The Axton Herald was located in a cramped and cluttered little office building downtown. It was occupied by only a handful of employees including one editor-in-Chief who went by the name of Buck.
Buck regretfully informed Logan that they didn’t have duplicate archives of the ones kept in the library and that the missing cards in question were the only ones of their kind.
“How long have you been with the paper?”
“Oh,” said Buck, “‘Maybe ’bout… ’75 or roundabouts?”
Logan had suspected that the man had been there a long time. Buck was old, and in small towns like these, people tended to pick something to do and stick with it until they either retired or died.
“So you were there that month. Any chance you remember what happened?”
Buck laughed, but there was a note of unease in it–he was very uncomfortable with this line of questioning, which led Logan to suspect that he knew something he wasn’t telling and wasn’t going to tell.
“Son, that was over forty years ago. I can’t remember what I had for dinner the day before last. Oh, wait–I had a chef salad at Rosie’s. Trying to follow doc’s orders and trim up a little bit.” He patted himself on the belly. “‘Course,” he continued, “its got all that ham and turkey and cheese and ranch dressing on it. Not to mention them croutons. But it makes me feel like I’m eating healthy.”
Logan laughed. “Been there,” he said. Don’t let him change the subject.
“What happened in Groundswell that finally got everybody to leave?”
Buck’s Dave went dark and his friendly demeanor vanished, replaced by a cold standoffishness. “Look,” he said in a lowered voice, “this isn’t the kind of thing you want to go pokin’ around in. Believe me. You best just stick to what you come here for.”
Logan found it odd in the extreme that a newspaper editor would speak the way Buck did. He’d never known one who wasn’t a pretentious, self-important grammar Nazi. Then again, he’d never known one named Buck, either.
“It may be tied into what I’ve come here for,” said Logan. “I’m just gathering as much information as I can.”
Buck’s lower lip was trembling now. “Stop it,” he hissed. “Just stop it, right now. Get out of here. Go home. Give the Millers their money back and get the hell outta Dodge, y’hear me? Please.”
Buck didn’t seem so much angry as he did afraid. What was he afraid of, though? Was he concerned for my safety, or his own?
Maybe both. This guy’s as eager to get rid of me as Kimball is. Who the hell runs people out of a town anymore?
They were hiding something big, both this Buck fella, Kimball and probably a hell of a lot of other people. He got the feeling that it was one of those things that just wasn’t talked about. Ever.
He called Candy when he left and asked if she knew of any older folks in town who’d been there during the time in question. She knew of a few, one of whom was a child molester with severe dementia. She seemed nervous when talking about him.
His first instinct was to bypass that one entirely, but…
Maybe he’ll blurt something out the others won’t tell me.
Yeah. Yeah, that was who he needed to talk to first. Right after he made a call to his old friend.
Shonda was an… indiscretion, at first, early on in his now-defunct marriage–back when he was on the force and things weren’t very copacetic at home for either of them.
They fooled around here and there over the years, but that all changed when she moved to Virginia to attend the FBI academy.
She answered on the second ring. “Logan?”
He smiled. He’d forgotten how much he liked the way she said his name. “Hey.”
“Wow. Been awhile, huh? How ya been? You know, I was just thinking about you the other day. I miss our time together.”
“I heard you got divorced.”
A laugh came from the other end. “Listen to us. How awkward is this? This is stupid, come on. What do you need, man?”
“Need? What if I just need to talk?”
“Yeah, but about what?”
He couldn’t fool her. He never could. She was a better detective than he was.
“Company called Prismaro,” he said. “Groundswell, Oklahoma.”
“What about it?”
“You know it?”
“Of course I do. Wait… you’re not there, are you?”
“I’m in Axton.”
“Okay. Um… how much do you know about it? What are you doing there?”
“I don’t know anything about it and I’m investigating a murder. Hired by the family because the local PD are a bunch of bunglers.”
There was a pause, and then a long sigh. “Something really bad happened there. A long time ago.”
“I know. That’s what I want to know about.”
Another sigh. “It isn’t really something I should be discussing with you. My advice? Back off. Now. I know you don’t like to hear ‘no’ but just this once, for your own sake, walk away.”
“You know I can’t.”
“Damn it. Alright. Shit. I’ll tell you what I can. Only because knowledge is power and I don’t want you walking into a gunfight unarmed.”
“Funny you should mention that. I lost the only gun I brought with me.”
“Get another one. Like, yesterday. And buckle up, because I’m about to blow your mind.”