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Authors: Cammie Eicher

Tags: #Contemporary Romance

Downhome Crazy (6 page)

BOOK: Downhome Crazy
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Carson stands and stretches to pull something off the top of my refrigerator, which gives me a marvelous view of his magnificent butt. Again, I am amazed how lucky I am that he loves me.

“Ta-da.” He sets down a box that holds two foam carryout containers and a couple of bitty-lidded foam bowls. Opening one container, he pushes it toward me before pulling the lids off the little bowls. I touch the hotcakes inside; they’re still warm. I realize he’s brought five of my favorite syrups and am beyond flattered that he remembered which of the twenty or so I liked.

Quiet reigns as we devour the pancakes almost as fast as Miss Priss finished off her specially prepared food. I am looking forward to the hiring freeze at our sheriff’s department being lifted and Carson resigning from his state job. I could spend every meal like this, sitting across from him as he rubs his foot along my calf. When what I thought were his toes take a bite, I realize Miss Priss is again pissed.

“What?” I hiss in annoyance as I stick my head under the table. The cat wants something, although I’m not sure what it could be. Her litter box is clean and she just ate.

I pull my head back up as I hear a rustle. Carson has wadded up the paper that covered our pancakes and tossed it toward the far side of the kitchen. Miss Priss goes after it, attacking with the enthusiasm of a starving lion in a meat market.

“Smells like butter.” Carson takes my now-empty foam container along with his and heads for the trash container. I watch Miss Priss, amazed that she would not only lower herself to play, but that she prefers a ratty piece of paper to the fine kitty toys I invested in.

“If you want to drive her crazy, put some catnip in an old sock, and tie it up,” Carson advised. “The longer she plays with it, the more stoned she gets. The more stoned she gets, the more peaceful your life.”

“How do you know all these things?” I demand.

“My grandmother had cats. Not like cat-lady crazy, but she had two or three all the time. When I was a kid, she had a big orange tomcat that scared me shitless. Gran used every trick in the book to keep peace between the two of us.”

I stand up, walk to him, and plant a big old smooch on those gorgeous lips of his. That story proves once more how adorable he is, a big bad cop who used to be scared of a cat. Once again, I wish the time to fly until he’s officially off duty and officially mine. I even used a mountain scent fabric softener on the sheets when I washed them last night in anticipation of what was to come. I don’t suppose he’s picky, but I’m not sure my usual flower garden softener screams, “do me” on first whiff.

“Got you something else, too.” Carson opens the fridge this time and pulls out a single long-stemmed red rose, which he hands to me with a flourish. I sniff the blossom. By golly, it still has its smell, which means he didn’t get it off the counter at the convenience store.

“Have I told you lately how wonderful you are?” I whisper as my insides go all mushy.

He smiles and kisses me, which is the perfect answer.

I won’t go into detail about what happens next, but suffice it to say I will never view my kitchen in quite the same way again. I’m not sure whether it was the noise or the actions that ran her off, but during our interlude Miss Priss disappeared to parts unknown.

Once Carson restores his appearance to that presentable for an officer of the law and I finally find my undies, we decide to make use of the afternoon by looking over the bank records. While math is not my long suit and I approach my own bank statements with dread and loathing, I don’t want to be left out of this particular investigation. Carson hands me the January to May records, and he takes the ones that brought us up to two days ago, the night before Miz Waddy disappeared.

When my eyes start to cross, I decide it’s time for a coffee break. I stretch, fill my cup, and cross to the window that looks out on my street. The sight I behold makes me choke and call Carson over.

Louise Opperman, she of Christmas program fame, holds a baseball bat in her right hand and a dustpan in her left. She is stalking something across her front yard and heading toward me. I’d tell you what she’s after, but the object of her hunt is invisible.

“She do that often?” Carson inquires.

I shake my head. Louise is A Lady, proper enough never to wear panty hose with open-toed shoes, and she wouldn’t be caught dead in white between Labor Day and Memorial Day. Watching her stoop down and swat with her bat and then scoop up nothing ensures something strange is going on here on my street. Actually, in my whole town.

“Think I should go out there?”

