It doesn’t really.  This is just a hobby with me.  I am retired.”

 “You are mighty young to be retired.”

 “I am far from young.  Take a look at this grey hair.”

 “Well writer, when I look past it, I don’t see that old man skin.  You ain’t near as old as most of the retired men around here.”

 “Okay the grey hair runs in the family. I am fifty five.  I retired with thirty years as a cop.  I have been traveling around and writing ever since.”

 “Holy shit, my two favorite things all wrapped up together.  A cop and a writer,  I could just about rape you.”

 “No, you couldn’t honey.  It is impossible to rape the willing.”

 “Another time writer, my boss is due back in a couple of minutes.  I sure want to take my time with you.”

 “Then another time it is.”  The writer was sure it was all talk.  

 “I know where you are staying.  If I can find an excuse to get away from my husband, I am gonna come out to see you.  Would that be okay?”  The smile she wore told him she was dead serious.

 “Sure, if the van is there, I am too.”

 She nodded with a smile.  “Now about that other, do you want me to ask the others, if they saw that little yellow car.  I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t have said something already if they had seen it.”

 “No, don’t bother. Like you said, they would have mentioned it if they had.  I need to do a little background on the town.”  Just then a couple of people entered the store.  “Looks like you are about to get busy.  Do you know anyone familiar with the history of the town?”

 “I would be the wrong one to ask anyway.  I am way too young.  Try the town library.  The old bat who runs it has been here about a million years.  If anyone knows the dirt she does.”

 “Thanks, by the way I paid with my credit card.”  The writer smiled at her as he spoke.

 “I know you came to see me.  I noticed the card before you came in.  I been wondering when you would talk to me.”

 Her comments were baffling to the writer.  He was holding up paying customers so he left.  In the car it came back again.  Why would a young woman seem interested in him.  He supposed that it was just a friendly little town.  With that thought he chuckled.. 

 The writer left the convenience store quickly.  He wasn’t sure about the cheap blonde with the bad teeth.  He would have no trouble sleeping with the woman half his age.  He just couldn’t understand why she would want to get involved with him.  Still he was flattered so he decided just to let it happen.

 Before he knew it he was downtown.  He had meant to head out to the bypass for a grease biscuit.  He took a look around, then decided instead on the diner nestled behind the statue of General ‘Bloody Bill’ Sherman.  The town had that one central circular road around the statue, from it other roads took off like bicycle spokes.

The diner he found to his pleasure was old and dark.  The aluminum and glass front was just a disguise for the old time diner.  It was obviously his kind of place.  The walls were coated with the atmosphere created by every burger fried, and every bit of bacon cooked on the large flat grill.

Just like everywhere else he went, the waitress recognized him.  He must have been pointed out a hundred times in the week he had been in Small Town X.  It was the only way everyone could have known him.  The writer was a marked man.  So far he enjoyed it.

While he ate his bacon and egg sandwich on a hamburger bun, it was the closest thing to a biscuit in the joint, people whispered about him.  
 

 “So Lottie?”  He asked reading her name tag.  “If I wanted to know a little about the history of this town who should I ask, you?”

 “Not bloody likely, I just moved here a couple of years ago.”  She moved on down the counter to pour another glass of ice water for the teenaged girl sitting with her legs sprawled open. Her shorts were so small that there was a tiny wisp of hair visible around the small strip of cloth hiding her crotch.

 “You should try Doris,” One of the men dressed as a laborer suggested.

 “Yeah, Doris is who you should ask,” his buddy agreed.

 “Who is Doris?” The writer asked tying to avoid staring at the teenager’s crotch.

 “Doris, is the town librarian.  She knows about everything that ever happened here.  Well at least in the last twenty years.”

 “Make that fifteen Bobby,” the woman behind the cash register said.

 “She knows more than that Jen.  She just wasn’t here for the rest of it.  She has that oral history of Small Town X thing going.  All the old people have been in to record.”

 “I guess that is true.  Damn, I should have gone down there.”  The voice belonged to one of the older customers.

 “So where is this library?” The writer asked.  The writer must have made an impression because three different people gave him three different sets of directions.

 Doris Masters was waiting for the writer when he walked through the door.  She looked up from her pretend work to watch him enter.  “Could I help you?” she asked in a strong voice.  There was no shush rule in her library.

 “Are you Doris?” The writer was at a slight disadvantage.  She recognized him as being both a stranger and someone who had been pointed out to her.

 “I am, and what can I do for you?”  The writer flashed on her mind set.

 “How long have you been off the phone with the woman at the diner?”  He smiled to show that he didn’t object.

 “So how did I give it away?”  Doris was all smiles even though she had been busted.

 “Just a look that wasn’t quite curious enough for a Small Town X resident to have when meeting a total stranger.”

 “Yes we are a bit clannish here.  The lady at the diner said you would be along to ask me some questions about Small Town X.

 “Yes but I don’t know exactly how to ask.”  The writer knew how to ask.  He just wasn’t sure how he wanted to begin.

 “Let me help you then.  For one thing if I am going to be a source, I expect to be paid.  I also do not expect to cheat the county out of their money.  In other words writer, we have to do this somewhere else.”

 “Frankly, I don’t usually pay for information.  I don’t really publish the books.  Well, I probably would if anyone wanted to publish them.  I just write as a hobby at the moment.  So I really can’t afford to pay you.”

 “Then we have a problem writer.  I will not work free or on county time.  How about this?  You go to the diner at exactly five till noon.  I will have called in an order.  You pick up that order then carry it to the park across from General Sherman’s statue.  We can have a picnic while you ask your questions.”

 “Fine, but what if I can’t finish by the end of your lunch hour?”

 “Writer there is dinner and after dinner.”

 “Well Mrs. Masters,” he said looking at the name tag on her desk.  “It sounds like I am going to be the only winner here.  I get to pick your brain and the pleasure of your company to boot.
 
 “I would be surprised if you are the only one who enjoys this little exercise.”  Doris looked down at the pile of books in front of her.  The move effectively ended the conversation with the writer.  She had meant to be slightly rude.  No need for him to know how nervous she was.  The writer turned then walked out the door.  Doris smiled, thinking he would be the one for sure.

 The writer drove from the library to the mall on the highway just outside Small Town X.  He went to the drugstore to pick up the prescription he had left the day before.  While he waited for the final typing of the label he contemplated buying condoms.  He laughed at his egotism.  Odds were that he was a legend only in his own mind.

 The writer went to the park just to check it out.  He never liked to go anywhere cold.  It was a product of his years spent undercover.  Even though those years had passed long ago, he could never shake the habits they ingrained in him.  He picked a seat across from the statue but turned to the side.  He didn’t intend to spend his morning looking at Sherman.  

 “Hey there, you want this?”  The voice came from an even older man.  The writer looked at the newspaper the man was offering.

 “Anything interesting in there?”  He noted that it was the local weekly paper.

 “Not unless you care about the daughter of a teacher.  She is getting married to a doctor from New York.”

 “Since I don’t know anyone, I guess I will pass.”

 “You probably should read about all the doings around here.  Hell, you never know, you might want to go to that church bake sale tomorrow.  Some of them ladies cook really good cakes and pies. Can’t say that they all do though.”  The old man smiled at the writer.  He took the paper with a nod of his head.  The old man stood, then walked toward the hardware store.  He passed by the store as he continued on into the residential area only a single block from the downtown.

 As he had expected there was nothing of any interest in the paper.  There was an half interesting article on some out of town folks who were thinking of buying the local bed and breakfast. According to the paper they had been in town off an on for a year checking it out.   It was located in some kind of historical residence.  The writer never could get the straight of it.  He also had little interest.

 He did note one interesting fact.  It seemed that a garage offered 24 hour tow service.  The writer wondered how one would find them without prior knowledge.  If you had a little yellow convertible breakdown on the highway, how exactly would one find a tow service.  He was running it around in his mind trying to determine at least who he could ask.  Nothing presented itself to him before Doris Masters came walking up.  It was then that he realized he hadn’t taken care of lunch. 

 “Grab a seat and don’t move I will be right back.”  The writer set off at as fast a pace as his bad heart would allow.  He passed the smiling Doris as he hurried to the café.  His mind took her in, even after he had past her.  Doris was a lot shorter when she stood.  She was barely five feet tall.  She was a bottle blonde in need of coloring her roots, otherwise she was unremarkable.  Her body could best be described as average for a woman of her age.  Her age was somewhere in the downward spiral of thirty.  

 The order was ready at the diner, so the writer was gone only seven minutes.  When he returned to the park, he found Doris sitting on the same bench he and the old man had occupied earlier.
 He took a seat on the far end as he sat the large white bag between them.  

 “So much for brown bagging.”  He motioned toward the bag as he spoke.

 “Yes progress destroys yet another cliche’.”  She seemed proud of her witty response.  The writer smiled what he hoped wasn’t his sarcastic smile.

 “What did you order for us?”  He asked it in fear.  He was sure that lunch would be something green and leafy.  Women tended to do that to him.  Yes, he did carry a few extra pounds, so it might be called for, but still not appreciated.

 “I have a very nice salad.  They made the most delicious salads at the café.  For you,” She pulled a Styrofoam box from the paper sack.  Since she already had the Styrofoam bowl of salad out, it appeared the new box belonged to him.  “I chose the B L T on white toast.  They make the best ones in town.”

 “Thank you for thinking of me.  Most people would get me the salad.  They think I could use the low calory lunch.”

 “The BLT was my compromise over the fatty burgers.”  She was serious.

 “I wonder why that is?” he asked shaking his head at her.

 “Why what is?”

 “Why I bring out the mother in women.  Everyone tries to take care of me, when all I really want is sex.”  He laughed making it a joke.

 “Writer, I have a feeling there are plenty of women who want to give you that too.  Hell, you never know I might be one of them myself.”

 “Since I have been in Small Town X, I have had a lot of promises.”  The writer shook his head gently.  “Just to change the subject before I get into trouble, have there been many unsolved homicides here?”

 “Damnit writer you don’t waste anytime at all.  What ever happened to small talk.  You know it is kind of like foreplay.”

 “Oh well, I just thought you would want to get on with it.  I can do small talk honest I can.”  The writer got quiet while he tried to think of something to say to the Librarian.  “Nice weather today.”  She burst into laughter.  It took him a second then he joined in.

 “Writer give it up.  You are never going to be a conversationalist.  You just don’t have small talk in you.”

 “No, but I am great at foreplay.”  He looked at her with a smile.  It was his genuine smile not a contrived one.  The writer had a large bag full of contrived smiles.

 “Okay writer, I will make you a deal.  You ask your questions now, if you need more time or you think of something later, the cost will be that great foreplay you are so proud of.”  Being so bold didn’t bother her a bit.  She was a little surprised that it didn’t.  After all it was the first time she had acted so around a man.  She had a reputation as being a lesbian, because she didn’t put out for just any man who asked.  The truth was that she was not a lesbian.  Doris was a far worse thing to be in Small town X,. She was a virgin.
     
 By the time Doris returned to her desk, the writer had learned a few things.  In fact although he promised to call her, he had no plans to do so.  He had learned about all of any value he expected to pick up from the librarian.  Not only that, her look gave him an uncomfortable feeling.  He felt as though he was on display.  Almost like a horse in a show ring is on display.  He smiled at the thought.  He also mumbled that he hoped he fetched a fair price.  He would hate to be judged a second rate stallion.

 He thought about what he had learned as he drove to the campground.  There were not a lot of homicides of any kind in the area.  As far as the librarian knew all of them were solved. The latest one had been a police shooting, so it wasn’t really anything that would interest him.  According to Doris the victim just went off her nut.  Things like that happened from time to time she assured him..  He had a stray thought about that but it slipped past him as he looked up at the sound of screeching brakes.  The near collision between two cars reminded him again about the tow service.  He almost asked Doris but decided to ask Ranger Jane instead.

 While the writer slipped into a shallow sleep, Ranger Jane dressed for her nights work.  She was looking forward to getting out of the trailer and back to work.  Her day had been spent with hit me hurt me.  She loved having the little slut around, but she also became boring rather quickly.  Jane had been able to run her off, only when she began dressing for work.  It had to do with ‘hit me hurt me’s’ hubby being out of town on business.  The errant wife swore that her husband would kill her if he found out about Jane.

 “Hell, he might even kill you,” she suggested.

 Jane wasn’t afraid of ‘Hit me’s’ hubby but she would surely lose her job if she killed him.  After the slut’s departure Jane decided it was time to break it off with her.   How to do it would be a bit of a problem.  ‘Hit me’ had been talking about how Jane was all that kept her going.
 
 “Bullshit,” Jane mumbled to herself.

 Even though the sun was still bright at five, Jane began her patrol of the campground.  She drove through just as the writer awoke from his nap.  He almost flagged her down but decided to hold off.  He did something that for him was unheard of.  He began to cook his own dinner.  Since he really didn’t sell the books, and it was another week before his retirement check was deposited in the bank, he was going to be forced to be a little more careful with his money.  

 Most folks cooked on the wood grill furnished by the park.  The only problem is that the wood for the grill was not furnished.  The amount needed to cook dinner was about three bucks.  That sounds pretty reasonable until you figured out that you couldn’t turn off the wood after you finished.  The wood burned up completely, leaving one to spend three dollars more the next meal.  It was cheaper to eat at the rainbow steakhouse.  

 If he had done that he would have gained about a hundred pounds.  He chose a lesser approach.  He bought a small propane burner ring.  The cylinders were a buck.  They could also be used for at least three meals usually more.

 “Hey writer, if I bring my own steak can I have dinner with you.”

 “If you bring your own steak, me and my hamburgers are going to be embarrassed.”  The writer smiled up at the black car/ruck with the Ohio seal on the door.

 “In that case I will stop by with my burgers.  What else you having.”

 “Don’t worry I have enough for you.  Just come on by in about twenty minutes.”

 “You sure?”  Ranger didn’t want him bad mouthing her.

 “Sure, this stuff wont keep anyway.  My frig is way too small for it.”

 “Well I can’t have any until Midnight but I got a couple of sixpacks and plenty of ice.  I will bring them when I come back to dinner.”

 Ranger Jane was as good as her word.  When she returned with the beer, she also brought coke for herself.  Several of the other campers were cooking out.  Everyone spoke to her so she was forced to reply.  Also with all the attention she had to keep her hands off the writer.  That was more of an inconvenience than anything else.  She was satiated from her encounter with ‘Hit me hurt me’.  Still she wouldn’t mind having the writer wrap her in his arms again.  He did that so well.

 The writer and Jane sat at the wooden picnic table.  The thick paper plate was filled with something under a layer of cornbread.

 “This is some kind of Mexican dish isn’t it?” she asked.

 “Yes but I left out most of the spice for you.  I figured you were spicy enough without the extra.”

 “Writer, I am going to have to read something you wrote.  You got a pretty slick way with words.”

 “Jane, I wish it was so.  If it were, somebody might want to publish some of the other books I wrote.”  He was washing down the hamburger mess with iced tea when he remember the tow truck question.  “Jane tell me, if a person breaks down around here at night who would they call for a tow?”

 “Why Everett of course,” she replied.

 “I see, but what if it were a stranger.  Who would they call?”

 “Everett has the only tow truck in the county after five.  Everybody else goes to bed like sensible people.”
 
 “But would a stranger know to call him?”
 “I see what you are asking.  If Maggie Evans broke down on the road, could she have called Everett?”

 “Yes, I suppose that is what I am asking.”  The writer watched as Jane gave it some thought.  He could tell she was also deciding how much she should edit her answer.

 “It is possible I suppose but I doubt it.  If it was early someone would have seen her car stuck out there.  If not that, then Everett towing her around on the hook.”

 “Okay, so if it was late enough that most people would have been asleep?”

 “Then how would she get his number?”  Jane had just asked the question going around in his mind.  “I suppose she could have called that highway assistance number on a cell phone.  Did she have a cell phone?”

 “Hell Jane, I don’t know.  I will have to check.”

 “You also need to check to see if the roadside assistance number will give Everett’s number for a tow.”

 “I suppose I do at that.”

 “Well I have a couple of more things to check on this round.  You want to come to the house for a snack... or maybe to be a snack?”  Jane gave him the wicked grin she had mastered.  It sounded like as good a way to spend the evening as any.  He could make the calls as well the next day.


 “Sure Ranger, you want to swing by for me later?”  He asked it knowing she would want to wait until after dead dark.

 “Let me stop by when I finish my rounds.”  She gave me that smile again.  I felt like that mouse.  The one who can’t quite get away from the cat.

 True to her word, Jane came for Him around midnight.  They began shedding their clothes upon entering her trailer.  It was only a short distance from the door to her multi purpose bed.  It was the design of the manufacturer in any case.  She might have used it for many things, but the writer was sure that not all of them were what the builder had in mind.

 They made it to the bed with very little covering  them.  Jane had panties but no bra.  He had his boxers but they were on the way off, as he sat on the edge of the bed converted from the dining booth.  Jane and the writer made love in a fever.  She was a most demanding lover.  She guided him through the things that would please her.  She cared little for his pleasure.

 “I know men writer.  You always take care of yourselves in the end.  I just want to make sure you don’t forget me in the process.  Doesn’t that seem fair to you?”  She answered in response to his question about it.  It seemed fair, and even if it hadn’t, he was too exhausted to care.

 He sensed her leave for what might have been her final round before sunup.  He definitely awoke when she slipped into the bed beside him.  The writer drifted quickly back to sleep even with her hand surrounding him.  Even in his sleep drugged mind he knew that it as a sign of getting old.

 “Writer, wake up,” He felt someone shaking him.  He smiled at Jane thinking that it was either time to leave or that she was ready for another round.  The smile was false bravado.  He was not sure that he could perform again so soon.

 “Damn it wake up writer, I got to go and you better come with me.  Something is on fire in the park.  Come on damn it.”

 “Son of a bitch,” He said as He suddenly moved from sleep to being wide awake.  Dressing was easy.  The writer slipped into his pants then pulled on the dirty shirt.  It was still damp from the muggy night before but it didn’t matter.  Ranger Jane didn’t realize how fast he could move.  He was dressed before her.  He was also out the door so that she could finish as quickly as possible.  The writer saw the glow in the night sky, coming from what had to be the park.  There were also sirens heading down the park road.  He had a dread in his gut.  He had no idea how he knew, but he was absolutely sure that  it was his camper.

 The ride to the park was nerve wracking.  Jane was a terrible driver.  Worse still was the dread of what he would find.  The glow was gone from the sky when they pulled into the campground.  It didn’t matter they followed the lights from the volunteer fire department's truck.  The burned out shell of his van looked pretty bad.  He knew from past experiences it would look just as bad in the daylight.  He looked at his watch and found it to be five a.m.

 “What time were you through here last?”  He asked it as Jane pulled to a stop.

 “My last round was at two.  I was due to make the final one at six.”

 “Wonder how the fire department got the word?”  He asked it looking at her.

 “I can check.  I expect it was a 911 from a campers cell.  Someone will be rushing up to tell me what a good citizen they are any minute."

 “Well don’t wait ask around would you.  Somebody must have seen or heard something.”  She nodded.  The writer followed her around as she talked to the firemen, who were busy packing up their equipment.  It was a 911 call for sure.  Their call came from the county operator

 The Ranger and the writer began talking to the other campers.  To a man or woman, their response was the same.  “The sirens woke me.  It was like daylight here the flames were so high.  Must have been that electrical cord running to the camper.  That thing never looked safe.”

 After he heard that ten times, the writer found the fire chief.  “I own this pile of junk.  Do you have any idea what started it?”

 “Not at the moment, but it started from the back.  It could be electrical.  We were damn lucky that it was a weekday.  The park was pretty empty.  If anyone had been parked around you, they would have gone up with that gas tank.  Some of them are going to have been scorched as it is.  

 The writer took a quick look around before the firemen did anything much to the scene.  The glass of the broken liquor bottle stood out like a sore thumb on the asphalt.  Most of it was gone but the parts hanging to the Jim Bean label were still intact.  he showed it to the fire chief.

 “It probably got blown out of the trash can over there.”

 “That is my trash and trust me, I don’t drink Jim Bean.”

 The fire chief shook his head as he evidently decided to ignore him.  He was probably right to ignore the writer, odds were that the fire was started by the unplugged electrical cord.  With that thought the writer turned angrily to walk to the bathroom.  

 To his surprise, but not amazement he found a note scrawled on the mirror.  ‘Writer go home’ it read.  Even the note didn’t stop him from using the bathroom.  When he finished, he took another long look at the mirror.

 Obviously the fire bomber knew he hadn’t killed the writer.  Whether that made a difference to him was not clear.  He might have been waiting for the writer to leave, or it might have been a lucky break that the writer had been gone.  The writer supposed that whoever tossed the bomb had waited for him to leave.  He didn’t think anyone would have the balls to write that note after he threw the bomb.  He also didn’t believe he or she would have wasted the note, if the writer was meant to be dead.  It would be a dead give away that the fire was no accident.  What to do about it was another matter entirely.

 The writer gave the message a couple of minutes thought.  Since he didn’t need a police report for his car insurance report, he took the coarse paper towels from the dispenser.  He wet a couple of them, then he removed the message.  He was more than a little surprised to find it was written in soap.  It didn’t take much of a search to find a nub of soap.  Some camper had left the tiny bit laying by the sink.  Strange, he thought, but did not pursue it.

 “So what are you going to do writer?”  Ranger Jane asked the question as he returned.  She did have a look of concern on her face.  He knew her only slightly but felt she had her own situation in mind somehow.
 “I am going to find my telephone, then I am going to call my insurance agent.”  He thought it sounded logical.

 “You might want to wait a bit.”  Ranger Jane looked at her watch.  “It is a little before 6 a.m.   Your agent might not be in the office.”

 “Oh no, the son of a bitch advertises twenty four hour, nationwide claim service.  I am about to see how real that is.”

 “Chief do you need him anymore?”  Ranger asked it with a serious expression on her face.  She didn’t fool anyone.  Everyone in the county knew Jane would screw anything that walked.  

 “Just one more question, where were you when it caught fire?”  The writer squirmed not at all sure that he wanted to involve Jane.

 “He was with me,” The Ranger said it without batting an eye.  She obviously had nothing to fear from the fire department report.
 “Fair enough,” He handed the writer a card.  “Have your insurance company call that number tomorrow.  I will have filed a report with the Sheriff by noon.”

 “Thanks Chief,” the writer said.  The writer was about to speak to the ranger but instead he opened his cell phone.  He dialed the highway patrol emergency response number.

 “Ohio highway patrol roadside assistance,” the voice informed him.

 “Yes, I have had a car fire.  It is out now but I need to have the car towed away.”

 “Is the car blocking traffic sir,”

 “No ma’am it is well away from the road.”  The ranger watched curiously.

 “Sir, you may call this number.  It is the only tow service open all night.”  She read him Everett’s number.  “Or you can wait till in the morning, there well be several others available then.”

 He thanked her, but did not make the car just then.  Instead he turned to Ranger Jane.

 “Writer, you are welcome to stay with me tonight.  You can even use my car tomorrow, but that is all.  I am sorry, but the park does not allow me to have any long term guests.”  The writer could tell she was lying, but he didn’t mind, since he had absolutely no intention of staying with anyone.  It was half a freedom issue and half a desire not to endanger anyone else.  Odds were good that he hadn’t seen the end of the pyromaniac.

 “It is a good rule.  I need to at least rent a car tomorrow.  For that I do need you to drop me in town, otherwise I should be fine.”  He smiled at her, as he watched her peel the uniform from her body.  He couldn’t find the enthusiasm to make love to her.  He did manage to hold her and pet her to orgasm.  Jane was a demanding woman, but he knew that already.

 Later that morning the writer rented a five year old four door sedan.  The only used car lot in the car rental business had no vans.  The choice was the larger sedan or a tiny econobox.  It was his desire to meet Everett so he called him for the tow.  Everett took the burn out to his salvage yard to await the insurance company claims agent.  He was also going to get a visit from the writer, but other things had to be taken care of first.

 The writer had never thought much of his camping experience.  Oh he loved the camping bit but he felt the cost of the van space was too much for his budget.  He had put too much into the camper conversion not to use it.  Since he was free of the albatross he had other plans.


 Since he had no doubt that the insurance company was going to pay off on the van, he began looking for a vehicle immediately. Looking for a car was both easy and a pure mother.  The money part was easy.  When he left home his banker had arranged automatic transfers between checking and savings.  His only problem, and it was a problem, was to find a car he wanted at a price he thought fair.  He had bought his van at a wholesale auction.  It was one of the many cop perks.

 He discreetly asked about.  He found that there was a auto auction open to the public.  His luck seemed to be holding, the auction was that same night.  It was not unusual for the sale to be on a week night.  The sale to dealers, where he had bought the van, had been held on a Wednesday night.  The sale was open to the public.  That was unusual, but not unheard of.  His luck ended right there.  The auction was in a slightly larger town about thirty miles away.

 After looking at every available car in Small Town X, he decided to make the trip.  The auction was being held at night for a reason.  Sellers loved the dark. It hide so many flaws in the cars.  Since it was summer the sale was being held in the evening light.  Not as good as pure darkness, but still better than full daylight, if you were a seller.

 The writer registered as a non dealer buyer.  He was forced to put up a five hundred dollar deposit in cash.  He had expected it, since he called ahead to get the details.  The writer didn’t keep much cash on hand so he had visited his bank for it.  At the same time he moved another two thousand over to the checking/ debit card account.

 He walked the large parking lot filled with cars, mostly on the brink of being worn out.  He was looking for a jewel mixed among the gravel.  He had a lot of company in the search.  It appeared that the sale was a popular one.  The others walking about, seemed for the most part to be immigrants or sharp traders.  The immigrants were trying to avoid being cheated, and the traders were looking to buy for resale.  The traders would drop from the bidding early.  Most likely they were the sellers come to shepherd their cars through the sale.
 The writer picked out four cars.  He had come to buy something good on gas to use in his travels.  None of the four was a van.  He had decided that the cost of van camping outweighed the benefits.  That might not be true in the giant motor homes, but the minivan camper had been less than cost efficient.  He paid the same price to park it as the larger motor homes.  It was however useless for anything but sleeping.

 Cars arrived while the sale was in progress.  He promised himself that he would not bid on any car which he had not inspected prior to the sale.  The dealer, who had taken him to the sale where he bought the van, had repeated that bit of advice over and over.

 Three of the four cars were sold when he broke his own rule.  The previous cars had gone for several hundred more than he felt they were worth.  They all went to immigrant families.  He felt, as though it was going to prove to have been a long drive for nothing.  

 The immigrants seemed to choose the powerful, flashy asian cars.  When the small underpowered Metro convertible came on the block, it didn’t get any interest at all.  The body had dents and the top had a rip.  He had watched it drive up to the door.  He even spoke to the driver, but then he had spoken to several of the drivers.  They never said much about the condition of the cars.  Occasionally they would let him know the condition of the transmission or clutch in a given car.  The little yellow metro looked pretty beat up but it also seemed to run well enough.  The inspection the writer noted was current.

 When the little beast went onto the block, he was the first  bidder.  You could tell from the look on his face that he hoped the observers didn’t know something about the car that he didn’t.  The auctioneer got down about as low as the writer thought likely, before sending the car around again.  His first bid was five hundred dollars.  

 The auctioneer pretended to be incensed.  Truth was he didn’t care.  It was just a job to him.  The second bid came from a dealer.  He was bargain hunting just like the writer.  The dealer and the writer went back and forth till the dealer gave up.  It was one bid before the writer told himself he would have given up.   He had it set in his mind, that he would not pay a thousand dollars for such a ragged out car.  He bought it for nine hundred and fifty dollars.

 He gave his name and bidders ID to the clerk.  He could have gone inside the building, to join the long line of immigrants waiting to pay for their new cars.  Since he had no way to get it home, he didn’t bother. The rules gave him until five the next day to settle up on the car.

 The Rent a wreck sedan made it back to Small Town X but the writer had his doubts.  It was running a little hot.  He had expected it to blow at any moment.  The writer mumbled, “I will be glad to get this wreck back to the car lot.”

  When he hit the city limits his other problems closed in on him.  It was typical that his mind had prioritized the problems.  When he solved one, others would become first on his list.  “I don’t have anywhere to stay or any clothes to wear tomorrow.  I have been in the ones I am wearing for two days, that seems to be plenty.”  He said it out loud because that was the way he thought when alone.

 He drove the overheating sedan back onto the highway.  He did manage to make it to the Walmart store in the next town.  There he spent a hundred and fifty bucks on clothes.  It became obvious that even at Walmart you cant get much for a hundred and fifty bucks.

 Two pairs of cotton work pants, three sport shirts, two bags of underwear and a bag of socks took up the whole buck and a half.  The complete purchase filled only four of the little blue plastic bags.

 He almost decided to check into a motel near the Walmart.  He didn’t only because he wanted to stay in Small Town X.  He knew his pyro was there.  He wanted to be close just in case anything came to him.  He didn’t really expect that it would.

 Even though it was very late, the one motel with twenty units was still booking rooms.  He entered the office to find the place smelled of curry.  Not an unusual thing even in those days.  The middleaged woman with almost pure black hair, save the one silver streak running down the middle of her head, came to the desk.

 “Can I help you?” she asked in a heavily accented voice.

 “Yes I would like a room for tonight.”  He said it with a smile.

 “How many people?”  She was all business.  He expected she would have used the same tone no matter what his attitude had been.  I wasted a perfectly good smile, he told himself.

 “Just me, and I will be leaving in the morning.”  She gave a fee twice that of the campground.  He paid it with his visa card.  The room he found to be adequate.  The bed and the shower were nice he had to admit.  Just as he drifted off to sleep, he realized that his cell phone battery could not be charged.  The charger had no doubt melted along with the van.  He made a mental note to call his insurance agent the next day, so that he could check on the claim.

 As he dressed for the day, he had plenty on his mind.  It was actually a nice feeling to have things that needed doing for a change.  He knew only one person who did not work during the day.  He called Ranger Jane yet again.  The writer figured she owed him.  He smiled knowing it was crap but it sounded good.

 “Oh Jane, I need a favor.  I bought a car over in New Philly, at the auction last night.  I need a ride over to get it.  You can drive this piece of crap that I rented if you like.”

 “Okay writer, but we have to go right now.  I need to get back.”

 “Why don’t we meet across from the town square.  We can leave your car there.”  He expected her to be driving her old beat up Honda.  The state truck could not leave the park.  The writer went to the café for breakfast while he waited

 “So, I hear you got burned out last night?”  Juanita the waitress asked.

 “Night before but Yes, my van caught fire.  Terrible accident.”

 “Sure are a lot of accidents around here lately.”  Juanita was not smiling he noted.  “So what is with you and Doris?”

 “Why, are you writing a book too?”  He asked it with a great smile.  He didn’t intend to hurt her feelings.

 “Come on writer, this is a small town.  You might as well give it up.”  Juanita was far from offended she seemed to be enjoying the interaction with the smart mouthed writer.  He was, for sure, enjoying it.  

 “Tell you what Juanita, you get me another piece of toast and I will tell all.”  The writer grinned at her again.  Since they were being overheard by everyone in the place he was acting.

 Juanita slammed the toast on the counter as her part of the act.  “Now spill it,” she demanded.

 “She told me the fastest route to the hospital in case of food poisoning.”  The place broke into laughter.  Even Juanita laughed.

 “I never thought there was anything between you two.  She is a lesbian you know, not that there is anything wrong with that.  When I look at my old man, I wonder if I made the right choice.”  The customers again broke into laughter.

 “You know we probably should ask him that,” the writer suggested.  The place again broke up.  

 “We could get a cover charge if you came in more often,” Juanita said only a little sarcastic.

 The writer kept looking out the window as he answered. “Sure put some hand bills up all over town.”  In the middle of his sentence he saw Jane drive by the diner.  She parked in a long term space, near but not in front of the hardware store.  “Well ya’ll I got to run, see you.”  With that the writer placed a five on the counter then left the café.

