Will You Marry Me? (Sam Darling Mystery Book 4) (5 page)

BOOK: Will You Marry Me? (Sam Darling Mystery Book 4)
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I pointed to the side of her house, closest to the gas station, "I'll just walk back this way without going through the house again. Please tell Clancy I'll be back to get her in a few hours when I'm done with my shift."

"I will," Marianne said.

"I'm serious. Really tell her," I insisted. "She gets her feelings hurt very easily and I want her to know I haven't forgotten her."

"When I said, 'I will,' I meant it. I understand what it's like to communicate with your pets."

I didn't think she really understood the unique relationship I had with Clancy, but I let it go. I started walking, carrying the tools, and was suddenly hit with a wave of revulsion and dizziness. Marianne was already gone, and I sat on the ground quickly, so I didn't fall. I set the tools on the ground beside me, and immediately felt fine. On a hunch I picked up the spade. Fine. Put it down and picked up the rake. Fine. Put it down and picked up the shears. Yep. That did it. The revulsion and dizziness appeared again.
 

Knowing now what was causing them, I could control those feelings pretty well. So I stood and reached down to pick up everything at once. However, I'd forgotten to test the shovel, and as I picked it up the feelings intensified. I knew something was rotten with the shovel and the shears.

I practically ran to where George was already using the shovel from the construction truck. Sheriff Jeremiah Taylor was watching, as were the two construction guys and Wilma. Chip was supervising the crowd--actually a small group of Bobs and their families who had gathered. Plus there was a giant chicken playing sidewalk superintendent too.

Before I could tell George and Jeremiah what I suspected, I did a doubletake. "What's with the giant chicken?"

The chicken himself (herself?) just clucked at me.
 

Wilma laughed and said, "It's the convention. A chicken convention."

"You mean a chicken farmer convention?" I asked.

"Nope, a chicken convention. People dress up like chickens and come here for about a week every year," Jeremiah said.

George stopped and wiped his brow, "Apparently they aren't allowed to talk while they're here. Just cluck or whatever chickens do."

"Yeah," Jeremiah added. "It might sound silly, but that convention happening in this little town is our only claim to fame."

"That and the fact that you aren't on most maps," I couldn't help myself. I had to repeat the other claim to fame.

Jeremiah did a good job of ignoring me. Maybe George had given him lessons in the short time I was gone.

"They come here around Halloween every year. Maybe that makes them feel a little more normal, to be dressing up on Halloween," Jeremiah said.

A loud cluck erupted from the chicken at that moment. I thought it sounded like a male voice, but apparently it's really hard to tell through a chicken head. And when the only clue is a cluck. I wondered if men wore rooster outfits or if they were all hens.

I shook my head to get the chicken thoughts out of it, and said, "George, I really need to talk to you. Can someone else dig for a while?"

One of the construction guys jumped in to take over. Wilma reached to take the hand tools from me, and I pulled back.
 

"Just give me a minute to talk to George and I'll give the tools to you."

"Sure," she said, but her face bore a quizzical look.

George took a small step to get out of the tiny hole he'd made. "It's hard to shovel when you want to find something but you're scared of hitting the very thing you're looking for."

I nodded. "Hurry, I need you."

He smiled that George smile.

"Not that way," I said. "Well, I do, but that's not what I want to talk about now." I held up the shears and the shovel, while dropping the spade and rake. "These two things..."

"What about them?" he asked.

"These two things are murder weapons, or at the very least are suspicious."

Now he was interested. George had been involved in enough cases with me to respect my vibes and consequent hunches. But he wasn't always one hundred percent convinced of their accuracy. I thought it was because my vibes weren't one hundred percent accurate anyway. But he wanted to hear what I had to say.

"Tell me everything," he said.

"I went out to Marianne's tool shed with her," I began. "I didn't go inside because it was small and dark, with lots of cobwebs. And the oddest thing--it looked like an outhouse." Back on track, Sam, I told myself. "Anyway, she went in and came out with these four things." I also indicated the two I'd dropped. "After I started walking around the house I became so dizzy that I had to sit down. Then I knew something was up."

