Gary Cooper Aka the Da's Man

by MysteryWriter

Copyright© 2016 by MysteryWriter

: second Gary Cooper Story. Someone asked for it.

Tags: Ma/Fa  

88Gary Cooper retired D C police detective. aka Gary Edwards
Rosemarie Whitaker County prosecutor
Janet Stevens, Gary’s partner, aka Jennifer Edwards.
Earnest witness. Aka Eddie Edwards
The DA.’s Man

The tent/cabin weathered the first full year fine. It even made it through the second summer with only minor repairs needed. It was my second October in the mountains and I had adapted well to the solitude. Somewhere along the way I discovered that I didn’t need recognition any longer. There was something satisfying in being anonymous.

I had a few friends at the county’s library and the community center for seniors. I could use the county’s WIFI at either locations. I downloaded information I wanted to use as research. I had collected quite a mass of information which I studied at home. Even without a working cell phone, I managed to stay in touch with what was happening through my downloads from the county WIFI.

I also used the recreation center’s homeless center for showers. I didn’t eat any meals there or sleep there during the winter as some other seniors did. I did use their shower facilities. Since I brought my own soap and towel, no one complained. The county also supplied my drinking water for a fee and I used a system of tanks and fish tank pumps to move it around the cabin. In other words I had a semi off the grid lifestyle.

My power came from a wind turbine and a solar array which fed 12 volts into a storage battery bank. That bank of batteries in turn charged my laptop and power tools. It was a good system, if you could handle life with an outdoor composting toilet in January. I could but it was difficult at times.

It was during that October that I had a new visitor. I had a sheriff’s deputy visit me now and then. She said it was to gossip, but I think it was to make sure I was still alive. The new visitor was a middle aged lady within five years of my age. Those five years could have been in either direction, since she was wearing a business suit. She also displayed a fancy hair style and color. Her makeup was impeccable as well.

She stopped her car a few yards from my house. “Hello there are you Gary Cooper?”

“That’s me. What can I do for you?” I asked.

“I was told you were the brains behind solving the Paula Duncan murder,” she suggested.

“I hate to say this, but flattery won’t help. So again what can I do for you?” I did say it with a smile.

“I would like you to consult with my office. We have never had an investigator. Allot of us felt we have needed one for years. You might be our way to prove it to the county commissioners.” She said. “Can I come in and talk about it.”

“You can come in, but the talk will be a waste of your time,” I suggested.

“Why do you say that?” she asked.

“I have to make plans for the winter.” It was true I had planned to do more hunting that winter. To that end I had built a smoker for my meat. Well I had converted my old wood stove to the heat and smoke source for the preserving of meat and fish. I built it into a brick wall just large enough to surround it and keep the wood and tent canvas away from the dangerous heat. I had checked out the distances needed to be safe online, then added 50% more for super safety. I had used it once already to smoke a stringer full of pan fish. It was a lot of work for not much fish, but I considered it a learning experience.

I knew I might be able to put away some meat for a stew using the smoker. I could probably smoke a small deer or wild hog in the smoker, nothing else made much sense. The wood would be hard to find and certainly to expensive if I had to purchase it.

My winter plan was to shoot a dear and/or a wild hog to smoke, before the weather made freezing it naturally possible. It was a short term goal, but I didn’t want to work for the DA. That all went through my mind in less than a minute.

“Like the saying goes what if I made you an offer you can’t refuse?” she asked.

“I’m not sure there is such a think,” I answered.

“I’m thinking a paralegal suited to help with the investigations. Someone to do all the leg work like your former associate Janet. There would be access to all the same communications networks Janet used for your work with the sheriff. We could get the county to bill my office for your water use. Access to a private hunting preserve rated as one of the best in the state. The owner is a friend of mine. Since you use your truck for county business You can also fill your truck with gas at the county station and use the county fuel card. Last but not least you will be invited to all the county functions we host for our employees.”

“You almost had me before the last one. I hate those organized events. It is tempting, but I’m going to pass on the deal,” I replied.