 He drove his car over to Jane’s Honda.  “Come on hon, let get a move on, if you are in a hurry.”  He said it through the open window.  Jane worked her way into the car.   The writer pulled away from the curb immediately.  During the drive to the auction site he explained about the heating car.  He also told her to keep an eye out for him.  He had no idea what kind of condition the little car was in.
 Everything proved to be anticlimactic.  The car was paid for in record time.  He drove back with no tags at all on the yellow beast.  His tags were completely unrecognizable as license plates.  He and Jane returned the rental car to the used car lot, then he drove her to her Honda.  Since she was in a terrible hurry to leave, the writer figured rightly she had a date.  He didn’t know it but Jane was off to meet ‘hit me hurt me’ at her house.

 With Jane gone a license plate became urgent.  The writer first called the insurance company then visited the local dept of motors.  He got a thirty day paper tag.  It was the best he could do.  After that it was either go home or buy an in state tag.

 The tiny metro had  more space inside than the Miata that Maggie Evans drove the night she was killed.  It wasn’t near as classy, but then it wasn’t thirty k either.  The writer checked the car out, as best he could.  He determined that it would run for a while without giving him too much of a problem.  He knew he should at least tune it up, but there was just no time.

 He  was determined not to spend another night in the motel.  He knew the temptation of a convertible top might just be more than some of the, not so good, old boys could stand.  The one small rip in the top wasn’t bad.  He didn’t want to see it become several slashes.  The memory of the burning van was too recent to allow him any peace.  

 The writer decided that he and the bomber were the only ones who knew the fire had not been accidental.  For the time being he preferred to keep it that way.  So far the writer had not even let the ‘who’ of it cross his mind.  He knew that he would have to sit down, when he had a quiet moment.  If he did that, he could probably figure something out.  That kind of thinking was impossible as long as he had survival issues to deal with.

 He found himself again in the town diner having a meatloaf plate lunch, when he gave voice to the plan.  It had been floating in his mind since he saw the van in flames.  He turned from the counter to the café in general when he spoke.  


 “Anyone here know where I can get a tent cheap?”  He sat waiting but nobody answered for a few minutes.

 “There is an Army and Navy surplus store over in Taylortown.”  The information came from a man whose clothing was covered in paint splatters.

 “I was hoping to get one used.  I need a deal.”  He paused a moment then went on, “I hoped someone would have pity on me since I am homeless.”  The writer grinned at the assembled working class patrons.  No one offered any suggestions so he turned back to his meal.  It appeared he was in for a drive over to the closest moderate sized town.

 He looked toward the door as the tall thin older man entered.  The man walked behind him to sit at a table with two women, who looked as though they might be bank tellers.  The writer hadn’t seen a bank, but it was possible that there was one.  Nobody bothered to whisper so he heard every word.

 “Mac you got any idea where the writer could get a tent?  He got burned out night before last,” one of the tellers asked.

 “Now Sammie, you know I got that whole camping outfit for my son.  Bought it off Ebay, I did.  Then of course he went into the marines, after he took that cross country trip.”

 “There you go writer, here is a man with a whole pile of camping gear.  I bet he would sell it all cheap.”  Sammie smiled at the writer.  He hadn’t exactly ignored her since their chance encounter, but it was obvious he wasn’t interested in her stories.

 “You really looking for a tent Writer,” the man asked.

 “Yes Sir, what kind is it?”  The writer asked even though he couldn’t afford to be choosy.

 “Don’t know the brand but it is a twelve by fourteen cabin tent.  At least I think that is what the box said.  “If you want it, I will let you have it and all that other junk I bought the boy.  Price is a hundred bucks.’  As an after thought he added. “It is supposed to be almost new.”

 “If everything is there, you got a deal,” the writer replied.

 “I am pretty sure it is all there.  The son put it up in the yard when he got back from the trip.  Then his buddies went into the Crotch so he went too.  Damn shame but I suppose that one trip was worth it.”

 “Followed you into the Corp?”  The writer asked it with a smile.

 “Told him too many stories about the Nam, never should have done that.”  The look on the old man’s face was pained.

 “It is good that you can talk about it. Probably keeps you sane.”  The writer had a look on his face that the other man recognized.  

 “Wasn’t always that way, guess I just got old.”  The man grinned at the writer.  “You just give me a few minutes to get this slop down, then we can go pick up the tent.  I ain’t working today.”

 “Hell Mac, you don’t work, when you work,” Sammie said with a smile.  She loved the older man and it showed.  “By the way Mac, when is your son coming home on leave again.  Last time, he looked good enough to eat in that uniform.”

 “I told him to stay away from here.  He don’t need the kind of trouble you have planned for him,” Mac was smiling broadly.

 “Now Mac honey, won’t be no trouble at all.  I will enjoy every minute of it.”   Everybody in the place laughed.

 “Damn that Sammie is a pistol,” Juanita said as she refilled the writer’s iced tea glass.

 “It does seem so,” he replied smiling.

 “Doin’ both the father and son would be a novelty, even for Small Town X.”  She walked away without any explanation for the remark.  On second thought the writer decided it didn’t need to be explained.

 Mac lived in a trailer at the edge of Small Town X.  There were about half a dozen in the park.  The trailers were older and were not as well kept as they should have been.  Still there were seedier places in Small Town X.

 After the yellow tent was loaded into the trunk of the Metro, Mac began sliding smaller boxes around it until the trunk lid was in danger of not closing.   It took a serious push to get it closed.  The writer handed Mac a hundred dollar bill to pay his debt.


 “You got no idea how much I appreciate this,” he stated seriously.

 “No problem Writer, I am glad to see somebody get some use out of it.  We miss you down at Eddie’s.  Ain’t seen you in a couple of days.”

 “I know.  I’ve been busy, but I will try to get in one night this week.”

 “I hope so.  It ain’t good for a man to spend too much time alone, ‘specially not us.”

 “That much is true.  So thanks again Mac,” the writer extended his hand as he spoke.

 After the transaction was finished the writer drove directly to the campground.  He made a payment for the week, then drove to the tent site he had been assigned.  The tents were twenty yards or so farther from the bath house and toilets than the van space had been.  There was also no electricity in the tent spaces.  

 The tent spaces had a slightly raised flat area on which to pitch the tent.  The slight elevation should keep all but a torrential rain from seeping into the tent.  The writer lay everything out and began planning the erection of the tent.  He quickly found that the directions were needed badly.  They were on the box which had been stained.  He was lost before he began.

 “Hello there friend, looks like you need a hand?”  The voice belonged to a younger man, hell almost boy, who was camped a few spaces down.

 “Either that or a ten year old.  The box said a ten year old could do it.  I guess they meant only a ten year old could do it.”  The writer laughed at himself.

 “Naw, we can do it.  Two grown men equal one ten year old.”  The younger man laughed along with the writer. Since the younger man was a tent camper, the frame gave up it’s secrets to him.  The writer watched closely so that he could duplicate his moves later.  Once the frame was up it was just a matter of hanging the tent from it.  The writer was happy to find that the zipper, which always jammed, had given way to velcro strips.  The tent was a shade of yellow which did not come close to matching the car, still it was humorous that yellow seemed to be suddenly everywhere in his life.

 “I appreciate the help young man.  Can I pay you for it?”  The writer was doing his southern gentleman imitation.

 “No thanks, glad I could help.  It is the neighborly thing to do after your van burned.”

 “I am going to the store this afternoon.  I am going to buy marshmallows in case it happens again.  If it does you are invited.”

  It wasn’t long until the writer had all the camping gear out and ready for use.  There were a lot of extras in his trunk.  Everything from an eight inch air bed to a boy scout mess kit.  He wasn’t planning to use it but hey, it was his anyway.

 The writer sat on a folding camp stool while he smoked a cigarette.  The director type seat had turned tubular legs so they wouldn’t puncture the tent floor.  At that moment he was sitting outside the tent taking a well deserved break.  He was also contemplating dinner.  He was torn between the diner and the burger, burger joint on the highway.  The third option, of cooking his own dinner, didn’t surface until after he had determined that neither of the others sounded good to him.

 He had no food and no way to preserve it even if he did.  He let that run through his mind.  The true value in cooking for yourself, he determined, was in the left overs.  If you couldn’t save the left overs then the cooking was actually more expensive.  That was the case in cooking for one at least.  If one figured in the cost of the ice to preserve food, then it became even more expensive than eating out.  

 The exception he found in the supermarket just outside the camp.  If he shopped carefully, there were several canned items that would not need refrigeration.  There were dry items for which the surplus could be could transfer into jars for storage.  It took a massive amount of shopping that afternoon to locate them, but he managed.
 I should write a book on camp cooking, he decided.  Then he thought, no every woman probably already knows all this crap.  The purchases ran from powdered milk to canned beans.  The beans were in the smallest possible can.  Since he hadn’t emptied enough jars to use, he bought plastic bags and ties for the left over powdered milk and bisquick.

 Mac had included a book on camp cooking.  The book was new, since the kids probably ate at McDonalds during their travels.  After trying to cook in the Boy Scout mess kit, he could see why no one in their right mind tried to cook in one of those things.  He doubted that cooking at home saved anything, but the trip out for a double cheese burger.

 After washing the dishes, another time consuming project, it was almost eight p.m.  The writer decided on a whim to stop in at Eddie’s for a beer.  He didn’t want to do any deductive reasoning that night.

 The writer entered the dark cavernous room alone.  He moved to the bar to sit alone.  He fully expected to remain alone to observe the others.  It was what he did.  He tried not to engage in conversation, it tended to at the very least split his attention.

 “So, you didn’t die after all,” Eddie suggested.

 “No, I have just been keeping busy the last few nights.”

 “Let me see, you are staying at the park.  In that park is the second horniest woman in town, me being the first of course.  The second horniest woman is bisexual and you aren’t all that picky.  Now I understand what you have been busy doing.”

 “Well damn Eddie, you won’t sleep with me.  What is a man supposed to do?”  He expected no answer.  The grin from Eddie was all he expected or got.

 After she had gone leaving a Draft beer in her wake.  The writer took a hard look at the people sitting here and there throughout the bar.  He had already classified Sammie as a female predator.  He was sure Sammie was in it for the hunt more than the sex.  It was a thought that would be alien to her.  He guessed that from her constant flirting.

 He saw Martin sitting alone at a table for two.  Martin was a bit anti social, he decided.  In a far corner were five people at a table.  That was unusual for Eddie’s.  It was hardly the kind of place for group socializing.  It was intended to be a meat market.  Or was it meet market, the writer was never sure how to phrase that.

 “How about drinking a little faster Writer, I need the money.”  The smile on Eddie’s face convinced the writer that it was a joke.  For some reason the two of them understood each other.

 “So who is the table full of people back there.  Are you going into the catering business?”  

 “I guess I can forgive your nosey assed attitude, since you write.  They are county paramedics.  Good thing too, look who just walked in.”
 The writer turned to see a man about thirty five enter the bar.  He looked fit enough but not weight lifter fit.  He was heavy looking but it was all muscle not fat.  

 “So who is he?” the writer asked not recognizing him.

 “That writer, is Stan the Animal.  He is about the meanest prick I ever met, and I knowed my share of bad asses.”

 “So should I leave or can you protect me?”  The writer was kidding.  Eddie recognized it as such.

 “No, but I got a sawed off, if it gets too rough.  Otherwise, I let them fight it out in the parking lot.”

 “Got to love a bar where you take your life in your own hands to drink.”  The writer smiled at Eddie to show that he was only half kidding.

 “Writer, if Stan gives you shit just ignore him.  I will protect you.”  The smile she showed him was not a pretty thing to see.

 “Well I came to drink not fight so I just might let you.”

 “Don’t worry writer he won’t stay.  I don’t serve him.  He came in to see someone.  That is all I allow him to do.”

 “Martin,” The writer heard the deep base voice say.

 Martin who had somehow missed Stan’s entrance looked up at him.  “Hey Animal, what you want man?”

 “I come for that twenty bucks you owe me.”  The animal seemed to be unhappy.

 “Sure Animal, here.”  With those words Martin handed him a twenty dollar bill from his pocket.

 “You should have paid me last week.  I don’t like hunting people down to collect my money.”
 “Well frankly Animal, I just forgot all about you.”  It looked as though Martin was not afraid of the animal either.
 
 “Next time, I will remind you a little harder,” Stan said menacingly.

 “Well Animal, if you wasn’t the only decent motorcycle mechanic in town, nobody would ever use you.  You got no manners at all.  You come in here and now everybody is watching to see what is going to happen.”  Martin gave him a wicked smile.
 Just as the animal moved toward Martin there was a loud thump at the bar.  The sound was Eddie laying the sawed off shotgun on the bar.  The noise stopped all the action.

 “You know better Stan.  I don’t allow no fights in here.”
 Stan turned his attention to Martin again.  “You got a lot of mouth Martin.  Why don’t you come on out back?  We can settle this out there.”

 “If that is what you want sure,” Martin smiled again.  The smile chilled anyone who saw it.
 Eddie had slipped down the bar to stand in front of the writer.  She seemed to want to fill him in.


 “If those two really go at it, you need to go out and watch.  Martin is the only man in town, who can whip the animal.  It is always a hell of a show.”

 The writer nodded then tore his attention from the two men.  He wanted to see the reaction of the other bar patrons.  Sammie’s mouth hung open, she was breathing deeply, while taking it all in. He thought she might just have an orgasm from it all.

 The paramedics were not impressed.  They were just being cautious so that it did not spill over onto them.  The writer noticed Mac for the first time.  He was ignoring them both.  He looked at the writer with a smile.  His smile said that he found it foolish.  How he could ignore it all would be difficult for most people to understand.  The writer knew exactly how he felt.  Those two were playing bad guy.  Mac didn’t need to play.  If it came to him, he would cut out Stan’s heart while it was still beating.  It was the way of the really hard men.

 The writer took notice of the paramedics again.  He especially noticed the two women.  One was  middleaged while the other was in her twenties.  The older one was a bit overweight, while the younger one wy tired.  He had known people who worked long hours before.  It was the way they looked during their ‘hen it was back to the ‘stretch.’   He would bet anything that they were either in the middle of the ‘stretch’ or just finishing up one.  The younger one caught his eye, but turned away quickly.
 “Just don’t you never call me again to work on that piece of shit bike of yours.”  Stan said it as he turned to walk away.  Nobody laughed as he skulked from the place.  Martin turned back to his beer with a happy smile on his face.  He had been seen by everyone as he backed the Animal down.  That would surely raise his standing with the drunks.  

 He didn’t know that most of them lumped him in with the Animal as people to be avoided.  Most of them avoided his brother’s gas station after eleven p.m. for that reason.  It was the reason he had almost no local customers at night.  He got only the occasional highway traveler, or one of the women who followed the hard men.  Most of those were there only when that particular urge needed scratching.  Nobody wanted Martin on a regular basis.  A steady Martin diet was a little too rough for them all.                    
 
 Snough to be seen with romantically..  Not even in Eddie’s crummy bar.  Oh, when they wanted to get laid they were all, “Come here Sammie, let’s me and you talk Sammie.”  

 Any of those little pleasantries, from a man not on the make, would have brightened Sammie’s miserable existence considerably.  It would have been dangerous to the men though.  Sammie probably would have followed them around like a puppy.  Since it was never likely to happen the male population of Small town x was safe.  Sammie resigned herself to being the town slut.  Every small town had one, larger towns had many more.

 The writer moved on making mental observations of each member of the bar’s clientele that evening.  Most were just traits he assigned them for purposes of the book he was writing.  Sammie or someone like Sammie he expected to play a pivotal role.  Every book, even in those days, needed a little hot sex to sell.  Not that anyone could tell from the zero books he had sold.

 He couldn’t quite pigeon hole the Paramedics.  They should be way to normal to be in Eddie’s.  Most people went to Taylortown to have a beer.  Eddie’s seemed to be almost exclusively for the bottom feeders.  He supposed there was some reason for the table full of medics to be in the beer joint.

 He moved his attention to the two young women sitting alone at a table.  It was ten p. m. and still early by Eddie time.  They were looking to pick up a couple of men.  Since they each had hair the color of a home done bleach job, the writer figured them to be trailer trash.  It sounded harsh even to the writer, but he had to classify them something in order to catalogue them.  Also the harshness came from the obvious fact that they found him of no interest.  He could only guess it was the white hair that put them off.  He didn’t mind he really wasn’t out to get laid.  Even if he were, it would be with someone who had voted in the last presidential election.  

 “So writer, no excitement for you tonight.”  The writer wasn’t sure if Eddie meant the fight or the lack of women.

 “I will survive.  I don’t exactly live for adventure in my regular life.”  He knew most folks had the wrong idea about cops.  He had been involved in about three months of excitement but it had been spaced over thirty years of boredom.  The one thing that kept him sane had been the writing.  He had begun by writing just a few times a year.  Then over the years he wrote more and more often.  The last year the cop business got in the way of the writing.  He was glad to prick the cop balloon, to just put it behind him.

 “Well hell writer, I hate to see someone like you bored.  Hell you might burn the place down.”  Eddie was smiling but not as lightly as before.

 “What does that mean?”  The writer asked it in total bewilderment.

 “It means, I have seen your type before.  The boredom will kill you, not the guns.”

 “Well I have lasted thirty years," he replied.

 “Yes but you are out looking for excitement now.  If you wanted more boredom, you would have stayed home and gotten a rocking chair.”  The writer was amazed.  Eddie had at least opened a new can of reasons for the trip.  He would have to give that some thought when he got home.  He put it from his mind at the moment so that he would concentrate on the latest entry.  

 There was no question the couple was on vacation.  The loud shirts, with their larger than life flowers, hanging over their tan Bermuda shorts was a dead give away.  Not only that, it was the look of disdain from the regulars that was the clincher.  The writer had gotten it himself the first few times he dared venture into the unknown of Eddie’s tavern.

 Eddie happened to still be standing nearby when she mumbled.  “If they think I am waiting on tables they are fucking nuts.”  The look she had on her face was ominous.  She walked to the end of the bar nearest the new arrivals.  “Don’t have no table service,” she said loud enough to be heard by the people in the Laundromat next door.

 The man looked up in shock.  He mumbled to the middleaged woman with him, then he placed his order.  “Give us two frozen daiquiris.”

 Eddie actually burst out laughing to hide her anger.  “Look, I got bud on draft and about ten kinds of bottled beer.  I even got a gallon of Chablis here, but I ain’t got no liquor license.  If I did have, I still wouldn’t make no faggot drinks.”  The regulars broke into snickers at the minimum, with Martin laughing hard and loud.

 The two strangers held a quiet consultation then stood.  The man just couldn’t leave without making a comment.  “Not a very friendly place you run lady.  I should complain to the owner.”

 “You really should do that,” Mac said breaking his silence.  “I expect the owner will fire her ass.  She ain’t much of a beertender anyway.”  He should have been smiling at least, but he was dead serious.

 “You know Mac, you can do your drinking at home.  I don’t need you in here every night with that hangdog look on your face. You know damn well I ain’t never going out with you.”  

 The writer watched the man they called Mac for some sign that he was going to get violent.  He didn’t make a move.  Instead he smiled across at the bar owner.  “You know Eddie, you got a mean mouth even for an ex con.  How many men did you kill?”  He still looked hard into her eyes.

 “The couple hurried out the door at the mention of the background of Eddie.  I expect they thought twice or three times about complaining to the owner.  It didn’t matter since Eddie was the owner anyway.

 “Thanks Mac, that tied a can to their tails.”  Eddie put a draft in front of Mac then pointedly skipped taking his money.”

 The incident left the writer wondering if Mac was really tracking Eddie.  Even more he wondered what her relationship was with Mac.  He had never seen her refuse anyone else’s money.

 As was the case with all rental property, the writer had to return the beer.  He walked through the mostly empty bar toward the men’s room.  Martin gave him a nasty look as he past.  The writer returned a smile.  He found the small town bad guy to be humorous.  The man could no doubt whip everyone in the small town.  But then again, it was a small town.

 As he passed by the table filled with medics he heard a snippet of their conversation.  “I am telling you there is something strange about this town.”  The young female said to the older man beside her.

 The writer continued on to the bathroom.  After he did his thing, he began the walk back to his seat at the bar.  “Hey writer, I got a message for you.”  The voice belonged to one of the young bleached blondes.  It must not have been a very private message since she almost shouted it from half way across the building.  He wondered, why she hadn’t spoken when he passed her table.  She had instead waited until he was again at the bar.

 “From anybody I want to know,” he asked.

 “I don’t know hon.  You gonna have to tell me that one.”  The woman was playing to the crowd.  

 Before she could speak again the writer had one of those light bulb moments.  He realized that there were way too many women in the bar, or way to few men.  He had been to bars off and on most of his life.  The men always, without exception, outnumbered the women.  Eddie’s always had more women than men.  Before he could get lost in the thought the woman went on.

 “Doris Masters wants you to call her.”  The woman looked as though she expected applause from the other bar patrons.  She was disappointed by their reaction.  They could have cared less.  All except Eddie that is.

 “You been trackin’ Doris?” Eddie asked with a real edge in her voice.

 “Nope, she helped me some with the book.  Gave me a little background on the town.”  He took a look into the beer glass then asked, “Why, are you chasing after her?”
 “Not really, she is just one of the few les chicks I haven’t been able to score with.”


 “Jesus Eddie, I thought you had been with all the women in town.”  The writer was grinning wickedly at her.

 “No writer there are several on my list.  Sammie over there and Doris head it up though.”

 “Sammie is gay?”  The writer asked it in disbelief.

 “Not yet,” Eddie answered.  “Besides men are gay, women are lesbians.”

 “I suppose,” the writer stated.

 “Anyway, why would Doris want to talk to you?”  Eddie asked it with her eyes locked on his.

 “Maybe she has thought of some more unsolved murders in the area.”  

 “You aren’t going to try to make that poor Maggie Evans woman Ted Bundy’s victim are you?”

 “Na, Bundy fried a long time ago.  I was just ruling things out hon.”  

 “Or, were you trying to rule Doris in?”  Eddie was not smiling.

 “They tell me Doris is not into men.”  It was indeed the word going around town.

 “Hell writer, I ain’t convinced yet that you are much of a man.”  He couldn’t tell, if she was being nasty or not.  It didn’t matter, he paid his bill then turned to the door.  Might as well try to call Doris, then head on home, he thought.

 Once outside, under the light coming through the large glass window of the Laundromat, he found Doris’s number in his address book.  He dialed it.  He did so even though he was afraid he might be waking her.  Old maid librarians might go to bed early, he thought.  

 “Hello?” The sleepy voice of the old maid librarian was sexy, the writer thought.

 “Did I wake you?”

 “Writer is that you?”  She sounded more awake.

 “Yes Ma’am, I got a message that you wanted to speak to me.”

 “Not at midnight, come by the library tomorrow morning,” she demanded.

 “I guess it isn’t true then?”

 “No, I have some information for you, but it is at the library.”

 “That isn’t what I meant. I guess every woman doesn’t want to talk to a drunken stranger at midnight after all.”
`
 She laughed then said, “It isn’t true in this case anyway.  Come by tomorrow you will find it interesting.”

 “Ah, I do love a mystery,” he said as he clicked the phone shut.  It was almost one when he settled in for his first night sleeping in a tent since the sixties.  The smell was not the one he remembered from those days.  It smelled of chemicals that night. not sweat and fear.

 Not to mention the eight inch airbed was a lot different from sleeping on a ground sheet.  He slipped off into a hard sleep helped along by the lateness of the hour.  To his great pleasure, Ranger Jane ignored him that night.  He had a complete uninterrupted nights sleep.  
 After his morning shower which was a slightly longer walk than before, he dropped the top on the convertible.  Might as well have some fun, he decided, as he drove away from the space.  He had decided, before he left home, that he would always have breakfast out.   It was by far the least expensive of his meals.  That morning he went to the fast food restaurant in a nearby town.  A double order of pancakes with a side of link sausage seemed a good idea.

 The restaurant even let him use his own coffee cup.  The delta cup rode with him everywhere.  He could drive down the road without spilling a drop.  When he left the restaurant, it was with the cup full.  Doris and the library seemed a good second stop.  After that he was going to be forced to do some real investigating.  He had been gathering background long enough.

 “So writer, had any more fires lately?”  She asked it with just a hint of humor.
 
 It struck a chord in his mind but he dropped it.  “No, just the one.  It seems to have been more than enough to render me homeless.”

 “I heard you were reduced to tenting?”  He recognized it as a question.

 “Yes that is me tenting in the ole campground.  Something rather fitting about that in the home place of bloody Bill Sherman.”

 “Come on, don’t tell me you find something conspiratory in the fire.”

 “Let me see, in the land of Bloody Bill Sherman, Southern boy’s house, such as it was,  gets fire bombed.  No, I don’t find that at all strange.  I bet it is a regular occurrence up here.”

 Since the writer had a huge grin on his face Doris laughed.  If the tent gets to be too much roughing it for you, you can come bunk in my spare room.  I would love to see how a writer’s mind works.”

 “Wouldn’t you rather hold out for a real writer,” he asked.

 “Not much chance a real writer will come to Small Town X,” she declared with good humor.  “I guess I will just have to settle for an Internet writer.”  She took a figurative deep breath then went on. “So, you interested in a home away from Ranger Jane.”

 “Not just yet, but I will keep it in mind.”  The writer said it as he tried to keep his good humor.  “So what did you remember that will help me write my book?”

 “I just remembered the details of a murder about ten years ago.”  He looked down at her curiously.  “Hey, I almost forgot am I gonna get paid for this.  I want a commitment before I go on.”

 “Depends, do I have to eat in one of those fancy places?”  The writer asked it knowing he would pay either way.  He didn’t want to go though years of back newspapers to find what she already knew.

 “Tell you what, there is a steakhouse outside Taylortown.  It has the atmosphere of an old time speakeasy.  How about we go there?”

 “I don’t know the place but you can show me the way.” The writer had a feeling that something was going to happen on that date.  He just wasn’t sure he was ready for it.

 “Okay, about ten years ago they pulled a woman from the lake.  She had the proverbial blunt instrument trauma.”

 “Now that is interesting,” the writer said.

 “There is only one problem.  Jason Thomas went to prison for it.  He is doing fifteen years on a plea bargain.”  Doris said it tossing a newspaper on the desk.

 “Any chance he got out on parole a couple of months ago?”  The writer knew better but he had to ask.

 “I called.  He is tucked nicely away in his cell.  Not expected to get out for at least three more years.  He will probably do the whole fifteen.  He has been turned down for parole twice.  The victims family goes to all his hearings.  They want to keep him in jail.”

 “Okay who would remember the case best?”  The writer asked it knowing there had to be more than the librarian could get from the papers.  There always was.

 “I just knew you were going to ask that.  Writer, I have again done your research for you.  I will give you that information over dinner.”

 “I am sorry Doris, that just won’t do.  I will have wasted a day.  I want to see the person today, so that I can get this project moving.”

 “Well writer, like I said, tonight.”  She gave him a quiet smile.  

 She did not look at all like a woman who wanted to help him.  She looked more like a woman who wanted to help herself.  He just couldn’t figure, why she needed to black mail him to get a dinner date. Then again she was called the old maid librarian for some reason.

 The writer left disgusted with himself and her.  Her for not understanding his need for haste, and himself for not doing his own damned research.  He decided to fix that immediately.  He drove to the sheriff’s office in Taylortown.

 “Can I help you,” Deputy Conn asked.

 “I hope so.”  The writer had a pretty good idea that he couldn’t.  He knew a bit about police departments and sheriff’s too for that matter.  “I want to check the records on a murder.”

 “Not another one,” Conn mumbled.

 “I’m sorry, what was that?” the writer asked.

 “Nothing, who you want to look at?”  Conn didn’t look happy.

 “Do you have the records here?” the writer knew he wouldn’t have them available that easily.

 “Hell no, the records section is in the basement.  I call down they either send it or copy it.  Copying can get expensive they are a buck a page.”

 “In that case, I just want to know who the investigating officer was in a homicide about ten years ago.  It was a homicide where the woman’s body was found in the reservoir.”


 “I need the victim’s name.”

 “Louise Soloman,’ The name meant nothing to either of them.  The young deputy made a call to the records clerk who did the research.  Conn spoke again into the phone in a mumble, then hung up.
 “Investigating officer was Louis Sabine.  Before you ask, he is retired now.”

 “Well I sure hope he ain’t dead.”  The writer gave the young deputy a look that said, we have wasted enough time.

 “No, he runs a bait ranch on the road down to the lake.  You can’t miss it he sells gas and groceries too.”

 “How about the killer’s lawyer?  Do you happen to know his name?”

 “Wouldn’t be in our file.  The court would know though.  The court records section is upstairs in the lobby.  You can’t miss it.”

 Even if he couldn’t miss it, the writer did.  He had to ask directions from a clerk in the tax office.  Once he finally found the court records section, he found that the lawyer for Jason Thomas had been the public defender.  Odds were real good that there would be no information available from that office.  Those guys were notoriously lax back home, he thought.

 However, since their office was across the street from the courthouse he walked over.  He got a break without knowing it.  The head of the public defenders office at the time of Jason Thomas’s trial had retired.  He had not died yet, so nobody was especially interested in protecting his image.

 “Well writer, the file shows that Jason Thomas entered a plea bargain after Old Perry talked to him.  He had shouted to the world that he was innocent right up  till the trial began.  Frankly Perry got everybody to plead.  It was the way he did things.”

 “Well was Jason guilty or not?”

 “He thought that they were all guilty as sin.  If not for the crime they were charged with, then ten others."

 “Nice attitude,” the writer said it even though he was a law and order person.  Not much chance of getting a fair trial, if you were poor in Small town x. or the whole damned country for that matter.

 “Hey that was Perry’s attitude not mine.  So if you are asking me if Jason did it, I have no idea.”

 “Anybody had any contact with Jason since the trial?”

 “Nobody from this office.  You might try his sister.”

 “Okay, I will.  Who is the sister?”
 “Joyce Jenkins,” the lawyer said.  

 The name sounded familiar to the writer.  It took  a while for him to remember.  He was on the way to the address given him by the lawyer when he remembered.  Joyce Jenkins was the woman who had been killed in the police standoff thing.  He had read about it in the paper.  He had wasted all afternoon securing information Doris could have given him over dinner.  What an ass, he thought.

 The writer walked back across to the Sheriff’s office.  The traffic in Taylortown was only slightly more than Small Town X.  The writer did have to wait for a farm tractor to pass.  That struck him as slightly odd.

 “So, you forget something?” Deputy Conn asked.

 “Not really something else came up.  So Deputy tell me about Joyce Jenkins?”  The writer gave him a look that said volumes and nothing.  When cops kill a civilian who is not in the commission of a crime there are always a lot of whispers.

 “Nothing to tell, she went off her nut and almost killed a paramedic.  The sniper had to shoot her.  She had a deer rifle you know.,

 “Then it had nothing to do with her brother?  The one who put his exwife in the lake?”

 “Not a thing.”  Conn suddenly realized he should keep his mouth shut.  “That is all I am going to say writer.”

 “Oh you said plenty.  What you didn’t say is even more interesting.”  Even the writer had no idea what that meant.  He did know that, while running an investigation, it was a good idea to let people think you knew more than you did.

 The writer left the building quietly.  He decided he had better drive the little yellow convertible very carefully for a while.  He suddenly had a desire to see the car Maggie Evans had used for a coffin.  

 He drove back toward Small Town X.  Halfway between Small Town X and Taylortown sat a service station complete with fenced yard.  The fence surrounded the impound lot, he presumed.  He realized quickly that the fenced area was too large for a simple impound, unless the sheriff impounded every car in the county weekly.

 “Help you?” an almost young man in greasy jeans asked.

 “I expect so.  I need somebody to take a look at this engine, it sounds a little rough to me.  I don’t have time to get it tuned today, but do you do that kind of stuff?”

 “We sell gas, fix cars, sell used parts, if it breaks down we tow it, in other words there ain’t much we don’t do.”  He raised the hood to listen to the car.  “This one sounds like a typical three cylinder engine, just noisy as hell.  You might want to have it tuned up but I don’t expect it will be any quieter.”

 “Thanks, what do I owe you for listening?”  

 “Nothing, just bring it back for the tuneup.”  He closed the hood then started to walk away.

 “By the way what is your name?”  The writer asked it even though he had a pretty good idea. 

 “Tommy Burton,” the man replied.
 
 The writer nodded then followed him inside.  “Tommy tell me something, do you have any of those beasts in the yard?”

