The Hawk Run Chronicles: Welcome Home

by Skippy


The usual...

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Maggie was comfortably settled in her new home by the end of the month, and her swearing-in ceremony was scheduled for the first week in April. It was held in City Hall with a small reception afterwards. Bert Yancey, Helen Burke, Darnell Adkins, and Galen Miller were there along with about 50 office workers from various departments in the building, much to Maggie's embarrassment. She assumed that they were there because free food was offered. This assumption was partly correct; most of them showed up to get a look at the new female cop who, gossip indicated, bore a strong resemblance to a warrior princess from a popular television show. Those people were not disappointed. By the end of the reception, a fan club was being organized.

Maggie ran a hand through her hair and nervously flicked a speck of lint from her trousers. She took a deep breath before entering Helen Burke's office. She donned a tentative smile. "Lieutenant Miller said you wanted to see me."

Helen smiled back at her. "Yes. Please have a seat."

The chair Maggie sat on was bare wood, a noticeable contrast to the soft leather chairs in Bert Yancey's office. She tried not to fidget.

"We've not had the opportunity to become acquainted," Helen began. "With Chief Yancey gone for the day, I thought this might be a good time to do that. Let me start by saying that I'm very glad to have you on the force, Marguerite. Or do you prefer to be called Maggie?"

"I prefer Maggie, although I'm getting used to being called Marguerite again. Lieutenant Miller calls me that. My mother used to call me Marguerite, which is why I developed a real strong dislike for it; but Lieutenant Miller doesn't have the same sort of threatening tone to his voice when he says it." She sighed and then laughed. "I ramble when I'm nervous, Captain Burke. Sorry."

"Do I make you nervous?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"I've been told that I have a stern demeanor. I suppose that's true. I'd like you to try to relax, though. Might it help if I were to tell you a little about myself?"

"Yes, ma'am," she nodded. "I'm sure it would."

"Okay, then. I'm 42 years old. I was born in Cleveland, but my family moved to Columbus when I was only a year old. I grew up there, attended Bowling Green University, where I majored in criminal justice. I have a BS degree in that field. I came to Hawk Run nearly 12 years ago," she smiled. "I was the first woman, and the first African-American, to become a police officer here. I am not married, never have been, never will be. And because Bert is not here, I will tell you outright that I am a lesbian."

"Me, too."

"Yes, I know. I heard you declare yourself to Bert at the reception following the swearing-in ceremony. Did he make a pass at you, Maggie?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"He'll make things unpleasant for you, now that he knows."

"I can handle it," she shrugged. "I've been hassled before."

"You're made of sterner stuff than I."

"Maybe I just don't feel I have as much to lose as you do."

"Maybe." She relaxed back in her chair, taking off her glasses. "Our chief of police is under investigation by the state attorney general."

"I know."

"Did a bit of homework before coming here, did you?" she smiled.

"Yes, ma'am. It'd be foolish to jump in without testing the waters first."

"Well, one of the things being investigated is the fact that Bert hired half a dozen friends and relatives as police officers, men completely without training for the job. Three of them now are in prison. I know you've heard about that."

"Yes, ma'am. From Mrs. Adkins, from Lieutenant Miller, and from Dukie Velker."

"You've met Dukie?"

"Yes, ma'am. I go to the diner nearly every day. I like her."

"She's what my grandmother would call 'the salt of the earth'. I consider her one of my best friends."

"Captain Burke, should I watch my step with Chief Yancey?"

"It might be wise," she nodded. "You may be able to handle verbal abuse, Maggie, but don't underestimate the man. He has a temper, and he has no qualms about hitting a woman. Both of his ex-wives divorced him because he's a batterer. It's my opinion that he has very little regard for anyone but himself. His attitude hasn't won him many friends in Hawk Run; in fact, he's gained a large number of enemies. A certain contingency of women here goes out of their way to annoy him. I won't say any more about that group," she laughed. "To explain them is not possible. I'd equate it with trying to describe a simultaneous poke in the eye and a kick in the pants. If Bert had his way, he'd throw all of them in jail."

" I'm intrigued. I'll just have to keep my eyes open for these women when I start patrolling the streets of Hawk Run. Any idea when that will be?"

"Didn't Bert tell you?" she frowned.

