Wrong Kind of Rain, fiction by Steve Lambert

Bill stood up and pock­et­ed his hand­ker­chief, looked up at the grey sky, and watched three turkey buz­zards glide a low, loose cir­cle direct­ly over­head and, in the dis­tance, high above the lemon grove to his right, he could just make out a small del­i­cate-look­ing heli­copter float­ing in and out of the clouds, like a dragonfly. 

The body at his feet, in the shal­low ditch, was a dump job. He knew that. He glanced around. “Like a giant laid the poor bas­tard down in the dirt.” He talked as if he were accom­pa­nied by an atten­tive but qui­et com­pan­ion. To his left, on the east side of the ditch, was the small dirt lot, no tire tread marks, Coun­ty Road 27 just on the oth­er side of it. West of the ditch, Grant Parson’s Mey­er lemon grove, row upon row upon row, the size of a small town. 

It had been Sug­ar Burk­son, in fact, Parson’s ret­i­cent chief cul­ti­va­tor, who’d dis­cov­ered the body just before sunup. He’d called Par­son instead of the police and Par­son called it in. Ear­li­er in the morn­ing, Bill had asked him, more in pass­ing than to get infor­ma­tion, “What you fig­ure, Sug­ar?” His only com­ment was “Fuck if I know.” 

Bill walked back to his truck in the bur­geon­ing morn­ing heat, looked at his watch: eight-thir­ty. He opened the tool­box in the bed of his truck and pulled a can of Busch Light out of the cool­er hid­den inside. He lis­tened to the squir­rels bark and squee in a near­by oak tree. The first few gulps were hard to get down and he almost heaved, but by the time he got to the bot­tom of the can, there it was: the slow spread of soft gold­en inte­ri­or light, and he began to feel right again. He chucked the can, emp­ty but for an ounce or so of swill, in the direc­tion of the squir­rels. “Reck­on that’s Wal­ter Pound’s charred corpse?” he said to his phan­tom partner. 

Ought not to lit­ter, Sher­iff,” said Deputy Lloyd Barnes as he approached Bill. “It’s a five hun­nerd dol­lar fine in High­lands Coun­ty.” He smiled at the sher­iff, stopped in front of him. “Lit­tle god­damn ear­ly for an adult bev­er­age, ain’t it?”

Bill’s drink­ing was no secret to any­one, but most peo­ple, out of respect, didn’t give him any shit about it. Togeth­er they walked back to the shal­low dip in land between the lot and grove where the body lay. Bill wasn’t sure he want­ed to tell his deputy what he thought.

Lloyd nudged a black leg with his boot and a crack­ling sound issued from it. 

Crispy fuck­er.”

Quit kick­ing at it, boy.” 

Barnes glanced around, pulled a can of Copen­hagen from his shirt pock­et, tapped it three times. 

Right off the bat, I got some ideas.”

Wal­ter Pound was Lloyd’s cousin. They were, in fact, first cousins. Walter’s dad­dy, dead for some time now, had been Lloyd’s uncle. If this body was Wal­ter Pound’s, Deputy Barnes would have some opin­ions on the mat­ter, and Bill wasn’t quite ready for that. 

Do tell.”

Even with­out know­ing who this dead bas­tard is, I’d start with Evil Dead.” Lloyd squint­ed an eye at the sher­iff as he put a pinch of dip into his mouth and tongued it into place. It began to light­ly rain, just more than a mist. 

Lloyd squat­ted down and took a clos­er look. “Who are you?” he whispered. 

Plau­si­ble,” said Bill. Evil Dead were some­thing of a scape­goat for Lloyd. Still the bik­er gang had crossed his mind, as well. Of the three in the area, they were the most bru­tal, and they were respon­si­ble for many hor­rors com­mit­ted in Dur­din. Wal­ter had been mixed up with them. But some­thing told him this had not been done by Evil Dead. This, to his mind, was the result of hate, not business—maybe even deep, famil­ial blood hate, the kind that many of the Pounds and Bag­gotts had for one anoth­er. Things had been qui­et between the two fam­i­lies for a while, but rela­tions always soured every few years, and when they did, shit would go down. 

Lloyd looked up, the way the sher­iff had ear­li­er. The rain had intensified. 

Almost seems like the son of a bitch was dropped out of the fuck­ing sky, don’t it? But there’s no impact impres­sion any­where.” Lloyd spat a brown stream of dip, then wiped his mouth. “What you want me to do? I’d love to go put the fear into some dip­shit bikers.”

Just hang tight for now.” He want­ed to ask him if Enid, Walter’s wife, still lived in Sah­wok­lee, two coun­ties over, but didn’t want to get Lloyd’s mind work­ing. If he asked about Enid, Lloyd would no doubt make the leap to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the body being Walter’s, if he hadn’t already. “For now, let’s just get out of this rain.”


