By Stephen Halpert
“Let’s go, Magee, time to get back on the case,” Sippi said. It was the next day but I still wasn’t feeling myself. Sippi’s s smoked tuna balls were stale. There’s nothing worse than dried out treats. Nonetheless I wagged my tail and we headed for Chief Mallory’s office.
Mallory smiled as we came in. “Good to see you, Magee,” he said, “You too Sippi. Aunt Bea and Charley Smiles will be getting back today, I wonder if we should send a detail to protect them.”
Sippi shook her head. “What do you suppose happened to prompt the attack?”
Raven came into Mallory’s office. I yipped.
“Feeling okay?” Mallory asked him.
“The nurse fixed me up and I’m ready to rock and roll,” he said with a grin.”
Mallory nodded. “Good. I have a feeling it might be time for me to visit Charley Smiles and get the lowdown on this whole situation. Could be he might know something I don’t.” He heaved himself out of his desk chair, stuck the stump of his old cigar in his mouth and headed for the door. “You two can do some research on the Internet,” he said. “See what you can come up with there.”
“Will do, Chief,” they both said at once. Mallory left his office. He stopped to see the desk Sergeant on his way out.
Meanwhile Charley Smiles was at his desk going over his accumulated mail. His office door opened and he looked up to see a familiar female face. “I thought you might show up,” he said, “sooner or later.”
The woman’s mouth twisted. “You’re lucky you’re still alive. If that dog hadn’t deflected the shot…”
“So it was me and not Bea your crew was after.”
“Ya think?” she sneered. Charley noticed an abrupt change in her facial features.
“You don’t lead a woman on for years and then dump her for a two bit blues singer.”
Charley spread his hands, palms up. “Grace, we‘ve been friends for most of our lives, growing up here in this town.”
Grace Divine took a long knife from her satchel. “I’m going to kill you Charley. This time no stupid mutt will get in the way. You might not know it but I’m pretty proficient at decapitation.”
“You killed those other two then?”
“I had to, they knew too much.”
His heart was pounding. “Just tell me why?” He said, hoping to buy some time. “I need to know why?”
Her laugh was ugly. “You must be terribly naive or blind.”
“Maybe I am. But why kidnap the dog?” He tried to appear calm as he frantically searched his mind for a way out of the situation.
“And have that mutt digging up the compound, discovering homicides from thirty years ago?”
She set down the satchel and moved toward his desk. “In your next lifetime maybe you’ll be satisfied with a white woman who cares a lot for you, who’s been your friend ever since we were small, and who can’t stand the sight of you any more.”
She lunged toward him, knife held high. He scooted his desk chair back and jumped out of the way. She kept on coming.
“Hold it right there!” Mallory’s voice caused her to turn. Wild eyed, she headed for the door. His gun in one hand, Mallory reached for her but she eluded him and ran from the newspaper office into the street. As Mallory and Charley watched, she jumped on her motorcycle and sped away.
“I guess I got here at a good time,” Mallory said as they went back into Charley’s office.
” I guess you did!” Charley said. “Thought I was a goner there for a while. Thank you.”
“Actually, I came to ask you for some details about the case.” Mallory eased himself into the worn leather chair opposite the desk and looked at Charley. “What can you tell me?”
“Gracie and I were an item for years. Then one day Bea Bopp came to town to sing and it was clear to me that we had a special chemistry. We took to going away together once in a while and over the years, she became even more special to me.”
Mallory nodded. “So it looks like what they say, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.'” Just then his phone rang. He picked up the call. “‘Scuse me,” he said, “I have to take this.”
Raven sounded excited. “There’s been an accident. A motorcycle crashed into a moving van outside of town. “We’ll be over, he said, grabbing his coat. He and Charley Smiles jumped into his cruiser and headed down the highway. When they arrived the firemen were already trying to contain the blaze. Grace Divine lay unconscious by the side of the road. She had been thrown clear of her motorcycle. In the distance an ambulance siren sounded.
“Gracie,” Charley said softly. “Why did it have to be this way. Without your helmet you didn’t have a chance. Tenderly he wiped some blood from her cheek. He reached for her hand. Her eyes never opened. “You went out like the shooing star you are.”
Just then Sippi, Raven and I pulled up behind the chief’s car.
Mallory looked at the medic and shook his head. He turned to Sippi. “Tomorrow morning bring Magee and we’ll wrap this up at the compound at Wild Witch Road. Based on what Grace Divine told Charley and he told me, we should be able to build a formidable case against what’s left of the Headless Horsemen.
Sippi noticed that Charley Smiles seemed older and more weary. His usual joie de vivre was absent.
Dick Pride pulled up and jumped out of his car holding his camera. But Charley waved him off. “Let it ride son, bring your camera to tomorrow’s investigation, that’ll be enough. Sooner this case is closed the better.
Sippi clapped her hands. “Come on Magee, time to go home. She turned to Charley to ask him if he’d like to come up to her condo to see Aunt Bea, but when she saw his expression, she knew it was best to say nothing. She turned to Raven. “Tomorrow’s another day and once this case is wrapped up and given to the prosecutor, I’ll collect on that dinner you promised me.”
He grinned. “Really?”
She smiled, took his hand, and said. “Yes, really.”