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Authors: Rick Shefchik

Amen Corner (26 page)

BOOK: Amen Corner
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“I'm going to do some checking on the other guy,” Sam said.

“What's the name?”

“Lee Doggett.”

“Why do we like him?”

Sam told Boyce what he knew about Doggett. He asked Sam if he knew where Doggett was.

“He's not in the phone book,” Sam said. “I'm going to the last place we know he was seen. Can you do an NCIC search on him? I'd like to know where he did his time, how long he was in, the last place he lived.”

“Sure, we'll run him.”

“How about you? You getting anything from the members?”

“I never met a nicer bunch of fellas in my life,” Boyce said. “Wouldn't swat a fly. Devastated by all this violence, and the damage it's done to the tournament, and so forth. Why I'd want to talk to them is a total mystery to these fine gentlemen.”

“And you believe them.”

“Got no choice. So far, their alibis check out.”

“Stanwick's, too?”

“Hell, yes. Seems old Lorraine hasn't left his side since he got to town.”

“Well, that's her version,” Sam said. He told Boyce about Peggy Francis, and where he could find her. He still wasn't sure he believed her. She was sleeping with somebody else's husband. No saint there.

“We'll check her out,” Boyce said. “But I gotta tell ya, even the members who are young enough to kill someone don't seem like the type who'd mess up a nice pair of pants to do it.”

Sam gave Boyce his cell-phone number and asked him to call when he got the dope on Doggett. Then he flipped the cell phone closed and headed toward the Food Lion.

“Thirty-five hundred,” the young man with the badge called after him.

*

“Ever hear of a guy named Lee Doggett?”

Sam was standing in a checkout lane at the Food Lion, talking to a cashier with wavy, unnaturally dark hair who was working her chewing gum hard. Behind him, a woman with a full load of groceries was unloading her cart onto the belt. She placed the dividing stick in front of her stack, even though Sam didn't have any groceries.

“Lee Doggett? No,” the cashier said.

“White guy, tall, thin, comes in to buy beer?”

“Ummm…no,” she said again, losing what little interest she had in their conversation.

“Thanks,” Sam said, moving away from her register and looking at the four other cashiers in the store. Two of them were with customers, while the other two had empty lanes. With the traffic outside on Washington Road, Sam wasn't surprised that business was slow this afternoon. He walked over to the next cashier, a young black woman with her hair in dreads. Her badge read “My Name is SHAREESE, and I'm Here to Help!” She was just finishing with a customer.

“I need some help, Shareese,” he said.

“That's why I'm here,” she said, pointing at her badge with a bored expression on her face. She looked up at Sam as she handed a receipt to her customer.

“I'm looking for a man named Lee Doggett—white guy. Buys beer here.”

“Don't know'm,” she said, leaning back against her cash register and folding her arms. “You sure he comes in here?”

“That's what One-eye tells me,” Sam said.

“You know One-eye?” the young woman said. “From where?”

“From the National,” Sam said. “I'm playing golf over there. He caddied there.”

“Not no more,” the young woman said. “They fired his no-good ass.”

“I know,” Sam said. “But I'm looking for another guy who used to work over there—a guy named Doggett. One-eye says he saw him in here a while ago.”

“Lotsa folks shop here,” the young woman said. “I don't know half of 'em.”

“Is there somebody here who does know a lot of the customers?”

“Lois,” the young woman said. “Last lane. She's been here 20 years, at least. If she don't know him, he don't come here much.”

“Thanks,” Sam said.

Lois was a short, squat woman who wore a white headband to hold back her graying perm and used a heavy rouge brush on her cheeks. She smiled when Sam approached.

“Forget where you put your cart, hon?” she said.

“I'm not buying anything,” Sam said. “I just wanted to ask you if you know a man named Lee Doggett.”

Lois didn't hesitate.

“Sure, I know him,” she said.

“Used to work at the National?”

“That's him,” she said. Then her smile faded. “Y'all the police?”

“No,” Sam said. “Why? Has he been in trouble?”

“A few years ago,” Lois said. “He got sent away. I never did know exactly for what.”

“How do you know him?”

“Just to see him, I guess,” Lois said. “I knew his mama a little bit. But she died. I think it was while Lee was locked up. Poor woman.”

“Do you know where I can find Lee?”

“Uh-uh,” Lois said. “Wanna leave your name? If I see him, I can tell him y'all wanna talk to him.”

“No, I need to find him as soon as possible,” Sam said. “Do you know if he has any friends or family in town?”

Lois held her elbow in her palm and stroked her cheek with her index finger. A man with a nearly full cart had pulled up behind Sam. Lois motioned him to the open lane next to her.

“He had a wife, and a little boy…but I think they're divorced,” Lois said.

“Are they still around?”

“No…let me think…she left town, I believe…”

“Do you know where she went?” Sam asked.

“I heard, but it's not coming to me now.”

“Do you remember her name?” Sam asked.

“Now, hush, I'm trying to think,” Lois said. “My first thought was Florida, but for some reason, I want to say Arizona, or New Mexico, someplace like that. Someplace with horses.”

Sam gave her some more time, but she couldn't remember where Doggett's wife had gone. He picked up a discarded receipt from the conveyor belt and wrote his name and cell-phone number on it.

“If you remember her name, or where she went, give me a call—anytime,” Sam said, handing his number to Lois. “Any hour of the day or night. It's important.”

“Sam Skarda?” Lois said, looking at the back of the receipt. “The golfer?”