“It’s a shame Janet Stevens won’t be hired without you on board,” the DA said without showing any emotion. “I guess it’s back to working vice for her. I wonder if you can say no to her.”

“She’s a nice kid, but nothing more to me,” I said.

“Then what do you want?” she asked.

“Confidential informant with blanket immunity for actions taken to further my investigations. I do not show up on any personnel file or roster. You can save all your other enticements. I will never show up in your office and never testify in court. You can send Janet with any messages or drive here yourself. I don’t want your phone. All electronics can be traced,” I said.

“Immunity for anything up to murder for that you will have to answer,” she demanded.

“Can’t do that. If some sleaze points a gun at me, he will have to die. There is no other option,” I stated.

“You will answer for any innocents you kill accidentally,” she reiterated.

“There are no innocents, but put it in writing and it’s a deal,” I said.

She left quickly as if she had made a deal with the devil. She probably thought she had. Hell I thought that in making a deal with a lawyer, I was the one who had made the deal with the devil. I had no intentions of becoming a confidential informant. I only intended to make investigations the most effective way possible. It might cause me to bend a law now and then.

As she drove away, I looked more closely at her card. She had introduced herself as Rosemary Whitaker, but her card read R. A. Whitaker. The second line read simply District Attorney. The line under it was a phone number. On the rear was a hand written phone number. I assumed it was for emergencies only.

After her visit I returned to puttering around the cabin. There just wasn’t enough to keep me busy. I had been looking for something to do. The DA might have just the thing I needed.

I went inside the cabin to retrieve the .30 caliber carbine. I had bought it at a gun show in Charlotte the weekend before. I read about it on line, so I drove almost a hundred miles to buy it. The dealer assured me all the carbines were from a storage facility which the government had recently closed. They all needed cleaning and oiling, but he guaranteed they would fire perfectly.

The Korean era .30 cal carbine had been replaced by the M16 assault rifle. So overnight there were millions of obsolete semiautomatic rifles on the surplus market. That began fifty years ago but like any other government surplus item they didn’t all hit the market all at the same time. When their storage space was needed for something else, they were declared surplus. The government wanted the most it could get for them, so they tried to sell them in lots to gun dealers instead of scrap metal buyers. Such was the case with my $350 rifle. I could have bought a modern rifle for about the same money. However I wanted it for house protection as well as for hunting.

I bought the rifle, two ten round magazines, and 300 rounds of ammo in ten round quick load stripper clips. It was never meant as a sniper rifle, so it had a peep sight which was accurate enough to kill a man. I expected I could put a couple of rounds in a black bear, or a wild hog so I didn’t change the sights. That and the hefty price a gunsmith would charge for adding a telescopic sight aided in my decision.

I was much more familiar with the M16, so I had pulled up and then downloaded the directions for field stripping the carbine. I sat in the shade while I did the work on it. I was careful not to mislay any of the pieces. When I was finished it was a relief that it still worked. I even fired off a few rounds into a large tree, just to be sure.

I loaded one ten round stripper clip into two different magazines. I didn’t want to put a strain on the magazine springs. I didn’t need to be looking an angry bear or wild hog in the face with a jammed gun in my hands.

After the carbine was put away, I found a can of beanie wienies for dinner. I missed meat in the summer. In the winter frozen or cold stored meat was possible, but without refrigeration it was not possible. Smoked meat would last longer into the summer, so I was very interested in pursuing that option.

The DA’s agreement would keep me off the hunting out of season arrest list. I planned to hunt for food not trophies.

I hoped my days of reliance on Beanie Weenies would end soon, not to mention those instant pasta meals. I did have to admit a rabbit, cleaned, and cooked in a pressure cooker over a gas fire ring, was a great addition to a mac and cheese dinner.

I went back to my winter preparations while I waited to see what the DA would do next. I got the smoke house ready, as well as testing all my firearms. I even test fired the old Saturday night special 357 mag revolver. I didn’t expect to need it, but better to have it and not need etc.

