Moving Post 1

Moving Post 1

The Cull of the Mild: A Moving Story of an Old Bachelor

May 22, 2016

“Men don’t live like human beings. Men live like bears with furniture.”–Rita Rudner

“What a dump!”–Bette Davis

 l have an ex-girlfriend. She and others misinterpret thenature of our relationship. I do buy her birthday roses and write the occasional platonic verse for her but since I don’t step up to the plate, let alone try to get to first base, our views differ. But since I no longer play in any ball park, why argue. I have a great deal of a Catholic guilt for how and why I dumped her, which accounts for the roses.

It’s complicated but not complicating.

This person moved to a remodeled apartment in our building and I saw it Friday. Then I came home.

I had known and other people must have known my home is run down. But I had never quite realized it has all the charm of a cave.

Something has to be done.

That afternoon I spoke to our property manager. She told me if I wanted a remodeled apartment, I had two9 options: I can either vacate this one or wait for another one to open pour vacate this forgone ten days.

This person I have whatever relationship with has three siblings but only one pis intimately involved with her affairs. I have six living relatives who have spouse and a partner. Most have children. One is a judge. These people all love me and I love them. Unlike the person I have the obscure relationship with, all my siblings and several of my niblings assist me or give me advice. That’s good. But we don’t always agree.

Let me explain. I have Catholic kin and Evangelical kin. I have strong Catholic kin and lukewarm Catholic kin and kin who are New Age-Catholic hybrids and ones with no fixed faith. God and/or the Force love hem all. I won’t even discuss the political differences within my tribe. You get the idea; we’re a diverse lot and I think that’s neat.

In most cases.

In this case, it is…shall I say… challenging? Agrement might be hard. Mk move might be hard. I mean, at least two want me to move out of Wichita so reaching a consensus on m might be? Hard. Might be?

What my first gambit is is culling my junk weekends. I have two many CDs, movies and books. I have clothes and papers to discard. I HAVE ONE DRAWER OF PERHAPS TWO HUNDRED OR MORE CASSETTES.. CASSETTES. I DON’T NEED THEM . NOBODY DOES. WHY DID I BUY THEM AND WHAT DO I DO WITH THJM NOW?

Excuse me. During junk weekends I hope kin come and help me cull my crap It’s a first step. Stay tuned.

Coming soon: Chapter Twenty-two of “the Sky Horse,” featuring Nate and Maggie Law.


The Sky Horse Chapter Twenty-Three

The Sky Horse Chapter Twenty-Three

The Sky Horse Chapter Twenty-Two

A Pervert Father and a Spying One

As they were exiting the kitchen, Nate turned back to the refrigerator/ He looked at the outside of it, then opened it again.

“It’s empty you said,” Maggie said, confused.

“So it is,” Nate said. “So it is. It’s also very high tech. It looks like it can tell you when certain foods are going bad.”

“You can do that yourself,” Maggie said.

“I’m not endorsing a high-tech fridge. Go look at the stove, Maggie.”

H did and whistled.“This baby has gauges for dryness of meat and other kinds of crap.”

“Want one?”

“I’ll keep our cook.”

Nate thought. “The bathroom. Let’s find one.”

“Can’t you peer alone?”

“Margaret, quit joking. This place cost a lot, a hell of a lot, of dough. Say y He was an admiral and then a pretty good size, Looking at that ranch land, I’d say go could run two thousand head on it easy. Now, he had his Navy pension but I don’t see how you could build a lifestyle like that on a pension. Do you?”

“Maybe he had good stock broker.”

“I’ll give that one. For now. I still want to see the bathroom.”

“You’ve convinced me. Let’s go.”

They walked through the dining room. Nate glanced at the table. It was oak. The six matching chairs had finely carved basks, high priced, he figured. Maggie whistled again, causing him to look up.

She held two plates and stood besides the opened china closet. He poise resembled that of a fisherman holing two big bass.

“Pink plates. Abstract pattern. Imagine eating on them every day,” Nate said.

“Look at back, he who does not joke,” she retorted.

He did. They were signed and numbered.

“Andrew Hogarth. Why do I know that name” Nate asked Maggie.

“New York fashion designer. I wore him the night Petey was conceived.”

“I only remember what happened after you took him off. Seriously, he is top of the line.”

“You couldn’t buy these at Walt-Mzrt. I’m sorry; that just came out. Actually, this place creeps me out,It’s just too. What’s the word want?”

