How many murders would it take to bring her into the game? Blood Land
May 18, 2013
A VG Serial: Blood Land
“Who is it?” Beulah Jorgensen asked through the closed office door.
“James Pruett,” the sheriff said, opening the door slowly.
She was already waving him off. “We’ve got nothing to talk about, Sheriff.”
“Oh, we do, Ma’am. You just don’t understand it yet.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Pruett sat down and drilled his gaze into her dead eyes. He wanted to hate her for being a part of what killed his girl, but in her face the sheriff saw a sad, lost woman who had sold her integrity for a splash of refreshment.
As sharp as Beulah was in a court of law, this lumbering old maid would never have guessed the terrible machinations her greed could set into motion.
Pruett leaned in. “I know about the payoffs.”
Jorgensen choked on her own saliva. “Wh-what? I don’t have a notion what you are talking about, Pruett.”
“Sheriff Pruett. This is official business, Beulah. This is the moment of reckoning. You either talk to me or we take this straight down to Judge Butler, and then you get thrown in the poke.”
The Town Attorney said nothing. Silence was her acquiescence.
“Shelly Delgado is in the morgue. Have you taken the time to try and figure the angle on that one?”
“Shelly’s murder will be investigated in due time. This office is a little rattled right now, Sheriff.”
“She’s dead because she helped me dig into your relationship with Rory McIntyre.”
“I truly have no idea…”
“Shut up,” Pruett snapped. “You listen to what I am saying. I’d like to give you credit for being a smart cookie, Beulah, but I fear you’re just another pretender. Built yourself up on the backs of the good folk; clawed and scraped those who did wrong by you all those years ago. But it doesn’t make you successful—it only makes you a taker.”
“I don’t have to listen to this bullshit.”
“Yes, Beulah, you do. You got my wife killed, you got your own attorney murdered, and you’ve spent the past month trying to put a noose around Ty McIntyre’s neck when you knew all along what set his actions into motion.”
“Just what do you think you know, Sheriff Pruett?”
“I know you took the money. I know that you and Rory McIntyre have been fucking each other for years. That a good enough jumping off place for you?”
Beulah Jorgensen looked like she just swallowed a small rodent.
“What I can’t figure just yet,” Pruett said, “is whether or not you tipped off Rory about Shelly Delgado. You must have, because I can’t see anyone else knowing what’s what in that regard.”
“I was never party to any killing,” Beulah said, her bravado all but permanently deflated. “I was never party to any of that.”
“The ballistics came back. Same gun that was used in the attempt on Ty’s life killed Shelly Delgado.”
“Who did you think did it, Beulah? How many murders does it take to bring you into the game?”
“Rory’s not capable…he’s a good man. Hard. But a good man.”
“How that old cowpoke is in the sack’s got nothin’ to do with who he is. He’s a scorpion, Ma’am, and you set him loose on all of us.”
ON THE second morning of the trial, while Ty was away from the jail and Pruett’s deputies stood present in court, the sheriff wandered back into the empty cell. There wasn’t much to see. A pile of damaged dime store paperbacks. The pro rodeo magazines Wendy had bought her uncle. A shaving kit with a few other sundries. On a whim, Pruett pulled the cot away from the wall. There was a small pile of cement dust and debris on the floor, against the wall. He looked up and saw that Ty had been carving something in the wall. The sheriff leaned in.
Numbers. He was carving numbers into the aged, softening concrete:
Pruett had no idea what the numbers meant. He was more concerned about what Ty had used to make them. Inside the pillow, pushed through a hole in the fabric and hidden amongst the faux goose down, Pruett found a metal fork with the three tines mashed together into a point and then bent slightly. Ty had made himself a nice little carving tool from a piece of flatware left by an unobservant deputy.
The sheriff made a mental note to give the prisoners only plastic utensils from there on in. He then went back to the empty office and sat down slowly in his chair. Every joint hurt. His back felt like a Slinky that stretched out until someone had tried (unsuccessfully) to push the coils back together, leaving an uneven, unbalanced mess behind. Only when the Slinky was pushed back together it was suddenly made of barbed wire, the points jamming into his spine.
Getting old had not proved to be everything he’d hoped. Actually he never hoped for much. And losing the love of his life had been far harder on him than a bad back, too much girth, drying skin, or any number of other ailments.
He reached into the back of the filing drawer, back past the metal bar where the folders hung, into that secret space. The bottle was there waiting for him. God he used to love a drink while he thought through the facts of the case. Better than buttered popcorn and movies. The warm bite; the way at first it made his mind feel sharper, more tuned into the case.
Pruett slammed the door.
Sharper, yes, until he woke up sleeping on the desk, further behind than when he started because of the splitting headache.
He wrote the numbers down on a pad with a bit of space between them.
7 0 0 2 4 9 9
It sure looked a hell of a lot like a phone number. Wyoming only had one area code—307—and 700 was the prefix to Jackson Hole. Pruett picked up the handset on the phone and punched in the full ten-digit number.
There was only one ring before a female voice answered:
“Bureau of Land Management.”
Chapters of the serial are published Monday through Saturday.
You can learn more about R. S. Guthrie’s novels on his Amazon Author’s Page.