Silence…A short story.

Silence.

In the dark, I listened for any sign that I wasn’t alone. “Come on, give me a raspy breath or a wheezing cough. Anything to let me know I’m not alone in this dump.” There is no sound in the dark. I am all alone, the only company in this tiny cage are my thoughts. “Yeah, let’s not go there tonight.” My vision gradually cleared enough for me to make out different parts of my new home. There is nothing in my cell but me.

I strained my ears hoping against hope that a sound would be made. Fear crept into my heart as I realized, I may have stepped into something I wouldn’t be able to scrape off. To keep from freaking out, I focused on my breathing technique. Breathe in, breathe out. Taking small breathes to keep my heart rate steady, I began to feel a bit better. “At least I’m not chained to the wall.” In the distance, I glanced a solitary beam of light cut through the darkness.

“Help! I’m down here. Hey! Don’t leave me here!”

The beam of light was switched off and I am alone in the dark once again. The silence seemed to encroach on my presence. “I know someone was here. Why would they leave me here?” Hours passed, and still no sound is heard besides the thundering of my heart. I turned to my left and my shoulder collided with the wall. Shifting to the right, I collided with the wall again. “Fine, I’ll stand up and stretch.” I pushed myself to my full height and my head banged against the ceiling. My head and shoulders ached from their collision with the wall, so I shrunk down and leaned against the wall.

Another beam of light cut through the darkness. This time, I didn’t yell. I watched. The beam moved left and then right, up then down. “Someone is searching for something.” As the beam moved through the darkness, I listened for any sound which might give me an inkling of what is going on.

In the distance, I heard a cough. It’s faint, but it’s a cough. The soft hiss of an inhaler being used follows the cough. “Somebody has asthma.” The light shuts off and silence builds in the darkness. I dozed off to sleep. My head lolled to the right as eyes twitched in REM sleep. Suddenly, there was a loud bang. I leapt to my feet, only to nearly split my head open when I banged it off the ceiling. Pain caused me to shut my eyes and when I opened them the entire cell was flooded with light.

I threw my hands up to shield my eyes when the Muslim call to prayer crashed through loudspeakers placed around my cell. Blinded by intense light, my head ached as sound crashed through my ears and entered my brain. In the hellish light, I screamed.

Days passed or maybe it was hours before I recovered from the torment of being swallowed up by the light. Silence once again was my new norm. I laid on the floor, curled into a ball and prayed for death. My voice raw, in my heart I asked God to kill me.

“Please, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this type of treatment. I can’t take it anymore.”

My thoughts turned to my wife and children. Jewel is a great spouse but in the dark, I realized that I could have been a better husband. There were plenty of times when I could have done more to show her how much I cared, but I couldn’t be bothered to make the extra effort. Work came first, the wife and kids came last. A lone tear slid down my cheek as I realized how little I did to make our marriage work.

Some parents make an effort to be at every ballgame and photo op. My children, all three of them, are honor roll students. Each one an academic all-star. My eldest child is an unequaled artist. She has created thousands, upon thousands of characters. Each one of her characters are designed by the power of her mind. My middle child, the only boy, is a science whiz. From the age of three, he walked around the house with my old Popular Mechanic magazines and a hard hat. Lastly, my youngest daughter is an MMA fighter and a child-prodigy in human anatomy. Currently, she is undefeated in the teenage bracket in our state. I’m proud of each one of them, but I couldn’t be bothered to be a good dad. Work called, and I answered the phone.

My realization of my failures was only compounded by my mistake. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The remembrance of it caused me to shiver.

“Jewel, I’m sorry.” My apology croaked out of a voice strained by screaming. The silence is broken by a switch being thrown. Darkness fled from the intense light which flooded my cell. Loudspeakers screeched Jewel’s voice as she screamed at me. My mind can’t take it, I screamed until I passed out from fatigue.

When I came to, I was chained to a wall. My tormentors sat in front of me, each one wore a mask. Donald Duck, Goofy, and Daisy waited for me to regain my senses. Donald came over and passed the smelling salt under my nose. I shook my head to clear it. The cobwebs lingered in my mind, but I batted my eyes and tried to clear my vision.

