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We interrupt your story for a word from our sponsor

Ok, I really don’t have a sponsor.

But I did want to take a moment and thank everyone who has been reading “Death of a Cantankerous old Coot” for all the feedback and encouragement you have been giving me! I am so happy that you are enjoying the story. Trust me, I am having a lot of fun writing it. My son can always tell it is going to be a good chapter because I sit here and laugh maniacally over something I wrote. He just shakes his head, saying, “What did you do THIS time?”

Remember, feedback is always welcome! I will admit that some of the comments that have been made has taken the story in a different direction, so keep it up!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming…

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Death of Cantankerous old Coot – Chapter 5

I decided to go home instead of talking to Owen. The five men watched me through the window until I got in my car. Since Brookdale is a small town (population 2,343, located south of Dallas), it only took five minutes to get home.

My little house sat on a half acre, with old oak trees surrounding it. They certainly helped keep the cooling costs down during the hot summer months, and I loved sitting in my fenced backyard in the evenings. It wasn’t a big house, but for a single woman, it was just the right size.

I got out of the Cooper, grabbed the paint, and walked around to the side gate leading to the backyard. In the left corner of the yard sat my hideously pink shed. It was my workshop of sorts – on one side, I kept potting soil, plant food, trowels and spades for when I felt like growing plants. One the other side, I had a workbench, where my woodcarving tools and vice sat. It was too hot to spend much of the summer months in there, though. Even with a window air conditioner and a fan, I usually felt like I was melting within 30 minutes.

Unlocking the door, I put the paint cans on the workbench and walked back to the front door of the house. As I turned the knob, the phone started ringing. I grabbed it on the third ring. “Hello?”

“Ms. Crenshaw? This is Deputy Reynolds. I wanted to make sure you were home before I brought the dog.”

My heart skipped a couple of beats at the sound of his voice. Get a grip, Lizzie. Geez! “I just walked in the door.”

“Great. I’ll bring her by in a few minutes, then.” He hung up before I could say anything else. Damn, I had forgotten to buy any pet supplies while I was at the square. I’m not a blonde, but sometimes I sure act like one.

I quickly picked up the mess in the living room and put the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher. My living room/kitchen area was one big open space, with the dining room acting like a divider between the two. A hallway to the left led to the master bedroom, with another small hallway leading to the bathroom and guest room. Like I said, it was small, but I didn’t need a lot of space. I just hoped the house was big enough to accommodate a bloodhound, too.

I saw a police car pull into the driveway. I opened the front door as the deputy coaxed Babe out. “Nice little house,” he commented as they came up the sidewalk.

“Thank you,” I said. I bent down in front of Babe. “How are you, girl?” She responded by giving me a sloppy kiss on the cheek.

“I didn’t know if you had any dog food or bowls, so I bought some before I called you. I hope that’s alright.”

“Oh, sure, that’s fine.” I watched him go back to his car, where he pulled three bags and a huge sack of dog food out of the trunk. “How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing,” he replied. “I’m happy to help.”

“But I can’t let you do that. I know this stuff isn’t cheap. Surely you don’t make a lot of money as a sheriff’s deputy.”

“I’m sure I make more as a deputy than you do as a writer,” he smiled.

“How did you know I was a writer?”

“The sheriff.” How odd. Owen was usually rather tightlipped about his friends. “Where do you want me to put this stuff?”

“Let’s put the bags in the kitchen and the dog food in the shed until I can figure something else out,” I said, taking the bags from him. Putting them on the table, I unlocked the sliding glass door and led him out to the shed. Babe followed us, looked around the yard, and plopped down under a shade tree.

“If you don’t mind me saying this, that is one ugly looking shed,” he said.

“You wouldn’t be the first one to say so, Deputy Reynolds.”

“Just T.J., please.” He dropped the dog food near the potting soil.

“I’m Lizzie.”

“Sheriff said you were planning to paint it.”

“I had planned to get an early start this morning, but for obvious reasons, I didn’t.”

