Will You Marry Me? (Sam Darling Mystery Book 4) (7 page)

BOOK: Will You Marry Me? (Sam Darling Mystery Book 4)
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"I'm good at puzzles." This lying thing just got easier and easier.

George cleared his throat, probably to stifle a laugh.

Then he said, "Guys, neither one of you need to be in charge. All you have to do is sit there, stay awake, and call the sheriff or me if something happens or if you can't keep anyone away from the bones. It's that simple." He looked from face to face. "Got it?"

"Yes, sir," said Chip, with no sarcasm in his voice.

"You aren't my boss either," Barclay said.

George stepped toward Barclay's round body and got in his flustered, skinny face. "You better damn well understand that I am your boss. I'm a police officer on an official investigation and if you want to make trouble I'm sure there's a jail around here somewhere."

Barclay was speechless.

Chip quickly said, "There's a two-person lock-up at the sheriff's office. Feel free to use it."

"Thanks. I will if it's necessary." George turned to Barclay. "Is it going to be necessary?"

Barclay didn't say anything for a change, but I noticed a very slight shaking of his head. And that was enough for George.

The human-sized chicken had apparently decided not to cross the road, because he was wandering away down the street, maybe looking for a fellow feathered friend. I saw George glance at the chicken, but he didn't say anything, so I figured he decided there was no need for police intervention.

George gave Chip and Barclay his cell phone number, and mine as an afterthought. "Good night, gentlemen," he said, as he took my arm and we strolled back toward Marianne's house and a restful night, after the first day of our vacation. However, I've found that a restful night often precedes a lack of the same.

CHAPTER NINE

"That smell!" I sat up in bed, sniffed and smiled.
 

"I didn't do anything," said George, as he rolled over and petted Clancy. "Did you, Clancy?"

She emitted her low growl, which communicated a lot.

"No. Not that." I gave him a playful nudge. "Smell the air."

He and Clancy did and they both bounced out of bed. I think George's shower was completed in record time, and Clancy danced at our bedroom door impatiently.

In the meantime I was still smelling the air.
 

"For someone who doesn't eat meat you sure love the smell of bacon."

"Of course I do. Normally the smell of meat makes me sick, but bacon...." I salivated. "I hate the thought of those poor pigs, but...bacon." I sighed and jumped into my dirty clothes, thinking I'd shower after breakfast.

We walked downstairs, as quickly as decorum would allow.

Marianne must have known the smell was an effective alarm clock. She smiled as we walked in, and she piled scrambled eggs on a serving platter.

"Good morning," she practically sang the words. And right away I noticed why. Jeremiah was there. Hmm. Did he just drop by...or maybe he never left?
   

We said good morning to them both enthusiastically, and sat in the homey kitchen. Clancy greeted Fifi with a kiss and avoided going near Thor.

I ate eggs with toast, and drank two strong cups of coffee, all the while enjoying the bacon scent.

"I feel like the worst vegetarian in the world," I whined.

"Well," George said through a mouthful of bacon, "stop worrying. At least you don't eat it. And we have a lot more than your angst to work on today."

"Another reason I love you." I leaned over to kiss him on the cheek, snagged a slice of bacon and split it between Clancy and Fifi. "You can put me in my place without me getting all bent out of shape about it."

While I showered, George talked to Jeremiah about the case. George was in our room by the time I finished and handed me my jeans and a pullover cotton sweater--in a blue that matched my eyes.
 

"Jeremiah suggested we go to the Chicken Convention and ask some questions. He's going to meet with the archeological team a little later."

"Sounds good. Let's go." This time I brought Clancy with us. I was anxious to get sleuthing. We walked behind the gas station so didn't see the grave or if anyone was working there. "Hmm, wonder what Jeremiah's doing that's so important that he's not working early this morning. Think there's romance afoot?"

George did the wise thing and ignored me.

The first thing I noticed when we entered the Crackertown Motel and Convention Center was that the tiny conference room was a sea of yellow. Clancy stopped abruptly for a moment as she confronted a roomful of gigantic chickens. Her nose started working overtime. "They aren't real chickens, Clancy," I said. She looked at me as if I was stating the obvious.