"No, ma'am."

"I wonder why."

"Too busy patting my fanny and trying to convince me to have dinner with him."

"Oh, really."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Don't let him get away with that."

"No, ma'am. I explained my feelings to him. That didn't make him at all happy. He left the reception right after I stepped real hard on his foot."

Helen laughed. "Good for you."

"Actually, it was more of a stomp than a step."

"Even better."

"Can he fire me, Captain?"

"Not easily, no. Did he tell you he could?"

"He threatened to do so if I didn't change my smart a-word ways."


"Yes, ma'am. I never use off-color language. I got whomped a number of times as a child for using such words, so I'm conditioned to avoid 'em like the plague."

Helen regarded her in silence. "He told you not to be a smart ass, is that it?" she finally responded.

"Yes, ma'am."

"May I ask a personal question?"

"Yes, ma'am. Just don't expect an answer. If I feel it's too personal, I won't answer."

"Fair enough. Do you maintain a close relationship with your family?"

"No, ma'am. I haven't seen my parents since I graduated from college. They disowned me when I told them I'm a lesbian. My parents are real strict, real religious. Homosexuality is one of the things that they are against. Got a list ten miles long of things they're against, and homosexuality is up near the top."

Again, Helen sat quietly, studying Maggie's face. "I was fortunate," she said, after a time. "My parents loved me unconditionally."

"Are they living, Captain?"

"No. Both my parents are deceased. My mother died of a heart attack several years ago. My father died within 24 hours of her passing. I have one brother and three sisters, however, so I am not without family. You have two brothers, I believe?"

"Yes, ma'am. And one sister."

"My brother's name is Phillip. He lives in Boston with his wife and two children. He also is a police officer. My sisters are Pauline, Ruth, and Hazel. All three of them live in Cleveland. Pauline is a pediatrician, Ruth is a librarian, and Hazel is a musician," she smiled. "She's a gospel singer."

"My sister is a professional fault finder. Her name is Holier-than-thou. My brothers are professional 12-year olds, and their names are Goon Boy and Fool."

Helen smiled at her. "Raked you over the coals, did they?"

"They tried."

"Well, Maggie, it seems to go with the territory," she sighed. "I have a friend…no. No, let me be honest with you. The woman is my lover. Her father has, in the past, hired private investigators to keep tabs on her. He makes her life miserable, and I have come to believe that he does it simply because he enjoys being cruel."

"Yes, ma'am. Folks like that are usually called sadists."

"Well, Jesse's father is one nasty sonofabitch. Her name is Jesse McGuinn. She teaches at Grant College here. Chemistry, she teaches. We've been dating for about three months. I don't share that information with everyone, because Bert is another sadist."

"I won't repeat it."

"No, I don't think you will," she smiled, cocking her head to one side. "I imagine I could trust you to be discrete in any given circumstance, couldn't I."

"Yes, ma'am. Absolutely."

"I think you and I will get along quite well. And I hope we become friends."

"Yes, ma'am," Maggie smiled back at her. "I think that's entirely possible."

"Well," she sighed, glancing at her watch. "I've kept you long enough. You've got the remainder of this day off. Be here tomorrow at 6:30 am for roll call. It'll be your first official day on duty, and Lieutenant Miller will be your training officer."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Just one thing before you go, Maggie. Don't let Galen's easy-going manner fool you. He's a shrewd, intuitive cop. He knows this town and its people better than anyone in the department. Pay attention to him, and you'll learn quickly."

"Yes, ma'am."

"You can go now. I'll see you bright and early tomorrow morning."

MORNING ARRIVED with abundant sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures. Galen relaxed on a wrought iron bench in front of city hall, sipping a cup of coffee and watching citizens drive by on their way to work. Bells in the carillon tower on the campus of Grant College began to play, marking the hour. A shiny-new chrome and black motorcycle pulled up to the curb; Maggie was the officer on board. She parked the big bike and climbed off to take a seat beside him.

Galen handed her a cup of coffee as she sat down.

"You're right on time," he smiled at her. "I'm a stickler for punctuality, Marguerite."

"So am I."

"Beautiful day, isn't it?"

"Yessir, it surely is. Is that why you wanted to meet here?"