 “You mean like that Metro?” he asked in return

 “Yeah like that.  It is missing a couple of control buttons for the heater.”  It was the only thing the writer could think of right off the top of his head that was wrong with it.

 “Those things are hard to keep on.  I am not real sure what year it is but there is a red hatchback out there.  If it isn’t a newer one, it has them.  Go down the road till you get to a high pile of cars, then start looking in front of them.  The car is red.”

 The writer nodded then walked outside.  He saw the yellow convertible in the front of the yard.  It was in an area of cars that looked newer and complete.  The young man’s boss obviously kept the impounds there.  The canvas or whatever they made car tops from was ripped.  Probably by the diver who removed the body of Maggie Evans.  The writer wanted to take a closer look but decided it might be a really bad idea.  

 He had walked very slowly down the road while he made his observations of the car.  He continued on to the pile of cars making only a slight attempt to locate the red Metro.  He gave it a few minutes then went back to the building.  

 “Tommy, I couldn’t find the metro but don’t worry, I will come back when I have more time.”

 “When I do that tune up, I can take a look for you,” Tommy said helpfully.

 “So Tommy where do you keep your junkyard dogs?”  The writer asked it as he turned toward the door.  He had meant it as a throwaway question.

 “Old Elmer stays at the boss’s house during the day.  Boss thinks the dog should have a time clock.  He brings him in when we close.  Then takes him home in the morning.  His kids love to play with Old Elmer."  He though a minute then asked to the writer’s back.  “Why?”

 “Nothing Tommy, I just never seen a junkyard without a dog tied up someplace.”

 “Yeah, I guess that is true.”

 So much for climbing the fence to see the car.  For one thing Old Elmer would not listen to any bullshit stories, for another the chain link fence had barbed wire on it, and finally there was nothing to be learned from the car anyway.  He had noted that his metro looked a lot like a pregnant version of Maggie’s Miata.  That and thirty k was the only differences.

 The writer drove his Metro down the lake road.  About a quarter mile down it, he came to the
concrete block building with the live bait sign out front.  It was by far not the only sign.  There were signs for the gas prices, signs for the cigarette prices, signs with the name of the ice cream to be found inside.  There were signs of about every type, except one with Louis Sabine’s name on it.  The writer put two dollars and twelve cents worth of gas into his tiny car.  He had already fallen in love with it.  He walked slowly inside to pay.

 Just as soon as he entered, he knew he was in the right place.  The man behind the counter stood ramrod straight.  A sign of either military or paramilitary training, that wouldn’t let him go.  Then there was the handle of the stainless steel automatic pistol inside the pancake holster.  The writer supposed that it was the real tip off.

 “Twotwelve,” the man of the writers own age demanded.  “Anything else for you?”

 “Actually there is something.  I am here writing a book about the woman they found in the lake.”

 Sabine took a hard look before he asked, “Which woman?”


 “Good question,” the writer replied.  “Seems Maggie Evans wasn’t the first woman to try swimming with a car wrapped around her.”

 “Nice way to put it.  Then again like you said you are a writer.  Sorry friend, don’t give out information.”

 “Would it make a difference if I told you I was a retired cop too?”  The writer waited.
 
 “Yeah, I for sure wouldn’t talk to you.  You cops turned writers feel like you have to expose everything.  I liked the job myself.  I did thirty damn fine years on the sheriff’s department.”

 “I’m writing about Maggie Evans.  I am just interested in the other one for background.”  He probably knew it was a lie.  It was just to give him an excuse to talk.  Everybody likes to talk about themselves, unless they have something to hide.  At least that was his cop impression of people.

 “Ain’t nothing similar about them.  Evans was passing through.  She was some kind of salesperson.  Best I can figure from what I read between the lines in the paper, she was also something of a slut. Probably picked up a hitchhiker and he killed her.”  The cop gave the writer a hard look.

 “Louise Soloman got done by her ex.  They were in a squabble about child support and visitation.  Happens all the time writer, nothing sinister in that.  The killer pled guilty.”

 “Now that bothers me.  See, best I can tell he had a lawyer, who prided himself on convincing everyone to plead.  I imagine the DA was selling, either plead and get fifteen to life, or I go for death.”

 “Not too many innocent men plead guilty.”  The cop had the tough to beat comeback all right.

 “Not too many, but some do.  So did you find anything that you couldn’t explain?”

 “Not a thing, everybody but him had an alibi.  Her new husband was at work surrounded by twenty people all night.  Best we could tell, if there was another man in her life she had him hid pretty deep.”  The writer found it a little strange that the xcop brought that up at all.

 “Was there some reason you thought she might have a lover?”


 “Writer almost everyone around here has a lover.  It is just the nature of small towns, not enough moving picture shows I guess.”

 The writer shook his head.  He had no idea what that meant.  Small Town X wasn’t the only small town around.  He had never heard it expressed so matter of factly.  The cop didn’t find it odd that he suspected everyone in town was having an affair.

 “Just tell me this one thing.  Did you ever have any other suspect that looked good to you?”

 “Well, she had run with some tough guys before she remarried.  One of them has a pretty violent temper.  We took a good look at him.  You know, thought he might have resented her marrying someone else.”

 “So who were you looking at?”

 “Why not tell you, don’t make no difference now?” the cop suggested.

 “Exactly,” the writer agreed.
 “Martin, down at the gas mart.”

 “Did anyone work on the random killer bit?  You know, who it might be if it wasn’t a friend or relative?”  The writer asked it without much hope that they had.  Most killings were family or someone the victim knew well.  It just worked that way statistically.  He also realized too late that the question made it sound as if they hadn’t done a thorough investigation.

 “Writer are you stupid, or just trying to insult me.  We looked at everything for awhile.  Since we never did get a confession from her Ex.  We looked everywhere before we charged him.  In the end he was the only one who made sense.”

 “Was there a lot of physical evidence?”  The writer was pushing his luck and he knew it.  He really did not want to read through the case file, even if he could get it.
 “Almost none, she was last seen having a very noisy row with him.  They arrange a meeting for later, since Eddie tells them to take it out of her place.  She goes to the meeting and is never seen again.  We figure he killed her at the lake.  That is where the meeting was supposed to happen.”

 “So what is his version?”  The writer hoped to wrap up the earlier death easily.

 “He says she never showed.”  The writer smiled.  “Writer what would you expect him to say?”

 “That she never showed of course.  It would be the truth or a lie depending on whether he killed her or not.”

 “Not much to pen a tail on him with though.  Sounds like a lot of reasonable doubt to me.”

 “Mike Soloman was fit to me tied.  We looked at him about why his wife had met Jason at the late.  That place is famous for being a make out spot.  Why she agreed to meet Jason there was a bit of a controversy, but Mike swore he didn’t even know she was meeting him.  Mike was in Wilson working on a new Kmart store.  Had a tight alibi so we were back to Jason.”

 “How about a murder weapon?”  The writer asked it hoping to pry something useful out of the detective.

 “Jason had a nice set of tools in his truck.  Them expensive snap on tools, he used them to work on motorcycles, boat motors, and such.  He had a place for everything and everything had a place.  There was a missing space where a half inch drive puller bar should have been.  We searched the lake but never did find it.”

 “You mean to tell me he pled guilty because of a missing tool?”  The writer asked it shaking his head.

 “No, he pled guilty because he killed her.”  Even the retired cop’s voice sounded shaky on that one.

 “Anything else you can tell me?” the writer asked.

 “Just that you ain’t gonna find nothing more about Louise Soloman.  We looked that one over real good.  If Jason didn’t do it, nobody is ever gonna pay for her.”

 “Oh, I don’t care myself.  I write fiction.  In my book whoever I want to put in did it.”  The write smiled as he turned for his car.

 “If you make it too a real, don’t come back here.  These folks get real nasty when they are riled.”

 “I already noticed that,” the writer said from his convertible.

 The writer drove his little toy car on down to the lake.  He didn’t have a plan.  He simply wanted to see the spot where Maggie Evans had been pulled out.  There was no way to be sure exactly where it had been, since the police tapes had long since been removed.
 
 His curiosity got the best of him, so he used his cell phone to call the library.  “Doris, I am down at the lake.  Could you tell me where they recovered Maggie’s body.”


 “Sure, did you go all the way to the boat ramp?”

 “The concrete incline that goes into the water?” he asked.

 “Yes that spot, they brought her out there, but they say she went in about a hundred yards to the right of there.  I would think their would be some signs of it still.”

 “Thanks, I will take a look.”

 “I expect to see you at my place at seven,” Doris stated, then hung up before he could answer her.

 Just like a woman, he thought as he moved down the bank.  He was looking for the broken bushes or bent saplings.  Sure enough he found the spot.  As he expected the spot was much less than a hundred yards.  The wrecker would never have had enough cable to reach a hundred yards up stream.  It had been that far the car would have had to come out the same place it went in.  The distance was less than thirty yards.  

 With it being so close he had to wonder, why the killer hadn’t driven her to the boat ramp.  Probably expected her to be hidden longer a few yards away.  Even so, he must have somehow gotten a lot of speed from the Miata to get it out as far as he did.  It would have floated out some, the writer guessed.

 He knew from Doris’s conversation at the library that Louise’s body had been pulled out at of the middle of the lake.  She had become a floater rather quickly since the body was not weighted.  It was probably the reason the state asked for so little time on Jason.  No evidence of a planned killing.  Therefore there was no capitol case to bring.  If Jason’s lawyer had cared, or if Jason had known the law,  he would have known there was no death penalty case anyway.  There would have been no real reason for him to plead to it.  Odds were better than fifty, fifty that he would have walked.

 The writer was hungry when he left the lake.  He knew he had the right, it was after two p.m.  He drove his convertible back to the campground.  He intended to try out his camp stove.  It was something he had never seen before so it would be an experience.

 The stove came from a boy scout’s nightmare.  It was a gallon steel can.  Probably the resting place for some industrial sized portion of green beans.  One end had been completely removed.  Holes had been cut on the side of the end that was left intact.  They had been made with a beer opener.  Holes had been drilled all around the end with the missing top.   According to the instructions, typed on a plain piece of paper, one was to make a small fire with a couple of charcoal briquettes.  After the briquettes were glowing, the stove was to be placed over them.  It supposedly got hot enough to boil or fry.  

 The writer had his doubts.  His expectation was that the only thing to get burned would be his hand.  He cheated a little due to his advanced age.  He placed three bricks on the wooden picnic table.  Then he sat a disposable pie pan filled with sand onto the bricks.  In the pan he placed the two charcoal briquettes.  Since they were matchlite types he lit the newspaper under them.  It took several minutes for them to glow.

 The writer was truly amazed when after only a few more minutes, he was able to heat the beans and franks he had opened for his lunch.  Not only that, he found he could have cooked for at least  half an hour with the charcoal.  His mind began to fill with fantasies of things he could cook.  He laughed at himself when he realized how foolish a pursuit it was.  He was about as likely to actually cook on the little camp stove as he was to solve the Maggie Evans murder.  Both things had a probability rating of 0.

 The day shift ranger had driven by while he cooked his food.  The ranger stopped by after, supposedly to say hi.  His real reason was to make sure he hadn’t damaged the table.  Even so the writer enjoyed the talk with the man who was at least sixty.  He had the day shift because of his seniority no doubt.  He was even less willing to talk about the happenings around Small Town X than Jane.  It seemed they all felt, that they were not really a part of the town, since the park was located seven miles from the city limits.

 “Oh, they use the place for meetings and get togethers once in a while, but mostly we get tourists like you.  Well not exactly like you,” Jane had once said.

 “Well, I said my hellos,” the day ranger said.  “Guess I should get back to the office.  This place keeps everyone busy.”

 “What does a ranger do when he is not patrolling the park?”

 “Paperwork during the day shift.  Make reservations that kind of thing.  At night the ranger patrols a lot more often.  She also has to keep a close eye on the cabins.  We get a rowdy bunch up there once in a while.  Can’t have them fucking up those nice cabins.”

 “No, don’t want a bunch of kids messing up the place.”  The writer was shocked by the word coming from an older man.  Men his age just didn’t come out with that word to almost total strangers.  He tried to ignore it as best he could.  

 “Yeah, well writer you need to come by the office for a cup of coffee some morning.  I know the ladies in the office would love to hear what you are up to out here.”  He smiled an almost wicked smile. He was in the SUV by the time he finished.

 The writer nodded his agreement, then watched him drive away.  The writer shook his head.  He just wasn’t used to being treated so well.  He smiled, thinking that he had finally gotten sexy but it was to old ladies.  He laughed out loud but quietly. 

 The remainder of his day was spent in a stupor brought on by the heat and his inactivity.  Even in the stupor his mind worked.  It just didn’t bother telling him what it was doing.  When he awoke from the heat drugged sleep, he looked at his watch.  He realized that he was going to be early, if he began moving around so quickly.  

 Instead of rushing to prepare for his date with Doris, he drank a very large amount of iced tea.  He figured that the ice would be gone by the time he returned from his date anyway.  That was one reason, but the main reason was his dehydration from sweating in the tent.  He figured the sheets would dry by the time he got home, but they would still be limp.

 Sleeping in his cutoff work pants had a definite advantage.  He was able to walk to the shower carrying only a towel and clean jockey shorts.  While he stood on the very uncomfortable shower floor, he tried to make his mind remember all the things he had learned that day.  The heat had washed them from his mind.  The day was gone, as though it had never happened.

 Soaking his head probably helped him avoid a heat stroke, but it did nothing for his memory.  The tent had done more to empty his mind than all the years of drinking.  Hell it was probably a combination of the two, he thought.

 Dressing for his date with Doris was simple.  He slipped into an uncut version of the shorts he wore.  He hadn’t worn anything more than cotton work pants, since his retirement from the department.  Both the cutoffs and the long pants he wore that day were tan.  He also had those same pants in navy and grey.  

 He sat at the picnic table drinking the last of the iced tea before he left for Doris’s house.  He drank so much tea that he finally overcame the dehydration.  He was forced to make a pit stop on the way out of the campground.

 On the way out of the park, he passed Ranger Jane.  She smiled as if she knew and approved of his evening out.  Ranger Jane seemed to have plenty of friends.  It was most unlikely that she would miss me, the writer thought.

 As a matter of fact Ranger was very happy to see the writer leave.  It solved her problem.  She had been trying to make up her mind, between the writer and Hit Me Hurt Me all day.  She craved the things the writer could do for her, but she also needed the release that a session with Hit Me could provide.  The writer was hardly out of sight, before she dialed Hit Me’s number.

 “Hello,” the male voice said.

 “Is this the county health clinic?” Jane asked knowing full well it wasn’t

 “No damn it, do I sound like a fucking nurse?”  The voice was angry.  The man on the other end of the line didn’t bother to wait for an answer.  The phone got slammed in her ear.

 So much for a night with Hit Me.  Jane couldn’t help but wonder if all the things Hit Me said were true.  According to Hit Me, no body else knew of her secret life.  Oh they all knew she was a slut, but they didn’t know that she was also a bisexual.  She hid that fact well.  As a matter of fact she couldn’t do it with Jane without being forced.  
 
 “Can you call it forced, if a woman comes to me for the express purpose of being abused until she does my bidding.  That isn’t really force,” she said aloud.  Jane was getting a little tired of Hit Me anyway.  She didn’t really want to be around Jane except to be abused.  There was no friendship let alone romance in it.  Most of the time she just showed up after Jane’s shift.  Well that had been the case before Jane ‘took up’ with the writer.  She and Hit Me had begun to make appointments.

 Jane saw Hit Me out now and then but she had been warned to ignore her.  If she did more than say a friendly hello, Hit Me would stay away for weeks.  Hit Me, for all her slutty ways, was terrified that her husband, or even the town might find out about her perversions.

 Jane changed her thought train.  She left Hit Me at the station then moved on to Doris.  The writer was off to see Doris she was sure.  What he saw in Doris only a few people understood.  Jane was sure Doris would be a fireball, when she finally gave it up.  Jane had even considered trying to take it from her.  Half the town was convinced that she was les anyway.  Jane wasn’t sure of anything except that, neither she, nor Eddie had been with Doris.  If neither of them had made it with her, odds were she wasn’t really les.  “That story was probably made up by some man who couldn’t get her panties off,” Jane mumbled to herself just before she broke into laughter.

 Then again she had never tried.  She doubted that Eddie had either.  Neither of them had exactly been forced to go out recruiting.  The women of Small Town X were the horniest bunch Jane had ever seen.  She had turned down several of them.  It was something she had never done before her arrival in Small Town X.

 While Jane absentmindedly drove around the campground, the writer drove the twisted roads toward Doris’s house.  His mind worked on trying to remember the things he had learned that day.  They still alluded him, but that was okay.  He knew they would come back to him one day.  He wasn’t planning to sit down at the computer right away.

 Doris answered the door in a simple black dress cut low in the front.  The vee went well below where her bra cups should have joined.  The writer didn’t know that, but he knew it was low enough to show a very deep cleavage.  He wondered why he hadn’t noticed before that Doris had great breasts.   Doris filled the top of the simple straight cut black dress.  She also filled the rest of it.  Doris had thick hips and a bit of a tummy which showed in the dress.  It wasn’t enough to be a major problem, at least not for the writer.  He considered the meal just payment for research anyway.


 “I like the dress," he said as she turned around.  He immediately noticed that the dress was cut far too low in the back, for Doris to be wearing a bra.  He wondered why her breasts weren’t sagging in the tight black dress.  What he didn’t know was that the dress was an engineering fete, equal to a suspension bridge.,

 “Wow,” he exclaimed.  “I really like that dress now.”

 “Calm down writer.”  Doris said it sternly but she was secretly pleased with the impression she had made.  Yes, she thought, he may well be the one.

 “So would you like a drink before we go?” Doris asked.

 “I guess not.  I tend to drink too much, when I start before nine.  I am trying to be good tonight.  The writer did not bother to tell her the real reason.”

 “Now why in the world would you want to be good.  Or are we talking about a different kind of good here?”

 “Well I think behaving myself is in order tonight.  I have to keep my wits about me.”

 “Why do you think that writer?  I haven’t attacked a man in months.”
 “Not that, I think you are just a wee bit smarter than I.  I want to be able to keep up.”

 What a sweet thing to say, but I try not to show off my intelligence.”  She smiled at him as she closed her front door behind them.

 “You seem to have plenty to show off.”  The conversation had moved them from her front porch to the convertible.   “I am not just talking about your brain either.

 Doris smiled at him, then said, “Writer, I am going to have to watch you closely.  You are about the most charming rascal I have met.  I am serious, you are a real sweet talker.”

 “Get it from my mom.  She was a real charmer she was.”  His poor excuse for an Irish accent made her laugh.

 “Let me give you the directions to the restaurant before you talk me into stopping at the lake instead.”  She spent a few minutes explaining all the twists and turns it would take to get them to the restaurant.

 The drive did take them by the lake.  He didn’t stop though.  Hell he didn’t even slow down.  “Would you mind, if I put the top down after dinner?” he asked.

 “That is what I like about you writer.  You make sure that you are going to get the answer you want before you ask”

 “How so?” he asked.

 “You set that up, so that I would have no excuse.  If you had asked to do it now I could, and would have asked you not to do it.  My hair and the restaurant you know.  Since you made it clear that it would be after, how could I say no.”

 “Please, I am not that smart Doris.  I just put it off because I figured you would want to keep your hair in place till after dinner.  It had nothing to do with all that thinking.  You make it sound like a plot to get you out of that black dress.”

 “Isn’t it?”  Doris asked it turning to face him.  It wasn’t dark enough yet for him to hide his embarrassment.  

 “Maybe it is.  I am not smart enough to know that either.”

 “I see.  You are one of those guys who works on instinct?”  She asked it with a smile he couldn’t see.

 “I don’t know about that.  I don’t make a lot of big plans, I do know that.  Like now, my big plan revolves around what to have for dinner, nothing beyond that.”

 “I would suggest steak, since it is a steak house.”

 “I do hope they have a band there.  Since you seem to be dressed for it, we really should dance a bit.”

 “Oh I think we are probably going to dance a bit.”  

 The Cattleman’s Restaurant and Bar was full of surprises.  It had a small front that had once been the original home of the place.  The front had been a Service station when the concrete block building had been erected.  To turn it into a southwestern bar motif, the new owners had covered it with stucco, then painted the stucco the color of adobe.  

 There never had been enough space in the building.  One big screen TV occupied most of the room used as the seating area in the early days.  The new part of the building was added onto the rear.  It stuck out on each side like wings on some hideous obscene experiment in evolution gone crazy.  The owners had planted fast growing tall shrubs to cover the addition rather than make the walls match the front part of the building.  

 The effect had been fine till they added to the parking lot.  The new parking lot addition was built around a corner.  The cheap concrete block walls could no longer hide their shame.  The building went from a fairly unique picturesque spot to an eyesore overnight.  To make matters even worse the owner at the time went belly up.  The new owners were from, and stayed, out of town.  They cared nothing for the looks of the building.  So long as the money from overpriced steaks and drinks flowed, they would do nothing.

 Doris’s slinky dress was out of place in the restaurant.  It was obvious, she wore it only for the fiveminute effect it had on the writer.  Still, the place had a manic charm about it.  Once inside the writught those to the walls of the Cattleman’s.

 The old service station part of the warehouse style building, served as the lobby and most of the bar.  He supposed that on truly busy nights people waited to be seated. in the area.  On nights like the one when the Writer and Doris arrived, it served only to remind the customers that there was a bar available.

 “Walk this way,” the hostess said.

 “Since we are in a restaurant that screams old vaudeville jokes, I ain’t never gonna be able to walk that way.”  The writer almost screamed it at Doris.  The scream served as a whisper since the noise level was very high.

 “Yes Groucho,” Doris answered.  She was wearing a broad smile the writer noticed.
 “Smoking or non smoking?” the hostess asked as they reached the opening to the large dining area.

 “Do you have a 'hear yourself think area'?”  The writer was only half kidding.

 “Smoking it is.” The youngster replied.
'
 The smoking area was smaller and cut off by a concrete block wall from the remainder of the restaurant.  The noise was considerably less.  It seemed as though the noise in the dinning area was enhanced by the hard wall coverings.  It was the writers guess that the noise was intentional.  Somehow it was supposed to add to the saloon image, he supposed.

 To his surprise Doris opened her purse then removed a pack of cigarettes.  She lit one, then did a female thing.  She waved her hand in front of her face to disperse the smoke.  She noticed the writer looking at her so she spoke.

 “It is a fairly harmless vice, though less than I thought previously.”

 “Oh come now, they called those things coffin nails in the period this place is supposed to represent.”

 “Oh I knew they were dangerous to my health.  I just didn’t know they were dangerous to yours.  I am sorry, but I really do need this.”

 “Not to worry, I love the smell of a cigarette with my meals.”  She looked as though she were going to snuff it out.  “Hey I am not kidding.  I am a reformed smoker.”

 A careful drinker and reformed smoker, I do hope you haven’t given up all the vices.”

 “No, I still eat donuts.”  The writer smiled at her.

 “Good, I just hate perfection in a man.”  Doris was smiling mysteriously at him

 “Well then you and I should get along just fine.  I am a long way from perfect.”  The writer stopped talking a moment then continued.  “By the way you and that dress are a big hit.  While we followed the hostess, I looked up from your ass in time to see the guys staring at you.  If I were you I would carry a gun, when I wore that dress.”

 “What makes you think I don’t?” she asked with that wicked smile returning.

 “Good point,” he agreed.

 “Since we are tossing out compliments, I went on the net yesterday and read a couple of your books.  You are a much better writer than most of the people publishing up there.  Your books should be in paperback.”

 “You know that is humorous,” he said close to open laughter.  “Paperback was once an insult to a real writer.  Now it is real publishing and the ebooks are an insult.”

 “I am not trying to insult you.  I just think you should be paid for your work.  It is certainly good enough.”

 “So which one did you read?”  The writer asked seriously.

 “The one about the cop who murders his wife.  I think it is was, “Cowboys And Killers.”

 “Close enough,” the writer said with a grin.

 “What was it then?” Doris asked embarrassed.

 “The killer and the Cowgirl.”


 “Yes that is it.  The cop who killed his wife because she was a lesbian.”

 "Is that what it was about?.  I thought it was about the cop, who killed his wife, who happened to be a lesbian.”

 “Is there a difference?” She asked.

 “Maybe not,” he admitted.

 “So did you like it?”  He knew he should not have asked.  No matter what she said it was going to be a problem for him.  He already sounded like he was fishing for a compliment.

 “Truth?” She asked.

 “Only, if you must,” he replied.

 “You knew I was going to say it, whether you gave me permission or not.  The book is very interesting.  The characters are quite good.  The grammar is not all that bad.  I expect to all, but us English majors it would be passable.  Somehow I don’t think you wrote it for an English major.  So now, to what I found impossible to ignore, you have spelling and typo mistakes in it.  Far too many to be accidental.  Obviously you don’t spell worth a damn, but you do get it close enough so that spell check can’t find them, as in thing, when you mean think.  The book needs a careful proofreading.
 “I agree with that.  I have proofread it about a hundred times.  Frankly I am sick of proofreading it.”

 “Then hire me.” The look on her face told him that she was serious.  “With a bit of proofreading your stories would be much better, even if you don’t want to publish them.”

 “Ah, I am tempted, but can I afford you?”  

 “You can.  I am a librarian, I always wanted to see my name on the shelf.  You let me work with you on this book and I will do the grunt work.  You write it and I will rewrite it.  I will even print it out and find you an agent.  In other words writer, I will get it publish on paper.  That is assuming we write one good enough.”

 “I have never written one good enough before. What the hell why not?  If you screw it up, I will just put it on my web site with a comment about it being your fault.”

 “How trusting of you.”  Doris said it sarcastically.

 “Lady, I have no idea whether you can spot a typo or not.”

 “Obviously I can do it better than you.”

 “Better than me means nothing my dear.”  The writer was filled with good humor all of a sudden.  He had been made the offer before, but no one has ever gone through with it.  Everyone thought writing was easy till they tried it once.

 “Well Writer, wouldn’t you like to tell me what your plans are?”  Doris asked it innocently enough.

 “Yes, I plan to eat the T Bone when it arrives.  Then I plan to go somewhere quiet.  If you still want to talk about the book, then I will tell you all about it.  It is not my first choice of topics however.”

 “Are you hitting on me Writer?”  She saw him trying to think of a way out of it.  “Well, don’t look so shocked, I don’t mind.”

 The arrival of the food prevented him from putting his foot deeper into his mouth.  The steaks were exceptional, as Doris knew they would be.  Doris had a bottle of wine with dinner.  For some reason, she didn’t understand, the writer did not touch his.  She knew he drank because she had been told of his visits to Eddie’s.  She knew he had visited the evil woman’s place more than once.

 “Writer, are you trying to get me drunk?” She asked it as he poured the last of the wine into her glass.

 “Do I need to?” He asked it, as he smiled suggestively at her.

 “In spite of me talking a good game, the jury is still out on that one.”

 “It is okay Doris, I am not sure, I may disappoint you anyway.”

 “Now see you have me on the defensive again.  Writer, you are insidious.   I think you have talked a lot of women out of their panties in your time.”

 “Now wouldn’t you like to rephrase that.  You make me sound about a hundred.”

 “I think I will wait to rephrase it, until I see how old you act.  Now, I want a piece of that chocolate cheesecake before I leave here, even if I don’t need it.”

 “Oh I think you can handle the cheesecake just fine.”  The writer was not just being nice.  Doris, though not skinny by any means, did have a long way to go before she reached anything near unpleasant in her body type.

 “Damn right I can, I don’t go to that gym three times a week for nothing.”

 
 Dinner came and went without much fanfare.  The writer found that Doris was pretty good company.  She had a few theories on life, that were a little out of plumb, but not so many as most folks.  The writer couldn’t quite put a name to her interest in him.  He began to think toward desert that she just wanted to get her name on a book jacket.  The Internet book jacket wasn’t really much of an honor.  Since he was grateful for the help, he didn’t bother telling her that.

 “Well Doris, they don’t have a band, I guess dancing is out of the question.”  The writer said it but to Doris he didn’t seem sorry at all.

 “No writer no band at all.”

 “You are the local here.  What shall we do after dinner.”  The writer didn’t have any ploy in mind at all.  He hadn’t given a thought to any romantic involvement with Doris.  With the dress Doris was wearing, it should have been obvious what she had in mind.

 “I am going to let you put the top down on that rag you call a convertible, then we are going to go to the lake, so that you can see what goes on out there.  It might give you a new insight into what happened to Louise and Maggie.”  

 “I have been there.  All I saw was a dirt road that circled the lake.  There will be even less to see at night.”  The writer didn’t really have any idea.  He was simply talking hoping to learn something.

 “Humor me writer,” Doris suggested.

 Several minutes later the writer paid the bill while Doris went to the ladies room.  Not only did she use the facilities there, she also inserted a small sponge and gel into her vagina.  She had plans for the writer.  Plans meant to finally take care of her shameful problem.

 The very first thing the writer had done after buying the convertible was learn to put the top down.  He quickly released the latch then lifted the top.  It dropped easily into the holder inside the rear of the car.  He debated whether to put the plastic covers on it.  It was a lot of trouble for a very few minutes.  Still the car looked so much better with them on.  He broke down and ran around the car attaching the covers.   

 While he did all of it, Doris stood patiently.  She was pleased with the idea of riding in the convertible on a warm summer night.  She was especially pleased with her plan, she had worked on it diligently all day.  She not only planned to weasel her way into the book, but to seduce the writer in the process.  It was a twofer for her.

 If it had been a movie, or even one of the writer’s books, there would have been the smell of Jasmine in the air.  The air that night was scented with cut hay, fertilized fields, and of course dry vegetation, as Ohio was in yet another drought.

 Doris knew a stretch of back roads that led them from Taylortown to the reservoir in Small Town X.  Even with the excess wine Doris got him to the lake without too many missed turns.  As he began to circle the lake the driver noticed the tail lights of cars parked between the dirt road and the lake.  They seemed to have pulled off randomly as they drove along.  They each left a reasonable space between themselves and the last car they had passed.   It seemed that way to the writer.

 “So the lake is the town’s lovers lane?”  The writer asked it curiously because there seemed to be an awful lot of cars.

 “The town, and the county too, the best I can figure,” Doris replied.  “Hell Writer, some of these folks are even married, a few to each other.   If you look close, you will see two cars parked together here and there.  Those are married people not here with their spouses.”

 “It seems rather dangerous to me to be meeting someone here like that.  Look at all the cars nearby, someone is bound to see.”

 “Yes but there is an unwritten law, no one ever sees anything here.  That is carved in stone.”

 “Don’t husbands or wives ever come up here looking for a wayward spouse.”  The writer asked it simply.  It seemed the logical place to look.

 “I don’t really know, but if they do they go home and wait for them.  No one has ever been confronted here to my knowledge.  If they did, the offending party would be ostracized by the whole town.  It would be the ultimate in bad form.”  Doris laughed.

 Doris wasn’t shaking but she was nervous.  She couldn’t believe that she was going to be forced to make the first move.  She really didn’t want to do that.  It was how she got in the trouble before.  The trouble she needed the writer to get her out of.

 Doris had been the librarian ten years before Louise had been murdered.  She hadn’t forgotten it at all.  She just needed time to decide whether or not to tell the writer about Louise.  In the end she had decided to tell him some of it, just to keep him coming around.  She needed the writer to clear up the rumor that she was a lesbian.  It was only a rumor because no one, man or woman, could say they had ever been with Doris Masters.

 The rumor got started, because Louise thought she was a poet.  She came to the library to write.  She thought she would be inspired by all the books Doris supposed.  Anyway they had struck up a friendship.  One of those kinds that men don’t understand at all.  


 The Friendship was confined to the library since Doris didn’t go out at all.  Also, because Louise had married again.  Doris would often put her hand on Louise’s shoulder as she showed her a book.  Louise always looked up and smiled at her.  Doris had no way of knowing that Louise had misunderstood her meaning.

 It was Louise, who had followed her into the large bookcases.  It was Louise, who had tried to kiss her.  Doris had been shocked but determined to never say a word about it.  She just planned to cool it around Louise.  That is exactly what she did.  Louise on the other hand started the rumor, but didn’t name herself as the object of Doris’s affections.