Thir­ty-five years ago, Wal­ter Pound fell out of a cedar tree on the Dur­din Ele­men­tary School play­ground and scraped his elbow. Mrs. Hill­man, their kinder­garten teacher, an ordi­nary townswoman, igno­rant of back­woods feuds and ways, request­ed Enid Bag­gott walk Wal­ter to the school clin­ic. Enid held his hand the whole way there, wait­ed while the nurse fixed him up, and walked him back. At the age of five, they were bare­ly aware of their own last names, much less any ten­sion between their fam­i­lies, and from that day on, Wal­ter thought often of Enid, despite what he would lat­er real­ize about their fam­i­lies’ extreme dis­like for one anoth­er. Some six­teen years lat­er, at Lil­lian and Dill Talbert’s wed­ding, some­thing drew them togeth­er, and they stayed tan­gled up. 

As Sher­iff Bill Reg­is­ter pulled off the small dirt lot of Parson’s lemon grove, he believed, but could not yet prove, he’d found evi­dence of the grim open­ing sal­vo in a new inter­fa­mil­ial skirmish.

Upon leav­ing Parson’s grove, Lloyd decid­ed he’d not “hang tight,” as the sher­iff had told him to do. Instead, he found him­self turn­ing onto Fire­break Road, a few miles south on twen­ty-sev­en, just out­side Dur­din city lim­its, and pulling into the chalky white lot of the Evil Dead Club­house. The build­ing had been a VFW, but the bik­ers bought the build­ing a few years back when the VFW moved to a new loca­tion clos­er to town. Two vehi­cles sat in the lot: a Harley with a con­fed­er­ate flag fuel tank and a black Ford F‑150. The truck was always in the lot. The block build­ing was still white with red trim, but there was a nar­row sign over the door that read 

EVIL DEAD m.c. est. 1945.

If this is Hell, it’s real­ly not that bad.” ‑Duchess of Durdin 

Lloyd could smell fire, which remind­ed him of the charred body in the grove, and he felt a wave of nau­sea, but forced it down. As he approached the back of the build­ing, he heard voic­es, and as he turned the cor­ner he saw anoth­er motor­cy­cle, an old Tri­umph, all black and chrome. Just beyond the bike, a smok­er and two men stand­ing next to it. Lloyd knew bet­ter than to sneak up on these men, so he yelled “Boys!” and waved as he came into view. 

Deputy dog,” growled the big one man­ning the smok­er. Doug Cren­shaw and Lloyd had grown up togeth­er, had even been friends in their ear­ly teens. Doug was not a Bag­gott, but he’d grown up swarmed with them. When Doug had joined up with the Evil Dead he’d tried to recruit Lloyd. But Lloyd was set on prowl­ing through South­east Asian jun­gles instead. The sec­ond man, a skin­ny tweak­er named Spi­der, watched, as Lloyd approached. 

Get­ting an ear­ly start,” said Lloyd, point­ing at the smoker. 

Takes about eight hours, if you do it right. Gives you a rea­son to start drink­ing ear­ly, too.” Doug raised his Bud­weis­er and took a swig. He was a big boy, at least six feet, prob­a­bly two-fifty, but not as big as Lloyd. The one watch­ing was thin and short but wiry. 

Man, that smell…” Lloyd took a few steps clos­er. The inten­si­ty of the smell was about to put him over the edge but puk­ing in front of these two was not an option. 

Doug opened up the lid and dense, blue-grey smoke tum­bled up from inside.

Take a look.”

Lloyd stepped into the prox­im­i­ty of the two men and stood next to the smok­er, next to the big man, and the spi­dery one moved in on Lloyd’s right. 

God­damn,” said Lloyd. 

Doug drank the rest of his beer and hurled the bot­tle into a met­al drum close by. He closed the lid on the smok­er and Lloyd stepped back, and so did the twitchy one named Spider. 

Was want­i­ng to ask you,” said Lloyd.

Here it comes,” said the big one. “I knowed you weren’t pay­ing us a social vis­it.” He looked at his partner. 

It ain’t like that.”

It damn sure is like that. It’s always like that. Any-damn-thing occurs and you or Bill comes peep­ing around the cor­ner. What’s it this time? A purse-snatching?”

Fine,” said Lloyd. “It is like that. No sense in play­ing make believe.” Lloyd fished out his can­nis­ter of Copen­hagen, put in a dip, spit off the few grains of tobac­co stuck to his bot­tom lip. Some­how this helped with the nau­se­at­ing feel­ing from the smol­der­ing pork butt. “Y’all vil­lains, big man,” he con­tin­ued. “Some­thing bad hap­pens, I come talk to the bad guys.”

The wiry one took a big step inward.

You bet­ter set­tle the fuck down,” said Lloyd, with his right hand out in front of him. The man stopped

Doug smiled and nod­ded at the other. 

Lloyd Barnes, Viet­nam badass!”

The thin one chuckled. 

You might be able to scare teenagers and lit­tle old ladies talk­ing like that, but you ain’t shit here. We’ll knock you on the head and drop your ass in a phos­phate mine, bury you in an orange grove, come back and eat some bar­beque. Ain’t no thing to us.” 

Speak­ing of groves,” said Lloyd. “Found a burnt-to-a-husk bas­tard just north of here in a lemon grove. Just set down in the ditch like god laid him there. You wouldn’t by chance know any­thing about that, would you?”

Sounds gruesome—but then, being a war vet, you seen all kind a shit, ain’t you? Dead babies and whatnot.”