"That's part of it, I guess. Mostly, though, this is the best place in town to get a glimpse of daily life. In the space of 30 minutes, you can be witness to all kind of interesting behavior."

"My two weeks of in-service in Columbus were spent behind a desk studying city ordinances and street maps." She smiled tentatively at him. "I think I prefer your teaching methods."

"Well, maybe I just have a different idea about what's important for you to know. Maybe I'd think different if I was a training officer in a big city. In a small town like Hawk Run, I think it's more important to get to know the people living here."

She nodded acknowledgment of this as she took a drink of the coffee he had given her. "Uhm…not that I don't appreciate the gesture," she frowned, "but what's in this coffee?"

"Hell, I don't know," he laughed. "I got it at that new place over across the street, that Nona Bee's Kasa de Kaffeine."

Maggie grinned at him. "Are they kidding with that name?"

"Nope. Nona Bee is Nona Huckabee. Her brother is Lawrence Huckabee. The Huckabee family owns a couple businesses here. Anyhow, I heard some of the women in Melissa's…Melissa Loudermilk. My lady friend. I heard some of the women in her card club talking about cappuccino and latte and espresso and all that nonsense, so I thought I'd give it a try. See what all the fuss was about."

"And what's your verdict?"

Galen looked at the cup in his hand. "I think I'll stick to plain, ol' coffee," he grinned.

"I agree."

"Howsoever, this here cinnamon-nutmeg-fluffy-milk-folderol cost me five bucks a pop, so I am by-God gonna drink it. And so are you."

Maggie laughed. "Yessir."

He pushed his hat back and relaxed on the bench. "So, Officer Conover, I read that resume you submitted plus your file from Columbus, but I'd like you to tell me about yourself. Tell me stuff that maybe ain't on the printed page.

Maggie considered her reply for a moment. "I'm a lesbian, for one thing. Is that going to be a problem for you?"

"Shoot, no. There's what you could call a large gay community here in Hawk Run, Marguerite. It's always been that way, as near as I can figure. There's never been any kind of official type survey done, but the best guess is that maybe 35 percent of the adult population here is homosexual."

"Maybe that's why my parents decided to move."

"Did they give you a rough time?"

"Disowned me. I haven't spoken to, heard from, or seen them since I graduated from college eight years ago. I get a Christmas card from my brother Dewey every year, but he just signs his name. He never puts any family news or anything in it."

"I can't think of anything that would convince me to disown a child of mine," he replied. "Not one single thing."

"There are plenty of people around who aren't nearly as tolerant, Lieutenant Miller."

"More's the pity. I'd like to tell you that we all get along just fine here in Hawk Run, but the truth of the matter is that things get stirred up every once in awhile. It hasn't ever gone beyond name-calling and one or two pokes to one or two noses, but we do have some people here who believe all homosexuals are doomed to perdition."

"Doomed to perdition?" she smiled.

"Uh-huh. It means on a certain path to Hell. My way of making reference to the main source of bigotry in this town, which is the Fundamentalist Church over on Parmalee Avenue. Their preacher likes to go stompin' around wavin' signs and flingin' invectives."

Maggie grinned at him. "Dukie Velker told me that appearances are deceiving in your case, Lieutenant. She said I should never for one minute believe I'm dealing with a small-town hick."

"It's the accent, I think."

"What? That gives folks a false impression?"

"Yeah. In this particular corner of Ohio, we got plenty of people who talk with a Southern accent. You go maybe 30 or 40 miles northwest or northeast, you get that flat, Midwestern twang. Down here in this corner you hear Ridge Runner drawl, and there's a bunch of folks who equate that accent with lack of intelligence."

"What's 'Ridge Runner'?"

"An expression meaning hillbilly. Mountain people. We're in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains here."

The sound of honking horns and cursing motorists interrupted conversation. Galen leaned forward a bit, craning his neck to see what he could see. Very soon, Lynne Curran came gliding down the middle of the street on roller blades. Galen whistled through his fingers to get her attention, summoning her to the bench.

"Good morning, Galen," she warbled. "Isn't it a lovely morning?"

"Lovely as it can be. Is that why you're defying explicit instructions I gave you no more'n a week ago?"

