The Hawk Run Chronicles: Welcome Home

by Skippy


The usual...

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RAE CURRAN, owner of the Irish Rose Tavern, stood behind the bar reading a newspaper and drinking a cup of tea. The bar spanned 30 feet from end to end and, like the counter in Dukie's Diner, was salvaged from a doomed tavern in another town. Beautifully hand-carved roses trailed across its façade, and it certainly was worthy of attention. When Maggie entered the tavern that morning she stood admiring it with a smile on her face. Despite Rae's noticeable mistrust, she did not abandon that smile.

"The bar is beautiful," she declared.

Rae nodded acknowledgment; she did not speak. She regarded Maggie over the rim of the mug as she sipped her tea.

"The whole place is great," Maggie continued, turning slowly to look around. "But this bar…is it original to the tavern?"

Rae hesitated only a moment before answering. "No. It was salvaged from a bar up in Youngstown. My partner and I hauled it down here. It took almost a year to clean it up and make it presentable."

"Well, it was worth the hard work." She extended a hand. "I'm Officer Maggie Conover. I've been assigned to patrol here in the business district."

Rae looked at her, looked at her hand, and decided to be cordial. "Rae Curran," she said, shaking hands. "I've got to tell you that I don't feel real comfortable having a cop in my place."

"Yes, ma'am, I can understand why. I came here just to introduce myself and to let you know we'll be checking the exterior of the tavern at the beginning and end of each shift. Right now, I'm the officer assigned to the day watch. Another officer will drive through the parking lot twice in the evening; night watch will check the building's exterior on foot. Do you object to this new routine?"

"You're going to patrol on a daily basis?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Several times every day?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"The only time the other cops ever showed up here was when they felt like hassling the pretty young women who come here. Yancey also put in an appearance at Christmas to help himself to a case of Crown Royal."

Maggie took a business card from her pocket and placed it on the bar in front of Rae. "The two phone numbers are Captain Burke's office and Lieutenant Miller's office. If any member of the force demands free drinks or food, if they bother you or your customers, if they behave in a way you consider to be inappropriate, please call either of those two officers to report it."

Rae picked up the card. "Working on public relations, are you?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Then I'll reserve judgment. I admit to being skeptical, but I will give you a chance to prove yourself."

"Thank you. May I look around so I know where entrances and exits are?"

"Yes, you may. And since I really don't trust you yet, I'll tag along."

"I insist that you do. There are one or two things we need to discuss."

Rae sat on a wooden bench in front of the tavern after giving Maggie the grand tour. She smiled when Claudia Kipner's '63 Chevy Impala convertible pulled into the lot. Claudia parked the car, got out, and walked over to kiss Rae in greeting.

"Enjoying the morning sun?" she asked, sitting down beside her.

"Yes, and watching the newest member of the police force." She nodded toward Maggie.

Maggie was on the opposite side of Main Lake Road where the berm sloped gently toward the water. She was inspecting an old boat dock there.

"She's quite an improvement over those boy cops'," Claudia smiled. "She looks a little bit like that warrior queen the kids watch on television."

"You mean warrior princess. And most of those so-called kids are in their mid-forties."

"Whatever. Has the princess cop been here?"

"Yeah. Showed up bright and early to introduce herself. She says the cops will be patrolling on a regular basis again."

"Rumor has it she's dating your baby sister."

Rae held Claudia's gaze for a moment. "Is she?"

"Yes. They had dinner together at Lanterman's. How do we feel about that?"

"More to the point, how does Honoria feel about it?"

"Only time will tell," Claudia smiled. She reached out to ruffle Rae's hair.

Rae took hold of her hand and kissed her fingers. They sat there in the morning sunshine holding hands and watching Maggie walk back from the lake. She was smiling at something to her right. She stepped to the middle of the road, drew the baton from her belt, and put a whistle in her mouth. She held up a hand to halt a car approaching from the direction of town. Then she began waving the baton to direct a mother duck and her babies across the road. The ducks quacked and waddled to the safety of the tavern parking lot, reaching it as a second car, approaching from the opposite direction and traveling in excess of the posted speed limit, screeched to a halt only inches from Maggie's legs.

"Just where do you think you are, fool?!" she hollered. "This is not Indianapolis Speedway. You almost crashed into my kneecaps."

Lawrence Huckabee stuck his head out the window of his Mercedes. "I'm late for a very important meeting," he snapped at her. "And what the hell are you doing in the middle of the road?"

"I'm writing you a ticket is what I'm doing." She pulled the pad from her belt. "Don't curse at me, sir. I'll add public misconduct to your speeding ticket."

"The name is Huckabee, sweetheart," he grumbled. "Lawrence Huckabee, Jr. Chief Yancey is a very good friend of mine."

"Don't call me sweetheart. I have no interest in getting up close and personal with you, if you take my meaning, so don't bother tossing endearments at me. I guess that wedding band on your finger means you've got a wife somewhere. What would she think if she heard you talking like that to a woman of short-term acquaintance?"

