Yeah, I know I said I had an epiphany regarding this novel - that I’d finally figured out how it was all going to go down. Well, apparently that hasn’t made it any easier to write. I’ve had some time issues the last couple of months, and as I’ve said before, this novel - though important to me - isn’t THE priority. Still, here’s yet another installment for your enjoyment.
On another note, I’ve noticed that the sound quality using my laptop isn’t as good as when I use my desktop. So I think I’m gonna switch back to be less mobile. That may inconvenience me, but it’ll be worth it to eliminate that background buzz. You? You ignore the background buzz, okay?
A War Between States Part 34:
Chapter 18: Campaign: Tamara, Part One
One day a week or so before, while her contract workers did the actual framing of her half-completed building, Tamara had borrowed a hammer, borrowed a box of six penny nails, and searched for some 2×4 castoffs in the wood scrap pile which had formed in one corner of her lot. She’d used them to build a makeshift ladder that she could climb to get to the lowest branches of The King. She’d built the ladder, climbed it once, then come back down and forgotten about it.
Until today. Now, just a few minutes after Sheriff Boyd had left, his idle yet powerful threat still hanging in the warm, humid early September air of Marionville, Tamara had walked dazedly over to the tree and climbed up into it. For a while, she contented herself with simply leaning back into the crook of the tree, her back against its massive trunk and her feet stretched leisurely out onto a thick lower branch. She closed her eyes. She was amazingly comfortable, and if her mind hadn’t been in such turmoil, she might have been able to doze off. Dangerous at such a height, but she could have.
Had her mind not been in such turmoil.
The sun beamed down on her and warmed her - she found she was enormously happy that the brutal Marionville summer had passed, making way for fall weather, weather which felt like a sweet, fresh blanket of the softest fabric, something you could wrap yourself in and sleep in. If your mind was at ease. Which… well….
“Oh, fuck you, Sheriff Boyd, for stealing this moment of bliss from me,” she said. Then she paused to listen to the tak-tak-tak of hammers, the murmur of Mexican voices, the buzz of a skill saw below her.
A slight breeze ruffled through The King’s remaining leaves, drowning out the chorus of sounds. Tamara opened her eyes.
She noticed with some interest that with so many of The King’s leaves gone, a clear path of branches would take her higher into the tree. She smiled. How long had it been since she’d climbed a tree? Had Phil Dobson been there? It seemed like he had.
She closed her eyes again, trying to settle into the calm she thought she might be able to find here, cradled in the arms of The King, suspended several feet above the ground. Behind her eyelids, though, all she could see was the top of the tree. It called to her.
She opened her eyes again and smiled again. She’d have to climb up a few branches higher, wouldn’t she? Then, sighing with a sort of delighted resignation, she clambered into a crouch and searched for the most readily available higher branch.
And she climbed.
She went slowly at first, fully aware of the fact that she probably weighed twice as much as she did when she last did this, fully aware of her mortality - after all, hadn’t she almost died once by being so reckless? And hadn’t she killed somebody else in a roundabout sort of way? No sense in getting over all that - almost - then coming this far and screwing it up by falling out of an oak tree she probably should have cut down and that she definitely shouldn’t be climbing.
Still, she climbed. But carefully.
When she was little, she would have climbed up to the top, to where the thin branches bent under her tiny, sneakered feet, to where the wind pushed everything back and forth so that she felt like she was truly part of some enormous cosmic machine, powerless to stop the inexorable motion, but powerful enough to keep going up, up, and up.
Now she stopped after a few feet.
She felt out of breath, although the climbing really hadn’t tired her. She could feel her heart beating, thought she could feel the eyes of her workers below, turning up to look at her as she clung to The King’s limbs and steadied herself. The tak-tak of hammers had stopped.
From this height she could see a long way. She scanned the woods and fields around her, looked up and down Cauley Highway, looked down at the top of her little trailer and the rough form of her future brewpub.
She gazed for a moment at the first row of shingles that Danny Jenkins had been tacking onto her roof before he’d turned to look at her with a wary smile, then she looked back at the highway. What she saw there now startled her - she almost lost her footing and her grip. She gave a little cry.
A man in a police uniform was stumbling down the middle of the road, clutching at his neck.
- Tamara Granger - Stephe Thornton
- Narrator - Will Kenyon
You may recall last time I posted a novel podcast that I said I’d figured a few things out about where this story was going to go. Well, as of now I have an outline for 14 more chapters, which ought to bring the whole thing to a conclusion. If you’ve been following this story, that’s good news. You’ll still have to be patient, because I have to actually WRITE the chapters. Then I have to edit them (although this story’s probably one of the roughest ones I’ve let see the public eye, I do still edit it a little). Then I have to prepare and post each podcast.
Hopefully, the whole thing will get finished, for good or for ill, by late next summer. At the latest.
In the meantime, here’s some more. And yeah, there’s a big car crash.
A War Between States Part 32:
Chapter 17: Skirmish: Tommy, Part Two
“Make a call,” Fran said, her eyes on the road, her knuckles whitening as she gripped the steering wheel, her hands at ten and two. “Anybody. Get a local officer on the scene of that accident back there, and get somebody to come at the Mustang from the other side.”
“You think the cops in the next county?” Tommy asked. “The county line’s only a few miles away. Hell, Alabama’s right over there.” He waved off to the right.
“Call whoever’s left in this county first,” Fran said. “Even if it’s Boyd. They all gotta know this is happening - they just need someone to tell them where it is exactly.”
The chase had started northeast of town, and now they were headed due south on a smooth but twisting two-lane that ran roughly parallel to the Alabama state line. Tommy was calling in when the Mustang ran up on a slower southbound vehicle - a metallic blue Toyota Sienna going about sixty-five. The Mustang swerved around it despite a blind hill, and shot off ahead. The county police car had to hesitate to let a northbound pick-up truck pass by. Fran and Tommy had to wait as well, and Fran let Tommy know how she felt about the Sienna and the truck with a stream of profanity.
