Authors: Ann Mullen
“That’s why I killed him.”
Billy and I just stared at each other in the dark. The cat
was finally clawing its way out of the bag! I was so glad that the weather had
cleared up. If it hadn’t, we might’ve missed this.
“I should’ve let you go to prison. I never should’ve cleaned
up your mess. I did all that for you, and then you plant that stupid receipt in
the tax papers. Why, Nona? Why would you do that? Were you mad at me?”
“I was trying to implicate you… you idiot! I knew Flo would
find it and then turn it over to the sheriff. She’s such a stickler for the
truth. She’d be compelled to do what she thought was right, and what she
would’ve thought was right would be to rat you out. As a matter of fact, if she
had knowledge of a crime, she would be forced by law to turn you in. Too bad it
didn’t work. She might’ve told you she didn’t look at our paperwork, but I can
promise you she was lying. I know for a fact that she glances at everything
that comes through her office. That’s why she thought you were trying to kill
her… because she saw the receipt and put two and two together.”
“But then I got the receipt back. She no longer had proof
that it ever existed. Gone. Done with.”
“Don’t be a fool, Donald! She could’ve made a copy. The
credit card name on the receipt was yours. You were trying to save your own
butt. That’s why you burned down her office, isn’t it?”
“I did it for you, Nona. Everything I do is for you.”
“There’s nothing you can do for me anymore.”
“Why? Because your lover is dead, and now life isn’t worth
living? Did you really love him that much?”
There was a lull in the conversation.
“Let me ask you something, Nona. Why did you even use your
credit card that night? You didn’t plan for the evening to go as it did, I’m
sure. No… you were hoping that I would find the charge on the monthly bill.
That was your way of torturing me—to have me find out about your affair with my
partner through the mail. What a coward!”
“That’s exactly what I wanted. Hank and I would be together,
and then when you got the bill in the mail, you’d be reminded of how much I
“You’re a spiteful woman, Nona. It’s not bad enough that you
cheated on me, you wanted to rub my nose in it. I should go to the cops.”
“That’s smart, you moron. Go ahead! Tell them I killed Hank.
Then they can put me away, but… oh, yeah… that’s right! You burned down Flo’s
office. How much prison time do arsonists get? Geez, you could be in the cell
next to me. Now wouldn’t that be nice? We could share.”
“I didn’t burn down Flo’s office. I hired someone to do it.
So, you see, Nona, all I’d get is a slap on the wrist. If it ever went to
trial, my lawyers would have a jury feeling sorry for me ten minutes after the
trail started. You on the other hand, you’re the cheating wife who got dumped
by her lover, and then killed him. Then you dragged your poor husband in to
clean up your mess. He was so hopelessly in love with you, he’d do anything. I
win either way.”
“Win what, Donald? Me? It’s too late for that.”
“I’m not stupid, Nona. Don’t think I don’t know what we did
to other people. Marriages just don’t survive something like that. I kept
hoping you’d love me again like before, but I can see that’s not going to
happen. You no longer love me… “
The room went silent again, and then a door slammed in the
background. A few seconds later, we could hear ice cubes clinking in a glass.
Someone was having a drink.
“What do you think, Billy?” I softly asked. “Are we finished
here? We got all the evidence we need.”
“Let’s think about it for a minute. What kind of evidence do
we have? We received a startling admission of guilt by eavesdropping, and we
have it all on tape. Well… actually on cell phone.” Billy hesitated a second.
“I’ll have to figure out how I’m going to explain that one, but in the
meantime, I think we should hang out a little longer. I have a feeling it isn’t
over yet. Those were fighting words! There’s a
loose in the
house.” Billy was psyched. The Cherokee in him was coming out. He knew the day
was not over. I trust his instincts, so we waited. As usual, Billy was right.
It didn’t take long for the fighting to start again.
“Oh, you’re back,” Donald said. “I thought you’d gone to
“I went upstairs to think.”
I didn’t know what kind of looks they were exchanging, but I
thought it might have been makeup ones. Donald’s tone changed. “You’re so
beautiful, Nona. Can’t we work this out?”
What kind of man crawls back to a woman when he knows she
doesn’t love him? Weak? Whipped? Loser in love… or just plain loser.
