By Cindy and Walt
First thing we did was drop off the rental car. “You know your lawyer is pretty good to get this truck released. I would have thought that the cops would want to hold it as well,” Buddy said.
“She is the Swamp’s lawyer, not mine,” I said.
“They sent you a lawyer, even though you no longer work for them?” he asked.
“I’m sure I will get the bill. I am also sure they are in containment mode. How better to contain it than to have their lawyer manage it. It also works in my favor. There are things I don’t want the cops to know,” I explained.
“Ah makes perfect sense. I will have to remember that,” Buddy suggested. “I guess I will have to buy a car, since I don’t have a way to get around independent of you.”
“I have a vehicle that one of us can use to get around and it won’t cost you anything. Mostly I guess we will be traveling together anyway,” I replied. “They have my get out of town bag, so I need to stop at an ATM machine. Do you need any walking around money?”
“No I’m good,” he said. “But I do need some clothes.”
“Oh my, I do love to shop,” I said it while making the infamous bootleggers U turn on the county road. I did it just because I could. The centrifugal force penned him to the passenger door.
“Next time I drive,” he said quite seriously.
I took another look at him then said, “You know you look like a movie villain. You are going to scare hell out of these good old boys.”
“It don’t work that way. They see I’m not as tall as they are, so they want to show their buddies how tough they are,” he said quite seriously. “I can hardly ever go in a redneck joint without leaving with a bruised knuckle or two.”
“I hope you can find something to wear in the Walmart store,” I said. “You don’t look easy to fit.
“I never been in one of those to be honest. I don’t shop much. I’m way to hard to fit for a department store,” he said.
“Well you are in for a treat,” I said with a smile. “Now turn into some whinny girl on me. Just pick out what you like and go with it.”
I parked the truck outside the entrance in the first non-handicapped space I could find. We got out then locked my suitcase in the front seat. Once inside Buddy did pretty well with the socks, underwear and pull over shirts.
“Since it‘s summer there isn’t a problem with sleeves being too long. That is usually my biggest problem with shirts. I am going to have a problem with the slacks you know,” he said.
“Just get the waist and ass to fit, I can get them hemmed for you,” I said remembering the signs in my dry cleaner’s windows, the one about doing alterations.
“Hey I really like these carpenter jeans. Lots of pockets and I feel like a real country redneck in them,”
“It’s a good thing you didn’t chose the bib overalls. First of all they are ugly as hell. Second you would look like shit in them.” Shopping with Buddy was a chore, but we got it done without too much bullshit. We got him a running suit as well as a ton of tops, shorts and lots of jeans.
When we were in the line with two buggies, I asked, “You want me to pay?”
“Not this time, maybe later,” he answered with a twinkle in his eye. I left him in the check out line to purchase a burn phone and a shotgun.
Once we were in the truck I drove straight out the parking lot at Walmart. I was able to get into the drive in at ‘Dry Cleaning by Kim’ with ease. Some old lady who definitely was not the Kim type took the five pairs of jeans and measured Buddies instep.
She wanted him to pay in advance but I refused to allow it. We have had the discussion before, I thought. She had the clothes, so she knew we were coming back. If we had her money, I figured she would get the work done quickly. So it was a stand off until I started packing to leave. The older woman relented because I was a regular customer. She explained the jeans would be completed in two days.
Buddy had some shorts he had bought, so he wasn’t going to be running around naked, thank god. He also bought two net laundry bags at Walmart, the kind that allowed ventilation for damp clothes. I decided after getting a look at them that I wanted one of those for myself.
“So I guess we need to get to the fish camp,” I suggested. It was half an hour later that we found ourselves in the sandy parking area in front of the residential looking building.
“Looks like he is expanding,” I said pointing out the foundation holes a few feet from the fish camp building.
There was no one around, so I called Miss Sadie. “Miss Sadie your nephew isn’t here.”
“Yes I know. He said to go on in and pick out a room. There are no other guests yet. The fishermen won’t be in till Friday after work. So you got your ‘pick of the litter’ till then. He said he would be there first thing in the morning to work out the details.”
“Fair enough. Since he is your nephew I won’t worry about him treating us fair,” I said. I said it to boost her ego. I wasn’t worried anyway. We had no choice.
“So pick one,” I suggested to Buddy.
“Gee this is a dump. They are really going to charge us rent on this pit,” Buddy said.
“I would bet my ass you have slept in worse,” I said.
“Not sure I ever paid to sleep in one worse than this,” he replied with a chuckle.
