The Hawk Run Chronicles: Welcome Home

by Skippy


The usual...

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BERT MET WITH his lawyer the next morning. Afterwards, feeling restless and on edge, he stopped by the Dockside Tavern to have a few beers despite the early hour. He drank beer, he shot pool, he watched television. Finally, wanting a change of scenery and a nap, he headed for home.

He guided the car into the garage of his condo on Bridey Gunn Road and climbed out as the garage door rattled closed. He grumbled about at the excessive noise and made a mental note to complain to the guy who had installed it. He tapped his code into the security system, and when all the proper lights blinked, he entered the house.

The first thing he did was to grab a cold six pack of beer from the fridge and a bag of chips from the cupboard. Thus armed, he headed for his TV room to switch on the home entertainment center. He settled into a leather recliner as the wide screen television came on. He put the six pack into the small cooler built into the arm of the recliner. He opened a can of beer, opened the chips, and picked up the remote to connect with the baseball game. He became quickly engrossed. Bits and pieces of potato chip soon decorated the front of his shirt. He burped without restraint and guzzled beer. When the phone on the table beside him began to ring, he debated whether or not to answer it. Before he could decide, the answering machine kicked in and he heard Nona's voice chirping at him.

"Hi, hon, it's me. I'm really, really sorry I threw that pie at you, but I was mad. I just couldn't believe you would listen to that filthy lie. I know I shouldn't have thrown that pie, especially with you just getting out of jail and all, so I apologize. I'll come over later and cook dinner for you, just to show you there's no hard feelings. I want…"

He grabbed up the phone. "Nona, it's me," he declared. "I was just coming through the door when the phone rang."

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"I called earlier and you weren't home."

"I had a meeting with my lawyer, then I stopped at the grocery store. Listen, hon, instead of coming over here tonight, could you maybe make it tomorrow night? I'm really tired. All's I wanna do is lay around and watch television and sleep. Is that okay with you?"

"Sure. I guess you didn't get any rest in that old jail."

"I sure as shit didn't."

"Are you mad at me for throwing things at you?"

"I was, but I'm not mad now."

"So can I come over tomorrow to fix dinner for you?"

"How about if I take you out to that fancy restaurant in Marietta, instead? We can stay over at the hotel there."

"I'd like that, Bert."

"Then that's what we'll do. I'll pick you up around 5:30 tomorrow. Okay?"


"So I'll see you then."

"Bye, honey. See you tomorrow."


He hung up and headed for the kitchen to fix a sandwich, snorting with laughter as he walked. "Cook dinner for me? Jesus, what a treat that would be." He smeared mustard onto pumpernickel bread, slapped down a thick slice of liverwurst, and finally added some Swiss cheese. He took a huge bite and returned to the TV room, chewing as he walked.

He fell asleep not long after finishing the sandwich, and snored with window-rattling intensity for a good eight hours. When he awoke, he was surprised to find Nona sitting on the sofa to his right. He yawned and stretched and scratched his belly before he realized that she held a gun, and the gun was pointed in his direction.

Perhaps one of Bert Yancey's biggest flaws was his belief that women were weak, mindless creatures whose purpose on earth was to look good and to please him sexually. His first wife had once pulled a gun on him and had actually squeezed the trigger; but since she had forgotten to load the weapon, no damage was done. Remembering that incident, he laughed right out loud when he saw the 9 mm in Nona's hand.

"Is this some kind of stupid joke?" he demanded.

Nona smiled, but her eyes glittered with anger. "I'm not joking."

"I thought we made plans to get together tomorrow night. I don't think I slept that long."

"No, I'm here early. There are a couple things we need to talk about."

"So what're you gonna do with that big, bad gun you've got there, babydoll? Better check to make sure it's loaded before you take a pot-shot at me." He started to stand up.

Nona fired, doing significant damage to the lamp on the end table beside Bert's chair. "Yep. It's loaded alright."

Another of Bert's flaws (he had many) was stupidity. Still laughing, he took a step toward Nona with the intent of snatching the gun from her. She fired again, this time putting a bullet into the floor between his big feet. He had the good sense to freeze in place.

