On the banks of the Tennessee River, Roy Darnell Carver gave Charlene Travers a smirk and pawed at her clothing. The heat and humidity had risen, and judging by Roy’s actions, it had made him randy.
“Quit it, Roy. Nobody likes you, and you don’t get to paw me like I’m your dog.”
“Charlene,” Roy drawled, as he licked his lips lasciviously, “you know I love you like no other.”
Charlene swatted at his hand that groped her and pulled away. Roy’s dark eyes narrowed; his mouth drew into a tight line as he stepped toward her.
“Listen whore, you give me what I want, or you get the dun, dun, dun, du-duh. Capisce?”
Trembling, Charlene followed Roy into the swamp. Roy grinned. Like all the other girls at school, they knew better to resist his advances.
There were consequences for refusing.
Sue-Anne Traylor, girlfriend of Roy Carver, waited nervously for six p.m. She wore a pink strapless dress and sheer gloves. Her brown hair was curled, and a string of pearls hung about her neck.
“I don’t know what you see in that Roy Carver, Sue-Anne. There are so many other good boys that go to school with you.”
“Momma, I’m attracted to bad boys. I got it from you, look at the man we’re living with now.”
“Shut your mouth. I don’t want you making my same mistakes, missy. You can do better than Roy.”
The rumble of the 1979 Trans Am made the gravel crunch, as Roy pulled in front of the trailer. He honked the horn twice and waited. A moment later he honked again.
“I have to go, momma. Don’t wait up.”
Sue-Anne ran out of the trailer and leapt in the front seat. Roy peeled out as the headers cut through the thick night air. She looked out the window as Roy drove out to the swamp. Roy didn’t stop until he’d pulled in front of the marsh.
“You lookin’ mighty sweet, Sue-Anne. I could eat you up.”
“That’s the idea, Roy.”
Roy spun her around under the moonlight, beneath the swamp moss that hung from the cedar trees, as he forced his tongue into her mouth. Sue-Anne knew better than to resist him. She opened her lips and let him have his way. When he finally released the back of her head, and pulled his tongue from her mouth, he pushed up against a tree.
“I love you, Roy,” Sue-Anne gasped. He scowled at her and slammed his hand into the tree next to her head.
“Don’t say that again,” he snarled. “Don’t you dare ruin tonight for me. I don’t need love. I take what I want.”
Roy grabbed Sue-Anne by the arm and led her to the car. He pushed her over the hood, and Sue-Anne sobbed. He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her head back until he could look into her eyes.
“I haven’t done nothing to you yet, whore. Why are you crying?”
“I’m late, Roy.”
“What do you mean, late?”
“I’m pregnant with your child, Roy. I haven’t slept with anyone else.”
Roy snarled, his face contorting with rage as he slammed Sue-Anne’s face into the hood. Sue-Anne fell back and tried to crawl away, sobbing “no, no, no, Roy…” He gripped her by the throat and punched her in the face, twice.
“Look what you made me do, whore. I told you not to ruin this for me. I told you!”
Sue-Anne watched in horror as Roy unbuckled his belt and took it into his right hand. He slammed the buckle into her back, cutting her, and proceeded to beat her until his strength waned.
She sobbed, curled up in the mud in the fetal position, her hand on her stomach trying to protect the baby inside her womb. Roy sniffed as he put his belt on, his eyes never drifting from Sue-Anne’s form.
“You whores never listen. I told you not to start with me, and what do you do?”
“I’m sorry, Roy.”
“Sorry don’t cut the mustard. It’s your fault you got knocked up. You could’ve said no.”
“Take me home, and nobody has to know-“
Roy snatched Sue-Anne from the ground, his left hand closed about her throat. He squeezed and lifted her off her feet. Sue-Anne gasped and tried to struggle against him, but he was too strong.
“You’re threatening me? Nobody in this town can do anything to me! You want out of the swamp, you crawl out!”
He turned and smashed her face into an oak tree and threw her to the ground. The last sound she heard was the sound of the Trans Am as it roared away. Sue-Anne touched her head gingerly, blood flowed steadily from the wound.
She pushed herself to her feet and tried to take a step. The effort was too much for her as she collapsed to the ground. The last thing she saw was a sliver of the moon, as it peeked through the swamp moss, a silent witness of her love for the wrong man.