Lawrence gaped at her, stunned into silence.

"Sweet-talkin' a stranger," Maggie huffed. "That's no way for a married man to behave, Mr. Honker." She handed him a ticket.

"My name is not Honker, it is Huckabee. Why must I keep repeating that to you? Are you deaf?"

"No, sir, I am not. I might have an easier time understanding you if you would speak in a normal tone of voice. I don't appreciate being bellowed at."

"My name," he sighed, rubbing his temples, "is Lawrence Huckabee, Jr. I am a prominent businessman in this town and a close, personal friend of Chief of Police Bertram Yancey. Consider those things as you write that citation."

"Well, sir, Mr. Huckle, being a prominent businessman and a friend of Chief Yancey's does not entitle you to any special treatment. You are obliged to obey the laws just like every other citizen of this town."

"My name is Huckabee!" he hollered. "Why can't you understand that, for crissakes?"

"No cursing. I don't appreciate that type of language."

"Oh, hell…" he whimpered. "Just how fucking stupid can one cop be?"

"I am not gonna warn you again about flinging' obscenities around, Huckle Junior. You move this vehicle along now. You're blocking traffic."

Still muttering to himself, Lawrence drove on.

THE IMPORTANT MEETING to which Lawrence was heading was at the Kasa de Kaffeine. He parked his car at the rear of the building and spent a few minutes fussing over flecks of mud on the left front fender. He used a handkerchief to rub at the offending splotches. When he was satisfied with the car's condition, he strutted into the restaurant via the service entrance. He paused in the kitchen to offer opinions and cooking tips to the employees and to taste some soup bubbling on the stove. He added salt, tasted again, nodded satisfaction, and continued on his way. He found Bert Yancey occupying a corner booth and, since his important meeting happened to be with the chief of police, he joined him there.

Bert set aside his newspaper as Lawrence sat down. "You're late," he commented. "I already ordered."

Lawrence summoned a waitress, ordered breakfast, then dumped an excessive amount of sugar into a cup of coffee. "I just got a speeding ticket," he frowned. "I guess the girl doesn't know who I am or something, It was one of the new cops you hired."

"Marge Conners," Bert yawned. "I'll take care of it."

"She was near the Irish Rose, Bert. I thought you were told to keep all patrols away from there. We've been mapping things out there the last couple nights. We don't need some fucking idiot meter maid sticking her nose in where it does not belong."

"Well, she's new. She don't know how we do things yet. I'll take care of it."

Conversation ceased as the waitress delivered Bert's breakfast. After refilling his coffee cup, she departed. Bert spent some time dousing fried eggs with hot sauce, slathering toast with jelly, and coating home fries with salt and pepper.

"So when are you planning to do the Irish Rose?" he asked, chewing bacon.

"Next month. We originally planned to do it this month, but with all of those state police sniffing around town, we decided to wait. You'd better get rid of them, buddy. That's the kind of interest we do not need here right now. I thought you had talked your way out of those problems."

"Yeah, I thought so too. Then that lousy old Masterson bitch went and complained to some friend of hers in Columbus when the real estate office got paid a visit. So that's why the state cops are back. It isn't my fault."

"Which one of the Mastersons are you talking about?" Lawrence frowned.

"I think her name is Diane or something. It isn't that long-legged blonde."

"Oh, wonderful," he snorted. "You've got Demetria Masterson poking around now. That's just great, Bert. She and that dyke sister of hers own this town. She's got political connections and clout you would not believe. If she tipped the state cops to that bullshit at the real estate office, we could be in really serious trouble."

"I don't see how," Bert shrugged. "All the reports were pulled and destroyed. We didn't leave any clues at the real estate office. The state cops might poke around for a few days but they aren't gonna find anything. I guarantee it."

"Just what was the point of that vandalism? Did Patrice suggest it to you?"

"Yeah, she did. She was pissed because me and Maureen had a fight and Maureen wasn't available to hack the computer files. Patrice wants that property out at Cohasset Cove."

Lawrence nodded. "Okay. I understand. She wants to go the same route we took with the Guitrys over that property where we built the Zippy Mart. And that reminds me…Did you get me that permit for the grand opening at the Zippy Mart?"

Bert pulled a folded paper from his hip pocket and handed it across the table. "You owe me $50 for that."

Lawrence wiped his fingers with a napkin as he checked the permit. Then he took a $50 bill from his wallet. He put it and the traffic ticket into Bert's outstretched hand. "Explain the facts of life here in Hawk Run to all the new cops you hired," he said.

"I will."

"You'd better. And you had better watch your step with those people from the state police. If they aren't gone in a week, you'll have trouble you can't handle. And it won't come from any damned state attorney, pal. It'll come from me."

