Amanda’s head snapped back at the question. Joe was her partner, well, really he was her boss. He had no idea where she was.
“Where’s Joe?” Deputy John repeated. The second time he said it, there was a bit of irritation in his voice. Deputy John wasn’t a guy that was easily irked but the situation with this woman – this kid – sitting in the middle of the homeless encampment like she was Snow White was just too much. Here he was trying to investigate a murder and she was holding court with her homeless admirers.
He didn’t wait for an answer.
“Joe Jablonski’s the guy who covers major crimes for the paper, right? He and I go way back. He covered Dahmer back in Milwaukee, that should tell you something. So he should be the one here talking to these guys, not you. Sorry, no offense, but this is a serious case.” Deputy John strolled over to one of the tents to grab a chair. “You don’t mind if I borrow your chair, do ya’ Ace?” Ace shook his head and Deputy John carried the grimy blue wooden kitchen chair over near Amanda. He turned the chair around like tough guys do in a movie and sat directly across from her, his arms resting on the chair’s back.
“I think maybe it’s time for you to move along, my dear. Leave the investigating to the investigators. I bet Joe would tell you the same thing, don’t ya think? And probably a good idea to stop recording.” He nodded toward the phone balancing on her knee.
He seemed too nice a guy to be intimidating but Amanda found the chair trick to be borderline. Who does that, flip a chair around to sit on it backwards unless they wanted to make a statement? In this case, the statement was clear. Deputy John had decided she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, out of her league, in over her head, any number of phrases would do, the point was he wanted her to go back where she came from.
She contemplated arguing but she knew, like the bumper sticker on her neighbor’s old car said, “Resistance is futile.” She pressed the Stop Recording button on her phone and then looked hard at the screen like she was seeing giant thick smudges for the first time. As slowly as she could, she turned her phone over and wiped it up and down her leg, ever so slowly, while Deputy John and the four homeless guys watched.
Deputy John stood up and kicked his chair aside.
“Yep! Time for you to move on. There’s the path, well, you know where the path is since you got down here. You just go the opposite direction, it’ll lead you right back up to the senior center parking lot. I bet some of those folks would love to talk to you, you could get some nice human interest stories. Ask for the Three Dorothys, they’re pretty chatty.”
Amanda stood, shoved her phone and notepad in her back pocket.
“I really enjoyed talking to you guys! You, too, Deputy John. Guys, I’m going to take you up on that offer to spend a weekend down here. I want to really get a feel for what it’s like, you know, being down here.”
Ace and his pals smiled big grins while Deputy John rubbed his forehead like he’d gotten a sudden, intense migraine. She was going to come to the encampment for a weekend, okay, great idea. He’d have to have deputies perched in all the trees to keep an eye on things. What a stupid kid she was.
Glad that Amanda was gone, Deputy John turned his chair around and sat down again.
“You guys, let’s talk. I need you to help me figure out what the hell went on up there with Jacob. Who would want to kill him? First on my own personal list would be the new guy, Charlie 8. Where is he?”
“Charlie 8 don’t really stay here. He move around. He not one of us, if that what yer thinkin.'”
Ace was quick to step up on this, like he’d been waiting for Charlie 8’s name to come up and was ready with a response. The last thing he wanted was Deputy John thinking that they knew anything about what happened to Jacob or were even friends with Charlie 8. They all hated Jacob, that was true. He was a mean guy and treated them like dirt. How he carried those bathroom keys around – like they were the keys to the crown jewels – that was how he was as a person. Lording it over everybody else. He never missed a chance to yell out a warning, make an insult, run them off the sidewalk with his ATV, his little motorized cart with his rake and trash bags. A big important deal he thought he was, being in charge of the bathrooms and the trash and all. What a bum.
“What makes you think it was Charlie 8 that killed him, anyway? It coulda been any of us. We all hated his guts.”
Beverly wiped his hands on his jeans. He was a tough looking guy despite his name which his mother gave him after falling in love with an Englishman (not his father) by the same name. It took constant explaining everywhere but in the encampment where folks had all kinds of weird names and nicknames.
“Well, the first tip-off is that Jacob was killed with a shrimp knife. And wasn’t Charlie 8 a shrimper before he came up here?”
NaNoWriMo is a national novel writing challenge. 50,000 words by the end of November. This year, my husband, Howard Snyder, and I are collaborating on a mystery novel. You are invited to read, comment, suggest plot lines, laugh at our folly, or cover your eyes and run to the next blog to read. Either way, we’re going to keep at it this November until we run out of gas, which could be tomorrow. We can only hope.