Chapter 1

There is a small town in Ohio named X. It started life as a cross roads where the farmers met at the trading post to buy, sell, and barter. As things like that often happen the trading post gave way to a more respectable general store. The store was joined by a drink house first, then by a stable. It was more for the buying and selling of farm animals than sheltering strange horses. The town continued to grow until the depression. It, like a lot of farm towns, survived, but went into a replacement mode. It never really grew much after.

Its one claim to fame was an early statue. The statue was dedicated to a famous civil war era union general. Tourist came along once in a long while just to see it. There just weren't enough civil war buffs to fill the three bedroom Bed and Breakfast. Most of the buildings in town dated back to the 1930's and 40's. Fortunately the population swelled on the weekends. It was enough to keep the town alive, but not enough to attract the fast food joints. The consequence was that the town remained quaint, as it would later be described. There were a 'bushel' of stories in the town. Some of them fascinating, some of them mundane. Welcome to life in Small Town X.

Eddie's Place.

If anything on the raw side of life happened, it always began in Eddie's place. Eddie's was the only beer joint in town. Small Town X was just too small for a real bar. At Eddie's, the jukebox played country music. The farmer's sons and daughters, danced beside the towns working class. There was not a real cowboy for a thousand miles but that didn't bother a soul.

Eddie wasn't the owner's name but nobody ever called her anything else. It was because nobody knew her real name, she kept it a secret. The sign read Eddie's because it had read Eddie's before the present owner collected her debt from the previous owner. Word was that the previous owner had owed the present Eddie's former girlfriend a wad of dough. Eddie had just collected the debt for her. How she wound up with the place was anyone's guess.

Even though Eddie was a woman on the spring side of middle-age, she was still hard enough to keep the crowd in line. The rumor that she had killed an abusive husband helped keep the rowdies in line. Not to mention the cut down baseball bat and the sawed off shotgun which everyone knew was under the bar.

Eddie also had an eye for the ladies. A proclivity she acquired while doing her time. With Eddie, what began as a prison necessity became a life style.

Eddie looked up at the large man who entered. The man was in the full bloom of middle-age. Since Eddie knew everyone in town, the stranger had to be from somewhere else.

"Howdy stranger," she said with a grin. "I always wanted to say that. We don't get many strangers here."

"Well Miss Kitty, you just feel free. Course I do have a name you know."

"Tell me what you want to drink, while I don't listen to it." She grinned to show she was not upset.

"Draft and I will keep it to myself then." The older man smiled.

His smile bothered Eddie. She wasn't sure why but he seemed to smile like a man who knew more than she knew.

"Well now," Eddie said as she placed the wet glass on the black bar top. "I am curious about you, just not your name especially.

"Well I am a writer. No, not published just a hobby with me." He responded to her curious look. "People always ask what I have written. They really want to know what I have publish, and am I a real write."

"Well are you?" Eddie asked with a grin.

"By my definition yes, however I am not a professional since I have never been paid for it."

"In that case let's use your definition. So what brings you to Small Town X?"

"I came to write a novel about your big murder case."

"What big murder case?" Eddie asked.

"Why Maggie Evans, how many unsolved cases do you have?"

"Who the hell is Maggie Evans? I never heard of her."

"She was a stranger like me. Just a woman passing through a while ago. They pulled her body out of the Small Town X reservoir."

"Oh now I remember, the lady in the yellow convertible. Since she was a stranger, I never paid any attention."

"So I guess you don't know anything about her."

"Nothing more than you just told me. Excuse me I got to get back to work."

He watched as she moved on down the bar to refill a draft glass. He wondered if she indeed knew nothing. It was the old cop in him. In his mind everyone was a suspect,.

He looked around the dimly lit room. Without a doubt someone in the room knew something. Murder and unsavory characters went together. All the unsavory characters in Small Town X seemed to be gathered at Eddie's. He knew that it was not true at all. Still so many in such a small town, They must bus them in, he thought.

The writer watched as Eddie went from patron to patron. She was no doubt filling them in. It was exactly what he had hoped to accomplish by the visit. The writer put three bucks on the bar then walked out the door.

He was almost to the van when a voice shouted. "Hey Writer."

"Are you really a writer?" The voice belonged to a woman of about thirty. She had a slightly elongated face and a slightly thick jaw. She wore her hair much too long for her age and face shape. She did have an attractive body even though it was a bit thick at the hips.

"Like I told Eddie, I am an unpublished writer. That makes me a bit like a starving artist. To answer your question I do write yes."

"Then I need to talk to you."

"Is it about Maggie Evans?" he asked.

"No it is about me. I think I have some great stories to tell. I think I could get them published."

"Well..." He intentionally left it so that she would be forced to answer.

"Sammie, my friends call me Sammie," She said it extending her hand to the writer.

"Well Sammie, everyone has stories to tell. I don't ghost-write, I am sorry to say."

"Let's go to my place and we can talk about it." Sammie was offering something the writer just wasn't sure what.

"I am tired tonight but I am staying at the state park just outside of town. If you want to talk come on out one day and we can discuss your life. I have to warn you though I do not expect to change my mind."

"Well honey, if anybody can change your mind it is me." She grinned what had to be nothing less than a hungry wolf's grin.

She watched the writer drive away in the mini van with blacked out windows. Sammie went back into the dim light of Eddie's. She knew that she was almost gorgeous in the darkened beer joint. She also knew that before the night was over some drunken drugstore cowboy would hit on her. It always happened. She seldom said no to them. She seemed to be horny all the time since she moved to Small Town X the year before. She credited her traveling salesman husband and the freedom he afforded her for her new found sexuality.