MAGGIE STROLLED along Main Lake Road, the stretch of thoroughfare running through the business district. It was a gorgeous morning, and she enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine and the soft breeze drifting in off the lake. She whistled a medley of show tunes as she walked, twirling her baton with panache. She paused occasionally to do a little dance a la Ed Grimley. All things and Lynne Curran considered, life in Hawk Run was very good indeed.

Up ahead of her, she saw Carlisle Masterson exit the drugstore. He fussed with the knot of his silk necktie and looked up and down the street, considering his options. He finally headed south toward city hall, walking at a leisurely pace about 50 yards in front of Maggie.

As Carl passed the alley separating the Kasa de Kaffeine from the pet shop, a small person wearing a long, black cape and a Ronald Reagan mask leaped out in front of him. He actually hollered 'Yowee!'

"Your days are numbered, Cubby," cried Ronald. The masked marauder then proceeded to drench the man with water from a squirt gun, water to which blue food coloring had been added.

Maggie, stunned by the bizarre tableau, did not react quickly enough. The miscreant went racing back up the alley and out of sight. She opted for assisting the victim rather than giving chase. He had fallen on his backside and was sitting on the sidewalk dabbing at himself with a handkerchief. A group of amused bystanders was gathering.

"Nothing to see here, folks," Maggie sang out, urging people to move along. "I believe you all can find better things to do. Let's clear the sidewalk, please. That's it, off you go."

She squatted in front of the obviously mortified gentleman.

"Are you injured?" she asked.

"Does a severely bruised ego qualify?" he laughed.

She stood, extending a hand to help him to his feet. "Be sure you didn't damage your bumbosity."

"My which?"

"Bumbosity. One of my grandmother's words for derriere. Walk a few steps, just to be sure nothing is broken."

He obliged her. "No pain," he announced, brushing grit from his trousers.

"I'm sorry I didn't react quickly enough to chase after your assailant."

"It's alright, Officer," he sighed. "I doubt you'd have been able to catch her. She runs like night wind."

"I'm correct in assuming that it was Ms. Curran again?"

"Oh, yes," he nodded, folding his soggy handkerchief. He laughed and shook his head. "Twice in two weeks. She must be feeling especially frisky." Deciding the handkerchief was not worth saving, he walked to a trash basket to dispose of it.

"Do you want to file charges?" Maggie asked.

He shook his head. "No. If I'm honest about it, I enjoy the attention."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. May we walk while I try to explain? I have a meeting with a client in about 30 minutes."

"That's fine with me," Maggie commented. "It's a beautiful day for a stroll."

"Then stroll we shall," Carl smiled. "I'll begin by telling you that Lynnie and my wife grew up together. They were inseparable almost from birth. At some point…and my best guess is around the age of 13. Neither Lynne nor Honoria will tell me precisely. But around the age of 13, they became lovers. That lasted until Lynne was awarded a full-ride scholarship to the University of Chicago. Honoria wanted her to stay here to attend Grant, but without that scholarship Lynnie simply could not afford college. So, off she went to Chicago, and 18 years of loving friendship shattered.

"To spite her, Honoria began dating boys. I was one of them. As these things often happen, I got her pregnant. For dozens of idiotic reasons, we decided to get married. None of our reasons involved love or romance. We have what I believe is referred to as an 'open' marriage. Lynne regards us as hypocrites and liars, and she makes her feelings known by harassing us. Many people in Hawk Run will tell you that she is motivated by jealousy, Officer Conover. That simply is not true."

They stopped in front of city hall. Carl faced Maggie. "I was leaving Lanterman's with a companion on Saturday evening just as you and Lynne entered," he smiled. "It's none of my business, of course, but did you enjoy your evening?"

"Very much," she nodded.

"You'll hear a lot of people say that Lynne is madly in love with Honoria and always will be. As one intimately acquainted with the facts, I am telling you that those people are mistaken. Not that it's any of my business, as I mentioned earlier."

"Well, sir, I appreciate your sharing that with me," Maggie laughed.

"I like you," Carl smiled. "And I think that you and my friend Lynnie are absolutely stunning together." He glanced at his watch. Shaking Maggie's hand, he said, "Thank you again for you kindness."

"You're welcome. Are you sure you aren't hurt?"

"Quite sure. I must go. Thank you again, and I hope we have a chance to talk in the future."

AFTER THE MEETING with Lawrence, Bert drove to Maureen Stambaugh's home and spent a few hours in her company. Around noon, he headed for the Plaza Court Restaurant, where he enjoyed a leisurely lunch and a bottle of wine. To round off the day, he decided that a visit to the police station would be in order, and so he arrived there late in the afternoon.

He annoyed Darnell for a few minutes before turning his attention to Maggie. He pulled a chair over to her desk and plopped down onto it. He loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt. "I need to have a little talk with you, hon," he declared. The pungent aroma of garlic, and large amounts of it, accompanied the words from his mouth.