 In Louise’s version, long since forgotten, she had been told by a friend in confidence, that Doris had touched the friend in a place she shouldn’t have.  Doris hadn’t bothered to deny it.  She thought, that will only make matters worse.  The story actually didn’t cause her all that much pain.  She just had to be careful so that when she lost her virginity it didn’t seem a cover.  That is why she had waited for someone special.  The waiting had dragged on much longer than she had anticipated.  It got harder and harder to find someone special enough.  The writer appeared to fit that bill.  

 “I have been waiting for the right man.  That is why I haven’t had sex before.  No I didn’t have sex with women or men hon,  I was waiting for just the right one.”  That was how she planned to tell it.

 The really sad part was, that if she had been les, after the rumors began, she could have had her pick of a dozen women.  For a while they seemed to come out of the woodwork.  Mostly they weren’t true lesbians, but rather curious women, who felt Doris would be safe to play around with.  She choked down the urge to scream at them, while she calmly explained they were mistaken as to her sexual orientation.
 With just a little luck and a few days time that should all be behind her.   There were plenty of people to see her, and the convertible was perfect.  She couldn’t have asked for a better situation to put this all behind her.  Everyone at the lake, and there would be plenty, would see the convertible and know it was the writer.  She planned to make sure at least some of them saw her face clearly. It was for sure one night she wanted to be recognized.

 “Writer why don’t you park on the end there, while we talk about the Maggie Evans murder.  I might be able to offer some new insight into your information.  I am a local you know.”

 “Sure, but do you really want to do it here.  People will talk about us.”

 “Writer do I have to hit you over the head?”  She asked it with what could only be described as a catlike grin.
 
 The writer pulled into the next vacant piece of dirt.  He noticed just in passing that there seemed to be drives.  The residents of Taylor County seemed to have use the reservoir often enough to have killed the grasses around the lake.

 To his great surprise Doris came to his arms without any coaxing.  The hand brake and gear shift made kissing her uncomfortable.  He would have pressed his body hard against her, if he could have.  He could  though find her breast with his hand.  

 Under her breast he found a kind of platform built into the black dress.  The straps, which tied behind her head, held her breast supported.  It was pure genius in design.  He didn’t appreciate it though, he just felt her marvelous soft breast in his hand.  It had the effect Doris wanted.  His breathing became hard as well as a certain appendage.  There was nothing he could do about it in the tiny convertible.  That also pleased Doris.  It meant that the desired effect on him would last a while longer.

 The writer kissed and fondled Doris for several minutes before he pulled back.  She took a deep breath then said, “Writer, I want you but not like this.  Can we just hold it at this level for a while?”

 “In this car I don’t see how we can do otherwise.”  His smile was there but there was no humor in it.

 “We could go to my house, but Writer I would really like for this to last awhile.  I am sure you know this is my first sexual experience.  I would prefer it be more than a quick roll in the hay.

 “Well Doris, to be honest there is no future between us.  You do know I have a family back home.  Once this book is finished, I will be headed back.”  Doris had made the writer nervous.  The family wasn’t much of an excuse.  He might never be free of them, but they could not, and would not try to keep him from the road.  Hell, they probably enjoyed seeing him gone as much as he enjoyed being gone.
 “Writer, I did not mean, forever after.  I meant simply I would like to build up to sex, not just make it the beginning and end.”

 “Well it has been a long time since I courted anyone.”  The writer smiled even though it was mostly inward.

 “It is okay writer, I will help you along.”  She paused to make sure he was still interested.  Since he had pulled away, Doris bent over the shift leaver to kiss him again.  With a free hand she untied the top of her dress.  Her soft, slightly sagging breasts fell free.  The writer could feel her movements, while her tongue darted into his mouth.  He was gasping for air by the time the kiss broke.

 “There is no way to move in this clown car that doesn’t hurt,” she said with a giggle.  Lets get out and sit on the trunk or something,”

 “Are you kidding?  The trunk will collapse.  We can lean against the damn thing so that I can hold you.”  It was a plan they both could live with.

 The writer went to her side of the car.  He helped her out and into the view of anyone passing.  It was her plan.  Doris was setting her plan into motion.  If nothing else she was a master strategist.
 
 She hadn’t bothered to retie her dress.  That surprised the writer. He expected her breasts to be visible to any passerby.  On the one lane road there would be many, as they all had to go around the lake to leave.  It was not possible to pass another car on the road.  The writer didn’t mention it.  He had long before learned, that women knew full well what they were doing at any given minute.  They knew the right thing, but did what they wanted anyway.

 She turned her back to him so that he could wrap his arms around her ending with a breast in each hand.  She moaned her pleasure, as she leaned her head back against him.  When the first car passed, she turned her head to the side, put her hand in his hair, then pulled him to her lips.  The kiss was passionate all right but more than that, it was visible to Martin and his date.  Doris didn’t know that it was Martin, but then it didn’t really matter who the first one was.  There would be others.  Her plan would begin to run its course.  When the pickup had passed, Doris broke the kiss.  

 “So Writer,” she said leaning back against him.  “What can I do to help you with the book?”

 “At the moment nothing I can think of.  I have all these possibilities but can’t get any conformation on any of them.”  It was true the local Sheriff and his men avoided telling anyone anything.  They had seen too many cases get into the media before they were ready.  Hell, cops were never ready to be looked at by the public.  Their desire was to be more like the Army.  But alas, they had to deal with the people who paid their salaries.  That one fact caused them to be looked at a bit.  

 “Is that all?” Doris asked breaking into an unladylike laugh.  “Honey the chief investigator on this is Wilson Short.”
 “Don’t tell me you and Wilson have a thing?”  The writer knew better.

 “No dear, but Wilson, like all men, talks to his wife.  Laurel Short has two preteen kids.  She brings them to the library a couple of times a week during the summer.  She and I talk some, while the kids read, or do whatever kids do in a library.  They probably look at boobs in the National Geographic.”

 “So, you can probe her so to speak?”  The writer asked.  He knew it sounded a little suggestive, but then he was also a little curious.

 “Writer, I am going to let that pass.  If you have anything you want to know about me, ask don’t hint.”  The writer nodded.  “Now, what is it you want to know.”

 “Okay, what I want to know is what the sheriff’s people know., but that is more than the detective’s wife would know.  I don’t care how much he talks to her.  I expect it would just be in broad strokes.  The first thing is why Maggie Evans came down from the highway and what time it was.”

 “So Writer, what do you think it was.”

 “I expect it was something to do with the car.  Either she needed gas, or something else.  It could have just died.  Either way, I need to know what got her down to Small Town X.”

 “Would the cops know?” Doris asked.

 “Yes, they should have looked to see if the car had gas.  Either an empty or full tank would help.  She probably used a credit card.  The sheriff’s deputies have access to those records.  They also have access to the cell phone records.  They should know, if she called anyone for help.  The deputies should have a pretty good idea by now who it was that she spoke to last.

 “So, that is my first assignment, to figure out what the cops know?”  She smiled at the writer.

 “Yes dear, see if you can weasel it out of the wife.”  Doris turned to him then pressed her lips hard against his.  He could feel the heat between them.

 “Anything for you lover,” she whispered.  With those words she dropped her hand to his pants.  In front of anyone who happened by she unzipped his pants.  She then removed him from the folds of cloth.  She kissed him hard on the lips with her tongue in his mouth, while her hand stroked him.  He was sure that she would give up, since he knew it would take a while.  For one thing he was no kid, for another he had spent a lot of time with Ranger Jane.


 To his surprise, within a few minutes he felt the pressure in him rise.  He tried to move away but Doris held him tight.  He felt the release and knew that her black dress would join the famous blue dress in the cleaners.

 “I am sorry Doris.  I tried to stop you.”  Rather than answer she reached town to her belly, coated a finger with the thick white liquid.  She slipped the finger into her mouth.  She made a face, one the writer couldn’t figure out, till she repeated the action again.  He wasn’t quite sure what it all meant. He wasn’t, however, the kind of man to look a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak.   

 Doris was satisfied with how the date had gone.  She was absolutely sure he would call her.  At the very least, he wanted the information she could supply.  She expected that he also wanted something else which she could supply.  Since he had walked her to the door, then kissed her goodnight, the sponge had been wasted.  Too bad, since they had to come from Canada in those days.

 The writer wasn’t sure why he had chosen not to press Doris when he took her home.  Something about the woman bothered him.  It didn’t bother him so much that he couldn’t make love to her, but he would be sure to clear the room of weapons before he did.   He supposed that it might be a foolish concern.  One fostered by the knowledge that she was an old maid librarian.  An old maid who had suddenly decided that he was the one for her.  That in itself made her suspect.  That kind of thing just didn’t happen to the writer.

 The writer knew that even though the tent was miserably hot in the daytime, it was very cool in the evening.  Once the sun went down the air moving about was quite pleasant.  The writer was tempted to do some work on the novel but decided against it.  His power supplies were limited.  It just didn’t seem like the right time to put a dent in his batteries.  

 Instead of writing, he slipped into his cutoffs, then onto the eightinch air mattress.  He tried to sleep but it just wouldn’t happen.  upt her travels?  What would make me leave the highway?” he asked himself.  It had to be car trouble or gas.  Nothing else was likely to have brought her down.

 Right or wrong, the writer believed that he could figure it out, if only he knew why Maggie came down from the highway.  He felt strongly that she was a target of opportunity for her killer.  He bolted from his bed, suddenly wide awake.  The half sleep fog failed to hide his thoughts.  If Maggie was a target of opportunity, then the killer had done it before.  Louise Soloman was not just likely to have been another victim, but one of many other victims.  

 “Jesus,” he said aloud.  “How could a serial killer go unnoticed?”  He knew damned well how.  Cops didn’t like open cases, so they often closed them out the easiest possible way.  Linking open cases together was definitely not the easiest way.  Add to that the multiple jurisdiction problems, and you had the nightmarish possibility for a serial killer to go undetected.”

 He was going to need a lot of evidence to convince the cops to hunt a serial killer.  For one thing, they had at least one innocent man doing time for a probable victim of the serial killer.  They were not going to be easily convinced that they had convicted the wrong man.  Most of the victims would not be listed as homicides.   Most would be missing persons, cops didn’t look very hard for missing adults.

 The writer’s mind raced, sleep was going to be impossible.  The writer didn’t spend a lot of time on the decision, he simply got into the convertible.  The drive to the town’s only all night market wasn’t short, but it was necessary.  The writer was about to break a very long fast.

 He was more than a little surprised to see a droopy eyed Martin behind the register.  “This your place?” he asked.

 “Not likely, it belongs to my brother.  I just work here most nights.”  

 The writer nodded.  That was going to prove interesting.  Martin, one of the suspects in the Louise Soloman homicide, worked in an all night gas station.  The writer shook his head, way too easy he thought.  Then again he had learned long ago, that most of the time it really was the most obvious suspect.  Only in movies did they come out of nowhere.  The real whodunits were few and far between.  Even with those, the most heard comment after you busted the mooch was, “Oh yeah him.”

 “So what you want Writer?” Martin asked.

 “Give me a carton of the cheapest generic light cigarettes you have.”  He looked around a bit  before he had another thought. “Yeah, and a lighter of some kind.”


 “That will be eighteen bucks and forty cents,” Martin said shortly.  It didn’t look as though he wanted to talk.

 The writer handed him the card.  While Martin processed the card, the writer opened the plain white carton of Dallas cigarettes.  He had the pack open before Martin got the card squared away.  He lit the infernal thing, then sucked his next heart attack deep into his lungs.  He instantly became so light headed that he had to hold to the counter.

 Martin had seen him stagger a little but didn’t say a word.  It was none of his business even if the fucking writer died in front of him.  He noticed the writer weave a couple of second then get control of it.

 “Been a long time between cigarettes,” the writer said.  Neither he not Martin smiled.  The writer almost asked Martin about Maggie Evans, and Louise Soloman but he held off.  He wanted to have his facts straight before he did.  Cops like to know the answers before they ask the questions.

 Since the head rush was gone, he waved goodbye to Martin, then headed out the door.  He put the top on the convertible down, mostly because Martin was watching.  He felt about as good as he had in years.  He was smoking a cigarette, driving a convertible and working on a homicide.  One that might prove to be a big time case.  The kind of case that had eluded him his whole career.

 As he drove to the campground, he knew in his heart, that the case would prove to be routine, the convertible would explode, and he would have the third heart attack before he finished the carton of cigarettes.  It didn’t matter for that little space of time he was happy.  He was doing the jazz with a slightly younger woman, had an even younger and prettier one wanting him, and God only knew what adventure lay ahead.  


 “Shit, if I am not careful, I am going to burst into song.”  He said it as he pulled into the campground.  He wanted nothing more than to sit up all night, smoking, while trying to figure it all out by himself.  Instead the bed called to him lovingly.  He surrendered to its charms.

 “I am going to kick that writer’s ass one day,” Martin said after the writer had gone.  “I never did think much of cops.  He ain’t even a cop no more, but he acts like he owns the place.  Cocksucker comes here from some red neck trailer park town, then he acts like he is somebody.”  Martin turned off the lights, then went into the bathroom with the latest Hustler magazine.

 Doris was asleep in her bed dreaming dreams of marrying some good man, then leaving Small Town X for good.  She tried to see his face for what seemed like hours.  She desperately wanted to know who the stranger was.  He seemed familiar, but even in her unconscious state, she knew no man would leave Small Town X unless forced to do so.   She knew she would have to find a stranger to take her away.

 “Since Ranger Jane made her last round at two, she too was fast asleep.  She was dreaming of Hit Me Hurt Me.  She hated when Hit Me’s husband came home in the middle of the week.  It meant, that she could not see Hit Me for at least a whole week.  Ranger Jane tossed fitfully in the heat of the trailer.  Unlike the writer’s tent, the ranger’s trailer was like an oven.  Jane woke with a tightness in her belly.  She slipped her fingers between her legs.  She manipulated her most sensitive spot while her mind replayed her recent sexual encounters.  The memories were of both Hit Me, and the writer.  Her muscles constricted hard a few times before she could return to sleep.

 Eddie was doing her, after the bar closed, cleaning.  She was thinking about the writer. One of her customers had seen him out with Doris.  Eddie felt a twinge of jealousy.  She was trying to figure out who she was jealous about.  She didn’t think she wanted the writer.  It had been a long time since she had sex with a man.  She told anyone who would listen that she didn’t miss it one damned bit either.  Well if wasn’t the writer, it had to be Doris.  Eddie had heard the stories but had never given the librarian much thought.  After all she was totally different from Eddie, she was polished and ladylike.  Eddie was rough as hell and certainly no lady.
 
 Still Eddie smiled thinking she might just check out a book at the library, or maybe the librarian.  With that thought she tossed the bar towel into the sink, moved to the switch by the door, killed the lights before leaving for home.  Home was the very old poorly maintained apartment over the bar.  Eddie opened the door to the hot empty place.  She thought to herself, God I need a woman.”  Then she smiled as she did most nights.

 
 The writer did a smart thing.  He did it from experience, he made no plans until the sun was up.  Every time he made night plans, they were later proved to have been the wrong move.  Something about the dark clouded a man’s judgement.  

 The fivehours sll lined s his first planned stop of the day.

 The night before, he had decided to have Doris do his research.  When the sun came up, he trusted no one.  Doris was statistically unlikely to be a serial killer, but in the small town, she might unknowingly let some slip to him or her.  It was best if the writer switched to doing his own research.   Well, certainly he would allow her to do some of it.  He just wouldn’t let her know exactly what she was doing.  His new daylight plan for her to work on the death of Maggie Evans.  It would seem reasonable to her, and anyone she talked to.  He would personally look into the serial thing.  He wasn’t convinced that there was a serial killer loose in Small Town X.  It was more a feeling than a fact.  Then again,  it was fiction that he was writing.

 The writer looked around the campground.  He did a quick appraisal, since he was likely to be in the spot for a while.  He had gone from gathering a little background for a mostly fictional account of a murder, to looking for a killer.  When that had happened, he had no idea.  It might well have been when he saw his van in flames.  

 It was possible that he had it in mind all along.  Maggie Evans was the first murder he had written about, in which he had not been personally involved.  The other books were written about cases he had worked.  They were heavily fictionalized, but those who worked with him could pick out the case files, had they so desired.


 Oh well, he thought, I guess I had better start planning for the winter.  It was a joke in his mind.  He sure as hell had no intention to be in Small Town X when the cold winds blew.  A tent was not his idea of how to spend a winter.  The summer was only bearable because he spent his days in air conditioned buildings doing his thing.  The convertible made it more fun to get around, but the van had been air conditioned.  Life was a constant trade off, he thought.

 With the boiling water the writer made instant oatmeal.  The stuff was terrible but he was trying to get into the camping experience.  After lacing the oatmeal with honey, he trashed it after one bite.

 Twenty minutes later found him getting into the Biscuitville experience instead.  He read the Taylortown Gazette as he ate.  The gazette was a weekly paper, something the writer hadn’t seen in years. All the local news could barely fill the front page.  The ten pages were filled mostly with local advertisements and gossip pieces.  The writer was beginning to second guess his decision to search the back copies of the Gazette.  

 He changed his mind yet again, but only when he read the ad for a local computer supply house.  ‘Now available on CD from Amos Computers, county maps, county meeting notes, Taylortown Gazette copies and more.’  The ad listed the address and phone number for Amos Computers.  It seemed as though Amos spent his spare time scanning local interest documents into his computer system.  He must have cut a cd while waiting for customers.  It might not be best selling software, but then again he wasn’t doing anything else either.  It was probably only a slightly better use of his time, than watching Lucy reruns on TV would have been.  However, for the writer it was a truly lucky break.  He no longer had a computer with him, but he knew where he could find one.

 “Hi,“ the young salesman said as he greeted the writer at the door.

 “Hello,” The writer took the old building in at a glance.  The new chrome and glass storefront was definitely out of place on the 1940 brick and plaster building.  It looked as though it were an old finance company conversion.  The writer had no idea if they had those in Ohio, but there had been one on every corner of the mill town where he grew up.  

 “So what are you looking for?” the kid asked.  

 “I saw in the Taylortown Gazette that you had their back copies on cd?”  The writer made it a question with his voice.

 “We sure do, not a big seller but every little bit helps,” he replied with a smile.  He had turned his back on the writer as he walked to a wall filled with metal hangers.  On the hangers were plastic bags with one or more cds in each.  “Here you go, ten years of the Gazette on one cd.”  He seemed proud of his accomplishment.

 “Are you Amos?” The writer had the sudden flash as the kid put the cd on the counter.

 “I am James Amos, my dad owns the place, but he don’t come in much.”

 “I expect he is like me, born before the computer became commonplace.”

 “You seem to at least have made peace with them, daddy just wants to know how much money we are making.”

 “So do you sell many computers?”  The writer couldn’t believe that even in Taylortown there would be a great demand for computers from a small vender.
 “I order a few for the customers, but I mostly do service, and restoration work.  Everybody gets a virus or they just plain fuck it up,” he said.

 “Lady buys a digital camera to make nude shots, then can’t work it,” the writer suggested.

 “Don’t I wish.  It is more like some drugstore employee gets bored, goes up on the Internet, where he picks up a virus.  The whole damn system is infected.  If they backed up the system like they should, I could format the disk and be out of there in a couple of hours, but no they have to have the virus eradicated without cleaning the disk.  I spend days sometimes tracking down every little bit of the bitch.”

 “Sounds frustrating,” the writer admitted.

 “It is,” the kid smiled.  “But it pays well.  When you got no choice, you pay what you have to pay.  Then I can usually sell them a tape drive to do full backups.  Those they use about six months then get tired of wasting their time.  A couple of years from now I expect to do it all again.”

 “So how much is the cd?”  

 “Nineninetyfive,” he said without any expression.  

 The writer didn’t know if he expected some reaction or not.  He was happy to pay the money to avoid sitting in the newspaper’s cramped office for days, while reading the hard copies.  He figured he could run all the news pages from the paper in a few hours.  If he was going to complain, it would have been about the sales tax.  He never did like paying taxes, even if those taxes had paid his salary for years.

 The ten minute drive back to Small Town X was pleasant enough in the convertible.  The writer enjoyed the looks he got from men and women his own age.  It was one of those lost youth kind of  things they all felt when inside middleage.  He returned all their smi as the flew past him.  

 Even on his first visit the writer had been surprised to find a public library in Small Town X.  It just didn’t seem like the place for it.  He would have been only slightly less surprised to find one even in Taylortown.  Taylortown lost out on the library because it wasn’t at the junction of two state roads.  Access from the interstate was not an issue in the placement of the library.  Access by the citizens of Taylor County had been the issue.  With both the northsouth, and the eastwest state roads ru did feel it was time to give Small Town X something.  Since it had been an election year when the vote came up, the satellite library went to Small Town X.

 The writer didn’t know or care about all that.  His concern was that the library had a computer which he could use to preview the disk.

 Doris looked up from her reception desk at the small frame library.  The library was located in a converted 18th century house.  The house had been bequeathed to the county.  When the county took possession of the house, an auction was foreseen.  Instead the county’s governing board had decided to build a library in Small Town X.  Since the decision was made to build the library within six months of the county's coming into possession of the Reece house, the decision was made to restore the Reece house’s once glamourous exterior.  The interior was gutted to make room for the book cases.

 “Well Writer, what brings you here?  I haven’t seen Laurel.”  She hoped he had come to visit her.

 “I came to borrow a computer to read this.”  He said it showing her his CD.

 “Now, what in the world do you have there.  We don’t allow porno on the computers.”  She laughed out loud.  She was sure that the warning was not necessary.

 “Unless the Taylortown gazette prints porn, then I am safe from the Librarian’s wrath.”

 “You didn’t buy a copy of the Gazette’s back issues did you?”  Doris laughed.  “Didn’t you think I would have one of those?  That one does not cover the last six months since it was scanned.  Those are on paper.  I have copies in the file room.  I can get them if you would like?”

 “I have no idea why it did not occur to me that you might have a copy of this thing.  Well hell now you have two.  Just in case somebody swipes your copy.”  The writer said it as he turned his attention to the computer.

 Doris put the disk into the computer, then closed the drawer.  As she did, she rested her breasts on the writer’s shoulder.  He would have been flustered, if he hadn’t had his hands on them the night before.  

 After Doris started the CD, she smiled then returned to her desk.  She glanced up at the writer often as he worked.  He did not look at all like a writer she decided.  He looked more like a football player gone ever so slightly to seed.  He had to be something over six feet tall, with a frame that made him look blocky.  If the bodytype hid his bent, his clothes did even more to camouflage him.  His dress was far from the hound’s tooth jacket, with leather elbow ts and pants.  Doris sighed at his distance from matching her dream lover’s image.

 Doris watched the writer make notes, as he scrolled through the ten years of small town newspapers.  Under her watchful eye he finished one page after another of notes.  Doris was fascinated but when she approached his desk the writer covered the notes.  He did it casually but she quickly understood he was working on something she could not be a party to.  She was a bit jealous, but not so much that she couldn’t appreciate that his was a solitary hobby.  She couldn’t find it in her heart to call what he did a profession since he was an unpaid writer.

 Doris’s scrutiny did not go unnoticed by the writer.  He wasn’t sure exactly what her interest was, but he expected it to prove harmless.  She might want a little romance in her life.  He had filled the spot in a lot of lives.  Yes, the most recent was Ranger Jane.

       His search revealed a couple of interesting things.  Small Town X had more than its share of whodunit homicides.  Hell, it had more than its share of violent murders.  The reservoir was the resting place of only two, but there were more murders.  Some went unsolved, but a couple had ended in prosecution.  Knowing what the writer knew about Louise Soloman, it was possible that other convictions might have been as shaky.  After all Perry had been the public defender a lot of years

 He had a list of twenty homicides in the last ten years.  Homicides that had not been simple, husband kills his wife because she burned the hamburger, type killings.  The writer planned to get the case files on all of them.  Then there were the cases not in the paper.  The cases not called homicides.  Every police department has a stack of missing person reports.  They seldom make the newspapers. While most are not, a few of them are really homicides.  Without bodies to work with they stay missing persons.  The reason is simple an open missing persons report is acceptable or a hundred of them even.  A hundred open homicides makes a police department look bad.  
 

 The writer stood, then stretched.  He bent slightly to retrieve his pad from the library type table.  The table was where the computer he had used shared a space with its twin.  The writer had that itch up and down his spine.  It wasn’t the kind of itch you could scratch with a pencil.  It was the kind he needed answers to scratch.  He felt a need to speak to Doris on his way out of the library.

 “So Doris, I am going to donate this cd of the Gazette to the library.  Call it payment for use of the computer.”  He dropped the cd inside its plastic bag onto her work desk.

 “Well thanks Writer, should I make an official donation receipt, so that you can take it off your taxes?”  She looked up at him with a good natured smile.

 “That won’t be necessary.  By the way, thanks for the use of the computer.”  He smiled his warmest conspirators smile down at her.

 “Writer, the library is open to everyone.  I never saw anything in the rules about a residency requirement.  It is too bad really, since I could force you to use my computer, if there were a rule.  If you need one after hours, you are welcome to come to my place.”

 “Best offer I have had... well best offer I have ever had.”  He said it turning on the charm.
 “So?” Doris asked.  She was being bolder than she had ever been before.  She would have expected to hate the feeling but she actually like feeling brazen.

 “Fair enough, next time I need a computer after hours, I will come to your place.  By the way, what time does the library close?”

           “I open this place at ten in the morning, and close it at seven in the evening.   It is open the same hours on the weekend but I don’t open it.  We have a weekend librarian named Mrs. Henderson.  Now don’t you go looking for a new assistant.  Harriet is about a hundred, and she doesn’t do anything more than unlock the door and check out books.  You won’t find her very helpful.

 “What do you do, lock the door for lunch?”

 “No, I usually eat at my desk.  If I do want to go to lunch with you, I call Harriet, she comes over for an hour.  That hour of overtime is how I make my car payment.  Librarians are not well paid.”

 “I will make a note, no more lunches, Doris home after seven, and the computer is available.”  The remark would have seemed harmless to everyone else.  Doris read what she wanted into the remark.

 “You need to bring your own floppy, I have seen yours and trust it,”  She grinned wickedly.

 The idea of keeping his notes on a disk appealed to the Writer.  He spent hours on his computer at home.  He had even spent time on the laptop which went up with the van.  He could do his notes on the library computer.  It would be a reasonable thing to do.  

 He said a few goodbyes to Doris thenreet.  The sign read, ‘Taylor County Sheriff’s Office, small town x detachment.

 It was a misnomer when residents called it the Small Town X police department, but it didn’t matter, they did it anyway.  The three Sheriff’s deputies of the substation were assigned to the town of Small town X almost exclusively.  There was one deputy who floated between filling in at the Small Town X station and the main office in Taylortown.  Warren was his name and he was on duty in Small Town X when the writer made his way up the narrow exterior stairs to the Substation office.

 “So Deputy, we meet again.”  The writer was all smiles.  Catching Warren was a lucky break.  He wouldn’t have to explain again who he was, and what he was doing.

 “So we do writer, what can I do for you this time?”  Warren did not seem to share the Writer’s enthusiasm.

 “I need to look at more files,” the writer replied.

 “You know they are in Taylortown.”

 “Actually, I was hoping to talk to some of the officers about them.  Hell most of what is in the file will be cut and dried.  I sorta wanted a breathing account.”

 “I sure as hell won’t be able to help, I am new here.  Hell, all they let me do is answer the phones most of the time.”

 “The information I want spans ten years or more.  Any idea who I should see.”

 “Your best bet would be Louis Sabine.  He knows more about this department than anyone.  He is also in a position to tell it.”

 “I already talked to him and he wasn’t all that cooperative.”

 “Well writer, you used to be a cop.  You should know about timing.  Timing is everything, if you get my drift.”

 It dawned on the writer what Warren was saying.  “Ah and I suppose five is about the right time?”

 “I would say, about anytime after three and before seven would do it.”  Warren gave him that conspirator smile that cops share.  The writer had just been told that Sabine was an alcoholic.

 “Well, I still got a couple of hours, where could I find the missing persons reports for the area?”

 “Taylortown of course,” he replied.

 In spike of the fact that Taylortown was a twenty minute drive the writer didn’t mind.  He dropped the top on the little yellow convertible before he began his drive.  Not even the hot stale air of the rural community, with its smell of fertilizer everywhere, could ruin the sensation of the topless car.   The feel of being part of the landscape as he drove by was heady stuff.

 It was a totally different feel from riding in a closed car.  The writer knew he was going through a mid life thing but he just didn’t care.

 The Sheriff’s office in Taylortown was in the basement of the courthouse.  From the elevator it was a right turn, then down the hall to the big glass doors.  Behind those doors was the records section.  Inside the records section was a woman who could have played line for the Redskins.   The writer tried to bypass the Sheriff by going right to the keeper of the files.

 “Hi there,  I am looking for the case files on these homicides.”  He knew from her body language that he had a minus zero chance to see them.

 “I see, now do you have a form ten, or do you have an ongoing case in which you are the investigating officer, do you want to see a report you wrote, if not then I can not help you.”

 “According to the supreme court a police file is a public record and open for public review.”

 “Are you a lawyer?”  She looked as though she had bitten into a rotten piece of fruit.

 “No ma’am I am a writer,” he replied smiling.

 “Not much difference I suppose.  Either way, I am not allowed to make that decision.  See the desk Sargent for a form ten.  Then you can have whatever files are on it.  If you want to debate the supreme court ruling, do it with him.  Most likely, to get that applied to this department you are going to need a lawyer.”

 It was a speech delivered with a great deal of practice.  He doubted that the supreme court thing had ever come up before, since he had just made it up.  There had never been a specific ruling by the court that he knew of.   At least not one covering police records of an ongoing case.  Old unworked homicides still had the ongoing label attached to them.

 “Fair enough,” the writer replied.  “Where do I find the desk Sargent today?”

 Turn right when you leave here. He is the third door on the left.  If it is closed the sign will be on the door.  Just knock.

 Knocking was not necessary since the door stood open.   The writer was second in line to a young deputy getting his ass reamed quietly.  The writer knew the look on the kids face, he had it on own face a couple of times.  He backed into the hall and out of view until the kid passed.

 “Hi Sarge, I need a favor.”

 “Hell everyone needs a favor, what can I do for you?”

 “I would like to take a look at a couple of old homicide files. The ones I want to see are open but inactive.”  The writer stopped hoping against hope that the Sargent would just fill out the form ten.  What he did was laugh.

 “Why the hell do you want to look at inactive files?” he asked seriously.

 “I am writing about the Maggie Evans murder.  I was hoping to find something in one of the old files to add to the interest.  You know kind of merge the two so it would be more interesting than a tire iron to the back of the head.”

 “Sorry you can’t get into an ongoing file.  We are allowed to keep ongoing investigations secret.”

 “Come on Sarge I am talking about cases that haven’t been worked in several years, not ongoing investigations.”

 “Writer, you can have access to any file that is closed.  An unsolved homicide is never closed.  You should know that, you say you were a cop.”  He didn’t remember saying it to him at all.

 “I never said I was a cop,” He replied.

 “Didn’t you, I thought you did.”  It looked as though Warren called ahead on him.  Either way he wasn’t likely to get any cooperation.


 “Then how about your missing persons files?  I would like to take a look at those.”

 “Old unsolved homicides and missing persons files, what are you really doing writer?  You wouldn’t be going to write a dump piece on us would you.”

 “Dump piece?” he asked.

 “Yeah, one of those inept small town cop things, or small country Sheriff in our case.”

 “Hadn’t crossed my mind,” He lied.  “Are you guys inept?”

 “Get out of here writer before I decide to make your life miserable.”

 “Sarge, my life is already miserable or I would be home puttering in my garden.”

 “Get out anyway,” he declared.

 On the way out he was tempted to try the records clerk one more time.  He stepped to the door but she was with a Deputy.  

 “Look Clark, I can’t get a copy of your report the computer is down.  You are just going to have to wait a few minutes.  It will be back on line soon.”  She turned her attention to the writer.

 “Did you get that form ten?”  He shook his head.  “Then, ain’t no reason for you to wait.”

 “Okay, I understand.”  What she gave him was far better than the records.  At least he hoped it would be.