“You want two: feminine and perfect. As I understand it, all three girls were oven ten when they got here. They would be past the age of wanting to be that girlish. And he was a career sailor, salt or whatever.”

“But no sea paintings, just clown and kittens, very strange. We do need to see the bathroom.

So they went to find it.

It didn’t take long. The room was big and pink with a shower curtain with Ariel from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” on it. , Aggie crossed his mind. for a moment. But an instinct, hunch or something told him to look inside so he did.

Nate was not sure why he was looking for. He look at the floor, soap dish. He checked the walls. Nothing. Maggie was talking about how the toilet took blood pressure, temperature and other medical signs. He knew she thought he was wasting his time. But he decided to look up. Then he saw something. He took out the miniature flashlight. Bingo.

“Babe,” he said, come look at this.”

“What?” She asked, annoyed. She came anyway.

“Up there,” Nate said. “See it?”

“i see it, Nate. Looks like a small surveillance camera What is it?”

“A small surveillance camera.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You don’t want to but you do. Let’s find the den.”

“As they were looking for the den, Maggie shot Nate a quizzical look, “You know, you;re a much better detective now than you were as police chief in Orrin.”

“Margaret, my love and life, I wasn’t hired to be a detective. I was hired to ticket strangers and to keep people, most teens, from fornicating in public and to not enforce the ban on booze. Then people started to get shot and slashed. I had done minor investigating in Wichita but not much. If I have used skills I learned in college, since Orrin, that’s one reason. The other was that Peter Law was my brother.

“Pete was a cop’s cop. He ended up on the bomb squad because he hadn’t tried it. He had everything else. He talked to me about police craft all my life. Then he worked with me. That’s when I became a real dick, detective.” He blushed surprisingly but preventing Maggie’s making any cracks by finding a door and the den.

He opened the door to the den. It was wood-paneled. And had pictures of a naval officer, presumably Schipper, on ships and shaking hands with other officers and various VIPs, including two presidents, Carter and Bush 41. Meanwhile, Maggie and found one on the desk. She showed it to Nate.

It was of a man in a black beret and military fatigues. There was handwriting on it.

“Spanish?” Maggie asked/

“It says ‘To Comrade John Schipper for invaluable service to the Revolution, Fidel.” They both looked at the man in the photo again.

“Castro!” Maggie exclaimed. “A young Fidel Castro.”

Nate began looking through a bookcase while Maggie continued with the desk.

“Who was Kim Philby?” Nate asked her. “He had several books by and about him and the Cambridge Three. Why does that ring a bell?”

“British spy ring,” Maggie said.

“Yeah, babe. It was formed by a Soviet handler at Cambridge during the thirties. Two were gay diplomats for the UK. The gays defected before Philby. Philby was a more successful mole in the British counter-intelligence branch working with the CIA. He defected right before the Brits could snatch him.”

“So Schipper was a spy?” Maggie asked.

“We couldn’t get a warrant based on this. But I’d say yes. Anything else on the desk?”

“Routine financial medical papers. A progress report on Sparrow.”

“And an ashtray of cigar butts,” Nate added.

“Two new to be Schippers,” Maggie said.

“Way too new. Come on. Let’s find the master bedroom.”

It was next door. The room had the same paneling as the den. The bed was big with pink sheets. A stack of old paperbacks lay on the nightstand. Nate picked one up and threw it to Maggie disgustedly.

“This is a porno novel about incest, Nate,” she said in horror.

“I know. Behind you are three security monitor. They’re on. One goes to the shower, the other two to bedrooms, girls’ room, Scarlet’s and Starlet’s., no doubt.”

“He was ogling his own daughters, Nate?”

“He was doing more than that, judging by the bed covers.”

“He was sleeping with them””

“It’s called rape. He was raping his children. You know, these ranchers are not great people but I can live with bigots. I just stay out of their way most of the time. But this guy was a bastard! I’d gladly cut off his gonads and stuffed them in his face. These girls were as much victims as our Agnes is. There is no difference, none whatsoever. I thought I wanted to find Schipper’s girls so they could get their land. But if one or more of them are living victims of the type of crime we think they are, t=hey need love and support more than that damn pasture. I’m going upstairs.”

“Want me to come?” Maggie asked.

“No. I smell cigar smoke. Someone’s up there. Go to the car and wait.”

Maggie reluctantly nodded.

