Possum Creek Massacre: Snippet 2

It’s been a while. I did mention I hate editing? Well, I also hate rewriting, and this story needed some at the end before it was ready for primetime. I’m not sure I’ll have it ready in time for LibertyCon, but I’m working on that goal. 

You can find the first part of the snippets here. You’ll want to read that first if you haven’t already, or the next bit will be strange. Ok, stranger than my usual writing. 

From the chapter Cleaving the Sky 

He flashed a look at me before paying attention to the road again. “They told me you were a special consultant.”

Now he wanted me to talk. I weighed my response. “I am, in a manner of speaking. Helps to have this information about the scene, they didn’t say much other than ‘go, and go fast.’”

He chuckled. “Yes’m. Well, I was called in the second day. After the, um, body was taken away. I was going to be keeping the curious away. Word spreads fast in a small town, and it wasn’t like anything we’d ever seen before. S’why I wasn’t surprised when they called in help, but you’re…”

“Not a common help,” I filled in, with a small smile myself.

“So the house is an old farmhouse. Hadn’t been lived in, officially, for, oh, about twenty years now. But they don’t build ‘em like they used to, so it was standing solid. Which now that I think on it was sorta odd because we have termites and kudzu. Far northern edge of kudzu, but anywhere there’s sun, you get that. Or ivy, or…”

I blinked. He was right, twenty years empty was a long time for a house to endure in a humid environment. I made a mental note to check when we got there, to see if it had wards. Housewives sometimes had power they didn’t recognize as such. Or it was remotely possible that one had lived in it who had known what they were doing, and that could be… tricky.

“Was the decedent connected to the family who had lived there before?” I asked.

He looked thoughtful. “I don’t know that. I suppose it’s possible. She wasn’t a young woman.”

I pulled out my little notebook and jotted that down. “So how long had she been living there… unofficially?”

He sighed. “Look, there are three of us full time, and two part-timers to cover the county. Possum Creek doesn’t have its own police force. Just too small. Sometimes we have to pick our battles. She wasn’t hurting anything – the conglomerate farm that owns that place hires it mowed and that’s pretty much all. We all knew she was there, maybe three years? She walked into town through the woods, usually, wasn’t on the roads much. No one complained, and we figured as long as she kept the druggies out…”

“Yeah.” I knew what he meant. She might have been breaking the law, but her presence was keeping worse lawbreakers at bay. It was likely not worth the fuss and bother for the drug labs to push her out and take the house. Not that I was going to mention to him and weird him out that magic may have been involved. If she had been family… “So she was a known quantity.”

“Yup. No job, no visible income, but then again, she didn’t have much in the way of expenses, did she?” He shook his head. “We found a little firepit in one of the barns. She cooked out there, it looked like. The house didn’t have water or electric, but it did have an old privy, and she’d been using that.”

“So she was only using the house for shelter.” I filled in the picture he was building. “Just how warm are the winters around here?”

“Oh, we get snow.” He told me. “Oregon’s all green, yeah?”

“Parts of it. The part I live in, sure. We don’t usually see more than frost in winter, because we’re so close to the Pacific.”

“Warmer than us. But she’d…” He broke off and looked disturbed. “Look, we’re not a rich place. We have a lot of people can’t find work. But we take care of each other when we can.”

I nodded. He went on. “But she’d made one room into like… a nest. She had all kinds of cloth, clothes, blankets, everything, all fastened up on the ceiling and walls. We think to keep warm in winter. That’s where she was…”

“Insulation?” I ventured a guess when he didn’t start talking again after trailing off. There was another possible reason, but I wasn’t sure whether it was real, or a legend. I didn’t have anyone to ask. Following my great-aunt’s death the year before, I was completely disconnected from the magical community. Her coven shunned me for what I was, and chose to do for a profession. Had I simply been talented in the way I was born, they could have forgiven it. But using it for law enforcement meant they universally hated and feared me. I needed to find someone I could trust and consult with. I’d been telling myself that for months, following Delia’s death. I didn’t write that down. I had no idea where to start.

“Might be. Would have made more sense to do the parlor where the fireplace was.”

“Maybe she was afraid building a fire in the house would get her in trouble.” I suggested.

He shrugged and pointed ahead at a gas station sign. “Mind if we stop?”

“I’d like a chance to stretch my legs.” I told him. He pulled into the parking lot and up to the gas pumps of the little store that appeared to sell fuel, convenience foods, and firewood, going on the vast stack of it on the far side of the lot from the store. There was a hand-painted sign indicating it was $140 a cord, delivered and stacked. I climbed out of the car and walked toward the wood while he headed into the store. I’d been on the plane for most of a day, then in the car and I was feeling it badly. There were a few residences in sight, and across the street a road took off into the gap between two cornfields. There was some traffic, but we were the only vehicle parked in front of the store. I reached the woodpile and turned around to see that there was a car parked behind the store, and guessed it was the clerk’s. I walked back toward the deputy’s car, stretching as I did so. Another hour of this. And then briefings, and — the sole advantage of having accumulated three hours during my flight across the country — an early bedtime.

When we got back in the car a little time later, and on the road, the conversation seemed to have dried up for a while. I turned my attention to the passing scenery and let the man drive. I appreciated that he seemed to have a smooth hand at the wheel and a light foot on the gas pedal. It was a nice ride through the country, almost like a Sunday drive, if we’d been friends, not colleagues thrown together over a mysterious killing. Life is like that. I put it out of my mind and watched the country roll by my window. The black wood fences surrounding the famous bluegrass and long-legged horses had given way to rolling wooded hills, and now we were in craggier hills with deep, narrow hollows between them.

We rolled through the hills and towns, and came into yet another of the small towns, falling slowly to disrepair along each side of the road.

“Welcome to Possum Creek,” he offered.



2 responses to “Possum Creek Massacre: Snippet 2”

  1. […] can read snippets here, and here, if you aren’t ready to simply click the ‘buy’ button. If you want a paper copy […]