Lloyd spit a deep brown gob at Doug’s foot.

Look here,” said Lloyd. “You and your meth­head pal hear any­thing you let me know. I’ll be back and I’ll be expect­ing a fuck­ing anec­dote or two.”

No one spoke. Lloyd touched the brim of his hat and turned his back on the two men and walked back to his truck.


Back at the sta­tion, Bill called Sah­wok­lee Coun­ty Sheriff’s Office and talked to deputy Ben Lin­coln, act­ing sher­iff. Bill’s coun­ter­part in Sah­wok­lee, Sher­iff Frank New­some, was six-months retired and had not yet been replaced, so the erst­while deputy had tak­en over. Lin­coln, all knew, would assume the role of sher­iff offi­cial­ly once the coun­ty com­mis­sion­ers got used to the idea, but that was going to require a brief “mourn­ing” peri­od, as Frank had char­ac­ter­ized it to his nephew Ben. 

Bill asked Ben about Enid, Walter’s wife. Ben con­firmed that Enid did, to his knowl­edge, still life in Sah­wok­lee County—presumably the small town of Cortez.

As you know, she report­ed Wal­ter miss­ing three days ago. But I ain’t laid eyes on her drunk ass in a while. No telling where she might be.” 

As I know? I don’t know shit. You ain’t gone look­ing for Walter?”

Not active­ly. Who gives a shit about Wal­ter Pound—other than Enid? And I told your boy Lloyd to tell you about Wal­ter when he called yes­ter­day ask­ing about Bradford’s cat­tle gone missing.”

Bill told Ben about the body in the lemon grove and his the­o­ry on who it might be. 

Lloyd did tell me about Enid’s report,” said Bill, lying to save face. “I must have for­got. Old age. Think I should talk to Enid though,” he added. 

Have you ever talked to Enid, sher­iff? She ain’t exact­ly a sparkling con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist. And I’ll be hon­est, she’s smart as a snakebite, knows what to say and how to say it and has fun doing it. Likes toy­ing with ass­holes like us.”

Bill told Ben that he had talked to Enid before, sev­er­al times, and that he knew how to deal with her. When Bill hung up with Ben, he sat in his chair and tried fig­ur­ing how to move ahead until he felt the heav­i­ness of his fad­ing beer buzz and drift­ed off. 

When Bill woke he had a slight headache but he felt sur­pris­ing­ly rest­ed. It was only ten o’clock. Let’s see, he thought. Take about forty-five min­utes to get to Cortez. Dri­ve around Sah­wok­lee for an hour or so, see what I see. Get back by about one or two. He stood up and pat­ted at him­self, look­ing for some­thing to look for. Deb­bie Creel, his sec­re­tary clip-clopped into his office. 

Nice nap, Sheriff?”

He grunt­ed.

Med­ical Exam­in­er called. Parson’s grove body being exam­ined as we speak.”

Thanks, Deb.”

She nod­ded and stood there watch­ing him look around his office. 

You all right, Bill? I don’t like it when you’re all qui­et like this.” Bill was always qui­et, and she knew it. 

I’mma ride out to Sahwoklee.”

Deb­bie sighed. “This one’s got bik­er stink all over it, don’t you think?” 

It’s plau­si­ble.”

I’d say a damn sight more than plau­si­ble. Who else could have done some­thing like that? Could be Cuban mob—Tampa. Just drop­ping a body off ‘in the boonies’ or something.” 

He smiled and nod­ded and touched Deb­bie on the shoul­der on his way out. 

You see Lloyd, tell him to radio me, please, will ya, Deb?”

Deb­bie fol­lowed him out to his truck and knocked on his win­dow. Bill rolled it down. 

She whis­pered: “Could be a Pound-and-Bag­gott thing—that burned up body. That’s what you’re think­ing, Bill. I bet it is, ain’t it?” 

He winked at her.

Any thoughts on whose body it is?”

He put the truck in reverse.

Greedy old bas­tard,” said Deb­bie and she stepped away from the truck. 

As Bill Reg­is­ter pulled onto the road, the fact that Enid had report­ed Wal­ter miss­ing pressed down on him. This is some­thing, he thought. The dis­tinct pos­si­bil­i­ty of a Pound man found burnt up in a lemon grove. Could be a Bag­gott that done it, could be some­one else. More than a few folks hat­ed Wal­ter enough to want him dead. Even, as Deb stum­bled on, Cuban mob and affil­i­ates. Even, as Lloyd had sug­gest­ed, Evil Dead. It was even pos­si­ble that Bradford’s miss­ing cat­tle fig­ured into things some­how. Any­one of con­se­quence in the crime world on this whole damn penin­su­la has had, at some point, a rea­son to at least want the tar beat out of Wal­ter Pound. Also, may not be that fire was what killed him. The burn­ing could be post-mortem. Could be they burnt him up to cov­er up evi­dence. High­ly pos­si­ble. What, he thought, would Lloyd do if this all turns out to be true? What if that is Wal­ter Pound’s body?


Back at the sta­tion, Lloyd was vir­tu­al­ly accost­ed by Deb­bie Creel. 