“I’m pretty good with a paintbrush, if you’d like some help.”

“I couldn’t ask you to do that. You have a murder to investigate, don’t you?”

“Well, the sheriff is more familiar with the people in this town, and they are probably going to be more inclined to talk to him than to me. The state crime boys are going over the park with a fine tooth comb right now, so Sheriff Greene told me to take the rest of the day off.”

“In other words, Owen sent you over here to pump me for information about my alibi last night.”

T.J. blushed. “Maybe.”

“I see.” I looked at his clothes. “Are you planning to paint in your uniform?”

He looked down at himself. “Um, no. I’ll go home, change clothes and be right back.”

“Why don’t you stop by the store and pick up something to throw on the grill? The least I can do is cook for you.”

“Deal. And when I get back, you can tell me what the man from the hardware store said to before you left.” He walked off.

T.J. had seen my encounter with Albert Garcia. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? A better question: did Albert know someone had seen him talking to me?

Was it too late to call a mulligan on the whole morning?

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Death of a Cantankerous old Coot – Chapter 4

There wasn’t much more to say after that. The crowd dispersed as T.J. came back with some yellow crepe paper and started marking off the perimeter around the merry-go-round. I tried not to watch as he wrapped it around the nearest trees, but he caught me looking and smiled. I blushed and turned away, focusing on Babe instead.

“Are you really going to take her?” Owen asked.

“What other choice do I have? I can’t let Earline take her to the pound.”

Owen patted Babe’s head. “You’re right. Will she fit into your car?”

I looked over at my Mini Cooper. “What do you think?”

“Well, I’d let you take the truck, but it is part of a crime scene. Tell you what, I’ll have T.J. drive her out to your place in the patrol car.”

My heart skipped a beat at the thought of seeing T.J. later. “Um, sure, that would be just fine. I have to go to the hardware store for some paint, but I should be home in an hour.”

Owen nodded and turned to look at Amos. “Poor old bastard.”

I wasn’t sure I agreed with his opinion of Amos, but I didn’t say so aloud. Instead, I said goodbye to Babe and went to the hardware store.

Five men stood by the register, talking about Amos. The consensus was that his death was bound to happen eventually. “Hell, I’ve been tempted to put a bullet in his butt a time or two myself,” Roger Tinsdall, the store owner declared. “He always came in here acting like he was entitled to anything he wanted.”

“He did the same thing everywhere. Just because his ancestors established this town, he thought he could tell everyone what to do,” Walter Simmons added.

“Owen’s not going to stop until he finds out who killed Amos,” Crandall Martin said.

“Maybe we should make sure he doesn’t find out,” Roger said as I walked toward the paint.

“Are you crazy?” Walter replied. “It’s against the law to interfere with an official police investigation!”

“I didn’t say to interfere,” Roger said. “But we don’t have to tell him everything, either. If he asks, we will tell him that we were playing poker last night. We’re fine, upstanding citizens. He won’t have any reason to doubt us.

“I have an alibi for last night,” Crandall said.

“You’re going to use Trixie as your alibi?” Walter said. “What would Andrea say about that?”

“It isn’t any of her damn business,” Crandall growled.

“I’m pretty sure Andrea would disagree with that,” Roger laughed.

Crandall noticed me for the first time. “Hey, Lizzie, how ya doing?”

The other men turned to look at me. “What can I get you, Lizzie?” Roger said as he came around the counter.

For some reason, I felt uncomfortable. “I…I need some paint. I’m redoing the shed in my backyard.”

“Well, sure,” he replied. “What color do you want? You aren’t going to paint it pink again, are you? Did your momma pick out the color?”

I laughed. “No, I’m not about to let her choose again. I was thinking blue or brown this time.”

“I seem to remember your shed has a couple of windows with shutters. Why don’t you paint it beige and the shutters blue?” I nodded in agreement, and he began mixing the paint. “So, I understand that you found Amos.”

“Yes, I did.”

Roger shook his head. “Damn shame. Amos was a jerk, but no one deserves to be killed.”