Everyone had on the exact same kind of chicken outfit, which looked like sort of a Big Bird knock off, only the people, or chickens, were a lot shorter. I saw various sizes of people but they were impossible to distinguish from each other, and it was also impossible to see if someone was a hen or a rooster. They were genderless, with no distinguishing marks.

"I feel like I'm being smothered by a down pillow. If these feathers were real it would be impossible for me to stop sneezing," George said. "Let's find the leader."

He went up to a nearby chicken and said, "I need to talk to the boss."

The chicken clucked, and that was it.

"I'm serious," George said. "I need to speak to your leader. Now."

With that, the chicken pointed to a small group of chickens nearby.

"Which one of you is the leader of this organization?"

A tall chicken flapped a wing. I assumed that meant he or she was the person.

"I need to talk to you. It's important."

The chicken clucked and raised his shoulders as if to say, "I can't help you. I can't talk."

George took a step toward him and got in his chicken face as he flashed his badge. "I said, 'I need to talk to you. It's important.' I am serious. Let's go somewhere we can talk. NOW!"

The chicken motioned for George to follow him. As we left the room the chicken clucked at various other chickens, using different intonations. I wondered if they had a chicken language that only they understood.

The chicken leader led us outside to the corridor and around the corner to the door of a motel room. He pulled a key out of God knows where and opened his door. As soon as he entered he turned and lifted a wing, directing us to stay where we were. He went into the bathroom and a few minutes later emerged as one of the Bobs.

"What?" I said. "How could you be a chicken? Didn't we see all of you guys together yesterday? Which one are you? You're not Bob Bob are you? Please say you aren't Bob Bob." I didn't know why I didn't want him to be Bob Bob. It wasn't like he was my friend or anything, but he was one of the first people we had met in Crackertown, and I didn't want him to be involved in murder.
 

"No," the erstwhile chicken said. "I'm Jim Bob, his brother. His twin."

A low growl from Clancy echoed what I was feeling.

"Boy, have we got a lot of questions for you," I said.

"Sam." That's all George needed to say. I realized it was his job, his show, and I needed to be a backup. I'd keep my ears open and my mouth closed, if that were at all possible. And I mentally warned Clancy to do the same.

Then George did what he does. He showed me what being a cop was about. A lot of tedious questions with some surprise ones thrown in. He was able to gather a ton of information while Clancy and I sat and enjoyed the show.

Within five minutes he found out that as for as Jim Bob knew, no one was acquainted outside of the convention, they didn't give real names except when they registered online, and if they talked in front of anyone they would be asked to leave. Or rather "clucked" to leave. For some reason that amused me to no end and I forced myself to stay straight-faced.
 

Clancy emitted another low growl.

"Do the same people come every year?" Finally I couldn't help but talk.

"Mostly," Jim Bob answered, and looked at Clancy with an unasked question on his face. "We get a few new ones, but we have to limit the number because of space considerations. It was hard finding a place to host us, and luckily our motel said yes."

"Anyone ever drop out?" I followed up with what seemed like a logical question.

"Sure, but not often. We don't know people's ages, but I'd imagine some people stop coming because they get older. But we have a core group that never misses. There's about thirty of us."

George took over. "Have all of the ones from last year shown up this year?"

Jim Bob nodded. "Well, all but one. Here's the strange part. I'm only the president by default. Our previous leader didn't show up this year, and as the Assistant Cluck I was the natural person to succeed to the office."

"Do you know the person's name? When was the last time you saw him or her? How can you tell who is who anyway? Has anyone heard from the chicken during the year?"

Jim Bob stared at me, "I thought you were quiet, but I was wrong."

That irritated me, but I couldn't argue the point.

"Just answer her please," George said.

"I saw her at last year's convention. After you've done this awhile you get to know the regulars, maybe not by sight, but certainly by their voice and intonation. She had a very sexy cluck about her."

"What's her name?" I repeated my question, but really wanted to know about the sexy cluck.

"Missy Hen. She had her last name legally changed." Jim Bob looked at George after answering. "And I don't know what it was before. She never said."