Once the truck passed, all the police cars blasted past the Sienna, including Stan and John in the vehicle behind Fran and Tommy. They began to close the distance on the the Mustang. Tommy tried to radio the county dispatch, to find out who was in the county sedan. After a series of connects and disconnects, he was talking to Deputy Barry Soames.
“What happened at that mobile home, Deputy Soames?” Tommy asked after they all verified who was who.
“There was an exchange of gunfire. One of those guys in the Mustang shot Sheriff Boyd.”
“Holy fuck,” Fran said when she heard that. Tommy himself was speechless.
“I called in an ambulance when I was there,” Soames said. “They just radioed back.”
“Is Boyd all right?” Fran asked.
The Mustang caught up with another slow-moving car, this one a Kia Rio, and its driver once again passed it. Soames pulled his car into the oncoming lane to follow.
“I dunno,” he said over the radio, “They said they couldn’t find him. They said he was gone.”
Tommy heard what Soames said, but never got time to process it, because in that instant a northbound log truck crested the rise that Soames was on.
“Shitfuckcock,” they heard him say. Then they watched as Soames tried to turn away from the log truck to avoid a head-on collision. He couldn’t veer back into the proper lane, because the Kia was still there, still in his way. Instead, he pointed the nose of his cruiser toward the tree-lined side of the road, trying to go around the truck on the shoulder. Unfortunately, the log truck driver had a similar idea, and he shifted onto the shoulder as well. Soames turned his car sideways, and the log truck jackknifed, and both them skidded toward each other at a terrible, dangerous speed.
Fran braked hard to avoid joining the collision, turning their car into a tailspin. She screamed something that sounded to Tommy like a battle cry as she threw her whole body into the steering wheel, holding onto it desperately, trying to maintain control of the car. Tommy tasted vomit swelling in the back of his throat.
The restraints on the jackknifed log truck snapped, and now a pile of heavy pine logs tumbled off of it, scattering with a thunderous crash onto the dusty shoulder of the road. A couple of logs hit the road itself. Both of them bounced - one flipping end over end right into the rear of the Kia, the other careening toward Fran and Tommy. Just as Fran managed to get her car under control and bring them to a dead stop, the log smashed into the front, crushing it. The sound it made was the loudest thing Tommy had ever heard.
Then came another, smaller crash, and Tommy felt his passenger side car door cave in toward him, the blow knocking loose his grip on the door’s safety handle. It was like someone had shoved him from the side, really hard. He looked over, and there was John and Stan in the other GBI car, staring wide-eyed back at him. John had been driving, and he’d turned their car sideways, skidding to halt beside Tommy and Fran rather than hitting them headlong. At they speed they’d all been going, that probably would have killed Tommy, or at least sent him to the hospital.
Tommy swallowed his vomit, shook his head, and looked down at the huge dent poking at him through the car door. The plastic lining was cracked, and his door handle had popped free and was sitting in his lap.
Fran was scrambling out of the car. When she was on her feet, she turned back and checked on Tommy.
“You all right?” she asked, her voice shaking hard enough to register on the Richter scale.
Tommy closed his eyes and did a body check. He was okay, but he knew he couldn’t speak himself, not without whimpering. So he just nodded.
“Good. Get out.” And then Fran was gone, stomping unsteadily across the black top.
Tommy did as he was told, unfastening his seatbelt and clambering over the center console to exit out the driver’s side. He pulled himself out, made sure his legs would hold him, then took in the scene.
Fran was already beside the Kia Rio, which was pulled over on the opposite shoulder. John and the log trucker were standing, facing each other, John’s hand on the big, burly man’s shoulder, the man nodding in answer to John’s questions. Stan was coming around the two GBI cars toward Tommy.
“You okay?” he asked.
“As good as I can be. God, what a mess.”
Fran had left the Kia and was heading back toward them.
“Stan, you and John are in charge of this scene. Check on Soames, report in, call another goddamned ambulance. Do you think your car will move?”
“Yeah,” Stan said, already moving toward the deputy’s car. “The side’s dented is all. If you can get it pulled off of your car, you should be good to go.”
“Okay. Tommy, with me.”
Tommy bit his lip. “Really?” he said. “We’re gonna stay in pursuit?”
Fran sneered at him as she circled Stan and John’s car. “Yes, Krinshaw. I’m gonna get those little fuckwads and put an end to this.”
- Tommy Krinshaw - Bret Wood
- Fran - Aida Kenyon
- Stan - Chris Bulloch
- Narrator/Deputy Soames - Will Kenyon
I told you this would happen.
OK. I told some of you. Others of you might have guessed based on discussions you’ve had with me regarding how the sales on my original two stories were doing: they haven’t made me a millionaire (and indeed, that is not my goal), but they’ve been encouraging enough for me to do it again. That is, to have MORE stories published on eBook and eReader formats, so that I can share even more of my work with even more people.
To that end, consider this the first formal announcement regarding THREE MORE forthcoming stories.
Now, here’s a bit of irony: I don’t consider myself a genre writer. I don’t set out when I write to write a horror story or a science fiction story or a fantasy story. I don’t say to myself, “Will - you should right a story about a school of wizards or a story about sparkly vampires.” I usually set out with some point I want to make, some germ of an idea - a bit of morality, a bit of commentary about life, death, and the human condition. Sometimes, I find those ideas easier to express in a particular genre. More often, that’s actually not the case, and one day maybe you’ll see more of my non-genre work.
Still, as I look over my stories lately - the one’s I want to see published, to share with people right now, I’m drawn to the genre pieces. And so it is that, once again, I’ll be sharing genre pieces with you.