Maggie stifled an urge to hold her nose. "Yessir," she smiled.

"I know you're new here, so you haven't had the time to learn who the VIP's are. Still, you're supposed to have five years' worth of experience in police work, so you should know enough to make an arrest when a citizen is robbed. Am I right about that, hon?"

Frowning in puzzlement, Maggie nodded. "Yessir, you are."

"So okay, then. Suppose you explain to me how come you didn't make an arrest when Mr. Masters was robbed and assaulted in front of Nona Bee's this morning." He leaned back in the chair, burping softly.

"Chief, I just filed a report on that incident," she replied. "Mr. Masterson didn't press charges, and he…"

"Hold on a minute," Bert interrupted. "I'm talking about Charles Masters. A real important man in this town. Real important. Money up the ol' wazoo, as they say. Now, I want to know why you just stood there and let the man be robbed. And don't lie to me about it, honey, because I've talked to a witness. You don't ever want to lie to me, Marge."

Maggie was nothing if not quick on the uptake. She knew that an argument with Bert would not go well. Therefore, she took a small notebook from her pocket and flipped it open. "Oh, yeah," she smiled. "I misremembered the fella's name, Chief. Sorry about that."

"Whatever. Just tell me why you didn't make an arrest."

"Well, sir, I wanted to, but Mr. Masters told me not to bother. He said it was some type of fraternity prank or something. See, Mr. Masters belonged to a fraternity when he was a student at Ohio State. He played football there, Chief. Did you know that?"

Bert stopped scowling. "Well, sure, I did. He played quarterback I think I remember him saying."

"Yessir. Anyhow, I guess the guy who knocked Mr. Masters down was a member of that fraternity, come here to play a joke on Mr. Masters. He didn't rob him, Chief, he just took his hankie. Sorta like a trophy. So he could prove he did what he was supposed to do, see? So that's why I didn't make an arrest. I'm real sorry about the mix-up, Chief Yancey."

"Well, okay," he nodded, patting her knee. "Glad we got that cleared up. Now on to another thing I need to tell you about. You gave a speeding ticket to one of this town's leading citizens this morning. Lawrence Huckabee is the guy's name. Do you remember the incident?"

"Yes, I do."

"I tore up that ticket, Margie honey. You just don't do things like that here. We ain't got no quota for you to fill like they got in other towns, so the next time Larry Huckabee goes a little bit too fast in that Mercedes of his, you just look the other way. Are we clear on that?"

"Yes, Chief."

Bert smiled and gave her knee another pat. "One more thing. I don't want you wasting any time snooping around that dyke bar. That Irish Rose Tavern. That place is strictly off limits for every member of my police force. It don't look good to have you hanging around a place like that. Most of the people in Hawk Run are normal and they don't want their police officers displaying their perversions in public. What I'm telling you is I don't want you giving them anything to bitch at me about, okay?".

"I was there on patrol, Chief Yancey," she replied, moving her leg away from his hand. "I was not there as a customer."

"I don't give a shit," he frowned. "You stay away from that place. You like working here, don't you?"

"Yessir, I do."

"Then you learn to follow orders. Stay away from that dyke bar." He stood up, nearly knocking over the chair he had been sitting on. "Don't ever forget who the boss is around here, Marge. Things could get real damned unpleasant for you if you forget that."

Maggie breathed a sigh of relief as she watched him leave. Her relief was short-lived, though; Darnell came to sit down in the chair recently occupied by Bert.

"I'm an eavesdropper," Darnell announced. "It's like a hobby of mine."

Maggie regarded her warily. "Oh?"

"Uh-huh. That's how I happened to hear your conversation with Chief Wart Hog. I have to tell you, sweetie, I admire a woman who can think on her feet like that. That was impressive."

"Uhm…thank you. I think."

"I guess Charles Masters is Carlisle Masterson?"

"You guess correctly."

"Cubby Masterson graduated from Princeton."

"You don't say."

"Played golf and tennis. No football."

"Is that a fact."

"It is," Darnell nodded. "Cubby Masterson does not own half the town, his mama does. Her name is Demetria Masterson. You'll most likely hear her referred to as Demmie. Also, Bert's so-called eyewitness was, in this case, Nona Huckabee. She's one of the poor fools he's dating this month."

"Uhm…not that I don't appreciate this kind of information, Mrs. Adkins, because I surely do; but why are you telling me these things?"

"It's stuff you should know. Consider me the assistant training officer."

"Okay," Maggie laughed. "I'll do that. A person can't ever have too much information."

"Here's a little more information for you to consider: Bert drinks. He usually starts drinking at lunchtime. He can get real nasty when he's had too much. Now, you're probably the type of person who would think twice before pulling a gun to take a shot at someone who pissed you off. Am I right about that?"

"Yes, ma'am," Maggie nodded. "I probably would pause to consider such a reaction."