“Please…”

Daisy brought a glass of water over to me. With one hand she tilted my head back and with the other she let me gulp water like a thirsty dog. She dropped my head and walked back to her seat. Goofy walked over and patted my head, as to say, “good dog.” My head was heavy, and it descended toward my chest, only to be driven back by the uppercut. The teeth in my mouth clanged together and blood flew from my busted lips. A right to my ribs was followed by a heel kick to the solar plexus. My legs crumbled as my beating continued.

Donald stopped Goofy from killing me. Bloody, beaten and broken, I waited for death to take me. My tormentors removed their masks. I stared into the faces of my children. Shocked, I slumped to the ground.

“Hello, daddy. Do you know what the significance of today is?”

“Yes.”

“Well, don’t keep us waiting. Enlighten us.”

“Your mom killed herself ten years ago, today.”

“And why did mom kill herself? Was she depressed?”

“I …”

My youngest child grabbed me by my sideburns and snatched them downward. My eyes flooded with tears.

“You what, daddy? Did you tell her you were going to divorce her? Were you going to take us away from her?”

“I slept with her sister. She waited until I got home to confront me, and then she took her own life.”

“That’s right, daddy. She killed herself in the kitchen and what did you do? You sent us off to boarding school so you wouldn’t have to parent us anymore.”

Somewhere in all the pain, I broke. I sobbed and wailed at my missed opportunities to be a better man. My children watched dispassionately as I succumbed to the horror of my decisions.

The children gathered around me and I looked up at them with fear in my eyes.

“It’s okay, dad. We aren’t going to kill you. Instead, we are going to leave you here to think about what you have done to your family. While you sit here and think, you can watch a movie.”

Without another word, they pushed in a television on a cart. My son hooked up the DVD player, and inserted the disc. In the movie, I stood at the altar and watched Jewel walk down the aisle arm in arm with her father.

The lights switched off, and silence builds in the darkness. Alone in the darkness, my failures are presented to me in HD and my mind breaks.

The call…..A short story.

The cool afternoon wind blew softly as I watched my parents walk fence. I stood in the shade of the barn waiting to unload the calves that were purchased at the livestock auction. Memories of times when my family have had livestock plays through my mind. I have a love/hate relationship with livestock. To clarify, I love to eat livestock and hate to raise them. Once, I saw a sticker which summed up my feelings concerning cattle.

“There is a place for all of God’s critters, right beside the mashed potatoes and gravy.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

My grandfather, on my mother’s side, was all about the cowboy lifestyle. He liked rodeos, mustangs and all the juicy bits that make up the cowboy lifestyle. I am under zero delusions concerning my capacity to “cowboy.” As a matter of fact, I was broken from trying to cowboy after my one attempt to impress a girl.

It was about 25-30 years ago, and I had a serious crush on this pretty rodeo queen. She was a barrel racer, and I was infatuated. She told me if I wanted to impress her, I would ride a bull. This was well before helmets were worn, and vest protected your giblets. Without another thought, I strapped myself down on the biggest, man-hating bull I could find. To summarize, I found myself caught under a 2,000-pound behemoth. I can’t remember the bull’s name, but I remember the beating my ribs and chest took from his hooves.

So, any illusions I have of “cowboying up” are just that, illusions. I do enjoy working with my dad, and he enjoys cattle. Thus, I try to make the best of it. We hang fence, put up gates, feed the animals, muck the pen, and watch them grow.

The cool wind continued to blow, and I watched my dad pull the trailer around to the side gate. I walked over, pushed the gate open and waited for him to back in. With the trailer backed in, I took a 50-pound bag of feed to the trough and poured it out for the calves. The gate on the trailer was opened and we waited for the calves to disembark.

Slowly, the black calf stepped gingerly from the trailer. Usually, my dad tends to buy calves that are red with a white mask, or black calves with a white mask. Today, he showed up with a solid black calf, a blonde calf, and a clay red calf. Not a white mask to be found in the entire bunch. The blonde calf followed the black calf and after a moment of hesitation, the red calf was the last to step out. My mom punched me on the shoulder and giggled. A bright smile lit her face and my dad grinned broadly. We watched as the calves moseyed around the fenced in area. The calves seemed to settle in, and we walked back to the house. As I walked with my folks, a thought crossed my mind.

                  “You can’t resist the call of your blood.” I guess cattle, cowboys and rodeos are part of my makeup after all.

