My thanks to Randi Black for her editing of this work. Her efforts and suggestions have greatly improved this submission.
Don Terwilliger was listening to Willie and beating out the tune of an old CW song on the steering wheel of his truck as he drove down the main drag of Wilson’s Mill. It was hot, dry and miserable outside, but he had the window of his old truck open as he drove. The sweat was running down his face, and dust from his combine covered his once white T-shirt. His hands and arms were grease smeared as was his shirt and dirty denim jeans. By all rights, he should be angry and upset but somehow he just couldn’t be. It wasn’t in his nature. Don took all life threw at him and grinned. He rolled with the punches, ducked his head and kept on keepin’ on. He was on the way through town headed for the John Deere dealership thirty-seven miles away for a part for his old combine. Most farmers would be so angry they were shaking and shouting because of the breakdown. Don was upset, but accepted what the fates or, perhaps, Murphy threw at him. After all, he was alive, he had a wonderful wife who worked alongside him and helped him raise his two children. What more could a man ask for besides that, enough food, a place to live, and good friends? No, life was good, rough sometimes, but good. He had all he needed.
Don was almost out of town when he frowned and turned his head. Randy’s truck was parked in front of the local bar. Now, if it had been an evening, especially Friday or Saturday night, that wouldn’t have been too strange, even now during early harvest season. It was odd for it to be there in midday and parked with one front wheel on the sidewalk. No, that was some strange stuff and needed some investigation. Don knew Randy and Shirley were in a rough patch right then. He didn’t know the whole story, but rumors circulating in the gang made it plain Randy was more than a little upset at Shirley, and with reason. Don slowed his truck and pulled into the Wilson’s Mill parking lot to turn around. He quickly drove back to the bar and stopped his truck beside Randy’s.
Don walked into the bar and stopped to let his eyes become accustomed to the darkness inside. He saw Dottie sitting on her stool behind the bar as she looked to see who came in when the door opened. Randy didn’t even turn his head. He just sat in a rear booth and stared into space, almost glaring at the small Wall of Honor. There were already four empty bottles on the table. Randy was well into the fifth one.
Before Dottie could ask, Don walked to the bar and said, “Dos Equis Lager please, Dottie.” He nodded his head toward Randy and asked, “Know what that’s all about?”
“Nope. He came boiling in here about thirty minutes ago and he’s been sucking them down right fast ever since. He’d been hitting them or something before he got here. I’m about to cut him off, Don. He ain’t said a word ‘cept to tell me when he wants another. From the look on his face whatever it is sure ain’t good.”
Don took his beer and walked to Randy’s table. He sat down without asking and watched Randy for a moment. Neither man spoke. Randy finished his beer and looked toward the bar, holding the empty up and wiggled it back and forth. Dottie frowned and hesitated then with a sigh she pulled another, opened it then delivered it to him. She said, “This’s the last one Randy. You’d had a few before ya come in and now this’ll be the sixth one here in less than an hour. I think you’d better give me your keys now too son.”
Randy took the beer and glared at Dottie. He turned his head, tipped it back and took a deep chug from the still cold beer. His face once again turned toward the wall and it’s pictures while his hands tightened on the beer bottle. His jaws were clenched in anger as his vision bored into the picture. Don turned his head to discern what Randy was glaring at. He seemed to be looking at a picture of Don and him with Stewart Pauls, Mona Greuber, Wilson Anderson and some of the other men and women from their Guard Company while they were in the Sandbox during Desert Storm nearly 16 years ago. For the life of him, he couldn’t understand why Randy would be glaring at the picture with such anger.
Finally Don said, “You wanna talk about it, Hoss?”
Randy broke his stare, and for the first time looked at Don. His brow furrowed into a frown and lips tightened. “Do you know,” he asked. “how long has she been doing it?”
Don frowned and looked back at the pictures once again and replied, “Doing what, bud?”
Randy barked out a short tight laugh and replied, “Right. You’re telling me you’re the only one that didn’t know besides me. Is that it? Hell, even Dottie knows don’t ya, Dottie?”