"Well, Bert wouldn't. We all breathe easier knowing that he almost always forgets to strap on his handgun every day."

"I can see how that would be cause for sighs of relief."

"You bet. What I'm telling you, Maggie, is don't drop your guard around him."

"I'll keep that in mind, Mrs. Adkins. And thank you."

"Call me Darnell, sweetie, and you're welcome." She started to stand, then changed her mind. "I hear you had a date Saturday night," she smiled.

"And where did you gather that information?"

"I don't confine my eavesdropping to this office, sugar. Gossip is a way of life here in Hawk Run. You'll have to learn to deal with it."

"I suppose I will," Maggie sighed. "Yes, I had a date on Saturday."

"I'm real fond of Lynnie Curran."

"Well, that makes two of us, then."

"I'm becoming fond of you, too, Maggie. I think you and Lynnie have potential together."

"Thanks," she laughed.

"Just let me give you this fact before I go away and leave you alone…the woman is as crazy as a bedbug." She stood up and gave Maggie's shoulder a pat. "Only the Lord God Almighty understands the mysterious ways of Lynnie Curran's mind. Catch you later, Maggie girl." She went strutting off, humming happily to herself.

LYNNE CURRAN STOOD five foot tall in her stocking feet and she weighed, perhaps, 90 pounds. At the age of 36, she resembled a 12-year old…albeit a lovely 12-year old. She wore her long hair pulled back in a loose ponytail. Her hair was auburn with a kind of coppery cast to it, the kind that imitates flame when the light hits it just right. Her eyes were amber; if gazed into at close range, flecks of jade and topaz were noticeable. She had about her an aura of childlike innocence, and it was that innocence that first caught Maggie's attention the morning Lynne came roller blading down the middle of Main Lake Road. Since that day, Maggie had taken time to reflect upon the old, "appearances can be deceiving" homily and so, when finally she visited Cracker Hill Books, she had a clearer picture of the real Lynne Curran. This would prove fortunate in many ways, not the least of which concerned Patrice Huckabee.

Patrice never passed up the opportunity to inform others that she was a good Christian. Neither did she sidestep her Christian responsibility to impose her beliefs and opinions on lesser mortals. On the morning in question, Patrice made the mistake of trying to spread her version of The Gospel around Cracker Hill Books.

She entered the store when it opened at 9:30 am, and she asked Lynne to direct her to the Christian Book Section, which Lynne did without comment. Patrice then went marching toward the rear of the old, three-story Victorian house. Lynne got comfortable in the front parlor, curling up in a rocking chair with a magazine and a pair of white Persian kittens.

It was not long before Patrice came swooping into the parlor with the fires of Righteousness ablaze in her eyes and a copy of Dykes to Watch Out For in her fist. "I demand that this filth be removed from this establishment!" she roared.

"May I see the book, Mrs. Huckleberry?" Lynne smiled sweetly.

"The name is Huckabee," hissed Patrice, slapping the book onto Lynne's palm.

At this point, the kittens went running off to find their mommy. Also at this point, several customers…with Maggie among them…entered the store, giving Lynnie an audience.

Lynne examined the book, despite the fact that she had read it several times. "Well, I don't know, Mrs. Honker," she sighed. "I don't see that this qualifies as filth. If you want filth, you'll have to go to Herbie's Adult Books up in Pomerance. I don't stock pornography. You'll have to look elsewhere for your cheap thrills."

Confusion struck Patrice dumb. She gaped at Lynne, trying to figure out if she had been insulted in some way.

"And further more," Lynne went on, "I thought you were looking for books on religion. I direct you to the religion section, and off you go in search of dirty books. Skulking around like that," she huffed. "Hiding in a corner wanking off over girlie magazines. You should be ashamed, Mrs. Hickeydoo. A woman of your…"

"Girlie magazines??" Patrice yelped. "What on earth are you talking about? What do you mean, 'wanking off'? How dare you insinuate such a thing."

"I saw you, Mrs. Blowhard. Off in a corner with Mr. Pat Robertson's latest diatribe. You had your hand in your pants. Maybe you can get away with that sort of lewd behavior in other stores, but you are not doing that in my book store."

"You are insane!" Patrice shrieked. Her face was an alarming shade of crimson. Flecks of spittle appeared on her lips. "And my name is Huckabee. Stop twisting things."

"I'll tell you what's twisted. Coming in here claiming to be shopping for religious material, when all along you're on the prowl for masturbation fantasies. What would Mr. Horkey say if…"

"It's Huckabee!!" she screamed. She drew back with her right hand, in which she gripped a large, satchel-like purse. She swung. She connected with her target. Or so it seemed.

The purse seemed to hit Lynne on the side of the head, and she seemed to go flying over onto her side, taking the rocking chair with her.

"Help! Help!" Lynne wailed.

"I've got you now, you lunatic," gloated Patrice. Then she dove on her.

