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.
“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?