Max Fly, Private Eye
President & CEO of
Max Fly Private & Nefarious Investigations & Pest Control
Liz Tureen, Cub Crime Reporter – Burnt Corn Daily Gazette

This is another episode from the files of Max Fly, Private Eye, President and CEO of Max Fly Private & Nefarious Investigations & Pest Control Services located in downtown Burnt Corn, Alabama, where we have been protecting the innocent people of Burnt Corn from murder, narcotics distribution, robbery, extortion, loansharking and other nasty mafia behavior as well as rodents for over ten years.

Our corporate meeting, where we discussed bringing in a line of ultraviolet equipment to sell to augment our work in case we experienced a downturn in our business, ended with a 3-1 nay vote. Tommy Sneakers Corona was still on an extended leave of absence in Costa Rica so he didn’t vote. The only one voting in favor was Luigi Lips Licavoli, our V. P. of Operations whose uncle was the sole owner of the ultraviolet equipment distributorship out of Cleveland, Ohio.
Chico Zippy Doo Rodriguez was picking up the empty lunch cartons and disposing of the leftover Pork Brains stewed in Camel’s Milk and Sundried Texas Armadillo Tenders lathered in Opossum Gravy that was delivered from the Soon Fatt Chinese Take Away Restaurant.
I poured a plastic snifter half full of Napolean brandy as I was close to wrapping everything up for the day. I began to clip off the end of my Cohiba when Wanda Winchester, the head of our Reconciliation Department, who was staring at the parts lying on her desk from the unassembled oscillating fan that had stopped oscillating, yelled out, “Max, I think this is a lost cause. There is so much cigar smoke and dust in this motor it can’t breathe, let alone oscillate. I think we ought to get a new one.”
Wanda, who grew up in a rough neighborhood, claimed she had gunpowder with her porridge while she clung to her mother’s skirt ducking incoming rounds every morning. When she was sober, which usually occurred between Tuesdays and Thursdays, she was in charge of our firearms safety courses.
The phone rang and Wanda yelled out again, “Max, line one is for you.”
“Wanda, we only have one line. Who is it?”
“It’s that new lady at the Burnt Corn Daily Gazette, Liz Tureen.”
“If she’s a reporter, she’s no lady, Wanda” I replied.
I knew who Liz Tureen was. I met her last month at the Burnt Corn Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Golden Stool Bar and Night Club, whose owner, Mike Rotch, reserved a back room the first Wednesday of every month for the chamber meetings. Mayor Sam Manella introduced the new members and Liz Tureen was in the group. She was cute as a button but her brassiness left a bad taste in my mouth.
I sighed as I picked up the phone. “This is Max Fly, how may I help you?”
“Mr. Fly, this is Liz Tureen. I’m the new crime reporter for the Burnt Corn Daily Gazette and I am working on what may be one of the biggest scoops I ever had and I may need your help.”
“I’m doing fine, Miss Tureen. Thank you for asking.”
“I am sorry for my poor manners, Mr. Fly, it’s just that I am so excited. What do you know about that guy who was at last weeks chamber luncheon? The one who is renting that run-down warehouse on Choctawhatchee Boulevard where he plans to start a fertilizer plant.”
“Who, Harry Verderici?”
Yes, that’s the guy, Harry Verderici. His assistant is a fellow named Willie R. “Billy Dick” Romano.”
“That chamber meeting is the only time I met Harry Verderici and I have never met Billy Dick. Why do you ask?”
“Something smells in there, Mr. Fly.”
“You do know fertilizer is supposed to smell, don’t you, Miss Tureen?” I replied.
“Yes, I know but this fertilizer smells different and I’m afraid it might be something very bad.
“Like what?” I enquired.
“I can’t say over the phone. Would you be available to meet me for dinner tonight at the Six Feet Under Pub and Fish House on Saugahatchee Creek Road? I have a table reserved, table 13, my lucky number.”
“Of course I know where that is, what time?”
“Sixish, if that is okay with you.”
“Sixish? What’s sixish?”
“You know, six, six-fifteen, six-thirty; goodbye Mr. Fly.” She hung up.
The Six Feet Under Pub and Fish House table number 13. It was located in the back of the restaurant near the pastry cart which was filled with glazed and frosted petit-fours and donuts.
I arrived at 5:55 p.m. to avoid any confusion. The dining room was separated from the bar by a long planter filled with fake greenery, plastic philodendrons rising nearly to the ceiling, purchased from the Burnt Corn Nursery, Plants, and Cemetery Lots run by Clay and Helen Earth. The sales tags were still visible.
I had a nervous stomach so I went first into the kitchen to pay my respects to Nick the cook and smell the fish and then I went to the men’s room to relieve myself before coming back and taking a seat across from Crime Reporter, Liz Tureen. She was sitting on the other side of the roundtable, where she could see anyone entering the dining room. She reminded me of a nervous little bird. I guess fertilizer can do that to you.
Dr. Kent C. Strait, proprietor of Burnt Corn Optometry And Glassworks, who was blind in one eye already and the other one didn’t work too well either, was sitting at the end of the bar trying to read the fine print on that most important publication, the Racing Form, and his well-endowed fiancé, Emma Royds, who I had a history with, was next to him applying a foundation to her Botox injected cheeks. He saw me looking at her and nodded.
I returned the nod.
“My editor recommends this place. Have you eaten here before, Mr. Fly?” Liz Tureen said, bringing me back to the present.
“I have. Many times and please, it’s Max.”
“Okay, Max, what do you suggest?”
“I highly recommend the Slimehead. It is delicious. They serve it over a bed of rice with candied baby carrots, Baked Mushrooms, Potatoes with Spinach and artichokes.”
“Most places refer to it as Orange Roughy, which I think is a dull, uninspired name that captures nothing of the grandeur of the defining characteristic of these deep-sea fishes. They take up to 30 years to reach maturity you know.”
“Wow, what I do know is why other restaurants have it on the menu as Orange Roughy. It’s a bit more appetizing.”
“Miss Tureen, you will find out folks here in Burnt Corn are a bit different than people from other parts of the country.”
“Please call me Liz. Why do they call them slimeheads?”
“Okay, Liz it is; but they don’t call the folks in Burnt Corn slimeheads, it’s the fish. They possess a system of sensory organs that run the length of the fish’s body and detect minute changes in pressure. The lateral line allows the fish to detect nearby vibrations and movement. It also consists of a concentrated array of mucus filled canals in the head. These canals are the inspiration for the moniker slimehead. Beyond inspiring a pretty sweet name, these canals can sense low-frequency sound. This makes slimeheads very good at avoiding predators and helps explain how such a tasty fish can survive for more than 100 years.”
“Wow, that’s very impressive, Max, probably more than I care to know. Why do you know so much about this fish?”
“An old girlfriend grew up in Mobile and her old man was a deep sea fisherman. He knew just about every kind of fish that swam in the gulf. He also claims to have had an on again off again relationship with a mermaid before he got married.”
After we finished our main course of the Slimehead plate grilled and a slice of raspberry cheesecake we got down to the business at hand, fertilizer.
“What exactly has you so worked up about fertilizer?” I asked.
“I think they have dead bodies,” Liz Tureen exclaimed.
“Dead Bodies?”
“Yes, when they first moved in, they brought in four tractor-trailers and parked them in the back of the warehouse where it is really dark.
I drove there later that day to look around and nobody was there, just some big guy doing pushups in the office. The place stunk like rotten meat. I looked in one of the trailers and there were a bunch of black plastic bags stacked up in the trailer. They looked like bags a mortician puts dead bodies in and I think it was dead bodies.”
“Dead bodies? Why dead bodies?”
“I dunno, what else could it be?”
” I’m not sure. Where would they get two truckloads of dead bodies?”
“Chicago? Why Chicago?”
“Do you know how many people are killed in Chicago every week?”
“No, I don’t.”
“No? Well, I’ll tell you, dozens, that’s how many; dozens. Where else do you hear of a bunch of dead bodies lying around? Nowhere, not even Detroit. They are killing about 60 people a week. That’s a truckload of dead bodies every month. Plus I saw the bill of lading on the front seat in the cab. It said its origination was Chicago. They picked the bodies up there and are hiding them down here in Burnt Corn. I’m sure of it.”
“Why would they bring them to Burnt Corn Alabama?”
“Where do you think they can dispose of all those bodies in Chicago, huh? Nowhere. The cemeteries must be running out of room so they have to find someplace else to take them and, I am pretty sure, Mr. Fly, I mean Max, it’s Burnt Corn, Burnt Corn Alabama, that’s where.”
“Well, Ben Dover’s God’s Garden is in receivership, and I don’t mean that they are receiving bodies, they are looking for a new buyer so nothing is being planted out there. Where would they be burying them?”
“Maybe they aren’t going to bury them. Have you heard of dog food, Max?”
“Of course I’ve heard of dog food. Are you implying they are going to grind up human bodies and make dog food out of them? You must be out of your mind.”
“Okay, what about bombs? They use fertilizer in making bombs. Perhaps they are planning to overthrow our government. You can’t dismiss something like that when you are dealing with the mob. Remember JFK? He was assassinated, you know and some people think the mob was involved in that murder.”
“Have you gone to Sheriff Wyatt Hertz and discussed this with him?”
“I tried to but all I get is his answering machine. What’s with that by the way?”
“I don’t know, you’ll have to ask the mayor, Sam Manella, he’s the sheriff’s cousin.”
“Well, I was told Sheriff Hertz is in Tuscaloosa with his fiance, Lacy Shortz. The National Gun and Knife show is up there and he had Deputy Hiram Firam drive them; evidently, Sheriff Hertz doesn’t like to drive on Interstate highways.”
“Miss Tureen, I mean Liz, in all honesty, by any stretch of the imagination, believing that a plot to overthrow our federal government is being hatched here in little Burnt Corn Alabama is a bit too much.”
“I am telling you, Mr. Fly, I mean Max, size doesn’t matter. It could happen anywhere.”
“I agree with you, Liz, size doesn’t matter, but Burnt Corn? So, what is it you want me to do?”
“I want to hire you, Mr. Fly, you have a stellar reputation and come highly recommended by Mr. Frank Ferter, Head of Security over at the Burnt Corn Walmart. I have been allotted some money in my budget by my editor to hire you so I can get to the bottom of this, this, this deep state attempt to overthrow our Federal Government. I believe we must do something to protect and preserve our constitutionally elected government. This could be worse than Watergate. Are you in or out, Max?”
I stared at her for a few moments before answering. “How much did you say you were paying?”

