Archive for the ‘Murders In Progress by Eldon Cene’ Category

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

July 3, 2013

Dear Readers!

2010-5-16 Lizzie-1-3

NOTICE:  Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene is continuing in Part Two as The Cognitive Web, and has been transferred to authonomy, a serial fiction website.  To find the next episode, go to:   http://authonomy.com/books/53824/the-cognitive-web/read-book/#chapter

See you there!

Best regards, ur Editor

Photo by Carl Nelson

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

June 22, 2013

Exploding Building1

Don’t Wait for the Movie!

(Episode 57)

            “Well,” Ruth drawled, in her best hard boiled detective’s voice.  (Ruth would come to believe that she had been the first make this remark upon Ramey flattening their cook/suspect with a shovel.)  “That’s a positive ID.”

“I’d say so,” Leland agreed, removing the cuffs from his belt and placing them on his new prisoner.

“Honest Leland, I didn’t do it!  I did not do this!”  Ramey cried.

“We’ve figured that Ramey,” Ruth consoled him.

“It was this woman in my head,” Ramey insisted, pointing to his head, then pounding it on the wall.  “She’s obsessed.  She is just obsessed!  And she’s violent.”

“Yeah.”  Leland nodded, pulled Ramey back from the wall, and grunted as he hefted Stan’s bulk upwards so as to get him back into the cell.  “My guess is that she figured if she just out and identified our suspect, she’d never get as good a whack at him.”

Ruth nodded.

“I don’t trust myself around him at all,” Ramey admitted, backing away.

They’d just about got the unconscious Stan back into the cell when Ruth sniffed and said, “Do you smell something Leland?”

Leland hadn’t.

“That’s natural gas.  I mean the kind we use in homes.”

Leland stopped lifting Stan and sniffed.  He nodded.  Then he sniffed closer to the floor, as did Ruth.

“It’s collecting down here,” he said.

“There’s some kind of a gas leak,” Ruth agreed.

“Kimmel doesn’t have gas service,” Leland said.

Leland’s lips traced a grim line.  “Ramey,” he said.  “Help me get this prisoner into the squad car.  And Ruth, call 911 about a possible gas leak, but warn them it could be an explosive device.   Then I want you to drive you all up to Ramey’s house and I’ll call Agent Hailey and route her your way.”

Ruth nodded, and ran to make the call.  But Leland blocked her path, sending her out the back.  “On your cell, outside!” Leland said.  “We don’t want sparks.”

Ruth shook her head, and waved her arms, as if to say, “of course!  I don’t know what I was thinking,” and nodded.

Ramey overcame his reluctance to lift the prisoner – in fact, gripping him so hard around the neck that his knuckles went white, and the prisoners face went blue.  Leland had to pull Ramey off and send him down to the prisoner’s feet to lift.

Finally Leland and Ramey got the prisoner into the back of the Sheriff’s car.  Meanwhile, Ruth made the call and got in behind the wheel.  They couldn’t talk Nancy in until finally, Leland snatched her notebook and tossed it into the car, and Ruth hit the door locks.  Then Leland smacked the fender.  “Okay, now git!”

“What are you going to do?”  Ruth asked with concern.

“I’m going out front to clear the street,” Leland said.

Ruth nodded , then squirreled away, in a spiraling cloud of gravel and dust.   ‘Without the sirens and lights, please!’ Leland thought, but didn’t bother to shout after her knowing it would do as little good.   He was already running through the jail and out the front onto Main Street.  It was morning with its usual smattering of locals, mixed in with bunches of tourists in shorts and flowered tops.

Within a few minutes Leland had recruited a few of the more responsible townspeople he knew, and had gotten the area fairly well cleared.  He was feeling fairly good as the crowds were staying well back of the police tape barrier they’d quickly strung.  And the gas service and emergency bomb squad was on its way, though all of that would take at least an hour.

Leland was just thinking this when a van load of Japanese tourists turned the corner, heading the wrong way up the one way Main street, driving right through the police tape and smiling with cell cameras extended out the windows.  Leland stepped to turn them around, just as the Sheriff’s office exploded with a blast so powerful it rolled the van completely over on its side and then back again onto its wheels, which were racing by this time, taking the van right through the front window of Kramer’s Mercantile.   Leland, himself, was thrown several yards backwards by the blast.  When he awoke, in what seemed like hours, later, the first thing he noticed was that the star on his shirt front was tarnished, as if it had been burnished by fire.  And as he absently licked his index finger to scrub it a little, he smelt the smell of his burnt fingers and hair.  Then he heard the screaming in Japanese.  It was all quite disorienting.  Then, pretty soon, there were all the reporters and even several cameras staring at him.

END of PART ONE: Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

 

PART TWO:  The Cognitive Web also by Eldon Cene is coming soon to a dedicated serial fiction blogspot near you.  Watch for web directions!

Photo lifted from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

June 20, 2013

ID card5

A Positive ID

 (Episode 56)

 Stan really wanted inside the Kimmel jail.  Something itched, and as near as Stan could triangulate that fifty-odd year old weathered yellow jail was at the nub of it.  It was even interfering with his sex.  Something in that jail was a ‘scold’.  That was the best way he could phrase it, if he were to talk to someone about it, like a psychiatrist, which he wouldn’t.

