Thursday, August 9, 2007

IOSM - Chapter 6, Scene 2 (WIP)

We pulled up to Cowher's Nursery, and Detective Murphy opened the back door to let me out. Red Cowher ambled over, pulling a checkered handkerchief out of his well worn bib overalls. They held Red's seventy-six-year old belly in check. His ruddy cheeks squeezed his clear blue eyes. The long white hair hung loose. A near-sighted caterpillar could fall in love with his overgrown eyebrows. I didn't know Red's real name, but Kris Kringle came to mind when you first looked at him.

I found out at Tuesday's meeting that he had the largest tract of land at 478 acres with whom Largo had a contract, and that Cowher's Nursery wasn't much of a nursery. Red had raped his land for whatever he would get from it. A stable of Hispanics worked for him and did landscaping jobs on the cheap with Red usually driving the backhoe. They planted shrubs and trees from the nursery part of his business and cleared trees from other properties. A few cows and sheep roamed in a distant field to keep the agriculture status legit along with some sad looking acres of winter wheat gone to seed and feeding field mice. Like most places in central North Carolina, the land was poor. He didn't help it the way he managed it. He'd sold most the lumber off his land to small operators. The remainder he had chopped up and sold for firewood at inflated prices to unsuspecting people with more money than common sense. The resulting landscape looked, well, like a war zone. Three mulch piles, each as big as a fast food enterprise, occupied one side of the rutted driveway.

"What the hell you want with Miguel?"

Red also had a nasty mouth, limited to one foul word used interchangeably as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, and sometimes a conjunction.

"Like I said on the phone, we need to speak to him." The detective walked toward a cluster of buildings as though on instinct. Two deputies urged me to follow.

"He's busy. Now get the hell off my property."

Red also had a nasty attitude.

"This is official business and at the present moment, it doesn't concern you."

"This is a hellacious thing. He gets paid to work not to yap with." Red sauntered closer to Detective Murphy and lowered his voice. "And I don't cotton with no boy getting in the face of my employees."

"Deputy Roosevelt. If Mr. Cowher gives you a problem, shoot him in the foot. The one he's got in his mouth."

"Yes, sir." Roosevelt smiled and tipped his hat in Red's direction.

Red was also a bigot. Something I didn't learn the other night.

The detective called for Miguel, and he obliged us with his presence in short order.

"Is this the man who delivered your mulch?"

"That's him."

Miguel's unbuttoned shirt revealed a powerfully built man. His arms looked like pistons. He sneered "Loco asshole. I dumped your stinking mulch right where you wanted it."

He took a step toward me, but Murphy pulled him back by the bicep. "That's not the problem, Miguel."

Miguel glared at Murphy. "What you want?"

"There was a dead body in the load."

"Jumping Hell Fire," Red said.

Miguel's eyes got wide. "Not in my load."

"What pile did you get the load from?"

Miguel showed them the pile. Murphy took more pictures of all the piles. The detectives moved some of the mulch to the side then had Red dig into it a bit while Miguel retrieved the bill of ladings. They looked for blood, clothes, a murder weapon, or another body. I stood to the side. Red asked several times who had died, but Murphy wouldn't tell him. Red eyed me a few times, and finally I saw his face light up in recognition.

"Hell! You're that damn Yankee from the meeting the other night, the one what married a Yates girl."

"Yes." I knew what he meant based on an old joke I' been told many times about the difference between a Yankee and a damn Yankee. A Yankee is someone who comes south and then goes back home. A damn Yankee is one who stays.

He spit on the ground. "Still plundering the south?"

Without a thought and forgetting my place, I mumbled, "Sore loser."

"The hell you say." He turned the bobcat in my direction.

Over a hundred and forty years later, Red was still mad about the war. I ran for protection behind the deputy.

"Welcome to my world," he said.

--- end of chapter 6 ---

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