To be continued…



Max Fly, Private Eye
President & CEO of
Max Fly Private & Nefarious Investigations & Pest Control


This is another episode from the files of Max Fly, Private Eye, President and CEO of Max Fly Private & Nefarious Investigations and Pest Control Services located in downtown Burnt Corn, Alabama. Max and his employees have been protecting the innocent people of Burnt Corn from murder, narcotics distribution, robbery, extortion, loansharking and other nasty mafia behavior as well as unwanted rodents for over ten years.
It was a Tuesday afternoon and Burnt Corn was hot. A lone man with dark eyes and a hawkish nose was standing with a toothpick clamped in his wide mouth under the sign of the Burnt Corn Discount Diamonds and Formal Wear Boutique. He wiped sweat from his brow while he gazed at the enormous white tent being erected down the street in a large field behind the Fist and Fury First Primitive Baptist Church of Burnt Corn, pastored by Hal L. Ujah, his longtime friend.
The lone man’s name is Ben Dover. He was wearing a white suit, with white suspenders holding up his white pants with white shoes topped off by a white snap brim fedora he purchased off the rack at the Big Lot’s Store in Mobile. His white shirt was beginning to soak through with sweat. He tossed the soggy toothpick in a nearby trash can and walked off toward the large white church. Ben Dover is a traveling evangelist, a member of the revivalist’s sawdust circuit, a phony, and a con man if there ever was one. By the time he was a teenager he had figured out the scam of the traveling evangelists who set up shop in tents, barns, and occasionally, even, in real churches, like the Fist and Fury First Primitive Baptist Church, so he became an evangelist himself. He was barely able to see over the podium but he had the people writhing in divine ecstasy. He had a tactic for every Holy Roller. He didn’t need a hymn book-he knew the words to all the standards such as “Are You Washed in the Blood?” He’d raise his hands, asking the crowd to rise and he would belt out the hymn through the closing lines. “Are your garments spotless? Are they white as Snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”
Ben Dover would signal everyone to sit and the flock would do as told, except that one time when a young 16-year-old girl, named Eileen Wright remained standing and, without a hymnal, launched into the refrain once more, “Are you washed in the blood?”  Eileen Wright had a bit of con man, or woman, in her as well. Evangelism was in her blood and she had an eye for a certain kind of man and Ben was that kind of man. She claimed that her grandmother was the only woman who slept with Liberace, which was a lie, of course, but it got her the attention she craved.
She continued to follow Ben Dover on his circuit and continued to launch into song after he requested everyone to be seated. Finally, he made a deal with her that if she would go away he would pay her $5.00.
Ben Dover was a full-blooded southern sinner, eaten up with all kinds of sins such as gambling, drinking, and womanizing, to name just a few. He attended Snead State Community College in Boaz, Alabama, completing one semester before realizing his true calling was behind a pulpit instead of in a classroom.
He finally realized Eileen Wright may never go away, even by paying her $5.00, so he asked her to marry him.
The service was performed by Fist and Fury First Primitive Baptist Church’s senior pastor, Hal L. Ujah and the song, “As Man And Woman We Were Made: was sung by Ben Dover’s boyhood friend, Kerry Oki, accompanied on the organ by Eileen Wright’s former babysitter, Lucy Furr. Following the service and a short honeymoon at the Dunham Inn, located in downtown Burnt Corn, they hit the circuit, as they say, and became an Evangelistic husband and wife team well known throughout the south as, The True Children of God, the Ecclesiastical Duo, Ben Dover and Eileen Dover from Burnt Corn, Alabama.
Eileen was sixteen and Ben was twenty-seven when they tied the knot. Eileen’s childhood ended that night, in more ways than one as she found out that her husband, besides being a con man, was also active in robbing banks and jewelry stores in small towns throughout the southern United States. Instead of causing her concern, it excited her more than evangelizing did.
Ben decided they should put down roots somewhere and the place he chose was Burnt Corn. He and Eileen purchased a tract of land just south of town about three miles off State Highway 84 and opened Burnt Corn’s first and only cemetery, opened to the public, well, the deceased public, to be more precise. He decided it wasn’t going to be a cemetery, but a memorial park, where the bereaved and forlorn might find hope and solace. The name he graced it with is “God’s Garden” and promoted it daily on the Burnt Corn Country and Western Radio Station “God’s Garden, as unlike other cemeteries as sunshine is unlike darkness, as Eternal Life is unlike death.”
He told Eileen that it wouldn’t be long until people would be dying to get in. Eileen didn’t see the humor in that.
Pretty soon, true to his word, people began to fill up the new “God’s Garden” just as he predicted.
One evening, Eileen cooed, “When can I get a gun, Ben?”
Now it was Ben’s turn to be surprised when Eileen told Ben her preference was a .44 Magnum. A Ruger, if available.
“Honey, we just want to heist a few banks and jewelry stores. We don’t want to blow no one into the next county.”
The following day Ben went to the local Walmart out on State Highway 84 and purchased a ..44 caliber Ruger Super Blackhawk Single-Action Revolver for his new bride.
On this particular scorching hot day in July, Eileen Dover was sitting in the Burnt Corn All Night Diner and Laundromat, enjoying a raspberry caramel skinny latte, after finishing a breakfast that consisted of a large stack of twelve pumpkin pancakes, two sausage links, and a bowl of cheese grits followed by a piece of rhubarb pie, a la mode. She was keeping an eye on the office of Sheriff Wyatt Hertz and deputy Hiram Firam who were at the Greenetrack Racino, a combination race track, and casino, operating in Eutaw, Alabama. They were there spending free vouchers provided to them compliments of the shady evangelist, Ben Dover.