Once on the second floor, Nate found a ladder leading to the attic. He climbed there. As he entered, Nate pulled out a gun he and Joel had taken the day before and looked around. A pink-hued sky light revealed a bearded man dressed like a priest,

In a thick German accent the man said “You will never believe this but I’m Father Pat O’Shea from Cork. I do have a fine Irish brogue but I am tired and if you caught me in a lie, you might shoot me.”

“You don’t want to be a martyr?”

“Actually, I cannot seek martyrdom now; my superior wants me to complete my work here. I think we can talk better in the admiral’s study. It is hot here, no?”

“Hands against the wall,” Nate said. He frisked the man and found a Vatican passport in his sock.

Nate read the name. “Bishop Hans Koch.”

“Koch is an alias but I am a bishop. May we now retire the study?’

“Lead the way, your fakery.”

He did.

When they they got to the den, Nate told the man to sit behind the desk. With his left hand, he phoned Maggie who soon joined the two men.

“Who’s he?” Maggie asked Nate of Koch/O’Shea.

“I don’t know, babe, but he has a Vatican passport. In town, he goes by Father Pat O’Shea.”

“You must be in charge of building the new church,” Maggie told him.

“Alas, me good o=woman,” O’Shea/Koch said in a passable brogue. “that is a wee bit of a lie. Young Father Blake is. He does all the work; the locals think I do. Auden only knows I am doing other services for people in Rome.”

“What people?” Nate asked.

“My department does not officially exists. We mainly gather intelligence for the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith; the missions department. I am telling what I’m telling you because the day your son was arrested, I feared my work would be compromised. I notified the Holy See and they tied your problem with the diocese of Salina I was to contact you and Gomez and get all of you out of here before the pasture goes up for sale.”

“The Pope wants to buy it?”

“This Pope? I doubt it. But my current assignment goes all the way back to Pope St John Paul II.

“I joined the Swiss Guard two years before John Paul’s election. I rose quickly in the ranks. The attempt on the Holy Father’s life in May, 1981 allowed me to liaison with the Vatican’s internal intel branch and a year alter, I joined it. Then I got my call to the priesthood. It was undeniable. I studied in Rome was the Holy Father personally ordained me. The rector of my seminary strongly recommended me as for a chaplain to a certain convent in Milan. It wasn’t meant to be.

“After my first Mass, The Holy Father and several cardinals met with me and assigned me to oversee intel in unfriendly lands.

“Cuba fell under my mandate. I began my work during the administration of George H. W. Bush. The unofficial alliance between the Vatican and Washington Reagan and John Paul had made was still in effect. Both Washington and we were interested in undermine Castro so the Propagation Congregation was allowed to use U.S. Marine Chaplains at Guantanamo Bay–”

“Gitmo,”Nate added.

The priest frowned. “Gitmo refers to that damnable prison camp for Islamic terror fighters. Mr. Law. Guantanamo is more than that. It is a foothold of liberty on a captive island. It has provided solid intelligence on the regime since 1959.”

“I don’t see how,” Maggie said.

“Intercepted communication mainly, the type of thing fools like that bastard Snowden shed tears about.”

“You sound like a hawk,” Maggie said.

“A hawk for the Gospel, yes,” the priest said. “After all, my life’s work was handed me by an official saint. Anyway, the Pentagon was looking the other ways while Catholic chaplains assisted clandestine missionaries to Cuba, mostly by channeling duns from Rome. I helped set it up, Operation Damascus Road,”

“That probably violated Separation of Church and State,” Maggie said.

“Perhaps but let me put it this way, rape your Constitution. Damascus worked. It was effective. People heard the Good News. Then Dada went to Guantanamo. He, like Schipper, as a mole. He heard about Damascus. But he couldn’t act on it. So he got Schipper transferred down there. Schipper was raised Catholic and passed himself off at one, A foolish chaplain confided in him.

“The result? Secret priests were arrested. Mules with cash were detained, several on the base,”

“Let me guess,” Nate said, “Dale and Schipper lined their pockets with it.”

“I know that. Washington knows that but by the time I had pieced my theory together Clinton was in office and the alliance fell apart.”

“But Dale and Schipper were traitors,” Maggie said.

“To whom?” The priest said. “Damascus did not benefit your government directly and, as your said, it was constitutionally dubious. I was hopeful when W. win but he was soon in evolved the War on Terror.