 The drive back to small town x was boring but the convertible made even that pleasant.  The writer had last owned a convertible in college.  The memories of college filled his mind, as he raced along the highway at a blistering 60 mph.  The metro was small and the engine was just as small.  The three cylinders rattled and banged along as they dragged the car along.   The little car was beat up and ragged out, but in general a lot of fun to drive.  He got a lot of stares since the car was not well known.  The writer loved the attention the little car got him.

 Before he knew it he was back at the convenience store and bait shop of Louis Sabine.  He walked in to find Louis with the ever present coffee cup in hand.

 “You back again, you gonna have to buy something this time.”  Sabine didn’t slur his words but he did have a slightly vacant look in his eyes.

 The writer smiled as he went to the soft drink box.  He removed a Pepsi from the row of soft drink cans.  He carried the can to the counter before he opened it.  The dollar bill came from a roll of bills held together with a clip.  It was not a money clip, but rather the kind of  clip used to attach keys to a belt.

 “You don’t expect no change do you?” Louis asked.

 “Not these days,” the writer replied with a smile.

 “I know what you mean.  Damn things used to be a nickel.”  Sabine seemed a little more talkative.
 
 “So tell me Louis, who tossed Maggie Evans in the lake?”  It was blunt but the writer hoped it would get Sabine talking.  Even it if was to raise hell.

 “How the fuck would I know, I was retired when she took the moonlight swim.”

 “Yeah, I figure she went in somewhere after three in the morning,” The writer said it trying to appear nonchalant.

 “Well maybe you ain’t so dumb.  Tell me why you figure that?”  Sabine watched carefully.

 “Easy, Maggie would have left New York around five, at least that is what the client she met said.  The drive would have brought her here sometime around eleven at the earliest.  I figure it was way after midnight.   It was late enough so that when she went into the lake, the casual lovers had left.

 “Yeah, I figure it just about like that.  Whoever killed her pushed the car into the lake sometime after 2am.  Anybody at the lake after that is seriously involved in screwing.  They ain’t gonna notice nothing.”

 “So tell me why Maggie came to Small Town X?”  It was the number one question on his mind.

 “Best anybody can tell she had no reason to be here at all.  Nowhere in Taylor county or even Ohio that we can figure.  No friends or family at all up here, at least none that anybody could find.”  Sabine might not be working the case but he was being kept informed.

 “Do you reckon it was car trouble?”  The writer asked.

 “That is about all we can figure.  The car had half a tank of gas.  Looks as though she filled up before she left Cedarville.  All anyone here can figure is that some warning light or something else happened to force the Miata in here.”

 “That puts it square on Everett the tow truck driver.”  The writer knew better.  If it had done that, the case would be closed.

 “It would, except Ev never got a call that night.   We checked her records and his.”  Sabine just admitted that he was involved in the investigation.  That fact did not slip by the writer.

 “Okay so she had car trouble but no enough to keep her from driving to the gas station by the highway.  Who was working that night?” the writer asked.

 “Martin was working.  But don’t get your hopes up, Martin didn’t see her.  If he had killed her, he didn’t have time to dump the body and get back to the store without being noticed.  There were at least three deputies who stopped in that night for coffee.  None of them saw the Miata.”

 The writer had a few questions of his own to ask Martin.  He didn’t mention that to Sabine.

 “So tell me Sabine what do you think happened?” the writer asked.

 “If I knew that writer, I wouldn’t tell you.”

 “Why not, I am one of the good guys.”  The writer said it while keeping the smile on his face.

 “In a pigs ass you are.  In your book we are going to look like a bunch of idiots.  This case may never be solved. If it is, the bad guy will probably get picked up for shoplifting and cop to it.  You know how this works.”

 The writer did indeed know how it went.  He had been involved in enough of them himself.

 “Fair enough Louis.  I got a list of a half dozen other unsolved murders, how about telling me what happened to them.”
 “If they was murders that means somebody got kilt.  That is about all I can tell you.”

 “You know what I mean.  How much did you find out about them?”

 “Writer you are determined to make a pest of yourself ain’t you.  No badge to flash, so you just act like a damn flea until you annoy me into talking.”

 “Whatever it takes Louis,” the writer said.
 
 “What homicides do you have in mind Writer?” Sabine asked.  “You aren’t still on the Soloman woman?”

 “Yes and no, this time I got a couple that go back a few years.  For instance nine years ago a young woman named Marcy Rollins got herself killed.”  The writer was looking at his notes.

 “I remember, we found her at the county landfill.  Damn lucky she didn’t get covered over.  Never did find out where she was killed.”

 “Who was she Louis?”  The writer asked it hoping for some information to tie her to the other two women.

 “School teacher, she was killed over the summer.  If she had gotten covered over, she wouldn’t have been missed for weeks.  She was from over in Taylortown.  We never could get a lead on her.  No boyfriends, no enemies that we could find, nothing to tie anyone to her.”

 “So she wasn’t killed at home?”  

 “No her apartment had no signs of any disturbance.  We did a Luminal and got nothing.”  The writer knew that Luminal was a chemical used to detect occult blood.  Even after a place had been washed down, it would glow green when exposed to trace blood.  If the apartment didn’t show traces, then she probably had died somewhere else.

 “She had the old blunt instrument trauma didn’t she?”

 “Writer about half the murders in this country are from getting hit on the head.  Don’t try to make anything of it.”

 “Sorry Louis, you are right of course.  Oh by the way, what was Marcy’s age?”

 “Early twenties best I can remember.”

 “Sally Tuder?” the writer asked.

 “Found in the woods, another dump job.”
 

 “Hit in the head the paper said,” the writer commented.

 “Yeah about ten times, best we could figure somebody was really pissed at her.  Never did have a clue who did her in.  Again, we can’t even be sure where she was killed.”

 She was in her twenties too wasn’t she?” the writer asked.

 “Yes Writer, and if you are saying there is a connection, let me remind you they were a couple of years apart.”

 “Let’s don’t stop there,” the writer replied.  “I have five more leading right up till now.  Young women hit in the head and dumped around here.  It looks to me like you got a serial killer on your hands.”

 “Bullshit, and even if there was, ain’t got nothing to do with me.”

 “Nothing except he fucking outsmarted you for years. He just made an ass of you is all.”  The writer was trying to get Louis upset. He wanted Louis to take a fresh look at the murders.  Louis could get into the files.  It was the same with the writer in his hometown.  You just had to know the right people.

 Louis Sabine was staring hard at the writer when he spoke.  “Get out here Writer or I am gonna kick your ass.”

 “Maybe you can and maybe you can’t.  If you want to help me, I am at the campground.”

 “Get out now,” Sabine said with slurred speech.  It appeared that he had finally had enough booze to effect him negatively.

 After the writer left, Louis Sabine looked at the bottle of jim beam under his counter.  He felt a great anger at the writer rise up in his chest.  The anger was so great that it threatened to swallow him.  Instead of giving in to the anger, he took a long pull on the bottle.  He usually pour it into his coffee but not that time.  He had so much practice that he barely staggered as he went to the bait shop door.  Even though it was an hour before the official closing time he locked it.

 Imagine that writer coming up here and saying he had missed a connection between all those unsolved murders.  What a ridiculous thing to say.  Just a bunch of sensationalism he wanted to write about. Louis had a spotless record as a cop, he sure as hell didn’t need some writer coming around to fuck it up.  

 Well, he would just need a little time to talk to the writer to show him the error in his logic.  The writer had invited him to help, so maybe he should.  He could get his nephew to sit behind the bait counter for a couple of days.  The kid was just hanging around his sister’s house for the summer  anyway.

 That damn writer is pretty sharp, he thought.  I expect, I need to leave the hootch alone till I finish pointing out the error of his thinking.

 After he left the small concrete block bait shop, and convenience store, the writer drove to the campground.  He checked the cooler and found that, as he expected, he needed ice.  The plastic milk jug was also empty.  Before he settled in, he took the cooler and jug on a ride.  

 The convenience store nearest the park was not owned by Martin’s brother.  It was owned by a middle eastern gentleman.  He was a particularly sour individual.  The writer expected that, if a round up came, people would turn him over first thing.

 He should be locked up for the prices he charged, the writer thought, as he silently paid for the bag of ice and 12 pack of cokes.  He filled the ice chest in the parking lot, then returned to the campground.  He sat outside his tent in the shade sipping a diet coke, while trying to figure his next move.  

 He wanted Sabine with him.  The only other way to get the information, would be to see if he could get the kid from the computer store could hack the sheriff’s computer.  It was risky and it would be a mother to find the files anyway.  Not to mention the kid would know what he had done.  He understood suddenly the, I can tell you but I will have to kill you mentality, since he didn’t want to leave any witnesses to an illegal act.  Rather than approach the kid, he decided to let time work on Sabine a day or so.  Then try to recruit him again.

 The writer gave up on all of it later that afternoon.  He decided to go to Eddie’s to have at least a couple of beers.  Not enough to feel but to spend sometime away from the tent and the murders.  Just sit and watch the people pair up for the evening.

 He wasn’t the only one watching.  He was being watched by Martin.  Martin had nights, when he just wanted to break someone in half and he was having one that night.  He had looked around and decided that if the writer made some kind of smug remark, he would break him in two.  It might also have had something to do with Sammie.  

 The writer was oblivious to Martin, since he had his attention on Sammie.  Sammie sat beside him explaining that her husband was out of town again.  She knew when she married him that he traveled in his business.  The writer never did figure exactly what the business was and he didn’t care enough to ask for an explanation.  The thing Sammie mostly wanted to get across was that she was available for some pinch and tickle.  The writer was trying to avoid saying no to her, but he really wasn’t interested.  Ranger Jane kept him pretty well worn out.  He also had Doris to contend with, so he wasn’t in the mood for even more woman troubles.

 It was around nine when the door opened to allow Louis Sabine to enter the bar.  He had been in the last time while on duty as a local deputy sheriff.  Sabine had made the rounds during his last week.  It was a little to say goodbye, and a little to settle any old scores that needed to be settled.  When you are a retired cop, you want to be sure the bad guys don’t come looking for you. Without the badge you have to handle it man to man.  That can be more than some guys can handle.  It wasn’t a problem for Louis, but he still wanted to get all the loose ends tied down.

 “Hello Sabine, what can I get you?” Eddie asked before he was even seated beside the writer.

 “Coke Eddie,” he said with a smile.

 “What you want in it Louis?” Eddie asked grinning at him.

 “Ice,” he replied seriously.

 “You on the wagon?” The writer asked.

 “For a few days.  You and me need to talk.” he said.

 “Sure we can get a table in the back or we can go to my place.”  The writer smiled as Sabine remembered where his place was.

 “Let’s get a table, this ain’t no date.”  Sabine didn’t smile but the twinkle was in his eye.  “Sammie you will forgive us?”  Sammie nodded.

 As he passed by Martin’s table the writer bumped a chair.  The chair shook the table where Martin’s just refilled beer glass set.  The glass shook and the beer sloshed out.  Martin stood quickly, his anger way out of proportion to the event.

 “God damn it writer, who the fuck do you think you are?”  He stood tense with his fist clenched.  He was on the edge of movement.  The movement would have been violent action.

 “Martin,” Louis Sabine said.  “Don’t rattle that dog’s cage.  He will chew your ear off.”  Martin flinched, the writer stared, and Louis laughed.  “Come on writer you didn’t think that I wouldn’t check you out did you?”

 Martin slipped back into his chair.  He wasn’t afraid of the writer or Sabine.  He was sure he could whip either of them, but together they might be more than he could take.  He didn’t know about the writer, but he had been told that Sabine would punish you, when you were down.  He still wasn’t scared but he would prefer them one at a time.

 The two men didn’t gloat, they just moved on to a table in the rear.  The writer took a seat with his back to the wall.  He had chosen the table in the corner since it had two chairs against the wall.  Yes, men like them really did try to keep their backs to the wall.

 “So writer, why do you think we have a serial killer?”  Sabine didn’t believe in small talk.


 The writer gave it some thought before he began.  “Right now it is a hunch and the statistics are right.”

 “Hunches don’t mean shit.  What statistics?”

 “Look my hunches do mean something.  But the numbers are the real kicker.  In the five county area that your little paper reports on, there were twenty whodunit homicides in the last five years.  Yes, I am including some that were supposed to have been solved.”

 “How come you are doing that?” Sabine asked angrily.

 “Because in this county you had a public defender who thought everybody was guilty.  He was a drunk, who didn’t want to be bothered.  He got them all to plead to save their lives.  With him as a lawyer, I don’t blame them for pleading it out.  In the other counties there were more unsolved cases.  The kicker is, you have more missing persons than any other area in the state.  I can’t get the cases, but I can get the crime statistics from the FBI reports.”

 “Come on writer.  Those numbers don’t mean a thing and you know it.  If you are going to have an average somebody has to be higher and somebody has to be lower.”

 “Sabine, you are here because in your gut you know something is wrong here.”  The writer watched the expression on Sabine’s face.  It never changed.

 “If I get you the files, how long will it take for you to decide this is bullshit?”

 “You help me with an open mind and we can prove it in under three days,” the writer replied.  “Well if not prove it, then convince you at least.”

 “I will see what I can do.  I will keep an open mind, but remember I investigated some of those cases you will be showing me.”

 “I know, that is why I came to you.  None of us like to be beaten.  I expect you will be more than happy to take a second look at them.”

 “What makes you think it is a serial killer really?” Sabine asked.

 “You have way too many dump jobs here.  Most killings are family and friends in passion.  Dump jobs are thought out a little bit anyway.  Probably the average is that one in twenty five are dumps, if that many.  Almost all the unsolved cases in this area were dumps.  It makes for a pattern.  The reason you didn’t see it was that most of yours in this county got prosecuted.  You knew a weak case would get you a conviction.  Perry you see.  I don’t think you even realized it in your conscious mind.  The other counties didn’t even try to pin the murder on a boyfriend or exhusband.”


 “You are trying to say I tanked them?”  Sabine should have been angry but he wasn’t.

 “The only one that was yours was the Soloman woman.  The others were before you were the detective for the county.  Some of the earlier ones went down the same.  Look all that is behind you, if we can find the common thread, then we can work this out.”

 “I am sure you are wrong writer.  There will be no thread, because they are not linked.”

 “That will be okay with me.  Even a failure is a book.”  The writer smiled.

 “Very well writer, I will see you tomorrow at the office in Taylortown.   What time can you get your ass moving?”

 “I can be there by ten a.m. for sure.”  The writer smiled at Sabine.

 The writer raised his beer glass to Sabine who returned the gesture with his coke.  “Since I have finished my business here, I am going home to have a real drink.  Writer, I will see you in the morning.”  Sabine finished the coke with a grimace, then stood to leave.  

 The writer noticed that Sabine was tall and thin.  He was in good shape for a drunk.  He must not have been at it long, the writer thought.   

 Sabine walked from the bar.  He stopped only long enough to put a dollar on the bar.  He was quickly followed out by Sammie.  Since she did not return, the writer wondered if she had more success with Sabine or just gave up to go home.

 Eddie came to the table to pick up Sabine’s glass.  She spoke quietly to the writer.  “You better leave.  Martin is looking for trouble, for some reason he has it in his mind to fight you.”

 “Thanks for the warning Eddie, but once you start to run it gets easier all the time.  Pretty soon you are running from yourself.”  The writer didn’t know what it meant, but he decided to put it in the book.  With the warning the writer decided against moving back to the bar.  The bar seat left his back exposed, and the writer didn’t have a lot of faith in Martin’s sense of fair play.

 Nothing happened by the time the writer tired of looking at the still full beer glass.  He decided that he was ready to leave.  He had given Martin plenty of time to jump, if he was truly froggie.  The writer did not intend to stay in the bar all night just to prove his courage.  He didn’t need to prove anything.  He stood to walk out.  He carried the glass just to save Eddie a few steps.

 “Hey Writer, I see your bodyguard has left you.”

 “Damn Martin, I thought I was his bodyguard.”  The writer tried to make it to the bar then out without trouble.  He saw Martin begin to stand.  The decision right or wrong was made in a split second.


 He changed his momentum toward Martin.  Before Martin was totally on balance the writer backhanded him as some men would a woman.  The difference was that the writer held the heavy draft beer mug in his hand.  Martin went down like a tree.  A year ago the writer would have put cuffs on him then called an ambulance  Since he no longer had the whole police department watching his back, the Writer went about punishing Martin.

 First he kicked the downed man in the ribs a couple of times.  Then one well placed hiking shoe to the face.  He finally placed a medium velocity shot to his testicles.  It was a fairly cowardly thing to do, but he did hope it would give Martin pause before he tried to take him again.

 “Should I call him an ambulance?” Eddie asked with an admiring smile.

 “Hell no let me,” the writer said seriously.  “Martin, you are a fucking ambulance.”  Martin moaned.

 “Guess he don’t have no sense of humor,” Eddie said with a grin.

 “Guess not, who is responsible for the asshole?” the writer asked.

 “His brother I guess,” Eddie replied.  Most of the other customers had left at the first sign of trouble.  “Well call him.  I will wait till he gets here. You don’t need the hassle.”

 “Well I ain’t worried but I would love the company.”  Eddie grinned as she moved the phone to the bar.  She also slipped the tiny phone book from the shelf.  She dialed a number then waited.  
 
 “Mary, this is Eddie down at the bar.  Your brother in law is down here and he is hurt.  I need to talk to his brother.”  Eddie waited a long time before she spoke again.  “Eddy, this is Eddie down at the bar.  Martin is here and he is hurt.”   She listened a while then said.  “You want me to send him to the hospital for a check up or not.  I am not his brother you are.”  She had snapped the last at the phone..”

 “Fair enough,” she slammed down the phone.  “Writer you better leave.  The cops are going to come along with the ambulance.”

 “Nope, worst thing I could do is run.  Just gonna have a club soda while I wait.”

 Eddie took it on herself to call Louis Sabine before the ambulance.  

 By the time the Taylor County Ambulance arrived Martin was awake and moaning.  He didn’t look good at all.  When he heard the ambulance pull in, the writer stepped to the rear.  He decided to have a word with Martin.

 “You had a nasty fall Martin.  If I hear anything else, I will be all over you.  You do understand me right?”

 “I took a fall, cause I don’t want you in jail when I get straight.  When I am back to normal, I am gonna kill you.”  His voice ended in a moan.
 
 “Your choice friend.”  The writer would have kicked him again but the paramedics were coming through the door.  “He is back here,” he shouted.  “You need to hurry.  He don’t look good.”

 “What happened?” the young female paramedic asked.  

 “Got me, we just found him in the parking lot like this.  He drove up then fell out of the car.”  It was a poor lie, but hell when he told his story it wouldn’t matter what he said.  They were asking the writer just to see if there was a medical emergency.   He had been careful not to do anything lethal to him.

 “Okay, Jonathan let’s get him on to the Hospital.  He looks like he is in a lot of pain.”  She turned her attention to Martin.  “Sorry Martin, I cant give you anything for the pain, but we wont be but a couple of minutes.”

` “If you can’t give me anything you are useless,” Martin managed to mumble.

 “Be nice Martin, you never know what might happen,” The writer said it before he realized that he had done it.

 The Young woman and the older man rolled him onto the Gurney.   They stopped while Jonathan opened the door.  

 “Writer, Sabine talked to the deputies.”  Eddie said it way to loud.

 “You the writer asking all the question?” The young woman asked.

 “Not now Lucy, we need to get this ‘gentleman’ to the ER,” Jonathan informed her.
 “Writer, you tell Sabine he owes me a couple of dozen night crawlers for looking the other way.”  He turned to the door then turned back.  “What did you hit that prick with?”

 The writer gave it some thought before he answered.  “A punk should not threaten a man while  he is trying to stand up.  He is way off balance and likely to get bitch slapped with a beer mug.  Course I ain’t sayin’ that is what happened.”

 “He looked a lot worse than a beer mug bitch slap, though that could cause a lot of problems.” the deputy said.

 “Sorry, I never said that is what happened to him.  He drove up, then collapsed in the parking lot.  We brought him inside.”

 “That your story?”  The deputy asked.

 “It is and I am sticking to it.”  The writer replied with a grin of his own.

 “How about you Eddie?” He asked turning his attention to Eddie.

 “I was out back washing glasses.  I have no idea what happened.”  She smiled at the deputy with her, ‘I am an excon dyke,' look.

 “Well, I ain’t no kin to the prick so more power to you.”  The deputy said that as he walked toward the door.

 “Don’t thank me writer,” she must have read his mind.  “I don’t stick my neck out for nobody.  I also ain’t no snitch.”

 “Well anything I can do to repay you let me know.”  He said it as he turned to the door.  He had about all the excitement he could stand for one night.”

 “Don’t worry there is, and I will gladly tell you.  How about hanging loose a couple of minutes.  You can take me to breakfast.  That is your charge for me staying out of it, even if it will cost me a regular customer.”

 “I will gladly buy you breakfast for the company.  You will not loose the prick as a customer.  He will be back, if for no other reason than to prove he isn’t afraid.  And just for the record, all you did was say you were washing glasses.  Hell Martin can’t dispute that, he was busy test driving your carpet.”

 She immediately walked to look at the carpet where Martin had laid.  “Well Writer at least you didn’t get blood on the carpet.

 “Come on lock the door, your talk about breakfast made me hungry.”

 “Good, the Pancake House in Taylortown has a breakfast bar.”

 Eddie wouldn’t ride with the Writer, and he wouldn’t ride with her.  So he ended up following her to Taylortown.  It was a good thing since he couldn’t have found the restaurant.

 “So Writer, tell me why you kicked Martin while he was down.” Eddie demanded.

 “Simple.  If a man wants to fight me for no reason today, what is to stop him tomorrow.  Martin is younger and probably healthier.  I don’t want to ever fight him again.  This time was more than enough for me.”

 “Hell, this is likely to make him want your ass even more,” Eddie informed him.

 “It might, but then I don’t know how to take a dive.  If I have to fight, I plan to win.  He at least knows that now.”

 “Well, if I were you, I would sleep with one eye open for a while.  Martin ain’t never been beat.  He especially ain’t never been worked over.”

 “Damn I do hate to take a man’s cherry like that.  That sure is good french toast, you want some more?”  The writer asked it as he stood to return to the breakfast bar.

 “Sure bring me some writer, I am throwing caution to the wind.  No telling what all I might do tonight.”  

 The smile she gave him made the writer finally wonder what the hell was going on.  He was not good looking.  Hell, he had a pot belly.  It was not a giant thing but it was definitely visible to all the women.  

 He had Ranger Jane using him shamelessly, Doris trying to get him to use her, Sammie making hints and now Eddie, the town’s biggest Dyke, making come on noises.  Something was not write in Small Town X.

 The writer returned with the French Toast before Eddie had too much time to think.  He caught her looking at the waitress in the same way she had looked at him.  He was relieved, when the waitress smiled at her coyly.  

 “So Eddie, who is your friend?”  The Writer grinned across at her.

 “Lucille, she and I are old friends.  I come here often after I close.”  They looked as Lucille twitched her ass for them.  “Writer, you can find you way home can’t you?”

 Not only could he find his way home, he did.  He slipped into the tent at three a.m.  As he drifted off to sleep, Eddie’s final words rang in his ear.

 “Writer, watch yourself.  Martin is going to come after you.  He might want to see you in Saint Mark’s.  You do know that is the name of the public cemetery?”

 “I am surprised that you could have a public cemetery with a religious name?”  It was a question and she knew it.

 “Small Town X has been spared the glare of the zealots so far.  Writer, the point is Martin might just decide to fire bomb your tent.”

 “Well, I think I got a couple of days.  Martin is going to be feeling pretty bad for a while.”  The writer smiled at her even though he didn’t feel all that confident.  It didn’t take much strength to toss a Jim Beam bottle filled with gasoline a few feet.

 He drifted off to sleep trying to figure exactly how much time he had before Martin would be up to the task.  He decided, he had better finish his research quickly, or else move his tent.  He hadn’t decided what to do when he slipped into oblivion.

 The writer was awakened the next morning by a female voice he did not recognize.  When he looked out the tent flap, he had the .380 pop gun in his hand.  It was hidden behind his leg, since he didn’t want to frighten anyone.

 “Hi Writer,” the young woman said.  She noticed his look of bewilderment.  “You don’t recognize me, do you?”

 “You look familiar but I can’t place you.”  The writer said it honestly since he had no idea how to hide his ignorance while he probed her.

 “I saw you last night.  I am Lucy, the paramedic.”  She smiled at his sudden understanding.  His face was like that light bulb cartoon.  He suddenly lit up.

 “Sure Lucy, you look different in real clothes,” He didn’t mean it as an insult.  

 She wasn’t offended because she hated the polyester uniform herself.  It made her slightly large hips look even larger. “I suppose I do at that,” she answered.

 “So what brings you to the park?”  He asked it knowing she was going to tell him.

 “First of all, I have a warning for you.”  She gauged his reaction.  He didn’t bat an eye.  “The man we took to the hospital last night mumbled over and over that he was going to get you.  It that was you who did it? you gave him quite a beating.”

 “Well, how long before he will be up to visiting me?”  The writer asked it hoping he could get a better idea of his ‘safe’ time.

 “Depends on what he has in mind.  He can pull a trigger now.  He isn’t up to going ten rounds with you though.”

 “Hell, I’m not up to going ten rounds with him.  Hold on a second,” The writer demanded as he returned to his tent.  Inside he slipped into a clean cutoff sleeved sweatshirt.  He had fallen in love with the look after seeing a character in a movie wear one.   

 “Come on,” he said upon his return.  “Unless you have somewhere to go I will buy you breakfast.”

 “Why?” Lucy asked suspiciously.  She had no intention, of getting involved with a man twice her age.

 “Call it payment for the warning, call it payment for the interview I am about to conduct over breakfast, or call it ego.”  He smiled at her while he spoke lightening the words.

 “Ego?” Lucy asked.

 “Sure it will be good for my image to be seen with a woman so young and beautiful.  Especially this early in the morning, when we both look like we missed a lot of sleep last night.”

 Lucy had to grin.  It couldn’t hurt her image either, she thought.  The Writer was a handsome enough old man.  God knows he would be safe to be around, she thought.  He was old enough to be her father and could take care of her as well as himself.

 “I pick the restaurant,” she declared.

 “Absolutely, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  We do take my car, I will bring you back.”

 “I would rather drive my own car,” she replied.

 “Ah, but that will spoil the illusion,” he replied.

 “Writer, I have no idea why I am going along with this.  It can not do my reputation any good at all.”

 “Then don’t,” it was a simple statement that put the decision squarely on her shoulders.  She wasn’t sure how she felt about it.  On one hand it gave her an out, on the other it put her in the position of asking him to take her to breakfast.  She had backed herself into a corner.

 “Oh hell, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”  It was all she said as she walked to his convertible.  She sat in the car as he lowered the top.  She stewed about the position in which she found herself.  

 “So how about it?” he asked as he started the tiny engine.


 “How about what?” she asked defensively.  She was surprised by the shortness of her answer.

 “How about the directions to the restaurant.”  The Writer had not taken offense at her tone.

 “How about the Pancake House in Taylortown.  Can you get to Taylortown without my help?” she asked.

 “Sure, and I even know where the pancake house is.”  He didn’t explain that he had been to the restaurant only hours before.  “So how long you been a paramedic?” he asked without taking his eyes off the road.

 “Three years, since I was twentyone.”  She smiled, thinking to herself that Jonathan still thought of her as a rookie after all that time.

 “So, what interesting stories do you have to tell me?”  The Writer wasn’t going to press her just yet.  He would get around to it soon enough.”

 “None, but I bet you can tell me some.  I hear you have been asking questions all over town.”  Lucy didn’t mind turning the tables on him.

 “I have,” the writer admitted.  He weighed the advantages of waiting till they arrived at the restaurant before asking, but decided to just bite the bullet and get on with it.  “What do you know about the woman the deputies killed a couple days ago?”

 “Why would I know anything?” she asked cautiously.

 “They tell me you were the one who talked to her just before the cops shot her.”

 “I can’t tell you about that,” she replied.  She looked over to seem him still gazing at the road.  “However, I could answer specific questions maybe.”

 The writer felt her smile, more than saw it.  “So did you know her brother is doing time for killing his first wife?”

 “No but so what?” she asked.

 “Somebody dumped his ex in the lake, the same as Maggie Evans.  He swore he was innocent.  Maybe he was?”  The writer was trying to see if she had any interest in it.

 Well, I don’t think that had anything to do with Joyce Jenkin’s murder.”

 “Woah, what murder?” the Writer asked.

 The woman who died.  She told me they were going to kill her to keep her quiet, and they did.”  Lucy wondered, why she had told the writer that.  She hadn’t even let herself think it before that moment.

 “The paper said she was delusional?”  It was a question and they both knew it.

 “Really, now who would know better than me?  She was rational when I talked to her.  She wasn’t seeing little green men, and the neighbor’s dog wasn’t talking to her.”

 “So you are telling me the cops shot a rational woman to keep her quiet.  Quiet about what?”  The writer didn’t believe it for a moment.

 “She wouldn’t tell me.  She said it would be dangerous for me to know.”

 “Could it have been about her brother?” He asked it getting a little into it in spite of himself.

 “I don’t know Writer.”  It suddenly dawned on Lucy that she had gone to see the writer to tell him just that.  All her high ideals were bullshit, she wanted someone to avenge  Joyce.


 All during the breakfast the Writer asked questions.  Lucy answered them as best she could.  Since she didn’t live in X, and spent as little time as possible there, she knew almost nothing of the place.  His questions centered mostly on events which happened when she was a teenager in Summerville several miles away.

 Lucy discovered a few things about the writer that she found interesting.  He was intelligent without being intellectual.  His mind worked twenty ways at once.  He kept her off balance by jumping from one line of questions to another.  He went back and forth between three different incidents at once.  She became fascinated watching his mind race.  
 
 Lucy expected that some of it, at least, was due to the amount of caffeine in his body.  He drank cup, after cup of coffee.  She was surprised that his speech stayed level, she would have expected it to race.

 “Well Lucy honey, I guess I am going to have to consider you window dressing.  You seem to be too young to know what is going on around here.”

 “Window dressing indeed, I am at least as bright as you writer.  Hell, I am probably smarter, even more important people are more likely to talk to me.”  How the hell had that happened, she wondered. She had just cut herself into his research.  She had agreed to help him without being asked.  

 “That might all be true, but you still have to admit you are prettier than me or Sabine.”  He smiled a disarming smile at her.

 “Wait a minute, I am prettier, yes, but how the hell did I get roped into helping you?  More important, what is in it for me?”  Lucy was all smiles.

 “Whatever question brought you to my tent is likely to get answered along the way.  You have a natural curiosity that compels you to go along.”  The writer gave her a fatherly smile.

 “My ass,” Lucy replied.

 “I wish.”  The writer replied with a twinkle in his eye.

 Lucy tried to be serious but broke into a giggle.  “Does anyone ever say no to you writer?”

 “Yes.”  

 His answer was completed with a sad little look which Lucy found compelling.  She wanted to take him in her arms, while whispering to him that it was okay.  Lucy caught herself before she said anything else.  She knew that she was about to spend her vacation playing detective.  It was stupid as hell, but she couldn’t wait to get started.

 “I have a ten o’clock appointment with Louis Sabine.  If you want, I can take you home after, or anytime you decide you have had enough.”

 “I will go to your meeting but I am not going to promise anything more,” Lucy said.  She knew she was hooked.  She just didn’t want to admit it.

 “On the meeting you kind a of have no choice.  You are riding with me, and I have to go to the meeting.  So finish you breakfast and let’s get on with it.”  Yes he was trying to hurry her along.  Sabine wouldn’t wait.  A man with a hangover isn’t especially patient.

 Even though Taylortown was small, the drive still took a few minutes.  The pancake house was on the highway, while the sheriff’s office was downtown.  

 The Writer parked the tiny yellow convertible in the dirt lot beside the building.  He didn’t make a move to open Lucy’s door, because she was already out of the car by the time he managed to drag his old, fat ass out of the low slung automobile

 “Come on old man,” Lucy said it with a smile.  Lucy would never have called anyone else old man.  She had always been sensitive to the feelings of other people.  Not even she understood that it was a defensive mechanism.  It was her way of separating herself from the writer.  It might have worked, if he had taken offense.