Don looked up at a surprised Dottie. She frowned and raised her shoulders, then shook her head no. Randy yelled, “BULLSHIT.” They’ve been in here, I know. Haven’t they?
“Some fucking friends you all turned out to be. I thought we were like the movie. You know, a Band of Brothers. You know, Bros Befo Hoes. Shit.”
“Come on Randy,” Don said. “Man, we’ve been tight since high school but I have absolutely no idea what the hell you’re talking about now. Come on, at least give me a clue.”
Randy glared at Don for a moment. Don could almost see the gears moving in Randy’s brain. Finally, he said, “Well maybe ya don’t. Since ya got married to Mona back a ways you haven’t been here as much, but hell, ya still come to tha coffee shop a lot. Hasn’t Mona said anything?”
Don thought he knew what had Randy in his state now and said, “Well yeah, but”
Randy jumped to his feet and tried to throw a punch at Don. Don scrambled back and evaded the punch. He was thankful the table they sat at had booth seating along the wall and chairs with their back to the room. If it had been a full booth, Randy would have nailed him with a haymaker for sure. As it was, Don almost lost his balance when his feet got tangled up in the falling chair. Thankfully, when Randy lunged and threw the punch he was so drunk he lost his balance. Don regained his balance first and wrapped his arms around Randy, trapping his arms against his sides to keep Randy from hitting him. As he did that he said, “Whoa there, Son. I don’t know what crawled up your ass but you asked, now let me finish. As I said, yeah, we all know you and Shirley been arguing the last few months. Hell, I’ve heard some things she’s said to you, and if Mona talked to me like that we’d go round and round, but that’s all I know and I think that’s all Mona knows, too. That’s no reason to be trying to hit me, though. Hell, we’re buds.”
Randy struggled for a moment longer, then relaxed. To Don’s embarrassment, Randy collapsed back into his seat and began crying. Don looked at Dottie and shook his head. He thought, Crap, that’s all we need now is a fucking crying drunk. He looked at his watch. This was taking way too long. He needed to get to the implement dealer before it closed, get his part, and get home. Fuck.
Finally, Don made up his mind. He reached into Randy’s pocket and pulled his billfold out then walked to the bar. “What’s the damages, Dottie?”
“Seven beers is fourteen dollars just like always, Don. You know that. Whatcha gonna do with ‘im?”
“Fuck, I don’t know. Don’t suppose I can leave him here?” Dottie smiled and gently shook her head back and forth. “Figured.” Don pulled fifteen dollars from Randy’s wallet, then took one from his and handed them to Dottie.
She looked at the money and said, “I said seven beers, Don.”
“Yeah, I heard. Keep it, and keep this under your cap please, Dottie. I’ll take him with me while I get my parts and try to figure out what’s going on.”
“Good. If you can, let me know what this’s all about, too. Maybe I can help. This just isn’t like him at all.”
Don walked back to Randy and helped him up. “Come on Randy,” he said. “You can go to town with me while I get combine parts. We’ll talk some on the trip.”
After they were on the road and the tires were humming, Don looked over at Randy. He was staring out the window, jaws tightly clenched. Don said, “Now Bud, why don’t ya tell me what the hell’s going on today?”
“She’s a fucking whore and is going to leave me. Fucking bitch.”
“What? Who’s a whore and going to leave you? Shirley? Hell, I know you’ve been at each other’s throats for a while, but what makes you think she’s going to leave you? Do you really think calling her names will help solve the problems?”
“I’m not calling her names. It’s a fact. She’s a fucking whore. Them’s the facts. I heard her and Slick Willie talking this morning. She’s an actual damn real life whore for that pimping asshole. I was supposed to be drilling second crop beans in the wheat stubble, but I forgot to grease the drill so I came back to the house for that. I was working in the shop when they came out of the house. Bitch was supposed to go into town this morning. Said she needed to pay some bills and would probably be all day, what with shopping and all. She’s been doing a lot of running around lately, you know. Hasn’t been getting her work done at home. Place’s a mess. Hell, I don’t have any clean clothes and dishes are piled up everywhere. She used to keep up with the house and still be able to help me some but now sometimes she doesn’t even have a meal ready when I come in to eat.