Yeah, he probably should. And he should also probably carry a syringe full of sleepy juice and a strait jacket. I toy with the idea of calling the ER and telling them to ready a third bed in the psych ward before deciding it’s best to give Dwaine that pleasure. First though, I need to go see if I’m missing something from my window viewing post.

Carson follows me onto the porch; he doesn’t seem happy when I tell him to stay until I holler for him. He doesn’t understand that underneath her bossy, know-everything exterior, Louise is a delicate flower who needs careful handling.

She shrieks at the top of her lungs as I step off the sidewalk. “For God’s sake, girl, don’t let them get that close to you!”

I stop stock-still and take inventory. All I see is the asphalt beneath my feet and Louise’s poised bat as she hurdles toward me. I stay immobile as she swings the bat, lets out a triumphant grunt, and picks up the invisible maimed—or possibly dead—thing. She hoists the dustpan as if it’s heavy, and her face has a sheen of perspiration. She’s been working hard at the ridding the world of these whatevers.

“Can I see?” When I lean close, she pulls back.

“Tessa, you careless girl,” she scolds. “What if one of them is just playing dead? Do you want their teeth sinking into your flesh?”

“Uhh, those are pretty big rats.”

“Rats.” Disdain drips from Louise’s words. “Those are vampire titmice from hell. If I don’t get them all now, the whole town will be infested.”

I turn and with my back to Louise, use my fingers to signal 911 at Carson. He taps the side of his jacket covering his gun and I nod. I hope that means he’s calling the Fortuna P.D. and not asking if I’d like to take a concealed carry gun course.

In order to keep Louise somewhat confined, I suggest that I drive the creatures from one end of the street and let Carson take the other. I suspect our neighbors are gawking from their own windows as Carson and I make shooing motions and Louise keeps swinging that bat. When she calls out that the dustpan is full, Carson runs around the side of her house and hurries back, rolling the city trash container before him.

Ever the gentleman, he takes the dustpan from Louise and dumps its nonexistent load into the trash bin. He even suggests that her arms must be tired and he’d be happy to take over the killing from her.

“Nonsense,” she snaps. “As my late William always said, the only way to make sure something is done right is to do it yourself. You just make sure none of them get in my pansies. They’re the devil on pansies, those vampire titmice.”

I am beyond thrilled when a cruiser stops at the intersection by me, a delight increased only when a second cruiser blocks the street at Carson’s end. Dwaine steps out of the far car and with slow and methodical steps, approaches the deranged Louise. Luther climbs out of the cruiser by me. He and my beloved situate themselves so they can do a takedown if Louise makes a break for it. Dwaine, who hates to run, speaks to her for a moment. I am confused when he begins to walk away and startled when he shouts, “The damned thing’s got me!”

Screaming “Die, die, die,” Louise rushes toward him with her bat in bashing position. Before she can lower it toward the neck Dwaine’s clutching, Carson grabs the bat by the fat end, and Luther catches Louise as she stumbles backward. Fat sobs erupt as she struggles to get free, a battle that ends with Luther’s face scratched in five places where her nails got him, a set of plastic ties on her chubby wrists, and Dwaine swearing as he tries to shove her into his cruiser. That reminds me of the scene at the parsonage, and once he’s slammed the door and trapped her inside, I ask about the pastor.

“He’s pretty satisfied, I think.” Dwaine leans against the cruiser’s fender, ignoring the shouts and bangs from inside. “Confided that he’s meant to be there, saving the souls of the Jezebels who took away his Bible and his belt. The emergency room doc gave him a shot before they took him to the fourth floor, so I imagine he’s pretty docile by now.”

Luther limps over to join us. Turns out that Louise got a few good kicks in before she was finally subdued.

“What the hell’s wrong with this town?” he demands to know. “Just last weekend we had the fall festival without a single problem and three days later, we’re up to our ass in crazy. Maybe somebody ought to check the water.”

I’ve seen Luther in many a mood—mad, sarcastic, occasionally cheerful. But I’ve never seen him this discouraged. One look at the chief’s face and I see that he’s pretty down, too. Carson, however, simply looks thoughtful. That’s because he gets to live in a city that has ballet and orchestras, and nobody would ever dream of starting an Organic Agriculture and Archery Guild.