“A colleague in our D.C. Embassy caught the admirals’ retirement and traced them here. We could do nothing until the church project came up. I got myself here and eventually learned if we got the land, we could flip it and recoup our lost funds.”

“Why were you in the attic?”

“Because for months I have broken in here looking for solid proof of the theory I’ve laid out to you. I know it’s true but I cannot prove it. It rankles.”

“In broad daylight?” Nate asked.

“No one wants to see me so they don’t/ And I’ve bribed the cops by telling them I wand to find the Schipper girls.”

“But you don’t,” Nate said.

“I think they’re dead.”

“Explain the Shy Horse.”

“The Sky Horse has got a small civil war going in the Vatican.”

“How so? Maggie asked.

“My superior has verified pictures I took of it with the Vatican Observatory in the states and off-the-record with NASA. But the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith argues animals do not appear by themselves in true apparitions, which is true. The Sky Horse, they conclude, is pagan and/or demonic.”

“But it’s just part of everyday life here,” Nate said. “Even you accept it.”

“I accept what my senses tell me.”

“But it isn’t normal.” Nate said. “And it must have something to do with the Schippers.”

Everyone kept silent. This was going nowhere. Then Sinatra began to sing on Nate’s phone.

To be continued.


Tech SOS

Tech SOS

If you read this, please email; my brother, Leland Rundle at I can’t. I am locked out of Yahoo and now Facebook/ But I can reached here by commenting on this post.

Thank you.


The Sky Horse Chapter Twenty-One

The Sky Horse Chapter Twenty-One

The Sky Horse Chapter Twenty-One

Entering the Pretty Palace

Nate knew early that Big Foot was as dirty as Orrin had been. But Orrin was just that, corrupt. Sure, the town priest had turned out to be a serial sex killer but he, Nate, had enough training to handle that. And the Lamb and her friends and foes had fitted in with his New York experience and education as a law enforcement office had prepared him for that part of Orrin.

Big Foot was a town where people told you the color of a horse flying across the night sky as if they were giving you the direction to the VFW post, It was also a place where you could hear talk like this.

Del Pratt: “Abby, your dad’s dead.”

Abby Davis: “Yeah. What was it? Alcohol poisoning?”

Del: “He was shot in the heart.”

Abby: “Then it was lead poisoning.”

“Who are you, lady?” Nate broke in. “Your dad gets whacked and you recite bad movie lines?”

“My dad was a drunk most of the time and a fool when he wasn’t. I’m not sorry he’s dead. I just don’t know who hid it. I’d thank him if I did.”

“Maybe you or Ab did,” Nate shot back.

“You need yo read me my rights, Law.”

“No, I don’t. I’m not a cop here or anywhere else. What I am is an educated observer and what I see is a cold-hearted daughter. Did you whack Kent?”


“Know who did? Ab maybe?”

“This is my job, Law,” Pratt said.

“You gonna ask her?”

“Not now,” Del said. “I’ll give her a day or two.”

“She doesn’t need a day or two,” Nate said. “Show her the list.”

Del glared but showed her the picture.

“Look, honey,” Abby said to Ab. “Did you find it at Dad’s?” She asked Nate.

“Pratt did. Talk to him. I have to go file my nails.”

Nate went to his Caddy and filed his nails, Hg never joked about his appearance.

Del came out ten minutes late. That was too sew.

“What did you get?” Nate asked.

“Not much. She was too upset.”

“Yes, I knew that. He wasn’t. Did you ask him anything?”

“Who? Ab? He’s to busy comforting Abby.”

“Did it ever occur to you that finding her dad’s liker might comfort her very much?”

“Look, Law, I can do my job.”

“How many murders have you had as sheriff.?”

“Two,” Del said.

“i count two confirmed and two probable, Starlet and Sparrow. If you shoot free throw the way you handle people being whacked, I’d bench you.” He got back out of the Cadillac.

“Where toy going?’

“To find out a=if hey eat es cargo.”

“You’re back,” Ab said when he opened the door. “Pratt he’d be back tomorrow. My wife’s upset.”

“Yes, I know,” Nate seed. “/I wonted a quick word with you.”

“You working this?’

“By default. Got an office or a den?”

“That room. Let me tell Abby I won’t be long.”


Nate found the den. It had a love seat by the desk and he sat on it. He took out his cell and found an email from Del with a picture of the grocery list attached to it and had the photo on the phone’s screen when Ab came in. Nate showed him the list.