Then, as luck would have it, Ruth called Carmella with her usual breakfast order that Sunday.   And apparently Stan’s Kandahar Omelet was a hit with the Sheriff.  Ruth asked, “Could you have the cook who makes that delicious chili-egg concoction bring it over himself?”            Or so this was the story.  When you’re wanted for rapes and serial murders, you really tend to look several times at any approach, especially when made by law enforcement.  On the other hand, it was true that Stan’s Kandahar Omelet had made a little culinary noise even in the sleepy town of Kimmel, Stan preened.  So it was with some unstaunched yearning that Stan laid each of the cooked bacon strips neatly on a paper towel, then cracked eggs and dropped them in the bacon grease to cook while he considered the request seriously.

Stan really felt he needed to have a look inside that jail.  Stan flipped the eggs.  And as the eggs bubbled in the bacon grease, Stan convinced himself by saying to himself, ‘Look.  If I were trying to sneak into that jail and thought up this scheme myself, wouldn’t I try it?’  Stan hoisted the eggs out, arranged the eggs on the plates with the bacon, toast and hash browns, decorated each with an orange slice and a sprig of parsley and placed them in the window just as Carmella passed to lift them away with a wink and a smile.

It was probably Carmella’s look that decided it.  Stan heaped up a fine, steaming dish, of what he liked to call his 12 Egg, Complete with Melted Gruyere Cheese, Kandahar Mortar, covered it with a checkered cloth, put on a clean and unspotted apron, and presented it and himself with a big pot of hot coffee at the jail promptly at 7 am early Monday.

After a few preemptory knocks, and the use of a password Ruth had concocted, the front door opened.  “Good morning, Ruth?   I’m Stan from across the way,” Stan said.  He made no move to enter.

“C’mon in, Stan from across the way.”  Ruth smiled.  “Boy, doesn’t that smell good,” she said, lifting a corner of the checkered cloth.   We all have saved our appetites.”  She gauged Stan as a slight frown flitted across her face.  “Just walk in there and the Sheriff will tell you where to set it.  And I’ll follow close behind.”  Stan noticed the young girl reporter from the café working at a computer.  He nodded.  Nancy appraised him, mentally taking notes.

Stan smiled his best as regular people did and stepped across the linoleum into  the Sheriff’s office.  “Breakfast?”  Leland smiled, looking up and examining Stan.  “Could you just set it on the bunk inside that jail cell just next to the one with the prisoner in it?”

Stan hesitated.  Leland raised his brows.

Stan nodded, passing into the jail proper.  Leland rose and followed behind, with Ruth following behind him.  “Is dressing like that illegal?”  Stan nodded as he passed Ramey, the transvestite, sitting sullenly on his bunk in the other cell.

“Ramey, what is it that happened to you?”  Leland asked.  But Ramey sat sullenly, staring at Stan, saying nothing.

“Cat’s probably got his tongue,” Leland said.

“You leave his cell door open all the time, like that?”  Stan asked.

“This is a converted jail.  It used to be a feed store.  There are no toilets in the cells.  So we have had to come to an understanding.  Isn’t that right Ramey?”  Leland showed a little irritation at Ramey’s sudden unwillingness to speak.

“He doesn’t talk much either, does he?”  Stan observed.

“Well, not at the moment, apparently.  Why don’t you just set the food down in there, and we can see if a little breakfast will lure some conversation out of him.”

Stan hesitated to walk into the cell.  “Go ahead,” Leland urged, hanging onto the swinging iron jail door.  “We’re right behind.  I’ve got my coffee cup ready.  And Ruth’s here with her fork and plate.”  Stan stared at them both.  Something didn’t feel right, ‘in a big way,’ he was thinking.

“What about that young girl?  She want some?”  Stan asked, back stepping.

“She’s already eaten.”  Leland blocked his path.

“Ramey, you’d better get over here, you don’t want to get left out.” Leland turned his head with some real irritation.   “Where the hell has Ramey gone?”

“I don’t know,” Ruth said, turning around herself.  “He was in there, just a moment ago.”

They both looked befuddled, Stan thought.  “You run kind of an odd jail here, Sheriff.”

“How so?”  The Sheriff replied.

“Well,” Stan had to laugh.  “Your prisoner just walked out the back door there.  A small girl is playing on your departmental computer.  And the cell here is painted like the waiting room in a bordello.”    And when this didn’t get a rise, he added.  “And still, you two are here, looking like you’re still gonna sit down to eat your breakfast without a qualm!”

“We are.”  Leland nodded.

“Don’t want it to get cold!”  Ruth smiled.

“He’ll be back,”  Leland said, settling himself.  Leland motioned with his cup.

Stan stood there in wonderment.  “Law enforcement sure is different in a small town,” he observed.

“Oh.  How so?”  Sheriff Leland smiled.  He looked inquisitive.  Ruth smiled, too.  “Yes.  How so?!”

Stan smiled.   “Let’s eat before it’s cold as Afghanistan,” he said finally.

Leland nodded.   Ruth nodded.  Everyone ate.

Stan was irritated.  They ate too slowly.  And their comments about his Kandahar Omelet struck him as perfunctory.   They might as well be having oatmeal.  And he couldn’t see or feel anything special about the jail – outside of the bizarre mural which covered the inside of the prisoner’s cell.  Stan asked about that, but neither the Sheriff nor his secretary seemed much interested in delving into it, other than to say that Ralph Bunch done it.  And Stan nodded, as he’d met Ralph Bunch.   “Kind of surprised there’s not a Chipmunk in it,” Stan joked.  But all it got was the Sheriff’s noncommittal, “How so?”