Janet showed up outside my cabin five days later. “Hello Janet what brings you here?” I asked. It probably sounded curt since I hadn’t seen her for the last three months. After we shut down the Paula Duncan investigation she stopped by a couple of time a month at first, then by the end of the year it was down to a couple of visits in the last four months. Then there were no just visits or even emails.

“I brought your new contract and the outline of your responsibilities,” she said.

“I’ll read it tomorrow, stop by after dark tomorrow and we can discuss it,” I said

As promised I read the agreement. It granted me operational immunity which amounted to I had a get out of jail free card for anything I needed to do to survive. That and a few perks she built into the contract like all the things she mentioned including invites to all their parties. The only thing I was interested in that morning was the reimbursement condition. Her office agreed to accept any cash receipt, since my name was never to appear on any paperwork. Their payments were to be made to Janet. For her I would sign a receipt with the name Jessie James.

My first stop once I left the Downtown Cafe was the Second Chance Thrift store. It was run as the baptist church’s community outreach program. I found a mountain bike without too much rust. I rode it around the parking lot then I paid twenty five dollars for it. I got a cash receipt for the purchase. I rode toward the town of Statesville, then stopped at the Ashe County Storage company. I rented their smallest locker for a month. I got the padlock from the truck. It was the one I had used on my DC storage locker.

I did not remove the bicycle from my truck as I wanted to get it home and oil it. Which took me most of the afternoon since I striped the wheels to greased all the bearings. I really couldn’t tell the bike rode any better, but I did feel safer on it.

It was after dinner when Janet arrived. “Gee two visits in two days, I am one lucky bastard,” I said.

“Or one sarcastic ex-cop,” Janet said.

“Tell her I agreed to join her band of merry men,” I said with a smile.

“When we have something to do, I’ll be back,” she said.

“I went through all this just to hurry up and wait? That’s just so wrong,” I replied.

I had managed to stay anonymous by skipping the back slapping news conference after Paula Duncan’s case was closed. I convinced the Sheriff not to even mention my name. He just stated that he had managed to enlist the aid of a specialist whose help proved to be pivotal. I wasn’t pissed because I planned it that way. It kept the crazies away from my door. People who would want to give me a hundred bucks to find their lost dog.

“How do you feel about keeping a teenager alive?” Janet asked after showing up at the door several nights later.

“Depends on how serious the threat, and how cooperative the teenager,” I replied.

“The threat is real, but it’s from a gang not the special forces,” she suggested. “You know this is a drug distribution hub. They still bring it in and repack and distribute it. We also have some meth and X labs as well as the pot growers here.”

“Yes, we knew that. So what did the kid have to do with it?” I asked.

“He and his brother were small time grower up in the national forest. Some Cuban gangsters raided his fields and grabbed the pot. In doing so there was a shoot out. Earnest’s brother was killed. Our boy ran into the woods and hid. It didn’t take long for the Sheriff to pick him up. He agreed to name names for protection,” Janet said.

“So the DA wants us to provide cover for him?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she said not looking happy about it. “You know your agreement allows you to turn it down.”

“How long are we committed on this thing?” I asked.

“The Sheriff is going to pick up all of the gang he can, beginning tomorrow. It’s a local gang with no outside support, but the DA can only charge three of the five with felony murder. The other two can probably make bail. Only one witness will be in the cross hairs, if they find him, Earnest,” Janet informed me.

“How old is Earnest and does he have a girl friend?”I asked.

“Sixteen and yes he has a girl friend. He is also scared shitless,” Janet said.

“I’ll bet you his hormones prove stronger than his fear after a while,” I suggested.

“I have learned not to bet against you,” she said.

“Does he get relocated after he testifies?” I asked.

“He gets a plane ticket to Texas and a job on a rehab ranch. What he does after that is up to him,” Janet said.

“You are just postponing his assassination,” I informed her.

“Not me the DA,” she corrected me.