“what the hell?” Ab asked.

“I take it you don’t eat a lot of lobster and he didn’t shop for you in Amarillo?’

“No, we can’t afford it,”

“Well;, if you couldn’t. He couldn’t and isn’t eat it by what Dickerson found in his refrigerator. I understand he had a cardiologist in Amarillo. Was his heart bad?”

“No, he had too see Dr. Markup once a year but he started going to Amarillo every month..”

“A woman?”

“i doubt that.” Ab gave a mirthless laugh. “Kent loved Abby’s mom, my dad (in different way, of course) and Abby. I was disappointment to both him and Dad. Hell, that ain’t important now.”

“only if you shoot him.”

“Not funny. My point was he never wanted a woman after Claire, Abby’s mom, died. I did know he bought stuff in Amarillo, a lot of stuff, and I wanted to ask him what and how but Abby did”t want to know.”

“Was she in denial about his drinking?”


“That’s all I needed. Thanks.” Nate started to leave.

“Wait, Law,” Ab said.


“You investigating the Schipper girl’s deaths.”

“Del thinks Starlet and Sparrow are alive.”

“Is that why he mows the lawn in of he pink palace and hires Guadalupe Mendoza to dust it every month?”

“He does what?”

“Ask him.” Ab smirked.

“The sky horse, they say, was blood red last night,” Nate said as thee smirk vanished and Ab’s face turned white.

Nate went back to tackle the strangest sheriff he had ever met yet again.

He got in the car. He looked at Pratt a long time.

“Tell me, Pratt,” he finally said, the Schipper house,, did you search it?”


“At any time after Scarlet was whacked. Did you search it after the girls went missing?”

“My cousin Flo searched it after Scarlet died. She was the only woman who would. Everyone said I shouldn’t be rummaging around hare underwear and things.”


“Pretty much.”

“A girl gets killed and raped and you don’t search her home?”

“No, I made a mistake.”

“No, you followed orders. The Schippers weren’t locals. The Schippers talked funny. The Viewership owned land Triplet wanted. And if you investigated properly,, you might uncover something he and the town won’t like so you don’t. Then I show up. You say you’ll help Joel if I hole you. How are you helping Joel? You can’t.”

“OK. I can’t; I played you,” Pratt said. “i know I’ve handled the Schipper case all wrong. I didn’t even get DNA from Scarlet’s crime scene. I didn’t think about it till she was buried.”

“No DNA? Then how do you kn whose body it was. Dental records?”

“She lost five teeth in the attack so I didn’t think I could get any and I had her ID. Granted, the face was cut bad and Starlet was only seventy-five percent sure it was her but I did check the surrounding area for other missing girls, Weren’t any, Law,”

“First murder case you worked?”

“First and only till now. But I’ve taken a few classes and developed a working relationship with the Rangers.”

Nate thought and said seemingly to himself “First homicide. Knew the victim, cared for her. Under pressure not to to push too hard. OK. OK.” Then he sat still again before pounding the steering hard once. :I still don;t like having no DNA proof it was her. You are obviously not a cop by education; you’re political and provably all sheriffs here have had no criminology training. I get that. I get that. I just don’t like having no DNA. You think you could get the body exhumed and get the DNA?”

‘Now? In the middle of an active case you want me to officially reopen a cold one and go before Hayden Perry’s son for a courthouse in the Schipper case, the Schipper case?”

“Can you at least get me a crime scene case while I get Maggie?”

Pratt nodded and left to the car. Nate drove to the cafe.

When they got to the Schipper house, Maggie asked how they would get into it. In reply,Nate reached in his inside suit pocket, took out a small kit and opened it up.

“That looks like tools to pick locks,”

“Very good, Margaret, very good,” Nate smirked. “One thing every Law has carried probably since the English invaded Ireland. I used my in Wichita, got the address of a big pot deal and got promoted.”

“But that was illegal. Didn’t it come out at trial?”

“I forgot it in my written report. You know how bad my memory is. But, babe, Pratt told me to check this place out.”

“That’s not you initially told me. You browbeat Pratt.”

“Guilty as charged, counselor, but we’re investigating a cold case. Pratt can’t get me any legal cover for that. Do you have a better way to get in here?:

“I smell cigar smoke. Try the back dewy. I got a hunch.:


They went around the house and found the kitchen door.

