Authors: Midge Bubany
North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.
St. Cloud, Minnesota
Copyright © 2014 Midge Bubany
First Edition: June 2014
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Printed in the United States of America
North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc
PO Box 451
St. Cloud, MN 56302
For Tim, Stacy, and Shawn.
My loves, my life.
Be not afraid of any man,
No matter what his size;
When danger threatens, call on me
And I will equalize.
~Inscription of the nineteenth-century Winchester Rifle
Friday, October 7th
body had been discovered in
Emmaline Ronson County Park and because this was my first major case as an investigator, I was anxious to get to the scene. As I was approaching the red light on Ash and First Avenue, I noticed a black Toyota coming up from behind way too fast.
“Oh, no! No! No!” I hollered laying on my horn.
WHAM! I was pushed into the intersection—and at that exact moment a vintage Grand Marquis crashed into my driver’s side front fender. All three cars moved like a single mass back toward the stoplight. The sound of metal and plastic slamming, buckling, and crunching was unbelievably loud, and then came—the quiet.
“Of all fricking mornings for this to happen. Thank you,” I said looking into rear view mirror at the driver of the Toyota. Wait—do I see her
My concern turned to the driver of the Grand Marquis, a woman who looked to be about a hundred years old—and frankly if the crash didn’t kill her—time was not on her side. Her front end blocked my driver’s side door, so I dragged my six-foot-three frame across the seats and out the passenger side. Lucky I could even get out, as the back door was jammed up against the stoplight. I walked around to check on the woman. She rolled down the window, and I got a whiff of her perfume. She must have used half the bottle and whew . . . I wouldn’t put that shit on a dog.
When I noticed tears rolling down her face, I showed her my badge and said, “Deputy Cal Sheehan. Are you injured, ma’am?”
“I’m okay,” she said, as she bobbed her head and dabbed her eyes with a thin embroidered handkerchief. She said her name was Agnes Salmi and was on her way to help with the Finnish Lutheran Church rummage sale when my car suddenly appeared in front of her. “I had the green light,” she said.
“Yes, ma’am, you did,” I said. “The Toyota driver rammed me into the intersection and your beautiful car. What year is this beauty?”
“It’s a 1978 Mercury Grand Marquis,” she said proudly. “Is it badly dented?”
The driver of the Toyota had exited her vehicle and joined us. She was a tall brunette and looked to be in her early twenties. I knew most all the women ages twenty to thirty-five in this town for one reason or another. So, she was either new in town or passing through.
“I’m so sorry!” she said. “I couldn’t stop.”
“Why?” I asked. Hmm, she was definitely a looker, long legs, cute little behind.
“My brakes didn’t work,” she said.
“Like I haven’t heard that a thousand times.”
She ignored my comment and leaned into Mrs. Salmi’s window. I could hear her speaking sweetly—trying to fend off a lawsuit with a load of fake concern. Trouble is, I think it was working. Mrs. Salmi was smiling adoringly up at the young woman who towered over her. We all were suckers for a pretty face and a little attention . . . or was that just me?
First, I called dispatch then my sergeant, Ralph Martinson, to let him know I’d be delayed. By the time I hung up, I already heard a siren. My attention then turned to Old Red. I took a cruise around her to assess the damages. Not good—not good at all. The driver’s side wheel had collapsed and was now underneath the car. I’ll admit rust may have been a contributing factor.
“What happened? You didn’t see me or the red light?” I asked the driver.
“I told you, my gas pedal stuck,” she said.
I eyed her suspiciously. “You sure you weren’t texting?”
She shot me a look of indignation. “No, of course not.”
. . . but I couldn’t testify to that fact. I looked inside her vehicle spotting a brief case lying open, no mobile phone visible.
Within a few minutes, the department’s only African American officer and a friend, Tamika Frank, rolled up. She was large in stature: solid muscle, six foot even, quick and strong. She’d played college basketball, and I’d seen her throw guys down to the ground like a professional wrestler. After asking the gathering crowd to back up on the sidewalk, Tamika approached me.
“Well, well, well, I thought you had something better to do this fine morning?” she said, chuckling.
Through clenched teeth I said, “I’m supposed to be at a scene.”
“Heard about that. We’ll get you going as fast as we can, but to expedite matters, you’d better call for a tow truck because you won’t be driving this piece of shit anywhere.”
I gave her the eye. “Tamika, a little respect, please.”
She tried to suppress another chuckle, but was unsuccessful. “So what happened?”
“Toyota driver rammed me into the intersection just as Mrs. Salmi’s boat of a Grand Marquis entered! I believe the Toyota driver didn’t have her full attention on the road, probably texting.”
“Uh huh,” Tamika said. “You okay?”
“Yeah, but I gotta get moving.”
“I understand.” Tamika cocked her head. “Toyota driver’s a pretty thing.”
“Didn’t notice,” I said.
“Right. Shall we find out what the stories are?” she said as she walked over to the other two drivers.