Things pretty much fell apart after that. In years to come, it would be called The Battle of Cracker Hill. A song would be written. Lynne Curran considered it her finest performance.

GALEN HELPED a dazed and whimpering Patrice Huckabee to his cruiser, gently murmuring, "There, there' and gently patting her shoulder.

Helen disbursed the crowd that had gathered and sent the responding patrol officers on about their appointed rounds.

Lynne sat on the front counter of the bookstore while Maggie rendered first aid for assorted scrapes and cuts. "Don't you put that merthiolate on me," she frowned. "It burns. I will not permit use of merthiolate."

"It's not merthiolate," Maggie replied. "Hold still."

Lynne stopped grumbling as Maggie dabbed at her chin. "You have a very gentle touch," she said.

"And you are a very naughty person."


"Didn't I caution you against these kinds of shenanigans in my presence? And I refer to a conversation we had while strolling together along the P&LE path one morning, a conversation regarding tree climbing and assault with a deadly plunger."

"I remember the conversation."

"And you have chosen to ignore my edict? Is that it?"

"Not exactly."

"Then what, exactly?"

"I acted on impulse. I just couldn't resist the temptation."

Helen entered. "Did you read her her rights?" she asked crossing her arms and arching an eyebrow.

'No, ma'am. Not yet."

"You can't arrest me," Lynne laughed. "I'm the victim."

"Mighty fine actress is what you are," Maggie commented.

"That woman swatted me with her pockabook. I have a multitude of witnesses."

Her scowl softened to a smile of adoration. In the doorway of the bookstore stood Honoria Masterson, clutching a white dress shirt in her hand. The shirt was splotched with blue food coloring.

"Top o' the mornin', Miz Norrie June," Lynne beamed.

Honoria crossed the foyer in three long strides. "It's afternoon, fool. What happened to you?" she frowned, pushing Maggie aside and caressing Lynne's hair.

"Poltrice Huckster assaulted me. She's on her way to prison, even as we speak. I believe she'll be spending 20 years behind bars. Isn't that what you said, Officer Conover?" she peeked around Honoria to address Maggie.

Against her better judgment, Maggie was experiencing sensations closely akin to the emotion known as 'jealousy'. She shook her head in response to Lynne's question and tried to refrain from kicking Honoria's shinbone.

Honoria focused on her to deliver a silent but unmistakable warning. Clearly, a line had been drawn.

"Officer Conover?" Honoria smiled. Almost. "My husband mentioned to me how kind you were to him yesterday morning. Apparently, I now must thank you for helping my friend Lynne."

"Why, no, ma'am," Maggie replied. "No thanks required." She closed the first aid kit. She retrieved her helmet from the parlor. She paused on her way out the door. "It was entertainment at its finest, Ms. Curran," she bowed, "but let's avoid repeat performances. I'd have to toss your li'l butt in jail if you were to do it again."

She exited without waiting for a reply.

Helen caught up to her as she was getting comfortable on her motorcycle. "No charges?" she asked.

"No, ma'am," Maggie answered. "Ms. Curran provoked Mrs. Huckabee into pouncing, just for the fun of it, in my opinion. I can't arrest a person for being a scalawag. That type of thing is genetic."

Helen contemplated this pronouncement in silence. Eventually, she planted her feet firmly on the ground and her hands firmly on her hips. "So Lynne Curran is a scalawag, is she?"

"Yes, ma'am. I didn't notice it the first time I met up with her, which was a couple weeks ago over by the city hall. Today, I came in here looking for the new Kate Delafield mystery, which I hear is pretty good. Have you read it?"

"No, and stop trying to distract me with your bullshit. What do you mean, being a scalawag is genetic?"

"It happens to be a medical fact. Honest. It's like the kibitzer gene and the softball gene. Recent studies prove that just about every single lesbian on the face of the planet has at least one of those genes. I don't know Ms. Curran well enough to say whether or not she's got the kibitzer, but judging by her acrobatics in the bookstore parlor, I'd have to say she's definitely got the softball gene."

"And the scalawag gene."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Well, poke my eye and call me doofus," Helen sighed, shaking her head. "For a good many years now, I have been laboring under the misapprehension that Lynne Curran is a world-class lunatic. Thank you, Officer Conover, for setting me straight, so to speak. Lynne isn't crazy, she's rascally."

"Yes, ma'am," Maggie smiled. "That's it in a nutshell."

"Nutshell is right," Helen snorted.

She might have commented further, but Maggie's radio interrupted the conversation.

"Maggie girl, this here is Gracie the dispatcher," a pleasant voice declared. "Are you out and about, darlin'?"

Maggie smiled at Helen. "Rather an informal communications system here in Hawk Run." she keyed the mike to respond to the call. "I'm here, Gracie. What do you need? Over."

"We need you to stop by that new convenience store over across from the hospital. It's called the Zippy Mart. Know what I'm talkin' about?"

