Tommy Baker could have been sleeping.
If he was the sort that slept with his eyes open. But he wasn’t. He had been a mouth breather in waking and in sleeping. And Dacie Mae had watched Tommy Baker sleep through enough classes to know this was not normal for him.
She crouched down beside Tommy’s body, holding onto the edge of the stainless steel sink to keep from slipping in the grease, and wondered exactly what she was going to tell Tommy’s grandmother. Hettie Baker was a relic and many believed she had been living on the Bakers’ farm since before the beginning of the Civil War. She had a deep hatred for the modern world and all its conveniences with the exception of indoor plumbing. She was not an easy woman to talk to.
A trickle of blood was drying in dark red line between Tommy’s nostril and his upper lip. A small circle formed a black spot against the red tiles in the kitchen of Tom’s Diner. Tom, not for Tommy but for his great-granddaddy, Thomas Robert Baker.
“Dacie Mae MacIver,” barked a gravelly voice she was well acquainted with. “Get your fannie away from my crime scene.”
She stood carefully, wondering when Tommy had last mopped the floors with anything other than water; if he had even bothered to do that. “Sorry Sheriff.”
“You weren’t takin’ pictures, were you?”
Dacie Mae barely bothered to lift her feet as she slid down the line to where the Sheriff and his deputy were waiting. “No Sheriff. Don’t be gross. Why would I want pictures of that?”
The Sheriff, a hulking man with impressive shoulders, shrugged, “To send to the paper. You’re always trying to get your foot in the door.”
“Sheriff, please. The Wallace County Tribune is hardly goin’ to be printin’ any photos of dead bodies.” She looked over at Tommy and for the first time since she had stumbled across it, she felt the sadness that should have been there from the beginning. “Especially not one of our own.” And then looking at the frying pan laying by Tommy’s side, “What a way to go.”
“You mean the skillet?”
“I imagine he was hit about the head several times.”
“You didn’t touch the body did you?”
“No of course not. There was no need. There’s a big ol’ lump on the back of his head. The top of his head’s cracked open and he’s got all those bruises around his face. Hardly takes a medical expert.”
“You didn’t touch the alleged murder weapon?”
“I ain’t stupid Sheriff. I didn’t touch nothin’.”
“Drop the redneck speech, Dacie Mae. You ain’t foolin’ no one.”
“Neither are you, Sheriff.” A moment passed between them while Dacie wondered whether the sheriff was just going to gawk at the body all day.
“Get on outta here, girl. Let us do our work so we can get this poor boy off the floor.”
Dacie Mae pushed through the swinging door, backing into the diner. “Yes sir.”
“Dacie Mae?” He looked at her over his shoulder and she saw then how all of his years on the force hadn’t made this any easier for him. “You promise no pictures?”
“Of course, Sheriff,” she held the door back from swinging shut. “Ain’t crazy enough to want Old Lady Hettie after me.” With a sorrowful grin she turned toward the diner and saw the crowd beyond the sparkling windows had already gathered at least half of the able-bodied in the town. ©2012 Gwenn Wright