Last time, I gave you a fantasy piece and a science fiction piece. This time, I’ll be giving you three horror stories.
Now, although they’re all from one genre, these stories are all very different. One’s funny, one’s deeply literary, and one’s well… strange. As the publication date draws nearer, I’ll give you more details. For now, I’ll just tease you with the picture of Edgar Allan Poe up above, and let you know that he’s a main character in one of the stories. I wrote that story a couple of years ago to sort of celebrate Poe’s 200th birthday. It’s taken a couple of years to get it published.
I’m told by initial readers that the story is kick ass. Here’s hoping that you’ll like it, too.
It’s happened quite a few times, from all sorts of people.
I tell them in some capacity about the two short stories I’ve published, and how they’re ONLY available in an e-book version, and they say,”Well, I can’t get them, then - I don’t have a Nook or a Kindle or an iPad. Why can’t you publish them the old-fashioned way? I’d buy them then.”
Why they weren’t published “the old-fashioned way” is kinda complicated, but here it is in a nutshell:
1) By sticking to electronic only, we reduce costs - including mine to produce the material, the publisher’s (who in this case is me) cost to put it out there, and the purchasers’ cost to obtain the stories. This way, they’re only .99 cents.
2) Electronically, they’re easier to distribute. We don’t have to hassle with bookstores or the mail. They’re also faster to distribute. Technology has shortened a process which could take over a year to complete to only a couple of weeks.
3) This is all an experiment, to see if e-book only is a viable form of production and distribution. So far, it seems viable.
Thing is, and I tell my potential “customers” this every time they say what they say - you don’t NEED to BUY an electronic device to purchase and enjoy my short stories - or ANY electronically available book. If you have a computer or a smart phone, you can get the stories, and any e-book, with almost no hassle. All you have to do is download some free e-reader software and you’re in business.
Why do this? Well, you can resist the idea of this new media for only so long. Sales of Kindles, iPads, Nooks, and generic readers have skyrocketed in the past 3 years, and the publishing industry is responding in kind. I don’t think that books themselves will go away, at least not in my lifetime, but their sales as a percentage of the market will certainly diminish. I personally haven’t bought a “soft cover” book in over a year. If I wanted the book itself badly, I’d buy it in hardcover. If I just wanted to read it, I’d borrow it from a friend or buy it ELECTRONICALLY from Amazon. And I’m not alone in my new book-buying habit.
Also, writers are turning toward the new paradigm in droves. Terrible, terrible self-published writers are running rampant, but even wildly successful and decent writers like J.K. Rowling have expressed a desire to get in on the new market. Check out www.pottermore.com if you don’t believe me.
You may not think so, but I’d be willing to bet that you or your children will own an e-reader device at some point. If not more than one. They’re getting less expensive, better made, and easier to use with every model. Soon they’ll be ubiquitous, and if you DON’T have one, you’ll be the anachronism, the anomaly.
Another great reason to get yourself an e-reader device? Why, you can then purchase and download my stories, and enjoy them anywhere!
But let’s say you don’t have one now. Well, like I said, if you have a computer or smart phone, you can quickly and easily download free e-reader software to it. There’s TONS of readers available, including Kindle for PC and Mac, Adobe Digital Editions, a free Nook app, and more. Just do a Google search for “free e-reader software” and see what turns up. There’s bound to be something that will work for you.
I prefer, though, to think of that free e-reader you might download as only a patch. Temporary. Something you will use and enjoy for a few months, maybe a year, before you finally break down and get yourself an actual device. And that’s fine, because by the time you DO get said device, there will be that much more available for you to enjoy. Including some new stuff by yours truly.
Part of the problem with finishing this novel is that I’ve pretty much tossed my plan for it out the window. I had an idea of where it was going, but about the time I shot Sheriff Boyd in the neck, I decided I didn’t like the ending. It was derivative and a little naïve, especially given many of the themes and characters I’ve introduced. Catch me over a beer and I’ll tell you the silliness that WAS going to be the end of A War Between States.
As it is, I have a solid idea of where Tommy Krinshaw, Sheriff Boyd, and Tamara Granger are heading. And I have BIG ideas for Terminius Green. The rest of the cast? Not so much. A lot of the silliness revolved around Sarah Dobson’s city council campaign.
Still, given what I know, I’ve been able to develop a few chapters, and hopefully they’ll move along pretty solidly in the coming months. Here’s one such chapter now.
A War Between States Part 32:
Chapter 17: Skirmish: Tommy
Mick and Gerry were obviously discomfited by Fran’s order for both of them to go to Albany, while she took Tommy and two more officers with her to Marionville.
“Why’d you do that?” Tommy asked as Fran drove them south on I-85 at a speed that made even Tommy uncomfortable, even though they had their sirens and lights blasting and most people on the highway were getting out of their way. If he were going this fast and he was behind the wheel, he might have been okay. But he’d never ridden with Fran, she seemed jittery and scattered and anxious, and he couldn’t help but have a certain prejudice against women drivers. He knew it was ill-founded, and that both Fran and his wife would punch him in the nuts if he ever voiced it aloud. Still, it was there. And as the landscape and other cars all slid past them in a blur, as John and Stan - the other two officers with them in the other car - tried to keep up, Tommy gripped the armrest and fought to keep his stomach in check.
“Why’d I do what?”
“Send Mick and Ger on a fool’s errand? Together?”
Fran turned to look at him.
“It’s not a fool’s errand. If they ask the police chief and the DA there the right questions, they might get a clue as to where Williams is headed. And I put them together so they can make up.”
Tommy wished she’d put her eyes back on the road, but he was afraid to say anything. They were coming up on a rambling RV really fast.
“Make up?” he asked.