Their conversation seemed to pick up as Stan cleared the dishes and prepared to go.  But it was mostly about where Stan was from, his background, foreground, mid-ground, and about just about every other thing Stan didn’t feel the inclination to answer.  The whole morning was a bust as far as Stan could see.  And the prisoner still hadn’t returned, by the time breakfast was finished.  Which was just bizarre.  It wasn’t even a proper jail!   And Stan had become so irritated with the tepid reception to his meal, that his attentions had wandered and were festering in their own little pool.   So no one saw Ramey enter, passing in through the back door carrying a heavy shovel which he had hoisted over his shoulders like a baseball bat.

Leland had returned to his office.  Stan had just cleared the cell block.   And Ruth was leading the way out, when Ramey swung the shovel with all his strength, striking Stan at the base of his skull with a sharp “whang!”   Stan went down like a sack of onions.

Ruth turned and gasped.

Leland came running in, with Nancy not far behind.

Ramey dropped the shovel and backed away, looking at them with alarm.  “I didn’t do it.  I didn’t do it!”  He jumped, shivering with disgust.   Nancy wrote this down.

“I’d call that a positive I.D.”  Leland smiled at Ruth, nudging the blade of the shovel and then the skull of his suspected serial killer with a toe to see if he could ‘rouse him.

Nancy wrote this down.

Photo taken from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

June 19, 2013

Drinker2

Aftermath

(Episode 55)

“I hope you haven’t paid that bastard anything yet,” George Everlee swore.

“Now dear, I think it’s best we don’t decide anything just yet.  Let’s go home.  Tomorrow’s another day.  We can talk more about it then, after a good night’s sleep and a little time to reflect.”

“You’re probably right,” George agreed.  “All of my guns are at home, and I’ve probably drunk too much to hit anything square now.”

Arlene made a mental note to hide all of George’s guns, once he was home asleep and in bed.

Ralph, meanwhile, had returned to drink.  He’d finished off his first bottle of Three Feathers Whiskey, and was well into his second.  The bar let him bring his own, as Ralph couldn’t afford theirs.

“The troubhle his, with the nose,” Ralph slurred, waving his arm dismissively at Daffodils protrait, “With a portrait hits hallways tha nhose!”  Ralph grabbed the arm of the man nearest, pulling him closer.  “You cahn’t mhake ‘um happy!  It’s heither too lahrge  whore too schmall… whore too thish whore too that.  Hits nehver  jhust  rhight!!!”  Ralph stated angrily.

The man happened to be Stan.

“So that chipmunk really got into your head, eh?”  Stan asked.  He looked very interested.  Perhaps he was an art lover, Ralph thought.

“You chould say as much.”  Ralph nodded.  “I can’t hear him.  But I can feel him all over inside.  HIt’s like he’s ruhmmaging haround in there, meshing with how I fheeeeel habout things.”  Ralph grabbed Stan’s wrist.   “What I want, what I hintend to dho.  Hand as near as I can tell, he has no feeling at hat  hall…”

“Kinda make you want to strangle the little sucker, eh!”  Stan’s brows rose.

“Hi don’t know.  Hive nhever wanted to schtrangle anything?  Hide have to think about hit,” Ralph declared.

“But you’d like to kill it, if you could, wouldn’t you?  Maybe poke around inside, see how it works?”  Stan insisted.

“HI don’t know.  Hi would kind of like to find a way to talk to it, if I could.  Mahybe bhe friends.” Ralph nodded.

Stan shook his head.  “Be friends.  Talk to it,” he muttered.

“But it doesn’t seem to talk.  It’s more like it burrowed  into my midbrain, whore something,” Ralph reflected, where Stan had left him.

The next time Leland glanced around from speaking with Agent Hailey, the ‘psycho’ Leland’s cook acquaintance had mentioned was gone.   “You see where he went?”  Leland asked.

“Who me?”  The sparkplug man replied into the mirror.  “The guy’s who’s been trying real hard to just stare straight ahead?”

“Somehow  or other I’m going to find a good reason to punch you real hard in the ribs,” Leland snarled.

Sparkplug man hoisted his glass.

Leland  walked over to speak with Ralph.  “Don’t bite me,” Leland cautioned.

“Hi nehver meahnt to bhite yyou, Lehland.”  A tear ran down Ralph’s cheek.   “That’s hall what hi have bheen shaying!  Hits that damn chipmunk.”  Ralph gestured at the painting with his raised drink.  “She mhade mhe dho hit.  The Dehvil mhade mhe dho hit!”  Ralph bawled.

 Leland nodded.  “Who was that fellow you were talking too, just now?”  He asked.

“Who?  Him?…”  Ralph glanced around.  “Hi dohn’t know.  Juhst a rheal nhice fhellow Lehland.  Dhidn’t look lhike a Dhemocraht.  Buht he saihdt, “he felht mhi pain.”  Ralph searched Leland with dog eyes.  “Dho yyou hunderstand?”

“No, I don’t understand Ralph.  I don’t understand it at all.  But, I’m working on it.”  Leland patted his arm.

“How are you doing?”  Agent Hailey asked.

Leland thought it might be permissible to squeeze Agent Hailey, ‘Suzanne’s’, shoulder as he sat down beside her on his return.

She smiled.  “It seems the evening has crashed, and your painter friend over there is in tears.”

“Ah!” Leland waved her concerns away graciously.  “Ralph’s been kicked when he’s down a lot harder than this.  That’s the thing you get to know about artists.  They’re not too good in the stand-up sort of way, but boy can they endure.  They’re like moss.  They find a way to make a home of wherever they find themselves, even gravestones.”

