Groundswell: chapter nine

“You know, this stuff is harder than I make it look.”

“Detective stuff?”

Candy was sitting with her legs pulled up beneath her ass on an old, cracked and sunken leather recliner.

She’d changed into the shorts and tank top she was currently sporting as soon as they’d arrived at her and Blake’s house. Logan hadn’t thought that odd in itself, changing clothes after work–but she’d done it with the bedroom door ajar so that he was ensured a clear view of her in the dresser mirror from where he was sitting in the den. He’d watched her, listened to her exhale in relief as she unclasped and discarded her bra onto the bed.

Yeah, I looked. So what?

Even though she was smoking, and indoors–two things Logan hated–she still smelled good. It wasn’t any overt or readily identifiable scent like a perfume or shampoo, but something more abstract and intangible and impossible to bottle, like the smell of someone chewing bubble gum on a rainy spring day.

“Yeah. Detective stuff.”

“Well, I’m pretty good at deductive reasoning. Maybe I’m smarter than you give me credit for.”

“Oh, no,” said Logan, “that’s not even an issue. I can tell you’re a smart kid.”

She laughed. “Smart kid, huh? What are you, eight years older than me? I’m twenty-nine. I’ve been an adult for some time now. I think you called me that to put up a barrier. I think you find me attractive and don’t want to let it show. That’s why you’re acting so stiff and awkward.”

“Damn. That’s some impressive detecting. I won’t even bother to deny it, because it’s true and I give credit where it’s due. But really, let’s keep this professional, shall we?”

She scowled. “Oh, so you just assumed I wanted to fuck you or something, because you think I’m some kind of slut who fucks anything with a dick? Like I’m just some kind of sex-crazed nympho or something.”

“Oh, I’m–no, that’s not at all what–”

She burst out laughing, and after a moment of adjustment, he allowed himself to join in.

“I’m just fucking with you, man,” she said, and though he laughed, Logan felt extraordinarily uneasy.

On the table to the side of the couch he was sitting on was a framed picture of Candy and, presumably, Blake. He was a big guy, alright. In the photo, they were both wearing some kind of ridiculous medieval getups.

“Medieval Fair in Norman,” she said, noticing him glancing at the photo.

“Ah.” He wasn’t really interested.

“So what do you have so far, Mr. Detective?”

He sighed. “See, that’s a hard question. Out of context, I really like Blake for this thing, but in light of recent… events…” he shrugged.

“Now you’re not so sure.”

“I’m not sure at all, thats the problem. I have nothing, to answer your question. Nothing at all. All this is tied together somehow, and it has to do with that fenced off part of the woods.”

She leaned forward. “Well, then. It seems like you do have something.”

“What do I have? A vague tip from an old man with a fuzzy memory? A growing list of people who died under extremely violent circumstances? Including my shooting of one who was coming at me like a rabid dog?

“Kid got killed out there, the one they’ve been looking for.”

“Yeah, I heard, motel owner told me.”

“Who, Chuck?”

“No, some older Indian lady.”

“Well Chuck’s the owner.”

“Fine, whoever it was running the desk. She told me.”

“You think that’s connected to the other deaths?

Yeah, but not in quite the way you think.

“I really do. But I don’t know how. Lot of rage involved, and I’ve noticed most people in town are jumpy and at times downright hostile. I chalked it up to tension from current events when I got here but… I dunno.”

“Yeah, that’s just how people are here. It’s always been that way. For my whole life, at least.”

She watched him. He was staring across the room at the peeling wallpaper on the wall opposite the couch.

What?”

“I’m just thinking,” he said. He looked at her. “Where do you get your water?”

“From the faucet.”

“Cute. I mean does it come from a well or a municipal water supply?”

“Oh. Municipal. Here, anyway. This side of town gets water from Lake Bradford. Other side is on well water.”

“How close is this lake to the woods where the kid got shot?”

“Shot? Where’d you hear he got shot? All I heard was they found him dead. Did Maggie tell you he got shot?”

“Who’s Maggie?”

“The motel lady. The Indian one. That’s what she calls herself, but I’m pretty sure that’s not her real name. Real one’s probably too hard for dumb rednecks to pronounce so she just gave up and started calling herself Maggie.”

“No. I mean, I don’t know. I guess not. I don’t know where I got that from. Mind probably just filling in the blanks. Forget about it. Answer the question.”

“Geez, don’t be so sensitive. No, it’s not anywhere near there. It’s all the way on the north side of town, or right outside of it. Next to the golf course.”

“There’s a golf course here?”

“Yeah, I know, right? Hard to believe. It’s next to the housing edition where all the rich people live. Lake is man-made. They built all that out there sometime in the eighties, I guess.”

“Which of the people killed lived in the parts of town with well water?”

She shrugged. “Now that you mention it, they were all from the south side. I hadn’t really thought about it. Yeah. The Cottons live out there. The Stanfords. That old man, Charlie Bishop, I think. Chance, for sure.”

“Did you spend much time at his place? Drink any of the water?”

She laughed. “Where are you going with this? Are you suggesting something in the water is making people crazy?”

“I’m not suggesting anything,” he snapped. “I’m trying to find answers.”

“Alright,” she said. “Yeah, I suppose I’ve drank the water over there. I’ve taken a shower in it. But Chance never acted crazy, I never felt crazy, either.”

“I think a big part of being crazy is not knowing that you’re crazy.”

“Well, I haven’t killed anybody. And neither has Blake. He hasn’t drank any well water, either. And if he got mad enough to kill Chance he wouldn’t have gutted and skinned him like a deer. He wouldn’t even have the skill. I already told you he doesn’t hunt.”

“That’s a really good point. The killer is likely a hunter. That would explain why the Millers told me that it looked like he’d been cut up by someone who knew what he was doing. Wish I could get my hands on their case files for all these incidents. Crime scene photographs, lists of suspects, stuff like that..”

“You can’t?” She seemed surprised by this.

“Sometimes law enforcement welcomes help and lets a reputable P.I. peruse all that stuff for the sake of getting a fresh take, when their egos aren’t in the way, but Kimball doesn’t like me. And they don’t have to show me anything, so they’re not going to. I don’t know why, but he’s been real jittery about my being here ever since I first came to town. It makes me wonder what he knows that he doesn’t want getting out.”

“Ah,” she said. “Yeah, he’s a grade-A douche. Wouldn’t be surprised if he had a whole walk-in closet full of skeletons. Everybody hates that dude.”

“I can see why.”

“Yeah, we have the most corrupt police force in the state, I think. Worse than Lawton.”

He shrugged. “I gather that’s really bad?”

“Where are you from, anyway?”

“Is it important?”

“Whoa, settle down, Mr. Defensive. I was just making conversation.”

“Illinois.”

“Chicago?”

“No, quit asking. I don’t like to talk about it.”

She studied him for a moment, and dropped it. “Hey. I think I can solve your file problem.”

“How?”

“Connections. I know a guy at the station.”

“One of your regulars, no doubt?”

She flipped him off. “I’m going to ignore that and get that file for you, just to prove to you that I can. And then I’m going to rub your nose in it.”

“Hey, don’t threaten me with a good time.”

She paused, laughed and lit up another cigarette.

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