“Anyway, Slick Willie had parked his old truck in the shed beside her car and they was talking as they walked out. Heard him tell her he had one customer for her this morning and there were three wanted her together over their noon hour. I just stood there. Couldn’t believe I really heard it. I looked through a crack in the door and she was laughing and grinning. Looked excited.
“She asked how much he was charging them and what they all wanted.
“Asshole told her the morning was straight pussy but the nooner; he called it a nooner, too, was big money. It was unlimited, any hole, as many times as they wanted for two hours for $1,500.
“Damn whore just stopped and smiled then held out her hand and said, ‘Pay up’.
“Willie looked hurt and said he was good for it then asked her if she didn’t trust him.
“She said, ‘Hell no I don’t trust you, asshole. Last time I had one of those unlimiteds you paid me for straight pussy. Now I want my $1000 up front or I don’t see any of them. You aren’t gonna stiff me again. You know I gotta make enough to get the hell outta here. I can’t take much more of the asshole’s shit. I’m sick of this damn farm and the dirt and shit. I’m sick of all these fucking farmers. I told him two years ago I was sick of it and wanted to move, and he blew me off’.
“Willie told her he didn’t have the cash on him and he’d have to pay her later. She glared at him a minute then said, ‘Okay, fine, but no pay, no play. Got it? I get my cut BEFORE the action starts or I don’t go into the room, honey’.
“He cussed her then said, “Okay, fine. Now let’s get the hell outta here before the asshole comes back or we’re late’. Then they both got into their rigs and took off.”
Don looked over at Randy in shock. He said, “Whoa man. You sure that’s what they said? What did they say when you confronted them?”
“Man, I didn’t say squat. I mean I was so shocked and they left so fast I just stood there. Then I went into the house and had a couple, then came to Dottie’s. You know the rest.”
The remainder of the trip was quiet as the two men watched the road and lived with their thoughts.
On the way back home Don finally said, “So now what? You gonna confront her or what?”
“What the fuck do you think? Bitch’s gone and Willie’s gonna be in a world of hurt man. Shoulda got my piece and waited on them instead of getting drunk. I fucked that one up, I guess, but yeah. We’re gonna rumble. There’s gonna be some pain come down and gonna divorce the bitch quick as scat.”
Both the men continued thinking about the day’s events as they drove. Don barely slowed to the posted speed limit when they drove through Wilsons Mill. Randy shouted, “Hey. Ya forgot my truck, Don.”
“No I didn’t, Randy. You’re coming home with me and we’re going to talk about this some more. I want Mona in on this, and I think we need Slim too.”
“Mona? Man, I don’t know. She’s pretty tight with Shirley. I guess Slim’s okay but why ya wanta get him involved?”
“You know we were all four tight in the Sand Box; hell, we been friends since school. Besides, Mona’s smart. She’s probably smarter than either one of us and I trust her all the way. She won’t rat ya out. After what her sister-in-law did to her brother, she hates cheaters with a passion. I never did cotton to Slick much, but he’s really gone wrong after we got back. We all six joined together when we got outta high school, and we went through that hell together. We had each other’s back. Well, now those of us that’re left still have your back. I have to admit when we were over there and Slick Willie and Shirley were fucking around, I thought they were going to get hitched. We were all surprised when you married her instead of him. Never could figure out why, really.”
“Well, I was stupid, I guess. You know me; Willie and Shirl were in the same platoon. We were always together on missions and so forth. Well, I thought Shirl and Willie were a couple, too, but I guess not. Or, maybe they were. Hell, I don’t know. I know she sure fucked him a lot, but she fucked me, too, and I heard she fucked a few others, but I never could prove it. Anyway, I spent as much time with her as I could. Hell, she was a woman and I was lonesome just like everyone else, and it was damn good pussy. Still is. I thought we were tight, but every so often she and Willie would take off and sometimes I would see her with someone else after. Anyway, after Willie’s pop died and he came home early, me and Shirl sorta got together all the time. “When we had our physical before we came back home Shirley came to me and told me she was pregnant. She claimed I was the only one she’d been with since Willie came home, and the baby was mine.
