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Joan Hess - Arly Hanks 10

BOOK: Joan Hess - Arly Hanks 10
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The Maggody



An Arly Hanks Mystery

(book 10 in series)


Joan Hess This book is dedicated to the memory of Ellen Nehr, who was a treasured friend and confidante. Her perspicacity, wit, and boundless knowledge of the mystery genre will be missed.


A great deal of my information came from Armed and Dangerous: The Rise of the Survivalist Right by James Coates (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1987; revised edition 1995). Mr. Coates was gracious enough to consent to a telephone interview and answered a lot of really stupid questions. Margaret Maron generously shared her impressive array of research material. Other information was unwittingly provided by pawnshop owners, dealers at my one and only gun show, and such publications as the Paladin Press catalog and books written (I use the term loosely) by devotees to the cause.

From The Starley City Star Shopper, November 1:


What’s Cooking in Maggody?

by Rubella Belinda Hanks


I’d like to thank the wonderful folks at the Star Shopper for asking me to write a weekly column about happenings here in Maggody. It’d be nice if they were paying me more than $15.50, but I reckon it’s better than a kick in the backside, as my great-aunt used to say before she had that stroke that froze up her face like a dried apricot.

For starters, the Four-H Club at the high school took second prize at the county fair for their display on kitchen appliance safety. Lottie Estes asked me to remind you all of the bake sale next Saturday in the home ec room right across from the welding shop.

Last Sunday afternoon Eileen Buchanon hosted a baby shower for her daughter-in-law, Dahlia, who’s expecting toward the end of the month (although it’s hard to tell on account of her being on the large side to begin with). At the shower were myself, Estelle Oppers, Elsie McMay, Millicent McIlhaney, Joyce Lambertino, Mrs. Jim Bob Buchanon, and Edwina Spitz and her sister Teddi Witbreed, who’s from Hagerstown, Maryland. Eileen served spicy cider and sponge cake, and a good time was had by all.

A warm Maggody welcome to our newest addition to the community. I suppose someone ought to go out to the edge of town and change the sign to “Population: 756” one of these days, but then when Dahlia and Kevin’s baby comes, it’d have to be done all over again. Anyway, for those of you who’ve been off visiting kin, Kayleen Smeltner will be opening a pawnshop in the old hardware store. She bought the Wockermann property out on County 102 and is staying at the Flamingo Motel while she’s having the house remodeled. Kayleen tells me she’s originally from Dallas, Texas, and was living over near Malthus when her husband was killed by burglars that broke into the house. Kayleen’s hobbies include needlework, fishing, and gardening. She hasn’t decided which church she’ll attend. Everybody’s invited to drop by and get acquainted. I don’t want to name names, but I’ve been told one local resident has been spotted at the doorstep with flowers and a box of candy.

Edwina Spitz had herself a real nice trip to Branson, where she attended three shows and ate lunch at the Country Catfish Café.

Leslie and Fergie Bidens will attend Fergie’s sister’s wedding in Kansas City the day after Thanksgiving. Leslie will preside over the guest book at the reception.

Elsie McMay is visiting her niece in Blytheville for ten days. Lottie Estes is dropping by Elsie’s house every day after school to feed Stan, Elsie’s cat.

Estelle asked me to announce that she’ll be running specials all this month, including a ten-percent discount on perms and festive holiday tints. Give her a call at Estelle’s Hair Fantasies.

The Voice of the Almighty Lord Assembly Hall will be the site of a Thanksgiving pageant presented by the Sunday school. Brother Verber’s not real sure of the time and date yet but is leaning toward the Wednesday prayer service the week before Thanksgiving.

Bismal Buchanon is home from the hospital after having surgery of a personal nature. His wife wants to thank everyone for the cards, casseroles, and prayers. Bismal expects to be back at work by the end of next week, as long as his hemorrhoids don’t flare up.

Until next time, God bless.