Rants, Ravings, and the Truth…A short story.

While Annabelle Steelheart sat at the table, she scrubbed her disassembled 9mm Glock and tried to make sense of her life. The brush swept the carbon from the firing pin and bolt carrier, and she put a few drops of oil on her rag and wiped them down. Annabelle’s red hair dropped down into her eyes, and without thinking she pushed it back with her greasy hand.

“How did Uncle Joey see this coming, when no one else did?” A familiar tune began to play from the radio which was perched on the windowsill in the kitchen. The lyrics were familiar, so Anna began to hum along. “It’s the end of the world as we know it…” After cleaning each piece of the weapon, Anna began to assemble her sidearm. The song was interrupted by a breaking news announcement.

Today, the President has signed a new piece of legislature which will extend the suspension of all citizens constitutional rights until further progress can be made in the combatting of this viral outbreak.” Anna shook her head and continued to put the weapon together. Her thoughts turned to her Uncle Joey.

Anna and her uncle never really got along; the few times they did consumption of massive amounts of alcohol played a major role in smoothing the waters between them. Her uncle, a war veteran of Korea and Vietnam, often told her not to trust the government. “Anna, the government is not your friend. They would gladly level America in the pursuit of global power.” She would shake her head and accuse him of being a conspiracy theorist. Unwavering, he would continue his speech. “You’ve got to take charge of your life. The only rights you have are the ones you’re willing to fight for. If you ain’t got the guts to do what has to be done, sit down and be quiet.”

The weapon assembled, Anna shoved the magazine in and racked the slide. She pulled the slide halfway back and checked to make sure a round was chambered. Satisfied the weapon was useful, she put it in her purse and reached for the rifle. Carefully, she disassembled the rifle and took up the brush. Tears welled up in Anna’s eyes as her thoughts lingered around Joey.

“I sure do miss him. He would know what to do in this situation. It’s hard to believe he was gunned down while buying milk for the house.” The police had blamed Joey’s unexpected death on a robbery gone wrong. The masked killer asked for the money in the register, but the store’s video showed the robber walk up to Joey and then shot him point blank in the head. Her uncle’s death jarred her from her comfort zone. At his wake, her father told her Joey had left her a part of his estate. She had gone through the legal proceedings and her part of the estate was in a storage unit just five miles from where she lived. The lawyer waved at her when she pulled up, and she got out of her Jeep. Together, they walked to the storage unit. Wordlessly, the attorney handed Anna a letter and a set of keys. Anna sat on the curb and opened the letter.

“Dearest Anna,

If you’re reading this, I am gone. It has never been my intention to scare you, or to make you hate me. Inside this storage unit, you will find a box. I left you some money, but more importantly, I left you protection. This world is a rough place, and if you’re gonna make it, you got to get tough with it. Inside the box there is a document. More than likely, it’s why I was killed. There is a drug pipeline that runs from war torn countries to ours. It’s how we fight “black wars” that are off the record. It allows certain parties to claim no knowledge of the human right violations that occur in these places.

Do not trust the government. They sidle up close, and when you least expect it, they shove a knife in your giblets. Against your wishes, I taught you to shoot, to be accurate and to take no prisoners. I’m not asking you to avenge me, I’m only hoping you will open your eyes and see the world for what it is.”

Anna stood to her feet and unlocked the storage unit. As she walked in, the overhead light kicked on. On the shelves were photos of her uncle in various settings. In the middle of a hellish war, her uncle found a way to smile. A small tear slipped down her cheek. On the central shelf sat the box, next to the box was a photo of young Anna looking down the sights of an old M-1 Garand. Her uncle smiled broadly.

Anna opened the box. Inside was 75,000 dollars. Behind the box was a Pelican gun case with a Post-It sticker that simply said, “this.” Carefully, she leaned the gun case down and unsnapped the latches. She pushed the lid up and inside was a Bushmaster AR-15. The rifle came equipped with an Aimpoint red dot scope, six 30 round magazines, and a combat flashlight. A Glock 17 was also in the case. Anna took a shaky breath and realized there was a piece of paper under the pistol. She took the paper and opened it. Scrawled hastily in pencil were these words.

“Remember who you are.”

Storms….A short story.