She found her seat at the bar. At first she had hated the custom of women displaying themselves at the bar. She didn't like Eddie flirting with her either. Well in all honesty she had been flattered at first. She sort of felt that one night when she couldn't find a cowboy, she would give Eddie a try. Some of the women had talked about how great Eddie was with her tongue. It might be nice to find out even if there were cowboys around. Most of them just knew one trick. She wasn't complaining though. She had finally learned to orgasm from intercourse.

"Hey Sammie, you wanna dance?" The man who asked was a tall thin man somewhat less than her age. At Eddie's age didn't seem to matter. Men seemed to be attracted by a woman's looks or personality more than her age. At least it seemed that way to Sammie, who had slept with older and younger men.

"Sure why not Martin." Martin held her close during the dance. It took about thirty seconds for him to get an erection. The feel of his penis laying against her belly was all it took. Sammie melted into him. She hoped desperately that he would ask to take her home.

"Sammie, how about me and you take a walk? We can get a couple of beers to go, drive out by the late. Would you like that?"

"Oh yes Martin," Sammie replied. "But could I have another drink first?"

"Sure, I wouldn't mind having one myself and then maybe another dance."

"That would be nice," Sammie agreed.

Very few things were overlooked by Eddie. She saw Martin and Sammie hookup. She also cursed her luck. She felt that she was on the verge of seducing Sammie. Oh well, so she liked the challenge of virgins mostly. There were plenty of women around, who fondly remembered their time with Eddie. Some were in the club at that moment. Some preferred men but some preferred Eddie. Even the ones who preferred men got to looking hard at her when closing time approached. Eddie always had her choice at 1 a.m.

Eddie was working on half a dozen women who had never had a lesbian experience before. She had turned on twice that many already. The town's women were rapidly becoming bi. Eddie was right proud of herself for it. She wanted to set some kind of record. She smiled as she watched Sammie's ass wiggle against Martin's erection.

When the song ended the two of them moved to a table far from anyone else. Eddie knew, from having talked to Sammie, that Sammie would have Martin's penis in her hands any second. Sammie was just as much a slut as any of the other women in Small Town X.

The thoughts that triggered in her mind were anything but ladylike. Eddie was getting tense as she always did when she felt she had lost a woman. It didn't much matter that she had never had Sammie, she knew Sammie was close to coming over.

Sammie turned her beer glass up and took a long drink. When she finished, she smiled at Martin, then she led him out the door.

As they passed, Eddie smiled on the outside but inside she was furious. She just wasn't sure who she should be furious with. Martin was just acting like and man. If Sammie hadn't been such and easy slut, she wouldn't be Sammie, Eddie thought with a smile.

"Hey Eddie, what's a girl gotta' do to get a drink around here?" the twenty pound overweight redhead asked.

Eddie moved slowly down the bar to the redhead. She didn't want Rusty to get any ideas. Rusty was a sweetheart all right, but she was just a little too possessive. It took Eddie a couple of days to extract herself every time she played with Rusty. The woman was just too damn clingy. Sure, she had her childhood issues, but so did everyone else.

Just as Eddie reached for Rusty's glass, a siren began to intrude on the country music. The siren blast grew in intensity then faded away. Since it didn't stop in her parking lot, Eddie ignored it.

The Ambulance roared past Eddie's without the drive, or attendant noticing the beer joint. The driver was intent on the narrow road. The roads in Small Town X definitely could use an upgrade. All the county emergency personnel cursed the roads in Small Town X, but still were forced to provide service to the burg.

Nobody gave all that a thought at the moment. Just a few blocks from Eddie's joint, a subject was barricaded inside a house. The sheriff's deputies had the house surrounded. The ambulance personnel had no idea what else was going on.

The state police's swat team was on the way in addition to the ambulance. The damn woman in the house had her husband's deer rifle. She was threatening to kill herself, as well as anyone who approached the house. It was a first for the sheriff's deputies. At least no one could remember ever having a woman threaten such a thing.

The ambulance was almost run off the road by the state police swat team bus.

"Oh hell Lucy, we are in for some shit now." The voice belonged to Jonathan Simpson. He was the driver of the ambulance. Lucy was the paramedic. Jonathan also was an Emt but with a lower level of training. That small fact made Lucy the team leader even though she was newer to the field.

"How so?" she asked.

"Those state police swat guys always shoot somebody. They are the most blood thirsty bunch I have ever seen. It is a fucking macho thing."

"Well I hope they hold off this time. I hate fucking gunshot wounds."

"Honey, if they start shooting, the only thing we will do is transport the body." Jonathan could call her honey since he was at least thirty years older.

"That bad huh?" Lucy asked.

"Yep, it will be a miracle if she comes out of this alive."

The two medics stood behind the ambulance drinking coke from the cooler they carried. They watched as the cops talked to the distraught woman on the phone.

"Hey lady," One of the deputies said to Lucy. "I need your help."

"Okay, is somebody hurt." Lucy couldn't think of any other reason they would want her.

"Not yet, I need you to talk to the lady in the house. She just told us she wouldn't speak to us again. Said that we were all men and couldn't understand."

"Well, I haven't been trained for this kind of thing. What if I say something wrong?"

"If you don't do something, I am going to have to let the swat team take the building. If I do that somebody is probably going to die."

Lucy reluctantly accepted the cell phone he thrust at her. "Her name is Joyce."

"Hello, my name is Lucy. I am a paramedic. I want to help you, Joyce."