She ignored him, extending a gloved hand toward Maggie. "How do you do?" she smiled. Her voice had a very appealing, raspy-husky quality to it. Maggie did not hesitate to grip the proffered hand and give it a shake.

"My name is Lynne Curran. May I know your name?"

"Maggie Conover."

"Maggie is the newest member of our police force," Galen interjected. "Let go of her hand and listen to what I'm about to say to you."

Lynne turned her attention to him. "I would love to stay and chat with you, Galen, but I have a number of very important things to do this morning. I must, therefore, bid you a fond 'Adios'."

She kissed Maggie's hand, curtsied to Galen, and went racing off down the street, snaking through traffic with no apparent regard for personal safety.

Galen sighed and shook his head. "I got three lists in my desk drawer back at the office, Marguerite," he said. "One of 'em is my lunatic list. There's a real impressive percentage of lunatics living here, and I make it a point to keep track of the top 15 or so. I asked the city council to pass a law making it mandatory for lunatics to wear a sign identifying them as such. City council, being comprised mostly of lunatics itself, refused my request. So I keep a list. That Lynne Curran is at the top."

"She's beautiful."

"Well, yeah. I s'pose she is. But she's gotta lie to be five foot two inches tall, and she don't weigh no more than 90 pounds after a hearty meal. If she was to encounter an automobile whilst roller-skating along Main Lake Road, she'd go flying all the way to Nelsonville."

"You feel a bit protective of her," Maggie smiled.

"Yes, I have to admit that I do. People here adore the woman, and I count myself among them. She's got herself a PhD in English literature. She owns Cracker Hill Book Store, which is at the north end of the business district. She goes up into the hills to the farms up there to teach grownups how to read. Hawk County has the highest rate of illiteracy in Ohio, Maggie, and Lynne Curran is doing what she can to change that. She goes to the children's ward of the hospital twice a week to read to the little ones. I've got a son, Daniel, who's a Downs Syndrome child. Lynnie came to the house dressed as Santa Claus last Christmas, just for my boy. She does stuff like that for almost everyone in town. But she is a lunatic of no mean importance, and you've gotta keep an eye on her."

Maggie might have replied, but conversation and traffic both came to an abrupt halt as a man ran toward them from across the street. Horns honked and tires squealed when he charged forward without hesitation. The fact that a toilet plunger was stuck to his head might have had something to do with his recklessness.

"Now there's something to capture a person's undivided attention," Maggie commented.

"What have you got on your head, Carl?" Galen inquired of the red-faced man, chortling merrily.

Carlisle Masterson IV, in suit and tie and trench coat, halted in front of the bench. "I want that idiot arrested, Miller," he panted, "and this time I mean it."

Pedestrians with nothing better to do began to gather. Motorists got out of their cars.

"What happened?" Galen asked, assuming a properly sober and authoritative air.

"I was walking to the office. When the weather is good, as it is today, I walk rather than drive. I take the footpath that runs around the lake to Municipal Park, and then I cut through the park to my office. As I was walking along the section where the maple trees were planted in a straight line, she swung down from a tree limb and jammed this thing onto my head."

"They call 'em plumbers' helpers," Maggie cut in. "You and I know 'em as plungers."

Carlisle gave her a look of impatience "That isn't the point," he snapped. "I want that idiot thrown in jail."

"To which idiot do you refer Mr…"

"Masterson. Carlisle Masterson IV. And I refer to Lynne Curran."

"You claim she stuck that doo-dad onto your head, then."

"It is not a claim," he huffed. "It is a fact."

"Sir, I won't know that until I gather evidence. How do you know for certain it was Ms. Curran?"

"She has been attacking me periodically for 15 years. She has never denied the fact. My God, the entire town knows this."

"Well, Masterson Four, I don't know it. I only just moved to Hawk Run. I don't know anything about these shenanigans of yours. Why would Ms. Curran waste so much time and energy foolin' around with you?"

Galen leaned toward her to deliver a stage whisper. "She's trying to scare him to death."

"By stickin' a plunger on his head?" Maggie snickered. "Get outta here."

"She does other things to frighten him."

"Oh. Well, what's her motive?"

"Seems as though Carl went and married the woman Lynnie adores."

"Did he hold a gun to the woman's head?"

"Whaddya mean?" Carl scowled.