“It’s unlocked. How did you know that?” Nate asked. “And how did you smell cigar smoke?”

“Let’s just say I felt it.”

“That doesn’t deserve a reply. Let’s go in.”

When they did, they both smelled cigar smoke.”

“Imported,” Maggie said. “I’d say Dominican.”

“You’re an aficionado?”

“I had a boyfriends in college, Nate. He came from money and loved cigars. I picked up a lot till the Thanksgiving and he dumped me the next Monday. You’re a wjiskey snob by sort of decent.”

“My character may or may not be that great. What’s bothers me is we may be in the house with a person or persons unknown and you’re unarmed. I got that gun I confiscated yesterday. “ I hope I cane protect you. We could retreat but we may never have another chance, understand?”

“Yes, Nate. Now, should I get the kit Pratt gave you?”

He nodded. When she got back, they both put on latex gloves from the kit. Nate tried the light switch. The kitchen lights came on.

“Who pays the bill?” Maggie asked.

“Pratt is my guess. He’s too weal to buck his betters and investigate the Schipper case but not detached enough to, let the girls’ home go to pot.”

“And you can tell grls lived here. Everything is pink.”

That was true. The cabinet,. toasters and most everything else was pink. Nate went over to the fancy pink refrigerator and opened it. It looked in it for a long time,

Maggie finally asked “Es cargo?”

“More like Es car gone. It’s empty. I waz just rethinking my theory about Pratt paying for the power. I can see the grass being mowed and the house’s exteriors being kept up. It benefits the others who own homes here by keeping the lights on makes no sense.”

“And a giant red horse flew across the house last night and nobody here seems an iota fazed by that.”

“Point taken. Let’s go look at the rest of the house. Get the kit/”

To be continued.


The Sky Horse Chapter Twenty

The Sky Horse Chapter Twenty

The Sky Horse Chapter Twenty

About That Gun Shot

Near the end of our last chapter, Nate and Maggie heard a gun shot. They did not rush out to check it out, though. This seems not heroic on the surface. Dig deeper, and you’ll still conclude it was not the stuff of legend.

After Nate said it was dark and stormy, Maggie asked What about that gun shot?”

About that gun shot,” Nate said, “hat might happen if we, who undressed in a bit of a hurry, were to get dressed and find body before we could call Pratt or his deputy and one of them found me standing over a dead body? They’d blame us.”

Nate,” Maggie said, “Del likes us. He wouldn’t blame us.”

After that show at the dance hall? We made the Comstocks, Perrys, McKinnons and three out of four Triplets madder than hell and their taxes pay his salary. Let someone else check it out.”

OK,” Maggie said, “but that shot will be on my mind all night,”

Not if I distract you” Nate said, nibbling her ear. It seemed to work.

Deputy Endicottt Dickerson—he went by Hank since moving from Vermont—was walking his patrol in the rain when he heard the shot when he began knocking on doors, waking people up and interrupting several acts of extreme intimacy, neither action improving his standing in the town. But when he got to Kent Straight’s house, no one answered and he heard a car speeding away. So he forced the door open, turned on the light and saw Straight’s body on the floor, He had been shot in the heart and had already bled a lot. Dickerson had never seen a murder scene before and rushed towards the nearest sink and vomited. Then he called Pratt.

At two o’clock in the morning, Pratt found something in Straight’s wallet and found a receipt. He kept looking at it.

This makes no sense,” Pratt said.

What doesn’t, Del? Dickerson asked.

This receipt is for eight hundred bucks of groceries, Hank.”

Let me see that. Lobster. Alaska crab. All kinds of cheeses. It doesn’t make sense.”

Hank, I just said that. Check the fridge.”

Dickerson did. “Del, he had twelve beers, some baloney and eggs. Now, the freezer is packed with supreme pizza, breakfast pizza and rocky road ice cream.:”

You know who shops for the Longs?” Pratt asked

Rosy Mendoza and Mary Day. Rosy does Tex-Mex and Mary does meat loaf and crap. And they shop here. Dolan does not carry most of that list.”

OK. But this receipt is from Amarillo, anyway. Did he go there? Do you know?”

I think he had a heart doctor there and I think he went to Amarillo every time he was sober enough.”

Heard that too but Lubbock’s closer.”

Lubbock is not Amarillo, though. If he wanted, you know, female company, the selection would be more divers, price-wise, age-wise and so on.”