“What am I doing with my life?”

Rain pelted the tin roof and made muddy puddles of water in my manicured lawn. Along the front porch, irises, roses, and evergreen plants bent to the will of nature’s fury. A storm raged in my mind, as the physical storm broke limbs out of the pine trees which are scattered down the driveway.

The wind howled mercilessly, as it whipped debris across the landscape. “So much for keeping the lawn tip-top.” I stood at the large window and watched as the wind blew my trash cans down the drive like they were weightless. “If only my life was as easy to square away as my lawn. I would be in great shape if that was the case.”

Memories of war clouded my mind as the storm continued to thrash my yard. Flashes of death caused my vision to glaze over, the sound of the dying filled my ears. “Wasn’t no rain in Iraq. Just bullets, explosions, and loaded donkeys filled with artillery rounds.” Some memories are good. Time spent with friends, jokes we played on each other and the hard times we used to bond into a formidable force are some of the memories that make me smile.

“Bad weather brings the worst memories. Maybe it has to do with Fallujah or perhaps it has to do with some other traumatic crap I’ve dealt with throughout my life. Either way, these memories suck.” The physical storm had lessened, and my hampered vision gradually cleared. My trash cans were finally stopped by the toppled pine that laid across the middle of the yard. I walked out on the porch and started across the lawn, taking great care to avoid stepping in the newly formed puddles. The wind blew gently, as I gripped a trash can in each hand and walked back toward the house.

I flipped the cans over and placed them under the carport. My phone began to ring and grumpily I looked at the screen. “I’ll be dang, it’s Pete Holmes.” Pete is a friend from my time in the sandbox. As I struggle with my demons, many vets (Pete included), struggle with their own. I have heard several theories which have attempted to explain why veterans struggle with PTSD etc. To be fair, I have formulated my own theory.

My phone continued to ring and finally I answered it. There was a brief silence while both of us waited for the other to speak. Finally, Pete broke the silence.

“Um, brother…”

“Hey man, how are you?”

“Not good. I’m dealing with some memories and my demons are kicking my butt. How are you?”

I chuckle ruefully. “The irony is thick enough I could cut it with my combat blade.”

“Eh, Pete. I’m okay. We had a storm here today, and my demons kicked up a bit too.”

“I don’t want to live anymore, brother. You remember my wife Jules? She left. It took her an hour to empty the bank account and she ran off with Jenner. My kids blame me for her splitting. I have nothing left to live for.”

“Nah man, you can’t think like that. As hard as it is at times, we must find a way to be positive. It can’t rain every day. Eventually, life will cut us a break.”

“Yeah, I guess. I just wanted to call and chat with you a few moments. It’s good to talk to you. I miss being at war.” He choked up, and I waited for him to find the strength to continue. “Anyway, I will let you go. It was an honor to serve with you.”

“You too brother, be safe. If you can’t be safe, be deadly.”

Hours later, my phone rang again. Turning over in bed, I looked at my phone. “Danny? Danny Anders? What is going on?” Danny, Pete and I were friends in Iraq. We were ¾ of my truck team.

“Hey, Danny. What’s going on man?”

“Hey bro, sorry to wake you. I just thought you should know, Pete’s gone.”

I sat up in the bed and tears trickled down my cheeks, but in my mind the storm continued to roar.

The Icarus moment….A short story.

Somedays, it just isn’t worth getting out of bed. As I lied there, contemplating a past filled with mistakes, a future devoid of hope and a present filled with misery, I tried to muster up the courage to face another day. My effort to secure courage was an utter failure.

I’m Jamie Whitlock. I am 47 years old, moderately obese, bald, and frightfully ugly, but I have a good personality. Success has taken me to the heights of the heavens, only to drop me to the lowest point of my life.

“Who cares how successful you are, if you spend your life alone?”

Few words can adequately describe my hunger for success. Dedication, devotion, ambition, driven, these words all fail to drive home my need for success. Given my lifelong albatross concerning love, it is easy to explain my success in other facets of life. Something had to go right.

Perhaps, my frustration is a by-product of my career choice. I’m a politician, er, elected official. My dalliance in the political sphere began at the local level. If I hadn’t lived on the worst road in the entire state of Mississippi, I may’ve never run for office. However, because I did live on the worst road in the state, I decided to challenge the supervisor for his seat, and I won.