"Oh Lucy, I need help. They are going to kill me."

"Not if you put down the rifle and walk out. If you do that I will personally see to it that you get whatever help you need."

"Even if I put down the rifle and walk out they are going to kill me. They can't let me live. I know too much."

"What do you know honey?" Lucy asked.

"If I tell you what I know, you will be in great danger too."

Lucy looked at the deputy who made a circular motion with his finger against his head. He indicated that she was crazy.

"I want to help you but I can't unless you tell me what is going on." Lucy covered the phone. "What can I do? Can I go in there?"

"Absolutely not," the deputy said.

Lucy ignored him. "How about if I come in and we talk?" The deputy shook his head.

"No Lucy, if you do that they will find a way to kill us both. They don't want me to tell what I know."

"Who doesn't want you to tell? Most of us out here Joyce don't know you honey." Lucy continued.

"Where do you live Lucy?" Joyce asked.

"Taylortown," was her only reply.

"Good, then don't pry into this honey. It is best that you don't know."

"Joyce how about this? I come up there and you come out with me. I will carry you to the state hospital in Raleigh. I will take you there myself. Nobody will be able to get you there." Lucy figured the doctors there could deal with her delusional paranoia.

"Joyce, you know this has to end soon." Lucy hoped it was the right thing to say.

"Okay, you come up here alone and I will go out to the ambulance with you."

Lucy was terrified as she walked to the door of the small frame house. Joyce turned out to be far from a gun toting red neck. She looked more like a church lady. Still, she came to the door with the rifle.

She was looking all around as Lucy said, "You have to leave that rifle in the house honey."

At that very moment a shot rang out from behind her. Joyce crumpled back into the house. Lucy rushed in to help the fallen woman. As she did the state and local cops surrounded her. Lucy looked up at them with anger and hurt in her eyes. She intended to slap hell out of the first one who started any macho shit.

Even on the summer night, it was well, past dead dark when the writer arrived back at the campground. He had checked into the state park just until he had his research completed. After that he would have to decide where to go. He could stay in Small Town X to write the story since he was pretty much free to come and go as he wished.

Still, he might go home to write it. The white frame house stood almost empty at the moment. It would be that way until he returned. His country club wife would be, God only knew, where.

In his week of reading files and talking to cops, he had learned little. All anyone knew was that Maggie's body had been pulled from the lake used for the town's drinking water. Since Maggie was not a local, nobody knew much and cared even less.

The writer had read the police reports, such as they were. From them he had learned that Maggie was from a couple of hundred miles away. She had been on her way to a sales call when she disappeared. Maggie sold computers as well as software systems.

"Hello in there," the woman's voice interrupted him. The voice belonged to the park ranger. She was the ranger who made the night patrol of the campgrounds. The writer had seen her around but had never spoken to her.

"Hello," he said after leaving the van. He had been sitting in the passenger seat reviewing his notes when she spoke. "What can I do for you Ma'am."

"Gee don't call me ma'am it makes me sound so old." She smiled, giving him a chance to respond.

"Didn't mean it that way. It is the southern raising, I expect. Besides I am at least twenty years older than you."

"Oh I doubt that. The reason I am here is because you have to move tomorrow. You are only allowed to camp for a week here. It is the rule."

"Damn, If I had known that, I would have found some private park."

She saw the look of dismay on his face. He was a good looking old man with the silver hair and beard. The number of wrinkles put his age in the forty range. He must be one of those guys with premature grey hair she thought.

"Tell you what writer," She began. "Come to the office tomorrow and check out, then back in again in another space. It is legal. We got a couple of people who do it." He looked as though he really did appreciate the information. Jane thought, it might be nice to have the writer owe her a favor. She did like his looks, a lot actually.

"Thank you for the advice. I will definitely take it."

"Good, I kinda' like having you around." She smiled her most seductive smile.

That smile made the writer shiver, but it wasn't in fear, even though it was the smile a cat wore as it toyed with a mouse. It was more a shiver of fascination. The fascination of looking into the face of evil while waiting to see what will happen.

Ranger Jane, as he began to think of her, moved to stand close in the black night. She wasn't so close that a camper might think anything of it. She was just close enough to speak without fear of being overheard in the camper no more than a few feet away.

"Why don't you take a walk tonight writer? Walk on down to the office. I think something interesting might happen."

She had him on the spot and he knew it. He didn't know exactly what to say but he knew he had to say or do something. If for no other reason than he was a gentleman. She hadn't exactly promised him anything. Maybe she knew something about Maggie Evans. He knew better, but he fooled himself with the lie.

"Sure, when would be the best time for that walk?"

"I would think about midnight." The writer just nodded.

The writer stood outside the locked office waiting for Ranger Jane to arrive. The black Ford Bronco arrived five minutes after midnight. The truck pulled up beside him. The passenger side window lowered as if by magic.

"Get in writer," It wasn't quite the demand it sounded. It was more and invitation.

He didn't speak until he was in the truck. "So Ranger are you kidnaping me?" The writer was almost laughing.

"I thought for a while I might have to," the woman in the green outfit replied.

He didn't know what to say so he changed the subject. "Where are you taking me, not that I mind?"

"We rent cabins as well as camp spaces. We have an empty one away from all the others. The office workers rent it last. I checked, no one is using it, so I thought we might sit on the porch and talk a little."

"That sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing for us to do." The writer did not mean for to come off nasty by any means. He meant it to sound like a non committal remark.

The cabin didn't seem just right to him when he arrived. It wasn't logs as it should have been. It was called board and batten construction. Just a bunch of vertical boards with a second board nailed over the joint cracks.