“You watch the tournament?” he said.

“A gal's got to know what's going on in her own town,” she said, giggling. “How'd y'all play yesterday?”

“Like I won't be here tomorrow,” Sam said.

“Well, just hang in there, and I'll watch for y'all today when I get home.”

“Thanks,” Sam said. “Keep trying to think of that name, okay?”

“Gotcha, hon.”

Sam left the supermarket and headed back to the National on Washington Road, where the sidewalks were still clogged with vendors, gawkers, and people buying and selling badges. No one recognized Sam. He hadn't played well enough on Thursday to make any of the highlight packages. Just as well; he didn't have time for autographs.

He returned to the National at Gate 3A and walked through the portable metal-detector columns at the main spectator entrance. His player badge didn't grant him any special treatment, and Sam was pleased that the security was tight.

His cell phone rang as he was climbing up the stairs to the Crow's Nest.

“Skarda,” he said.

“Boyce here,” the GBI detective said. “I got your information on Doggett. He's had his problems.”

“What kind?” Sam said.

“Eight years ago he was convicted of grand larceny, forgery and drug possession.”

“What kind of drugs?”

“Cocaine. Cops found it when they searched his house for counterfeiting equipment. He was sent to the Georgia State Penitentiary at Reidsville. He just got out last week.”

“He did eight years?”

“Yeah, seems kind of stiff to me, too. You'd have to look into the court records to find out why the judge varied from the sentencing guidelines, and I don't have those. But he's out now. Last known address was 2454 Crescent Street, Augusta.”

“Where's that?”

“He's not there anymore. I had a couple of officers run over to talk to him. They say the place is vacant—has been since the last family moved out almost a year ago. Neighbors don't even remember a Lee Doggett living there.”

“He was married,” Sam said. He told Boyce about Lois at the Food Lion.

“We can find her name,” Boyce said. “It would help if we knew where she went.”

“I'm working on that,” Sam said.

“Good luck. Call us.”

*

Caroline was still in bed when her phone rang at 10 a.m. She muted the sound on the TV, where ESPN was showing another clip of her interview with the reporters outside the clubhouse, and reached over to the nightstand to pick up her cell phone.

It was Sam.

“What, am I late already?” she said. “You don't tee off for almost four hours.”

“You're not late,” Sam said, sounding tired. “I've been trying to track down Lee Doggett.”

“Any luck?”

He told her about the cashier trying to remember where Doggett's wife and kid had gone.

“She said Florida first, but then she thought it might be Arizona or New Mexico—someplace with horses.”

“I think I have it,” Caroline said. “Southwest Ranches, Florida.”

“What's that?”

“A little town northwest of Miami. Shane played a mini-tour event near there a few years back.”

“That could be it,” Sam said. “I'll call Lois and see if that rings a bell with her.”

Sam got the manager of the Food Lion, who told him Lois had gone home for the day. He asked for her home number, but the manager wouldn't give it to him, or her last name. He didn't know who Sam was; he wasn't going to give out that kind of information to a stranger over the phone. Sam said he understood and hung up.

He tried to remember the name of the first cashier he'd talked to. It was different, a name he couldn't remember seeing before. Sharleen, Sherice—Shareese? It was something like that. Yeah, Shareese—he was pretty certain that was it.

He called Caroline again.

“Now what?” she said. “I'm trying to pick out something racy to wear under my jumpsuit.”

“This will only take a second,” Sam said. “I want you to dial a number for me and ask for Shareese. When they put her on the phone, tell her you need to know Lois' last name so you can look her up in the phone book. Tell her you were going over your receipt when you got back from the store, and you realized she undercharged you by $15. You want to let Lois know her drawer is short, so she won't get in trouble.”

“Why don't you do it?” Caroline asked.

“Because I already talked to the manager. He wouldn't give me her name or number. But I think Shareese would give it to you.”

“Okay.”

Sam gave her the number and asked her to call him back as soon as she could. Less than five minutes later, his phone rang.

“Another satisfied Food Lion shopper,” Caroline said. “Got something to write with? Shareese gave me Lois' home number. Says she calls her all the time to swap shifts.”

Sam wrote down the number, thanked Caroline, and dialed Lois' number.

“Hi, Lois, this is Sam Skarda,” he said when she answered. “We met earlier today at the grocery store.”

“Oh, sure,” she said. “Say, y'all don't want to miss your tee time.”

“I've got a few hours yet,” Sam said. “Lois, remember what we were talking about? The town Lee Doggett's wife moved to? Could it have been Southwest Ranches, Florida?”

“That's it!” she said. “Southwest Ranches. I knew I'd think of it.”

“You still don't remember her name?”

“Let me think, let me think…It might have started with a B…or was it an R…I'm trying to get a picture of it in my mind.”

Sam waited a few moments, until it seemed likely that the picture wasn't going to form.

“But you're sure it was Southwest Ranches?”

“Positive,” she said. “No doubt in my mind.”

“You're a peach, Lois,” Sam said.

“That's what they say to all the gals around here,” she giggled. “Now, concentrate on your game, hon, and forget about Lee Doggett for a while.”

“I'd like to,” Sam said. “Thanks again.”

Sam sat in the plaid easy chair in the common area of the Crow's Nest, feeling a shot of the old adrenaline rush he always got when a case took a sudden lurch forward. If they could find Doggett's wife, maybe she could lead them to him.

BOOK: Amen Corner
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