“Right we have no responsibility at all in his future death. We only follow orders, Heil Hitler,” I said.

“So are you in or not?” she asked.

“I’m in, but I don’t like it,” I explained.

“You need a haircut,” Janet said with a smile.

“You always say that. It didn’t bother your new boss,” I replied.

“Sure it did, she just thought it might work for the tasks she planned to set for you. Between the two of us we should be able to go anywhere with drawing attention. Lots of intelligence to be gained just by listening,” Janet said.

It sounded familiar so I just nodded. “Where do I meet you?” I asked.

“Rainbow Motel in Sparta, I rented to adjoining rooms for us, rooms seven and eight. You take the key to room seven. It has two beds,” she said. “Check in is after 10AM. The owner has no idea who we are. He thinks we are just a blended family on vacation.”

“I expect the kid would rather you shared the room with him,” I admitted. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep your dirty little secret.”

“You never know. He might feel the need of a father figure,” she suggested.

“Tell the DA to only use her office land line to call your burner cell phone. Other wise she might as well post the location of the safe house on line,” I said as a parting shot.

I was in the Ashe Country Storage Warehouse location at eight the next morning to recover my mountain bike. With it in the back of the ram, I stopped for breakfast at a convenience store/cafe. The biscuit was okay, but the coffee was very good. I got a cash receipt on my way out. Something for the DA even a five dollar receipt was going into my John Doe expense file.

The rainbow motel was a very old ten unit motel. I wondered if it specialized in homosexual liaisons or something equally strange. Since neither Janet not I, to my knowledge dabbled in the kinky side, I let it slide. I went by the office to let them know I was checking in. It took a second to remember our alias.

“Gary Edwards, are our rooms ready?” I asked. I knew to keep the lies as close to the truth as possible.

“Yes Mr Edwards your wife already has the keys,” The middle eastern gentleman said.

“Yes I know. She told me to check to be sure the cleaning was done before she showed up with Eddie,” I explained.

“Yes the rooms are completely cleaned and ready,” he said somewhat offended it seemed.

I walked from the office, turned right then walked about fifty feet to room seven. Once inside I realized it had two full sized beds and not much else. There was a color TV bolted to he wall but that was about the only thing other than a phone and some empty drawers with a metal rack beside them. Obviously the metal rack was for hanging clothes, since it was filled with empty clothes hangers. I flopped on one of the beds to await Janet and Ernest. I hoped he didn’t meet the manager before I had a chance to tell him his name was Eddie Edwards.

First thing I did when Janet arrived with the young man in tow was to give them their names. “We need to use them around the motel or whenever we are out together,” I explained.

“How come you got to give us new names?” the new Eddie Edwards asked.

“I got here first. It’s as simple as that. Now do you need anything right now?” I asked them both.

They both shook their heads. “Okay empty your pockets on the bed son,” I demanded.

“Why?” he asked.

“We are not only here to protect you, but ourselves as well. After your pockets are empty, I’m going to do a pat down on you,” I explained.

He handed me a burner cell phone. “Good empty the rest on the bed so I can see.” When he finish I patted him down for objects he forgot. After which I checked his hip pocket. He appeared to have forgotten to empty it as well. There was an envelope with several small white pills inside.

“What are those for,” Janet asked.

“My nerves,” he said simply.

“Whose your doctor. I want to give him a call,” Janet explained.

“No doctor, I just need them sometimes,” He said.

“Kind of late for a physical, but he needs a blood test. I don’t need to watch a junkie detox,” I replied.

“I’m not a junkie. I take them when I get anxious,” he tried to explain.

“That’s the DA’s call,” I said. “Tell her we can take him somewhere to a doctor in a different county, or not.”

Janet made a call from her cell phone. I sat in unit seven while she closed the door between the two rooms. While I waited, I cleaned the tool Janet had brought. The tool was an old school Winchester 12 gauge pump shotgun. It was so old it had a hammer used as a firing pin. The neighboring county Sheriff had them in his armory. I was happy to get the chance to handle one of them. It had a trench gun barrel length, even shorter than an open bore bird gun. With the 12 gauge loaded with buck shot it made a very lethal short range weapon. Since I was going to be protecting the kid, I might need it.