“If you don’t have a preference, how about we just share one of the rooms. I would feel better, considering I’m not sure if they are still after me,” I said honestly.
“Wouldn’t have it any other way. I hear you don’t much care for pistols,” he said.
“They tend to make my skin tight clothes bulge,” I said.
“Good point, so we will just have to be careful and plan ahead,” Buddy suggested.
“I did buy a new shotgun at Walmart. It’s going to be a while before I get mine back,” I said. “I left it in the truck cause we had so much shit of yours to bring inside. I just forgot it.”
“Well get it. It will be nice to have it around the house,” Buddy said. “Like I said we will still have to plan ahead.”
“Fuck you Buddy,” I said angrily since I thought the buying of the shotgun was planning ahead.
“Now?” he asked.
Okay, I shouldn’t have but I laughed. “No not now,” I said. “Let’s pick a room.” The little house, with just a minimum of renovations, had gone from a small family house to a fish camp with three bedrooms and one bath. The former living room was the new entrance hall and one of the bedrooms. The two former bedrooms from the old house were still bedrooms. The bath was still the bath without a tub just a shower stall. The old kitchen was a room used for storing fishing gear between trips to the river. It would still function as a kitchen without a stove. It had running cold water and a small refrigerator.
Buddy and I needed only one room, so we took the living room conversion. It had three sets of bunk beds. They were no more than shelves with innerspring mattresses. He took a look and then said, “We are going to need sleeping bags or something.”
“Shit this is crap. Let’s check the closet in the hall out there,” I suggested. Inside the closet we found blankets but no sheets. “Well we won’t freeze but I’m going to sleep in my clothes.”
We drove out for food. I was tempted to go find some sheets, but decided not to bother. After a dinner at Dairy Queen we drove back to the fish camp. It was quiet as hell and the stars were bright. Since I had stopped for a six pack of beer we sat outside in the warm night air.
“So Buddy, what happened to all your clothes. Did the airline lose your bag?” I was just making conversation.
“Had a fire at my place,” he said as if it were answer enough.
“What caused it?” I asked.
He waited a while before he answered, “Thermite grenade.”
“Oh,” I said. Then added, “Do you fish?”
“A little now and then,” he added with a grin.
“How do you know about the Romani?” I asked.
“We have a lot of them in France during the summer months. They come in and some settle in the area where my family lives. They can be like weeds in a garden. Some times they need to be eliminated.”
“Well these are American weeds I think,” I said.
“All weeds are alike,” he said.
“Except the kind you smoke,” I added. We were still on the porch with the beer when my old phone rang. “Hello,” I replied.
“This is Rita, I’m at the Rural Police sub station in Williamston. What should I do now?” she asked. I had put her on speaker so Buddy could hear.
“Tell her to meet us in Mossberg, she can stay with us,” he said. I grinned at Buddy.
“Rita why don’t we put you up where I am staying till they release my house?” I said.
“Sounds reasonable,” she said. I grinned again.
“Meet me in front of my house. You will recognize it by the crime scene tape and the cop car in front,” I said.
It was a half hour later when I met the woman who was pushing fifty with flaming red hair. She had those grandmother boobs and wide ass of an older black woman. I had to admit that her dye job was excellent and meant to be recognized as a dye job. “You must be Rita,” I said extending my hand.
“And you are Rose also known as Iris. The cops know about your second ID Miss Seabold. They are going to have some difficult questions for us tomorrow. So let’s get to your Motel and check me in,” she suggested.
“Fair enough. Have you met Buddy, he is another Swamp Rat,” I said.
“Buddy it’s good to know I won’t have to pull my punches around you,” she said.
I was regretting my decision to have her stay with us. She had way too much class for the fish camp, I thought.
Her first reaction to the place was to ask, “Where the fuck is the idiot with the banjo?”
“Oh you like movies?” I asked.
“Sure, doesn’t everyone?” she answered.
“I don’t,” Buddy said.
“You know Buddy, if it were just me and Rose, I would panic at the sight of this Place. With you here, I feel much more comfortable,” she said.
“That’s because you haven’t seen the accommodations,” I suggested.
Rita proved to be a good sport. She seemed to be kind and gentle. I guessed that she could handle what would surely be coming the next day. She used the bathroom, then returned to the porch rockers to make phone calls and check her email with the phone.
“So what do you think of the sleeping arrangements?” Buddy asked.