 “Not a problem honey,” he said as he stood beside the car.  In a lower voice he added, “Might as well give them something to talk about.”  He motioned to the park bench filled with old men.  They seemed to be basking in the sunlight.  With the words out of his mouth, and her understanding of their significance, she shouldn’t have been surprised when he pulled her to him for a quick kiss.  Nothing sexual just a kiss designed to get the town talking.

 “Damn it writer.  I work for the county.  Someone might well have seen that.”

 “So what?”  He actually didn’t see the problem.  

 She was sure someone in the county office building across the street, would have seen her get out of a convertible, then be kissed by a man old enough to be her father.  She suddenly grinned from ear to ear.  “You know what, I need the reputation.  They all see me as a goody two shoes.”  

 She leaned into the writer and pulled him down for a longer kiss.  She certainly never intended for it to become passionate, but the tongue thing did it without her knowing who started it.  When the kiss ended she was breathing hard.  Her face was flushed she knew.  She just wasn’t sure why.

 “If you can spare the time?” The voice resonated from the rear door of the sheriff’s office.  

 The writer looked up to see Louis Sabine standing on the granite steps.  “Yes mother Sabine, we are on our way.”  He tried to put his arm around Lucy.  She shrugged it off.  The writer shook hands with Sabine even though it was forced.

 “What’s with the girl?” Sabine asked not even trying to prevent Lucy from hearing the answer.

 “Lucy, this is the famous Louis Sabine.” The writer said it in good humor.  “Louis this is Lucy the EMT. She is going to help us wade through the files.”

 “Is there some reason we need Lucy?” the writer asked.

 “Oh let me see, a third party to referee?”  The writer was still trying to maintain a friendly working relationship with Sabine.


 “Look Writer, showing you police files will get us both hung.  Do we really need to bring her into it.”  Sabine was getting close to being argumentative just for it’s own sake.

 “Why, you insufferable prick,” Lucy said.  “I keep more secrets than you ever dreamed.  I know where most of the bodies are buried in this town.”

 Lucy was getting self righteous, the writer knew he had to do something quick.  “Come on kiddies lets just do this thing without bloodshed. Sabine Lucy can give us a different perspective on these homicides.”

 “If we want medical, we need to see a doc.”  Louis wasn’t going to let it go.

 “I had young woman perspective in mind Louis.  The paramedic thing can’t hurt.”

 “Writer if you get me hung by my balls, I am going to kick the shit out of you.”  Sabine had the last word only because the writer gave him a knowing grin.  The grin did not sit well with Sabine.

 Sabine led the others to a room in the basement of the police station.  The room had several folding tables.  On the first table sat a unimposing computer.  The age of the computer was not evident in any of its markings.  They all expected the computer to be old and slow.

 The all stood looking.  “Well Sabine, it is your computer,” the writer finally suggested.  He had instinctively understood that the computer link was the most Sabine could accomplish.  The paper records would be archived somewhere not to be disturbed by anyone but investigators working the case.

 “Writer, you have to be kidding.  I can do this but it is going to take hours just to get one record.  Surely you can work this thing?”  

 “Sabine, I can’t even type a damn letter on one of those in less than a week.”  The writer first turned his gaze onto Lucy.  Then Sabine stared into her eyes.

 “Oh hell,” Lucy said.  “How can anybody work without being able to use a computer?  Is this thing networked or what?”  Both men stared at her, neither had any idea what she had just said.

 Lucy turned the computer on, then began punching keys.  Sabine and the Writer looked on as her fingers flew over the keys.  The Writer couldn’t help the grin he turned on Sabine.  Sabine just watched Lucy work the computer.
 
 When Lucy used Sabine’s old password, she found her way into the network, then into the police files.  After that it was a piece of cake.  She even managed to spread the investigation into the whole Ohio valley, since the three states were hooked into a regional cooperation data base.  

 The list of unsolved homicides grew fourfold.  The task looked impossible until block print read, comparelogicslam.

 “See if you can get this on that thing.  Here are the directions, they might help.”  From the same box he produced a set of typed directions.  Lucy read them quickly before placing the cd into the computer.

 “Writer, are you going to screw up the computer.  If you do, we are screwed as well.”  Sabine didn’t look worried just interested.

 “No, the man, who sent that to me air express, swore it wouldn’t even leave a trace in the machine.”

 “It probably won’t writer, it looks as if the thing runs straight from the cd.”

 “In that case Lucy work magic for us,” The writer was happy to see her fingers fly.

 “So how long is this going to take?” Louis asked.

 “It could be a couple of hours,” Lucy replied.  “Or it could be ten hours.  The input is easy finding the information in the files could take a bit of doing.”
 
 For the next several hours the Writer and Sabine were reduced to getting coffee and cokes for Lucy.  There was nothing more they could do.  

 Sometime around five the Writer asked, “Sabine, what made you go to trial with the Louise Solomon thing?”

 “What do you mean?”  Sabine seemed to get defensive.   He knew that the Writer had pegged that one a bad prosecution.

 “Come on there wasn’t a single thing that pointed to the ex husband.  Nothing except that argument.  I bet they had those regularly.  She just picked a lousy time to get herself murdered, I expect.”  The writer said.  “Lousy for the exhusband at least.”

 “Well Writer, he threatened her that night and the next day we found her in the reservoir.  It looked pretty good to us.”

 “No murder weapon, no witnesses, nothing but some people who heard him say, that one day she was going to push him too far.  That was the statement that hung him.  A decent law school kid could have gotten him off.”  Perry came back into the conversation even if not by name.

 
 The early dinnerlate lunch was plow added to iced tea was no where near the same as southern sweetened iced tea.

 The entries were all made by six p.m.  For the next four hours the three of them ran different matches.  First they matched by murder weapon.  They tossed every case that was murder by gun, knife or poison.  Sabine wanted to toss strangulation but the Writer insisted it stay.  He felt that he could make a case for strangulation being just as hands on as the blunt force trauma.  Next the sex of the victim was matched, all men got tossed.  Age was matched next.  All victims in within ten years of Maggie Evans's age were kept.  That narrowed it to twelve homicides.  

 The Writer and Sabine knew, that if they were all killed by the same person, then there were likely to be at least as many which had been ruled missing persons.  It was part of the reason serial killers went unnoticed so long.  The missing person’s aspect of it kept them below the radar.

 The final factor they used to narrow the scope of the investigation was to go only for the dump jobs.  Victims killed at one location, then the body transported to a second site.  Sabine wanted to include only water dumps but the writer would not agree.  

 “A dump is a dump,” he argued.

 The list was down to ten when they printed them off.  Even with the list narrowed the pages kept rolling from the printer.  It was after midnight when everything was clean.  Even the computer showed no signs of having been used.

 “Well Sabine, I think you not only owe Lucy and apology but breakfast as well.”  The writer said it grinning at Lucy.

 “I will go for the apology, but the breakfast you will have to buy.  I am on a fixed income,” Sabine said it but neither the writer nor Lucy believed him for a moment.

 Lucy rode with the writer in his tiny convertible, while Sabine drove what appeared to be a former county deputy sheriff's car.  The car still had the fade marks showing where a stick on county seal had been attached.

 The pancake house was getting to be a favorite of the Writer.  Not because the food was good, although it was, but rather because he was suddenly keeping strange hours.  While he waited for the waitress to bring their food, the writer looked around the restaurant.  At midnight the place was pretty much empty.

 There was Sabine, the twenty something Lucy, himself, and one lone young woman at the counter.  The woman seemed to be drifting off to sleep.  That in itself would not have been unusual for the time of night.  The thing that made her stand out was the way she presented herself.  Her hair was dyed jet black.  It was far too black to be real.  She was either very pale or wore very light makeup.  Her lips and nails were shockingly red.  Add to all that the black lace over dress covering a very black shiny dress and she screamed Goth.  The writer had seen Goth Chicks before but never bothered to speak to them.  Something about the one at the counter touched him.

 For one thing she was obviously on drugs or drunk.  She could barely stay awake it seemed.  She also had a kind of desperate look about her.  He wasn’t sure why but he was compelled to approach her.

 “I’ll be right back,” the writer said.

 “Where is he going?” Lucy asked.

 “He is an old man,” Sabine replied. “Probably to the bathroom.”

 “My ass, he is hitting on that Goth Chick.”

 Sabine turned to see the writer sit beside the Goth Chick.  He watched closely as the writer removed a card from his wallet.  He wrote something on the back of it, then handed it to her.

 “Damn, I hate recruiters.”  Sabine grinned at Lucy.

 “What you mean like those religious people who go door to door.  The writer don’t strike me as the type.”

 “Don’t worry your lack of religion is safe.  He is a friend of Bills.”  Sabine could tell she didn’t get it.  “Writer is a member of AA.  He just gave her a card to the local AA chapter.”

 “He is no reformer.  I met him in Eddie’s.”

 “That maybe true, but I am telling you, he is up there trying to get that girl to a meeting at this moment.”


 “More likely he is trying to get laid.”

 “Well she is less than half his age, so if he makes it happen, he is a better man than me.”  Sabine grinned at Lucy.

 Why it bothered her to think the writer was hitting on a younger woman, she did not know.  “If he wants to make a fool of himself that is fine with me.”  It wasn’t at all fine with Lucy.  Lucy didn’t know what had gotten into her lately.  Since the shooting, she and Jonathan had been relocated to the base in Small Town X.  The shooting, and the sudden loss of daily contact with her friends at the larger base in Taylortown rocked Lucy’s world.  She suddenly seemed adrift in her new surroundings.  She had begun to look for something.  She wasn’t sure just what it was for which she searched.  She did know that it wasn’t the writer.  Not only was he too old for her, he was also too domineering.  Lucy wanted a man more like Jonathan.  Easy going and not demanding at all.  Of course Jonathan was older too.  A younger Jonathan, that was the ticket.  She giggled to herself as she thought it.

 When the writer returned to the table, he had the Goth Chic in tow.  Since Lucy sat across from Sabine, the Writer and the Goth Chick were going to have to be separated.  For about half a second he considered putting her beside Lucy, then after the look she gave him, the writer decided on the seat beside Sabine for her.

 “Rose, the gentleman beside you is Louis Sabine.  This charming creature is Lucy, the EMT.  Everybody this is Rose.”

 “Gothic Rose, no doubt,” Lucy said scornfully.  The writer cast a curious look at Lucy which she ignored.

 “Are you Sabine the cop?” Rose asked.

 “No ma’am I am Sabine, the retired cop.  I have no power to arrest you for whatever you are on at the moment.”  Sabine smiled warmly or it would have sounded stupid.

 “Good, all I am is public drunk, but I still don’t want to go to jail.”

 “Get this child some food,” the writer demanded of the waitress.  After the food came everyone began to eat.  Rose ate like a lumberjack.  It might have been her first real meal in a while, Lucy thought.  The thought should have softened Lucy but it didn’t.  Lucy had enjoyed the attention of both older men, she didn’t like sharing her toys.  That thought made her giggle silently.   She knew then that she was overly tired.
 The pancake house, through some quirt in city planning, was closer to Taylortown but was in the Small Town X growth pattern.  The diner’s utilities were furnished by Small Town X for a fee of course. It was the reason the iced tea was so much better at the diner than it was at Lucy’s home.  She drank three large glasses.  The iced tea sent her to the bathroom twice.

 On one of those trips the Goth Chick, Rose, tagged along.  Once the door was closed, the two women stared at each other a few seconds before Lucy went into the cubicle.  She was finishing when she heard Rose speak.

 “Lucy, is the writer yours, or are you claiming both of them.”

 “Those two are both old enough to be my father.  I certainly do not claim either of them.”
 “Then stop giving me those evil looks.  I will give you either of them but I want one.  The idea of a sugar daddy appeals to me right now.”  As she spoke, Rose was looking into the mirror.  She was also applying a new layer of eyelash color.

 I think you are wasting your time with those two.  Neither of them have any money.”  Lucy said it not knowing what their status was.  She did feel protective of them though.

 “The one you call writer offered to take me to an AA meeting.  I am sure he had more than that in mind.”

 “You are not only drunk Rose, you are delusional.  The writer is an AA member.  He is just trying to help you.  If you choose to go, I am sure he will drive you.  If you choose not to go, I am sure he will not bother you again.”  Lucy was losing patience with Rose.

 “Okay so I go after Sabine.  All you had to do was tell me you had the hots for the writer.”

 “I don’t have the hots for either of them.  I just think you are wasting your time with them.  Hey take your best shot though.”

 “Will you stop giving me that evil look.?”  Rose asked it with a smile.

 “All right no more evil looks,” Lucy said suddenly finding humor in the Goth Chick hitting on the two former cops.  It should be interesting, she thought.

 When they returned to the table, the writer and Sabine stood.  It was gentlemanly maybe, but mostly it was because they had paid the bill and were ready to leave.  The two of them must have made plans for the next day. 

 “Well Rose, it was nice to have met you.  If you decide that you want a ride let me know.”  With that the writer took Lucy’s arm.  He led her to the car.

 They were on the road back to STX campground when Lucy said, “So writer tell me, was Rose a project or did you like her.”

 “I don’t understand,” the writer commented.

 “Was Rose a project for you to get your next star in AA, or is she someone you want to sleep with?”  Lucy suddenly heard herself.  “Writer, forget I asked that.  I have no idea where it came from.  It is none of my business and I certainly do not care.”

 “Well it is late.  Anything might be said at the moment.  Whatever is said most likely wouldn’t mean anything.  

 The moment she stepped from the yellow convertible she made the few steps to her car quickly.  She stepped into the small four door ford then sped away.  The writer noted that she did not look back.  He did not notice her eyes glued to the rear view mirror.

 The writer slipped into his tent, then turned on the large neon lantern.  The site provided no electricity.  

 As the writer set about his nightly bedtime ritual, Ranger Jane passed his camping space on her fifth round.  There were still more to come.  She could have stopped to say hello to the writer, but she had Hit Me waiting in the trailer.  Hit me was  waiting patiently for her shift to end.  It took all her will power not to rush home to Hit Me instead of doing her job.  She had a good job and she intended to keep it or she would have been in Hit Me’s arms at that moment.  Even though she saw the writer walking to the bathhouse with his bag of toiletries, she passed without speaking.  She wasn’t angry she just had Hit Me on her mind.

 Lucy drove the four door ‘old lady’ Ford toward her small apartment in Taylorville.  She had been anxious to get away from the writer.  At that moment she wondered why.  She peered past her headlights into the blackness of the night and wondered.  She wondered why she had felt to excited all day.  She would have credited it to the computer work and the excitement of the hunt for a killer, except that she had felt it at breakfast.  She resisted the urge to slip her hand inside her jeans.  She knew how dangerous that would be while driving.  Still, the urge was strong.

 The writer was in the midst of brushing his teeth when the cell phone rang.

 “Hello,” he mumbled with a mouth full of toothpaste.  
 “Hello Writer, did you enjoy your date with a woman young enough to be your daughter?”“

 ”Who is this?” he asked.  “The voice was muffled as if the owner were speaking through a handkerchief.


 “I asked you first,” the voice continued.

 “Yes you did, and I will be happy to answer.  That is if you tell me who I am speaking with.”

 “Writer, you need to stick to people your own age.  I just might have to teach you another lesson.  Butt out of this town’s affairs.”  The phone suddenly went dead.  The writer had expected no less.  So the van fire had not been an accident.  Now, who all had his cell phone number, or could have gotten it.  The answer was simple, anyone could have.  It was listed as the primary number on his web page.  His office phone’s answering machine, in the two car garage attached to his home, also gave the number.

 It did not appear to him that the tent would any longer be safe.  Then again, if someone wanted to kill him, walking to his car would do just as well.  He began walking to his tent from the shower room.  He wondered how to best handle the threat.   Calling the Sheriff seemed a cowardly thing to do, but he would have, if he thought it might help.  He knew it wouldn’t.  Even with the previous attempt there were just too many suspects.  If they couldn’t bring the guy in for murder, they sure as hell weren’t likely to get him for making a phone threat.

 On a whim the writer called Doris’s number.  She answered after several rings.  She also sounded half asleep.  She did not get much more awake, when she realized it was the writer calling.  He was almost positive she had been deep in sleep.  He decided that dopey voice was too hard to fake.

 “Call me at work writer.  I can’t think this time of the night.”  Those were about her only words that made any sense.  The writer realized that Doris had been drinking.  It was none of his business so he hung up the phone.

 He gave some thought to going to Martin’s house and kicking the shit out of him again.  He didn’t, mostly because he didn’t think Martin would have threatened him anonymously.  Martin would have wanted him to know who it was.  The writer was stumped.  

 It surprised the writer more than it would have anyone else, that he slept so well.   He should have been up all night agonizing over the threat.  If not that then at least he should have slept lightly.  He did neither, he slept like the dead man that someone had threatened to make him.

 The night started off hot, so he slept nude and on top of the cover sheet.  In the middle of the night it got cool, so he managed to pull the sheet over him.  Then along toward morning, it heated up again.  He was mostly uncovered, when she came to the tent early the next morning.

 Lucy looked through the darkened screen.  It was designed to keep the occupant of the tent from curious eyes.  It worked from a few feet away.  The design was based in the belief that no one would walk close to another person’s tent.  It was not designed to prevent a person standing a foot away from seeing in.  In other words, Lucy got an eyeful of the writers body.

 Lucy decided that for an old man it wasn’t bad.  Lying down she couldn’t see his potbelly.  He looked quite handsome actually, she decided.  His was not the first penis she had seen.  It was not even the largest, but there was something about his that excited her.  As a matter of fact, if she had not been standing in a public place she might had slipped her hand under her sun dress.

 Instead she looked away, took a deep breath then spoke, “Writer get your ass up.  You promised to meet Sabin at the coffee shop in Taylortown in an hour.”

 The writer looked up to see Lucy standing outside looking away from the tent.   He realized his body was mostly uncovered.  “Hold on a minute while I get some clothes on.”  He said it with the sleep still in his voice.  The writer slipped into his shorts then pants.

   He pulled on a knit golf shirt as he said, “You can come in now Lucy.  I am as decent as I get.”

 Lucy didn’t go inside the tent.  “I think, I would just as soon wait out here Writer.”  She said it because she didn’t trust herself in the tent alone with the writer.

 Her refusal caused the writer to rush a little.  He hated starting the day in a rush, and half asleep to boot.  As he walked from the tent, he carried his shoes.   “Shoes might be rough on the tent floor,” he replied to her silent question.

 She just nodded as he slipped into the shoes without bothering with socks.  She thought that it gave him a deceptively casual look.  The writer was anything but casual.  She knew from the day before that he was serious and seriously intelligent.  She had exactly the same thoughts about the even sloppier Louis Sabin.  

 “Lucy, I am more than half asleep, how about you driving for me.”  With those words he tossed the keys to the convertible to her.  Lucy, even though younger, had never driven a convertible.  Especially not a tiny one.  She was terrified of the thought but also slightly excited by it as well.

 “Sure, why not?” she commented as she climbed inside the toy car.

 Sabin was waiting in his car as Lucy and the Writer drove up.  It was half an hour before the meeting time.  Lucy had expected to share a cup of coffee with the writer, while they waited for Sabine. Instead it appeared she would have them both.

 “You got the files?”  The writer asked Sabine.  Sabine had insisted, he take them.  He was, more or less, responsible for them so the writer had agreed.   The files were less important than the yards of paper with the comparisons.  The charts and graphs that the writer’s program spilled onto the pages were the things that had convinced Sabine.  Sabine was just as smart as the writer.  The writer was better with technology but Sabine knew he was the writer’s intellectual equal.

 Lucy had slipped into the booth first.  She was surprised to find Sabine was the one who slipped in beside her.  She would have been disappointed had she not felt Sabine’s heat and smelled his aftershave.  Damn, she thought, I am becoming a real slut.  Both these guys turn me on.  That realization almost made the itch between her legs unbearable.  She didn’t understand it at all.  She also didn’t care because she was involved with them both.

 “This booth is not going to be big enough,” Sabine commented.  “It had less to do with being pressed against Lucy, than the fact that the table part was not going to be large enough for the papers.  He actually found that he liked the warm soft feel of Lucy’s body, and the smell of soap coming from her.  She didn’t smell at all like the Goth Chick, who had shared his bed the night before.  Sabine felt a slight stir from those thoughts.  He wasn’t sure it if was Lucy or the memory of the Goth that did it.

 Sabine was able to promote a table in the closed off private dining area.  They were given their choice of  more than a dozen tables.  Sabine chose a table for ten to spread the papers.  The writer, with coffee cup in hand, lifted the chart he had been waiting to discuss with Sabine.  “Louis, from this spacing of the women who fit the pattern, I think we need to drop the one from ten years ago.”

 “Since I think this is all bullshit, I don’t have a problem with that.”  Sabine was looking at Lucy as he spoke.  
 
 Lucy had been afraid to speak for fear her voice would crack.  “I know you guys are the experts but would you tell me why?”  She forced her eyes to the chart.

 “I don’t think it was our man.  It was four years between it and the next one.   After the next one there were eight in six years with the last two coming only six months apart.”  The writer was pretty sure of what he was saying.

 “Well writer just to gnaw a little hole in that.  If I did buy into this nonsense, there would be the missing persons fitting your victim profile.  The increased around the time of the murder.”

 “So you are saying you believe me?”  The writer didn’t believe that for a minute.

 “I am saying we need to do one more thing before this crap is believable.”  Sabine didn’t change the expression on his face, so it was hard to figure him.  “We need to take a new look at the missing persons reports.  In most of these places, if they don’t get a hit in the first year, they drop it.  We need to get in touch with the families to see if the missing women showed up.  I expect we will find that most of them came, or called home.”

 The writer flipped his cell phone onto the table.  “You make the calls.”

 Sabine took the phone, lifted one of the reports he had singled out, then dialed the number.  That stack of reports convinced the writer that Sabine was at least leaning toward his way of thinking.

 “Hello this is Louis Sabine with the Taylor county sheriff’s department.  I am calling to follow up on  Catherine’s disappearance.  Have you heard anything from her?”  Sabine listened then said goodbye.  He turned to the writer then said, “Still missing.”

 It was hard for the writer not to smile.  Sabine made fifteen calls only three of the missing women had been heard from since they had gone missing.  The twelve were spaced in the first five years of the time frame.  After that the women fitting the profile were zero.  There were missing women but none fitting the profile.

 Sabine looked at the revised chart.  He didn’t bat an eye when he said, “The son of a bitch was in prison.”

 “Could be, but I doubt it, I bet he was in a mental hospital,” the writer replied.

 “Or was living somewhere else,” Lucy added.

 “You know she could be right.” Sabine seemed to have bought into it.  “If it is true, it will make finding our killer easier.”

 “Really how so?” Lucy asked.

 “The tax rolls,” the writer replied.  “Somebody dropped off the tax rolls eight or nine years ago, then returned five years ago.”

 “He won’t be on the roles unless he owns property.  Most likely the Department of Motor Vehicles will be out best bet.”  Sabine said that.

 “Not if they stayed in the state.  Either way it could take years to find them that way.  But if we get a hot suspect we can check that as well as mental hospitals and prison records.”

 “So where do we begin Writer?”  Sabine asked it with a smirk.

 Work on the common elements first.  When we get them all, we will know enough out him to start looking.”

 “Why do you keep saying him?” Lucy asked.


 “Because sweetie, most serial killers are men.  Most of the killings have a sexual element in them.”

 “So all these women were sexually assaulted?”  Well, we will have to read the coroner’s report to be sure, but I am assuming so,” the Writer replied.  “We will have to get back to the computer for that.”

 “We won’t be able to do that for a couple of days.  I think my friend in records went on vacation.”

 “So what, I bet you password is still good,” Lucy suggested.

 “It wasn’t mine it was hers and when she left her password was disabled.  She is just going for a few days. We can hold off till Monday, there are other things we can do.”

 “Since Maggie was found in her car, one of the things I want to know is how many had cars missing?  Lucy did you tabulate them last night before we left?”
 “Yes Writer, about half did, the other half didn’t, but the interesting thing is, almost without exception, the murdered ones had their cars missing.  The missing person’s were a bit less, about half of them took a car.”

 “I would say take a hard look at the tow truck drivers in the area, and the service stations near the murders.”

 “Son of a bitch,” Lucy said.

 “What is it?” Sabine asked in his flat tone.

 “A good fucking Samaritan, it could be a guy who cruses the highway looking for women in trouble.  I bet you they all had older cars or some kind of car trouble.”

 “It is possible but why do you say that.  Evans for sure had a cell phone, she could have called for help.  Why would she wait for a good Samaritan?”

 “I don’t know but I just have a feeling that is it.  Last month, I stuck our ambulance up trying to do a u turn over the median.  A guy pulled in behind me within a couple of minutes.  He had a four wheeler and a chain.  Pulled me right out.”

 “Well most of those guys are lifesavers,” the writer suggested.

 “It only takes one Ted Bundy writer,” Sabine had switched sides.

 “You think somebody has been cruising the highway for ten years picking up stranded women?”  It made nolesssense, than a tow truck driver or a service station attendant.  Hell, they all made sense, the writer decided..

 “So what do you guys propose to do?”  Lucy asked it as she looked at each of them in turn.

 “I think the secret is in the contact,” Sabine said.  “How did he pick his victims?  The problem with the victim of chance theory was that the women would not have all been the same ages or body types, if that had been the case.”

 Sabine had the writer questioning his own theory.  The one that led him to believe he had a serial killer.  Sabine was probably right.  It must have been a gut feeling that put him onto the serial killer idea, or maybe he was just wrong.  Only time could tell.

 “If it wasn’t a tow truck, how did he get the disabled cars off the road?” The question came for Lucy.
 
 After a couple of seconds of thought Sabine said, “The disabled ones he doesn’t kill.  The ones he can fix he kills.  He drives their cars to some deserted place after he dumps the body.”

 “It still doesn’t work out right.”  The voice was that of the writer.  “It just doesn’t work for picking the victims.  Not even for disposing of the cars.”

 “You know what, the cars never showed up.”  Sabine said it. “Maggie sure, but the missing person’s.  Their cars never showed up at all.  If we assume they were murdered what happened to their cars.”

 “I still come back to Maggie Evans.  She is the key.  The killer had to tow her car out there.  I would say tow, except for the tow truck driver having an alibi.”

 “He ain’t the only tow truck.  Maybe our man rides around out on the highway with a beat up old tow truck.”  It was Lucy who said it.

 “All the women who broke down that don’t fit had to go somewhere.  If he didn’t kill them, where did he take them to get repairs.  If he took them somewhere, the repair shops should be able to tell us who has a gypsy tow truck thing going,”  the writer suggested.

 Sabine knew the area, so he left to go visit the repair shops.  The writer had to almost forced him to take Lucy.  The writer had agreed to visit the murder victim’s families.  He was to try getting more information about them.  His first stop was the library.  He wanted to rule Doris out as a suspect in the phone call.  It would be nice, if simple jealousy had been the motive for the threatening call.  He somehow didn’t see Doris threatening violence just to get laid.  Still, she had been fairly aggressive the last time they went out.  He smiled fondly at the memory just as he pulled into the front parking lot of the library.

 Doris was sitting at her desk with those half frame glasses librarians are famous for wearing.  She looked over them to see the writer enter.  She smiled inside herself.  It seemed that her little call had worked.  She would have to keep her wits about her.  She didn’t want him to actually nail her for it.  Well she definitely wanted him to nail her but not for the threat.  It had been just a ruse to get his attention off that EMT slut and back onto her.

 “Doris, I came to apologize for that call last night.”  He intentionally didn’t add anything about the reason for it.

 “Well, if you hadn’t caught me half asleep, I would have invited you over.  Since I sleep in a ratty old gown, I would have had to shower and change for you.  I just wasn’t up to it.”

 “Wow, now that is an image to carry around the rest of the day.”  The writer smiled at her.  Remembering the look and feel of her breasts was a pleasant memory.  It was one he indulged often that last couple of days.

 “So, do you have more questions to ask?”  Doris knew whatever excuse he came up with, would be just that an excuse.  He had come because of her.  She got a pleasant warm feeling from that knowledge.
 
 I just came to see if you had been to lunch yet.  So have you?”  The writer watched her face.  He saw it brighten, even though she tried to hide it.  Doris he decided was the stereotypical small town old maid.  He did not know that she was also a virgin.

 “Not yet, is that an offer or are you just curious?”  She smiled.  She might not have had a lot of experience at being coy, but she had that basic woman’s manipulative ability.

 “Well, since I remember about the car payments, how about I go out and bring a picnic lunch in.  You can grace my table, while keeping your ability to drive a better car than I drive.”

 “Fair enough, but deli, none of the colonel’s chicken for me.”
 
 “No problem, but why is that?”  The writer had never intended to buy fast food but he was curious.

 “Too much fat,” she replied.

 The writer realized again how much differently a woman’s mind worked.  “Fair enough, where is the closest deli?” he asked.

 The closest thing to a Deli, within fifty miles, is a section in the Buy Mart store on the highway.  Go toward Taylortown about five miles.  There will be a Grocery store in the large shopping center.  The center is called the Crossroads Mall.  Of course, it isn’t really a Mall.  Just a big shopping center with a few specialty stores and the Buy Mart.

 It seemed a long way to go for lunch, but he had committed himself, yet again, without first learning the ins and outs of it.  It was a hot day, so the drive in the little yellow convertible would be reasonably pleasant. 

 Picking out the food had been no more than telling the young woman behind the counter, a half pound of this, and a quarter pound of that.  He left the deli twenty bucks poorer.  It was also with a sure and certain knowledge that he could have taken Doris to the diner a damn sight cheaper.

 When he saw the flashing blue lights, it meant nothing to him.  The lights came from a state trouper’s car parked on the shoulder.  The car was parked behind a travelers car, and off the roadway.  Even so the writer slowed down as he passed.  That natural urge to see what was going on, often resulted in a rear end collision.  It didn’t that day.  Instead the writer saw the officer giving the woman directions.  Well probably not directions, but it looked that way as he waved his hands and pointed this way and that.
 The writer drove past the two cars.  It was several minutes before it hit him.  Son of a bitch, he thought.  It made almost perfect sense.  Maggie Evan’s killer was some kind of cop.  He probably pulled her over for speeding.  He knew, Maggie was not the most moral of people.  She might well have offered to work off her ticket.  The cop gave her directions to the lake.  It might well have been late enough for the lakeside to be empty.  If not, the cop car could have passed as someone checking the place out.  The cops must have done that often when bored.  Since it was empty, he did his number on Maggie, then killed her.  The writer forced himself to relax.  If his theory was good, it would hold till later in the day, when he was to meet Sabine and Lucy again.
 
 After he and Doris spread the Deli lunch over the extra desk in the storeroom, she asked with a pickle in her hand, “Writer, what you gonna do when Martin comes looking for you?”

 “If he is that stupid, I will probably kill him.”  The writer did not show any emotion at all.  Doris felt a cold chill run up her spine.  She would have hated to admit, that it was a sexual excitement, but it was.

 
 “You know the tent doesn’t offer much protection,” Doris observed.

 “No, it isn’t a lot but it should do just fine.”

 “Writer, are you open to a business proposition?”  Doris asked it smiling over a sandwich she had made from smoked turkey.

 “Well I can’t afford to buy you your own library but I am willing to listen.”
 
 “You are paying a hundred and a half a week out at that camp.  That is just for water and a bathroom along with a space to pitch that tent.  I don’t know what fringe benefits there are out there, but if the deal is just the space, I can make you a better offer.”  She waited for him to respond.

 “Oh, what kind of offer?” he asked.  He had a pretty good idea but wanted her to spell it out.

 “I have told you that Librarians don’t make a lot of money in small towns, so here it is.  I live in a twobedroom apartment.  I can clean the junk out of the spare room.  In other words writer you can come live at my house.”

 “So how much do you want?”  The writer asked it honestly.  He was trying to decide how much the loss of his freedom was worth to him.  Before he could decide her offer came.

 “A hundred a week, payable in advance.”

 The writer did some calculations while he munched his Danish Ham sandwich.  He figured that he was on the right track with the investigation even if it did have to be penned down.  He probably would be around long enough for Martin to recover and come looking for him.