“Yeah. You and Gerry don’t realize it, but Mick’s been having a tough time. He had a run-in with a judge a month ago that left a bad taste in his mouth. He’s halfway convinced that every white man in the Georgia legal system is a closet racist. You and Gerry are the only two white guys he’s actually been friends with in the past, but apparently Gerry said something recently that ticked him off. It’s up to your partner now to calm Mick down and convince him ya’ll are all right.”
The RV edged out of their lane. Fran bolted past it at last, turning back to face forward.
“Does Gerry know this?” Tommy asked.
“What do you think? He’s your partner. Is he capable of discerning why Mick might be angry, and why I might have sent them off together?”
Tommy didn’t answer. He only stared out at the tree-lined highway that was blasting past them at a sickening speed. And Fran didn’t demand an answer - she left him alone in a silence which she seemed comfortable in, but made him ill as hell.
Soon they veered off of I-85 onto I-185, toward the Alabama line, and they got to the outskirts of Marionville an hour later, driving on a rugged, pot-holed two-lane well off of I-185’s smooth, straight path. Tommy had almost gotten used to Fran’s driving by that time; he was actually starting to relax in the way that only he, Tommy Krinshaw, could relax, when the radio scanner screeched at them: “Ten seventy one! Man down and suspects fleeing the scene! Our ten twenty is County Road 51, near the Pallanto farm! Eleven-ninety-nine, please! Officer needs assistance!”
“Shit,” Fran uttered. Tommy didn’t think the car could go any faster than it had been, but apparently it could - Fran stomped the accelerator to the floor, and Tommy’s relaxed state shot out of the window like a bullet. Fran knew the local roads a lot better than he did, and within minutes they’re veered off the tiny back road they’d been on, onto an even tinier back road. With twice the potholes.
Now Tommy couldn’t decide what was worse: the way the car lurched and rolled as Fran navigated the winding road, or the bounces and jerks from the holes in the road which tossed him toward the ceiling, then knocked him back down into his seat.
Suddenly ahead of them, two cars came into view. Closest was a brown police sedan with its lights and sirens blaring. It was chasing another car - a familiar white Mustang convertible. The top was down on the Mustang, and Tommy could see two men in its front seat. As they fell into pursuit, Tommy noticed another police car parked in front of a white mobile home they were passing by. He looked back and saw that John and Stan were still behind them.
In minutes, the four cars careened off of the rough road and onto a smoother, straighter one. Tommy recognized it as the road which led into town.
“Populated area,” he said.
“I know,” Fran replied.
It could have been worse: all four cars barreling through the main thoroughfares of Marionville, and they managed to avoid any pedestrians. Mostly because there were no pedestrians. Their flight and pursuit did cause two cars to swerve out of the way - one slammed into the side of another car, and another popped the curb in front of a corner convenience store. The Mustang, the brown police sedan, and the two unmarked GBI vehicles avoided them and sped past. It didn’t look to Tommy like anyone was seriously hurt - unless someone had been in the passenger side of the car that got hit.
- Tommy Krinshaw - Bret Wood
- Fran - Aida Kenyon
- Narrator/Person on Police Scanner - Will Kenyon
See? I TOLD YOU I wasn’t abandoning this project altogether. Now, it’s gonna be slow going from here on out, no doubt - there’s just a lot of irons in the fire that take priority over this. But I can’t just leave Sheriff Boyd sitting there in his car, bleeding out. Unfortunately, we can’t look in on Boyd just yet. When we last left off, you see, Bill Wells was divulging a secret to his bestest friends….
Oh, and if you’re new to A War Between States, you’d probably be best served going here and playing catch-up.
A War Between States Part 31:
Chapter 16: Campaign: Sarah and Nate, Part Two
“Ya’ll know that I know lots of people,” Bill began. He stood in front of them like a preacher in front of a congregation, and Sarah thought for a moment that Bill even sounded like a preacher. “Thing is,” he continued, “even though I know lots of people, I don’t love lots of people. I mostly despise ‘em, in fact. Ya’ll, however, are the exception. You folks gathered here today are the people on this Earth that I love above all others, and it’s ya’ll that I’m gonna miss.”
A titter of confused excitement passed through them at this statement. At the same time, Sarah could see that Bill’s eyes had begun to water. He was beginning to cry - and Bill Wells never cried.
“I don’t want this to get out, now,” Bill said, the quiver in his voice a vanguard for the tears he was fighting to hold back. “So after I tell ya’ll this, I don’t want none of you running out and telling your husbands or boyfriends. ‘Cept you, Sarah - you can tell Phil. If he didn’t have to work, I think I’d want him here, too.” This tangent allowed Bill to get his crying under control; the shake in his voice disappeared and he blinked his tears away.
“Anyway,” he said, “Lemme relieve you of your suspense. The reason I got all ya’ll together is to tell you that I got cancer. And I got it bad.”
They all gasped, just like any small crowd gasps when the magician finishes his trick, when the murderer in the whodunnit gets revealed.
“I’ve know about my cancer for a little over a year,” Bill said. “It started as a weird lesion on my back. I had it removed and biopsied, but it was already too late. I waited too long. I scheduled another surgery and some chemo for last summer, but I put it off until a couple of weeks ago. Kept rescheduling it, you know? Then, when I finally went in, turns out it had already metastasized, and it’s in my lungs.”
Bill paused, sucking in a breath. He might as well have been sucking all of the air out of the room.
“I dunno,” he said, and now he really started to cry. Sarah could feel her own tears suddenly coming - a surging swell behind an oh so fragile dam. “I dunno,” he repeated through his tears. “I kept putting it off. I didn’t think it could get so bad so fast. I thought I had time.”
Mary moved toward Bill, and the others stood as if to do the same. He just stood there, a spindly, deflated, slumping, and sloping version of himself, waiting for their embraces.
