|The body was of a man who'd had his head blown off. The smell of death, one Mitch would never forget, choked his senses.
"Mitch," Jeremy called from not far away at the edge of the house.
"Shit! Stay there, kid. I'm coming."
The body looked fresh, like it hadn't been there long. Of course, Mitch wasn't about to move it to see anything else. Dead is dead. He'd call the local authorities and let them take over.
Mitch walked as quickly as he could to Jeremy's side. "Jeremy, look there's been a change of plans. I need to use the phone. I want you to come inside."
"No. I want to ride my bike now that it's fixed."
Mitch grabbed his shoulder. "You need to come in. I need to make an important phone call with you inside."
"Because I said so. Look, I need to call the police. Can you help me do that? Then I'll explain." Mitch didn't want Jeremy seeing the body.
He shrugged, not really interested, but led the way into the house. Marly had left a note on the table that she ran out and would be right back.
"Great," Mitch complained, picking up the phone.
Mitch called the authorities, wishing Marly would hurry up and get home. She should be here to talk to the sheriff.
"Yes, I'd like to report a murder," Mitch explained to a woman who answered the phone at the Sheriff's Office.
"A murder? Oh, dear, hold please."
Hold? Since when does 911 put someone on hold?
"Sheriff Ridgeley. Is this a prank?" a man bellowed from the other end.
"No, it isn't. A man's been murdered outside in the field at Marly Hampton's house. I don't know the address here."
"So a man's been murdered?" he asked, doubt filling his tone.
Mitch rolled his eyes. "That's what I said."
"I heard what you said, but I can't believe it's a murder."
"Believe me, it's murder. The guy couldn't have done this to himself." Mitch didn't want to talk too loud and risk Jeremy overhearing.
"You said Marly Hampton's place, right?"
"You the stranger staying there?"
What's that got to do with anything? "That'd be me. Now are you going to send someone out here, or did you not hear that there's a dead body outside?" Mitch's temper boiled. This sheriff was a dickhead.
"Now hold on a minute. Before you get yourself any more worked up, how do you know the person is dead? I mean, men around here are known to put back one too many beers and pass out. Could that be the case?"
Worked up? Count to ten. "Stop acting like I don't know what a dead body looks like, Sheriff. Most intoxicated men who pass out don't have a hole in their fucking forehead." Complete silence came from the other end. "I take it you believe me now and will send someone."
"Hang tight. We'll be there."
The receiver went dead. What an asshole!
Mitch waited for the sheriff. After fifteen minutes passed, he thought the man would never show. Maybe he was just used to city time, that's all. He needed patience. Small towns sure moved slower.
The sheriff finally showed up twenty-five minutes after Mitch's call.
"Let's see what you got out here," Sheriff Ridgeley announced, pulling himself out of his cruiser and putting on his gray cowboy hat in a weak attempt to cover a comb-over.
"The body's over that way about thirty yards. I'm not making the trek again with this leg, so you're on your own," Mitch told him, gripping his cane.
Mitch watched the heavyset man of about fifty waddle away. His double chins sagged to conceal his neck, if it even existed. The cigar hanging out of his mouth hadn't been lit and was either for show or an attempt to break a bad habit. By the way the sheriff gnawed at it, you'd think he hadn't eaten in a week. From the size of him, though, Mitch would bet any amount of money that Sheriff Lard Ass didn't miss any meals.
The sheriff returned about five minutes later. He waddled back to his cruiser and spoke into the radio then returned to Mitch.
"You're not from around these parts," Sheriff Ridgeley said, wiping sweat from his brow onto a hankie that he pulled from his shirt pocket.
Mitch stood in front of the man. "I could've told you that."
"I happen to know every citizen in my town."
Mitch nodded his head toward the field. "Is he one of yours?"
"Yup," he confirmed, out of breath and red-faced. "Can't say he'll be missed much, considering he's the biggest asshole around here."
"Now he's the biggest dead asshole," Mitch conceded.
"That's for sure. Give me your name, son." He took out a small notepad and scribbled.
"Mitch Allen. Call me Mitch." He didn't care for the son notation.
"Where you from?"
The sheriff removed his sunglasses to peer at him. "You're pretty far away from home, aren't you?"
Mitch kept eye contact. "It's not my home any more."
"Really? Got a new one?"
"No, sir. I'm staying here for a few nights ‘til I get my truck fixed, then I'll be on my way."
"Don't know. Why? Do you want me to send you a postcard when I get there?"
Sheriff Ridgeley narrowed his eyes. "You city folk think you're so smart. So I guess you could be called a drifter."
"No, I can be called Mitch," he said, standing with arms folded and refusing to be intimidated by the man.
"This here's the first murder we've had in this town in over forty years."
There was something about the way the sheriff sneered his words. Mitch didn't like him and sure the hell didn't trust him. So he didn't respond.
"Seems like a big coincidence that a stranger shows up in my town and then a well-known citizen gets murdered."
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