Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Deer John Joe - Serial Cozy - Chapter 5

Hey everybody! Welcome to the fifth installment of my serial cozy, Deer John Doe. Enjoy!


Mike Cleary opened his back door and scowled at Missy Luther. She was standing on his back step, pretty as you please, in nothing but black leather panties, bra, and tall boots, and she was carrying a long, black, evil looking whip coiled in one black gloved hand. “Hi Mikey.” She panted in her deep, unnaturally husky voice.

“What the hell. Are you crazy?” He reached to pull her in before his neighbors could see her standing there practically naked on his doorstep. Missy giggled and launched her leather-clad body into him, peering happily up into his storm cloud face with sparkling, blue eyes. “You are one crazy bitch, Missy Luther.”
“Ain’t I just, Mikey. You wanna do the dirty with me, handsome?” She wiggled her hips into his groin and his scowl faded away as he groaned and pulled her toward him. “Crazy bitch.” He murmured into her soft, sucking mouth.

* * * * *
An hour later, they surfaced and Mike left his tangled bed to get them both a soda from the kitchen. When he returned, he found her looking through his underwear drawer, giggling. “Get the hell out of my stuff, Missy. Didn’t your ma teach you any manners at all?”

Missy pushed her puffy lips into a pout as he jerked a pair of cotton boxer shorts covered with tattooed lizards out of her hands. “Awww, Mikey, don’t be such a frump. I’d let you look at my undies.” She cocked her chemical blond head at him and ran her tongue over her lipstick-smudged lips.

He frowned as he stuffed the evidence back into the breached drawer. “What was it you wanted anyway, Missy? Is this about your aunt Lena?”

Missy’s playful attitude suddenly dimmed and she turned away from him and sat down on the edge of the bed. She reached for the leather panties and started pulling them on before she answered him. “That old woman promised me she wouldn’t go poachin’ over to Mary Agnes’ place no more. I know she wouldn’t have lied to me, Mikey.”

Mike answered her with a derisive snort and grabbed his pack of cigarettes off the dresser.

“It’s true! Me and aunt Lena was like soul mates. She wouldna gone against what she promised me. I just know it.”

He lit the cigarette and pulled a mouthful of fragrant smoke into his lungs. He sat down on the bed next to Missy and watched her finish dressing with a thoughtful frown on his face. “People sometimes do what they don’t plan to do, Missy. Maybe your aunt had a sudden urge and couldn’t beat it down.” He didn’t really believe Lena Luther ever intended to quit shooting deer on the old woman’s property. She’d been a hunter since she was strong enough to hold the rifle up to sight, and it was in her blood. But despite the impression he gave everybody else, Mike Cleary wasn’t mean natured, and he didn’t want to ruin Missy’s memories of her aunt. None-the-less, he did file the information away in his brain, just in case he needed it.

* * * * *
Harry Vanderlinde saw Duff Potter throwing canned soup into his cart at Happy Don’s and steered his grocery cart toward the fire investigator with an insincere smile on his sleuthing face. Duff didn’t look so happy to see him.

“Harry. How’s things?”

“My things is fine, Duff. Other people’s things is quite a fine mess though. How’s your work on the John Doe body comin’?”

Duff turned away and started pushing his cart down the aisle. Harry followed closely. “I’m not investigatin’ the John Doe, Harry. I’m investigatin’ the fire.”

Harry said, “Ahhh, yes.” And nodded his head thoughtfully, pulling on his long chin and eyeing the younger man carefully. “Did Cleary identify the man yet?”

“Not far as I know.”

“So it was a man, not a woman?” Harry’s thick, black eyebrows lurched toward his receding hairline as he contemplated his genius in pulling a pertinent fact from the reluctant Duff.

“Not far as I know.” Duff repeated with a scowl.

Harry nodded again and resumed pulling on his chin thoughtfully until Duff pulled away with his cart and Harry was forced to stop considering and commence to following. “So how do you identify a body that’s that burnt up anyway, Duff?”

Duff turned to the old man with an irritated look on his face. Harry, you know I can’t give you any details about the case.”

“Why not?”

Duff looked both ways down the grocery aisle and leaned in close to Harry, “Because it’s a murder investigation. You know that as well as I do. The best thing you can do to help is to stay out of Mike’s way.”

“I would do that, Duff, but that young man wouldn’t know a clue if it climbed up his ass and poked out his left nostril.”

Duff grimaced at the picture this conjured up and shook his head. “I gotta go, Harry.”

Harry hurried to catch up and grabbed Duff’s reluctant arm. “Come on, Duff, you gotta have some idea who the dead guy was.”

Duff released his breath in a heartfelt sigh, “You’re just as bad as George Hawthorne, Harry. He just pestered the hell out of me about this too.”

Harry’s ancient head tilted in surprise, “Is that so?’

Duff shook his head and turned away again. “I really gotta go, Harry.”

“When did you talk to young George about this?”

Duff stepped up his pace, heading for the front of the store and the registers. He turned his head just enough to respond as he hurried away. “The day of the fire. When I found him poking’ around in the ashes next to where we found the body.”