“Not everyone seems to agree with your point of view, Roger,” Crandall said behind me. “Otherwise, Amos would still be alive.”

He was right about that, but I didn’t want to say that aloud. However, their comment about interfering in Owen’s investigation made me wonder if one of them had something to do with the murder.

Roger carried the two paint cans to the front counter and rang it up. “That’ll be $52.85, Lizzie.” I handed him the money, grabbed the cans and left. Walking away, I couldn’t decide if I should tell Owen what I had heard. As I put the cans in the car, I looked over at the park, where Owen and T.J. were working. My conscience told me that I needed to do the right thing. Sighing, I started toward the park, but someone grabbed me from behind and yanked me backwards. I turned around and came face to face with Albert Garcia, one of the other men that had been in the hardware store.

“You need to stay out of this, Elizabeth,” he said quietly. “There is more to this than you will ever understand. Just let Owen do his job. He won’t find anything, and it will all go away. But only if you don’t tell him what you overheard inside.”

I looked at him, wondering what he thought I knew. “I’m pretty sure everyone knows that Crandall goes down to Trixie’s place once a week, Albert. It’s not that earth shattering. Owen will find out, anyway. He doesn’t need to hear it from me.”

“Keep it that way,” he said as he walked away. I watched him go back into the hardware store and say something to the others. They turned to look at me. I felt a cold chill go up my spine. They knew something about Amos’ murder.

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Death of a Cantankerous old Coot – Chapter 3

The crowd gasped as they watched Earline dance around the merry-go-round with glee. I had to admit that I was a bit stunned by her reaction. Granted, Amos had been a royal pain the butt, but I thought Earline had lost her mind.

Gladys raced over, grabbed Earline’s arm and slapped her. “Get a hold of yourself! Your poor mother is rolling over in her grave right now because of the way you are behaving. Your husband is dead! That is no reason to act like some heathen at Mardi Gras!”

Earline jerked her arm out of Gladys’ grasp. “Oh, shut up, you old goat. After thirty years of putting up with all of his garbage, I have a right to celebrate. I can finally start living my life the way I want to! No more playing second fiddle to that flea-bitten hound dog!” she added, pointing at Babe. “That mutt is going to be the first thing to go.”

“What are you going to do with Babe?” I asked. I didn’t want to believe that Earline would do anything to intentionally harm the bloodhound, but in her current state of mind, I wouldn’t put it past her, either.

“I’m going to send it to the pound, what else? I hate that dog. Amos always treated her as if she was the mistress of the house, while he treated me like a dog. The house is mine now, and I don’t intend to share it with that mutt.”

Bending down, I put my arms around Babe, who licked my cheek. “I’ll take her,” I said impulsively.

“Fine by me,” Earline said. “Take her now. I don’t want to see her ever again.”

I looked up at Gladys, who looked shocked by her friend’s behavior. “Earline, are you sure you should be making any rash decisions right now?” she said. “You’re distraught. Why don’t you wait a few days before you make any other…”

“Oh, dry up, Gladys,” Earline interrupted. “I’m not distraught, upset or irrational. I’ve been planning for this day for years.”

“Where were you last night, Earline?” Owen said.

“I was at home, where else?” Earline snapped. “He never let me go anywhere unless I went with him. I bought this car three years ago and kept it hidden. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds, either. He was always going through my things, taking any money I had squirreled away, keeping me a prisoner in my own home.”

“Can anyone verify that you were there all night?” Owen asked.

“Of course not.”

“Do you know how to shoot a gun?”

“Well, that’s a stupid question, Owen Greene,” she retorted. “Everyone around here knows how to shoot a gun.”

“I didn’t ask about everyone else, Earline. I asked you.”

“Yes, Sheriff, I know how to shoot a gun. Amos made sure of that. He told me it was my job to keep people off our property when he wasn’t around. He said, ‘Shoot first and ask questions later, Earline. The police can’t charge you with anything because you are protecting private property.’ Not that I ever had to; no one ever came out to see us.”