“We need to keep an eye on Earnest. If he starts to detox, we need to get him to the urgent care in Statesville,” Janet said.

“I didn’t think the DA would take responsibility for his dying on us,” I suggested.

“Oh course not,” Janet said. “They get the glory, and we get the crap.”

“It rolls downhill and we are at the bottom,” I said with a laugh.

The kid broke into a sweat and had the shakes around dinner time. “So you need to go to the doctor?” I asked.

“No, I’ll be fine. I just need one of my pills,” he said.

“We can’t do that,” Janet informed him.

“How about some food,” I asked.

“Maybe a milkshake, but not one of those fast food things,” he said.

Janet left me alone with the trembling young man for half an hour or so. She came back with two pizzas a gallon of some fancy brand of ice cream and plastic plates and cups. She even served it.

Tommy tried the pizza and the milk shake then went to the bathroom and threw up. “You are getting paid for this not me,” I said.

“Asshole,” she said before going to try to nurse him.

I had to admit Janet looked better for our almost year apart. She had lost some weight and looked as though she had been working out. Her hair was a different color and cut. All in all she was much more attractive this time around. Of course I was far too old for her to notice me, but I wasn’t too old to notice her.

When Earnest came from the bathroom he was sweating and really looked bad. Janice put him to bed. Even though he was covered with sweat, she pulled the blanket over him. She came over and whispered to me, “Have you ever seen anyone detox?”

“Yeah, It all depend on what and how much time his body has had to get used to it. They say the worst is usually past in 72hours. The craving however may never go away,” I explained.

“I’m more interested in the sweating and puking,” she said.

“I’d guess the worst will be over tomorrow. He will still be lethargic and unreasonable for a while. He will need one of us close by every minute. This is not a simple baby sitting job. When this is over the DA and I are going to have a shouting match,” I explained.

“Why?” she asked.

“Did you know he was a junkie?” I asked her instead of answering.

“I had no more information than you,” she informed me.

“Well the DA sure as hell knew. I’ll bet you that’s one of the reason the kid rolled over. He was hoping that he could detox in some rehab hospital. So the DA didn’t tell us all we needed to know,” I further explained. “She put that kids life in danger and she still is.”

“What are we going to do now?” Janet asked.

“We are going to make sure the kid doesn’t choke in his sleep, or go into sudden cardiac arrest. After ten hours or so of sleep, we can revisit our next move.

Since you are getting the first shift sleeping, go out and get us a cake and make a lot of coffee. Sleep in the room with the kitchen. While you sleep, I’ll try not to make too much noise.”

She returned in about twenty minutes. She brought a dozen donuts and a large cardboard box of coffee. Along with the coffee there were three plastic cups complete with a Granny’s Donut logo.

“This should be enough coffee and donuts for you. Save me a jelly donut please,” she demanded.

“Of course you have a .40 cal pistol,” I said with a smile. “Your four hour sleep period is running, You need to get to it.”

She just nodded as she walked into the second room. I sat in the chair by the kid’s bed. After and hour I helped him to the bathroom. I made sure there was nothing sharp, then left him with the door open.

He sat on the toilet and threw up into the sink. He also had a mild diarrhea thing going on at the same time. After he left the bathroom I cleaned it some. It was not up to a two star hotel’s standards, but it was better then the kid left it.

My four hour shift ended at midnight, but I wasn’t sleepy. I was busy walking down memory lane. So I just stayed seated in the big chair and waited for time to pass. Janet would either wake up on her own, or I would get her after six, or so hours.

A couple of hours later the kid coughed a couple of times, so I rolled him on his side and slapped him hard on the back. His breathing was normal, it had been just a precaution.

At 3AM Janis came in wearing nothing but a long tee shirt and panties. “Why didn’t you wake me?” she asked.