"Okay, now, Nona," he sputtered. "I get the point. Let's put that gun away and talk about what has you so pissed at me."

"Sit down," she replied, taking aim at his crotch. "I'll remove your balls one at a time if you don't sit down."

Bert sat. "What's this all about, baby?" He reached for an empty beer can on the end table thinking he could throw it at her to distract her. Nona fired again and sent the can sailing across the room. "Oh, shit," Bert whimpered.

"You lied to me about Maureen Stambaugh. You spent five weekends with her at the lodge over in the state forest. She was pregnant with your kid. With your sixth kid, I should say, because you have five others you never told me about. I do not appreciate being lied to, Bert. Nothing makes me quite so angry."

"I'm sorry," he replied, shrugging and smiling in hopes of influencing her with his bad-boy charm. "I like women. I can't help myself when a pretty girl flirts with me, and believe me, honey, Maureen Stambaugh wanted me in the worst way."

"You could have told her that you were engaged to be married. You could have told her that you weren't interested. And don't give me that bullshit about you couldn't help yourself. You aren't a little boy, Bert, you're a grown man. You're supposed to be in control of your emotions. I don't want to talk about this any more. You lied to me, you humiliated me, and now you're going to have to face the consequences."

"Is killing me the only way to prove your point?"

"I'm not going to kill you. I just want to punish you a bit. I want to teach you what it feels like to be embarrassed and made to feel like a fool. Now, here's what we're going to do, Bertie honey: We're going to get into your car and we're going to drive to the lake. Can you swim?"

"Yeah, I can swim," he grumbled, trying to figure out a way to grab the gun from her.

"Good. You'll be doing some swimming this evening. It's either sink or swim," she laughed. "You swim, I chase you with the gun. If you get shot, it'll be your own fault. Now, stand up there and take off all your clothes."


"Strip, Bert. Take off your clothes. You certainly can't go swimming in those slacks and that shirt. Strip. Right now."

Bert undressed. "Now what?" he sighed, trying to figure out where to put his hands since he was, for the moment, without pockets. He finally cupped them over his genitals.

"Your shoes, too, you moron," Nona snorted. "Shoes, socks, and that hideous gold watch you're wearing. You dress like a pimp, Bertie boy. Did anyone ever tell you that? Just sit down there and take off the fucking shoes and socks. Who do you know who goes swimming in their shoes and socks?"

"This is bullshit," he muttered. He tucked his socks into his shoes. He took off his watch and set it on the table. "Now what?"

"Now we go for a ride. Did you leave the keys in the car as per usual?"

"Yeah, I did."

"Okay, then. We go out through the side door into the garage, we get into the car…you're driving, by the way. Then we head for Municipal Park. It's kind of a warm evening for this time of year so don't worry about catching cold." She gestured with the gun to get Bert moving in the desired direction. They soon were on their way into town.

She instructed him to park his car in the lot at Municipal Park. Keeping the gun on him, she got out of the vehicle and then ushered him out. "Head toward the lake," she commanded.

"This is a damn stupid idea, Nona," he grumbled. "Someone is bound to see us. If you start shooting that gun, they will definitely hear it. You'll go to jail."

"It's nearly midnight," she laughed. "Everyone is home asleep, so I'm not worried that people will see me. And gunshots are a fairly common thing around here. There's always some idiot shooting at some deer or something."

He walked across the sand, moving slowly, trying to think of a way out of his predicament. He didn't believe that Nona posed any real threat. He was of the opinion that she loved him too much to do any harm to him. He reached the edge of the water and stopped. Turning to face her, he sighed, "Now what?"

"Into the water, Bertram. My advice to you is to swim toward the Cohasset River. Unless you're a stronger swimmer than I think you are, you'd never make it across the lake. You definitely would not make it to the spillway. Your best bet is to head for the Cohasset."

"I could just tackle you and take the gun away from you."

"Sure," she nodded. "What's that expression? If you feel froggy, baby, c'mon ahead and jump."