Then a siren went off outside the convenience store, followed by a crash.
“Holy shit,” Nate muttered beside Sarah - they had been the last to make a move toward Bill - and Sarah looked out the one window in the room, out to the place where Nate was staring. “I’m having a déjà vu, I think,” he finished.
In the convenience store parking lot, two cars had collided, one T-boning the other on the passenger side. A third car had jumped the curb on Washington Street and had smashed into the rear of Pammy’s parked car. In the distance, Sarah could see a white Mustang speeding away, followed closely by a very familiar police car, its lights blazing and its siren fading away.
They all moved away from Bill and gathered at the window. Bill stood behind them, wiping away his tears and straining to see past them, to see the wreckage in his parking lot.
Suddenly, two more cars - unmarked white sedans with dashboard-mounted lights flashing - came careening down Washington and headed after the Mustang.
“Somebody call and ambulance,” Bill said, his voice weak. Sarah looked back at him again.
She’d never noticed how small he was before.
- Sarah Dobson - Jennie M.
- Nate Wells - Jay Elgin
- Narrator/Bill Wells - Will Kenyon
Last time we were here, someone shot Sheriff Boyd in the neck. Bad news.
Well, now a small group of people in Marionville are getting set up for some more bad news. They just don’t know it yet. Whose bad news will trump whose? Your guess is as good as mine, folks….
A War Between States Part 30:
Chapter 16: Campaign: Sarah and Nate, Part One
The table stood in the middle of Bill Wells’s employee lounge, and on the table was a box of Krispy Kreme donuts.
Or what was left of one.
Around the table sat Pammy Roberts, Rhonda Byrd, and Amber Blue (whose real name was Sally Booker — she’d changed her name after winning $50,000 playing Lotto and using the money for liposuction and a boob job). Over the course of the past three hours, the three women had finished the Digiorno Pizzas which Bill had left for them, along with two six-packs of Mountain Dew, two pots of coffee, and most of the donuts.
Except for Pammy, who’d just arrived with Sarah Dobson, they’d all been working - more or less - at Wells’s convenience store, waiting for their boss to arrive along with all his guests. Sarah herself stood near the door to the lounge, listening to the other three women as they sat in their fold-out chairs and talked about all the ways Cyril West - Sarah’s opponent in the upcoming city council elections - had made a fool of himself. All the talk gave Sarah butterflies in her stomach. She wanted a cigarette, but ever since Bill had quit, he didn’t allow smoking in the lounge.
“And then he just unzipped his pants and took a piss right there on the side of the church, front ‘a God an’ ev’body,” Rhonda was saying around an enormous bite of powdered donut. Rhonda was the only black woman among them, and the white powder stood out on her dark chin and dark upper lip. Rhonda also had a bit of a mustache, and powder clung to her wispy black hairs like snow in evergreen trees. Sarah wondered why the woman didn’t just wax.
Amber probably wondered the same thing — she managed to keep her own would-be whiskers waxed, her nails long and painted, her make-up sufficiently plastered on, and her eyebrows plucked so severely that she had to pencil them back in where she’d ripped too much out.
“I done tol’ ya’ll ‘bout the time Cyril come over to my house and made a pass at me, right?” Amber said.
“Ain’t no surprise to me,” Rhonda said, pulling her curly black locks down and peering at the roots, her brown eyes rolling back into her head so she could see her hair sidelong. Sarah noticed the woman’s eyes were bloodshot around the edges, and she wondered how late Rhonda’s husband Rick had kept her up the night before. The man was insatiable. “Cyril once upon a time actually come over to my house and hit on my mama.”
“Doesn’t surprise me, either, Sally,” Pammy said, using Amber’s real name just to annoy her. “Seems to me, there hasn’t been very many men in town who haven’t tried to get in your pants.” Pammy was joking with Amber, but Sarah could still sense a residual panicked-ness in her speech and her gestures. She was still coming down from their run-in with Soames a few minutes ago.
“And ain’t many of those who didn’t succeed,” Rhonda added, laughing. They all laughed — even Sarah, tense as she felt.
Except for Amber, who scowled. “Oh, I’m sorry, Rhonda,” she said, “what did you say ‘bout Cyril coming to yo’ trailer to hit on yo’ mama?”
“It ain’t a trailer. It’s a mobile home.”
“Hey, ya’ll, that’s enough.” Bill Wells had finally arrived, strolling into the lounge with his usual loose gait, peering over his sunglasses at them. Even though Pammy and Sarah had been late to the party, it hadn’t mattered; Bill was late as well. “I know ya’ll - it’ll start out good-natured, but then you’ll just get mean,” he said. “Why cain’t ya’ll ever just keep it fun an’ not get personal with it?” Bill walked over to the coffee pot, checked and saw that it was empty, and started making a fresh one.
“Ya’ll ‘member my sister Maggie and her son Nate, don’t you?” he said.
On cue, two people walked in behind Bill - and yes, Sarah did remember them.
She’d seen Maggie around over the past couple of years, every time she came to visit Bill from wherever it was she was living now. Was it Dothan? Opelika? Maggie didn’t look much different than how Sarah remembered her from when they first met, way back when their two boys had gone to school together. She had the same long, straight, dark hair (even if it was graying a little at the temples) and the same large, sultry, doe-like brown eyes (even if there were hints of crow’s feet at their edges).
Her son Nate walked in beside her, and Sarah almost laughed. She hadn’t seen him in over twenty years, ever since he and Maggie had moved to whatever town they’d first moved to, after Maggie and Nate’s daddy had split up. Sarah’s son, Phil, saw him often, and he often said that Nate pretty much looked the same as he had when he was thirteen. Now Sarah saw that her son wasn’t exaggerating in the least. Nate was a tall - very tall, maybe six and a quarter feet tall - version of the handsome, square-shouldered, athletically-built boy he’d been back then, with dark hair like his mother’s (graying a bit at the temple like his mother’s) and bright, blue eyes like his father.
