Will You Marry Me? (Sam Darling Mystery Book 4) (6 page)

BOOK: Will You Marry Me? (Sam Darling Mystery Book 4)
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At that point Wilma returned. "Professor Gorgonzola said..."

My laughter could not be contained. It spewed out and my only thought was, Thank God I don't have coffee in my mouth. Professor Gorgonzola indeed.

Wilma continued in spite of me. I had to admire that. "Professor Gorgonzola said that he and some interns could be here within a few hours and they would take over the dig. He's got a ton of experience unearthing bones, whether they are recent or ancient. And he's been vetted by the feds. So I told him we'd wait."

George looked relieved. He took my hand, like the sweetheart he is, then said, "Looks like Sam and I can take off then. You've got some experts coming in and you won't need us."

I was disappointed. I wanted to go on vacation with my beloved, but there was still a mystery to be solved and I found it hard to even think about leaving.

Lucky for me Jeremiah wasn't going to let George go that easily.

"Whoa," he said, lifting his hand in the stop sign George always used on me. "They're just coming to unearth the bones. They're not going to be solving the murder."

"If there is one," said George.

"If there is one," echoed Jeremiah.

"Oh, there is one," I said. "I'm positive of that."

CHAPTER SEVEN

I was caught, and I didn't know what to say, so when asked how I knew, I went with the obvious--a lie.

"Well, these bones are too shallow to be an Indian burial site. Too shallow." With that I put my hand on my chin and wagged my head from side to side, once again acting like I knew what I was talking about.

"I agree," said Wilma.

At the same time, Jeremiah said, "Makes sense. Just what I was thinking."

George squeezed my hand and not in the most loving way. "I just thought..."

The sheriff spoke again. "I've got a call in to your chief of police. I'll get these days authorized and you on 'official' status with my department, so they won't count against your vacation time."

"Crap," was what George said.

"Goody," was what I said.

I didn't like to lie, but was becoming better and better at it the more murders I worked on. I could hardly have told them that I knew there was a murder because my vibes told me so. They'd think I was nuts. So instead I covered my ability with a lie.
 

"Since they'll be here in a few hours, we might as well relax until then," Jeremiah said.

Just then his phone rang. He smiled at the voice on the other end, then put it on speaker so we could all hear. It was Marianne.

"Would anyone like dinner? I've prepared enough for an army. If you have a chance for a break, everything is just about done."

Jeremiah answered, "We were just going to relax for a few hours while we waited for reinforcements."

"How many will there be?"

Everyone's hands went up.

"Well," Jeremiah said, "I need to have someone I trust to be here with the body. And there aren't that many people who could do it." He looked around and I knew what he was thinking. The Bobs seemed to be sharing a brain, and I wouldn't trust them either.

"I'll do it," Chip said. "You can bring me some food or else someone can relieve me when they're done eating."

"You're one of the few people I'd trust to do this, Chip. Thanks. And someone will relieve you soon, so you can go over and eat too."

To Marianne he said, "There's me, Wilma, George, Sam, and five Bobs--Mary Bob has to go back to work." The two construction dudes had been released when Wilma had decided to call in her professor.

"Ahem." We turned to see where that came from.

It was Barclay.

"Well," Jeremiah said after a brief sigh, "Barclay is coming too. You'll remember him once you see him. So I guess that's..."

"Ten," I yelled. "Ten. And then Chip later. Eleven." Shut up, Sam. Even I was getting sick of my interrupting.

"I'm sorry," I said quietly and held on to George's arm. He leaned over and kissed my head. It was comforting to know I was loved, even when I was impulsive. At least I hadn't yelled anything inappropriate. That comforted me as well.
 

As Barclay eased himself out of his chair, Chip quickly jumped in it.

"I'll just sit by the grave," Chip said. "No one will get by me."

"Thanks," said Jeremiah. "We'll hurry and get someone else back soon so you can eat."

Chip nodded, but said, "No hurry."

The ten of us walked in silence except for Barclay, who wanted to talk more about things he knew something about. I tuned him out, because I didn't like the way he acted like he was smarter than the rest of us.