He lunged forward. Nona fired. The bullet sliced across his right bicep.

"Oh poo," she laughed. "I knew I should have worn my glasses. I was aiming for your dick."

He grabbed at his arm. "Honey, please don't do this," he whined. " Please? I'm sorry I lied to you. I'll never do it again. I swear to you I won't."

"Too late, Bertie. Into the lake now and start swimming."

"And just where will you be? The minute you turn your back, I'll come flying out of the water to take that damn gun away from you."

"I'll be here on shore, following along as you swim. And don't think for one minute that I'll turn my back on you. Now wade on out there and start swimming. I'll shoot you dead where you stand if you don't move. I mean it, you moron."

He waded out until the water was up to his shoulders, then he started swimming toward the river. Nona had no trouble keeping pace with him.

"I won't have to shoot you," she laughed. "You'll most likely drown."

"I'm freezing," he sputtered.

"Move in closer toward shore. The water will be warmer where it's shallower."

He veered toward the shore. "I'd almost rather take my chances on land," he panted. "I really can't swim that well, Nona. I wish to god you'd reconsider."

"Can you touch bottom there?"

He paused, testing the depth of the water. His feet easily touched the sandy bottom. "Yeah, I can."

"Then walk awhile. Walk, then swim, then walk some more."

"And what happens when I get to the river?"

"You walk and swim there, too. Til you're too tired to do either."

"I'll drown!" he yelped.


He waded through the cold water, trying to think of a means of escape. He came to the conclusion that he would rather be shot on land than drowned in the lake, and so he veered in toward the shore. The water was about thigh-deep when he noticed a large, oddly shaped figure silhouetted against the trees. Puzzlement and a bit of fear caused him to stop wading.

"What the hell is that?" he muttered.

"I told you to keep moving," Nona said. She fired at him, hitting him in the left shoulder.

Bert staggered backwards, clutching at the wound. "You stop that!" he yelped. "That hurts!"

"Get moving."

"I'm trying to figure out what that is up there by the trees."

Nona squinted into the gloom. "What the hell is that?" she gasped.

"See? That's why I stopped. Let me come up there to investigate."

"No. You stay where you are. I'll handle this myself."

Her way of handling it was to open fire on the unidentified hulking object. The sound of gunfire rolled out over the water, accompanied by a number of metallic pinging noises.

"You'll have the whole town out here!" Bert hollered.

She stumbled and nearly fell, tripping over some metal tubing that formed a kind of track. Jostling the track caused the oddly shaped mystery object to roll forward. With a loud splash, it hit the water.

"Stop or I'll shoot!" she roared.

This command caused Bert to double over with laughter. When he then heard Nona bellow, "Duck!" he did just that and belly-flopped under the surface of the lake.

The mystery object was, of course, the Looby Huckle duck, and as it splashed and bobbed forward it sailed right over top of Bert. It trapped him beneath the water. In a panic, he could not extricate himself. He drowned within seconds.

Nona was mistaken about her activities going unnoticed. The gunshots certainly were heard, and a police officer was dispatched to investigate. The officer arrived on the scene just as Nona returned to the beach at Municipal Park. A warm, dry blanket was offered to her, and she was escorted to the police station to answer a few questions. When it was determined that Nona had not been alone out by the lake and that Bert Yancey most likely was fish food by now, an emergency rescue squad was sent to the beach and Helen Burke was summoned to the police department.

"How much longer do I have to sit here?" Nona yawned. She took the cup of coffee Helen offered her. "I'm real tired."

"You can go as soon as you tell me what happened out there tonight, Miss Huckabee," Helen replied. "Bert Yancey is dead. I want to know how that happened."

"Okay," she nodded. She took a swallow of coffee. "Hey," she beamed. "This is pretty good. Did you make this?"

"The head dispatcher made it. Can you please tell me what happened?"

"Well, I went over to Bert's place around 10. He called me and invited me over. He had been drinking a bit. Actually," she laughed, "he was pretty drunk, if you want to know the truth."