You at Parson’s with Bill this morn­ing?” she said as Lloyd sat down at his desk chair. She knew the answer. 

Yes, ma’am.” Unlike Bill, Lloyd would tell her all he knew, he usu­al­ly did, but he also enjoyed stringer her along. 

What you reck­on hap­pened to that poor soul, Lloyd?”

Well. Ms. Deb­bie, I fig­ure he was burnt up.”

No shit, Lloyd. I mean—who you think it is that done it?”

Can’t say. Evil Dead, likely.”

Inter­est­ing,” said Debbie.

Why’s that?”

For the same rea­son as the sher­iff, Deb­bie didn’t want to say too much to Lloyd about what she thought, about who she thought the body belonged to. If he’d brought up on his own the pos­si­bil­i­ty, she’d have been more than hap­py to dis­cuss pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios with him—but she didn’t want to be the one to plant the idea in Lloyd’s head if it wasn’t already in there. 

No—it’s just that that makes sense. Any idea who it is—the body?”

Come on out with it, Deb­bie. I know your minds working.” 

She picked up a mug from ear­li­er that morn­ing with about an ounce of cold cof­fee in it and swirled it once then walked it over to the lit­tle stain­less-steel sink in the cor­ner and dumped it out and ran some water into it. 

Hell, what do I know, Lloyd. You the one been out there.”

He sighed, took off his wide-brimmed deputy’s hat and set it on his desk, looked down at his left hand. 

I do know for a fact that Enid report­ed my piece of shit cousin Wal­ter miss­ing a few days ago. Not ready just yet to men­tion this to Bill. Maybe he already knows. Maybe he doesn’t. But that’s fam­i­ly business.”

I’ll be damn,” said Deb­bie. She could bare­ly con­tain her delight at Lloyd’s men­tion of Wal­ter and Enid. “This here—I think you’re right, Lloyd. This ain’t no bik­ers done this….How’d you know about Wal­ter? Sher­iff didn’t say noth­ing about that.”

He tell you every­thing he knows, does he?”

She just looked down, then over at the wall.

I called yes­ter­day and talked to Ben, over in Sah­wok­lee, about a lead on them Brah­mans gone miss­ing and he told me—asked me to relay to Bill that Enid had report­ed Wal­ter miss­ing. I did not relay that mes­sage to Bill.”

Deb­bie nodded. 

Lloyd con­tin­ued: “Wal­ter miss­ing. Burnt-up Wal­ter-sized bas­tard this morn­ing. Don’t take too much intel­lect to sort out the pos­si­bil­i­ties, does it?”

Well, Bill talked to Ben his­self just before he left ear­li­er.” Deb­bie pat­ted at the side of her head. “Whose cat­tle was that gone missing?”

Them was Leon Bradford’s Brahmans.”

Leon Brad­ford, Deb­bie knew, was mar­ried to a Bag­gott woman. About fif­teen years ago, he and Michaela Bag­gott, Enid’s cousin of some vari­ety, got spliced up on the prop­er­ty Leon had bought a year pri­or for cat­tle graz­ing. It had been a big par­ty, over a hun­dred peo­ple in atten­dance. A Bag­gott mar­ry­ing some­one wealthy like Brad­ford was a big deal. Deb­bie had been there. Kurt Big­nall, the gro­cer, had asked her to go with him. Deb­bie did not like Kurt much, but she did like wed­dings, so she’d accept­ed Kurt’s invi­ta­tion. She asked her­self, would Wal­ter Pound be dumb enough to steal Brah­mans from Leon Bradford—and would Leon be bold enough to kill Wal­ter for doing it? Lloyd must have read these thoughts on Debbie’s face. 

Deb­bie, Walter’d be crazy enough to steal Leon’s cat­tle, wouldn’t he?”

She told him yes, she thought he would.


Bill pulled into the dirt lot at Fuzzy’s, looked around, saw one oth­er vehi­cle, a white Ford F‑150. There was a chained dog lying in the shade off to the left side of the door. He knew the dog but couldn’t call its name. The dog raised its head when Bill slammed the truck door, watched him walk all the way up to the entrance. There, again, was a light rain. But, as Bill stopped to look at the sky, he noticed a dark, almost pur­ple shelf cloud to the northeast. 

Bill went straight to the bar, where­at he noticed two oth­ers sit­ting, but couldn’t make them out until his eyes adjust­ed to the dark. 

Whiskey and a beer,” he said to Roof, the tall half-Indi­an bartender. 

Right up, Bill,” said Roof. 

Bill lit a cig­a­rette, glanced to his right, took a drag and said, “Jack­pot.”

Roof set down Bill’s drinks and shift­ed his eyes over to the two lost souls sit­ting at the bar to Bill’s right, then glanced back at Bill. Next to Bill was a slumped over man in his late fifties or ear­ly six­ties, a near emp­ty mug in front of him, his fin­gers curled around it. Next to that man was a very small, pre­ma­ture­ly shriv­eled woman in cut­off den­im shorts, a striped tank top and flip flops. Enid Pound. Bill was tak­en by how qui­et it was in the place. 