Eileen and Ben Dover had been in the town of Burnt Corn the past three days, providing the good residents three days of coming to Jesus moments and now they were close to packing up their tent and belongings for a trip to Foley. But before they left, they planned on making a visit to the Burnt Corn Discount Diamond and Formal Wear Boutique; an unauthorized after-hours visit.
And that is where I came in; my name is Max Fly, Private Eye and I am a damned good one at that. Our office was hot in spite of the oscillating fan that was set on high, blowing in the afternoon’s humid air around the room, mixing it with the thick blue cigar smoke that was still floating near the ceiling from the Cohibas we smoked during our recent game of Canasta. Tommy “Sneakers” Corona, head of our Wire Fraud and Money Laundering Division, and Luigi “Lip” Licavoli, V. P. Operations, had just left to go to the  Burnt Corn All Night Diner and Laundromat, to pick up our lunch, one of my favorites, Cream Possum, and sweet potatoes garnished with Coon fat gravy.
I began to reminisce about a former girlfriend, named Jacklyn Hyde while staring at a poster on the wall in front of my desk of Bear Bryant being carried off the field by his players after his final victory at the 1982 Liberty Bowl where The Tide beat the Fighting Illini 21-15. Jacklyn Hyde and I were at that game and it just so happened to be my last victory over Miss Hyde as well.
The head of our Displaced Persons & Pest Control Divisions, Chico “Zippy Doo” Rodriguez, our token illegal immigrant, was sleeping at his desk and Wanda Winchester, who heads up our Reconciliation Division, had just thrown back what was left of her shot of  Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey and was now sweeping up cigar ashes that were under Zippy’s feet, that fell from Zippy’s now unlit cigar, while I was trying to recall where Jacklyn Hyde went when our phone rang. It was Mo Lester, Director of the Burnt Corn’s Little Tyke Daycare and Animal Rescue, located in downtown Burnt Corn, a mere two blocks from our office. Mo is a defrocked former Catholic Priest who moved to Burnt Corn two years ago and opened up his daycare and rescue.
“Max, is that you?”
“Yes, it’s me, who’s this?”
“Mo, Mo Lester,” he yelled. Max, do you know those two Jesus freaks that have been in town the past few days, that husband and wife team of evangelists?”
“Yeah, what about them?”
“Well, they are standing around on Main Street looking suspicious, I mean more suspicious then most come to Jesus types usually do. They have been standing next to Lois Price’s Discount Diamonds and Formal Wear Boutique for a good thirty minutes now. They are staring at the front door and then looking in the direction of Sheriff Wyatt Hertz’s empty office, which is empty most of the time, by the way.”
“There is nothing illegal about standing around on Main Street, Mo. I mean if Sheriff Hertz wanted to, I guess he could pick them up for loitering, but why? They appear to be God-fearing and upstanding citizens.”
“I’m telling you, Max, there ain’t nobody that is as God-fearing as those two charlatans claim to be. Not even Jesus himself.”
“What do you want me to do about it, Mo? I’m not a law enforcement officer.”
“Hell, Max, you enforce the law better than Wyatt Hertz and that worthless Deputy Hiram Firam. Can’t you go down there and just badge ’em and let ’em know you have been watching them?”
“But I haven’t been watching them.”
“I know that, but they don’t. If they are planning on doing something illegal, it may give them second thoughts. They announced at their last come to Jesus meeting that their next stop is down in Foley. Why ain’t they leaving?”
“I have no idea, Mo. But I am not going down there to confront them. Have you tried reaching Sheriff Hertz?”
“Of course, but all I get is his answering machine. What kind of sheriff has an answering machine? Who elected that guy?”
“Well, you know he has a big family. He has nine brothers and sisters. It seemed like his momma, Estelle Hertz, was dropping a kid every year there for a while. And then he married into that Nutt clan when he and Hazel Nutt got hitched. That about covers most of Burnt Corn right there. You’d have to pay that Governor of California, what’s his name, Jerry Brown, to import some of his illegal aliens into Burnt Corn before you could garner enough votes to defeat him.”
“Hey, Max wait. They are walking across the street toward the discount jewelry store. Whoa, that skanky woman just took out a gun from a large bag she is carrying. It looks like a .44 Magnum. Wow, that’s a pretty big gun for such a little woman. It could put quite a hole in someone. Hey, Max?”
“I think you should get down here. I think they are about to rob the store. They went into the alley and I can see Ben Dover scaling the wall. He’s getting on the roof and now she is climbing up too and she’s handing him her bag. Oh, Max, he’s got a big saw or something and he’s cutting into the roof. He just took out what looks like a big rope. Wow, he’s now going down the rope into the store. Now she’s going…wait, I think she’s stuck in the hole. Okay, okay, he’s cutting the hole larger and she’s now going in; you gotta get here, Max.”
“Okay, we are on our way, I replied as I slammed down the receiver and grabbed my Stetson hat and the rigging holding my .357 Smith and Wesson. Zip, grab your gun we got us a situation.”
“Okay, Max, I’ll get the Fly Mobile.”
“The boutique is just around the corner,” I replied, spinning the cylinder of my .357. “We can walk there faster than we can drive the Fly Mobile.”
“Okay, Max,” Zip replied tossing what was left of his Cohiba in the ashtray on his desk.
“Wanda,” I yelled, “call Tommy and Luigi and tell them to meet us at the bank and then try to get Wyatt Hertz on his police scanner and tell him we need him home as soon as possible, if not sooner. When you finish, come down to Lois Price’s place. We will need you to help apprehend and question Eileen Dover.”
“Roger, that, Max, do you want Luigi to bring your lunch?” Wanda replied as she picked up the phone and punched in the number for the Burnt Corn All Night Diner and Laundromat.