"I do," Helen nodded. "Please continue."

"So, Bert decided he wanted to drive over to Pomerance to get some ice cream. I told him it was too late for that because the Dairy Moo stand closes at 10 on weekdays. Then he said he wanted to go swimming. I thought that was a pretty stupid idea, because that lake doesn't warm up until July. But Bert does what he wants to do, so we got in the car and drove to Muni Park so he could go swimming. He went in the water, I stayed on the beach. I walked along, sort of following him in case he got a cramp or something. Then that advertising gimmick, that duck my brother rented. Know what I mean?"

"Yes, I do."

"Well, it was standing there in the trees along the shore. Somehow or other, it just started rolling toward the water. I hollered "Look out for the duck," and Bert dove under the water and the duck rolled right over top of him. Then that cop showed up. That's what happened. Could I have some more of this coffee?"

Helen got her another cup of coffee. "There were a number of reports that gunshots were fired," she frowned. "What were you shooting at, Miss Huckabee?"


"Yes. What were you shooting at as you strolled along out there by the lake tonight?"

"I wasn't shooting at anything. I didn't hear any gunshots. Or are you talking about that old pickup truck that went past the park? It backfired a bunch of times."

"No, I'm talking about the gun that was fired. We had a number of calls from various citizens complaining about gunshots. Did you, in fact, have a gun in your possession tonight?"

"No, I did not. Aren't you supposed to let me call my lawyer before you ask me all these questions?"

"I'm just trying to find out what happened tonight. I have not charged you with anything. This is a very serious matter, though, given the fact that Bert Yancey died because of his midnight swim. If you would feel better having legal representation, go ahead and call your lawyer."

"I'm really, really tired," Nona whined. "Can't I just go home? I'll come back later and tell you what happened, hon. I promise. Right now, I need some sleep."

Helen sighed and rubbed her eyes. "You can go. I want you to come back this afternoon, though, Miss Huckabee. If you haven't returned by 4 pm, I'll send an officer to escort you here."

"I just don't see what all the fuss is about."

"Bert Yancey is dead. You were with him when he died. That's what the fuss is about. You go ahead home and get some sleep. When you wake up, call your lawyer. Then, come back here to this office so we can talk about how Bert died. Is that all clear to you?"

"Sure, hon," Nona smiled. She set her coffee cup down on Helen's desk. "Nobody liked poor ol' Bert. I'm surprised you're making such a big deal of him being dead and all. I'm surprised you aren't thanking me." She stood up, yawned and stretched, gave Helen a smile, and then headed for home.

Helen sat there a moment, thinking. Then she went in search of Galen. He was at the front desk, drinking coffee and talking to Darnell.

"Galen, any news yet from those forensics people out at the lake?"

"No, Chief," he replied. "They've only been at it for maybe 30 minutes."

"Do you think Nona killed him?" Darnell asked.

"I'm suspicious. Bert was a drunk and a bully, and he could be pretty damn dense, but I don't think he would be stupid enough to go in swimming at this time of year. Not willingly. Galen, let's keep an eye on Nona Bee."

"Yes, ma'am."

"In fact, keep an eye on all three of the Huckabees. I don't trust any of them."

"That's probably a good idea," he nodded.

"I'm heading over to Muni park. Care to join me?"

"Absolutely," he smiled. "Just let me get my jacket."

"Can I go, too?" Darnell inquired.

"Oh, hell…why not?" Helen laughed. "The more the merrier."

A steady rain began to fall that morning, a susurrant rain of the sort that makes sleeping in such a pleasure. Ordinarily, the residents of Hawk Run would have started their Friday workday just a bit later because of it. Word of Bert's death managed to spread far and wide, however, and the news was sufficient to get folks out of their cozy beds.

Helen laughed to find a large number of townsfolk gathered in Municipal Park when she arrived there with Galen and Darnell. Umbrellas blossomed like may apples in Harker Forest from the parking lot to the beach. People applauded when yellow crime-scene tape was rolled out to mark the area being searched.