“Stop, Downer. It’s over between us. Downer… Downer… Downer!”
Trouble wasn’t far off. Wynona was antagonizing her husband.
I had a feeling this was going to get physical, and it did… quickly.
“What are you doing, Nona?” There was fear in Donald’s voice.
“Put that gun away.”
“When Hank died, I couldn’t stand to even look at you. Every
day since then all I could think about were ways to get rid of you. Now I have
the perfect opportunity. It’s just too bad that someone else will have to take
the fall for my bad deeds… again. Poor Flo and her P.I. friends. They won’t
know what hit them when I’m through.”
The sound that followed was undeniable.
“Oh, good grief! She shot him, Billy. What are we going to
“Give me your cell phone.”
I reached into my back pocket and tried to dig out my phone,
but my hands were trembling so much that when I did get it, I dropped it on the
wet ground. The gunshot had taken me by surprise. I was a mess. I snatched the
phone up, wiped it on my pants, and handed it to Billy.
He called it in, saying that gunshots had been fired, and
gave them the address. He handed the phone back to me. “Sheriff Hudson and his
men are on the way. We’re going in. He might still be alive.”
“Forget it, Billy. He hasn’t said a word, or even moaned
since the shot rang out. He’s dead. We can’t help him now.”
Wynona had finally gotten her wish.
Even though it was apparent to me that Donald Rhodes had met
his demise, Billy was adamant about the possibility that he might still be
alive. We were going in. As we scrambled out of the woods coming up alongside
the house, Billy’s cell phone picked up on a disturbing call being made by
Wynona. She was calling the police, and she was laying the blame at our feet!
“Please help me!” she said. “My husband’s been shot! That
Indian and his wife killed him.”
“I can’t believe she thinks she’s going to get away with murder
again,” I said, following behind Billy to the front of the house. “She’s an
Billy hesitated at the front door.
“Aren’t we going in?”
“No,” he replied. “I think it might be safer to wait for
Sheriff Hudson. There’s no telling what she might do if we confront her. She’s
liable to shoot one of us. I don’t trust her for a second.”
“We’re wearing vests.”
“They don’t protect against headshots,” he said, chillingly.
“She’s too unpredictable. We wait.” Billy looked at me. “Holster your weapon.
If we have our guns drawn, we could get shot by the cops.”
I didn’t trust Wynona. She could open the door any minute and
put a bullet in one of us, but I did as Billy said. I holstered my weapon.
Lights flashed and sirens blared as the yard filled with
best had arrived with guns drawn… on us. We stood still with our hands raised,
Billy still holding the cell phone in his right hand.
Sheriff Hudson motioned to his men, sending them into the
house, while Deputy Cole James and another officer patted us down. They took
our guns and waited for instructions from the sheriff.
“Handcuff them,” Sheriff Hudson commanded.
“Wait a minute,” Billy said. “Sheriff, you need to hear
He was quite annoyed, but the sheriff waved his hand,
allowing Billy to proceed. While Billy was playing the recording, the ambulance
arrived. By the time the scene had played out on the phone, Donald had been
brought out on a stretcher
“What’s his condition?” Sheriff Hudson asked the
“He’s lost a lot of blood,” the
replied. “But he’s still alive.” The
looked at us and then back to the sheriff. “He did
manage to tell me that his wife shot him.”
We were off the hook! Thank you, Donald Rhodes for telling
the truth. Wynona was going to the big house! She would pay for her actions.
Sheriff Hudson looked at Billy and me and asked, “Why are you
two always in the middle of everything. Every time I go to a crime scene,
you’re there. Don’t you have anything else better to do?”
“We were working a case,” Billy replied.
“You’re always working a case,” the sheriff commented. “One
of these days you’re going to step in a mess you won’t be able to clean off
your shoes. Then what will you do?”
I started to say something, but was interrupted by a familiar
face. Officer Downey walked out the front door and said, “Mrs. Rhodes claims
these two shot her husband and threatened to come back and kill her if she told
“That’s a good one,” the sheriff said. “Did you find the
“No, sir. The
said Mr. Rhodes was shot with a .38. There’re also two bullet holes in the
“I can explain,” Billy said. “The two holes in the floor
aren’t related to Mr. Rhodes’ shooting.”