* * * * *
Harry dropped his groceries at home and headed toward Mary Agnes’ place. He knocked on her door and heard her calling out for him to keep his knickers on. A few minutes later, the door creaked open and he lowered his gaze to Mary Agnes’ level. She gave him a coy little smile that looked gruesome in her puckered face and pulled the door open a little wider. “Harry Vanderlinde, just the man I wanted to see. Come on in.”

Harry’s bushy white eyebrows lifted in surprise at the congenial welcome, but he pulled his old guy hat off his head and entered the darkened house. Harry handed the old woman the mail he’d picked up on his way in, mostly junk coupons and a thick, elegant looking magazine called Wine’scapades. Mary Agnes took the mail without thanking him and pushed the door closed behind him, twisting the dead bolt. Then she scurried to the nearest window and pulled the ruffled cotton curtain open just enough to peer outside. She nodded once and carefully tucked the homemade curtain closed so that only the merest sliver of light could slither through.

“What’s going on, Mary Agnes? Why all the peering and tucking?”

She turned and scurried toward him, one gnarled paw held out in front of her to snag him with on her way by. “I just brought my best bottle of wine up from the cellar and I need you to unscrew the lid for me.”

“Ahhh.” Harry’s eyes sparkled as he followed her into the kitchen at the back of the house.

Mary Agnes was famous in Cetum County for her homemade wine, but she was also famous for not being overly generous with it. As she reached for the bottle, he licked his lips in anticipation. He unscrewed the bottle with a grunt and handed it back to her reluctantly.

She snatched the bottle out of his hand and gave him a shot glass that she filled only halfway. Harry cocked an eyebrow at the meager portion, and watched her fill a large tumbler for herself. “You know that’s a water glass don’t you, Mary Agnes?”

She nodded and winked a narrow, watery eye at him. My big glasses are all dirty, I’ll just have to make do.” She tossed her head back and gulped about a quarter of the wine down in one swig.

Harry, out of good manners and necessity, took a delicate sip of his wine and puckered his lips at the sugary flavor. He glanced at Mary Agnes as he set the tiny glass back down on the table. “So, how you holdin’ up with all the going’s on around here, young lady?”

She drained the last of her wine and slammed the glass on the table, turning to him with a devilish grin and reaching for the bottle to refill her glass. “It’s brought me to drink, Harry. I just can’t help it, I’m a victim of circum”….hiccup…. “stances.”

Harry chuckled and shook his long, narrow head. “I’m havin’ trouble seein’ you as a victim of anything, Mary Agnes.”

Her response to this was a throaty giggle.

They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes. Harry took the smallest sips he could manage but his wine was still gone after two or three of them. He observed the way Mary Agnes was gripping the wine bottle and decided he wouldn’t be getting any more of it, so he stood up and walked over to fill the tiny glass with tap water. He threw a look over his shoulder at her and tried to sound as casual as he could. “You had any more poachers since Lena was found?”

The old woman’s face took a downward drift and she shook her head slightly. “Why can’t people just leave my deer alone, Harry. Those beautiful animals ain’t hurtin’ nobody.”

Harry sat back down at the table and gave her a sigh. “I don’t know, Mary Agnes. Many’s the time I wondered the same thing. Some people is just driven to kill stuff.”

Mary Agnes pushed the bottle away with a grimace. “Assholes.”

Harry nodded and patted her bony hand. “You have any idea who that body coulda been in your barn?”
She turned and focused her faded gray eyes on him. “You know, Harry,” she said with tears forming in her eyes, “I been tryin’ to notion that one out since the police told us about him. I just can’t figure who it was.”
Harry stood up and thanked her for the drink. He left and started the short walk home, pulling thoughtfully on his long chin and wondering if Mary Agnes knew more than she was letting on.

* * * * *
“Cleary here.”

“Hi, Mike. It’s Fred Castlehoff.”

“Freddy, my favorite forensic pathologist.”

“Your only forensic pathologist.”

“Yeah. And my favorite. You got something helpful to tell me?”

“I hope so. For starters, I got the dentals on that John Doe and I’ll send ‘em over to you sometime today.”
“Great. I think I might have a candidate for a match already.”

Mike could almost hear Fred’s eyebrows arching over the phone. “Really? That was fast, who is it?”

“A guy by the name of Mark Dickson. His wife reported him missing a couple of days before the fire at the Hawthorne farm. Seems he’d gone out huntin’ and never came back. Or so she says. There’s a good chance he took off with some woman. He’s been known to disappear from time to time, but he always comes back.”

“Well, it shouldn’t be too hard to match these up anyway, they’re pretty distinctive. The other thing I had was on the Luther woman. She had an unusually high blood sugar level. From the amount of sugar in her blood, I’d say she must have eaten a whole cake before she died, except that there weren’t any solid food remains in her stomach, just liquids. Some of which was alcohol, I might add.”

Mike frowned. That didn’t fit. From what Missy had told him about her aunt, she never ate sweets. She lived in a cabin in the middle of ten acres on the North end of town and ate only what she grew or killed herself. Course it was possible she’d been lying to her niece about that too. Lena Luther had been pretty proud of herself for living off the land, maybe it was more fiction than fact, but it was a fiction she enjoyed spreading around. “That’s real interestin’ news, Fred. I don’t think it means anything, but I’ll see what I can find out about it. Thanks.”


See ya next week!

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