Sheriff Roscoe Leroy Wilkins sat on a tree stump and watched the forensic techs go about their work. He gave Janie a nod as she approached.
“You that new detective, huh.”
“Yes, Sheriff. I’m Janie Temple.”
“Mmmhmm. Okay then. This is a shared case, little lady. That means you are working with us. Walter is gonna work with you. I expect daily briefings.”
“Fine. What happened here?”
“I dunno. These techies said the crime scene is old, but the expert on bones or some such has to travel from Jackson to look ‘em over.”
“So, why are we here?”
“To look at the crime scene, duh.”
Janie turned and faced the voice, a tall, burly deputy stood behind her, a chocolate covered donut hanging loosely from his left hand.
“Don’t they teach you nothing in your fancy-smancy classes?”
“Jake don’t do that,” Walter began but a look from Sheriff Wilkins silenced him.
Janie plastered a fake smile on her face and nodded. “Yes,” Janie said, “they taught us plenty. Things like bleached bones don’t happen overnight. Or that you shouldn’t bring foreign objects, like food as an example, into a secured crime scene. Basic stuff really, but important nonetheless.”
Walter turned his head and grinned. Sheriff Wilkins frowned and scowled at Jake. He motioned for Jake to remove himself from the crime scene. Jake glared at Janie, and she returned his glare with a sweet smile and a wink.
“Sheriff, where will the bones be transported to? Are they going to the morgue in Fredericksburg?”
“Yeah. The Medical Examiner there will hold the bones until the expert shows up.”
“Do you know the name of the expert?”
“Yeah. Tammy Bowen is the expert. She’s on her way now.”
“Okay. I need to get back to town and brief my superior.”
“Mmmhmm. Before Walter drives you back, I need a word with my deputy.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll get out of your hair.”
Janie walked back to the truck. While she walked, she could hear Sheriff Wilkins voice raise.
“You don’t correct no one, Walter. You get that woman out of my scene, and you make sure she doesn’t interfere in this case overmuch. Do you understand?”
Walter’s answer died in the humid air. Janie grinned and sat in the truck with the door open. Jake sat on the hood of a patrol car eating another donut. He wolf-whistled at Janie. She ignored him.
In the distance, she could see Walter walking toward the vehicle. Jake snickered and pointed at him. Walter kept his head down and focused on the ground in front of him.
He climbed in and started the truck. Janie shut the door and leaned back into her seat. They rode in silence for a while, neither one wanting to broach the subject. Finally, Janie spoke.
“So, you’ve got your hands full over there, huh?”
“What do you mean, detective?”
“I mean the Sheriff seems lackadaisical, and Jake seems kind of dense.”
“Jake is dense. Sheriff Wilkins is worried about appearance, you know? He’s big on things looking right.”
“Ah, I see.”
“He’s not a bad man. This case could throw a monkey wrench into his re-election chances, you know?”
“Yeah, I get it. Tell me about yourself Walter.”
“There ain’t a whole lot to tell, detective.”
“Okay. First off, stop calling me detective. My name is Janie, and I’d appreciate it if you would use it. Second, if you will show me yours, I’ll show you mine.”
“Fine, Janie. I was born and raised in South Mississippi, and then I graduated and went to work at a dairy. Several years passed before I decided to pursue a career in law enforcement. The Sheriff’s Department in Faulkner County hired me, and I’ve been here ever since.”
“Do you enjoy your job at least?”
“If you’re not happy, why don’t you quit?”
“And do what?”
Janie shrugged and grew quiet. Walter looked out the window for a bit. The silence between the two grew until Janie turned to him.
“Clearly, you’re not going to open up to me, so I’ll talk about myself. You just listen, okay?”
Walter blushed but didn’t say anything. He kept his eyes on the road, but Janie could tell her statement had embarrassed him.
“I’m from here, born and raised. I joined the Air Force for a time, and then came home. I like donuts and coffee, in case you decide to bring some, I like a lot of sugar in my coffee. I’m single, not by choice, but it is what it is. I’m not big into sports, but I do work out. I like to read and write. That’s about it for now.”
Walter nodded and cleared his throat. As they drew near to the police precinct he said, “you’re quite impressive.”
“Not even. If you’ll let me know when the bones leave for Fredericksburg, I’ll head that way.”
“Do you want me to go with you?”
“You don’t have to, I just want to meet this expert.”
Janie thanked Walter for the ride and walked into the police station. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why he wasn’t familiar with the kids make-out spot,” she thought as she walked in.
Artemis met her in the hallway. Janie winked at her; the old receptionist winked back. Janie continued down until she came to the Chief’s door. She knocked three times and waited.
Janie walked in, and the Chief looked up at his newest detective.
“What do you have for me, Detective Temple?”
“The skeleton will get transported to Fredericksburg, where an expert, Tammy Bowen is her name, will examine it. I’m expecting a call when the bones leave out.”
“Good. I know Tammy Bowen. She’s a good woman.”
“How do you know her, Chief?”
“Um, she’s helped Thermopolis Konan and Lilly Thompson put several bad guys behind bars.”
“She must be good to work with those two. I’ll go meet her when I get the call.”
“Okay. Before you go, did Sheriff Wilkins give you a hard time?”
“Not too bad, I suppose. He insisted on daily briefings and wanted me to work with his deputy.”
“I see. What’s the deputy’s name?”
“I know Walter. He’s a good man.”
“He’s skittish, chief.”
“Gun shy, skittish, whatever word you’d like to use. He acts like he hasn’t ever dealt with a woman before.”
Chief Hathcock chuckled and shook his head. Janie wondered what she’d said that was so funny.
“I assure you; Walter knows his way around women. He’s an odd duck, but he’s a good cop.”
“If you say so, chief.”
“I do, now get on out of here.”