“Yeah, why not. I gotta eat.”
About the time Zippy Doo and I arrived at the front of Lois Price’s Discount Diamond and Formal Wear Boutique, Tom and Luigi turned the corner, carrying the Cream Possum, and sweet potatoes garnished with Coon fat gravy lunch I ordered. I removed my .357 from its holster and held it barrel up as we walked toward the boutique. I motioned for Tom and Luigi to go around to the back.
Zippy Doo cupped his hands around his face and peered inside the window.
“Max,” he whispered, “I think I see someone.”
I turned and looked inside. “Where?” I asked.
“There, next to the counter,” Zippy replied.
“That’s a dummy, you dummy,” I responded.
“It sure looks real enough. Should we bust it down?” Zippy asked.
“Bust what down?”
“The door.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Why?” Zippy asked.
“Because I have the key. When we signed on to monitor the calls for the Burnt Corn Good Humor Alarm and Security Systems we were given keys to all their client’s places of business and houses,” I replied as I inserted the key into the lock.
I pushed open the door and deactivated the alarm as we walked into the front of the store. We could hear Eileen Dover whispering from behind the long showcase, where Lois Price displayed her discount diamonds.
“Can’t you hurry up? I’m getting nervous. Pretty soon someone is gonna show up, I know it.”
“Hush up, now, you little dimwit. I’m going as fast as I can. It has been a long time since I ran an electric drill. It ain’t exactly easy, you know.”
Zip, Tommy, Louigi, and I converged on the counter and watched as Ben Dover, lying face up, drilled a hole into the bottom of the counter when a tray of diamonds crashed down, striking him between the eyes.
“Oh, aren’t they beautiful?” Eileen asked as she bent over to gather them to her bountiful bosom.
“Drop the diamonds, Eileen and you put down that drill, Ben, and both of you get up and turn around slowly.”
“I told you to hurry up, you bonehead,” Eileen spat, “Now, what are we going to do?”
“Is that you, Max?” Ben asked.
“It is Ben, me, Zip, Tommy, and Luigi. Wanda will be here in a moment. Now I want the two of you to lie face down on the floor with your hands over your head. The jig is up and the both of you are going to jail.”