“Buddy, I have worked for Sylvia Porter since long before she headed the Swamp thing, so I can sleep on the fucking ground. I don’t like it, but I have done it,” she answered.
“Good,” he said.
“Look I have been up since 3 AM and running all over hell all day. I’m going to go pass out. You and Buddy can entertain each other,” I said as I stood to leave.
The next thing I knew it was the middle of the night and I had to pee. When I got out of bed, I realized that Rita and Buddy were sharing a bed. I also realized that they had caused me to wake up. I left the room, peed and returned without being noticed. They seemed to be too busy to notice me, I didn’t mind.
I crawled into my bed and fell instantly asleep. I wasn’t bothered at all by the grunts and moan coming from my roommates.
I got a few more hours sleep before I awoke at 5:20 AM. I found my running suit in the suitcase I had been allowed to pack. I opened the door to run up to the road and down to the boat access point. It was no more than a parking lot with a concrete boat launch ramp. There were no cars parked there at 5:30 AM. When I got back to the house, my truck was there but Rita’s car was gone. I found that inside both of them were missing.
They had obviously gone for their ‘after the fuck breakfast’, I thought. In the days of casual sex, it was an almost forgotten tradition. I folded my blanket and drove the truck to the Dairy Queen. The two of them were not in the dining room, so I sat down to eat my bacon egg and cheese biscuit alone. I left the DQ just before 7 AM.
Back at the fish camp Rita and Buddy were showering when I arrived. I sat on the porch with my new burner phone purchased at Walmart while Buddy was trying on clothes. I called the Church Camp. The message I left was just to remind Andrew that I was waiting for the license information. The world couldn’t stop for a simple burglary, I told myself.
The two of them came from the shower together. They looked like guilty teenagers, but I ignored them. I didn’t have anything witty to say. I simply showered and dressed for my interview with the cops. I drove my truck, but Buddy rode over with Rita. A little last minute pinch and tickle I decided.
I walked into the station between the two of them. “Right on time,” the heavier of the two said. The second detective was almost as thin as I had been after my vacation in paradise. He most likely did have some kind of a cancer. Maybe it was even aids I guessed. I made a note not to have sex with him.
“So, we know Miss Martin and her lawyer, but who is this gentleman?” the one who seemed to be in charge asked.
“I’m Miss Warren’s investigator, Buddy Baker,” Buddy said extending his hand.
“Mr. Baker, you were here yesterday. You drove Miss Martin home,” the detective said.
“That’s right is there a problem?” Rita asked.
“How long has Mr. Baker worked for you?” he asked. Baker knew enough to keep his mouth shut.
“He has worked for me all day today, and that really had no bearing on this inquiry. Unless you are on some giant fishing expedition, in which case I will need to file a Writ with the local magistrate,” she said it rather snippy, but not angry at all. It was kind of a dance that cops and lawyers did I decided. “Detective you really don’t want to play who’s is bigger with me.”
“I suppose he wants to sit in on the interview,” The skinny detective asked. He was speaking for the first time.
“Might I ask you your medical condition?” Rita asked.
“That is none of your business,” he said.
“It is if it is contagious,” she said angrily that time.
“It isn’t, unless we have unprotected sex. You weren’t planning to do that were you?” he asked.
“No I wasn’t, but I’m sure you are out to screw my client. It is also information I might be able to use later. As I’m sure you know information is power,” she said with a smile.
“Let’s just get on with this,” the heavier one said.
Rita had managed to get Buddy Baker into the interview by changing the subject. Damn she is good, I thought.
The first thing the cops did was to make a statement for the record. The heavier one named everyone present for the interview. It was obvious that he didn’t like being out numbered, but I didn’t like being there at all.
“Miss Martin would you give us your name for the record?” he asked.
“We will stipulate that Miss Martin’s legal name is Rose Seabold. We will further inform you that she is using the alias for business reasons not to commit any illegal or nefarious actions or deeds.” I was ahead and I hadn’t even spoken.
“Why exactly are you using an alias,” the heavier one asked.
“Don’t answer that Rose. I have already explained, and it has no bearing on this incident at all,” Rita said.
“Actually counselor, it might go to motive,” he said.
“Oh you have evidence to suggest that it was anything other than a simple robbery? One which went terribly wrong for all parties involved?” Rita asked.
“That would depend on whether your client recognizes this man,” he said sliding an 8×10 color photograph in front of me.
I was happy to say, “I have never seen him before in my life. Is that the man I shot?”
“We ask the questions here,” the skinny cop snapped.