“There’s a practical sentiment.”

Leland smiled, and shrugged.

I know the next person we need to talk to.”  He nodded conspiratorially.

Photo of anonymous bar patron by Carl Nelson

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

June 3, 2013
'It's a clear cut case of demonic possession', thinks Ralph.

‘It’s a clear cut case of demonic possession’, thinks Ralph.

…and Squirellier

(Episode 54)

 

  As Leland and Agent Hailey settled back with their drinks, Ralph began.

“Good evening.”  Ralph gave a hesitant smile.

“Good evening, Ralph!”  Someone from the back called, to a titter of laughter.

Ralph nodded.  “I hope so,” he began tentatively.

“Just show us the painting!”  That someone called again.

“Shut up!”   Someone else called.

The commissioned painting was hung directly behind Ralph and covered in black velvet.  It was quite large as befitted a fifteen hundred dollar commission.

“As you know,” Ralph began again.

“Speak up!”

“Shut up!”

“As you know!”  Ralph leaned to close to the microphone.  The feedback nearly deafened everyone in the room.

Ralph pulled back immediately, and hesitated tentatively as if he were afraid to go near the mike again, which brought on another titter of laughter.  Ralph gazed out over his audience with saucer-sized eyes, and a hand dove for the peanuts.  He stood their cracking and eating several while his audience sat, waiting.

Finally, with both cheeks full of nuts, Ralph approached the microphone again, hesitantly.  “As you know,” he said.  “I am primarily a painter of rural, and that is in our case, agricultural settings.”  Though with all of the nuts in his cheeks this came out a little more like, “ur his hin hower cashe , hagghricalshurrrel shittings.”  This last got a laugh.  Ralph swallowed and drank some water.

“But fine artists down through history have not only reveled in depicting how their friends and neighbors earned their livings, but felt it their duty to celebrate it in song, story and painting.”

George Everlee nodded and started the applause.  “Farmers are the backbone of this community,” he  called out, “and we owe it mostly to just a great breed of Guernsey we have developed right here and now – in Kimmel County!”

There were lots of cheers.  Even fist pumps.

Ralph nodded.  “Praise the Lord for our abundance,” he said.

“Yes.  Yes. Yes,” it was murmured around the room.

“Are we in a tavern and drinking here, or are we in a church?”  The voice called out.

“Shut up!!!”

“As you know also, from my other times up here, that I believe ‘Wherever the Lord has brought abundance, the Devil views jealously.”  Ralph’s eyes narrowed.

The room was quiet.

“Wherever His Good Works Are In Evidence, the Devil plots.”  Ralph’s voice dropped and paused.

“Ah yes.  Yea, yea, yea,” some in the audience responded.  Others began to sway, (some from drink).

“And WHEREEVER the Good Lord Savior most blesses, THERE is where old Beezlebub most seeks to leave his brand!”  Ralph’s eyes bugged.

Hands were lifted.

But not George Everlee’s.  In fact, George Everlee was smiling stiffly, but looking around, wondering where this evening was headed, while his wife Arlene fought, inconspicuously, to get Ralph’s attention.  But by now, Ralph’s eyeballs were surely big as saucers, and the veins in his temple bulged.

“George Everlee’s Guernsey, Daffodil, was surely most blessed,” Ralph continued, pointing to the cloth covered painting, and with a nod to Ralph Everlee.

Leland had a feeling.  ‘This is fast turning into a wake,’ Leland thought.  ‘And for that, someone has to have died…’

But Ralph Everlee smiled, relaxed a bit, and nodded tentatively.

“Why I can still remember that frosty morning she was first delivered,” Ralph said.  “I was working on another portrait of a sort in a far part of the barn of Henrietta, George’s prize sow.  Many of you, of a few year’s memory, surely remember her.  I’ve got to say, she had the best flesh tones of any sow I’ve had the pleasure yet to paint in this area… mostly yellow ochre and Old Holland white with just the barest highlight of vermillion.”

Arlene blushed.  But George pumped his fist to a general cheer which arose from the crowd.   “It’s Stumps Magic Sow Cream” for any of you who are interested!”  George called out.

Ralph nodded, then moved closer to the mike.

“I know many of you here now – right now – have either laughed slightly, or just coughed, when you have heard me say up here in the past that an Artist has to Beat the Devil, each time he takes up his brush.  That Art is so important to the glorification of God, that the Devil must see to it himself, that this process – lent to us by God Himself – we call creation goes awry.  So that what is meant to be a glorification instead becomes an abomination.”

            Arlene and Ralph Everlee were now looking worried again, as were his kin, nestled nervously around, as to where this was going.  There was tittering and nervous reaching for drinks.

“I think you’d better just show us the painting, Ralph,” the voice in the back called.

And this time it was answered by a murmured chorus of assents.

“Before he does!”  Arlene Everlee stood up, bravely trying to turn the river of  some dark destiny to which it seemed Fate had deemed course through their celebratory evening.  “I just want to say how proud I am of my husband George, and his prize Guernsey Daffodil!  for the honor he has bestowed upon all of us here this evening who are gathered to toast our profession.  And I just want to add,” as she teared up, “that George has been as good a husband and provider these 25 years as he is a breeder and Daffodil is a milker.”

“Hear!  Hear!”  Voices cried.

They all drank to that, while Arlene blubbered and George Everlee kissed her.

“Show us the painting for Godsakes, Ralph,” another shouted.

