Death is a Drag — Chapter 5
The day was busy as it normally was and Jodie was just checking in on the night servers as they finished their jobs.
“Mikayla, did you finish cleaning the bathroom?”
“All the underneaths, too?” Jodie reminded her. Some of the night servers forgot that cleaning the bathroom meant more than just wiping a cloth across the surfaces and actually lifting things and cleaning under them.
“Ok girls, you can go home. I’ll wait for this last table to leave and lock up,” Jodie said.
As the girls were packing up their stuff, Jodie’s phone rang. It was Fawn.
“Hey, how was your day?”
“Feel up for a quick drink?” she asked.
“Sure,” Jodie said. “Would you pick me up? In about 15 to 20 minutes?”
“Ok,” Fawn said. “See you soon.”
Jodie didn’t really drink very much, but she’d been enjoying a drink or two with her sister once in a while. It was good to see people outside of the restaurant, and it was relaxing.
The last table left, and Jodie quickly cleaned everything up. She took the dishes to the dish pit. Jacob was just finishing up.
“Hey Jacob. I’m going to go out for a drink. I’ll lock up the front. You’re good locking up back here?”
“Sure,” he said. “I’ll likely be right behind you.”
Jodie set the alarm and locked up the front and went to wait for Fawn on the bench outside the restaurant. It was getting dark and the lights on the restaurant were all turned off except for the security light at the end of the restaurant.
She was enjoying the night air when she saw a truck pull up in to the parking lot of the lumber store next door. Was that Branson? It was. What was he doing?
He got out of the truck and looked around. She waved, but he didn’t see her. Then he reached into the back of his truck and pulled something out. It seemed to be wrapped in something — a cloth? He looked around again, moved up to the front of the truck, disappeared into the shallow ditch, and then came back. He hopped into the truck and pulled away quickly. Then he was gone.
What was that about? Was Branson hiding something? Or was he just in the habit of throwing his garbage out in the ditches? It didn’t make sense.
Just then, Fawn pulled up beside her.
“Hey! Let’s go have a drink!”
Jodie got in the car beside her sister and told her about what she’d just seen.
“What do you think he was doing?”
“Likely just littering. You know how people in this town are.”
Jodie shrugged. Maybe Fawn was right.
At the bar, they found a table. The bar was filling up and there were people standing at the bar, sitting at tables, and gathered around the VLT machines. There was a band setting up on stage but they wouldn’t start for about an hour and Jodie hoped she would be home in bed by then.
After they sat for a couple minutes, Hank, the bartender, came up to them. Jodie had always thought he had a thing for Fawn. He wouldn’t have been a bad match for her. He was over six feet tall, so he would have been a good four or five inches taller than her. He had the tanned, dark skin of a cowboy and dark brown hair that was just a tad long. His blue eyes and day’s growth of beard made him look a little like a guy on a romance book cover.
“Ladies! Nice to see you, as always. Been a while. What have you been up to, Fawn?”
“Oh, you know, the usual. Work, sleep, not much else.”
“Are you still planning on restoring that old Ford of your grandpa’s?”
Fawn had inherited an old Ford truck that was their grandfather’s. It had been sitting in her backyard since she got it, but this summer she was determined to make some progress on it.
“I am. I’ve had someone over looking at it and he says the engine is salvageable. Maybe we’ll have it on the road again before summer.”
“Great. I’d love to stay and chat,” he said, looking directly at Fawn, “but the crowds demand my attention. What are you drinking?”
“Rye and coke for me,” said Fawn.
“And I’ll have a Caesar,” Jodie said.
“Gotcha. I’ll get Tiffany to bring them over for you. Have a good time, ladies!”
Fawn rolled her eyes.
“What?” Jodie said. “He’s not bad.”
“I know. But you know, he’s been chasing me since Rene left town. I had just gotten rid of one loser and then Hank started sniffing around. Plus, I’ve heard he has a temper. I don’t have time to deal with that.”
“Oh, I did hear something about him fighting with Justus last week.”
“Again? It seems like every month he’s had a fight with him. He would let Justus run a tab and then Justus wouldn’t pay it and Hank would have to chase him around for the money. Justus seemed to get a kick out of it. He’d make Hank go after him and give him a beating before he’d pay the damn bill.”
“Do you think Hank went to far? I mean, I heard Justus died of a head injury.”
Fawn said, “I heard that too, but it didn’t sound like it was a beating. Just that he was hit with a blunt object.”
“Maybe Hank decided to finish it?” Jodie suggested.
“I don’t know. He’s got a temper, but I seriously don’t think he’d kill anyone.”
“Did you even see him at the drag races? I don’t remember seeing him,” Jodie asked.
“I think I saw him going into the office through the back door. I still don’t think that Hank could have done it. Don’t like him, but I don’t think he’s a murderer.”
“What about Cal-Lee?”
“I thought he had been cleared?” Fawn said.
“He has. How about Faron? I heard he runs this underground fight club thing? And Justus was supposed to lose in the fight against Jake McCumber?”
“Ya. That I could see. I just heard about that, too. I had no idea that Faron was running that stupid fight club. But it doesn’t surprise me. I’ve always thought he was kind of shady. And if it is true that the fight was rigged, I bet Faron lost a ton of money. I could see him getting pissed and losing control.”
“I never thought of Faron like that,” Jodie said. “But I really only know him as a customer. What about Branson?”
“What about him? Why would he be a suspect?”
“Well, the guys at the coffee table said that Justus slept with Branson’s daughter on her 18 thbirthday and that he left her heartbroken and never called her. Said he took her virginity and someone mentioned Branson talking about killing him.”
“I’m sure that’s just talk,” Fawn said. “Branson rarely every loses him temper. Although he is pretty protective of his daughter. She’s the one woman that he loves more than himself.”
They sat quietly for a few minutes, sipping their drinks.
“Why are you so into figuring out who the killer is?” Fawn asked.
“I don’t know. I hate unresolved things. And as long as this is unsolved, people are on edged. I feel like the town isn’t going to be the same until someone is behind bars.”
“You could be right about that. It seems like there have been more arguments and more fights lately. I didn’t think that they might have been related to what is going on, but it could be.”
They finished their drinks and Fawn drove Jodie back to the Pine Valley Inn and Diner.
As she climbed into bed, Jodie’s head was filled with all the information about the suspects. She finally fell asleep and dreamed that Faron and Branson were chasing her with something covered in a cloth.
To be continued…
If you need to catch up, you can find links to all the chapters here:
Originally published at http://dani.space.