"It has finally happened," Helen declared, shaking her head and grinning.

"What has?" Galen puzzled.

"After years living here, I can finally say that I am a true resident of Hawk Run."

"And why is that?"

"None of this hoopla surprises me. In fact, I would have been stunned to discover Muni Park deserted."

"Here's what I can't figure out: How does this type of news spread so fast?"

"The proverbial grapevine, I imagine."

"Yeah, but we only just found ol' Bert's body. They hauled him out of the lake around 4 am, didn't they?"

"It was 4:50 am, to be precise."

"And it's what time now?" He looked at his watch. "It's 6:15. How the heck did all of these people find out so quickly?"

Darnell touched his arm. "What does Gracie's brother do for a living, Galen?"

"He's a fireman."

Helen added, "And he's a member of the emergency rescue squad. He also is a certified diver. He and his partner hauled Bert out from under the duck. He told Gracie, and Gracie began making phone calls."

"Women and gossip," he nodded. "I should have known."

"It was a man who started things this morning, Galen."

"Well, you're right about that. And I apologize for stereotyping, Chief."

"Chief? I'm merely the interim chief, not the permanent chief."

"You soon will be."

Maggie, who was helping the county forensics team with their search of the area, came ambling over. "Didn't want to attract the attention of the crowd by hollering the news," she said to Helen. "We just discovered a big, shiny, 9mm semi-automatic pistol near that duck ramp."

"How do you suppose such a thing found its way here, Officer Conover?"

"Well, Chief, I…"

"I am not the official chief," Helen laughed.

"You soon will be," said the assembled multitudes of Hawk Runners. In unison.

Lawrence looked up from his breakfast as Patrice entered the dining room. "Who was on the phone at this hour of the morning?" he frowned.

She took a seat at the table and sipped her coffee. "It was Helen Burke."

"One of the dyke meter maids? What's she doing bothering us so early?"

"She wants to talk to you about one of the guns registered to L & P Development."

"And that necessitates disturbing people in their homes before 9 am? I hope you told her I have too many things to do today, Patrice. Call her back and schedule an appointment for Monday afternoon."

"First of all, Lawrence darling, I am not your secretary. If you want to talk to her, you call her. Second, she said that if you are not in her office by noon, she will send two police officers to escort you there. You'd better cooperate this time."

"Why should I?" he snorted, tossing down his napkin. "I'll just let Bert deal with her."

"Can't do that," Patrice sighed. "That's one reason she was so adamant about you putting in an appearance. Bert's dead."

He took a swallow of coffee before replying. "I guess Nona came through for us sooner than we anticipated."

"I guess Nona fucked things up!" she hollered, thumping a fist against the table. "If Helen Burke has questions about a gun of ours, we are in trouble. We don't need the cops looking in our direction right now, especially if we want to get those coins from the Grant place tonight."

"Is that tonight?"

"Yes, it is. It's the least of our worries at the moment, however. You had best haul your flabby ass over to the police station right now, Lawrence. On your way there, try to come up with a plausible lie for that dyke meter maid…as you call her. And keep in mind that she is the acting chief of police. With Bert dead, she'll most likely take over the job on a permanent basis."

"It's not like Nona to be so careless." He tapped his fingers against his coffee cup. "It might go better if you talk to Burke, Treece. If you want Nona going along with you tonight, you'll need her calm and in control of herself. If she whacked Bert, she will not be calm and controlled, and I'll have to get her settled down."

"Okay," she sighed. "You're right about that. You go handle Nona. I'll deal with the dyke."

Patrice smiled as she tried to get comfortable on a chair in Helen's office. "I am sorry that Lawrence couldn't be here this morning. As you may know, his sister was engaged to marry Bert Yancey. She is understandably distraught by his death, and Lawrence is with her, trying to help her deal with things."

"I see," Helen replied. "Well, then, I'll have to ask my questions of you, Mrs. Huckabee. A 9 mm handgun registered to L & P Development was found near Municipal Park, and in the area where Bert Yancey's body was recovered from the lake. What explanation can you offer for this discovery?"

