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Locked Tight
About the Author: Peter DiChellis concocts sinister and sometimes humorous tales for anthologies, ezines, and magazines. He is a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society and an Active (published author) member of the Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. For more, visit his site Murder and Fries at http://murderandfries.wordpress.com/


“Dawson Roarke, you are under arrest for the murder of Grady Tyrell Johnstone. You have the right to remain silent. And, uh, wait, there’s more but …”

“Grady is dead?” Roarke screamed. “Dead? No! He was my friend! I sure didn’t kill him! No!”

Roarke, a recent parolee from Statesville prison, had just finished the lunch shift at his dreary dishwashing job and was headed home to take an afternoon nap before his dinner shift started. Jasper County Sheriff Melvin P. Weemly stumbled through the rest of the Miranda warning while Deputy Bobby Boone Kyle, formerly a bone-busting All-State defensive tackle, kept a mean grip on Roarke’s wrists. Roarke, a career cat burglar who’d served prison time in two states, no doubt could have recited the Miranda warning better than the sheriff did.

Satisfied that Roarke understood his Constitutional rights, however clumsily presented, Weemly nodded to a smirking Deputy Kyle, who marched his prisoner the few steps to the Sheriff’s Department SUV, slammed him face first against the vehicle’s hood, and handcuffed him. Kyle tightened the cuffs and twisted Roarke’s arms until Roarke’s hands went numb.

“Nah, you wouldn’t hurt poor ole Grady,” the grinning deputy said as he shoved Roarke toward the back of the SUV. “Who ever heard of a dirtbag convict falling out with a prison buddy?”

“We were friends. I didn’t kill him. I didn’t even know he was dead.”

Jasper County Jail was old school. Cramped cells, iron bars, clogged toilets, and concrete beds. Fusty from stale sweat. Buzzing with always-on fluorescent lights and ever-present mosquitoes.

“If you think of anything we might do to make you more comfortable, anything at all, you know where you can shove it,” Deputy Kyle told the incarcerated Roarke. Kyle slid a plastic plate with two pieces of wrinkled lunchmeat and four slices of spongy white bread into the cell. Supper for one. Roarke was the jail’s sole prisoner that night.

“And if you got any complaints, you can shove those too.” Kyle moseyed down the short hallway to the Sheriff’s Department administrative office that fronted the jail. “Be glad when Munsen gets back from his damn vacation,” he hollered to Sheriff Weemly. “His job to babysit these fools. I just bring ’em in.”

The sheriff checked the handwritten notes he’d scribbled on his desk calendar. His memory wasn’t much anymore. Neither was his health, though he was still blessed with a sharp and logical mind most days. “Should be back tomorrow,” Weemly said of Deputy Connor Munsen, whose primary duty was managing the jail.

“You think he really spends his whole two weeks vacation visiting county fairs to ride roller coasters every year?” Kyle continued. “A grown man?”

Weemly’s desk phone rang, and in one of the countless trivial compulsions of his advancing years, he grabbed it before it could ring twice. “Sheriff. Yeah. Seriously? On my way.”

“What you got?” Kyle asked.

“Another dead ex-convict. And it sounds like he served time with Dawson Roarke down in Statesville, just like Grady Tyrell Johnstone did.”

Weemly dry swallowed two pills from his daily prescription regimen as he drove the Sheriff’s Department SUV to the crime scene at the edge of a small cypress swamp off County Road 141. It wasn’t a long drive, under twenty-minutes. But Weemly also spent a few minutes trying to remember where he’d parked the SUV.

By the time Sheriff Weemly arrived, the part-time patrol deputy who’d phoned him at the admin office had used standard yellow crime scene tape to cordon off the area around a thick, heavy shrub. The shrub straddled most of the soggy ground between the road and a stand of scrawny trees, requiring the patrol deputy to knot the crime scene tape to his car door handles, wrap it around the trunks of three widely spaced trees, and then loop the tape back to the door handles again. An on-call forensics supervisor and a crime scene crew had gathered in the cordoned area behind the shrub, where portable floodlights lit up the night. The patrol deputy gave the sheriff a quick briefing.

“Lady driving in from upstate stopped to let her boy jump back of the shrub and pop a leak,” he told Weemly. “Nine years old. He found the body. She called 911.”

“The boy okay?”

“Yessir, more than okay. Said finding the body was better than in the movies because it smelled bad too.”

“Nine years old?”

“Country boy.”

“Should I deduce he peed on my crime scene?”



This story appears in our JUL 2018 Issue
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Reader Discussion

1
Jul
Good story with interesting characters. I loved Miz Lucille.
By Earl Staggs

1
Jul
Great story. Fun characters and a well done puzzle.
By Robert Petyo

1
Jul
Thank you, Earl and Robert. I appreciate your kind words.
By Peter DiChellis

1
Jul
I've been a subscriber for several years but just found these comment pages. I like the old fashioned traditional mysteries so this one I really enjoyed. Good job!
By Len Coombs

1
Jul
Thank you, Len. I appreciate your kind comment.
By Peter DiChellis

1
Jul
That's a good one. All the suspects, all the clues, all the red-herrings, all the distractions. You made it hard to figure out. Lots of personality in your characters as well.
By Susan Rickard

1
Jul
Thank you, Susan. Appreciated!
By Peter DiChellis

2
Jul
Good Story Peter. Miz Lucille was a nice touch but the yapping poodle was better
By Richard Bishop

2
Jul
Thank you, Richard. I appreciate it!
By Peter DiChellis

2
Jul
I love a good mystery, and this is one! Thanks for the fabulous read! Miz Lucille is wonderful added character. You had me wondering! Thumbs up!
By Nina Ritter

2
Jul
Nice work. Congratulations!
By George Garnet

3
Jul
Thank you, Nina and George. I appreciate your comments.
By Peter DiChellis


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