“I can’t wait to hear this,” Sheriff Hudson replied. He
looked at his deputy and said, “Arrest Mrs. Rhodes for attempted murder. If the
husband dies, the charge will be upgraded to murder.”
Officer Downey turned on his heels and headed back into the
house. A few minutes later, Wynona Rhodes was being led out in handcuffs. She
screamed at us as she passed.
“They broke into my house and killed my husband. They’re the
ones who should be arrested.”
“Your husband isn’t dead, Mrs. Rhodes,” the sheriff told her.
She shut up. She was dumbfounded. She was so sure that Donald
was dead. I guess she didn’t bother to check for a pulse before making her
“He’ll be able to tell us what happened as soon as he
“I want a lawyer,” Wynona demanded as Officer Downey led her
to the patrol car. “Where’s my lawyer? Somebody call my lawyer!”
Sheriff Hudson looked around the yard, and then asked Billy,
“Where’s your truck? I know you didn’t walk here.”
“We drove my
4Runner. It’s parked in the woods.”
“What ever.” The sheriff waved his hand. “Go get your vehicle
and follow me to the station. I’m going to need a statement from both of you.”
We didn’t say another word; instead, we turned and headed to
the woods. As soon as we were out of earshot, Billy said, “I’m so glad we got
these new phones.”
“Me, too,” I agreed. “Are they going to be able to use the
dirt we got on Wynona in court?”
“They won’t need to. All they’ll have to do is play it for
her. She’ll crack like a sheet of thin ice. She’ll spill her guts.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure. She won’t go down without a fight,
and if Donald does recover, he’ll probably stand by her.”
“Don’t be so sure. She shot him, for Pete’s sake. No man is
going to take up for someone who shot him, even if it was the wife he loved so
dearly. The cards are on the table, and if Donald Rhodes survives, he’ll be
holding the winning hand. Wynona might get away with shooting him, but she’s
still going to prison. She killed Hank Sharp, and we have the proof.”
“And Donald cleaned up her mess. Concealing evidence,
covering up a murder, they’ll prosecute him for that.”
“It’s a shame. I feel bad for the guy. He just loved her too
The storm had been long gone, along with the rain, leaving
behind a glistening sheen. Wet as the woods were, it was still a beautiful
sight. Trudging through it was another matter. By the time we reached the
4Runner, our pants were soaking wet. Billy opened the passenger door and waited
while I jumped in.
“It scares me to think that I might’ve done the same thing
that Donald did, if I were in his shoes.” Billy leaned in and kissed me. “I
love you, Jesse. I’d do anything to protect you.”
It surprised me to hear Billy say something so totally
against the grain. He always did the right thing—no matter how hard it was.
He closed my door, walked over to the other side, and got in.
He didn’t say anything. He started the
and was about to back up when I put my hand on his arm and said, “You’re a good
man, Billy. You’d stand by me if I was innocent, but if I were guilty, you’d do
the right thing. Right or wrong. Don’t confuse the two. We’re not Donald and
Wynona. We’re the good guys.”
Billy sat there for a minute. He looked over at me, smiled
and said, “So true. We are the good guys!”
We headed out into the darkness of the night, on our way to
the Sheriff’s Office. A trip we’ve taken many times in the past. I could
probably drive it with my eyes closed… as they say. Ten minutes later, we were
parked next to Sheriff Hudson in front of the station—his turf. That always
made me a little jumpy.
The first thing Billy and I did was to remove our vests and
guns. We wouldn’t need the vests in a police station, and the cops don’t take
too kindly to folks walking into their domain armed. One could get shot.
Before we got out of the car, I looked at Billy and said,
“Did we just have a moment back there where we dug into each other’s soul?”
“Yes,” he replied. “Sometimes we question ourselves, but
fortunately, in the end, our true worth prevails. We know who we are.”
“Hmmm… this is a little heavy for me right now. Can we pick
up on it later? We’re getting ready to go into the police station to be
interrogated… and talking about killing someone and covering it up for the one
you love is not something I want to discuss.”