He nodded for me to continue. I did.

"So I picked up things one at a time and figured out it was the shears and the shovel causing the problem. We need to figure out a way to get them tested. I think you'll find they were involved in the murder or burial. Or something. I'm sure they were involved in something that wasn't right."

"Sam, it's not that I don't believe you. But we don't have the bones dug up yet. And we don't know if there was foul play or if this was just an old cemetery." He must have seen the disappointment on my face. "How about this? We put these two tools aside and don't use them. I mean, why would we use shears anyway? Let's bag them and keep them in our room or even in our car. Then later, if the facts point to murder, we'll get these tested."

He had me there. Rational and factual. I couldn't beat rational and factual, although I often tried.

"Okay, honey. You make sense. And thanks for not putting down my vibes. I appreciate you."

"I know better, Sam. Your hunches haven't always been right, but they've been more right than wrong. I'd be stupid not to pay attention. However, rather than trying to explain vibes and hunches to the sheriff and the others, is it okay if we keep this quiet for right now?"

I agreed. "That's why I pulled you aside. Didn't want to embarrass you. Or myself." Why try to explain things when there was a chance I was wrong? A small chance.

"I found something," we heard the yell coming from the digging construction worker. "Look! I found something!"

"Don't try to get it out," said Wilma quickly. "I want to see it where it lies." She moved the guy out of the way, got on her knees and leaned in to the shallow grave that Clancy had originally started digging. An off-white thing was still partially dirt-covered.

"It looks like a skull," I said, as if I knew what I was talking about.

Wilma looked back at me. "I agree." She pulled a clean paintbrush out of her back pocket. "I got this out of my truck, knowing we'd have use for it." She started gently brushing the dirt from around the object.

"Just like archeology," I said.

"I want to make sure we don't damage the bones."

"In case it's a murder?" I asked.

"No matter what the cause. If it's a human skeleton, I'm going to treat it as if it's a relative. And it just might be, if it's an ancient burial ground."

She continued to work. It seemed slow and tedious, which would drive me crazy on a good day, but without my ADHD medicine I was in agony. So I started looking around. All the Bobs were outside by now. Finding the skull, or whatever it was, must have drawn them from the hive. They were joined by a blond girl who would fit the bill when it came to Mary Bob. I'd have to see if it was indeed her. She was caught in between plain and pretty, and my opinion of her looks changed whether she was smiling or frowning. The perhaps-Mary-Bob wore an apron, maybe from the cafe, which further pointed to her identity of being the only girl in the sextuplets.

Wilma continued brushing and I continued fidgeting. "Does the skull look old?" I asked.

Her voice was muffled since she faced the ground, "I don't know. Right now it just looks dirty." She looked up at me. "This is really beyond my level of expertise. I probably should call someone in Jefferson City."

"The capital," I said, as if I were the only one who knew the capital of Missouri.
 

She ignored me. I was used to it. "Or maybe someone in Columbia."

"South America?" I asked.

Every head in the area turned to me.

Jeremiah said, "Columbia, Missouri. It's where the University of Missouri is."

And then I couldn't help myself. I changed the direction of the conversation, "How could anyone even find Crackertown?"

George gave me a dirty look, but I felt it was an honest question. We'd just stumbled upon the place, and probably wouldn't have been able to find it on purpose.

I continued, "The sign on the highway just said 'Gas,' and we didn't see the Crackertown sign itself until we were almost in town."

Sheriff Jeremiah Taylor said, "Of course. Well, sometimes people get lost, but with GPS it's become a lot easier. We'll just give them the coordinates."

"Besides," Wilma said, "state people have been here before, for lots of reasons."

I could almost feel a breeze from all the nodding that the group did. I realized I might have insulted them, so I got ready to apologize.

But I never got the chance.

CHAPTER SIX

The sound of a muffler distracted me from my apology. A large white car with U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs stenciled on the side pulled into the parking lot, stirring up a cloud of dust that made George sneeze and me close my eyes. By the time I could see again, the driver's side of the car had already opened and discharged its occupant.