Sarah had heard from Phil that Nate was having trouble with the newspaper or magazine or whatever it was he owned up in Atlanta, and she thought she saw something of those troubles resonating in the boy’s eyes. Still, he walked in with the same ready assuredness she’d remembered from when he and Phil used to play Little League, and he immediately took possession of the room. Which, considering the formidable presence of his Uncle Bill, was no small feat.
All of the females in the room turned their full attention to him. Pammy sat up straight, which she never did, and cracked a nervous, vacuous smile. Rhonda actually made the effort to quickly wipe the powdered donut off her face. And Amber assumed a pose which smacked of a cross between a farmer’s daughter and a stripper, then said, “Hey, Nate. Remember me?”
“Now, now, Amber,” Bill said, turning back toward them from the coffee maker. “Nate ain’t got no time to become your next baby’s daddy, and he ain’t the reason I got all ya’ll together.”
Amber scowled at Bill, who ignored her, but she didn’t take her eyes off of Nate. She watched him the whole time Bill spoke, looking like she might pounce on the young man at any moment.
She watched him, that is, until Bill dropped the bomb he’d brought them all there to drop, until that and everything that came after.
- Pammy Roberts - Paula Towry
- Rhonda Byrd - Ray Manila
- Amber Blue (Sally Booker) - Stephanie Harvey
- Narrator/Bill Wells - Will Kenyon
This is it, folks. Something happens in the paragraphs below which will change the entire course of this story. This is the first time you’ve been invited into Sheriff Boyd’s head, and this is the last time you’ll be there. But it will be enough, I think.
A War Between States Part 29:
Sheriff Robert Boyd sat in his patrol car and gazed out across the field of cotton next to him. He was parked on a dirt road that ran perpendicular to the Cauley Highway. A stand of thinning loblolly pines hid him from view, and he watched the road in front of him, waiting for the speeding teenager or teacher he knew would come flying down the paved road any minute. They always sped down this road on their way to the high school. They always got faster the later it got.
The morning light came in through the windshield and would have shined in his eyes, except for his mirrored shades. Thank God for mirrored shades.
As he sat and stared at the cotton, with its buds still closed against the late August heat — he thought about a few things. He thought about Soames’ encounter with the Granger woman. She was trying to open a bar right here on this highway, and although he agreed with Soames that such a thing was bad, he simply couldn’t agree with how Soames had gone about dealing with her. Still, what was done was done.
It was only a matter of time, though, before Soames’s enthusiasm got them both into hot water. Boyd was sure of it.
He thought again about his own encounter with Bill Wells back in July. Thinking about it, he didn’t approve of how he’d handled that situation. And the spite, the disgust, in Wells’s voice had bothered Boyd more than his slack, expressionless face had showed.
Thank God for mirrored shades.
It was a bit of a blow, listening to Wells’s rant. Especially after being so blatantly shut out of the GBI’s raid on Coach Williams’s Underground. He’d called the state police’s offices in Atlanta the next day. They’d stonewalled him.
That made him furious. But it also made him sad — sad that to them, he was only a podunk backwoods sheriff with droopy drawers who didn’t deserve to know about things that were happening in his own jurisdiction.
And now over a month had passed. Williams was out on bail, along with his little helpers. Boyd had seen Jamal Jenkins, Elgin Blalock, and the Green boy around town. No sign of Williams, though. But Boyd figured — he hoped — that the GBI sons of bitches knew where the man was.
The sheriff scowled at the fields of cotton and gripped the steering wheel tight. His wedding band glinted in the morning sun.
And then Terminius Green’s infamous white Mustang buzzed by him on the Cauley Highway. The top was down and two black men sat in the front seats.
Boyd checked the radar gun. It read 57 MPH.
“Dammit,” he muttered. Two miles over the speed limit wasn’t enough for him to pull anyone over - not even Terminius Green.
But then something compelled him to start his car and shift into gear. He felt suspicious for some reason. And his suspicion didn’t come from the oddity of those two being awake so early. It didn’t come from the oddity that the Green boy wasn’t speeding. It didn’t even come from knowing who it was driving down the road in the early morning light.
These things didn’t even occur to him. It did briefly occur to him that he might be following Green’s car because the drivers were black — but he shook his head and dismissed the thought. A backwoods sheriff, maybe, but he wasn’t Soames.
He just knew that it was important for him to follow Green. At a distance.
He followed them for ten miles, until they turned off a little side road just past the lot Tamara Granger had purchased. A sign at the intersection read County Maintained 51. He’d been to visit Tamara earlier that morning, had given her some paperwork that she demanded (and that might turn into the pot which boiled the hot water for Soames and him to get in). He noticed again how Tamara’s contractors had already cleared the most of the trees from her lot and had begun erecting a long, low building under the sparse shadows of the giant oak which she hadn’t had cut down. The building - the bar - would be finished soon.
There had been workers out earlier, but no one was out there at the moment - no one that he could see. And no one was coming down the highway in either direction. He was alone out here — the backwoods sheriff and two probable felons. Boyd thought about calling in, but decided to wait until he saw where Green was going.
A couple of miles down County Maintained 51, he saw that Green had pulled up to a white trailer parked up the hill from the access road. No one was in the Mustang anymore.
“Must be in the trailer,” Boyd said to the trees and the red dirt all around him.
He pulled to the side of the road and radioed in. “Boyd to Home Base One,” he said. “Sonny, you there?”
Sonny Doswell’s bright, tinny voice crackled back at Boyd. “Hey, Sheriff. I read ya’. How can I help you?” Sonny’s unbridled enthusiasm was unsettling.