“Well, to paraphrase Kris Kristofferson, I’m not going to say I beat the Devil,” Ralph said, gripping a corner of the drapery, and pulling.

Inwardly Leland prepared to cringe.

“But I drank his beer for free.  And then I painted his Face.”

Ralph had gotten most of the prize Guernsey Daffodil right excepting for the face, which resembled exactly that of a chipmunk.

A gasp rose up.

Silence gripped the room, while everyone fought to realize what to say, and turned generally towards George Everlee – whose jaw had fallen nearly to the floor – for guidance.  It was George’s herd manager, Earl, who finally spoke first.

“Well, he got her tits right,” he remarked gruffly.

Graphic of painting by Carl Nelson

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

June 2, 2013

Chipmunk in wild3

Things Get Squirrely

(Episode 53)

 Agent Hailey arrived about the time things got going.

More chairs had been set out.  Most of the Everlees and their friends and relations had arrived and gotten their drinks and snacks.  From the silence it sounded as though Ralph Bunch had gotten the microphone feedback solved.  Behind the microphone, hung in the place of honor and covered in black velvet, was the commissioned painting.

“George Everlees prize Guernsey won the Kimmel County Milkers Association Producer of the Year Award, and has done this three years running,” Leland told Agent Hailey.  “She’s quite a woman.”

“I’d imagine.”  Agent Hailey laughed.

“So they’ve had her portrait commissioned.  The Association is thinking of having this done for each of the yearly winners, to be hung in a place as yet to be determined.  So this reception is a big night for Ralph.  That might be why he appears so nervous.”

“Or it could be that he’s always been a screw-up and a loser,” Leland’s sour new acquaintance to the right said.

“Excuse me a moment,” Leland told Agent Bailey.

Leland leaned to his right.  “You’re going to walk to the restroom and stay there until you think you can sit here with your mouth shut for the rest of the evening – or I’m going to hit you in the ribs so hard with my elbow here that you’ll see spots,” Leland told his new acquaintance.

“I can keep my mouth shut,” the man said.

“Okay.”

Leland nodded towards where Ralph was chewing peanuts, and then, as if in a fit of rage, smashing the shells.  He looked as if he were trying not to eat more, first pushing the bowl of peanuts away – then pulling it back.  He appeared quite conflicted.  “He doesn’t look quite himself tonight,” he noted to Agent Hailey.  “But then, Ralph is an odd duck.  I think I’ll go up and have a chat with him, just to be sure everything is alright.”  He smiled at Agent Hailey and excused himself.  “And don’t you even glance at her,” Leland said to the man on his right as he left.  The man’s head snapped forward.

Leland walked up to where Ralph was seated.  “Ralph, how’re you doing?”  Leland asked, reaching to take a peanut from the bowl.

“Don’t touch those.”  Ralph pulled them away.

Leland thought Ralph was joking with him and reached again.

Ralph’s head shot forward and Leland jerked his hand back instinctively.  It looked like Ralph had tried to bite him!

“What the hell, Ralph?”  Leland laughed.

“Don’t touch my fucking nuts!”

“Okay,” Leland said with some levity.  “I’ll leave your junk alone.”

Ralph just stood there looking at Leland, as if Leland were a wild animal he didn’t understand.  Leland didn’t know what was going on.  “You pretty nervous, huh?  This time around, about the show?”

Ralph seemed to break down, almost in tears.

“Oh Leland, you don’t know.  My career is over.  My life is probably ended.”  Ralph grabbed at Leland’s hand like a lifeline.

This seemed more like the overly sensitive Ralph that Leland knew.  Leland sat down.  He nodded to Agent Hailey to indicate that this might take a moment.

“I can’t paint anymore!”  Ralph said in hushed tones.

Leland furrowed his brows.

“All it seems I can do is to chew and harbor nuts, like a squirrel.”  Ralph sputtered with wide eyes.

Leland reached unconsciously for another peanut as he listened.  And Ralph flew at his arm with his teeth.

“Shit!”  Leland said, shoving Ralph off.  There was drool left on his shirt.  Ralph’s teeth probably would have broken the skin if it hadn’t been for the tough fabric.  “What the hell?”

“I can’t control it!”  Ralph cried leaning back, eyes wide.  “I tried to warn you.”

“Control what?”

“I don’t know.  The mind, I think, of the chipmunk.”  Ralph was focused far off on some thought.  “He’s so….   feral.”

Leland was at a complete loss.  Finally Leland decided Ralph had been better left alone.

Leland walked back to the bar.  Agent Hailey asked, “What’s wrong with him?”

“I don’t know,” Leland said.  “I hope it’s not rabies.  He was going on about some chipmunk.”

“This might not have been the best night for you to have attended.  But I feel now, like I’d better stay and watch over things,” Leland added.  “You want to go?”

“No.”  Agent Hailey smiled.  “I think I can handle a chipmunk.”

“It sounds like Ralph can’t.”  Leland frowned.

Finally, it came time for the ceremony to begin.

PhotoArt by Carl Nelson

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 24, 2013
Above the Campaign Cafe Bar.

Above the Campaign Cafe Bar.

Poetry Night

(Episode 52)

 Leland saw that the crowd was beginning to move into the back room.  So he paid their tab and while Agent Hailey went to ‘freshen up’, he told her he’d step into the bar and grab them some good stools.

