"Ann," Geneva yells out from the kitchen.
Ann, who is dusting the furniture in the study, hearing her, walks toward the kitchen. The look about Ann's face is a focused one. No hint of fear, frustration, or fatigue lines it. Her eyes glisten with patience as she walks quietly in her black and white maid's uniform. "Yes, ma'am," Ann replies as she enters the kitchen.
"Ann, I'd like you to help me with the roast."
"Yes, ma'am." Ann looks about the kitchen where onions, fresh garlic and seasonings sit. "I'll put away my duster and wash my hands," Ann further states.
"Very good. I know you're busy, but I'd appreciate it," Geneva turns to advise, while she rinses off fat sticks of carrots in the sink.
The warm sun continues to disappear behind the clouds as an ominous dark grey stretches further across the sky Mrs. Stillman looks up for a moment and frowns.
* * *
Sheriff Crabtree is staring into the face of the storm clouds over Gutbucket's property. The sheriff is kneeling down examining the butchered cow as Gutbucket stands nearby. The sheriff looks down at the mangled creature and then stands.
"A wild and crazy savage ripped apart my cow like that," Gutbucket states with fear and anger in his voice.
"Yeah, and a hungry one. Be glad it wasn't you."
"If he's a cannibal he'll have to eat shotgun shells before he gets me for the main course,"
"I'll check around, see what I can come up with. Meantime, keep your beef in the cattle pens, with a close eye on them," the sheriff states.
A young man on a black stallion rides up with a quick dismount. His name is Jody Cribs, a ranch hand for Gutbucket. "Sheriff," he states.
"How are you, Jody?"
"Better when I'm sleeping," Jody replies.
"What you got for me, Jody?" Gutbucket asks.
"I spoke to Odd Obee. He'll be stopping by tonight," Jody advises.
Sheriff Crabtree glances over at Gutbucket and then gets on his chestnut brown horse. Gutbucket nods his head with approval to Jody as the sheriff states, "Since the killer was on foot I'm going to follow this blood trail, and see where it leads."
"You do that," Gutbucket replies.
The sheriff starts riding away, but turns to further advise, "Be careful who you get to help you. You may end up in deeper trouble than you already got."
Gutbucket looks at the sheriff with disdain, but offers no
reply. As Jody observes his silence, the sheriff follows the
blood trail into the nearby wooded area.
* * *
The kitchen smells of a well seasoned beef roast. Ann mashes potatoes with Geneva stirring and poking a pot full of fresh corn on the cob with a large fork. Geneva turns toward Ann asking, "How are the potatoes coming?"
"Very well, I think you'll be pleased," Ann replies.
"Ann, when it comes to your cooking I'm always pleased. Why do you think I pulled you away from the dusting?" Geneva asks with a smile.
"I thought maybe you were tired and needed some help with the supper," Ann now smiling to herself, remarks.
"Ann, as quick and clean as you work I never get a chance to get tired."
"I'm glad to hear that. That's what I'm here for, to make your job easier."
"And you do that. But I'll tell you, Ann, you may have a bit more idle time on your hands because I'm going to hire a day maid next week."
Ann looks up and turns in Geneva's direction. For the first time since her employment she shows a look of fear and concern. However, Geneva misses most of it as she pokes, twists and turns the ears of corn. By the time she turns around to observe Ann's reaction she has somewhat regained her composure. Geneva does however catch the remnant of it. "Ann, don't look so frightened you'll still have a job," she advises.
Ann forces a smile across her face as she states, "Yes, ma'am. For a moment I thought you were going to send me back to the agency."
"Why in God's name would I ever do that? That'd be like setting myself on fire," Geneva replies.
"Oh, I'm sorry to say that, ma'am. It's just that in my work you never know when you could be let go."
Ann for a moment remembers the stories she's heard. Nancy Walker fired for stealing four fresh eggs to help feed her two children at home. Sally Zeth, using the outhouse, refused access when the employer's children demanded it…fired. The employer found out later that the children where joking…Sally stayed fired. Alberta molested by the head of household…She was fired, husband on short punishment from his wife, then forgiven. Older boy, Jake Reeves, had some corn liquor with is friends, came home and pulled out his pecker on the housekeeper, Margaret May. She laughed. Jake said Margaret pulled her pants down…fired. Lolly, too much bleach in the wash…fired. Janet too pretty, woman of the house noticed her husband preoccupied…fired…fired… fired…Why? It's easier. Nothing to understand. Nothing to contemplate.
"Why would I ever fire you without cause, Ann?" Geneva
* * *
Sheriff Crabtree is riding slowly through the open fields, following the blood trail when the sky laughs down at him as hard thunder shrieks out overhead. The sheriff feels tension mounting in him as he nears a farmhouse an eightieth of a mile down the road. The rain drops out of the sky. Overturned tubs of water drop as if the soft belly of the sky had been cut open with a straight razor. Visibility is decimated as the sheriff and his horse are immediately drenched. Sheriff Crabtree disgusted now that his blood trail is washed away a short distance from what could be the guilty person, he rides his horse to the farmhouse anyway. The wood planks that make up the home are old and worn. The roof is in tact, but more than likely leaks. A light is on inside the house and the door is open as an oversized black male stands in the doorway watching him. The sheriff rides within twenty feet of the house and dismounts. The man inside watching, slowly exits. He is Clarence Mills, a monster of a man, standing about six foot three, with arms, legs and shoulders that are a mass of muscle and brute determination. The house, fortunate for the sheriff's horse has some tree cover. From the ground, their steel like twists of growth reach towards the sky as four powerful oak trees sit on the property. The formation of the trees are two in the front and two at the rear of the house. However, the leaves sprouting from the oak tree's branches are still not enough to stop the mass of rain that cloaks the blood trail. Sheriff Crabtree looks around for any signs of weapons. But no shotguns, pistols, axes, picks or blades are seen.
Clearly Clarence Mills easiest access to a dangerous utensil is himself. Clarence's eyes, large and black, stare out of his massive head almost child-like as if he were unaware of malice. But in the quiet of his demeanor is a brain untouched by thoughts of guilt or confusion. He operates out of need and desire, which is a thought more frightening then the aura of Clarence himself.
"How are you today, Clarence?...It's a bit wet out."
"Piss from the sky. Everybody got to go," Clarence calmly replies.
"Mind if I come in out of it?"
"If that's what you want to do…But you can't bring the horse in," Clarence replies with a poker face.
"Yeah, I don't think he'd fit." The sheriff walks toward the house, with Clarence stepping to the side, allowing him to enter first. This naturally concerns the sheriff because with that gesture he is suddenly close to entering with no thought of what or who is inside, with Clarence behind him. The sheriff continues to scan the outer area. He spots a pig pen to the left of the house with an outhouse and wood shed a few feet from it. Behind the wood shed is a barn.
To be continued…