Meeting people is part of my job, but meeting authentic people is a challenge I haven’t overcame yet. Co-workers set me up on blind dates all the time, but none of the “dates” have made it past the initial meeting. At work, I’m surrounded by people, but at home it is me and my dog.

When I thought it could not be any worse, I ran for governor. I won. After my first term, I decided to seek re-election and I won again. It seemed that people liked what I’ve to say, they just don’t want to date or marry me.

Then I ran for Senator.

My destiny seemed to be handwritten on the wall. “You will find success in politics, but you’re doomed to be alone forever.” The military set me up for success in the political arena, but they gave me no skills in cultivating and maintaining a relationship.

I spend the bulk of my time in Mississippi to be close to my constituents. On the occasions I am in Washington, my colleagues make recommendations of “ladies” who are suitable companions. Per usual, my response is “no thanks.”

It hasn’t always been this way. Once upon a time, I was married. We decided we liked children and we had a couple. Then one day, we decided we wanted something different. Suddenly, we weren’t enough for each other. Our home split apart, our children became victims, and selfishness won the day.

And I went to work.

Love has been a barren field since the moment of our finalized divorce was declared. I’ve tried, but it felt empty and shallow. On the pendulum of love, I’ve swung back and forth over the chasm of chaos. Someone once said you shouldn’t stare into the abyss, because the abyss stares back. I’ve often felt that I’m Icarus, and I’ve flown too close to the sun.

I’m set for life as far as my career is concerned. My personal life is broken into many jagged pieces and scattered upon the shattered shores of busted hopes and dreams.

Ah well, at least I have work.

Shelter….A short story.

The dark clouds rolled into town and filled my heart with an overabundance of dread. The emerald green leaves of a long, overdue spring seemed to grow darker as the storm approached.

“Jeez, another storm. We’ve already doubled our annual intake of rain. How much more are we going to get?”

My head ached from the high pressure of the storm. I rubbed my head and then my eyes, as my sinuses throbbed in pain. Normally, sunset came around 1930. With the dark clouds and tempest winds, the night loomed in the shadows at 1800. A gale of wind slammed my rocking chairs into the wall of my cabin, the thunderous crash of chairs toppling over gave way to an eerie silence. In the distance, I could hear a train coming.

“Wait a minute! The nearest tracks are miles from here!”

I peered out my window and watched the funnel of the tornado touch down in the trailer park up the road from where I lived. Flustered, I grabbed my flashlight and raced to the storm shelter. The winds battered me as the tornado sent debris into the air. Gripping the handle, I flung the door open and slammed it shut behind me. I clicked the button on my flashlight and the small shelter was flooded with light as the beam chased away the darkness.

Outside, the winds kicked it up a notch, and the wooden door shimmied with the force of the gale. I pulled a chair over to the wall and sat down. It may seem stupid, but in this shelter all alone, my thoughts turned to God.

“Lord, I know it’s been a while since you heard from me. I’m sorry. Things have been kinda crazy. What with the virus and no job, I suppose I could come up with a million excuses why I ain’t talked to you. Truth is, I got mad.”

The storm continued to pound at the door, and I decided to say a few other words of prayer. My words and the emotions I felt seemed to be in a battle for dominance. Finally, the words found a way out.

“I guess I’ve got too much pride. Losing everything I ever worked for was a cruel blow, now this idiot storm is threatening to take what’s left of my earthly possessions. It ain’t your fault I reckon. I just can’t keep my head above water. Every time I catch a break, another catastrophe occurs. Momma always said there would be days like this, but she never said they would go on for years.”

As I talked to my Maker, the winds died down and rain slammed against the door. Soon, it was rain mixed with hail. I leaned back in the chair and waited for the storm to pass. As a young boy sitting on a pew in Sunday School, the preacher man would say you have to thank God in the hard times, as well as in the good ones. My eyes had water in them, so I wiped at ‘em with my hanky.

“Well, Jesus. I gotta say thank you for blessing me with life. If I do lose it all again, I can rebuild. I reckon there’s no limit on rising from the ashes. However, if in your infinite wisdom you decide to take my stuff from me, help me to accept it with grace.”