You think he went for action. He had a heart problem. I think he went to shop for someone. I also think you’re projecting. Here’s a coin; I’ll flip it. Call it.”

“Heads,” Dickerson said.

The quarter hit the cop tails.

Hank, you wait for the CSI crew from Lubbock. I’ll go home to Holly.”

Is she here again?”

If you’re passing for straight, you need to be seen with a woman in your house past midnight on a regular basis. Otherwise, around here you’d be dead.”

Well being Straight, sure didn’t keep him alive.”

Do not repeat that…witticism. I expect better from a damn New England Yale man.”

I went to Harvard.” Pratt went home.

Home was his mother’s house, which she bought after she divorced Silas, his dad, when he, Delbert. Was fourteen. By then, her mother had figured out what Del wouldn’t til he round up in the backseat in Vernon’s car the night before Holly married him. Holly never divorced him because Holly thought a blond ex-cheerleader would eventually best Vernon and Vernon wanted him to stay in the closet for his own good. Toby, Del’s son, had Vern pissed off but Del had no regrets about that. It had happened and the boy, now eight, was his delight. But they lived in Lubbock because it was just toot hard on her after awhile. Any other woman would have ended it for good but she just couldn’t.

Vernon, for his part, was happy Del was still in the closet because when became out to Vernon his hell; had begun but after awhile he realized Del ans Holly had decided to stay married so Vernon quit touching him. Del saw his side and accepted the situation which was he had two people in love with him and neither would bed with him till he cut ties with the other. And Dickerson just thought Holly was just political coveralls just too

Dickerson. Dickerson. The young man had taken one look at Vernon and Del and had divined the truth. Being from Vermont, he hadn’t cared.

Dickerson was a cipher. Del’s last deputy had quit for no known reason, Del had advertised in every paper in the panhandle and Hank had been his only applicant. Dickerson, had one compared him with Cole Petty, would have been bested in a heartbeat. He was lazy, snobbish and lecherous. When asked why he kept Hank on Del always said “he makes damn good coffee.”

Del opened the kitchen door to find the light on and his wife sitting at the table drinking coffee.

Any more of that?” Del asked.

Help yourself. Hell, this brand takes like shit, Dell.”

It was on sale. I know, I know. I can-afford not to be cheap but I’m savings up for college and maybe a vacation.”

With Vernon?”

He decided to ignore her and poured a cup.

He sat down across from her, poured some cream a sugar in his coffee and drank some.

Old Man Straight’s dead,” Del said.

Holly’s jaw dropped opened. “Heart attack?” She asked.

Well,” Del said with a wry look. “yes but I’d call it. He was shot. And yes, I know that’s not funny Holly. I have a guy shot in the heart, no weapon, no signs of robbery and no motive. I thought that lame crack would help. It didn’t It just made feel like a jerk once it came out. Damn, nothing about this makes sense, especially this.” He took out a baggy containing the grocery list. “Herr, look at this but leave it in the baggy.”

She started to say she knew not to remove the paper but read it before she could. “Holy shit, Del. Es cargo? He eats crap like this in this town.”

“I feel stupid but what is es cargo?” Del asked.

Snails, I think.”

Admiral Schipper served that the night I ate at his house with Scarlet and his sisters. It was nasty. But I was polite and arch it. Sparrow didn’t, though. The admiral spoiled her.”

Del,” Holly said, “no one but no one except you thinks those girls are alive. Don’t go there.”

Why not? You got a better explanation. Can you be up by seven? I have to tell Ab and Abby her dad’s dead. You might comfort her.”

Do you mind if I take Toby to the cafe? Lynda Haynes could keep her eye on him.”

OK. I’ll take the couch.”

That goes without saying, honey.”

They both overslept and took Toby to the cafe at eight, where they saw the Laws. Del filled in Nate, who had decided since everyone knew who he was, he’d go back to his tailored suits and fedora. When he got to the grocery list, Del said it proved the Schipper girls were alive.

No, it doesn’t,” Nate said. “It proves you really want them to be alive and will grasp at anything to buttress that hope. I’m willing to stipulate that your dead man couldn’t and wouldn’t buy es cargo for himself, if he bought it, But did Straight buy it? We don’t know. We don’t know he did. The killer might have dropped the list. It needs testing for finger tips and DNA. But you say no one but the Schipper ever ate fancy foods. Hmm.”

Nate fell silent. Del grew agitated.

I tell you, Law,” Del said, “those girls have to be alive for her sake!”