“You know we did the marriage as soon as we could after we got home, then a couple month’s later she came down with cramps and so forth. She told me she lost the kid. Hell, I don’t know. We’ve had several rocky times over the years, and she never got pregnant again. About every time ole Willie got back to town for long, me and Shirl had a rough spell. I shouldda dumped her ass years ago, but when things were good they were really good, ya know? She kept a good house and helped a lot during the busy times. This time’s worse, though.”
Randy was still feeling the beer when they got back to Don and Mona’s place. Instead of doing what he normally would do and driving straight to the broken down machinery, Don stopped at the house. When Randy followed him inside, Mona came into the kitchen from the sewing room. She saw Randy and smiled, then said, “Hi Randy. Long time no see. You look rough. Is everything okay?”
Don broke in and said, “No, Honey. He’s got some problems. We stopped for some tea, then we’re going back to work on the combine. You wanta come help some? We need to talk about things and I can’t waste any more daylight.”
Mona frowned and quickly turned back to the sewing room. As she left the kitchen she said, “Yeah, let me turn off the sewing machine and lights and I’ll be right with you, honey.”
While the three worked together on the combine, the men told Mona the story. At one point Mona said, “Hell, I knew she was a little, uh, oh, fuck. I heard over there that she had been known to charge for dates, but after you all got married, I thought she settled down. Hell, I heard rumors about several of the women supplementing their incomes on their back. Crap, I even had some offers. Might have tried it myself if it wasn’t for Don T here. There was no way I wanted to do anything that would fuck us up, though. I heard Slick Willie was her manager over there, but it was just occasional parts of a conversation. Word was you wanted some of Shirley’s pussy, you saw Slick Willie. He supposedly went with her as a guard or something. You both know if things were too blatant, command would have stepped in and CID (Criminal Investigation Division) would have done the investigation. I just thought it was mostly rumors and sour grapes.
“Now, how do you know she’s back to her old tricks? You got any proof? If you file for divorce you need to tie this up tight or you’ll lose your shirt. It sounds as if she is saving some of her money, at least. Do you know where it is? Even if it is ill gotten, it is an asset to the marriage and you deserve some of it in the divorce. I don’t want you going off halfcocked here. If you do this, you need to do it right.”
Randy looked at Mona and grinned, then said, “Yes First Sergeant. Anything you say First Sergeant. But how am I going to do this right First Sergeant?”
“Can the First Sergeant shit, asshole. You know how I feel about that when we’re not at drill. As for doing things right, you leave that to Don and me. The first thing we have to do is smooth things out for you at home. We don’t need her going off before we’re ready if we can help it. Now, I’ll go inside, call her and tell her Don found you drunk in town and brought you out here ... No, I have a better idea. I’ll tell her about the broken combine and that you’re helping us repair it. Shit, that almost makes sense and should be a good alibi. You’re the Motor Sergeant and a damn good mechanic, so it’s logical you’d help. You can even spend the night and we’ll just tell her we worked so late we insisted you stay over if she asks. Maybe we can get Slim over to do some initial planning here, too.”
After the phone call to Shirley, the three friends called Slim. He agreed to come over and allegedly help them work on the combine. After Slim arrived, against Mona’s better judgment, they all grabbed a beer and sat around the kitchen table discussing Randy’s problem with Shirley. They decided they needed some extra help, and would call in a couple more of their friends from the Guard. They had to be discrete, however, because Shirley was also still in the Guard and they didn’t want word to get back to her.
That weekend, the three friends went to their Guard meeting as normal, but at times during the day they found time to talk quietly and recruit two or three people each to help Randy. They only talked with those they believed they could trust. They didn’t talk to anyone they hadn’t agreed before-hand to try to bring into the operation. Slim was still in the Guard, but in a different unit that didn’t meet that weekend. However, he also had a couple of people he would contact at his next drill. For the most part, the Guard is a small organization and many of the people know each other, especially in the senior ranks. Of course, many of the people in a Guard unit are locals, so know each other as neighbors, too.