“How did you know to come down here?”

“Someone called me, said Amos was dead in the middle of the park. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t one of his stupid pranks.” She looked down at her dead husband. “Good luck finding his killer, Sheriff. Your list of suspects is probably a mile long.” She started walking off.

“Want me to come with you, Earline?” Gladys asked.

“What for? I’m not going home to fall apart. I’m going home to pack. I plan to take a long vacation.”

“But you need to make arrangements for his funeral!” Gladys replied. “He deserves a Christian burial.”

“Then you make the arrangements, Gladys. Everyone knows you have been carrying a torch for him for forty years,” Earline tartly replied. “The only reason you were friends with me was to stay close to him.”

Gladys’ mouth fell open, and tears sprang up in her eyes. “That’s not true, Earline. I swear!”

“Oh, dry up, Gladys,” Earline said as she walked to her car.

“Don’t leave town just yet, Earline,” Owen told her. “I’ll need to come out to your house and take a look around, check your guns to make sure they haven’t been fired recently.”

“Do you plan to arrest me?” Earline glared at him.

“Not at this time. No reason to.”

“Unless you are planning to lock me up and throw away the key, I am leaving on a nice, long cruise. And I may not come back.” She got into her Cadillac, started it and rolled down the window. “You can haul that piece of junk truck away and crush it. I never want to see that puke green thing again.” She backed up and sped off.

“Unbelievable,” I muttered as she squealed around the corner. “She’s as heartless as Amos was.”

“He made her that way,” Gladys replied. “She’s got more fire in her than I have seen in years.”

“Do you think she’s capable of killing, Gladys?” Owen said.

She thought a moment before replying. “If you had asked me before she got here, I would have said no. But after that display, I’m not so sure.”

It looked like Earline just placed herself at the top of the suspect list, with Gladys a close second. Oh boy.

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Death of a Cantankerous Old Coot – Chapter 2

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Sheriff Owen Greene said ten minutes later. “Someone finally shot the old son of a gun.”

A crowd had gathered on the sidewalk, mostly the breakfast crowd from the café. If I noticed Amos’ truck sitting in the middle of the street, and Babe sitting in the park, why didn’t anyone else?

“Did you notice anyone leaving when you got here, Lizzie?” Owen said as he looked around.

“Just Babe,” I replied.

“Hey Owen,” Gladys Norwell said. “Is that really Amos on that spinning wheel?”

“It’s a merry-go-round,” Charlene Sims, owner of the beauty salon, told her.

“I don’t care what it’s called,” Gladys snapped. “I just wanna know if that idiot is dead.”

“Yes, Gladys, he’s dead,” Owen confirmed.

“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” she said. “It’s about time someone did something about him.”

“You confessin’, Gladys?”

“How dare you, Owen Greene! I have a good mind to call your momma and tell her you just accused me of murder!”

Owen chuckled. “I was just checking, Gladys.”

Gladys glared at Owen while the rest of the crowd laughed. Frankly, I wondered how he was going to narrow down the list of suspects. I didn’t think there was a person in town that, at one time or another, hadn’t wanted to kill Amos.

Owen motioned for T.J. Reynolds, one of his deputies, to move closer. At 6’ 6”, T.J. stood out in the crowd like a sore thumb. He had recently retired from the military, and had come to Brookdale for some peace and quiet, or so he said. I was sure he didn’t expect to run into a murder in a small town. Being a bachelor, there were plenty of women chased after him, and who wouldn’t? Black hair, brown eyes, a smile that made his eyes dance, and rippling muscles that strained against his khaki deputy’s shirt. I glanced at my own outfit and cringed. Paint-stained overall shorts, an old Texas A&M t-shirt and tennis shoes, with my red hair pulled back into a ponytail. Not exactly a man-catching outfit, but then again, I wasn’t really looking. Was I?

“T.J., call Mabel at the station and ask her to get the state crime unit in here. They’ll know how to handle a murder. I don’t have the first idea how to go about investigating this.”