Zippy Doo, Head Of our Displaced Persons & Pest Control Divisions
Luigi Licavoli, V. P. Operations
Tommy “Sneakers” Corona, Heads our Wire Fraud and Money Laundering Division
Wanda Winchester
Reconciliation Expert

Sergeant Belch And Detective Smallberries – Burnt Corn Police Department


Homicide Sergeant, Crispian Belicheri, a twelve year veteran of the Burnt Corn Police Department, known as Belch to everyone in Burnt Corn, and his partner, Detective Ivan Smallberries, were sitting in their unmarked patrol car. Belicheri was reading the Burnt Corn Daily Gazette’s sports page, wondering how the Burnt Corn Hornets could have blown a 24 point lead at halftime and lose to the Monroeville Zephyrs in a double overtime, while Ivan picked his nails with a small, red Swiss Army Knife.
The sun was just beginning to crack the horizon on that chilly Saturday morning with a hint of dampness in the air when their police radio squawked, “Hey, Sarge, we caught another one, out in Golden. A dead body lying in the driveway of one of them old shotgun houses they built in the ’40’s and ’50’s. I’m headin’ that way now. Do you have Smallberries with you?”
“Yeah, we’ll be there in five,” he replied, folding up the paper and tossing it in the back seat to join a pile of empty coffee cups and fast food bags along with some dirty gym shorts and tennis shoes.
Detective Smallberries tripped the blue light and siren as Belch pulled away from the curb.
The area called Golden is located on the North side of Burnt Corn and got its name from the old sock factory that used to be there, Golden Hosiery Mills. It was once the largest employer in Burnt Corn before all the jobs went out of the country leaving the residents of Burnt Corn, like most of the South’s small towns, without employment. Now all that’s left around the area of the dilapidated mill, standing in disrepair, are the old clapboard houses, that once provided homes for Golden Mills’ employees. They are now occupied by people on welfare and food stamps and an occasional retiree or two, attempting to live on their meager social security checks and Medicare.
“You think Burnt Corn has a serial killer on its hands? This is the second murder this month. Before that the last murder in Burnt Corn was in 2007, the year before I joined the force,” Detective Smallberries said as he unwrapped a piece of Juicy Fruit gum and jabbed it in his mouth.
“I don’t think so. Two don’t make a serial,” Belch replied.
By the time they arrived on the scene, Patrol Officers, Howitt Fiehls was taping off the area around the house with yellow crime scene tape and his partner, Natalie Klad, was bending over a body that was lying in the driveway.
“Who is it, Natalie Klad?” Belch asked as he bent down to get a closer view. The victim was wearing a stained white sleeveless t-shirt and dark navy pants sans a belt. Tattoos filled both arms. He was thinner than gruel and his skin was as gray as a cold winter day, probably due to the loss of blood. He was sporting a third eye high up on his forehead.
Natalie Klad looked up and replied, “The vic is John McCubbin, a cook at Lloyd’s Diner. He was ex-army with a couple of assault charges and no appreciable skills. He was enrolled at Snead State Community College for a couple of weeks until he found out he was supposed to attend classes. He dropped out and bounced around the country for a while, going from one job to the next, abandoning a wife and several girlfriends before landing back here after his mother died and he inherited this house. As far as we know, he has kept his nose clean since he returned.”
“Did you find anything on the body?”
“Nothing but that bullet hole between his eyes. His wallet was emptied of everything except his driver’s license and insurance card. Any cash he might have had is missing.
Lloyd said he pays him in cash every Friday so he should have been flush. McCubbin works the night shift. Everyone in Golden knew it was payday. Anyone living in this burg could have offed him. Every Friday they are like rats, eyeing a piece of cheese. Looks like somebody was waiting for him when he got in this morning. The front door was opened about three inches when we got here but it appears McCubbin never made it inside.”
“You go in it, the house, I mean?”
“Yeah, just to make sure nobody was in it. We cleared it and Fiehls started stringing tape.”
Belch stood up, placing his hands on the small of his back, he stretched out his lean six-foot frame. “Make sure you keep everyone out, especially that dick wad Max Fly character and any of his cohorts if they happen to come by. Everyone has the right to be stupid but Max Fly is abusing the privilege.”
“Will do, Sarge,” Officer Klad replied.
Belch looked around, getting a lay of the neighborhood. It looked pretty seedy.
“Who lives here?” he said, pointing at a freshly painted house next door, sporting an immaculate lawn and a freshly poured driveway.
“A lady named Lilly Jablomey and we think her boy Haywood. But nobody is home.”
“Nice clean place. What do you know about her?”
“From what we know, she retired from working at the Hairy Arms Apartments doing maintenance work or something like that. She cleaned the apartments when tenants moved out. She is one of those hard-used blue-collar women who have neither the energy, the disposition, nor the brains to plan and carry out a successful murder like this.”
“Okay, we’ll go talk to her,”
“She isn’t home. We checked.”
“Okay, we’ll wait,” Belch said, walking back to his squad car and opening the trunk. He turned to Smallberries. “Hey, help me get this out.”
“Is that a net?”
“Yes, take this,” he replied, handing Smallberries a can of tennis balls.
“Tennis balls? What are they for?”
“Tennis of course.”
“No, I mean what are we going to use them for?”
“To play tennis.”
“To play tennis?”
“That’s what I said. Listen, if you are going to repeat everything I say, I’m going to put Duct tape over that pie hole of yours. Follow me and tie that end of the net to the pole leading to the electric meter on the side of the Jablomey house and I’ll tie the other end on the tree on the other side of the driveway. There we go. Now grab that racket.”
“Are we really going to play tennis?”
“That’s right. This driveway is perfect for us to volley. Whoever poured it did a great job.”
“But, I don’t know how to play tennis.”
“It’s easy. Here, shake my hand,” Belch said, holding out his hand and grasping Smallberries right hand. “This is how you hold the racket like you are shaking hands with it. Now get over on the other side of the net and let’s get some exercise.”
“Why don’t we get some lunch at Finn & Hattie Frye’s Fish ’N Chips Restaurant and just sit in the car drinking coffee and eating like other cops do?”
“Look at those love handles on you, Smallberries. Tennis is good for working on your obliques.”
A short while later a car came to a stop in front of the Jablomey’s house as Belch slammed a backhand past a diving, perspiring, and gasping Smallberries.
The lady in the car was staring directly at them. Shortly she got out and walked over to where they were playing tennis.
“What in the hell are you two doing?”
“Waiting for you to get home. “Thought we would get a little exercise while we waited.” Belch replied. “Are you Lilly Jablomey?”