Actually, the back room was larger than your normal bar.  This was because it was sometimes used to host dances and meetings.  Varnished wood lined the room.  There were hard liquor signs.  (Carmella said Peter felt neon beer signs were ‘cheap’, ‘looked rural’, and ‘lacked class’.)  There was a small stage also.  And that’s where Ralph was nervously toying with the amped microphone – with the usual “Test, test, testing…” and squeals.  Some folding chairs had been set up.

Above, and around, the bar there were the usual stuffed heads of the critters shot around the area, not excluding that of a pig and a Guernsey cow.  Those usually got a chuckle from whatever tourist happened by, and usually the extra drink order as the tourists discussed the stuffed heads and Kimmel further.

Leland saw two free seats and grabbed them, sitting in the one nearest a short, stocky fireplug of a guy finishing a shot of liquor.  They guy gave him no notice but immediately ordered another.  He looked up when it arrived and the bright bar light must have immediately initiated a sneeze…

“Oh fuck, oh goddamn, oh goddamn,” the man cried as he inhaled, and then,  “Fuuuuuuuckkkkkkk!”  As he sneezed, wincing and tearing up with the pain.  “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!”  He exclaimed gripping the bar till his pain ebbed.  “Shit,” he said, seeing that his whiskey had spilled.

“Gesundheit,” Leland offered, head turned.

“And fuck your gesundheit, too,” the man snarled, not glancing back.

Leland considered this, then nodded, and resumed his thoughts regarding Agent Hailey.  ‘Suzanne’, she had said.  Leland smiled.

Somewhere between the beer bubbles, Suzanne and he were in the tropics.  Leland’s fruity drink was ice cold.   A gently breeze played with Suzanne’s hair.  They were lying back on identical blue chaise loungers staring out at the sea with their weapons lying on the cabana table between them, cleaned and ready for use.

“You’re the Sheriff, aren’t you,” the fireplug demanded of the bar mirror.

Leland considered this.  In his pleasant thoughts both of them were reaching as if in synchronous motion for their weapons with a quick, clean sweep of their arms.

“Well, either you are, or you aren’t.”  The man shook his head with disgust.

Leland spoke back to the mirror.  “I’m guessing someone broke your ribs, by the way you reacted to that sneeze.  I’ve experienced a couple broken ribs myself, so I know what that feels like.  And I’m guessing you didn’t get kicked by a cow, since you don’t smell like manure and you’re pissed off.   Most people with their ribs broken and that are pissed off and aren’t yelling at a cow are talking to a Sheriff  because they had them broken by someone else, another human, because no one has ever asked me to arrest a cow.”  Leland sized the fellow up.  Aside from the spark plug tattoo on his arm, which Leland liked, he couldn’t say he cared for the fellow much.  The guy just made an awful first impression and Leland wouldn’t have minded giving him a jab in the ribcage himself.  “But this is just from my experience as your Sheriff.  I am assuming you’re from here.  How am I doing?”  Leland asked the mirror.

The man turned to face Leland.   “Nobody told me our Sheriff was a smartass.”

“That’s good to hear.” Leland nodded.  “What’s on your mind?”

“You’ve got a psycho loose in your town, in case you don’t know it.”

“I’d say that’s pretty much common knowledge.”  Leland nodded.

“I don’t mean that psycho.  I mean this psycho.”  The man pointed at his ribs.

“You’ve still got your head?”  Leland asked.

“Just barely!”  The man exclaimed.  “The guy had his knife out.”

“Uh?”  Leland became a little more interested.

“Yeah.  …Uh!”  The man acted as if Leland couldn’t hear.  Leland leaned back.  “Then that psycho shut his eyes, made a deep sigh – as if trying to restrain himself – and put it away.  I tell you.  I thought I was a goner.  I thought I was about to be dissected.  …Oh shit!”  The man exclaimed, thinking to stifle another sneeze.  But it was a false alarm.

“Where did this happen?” Leland asked, moving his beer so that the man wouldn’t sneeze into it.

“Right in back.  Here!”  The man had a way of phrasing everything as if the person he was speaking to were an idiot.

“In back of the restaurant?”

“You’re kind of slow aren’t you?  Yeah!  Right in back here, in back of the restaurant.”

“What were you doing back there?”

“What was I doing back there?  I’m the cook, for Godsakes!  Who do you think prepares your damned food?”

Leland just nodded.  “Okay.  I see.”  Leland smiled.  “It’s just that I’m really surprised someone would want to hurt someone as pleasant as yourself.  How did this come about?”  Leland folded his hands, all ears.

The man regarded Leland.

“You don’t give a fuck, do you?”  The man said loudly enough so that others turned.

“No,” Leland replied softly with an edge to his voice.  “Actually, I’m beginning to give it a real personal concern!”  He made as if to rearrange the man’s coat on the back of his chair with his right hand, while manipulating the man’s broken ribs with two stiff fingers of his left.

“Oooooh fuck, fuck, fuckkkkkkkk!”   The man squinted and cried, real tears.

People were turned and looking.  Leland put his arm even more protectively around the man’s shoulder, and spoke softly, as if consoling the man beneath the bar noise while handing him a paper napkin.  Leland smiled at the other patrons.

“Look,” Leland said quietly. “One of the rules of being a small town Sheriff is that if I take shit from any one, then I’m not the alpha dog.  And I have to be the alpha dog.   Otherwise, the whole social fabric is torn.  Do you understand this?”  Leland screwed his left index and middle finger into the man’s ribs.  “Total chaos ensues.”

“Yeeeessss!”  The man cried.

Leland patted him on the back.  “You’re a reasonable man.”