The cabins were rustic at best. They had no electric power. They did have running water. A propane gas cylinder could be purchased from the office to supply enough power for the hot water and even the small heater, if need be. The gas would last only a day or so if used for heat. If it was used only to heat water, it would last a week or more. Light was provided by kerosene lamps. The feeling was a mixture of wilderness and comfort. The comfort from the indoor bathrooms and running water. Rustic because of the lack of any other modern conveniences.

Jane turned to him. The writer could feel Ranger Janes's hand under his shirt, her tongue down his throat, and the large buckle of her gun belt pressed into his crotch. It was an interesting set of feelings to be having all at once. Everything was a turn on except the pistol belt thing. Even it wasn't enough to calm him down. He had her blouse out and was reaching for the buttons when a serious knock sounded from the front door.

"Busted," he said.

"Ah but by whom?" She asked, as she quickly stuffed her shirt inside the uniform trousers.

Ranger Jane moved to the door but much slower than the writer would have. She seemed to have at least a sense of whom the person standing in the night would be. The writer couldn't see the intruder since Jane kept the door mostly closed. He could hear their voices though.

"Hello, am I interrupting?" the voice on the porch asked.

"Of course you are. You know I don't come inside unless I am with someone," Jane replied.

"I just needed to talk with you but I will come back later. Can I meet you at your place?" The voice was definitely female. She sounded young to the writer but then what can you really tell from a voice on the other side of a wall.

"All right, come to my place in a couple of hours." Jane seemed to be less annoyed all of a sudden.

"Thanks," The voice replied. Jane closed the door as she removed the pistol belt.

"Now where were we, writer?" she asked with a grin.

STX Lake was a popular spot for lovers in the small lonesome town. There wasn't much to do after dark except sit at home watching TV with the family, hanging out at Eddie's, or screwing by the lake. For some, most nights consisted of doing all three in that order. The finding of Maggie Evan's body and possible murder there, hadn't stopped the routine.

Martin took a hand off the steering wheel, then pressed Sammie's hand harder against him.

"Feels good baby," he murmured, reaching over and giving Sammie's breast a squeeze. Sammie winced in slight pain but also moaned with genuine pleasure.

"Hey honey, we keep this up and you're gonna run the truck into a tree," she said with a sensual laugh.

"Always like to give my ladies a good bang for the buck," he joked in response.

"I'm sure you do," Sammie told him, teasing him harder with her hand; "Feels like you're packing a nice wad of 'cash' in there."

"Never had no complaints," he said, smiling oddly to himself with the satisfying realization that it actually was the truth.

The occasional flickering of headlights and random ignition of car engines created the nightly ambiance of STX Lake. Martin found his favorite spot by the lake, then stopped the pick-up. It was an unspoken understanding. Everyone knew it was Martin's spot. They all had one, and rarely did an interloper dare to enter another lover's territory. Most knew better than to do so. In STX, invading another man's lakeside territory was grounds for having one of Eddie's beer mugs ground into your face. Eddie was more than happy to hand over another cold mug to complete the job. Eddie had her own territory at STX Lake, actually she had several...

Sammie climbed out of the pick-up, then took Martin's hand. He pulled her hastily toward the large oak tree by the water's edge. He didn't even give her a chance to speak before pushing her back against the rough bark. He enveloped her lips with his mouth. Martin's callused hands explored her body frantically, as his tongue pushed deeper into her mouth. Her moans of pleasure were arousing him even further. He took her by the wrists and moved her hands down to his jeans to encourage her to unzip them.

She needed no such encouragement. Sammie adeptly unzipped Martin's jeans, then wrestled them down just far enough to find his considerable size. She moaned her approval.

Martin's mind was fading into blind ecstasy as he felt her stroking him. He wasn't even aware he was ripping the flimsy cotton T-shirt down the front. It was in uncontrollable lust to feel her naked body.

He pushed her to the ground knelt over her, quickly unzipped her blue jeans, then forced them down past her hips. Martin held her wrists penned to the ground. He then moved his knees between her legs to spread them apart. His fierce entry into her felt excruciating, but also wonderful to Sammie. However, as she looked up into his face, she wasn't sure that she liked what she saw. He was staring at her intensely. He wore a wicked grin on his face. He seemed to be enjoying the pain his forceful thrusting caused her.

"Hey lover, take it easy," she managed to gasp between staggered breaths; "I ain't going anywhere."

"You love it," Martin panted, thrusting harder. "You love being a little slut. Come on baby say it."

"I love being a slut," Sammie responded automatically in a slow breathy moan. She was so close to orgasm, she didn't care what she had to do or say to feel it.

Hearing Sammie's words was all it took for Martin. He jerked back and then forward in one violent move and released inside her. He fell on top of her in exhaustion.

Sammie was still squirming in sexual arousal. In less than 30 seconds Martin was climbing to his feet and rearranging his clothes. She laid there for a moment, trying to clear her mind and understand that it was over for her without satisfaction. She was pissed.

Martin looked down at Sammie's disheveled, half-dressed body and smiled with macho arrogance and almost a hint of cruelty.

"Come on, baby," he said, reaching down his hand to her; "I'll take you home."

Sammie slapped his hand away and stood up on her own. She tried to pull the ripped T-shirt together and tuck it in her jeans to secure it.

"You're a real bastard," she told him.

Martin laughed, "Yeah, but you love it." He took her hand and bent to give her a quick kiss on the cheek.

"You were wonderful Sammie; best I've had," he lied sweetly, trying to appease her.