“I was afraid to. I ate all the good donuts,” I said jokingly. “The kid was sick in the night. He made it to the bathroom, but I had to do a little cleaning. We are still going to get the maid in here first thing.”

“I’ll arrange it in the morning,” she said. “You just get some sleep. You look like hell.”

“I’m going to sleep in your bed. I don’t need the sound of a teenager retching while I sleep,” I explained.

The bed smelled of her perfume. Either it had been too long since I had been around a woman, or she wore a lot more than she needed, I thought. In spite of the smell I managed to fall asleep. When I awake it was after 9AM. The thing that woke me was Janet laying beside me.

“What’s wrong,?” I asked.

“The kid is begging for drugs. I think we should give him one of his pills,” she suggested.

I got up so that I could put my pants on. “You,” I said when I was dressed. “You can got to jail right now, but you can not have the drugs. You can suck it up, or go to prison those are your only options.” I informed him of his options with steel in my voice. I had very little patience for his brand of crap.

“Why don’t you let me escape then,” He asked calmly.

“Try to escape, if you want to get shot in the back,” Janet said coldly.

“Coffee and aspirin then,” Earnest said calmly. It appeared he had just been testing us. Junkies do that I’m told.

The maid came in to clean. We allowed her into the rooms, but we forced Ernest out into the courtyard. We sat there waiting for her to finish. I kept an eye on Earnest while appearing to read the morning news on my laptop.

After the maid finished her work we returned to the rooms. They were clean and the bathroom smelled of bleach. It appeared the maid had done a very good job.

Janet made the lunch run. She bought for Earnest and herself. I had a stale biscuit, and a can of Diet Coke for lunch left over from breakfast. I never was much of a lunch eater, even when I worked. I was even less inclined for a midday meal after my retirement.

While Janet was gone, I removed the trench shotgun from it’s black canvas type violin case. Then I carefully and slowly reassembled it. I rubbed it with a rag slippery with gun oil. Only then did I declared it fit and ready for service.

That afternoon time was heavy on my hands, so I removed the bicycle from the bed of my truck. I rode it around the neighborhood, before returning it to the truck after less than an hour’s ride.

“How about letting me ride your bike,” Janet asked.

“Anytime as long as it’s daylight,” I agreed. “It’s chained to the truck bed, so you will need a key. That is just so I can control the access to it.”

During the next afternoon, I walked to the convenience store at the corner of a major road. I wore faded jeans and a jacket much to large for me. My hair was the usual mess from not cutting or brushing it for days. It was my intent to look homeless and I did it well. I bought a large coffee, then went out to sit on the curb. I was unarmed save for a single use stun gun. It wasn’t a big city convenience store, so the few customers simply walked around me.

After my coffee I started back to the motel. As I walked along the shoulder of the road, I considered what I learned. The major road had a reasonable amount of traffic, but bear creek road, on which the rainbow motel was located, had much less traffic. All in all the DA’s people had made a good choice. During my bike ride I also discovered that if I passed the motel, I would find myself in a neighborhood of small older houses. Even though the houses dated back to the middle of the last century, they were all well maintained. They even seemed to have been restored in some cases.

Behind the motel was a few yards of greenery. The location wasn’t ideal, but it would do as an Alamo. We could hold out there till reinforcements arrived. That was all that we were required to do in the case of an ambush.

Since the motel was a one story concrete block building, I expected them to come through one of the two entrance doors. I was sure they would come with whatever forces they could muster. That fact was why I positioned myself within arms length of the 12gauge whenever possible. I had absolutely no faith in the 357mag in my belt. I felt like it was mostly for intimidation and a noise maker.

Janet came back from her bike ride on day three, then immediately drove out for dinner in her car from the DA’s office. It would probably be pretty easy to identify, since it was likely registered to the county even though it had regular plates.