Marianne had the front door open, and the aroma of garlic, onions, and fresh baked bread wafted out to greet us. I followed my nose and saw she'd set her dining room table as if we were honored guests. In the center of table sat two large pans of lasagna with a huge bowl of salad. On either end were wooden trays containing steaming bread with butter on the side. I couldn't bear waiting.

"This looks unbelievable," I said. "How did you manage?"

"I keep a lot of supplies here, since we don't have much to choose from in town. It didn't take long."

"Jeremiah," she continued, "please take a seat." Marianne pointed to the head of the table, a place of honor.

Aha, I said to myself, and giggled quietly. Just what I thought.

Marianne then pointed to a seat near the other end for me. I noticed that in front of it was a small pan. "Vegetarian?" I asked. At her nod, I continued, "You are amazing."

She put George at the end of the table by me, and she herself took a place by Jeremiah. Everyone else filled in until the table was nearly full. Barclay sat across from me on the end, so it was Barclay, George, and me. I promised myself I would be nice, and that I wouldn't allow him to incite my not-so-nice side.

Small talk ensued until everyone filled their plates. Then it became fairly quiet except for slurps and moans of gastronomical pleasure.
 

After a particularly pleasurable bite of fresh bread with butter, I wiped the drops off my lips and turned to Chip, who was now sitting on my left. Wilma had dined and dashed so that Chip could come and get his fill.

"I don't mean to be rude, but are you the only African-American in Crackertown?" I asked him.

"My great-grandpa worked at the cracker factory. Everybody else in my family moved away. I just stayed." Chip smiled. "I kind of like being Black in a town with the name Cracker in it."

I smiled too, then quickly jumped back into the food. George gently touched my arm in between bites. Maybe because he loved me. Maybe to slow me down. Sometimes it seemed like he was my caretaker and I was the village idiot. But he was almost always kind with his reminders. I couldn't say as much about myself.

I shook off thoughts that were going to bring me down and took a minute's break from stuffing myself. Looking around the table I thought it was an interesting mix of people. All of them friends, except for Barclay, George, and me. And George and I would probably be friends with the townspeople before this was over. At least I hoped so.

I had the feeling that Barclay would never be a friend to anyone in the room. I kind of felt bad for him. That was the therapist in me coming out. Since I wasn't on duty though, I disliked him on sight, and could even come to hate him if I didn't watch myself. However, I'd never wish him dead.

But someone else did.

CHAPTER EIGHT

We all sauntered back to the burial site. All except for Sheriff Taylor. He stayed behind to help Marianne clean up after dinner.
 

"Jeremiah and Marianne, sittin' in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G..."

"Sam, stop it," George said softly but forcefully.

"Oops. Didn't realize I was singing it out loud." I took his arm as we walked. "But don't you think they make a cute couple?"

"That's not the kind of thing I usually think about, honey," he replied. "I'm a manly man." George laughed and grabbed my hand that was linked through his arm. "But yeah. I think there's probably some romance going on there."

The crunch of leaves under our feet and the rapidly cooling air reminded us that it was autumn. I loved the smell of it. And since there were probably no ordinances against it, there were people burning leaves. That smell cemented the fact that it was fall. I randomly hoped that some people left big piles of leaves for kids to jump in, and then realized I hadn't seen any kids around.

"Hey, Chip," I said over my shoulder. "Are there kids in Crackertown?"

"Sure," he said. "Not too many. Hell, there are less than 100 souls in Crackertown, or what's left of it."

"So no schools here?"

"Nope. They're bused to Hollister for school. All grades. We're in between there and Branson, but still far enough away that the kids are gone from breakfast until dinner. So during the school year you won't see much of them." He looked around as if to prove his point. "When the cracker factory was going strong, we had an elementary and a high school here. Small. Maintained by the factory owners. It was good. That's where I went. The schools have been demolished, like much of the town." He paused momentarily. "Yeah. Things change."

By that time we'd reached the grave, and found Wilma pacing. Barclay quickly reclaimed his chair, which no one objected to. I really didn't think I wanted to share that chair of his anyway. He gave me the creeps. So it took no time at all for my mind to take me from "gave me the creeps" to wondering if he was the murderer. Maybe that's why he was so darn interested in what was going on.

