“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.