“Do we have any crime scene tape?” T.J. asked.

Owen shook his head. “The worst crime around here is someone stealing a six-pack of beer from the Grab ‘n Go on the outskirts of town.”

“Why don’t you get some crepe paper from the dollar store?” I suggested. “You can at least block off the area to keep people from getting too close to the body.”

“I’ll take care of it,” T.J. said. He walked off and I couldn’t help but watch. I didn’t realize I had been staring until Owen snapped his fingers in front of my face.

“Are you done undressing my deputy? I’d like to ask you some questions.”

“I wasn’t doing anything of the sort. He just happened to be walking in the general direction I was looking,” I said as my face turned bright red.

“Uh-huh. Is this how you found Amos? You didn’t touch or move him in any way?”

I shook my head. “It was obvious he was dead when I walked up.” I leaned over and patted Babe on the head. “She was sitting right there, not moving, looking rather sad.”

“You said you didn’t see anyone leaving the area when you pulled up. Was anyone watching you from one of the storefront windows?”

“How the heck would I know that? When I came around the corner, I almost rear-ended Amos’ truck. I wasn’t worried about someone watching me.” I looked at the crowd, who obviously did not intend to leave any time soon. “Owen, how are you going to narrow down the list of suspects? We have all had problems with Amos at one time or another.”

“Some grudges run deeper than others, Lizzie,” Owen said.

I looked at Gladys, who was talking to Iris Griswell, her best friend, and Charlene. She glanced our way, but when she saw me watching her, she quickly turned around and left, dragging the other two women with her. “What was Gladys’ problem with Amos?”

“Gladys accused Amos of tricking her daddy out of a prime piece of land. Apparently, Amos convinced him that the land was worthless, and that he wanted it for his grazing cattle. Caleb, that was her daddy’s name, needed the money, so he sold the land for lower than market value. The day after he bought the land, Amos had an oil rig erected on the land and struck it rich a short time later.”

“So that’s where Amos got his money.”

“One of many places he got it.”

Tires squealed, followed by a sickening crunch, and interrupted our conversation. We turned to see that a pink Cadillac had slammed into the back of Amos’ truck. A blond-haired woman got out and stumbled into the park, stopping by the merry-go-round. She didn’t say anything, just stood there with her mouth open. I braced myself for the wail I knew was coming.

Instead, Earline Gardner started laughing and dancing. “I’m free, I’m free! The old son of a bastard is dead!”

Nice to see she was taking it so well.

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Death of a Cantankerous old Coot – Chapter 1

The bullet hole between Amos Gardner’s eyes guaranteed that he hadn’t seen the sunrise.

Brookdale was a relatively quiet town. We all knew each other, and if we didn’t, well, you just weren’t worth knowing, I guess. But a small town also meant people knew when you did something stupid. In Amos’ case, that was darn near every day.

He drove around town in a 1947 pistachio green Chevy truck. He had it painted that color every two years, and Babe, his red bloodhound, rode in the cab with him. If his wife Earline wanted to ride inside, she had to sit in the middle because the passenger window belonged to Babe. To tell the truth, no one remembered seeing Earline riding in that truck too much – mainly because Amos usually slammed the gearshift into her legs so hard it left bruises.

There wasn’t a more cantankerous man in town than Amos. He went out of his way to tick somebody off, then sat there and laughed about it in the person’s face. “I’m old, what are you gonna do about it?” he’d cackle in the offended party’s face. “I’ll sue ya for elderly abuse!” At one time or another, he had threatened nearly everyone in town with a lawsuit. Heck, he’d park his truck in the middle of the street around Town Square, go inside a store, take care of business, and come back out to find five people standing around his truck complaining. “I gotta right to park where I want,” he would say, “and ain’t nothin’ you can do about it!” He’d climb in his truck and drive off, laughing the whole time. People around here didn’t like that kind of treatment, especially when it was from him.