As I sat in that shelter, it slowly dawned on me the rain had passed. I pushed the heavy wooden doors open and I surveyed the damage to my property. Trees littered my yard. Someone’s cow stood in my front yard looking bewildered. Slowly, my neighbors and I emerged from our storm shelters and took in the carnage. My cabin still stood; the only damage was to my rockers. They were broken and scattered in pieces across my yard.

Some of my neighbors were less fortunate. Bob Jones stood in his yard, one hand on his hip, the other on top of his head.

“Bob, y’all okay? Can I do anything to help you?”

Bob Jones is a rail thin man. Bald headed, he keeps his hair cut like Friar Tuck from Robin Hood. His eyes are beady, his nose hawkish, and his mannerism poisonous. Now, he appeared to be in shock.

“Hey, Freeman. The wind threw a tree through the living room wall. I don’t know how I’m gonna get it out of my house.” He shrugged and shook his bald head.

“I’ve got a chain saw Bob. I’ll come help you cut it up and we can take it off to the dump in my truck.”

“How much are you gonna charge me?”

“Nothing Bob, it’s what neighbors do. I will be over in the morning.”

Bob nods, and I walk back to my house. As I walked down my driveway, I talked to the Lord. Of all the people in our community, few of us escaped unscathed.

“Lord, thank you for keeping your hands on me and my community. It’s bad, but it could be much worse. I reckon, it’s my time to pay it forward.”

As momma would say, “it can’t rain every day.”

Dark Hearts….A short story….

Dusk settled on Fredericksburg, Mississippi. Swamp moss hung off cedar trees like mistakes dangle from a past best forgotten. Bullfrogs croaked from the banks of the swampy wetlands. Lanterns pierced the darkness intermittently as johnboats were pushed in search of frogs and fish. Loud music played from the juke-joint that never shut its doors.

Sue Ann Mobley wobbled back to the bathroom to fix her makeup. Hungry eyes watched her as she stumbled and giggled. In the dimly lit hallway, she put her hand on the wall to balance herself and turned the knob with the other hand. Burping, she made it to the counter and peered at her countenance in the mirror.

“You got it, babe. Every man out there wants only you.”  Sue Ann added color to her cheeks and applied a fresh coat of lipstick. She pressed her lips and together and threw a seductive glance in the mirror.  “I may be divorced but it doesn’t mean I have to be alone!” Slowly, she made her way back to the dance floor.

“Hey doll, you wanna dance?”

Sue Ann sized him up. Her eyes drank him in, and she gave him a seductive look. “Tall, dark and handsome, of course darling. Let’s dance.” She shimmied and judging from her moves, this wasn’t the first time she had partied like a rock star. Suddenly, her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, my God!” Sue rushed outside. Leaning over the rail of the bridge which spans the river, the night’s consumption of liquor spewed out. Taking several deep breaths, Sue giggled. “I think I need a drink.” She wiped her mouth and turned around. Sue pointed and slurred, “I know you” and then succumbed to the darkness.

Drip, drip, drip, the sound of water splashing on the floor tiles brought Sue Ann around. “Oh, dear God, my head is killing me. I will never party again.” Sue’s fair hair hung in her face and she tried to move it, but she couldn’t lift her hands. Looking down, she noticed her hands are shackled. “What in the….”

Someone unseen tightly gripped Sue’s hair and lifted her head violently up. A rough hand pulled her hair back from her eyes, and she stared into the skeleton mask of her captor.  A cry escaped Sue’s throat. “Who are you?” Skeleton mask answered with a swift kick to her midsection. The biker boot knocked the wind out of her, and Sue Ann returned to the darkness.

———

“Sheriff, I’m telling you Sue Ann ran out of here with her mouth covered the other night. She never came back in.” Joe the Bartender shrugged. “I don’t know what happened to her, that’s the God’s honest truth.”

Sheriff Lancaster shook his head. “Well, me and my two deputies have our hands full, we are gonna have to ask for help on this one. Ain’t nobody seen her, and her momma is worried sick.”

“Well, you want something to drink before you head out?”

“Yeah, give me a Dr. Pepper. What I owe you?”

“Not a thing Sheriff. Good luck on finding Sue Ann, this place just ain’t the same without her.”