Martin led her to the car then got in behind the wheel. He handed her a can of warm beer from under the driver's seat. Sammie begrudgingly took it.

"How about I take you for an early breakfast?" Martin suggested it as he drove away from the lake and onto Route 60. "Know a great little place about 20 miles from here. Open all night - best scrambled eggs and coffee within 100 miles." He looked over at Sammie, tweaking her cheek with a hopeful smile.

Sammie turned to him and reluctantly but helplessly began to smile back.

"Sure, why not?" she answered with a casual shrug. It was the very least he owed her, and Sammie was, by god gonna', collect something from him before going home. Even if it was only breakfast in a greasy highway diner.

"Cutting it close ain't you Martin?" It was his brother who asked. What the hell was Tommy doing down here? he wondered.

"Well, a little I guess. Where is Harvey?"

"I sent him on home when I got here a few minutes ago. I didn't need him. You haven't been drinking, have you Martin?"

"Not for the last couple of hours. I had a couple of beers earlier."

"Marty, I wish you would quit altogether. It is not good for you to drink. You know how you get after you have had a couple of drinks."

"Come on Tommy, I haven't been in trouble like that for years. I can handle it now." There was a long pause while each brother came to grips with their situation. It was humiliating for Martin to work for his younger brother. It was also the only job he could find. He had never been in jail, but he might as well have been. The reputation as a brawler followed him even into adulthood.

"That is true Marty, you seem to have calmed down but you really shouldn't drink at all. You know what that Doctor said."

"Like I said, my only defense is, I haven't been in trouble in years." He waited a moment then went on. "What brings you down here so late?"

"Oh hell same old thing, Mary and the whelp are at it again with me in the middle. Don't ever marry a woman with kids."

"Not much chance of that. Ain't no woman gonna want a gas station attendant. Even if I don't pump no gas."

"I told you Marty, any time you want you can come on days to work with the mechanic. Learn yourself a good trade."

"I don't want to fix no cars neither. I know I need to learn something, but fixing cars ain't what I got in mind."

"Okay Marty," It was the close of that conversation. "I fixed your register for you. I'll be back in the morning to take over."

"Tommy, sleep in, I can handle the place till you get some rest. You don't look so good."

"Thanks Marty, I just might do that." It sounded good, but Marty knew that Tommy would be in to count the register and take over at exactly seven a.m.

Martin settled in for the long boring midnight shift. None of the locals would be around until five in the morning. Some would stop for gas, or coffee, on the way to work at one or another of the small plants in the area. From one until five it would be out of town motorists from the highway. Some nights he stayed busy, but most he barely took in enough to pay his own salary. Some of those nights he locked the door and took a nap. Hell, he knew from experience that nobody would miss him. That thought brought a smile to his lips.

"About here I think," the writer said as he took her into his arms. He should have asked about the woman on the porch, but somehow his mind was on more urgent things. Although the swelling had gone down the thickness in his mind had not.

As the kids would say, they swapped spit and other bodily fluids for the next hour. When it was over and they were lying on the floor exhausted, the ranger said, "Writer, you better be planning to hang around a while."

"Why is that?" he asked lazily.

"Because I am not through with you. I am one of those bitchy women who wants things to end on her terms. I can get down right nasty, if they don't." She laughed to break the tension her words had caused.

"I expect I will be here a while longer. I am still doing research. Did you ever meet Maggie?"

"I am not sure she ever met anyone in town. She might have just been driving by," Jane replied with a dark look on her face. It looked as though she took murder seriously.

"One person for sure met her." She looked curiously at the writer as he spoke. "Her killer."

"We don't know that the murderer was from here. She might have met someone on the road or maybe she had the killer with her."

"If that were the case, he had a long fucking walk out." The Writer replied.

"Well whoever dumped her in the lake had a long walk out," Jane replied.

"Unless they went to the lake in two cars."

"That is possible, the lake is the town's make out point form all ages. It could have been anyone writer."

"Truth is Jane, I don't care who killed her. All I am going to do is use it for the basis of a story. If I can figure it out, that would be great, if not so what."

"While you are figuring come here," she said pulling him to her breasts. She ran her hands through his long wild hair as he dry-nursed her. She not so gently pulled him free to kiss his lips, then pushed him back to her breast.

"Harder," she mumbled. "Yes hurt me."

The writer was reluctant until Jane pulled his hair hard. At that point he bit into her breast just past the nipple. He did it as much as a reflex as anything.

"God yes," she moaned.

He drew the line when she tried to force his head lower. Some things were just a little too kinky for the writer.

Back in his van the writer tried to process all he knew. It was hard to think with the haunting thoughts of Jane running through his mind. He finally gave up. He slipped into the back of the van, lay on his air bed, turned on his fan, then fell into a deep sleep.

Meanwhile, several miles away, Ranger Jane was making coffee on the gas stove of her twenty-five-foot camper. The living space wasn't much, but it was almost free, one of the perks of the job. She had an almost free place to live, and a great view. It was the best job she had ever had. Too bad it wouldn't last, they never did. Something or someone always came along to screw things up. It didn't help that she couldn't control her urges since she had moved to Small Town X.

She had always been sexual, but since coming to Small Town X she had become absolutely slutty. Anywhere else, it would be a terrible problem. For some reason people in Small Town X tended to ignore it. They didn't have any idea how kinky she could get. She had no intention of telling them.

She had been lucky with the Writer. He had been forceful in his reaction to her opening. He had made it plain that he was not interested in moving even to the suburbs of bizarro land. Well straight lovers were nice too. Especially since Small Town X was full of kinky people, men and women. Speaking of which little miss 'hit me hurt me' was on the way.