I agreed with the cops that our enemies weren’t paying for smarts, or computer hackers at our level. I’m sure at the cartel level their were a few nerds on the payroll. Locally I was sure they employed mostly gun thugs and maybe even lower level management employees if there was such a thing.

During the beginning of our second week Janet and I had settled into a routine. Our days were petty much the same. I went for a bike ride after breakfast. I rode around the area doing a vehicle recon, and to maintain some type exercise routine. Janet did the same before or after dinner.

One of us also had to go for food three times every day. I leaned towards drive through take out windows, due to my appearance. Janet would go into restaurants and wait while someone loaded her up. That being the case we decided I would get breakfast take out and lunch sometimes. She would get all the dinners and some lunches. It was the main discussions we had after day three. We had to decide whose turn it was to get lunch.

The TV and our two laptops were in almost constant use. We tried to stay active and sane. Janet stayed in touch with the office daily, but there was no word as to when the kid would testify. In their attempt to be professional the call came from out of the blue. Two sheriff’s deputies would be at the motel at 9am the same morning. We were to have Earnest ready to go.

At nine in the morning after a rushed two hours, Earnest was in clean jeans and a sweat shirt. The sweat shirt covered his Kevlar vest. Janet and I followed Ernest and the deputies in their unmarked cars to the courthouse.

Earlier I broke down the shotgun and stored it in the trunk of the DA’s car. I had a feeling that the transfer to the courthouse would be the most dangerous maneuver of all.

“At least there are no tall building around the courthouse,” I said.

“That doesn’t guarantee that there is not a sniper in the car wash,” she suggested.

“True but he won’t have as clear a shot as he would from the fifth floor of a parking garage,” I suggested.

Janet and I stood by the back door of the patrol car to block everyone’s view of Earnest. “Stay close to the officers,” I suggested to him.

Janet and I followed them into the building. Someone allowed us to pass then rushed toward us. I quickly stepped between the woman and Earnest.

“Are you alright?” she asked him from a yard away. Janet and I restrained her.

“That’s my sister,” Earnest said.

“You can see him after he testifies,” I promised her. I didn’t want her to get close enough to slip him a weapon or a bundle of drugs.

They didn’t finish with Earnest until after lunch. He went to lunch with Janet, two sheriff’s deputies, and me. We found a nice little table for four and were read to squeeze everyone at it, until I noticed Earnest’s sister come in.

I quickly approached her alone. “Hello, was your name Rosemary?”

“Yes, I want to talk to my brother,” she demanded.

“You will be able to talk to him very shortly. I have been with him the last couple of weeks. Is there anything I can tell you to make the wait easier?” I asked.

“No, I need to be sure he is okay. I will only be satisfied when I hear that from him.” she replied.

“Well Rosemary, he is clean and sober. I want to keep him that way, so just hold on a couple of hours till he testifies. After that I can arrange a long visit. How about I have lunch with you? Hell I’ll even pay,” I said.

She just nodded her head. We found seats away from Earnest. She kept an eye on him while he ate.

“He does look good,” she said. “Kind of more in the game.”

I nodded my agreement. The cop detail finished their lunch first. I waited until they were out of the place before I paid my check. After our lunch Rosemary and I walked the two blocks to the courthouse.

After a couple of hours Earnest was finished testifying, so Janet and I searched them both then left them alone in a visiting area. We waited in the observation area.

Earnest hugged his sister, then they talked quietly for half an hour. When it was over, he stood, kissed her goodbye, then walked quietly to the van. The next stop for him was the airport. He was off on a one way ride to the Texas rehab facility.

Since his brother’s killer made a deal after Earnest’s testimony, it was over for him. His testimony in the preliminary hearing was all it took to bring closure for Earnest and Rosemary. I caught a ride with Janet back to the motel to recover my truck and bike. After that stop, I planned to drive straight to the cabin. Winter would be upon me sooner than I would like.

I got side tracked by a probation officer who called on my cell phone. “Lo,” I said into the phone in my recluse/homeless voice.

“Gary Cooper?” the voice asked in an official voice.