“Deputy Frank. Anyone injured?” she said.
Both drivers shook their heads.
I used my personal iPhone to call for a tow and then joined Tamika and the two women who were arm in arm. Cozy.
Siren blaring, lights flashing, the ambulance entered the intersection. More locals were joining the spectator event. After the EMTs briefly questioned all of us, I encouraged them to check out Mrs. Salmi. Tamika asked the drivers for their licenses and registration then after checking both on the computer, she came back and approached the young female. “Victoria Kay Lewis, what happened here this morning?”
Ms. Lewis’s behavior seemed off to me. She didn’t seem upset or nervous, like most people when involved in a crash. As she spoke to Tamika about her accelerator pedal, she had kept glancing back at me, smiling. But I was not in a smiling mood. She said she’d just moved and was planning to put in a change of address on her license. Tamika busily wrote in her notebook, examined the Toyota’s interior, taking more notes.
When she moved on to question Mrs. Salmi, I was too angry with Ms. Lewis to make small talk. She pulled a mobile phone out of her pocket, made a call telling someone she was going to be late.
Well, you’re not the only one, lady.
My insides churned. I wanted—
—to get the hell out of there ASAP. While Tamika seemed to take her merry old time snapping photos, I tried to expedite matters by suggesting we three drivers exchange insurance information. With gnarled fingers, Mrs. Salmi wrote hers on tiny notebook pages—the writing nearly illegible from her shaky hand. Victoria Lewis wrote her information including her cell phone number and email address on Post-it notes, and handed one to both of us. When I handed her my card, she looked at it and laughed. “Wow, it’s not everyone who rear-ends a deputy sheriff.”
You didn’t get a clue from my brown jacket with the big yellow SHERIFF written across it?
The tow truck arrived with a flat bed and began loading my car.
Tamika printed police reports for our insurance companies and both of the other drivers were able to drive off in their vehicles. After the tow truck left, Tamika gave me a ride to the Birch County Sheriff Department complex in the center of town on First Street.
“Looks like those two women got the best of your Civic. Grand Marquis got a tiny scratch, and the Toyota a minor dent.”
“I think Snow White has a crush on you,” she said with a mischievous grin.
“Uh huh—doesn’t she look like Snow White with her
white skin and dark
“Should Anton be worried about you talking about women resembling princesses?”
She snickered. “We’ve just been through a fairy tale movie marathon at my house,” she said. “It’s making me crazy. But you gotta admit, the girl is Snow White.”
“I wouldn’t know. She’s not my type.”
Tamika’s eyes were on me, not the road. “Seriously Sheehan? She’s
I pointed at the car braking in front of us. “Brakes!”
She did quick stop.
“Oh, so you think you know my
She looked at me and said, “Tall, skinny brunettes—no use denying it.”
“That’s crazy,” I said, as I wracked my brain, trying to remember a woman I’d dated who
brunette. “Suzy Williams—my freshman year in college—she had red hair and . . . and . . . Becca, my high school girlfriend, was short with light brown hair. So there.”
“With Adriana out of the picture, I don’t get why you and Shannon haven’t hooked up. Or maybe you have and just aren’t telling anyone.”
Shannon Benson was a deputy who joined the department just before I did. Five years ago a drunk driver killed her husband, Evan, while he was jogging. She said Evan was the love of her life and no man measured up—so I never pushed a relationship beyond friendship. I avoid rejection whenever possible.
“Hardly. We both agree it would ruin our friendship,” I said. And to get her off the subject I asked, “By the way, do you believe Ms. Lewis’s sticky accelerator story?”
“Well, maybe she used that as an excuse so I’m requiring her car to be examined by a mechanic.”
“Good. Did she have anything on her record?”
“A speeding ticket a couple years ago.”
Tamika pulled up in front of the department to let me out.
“Well, thanks for the lift, Tamika. Tell your lucky husband hello from me.”
“Oh, if I say that, he’ll misinterpret thinking he’s gonna
lucky. My man has a one track mind . . . over production of testosterone or something.”
“Nah, we’re all like that,” I said.
Her husband, Anton Frank, owned the twenty-four hour gas station in town and had the city and county fuel contracts. Most patrol officers took breaks at his place because Anton gave law enforcement free drinks—that’s how Tamika and Anton met. Anyway, it was a win-win—we got freebees and our presence helped deter robberies. Took a while for the white bread town folks to get used to the biracial couple—besides, she’s ten years younger, four inches taller and has a good thirty pounds on him.
Immediately after signing in at the department, I grabbed my gear, picked up my assigned department Explorer and called Ralph to notify him I was finally on my way.
“You okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine, just frustrated not to be on the scene.”
“You haven’t missed much. These things are never quick.”
“See you soon.”
But I wasn’t fine. My stomach ached and I was hoping it was just the jimjams and not the suspect cream cheese I’d smeared on my stale bagel this morning. Now that I was on the road again, I realized I hadn’t even asked who the victim was.