September 30, 2021
Angie, Mississippi, population 31,000 according to the latest census, was growing. At least, that’s what people said. Janie Temple wasn’t one of those people. At 26, she’d been around long enough to know when a town showed signs of growth, trouble came along with it.
“Good morning, Janie. Congratulations on passing your detective exam.”
“Good morning, Principal Yates. Thank you!”
Principal Web Yates gave Janie a small smile. At 69, he wore a green blazer in a herringbone pattern, a white shirt with a black bowtie, and khaki slacks. His hair had gone white in his fifties, he claimed it happened because of “dealing with other people’s kids.” As usual, he stood at the counter of the bakery and pointed at the donuts he wanted. Janie waited until he was done before she scooted close to the counter.
“What’ll it be, Detective Temple?”
She gave a wry smile at the man behind the counter. Wylie Temple, Janie’s brother, gave her a grin. “Quit it,” she whispered, as Wylie scrunched up his nose at her.
“I’ll have a coffee and a chocolate covered donut, please.”
“Coming right up, detective.”
Janie rolled her eyes and reached for her wallet. Wylie shook his head no and pushed the bag to her.
“No charge today, sis. Have a good day.”
Janie walked out into the humid air and took a shallow breath. It was impossible to tell it by the heat and humidity, but it was fall in Mississippi. She walked down to the main town square, crossed it, and entered a tall narrow building that housed the police department.
“Hey Janie, Chief Hathcock wants to see you.”
“Thank you, Artemis. I will go see him.”
Chief Wiggins Hathcock’s office was at the end of the hallway. An office opened halfway down the hall on the right. Inside were four desks and a holding cell. Artemis Smith was both the receptionist and dispatcher.
MaryAnn Trainor stuck her head out of the office and snapped, “get a move on girlie. Chief’s waiting for you.”
“And I’m going that way,” Janie snapped back.
MaryAnn was the senior detective for the Angie Police Department. She’d been on the job for six years. She was partnered with Sara Dimpleton. Neither were fond of Janie, nor her promotion to detective.
According to Sara, Janie didn’t have bat-sense and wouldn’t know a clue if it bit her on her finely curved rump. Janie thought both women were empty-headed bimbos with a badge.
Janie took a breath and knocked on the door. “Come in,” a booming voice yelled. “Push on the door!”
Chief Hathcock waved her in and motioned for her to sit in one of the two chairs in front of his desk. He covered the receiver on the phone and whispered, “gimme a minute.” Janie nodded and sipped her coffee.
“Un-huh, un-huh, yep. I’ll send somebody right over.”
Wiggins put the phone down and stared at Janie. He looked her over and gave her a small nod.
“Congratulations on passing your exam, Detective Temple.”
“Thank you, Chief Hathcock.”
“Please, it’s just Wiggins in here. I know this is all new to you, but I’ve found that throwing people in the middle of things is the best way for them to learn.”
“That was the Sheriff’s Office on the phone. A skeleton was found out in the swamp and it ain’t pretty. Now, it’s in our jurisdiction but it’s close enough the team from the Sheriff’s Office wants in. Go on out there and look around. See what you can find. “
“And Janie, be careful out there. Let me know what you find out.”
Janie turned and walked into the hallway, her mind racing with possible scenarios. As she walked out to the lobby, she felt a sense of elation but also fear. She’d been a detective for two days, and Chief Hathcock had put her on a murder case.
She gulped down the rest of her coffee and stood on the sidewalk trying to compose her thoughts.
“Um Janie,” Artemis called from behind her. “You need some directions to the scene?”
“Yep,” Janie said as she turned to face the receptionist. “Those will come in handy.”
Artemis grinned and walked out to the young detective. She handed her a sheet of yellow paper with the directions written on them.
“Ah, and a deputy is on his way to pick you up. Said he’d be here in about five minutes, name of Gareth something-another.”
Janie giggled and nodded okay. Artemis patted her on the shoulder. Giggles escaped from the building, and Janie looked up. MaryAnn and Sara stood in the window mocking her. She smiled and gave them a wave.
Janie couldn’t wait to shut them up.