“Yes I am,” she replied, sternly.
Belch reached into his pocket and removed his badge and ID. “Who poured your driveway, by the way?”
“Who poured my driveway? Are you nuts? Why are you here?” She yelled as she stared at his gold shield.
“Belicheri, are you Polish?”
“Italian. You can call me Belch. Everyone does except my wife. I don’t think it’s necessary to tell you what she calls me.”
“I can imagine. Now, what is it you want?”
“You have a nice driveway. Great pitch, should give you good drainage and very smooth. Was it someone from Burnt Corn who put it in for you?”
“What? Yes, yes, um Billy Watamaniak. Billy lives out near Monroeville off Highway 84. He and his brother, Tommy poured it.”
“That’s good, they did a great job. I’ll have to keep them in mind. Now, how well do you know your neighbor, John McCubbin?”
“I don’t know him. He only moved into his mama’s place about a year ago. I know what he looks like and that he is as mean as an ol’ junkyard dog. He wasn’t here much but when he was, all he did was complain about this and complain about that. All I gave him was my middle finger. That’s all he deserves.”
“Well, somebody gave him more than their middle finger, he was found shot this morning. That’s him lying in his driveway over there, you know anything about it?”
“Shot? Heck no. Why would I know anything about that? I don’t know nuthin’.”
“You sure?”
“Yes I’m sure and I don’t give a damn either. As I said, I ain’t no fan of his. If anybody needs to be jerked to Jesus, it’s that boy, John McCubbin.”
“Well, I don’t know if he is with Jesus or not, but he ain’t here no more. Who’s that sitting in your car?”
“What difference is it to you?”
“We’ll want to speak with him. Does he live with you?”
She glared at Belicheri for a moment.
“’No, it’s my boy; he’s just visiting.”
“He doesn’t live here?”
What’s his name?”
“Haywood Jablomey?”
“Okay, thank you. Ask him to get out of the car, please.”
A tall lanky young man, sporting gold ear studs with an acne-scarred round face got out of the car and casually loped up the driveway with his fists clenched. There wasn’t much to him. He didn’t look hard. In fact, he didn’t look like much. He was already bristling.
.“What the heck you doin’ in our driveway?” he yelled.
“ Calm down, now. I’m just teaching him how to play tennis. Is it your driveway? Your mother said you don’t live here.”
“I don’t.”
“Well, then you don’t have anything to say about it, do you?”
“Well, it ain’t a city park. What are you doing here?”
“Your neighbor, that guy living next door? He was shot and killed and we would like to know if you know anything about it?”
“Hell no. Why’d I know anything about it?”
“That’s what we are asking you. Where were you between nine p.m. last night and five this morning?”
“I was here with my momma all night.”
“Did you hear anything that sounded like it might have been a gunshot?”
“Hell, what night don’t we hear gunshots? Something is going down in this neighborhood about every night.”
Belch noticed Officer Natalie Klad walking over and he left to go meet her.
“What is it, Officer Klad?”
“One of the neighbors just informed us that McCubbin was actively involved with a group out of Monroeville that operated a chop shop. Do you think he might have got crosswise with those boys and they took him out?”
“It’s possible. A chop shop, huh? What do you know about this chop shop?”
“Nothing much. We did a joint sweep of the place a few months ago with the Monroeville Police Department but didn’t find anything. Monroeville thought they might have been tipped off by someone before we got there.”
“Okay, give Smallberries their address and all the names you have associated with it. We will head over there after we finish here. Oh, and tell Smallberries to get over here. We have to finish our tennis match.”
“Okay, Belch.”
After Belch and Smallberries finished playing tennis in the Jablomey’s driveway, they took down the tennis net and put it in the trunk of their squad car along with the racquets and balls and crawled in the front seat. Belch grabbed a can of Right Guard and handed it to Smallberries. “Here, use this. You sure sweat a lot, even for a fat guy. We’re going to Monroeville and talk to some boys about a chop shop.”
“Do you want me to switch on the lights?” Smallberries asked, tucking in his shirt after spraying his armpits with deodorant and handing back the Right Guard to Belch.
“No,” Belch replied, pulling out his shirt and giving a short pump of Right Guard to each armpit, “No point showing our hand if there’s no need. That’s being poker savvy, something else you probably never played.”
“No, I’ve played poker. My wife and I play liars poker with her folks every Friday night when I am not on duty.”
“Liars poker, yeah, that’s good. Liar’s poker. Geez.”
The faded red and white wooden sign nailed over the door of the alleged chop shop read, Rench Exhaust Repair – Alan Rench Proprietor. “I’m surprised he knew how to spell proprietor,” Belch said as he got out of the squad car.
“Hey, look, Belch, isn’t that Max Fly’s car, the Fly Mobile? Do you think they heisted it and are gonna chop it up?”
“Are you kidding?” There isn’t a market for ’58 Oldsmobile parts, except in Cuba. I got me a bad feeling about this, Smallberries. Whenever anything concerning Max Fly pops up, things don’t seem to turn out in my best interest,” Belch said slipping his Colt from its holster and easing up the walkway, staying to the side of the doorway with Smallberries staying close behind him.
Belch pushed the door with the toe of his boot, and it swung open on well-oiled hinges. He took a deep breath and slipped quietly through the doorway and into the office with Smallberries in lockstep behind him. Belch thumbed the safety off his .45 and peered around the door facing the work bay area.
“Oh shit,” Belch exclaimed, holstering his .45.
“What is it?” Smallberries asked?
“Come on, it’s that damned Fly. Max, what in the hell is going on here?”
Max Fly and his assistant, Chico “Zippy Doo” Rodriguez, were standing over three greasy mechanics, trussed up with their hands tied behind their backs.
Max Fly looked up and put down the phone, “Oh, Belch, how are you? Hey, Smallberries, how have you and that pretty little wife of yours been doing?”
“Pretty good, Max. Our third anniversary is next week. You ought to…”
“Shut up, Smallberries,” Belch yelled. “I asked you a question, Fly.”
“Belch, I was just calling your office to let you know we broke up the chop shop that’s been operating out of this place. I know you and the Monroeville Police have been trying to get the goods on these guys for a long time now. We have it all on tape right here,” he said, holding up a small tape recorder. Where they got the cars and where they were selling them. Zippy Doo and I were operating our own sting on these guys. The Monroeville Police are on their way over here now.”
“You son of a bitch, Fly, you got your damn nose in my business way too much and it’s going to get blown off one of these days.”
“Now don’t get yourself too worked up, Belch. We also have them on tape confessing to a murder last night. Evidently, they killed some guy over in the Golden district of Burnt Corn by the name of McCubbin. You hear about any murder over there?”