 “You said yourself, Martin would be looking for me, are you sure you want a piece of that?”

 “For a hundred bucks a week writer, I will kill him for you.”  She grinned so that he knew it was a joke.

 “I come and go at weird hours Doris,” he explained.

 You do now, Doris thought.  Instead she said, “I have an extra key.”

 “I certainly am not in love with the campground.”  He said.  In his mind he added, or anyone in it.  “Sure why not?”

 “I am paid up out there for a couple of more days.  How about I make the move on Friday after you leave work.

 I close the library at seven, so I will be home by seventhirty.  You can come by here for a key, if you want to move in earlier.

 “Sounds like a plan to me,” the writer said.  

 “Now Writer, I have work to do.”  She wondered, if he would invite her to dinner before Friday.  Probably not she decided.  She knew there would be plenty of time to seduce him after he moved in.

 The writer left the library to begin talking with family members of murder victims.  He found three of them in Small Town X.  His questions were based on a different set of parameters.  He, Sabine, and Lucy had decided to concentrate on the cars of the victims.  

 In his interview, the writer found that none of the cars had been recovered.  The bodies were found in isolated areas but no car.  The writer almost tossed his cop idea.  Getting rid of the cars was still a problem.  One thing the writer did find, was that in all the cases, the car was a late model car one not likely to have broken down.  That information supported his cop theory.  He still was puzzled about the disposal of the cars.
 
 At five o’clock the writer returned to the pancake house.  He was sitting in a booth, contemplating a big burger and fries, when the others arrived.  He watched Sabine put his arm protectively around Lucy.  It seemed they had become fast friends.  The writer smiled as he thought about the only slightly over weight but highly sweet Lucy in the arms of the middleaged, gruff Sabine.  It was a nice thought but Lucy chose to sit with the writer in the booth.  

 “So what did you find out Sabine?” the writer asked.  He watched as Lucy smiled.
 “Since there are just a couple of shops doing that kind of business it took only a couple of minutes to find out that we got nothing there.  We had plenty of time, so we looked over the file again.  You didn’t notice that all but three of the missing persons went missing in their car.  We decided to eliminate the others and talk to a few of the families."

 “Nobody could believe the people went missing, everybody was happy and in love, or so our families say,” Lucy was giving the information while Sabine smiled at her. “Writer, none of the cars has shown up.  Sabine got the idea to run a national check on the vin numbers, whatever that is.”

 “Those cars, and your murder victim’s cars just disappeared.”

 “Chop shop?” the writer asked.

 “I think so,” Sabine said.  “I just can’t figure how they done it.”

 “I can,” the writer said grinning at them both.  

 “You can?” Sabine asked.

 “Yep, I know who the killer is.  Well not the name of him, but the identity.”  The writer enjoyed Sabine’s reaction.

 “You have been at this a day and you know.  Writer, that makes you either a genius or an arrogant prick.”

 “Both actually,” The writer smiled. Sabine looked as though he might have a hemorrhage.  “Okay before Sabine has a heart attack.”

 “The killer gets the victim to stop on the highway.  The car is fine.  He then goes to the car.  If the driver fits his profile, he kills her right there on the highway.  They all died in the middle of the night, I can guarantee you.  He puts her body in the trunk of his car then dumps her.  He puts in a call to a chop shop.  They come by to get the car.  It disappears without a trace.”

 “So, you think the chop shop guys are serial killers, and the victims just stop for them?  Writer, you are nuts.”  Lucy asked it


 “The chop shop guys don’t even know there is a murder.  All they know is their contact calls them and they get the car.  They probably send him a couple of bucks.  Everybody is happy.”

 “Who would the women stop in the middle of the night for?” Lucy asked.

 “Cops,” Sabine replied.  
 Either he was really smart, or Sabine knew more than he admitted, the writer thought.

 “It had to be a cop.  The women would stop for a cop.  He would have stopped hundreds who didn’t fit his profile.  They would have gotten tickets and been on their way.”  The writer tried to explain it but Sabine’s mind was racing he was thinking out loud.

 “Put a red sticker on the window so nobody would bother it till the choppers got there.  The car is running fine, so they just drive it off and part it out.  With that sticker on the windshield they can drive down here from anywhere to take the car.”

 “How come you know so much Sabine,” the writer asked it suspiciously.

 “In one of the missing persons cases. A family member swore he saw her car on the side of the highway.  He didn’t pay any attention though.  He didn’t know she was missing at the time.  I went back to check and the car was gone.  I thought he was seeing things, so I forgot about it after I called the Highway Patrol office.  No wonder they didn’t have any record of it.”  Sabine shook his head in disbelief.  “A fucking cop goddamn it.”  Let me make the call to see who fits our profile damn it.”

 Louis took the writer's phone but walked to his car to make the call.  After he stepped out the door, the writer took a sip of his iced tea, then made a face.  Unsweetened ice tea was almost as bad as flat coke.

 “So Lucy did you and Sabine get on Okay?”
 
 “Well, he is a little harder to get to know than you, but he really is a sweet man, one of those father figure types.”

 “Careful, Lucy honey, us old men have incest on our minds sometimes.”  She blushed as the writer leered playfully.  The writer drank he tea as he watched Sabine walk around the parking lot with the cell phone glued to his ear.

 “Well, if we get any cooperation at all, it is going to be a while.  It seems that, when you give up your badge you are considered stupid.  Can’t get anyone to pay any attention to me.”  Sabine looked pissed as he spoke.  He hadn’t even bothered to sit.  He stood over the booth ominously.   “What are you grinning at writer?”

 “Just remember how you treated me when I first suggested this to you.”  Sabine did not look amused.

 “Well writer, watch this,” Sabine said it as he carefully dialed a number on the cell phone.  While he dialed, he mumbled obscenities about the size of Japanese men’s fingers.  “Linda James please?”  Sabine smiled over at Lucy.

 “Linda, it is Louis Sabine.”  He paused to determine whether his call was welcome or not.  Since he was retired, the reporter might not want to deal with him.  “Good to hear from you too.  Linda I need a favor.  I need you to call Adam Sims at the Sheriff’s department.  Just ask him who was on duty the night Maggie Evans Die.  Then do the same with the Highway Patrol.”   

 Sabine listened a bit then said, “If there is a story in it, you will get it first.”  More listening, then, “I know you want to move up Linda, I promise I will tell you everything when it is over.  You can write a real piece.”   More listening.  “Linda, this is not my investigation, but I will ask.”  He covered the phone then grinned.  Sabine unfolded a finger each second until he had gone through his hand twice.  Ten seconds had passed.  “Linda, the writer said you could get updates from me, but you have to pull your own weight.  I need those names, and since you want in, I want their work history for the last ten years.  You can do it Linda and it won’t take you long at all."  Sabine turned his attention to the table, as he closed the phone.  "I should have it in the morning.”


 Lucy spoke again, “Writer put down that menu.  You eat too much junk food.  I am going to cook for you both tonight.” Lucy knew both of them pretty well.  Two older men who lived alone, at least at the moment.  She didn’t exactly feel sorry for them, but she did feel something.  She took another large swallow of the tea made with water from the Small Town X reservoir.

 Sabine and the writer looked at each other with a smile.  Neither of them planned to turn down real food.  Besides Lucy had begun to look better all the time, even if she was young.

 “Well writer, I think we should accept the young lady’s offer.  We can’t do much till we find out who was working that night.”

 “Sabine, we need those coroner’s reports.  We need them right now.  Oh yeah, the dinner sounds fine.   Lucy you cook, Sabine and I will buy the food."

 ”Tell you what writer, why don’t you take Lucy to the store? I will try to find those reports.  I am going to have to go to the station to get them, but I will bring them to dinner,” 

 Lucy felt a twinge of disappointment, but she didn’t know why.  It was forgotten as soon as she got inside the writer’s convertible.  If Lucy had any idea how to be seductive, she would have begun with the writer.  She had a strong desire to put her hand on the writer’s leg, just to let him know she was willing to play.  What has gotten into me? She asked herself.  Lucy felt the perspiration on her upper lip.  Lucy knew something physical was causing her discomfort.  She suddenly fought hard then took a step back. She couldn’t see the whole picture, but she did see part of it.  She had been horny as hell since she and Jonathan had been transferred to the Small Town X base.

 As the landscape moved by slowly outside the car Lucy asked, “Writer, have you noticed anything different about the women in Small Town X?”  As she said it, Lucy began remembering all the jokes, about Small Town X, that the men of the Emergency Medical Units told.  Women with no panties were common, but only in Small Town X they joked.

 The writer thought before he answered.  He had noted that he was very popular in Small Town X .  He had never been that popular before.  He had wanted to think it was his animal magnetism, but he knew deep down that it was something else.

 “Well people do seem uh friendly,” he replied.

 “Yeah, that is a nice way to say the women are all over your ass here.  It ain’t just you writer.  The male EMTs tell me that they love to come here.  Women are all over them in the back of the ambulance.”

 “So why?” he asked.

 “I don’t know why, but now that I am spending time here, I feel it too.  I am beginning to feel absolutely slutty.”

 “Well, it probably needs some looking into, but one thing at a time.  Besides I am going to keep an eye on you.  You know just to see how slutty you get.”  The writer chuckled at his own joke.

 “I should be offended but I’m not.  See something is wrong here.”  Lucy smiled, as she threw out her slightly chubby girl’s chest.  It was the one that could slightly overfill a 36c bra.  Other than the full bra, Lucy was pretty straight she had no waist at all.  Her hips protruded only slightly past her tummy.  Lucy was not offensively chubby.  She was pleasingly so, or so she told herself.

 Actually the writer found her attractive.  It had, as much, to do with her age as her body.  Also, Lucy had a very pleasing personality.  The writer gave Lucy and her statement some thought as he drove along.  What could be the reason the women in one town were sexier than the women in another,  Could it be as simple as the acceptance thing?  There was a theory a few years before, it stated that a woman would be as sexual as the culture allowed.  Could it be simply that the values of Small Town X were different than those of other towns in the area?

 It would definitely be a theory that his shrink friend Smyth would love to indulge.  Smyth was perhaps the worlds largest stick in the mud.  Hair in a tight bun, glasses thick enough to start a fire, if exposed to the sun for any length of time, no figure at all, Smyth was indeed the perfect investigator for the Small Town X syndrome.  He liked the sound of that.  A phone call to Smyth might be a good idea, if it proved to be a case of social acceptance of slutty behavior.  It might be fun to watch her work on the mystery anyway.

 “Tell you what Lucy, do you have a spare room?” the writer asked.

 “Writer, I might be a little horny, but I am not ready to have you move in.  At least not just yet.”  Lucy smiled her first flirtatious smile at him.
 “I had something else in mind, but I like your idea pretty good too.  What I had in mind is a social psychologist I know looking into it.  She is a really uptight woman.  If there is anything to your theory about Small Town X, she will prove it.  When she does, no one will question it either.”

 “She sounds perfect,” Lucy suggested.  “You want her to stay with me?”

 “Well she will never stay in a motel.  She thinks they are dangerous, and the only motel in town is dangerous.”  The writer grinned as he pulled into the parking lot of the same supermarket, where he had bought lunch.

 “Okay, she can stay with me, but she should know I am gone a lot.  I work 24 hour shifts.  If she messes with my stuff, she is out the door.”

 “I expect she will spend all her time in Small Town X.  I would take her with me, but she is definitely not campground material.”  He didn’t mention that he was going to be staying with Doris for a while.  Doris would definitely not approve of his sleeping with Smyth, even if Smyth was sexless.

 While Lucy pushed the cart around the store, he made the call.  He knew the number, since it was one he had called regularly.  The college professor had helped him more than once by profiling a killer.  She had a better than 75% record with him.  He left a long detailed message on her machine.  He gave her directions to call him when she decided.

 

 The first thing that Sabine did, as he walked onto the deck behind Lucy’s mobile home, was to take the writers cell phone.  He had his reporter’s type notepad in his hand, as he dialed his newspaper source.

 “Linda, Sabine here, tell me something good.”  Sabine held the writer’s cell phone on his shoulder as he wrote in his pad.  The writer looked on nervously.  Some of it was anticipation of the hunt, but most of it was concern for his hundred buck cell phone.  Sabine was carelessly moving it about on his shoulder, while making dreadful faces.  The phone was too small to wedge in the space between his head and shoulder.  Even so Sabine wrote furiously.  

 “Writer, you got to love computers,” Sabine said as he hung up the phone.  “Everybody, crams everything into the computer.  Checks and cross checks will tell you just about anything you want or need to know.  Would you like to hear the saga of how Linda got these names?”  It didn’t matter what the writer wanted to know Sabine just went on.

 “Linda got access to the departments computers.  The report on Maggie Evans was written by a patrolman,” Sabine consulted his notes.  “Morris.  Wait, that wasn’t the night she was murdered.”  Sabine held up his hand as he went on.”  She read the follow ups just like we did.  Once they determined when Maggie went missing she pulled up reports written on the day for other things.  She found a report by Morris again about a burglary.  In her thoroughness, she got a copy of every police report written by every cop that day.”

 “That will get some of them,” the writer interjected.  “Some days go by, when you just don’t write a case.”  The writer was more than a little disappointed.

 “But, even if you fake it, you turn in a daily summery that supposedly documents your time minute by minute.  You are supposed to use it to report on your activities.  Most of the time it says just, 'on patrol,' but it still has to go in for each day your platoon works.”

 “So Linda had the platoon from the reports and their times?” the writer asked it for Lucy’s benefit.

 “Yep, there were three deputies working that night, and one highway patrolman assigned to this area.”

 “You aren’t going to check off duty cops?”  Lucy asked it in a small bewildered voice.

 “Not at first Lucy.  We figure, the cop was on duty, because it would be a risk for an off duty cop to stop the wrong person.  Somebody might just report him, and that would lead to all kinds of problems.  If none of these pan out, we will have to take a look at them all.”  The writer suggested it but Sabine nodded his agreement.  “How about the backgrounds?” the writer asked almost as an after thought

 “Linda is checking them out now.  It is hard for her without knowing exactly were to look.  Even so, she will have them by tomorrow at noon.”  The writer nodded, while Lucy seemed lost.  Both men were happy that she seemed impressed.  Lucy suddenly had a different look about her.  Then again, it could have been the smell of burning cow flesh.

 Lucy removed the three steaks from the fire, along with the three aluminum foil pouches.  Each steak was cooked on the rare side of medium rare.  Inside the pouches, Lucy had place, the two halves of an ear of corn, onions, green peppers, and a couple of mushrooms, along with a large scoop of real butter.   Lucy seemed to throw together the salad.  Neither man knew how much thought went into the salad. The thought didn’t matter much, neither man did more than flirt with it.  After all Lucy’s hard work, the hit of the dinner turned out to be the iced tea that the writer had concocted.  

 After dinner and the cleaning of Lucy’s kitchen, the three of them sat on her deck.  The mosquito repellant flames burned, as they asked and answered questions.  Lucy was the lead interrogator followed closely by the writer.  They each had a burning curiosity.

 Sabine, on the other hand, seemed to care little about either of them.  The writer did catch glimpses of Sabine with his eyes locked on Lucy.  She on occasion returned the glare.  After an hour of it, the writer finally got the message.  He didn’t think there was a message going on very long, before he picked up on it.  It was his impression that the LucySabine liaison was one forged over the steak.  An agreement reached without words.


 “Time for me to go to bed.  I am worn out for some reason.”  The writer wasn’t really tired.  He was simply looking for an excuse to get away from the other two.  The writer drove off, for god only knew where, leaving Sabine and Lucy alone.

 Sabine had intentionally waited for the writer to leave, before he attempted to leave.  He had not wanted the writer to hear his goodbye.  “Well Lucy, I should be leaving too.”

 What got into Lucy even she couldn’t imagine.  Before Sabine had time to stop her, even if he had wanted to do so, Lucy kissed him.  It was not an experienced kiss, but there was a passion to it.  
 
 Sabine was amazed by his reaction.  He had been with the Goth Chick the night before, who was the first woman in over a year, now this young woman was trying to seduce him.  Far from passion, Sabine’s reaction was curiosity.  Though he and the writer had not discussed it, they both felt as though something were wrong.  Sure women had come on to him, when he was a cop, but that was the job not Sabine.  The job was gone but still two young women in as many days.  It just didn’t feel right.   

 No matter how it felt, Sabine responded to Lucy.  The kiss by the door let to more kissing and groping, then to Lucy’s uncomfortable bed, The bed was too soft for Sabine’s taste.  He didn’t mind the soft Lucy though.
 
 The sex was passionate, but not especially fulfilling for either of them.  Sabine enjoyed the feel of Lucy’s young body almost as much as the release.  As for Lucy, she just felt embarrassed after it was over.  Lucy was on the point of throwing Sabine out, when he decided to go home.  He explained that it was the bed.  Lucy didn’t much care what the reason, she was just glad Sabine left.  It was unlike her, but Lucy giggled as she drifted off to sleep.

 Sabine drove the old crown vic home.  The thoughts ran through his mind at will.  He was far too sleepy and just generally drained to stop them.  Mainly, he was concerned that Lucy did not get any ideas.  After all, he was thirty years older than she, at least.  He most definitely did not intend to have a younger wife or any wife for that matter.

 The writer pulled the tiny yellow convertible to the rear of the paved parking space.  His tent was pitched a few yards to the side.  He saw the headlights pull into the park.  It wasn’t late enough to concern him, but for some reason he did watch them.  The spacing of the lights told him the vehicle was a car not a camper.  He sat contemplating the job ahead.  The manual raising and lowering of the top was a chore, but it also reminded him how lucky he was to be driving the little convertible.  The yellow, ragged out, drop top, car had stolen his heart from day one.  The other car’s headlight swept over him for a second as it turned the curve a few yards from where he sat.  
 When the strange car slowed down, the writer’s years of police training kicked in.  He dropped below the profile of the car.  He heard the shotgun blast, and felt the car shiver at its contact with the heavy steel pellets.  As he heard the revving engine, he rolled from the car.   The car was no more than thirty feet away when the writer began writing on his palm.  It was the universal pad that all cops use now and again.  The writer was beginning to wonder if he needed a gun.  The problem with a gun, in the hands of an honest man, was that the need for it had passed before you could bring it to play, at least most of the time.  However, shooting at a disappearing car did see like a good idea at that moment.

 Lights had begun to pop on all over the campground.  He postponed the decision about where to sleep until after he talked to the cops, who should be on the way at that moment. He expected the campers all around him to be pouring out to assist him.  It would have been in keeping with the camaraderie of the campground myth.  His expectations were not met.  It took several minutes before the first person appeared.  

 His first inquisitor was a single mom, with a couple of carrot topped kids, of less than school age.
 
 “What the hell was that?” she asked.

 “I am guessing a car backfired.”  The writer replied, Thinking he might be able to pull it off, since there had been only one shot.

 “Well I think you are wrong.  Take a look at your little car.”  The Single mom suggested looking in the direction of the car.  Even in the moonlight the rips in the trunk were evident as hell.  So were the cracks in the windshield.

 “Damn, that rare African metal eating termite has arrived.”  He didn’t want her to know how close his knees were to giving way.

 “Thank God, it didn’t wake the kids.  Kids are lucky, they don’t know anything about guns and dying.”  The young mother seemed intent on staying a while to discuss the event.  Since all the danger was passed, others began arriving slowly.  No one had rushed out to help.  He both understood, and thanked them for it.  he had needed the few seconds to get a breath.

 The heavily freckled red head took over the narrative, while he found his camp chair inside the tent.  Fortunately during the week the campground was more or less deserted.  The single mom, and half a dozen other people were the only occupants.  About half that number stood in a group at the entrance to the short drive.

 The first authority figure to arrive was Ranger Jane.  She had been on her tour of the park when the shooting took place.  She must have been in another area.  The state park she patrolled ran for several miles on both sides of the highway that cut through it.  Jane’s four wheeler was parked beside the main drive, as the writer sat watching the small group of campers crowded around his convertible.

 He watch as Jane walked toward him.  She waited until she was close before she spoke.  “You okay writer?”  he nodded.  “You trying to keep the Sheriff’s deputies busy again I see.”

 “I swear to you I have no idea why anyone would do this.”  He answered her question before she asked it.”

 “Where you been keeping yourself the last couple of days?”  Jane asked.  

  “Hanging out with Louis Sabine.”

 “And what have you and Sherlock Holmes’s grandson been up to?” Jane asked.

 “Nothing interesting, certainly nothing to cause this.”  The writer said it hoping that it was not  true.  If it was connected, the license number in his hand was going to lead them to a killer.”

 While Jane took a look at the car, the writer tried to call Sabine.  At that moment Sabine was in Lucy’s arms with his phone turned off.  Since the writer couldn’t reach Sabine, he sat back to enjoy the show as best he could.  He was about ninety percent calm by the time the sheriff’s deputies arrived.  

 The writer checked their name tags hoping to find one of the deputies from Sabine’s list between the two of them.  He had learned from Sabine’s list that only two deputies worked the after midnight shift.  It was a screwy arrangement but it was small town America. Since neither name appeared on his list, the writer lost interest in them.

 He cooperaty deputy the information would get back to him.  For better or worse the writer was wedded to the lie.

 “Sorry officer it was dark, and I was scared to death.”  The scared, almost to death, statement was true.  The writer had felt a pain in his chest.  Not a significant enough pain to be a warning, but a pain nonetheless.

 When all the interviews and crime scene processing ended, the sun was beginning to rise.  The writer contemplated trying to sleep.  He knew it would be useless for a long time, then he would simply oversleep.  He wanted to make the meeting with Sabine that morning especially

 The writer began the laborious process of making coffee.  He removed the yellow funnel, purchased recently from an autoparts store, from the 25gallon plastic storage briter then retrieved his tea kettle from the floor beside the box.  He fumbled with all the items as he carried them to the picnic table barely illuminated by the breaking dawn.

 He filled the tea kettle with water from the campground faucet, then he placed it on the camp stove.  The kettle set above the small fire as it heated, finally he spooned a measure of coffee into the filterfilled funnel.  The funnel sat atop his twocup sized delta coffee cup.

 When the kettle whistled, the writer poured the boiling water slowly into the funnel.  A miracle took place as the water was transformed into coffee.  It was a laborious process to be sure, but the coffee was the best he ever drank.  The Rube Goldberg contraption was necessary because nobody in the area sold the kind of coffee maker that had been destroyed in the fire.  To the writer’s thinking, coffee at home should be special anyway, he could get bad coffee anywhere.

 The writer sat drinking his wonderful coffee, when the redheaded mother, from the space beside him, appeared outside her tent.  She stretched, accentuating her smallish breasts, then she turned to the writer.  She smiled as she disappeared back into her tent.  A few seconds later she returned carrying a small metal coffee cup.  

 She walked slowly to the writer’s table.  “Could I borrow a cup of coffee?”
 
 “Sure,” the writer replied.   He added a few more grounds to the funnel before put the kettle back onto the stove.

 “While you do that, I need to pee,” the mom said, as she turned to the comfort station.  She was gone much longer than it took to boil water, so the writer removed the kettle from the stove, until he saw her leave the bathhouse for her return trip to the picnic table

 The woman tasted the coffee then said, “Wow, you are gonna make some lucky woman a fine wife.”  

 “Well, I guess if I do that I will go to jail for bigamy.  I have already made one woman a lousy husband.”  He smiled to show that he was not offended.

 “Ah, the good ones are always taken.  So where is the Mrs. while you are being shot at?”

 “Home playing bridge. I expect,” the writer replied.


 “So how long have you been here?  I checked in last night,” the woman informed him.

 “I have been here about three weeks,” the writer answered.  “I am a writer doing a little research for a book.”

 “Have you written anything I would recognize?” she asked.

 “Do you read ebooks from the Internet?”

 “No,” she replied.

 “Then I doubt it, that is where I publish.”

 “Oh,” was her total response.  He had a suspicion that, even if he had a best seller in a tree killer format, she still wouldn’t have read it, not even the Reader’s Digest book club edition.

 “Your wife lets you leave home for so long?” the carrot top young woman asked.

 “Are you kidding, I won’t be home a week before she has me packed up again.  Margaret loves her freedom.”  He smiled at the much younger woman.  He was saved from God only knew what, by her kids.  One of them wandered from the tent.

 “Shit, off to be mom,” she said as she stood.  “I’m gonna be here for one more night.  Maybe I will see you tonight.”

 “Could be,” the writer replied to her back as she walked toward the screaming child.

 “There is definitely something wrong here,” the writer said to himself with a smile.  The writer began immediately to make more coffee.  As he worked, he tried again to reason it out.  Since he knew the car did not belong to Doris, or Ranger Jane. It appeared they were off the hook for trying to kill him.  The hell hath no furry motive was out the window.  Too bad, he thought with a smile.  The idea of stopping him didn’t really seem to work either.  He and Louis had not been working on the case when the van was fire bombed.  Nothing made much sense at the moment, but he knew it would soon.  He sensed that he and Louis were getting close.

 Around seven a.m. the day shift Ranger John came by to check on him.  It must have been when his shift started.  The ranger’s four wheeler pulled to a stop in front of his space.  The man inside looked the convertible over closely.

 “I read the report this morning.  You doing okay wrier?”

 “Well, I didn’t sleep any last night,” the writer replied.

 “Can’t say as I blame you, a tent really ain’t bulletproof.”

 “Not much is,” the writer replied.

 “Guess not, the park manager is gonna want to know how long you plan to stay?  I expect after the fire, and now this, she is gonna be a bit nervous having you around.”

 “It is my plan to pack up today,” the writer replied.

 “I expect she will have me come down to help, if you need it.”  The ranger laughed to show that he was only kidding.

 “I am paid up for one more day, I might stay tonight.  I got a couple of things to do.”

 “Well Writer, it you want to go, we can refund your money.  As for the packing up, it won’t take you long.  I can even help, if you need me.”

 “I get the point.  Tell them to have my money waiting.  I will be by for it later today.”  The difference between a night at the campground or a cheap motel was small.  The writer figured, if Doris didn’t want him he could find somewhere to stay.

 After the ranger left, he sat at the table trying to make the pieces fit.  He knew, that he was missing a couple of very important ones.  The thing that frustrated him most was that he didn’t have a clue what the pieces might be.

 He checked his watch for the tenth time, then he decided to hell with it.  He would just go have breakfast while he waited for Lucy and Sabine.  He intentionally did not take down the tent.  He should be able to find time during the day to pack up his meager belongings.

 The writer found the pancake house full at that time of the morning.  He was much earlier than he had ever been before.  The placed was filled with workers preparing to start the day.  He found a place at the counter, since he didn’t want to take up too much space during their busy time.  

 “What’ll it be writer,” the waitress asked.  The writer was getting a bit paranoid.  He wondered how she knew him,  but then he realized she had been yesterday’s waitress as well.

 “Couple of eggs soft scrambled, bacon, toast and iced tea.  I done had all the coffee I can stand.”  He grinned to let her know the country boy talk was a joke.

 “Honey you ain’t had my coffee, but the tea is just as good.  I will even sweeten yours in the back so the sugar will dissolve before you get it.”  She smiled to let him know it was extra work but she didn’t mind.  Something was definitely wrong in Small Town X.  No waitress had ever been that nice to him, or looked at him like he was on the dinner menu.

 
 It was almost two hours of iced tea, and reading every word in both the local weekly paper, and the Cincinnati paper, before the first of them arrived.  Lucy came into the restaurant first.  She did the most amazing thing.  She walked up to the writer, then kissed him dead on is lips.  There was even a little tongue in the kiss.  She grinned at his bewilderment.

 “Come on Writer, you know you don’t mind.”  She smiled as she picked up the stained menu.

 “Of course I don’t mind.  I am just surprised, maybe even shocked.”

 “Don’t be.  It was just a friendly little kiss.”

 “Lucy honey, your idea of a friendly kiss is not the same as mine.”  He was surprised when Lucy gave a small laugh.  The laugh suggested more than the writer would have expected from her.  

 The writer spent almost a half hour of Lucy grinning at him, while she told him, in more detail that he wanted, about her night with Sabine, before he saw the Crown Vic pull into the parking lot.  As Sabine walked inside, the writer had the distinct feeling, that Lucy was trying to make him jealous.  She didn’t seem to realize that the writer had left them early so that she might have her fling with the other older man.

 Sabine walked to them.  He looked discouraged.  “Writer, none of the cops on duty that night have the right background.  My newspaper friend called this morning early.  I also swung by the station to get the coroner’s report on Maggie Johnson and a couple of the others.  More bad news, none of them had been sexually assaulted.”

 The writer knew that without the sexual element, the serial killer idea would be even harder to sell.  “Son of a bitch Sabine, I was so sure.”  The writer shook his head.  It just has to be.

 “Now you tell me about the holes in your convertible.  They told me all about it at the station.  If we aren’t getting close why would somebody try to wack you?”

 “They tried that before we even started down this road.  Something is nutty about all of this.  Check this license plate for me.”  The writer opened his hand for Louis to read the number and letter combination.

 As always, Sabine took the writer’s cell phone, even though he had one of his own.  He walked outside of the building, as if the reception would be better.  It was actually so that the others would not  know the identity of his cop contact.

 While Sabine made the call, the writer tried to think.  Why had the coroner’s report been negative on the victim’s sexual activity?  Who could have managed to stop the women.  He was almost back to square one, when he remember something from earlier that same morning.

 “Holy shit,” he said aloud.

 “What?” Lucy asked.
 “Stay right here, I need to talk to Sabine.”  He rushed to the parking lot before Sabine had a chance to end the call.  He added one more thing to Sabine’s call list.  Sabine shook him off, so the writer returned to the diner.

 “Now what the hell is going on?” Lucy demanded.

 “You might be looking at a genius,” the writer replied.

 “Or a complete ass?” she asked.

 “That too,” he agreed.

 Sabine walked into the diner.  “The plates came back to this gentleman,” he said placing a note in front of the writer.

 “Well, I don’t know why he tried to off me, but I would bet your pension he didn’t kill anybody.”

 “I agree, I think when they finish with the checks you asked me to have run, we will have the killer.”

 The writer nodded.

 “Who the hell is it?” Lucy demanded.

 “Lucy can you wait just a few minutes while they run the check.  If you do, we will show you.”  Sabine had a huge grin on his face.

 “We ain’t cops Louis,” The writer reminded him.

 “Speak for yourself Writer,” Louis removed a card case from his pocket, then he tossed it onto the Formica topped, table.  The Special deputy’s badge rested on a piece of black velvet inside the leather case.  Across from the badge the identity card, in Louis Sabine’s name, lay behind a clear plastic window.


 “So, up here they never let you retire?”  The writer asked with a grin.

 “Never,” Louis replied.

 “Damn it, if either of you want to ever get laid again, tell me who did it,” Lucy demanded.

 “Well, I personally don’t mind telling you, but not just yet.  We want to know one more thing.”  Sabine said it grinning at the writer.   Sabine had breakfast before the Writer’s phone rang.  The writer answered then handed it to Sabine.

 After about three minutes Sabine said, “Thank you sweetie.”  Then he hung up the phone.  “Well writer ten years ago your suspect was a sheriff’s deputy here.  Left under a cloud, but it was never made public.  Of course the suspect is back now.   I think it is time to go confront the beast.”

 The trailer space didn’t really come with the job, it was just outside the park.  The owner rented it to park rangers as often as possible.  Jane didn’t act all that surprised to see the two excops at her door.  She did stare at Lucy some.

 “So, you moved out yet?” she asked the writer.  It appeared she was going to bluff it out.

 “Not yet Jane, we came to talk about other things,” the writer informed her.  Jane looked from one to the other and she knew.

 “Read me my rights Louis.  You are still a deputy, you have to read me my rights.  I am not gonna say a word either.”

 “Oh, I am not here to arrest you Jane.  I am just here to find out, if the writer got it right.  It looks as though he did.  The five years, as a security guard in Cincinnati, must have been tough on you?”

 “You don’t expect me to make a statement do you?”  Jane asked it with a smile.

 “Writer, I guess we need to take a look at murders in Cincinnati.”  Sabine said that as they all turned to leave.  “If you are going to plead innocent Jane, I wouldn’t run.  It tends to look bad to a jury.”

 “Sabine, I got no where to go.”  Jane said it sadly to their backs.