Bill set his cig­a­rette in the ash­tray groove, did his shot of whiskey, and fished a dol­lar bill from his pants pock­et, got up and walked over to the juke­box, which was lit up like Vegas, des­per­ate for a few songs. But when he got clos­er to it, he real­ized the juke­box was bust­ed up. Big chunks of the jukebox’s plas­tic dome were bro­ken off and there were cracks in it. It was still blink­ing and flash­ing, but he paused before putting his mon­ey in. He also noticed that to the right of the bust­ed up juke­box was a chair, one leg broke off, leaned up against a post.

What hap­pened to your juke­box, Roof.” He said, putting the dol­lar back into his pocket. 

There was a fight. Juke­box lost.” He chuck­led and glanced at Enid, who was also chuck­ling, but hers was more of a wheeze. 

Does it still work?”

I gath­er it don’t,” said Enid, turn­ing on the bar stool and fac­ing the sher­iff. She propped her elbows up and leaned back against the bar. 

Enid Pound—that you?”

You know damn well it is.”

You’re just the woman I was hop­ing to run into today.”
“Sure are pop­u­lar with sher­iffs today,” said Roof.

What’s that, Roof?” said Bill. 

Old Frank was just in here about an hour ago,” said Enid. “He’s retired, but don’t act like it. Find­ing it dif­fi­cult to enjoy the autumn of his life.”

I bet I know why,” said Bill.

Don’t take a rock­et sur­geon to fig­ure out,” said Enid.

Reck­on you and I can have a chat ourselves?”

My pol­i­cy on talk­ing to the author­i­ties in a drink­ing estab­lish­ment is simple.”

Let me guess: I buy, you talk.”

Enid smiled and walked over to Bill, still stand­ing by the dilap­i­dat­ed juke­box, and they both sat down at a near­by table. As they sat, a gust of wind drove rain at the tin roof of the bar, mak­ing a loud racket. 

Ooh,” said Enid. “I love it when the weath­er is hos­tile, don’t you, Sheriff?”


The dri­ve to Leon Bradford’s ranch from the sta­tion was about thir­ty min­utes. Lloyd went over what he would say, what he would ask, what he would look for. Brah­mans missing—Walter miss­ing. Two facts with a lot of open air between them. He also knew that Bill would not have approve of this trip to Bradford’s. Bill did not approve of “hunch­es” and “gut feel­ings.” Bill was a hard-facts man, a cau­tious and thought­ful man. Lloyd respect­ed Bill immense­ly, but Lloyd had his own ways and they had not yet failed him in a major way so he had no rea­son to sec­ond guess himself. 

The dou­ble track up to Leon’s home on the back of the prop­er­ty was par­tial­ly canopied and Lloyd found him­self dri­ving slow­ly to savor the dark, cool atmos­phere, a scene, he thought, right out of a sto­ry about Robin Hood or King Arthur. It was one o’clock now and the sun was high and it was hot and humid, when not under the heavy shade of old-growth. But there was the hint of a storm in the north. He noticed fresh tire tread marks in the dirt and won­dered if the Bradford’s were even home. 

When Lloyd emerged from the cave of trees onto the lawn of Leon’s home he was some­what sur­prised to find Leon and Michaela out­side. Leon stood with his hands on his hips, look­ing down at some­thing Lloyd could not quite make out, and Michaela was pulling a water hose around the right side of the two-sto­ry red­brick home. She even­tu­al­ly was out of his view. Leon didn’t so much as glance Lloyd’s way until he was out of the truck and walk­ing towards the house. 

The thing on the ground in front of Leon turned out to be a dead white­tail doe. 

Jesus,” said Lloyd, as he walked up to Leon. 

Damnedest thing.”

Looks fresh.”

Leon grunt­ed.

How is it that you’re just com­ing across it then?”

Leon final­ly looked over at Lloyd. 

What you doing here, Deputy?”

Want­ed to talk to you about them Brah­mans stole.”

Leon nod­ded, point­ed behind him.

Michaela and I just got back from town not ten min­utes ago. Left here—shoot—around eight, and I don’t recall see­ing it here then.” He scratched at the crown of his head. 

Looks like it just dropped dead, don’t it?” said Lloyd. He knelt down and gen­tly put his hand to its neck. 

What I thought.” 

Lloyd won­dered if a doe could have a heart attack or a mas­sive stroke.

Michaela came back around with her water hose. 

Deputy,” she said. 

Lloyd and Leon stopped to watch her. Leon smiled at her. 

What you doing lug­ging that hose all over the yard for?”

Just water­ing.”

Leon, you too cheap to have some irri­ga­tion put in for your wife?”

Says she likes the water­ing. Gives her some­thing to do.” Leon turned back to the doe. “You help me pick her up and put her in a wheelbarrow?”


Bill watched Enid take a sip from her new mug of beer and watched her light a slight­ly bent cig­a­rette she’d pulled from a crum­pled soft pack of gener­ic cigarettes. 

Walter’s can­dyass cousin still work­ing for you?” said Enid, blow­ing a cloud of cheap smoke. 

Lloyd still does, yes. Wouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly call him a can­dyass, though. He ain’t the bright­est star in the sky, but he’s a tough son of a bitch and a loy­al offi­cer of the law.” Bill wasn’t being fun­ny. He meant what he said. 