"Why, yes, dispatch, I do. What's the problem there? Over."

"We don't know for certain. The caller just said there was a lot of very loud music and the store owner refuses to lower the volume."

"I'm on my way, Gracie. This is unit four, clear."

THERE WAS A CROWD gathered in the parking lot of the convenience store, and they seemed to be growing surlier by the minute. The cause of their discontent was the ear-splitting rendition of 'Turkey in the Straw' blasting from a large, pink and green fiberglass duck in front of the store. Maggie slowed the big Harley to a crawl and guided it carefully through the crowd.

Lawrence Huckabee stood in front of the duck with his arms outstretched, apparently shielding it from harm. He wore yellow trousers, green suspenders, a yellow plaid shirt, and a green plastic duck atop his head.

Maggie folded a stick of gum into her mouth, removed her helmet, and dismounted the motorcycle. Drawing her baton from her belt, she sauntered toward the man and his ducks. His mouth was moving, but she couldn't hear him over the earth-shaking music. She moved around the giant duck, located the source of its power, and pulled the plug on it.

"…a permit!!" Lawrence bellowed.

Maggie returned to face him. "No need to shout at me now," she said. "Speak in a normal tone of voice."

"I have a permit for this grand-opening sale-o-bration! I can play that music as loud as I want."

"Are you the owner of this store?"

"Yes, I am!"

"Stop hollering."

"Sorry. Yes, I own this store. I am Lawrence Huckabee, Jr., Officer. I have a permit."

"I know who you are. We met the other day on Main Lake Road when you tried to run me down with that land yacht of yours."

Lawrence squinted at her. "Oh," he grumbled. "It's you."

"Yeah, it's me. Lemme see this so-called permit of yours, Looby, Jr."

"Will you stop doing that?" he snapped as he fumbled in his pockets. "You're doing it intentionally just to aggravate me, and I do not appreciate it." Red-faced and scowling and grumbling to himself, he finally slapped the permit onto her palm. "I paid 50 bucks for that, honey," he declared.

Maggie touched the baton to his shoulder. "Don't call me honey. You don't know me well enough to be sweet-talkin' me."

"Oh, god…are we going to get into that again? That's just an expression," he huffed. "I was not sweet-talking you."

"You just see to it that you think twice before using any more similar expressions with me, Mr. Huckle. I am not interested. You got that?" Maggie scowled impressively at him, then turned her attention to the permit. "This says that you can string up a sign along that wood fence out front. It says you can put that lighted marquee sign on the berm out front. It says you can do those things for the next five days. Nowhere on this $50 permit of yours does it mention playing music loudly enough for folks in Paris, France, to hear. What would make you think otherwise, Mr. Horkey?"

"Huckabee," he hissed. "Are you deaf? My name is Huckabee."

"If I have to listen to that duck of yours quacking folk tunes at top volume I might become deaf. Which brings up another question, Mr. Hankamer: Does that…"

"Huckabee!!" he bellowed. "You can't be that damn stupid! How many times do I have to correct you? My name is Huckabee, you fucking moron."

Maggie gave his belly a poke with the baton. "You watch your language, junior," she snapped. " I don't appreciate that type of language. I hear any more obscenities come flappin' outta your mouth, I'm gonna cite you for it."

"Cite me for swearing?" he hooted. "It's not against the law to swear."

"Are you an attorney?"

"No, but I know a few things about my rights. Ever hear of freedom of speech, honey?"

"What did I tell you about that flirtatious stuff? Huh? Are you attempting to provoke me?" She took her citation book from her belt and began writing a ticker. "This is for disturbing the peace," she told him. "And you behave yourself, or I'll cite you for flirting with an officer and for flinging crude language about in a public place."

Rubbing a hand over his red face, he sighed, "I have a permit."

"Uh-huh. Does that duck have a permit, Junior?"


"Does that big green duck of yours…and I mean the one behind you, not the one on your head. Does that duck have a permit?"

"Don't be ridiculous. That's fiberglass. It's an advertising gimmick. It isn't real."

"Mr. Huckster, according to section 64B paragraph19 of the Hawk Run legal code, any person, be they fiberglass or otherwise…but anyone wishing to sing or tap-dance or juggle or perform any magic tricks or play any musical instrument…anyone wishing to do those things, Mr. Horkimer, must first obtain a public performance permit. Now, I'll ask you this one more time: Does that duck have a permit to stand out here singing folk tunes? Yes or no?"

"No! The duck isn't real! The duck doesn't need any fucking permit!"

"Then, junior, that duck is going to jail."

HELEN MARCHED from her office to Maggie's desk. She grabbed a chair and dragged it over to sit down. "I have a question for you," she stated. "Answer as succinctly as possible."

"Yes, ma'am," Maggie nodded.

"My question is in reference to one Mr. Looby Huckle, Jr. Just who, Officer Conover, is Looby Huckle?"