God, but that boy needed to get laid, Boyd thought.
“Sonny, who owns the white trailer on County Maintained 51? It’s about two and a half miles from the Cauley turn-off.”
“Dunno, Sheriff. Lemme ask Jessie.”
Boyd nodded. If anybody knew, Jessie Hays, his office’s obsessive-compulsive records-keeper, would know.
“Sheriff?” Sonny’s voice cracked like a fourteen-year-old’s.
“Uh. Eh. ‘Scuse me. If that trailer’s the same one Jess thinks it is, it belongs to Kay Williams.”
“Kay Williams? Coach Jeb Williams’ wife?”
“Ex-wife, Sheriff. But that’s the one.”
Boyd squinted at the building in front of him. Both it and the Mustang seemed to glow in the sunlight. Opalescent haloes surrounded them.
“Sonny, send Barry out this way, wouldja?” Boyd said.
“Sure, Sheriff. What’s going on? Should I call them GBI fellas?”
Boyd scowled again, and Sonny Doswell must have sensed the scowl through the radio.
“I gotcha, sheriff,” he said nervously. “I’m on it.”
Boyd nodded again and let the radio intercom drop from his hand onto the seat beside him. Then he put his car back in gear and began to creep toward the trailer.
He edged onto the upward sloping driveway. He could hear the crunch of rocks and clay under his tires. He debated about turning on his flashers, but decided against it — after all, this could only be a “friendly” visit. He had no proof that the people in the trailer were doing anything wrong.
For a moment the sun rippled across his windshield, blinding him, but then it moved out of his eyes and he could see, although his vision had little yellow sunspots playing across it.
Through the sunspots he could see that in the instant he had been blinded, someone had thrown open the door to the trailer. That someone, a dark figure against the darker interior of the building, stood in the doorway, pointing a rifle at him.
There was a sound, sharp and distinct in the morning air, and then Sheriff Robert Boyd watched his windshield crack. A spider web of shattered glass started at a point just in front of him and spread outward, its growing branches and strands glinting and shimmering in the morning sun.
He was caught at the center of that web. And even as he thought that very thought, he felt the spider’s sting on his neck.
- Sheriff Boyd - Dennis Maguire
- Narrator/Sonny Doswell - Will Kenyon
Again: I’ve had this podcast prepped for a while - almost a month in fact. But as I’ve been traveling all summer to places where time and computer access have not been altogether nominal, it’s been easy to put it off and put it off. I’ve been able to post other stuff, but you gotta understand: posting a podcast takes more than a few minutes.
OK. Fuck that. That’s an excuse. The truth is that I’m almost out of material, and I’m so busy that creating MORE material for this podcast is becoming a problem. I’m gonna keep at it. But, well, there’s cause for some concern….
Anyway, here it is - the second half of Sarah and her friend Pammy’s encounter with a villain? Antagonist? Red herring? I think I know, but I’m not sure yet.
A War Between States Part 28:
Chapter 15: Skirmish: Sarah, Part Two
He turned in such a way that Sarah didn’t know whether to get scared or laugh – his movement was an obvious show. Beside her, Pammy sucked in her breath.
Still, when she saw his face, she knew she was in some level of trouble, laughable or not. Robocop was after her now and that would be her DOOM! She really wasn’t scared of fat boy Soames, but she knew Pammy was, and she was beginning to feel like she’d overstepped her bounds - and brought Pammy with her.
“Mrs. Dobson. It is not for you to inform me regarding the law. And what Miss Roberts did was run that stop sign back there.” He nodded, scowled, and continued to his car.
They watched him, and Pammy began muttering to herself again. Sarah heard what she was saying this time: “Did I stop? I’m sure I did. Should I say so when he gets back?”
By chance, Sarah glanced at her watch. It read 12:35. Then she peered over her shoulder, across the backseat, and through the rear window to see what Soames was doing. He had climbed into his car and was sitting at the steering wheel, his stern face gazing at something in his lap. At first Sarah thought he was probably writing on one of those ridiculously weighty pads that cops used.
Then, as timed passed and the afternoon wore on, she began to imagine that what he was concentrating on was his dick. Pulling people over and giving them arbitrary tickets and unnecessary anxiety probably turned the creep on - so much so that he had to take care of business right then and there.
Sarah stared hard through the rear view to see if his shoulder was moving a certain way, but the interior of his car was shadowy, and she couldn’t tell. She glanced at her watch again. 12:55. So much for getting to Bill’s on time. What was taking so long?
A few more minutes passed. “Crap. I’m almost out of gas,” Pammy said, randomly, as if she was afraid that she might really run out of gas less than a mile from a fill-up. She had already turned off the car and the air conditioner, and they had instantly begun to sweat - Pammy was a big woman, and it was hot outside.
Finally, Soames climbed out of his car and started toward them. Sarah looked at her watch: 12:59. A half hour wasted on this idiot. For her part, Pammy bit her lip and turned to greet him with a face Sarah was sure would satisfy Soames completely.
“Here you go,” he said, offering Pammy the big ticket pad. “Please sign here. This is to acknowledge that I’ve pulled you over and given you a ticket for failure to obey traffic control signage.”
“Barry,” Sarah said as Pammy reached for the pad. “Pam didn’t run the stop sign. She didn’t even do one of them rolling stops that ya’ll like to harass folks for. She came to a complete stop. I know it. And you do, too. So what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Soames looked like he was about to smile. If he would have gotten angry or been surprised, Sarah would have been comfortable with his reaction. But this look actually scared her.
Bill Wells always swore that Soames was a good man. “A little too serious, maybe,” he had said. “Maybe a little too into what he does. But okay by me.” All the same, Sarah had heard people talk about how Robocop tended to pick on black people and women, whether they’d done anything or not. Bill dismissed it as an excuse for people to claim they were innocent when they weren’t. But Bill was white, and male, and here Pammy was - female, and pulled over for no real reason at all.