Thoughts of her job intruded just once more. If it didn't get too bad, she should be able to stick around a while, she decided.

Sammie gazed out the dirty windshield of Martin's pick-up truck and smiled at the pale yellow moon hanging over STX. Her hand cupped Martin's crotch, rubbing him slowly as he drove and hummed along with the radio.

"The black SUV pulled to a stop by the gas pumps. Martin recognized the car/truck. He smiled at the thought that he might be able to swing a second piece of ass in the same evening. Eve almost never said no to him. For that, he had his mother to thank. Martin was a good-looking guy. It, sure as hell, didn't come from his dad's side of the family. His side of the family looked like a bunch of bridge trolls. Why his mother married into that family was a mystery. Why she left wasn't. His dad had a nasty temper and could get violent without cause. It was a trait he and his dad shared. Since his mother and father hadn't lived together since he was ten, he found out about his dads temper as a teenager.

Martin was big enough, and strong enough, so that when he found out first hand, he kicked his dad's ass. The old man was a tough one, but no match for the younger stronger Martin. Martin shouldn't have been proud of doing it, but he was. The old man had slapped him up side the head, so he just went about the business of destroying him. His dad never spoke to him again. Martin was just as glad. He did miss the extra few bucks the old man slipped him once in a while, but he learned to do without it.

Before Eve got out of the truck, he turned off the computer link to the pumps. The little screen would read please pay inside. He had learned to hate those damn things. The pretty women could slide in a card and buy their gas. Most of what he liked about the job was the women. He had convinced the technician, who repaired the pumps, to explain how to kill the credit card link. After that he would kill it when an attractive woman pumped gas.

"Your damn credit card reader is broke again Martin. You should do something about that, I am in an awful hurry tonight." Eve spoke after having hurried into the store. In her almost jogging stride, she had displayed her bouncing breasts admirably to Martin. Eve was just a little over weight. Not all but a lot was in her breasts.

"Damn Shame you are in such a hurry Eve. I thought maybe we could spend some quality time together."

"I am sorry Martin but the old man is babysitting Sherry. She has some kind of virus. He came over to take care of her while I worked. He is gonna be raisin' hell, if I am late. Maybe we can get together when Sherry is better? You know how I love the time I spend with you."

"I know you do my little slut." He smiled wickedly as he processed the card.

Eve left with a smile on her lips. After she had gone, Martin removed a Hustler Magazine from the stand. He carefully worked it from the brown wrapper then made sure everything was turned off. He went into the bathroom to look at the pictures.

"Lucy honey, you did everything you could," Jonathan Simpson said. He was using his most paternal tone in trying to appease his ambulance partner. Lucy was obviously upset, stomping around in the back of the EMT truck with a vengeance, as she cleaned up the bloody litter of their last patient.

They didn't have to fucking blow her brains out," she responded with a glare before jumping out of the truck, carrying a biohazard bag filled with crimson-soaked gauze and IV remnants. Why Lucy had fiercely insisted on trying to revive the woman was beyond Jonathan. He said nothing as they'd driven to the hospital ER just outside of STX. Lucy knew the woman was DOA. she had stood just a few feet away as the SWAT team had taken the woman down. But, if it had made Lucy feel better to try, then let her. It was what she had been trained to do.

I warned you the cops might do that," Jonathan responded. "Told you those guys work on the concept, shoot first, who gives a shit about questions later".

"She was just a terrified, delusional woman. She didn't want to hurt anyone. She was just afraid someone was gonna hurt her."

"You don't know she wouldn't have used that rifle on someone," Simpson responded, handing Lucy the last remaining Coke from the ice chest. "Even you," he added.

Lucy was not convinced. "No, she wouldn't have. I was talking to her. She was calming down. She had agreed to let me take her to the hospital to get help. I told her I wouldn't let anything happen to her." Lucy followed her last words with a sniffle and turned away.

Jonathan followed her to the locker room. "Lucy, I know you wanted to help her, and maybe you could have gotten her out of there alive. Who knows? We're just 'crash and carry' men, honey. The cops had other plans."

"But why? Why would they be so goddamned bound and determined to shut her up?"

"Shut her up? Now Lucy, don't start taking anything that woman said seriously. She was a paranoid delusional, they think everyone is out to get them. She was a menopausal middle-aged woman, probably on Zoloft, Prozac, Valium and god knows what kinds of hormone replacement therapy. That stuff'll fuck up your mind. Believe me, I have a menopausal wife." Jonathan smiled awkwardly.

But Lucy wasn't in the mood to be joked out of her dark thoughts.

"I don't know, Jonathan. She seemed genuinely fearful, and not irrationally so. You only had to look in her eyes to see it. I think she'd really been threatened with her life. You saw those bruises on her arms. It was a perfect hand print match. That lady had definitely been abused by someone."

"You don't know that Lucy. That is pure speculation," Jonathan replied. "You're letting your Sisterhood mentality convince you that all men are wife-beating pigs, and it's getting the best of you."

"Hey old man, it happens all the time," she said. "You know what they say about STX. Man, that place is a fucking Sodom and Gammorah! Glad as hell I don't live here. Taylortown may be white trash central, but at least our trailer park don't have red lights outside every front door."

Jonathan chuckled. "Well honey, just you remember the first rule of riding as an EMT. Do your job, and don't get emotionally involved. Hell, the cops shouldn't have let you get involved at all, stupid bastards."