Town Square was where all the excitement was in Brookdale. There was a park in the center of the square, surrounded by beautiful oak trees, with benches, tables and the usual playground equipment. Some of that equipment had been there since I was a kid. They just didn’t build stuff to last like they used to. Anyway, the main business hub was located around the park. Women got their hair done at the ‘Curl & Dye Beauty Salon’ on one side of the square while the men went to ‘Ray’s Barbershop’ on the other side. Actually, if you stopped to think about it, the square was divided into his and hers sides. Everything that you needed you could get in the Town Square shops.

It was 7:30 on a Friday morning, and I was driving into town for some paint. The shed in my backyard was old and in dire need of a face lift. The last time I painted it, Mama had picked the color, a hideous bright pink. This time, I was going for a more muted, subdued color, like brown or blue.

As I came around the corner, I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting Amos’ truck, which was parked in the middle of the street. I knew Amos never came to town before 9 a.m. because he couldn’t make a nuisance of himself without a crowd around. The second unusual thing was that Babe wasn’t in the truck; she sat in the middle of the park near the merry-go-round. Amos never let that dog out of the truck because he was afraid someone would run over her. He cared more for that dog than he did his wife.

Backing up, I parked in front of the Eat it or Starve café and looked inside the truck. The keys were in the ignition, which was no surprise because he always left them in there. I felt the hood of the truck; it was cold to the touch. Very odd. Thinking it may have broken down, I toyed with the idea of trying to start it up, but changed my mind. Amos would probably have me arrested for trying to steal it.

I looked over the hood toward Babe, who was watching me with a wary eye. After whistling and calling her name for a minute with no reaction or movement from her, I walked over to her. I discovered the reason she wasn’t moving from her spot.

Amos Gardner was sprawled out on the merry-go-round, mouth and eyes open, staring up at the sky. It wouldn’t have done me any good to check for a pulse. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that he was dead.

Want to read more? You’ll find the book on sale for Kindle & Nook for .99!


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Coming to a computer near you…

Ten years ago, when chat rooms were popular, I made a joke one night that took on a life of its own.

The chat room I spent a lot of time in had its fair share of drama queens. During one chat session, one of our little divas came into the room, acting up more than usual. My comment to this was, “And welcome to another episode of “As The Dungeon Turns”. The next thing I knew, I started writing a story, with characters based on people in our chat room. It became an instant hit, and it was a great way to relieve stress after a long day of taking a full load in college and doing the single mom thing to a energetic toddler.

I wrote on the story off and on for two years. We eventually had to create a website for the story, because the original group members were sharing the story with their family and friends.

I have to admit, I had a blast writing it. I didn’t plot it out, didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about what was going to happen. I just sat down and wrote. It was thrilling and exciting.

A month or so ago, one of the original group members sent me a message, asking me what had happened to the story. Many people had encouraged me to rewrite and publish it, but I never did. I got a bit busy with life (moving, getting married, silly things that interrupt a writer’s life!), but deep down, I was afraid to rewrite it because of that fear of failure thing.

After talking to my old friend, I started to toy with the idea of starting another online story. I talked to some writer friends, who thought that it sounded like a rather intriguing idea.

So, last night, I wrote the first chapter of a new story.

In a few minutes, that chapter will make its debut on this very blog.

It’s not anything flashy or fancy. It’s just a good way for me to get the creative juices flowing.

Feedback is welcome. But keep this in mind: this is supposed to be a fun thing. It’s not going to be a polished manuscript. There will be some mistakes.

Will you have a say in what happens? It’s highly likely! Make suggestions! Let me know what you think MIGHT happen next. If I like the twist you suggest, I’ll put it into the story. I won’t guarantee that all comments will make it into the story, but they will be strongly considered.

Most of all, this story will be a break for you from your normal schedule. Something funny to look forward to after a hard day. I might post one chapter a night, I might do more. If I get inspired, or get some good feedback, I’ll post several chapters a night. I just never know what is going to happen.

So sit back, relax, enjoy the ride! I promise that it will get wild once in a while!