"To get this woman to marry you. Did you threaten her some how?"

"No, I certainly did not."

"She married you of her own, free will, then?"

"Yes, she certainly did." As he nodded in emphasis, the handle of the plunger bobbed back and forth.

"Then Ms. Curran ought to direct some of this harassment your wife's way."

"Honoria has not gone unpunished. Lynnie has things delivered to her."

Maggie regarded him in silence for a while, watching the handle of the plunger sway. "Gonna probably have to go on over to the hospital to get that dingus off your head," she commented. "Or isn't it glued on?"

"Yes," he sighed heavily. "It's glued on."

Maggie put on her helmet and stood up. "You come with me, Masterson Four. I'll give you a ride to the hospital. You can tell me more about this vendetta you got goin' against you."

In the emergency room of Lakeside General Hospital, Maggie stood chatting companionably with one of the nurses. She was waiting to find out if Carlisle Masterson was going to need transportation when his treatment was completed.

"I am looking for Officer Conover," a female voice declared, soaring confidently through the ceramic-tiled room.

Maggie turned to discover Honoria Masterson bearing down on her.

"That's Mrs. Masterson," the nurse explained. "Guess you won't have to give him a ride."

Maggie acknowledged the remarks with a nod. To Honoria she said, "Good to see you again."

Honoria smiled at her. "It's you. That's why the Conover name seemed familiar to me. You were in the office a couple of weeks ago. You rented one of the cottages out at Cohasset Cove." "Yes, ma'am, that's me."

"Thank you for helping Carl."

"You're welcome."

"He tells me that he hasn't the foggiest notion who stuck that plunger on his stupid skull."

"Yes, ma'am."

Honoria looked at the nurse. She arched one eyebrow. The nurse departed in haste.

"Now, that was impressive," Maggie laughed.

"Why, thank you. Please tell me why Lynne Curran has not been arrested for assaulting my husband, Deputy Conover."

"I'm an officer, not a deputy."

"Whatever. Why have you not arrested that hoodlum?"

"Did the doctor get that plunger off Carl Four's head?"

"Yes, and don't change the subject. Why haven't you arrested Lynne Curran?"

"Carl Four says he isn't gonna press charges. I say I need proof that Ms. Curran actually committed this particular act."

"Oh, she did it alright. She's been pestering Carl and annoying me since our wedding day 15 years ago."

"There are no laws nor ordinances against annoying folks."

"She had one gross of ping pong balls delivered to me yesterday," Honoria grumped. "When I opened the box, the balls all came exploding out like I don't know what. The housekeeper is still chasing them around the solarium."

"How do you know who sent you this present? Was there a card attached?"

"Present?" Honoria sputtered. "It certainly was not a present, and I know who sent it because she has been sending such things for 15 years. On our wedding night, she hired 30 accordion players to stand in the hallway outside our hotel suite serenading us with the 'She's Too Fat' polka. I loathe and despise accordion music. It went on all night long, for godssake. Carl would chase one of them away, and five minutes later another would begin playing."

"Well, that's the problem with accordion players," Maggie declared. "They've got that kind of personality, that 'I can do as I please' type of personality. It's what makes them strap on the jeezly things in the first place. They actually believe everyone wants to listen to the noise those cordeens make. Puts me in mind of a bag full of real irate kitty cats," she chuckled. "Now, if it had been cello players in that hallway, or even banjo pickers, you wouldn't have had to chase 'em all night long. They would have skeedaddled the minute you told them you weren't interested in a serenade."

Honoria scowled at her. Then she gave Maggie's shoulder a poke. "I want that moron arrested, Officer Conover," she snapped. "If my husband will not press charges, then I will."

"Don't you poke at me, Mrs. Masterson Four," Maggie cautioned. "I don't take kindly to flirtations from married ladies."

Honoria jerked her hand away. "What on earth do you mean, flirtations? Are you insane?"

"What I am is an officer of the law. That means you are not permitted to jab or poke at me. If you want my attention, all you need to do is sing out, 'Yoo hoo!' and I'll respond in a timely manner."

Honoria was too stunned to reply. All she could do was to stand with mouth agape, looking supremely foolish, as Maggie went strutting out of the emergency room.

Continued in Part 3.

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