Enid grinned a tooth­less grin and coughed a quick laugh. 

Okay,” she said. “Guess you don’t know him like I do.”

Being that he’s a Pound and you’re a Bag­gott, I wouldn’t think you knew him much at all.”

I am mar­ried to his first cousin—and I’ve heard all the same sto­ries as every­one else in this part of the world, except I’ve heard the real versions.”

Real ver­sions? You mean your and Walter’s versions?”

The realest versions.”

She smeared out her cig­a­rette and skat­ed the mug of beer around in the con­den­sa­tion pud­dle on the table. 

Speak­ing of Wal­ter,” said Bill.

Enid looked him in the eye, and Bill winked. 

You find out any­thing about his whereabouts?”

Not pre­cise­ly.”

Let me get this right. You’re talk­ing to the per­son who report­ed him miss­ing to try and find out where he is? That don’t make a damn bit of sense, does it?”

It does if you know what I know.”

Enid fin­ished her beer and lit her flat­tened, bent last cigarette. 

Bill held up two fin­gers and Roof turned around and grabbed two clean mugs. 

Go on, then.”

First I want to ask you a few seri­ous ques­tions. No more of this play­ing around.”

Who’s been play­ing? You ask, I answer.”

It’s just that, if you real­ly want to know where Wal­ter is, you’ll want to answer me true. I don’t give a good god­damn about Wal­ter. He could fuck right off, as far as I’m con­cerned. He could trip over and fall off the edge of the Earth, and I wouldn’t even spill my drink. And to be hon­est: whether he’s alive or dead or some­where in between—that don’t real­ly mat­ter to me, nei­ther. But it’s my job to fig­ure things out. So let’s you and me fig­ure this shit right here out.”

Enid put out her cig­a­rette and crossed her arms and sat back in her chair. 

Bill leaned in, put his elbows on the rick­ety table. 

Wal­ter do some­thing to severe­ly piss off any of these bik­ers we got around these parts?”

You got some paper and some­thing to write with? We’ll make a list.”

Bill sighed and leaned back. “Any­thing late­ly or seri­ous and longstanding—anything that might stand out in your mind?”

He’s got some out­stand­ing debt with them Evil Dead pussies. But they like hav­ing a lit­tle debt on you so they can get you to do shit for them to sup­pos­ed­ly ‘can­cel’ that debt, which nev­er actu­al­ly hap­pens. They scum­bags, but they ain’t stu­pid, least not the ones run­ning the show.”

You talk like you know about Wal­ter and his deal­ings with folks.”

Wal­ter wouldn’t make a left turn with­out I told him ready on the right.”

Got him trained, do you?”

He’s just smart enough to know he’s stu­pid, is all.”

So he con­sults with you on every lit­tle thing then?”

Every lit­tle impor­tant thing.”

Then you’ll know the answer to this ques­tion, I reck­on: did Wal­ter steal Leon Bradford’s Brahmans?”

Enid smiled.

I’ll answer that ques­tion. I’ll answer it thor­ough­ly. But first you answer a ques­tion for me.”


You think you know what hap­pened to him, where he is?”

Bill fig­ured he was in a good spot here, tac­ti­cal­ly, and decid­ed that telling her the truth would make her angry, put her right in his hands, get her to talk wide open.

This morn­ing, in one of Parson’s lemon groves, offa twen­ty-sev­en, we found a body. A burnt up Wal­ter-sized body.”

But you don’t know it’s Walter.”

Well, the body ain’t exactly…pristine. The body ain’t exact­ly rec­og­niz­able.” Bill looked at his watch. “Mat­ter fact, med­ical exam­in­er prob­a­bly just now fin­ish­ing up with it. I’ll make a call, soon as we’re done here, and I’ll let you know on the spot what they tell me. But, right now, I want to know what you know.”

Enid low­ered her head and Bill thought she must be cry­ing. Her shoul­ders jerked a few times. She then held her head up and took a deep breath, looked back at Bill, eyes aglow, brow set.

Wal­ter did steal that crazy fucker’s cat­tle. Stole the shit out of ‘em. But see­ing how Wal­ter don’t own a fuck­ing tea tow­el, he had to line up some help. And that help, I reck­on, fucked him.”

Go on.”

Wal­ter had the idea of using a cou­ple side-by-sides, cor­ralling as many as they could into a semi-trail­er, and high­tail­ing it. In and out. Wee hours. Only Wal­ter, like I said, ain’t got shit. So he went to that Evil Dead dick Dou­glas. He and some oth­er ass­hole got the side-by-sides and the semi and trail­er and they pitched in on the job. Dou­glas had anoth­er ‘friend’ of his rebrand the cat­tle and take them to auc­tion. Got top dol­lar, too. They sold them Brah­mans and didn’t give Wal­ter a red fuck­ing cent. About two days after that I lost track of Walter.”

So you do think Dou­glas and his bunch killed Walter.”

You asked me if he stole them Brah­mans. I told you he did and told you how they did it. I didn’t say word fuck­ing one about who I think killed Wal­ter. But since you brought it up, I’ll tell you what I think for free.” She paused and glanced to the left. “I need to take a trip to the lit­tle girls’ room.”