For whose?” Nate asked.

Scarlet’s. They’re alive, I tell you, and I owe it to her to find them!”

Why?” Nate asked, his eyes narrowing.

Del laughed nervously and looking down said, “Hell, Law, it’s a matter of wanting justice. I want justice for her and Starlet and Sparrow.”

/Nate,” Maggie said, “he’s not telling us the whole truth.”

Del was beginning to sweat.

No, Margaret, he isn’t. But I’m not sure he ever told the truth to himself.”

I did not kill Scarlet and I don’t know where her sisters are but they’re alive. Now2, I have to go tell Abby Davis her dad was killed.”

I’ll go with you,” Nate said.

My wife’s helping me. You stay here.”

Nate stood, towering oven Del. “I said I’m going and in my car, OK?”

It was not OK and Nate was probably bluffing but Del couldn’t take the chance.

In the car, Law put in a Sinatra CD and turned it down.

Del said “I always heard he was Mafia but being Italian[eye-talia], that goes without saying, right?”

No, it doesn’t. My mother was Italian. I embrace that heritage and to say we’re all made mobsters is just plank shit-licker. I expected better of you.”

Where’s your sense of humor? Don’t be so politically correct.”

OK, queer.”

Hey!” Del said.

Uh-huh. You can crack about Italians—that’s how you say it—but I can’t about gays? Give me a break. By the way, you like gay sex but you don’t love Vernon, right?”

How is that any of your business?”

“My business is the Schipper case, which you can’t or won’t touch. So I’ve been thinking it over. You say you want justice but you try to pass it of as a commitment to an abstraction. The search for justice is never an abstract, Pratt. People seek it because they see pain caused by crime or fell the pain. You know that. Everyone cop does. Right/”

Del tried to shrug nonchalant.

My first thought was you felt bad for those three girls. I do. But I love my woman and girl myself. My son loves his ow,am. Nd I’ve known a few gays in New York who were in love. You, Del, don’t love Vernon. You just like the sex while he does love you. So does your wife and you;d sleep with her. Maybe you do. Not my business

The point is you did love Scarlet Schipper. You broke up but you never stopped caring about her and her family That must be Straight’s’s house. I see the crime scene boys. Better give them that receipt but give me a picture of it.

Bu you said–”

I said we didn’t know about the receipt, which we don’t. But you may have a gut instinct. I don’t dismiss those.”

Del talked to a couple of Ranges after getting Nate’s photo. He also told Hank Dickerson his theory. Hank rolled his eyes.

Back in the car, Del looked at Nate and asked “Are they dead? Am I wasting my and your time on this>”

I bet you wake up nights asking yourself that, Del. That’s only human. But you’re a cop and I’m a cop and we both became cops because we hate the hurt crime does. It’s not any more than that.

A girl got raped and killed. That ain’t right. Her sisters went missing. That ain’t right. Any cop[ would think that. But it goes beyond that with you. I don’t have a problem with that.

What I have a problem with is you not telling me up front about Scarlet and you. Tell me.”

When I first saw her, I saw his poised, gracious woman. She was tall, had red hair and a soft voice. Vernon and I had dated girls since our first time as a cover. He thought she was just that. But she opened up to me. The admiral was controlling. Scarlet and Starlet had developed ways to cope but they had to protect. He tried to starve her. They kept her alive. Everyone mi Big Foot never bothered to get to know the family. I did.

The old man didn’t like that. So he checked me out.”

And found out about Vernon?”

“Yeah but how did he, Law? No one knew.”

The girls you dated did, women know men but men don’t know them.”

Scarlet didn’t know.”

I’m betting her old man kept her innocent about sex.”

How is that even possible now days?”

You said it yourself. They were isolated. Then you came in her life. So he got pictures of you and Vernon.”

How did you know that?”

Pictures would have destroyed her love for you; they would-have been his best weapon against you.”

Yeah and it worked and didn’t. It broke us up but made her wild. Any guy she could have, she got. Schipper finally lost control ll of her and it killed him.”

You see the body, Schipper’s?”

No. He died in Dallas and is buried in Arlington.”

Nate called Maggie and asked her to track down the Arlington map of grave sites .She told him something that startled him.

That’s a stretch,” Del said.

i know. By the way, several people saw the Sky Horse last nigh Tomas says. It was the color of blood. Now, where do the Davises live?”

To be contained.