The man rose to leave.  Leland restrained him.

“There’s more,” Leland said, setting him back down.

Leland waited.  The man nodded.

“Now I’m going to ask you a few questions, and you’re going to give me clear answers.  Okay?”

“Okay.”

Leland asked.

The man replied.  “He’s another cook here!  I stepped out to take a break, and saw him sitting there.  I told him to get back to work.  He told me he didn’t want to.  So I got in his face a little.”

Leland nodded.  “And what happened then?”

“He…”  The man struggled with his hands to describe it.  “…had me on my back with my ribs stomped in before I could whistle.  I never even seen it coming.  The man’s as fast as shit.  And then, I was looking up at him with his knife out.”

“Okay,” Leland said.  “And then?”

“Then he decides to go back inside and continue cooking.  That’s it.  I picked myself up, and took the day off.  I went home.”

“So you run the kitchen?”

“Not anymore.” The man nodded to where another man was standing.  “HE does.”

Leland glanced that way.  “What do the others have to say about this?  It sounds like he’s new.”

“He is,” the man spoke into the bar mirror.  “That is, he was the newest, up until a while ago.  But no one says a word against him.  All that fella has to do is to mumble, at any of them, and the shit dribbles right outta their pants legs.”  The man asked for another shot.

Leland considered this.  “What about Carmella?”  He asked.  “I can’t see Carmella putting up with that.”

The man looked at Leland like he was hopeless.

“He’s the one who’s knocking her!”  The man replied.  “You can’t hear it?!  He regarded Leland with scorn.  “Are you deaf?”  He shook his head.

“I had my secretary close the window,” Leland replied.

“Yeah, I’d guess.”  The fellow replied, sullenly.  “You hear one of Carmella’s screams, I suppose you’d heard them all.  It can really grate on you, you know?  Especially when you’re trying to plan the next weeks work schedule.”

Leland regarded his beer for a while.  He had some more questions he could ask.  But frankly, he didn’t want to talk with the fellow any longer.  So he took his arm from around the man’s shoulders.  “You can go now.”  He nodded.

“Go.  Why do I have to go?  I’m staying right here.”

Leland gave him a look, and had to shake his head again at the man’s contrary obtuseness.

“You want to press charges?”  Leland asked, looking again at the fellow the man had indicated.

“Yeah!  After he’s dead and buried.”  The man laughed, speaking all this into the mirror and refusing to glance at the man again.   “At least six feet down and two weeks after.”

Leland sat ruminating on this.  And while he set there, the man didn’t leave.

“I guess this makes us friends now, then,” Leland said, seeing as how the fellow hadn’t left.

“I don’t have any friends,” the man replied.

“Okay,” Leland said, regarding his beer.  “That sounds about right.”

“Allies then,” Leland said, mulling it over.

Picture taken from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 19, 2013

Pie1

Leland’s Love Jitters

(Episode 51)

            Leland, meanwhile, was having his own problems.  He had tried asking Agent Hailey out.  He had begun, “Agent Hailey?”

“Yes,” she said.

“I was won…”

Leland looked at Agent Hailey.  She was all tired efficiency.   The poor thing was just worn out, he could tell, and probably held upright by her stiff uniform.  They’d all been pushing themselves pretty hard.

“Gee, you look bushed.  We need a night off,” he declared finally.

“Serial killers don’t take nights off,” Agent Hailey replied.

“Well, we don’t know that, do we?  And they certainly should,” Leland declared.

Agent Hailey just looked at him.  He thought she might be going to say something dismissive, but instead, she fell asleep.   Just as she opened her mouth, she fell directly forward, her head stuck in Leland’s stomach.  She was out like a light, snoring briskly.

 

            Leland rousted Ramey out of the cell and lay Agent Hailey on the bunk.  Then he turned off the light and shut the inside door so that she could get some uninterrupted sleep.

When Agent Hailey awoke it was about 6 pm, and Leland suggested they get some dinner at the Café “…across the way, and then maybe catch some of the local culture.  What do you think?”  He added, his eye twitching.

Agent Hailey looked around the darkened cell, and then at Sheriff Leland groggily, like a child being awakened in the depths of the night and told they had to leave right away for ‘somewhere’.  “Okay,” she mumbled.

But she wasn’t entirely present until around twenty minutes later when she studied, with some of her old presence, the crowd in the Café and the meatloaf, potatoes with homemade gravy which had been placed before her.  “What’s with the crowd?”  Agent Hailey asked.

“They’re gathering for Culture Night,” Leland responded.

“Sheriff Kelly.  May I call you ‘Leland’?”  Agent Hailey asked.

“I wish you would.”  Leland smiled.

“Leland,” Agent Hailey began again, licking some of the sleepy drool from her lips and taking a sip of coffee.”  “What the hell is ‘Culture Night’?”

“You remember the artist I told you about who painted the cell you just finished sleeping in?”

“Yes.”

“His name is Ralph Bunch.  His family has lived around here for ages.  But I’d say he’s the only ‘artist’ they’ve ever sprouted.  And his specialty is painting scenes from hereabouts, most notably cows and such.  And every month he has a showing.  He covers the walls of the bar in back.  And often recites a small poem or squib of something he’s composed while in the midst of creating his paintings.  So far I’d guess I’ve heard everything which could ever be said about Guernseys.  Each month I’d be willing to wager it, but each month, Ralph proves me wrong.”  Leland smiled.  “Actually,” he added, “it’s called Poetry Night.”  Leland spoke this latter with a lift of his fork and knife and a little flourish.