You ain’t gonna run off, are ya?”

What the hell for? But there bet­ter be a fresh one on the table when I get back.”

Thought this one was gonna be for free.”

Recon­sid­ered. Noth­ing worth hav­ing is free.”

When she returned, Bill offered her one of his cig­a­rettes. She took it, lit it, and took a long pull on the new beer in front of her before beginning. 

Bill held up two fin­gers again and Roof hus­tled over two more mugs of beer. 

Thing is, you cain’t nev­er be too sure with these water­heads we share blood with. Why Wal­ter and I moved out here to Cortez. We still close, but far enough that we ain’t hav­ing to con­stant­ly worry.”

Bill and Enid sat and sipped for a while. Bill was per­plexed. If Enid was telling the truth, he wasn’t sure how to pro­ceed. He lit a cig­a­rette and noticed Enid watch­ing him. He reached his pack across the table and she took anoth­er one from the pack.

Winston’s,” she said. “Fan­cy.”

He watched her take a match from a fold­ed-up match­book and slow­ly drag the match across the igni­tor strip. She help up the match and looked at Bill, then lit her bor­rowed cigarette. 

After exhal­ing a drag that seemed to con­sume half the cig­a­rette, Enid spoke.
“What about Leon. You go and talk to Leon and Michaela about any of this?”

What do you mean, what about Leon and Michaela?”

Leon is a sad bastard—but you cain’t imag­ine the shit Michaela’s man­aged to do with­out any law find­ing out. She’s small but she’s cun­ning and she’s a nasty lit­tle bitch. Leon wouldn’t hurt a yel­low fly but Michaela—being mar­ried to Leon is like a mask of respectabil­i­ty. She’s shady.”

Sounds ridicu­lous,” said Bill. 

She smiled as she smashed her cig­a­rette butt into the ashtray.

She likes it that you think so.”


The deer was not heavy but it was some­what dif­fi­cult to pick up and maneu­ver into the wheelbarrow. 

Got a roll-off around the house,” said Leon. 

Lloyd fol­lowed Leon. They walked by the garage, door open, and Lloyd admired Leon’s old cad­dy, a fifty-nine.

You’ll have to take me for a ride in that beau­ty one of these days.”

How about today?”

Lloyd did not respond as they were at the roll-off and Leon had set the wheel­bar­row down next to it. 

I guess,” said Leon, “just take your side and I’ll take mine and we’ll hoist her up and over.”

It was quick work and as they were walk­ing back to the garage to put away the wheel­bar­row, Lloyd remem­bered why he was there.

Any­way,” said Lloyd. “I was mean­ing to ask you about them Brah­mans you had stole last week.”

Leon nod­ded.

Michaela came around the cor­ner, into the garage.

Y’all done with the ‘bar­row?”

Leon said yes and she picked up a bag of Black Kow and dropped it into the wheel­bar­row with a grunt, then wheeled it off. She was a lit­tle younger than Leon, and she was strong for her size, too, which Lloyd guessed to be about five-foot-three. 

Have y’all made any progress on the case?” said Leon.

This ques­tion almost star­tled Lloyd and it took him a few sec­onds to answer. 

No sir, but I want­ed to ask you some questions.”

That’ll be fine,” said Leon. 

I know you and Michaela ain’t ones to get mixed up in all this Pound-Bag­gott garbage—as you know, I ain’t either—but I still want­ed to ask you if you was aware of any­thing that might have passed by me. As far as I know, things have been fair­ly qui­et lately.”

Well, hell,” said Leon. “You’d know more than Michaela and me. We’re far removed from all that fight­ing and whatnot."

Lloyd nod­ded. He was begin­ning to become aware of a sound behind him, a thump­ing-whirring sound, that seemed to be com­ing from all directions. 

That’s what I fig­ured, too,” said Lloyd. He turned and saw a heli­copter com­ing clos­er. “I had to ask, though.” He had to talk loud­er, as the heli­copter was quite close now. He looked at Leon and Leon grabbed his shoul­der and point­ed towards the front of the house. Leon’s hair was raised up now and he squinted. 

They both jogged to the front yard. 

Leon—why’s a god­damn heli­copter land­ing in your backyard?”

Leon smiled ner­vous­ly, his demeanor some­what changed. 

Michaela has always been fas­ci­nat­ed. Always want­ed to learn.”

Learn what—to fly a fuck­ing helicopter?”

Yes, that’s right. She’s tak­ing lessons.”

From who?”

That Sugar—Parson’s boy.”

Where’d he learn to fly one?”

Air Force, I reckon.”

An idea was begin­ning to form in Lloyd’s mind. It wasn’t all joined up yet, but there was enough. He thought about how the body at Parson’s lemon grove seemed to have been laid there by mag­ic. And Sug­ar had alleged­ly found it. 

Keep calm, he told himself. 

Well I think that’s great,” he said. “Good for her. Man, how’s she com­ing along? I bet it’s com­pli­cat­ed. I know it’s hard to learn.”

Oh, pret­ty good.” Leon’s hands were in his pock­ets now. 

How many lessons she have so far?”

Not sure, a few.”