The man was alone with his thoughts, thoughts about the girl. The girl he met at the lake where they talked for hours while the gentle winds pressed her translucent dress against her slender frame.The first time he saw her she struck him as being vulnerable. She had long, dark hair. He couldn’t recall the color of her eyes. Brown, he thought. A dark brown. She was just – pretty.
Yes, pretty. She had pleasing features, clear skin. She wore makeup. Lots of eye makeup. That’s all he remembered.
He wasn’t particularly fond of heavy makeup.
They sat by the edge of the lake and talked for hours. When she said she had to go he was surprised at how late it had become.
He told her he wanted to see her again.
She reached into her purse, a clutch, really, and pulled out an elegant gold inlaid vellum card.
It said her name was Prudence. There was no other information inscribed.
He looked up and her lips lightly brushed his cheek before she turned and walked away. She looked back over her shoulder and purred, “If you like, I will be here again tomorrow,” and she disappeared into the night.
“Jake, my name is Jake,” he called after her. He didn’t know if she heard him or not.
He dreamt of her that night. She was floating in the lake. The water was murky and her body was floating face up with her long dark hair spreading like fronds of dark seaweed, washing up on shore like frayed ropes. Her eyes were bloated from the water and were opened wide like they were surprised at what they saw. Her clothes, that alluring gossamer dress, was ripped by the jagged rocks and had disintegrated into rags. He woke with a heavy dread. It took him a moment to realize where he was. The t-shirt he wore was damp with sweat. He had to go back to the lake to find her. To make sure she was safe, protected.

The sound of the wind and the night creatures gave tongues to the forest as he walked with a sense of urgency he had not felt before. The shadows from the trees lining the trail danced across the small dirt pathway leading to the lake.
He saw a slight movement far away through the damp mist and then the roar of a car approaching. Soon a ray of light knifed through the dark, illuminating the area around him. He stepped deeper into the woods the pitch of his heart rising. A cool breeze caressed his cheek. He hoped they hadn’t noticed him. He was pretty much exposed. His only chance was for them to pass him by.
The car drove on and, with a sigh of relief, he continued to walk.
About fifty yards to his left was the clearing and the lake where he and Prudence met the night before. A sadness and foreboding fell upon him. He shivered slightly and pulled his overcoat closer to his neck, attempting to keep the chill away.
There is no point in turning back now, he thought.
Two dark shadows appeared in front of him, wearing hats and hunkering down in their overcoats. They were preparing to get into a boat tied to the dock. Soon he heard the oar-locks groan as the oars dipped into the water.
He ran as fast as he could. The lake was bordered by rocks and shaded by trees. The only boat left when he arrived was a small skiff. The shallow water, rippled against its side, rocking it gently back and forth. He looked inside and was relieved to see that there was a set of oars lying across the seat.
The boat with the two men was a good distance ahead of him by the time he started rowing, only a fading shadow in the evening mist. Occasionally, he would see a beam from the flashlight one of the men used to guide their way across the water. It appeared they were heading straight to the island Prudence was telling him about, where young kids would go to drink and party.
He saw their boat tied to a tree and silently rowed about fifty yards away before going ashore.
The darkness on the island surprised him and it was difficult walking through the trees and brush.
He heard a thud off to the left. He grabbed onto a small sapling and braced himself.
Then he heard a snapping of a twig, It was close.
He tried to muffle his raspy breathing by placing his hand over his mouth. He crouched against the tree, hunched over with his knees to his chest. He listened to the sounds of footsteps as they approached.
A beam of light struck his face, blinding him. A set of shining eyes locked onto his.
“What are you doing here?” A gruff voice called out from behind the light.
“Why I,I,I, I’m looking for a friend. Who are you?”
“Don’t come any closer. This is a secured area.”
The man lowered the light and replied. “I’m Sheriff Welsey. What’s your name?”
“It’s Jake, Jake Martin.”
“Well, who is this friend you are looking, Mr. Martin?”
“ I don’t know for sure. Just Prudence.”
“Just Prudence?”
“Yes, that’s all I know. You said this is a secured area. What happened?”
“There has been a murder out here and we are still gathering evidence.”
“A murder?”
“A local girl, Prudence Vanderbloom. Floated to shore last week. She was pretty bloated by the time her body was found. It is evident that she drowned.”
“Prudence? That can’t be.”
“What do you know about this girl?” the Sheriff asked, showing him a picture of an attractive young girl whose features closely resembled the girl he met.
For a long moment, he stood frozen, holding his hand to his face. He was unable to speak. He wanted to run home, fall back in bed and stuff his head under his pillow and wish this all away. “Nothing,” he said. “Nothing at all. I just met her last night and she said she would be here again tonight and I should too if I wished.”
“When did you meet her?”
“Last night. Right over there,” he said pointing to a group of trees about twenty-five yards away.
“Listen, pal, I don’t know what you are trying to prove or what you are doing out here, but Prudence drowned last week.”
“Why, that can’t be! I was with her last night,” he shouted. Blood drained from his head and his fingers shook. A thousand thoughts raced through his mind. What is going on? He couldn’t move. He just stood there, shaking in his damp clothes. Then he saw something in the Sheriff’s hands. Handcuffs.
“I want you to turn around and put your hands behind your back,”
“No…,” he said, but he didn’t get to finish. He was slammed to the ground, hitting his cheek and splitting his lip.
The Sheriff was straddling him and grabbed his left wrist and clamped a steel cuff tightly around it.
“You have the right to remain silent…”


