Janie and Walter walked to the end of the hallway. Mary Ann stood in the door jam, her left eye swollen and her lips busted, and whispered ‘this ain’t over’ as Janie passed.
They entered the office and shut the door. Chief Hathcock and Sheriff Wilkins waited for them. Of the two senior officers, Hathcock seemed most centered. Wilkins glared at Janie and Walter.
“What in tarnation do you think you’re doing, detective?”
Janie stared at the sheriff and waited until he quit bellowing before she answered. Wilkins paced back and forth like an angry, caged bear.
“My job, Sheriff Wilkins. I’m investigating…”
“Roy Darnell Carver,” he bellowed again. “Do you have any idea what that man means to this town?”
“I’m pretty certain it means there’s more than one dead girl in that swamp, probably dead children too.”
Wilkins walked toward her but Chief Hathcock stepped between him and Janie impeding his movement.
“That’s enough, Leroy. She is my detective. If you want to scream at someone, your deputy is right there.”
“He’s a sad excuse for a deputy,” Wilkins snarled. “Hand me your badge, boy.”
Walter handed his badge to the sheriff and walked out of the office. Janie watched him leave. She ran her fingers through her hair and shook her head.
“Shut the door on your way out, Leroy.”
Wilkins glared at Janie and Chief Hathcock and walked out. He slammed the door, and Hathcock sighed.
“Kid, you’ve kicked over the hornet’s nest.”
“Chief, all I did was ask a few questions.”
“I know. There are some things though, it’s hard to explain.”
“Roy Darnell Carver is this town’s patron saint. He gets to rape who he wants, kill who he wants, and nobody does anything to stop him. Does that sum it up, chief?”
“Pretty much, Janie, but you forgot one other thing.”
“Oh, what’s that?”
“We cover it up.”
Janie waited for him to pretend like he was joking, but Chief Hathcock stared at his desk and said nothing for a while.
“I’m turning myself in, Janie. Go ahead and slap the cuffs on me. I’ve already called the state patrol to come in and take over until a replacement is found.”
“You’re like a dozer in a trailer park, Janie. I’m proud of you. Get to the bottom of this case, uproot Roy Darnell Carver and his corruption. My arrest is a start.”
“Chief Hathcock, you’re under arrest. Anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law…”
Janie led her former chief to holding and shut the door behind him. Tears stung her eyes. This isn’t what she wanted, or had imagined, when Hathcock had put her on this case.
Still, Sue Anne deserved justice, and Janie was hell bent to see it done.
At noon, the state patrol sent a senior officer to take charge of the Angie Police Department. A tall, broad shouldered man of middle age named Gary White, strode in with purpose. He looked at Mary Ann’s shiner and motioned for the detectives to join him.
“I’m assuming by the bruising; this happened this morning?”
“Yes,” Mary Ann growled. “I was sucker punched.”
“No, you weren’t,” Janie replied. “You got your butt beat.”
“That’s enough,” the temporary chief said. “This will not happen again. How is she supposed to help investigate crimes when she looks like she can’t defend herself?”
“I don’t know,” Janie responded. “Maybe she should take a self-defense course.”
“That’s enough, detective. Now, brief me on the latest developments of your case.”
“From where, the beginning? Or maybe where I arrested my former chief?”
“I know about the body, and the arrest, fill me in on the middle.”
“We spoke to a woman who got impregnated by Roy Darnell Carver. She had an abortion to avoid giving birth to his child, and she informed us that he threatened to beat her if she didn’t comply.
Then, my partner and I went to see the victim’s mother. She was drunk in public, we arrested her and brought her here to sober up so we could question her.”
“Where’s your partner?”
“He got fired,” Mary Ann chuckled. “Little Miss Stirs-the-Pot got her own partner canned.”
“You keep campaigning for this butt kicking, Mary Ann, you’re gonna get elected,” Janie shot back. “And given how well you defended yourself last time, the other side of your face will match the part I messed up this morning.”
Mary Ann spun around and glared at Janie, but she shut her mouth. Gary White shook his head and dismissed them. As Janie walked toward the door, he waved her down and motioned for her to sit in one of the empty chairs.
“You can’t investigate on your own. Do you know where your former partner is?”
“Can you locate him?”
“Yeah. I’m sure I can.”
“Find him and bring him in. I want to speak to him.”
Janie walked out of the office and pulled out her phone. Sara Dimpleton gave her a nod as she walked by. Mary Ann was nowhere to be seen.
Artemis looked up as Janie neared.
“How’s the new chief?”
“Um, he seems fine,” Janie said to her friend. “Do you have Walter’s number?”
“Now, why would I have his number, Janie?”
“I don’t know. I thought I had it.”
Artemis tapped a few keys on the keyboard and scribbled it down on a yellow Post-It.
“Here,” she said, handing it to Janie. “Put his number in your contacts before you forget it again.”
Janie punched in Walter’s number and dialed it. She gave a wave to Artemis and stepped out onto the steps.
So far, things could have gone better, but at least she had leads to pursue.
Now, all she needed was a partner.
Walter answered the phone after the sixth ring. He was busy downing his fourth Irish Car Bomb when the phone began ringing.
“Where are you?”
“Oh, hi Janie. I’m having a few drinks to celebrate my firing. Wanna join me?”
Janie heard him hiccup, and then asked the barkeep where he was.
“I’m at the Giggling Leprechaun. Swing by.”
She drove to the Giggling Leprechaun; Walter was the only soul at the bar. He seemed to have a hard time staying upright on the bar stool. Janie sat next to him.
“Howdy, pard,” Walter slurred at her.
“I’m a bit sloshed. I told you not to investigatored that case. Nodoby gets dirt on ‘em.”
“Mm. You did tell me something about that. I need you to come with me.”
“Okay, but first another Car Bobm.”
“You gotta drink too.”
“I can’t. I’m driving.”
“Then, I’ll have two mo’. One for you, one for me.”
Janie tapped the bar, pointed at Walter, and held up two fingers. The barkeep, an old black woman with thin grey hair looked at Janie and then Walter.
She brought two Irish Car Bombs to Walter and said, “bottoms up.” Walter drank his fifth but wore his sixth. Janie helped Walter to the car and drove him back to the precinct. She called Artemis from her car.
“Can you send the temp chief to my vehicle, please.”
“Sure. Did you find your partner?”
“I did. He’s drunk.”
Artemis laughed and said, “I’ll send him right out.”
A few moments ticked by and Gary White finally stepped out onto the steps. Janie exited her car and waved at him.
White walked over to her and peeked in the car.
“Sheesh man. Where did you find him?”
“The Giggling Leprechaun. He was drinking Irish Car Bombs.”
“Well, let’s wake him up.”
Janie went to the other side of the car and opened Walter’s door. She slapped him lightly on the cheek.
“Wake up, Walter.”
He mumbled and tried to push her hand away. She smacked him harder.
“I said wake up!”
Walter blinked his eyes and rubbed his cheek where Janie had popped him.
“I’m the temporary chief,” White said, as he sat in the driver’s seat next to Walter. “I understand you were helping investigate this case?”
“So,” Walter yelled belligerently.
“You got fired for doing the right thing, right?”
“Well, I’m gonna do the right thing by you. I would like to hire you to work for the Angie Police Department, effective as soon as you sober up.”
“Take him home, detective. Pour coffee down his throat until he gets his act together.”
“Then, get out here and find out how deep this corruption goes.”