I heard Wilma talking, and stopped thinking about Barclay, "...and so they won't be here until tomorrow morning. They had to gather up tents and sleeping bags, since they found out the motel was full." She looked around. "Someone is going to have to spend the night here."

"I'll do it." Barclay responded immediately. "Yes. I insist."

"Well, I don't know...," Wilma sputtered. "Let's, uh, let Sheriff Taylor decide. Since it's a murder scene, he's in charge."

"I'm in charge of what?" Jeremiah's booming voice still held the hint of happiness left over from being with Marianne.

Wilma filled him in and I saw Jeremiah's face change--from happy to serious--in an instant.

"No need, Barclay. I'll take care of it."

Wilma, George, Chip and I all objected at the same time.

"You'll be too tired, Jeremiah," George said. "You'll need to be fresh tomorrow. How about I do it?"

"I'll need you alert tomorrow too." The sheriff was adamant.

"How about this," Chip intervened, "Barclay and I will stand guard tonight. The Bobs can run the station tomorrow and I can get some sleep then."

"Thanks. I appreciate that," Jeremiah said. "I'll sleep soundly knowing you're helping out." He started to walk away, then turned. "Have you ever thought about being a deputy?"

"Yes," said Barclay.

"Not really," said Chip.

"Sorry, Barclay. I was talking to Chip," the sheriff said, the happiness back on his face.

"Well, maybe you ought to think about it," Jeremiah said, still speaking to Chip.

"We'll see you in the morning," George said to Jeremiah. George seemed anxious to get going.

I was so happy he said "we." My George was a smart man, knowing he couldn't keep me away from what he was doing. Maybe this didn't count as a vacation for him, but it sure did for me. I'd get to help investigate, and didn't have to go in to my regular job.

We walked slowly back to Marianne's house, enjoying the crisp air and the quiet that we weren't used to. The quiet ended abruptly; as soon as we opened the door Clancy gave me a pathetic look, and a low moan, practically screaming, "SAVE ME!"
 

The cat was sitting on her upper back, grooming Clancy's ears. Judging by Clancy's demeanor, this had been going on a long time.

I quickly hooked on her leash and gently lifted Thor off her neck.

"Let's get her outside for a minute," I said to George.

As I opened the door again, I yelled, "We'll be right back, Marianne. Taking Clancy outside."

By the time I turned to comfort a discombobulated Clancy, I was giggling and so was George.

"I'm sorry, Clance, but it was hilarious. Why don't I ever think to get my phone out to take pictures of things like that?"

Her dignity at last intact, Clancy did not think I was funny.

"Did you hear her screaming?" I asked George.

"Hear who screaming?" He replied with his own question.

"I guess you didn't then. Clancy practically screamed at me for me to save her. I know you are getting in tune with her feelings, and I just wondered if you were getting the same connection I have."

"Nope," he said. "I could just tell she was miserable and needed rescuing."

Clancy turned her head as we walked so she could lick George's hand.

We walked slowly and contentedly. At least I was contented. We passed the site and saw Barclay and Chip engaged in a spirited conversation. It didn't look like a debate, but rather an argument that was soon going to be out of control. I nudged George and pointed at them, and we strolled to them.
 

"You are not in charge," Chip yelled at Barclay. "Quit trying to boss me around."

"You're not the boss either," Barclay retorted. His already ruddy face was crimson and almost purple.
 

An obvious rage problem, I thought.

"Hey, guys," George intervened. "Want to wake the dead?" Then he chuckled at his little joke.

"Yeah, want to wake the dead?" An unknown voice slurred the words. It came from someone in a chicken suit who was trying to cross the road in an apparently-drunken stumble to get to us.

An immediate thought jolted me--Why did the chicken cross the road? To kill the chicken on the other side. I also thought that chickens weren't supposed to talk.

I blurted, "The chicken did it."

"What?" All three guys said the word at the same time.

"Not this chicken," I said. "Well, maybe this chicken, I don't know. But I'm convinced a chicken did it."

"How do you know?" asked Barclay. "I mean you're not a cop or anything. So how did you figure this out?"

BOOK: Will You Marry Me? (Sam Darling Mystery Book 4)
6.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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