Randy found it almost impossible to remain at home around Shirley. Thankfully, it was his busiest part of the year and he could legitimately spend much of his time outside working. It was also believable that he ate rapidly, talked to her sparingly, went to bed early and rose and left the house early. He was legitimately tired every night, and between that and Shirley’s attitude he managed not to have sex with her. His first batch of tests for STD’s were negative, and he breathed easier. He was almost positive Shirley used protection most of the time, probably all the time, with her Johns, because she had never brought a disease home to him. The Guard routinely checked for AIDS and other diseases, so his civilian tests were mostly to ease Randy’s fears. He really didn’t expect to find any diseases.
Ten days after their Guard meeting, the friends met to begin planning their operation in detail. Since she was the First Sergeant of their unit, Mona had access to the Armory. It helped that Randy was the Motor Sergeant and Don was Training Sergeant. Mona merely obtained permission from the commander to have a meeting with some of her sergeants in the Armory. At the appointed time, the three old timers and six of their friends and fellow Guardsmen met at the Armory, in uniform, as if they were conducting legitimate business. Neither Shirley nor Willie thought anything uncommon was going on. In case someone decided to check up on the conspirators, they did do some planning for future training and left some paper records. This, of course, was also necessary in order for them to be paid for the evening’s work.
The meeting was run in a military manner. They prepared an Operations Order, brainstormed plans for the operation and determined equipment necessary for the operation. Some of the equipment needed was available to them from the Guard, and they planned to make use of it. Of course, they would be using it in an unauthorized manner, but considering their ranks, position in the unit and time in service they were confident, unless it was lost or damaged, they could safely get by with “borrowing” the equipment.
All of the surveillance would be supervised by the three men Slim recruited from his Military Police unit. Two of them actually worked as law enforcement officers in their civilian jobs. One was a deputy sheriff in their county, the other, a city policeman. These two men brought extra expertise to the operation and even had access to some quality surveillance gear. The icing on the cake was that if they could get the goods on Shirley and Slick Willie, they could use the legally obtained part of the evidence to prosecute them. Assuming they were involved in prostitution, they might even be able to bring in other law enforcement agencies.
Thirteen days after the first planning session in the Armory, they were ready to execute their plan. All the citizen soldiers were aware of their role in the operation and trained to accomplish the mission, a mission that for all intents and purposes was a military one, not withstanding its occurring in a civilian venue. At the onset of the operation, as with any military operation, the gathering of intelligence began. Programs were downloaded on both Shirley and Wilson’s cell phones. Landlines were tapped and cameras and recorders placed in both houses and vehicles. The players were covered in order to identify additional players.
It took them two weeks to find where Shirley stashed her “earnings”. Not too surprisingly, she didn’t have a local bank account for the money. Somewhat more of a surprise was that it didn’t go into a safe deposit box, either. She was keeping the money in a nice safe inside an old junk combine parked behind the machine shed. At some point, the safe had been welded inside the grain separation area of the combine in front of the straw walker. She actually had to crawl up into the machine to access the safe. She accessed it often enough there was a pretty well defined patch under the rear of the combine where she crawled into and out of the machine to hide her money. After they found the safe, the crew installed a low light camera in the machine where it would get a clear picture of the dial so they could ascertain the combination and remove the money when the operation went to completion.
On the twentieth day of surveillance, a Thursday, Mona got a phone call from Slim, the “NCOIC” of the surveillance. He said, “Top, we got a major problem here. Terry is going ape shit and wants to drop everything. We need a command decision on this one and probably a hell of a lot more pull than any of us have.”
“What’s crawled up your ass, Slim? Calm down. Crap, you sound more excited than when we were taking mortars over there.”
“Willie and Shirley are working today, ya know? We were on them and the game just got a whole lot more dangerous here. They were waiting in a motel room for their noon customers. After Willie finished getting his piece Shirley asked for her cut of the afternoons take. He said, ‘Ain’t no take this afternoon, Shirl. This’s a freebie, sorta an insurance policy for us’.