"I know that there are two handguns registered to L & P. One of them is in the safe in my office at the Hennway Building."

"And where was the other weapon kept?"

"In Lawrence's desk. He kept it locked in a drawer."

"And I assume he has a key for that desk?"

"Yes, of course."

"Do you also have a key?"

"No." She smiled at her. "I have to confess to you, Sergeant, that one really does not need a key to open that desk of Lawrence's. It's an old roll top he bought at the flea market up in Cambridge. All one needs is a paper clip or something similar to fit into the lock to turn it."

"And so you're telling me that just about anyone might have taken that gun from that desk at any time? Is that what I am to assume?"

"I can't see any other explanation," Patrice shrugged and smiled.

"I can," Helen smiled back at her.

"What are you implying?"

"Nona Huckabee was with Bert Yancey when he went swimming very early this morning. She was there when he drowned. We received several phone calls at that time, all from residents reporting loud voices and gun shots coming from the area near Municipal Park. Miss Huckabee claims she knows nothing about any gunshots. And since you can't provide any valid reason for a gun registered to your company to be at the scene of Mr. Yancey's death, I guess I'll just have to discuss the matter further with your sister-in-law. When do you suppose she might feel up to a discussion of that nature, Mrs. Huckabee?"

"I really couldn't say, Sergeant Burke."

"Oh, just call me Chief, dear," Helen smiled. "Everyone else does."

Nona lived in a condo just two doors down from Bert's former residence. It was decorated in her own, unique style, filled with too much furniture and far too many paintings purchased at so-called Starving Artist sales. She was happy there, though, and keeping Nona happy was of importance to both Lawrence and Patrice. That was one reason Patrice did not go storming into the condo following her chat with Helen. She stopped first at the Lamplighter Lounge for a morning cocktail, and then proceeded to Bridey Gunn Road to have a chat with Nona Bee.

"I expected to find Lawrence here," Patrice said as Nona lead her to the kitchen.

"He just left no more than 10 minutes ago. Would you like some coffee?"

"No, thank you, sweetheart. I'm trying to cut down on my caffeine intake." She pulled out a chair and sat down at the wrought iron and glass-topped table. "Did Lawrence mention to you that we got a call from the police this morning?"

"Yeah, he did. How about a piece of banana cream pie, Treece? I made it myself."

"No, thank you, precious. Later tonight, though, I'll have some. After we finish the business at hand."

"You mean after we steal those coins from the Grant place?"

"Yes, that is what I mean. Are you feeling up to it, honey?"

"Sure. I guess so. Why do you ask?"

"I just thought maybe you might be having trouble dealing with Bert's passing."

"He made me so mad," Nona frowned. "I didn't like him at all after he said that nasty thing in my restaurant."

"Then we're all set to go ahead as planned?"

"I suppose so."

"Good. Before we discuss that, though, I wonder if you would mind telling me why you left the gun at the scene this morning."

"I guess I just kinda panicked," she laughed. "It was really so bizarre, what with that goddamn advertising gimmick and all. And I could see that fucking cop pull into the parking lot. All I could think about was being found there with that gun in my hand just like that time I had that accident with my father. So I guess I just dropped the gun. I was going to go back later to get it. Guess I won't have to do that now, huh?"

"No. The police found it. What we should do is to think up some kind of explanation as to why you had that gun with you. Any ideas?"

"Can't we just tell them it was stolen?"

"We could, but I doubt they'd believe that. We never reported a theft."

"Well, then, I'll just say that Bert was planning to commit suicide and he forced me to take the gun from my brother's desk. I managed to talk him out of killing himself and I got him to give me the gun. Then he decided to go for a swim to sober up. That's when the duck rolled on top of him. In my panic, I dropped the gun."

A slow smile crept across Patrice's face. "That could work."

"I think so. Treece, do we really have to steal those coins tonight?" she pouted. "I'm just so tired. Can't we do it next week instead?"

"Well…I guess so. Sure. Why not." She reached across the table to give Nona's hand a squeeze. "We'll plan it for some other night." She stood to leave.