 They were on the winding drive, when they heard the faint pop.  Sabine turned to look at the writer but he did not turn the car around.  Sabine dropped Lucy and the writer at the diner while he went to explain it all to the Sheriff.

 “I don’t get it Writer,” she said.
 
 “What don’t you get?” he asked.

 “So she stopped them, when she was a deputy sheriff, but why would they stop for her now?”

 “Sweetie, in the dark, a blue light is a blue light.  It could be on a dump truck and you would stop.  The four wheel drive trucks they drive are marked up like a cop car and they have a blue light.  Ranger Jane wore a uniform.  She probably looked like a cop to the women she stopped.  That stretch of road outside the park runs from one piece of the park to the other.  She drove it every night.  I expect she saw Maggie speeding.  She has the power of arrest, so she could have stopped her to warn her.  If a highway patrolman came by, the most he would do, would be to stop to see if she needed any assistance, nothing more.

 “So Maggie and the others were forced to, er er, you know,” Lucy asked.

 “At the point of a gun no doubt.  My guess is that in Maggie’s case it was her idea.  That is why the car didn’t just disappear.  We won’t have to check on that though.  I think it is all over now.”

 “You mean the pop?” Lucy asked.

 “Yes, I expect she saved the state a lot of money.  Not to mention saving Louis’s reputation.”

 “What about you?” she asked.

 “I get to write my book any way. It is going to be fiction anyway, so it don’t matter none.”

 “Hold on I got to make a call.”  Lucy watched while the writer dialed the number.  “Hello, Smyth, you need to cancel that trip to Small Town X.  It wasn’t a social phenomena after all.  Call me back, if you have any problems with it.”

 “What was that all about?” Lucy asked.

 “That was about the whos and the whys of me getting shot at.”

 “Geese, you mean it wasn’t Jane.”

 “No, I was with her when the van went up.  It was part of why I never suspected her.”

 “So, who was it and why?” Lucy asked.

 “The who I do know, the why I don’t.  So lets you and I take a ride.”
 
 “Aren’t we going to wait for Louis?”

 “No Lucy, he is a deputy.  He doesn’t want to know how I ask the professor what I need to ask.”

 “So, you mean to tell me the license plate come back to some college professor?”  Lucy was almost smiling.

 “Yes, and we are going out to the community college to talk to him.”

 “Why would he want to kill you?” she asked not quite so amused once she understood the implication.

 “We will know, when you drive me out there.”

 “I’m not driving that car, the windshield is cracked.”

 “So what, you can see through it just fine.”

 “But it is dangerous.  We might get hit with flying glass at any minute.”

 “Well, you stay here and I will go.”  The writer would have preferred her to drive.  He was way too tired.

 “Oh hell, I will go, and I will drive.  Only, because I have ridden with you and you are a terrible driver.”

 “I know, it is how I find chauffeurs wherever I go.”

 The drive to the community college took only a few minutes.  Lucy was a careful, but quick driver.  She didn’t exactly speed, but she made the car whine getting to speed limit as rapidly as possible. It took longer to find the professor’s classroom, than for her to drive to the school.  They were forced to wait until the class ended, then a couple of minutes more while it emptied.

 After they had entered the writer said to Lucy, “Keep an eye on the door.”  He then turned his attention to the professor.  “Now you and I are going to have a little talk.”

 The stunned professor said something silly like, “Who are you people.”  Just like Martin, it earned him a bitch slap, minus the beer mug.  The professor was also a small man, but not especially effeminate.  He appeared more academic than anything else.

 “You know who I fucking am.  Now you should know what I am going to do to you.  I am going to do to you, what you tried to do to me.  That is unless you talk.”   
 
 The professor tried to protest.  That got him slapped again.  He looked as though he were about to cry.  “Please stop.”  It came out almost as a whine.

 “Let’s have a little talk professor, why did you try to kill me?”

 “I didn’t.”  The protest almost got him another teeth jarring slap.  The writer didn’t, only because the professor cringed then went on.  “I was trying to frighten you away.  I knew you were not in the van when I threw the gasoline bomb.  I shot up you car when you were in the tent.  It was all to frighten you away.”

 “Bullshit, I was in that car, when you shot at me.”  The writer wasn’t sure at that point if the professor had known or not.  He had been sitting in the car while it was parked in the dark.  The professor could have missed seeing him, when the headlights of his Honda swept it, from the curve a hundred yards away.

 “Oh dear god no.”  He seemed genuinely shocked, or maybe it was fear.  He sensed that it was likely the writer would begin pounding on him at any moment.
 
 “I am going to give you one chance to talk.  If you don’t do it right, I am going to beat hell out of you, then I am going to turn you over to the cops.  You are going to be somebody’s girlfriend real quick in jail.”  He paused to judge the professor’s reaction.  He was pretty much whipped.

 “Now how did it start?” the writer asked.

 “You know?” he asked.  The writer had only a clue.  He knew it had to do with something biochemical, since the professor taught it, so he nodded.

 “I developed the synthetic hormone for a drug company years ago.  They sold and marketed it to the veterinary industry.  You know to put female cows and horses in the right mood.  The FDA wouldn’t approve it for humans.  Probably because of all the controversy about some date rape thing.  The hormone is simple to use, and inexpensive to make.   I had proof that it reduced the risk of heart attacks in middleaged women.  It reduces stress by replacing hormones.”

 “How about young women?” Lucy asked from the door.

 “It makes all women a little more sexual, but not so much that they lose the ability to say no”

 “So you have been putting it into the water supply of Small Town X?” Lucy asked.

 “Yes, since the beginning, almost ten years now.  It was to prove that the drug was safe.  I have been keeping a log.”

 “What happens when a disturbed woman get this stuff?”  Lucy asked.  Lucy had the cop shooting in mind.

 “Well, it does tend to increase paranoid delusions, but only slightly.  The woman would have to be a ticking time bomb already.  I don’t think it would make any difference at all.”

 “So a woman, who thought the cops framed her brother, one who was already a little paranoid, might go off the deep end.  She might think they were after her, because she knew he was innocent.”  The writer asked it pretty much without emotion.  His mind had already left all the other stuff behind.

 “Yes she might, but she would have anyway.  This hormone replacement is harmless.”

 “Harmless except that it makes women want to have sex with every man they meet,” Lucy suggested.

 “But they live much longer.  I have the data to prove it.”  The professor was trying hard to save himself.

 “Am I the only one you ever shot at to keep your secret?”  The writer asked it faking anger.

 “Yes, no one else came to town asking all those questions.”

 “Did you think I was looking for that?”  The writer asked it simply.

 “You were looking into the reservoir.  I was afraid you would have the water tested.  It is hard to find, but if someone were doing a criminal toxicology they might find it.  I figured, if they did, I might somehow be charged as an accessory.”

 If someone did a simple water purity test, would they find it?”  The writer asked it looking at the professor hard.

 “Of course not, they do those all the time.”

 The professor and Lucy watched as the writer paced the floor.  He paced it for several minutes, then returned to the professor.  “Do you want to go to jail little man?”  The writer was almost vicious.

 “God no, I told you I didn’t mean to harm you.”

 “Well this is my price for keeping my mouth shut.  You, me, Lucy, and Sabine are going into the bottle water business.”

 The end.

 

 
  



 
 

 
 
     
 
 

 



        

 

 

 
 


 

 















        .

   SMALL TOWN X

      By DKN Burke.   

   Contributions By Eve.  
 Based on an idea from the bulletin boards at Literotica.  Thank you all who contributed ideas for small town x.  Especially Wildsweetone.  Your characters did not make it into the book lest I be accused of stealing them, but the spirit of what you all wrote helped guide the book.
 


 There is a small town in Ohio named X.  It started as a cross roads where the farmers met at the trading post to buy, sell, and barter.  As things like that often happen the trading post gave way to a more respectable general store.  The store was joined by a drink house first, then by a stable.  It was more for the buying and selling of farm animals than sheltering strange horses.  The town continued to grow until the depression.  It, like a lot of farm towns, survived, but went into a replacement mode.  It never really grew much after.

 Its one claim to fame was an early statue.  The statue was dedicated to a famous civil war era union general.  Tourist came along once in a long while just to see it.  There just weren’t enough civil war buffs to fill the three bedroom Bed and Breakfast.  Most of the buildings in town dated back to the 1930's and 40's.  Fortunately the population swelled on the weekends.  It was enough to keep the town alive, but not enough to attract the fast food joints.   The consequence was that the town remained quaint, as it would later be described.  There were a ‘bushel’ of stories in the town.  Some of them fascinating, some of them ordinary.  Welcome to life in Small Town X.

   Eddie’s Place.

 If anything on the raw side of life happened, it always began in Eddie’s place.  Eddie’s was the only beer joint in town.  Small Town X was just too small for a real bar.  At Eddie’s, the jukebox played country music. The farmer’s sons and daughters, danced beside the towns working class.  There was not a real cowboy for a thousand miles but that didn’t bother a soul.

 Eddie wasn’t the owner’s name but nobody ever called her anything else.  It was because nobody knew her real name.  She kept it a secret.  The sign read Eddie’s because it had read Eddie’s before the present owner collected her debt from the previous owner.  Word was that the previous Eddie had owed the present Eddie’s former friend a wad of dough.  Eddie had just collected the debt for her.  How she wound up with the place was anyone’s guess.

 Even though Eddie was a woman on the spring side of middleage, she was still hard enough to keep the crowd in line. shotgun which everyone knew was under the bar.

 Eddie also had an eye for the ladies.  A proclivity she acquired while doing her time.  With Eddie, what began as a prison necessity became a life style.  

 Eddie looked up at the large man who entered.  The man was in the full bloom of middleage.  Since Eddie knew everyone in town the stranger had to be from somewhere else.  

 “Howdy stranger,” she said with a grin.  “I always wanted to say that.  We don’t get many strangers here.”

 “Well Miss Kitty, you just feel free.  Course I do have a name you know.”

 “Tell me what you want to drink, while I don’t listen to it.”  She grinned to show she was not upset.

 “Draft and I will keep it to myself then.”  The older man smiled.  

 His smile bothered Eddie.    She wasn’t sure why but he seemed to smile like a man who knew more than she knew.

 “Well now,” Eddie said as she placed the wet glass on the black bar top.  “I am curious about you, just not your name especially.

 “Well I am a writer.  No, not published just a hobby with me.”  He responded to her curious look.  “People always ask what I have written.  They really want to know what I have publish, and am I a real writer.”        

 “Well are you?” Eddie asked with a grin.

 “By my definition yes, however I am not a professional since I have never been paid for it.”

 “In that case let’s use your definition.  So what brings you to Small Town X?”

 “I came to write a novel about your big murder case.”

 “What big murder case?” Eddie asked.

 “Why Maggie Evans, how many unsolved cases do you have?”

 “Who the hell is Maggie Evans?  I never heard of her.”

 “She was a stranger like me.  Just a woman passing through a while ago.  They pulled her body out of the Small Town X reservoir.”

 “Oh now I remember, the lady in the yellow convertible.  Since she was a stranger, I never paid any attention.”

 “So I guess you don’t know anything about her.”  

 “Nothing more than you just told me.  Excuse me I got to get back to work.”

 He watched as she moved on down the bar to refill a draft glass.  He wondered if she indeed knew nothing.  It was the old cop in him.  In his mind everyone was a suspect,.

 He looked around the dimly lit room.  Without a doubt someone in the room knew something.   Murder and unsavory characters went together.  All the unsavory characters in Small Town X seemed to be gathered at Eddie’s.  He knew that it was not true at all.  Still so many in such a small town,  They must bus them in, he thought.

 The writer watched as Eddie went from patron to patron.  She was no doubt filling them in.  It was exactly what he had hoped to accomplish by the visit.  The writer put three bucks on the bar then walked out the door.

 He was almost to the van when a voice shouted.  “Hey Writer.”

 “Are you really a writer?” the voice belonged to a woman of about thirty.  She had a slightly elongated face and a slightly thick jaw.  She wore her hair much too long for her age and face shape.  She did have an attractive body even though it was a bit thick at the hips.

 “Like I told Eddie, I am an unpublished writer.  That makes me a bit like a starving artist.  To answer your question I do write yes.”

 “Then I need to talk to you.”

 “Is it about Maggie Evans?” he asked.

 “No it is about me.  I think I have some great stories to tell.  I think I could get them published.”

 “Well...”  He intentionally left it so that she would be forced to answer.

 “Sammie, my friends call me Sammie,” She said it extending her hand to the writer.

 “Well Sammie, everyone has stories to tell.  I don’t ghostwrite, I am sorry to say.”

 “Let’s go to my place and we can talk about it.”  Sammie was offering something the writer just wasn’t sure what.

 “I am tired tonight but I am staying at the state park just outside of town.  If you want to talk come on out one day and we can discuss your life.  I have to warn you though I do not expect to change my mind.”

 “Well honey, if anybody can change your mind it is me.”  She grinned what had to be nothing less than a hungry wolf's grin.



 She watched the writer drive away in the mini van with blacked out windows.  Sammie went back into the dim light of Eddie’s.  She knew that she was almost gorgeous in the darkened beer joint.  She also knew that before the night was over some drunken drugstore cowboy would hit on her.  It always happened.  She seldom said no to them.  She seemed to be horny all the time since she moved to Small Town X the year before.  She credited her traveling salesman husband and the freedom he afforded her for her new found sexuality.  

 She found her seat at the bar.  At first she had hated the custom of women displaying themselves at the bar.  She didn’t like Eddie flirting with her either.   Well in all honesty she had been flattered at first.  She sort of felt that one night when she couldn’t find a cowboy, she would give Eddie a try.  Some of the women had talked about how great Eddie was with her tongue.  It might be nice to find out even if there were cowboys around.  Most of them just knew one trick.  She wasn’t complaining though.  She had finally learned to orgasm from intercourse.  

 “Hey Sammie, you wanna dance?”  The man who asked was a tall thin man somewhat less than her age.  At Eddie’s age didn’t seem to matter.  Men seemed to be attracted by a woman’s looks or personality more than her age.  At least it seemed that way to Sammie, who had slept with older and younger men.  

 “Sure why not Martin.”  Martin held her close during the dance.  It took about thirty seconds for him to get an erection.  The feel of his penis laying against her belly was all it took.  Sammie melted into him.  She hoped desperately that he would ask to take her home.

 “Sammie, how about me and you take a walk.  We can get a couple of beers to go, drive out by the late.  Would you like that?”

 “Oh yes Martin,” Sammie replied.  “But could I have another drink first?”

 “Sure, I wouldn’t mind having one myself and then maybe another dance.”

 “That would be nice,” Sammie agreed.

 Very few things were overlooked by Eddie.  She saw Martin and Sammie hook up.  She also cursed her luck.  She felt that she was on the verge of seducing Sammie.  Oh well, so she liked the challenge of virgins most, there were plenty around who fondly remembered their time with Eddie.  Some were in the club at that moment.  Some preferred men but some preferred Eddie.  Even the ones who preferred men got to looking hard at her when closing time approached.  Eddie always had her choice at 1 a.m.

 Eddie was working on half a dozen women who had never had a lesbian experience before.  She had turned on twice that many already.  The town’s women were rapidly becoming bi.  Eddie was right proud of herself for it.  She wanted to set some kind of record.  She smiled as she watched Sammie’s ass wiggle against Martin’s erection.

 When the song ended the two of them moved to a table far from anyone else.  Eddie knew from having talked to Sammie that Sammie would have Martin’s penis in her hands any second.  Sammie was just as much a slut as any of the other women in Small Town X.

 The thoughts that triggered in her mind were anything but ladylike.  Eddie was getting tense as she always did when she felt she had lost a woman.  It didn’t much matter that she had never had Sammie, she knew Sammie was close to coming over.

 Sammie turned her beer glass up and took a long drink.  When she finished, she smiled at Martin, then she led him out the door.

 As they passed, Eddie smiled on the outside but inside she was furious.  She just wasn’t sure who she should be furious with.  Martin was just acting like and man.  If Sammie hadn’t been such and easy slut, she wouldn’t be Sammie, Eddie thought with a smile.

 “Hey Eddie, what’s a girl gotta do to get a drink around here?” the twenty pound overweight redhead asked.   

 Eddie moved slowly down the bar to the redhead.  She didn’t want Rusty to get any ideas.  Rusty was a sweetheart all right, but she was just a little to possessive.  It took Eddie a couple of days to extract herself every time she played with Rusty.  The woman was just too damn clingy.  Sure, she had her childhood issues, but so did everyone else.

 Just as Eddie reached for Rusty’s glass, a siren began to intrude on the country music.  The siren blast grew in intensity then faded away.   Since it didn’t stop in her parking lot, Eddie ignored it.

 The Ambulance roared past Eddie’s without the drive, or attendant noticing the beer joint.  The driver was intent on the narrow road.  The roads in Small Town X definitely could use an upgrade.  All the county’s emergency personnel cursed the roads in Small Town X, but still were forced to provide service to the burg.

 Nobody gave all that a thought at the moment.  Just a few blocks from Eddie’s joint, a subject was barricaded inside a house.  The sheriff’s deputies had the house surrounded.  The ambulance personnel had no idea what else was going on.  
   
 The state police’s swat team was on the way in addition to the ambulance.  The damn woman in the house had her husband’s deer rifle.  She was threatening to kill herself, and anyone who approached the house as well.  It was a first for the sheriff’s deputies.  At least no one could remember ever having a woman threaten such a thing.

 The ambulance was almost run off the road by the state police swat team bus.  

 “Oh hell Lucy, we are in for some shit now.”  The voice belonged to Jonathan Simpson.  He was the driver of the ambulance.  Lucy was the paramedic.  Jonathan also was an Emt but with a lower level of training.  That small fact made Lucy the team leader even though she was newer to the field.

 “How so?” she asked.
 “Those state police swat guys always shoot somebody.  They are the most blood thirsty bunch I have ever seen.  It is a fucking macho thing.”

 “Well I hope they hold off this time.  I hate fucking gunshot wounds.”

 “Honey, if they start shooting, the only thing we will do is transport the body.”  Jonathan could call her honey since he was at least thirty years older.

 “That bad huh?” Lucy asked.

 “Yep, it will be a miracle if she comes out of this alive.”

 The two medics stood behind the ambulance drinking coke from the cooler they carried.  They watched as the cops talked to the distraught woman on the phone.

 “Hey lady,” One of the deputies said to Lucy.  “I need your help.”

 “Okay, is somebody hurt.”  Lucy couldn’t think of any other reason they would want her.

 “Not yet, I need you to talk to the lady in the house.  She just told us she wouldn’t speak to us again.  Said that we were all men and couldn’t understand.”

 “Well, I haven’t been trained for this kind of thing.  What if I say something wrong?”

 “If you don’t do something, I am going to have to let the swat team take the building.  If I do that somebody is probably going to die.”

 Lucy reluctantly accepted the cell phone he thrust at her. “Her name is Joyce.”

 “Hello, my name is Lucy.  I am a paramedic.  I want to help you, Joyce.”
 “Oh Lucy, I need help.  They are going to kill me.”

 “Not if you put down the rifle and walk out.  If you do that I will personally see to it that you get whatever help you need.”

 “Even if I put down the rifle and walk out they are going to kill me.   They can’t let me live.  I know too much.”

 “What do you know honey?” Lucy asked.

 “If I tell you what I know, you will be in great danger too.”

 Lucy looked at the deputy who made a circular motion with his finger against his head.  He indicated that she was crazy.

 “I want to help you but I can’t unless you tell me what is going on.”  Lucy covered the phone.  “What can I do?  Can I go in there?”

 “Absolutely not,” the deputy said.

 Lucy ignored him.  “How about if I come in and we talk?”  The deputy shook his head.

 “No Lucy, if you do that they will find a way to kill us both.  They don’t want me to tell what I know.”

 “Who doesn’t want you to tell?  Most of us out here Joyce don’t know you honey.” Lucy continued.

 “Where do you live Lucy?” Joyce asked.

 “Taylortown,” was her only reply.

 “Good, then don’t pry into this honey.  It is best that you don’t know.”

 “Joyce how about this?  I come up there and you come out with me.  I will carry you to the state hospital in Raleigh.  I will take you there myself.  Nobody will be able to get you there.”  Lucy figured the doctors there could deal with her delusional paranoia.

 “Joyce, you know this has to end soon.”  Lucy hoped it was the right thing to say.
 
 “Okay, you come up here alone and I will go out to the ambulance with you.”

 Lucy was terrified as she walked to the door of the small frame house.  Joyce turned out to be far from a gun toting redneck.  She looked more like a church lady. Still she came to the door with the rifle.  

 She was looking all around as Lucy said, “You have to leave that rifle in the house honey.”

 At that very moment a shot rang out from behind her.  Joyce crumpled back into the house.   Lucy rushed in to help the fallen woman.  As she did the state and local cops surrounded her.  Lucy looked up at them with anger and hurt in her eyes.  She intended to slap hell out of the first one who started any macho shit.

 Even on the summer night, it was well past dead dark when the writer arrived back at the campground.  He had checked into the state park just until he had his research completed.  After that he would have to decide where to go.  He could stay in Small Town X to write the story since he was pretty much free to come and go as he wished.

 Still, he might go home to write it.  The white frame house stood almost empty at the moment.  It would be that way until he returned.  His country club wife would be, god only knew, where.  

 In his week of reading files and talking to cops, he had learned little.  All anyone knew was that Maggie’s body had been pulled from the lake used for the town’s drinking water.  Since Maggie was not a local, nobody knew much and cared even less.

 The writer had read the police reports, such as they were.  From them he had learned that Maggie was from a couple of hundred miles away.  She had been on her way to a sales call when she disappeared.  Maggie sold computers and software systems.

 “Hello in there,” the woman’s voice interrupted him.  The voice belonged to the park ranger.  She was the ranger who made the night patrol of the campgrounds.  The writer had seen her around but had never spoken to her.

 “Hello,” he said after leaving the van.  He had been sitting in the passenger seat reviewing his notes when she spoke.  “What can I do for you Ma’am.”

 “Gee don’t call me ma’am it makes me sound so old.”  She smiled giving him a chance to respond.

 “Didn’t mean it that way.  It is the southern raising I expect.  Besides I am at least twenty years older than you.”

 “Oh I doubt that.  The reason I am here is because you have to move tomorrow.  You are only allowed to camp for a week here.  It is the rule.”

 “Damn, If I had known that, I would have found some private park.”
 She saw the look of dismay on his face.  He was a good looking old man with the silver hair and beard.  The number of wrinkles put his age in the forties range.  He must be one of those guys with premature grey hair she thought.

 “Tell you what writer,” She began.  “Come to the office tomorrow and check out, then back in again in another space.  It is legal.  We got a couple of people who do it.”  He looked as though he really did appreciate the information.  Jane thought, it might be nice to have the writer owe her a favor.  She did like his looks, a lot actually.

 “Thank you for the advice.  I will definitely take it.”

 “Good, I kind of like having you around.”  She smiled her most seductive smile.

 That smile made the writer shiver, but it wasn’t in fear, even though it was the smile a cat wore as it toyed with a mouse.  It was more a shiver of fascination.  The fascination of looking into the face of evil while waiting to see what will happen.

 Ranger Jane, as he began to think of her, moved to stand close in the black night.  She wasn’t so close that a camper might think anything of it.  She was just close enough to speak without fear of being overheard in the camper no more than a few feet away.

 “Why don’t you take a walk tonight writer.  Walk on down to the office.  I think something interesting might happen.”

 She had him on the spot and he knew it.  He didn’t know exactly what to say but he knew he had to say or do something.  If for no other reason than he was a gentleman.   She hadn’t exactly promised him anything.  Maybe she knew something about Maggie Evans.  He knew better, but he fooled himself with the lie.

 “Sure, when would be the best time for that walk?”

 “I would think about midnight.”  The writer just nodded.

 The writer stood outside the locked office waiting for Ranger Jane to arrive.  The black Ford Bronco arrived five minutes after midnight.  The truck pulled up beside him.  The passenger side window lowered as if by magic.  

 “Get in writer.”  It wasn’t quite the demand it sounded.  It was more and invitation.

 He didn’t speak until he was in the truck.  “So Ranger are you kidnaping me?”  The writer was almost laughing.

 “I thought for a while I might have to,” the woman in the green outfit replied.
 He didn’t know what to say so he changed the subject.  “Where are you taking me, not that I mind.”

 “We rent cabins as well as camp spaces.  We have an empty one away from all the others.  The office workers rent it last.  I checked , no one is using it, so I thought we might sit on the porch and talk a little.”

 “That sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing for us to do.”  The writer did not mean for to come off nasty by any means.  He meant it to sound like a non committal remark.

 The cabin didn’t seem just right to him when he arrived.  It wasn’t logs, as it should have been.  It was called board and batten construction.  Just a bunch of vertical boards with a second board nailed over the joint cracks.  

 The cabins were rustic at best.  They had no electric power.  They did have running water.  A propane gas cylinder could be purchased from the office.  The cylinder supplied enough power for the hot water and even a small heater, if need be. The gas would last only a day or so if used for heat.  If it was used only to heat water, it would last a week or more.  Light was provided by kerosene lamps.  The feeling was a mixture of wilderness and comfort.  The comfort from the indoor bathrooms and running water.  Rustic because of the lack of modern conveniences.

 Jane turned to him, then pushed him onto a hand hewn bench.  

 The writer could feel Ranger Janes’s hand under his shirt, her tongue down his throat, and the large buckle of her gun belt pressed into his crotch.  It was an interesting set of feelings to be having all at once.  Everything was a turn on except the pistol belt thingie.  Even it wasn’t enough to calm him down.  He had her blouse out and was reaching for the buttons when the serious knock sounded from the front door.

 “Busted,” he said.

 “Ah but by whom?” she asked, as she quickly stuffed her shirt inside the uniform trousers.

 Ranger Jane moved to the door but much slower than the writer would have.  She seemed to have at least a sense of who the person standing in the night would be.  The writer couldn’t see the intruder since Jane kept the door mostly closed.  He could hear their voices though.

 “Hello, am I interrupting?” the voice on the porch asked.

 “Of course you are.  You know I don’t come inside unless I am with someone,” Jane replied.

 “I just needed to talk with you but I will come back later.  Can I meet you at your place.”  The voice was definitely female.  She sounded young to the writer but then what can you really tell from a voice on the other side of a wall.

 “Alright, come to my place in a couple of hours.”  Jane seemed to be less annoyed all of a sudden.

 “Thanks,” The voice replied.  Jane closed the door, as she removed the pistol belt.

 “Now where were we writer?” she asked with a grin.


 STX Lake was a popular spot for lovers in the small lonesome town. There wasn’t much to do after dark except sit at home watching TV with the family, hanging out at Eddie’s, or screwing by the lake.  For some, most nights consisted of doing all three in that order. The finding of Maggie Evan's body and possible murder there, hadn’t stopped that routine.

 Martin took a hand off the steering wheel, then pressed Sammie’s hand harder against him.

 “Feels good baby,” he murmured, reaching over and giving Sammie’s breast a squeeze. Sammie winced in slight pain but also moaned with genuine pleasure.

 “Hey honey, we keep this up and you’re gonna run the truck into a tree,” she said it with a sensual laugh.

 “Always like to give my ladies a good bang for the buck,” he joked in response.

 “I’m sure you do,” Sammie told him, teasing him harder with her hand; “Feels like you’re packing a nice wad of ‘cash’ in there.”

 “Never had no complaints,” he said, smiling oddly to himself with the satisfying realization that it actually was the truth.

 The occasional flickering of headlights and random ignition of car engines created the nightly ambiance of STX Lake. Martin found his favorite spot by the lake, then stopped the pickup. It was an unspoken understanding.  Everyone knew it was Martin’s spot. They all had one, and rarely did an interloper enter another’s territory. Most knew better than to do so. Iother man’s lakeside territory was grounds for having one of Eddie’s beer mugs ground into your face. Eddie was more than happy to hand over another cold mug to complete the job. Eddritory at STX Lake as well.  Actually, she had several…

 Sammie climbed out of the pickup, then took Martin’s hand.  ed her lips with his mouth. Ma wrists and moved her hands down to his jeans to encourage her to unzip them.

 She needed no such encouragement. Sammie adeptly unzipped Martin’s jeans, then wrestled them down just far enough to find his considerable size. She moaned her approval.

 Martin’s mind was fading into blind ecstasy as he felt her stroking him. He wasn’t even aware he was ripping the flimsy cotton Tshirt down the front.  It was in uncontrollable lust to feel her naked body.

 He pushed her to the ground knelt over her, quickly unzipped her blue jeans, then forced them down past her hips.  Martin held her wrists penned to the ground.  He then moved his knees between her legs to spread them apart. His fierce entry into her felt excruciating, but also wonderful to Sammie.  However, as she looked up into his face, she wasn’t sure that she liked what she saw.  He was staring at her intensely.  He wore a wicked grin on his face.  He seemed to be enjoying the pain his forceful thrusting caused her.

 “Hey lover, take it easy,” she managed to gasp between staggered breaths; “I ain’t going anywhere.”

 “You love it,” Martin panted, thrusting harder.  “You love being a little slut.  Come on baby say it.”

 “I love being a slut,” Sammie responded automatically in a slow breathy moan. She was so close to orgasm, she didn’t care what she had to do or say to feel it.

 Hearing Sammie’s words was all it took for Martin. He jerked back and then forward in one violent move and released inside her. He fell on top of her in exhaustion.

 Sammie was still squirming in sexual arousal. In less than 30 seconds Martin was climbing to his feet and rearranging his clothes. She laid there for a moment, trying to clear her mind and understand that it was over for her. Without satisfaction. She was pissed.

 Martin looked down at Sammie’s disheveled, halfdressed body and smiled with macho arrogance and almost a hint of cruelty.

 “Come on, baby,” he said, reaching down his hand to her; “I’ll take you home.”

 Sammie slapped his hand away and stood up on her own. She tried to pull the ripped Tshirt together and tuck it in her jeans to secure it.

 “You’re a real bastard,” she told him.

 Martin laughed “Yeah, but you love it.”
 He took her hand and bent to give her a quick kiss on the cheek.

 “You were wonderful Sammie; best I’ve had,” he lied sweetly, trying to appease her.

 Martin led her to the car then got in behind the wheel.  He handed her a can of warm beer from under the driver’s seat. Sammie begrudgingly took it.

 “How about I take you for an early breakfast?” Martin suggested it as he drove away from the lake and onto Route 60. “Know a great little place about 20 miles from here. Open all night best scrambled eggs and coffee within 100 miles.” He looked over at Sammie, tweaking her cheek with a hopeful smile.

 Sammie turned to him and reluctantly but helplessly began to smile back.

 “Sure, why not?” she answered with a casual shrug. It was the very least he owed her, and Sammie was by god gonna collect something from him before going home. Even if it was only breakfast in a greasy highway diner.

 “Cutting it close ain’t you Martin?”  It was his brother who asked.  What the hell was Tommy doing down here, he wondered.

 “Well, a little I guess.  Where is Harvey?”

 “I sent him on home when I got here a few minutes ago.  I didn’t need him.  You haven’t been drinking have you Martin?”

 “Not for the last couple of hours.  I had a couple of beers earlier.”

 “Marty, I wish you would quit altogether.  It is not good for you to drink.  You know how you get after you have had a couple of drinks.”

 “Come on Tommy, I haven’t been in trouble like that for years.  I can handle it now.”  There was a long pause while each brother came to grips with their situation.  It was humiliating for Martin to work for his younger brother.  It was also the only job he could find.  He had never been in jail, but he might as well have been.  The reputation as a brawler followed him even into adulthood.

 “That is true Marty, you seem to have calmed down but you really shouldn’t drink at all.  You know what that Doctor said.”

 “Like I said, my only defense is, I haven’t been in trouble in years.”  He waited a moment then went on.  “What brings you down here so late.”

 “Oh hell same old thing.  Mary and the whelp are at it again with me in the middle.  Don’t ever marry a woman with kids.”  

 “Not much chance of that.  Ain’t no woman gonna want a gas station attendant.  Even if I don’t pump no gas.”

 “I told you Marty, any time you want you can come on days and work with the mechanic.  Learn yourself a good trade.”

 “I don’t want to fix cars n