“Unless you have some charges to file we are through here. I warned you when it became more adversarial than informative we were gone, so we are now leaving.” With that Rita stood as did Buddy and I.
The three of us were standing by the door discussing where to have lunch, when the two of them caught up with us. “Why don’t we all dial it back a notch and try to get through this today. I’m sure Miss Warren would like to return home. It is possible we could clear this up today.”
“It’s Mrs. Warren and I really don’t mind staying as long as it takes,” she said not looking at Buddy as I would have expected.
“We would like to stamp this closed if your client will clear up a few things then we can do that,” he said.
“Then you are saying it was a righteous shoot?” Buddy asked.
“We are inclined to believe so. If you will return to the interview room, we can complete this interview,” he said.
We were again seated when he asked, “Miss Seabold, how long have you lived here?”
I looked at Rita and she nodded. “I would have to check for an exact date but almost two years. Most of last year I was out of town.” I stopped talking when Rita raised her hand.
“Why were you out of town,” skinny cop asked.
“That has no bearing on this case and it is an invasion of Miss Seabold’s privacy. I can tell you that she did not come in contact with the victim. Also her reason for being out of town had nothing to do with the victim.”
“There seem to be a lot of questionable gaps in Miss Seabold’s resume?” the heavy cops stated.
“Is there a relevant question there?” Rita asked. I sat back enjoying the show. The only thing they got out of us was a denial that I had any idea who the burglars were or why I was the target.
They gave us a name to accompany the picture. The detectives wanted to be sure I had never heard the name. “I can honestly say I never heard the name Ernesto Avery previous to this moment.”
“We are fairly sure you were the target of the burglary not money or goods. Ernesto is an enforcer for a criminal enterprise. He has a rather long criminal history. It’s also filled with assault charges that got dropped. He did a little time for assaulting a cop, but all the other victims dropped the charges, if they even reported it.”
I started to speak, but Rita stopped me. “Do you have any idea what the connection might be between Miss Seabold and this Ernesto person?” she asked.
“We were hoping she could tell us,” skinny cop asked.
Rita nodded for me to speak. “The only thing I have been involved with actively since my return is selling drawings at festivals in the three state area. I have also started laying the groundwork for a legal marijuana enterprise. I don’t even have a license for that yet. I don’t see how anyone could know about it.” That is where Rita cut me off.
“Okay, of the two I would put my money on the pot business,” the heavier cop suggested.
I don’t see how that is even possible. No one locally has been informed. I made some inquires about a building in Mossberg, but I never told the Realtor my plans for it,” I said.
“Well an attempted burglary went wrong, is how the report will read. If anything more comes of it we will at least have a place to start,” skinny cop suggested.
“How about the second burglar?” I asked.
“If he shows his head we will pursue him. I think you might want to think about disappearing and change your name again. The people who sent Ernesto have even more reason to want to harm you now.”
“If I do that you won’t find me either,” I suggested.
“Oh you never know. These days we have a lot of tools,” he explained.
So do I, I thought, but I said nothing. “That really went well,” I said to Buddy and Rita over lunch in a fancy restaurant in Williamston.
“Yes it did. That Aids infested cop was right you should disappear again. It’s not like you don’t know how,” Rita said. Rita was black but she was also a bigot it seemed.
“So where do we go from here?” I asked. “Since I’m not leaving town.”
“Depends on whether that criminal enterprise comes after you again. If they do you might want to reconsider moving,” Rita suggested.
“Fuck no, not as long as I got Buddy,” I said with a huge smile.
“Well I’m going home, so you two take care of each other for me. Between the two of you the bad guys better bring an army,” she suggested.
“Buddy might be that bad, but me, I’m a pussy cat,” I replied.
“Tell that to Ernesto,” Buddy commented. “I sure hope he doesn’t have any family. These people get real pissy when you kill one of them.”
“What people?” Rita asked.
“Romani,” Buddy said.
“That’s something you don’t need, a family feud,” Rita said. “Why are they after you in the first place?”
“Yeah, why are they?” Buddy joined in the asking.
“I broke a kids nose. He happened to be one of them I guess,” I explained.
“Jesus fucking Christ, You sure you don’t want to run,” Buddy asked.
“He was a fucking nobody,” I said. I then explained about the food trucks and my involvement with the father and son.
“You fucked them both at the same time?” Rita asked. I nodded so she asked. “How was that?”
“I’ve had worse,” I said. “Actually most of what I’ve had was worse.”