“Shirley just looked at Willie and said, ‘Bullshit. No one rides this pussy for free, and I damn sure ain’t gonna put out no unlimited gang bang for four assholes for free. I’m outta here’. Willie grabbed her arm and pulled her back into the room then onto the bed. He looked real scared and said, ‘Shirl, we got no choice here. Your customers today are the Sheriff and Police Chief and two of their friends. The sheriff or chief, one, got the goods on us somehow, and the sheriff came to me with a deal. They get to ride free once a month and get ten percent of the take or we get a trip to the big house. We don’t have any choice here Shirl’.
“Well, Terry got really scared when he heard that and wanted to take off, but we talked him into staying until we talked to you. Hell, now we don’t know where to go with this, Top. We got no idea how deep the rot is in the county or city law enforcement. Hell, who the hell do we call in on this one, or do we just drop everything? I mean, he’s upset over this damn illegal unauthorized surveillance in the first place. Said he didn’t sign on for this shit. He only wanted to help out a friend. Now he’s afraid he’ll get in trouble for the unauthorized investigation and for spying on the sheriff. I don’t know how long I can keep him here or how long I can keep him quiet.”
“Awww crap. Gimme a minit. I need to talk to Don. We’ll get back to ya. Stay on top of this for now, Slim.”
After she discussed the problem with Don, Mona called Slim back. “Slim, see if you can keep a lid on this and control Terry today. Be damn sure you get good recordings and get them back to me as soon as the action ends. We need safe backups and a good hiding place for these recordings, for sure. We’ll have a meeting Monday night at the Armory to go over this with the crew. We can either do it before or after our training meeting.”
The group stopped following Shirley and Wilson but continued collecting the electronic intel from phone intercepts and the houses and vehicles. Much of that was interesting, very interesting. Not only was the sheriff and police chief involved but they caught the local prosecuting attorney’s name being bandied about.
In one of the intercepted phone calls Wilson said, “Shirley, you got another insurance payment due tomorrow morning at 10.”
“Bullshit,” she said. I’ve already gave those fuckers their month’s payment. We all agreed one day a month free and that’s it.”
“Uh, Shirl, it aint them. Somehow the Prosecuting Attorney found out about us. Now ya gotta give him the same deal, and tomorrow’s his first payment. The sheriff says we’re earning his protection just fine, but you need to provide some pussy for the prosecutor or his protection won’t be enough. The Prosecutor also gets another 5% cut outta us, too.”
“God damnit, Willie. Where’s this gonna end? Huh? Now ya got me working free two days a month and we’ve lost 15% of our income. How the hell did you let this happen anyway, asshole?”
“Hell it wasn’t me, Shirl. I don’t like this any better than you do, ya know. I been thinking about just leaving, ya know, but I guess tha sheriff thought about that. He said if we took off he’d put out an APB on our asses for prostitution and a bunch of other shit. That asshole owns us now, Shirl. Just be glad he’s letting us keep what we’re making now, okay?
“You son of a bitch. I don’t know why I ever let you talk me into doing this. Do it for a while, you said. We’ll get rich and be able to blow this hick town, you said. We’ll be rich and live the good life like we’ve always dreamed, you said. Now look at us. I’m trapped being a damn whore and...”
“Whoa there, Shirl. You love the work and you know it. Hell, you’re the one that came to me about being your protection when we were over there. It made us a lot of money there, and its making us more now. We’ll get away somehow and live it up. You’ll see.”
“Yeah, right. You damn well better be right or I’ll find some way to make you pay for this. Have you thought about what’ll happen if they find out about your other business, asshole? Will you have the same protection for that?”
Wilson almost whispered, “Damn it, Shirl be quiet! They don’t know about that and we need to make damn sure they never do. Even if they let me pay them off on that, too, it could make some very bad people angry. Man, maybe I better cool it a while on that or maybe just stop selling around here. Yeah, that’s it. I’ll just keep my other business out of the county; maybe just work it when we’re away from here. Or, maybe I can find someone to work it here for me and just supply them the product ... Yeah. That’s what I’ll do. Might not make quite as much, but it might be a lot safer and they can’t squeeze a cut out of me if I’m not selling, can they?”