“Yeah?” I answered with a question in my voice.

“Are you the guy with a camo tarp over his cabin?” he asked.

“That’s me,” I replied. Who the hell are you and what do you want.”

“I’m Mitchel Issac. I’m a probation officer. We met when you were trying to find Paula Duncan’s killer.”

“Sure I remember you,” I said lying to him. “So what can I do for you?”

“I have about a hundred vinyl banners from a grocery store. My wife runs a salvage store and bought them. Seems nobody can find a use for them. I thought about you then I ran into Janet after court today,” he admitted.

“What would I do with them?” I asked.

I thought you could maybe patch your canvas with them. Or use them on your roof maybe,” he suggested.

“That’s a thought, so how much do you want for them all,” I asked.

“To be honest wife got them at a salvage auction for ten bucks. Give me twenty five and they are yours.” he offered.

“Can you deliver them or do I have to come for them?” I asked.

“That’s a cash and carry price,” he said.

“Call and tell her I’m on my way. Give me the address,” I demanded.

It was starting to get dark when I pulled into the yard of my tent house. I had not been there for sixteen days so the place needed airing out. To get the heat and abandoned smell out. I sat on the porch to watch the night descend on my cabin.

When it was dark and the bugs arrived, I packed my toys and returned to the house. As I always, I checked the current in my solar battery bank. Calling it a homestead might be a joke, but I think of another term which would fit it better. I had tried my mini smoker before I left the homestead for my baby sitting duty.

I wanted to try my first attempted at salted and smoked rear rabbit legs. Even though it was smoked, I cooked it in the dutch over with a small red potato from the storage box inside the storage shed. I also used half an onion from the farmers market purchased during the height of harvest season. It also came from the storage shed. The rabbit stew for one was close to done when Janet pulled into the yard.

“Hey inside the house,” she called from the drive.

“Enter at your own risk,” I called back.

“So, it smells good in here, what’s for dinner?” she asked.

“Rabbit stew what else,” I said. “Do you want a plate?”

“No thanks, I had a greasy burger before I left town,” she admitted. “Yes Coop, I did consider bringing you one, but I thought you would have eaten by now.”

“You are forgiven,” I said generously. “Don’t tell me the slave driver DA has a new job for you?”

“Not yet, I came to visit. That is still allowed isn’t it?” she asked.

“Sure everybody needs a friend even me,” I replied honestly. “Someone has to find my dead body.”

“So what did you think of our ending?” she asked changing the subject.

“If the kid stays in rehab, which I doubt, it will be a win, win. If not he will be back to growing by spring. After that he will be right back in the shit,” I suggested. “They may even kill him just for the hell of it.”

“I can always count on you for some depressing words of wisdom,” she said.

“This world is a depressing place. You can take your meds and smile through it, or bounce from one tragedy to the next,” I said. “Trying not to be part of it all.”

“Not part of what, life?” she asked.

“Not part of the flat lander’s life,” I said. “The Amish have it right, they always have had.”

“You are such a downer. I love it,” she said.

“Well I’m going to drink my warm tea and devour my rabbit stew.” I said as an answer.

“I’m going to sit here and watch just in case you choke on a bone,” she said with a laugh.

“You can do that as long as you don’t try to make it happen,” I suggested.

“I really came to ask a favor,” she said.

“Another one?” I answered with a question, as was my usual style.

“Yes another one, believe me I know my job depended on you coming on board without a salary. This time what I want requires almost no sacrifice.” she said.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” I said smiling again.

“My dad still has my sister’s old mountain bike. I enjoyed riding your bike around the motel. You also may or may not know, I’m trying to keep my weight in check.”

“Actually I noticed you were smaller. I’m proud of you, but you didn’t have to do it for me.” I said jokingly.

“Don’t worry I didn’t. My boyfriend moved out. That was your fault, so you owe me,” she said.

“How was your boyfriend moving out my fault,” I asked.

“He decided he didn’t want to be married to a cop. One who was more into her job than him,” She said.

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