As I Like It!

Stella Stone IX



JANUARY 19, 2017





Randy Landers, Chief of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, looked at Stella and said,

“This brings me to why we invited you here this afternoon. You may not be familiar with how the MBI is set up, but we have field investigators assigned to eight areas across the State, and our man covering Northeast Mississippi, Bill Turpin, has accepted an offer from the FBI.”

“Yes, I’ve met Bill. He lives in Corinth and led the team that investigated the shooting at the Shell Station. Good man and I’m pleased that he’s going to Quantico, but what does any of this have to do with me?”

“Well, it seems that Bill has recommended you to fill his post and Willard and I agree with him.”

Stella was stunned; she looked around the room, then finally, managed,

“I don’t understand. Fill what post?”

“As our MBI agent in Northeast Mississippi.”

Open mouthed, Stella stared at Randy Landers, looking a lot like a duck that had been hit in the head with a wooden spoon. Landers grinned, and finally said,

“In all my years as Director of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite this reaction to a job offer. What is it about becoming our agent in Northeast Mississippi that you don’t understand?”

Stella finally came to her senses, and managed to mutter,

“Does the mean that my gin shooting is cleared?”

“Absolutely. That was a good shoot. We understand that split second decisions have to be made and how important it is that we don’t make it any harder on the shooting officer. A nanosecond’s delay can be the difference between life and death.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that. If I’m going to be the investigating officer, I want to know you have my back.”

“You can depend on it. One of the things that made you an attractive candidate was your sense of judgment under stress. You don’t lose your cool. May I assume that you’re going to accept the offer?”

“You bet! I’ve always wanted to be an investigator. I like solving puzzles.”

Landers reached across his desk and picked up a 6” stack of manila folders and slid them over to her.

“Well, that’s good because here’s a pile of puzzles for you. These are the open cases in your area. Bill won’t be leaving for Virginia until next Monday, and he plans to sit down and answer any questions you might have. Look em’ over and give him a call. Now, let’s complete the paperwork and get you sworn in.”

May Hardin smiled and said,

“Welcome to the MBI Miss Stone. I just need to go over our compensation program and our benefits. You’ll be starting as an M13 level officer, which is the midpoint for our field agents. Your starting salary will be $53,897 per year, and you’ll have the state health plan, which is fully paid. As a deputy sheriff, you’re already part of the State of Mississippi Retirement Plan, and your present position will be transferred with you.”

Stella thought for a moment, then realized that she had just been given a $14,000 pay increase. Mrs. Hardin continued,

“You’ll also have a state owned vehicle, three week’s paid vacation, and a clothing allowance. We offer several choices of vehicle types, but Bill has a brand new Ford F150 with an extended cab and four wheel drive. If you choose, you can just pick it up from him in Tupelo. Do you have any questions?”

“Yeah, does it matter where I live?”

“Not as long as it’s in the twenty-odd counties in Northeast Mississippi. Your current home is just fine, but if you want to move, the state will cover the moving costs.”

“No, I like where I live, but tell me about the clothing allowance.”

Landers spoke up and said,

“Stella, we prefer that our field agents dress in civilian clothing Nothing too far out. Just business casual. As sworn officers, all of us have to own regular and dress uniforms to cover special events and ceremonies, and the clothing allowance helps with that.”

May spoke up and said,

“One last thing. You’ll turn in your personal weapons to the Barksdale Sheriff’s office, and we’ll issue your choice of weapons. You’ll have to attend one of the Highway Patrol’s qualifying sessions within a month of coming on board. There’s a range at their substation in Starkville, but you can stop by our armory on the way out and choose your weapons.”

“Okay, I guess I’ve got all of that. What’s next?”

“All that’s left is swearing you in. I know this has been done on short notice, but is there anyone you’d like to serve as your witness?”

Stella thought for a minute then said,

“Yes, there is. I’d like my friend Winston Lovejoy to be here.”

“Well, we can delay the swearing in until he can be here, but I’d like it to be soon.”

“No need to delay, he drove me down today, and he’s at the King Edward waiting for me. Let me give him a call.”

While they waited for Bubba to arrive, Stella filled out the stack of paperwork that May Hardin produced. When she came to the life insurance policy of $250,000, she decided to make her younger brother, Larry, her beneficiary. He was a 1st Lt. in the USMC, and just starting a family. She was just signing the last of the forms when Bubba got off the elevator.

After the swearing in ceremony, Randy Landers suggested that they meet at the King Edward bar to have a celebratory drink. After buying two rounds, he left for home and Stella and Bubba walked the block down Capital Street to the Mayflower. They were seated after a short wait.

They both ordered the broiled flounder and a dinner salad with the Mayflower’s famous Kumbak dressing. They decided not to drink anymore and ordered tea and coffee. They were back in the hotel by 9:30, and asleep with the TV on by 11:00.

After a leisurely room service breakfast, they checked out and hit the Trace at Ridgeland heading home. Bubba insisted that Stella drive since he just couldn’t handle 50MPH, and he didn’t want a federal ticket from a frustrated ranger. As they drove along listening to country music, Bubba asked,

“Well, are you pleased with the turn of events?”

Stella grinned and replied,

“I am. As I told Landers, I’ve missed investigative work since my days in Iraq. I seem to have a knack for it.”

Bubba glanced at the stack of file folders on the console and said,

“Looks like you’ll have enough to keep you busy.”

It was close to 4:00 by the time they pulled into Leesburg, and Stella asked him to drop by the sheriff’s office so she could thank Williard and turn in her gear, and Bubba sat in the truck while she ran in the office. When she walked in, she saw Betty Buford sitting at her desk.

“Hey, Betty. Is Willard in his office? I need to see him.”

Betty looked up and replied,

“Stella, I just got a call from your new boss in Jackson, and he wants you to join Sheriff Diddley at the crime scene.”

“What crime scene?”

“There’s been a shooting over at Mike Lomax’s place, and he wants you to check it out.”

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