"Do you know what she looked like?" George asked. At Jim Bob's negative response, he continued, "Do the chickens um...mate?"

I swear Jim Bob blushed. And he hesitated before answering. "We have the costumes special made so that the chickens can mate without taking off their suits."

When George didn't ask anything further, I figured we were finished and turned to leave, but George had one more question, "Did you have an intimate relationship with Missy Hen?"

"Yeah...probably. I knew her, but it gets pretty randy around here during the convention...." I swear he looked proud. And all I could think was...ewwwww. He continued, "I guess I ought to tell you that it's kind of a fetish convention. That's why it was difficult to find a place to hold it."

Hmmm, he's seems a lot smarter than he did yesterday. Maybe he got the brains that were allotted to him and his identical twin. And poor Bob Bob got left out.

At that point I thought it was important to repeat one question, "Did you ever see her outside of the convention?"

He hesitated before he nodded. "We're not supposed to, but there was something about Missy Hen. She was a fascinating chick." His eyes glazed over, whether with regret, love, lust, guilt, or shame at his pun, I didn't know. "If the group found out, I'd be ousted as the president, maybe even kicked out of the organization, so I'd appreciate you keeping this part quiet."

"So you did know what she looked like..." I said.

"Yeah. When I said 'no' I meant that I didn't know what she looked like until last year."

"Yeah, right." Why did I say such stupid things?, I thought.

Jim Bob gave me a look that might have frightened some people.

I felt no huge negative vibes around him, except I thought he was weird. And maybe I felt a few quivers in my gut, but they didn't spell "murder." My judging people was anathema to my role as a therapist, but it was innate. As long as someone was in my office, I could suspend judgment with the best of them. However, when I stepped out of my professional persona I was Judge Judy.

George had been writing in his notebook, but looked up. "So what did she look like?"

Jim Bob hesitated, then said, "She was heavier than she looked, which surprised me. We all pretty much look the same as chickens, except for our heights."

"And...," George prompted.

"And she wasn't as pretty without her suit on. I mean, I have a thing for hens. But she was all right. She'd dyed her hair with a red streak down the middle and she kind of waddled when she walked. When I saw that, it was easy for me to imagine that suit back on her and it got me going."

My turn, "You said she was heavy with a red streak in her hair and she walked with a waddle. What else?"

"She was pale, letting me know she spent a lot of time in her chicken suit or else indoors. Her lips were thin and she spoke in a high-pitched voice that drove me batty. So we didn't talk much. Her voice was perfect when she clucked. But when she talked...my god, it could drive a man to murder."

The silence filled the room.

"No, I didn't mean that. I meant, it drove me nuts. But not that nuts. Not nuts enough to kill her. I wouldn't hurt anyone. Ask Bob Bob. I'm the wimp in the family. I wouldn't hurt anyone, not even a chicken."

George did a great job of not betraying how he felt about this. Silence wasn't my strength but I did my best to follow his lead.

George closed his notebook, "If you think of anything else, let us know. And I may be back to ask more questions."

"If you do," Jim Bob said, "make sure you don't use my name. Just ask for Big Cluck. Everyone knows me."

I stifled a laugh as George and I walked out the door.

CHAPTER TEN

I was full of questions as we walked from the motel to the gas station next door. Clancy walked quietly next to me as if she had some thinking to do. The walk was so short that I didn't get to ask George any of the things that were on my mind. But at this point I wasn't suspicious of Jim Bob. He weirded me out, but that was about it. Also, the authorities didn't know if it was a suspicious death or not. I knew. But they didn't.

We approached the grave and saw the flurry of activity that put yesterday's efforts to shame. When Wilma saw us she jumped up.

"Sam, George, I want to introduce you to Professor Gorgonzola. Luigi, this is George, he's the Chief of Detectives in Quincy, Illinois and Sam is his associate."

I loved being called an associate. George's face showed he wasn't that impressed with my promotion. It looked like it was his turn to stifle a laugh.

BOOK: Will You Marry Me? (Sam Darling Mystery Book 4)
13.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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