Bull­shit, thought Lloyd. If she were tak­ing lessons, they’d be expensive—he’d know exact­ly how many she’d tak­en. Course he might just be ner­vous. I need time, thought Lloyd. 

Any­way, I want­ed to ask you—you got any idea who might have stole your brah­mans? Just thought I’d ask. Wasn’t sure if any­one had asked yet.”

How the hell should I know, Lloyd? Don’t you think I’d have told you some­thing like that, if I had an idea?”

Lloyd could bare­ly hear any­thing but the heli­copter now. He gave Leon a smile and a thumbs up.

They both stood and watched the heli­copter hov­er in the air, just above roof-lev­el. Sure enough, it was Sug­ar pilot­ing the thing. 

Michaela bent over, scram­bled up to the helicopter. 

Leon waved, Lloyd did too. 

Michaela and the man both waved back. After a few sec­onds, she walked around and got in the pas­sen­ger side of the heli­copter. The heli­copter slow­ly turned and, as it turned, float­ed high­er upward, then it moved out towards the pas­ture­land behind the Brad­ford home. 

The sound of the heli­copter fad­ed and Lloyd got an idea.

So, Leon, I think I’ll take you up on that ride in the Cad­dy anoth­er day.”

Leon nod­ded and smiled a lit­tle. Do I have enough, thought Lloyd? Bill would say that he didn’t, he knew that much. He thought about the med­ical examiner’s office—what had they found out by now? If it’s Walter’s body—and if he stole the cattle—and Leon knows….Would they have had Wal­ter killed? Michaela’s a Bag­gott. Would have rea­son to hate Wal­ter beyond the cat­tle thiev­ing. Not poor old Leon, though. Sure­ly not Leon.

As he walked back to his truck, it took every­thing he had not to turn around and cuff Leon and bring him in. 

Lloyd made it about halfway down the long dirt dri­ve from Leon’s house back to the road before he met up with Bill’s truck com­ing up the dri­ve. He noticed some­one in the pas­sen­ger seat, some­one small, the top of a head the only thing vis­i­ble. He waved, and Bill pulled up along­side and Lloyd rec­og­nized Enid.

We bark­ing up the same tree, looks like,” said Lloyd.

Bill winked and glanced over at Enid.

Med­ical exam­in­er iden­ti­fied the Parson’s grove body as Wal­ter Pound,” said Bill. “Den­tal records. My sympathies—to you both,” he added. “I know he was sor­ry but fam­i­ly is family.” 

They all sat qui­et for a moment. Enid spoke first.

It’s Michaela what’s done it,” she said with author­i­ty, looked over at Lloyd.

I think so, too,” said Lloyd. “Just watched her hop on a heli­copter with Sug­ar and whirl away. Lessons they called it.”

Enid sat and lis­tened whie the two men talked. 

I don’t reck­on Leon knows the first thing about any of this, but Michaela and that Sug­ar Burk­son bastard—I’d bet the farm they did this together.”

For Michaela, moti­va­tion is there. The thiev­ery and the fam­i­ly history.”

Don’t for­get the being crazy as a shit­house rat part,” said Enid. 

Lloyd smiled at Enid’s comment.

Enid, just thought of some­thing,” said Lloyd, rain­drops begin­ning to tap on their truck hoods. 

Hoyt Bag­gott was Michaela’s uncle, wasn’t he?”

She nod­ded. “And my first cousin,” she added.

Well,” said Bill, squint­ing at the dark gray sky. “Start­ing up again.” 

As the rain picked up, Lloyd wait­ed impa­tient­ly for Bill to lay out their next moves. He told him to wait just off Bradford’s prop­er­ty for Michaela’s pos­si­ble return by heli­copter. Lay low and watch. Despite the rain angling in, Enid had not rolled up her win­dow. Wal­ters dead. Her man is dead. She seemed to be look­ing down at her hands, rest­ing palms up in her lap, fin­gers curled inward, two dead spi­ders. Enid could have been some­one, thought Lloyd, as Frank angled the truck into a three-point turn. 

Steve Lam­bert was born in Louisiana and grew up in Flori­da. His writ­ing has appeared in Adiron­dack Review, Broad Riv­er Review, BULL, Chi­ron Review, Con­trast, The Cort­land Review, Emrys Jour­nal, Into the Void, Lon­gleaf Review, New World Writ­ing, The Pinch, Saw Palm, Tam­pa Review, and many oth­er places. In 2018 he won Emrys Jour­nal’s Nan­cy Dew Tay­lor Poet­ry Prize and he is the recip­i­ent of four Push­cart Prize nom­i­na­tions. Inter­views with Lam­bert have appeared in print, on pod­casts, and pub­lic radio. He is the author of the poet­ry col­lec­tions Heat Seek­ers (2017) and The Sham­ble (2021), the chap­book In Eyn­sham (2020), and the fic­tion col­lec­tion The Patron Saint of Birds (2020). His nov­el, Philis­teens, was released in 2021. The col­lab­o­ra­tive fic­tion text, Mor­tal­i­ty Birds, writ­ten with Tim­o­thy Dodd, appeared in 2022. He and his wife live in Florida. 


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