by Ann Swann
Stutter Creek Series, Book 3
Top Ten List
Top 10 Strange Things About Ann Swann
- I love weird and spooky books
- I write weird books and even weirder short stories
- I was so shy that I hated going to school as a child
- I became a teacher
- I loved marching in the school band
- And also singing in the school choir (soprano)
- I almost died from Chicken Pox – at age 29 – I was in ICU for six days
- I am an eclectic reader: Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Mary Stewart, Colleen Hoover, Clare Cook, Jeffrey Deaver, Suzanne Collins, Gillian Flynn, James Lee Burke, Larry McMurty, and Jodi Picoult are some of my favorite authors. And if I really want to scare myself, I read Revelations.
- I went to work at age 14 in our local drive-in restaurant. Until I received my teaching degree many years later, I cleaned houses, delivered newspapers, worked as a 911 operator, and scheduled commercials as a traffic secretary at a rock and roll radio station (KUFO).
- I can wiggle my ears
Kendra glanced out the window. “I’m not expecting anyone.” And then she recognized her old Mercury rolling up the drive.
“That’s Detective James, isn’t it?” Carrie asked. They were all familiar with each other. He’d been her mom’s partner for several years. On more than one occasion, the kids had been delighted to deliver food and drink to the office when the two detectives found themselves pulling all-nighters.
“So it is,” Kendra replied. She swept off her apron and headed out to greet him as he stepped from the car.
“Happy Thanksgiving.” His deep voice was jolly as he shut the car door. “I see the kids all made it.”
Kendra nodded. Hearing him call her offspring “the kids,” made her smile. He was only fifteen years older than Keith. “Did I forget that I invited you?” She didn’t believe in mincing words.
Woody grinned and shook his head. “Nah, your mental faculties are intact.” He hitched at his belt, looked at the ground. “I just came to tell you that the preliminary findings of the investigation are in.” He looked at her, and then tapped the corner of her new bifocals. “Nice,” he said. “About time you started acting your age.”
Kendra felt her knees softening. She plopped down on the porch step. The cool fall breeze played in her hair, tickling her neck and the tops of her ears. She wanted to acknowledge his acknowledgment of her new specs, but right at this moment, she couldn’t think. “It’s bad news, huh?”
He hesitated. “Don’t get ahead of me. I just didn’t want you to hear it from someone else.”
Kendra felt her world shrink to a pinpoint. “Are they saying it was my fault? That it was a bad collar?”
Woody nodded then sat down beside her and looped an arm around her shoulders.
“Dammit. I don’t want to cry.” She pulled off her metal-rimmed glasses and took the handkerchief he offered. “You know how I hate crying.”
He squeezed her gently. “It’s only preliminary. I think his seemingly spotless record is what’s causing them consternation. Well, that and his wife giving him an alibi.”
She sniffled and blew her nose loudly.
“I feel as though we’re being watched,” he said. “I’m resisting the urge to turn around.”
Kendra nodded. “It’s the girls. No doubt they’re plastered to the window. They think we’re having an affair, probably.”
Woody whispered, “Might as well, then. We could start tonight after the kids are all tucked in.”
She snorted and wiped her eyes. “You’re incorrigible. But since you came all this way, are you hungry? We’re just about to put dinner on the table.”
He stood and held out his hand. “I thought you’d never ask.”
He hadn’t been able to clean the bones completely. Even with the help of chemicals there had been a fair amount of meat left, but that was okay. He’d loved imagining how they would look after being in the ground for a while. It was only that one femur that he needed clean. So he could hold it. And carve it.
That thought, that imagining, had kept him in check for years, right up until Candy had forced him out of “retirement” with all her baby talk.
And now that he had brought his best girl back into the light—into the land of the living, so to speak—he was delighted he hadn’t been successful in stripping her of her birthday suit completely. For the last few days, he’d found himself nearly salivating at the thought of uncovering the mysteries that lay beneath the soil where each of the others was buried.
He pushed up the sleeve of his shirt and looked at the numerical tattoo on the inside of his wrist. Joey. He didn’t look at the tats on his upper thighs. They were much more difficult to see; they blended in with the old cut-scars perfectly. Thankfully I made a precise record of each burial. I suppose my subconscious knew I would need to find them again, someday. He rolled his sleeve back down.
He straightened the tassels on the cushion. They had to hang perfectly straight or his OCD wouldn’t let him concentrate. The he got up and straightened the cords hanging down from the open blinds, and at last, the memories left him, and true meditation began.
Kendra shrugged and met his grin with a tired one of her own. “The things we do for the job.” She took another sip of her drink and inspected the nearly deserted bar. “Thank God there’s not much going on.”
Woody nodded. “I’ll be ready to hit the sack after this.” He glanced around, too. “It’d be our luck for a fight to break out. Guess we’re taking quite a chance having a drink when we’re technically still on-the-job.”
Kendra raised her short glass. “Here’s to taking chances.”
“Amen.” Woody clinked his beer bottle against her glass.
When a slow song came on the jukebox, he stood and held out his hand. “Take another chance?”
She took a long, slow sip of her drink and then set it down before placing her hand in his. It’s only one song she told herself. But a flame ignited in her belly as she allowed him to pull her in close. He didn’t press her body to his; he simply curled his large hand around hers and held it against his chest while the music led them around the tiny dance floor. When she chanced a glance at his face, she was surprised to find his eyes were closed.
She relaxed and rested her temple against the shelf of his chin. Even now she could still recall the way she felt in his arms as if she’d just arrived home from a long, arduous, journey. Kendra also remembered wondering how long it had been since she and Bill had gone dancing. How long it had been since they had held each other so tenderly and carefully.
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