"Owns the Zippy Mart."

"His name is Lawrence Huckabee."

"Well, Captain, I had a real hard time understanding that. My ears were ringing because of the duck."

"Point number two: You cited Looby Huckle, Jr., for 'flirting with an officer of the law'. Also for 'shrieking obscene language in a public place where nuns and small children were present.' I quote directly from the report you filed no more than 30 minutes ago. I like to think that I am well versed regarding city laws and ordinances and whatnot, Officer Conover, yet I can recall no mention of a flirting with an officer violation nor of a shrieking obscenities, etc., law. Why do you suppose that is?"

"I made it up."

"I see. Point number three: Why is there a large fiberglass duck sitting out in the police department garage?"

"I arrested that duck. It was too big to fit into a jail cell."

"On what charges did you arrest the duck?"

"Singing folk tunes without a permit. Huckle, Jr., had a permit, but that duck didn't. I arrested that duck, and he's gonna sit in jail til he shows me a little remorse for his law-breaking ways. Or until Huckle Junior forks over a $500 disturbing-the-peace fine."

Helen regarded her in silence for several long moments. "Oddly enough," she finally said, "I understand the logic behind that. Here's the final point: Lawrence Huckabee claims you stole his hat. Is that true?"

"No, ma'am. I impounded that duck hat as evidence. A grown man has no business stickin' a thing like that on his head. If Junior wants to play the fool, let him do it at home where normal folks don't have to watch it. He had on yellow trousers, for goodness' sake. Just what kind of a businessman puts on yellow trousers and sticks a green plastic duck on his head, Captain? There should be a law against that type of behavior."

Helen pinched the bridge of her nose in an attempt to prevent herself from unrestrained laughter. One or two small chortles did manage to escape, however. "Oh, Maggie, Maggie…" she sighed, shaking her head. "Just let me remind you that Looby Huckle is a very close friend of our chief of police. Don't be at all surprised if Bert raises bloody hell with you over this."

"I had an encounter with Chief Yancey the other day."

"Yes, I heard. Just be careful. Please? Don't provoke the man. I don't want him swinging at you."

"I'll be careful, Captain. Don't worry."

The following morning, Bert summoned Maggie to his office. His hair had been recently trimmed, his nails manicured, and his uniform was free of food stains for a change. The look on his face told Maggie that his mood was not a jovial one. She steeled herself for unpleasantness as she took a seat facing his desk.

"I thought I told you not to bother Larry Huckabee," he began. "I did tell you that, didn't I? Or did I dream that conversation?"

"No, sir. We did have that conversation."

"Then how come you went against my orders and wrote the man a ticket?"

"I issued him a citation for disturbance of the peace in a hospital zone."

"I tore it up and you're going to forget about it. Like I said, Larry's a good pal. I don't want him having problems with bitchy female cops. You understand me?"

Maggie nodded. "Yessir."

"Okay, then. I got another bone to pick with you. This one has to do with that bullshit over in that bookstore. Patrice Huckabee is Larry's wife. That's how I come to find out what happened. Now, there ain't much I can do legally to close that bookstore down, and believe me I've tried. That kind of garbage don't belong in a decent town like this, but that Curran bitch has got some real influential people in her corner, so I can't shut her down. You stay out of that bookstore. It's off limits to every officer on this force."


"I've got problems of my own," he grumbled. "I don't need bullshit from you, Conners. You'd better get it together or your stay here is gonna be a damn short one. You understand me?"

"Yessir, I do."

"Okay, then. Get to work. And tell Captain Burke I need to talk to her now."

Helen sat in the chair recently vacated by Maggie. "You wanted to see me?"

"Yeah," he nodded. "I have to meet with some state cops again this morning. Have they contacted you?"

"No, they haven't."

"Well, if they do, let me know so we can coordinate information, if you catch my drift."

" I believe I do."

He sighed as he rubbed the back of his neck. "I don't know what the hell they want with me. I guess it's still about all the stuff with Merle Franklin and those other three guys. I thought we got it all cleared up, but they say they have more questions. I personally haven't done anything illegal."

"Then you don't have anything to worry about."

"Yeah, I know, but it's got me real stressed. I'd appreciate it if you could sorta hold down the fort here for the next week or so. Just until this bullshit settles down. Then we can get back to our normal routine."

"I'll do what I can."

"And just so you know, I won't be in the office at all this coming weekend. I'm going out of town with a lady friend. That's just between you and me, though. If anybody comes in here asking, just tell them I had to go to Columbus on this state police bullshit."


"And for crissakes, Helen, keep an eye on that Conners broad, will ya?" he frowned. "I can't have her citing Larry Huckabee. He's a friend of mine. He's a prominent businessman here. Just explain the facts of life to her, okay?"

" I'll do that."

"Okay, then. You can get back to work. I gotta go find me a drink or something before those state boys show up."

Continued in Part 6.

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