“That’s real romantic.”  Agent Hailey nodded, several times, as if thinking that – and her meatloaf with homemade gravy – over.

“Agent Hailey,” Leland set his silverware to ask.  “May I call you….?”

“Yes?”

“You’ve never told me your first name.”

“Agent.”

“Agent?”  Leland looked confused, and then a little disheartened.

“Hey!”  Agent Hailey poked him with her fork, and then stole a bite of his pie.  “May name is Suzanne.  Suzanne Hailey,” she said with a smile.  “You were right about their pie.  This is really good.”

She went for another bite as Leland pulled it away.

“Get your own.”  Leland smiled.

For the rest of the meal, they chattered like two high school seniors.

Photo from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 17, 2013
Ralph couldn't get the head right.

Ralph couldn’t get the head right.

Opening Night Jitters

(Episode 50)

            Ralph Bunch still didn’t feel quite himself Thursday morning as he hung his show in the back room of the Campaign Café.  He’d tried calling the Everlee’s to see if they could postpone the unveiling of the prize Guernsey till next month, but Cynthia Everlee had pleaded with him to try and finish.  It was to be for George Everlee’s 50th birthday and people were driving from some distance to attend.  So under deadline, Ralph was still painting as it hung on the wall.  He’d been up all night and the past day, and drinking coffee mixed with a little Three Feathers Whiskey to keep him from getting too jangled.  And he had kept at it but couldn’t get the heifer’s head at all right – in fact, not even close to right, and in the flurry was smearing and dribbling paint.

It was a matter of likeness – the lowest of all aesthetic indicators to an artist Ralph felt, but one of the highest to a patron.  It kept looking like a squirrel!  Or maybe it just ‘felt’ like a squirrel.  Ralph didn’t know.  Whatever it was, Ralph just couldn’t hit it on the sweet spot where everything felt done and…  well, Guernsey-like!  ‘For Pete’s sake!’ Ralph swore at himself, ‘You ought to know a Guernsey.’

Ralph walked backwards with his eyes squinted.   Then he walked forwards with his eyes squinted, and then extra wide open, and then squinted again and made an adjustment – all the while nibbling nuts.  Which was the problem really, ‘he really didn’t feel like himself’.  He rarely nibbled nuts.

Painting this way felt like trying to drive a narrow,  twisting alley, while seated sideways in the driver’s seat.  ‘Damn!’ if he just couldn’t  feel with his brush, where that heifer was anymore.  He was losing – or had lost – his ability to feel Guernsey.

With this realization came an electric bolt of fear running from his bottommost shakra right up his backbone causing him to splatter even more paint.   Because losing the ability to think Guernsey in dairy country could be devastating.  He was going to starve and then to die – cold and alone, maybe even sober.  Every unsuccessful artist realizes this.   “If if must happen, then it will happen.”  That’s what the Realists all say.   But Ralph Bunch had tried his best, until now, to ignore all the signs.

He sucked down some more coffee, shut his eyes tight, then opened them.  He must have painted 500 Guernseys  in this life; he gripped the brush  tightly.  He could do one more!

Painting by Ralph Bunch

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 15, 2013
Does this fellow know something?

Does this fellow know something?

The Muffin Lady’s Secret

(Episode 49)

            “Look at this,” Nancy nodded, when Sheriff Leland and Veterinarian Merlin stepped into the room.  “Here it is, in the Charleston Gazette, October 23rd, 1986”:

 

Girls Civics Club Bus Goes Missing for 6 Hours

 

A school bus carrying eight girls to the School Government and Civics Symposium went missing for 6 hours yesterday, school authorities have reported.  The girls were from the communities of Pinch and Elkview, West Virginia.  The twelve mile trip, which should have taken about one hour, took seven hours instead.  Neither the driver nor any of the students on the bus had any explanation, saying that they believed it had been just a normal drive.  They were a little puzzled they said, when they arrived in Charleston around sundown and glanced at their watches.  But otherwise, they could recount nothing unusual as having occurred, nor did they feel any ill effects except “having missed lunch, apparently”.

 

Authorities meanwhile are interrogating the driver, checking the bus odometer and asking local residents to call if they could report having seen this bus anytime between the hours of 11am and 6pm yesterday.

 

“Did you happen to be on that bus?”  Sheriff Leland asked Ramey, who happened to be in the nature of Nancy Loomis then.

Ms. Loomis read the article one more time, then placed Ramey’s palms to his head and sat down.

“Was Clarisse Clemens on that bus?”  Leland asked.

“I don’t know.  We got on.  We had never met with the other girls, so we sat with our own friends.  And then, after we arrived in Charleston, it was so weird, my parents came and got me and we drove home.”

“About two weeks later, I started having dreams,” Ms. Loomis continued.  The Muffin Lady pressed Ramey’s fingertips to his forehead.  “About nothing I’d ever seen, and being in other peoples’ bodies…”  She glanced at Ramey’s hands, and looked in her pocket mirror at Ramey’s face.  “Oh my God,” she said.

“You never told a soul about all this?”  Ruth asked in disbelief.

“About my dreams?” The Muffin Lady laughed harshly.

Leland shook his head.

Then Ramey spoke.  “Where’d she go?”  He asked.

“Who?”  Ruth asked.

“That business woman.  The Muffin Lady.”  Ramey glanced around as if she had been in the room standing right beside him.

Ruth’s glasses slipped off her nose.

Photo taken from Google Images


%d bloggers like this: