James W. Nelson
Copyright 2012 by James W. Nelson
Published by James W. Nelson at Shakespir
Dedicated to not-well-liked bosses everywhere
Table of Contents
Chapter He Had it Coming
Randy does the watering at a greenhouse. He’s not a detective, but when the not-well-liked boss is found floating face up in the ash pit and everybody is pretty sure it was murder, and his girlfriend gets accused, well, that changes things. Oh, and I need to mention that not one person, not his family and not even one employee is sorry the boss is dead.
Randy Crowell was about to open the garage delivery room door Monday morning, when a blonde-haired woman threw the door open and almost ran into him, “Hey, young lady, what’s the hurry?”
“It’s Gilmore!” Tears streaked her face, “He’s dead!”
“Well, we’ve prob’ly all wished that a time or two.” Randy patted her shoulder, “But dead? C’mon now, Molly.”
“He’s dead!” Molly’s pupils were pinpoints in a cloud of faint blue-green, “I saw him! His eyes are open but he’s dead! I know it!”
“Where, Molly?” Randy had seen tiny pupils like that once before. It bothered him to see them in Molly’s eyes, “Let’s go see.”
“No! I don’t want to see him again. He’s in the boiler room. In the pit. The greenhouse felt cold, so I wanted to check before starting seeding.” She took a tissue from her front jean pocket, wiped her eyes, blew her nose, “I can’t work today, Randy. I’m going home.”
“Okay, Molly,” he smiled, “I’ll go back and take a look. You go home and try to calm down, okay? I’ll call when I find out what ol’ Gilmore is up to.”
“All right, Randy. Thanks.” Head down, shoulders forward, she ran toward her car.
He watched. She roared the engine, spun the wheels backing out and raising a cloud of dust, spun again, finally squealed as she turned onto the street.
“Hmmm, maybe something is wrong back there.” Lucky only—he pulled up his sleeve to see his watch—seven-fifteen, a good half hour till the rest of the crew started showing up.
The sun broke through early spring clouds. That meant watering soon. The weather was still cold, but sun through the polyethylene roof would soon be cooking the tiny transplants. But first check Gilmore. He pushed through the door—yes, cold—passed the white delivery van with red and orange lettering.
BEST FLOWERS & FOLIAGE BY GILMORE!
Even in advertising the man had no end to ego.
He increased to a trot while passing the chrysanthemum benches. The boiler room was quite a distance. If Gilmore did need help…not a sound anywhere. Gilmore hadn’t even turned on the fans. He shifted to a faster trot.
He reached the boiler room. More silence. He stepped inside. Something, but not quite dread, filled him as he dodged pipes and braces and huge valves, finally stopped at the edge of the pit—custom-built by Gilmore—a homespun booby trap everybody hated to even walk past.
Poking through ash imbued water, Gilmore’s eyes were open all right, but not seeing a thing. Randy thought about Molly’s eyes. The other person with tiny pupils had been a habitual liar. But he did not see Molly that way, could maybe get the exact truth mixed up, at times, but she was not an outright liar, he felt sure.
“Looks like you’ve done it now, Gilmore.” He spoke softly, wondered if he should stand in silence for a few seconds, “Left that dang hatch open one too many times.” But he did not respect the man, never had, nor even really liked him. The four by six foot flat metal cover lay to one side, where Randy had stubbed his toe and cursed it often.
And instead of standing silently in respect, he remembered the last time he had seen Gilmore alive, last Friday, about three. He had just entered the north lean-to. An hour earlier, Gilmore had informed him, “…the begonias are DYING! They need WATER!” Shouting was Gilmore’s normal way of speaking. As usual, Randy had let the loud words wash off him like so much water.
The other employees, and Gilmore’s family, were not so lucky. Anyone else Gilmore shouted at would simply stand, hang their head, and fully absorb the loud words. But he doubted anyone both heard and also comprehended the words in Gilmore’s turbulent bellowing. Friday the victim had been Gilmore’s wife.
He had reached the doorway just before the worst, and would never forget that shrieking sound, “…AND ALL I GET BACK IS BULLSHIT!” The two had been standing in the middle aisle, among flats of already-blooming double petunias slated for Memorial Day planters. Gilmore’s back was turned—thank goodness—and facing him his wife, with a blank expression. But she wasn’t looking down. For that he remembered feeling a stab of respect for her. Then erupted a seemingly endless serenade of the F-word. With each annunciation a pot, flat, or ripped out plant, had gone flying.
The moment of memory ended. It seemed Gilmore had cursed his last curse and thrown his last pot. He took a breath, then began looking the area over.
The ash barrel hung on the chain fall, empty. Boiler out of coal. That seemed strange. And why so much water in the pit? Looked like the best thing was calling the police.
“City Police. Officer Severin speaking.”
“Randy Crowell here. Let me speak to Joel Hannah, please.”
A moment passed, “Yeah, Randy. Hannah here.”
“Hey, ol’ buddy. We’ve got a body over here at the greenhouse.”
“A body? Do you mean a dead one?”
“Yep, and things do look a little out’a kilter.”
“You aren’t suggesting murder—in Morgan Falls, North Dakota?” Hannah sounded about ready to laugh.
“Can’t say, Joel. But nobody loved this guy. I’m not sayin’ an employee murdered’im, God forbid, but I think it’d be wise if a police detective looked things over. And since we were classmates, Joel, I thought you might be interested.”
“I’ll be over, Randy. Who is it, by the way?”
“Gilmore McBane himself. If there is foul play, and things ain’t handled right, well, hell, even I could be suspect.”
“On my way. Don’t touch a thing.”
“Why the water, Randy? I mean, what’s the purpose?”
“There ain’t no purpose, Joel. Just drainage from the greenhouse. We pump that pit reg’larly, but it ain’t never been that full.”
“You sure? When was the last time you looked?”
“All right, I haven’t noticed, don’t know when was the last time.” He hunched his shoulders, “But when it was my job I pumped it daily, never more’n a foot deep.”
“But it’s not your job anymore, right?”
“So it could have been that full.” Hannah folded his arms, “Gilmore could have fallen in, hit his head, and drowned.”
“Yep. Could’a happened just that way.”
“But you don’t buy it.”
They both gazed at the face sticking out of the water. A deep, straight gash ran horizontally across the forehead. The eyes were wide open and wild looking, as if he were about to chew butt or start cursing, but everything verbally. Gilmore had his ways all right, but, to Randy’s knowledge, the man had never struck anybody, not even his family.
“Looks kind of gruesome, doesn’t he?” Hannah commented.
“He looked that way in life, too, Joel. More than looked that way. He was gruesome.”
“And you don’t think it was an accident.”
“No, sir, Joel, I don’t.”
“The water’s my main suspicion, but that barrel ain’t right, either.” He pointed to the fifty gallon drum suspended by cable to the chainfall, “It’s empty, just as it should be, but it’s not left hangin’ over the pit.”
“And another thing, the boiler. It’s out’a coal.”
“So Gilmore always filled it before going home at six, after everybody else is gone. Then a man checks things at midnight. How come he didn’t discover the body? Course, he wouldn’t absolutely have had to check the pit.” Randy remembered his own occasional slackness, “But it is strange he hasn’t added coal, sometime this past weekend. I’ll have to ask’im about that.”
“I’d like to ask him, too.” Hannah took out a notebook, “What about the rest of the employees? Do you know all of’em? For years and years? All people you’d take home to meet your family?”
Randy chuckled, suspected Hannah was making a joke.
Evidently Hannah was not joking, “Outside’a myself, there’s two others who’ve been here longer’n a year, and twenty to thirty more who’ve been here a week to a month.”
“Why so many new people?”
He chuckled again, but, of course, Detective Hannah wouldn’t know, “Cause Gilmore drove people away with his yellin’ and cursin’. And right now there’s lots of temp’rary help, and seas’nal people who come back every year.”
“Do you know everybody?”
“Yeah, right,” again Randy chuckled, “What planet do you live on, Joel? Temps and seas’nals are just numbers. My job is waterin’. Period.”
“Okay, all right. Who will know, then?”
“Mrs. McBane should have a list.
“Okay. Who are the two you do know?”
“Molly the seeder, and Martha, in charge of transplantin’.”
“And what’s the name of the boiler guy?”
“Don’t know. Never met’im.”
“You accusing him, though, Randy?”
“Nope, but I got questions for’im. I go through here between greenhouses prob’ly two dozen times a day, and I notice how things are, and things just aren’t ringin’ true. It’s like somebody was helpin’ Gilmore and then decided to kill’im instead.”
“Okay, I’ll look things over.” Hannah glanced at his watch, “Ten to eight. What time does your crew arrive?”
“They ain’t my crew, Joel. I do waterin’ only.”
“All right. But what time?”
“Eight. Likely about a dozen waitin’ out front right now.”
“Okay, you instruct your people to stay out of the boiler room—“
“They ain’t my people, Joel.”
“All right. Just tell’em to stay away. And call the station and have’em call for a couple lab boys. And find out that midnight boiler guy’s name.”
“You bet’cha! Then I gotta get to waterin’.”
Randy directed his watering wand at newly transplanted marigolds, and felt glad to be away from the other workers. He didn’t know them and didn’t want to. Most would work at BEST FLOWERS & FOLIAGE! for just weeks, sometimes days, so why bother getting to know them? He had heard talk in the distance all day, though, and nobody had shed many tears for Gilmore. Hell, none, not even the wife. Not much surprise there, and grapevine had her reaction as, ‘He had it coming.’
He pulled the wand from the hose which shut off the water, then turned, “Yeah…?” Mrs. McBane. She definitely was shedding no tears, “What is it, ma’am?”
“The boiler needs coal.”
“Not my job, ma’am.”
“Randy…there’s been frost damage from no heat,” her face appeared hard, but also showed need, “You’ve been here the longest. I need help to keep things running.”
That was the truth, he guessed, “Okay. Anything else?”
“You’ve got a phone call.”
“Yep. This is Randy.”
“I didn’t do it, Randy.”
“What…Molly? What didn’t you do?”
“I didn’t murder Gilmore.”
“Well, I never thought you did, sweetheart.”
“Randy, I’m in jail. They’re accusing me of murder!”
“Randy, I hate to ask, but we’re friends, aren’t we?”
“Well, of course. But what can I do?”
“You know more about that place than anybody else, Randy. You could find the real murderer.”
He had no idea what to say. He mainly just wanted to do the watering, and be left alone.
“Are you there, Randy?”
“Yep, I’m here. I’ll do what I can but I sure don’t know what that might be, honey. I’m just a waterboy, you know.”
“No, you’re much more than that, Randy.”
“Oh, well…,” He thought for a few seconds. Hmmm, it seemed his peaceful existence was coming to a close, and no great idea was emerging, “Okay, Molly, I’ll do some lookin’.”
“I’ll make it up to you, Randy. I promise.”
He had no idea what she meant by that, but it did seem like she needed some help. And the boiler needed tending. Just then one of the temporary workers walked through pushing a long wheelbarrow-like affair custom built by Gilmore, hauling twenty-five flats worth about $500 wholesale. An expensive load, and the guy showed real care, “Hey!” He didn’t know the guy’s name, didn’t know any of the new peoples’ names.
The young man, early-twenties, about five-feet-nine or ten, and husky, stopped, set down his load, “Yes, sir…?”
Randy hung up the phone, “You want a diff’rent job?”
The young man hunched his shoulders, “Whatever.”
Whatever, right. Seemed like temps and seasonals all had that ‘whatever’ attitude. No wonder they didn’t have good, permanent, jobs, “Okay, meet me in the boiler room between three-thirty and four o’clock.”
The young man hunched his shoulders again, “Whatever,” grabbed his load and hauled it onward.
Temps and seasonals. Randy shook his head. But, attitude or not, he suspected the young man could do the job. Forgot to get his name. Didn’t matter. He could find out later. Or not find out. Whatever.
In the meantime he would have a chat with Detective Hannah. Molly was needed at the greenhouse, and would not have committed murder. Police shared information with private investigators, didn’t they? And hadn’t Molly just hired him, sort of? And wasn’t Joel Hannah an old school chum?
“Can’t do it, Randy. This isn’t a private eye TV show, you know.”
“Look, Joel, I’d guess this is the first murder case ever for Morgan Falls, and I know that young girl didn’t do any murder, and solvin’ this case could be the cat’pultation’a yore career.”
“And you set me on it.” Hannah scowled, “You got something goin’ on with this ‘young’ girl? What is she, anyway, about twenty-two, twenty-three?”
“Something like that, but, no, sir, I sure don’t have anything goin’ on with her. But I guarantee she didn’t do it.”
“And that’s something you just plain know.”
“That’s right. And what about legal counsel? Has she talked to anyone yet?”
“A public defender’ll be swinging through here on Thursday. And that reminds me, Randy. You didn’t mention this morning that she was the one who found the body. How come?”
“Forgot. I was s’posed to call and tell’er what the problem with Gilmore was, too, and forgot that, too.”
“How much more have you forgotten?”
“Not a thing I can think of. It ain’t everyday a guy sees a dead body, Joel. Causes lapses’a memory.”
“I suppose.” Hannah increased his scowl, “All right. I’ll share that Gilmore died Saturday evening about five-thirty. He received two blows to the head. One in back from a blunt instrument, and the deep one in front, which you saw. Both blows cracked his skull. Likely he got hit from behind, then hit his forehead on the metal casing around the pit when he fell. It’s a matter of opinion which blow killed him, if either, or if he drowned. Medical examiner isn’t finished.”
“But you’re def’nitely callin’ it murder?”
“Pretty definite. And the girl has no alibi.”
“What is her al’bi?”
“Alone in her room, for cripe’s-sake.”
“What about Gilmore’s family, Randy? Saturday night to Monday morning is a mighty long time to be gone without his family even checkin’ on him.”
“Troubles at home?”
“One could say that.” He chuckled, “Murder weapon yet?”
“No, but we’ll find it.
Randy returned to the scene. Two men still sifted through the dust and grime. To his knowledge, the boiler room had never been cleaned. A fine place for murder.
The ash barrel still hung empty. It would soon have to go into the pit, so that the fire pot could discharge its ashes and receive fresh coal. He hoped the investigation had progressed to where that unpleasant procedure could be allowed. After all it was still March. The greenhouse needed heat. Lucky the weekend weather had been warm. Not too many plants got frosted.
He brought the matter up to the lab boys.
“Yeah, I suppose.” A stocky man with thinning black hair stood up and stretched his back, “Try not to spill lots of fresh coal dust though.”
“Thanks, and we’ll be careful.” Randy switched on the sump pump, then glanced at his watch. Three-thirty.
He turned. The husky young man, right on time. Maybe didn’t have such an attitude after all. He extended his hand, “No ‘mister’ stuff. I’m Randy.”
The young man smiled and grasped his hand, “I’m Winward.”
“Glad to meet you, Winward. Got a real fun job for you.”
“No problem, Randy. I helped Gil a coup’la times.”
“Okay. Good. But just be careful in here.”
Winward went right to work, preparing the boiler to receive coal. Randy watched. Evidently the young man had that special intuition about machinery. If Randy were in charge he would ask Winward to stay on permanently.
About ten minutes passed. The sump began sucking air.
Winward switched the pump off, then grabbed a switchbox on a cord and punched a switch labeled ‘boiler.’ The ash barrel rode the chainfall pulley a couple more inches toward the boiler. “Hey, Randy, too bad about the boss, huh?”
“Yeah, too bad.”
Winward began lowering the barrel into the pit, “And you know that guy who comes in at midnight?”
“Yeah, what about’im?”
“I guess he called this morning. Said he didn’t check the boiler this weekend. Says he’s sorry, but he quit, too.”
Damn temps and seasonals, “I wonder how ol’ Hannah took that?” he said mainly to himself.
“What’d you say, Randy?”
“I said it looks like yore our new 24-hour boiler tender. Think you can handle it?”
“Sure. I’ll go home and sleep this afternoon.”
“Great. Just hollar if you need any help.” Definitely, he would recommend Winward be hired full time.
Winward kept lowering the barrel until enough slack existed to push the barrel under the ash discharge. Then the muscular young man jumped the six feet into the pit rather than using the ladder, shoved the barrel the remaining distance to under the ash-discharge, and jerked a lever.
The lever—round, blunt—came off in his hand, then a ‘whoosh!’ as the smelly, powdery load began discharging.
“They know who did it yet?” Winward glanced up.
“Ah, no. Not that I know of.”
“Anybody could’ve, you know. Hell, I didn’t like the guy myself, but I sure wouldn’t’ve murdered’im.”
The discharge stopped.
Winward, carrying the lever, crawled back out, punched where the switch was marked ‘hoist.’ Slack crawled from the cable, then it tightened, creaked, and the barrel began rising. In a moment it hung—precariously, Randy had always thought—over the pit. Winward then left the barrel suspended, and walked around the pit and went to his knees.
“Aren’t you goin’ to move the barrel?” Randy asked.
“Why? It’s safe.” Winward leaned over the pit, reached with the lever to where Randy could not see.
“What’re you doin’?” Randy asked.
“Discharge lever doesn’t stay on anymore.” Winward stood, “Gil finally realized it was a lot easier puttin’ it back together and closin’ from up here. Hell, I only helped’im a coup’la times, and I saw that right away.”
And that was how the murder had taken place. Whoever was helping Gilmore that night had the lever, Gilmore was facing the pit, and, well, maybe the midnight guy had come in early…whatever, they now had a possible murder weapon, but still only one suspect. Randy glanced at the lab boys still sifting around in the coal dust, tools, broken lumber, and junk. They showed no sign of even hearing what he and Winward had been saying. Well, for the time being at least, he would leave the police out of this new, possible murder weapon development.
And now he had some material to ask questions with. But the day was about shot.
He started the next morning with Mrs. McBane. Still no apparent tears over her loss of spouse.
“I’ve talked to the police, Randy, and I don’t care to talk to you.”
“Did you tell’em ‘he had it comin?’” Taking a chance there, just gossip.
“That’s the grapevine.”
Mrs. McBane went dark, “He did have it coming.” Her voice was low, angry, but not the sound of a murderess, “He slept with any woman who even looked at him, and half his female employees!”
Randy had figured that, and for a second wondered if Molly had been one of them.
Mrs. McBane’s dark blue eyes narrowed, “Don’t you have watering to do, Mister Crowell.”
“I’m on my break. But, thanks, ma’am.”
Time left for a quick coffee. Outside the lunchroom, standing alone with a Styrofoam cup, rich black hair, fair skin and dark blue eyes, was one of the temporary college girls. He got his coffee, found out her name from one of the others crowding the lunchroom, then joined her, “Mornin’, Bobbie.” He felt strange calling her by name, as if he actually knew her. Hmmm…maybe should examine his own attitude, about temps and seasonals, anyway, “How you doin’?”
“Oh, okay, I guess,” she gave a quick smile, but did not appear to be doing so well, “You’re Randy, right…?”
“Yep.” Evidently people knew his name, so maybe he should make an effort to learn theirs. They talked about nothing special for a couple minutes, Bobbie adding little, finally, “Bobbie, what was your worst time with ol’ Gil?”
Bobbie’s creamy face colored, her eyes popped, then she turned away, “He was always hugging me!” Her face contorted, “I hated it!”
“Oh, well, I saw’im do it once. It looked innocent.”
“Innocent?” Her eyes snapped.
“Course, I could be wrong.”
She grabbed his arm, roughly, spilling part of his coffee, pulled him farther from the lunchroom, “Sure, it was innocent when people were around, but he’d want to do it when people weren’t, too!” She threw her cup on the concrete, stomped it, “Then it wasn’t so innocent! I hated it, Randy—I hated him! I’m glad he’s dead. I agree with Mrs. McBane—he had it coming!”
Bobbie stomped away, and he had a good idea she didn’t do the murder, either. Who next?
Noon break. Randy took dinner an hour later than the rest and ate on the run, so he could approach the transplanters as a group as they worked, with the benign sounding comment question, “Well, we’ll all sure miss Gilmore, huh?”
“He was a real lecher, all right.” Martha, biggest and tallest, did not smile, apparently would be spokesperson.
“I wouldn’t call him anything so tame,” said little Giselle, the prettiest, “Worm is more like it.”
Chatter from the six ladies took over. Randy chewed his bite of sandwich quickly, “Ladies, please.” Attention returned. He swallowed. Part went down kind of lumpy, “I’ll re-word. Did he ever offend any of you pers’nally?”
“Why’re you askin’?” Martha again, and she stepped right up to him, towered over him by four or five inches, and Randy was five-ten, “The police have taken our statements.”
“I’m writin’ a book, okay?” He stepped back.
“Yeah, he offended us, but all of us at the same time.” Martha turned ugly, which seemed to add a couple inches to her height, width, too.
“He yelled at me once.” Giselle again, “And every time he yelled after that, even if I was just within hearing, I cringed. I felt like he was yelling directly at me. I didn’t like him.”
“None of us liked him.” Martha softened for Giselle, “But he did have his good moments.”
Catty, mumbled comments came from the others, but nothing he could understand really well, and he wondered what ‘good moments’ Martha was referring to.
Martha again faced him, “I know what you’re doin’, Randy.”
“And that is?”
“You’ve got the hots for that little wench, Molly, and now you’re tryin’ to find a murderer among the rest of us. Well, it’s not goin’ to work, cause she’s the one.”
“You sound sure, Martha.”
“Most of us women have been in the sack with Gilmore, Randy—“ The grapevine, yes, but Martha? Again he wondered about Molly. “Molly most of all. But when he jilted her for that new little vixen…what’s-her-name…?”
“Bobbie,” all six of the others filled in.
“Right, ‘Bobbie.’ Gil dropped Molly like so many dead petunias, and that made’er mad.”
“But, Martha, mad enough to murder?”
“It’d make me mad enough. You just want her out of jail so she can help you run this place, and dump on the rest of us.”
“What’re you talkin’ about?”
“The rumor is Mrs. McBane wants to sell out to you.”
“News to me, Martha.” Really news.
“Anyway, I think you’ve wasted enough of our time, Randy.” She took that step toward him again, glowered down, “So get!”
Randy stepped back, “I’ll do that, Martha.” The others, backs turned, had returned to working. “Thanks, ladies.”
Mumbled responses. Nobody looked up, nor acted guilty.
No new information surfaced from the other employees. By Wednesday he had exhausted his list. Course, the rest of Gilmore’s family could be suspect. One daughter in Washington, DC, the other three he had no idea. University student Cory sometimes worked on weekends. Something special about Cory. If anybody had ever gotten belittled and ridiculed by Gilmore, it was Cory McBane.
The quitting buzzer sounded.
And Molly still languished in jail. He had talked to her only the one time, and coming up with the money for bail had been out of the question.
“Let’er out? Do you know what you’re askin’, Randy?”
“Yep, I do, Joel, and I hate to pull something like this on an old school chum, but you don’t have a murder weapon, no prints, no proof, and no motive stronger’en any’a the other thirty-three employees, and what about that midnight guy?”
“Drunk at his buddy’s house from three o’clock Saturday, and all day Sunday.”
“So, what do you hate to pull, old ‘chum’?”
“You really ain’t got a case, Joel. I know this ain’t that big of’a town, but we do have to go by rules. However, if I could get to talk to’er, then I won’t rattle any cages.”
Hannah gestured to follow.
“And not through the glass, Joel.”
The detective didn’t answer, but they did walk past the glass cages and phones, and finally reached a door. Hannah opened it and motioned Randy in.
“And I sure hope this room ain’t bugged, Joel, cause that could sure possibly damage our friendship.”
Hannah laughed and waved him in. The room was bare except for a table with two chairs across from each other. “No bugs, Randy.” Hannah started to leave, “You sure you and this young girl haven’t got something going, old chum? She can’t be more’n eight or nine years younger’n you, and she looks pretty good.”
“No, sir, we don’t.” Not that lately he hadn’t been thinking about it.
“Fine. Just curious.” Hannah waved again, “She’ll be along shortly. You got fifteen minutes.”
Randy heard the door open, had time to stand and turn before Molly ran into his arms, “Well, Molly girl, I sure didn’t know you felt this way.” He hugged her lightly, then patted her shoulder and stepped back so he could see her.
“Randy, it’s so awful here.” She kept talking but he stopped hearing. Her pupils. Still pin sized. He finally suspected she just had not told everything she knew. “I didn’t do it, Randy—I did not do it!”
“All right, Molly.” He guided her to a chair, “Let’s talk this over.” He patted her shoulder again, then sat in the other chair. Due to his limited time he would start with the brass tack. He wanted to know personally, too, “They’re sayin’ at work that you were angry at Gilmore for takin’ Bobbie for a new lover, and, therefore, are likely to be the real murderer.”
Her eyes widened slightly, “It’s true, Randy.” She glanced toward the table, her shoulders slumped forward even more, then she brought her eyes back to him.
“What, is true, Molly?”
Her pupils seemed to enlarge slightly as she appeared to relax, “Gil and I did have an affair. Oh, I didn’t want it…,” She looked away but her voice didn’t change pitch. He guessed she was telling the truth, “It started with just a lot of talk, then shoulder pats, like you.” She glanced at him. Was she saying his pats were leading to an affair?
“Finally, he was hugging me at every chance, and in private, too, and he kept saying how if I went along with him I could get another raise, and even advance to manager. And then the hugs got longer and, well, you know….”
“Ah, excuse me, Molly, but I don’t know. What yore describin’ I’ve never done.” He laughed, “Well, the pats, maybe, but I don’t usually go too much beyond that.”
“You’ve never gone to bed with a woman?”
“No—yes! Well, ah, Molly, my private life is not the issue here. But are you sayin’ you believe that if a man pats your shoulder, that, event’ally, it’s goin’ to lead to bed?”
“Yeah, I guess I believe something like that. I keep waiting for you to, well, ah, you know….” She glanced toward the table again.
He pressed, “How many times has this happened?”
“How many times?” She appeared dumbfounded, “Do you mean how many times with Gil, or with other men?”
Not sure he wanted to even hear, “Yes, other men.”
“I don’t know. The first one I remember was some friend of my dad’s. I was eight…”
She would have gone on but he stopped her. Where the conversation would lead would maybe help her in a trial, but not much in the present, “All right, Molly, I’m sorry that happened to you. The thing is, you don’t have to do everything men want you to.”
“No, you don’t. Now, honey, listen. We’re goin’ to have to do some thinkin’ and rememberin’ if we’re goin’ to get you out’a here. First, you don’t have a al’bi, so, where were you that late Saturday afternoon?”
“Okay, where do you live? House? Apartment building?”
“You live alone in a whole house?”
“No…? Who else…?”
“I live with six other girls. At least three were there.”
“What? Why didn’t you tell the police?”
“I did, sort of, but, I was in my room, Randy, alone. After seven, well, nobody actually saw me.”
“And before seven, say from five on?”
“Well, then we usually all sit in the living room, read the paper, watch TV, eat supper, gossip, you know….”
Communication somewhere had been really bad. He stood, pulled Molly up beside him and hugged her, and Molly hugged back, “Uhmmm, Randy, this hug feels good. Does it mean you’re starting to like me more?”
He released her, “It means I like you like a niece, a little sister.” He squeezed her upper arms, “Woman, you’ve got to come to grips with how you feel about things. Every man is not allowed a free hand. You don’t have to do what everybody says, unless you want to. Understand?”
“I’m learning, Randy.” She smiled. Her pupils had enlarged still more. He knew now she had always been telling the truth, just did not know quite where to start and end.
“Okay. Let’s get you out’a here.”
After depositing Molly at her house with two of her girlfriends, and orders to keep her there, Randy headed to the greenhouse and the pit.
Crime scene tape still roped it off. He stepped over, then stood still and tried imagining what had happened. Ash barrel empty and sitting on the floor. Pit closed. Winward was running the place correctly. A good man worth hiring. The rumor of him buying the place slipped through his mind. With a few other good employees like Winward…but did he want such a responsibility? Course, if Mrs. McBane did sell, he would probably find himself out of a job. New owners in the new millennium often didn’t keep original employees.
But he had other things to think about right then, and glanced at his watch. Seven o’clock and dark. Four days since the murder. What had he accomplished? He was pretty sure how things had transpired, but—somebody coming!
He held his breath and slipped around a corner. Cory. What was he doing there in the middle of the week? Then a memory. His first year at the greenhouse. The boy Cory was ten years old and getting a mind-chewing. But what had he done? That had never been clear.
No words were remembered. Just the sound of Gilmore’s screeching voice and the sight of young Cory staring at the floor, not crying, just staring, a young mind being indelibly etched with mindless verbal abuse and violence. Gilmore had pushed and ridiculed his employees, and his family, but especially Cory.
Wearing gloves, Cory slid the steel hatch cover off the pit, then went to his knees, reached down and around. Randy couldn’t see but knew. The lever. The boy, about twenty, he thought, examined the lever, tilting it back-and-forth. Available twenty-four hour light from the seed germinating room hit it just right, and showed a spot of red. Randy felt amazed he had not noticed earlier, when Winward handled it.
Cory then produced a small tube of something, squished a tiny amount on the lever, then began rubbing, removing the blood, and the evidence—“Is that how you did it, Cory?”
The boy leaped up, spun around.
“You were helpin’ Gilmore on the weekend, correct? He was leanin’ over the pit to close the discharge, but you had the lever. Then you hit’im and filled the pit with water. People would think he fell in and drowned. Am I right?”
Cory McBane hung his head.
“How come you didn’t check the lever for blood then?”
“Didn’t think of it.” Cory spoke at the floor.
“Well, havin’ just committed my first murder, I don’t reckon I would’ve thought’a everything, either.” He found a rag, advanced, took the lever, “Let’s go, Cory. I think we better give Detective Hannah a call.” He took the boy’s arm, “And don’t worry. I’ll be a character witness for you.”
An hour later, Randy and Molly were seated at a local, posh, restaurant. “What’ll happen to Cory, Randy?”
“Man-slaughter, at least. But, anger had built up over a long period in Cory, and Gil never let up on’im, so, the jury’ll probably go easy on’im.”
“I hope so.” Molly put her hand on his forearm, “So, are you going to buy the greenhouse business?”
“Don’t know. Would you manage the seeding department?”
“Maaaaaaybe.” She squeezed his arm, “You and me together, Randy, we could do a lot with that place. But I’d want to do more than the seeding.”
Molly was not the same. Since getting out of jail, her manner appeared to have advanced about ten years, and he liked the change, “I did say ‘manage,’ Molly. There’s lots more departments than just the seedin’ that need good management.”
She smiled, showed her bright teeth widely, and held her head up, and her shoulders. She looked like a different woman. “Thanks for bringing me here tonight, Randy. I really appreciate it.”
“That’s okay. We deserve some rest after what’s happened.”
“I’ll make it up to you, too.” Her hand moved to his.
“Now, remember what I said, Molly. You don’t have to do everything men want you to.”
“I know, and I won’t ever again unless I want to. And, tonight, I want to.”
He looked into her shining eyes. Her pupils were huge, black as the night. He surmised she definitely was telling the truth.
“[*There is a sacredness in tears….They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.” *][
Winter in July
(The doomsday clock is ticking…it will reach midnight)
(A place, or maybe just a state of mind,
for if you go there, and partake, you will be changed…forever)
Pharmacological Research Gone Berserk
Daughters Book 1
(The heartbreak of human trafficking)
Daughters Book 2
(Emma gets payback)
Daughters Book 3
(The Lure of Pornography)
Daughters Book 4
(The Little Girl From Down the Street)
Daughters Book 5
(Sorority Animal House)
(Vietnam War action by fleet submarines)
(The mother of all disasters)
The Light at the End of the tunnel
(A supernatural thriller)
New World Order Rising Book 1
New World Order Rising Book 2
(The New Civil War)
New World Order Rising Book 3
(The Next Generation Fights On)
The Short Stories
Strange & Weird Stories
(The unknown: as close as beside you)
A Collection of Short Contemporary Stories
(Stories about people just like you)
Dying to Live (memoirs)
(The life & times of Jimmy Nelson)
One Morning Nature Series
(For children, 3-103)
Book 1 One Morning at Boxelder Cove (Tamius, the Red Squirrel)
Book 2 One Morning at Juneberry Row (Sybil, the Cottontail Rabbit)
To the Nineteenth Century (fantasy, time-travel)
He had it Coming (crime, mystery)
Waiting to Die (the new pandemic)
Into Tilovia (war, romance, adventure)
The Commons (environment, time-travel)
30 Seconds to the Ground (a skydive gone wrong)
From the author: In my fiction I do not try to create super-heroes, but rather bring alive common and regular people who try to find love, survive, and react to circumstances as best they can, and, usually, try to do the right thing. The books are more than one genre, from war to sex and violence to romance to humor to horror to fantasy to science fiction to adventure, I write in third-person with viewpoints by men, women, and children.
For more detailed descriptions, synopses, reviews, please go to:
Winter in July (65,500 words) (The doomsday clock is ticking…it will reach midnight) (nuclear war drama) In 2019, many more nations than the superpowers have nuclear weapons and dependable delivery systems. Kirby Yates, 40, helps his town prepare for the ultimate war, which nobody believes will ever happen.
Callipygia (66,100 words) (love, sex, violence, sexual violence) (A place, or maybe just a state of mind, for if you go there, and partake, you will become changed…forever. Stephanie Daniels, 29, journalist, goes on the undercover assignment of her life, and finally finds true love, with another woman.
Pharmacological Research Gone Berserk (82,500 words) (Needed: volunteers) (medical mystery drama) Shea McTory, 31, homeless, volunteers to be locked up six months for a human nutrition research study, learns to deal with nine other volunteers—one a psychopath—and—the good part—meets the love of his life.
Daughters Book 1 (40,200 words) (The heartbreak of human trafficking) (abduction, crime, prostitution, love of a father) Emotion and love in the house where Emma, 18, grew up was rare. When she was abducted into prostitution she was hardly missed, until the one person who truly cared about her finds out.
Daughters Book 2 (45,000 words) (Emma gets payback) After six months of living with her foster father, Bailey Forbes, Emma and new best friend, Alexis, leave the safety of Abundance, Montana, and venture 200 miles farther west to the campus of University of Montana, Wyman, where her past will come back to haunt her.
Daughters Book 3 (59,200 words) (The Lure of Pornography)
Emma, in her second year of college (studying psychology & criminal justice) goes undercover into the dark world of pornography.
Daughters Book 4 (49,000 words (The Little Girl From Down the Street) Emma is home for a visit and a little rest, but a local nine-year-old girl in trouble. Her mother is suffering from the early effects of Alzheimer’s. Her boyfriend and his son have turned to the healthy daughter.
Daughters Book 5 (42,000 words) Sorority Animal House
Emma is graduated with degrees in social work and criminal justice, working toward a black belt in Taekwondo, and has partnered with a young lady attorney. They will specialize in helping victims of human trafficking.
(A young woman “Little” says “No!” to the sorority’s brutal initiation rites, starts to leave, would have been stopped and forced, but her big sister “Big” has a change of heart and comes to her rescue.)
Boat Sailors (65,000 words) (Vietnam War action by fleet submarines) Fresh from the farm, Brice Moser, 17, will leave his loved ones behind, pay his dues in bootcamp, then Class A Weapons School where he’ll experience more life in 9 weeks then the whole 17 years before, become a Torpedoman’s Mate, Seaman Apprentice, and soon will discover his rating covers much more than torpedoes.
The Bellwether (229,000 words) (The mother of all disasters) (economic & environmental meltdown) (love, sex, violence, drama, adventure) Aaron Hodges, 32, has one month to take his future colonists 300 miles to northern Minnesota wilderness…not by truck but overland across farmland and forest by horse and wagon, but first he has to convince them to want to go.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel (68,600 words) (A supernatural thriller) (one theory of reincarnation) (capital punishment, horror, crime, drama, foster care) (if the state kills a worst-of-the-worst criminal, does he really die?)The prison chaplain, 35, recruits nurse Nicole Waters, 30, to help him find and stop the reborn worst-of-the-worst criminal, Les Paul, now rampaging through foster home after foster home.
New World Order Rising Book 1 (52,200 words) (The Abduction) Carter Banks, 47, recruits his childhood friend (ex-army special ops) to help track the abductors of his daughter, Chantal, 24, and granddaughter, Dodie, 6, and gets a hair-raising short course on the true goals of the Illuminati, composed of elite politicians, CEOs, and generals, in their quest to eliminate 85% of the world’s population and create a one-world government: The New World Order.
New World Order Rising Book 2 (56,000 words) (The New Civil War) Carter and his load of young girls rescued from the Satanist Illuminati (while avoiding the black-uniformed police) takes two weeks getting home from Kansas, to his sister’s farm, discovers she is militia leader of southeastern North Dakota, and learns North Dakota is the front line of resistance, among a group of states west of Interstate 29. Seven-year-old Jocelyn by proxy takes the place of the missing six-year-old Dodie, and brings new life to the heartbroken Carter and Chantal.
New World Order Rising Book 3 (66, 500 words) (The Next Generation Fights on)
Ten years pass. Seventeen-year-old Jocelyn is now staunch at Carter’s side as his aid and lieutenant. Sixteen-year-old Dodie escapes her abductors, returns to ND to reclaim her birthright, joins in the fight, and is not too pleased about Jocelyn’s position with her mom and grandpa.
James W. Nelson was born in a little farmhouse on the prairie in eastern North Dakota in 1944. Some doctors made house calls back in those days. He remembers kerosene lamps, bathing in a large galvanized tub, and their phone number was a long ring followed by four short ones, and everybody in the neighborhood could rubberneck. (Imagine that today!)
James has been telling stories most of his life. Some of his first memories happened during recess in a one-room country schoolhouse near Walcott, ND. His little friends, eyes wide, would gather round and listen to his every hastily-imagined word. It was a beginning. Fascinated by the world beginning to open, he remembers listening to the teacher read to all twelve kids in the eight grades.
He was living in that same house on the land originally homesteaded by his great grandfather, when a savage tornado hit in 1955 and destroyed everything. They rebuilt and his family remained until the early nineteen-seventies when diversified farming began changing to industrial agribusiness (not necessarily a good thing.) He spent four years in the US Navy during the Vietnam War (USS Carbonero and USS Archerfish, both submarines.)
After the navy he worked many jobs and finally has settled on a few acres exactly two and one half miles straight west of the original farmstead, ironically likely the very spot where the 1955 tornado first struck, which sometimes gives him a spooky feeling.
A little more Biography:
He lives among goldfinches, chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays, crows, cottontails, squirrels, deer, mink, badgers, coyotes, wallflowers, spiderworts, sunflowers, goldenrod, big and little bluestem, switchgrass, needle & thread grass, June berries, chokecherries, oaks, willows, boxelders and cottonwoods, in the outback of eastern North Dakota.
Thanks for reading for reading my book. If you enjoyed it, won’t you please take a moment to leave me a review at your favorite retailer?
James W. Nelson
In my fiction I do not try to create super-heroes, but rather bring alive common and regular people who try to find love, survive, and react to circumstances as best they can, and, usually, try to do the right thing. The books are more than one genre, from war to sex and violence to romance to humor to horror to fantasy to science fiction to adventure, [_I write in third-person with viewpoints by men, women, and children. _]
Author page at Shakespir
Feel free to contact me.
Occasionally I list a book as free for a day, sometimes more . Look for those announcements on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook.
“Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.” by Erica Jong
Author of the 1973 novel “Fear of Flying,” Erica Jong turned 72, March 26, 2014.
“The longer I write, the more often I find myself going deeper into dark places, but I question whether that is truly courage.”
Randy Crowell does the watering at a large retail/wholesale greenhouse named, BEST FLOWERS & FOLIAGE BY GILMORE! Randy is quite satisfied leading a quiet life and just doing the watering. When the boss, Gilmore, turns up floating in the flooded boiler room ash pit, well, he knows nobody liked the guy, and things do look a bit suspicious, so he does the right thing, calls the police, and then tries to go back to just watering. Unfortunately, young Molly (who he kind of "likes") who found the body, is jailed and accused of murder. She calls the greenhouse from jail and asks to speak with Randy, “You know more about that place than anybody else, Randy. You could find the real murderer.” As said, Randy kind of "likes" Molly, and can't believe she would commit murder, so agrees to try to help her.