Sheriff Willard “Bo” Diddley, sheriff of Barksdale County, Mississippi, stood leaning over his desk, glaring at the young female deputy who sat on the other side. The veins were pulsing on the side of his neck, and his face was flushed to a bright red. All in all, he looked like a man about to have a massive stroke. Finally, he regained control of his voice and shouted,
“Dadgummit Stella, you can cause more confusion and paperwork than a nine car pileup! One minute you break up an armed robbery, kill all the perps and save a family hiding in the restroom, and the next, you beat the crap out of somebody and kidnap his damn wife. You’re probably gonna get a commendation for the business at the Shell station, but lose your badge over the other!”
“Calm down Bo, before you blow a gasket. Yes, I had a minor altercation with Johnny Higgins while I was off duty, but I darn sure didn’t kidnap Mary Lou. I took her to Jackson with me to protect her from Johnny’s rotten temper. I got her in a women’s shelter where she’s safe.”
“Minor altercation my butt. You bruised his kidney and broke four ribs. He just got out of the hospital, and came straight over here and filed a formal complaint against you. As for Mary Lou, she’s calling him darn near hourly, begging for him to come get her and take her back. She’s saying you talked her into leaving in the first place.”
Stella shook her head and muttered,
“Well that proves the old saying, ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’”
Diddley took a deep breath and continued,
“You just returned to duty after a five day suspension while they reviewed the shooting incident. Then the shrink in Tupelo had to check you out, and now I’ll probably have to suspend you again while we investigate Higgins’s complaint.”
“C’mon, Bo, you know damn well that Johnny Higgins is a dope smoking, whore mongering drunk, and I gave him what he richly deserved. Besides, Claude will tell you that Johnny started the whole business.”
“Stella, I don’t want hear this. Get your butt outta here while you still have your badge, and go serve and protect. I’m gonna handle the investigation into the Higgins’s matter myself, so Claude Wilson can lie to me first-hand about who started what. By the way, they brought your new car back. Try not to total it until the tag gets in.”
Stella beat a hasty retreat, and all but ran out the back door of the courthouse into the bright sunlit parking lot. Sure enough, her gleaming new Ford Interceptor SUV was in her parking place, looking like it had never been wrecked. She went back to the office, put the keys to the old cruiser she had been using on the board, and took the Interceptor’s keys with her.
She drove out of the parking lot and turned on Old Hwy 45, which served as the little town’s main street. Stella’s patrol area was near her home in the northern part of the county, and she switched on the police radio and headed north. It was still mid-morning, and she wanted to make a full circuit of her beat, just to get back in the groove after her suspension.
She let her mind wander in wonder at the gullibility of women like Mary Lou Higgins. They’d allow some sorry assed man to abuse them repeatedly, then figure out a way it’s their fault. They almost deserved what they got. She was so engrossed with Mary Lou’s stupidity, that she didn’t hear the first call on the radio.
She keyed the mike on her shoulder and said,
“This is Stella, Betty, go ahead.”
“Stella, welcome back. We have a report of a massive explosion on Clayton Mills Road, near the junction with SR34. Can you check it out?”
“10-4. I’m headed that way. I’ll report when I get there.”
She thought about the reported location, and realized it was within a mile of her home. She thought,
Damn, it must be either a propane tank or a fertilizer bin. There’s nothing else out there but Johnny Higgins old beat up doublewide. She flipped on the lights and the siren, and goosed her speed up to 80mph. She slowed when she turned off of US45 on to SR34, and noticed a column of dirty black smoke in the distance. When she turned on to Clayton Mills Road, she could see that the smoke was coming from what little was left of Johnny Higgins’s trailer.
There were a couple of pickups parked along the road, and the drivers were leaning against their trucks rubber necking. The wreckage of the double wide shouldered and smoked. There was metal and siding scattered all over the place, and there was a blackened commode sitting in the drive way. She parked her SUV, walked up to one of the bystanders, and said,
“Hello Fred. Did you call this in?”
“Yeah. I actually saw it happen.”
“Yeah. I’d just turned off 34, when I saw a ball of fire, and I watched it just come apart.”
Stella thought for a minute then replied,
“Must have been a gas leak. I see the propane tank out in the field over there.”
“Stella, this wasn’t no propane leak. That tank ain’t even busted open, and haven’t you noticed the smell in the smoke?”
Stella took a deep breath and said,
“Hell Fred, you’re right. Johnny must have been cooking up a batch of meth. I better call this in and then start looking for him.”
She went back to her car, keyed the mike and said.
“Betty this is Stella. Better tell Bo to get his butt out here. We got a blown up meth lab.”
She heard the sirens of the approaching volunteer fire department turning off US45, and started to look for whatever might be left of Johnny Higgins. She found his burned and torn body lying in a ditch behind the trailer site. She went to her car and pulled a blanket from the back, and threw it over the corpse.
The volunteer fire fighters were spraying down the wreckage, when Bo Diddley’s cruiser pulled to a stop. The sheriff climbed out and walked over to Stella and asked,
“Stella, just how in the hell did you pull this off?”
Burned out trailer image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org