I've always struggled with being judgmental. Being with George, who liked everyone on sight, has tempered me some, but not enough. As I got busy judging the federal official, I thought that George and my roles should really be reversed. He was a cop, which I thought should make him naturally suspicious, and I was a therapist, which should make me non-judgmental all the time and not just with my clients. However, that's not the way it was.

The BIA guy looked mean. There, I said it. Mean. He brandished a scowl and a lit cigar.

"You can't smoke in government vehicles," I said, acting like I knew it was true.

"What?" He seemed surprised by my forwardness.

Omigod, when would I learn to shut up? "You can't smoke in government vehicles." This time I said it more quietly. But I was a stickler for the rules, except maybe when they applied to me.

George and Jeremiah rescued me. Both of them stuck out a hand for a handshake, the universal welcome sign. The man looked momentarily nonplussed. However, he shook Jeremiah's hand first, and then George's. But not mine.
 

Jeremiah introduced George and me to the man I didn't like. "This is Barclay Francis from the Bureau of Indian Affairs," Jeremiah said. "Barclay, George and Sam here found the bones."

"Actually, Clancy did," I added, wanting to make sure my dog got the credit she deserved.
 

"Hi, Wilma," Barclay said, ignoring my comment, his eyes trained on Wilma.

Wilma rolled her eyes as she continued working, "Yeah, hi, Barclay."

Barclay turned back to the rest of us, and even though Jeremiah had told us his name, he told us again. "I'm Barclay Francis. I'm with the BIA."

I had to stop myself from staring at him. He was a little less than six feet tall and had a really ruddy complexion, with an extremely thin face on a Humpty Dumpty body. Such an odd combination. And why was this apparently white guy the BIA representative for this area?

"Why are you here?" I asked the question, although I thought Jeremiah or Wilma might be the more appropriate ones to do so. "Why are you here?" I asked again, this time with a softer and more welcoming tone of voice.

He gave me a look, but of course looks didn't bother me--I was an expert at them.

"Well, Jeremiah, Wilma, George," he said, pointedly excluding me, "we heard about the bones, and immediately thought about a possible Indian burial ground. Of course, that would fall under our purview. If it turns out to be something else, we'll bow out."

I'd used the word "officious" before, but until now had never met someone whose picture could be next to the word in the dictionary. He gave me the shivers. I didn't really know if it was because of anything serious, because of his looks, or because he was so supercilious, but I did not like this man.

"I've got work to do," said Wilma, as if Barclay hadn't even spoken. She put her head down and continued brushing. "There must be an easier way to do this," she muttered. After a moment more, her head jerked up. "Maybe I'll call for some advice," seeming to remember her previous idea.

She jumped up out of the shallow hole and wiped her hands on her jeans. Pulling her phone out of a front pocket, she punched in a number. "I had a professor at Mizzou who taught anthropology and archeology. He might be able to help. Excuse me," she said as she walked away.

"So, what makes you think this might be a burial ground," George asked Barclay. "Are there others around here?"

"Well, let me tell you..." Barclay reached into the trunk of his car and pulled out an extra-sized lawn chair. This made me judge him even more. Why sit when everyone else was standing? He set it up near the hole--close enough to see clearly but not close enough to have dirt thrown on him, or heaven forbid to do any work.
 

"There aren't any federally recognized tribes in Missouri today. A long sad history, of course." He puffed on the cigar and put on the requisite solemn face as he said it. "Most Native Americans were forced to leave Missouri during the Indian Removals of the 1800s. These tribes aren't extinct, just somewhere else. There are some descendants of Missouri Indians who escaped from the Removal who are scattered around, but the tribes themselves aren't located in this state anymore. They were moved to Indian reservations in Oklahoma, and left their homes in Missouri."

He waited for questions. George and I were stubborn enough not to ask any.

So he continued. "Prior to their relocation there were a lot of Native Americans in these foothills. Primarily Osage, which is Wilma's nation. So consequently there are burial grounds around too, and they are federally protected."

BOOK: Will You Marry Me? (Sam Darling Mystery Book 4)
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