At the station, Taran tried to make notes about what he had learned, at least the things he could share. You couldn’t write down that Rumpelstiltskin was going around killing the women based on a vision, not if you wanted to continue to work as police chief. He’d be lucky to wash dishes at the diner in Corbin Meadow if he wrote that up.
The station wasn’t a large place, big enough for a reception area where Mattie worked the phones and talked to anyone who came in. They had a large office that Johnny and Bobby Joe Elkins shared. They’d hired Bobby Joe on full time when they’d lost Amanda. Before that, he’d been security down in Hickory and worked part time if they needed him, most notably the time when Amanda had been murdered.
Taran had his own office, which was roomy compared to a real city police office, though his wasn’t that much tidier, he supposed. Papers lay everywhere—on the gunmetal desk, the brownish gray folding chair that sat in the corner, his larger ratty brown upholstered club chair that hadn’t seen a club since about 1950, the bookshelves that were built into the wall next to him, and the top of the two drawer metal file cabinet, the black so worn that it was almost the same gray as the desk.
Across the hall was a pair of interview rooms, one for suspects, a nicer one for witnesses, a small closet of a kitchen and a bathroom. The stairs that led down led to storage and a couple of holding cells if they had to arrest someone and keep them at the station for any amount of time were at the end of the hall. Taran considered the cells more of a drunk tank than a jail because most of the time they were used were for drunk and disorderly arrests and sometimes a driving while intoxicated, but all things considered, even that happened rarely in Corbin Meadow. The cells smelled of stale alcohol and vomit, in contrast to the smoky smell of cigarettes of the upstairs, which lingered from a time when you could still smoke in a police station.
The air conditioning groaned and creaked as it blew air that was only slightly cooler than the air outside into the building. That was something else that hadn’t changed since the day Taran was hired over a decade ago. The place, he realized, was old and nearly as unchanging as a rock. Unchanging was a good way to describe the town of Corbin Meadow, and even a fair number of people in it.
Except now he had to factor in evil gnomes, which did not work for him in any way, shape, or form. Who the hell believed in gnomes and fairies once they’d gotten past kindergarten? Did even children really believe in them? Had Elaine been killed because she’d liked gnomes dressed in Star Trek uniforms and the creatures had taken exception and made an example of her? Did they exist just in Corbin Meadow or everywhere?
Worse, was he going crazy? Maybe Zoe had some strange drugs that she’d smoked and he’d breathed it in and they’d had a shared hallucination. He didn’t know of drugs that could do that, certainly not any that smelled like lemon furniture polish. Besides, now, sitting at his desk, he didn’t feel as if he were coming down off of a high or a trip.
Taran shook his head as if he could shake off any potential hallucinogen. He needed to figure out what was going on.
All the women who had been killed were strong women, working for the community. He thought Zoe might be a target as well and he made a note about that, mentioning he had concerns. He wasn’t at all certain why she might be a target but perhaps someone—a gnome?—had something against the Mason-Hyers.
Taran started looking through the computer, checking into what he knew of Zoe and Jodie Mason-Hyer. The Mason family had been members of the Lutheran Church forever. They’d lived in Corbin Meadow since before it became a township. Her Mason ancestors had been farmers, some hogs and some tobacco, though neither had had enough land to be rich by the standards of the day. They’d done their own work on the land and hired temporary help as they’d not been rich enough to afford more than one slave.
The Hyers had done better. They’d been woodworkers, real craftsmen, some of the early ones who started working in the area. At one time, of course, most everyone in the countryside farmed, but the Hyers had also built cupboards, tables, chairs, and beds for much of the community. Their work was considered the finest.
There’d been a minister in the family at one time but he’d left. Taran let that go. He didn’t see much else. Who would know? Elaine would have, but she was dead.
Dolly Jean Pitikins might know. Taran wondered if the historical society, really just Dolly Jean’s front room, was open on a day where it was pouring. She couldn’t expect visitors. Of course, because she worked out of her home, Taran didn’t have to worry if the society was open, not really, if he wanted to talk to her. On a wet and blustery day, Dolly Jean was going to be bored and perhaps a bit lonely and more than willing to offer up all the gossip he could stomach.
Taran smiled a little as he moved around some papers, pretending like he might be tidying up, already thinking about his visit to Dolly Jean.
Chapter 21 will be coming next Friday. Don’t want to wait? Find the book here.