He suggests that Luther haul Louise off to join her BFF Florine at the hospital and pulls the chief to the side for a confab. They look serious as they talk, making me wonder if they’re about to declare this an epidemic and call in the CDC. Maybe we’ll be all over the news with the Fortuna Malady, like those places with the monkey pox and Legionnaire’s Disease. The powers that be at WFRT would be thrilled to finally originate a huge story instead of getting it off the wire service feed.

I dream of that cute TV doctor coming to Fortuna to film a piece and agreeing to be interviewed on my news show. I can do legitimate journalism. I proved that when the librarian embezzled the fine money and had to pay back the whole sixty-four dollars or spend three weeks picking up litter off the roadsides.

My heart leaps when Dwaine waves me over. Here it comes, my big break. I take a deep breath and prepare myself.

“Carson says you’ve got fresh coffee,” he says. “Any chance I can get a cup?”

My ego deflates like a helium balloon at a frigid holiday parade.
Get coffee,
I mutter to myself as I head for the house.
Want a leftover doughnut, too?

As it turns out, the timing is impeccable. My cell phone is chiming and the caller is still there when I dig the phone from my purse and offer a breathless hello.

The voice on the other end is thick and stilted. My breath catches as I realize this could well be the kidnapper of Miz Waddy using me as an intermediary because he’s learned I have her cat. Turns out, though, to be the bank branch manager.

“Thimon told me he that down wif you an that OBI,” he says in a painful manner that causes me to remember he’s just had oral surgery.

“Yes, we sat down with Simon,” I agree.

“I thot you might wanna look at the thecond account Mith Waddy hath.”

Two accounts at the Merchants and Miners?

“I can gib you the records eben though she took mooth of the money out lath week.”

My mind flits through the possible reasons Miz Waddy would have cleaned out an account. The two most obvious are plastic surgery or blackmail, and she doesn’t strike me as the type to care about perfect boobs or nose straightening. Which leaves one good option.

“Thank you so much,” I say. “If you could have those records ready, I’ll be right down for them.”

“I can only releath theb to a cop.”

“We,” I hasten to reply. “We’ll be right down to get them.”

The look Dwaine shoots me when I finally deliver his coffee cements the decision I made while pouring it. I’m keeping this two-account thing strictly between Carson and me. Blackmail is so out of the local police’s league that I’m doing them a favor by not mentioning it. Besides, they have their hands full of wigged-out Fortunians at the moment.

Dwaine downs his coffee and says a curt goodbye. I make sure to smile in return and wave enthusiastically as he leaves. Carson watches with a grin.

“Back to the grind,” he says, taking my hand as we start across the street.

“Not quite. There’s another set of bank records.”

Carson stops and stares. “Another set?”

I nod. “Turns out Miz Waddy had two accounts, one of which took a big hit last week.”

* * * *

Follow the money is one of those things they do on TV crime dramas, but it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds. I get my highlighters out once we return with the new account statements and start looking for anything out of the ordinary. Carson must be more experienced with forensic accounting than me because his pages flip over a lot faster.

“Did this Peytona woman inherit stocks and bonds, anything like that?” Carson’s looking at me like he thinks I know. Prying into other people’s business isn’t my thing…okay, it is if they break the law, but otherwise I adopt a “don’t ask, don’t care” policy.

“Know anybody that might?” he says into the silence.

“Her attorney.”

Carson leans back in his chair and runs his hands through his hair. I barely notice that little gesture because I’m fixated on the sleek body under his white shirt. He’s taken off his jacket and tie and rolled up his shirtsleeves, which is one of his sexiest looks in my book.

My smile begins when he asks if I have a local phone book and becomes a full grin when he explains he needs my help in calling the local lawyers to see if we can find hers.

“Alfred Grimstead, two doors down from the dollar store.”

Carson frowns. “You know who her attorney is?”

“Everyone over the age of fifty uses Grimstead. Those under fifty use Louise Habbard, who just happens to be his niece. Her office is also two doors from the dollar store.”

“That’s your logic?”

I nod. “This is my town. Trust me. If I’m wrong, you can decide how to punish me.”

Carson lifts his eyebrows and gives me a mock evil grin. “Oh, you don’t know how much I hope you’re completely off the mark.”’

BOOK: Downhome Crazy
12.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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