Shirley muttered, “Fucking stupid asshole.” She said louder, “Okay, you win again. Shit. Another damn wasted day.” Once again, Shirley was forced to provide the pussy for free.
The group discussed their intel so far and decided they were in way over their heads. The initial plan was to get the goods on Shirley and Wilson, then out them to the community before Randy filed for divorce. Then they planned to provide it to the prosecuting attorney. This, of course, would benefit Randy, because if Shirley was convicted of a crime the divorce would be more favorable to him. Now, with the entire senior law enforcement arm of the county involved in the mess, they had to rethink their plans. They were even worried about Wilson’s other business. All any of them could think of was drugs, and if he was involved in that they damn sure wanted to get some serious law enforcement involved.
Mid-way through the meeting, Mona said, “Look. We’re in way over our head here. We need to pass this up the chain, pronto. I think we need to either get with the FBI or the Highway Patrol on this one. I don’t know who would have the jurisdiction.”
When he heard Mona say that, Randy slurred, “Dammit thish jush innt righ. I wanna hurt tha bish an bassard. Howm I gonna do that if we calla FBI?”
Mona looked back at the angry drunken Randy and glared at him for a moment as only a First Sergeant and career wife could do, even if she WASN’T his wife. She glanced at a slightly more sober Don, and then said, “Look, Randy, I think we all want you to be able to lay some hurt on them, but we can’t just do something to hurt them and let our county officials walk. Hell, if they’re unethical enough to do the bitch and let Slick Willie buy them off with pussy, what are they doing for other criminals? We have to get them, too. You know as well as I do they would never prosecute Slick and Shirl if we gave them the evidence we have. It would be like cutting their own throats. Besides, if we let them know we have the goods on them, they can make our lives hell also. No, we have to go for them, too, and maybe take a chance of you having to take less revenge than you want.”
“Well, I doan like it. I want those assholes to hurt like I do. They deserve the pain.”
Don looked around the table before he leaned back in his chair once again. He said, “Look, Randy, none of us is an attorney. Hell, none of us has more than a two-year degree from college. We have no way of knowing exactly what the whole outcome of this is, but I think I remember hearing convicted criminals have a lot poorer chance of getting a good divorce settlement than someone who is squeaky clean. I think we, you, need to visit with an attorney before we go too much farther. I also think, no matter what else goes on, that we need to empty that safe pretty soon. At first I thought we needed to just use the combination and empty it, but now I think we need to do something even worse to throw her off the scent.”
“Well ‘course we haveta take tha money! I’ll be damn if she can cheat on me then walk off with a buncha cash and halfa my farm n stuff.”
“Yeah, but if we do things right we can get you the money and make it look as if someone else got it. I might be overly cautious, but I think I have an idea that will give you some legitimate cash to report on your tax return and a way to hide some of her whorin’ money.”
Randy looked at Don curiously and said, “Howm I gonna do that?”
“Well, look. The price of scrap iron is pretty high right now. All of us have a bunch of old scrap machinery around the farm. We all need to get together and haul the scrap to a recycling yard. The larger pieces will need to be cut up for us to be able to haul them. We can start on my place, then do Slims before we get to yours. We all have large trucks, trailers and torches to cut the larger machinery into smaller pieces. We can load the scrap with our tractors. When we get to your place the first piece we cut up will be the combine. We’ll be sure we cut the combine up so the safe is still pretty well hidden inside. Before we begin cutting, we’ll open the safe and take almost all the money from it. We’ll leave oh, say a couple hundred dollars inside in case it pops open when they crush the scrap, if they crush it locally. If they don’t crush it—and I don’t think they will because the recyclers don’t have a crusher on site—you don’t lose much. Normally, they use a magnet and load the scrap into rail cars then ship it to the smelter. Anyway, that is a plausible way for you to get most of the money and no one will be the wiser. We just have to make sure we have a day or two to do the work before Shirley discovers the combine is either being cut up or is gone. When she misses the combine, she’ll be royally pissed but she can’t tell you why. She may even suspect you found the safe, but she can’t prove anything. We’ll hide the money somewhere else until this all blows over, then get it back to you.”