"Should I go talk to the cops tomorrow?"

"I think you should, honey, if you're feeling up to it."

"It's usually a good idea to show them you want to cooperate."

"Yes, it is."

"Tell me something before you go, Treece. How did Maureen Stambaugh find out about Norman?"

"She heard it from the secretary over at the police station."

"That Adkins woman?"


"How did she find out about it?"

"My understanding is that it was the newest member of the Hawk Run police force who blabbed. I believe the girl's name is Conover."

"She's that tall one with the black hair."

"Yes," Patrice nodded. "According to what Bert told me, the Conover girl used to live in Portsmouth. She remembered reading in the newspaper about the problem you had with your father, and she told Darnell Adkins."

"Big mouth bitch," Nona scowled. "Isn't she the one who gave my brother the speeding ticket?"

"Yes, and she also is indirectly responsible for that fiberglass duck being over by the park, too."

Nona sat up very straight in her chair. "That's right," she nodded vigorously. "She's the one who took it away from the Zippy Mart."

"I guess you could say that she's responsible for Bert's death because of that."

"Too bad I dropped that darned gun last night," she sighed.

Patrice patted her on the head. "Don't you fuss over spilled milk, sweetie. We have plenty of guns."

Nona smiled up at her. "Could I borrow one? Somebody needs to teach the Conover girl what happens to people who gossip."

"Of course you can borrow a gun. Did Lawrence ever give you a key to the gun cabinet in our den?"

"No, he was going to, then he forgot."

Patrice took a key ring from her purse. She dropped it into Nona's outstretched hand. "Help yourself to whichever weapon suits you, dear. Just don't lose it this time."

NONA SMILED pleasantly at Helen as she finished relating the story about Bert's flirtation with suicide on the night he drowned.

"Why didn't you tell me this before?" Helen asked.

"I was all confused and upset, and I was worried it'd get Bert in even more trouble. He was the one shooting at things out there, not me."

"If he was doing the shooting, Miss Huckabee, can you explain how he came to have two gunshot wounds?"

"Two of them?" Nona frowned.

"Yes. There was one to his left shoulder. The other was a superficial wound to his right bicep. It would have been impossible for him to cause either wound himself."

"When I tripped over that duck thing, the gun went off. Maybe that's how he got shot in his shoulder. I don't know about that other one. Are we almost done? I have things I need to do."

"You can go," Helen sighed. "Thank you for coming in. We may need to talk to you again, so please don't leave Hawk Run for any length of time."

"Why do you need to talk to me again? I told you what happened."

"We haven't completed the investigation yet. There may be further questions because of that."

"I just don't see what all the fuss is over. Bert drowned. You should be asking your questions of the people who are responsible for him drowning."

"And who would those people be, Miss Huckabee?"

"Well, that new cop, for one. She's the one who took that damned duck from my brother's store. If she hadn't done that, Bert would still be alive. Ask her a few questions, honey, instead of bothering me all the time."

"If we question Officer Conover, we will also have to question your brother."

"What for?" she scowled.

"He rented the duck in the first place. That makes him just as responsible for the accident as Officer Conover."

Nona glared at her for a moment, then flounced out of the office. Within the space of a sigh, Darnell was standing at Helen's desk.

"She's nuts," Darnell observed. "You do know that, don't you?"

"I'm beginning to have my suspicions, yes," Helen chuckled. "I take it you overheard the conversation."

"Oh, don't be so polite, Helen. I was eavesdropping again. I'd keep an eye on that goofball if I were you."

"Galen is doing just that."

"And you should probably warn Maggie."

"You think?" Helen frowned.

"Yeah, I do. Given the way Nona's mind seems to be malfunctioning, she's blaming Maggie for Bert's death. She just might decide to take a shot at her."

"I'll have a talk with Officer Conover when she starts her watch this afternoon."

"Well, all right, then."

"You should have been a police detective, Darnell," she smiled.

"I don't care for the uniform."

Continued in Part 10.

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