"She was terrified of them, like she knew they were out to get her. Like maybe she had something on them, or they had something on her."

"Hel, everyone thinks that about cops!"

"No, this was different," Lucy replied. "She did know something, and knew it was going to get her killed. I think she'd gotten to the point where she thought the only way out was to kill or be killed. She said she knew too much, and for me to stay out of it. Problem is John, some people considered delusional are really telling the truth. Got tons of sane people in looney bins; no one will believe them."

"Sure Lucy, it happens," Jonathan replied, hoping to see Lucy calm enough to get her on her way home and punch out himself. It had been a hell of a long, ugly night. "But Lucy, that lady was just plain nuts. Sorry honey, but it's true. You need to try to forget about this and move on. Hey, there will be plenty more psycho ladies in need of our care," he smiled wryly; "Let's just hope they aren't toting loaded guns."

Lucy tried to smile, but it was hard. She knew Jonathan was just trying to be a good partner and help her through a bad scene. But Lucy couldn't forget it; she wouldn't allow herself. Something deep down told her that the woman had been telling the truth, or at least, a partial truth. Those cops had seemed way too eager and happy to take her out. They had an EMT in there who was on her way to getting that gun away from the woman; there was absolutely no reason why the need to shoot her was eminent at that point. Not only was it seemingly against protocol, but it was just too damned excessive. Not to mention, those guys shouldn't have shot with a civilian - even a trained EMT - so close to the suspect. Lucy up to this point hadn't really let that sink in. She'd been only a few feet away from the woman when they shot her. One hiccup from the sharpshooter and it could have been Lucy lying down in the hospital morgue now. Despite her emotional distress over the whole incident, Lucy still was not convinced that there wasn't more to this than met the eye.

After moving his van to a new space in the Park, the writer drove into town. He stopped in the one convenience store out near highway 60. It was ten a.m. so the day shift was working. That morning the man who usually sat in the office working on papers was missing. The woman just past her teen years was the sole occupant. She was fairly attractive until she opened her mouth. She like a lot of others in Small Town X had bad teeth. It was obvious that the Convenience store had no dental insurance.

"Good Morning, I have a question for you."

"You that writer guy ain't you?" the post teenager asked.

"I suppose so. everyone in town seems to know me somehow?" It was a question. One she recognized.

"Small Town you know. We tend to be a nosey lot. Comes from not having much else to do around here.

"Then let me ask you a writer question. Since you are a woman."

"Sure, I always wanted to write you know."

The writer nodded. He got that a lot. "So, if you were driving from one place to another alone, why would you get off the highway in Small Town X."

"You mean, why do I think Maggie Evan's got found in our lake."

He nodded, "I would think a woman traveling alone would be more careful."

"I expect she had car trouble, or needed gas, or more likely a bathroom. You know a woman has to go about twice as often as a guy."

"If that was the case, all three would have brought her in here."

"Could be she stopped in some other gas station, got lost and ran her car into the lake accidentally."

"I suppose," the writer agreed knowing she was wrong. Maggie Evans was dead before she hit the water. The autopsy found her lungs dry, not to mention the cracked skull. He was lost in thought when she spoke again.

"So where does your stuff get published?" she asked.

"It doesn't really. This is just a hobby with me. I am retired."

"You are mighty young to be retired."

"I am far from young. Take a look at this grey hair."

"Well writer, when I look past it, I don't see that old man skin. You ain't near as old as most of the retired men around here."

"Okay the grey hair runs in the family. I am fifty-five. I retired with thirty years as a cop. I have been traveling around and writing ever since."

"Holy shit, my two favorite things all wrapped up together. A cop and a writer, I could just about rape you."

"No, you couldn't honey. It is impossible to rape the willing."

"Another time writer, my boss is due back in a couple of minutes. I surely do want to take my time with you."

"Then another time it is." The writer was sure it was all talk.

"I know where you are staying. If I can find an excuse to get away from my husband, I am gonna come out to see you. Would that be okay?" The smile she wore told him she was dead serious.

"Sure, if the van is there, I am too."

She nodded with a smile. "Now about that other, do you want me to ask the others, if they saw that little yellow car. I can't imagine that they wouldn't have said something already if they had seen it."

"No, don't bother. Like you said, they would have mentioned it if they had. I need to do a little background on the town." Just then a couple of people entered the store. "Looks like you are about to get busy. Do you know anyone familiar with the history of the town?"

"I would be the wrong one to ask anyway. I am way too young. Try the town library. The old bat who runs it has been here about a million years. If anyone knows the dirt, she does."

"Thanks, by the way I paid with my credit card." The writer smiled at her as he spoke.

"I know you came to see me. I noticed the card before you came in. I been wondering when you would talk to me."

Her comments were baffling to the writer. He was holding up paying customers so he left. In the car it came back again. Why would a young woman seem interested in him. He supposed that it was just a friendly little town. With that thought he chuckled...

The writer left the convenience store quickly. He wasn't sure about the cheap blonde with the bad teeth. He would have no trouble sleeping with a woman half his age. He just couldn't understand why she would want to get involved with him. Still he was flattered so he decided just to let it happen.

Before he knew it he was downtown. He had meant to head out to the bypass for a grease biscuit. He took a look around, then decided instead on the diner nestled behind the statue of General 'Bloody Bill' Sherman. The town had that one central circular road around the statue, from it other roads took off like bicycle spokes.

The diner he found to his pleasure was old and dark. The aluminum and glass front was just a disguise for the old time diner. It was obviously his kind of place. The walls were coated with the atmosphere created by every burger fried, and every bit of bacon cooked on the large flat grill.