Randy looked around the table at his friends. His face broke out in a wide grin and he said, “Now thass whut I’m talkin’ ‘bout. We get tha money and she gets fucked.” He giggled and said, “Hey, that’s right innit? She gets fucked alla time anyway and I done it ta her agin. I like it. Now, how we gonna make er n Willie pay? Still wannum ta hurt.”
Mona broke into the conversation once again saying, “Don, I like your idea for several reasons. We all get rid of some of the clutter around our places and heck knows I like that. I’ve been tired of all the scrap machinery around for quite a while, but haven’t said anything about it because we were so damn busy. We all also get some extra income, but most of all, Randy gets a bunch of the skank’s money free and clear.
“Now, does anyone know a good divorce attorney, preferable one that can advise Randy on this other mess also?”
Slim spoke up then. “Yeah, I might know someone that can help, anyway. Y’all remember Paulette from school?” He got several nods and a few yeses before he continued. He grinned at Randy and said, “Don’t give us that look, Randy. I KNOW you remember her. You ever get over that beatin’ her ole man gave ya when he caught you two in the barn?”
Randy’s face took on a deep red hue and he glared at Slim before he muttered, “Fuck you and tha horse ya rode in on, asshole.”
Everyone around the table broke up in laughter after that short exchange. Mona, like the good First Sergeant she was, brought the meeting back on topic. She looked at Slim and said, “Okay, Slim. Stop fucking with Randy and tell us about the attorney.”
“Well, I don’t know any lawyers m’self but I heard Paulette was workin’ for a buncha them up in Centerton. She got a job with them when she got outta college and been with ‘em ever since. I heard they done her proud when she had to divorce that cheatin’ city dude she got hitched to in college. I ‘spect if we called her she could find us a good-un.”
“Well, I don’t have any better idea. Does anyone else? Okay, who knows her best?” Once again loud laughter suffused the room as the men looked at Randy. Mona glared at the men and said, “Okay, assholes. You know what I meant. Anybody?”
No one said anything, then finally Don said, “I think we all know her, Honey, but I don’t think any of us have seen her since her Daddy died what, seven or eight years ago?”
“Okay, that leaves it to either Randy or me. Does anyone at least know where she works or what her phone number is?” Again there were no answers. “Well, crap. What do I do just start calling attorneys and ask if Paulette works there?”
Randy looked at Mona and said, “Mos of ‘er family lives in Steelville. Doan ‘member who ‘er where. Her aunt was married to one of the Fieldings and they ‘bout own that town. Ya might call over there or go to the store. They might know.”
“Great. Well it beats nothing. Okay, I’ll get on that tomorrow. Anything else we need to talk about tonight?”
Don looked around the table and then said, “Yeah, Honey. I think we need to lay low for a while and just keep on passive surveillance only while we take care of the other business. Let’s see what the attorney says before we get with the FBI or Patrol.”
Everyone thought that idea was a good one, and it was accepted. The meeting finally broke up after they did a small amount of work for the Guard to cover their tracks and make it seem as if the use of the Armory was totally legitimate.
The next day, Mona drove over to Steelville and went to the Feed and Farm Store. There was only one woman working the front counter ringing up purchases so Mona stood to the side waiting on a chance to talk. Soon, a woman came out of the office and asked if she could help Mona.
“I hope so. I’m Mona Terwilliger, from over by Wilson’s Mill. I have a strange request. I used to go to school with Paulette Chambers. A bunch of friends and I were talking about people we used to know last week, and her name came up. We remembered some of the Fieldings were related to her and I came over to see if I could talk to one of them and get her address or phone number.”
The woman smiled and said, “I’m Jennifer Fielding Scott. Why don’t you come into the office so we can talk? I’m watching the phones for Mom while she’s running errands.”