Eileen’s Spicy Cider


1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon whole cloves

2 cups water

11/2 quarts apple cider

1/3 cup lemon juice

4 cups orange juice

1 lemon, sliced

1 orange, sliced


Put your sugar, spices, and water in a saucepan and heat to boiling, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for about ten minutes, then strain the syrup and throw away the spices. Add cider, lemon juice, and orange juice, and when it’s back to simmering, garnish with the fruit slices.


“You didn’t say anything about the sale on beauty accessories,” Estelle said as she tucked the Star Shopper into her purse. “I just got in three dozen bottles of fingernail polish in an exciting variety of colors.” She held out her fingers. “This is Pumpkin Patch Pizazz. I think it’ll be my best seller.”

Ruby Bee finished wiping the bar and dropped the dishrag into the sink, where the water was as dingy as the sky outside. Her face, normally pink and plump as a baby’s bottom, was puckered with some unexpressed worry. “I’m not supposed to be giving folks free advertising,” she said with a shrug. “I’d end up with a whole column of nothing but used pickup trucks for sale. Raz would expect me to announce his moonshine prices, and Jim Bob’d start telling me about his two-for-one specials on paper towels.”

“Well, excuse me, Miss Lois Lane.” Estelle finished her sherry and picked up her purse, but put it back down. It didn’t seem neighborly to leave Ruby Bee all by herself in the gloomy barroom, especially when anyone with eyeballs in the front of their head could see how blue she was. “Maybe I’ll have another piece of apple pie,” she said, just so Ruby Bee would have something to do.

Ruby Bee gave her a sharp look, but obliged without commenting commenting on certain people’s gluttony. After all, Estelle was as skinny as a fence post, although darn few fence posts had bright red hair in a beehive teased a good eight inches high. You didn’t see many with violet eyeshadow and cherry-colored lipstick, for that matter. Imagining Estelle out at the edge of a field, holding a strand of barbed wire, brought a flicker of a smile to Ruby Bee’s face.

Estelle mentally congratulated herself on the success of her ploy. “So who’s this mysterious suitor sniffing around Kayleen?” she asked. “I’d have thought you might have told me right away instead of leaving me to read it in the newspaper. Didn’t I tell you when Millicent McIlhaney let it slip that Darla Jean came home drunk and threw up in her pa’s boot?”

“I don’t want to be accused of spreading gossip. The woman’s only been in town for a week, and she might get her feelings hurt if she finds out everybody’s talking about her behind her back.”

“So who is it?”

Ruby Bee leaned forward like she thought a tabloid reporter was hunkered down in the booth in the corner, taking notes. “I just happened to be setting out the garbage when I saw Brother Verber come sneaking around the corner like a schoolboy with a toad in his pocket. He liked to drop the box of candy when he saw me standing there. He stammered out some foolishness about how he was calling on Kayleen to invite her to go to the Assembly Hall this Sunday. Maybe he thinks I’m as near-sighted as Lottie Estes.”

“Brother Verber?” said Estelle, stunned.

“I was a little surprised,” admitted Ruby Bee, “but if you think about it, why shouldn’t he come courting? He’s a bachelor, after all, and it could get a mite lonely over there in the rectory. Kayleen’s been widowed for more than a year now. There’s nothing unseemly about her entertaining callers.”

“But he’s so …”

“I’ll be the first to say nobody’s gonna confuse him with Rudolph Valentino, not with his red nose and squinty eyes and flabby lips. It’s not hard to guess who’s first in line for dessert at the Wednesday night potlucks, either.”

Estelle took a sip of sherry while she considered all this. “I suppose there could be another side to him, although he sure keeps it hidden behind his blustery, self-righteous sermons and unhealthy interest in exposing depravity. What’s Mrs. Jim Bob got to say?”

“Nothing as of yet, but you can bet the farm we’ll hear something before too long.”

“Amen,” said Estelle with a snort.