Just like everywhere else he went, the waitress recognized him. He must have been pointed out a hundred times in the week he had been in Small Town X. It was the only way everyone could have known him. The writer was a marked man. So far he enjoyed it.

While he ate his bacon and egg sandwich on a hamburger bun, it was the closest thing to a biscuit in the joint, people whispered about him.

"So Lottie?" He asked reading her name tag. "If I wanted to know a little about the history of this town who should I ask, you?"

"Not bloody likely, I just moved here a couple of years ago." She moved on down the counter to pour another glass of ice water for the teenaged girl sitting with her legs sprawled open. Her shorts were so small that there was a tiny wisp of hair visible around the small strip of cloth hiding her crotch.

"You should try Doris," One of the men dressed as a laborer suggested.

"Yeah, Doris is who you should ask," his buddy agreed.

"Who is Doris?" The writer asked tying to avoid staring at the teenager's crotch.

"Doris, is the town librarian. She knows about everything that ever happened here. Well at least in the last twenty years."

"Make that fifteen Bobby," the woman behind the cash register said.

"She knows more than that Jen. She just wasn't here for the rest of it. She has that oral history of Small Town X thing going. All the old people have been in to record."

"I guess that is true. Damn, I should have gone down there." The voice belonged to one of the older customers.

"So where is this library?" The writer asked. The writer must have made an impression because three different people gave him three different sets of directions.

Doris Masters was waiting for the writer when he walked through the door. She looked up from her pretend work to watch him enter. "Could I help you?" she asked in a strong voice. There was no shush rule in her library.

"Are you Doris?" The writer was at a slight disadvantage. She recognized him as being both a stranger and someone who had been pointed out to her.

"I am, and what can I do for you?" The writer flashed on her mind set.

"How long have you been off the phone with the woman at the diner?" He smiled to show that he didn't object.

"So how did I give it away?" Doris was all smiles even though she had been busted.

"Just a look that wasn't quite curious enough for a Small Town X resident to have when meeting a total stranger."

"Yes we are a bit clannish here. The lady at the diner said you would be along to ask me some questions about Small Town X.

"Yes but I don't know exactly how to ask." The writer knew how to ask. He just wasn't sure how he wanted to begin.

"Let me help you then. For one thing if I am going to be a source, I expect to be paid. I also do not expect to cheat the county out of their money. In other words writer, we have to do this somewhere else."

"Frankly, I don't usually pay for information. I don't really publish the books. Well, I probably would if anyone wanted to publish them. I just write as a hobby at the moment. So I really can't afford to pay you."

"Then we have a problem writer. I will not work free or on county time. How about this? You go to the diner at exactly five till noon. I will have called in an order, you pick up that order, then you carry it to the park across from General Sherman's statue. We can have a picnic while you ask your questions."

"Fine, but what if I can't finish by the end of your lunch hour?"

"Writer, there is dinner and after dinner."

"Well Mrs. Masters," he said looking at the name tag on her desk. "It sounds like I am going to be the only winner here. I get to pick your brain and the pleasure of your company to boot.

"I would be surprised if you are the only one who enjoys this little exercise." Doris looked down at the pile of books in front of her. The move effectively ended her conversation with the writer. She had meant to be slightly rude. No need for him to know how nervous she was. The writer turned, then walked out the door. Doris smiled, thinking he would be the one for sure.

The writer drove from the library to the mall on the highway just outside Small Town X. He went to the drugstore to pick up the prescription he had left the day before. While he waited for the final typing of the label, he contemplated buying condoms. He laughed at his egotism. Odds were that he was a legend only in his own mind.

The writer went to the park just to check it out. He never liked to go anywhere cold. It was a product of his years spent undercover. Even though those years had passed long ago, he could never shake the habit they had ingrained in him. He picked a seat across from the statue but turned to the side. He didn't intend to spend his morning looking at Sherman.

"Hey there, you want this?" The voice came from an even older man. The writer looked at the newspaper the man was offering.

"Anything interesting in there?" He noted that it was the local weekly paper.

"Not unless you care about the daughter of a teacher. She is getting married to a doctor from New York."

"Since I don't know anyone, I guess I will pass."

"You probably should read about all the doings around here. Hell, you never know, you might want to go to that church bake sale tomorrow. Some of them ladies cook really good cakes and pies. Can't say that they all do though." The old man smiled at the writer. He took the paper with a nod of his head. The old man stood, then walked toward the hardware store. He passed by the store as he continued on into the residential area only a single block from the downtown.

As he had expected there was nothing of any interest in the paper. There was a half interesting article on some out of town folks who were thinking of buying the local bed and breakfast. According to the paper, they had been in town off and on for a year checking it out. It was located in some kind of historical residence. The writer never could get the straight of it. He also had little interest.

He did note one interesting fact. It seemed that a garage offered 24 hour tow service. The writer wondered how one would find them without prior knowledge. If you had a little yellow convertible breakdown on the highway, how exactly would you find a tow service. He was running it around in his mind trying to determine whom he should ask. Nothing presented itself to him before Doris Masters came walking up. It was then that he realized he hadn't taken care of lunch.

"Grab a seat and don't move I will be right back." The writer set off at as fast a pace as his bad heart would allow. He passed the smiling Doris as he hurried to the café. His mind took her in, even after he had past her. Doris was a lot shorter when she stood. She was barely five feet tall. She was a bottle blonde in need of coloring her roots, otherwise she was unremarkable. Her body could best be described as average for a woman of her age. Her age was somewhere in the downward spiral of thirty.

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