Driving down Main Street, Sheriff Lancaster considered the case of the missing girl. “She’s only 22. Maybe she run off with a boy. Kids get into all sorts of craziness now days.”  Pulling into his assigned parking spot at the courthouse, Lancaster got out and strolled into his office. “Patty, call the State Police, I gotta have a chat with ‘em about this case.”

Without acknowledging her boss, Patty lifted the phone and dialed the number. “State Police on line one, Sheriff.”

Lancaster sat behind his metal desk and picked up the phone. “Sheriff Lancaster here. I have a problem and need some help, if ya’ll don’t mind helping me out.”

“We’re here to help, Sheriff.”

Lancaster spelled out the case and what he had deduced so far. After a brief but terse conversation, he hung up the phone. Grabbing his keys, Lancaster stormed out of his office. “I’m going to be out for a while, Patty. Some young hotshot should be coming by. Holler at me when he gets here.”

“Okay, Sheriff. Should I contact you on the short wave or call your cell directly.”

“Either, I will answer when I can.” Patty nodded, and Lancaster walked out the door, praying for a miracle. Sheriff Lancaster called his deputies to meet him at Walker’s Bridge. It spanned a small river which bordered Louisiana and Mississippi. Rumors were when a truly bad person was caught on either side of the bridge, they made a one-way trip to the middle of the bridge for a come-to -Jesus meeting. No one had jurisdiction over the middle of the bridge, so like Vegas, what happened there, stayed there.

“Howdy Sheriff.”

Lancaster looked up from his phone and watched his two deputies walk over to his truck. He liked to watch them walk. Twin sisters Lucy and Emma Walker crowded around the driver side window.

“What’s got your dander up, Sheriff?”

“I called the State Police for help with Sue Ann’s case. Ya’ll find anything?”

Lucy shook her head; her long brown hair moved in rhythm to her shake. “Not a thing boss, it’s like she was never here.”

Emma chimed in, “Everybody saw her run out, but nobody saw her leave. If that’s the case, she should be here. She could have fallen into the river, but surely the body should have washed up by now.”

Lancaster grunted. “So much for having anything for the hotshot the staties are sending.”

Lucy and Emma smiled. “Who are they sending?”

“Some guy named Whitman. Supposed to be a real good detective.”

“So, is he a State cop?”

“No, he is a P.I. The staties said they can’t spare any of theirs and recommended this guy.” Lancaster wiped at his fat face. The sweat seeped out of his pores. As he ran the handkerchief across his forehead, the radio cackled.

“Sheriff, there is an Aldrich Whitman here to see you. He said it’s about a case.”

“Alright, Patty. I’m on my way.” Lancaster looked at the girls and gave them a smile. “Ya’ll keep looking, I will go deal with Whitman.” The deputies nodded, and Lancaster raced off toward town with his siren blaring. Entering the town limits, Lancaster shut off the siren and pulled into his parking place. Walking up the steps, he noticed Patty smiling and chatting with a young man.

“Hi, Sheriff. This is Aldrich Whitman.”

“Sheriff, nice to make your acquaintance.” Whitman extended his hand, but Lancaster ignored it.

“Come back here to my office, Whitman.” 

Nodding, Whitman turned to Patty. “Ma’am, it’s been a pleasure. Are you free for dinner tonight?” Patty smiled and nodded. Whitman smiled and trailed after the Sheriff.

Walking into the office, Lancaster motioned to a chair. “Have a seat.” Whitman sat in the high back chair.

“Do you know why you’re here, Whitman?”

“Yes sir, I am here to help you find a missing girl.”

“That’s right, and none of that consists of you flirting with my secretary.”

Whitman chuckled. “Is she your girlfriend, Sheriff? You got dibs on her?”

Lancaster knife pointed his hand at Whitman. “Listen here boy, you’re here to find this missing girl and nothing else. Get done with the job and get out of my town.”

“What type of evidence do you have concerning the case?”

The Sheriff shrugged. “None. There is no evidence that this is anything more than a runaway girl.”

Whitman stood to his feet and met the Sheriff’s eyes. “You brought me here for nothing? There is no evidence of an abduction?”

Wordlessly, Lancaster shook his head. Whitman glared at the man, when there was a knock at the door.

“Yeah?”

“Sheriff, its Lucy and Emma. We might have found something.”