“The woman is nothing but a common tramp,” Mrs. Jim Bob (aka Barbara Ann Buchanon Buchanon) told her husband as he came through the back door. “Did you wipe your feet? The last thing I need right now is mud tracked all over the house. Edwina and Millicent are coming over in the morning for coffee, and Perkins’s eldest hasn’t been here to clean in a week. She says she hurt her back, but it’s more likely she’s pretending to be poorly so she can collect welfare checks and sit around all day in her bathrobe.”

Jim Bob froze in the full wattage of her glare, even though he was carrying two hefty bags of groceries. “Is that why she’s a common tramp?”

“I was not referring to Perkins’s eldest.” Mrs. Jim Bob opened the oven door to check on the pork chops, then slammed it closed and resumed glaring. “It’s that woman staying in the motel out behind Ruby Bee’s Bar and Grill. A good Christian would never open a pawnshop.”

“Why not?” he asked curiously.

“Because it is not the Christian thing to do.” She shifted her attention to a saucepan on the stove while she searched her mind for a more insightful explanation. She knew perfectly well that there was something sinful about pawnshops. She finally thought of an old movie she’d watched a few weeks ago when Jim Bob had claimed he was working late at the supermarket. “Pawnshops lure in criminals who want to get rid of stolen property. We’ve had more than our share of wickedness here in Maggody since Arly Hanks took over as chief of police. I told you when you hired her that it was not a suitable job for a woman, especially one that struts around in pants and has a smart mouth.”

Jim Bob set down the bags on the dinette and ran a hand through his stubbly gray hair. As far as Buchanons went, he was on the more perceptive end of the continuum. “Did you and Arly have another run-in today

“No, and I don’t have any more time to waste trying to help her get back on the right path. I can’t count the number of times I’ve prayed for her, tried to counsel her, and invited her to attend church and join the Missionary Society. Living in New York City swelled her head and corrupted her soul. If she doesn’t mend her ways, she and that Smeltner woman will be on the same express train to eternal damnation.”

“If you say so,” he murmured, wondering if there was any way he could slip back out to his truck and sneak a swallow of bourbon from the pint bottle in the glove compartment. Probably not, he concluded. Mrs. Jim Bob’s piety had given her a keener sense of smell than a bloodhound’s. He didn’t have any idea why she was so fired up, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to give her another reason to lecture him. Not when he and the other boys on the town council were planning to play poker Saturday night.

“I may have to work late this weekend,” he said as he started for the living room. “I was gonna have Kevin do it, but the boy’s just too stupid to trust with the receipts. I caught him this morning on the loading dock, staring into space like one of those department store dummies. I had to whack him upside the head with a broomstick to get his attention. You’d think he was pregnant instead of that cow he’s married to.”

“I will not have that kind of language in this house, Jim Bob. What would someone walking by think if he heard that coming from the mayor’s house? We have an obligation to the community to maintain the highest standards.” She came to the doorway, her beady eyes narrowed and her mouth pursed. After a moment, she said, “I assume you’ll be working late this weekend in Jim Bob’s SuperSaver Buy 4 Less instead of in the backroom of Roy Stiver’s antiques store.”

He snatched up the remote control and aimed it at the TV set. “You get the craziest ideas of any woman I’ve ever met. What would I be doing at Roy’s on a Saturday night?”


Kevin was no longer on the loading dock, but he was far from being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He’d been mopping the same square yard of linoleum for the best part of ten minutes while he dreamed about fatherhood. Back when Dahlia had first told him she was in the family way, it had seemed so far-fetched that it hadn’t sunk in. Now, with less than a month to go, with the crib in the room next to theirs, with the stacks of nighties and diapers and cotton blankets on the dresser, with the smell of baby powder in the air, he was beginning to realize that he, Kevin Fitzgerald Buchanon, was gonna be a father. He was gonna be presented with a warm little bundle to love and protect.

Without thinking (which he rarely did, being on the opposite end of the aforementioned continuum), Kevin dropped the mop and cradled a four-pack of toilet paper in his arms. Babies were soft and squeezable. They arrived all pink so you’d want to kiss their tiny toes and tickle their little noses.

BOOK: Joan Hess - Arly Hanks 10
4.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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