Billy laughed. “I think you missed the point.”
“Oh, no I didn’t. I love you, too. Tell me to scalp someone,
and I’d do it, but not just now, though. I’m a little busy.”
We walked through the front door into the clutches of Sheriff
Wake Hudson and his hoard of
deputies. No matter what went down here tonight, I had a feeling Billy and I
were about to get a slap on the wrist for our part. That always seems to happen
when we got involved with Sheriff Hudson and his men. They would use us, and
then browbeat us to death. Well… not this time, buddy. Like Billy always said,
sometimes the prey bites back. I’m ready to take a chunk out of somebody, so
why not the cops? We were in the right. They better not mess with me and my
Deputy James led us down the hallway to a room on the right
where we were to wait for Sheriff Hudson. When he went to open the door, I
heard a familiar voice calling to me from one of the cells in the back.
This is a sheriff’s office. It’s not the biggest jail in the
“Jesse! It’s me,
I looked up at Cole. “She’s still here? I can’t believe she
hasn’t been bailed out. What’s going on? Where’s her lawyer?”
“It doesn’t work like that, Jesse,” Cole answered. “She’s
charged with murder. That’s a whole different story.”
“I guess being a celebrity won’t get her out of this mess.” I
don’t know why I said that. My tone seemed so awful after the words were out of
Deputy Cole James dryly responded, “Not likely.”
“May I go see her just for a moment? I promise I won’t cause
any trouble. I know that’s what you’re thinking, but you can trust me.”
Billy didn’t utter a word.
Cole looked around for a second as if he were searching for a
spy, and then spoke quietly. “Sheriff Hudson’s going to be tied up for at least
fifteen minutes. I think I can arrange it. No yelling, Jesse. I mean it. If you
cause a scene…”
“What makes you think I’d… oh, never mind. I’ll behave. I
Cole walked us down the hall to
’s jail cell. He stood aside so we
could talk—and so he could watch and listen. He wasn’t cutting me much slack.
He knew me too well. We did have an intimate relationship at one time. Gosh, I
try not to think of it, but every time I see him, I’m reminded of that fact.
cried. “I’m desperate. You have to
help me. They won’t let me out.”
“Where’s Russell?” I asked, looking her over.
She looked drained, worn out. Her hair was plastered to her
head as if it could use a good washing, and her face was without makeup. That
was rare for
, someone who prided herself in her
appearance. She was always well-dressed, makeup perfect, actions prim and proper—the
perfect fashion diva. She knew what to wear and how to act for any occasion,
but now she was a sight. She had been stripped of her dignity and crushed.
Suddenly, I stopped being mad at her. Yes, I had been pretty mad at her, but I
hadn’t realized it until now. I was over my little tantrum, so it was time to
get over it and help
. She is my friend. Emotionally, I
could help put her back together, but when it came to helping her with the law,
there was nothing I could do.
Cole was on the mark when he said murder was a whole
different story. You don’t just check into jail, and then check out. The
process isn’t pleasant, but then again, nothing’s fun when it comes to being
thrown in jail. There’s a reason for that.
I did the only thing I could for my friend—I tried to make
her feel good about herself and help her get prepared for what was about to
come. “Listen,” I said. “It’s only been a few hours. You have to go through the
process. Hopefully, you’ll be out by tomorrow. Just hang in there.”
“I’d feel a lot better if I had my makeup and some fresh
All aboard for a trip into diva purgatory. No makeup. Oh, my.
“Tell me what you need, and I’ll go get it for you,” I found
myself saying. Don’t ask me why.
“There’s a makeup travel case sitting on the vanity in my
private bath, and I’m sure you can pick out a suitable outfit for me to wear.
Can you get that for me soon? I’m not at my best.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Voices coming down the hallway got our attention. We turned
around and saw Russell Shank following a deputy toward us. The deputy unlocked
the cell and told
she was free to go. Her lawyer had
secured her release.
Cole’s mouth dropped open.
was ecstatic. She ran past us and gave Russell a big hug. “I knew I could count
on you,” she told him. “Thank you so much. I don’t think I could’ve stood
another minute in that nasty, old jail cell. It was terrible. I never want to
be locked up in jail again.”