“Well, Mrs. Dobson,” Soames said, “We can always go into the police station and discuss who’s right and who’s not in this scenario….”
“NO,” Pammy said, grasping the ticket pad with one hand, leaning its heavy metal frame against her car door for support. With her other hand she hastily - crazily - scribbled her signature.
Soames leaned in and took the pad away from her. “Your signature is not an admission of guilt, simply acknowledgement that you and I had our little talk here. You’ll have your say in court, if you want. You can come, too, Mrs. Dobson. If you want.”
Sarah stared at him, and he smiled now. It was a smile full of import and meaning, and it haunted Sarah as she and Pammy finally drove off in the direction of Bill’s.
- Sarah Dobson - Jennie M.
- Pammy Roberts - Sylvia Krebs
- Narrator/Deputy Soames/Bill Flashback - Will Kenyon
I’ve actually had this ready to go for a couple of weeks now, but my journey to Aspen, CO and the resulting posts seemed much more immediate and pertinent. But alas my travels are done for the week (at least until Friday), and I think there are some folks who are waiting to see what happens next. As it stands, several of our characters are heading to Bill Wells’s store to hear some bad news, and among them is Sarah Dobson, who’s still in the throws of running for city council. It is to her now that we turn….
A War Between States Part 27:
Chapter 15: Skirmish: Sarah
Pammy Roberts was skittish as a squirrel whenever she went to Dothan. All those cars going in all sorts of directions, people careening through the mall parking lot, all those stoplights put her into such a frantic tizzy that it sometimes looked like she was going to pull over to the curb, traffic be damned, and just sit there and cry. Sarah had known better than to go along when Pammy invited her, and now that they were back from their morning of shopping, Sarah found the wide, empty streets of Marionville a quiet blessing.
Still a little jittery, Pammy drove her beet red Mercury Cougar over the bridge which spanned the Chattahoochee and separated the state of Georgia from the state of Alabama. Sarah sat beside her, silently trying to send waves of calm across the car’s interior – which was faded to pink – at her friend. As soon as the thump thump thump of the bridge’s joints stopped and she saw the first few whitewashed houses of Marionville looming over the bluff, she breathed deeply and smiled. Pammy relaxed.
Now that their morning adventures were over, they were headed to Bill Wells’s convenience store for Bill’s big announcement. Sarah couldn’t imagine what Bill would be announcing that would gather folks together like he was, but when Pammy – who worked the counter and sort of managed Bill’s place – called her to tell her Bill wanted her to attend, she’d been flattered. Maybe it was the flattery which had so clouded her judgment that she had also agreed to go to Dothan with Pammy before the announcement.
Pammy’s Cougar cruised up the hill of Monument Street toward Bill’s store, and Pammy stopped at the stop sign there at the top of the hill. There were no stop lights in Marionville.
Thank God, Sarah thought with a sideways glance at her friend.
Then they rolled on, headed for Bill’s.
Suddenly, a siren whooped behind them, and blue lights flashed in the rearview.
“Wha-?” Pammy said, tensing again. Sarah herself was instantly filled with a strange and sudden animosity – a common reaction among people in the South when they see the lights from a police car in the rearview. When Southerners see police lights flash they often flush with rage and fear. Especially when, like Sarah and Pammy, they have no idea why they’re being pulled over.
Muttering to herself in a way that made Sarah nervous, Pammy tugged at the Cougar’s steering wheel and came up parallel to the curb. The police car – a brown sheriff’s sedan by the looks of it – fell in behind her. It stopped, its door opened, and Deputy Soames bustled out.
Barry Soames had a way of standing that made him always seem taller than his average height, with his shoulders thrown back and his feet planted flat and straight and exactly the same distance apart as his shoulders. Those shoulders were broad, which belied his considerable beer gut and made him seem more powerfully built than he probably was. His medium brown hair was cut with an old-fashioned part on the side, and he wore the tan and beige uniform of his office – including slick, black boots, a shiny badge, and a fully decked-out and heavy-looking utility belt, complete with a billy club and a pistol.
“Well, damn,” Pammy said, with a sour and dark expression on her face – a look not unlike the one Sarah imagined was probably on her face as well. No one that Sarah knew liked Barry Soames very much.
But by the time Soames was at Pammy’s window, she was all smiles and bright eyes. “Hey, Barry,” she said when her window was halfway down. As it slid the rest of the way down, she looked up at the deputy. Sarah squinted at the sun’s glare off of his badge. His face didn’t change when Pammy said his name – it stayed hard as stone and stern as a school marm’s.
“License and insurance, ma’am,” he said. His lips scarcely moved. Pammy hesitated under Soames’s gaze. She glanced back at Sarah and her smile was gone. She fumbled with the glove compartment to retrieve her insurance card, and then began to fumble in her purse for her wallet, not saying anything – unable to say anything.
So Sarah said something for her.
“What did we do?” She shielded her eyes from the sun with one hand, unconsciously hoping to see something in his expression that would help explain why they were on the side of the road.
“You know what you did,” Soames admonished her. “Don’t play games, Mrs. Dobson.”
After Pammy gave the deputy the information he’d asked for, he took a step toward his vehicle. And for a passing instant, Sarah felt confounded enough just to let him. But then indignation swelled in her and she said to his back, loudly enough that he could hear it, “No. I don’t know what we did. And I think it’s the law that you tell us.”
He turned in such a way that Sarah didn’t know whether to get scared or laugh – his movement was an obvious show. Beside her, Pammy sucked in her breath.
- Sarah Dobson - Jennie M.
- Pammy Roberts - Sylvia Krebs
- Narrator/Deputy Soames - Will Kenyon