“I really have the intention to gather Germanic blood from all over the world, to plunder and steal it where I can.”
– Heinrich Himmler

He glanced at his watch. It was 11:45 pm and the street was still deserted. He had been standing there for fifteen minutes. It was a Sunday night and the buildings were dark. A lone streetlight cast shadows across the street and sidewalk and he watched the mist as the wind blew it across the yellow beam put forth by the light. It was remarkably quiet. Not a sound. Nothing!
Earlier that evening, the fog moved in and soon after the heavy mist began to fall. The tall thin-faced man pulled the collar of his trench coat up around his neck and pulled down the brim of his hat to keep the dampness out. Nothing about him drew attention. He kept an eye on the phone booth down the street. It was still empty. He reached into his breast pocket and removed a package of Chesterfield cigarettes. He tapped the package on the back of his hand and bent down and removed a stick with his teeth. He replaced the package in his pocket and removed his lighter. He spun the wheel, igniting the flint and a flame shot up momentarily illuminating his lined and haggard face. He hadn’t slept in two days. He snapped the lid shut and returned it to his pocket. The smoke he exhaled was lost in the thick fog that enveloped him.
He looked around. He didn’t see anything, but he felt it. He didn’t like the feeling. He stuck to the plan to make sure he wasn’t followed, but you just never knew. From experience, he knew he couldn’t trust anyone and it was one helluva way to live your life.
He glanced at his watch once more. It was 11:53. He took one last drag of his cigarette and flipped it in a nearby puddle. He listened to the brief hiss before the butt was extinguished.
He inhaled deeply and looked to his right and left once again to make sure nobody was around before he moved out. Hurriedly, he crossed the street to the phone booth. He stepped in and closed the door. A light went on. He wrapped his hand in his handkerchief and smashed the light, enveloping him in darkness. He lifted the receiver and dropped in a dime. He knew the number by heart and had dialed it many times in the dark. The phone rang once before it was picked up. There was complete silence on the other end.
The tall man said, “7-1-1-3-4. I’ve been burned.”
“Where are you?”
“Zone three, drop one.”
“Stay there.”
The line went dead.
He hung up the phone and took a deep breath. He lit up another cigarette and hungrily sucked in the smoke. His throat was raw. He had been smoking too many of these things. He opened the door and tossed it across the sidewalk. He reached under his coat and removed his gun, a 9mm Beretta. He chambered a round and put his hand and gun in his outside right coat pocket. Even though he dry cleaned the area he could never be too careful.
Quickly he walked to the corner and turned left heading toward an alley behind an old warehouse. He stepped into the shadows and waited. His mind wandered to his earlier conversation with Serena and he couldn’t erase it from his mind.
“Jack, she said, “I have the bona fides, documents that prove the CIA along with a German expat, one of those Paperclip Nazi’s, named DeMohrenschildt, a Dallas oil geologist and close friend of Lee Harvey Oswald’s was in on the plot to kill John F. Kennedy and it goes higher than we thought. Jack, this makes me sick.”
It had been so long since anyone called him Jack, he had to pause for a moment to gather his thoughts. “Okay, put it together and meet…”
Was that a click on his phone, or hers? “Selena, did you hear that?”
“Yes, I have to go. I’ll meet you…”
Those were her last words. He heard her scream and a moment later an unknown voice came on the line.
“You’re next Jack. We know where you are.”
The line went dead.
It wasn’t long before a black Lincoln limousine pulled around the corner and slowed down in front of the alley. The back door opened as it leisurely rolled by. Paul jumped in, closing the door behind him.
When he caught his breath he said, “We lost our Asset, Selena. They got to her this morning and they outed me. They called me by name.”
As they drove away his handler looked at him and gave him a scotch. “We are going to have to bring you in, Jack.”
“Why? I am about to tie this whole thing up. We got ‘em right where we want them. What we gathered isn’t chicken feed. It’s some serious stuff.”
“No, we don’t.”
“Your swallow was killed last night. She was beaten and raped and dumped in the East River. They found her body this morning. She is currently at the morgue. Her apartment was trashed and her camera, typewriter, and files are all gone. Nothing.”
Jack was quiet for a moment, taking this all in. If this was true, all the work he put together for the past year was ruined, compromised. Without supporting documentation, all he had was his word and he would be going up against some of the most formidable men in the world, not just the CIA but the President of the United States himself.
Jack threw back the scotch and looked over at his handler and found himself looking down the barrel of a .22 caliber revolver with a silencer.
“I’m sorry Jack.”
Bam! The sound of aBeretta resonated in the limousine. The slug entered the center of his handler’s chest. His handler died instantly.
The driver pulled his gun and opened the divider between the front and back seat and fired. Jack dropped to the floor and fired, emptying his magazine. He pushed the release button dropping the empty magazine and he quickly slapped in another. He chambered a round and moved so he would be directly behind the driver. He fired off three quick rounds. The car swerved and went up over a curb and hit the side of a brownstone apartment building. Jack stayed low and crawled to the other side of the car. His breathing was coming rapidly. Slowly he peered into the front seat. There he saw the body of the driver slumped over the steering wheel with blood oozing out of a wound in the back of his neck. One of Jack’s rounds hit its mark.
Jack retrieved his empty magazine and expended shells and pocketed them before he opened the door. Looking around to make sure no one was in the vicinity, he ran down the alley.



Spiritually Powerful Screech Owl

They reined in their animals and Shoots Plenty scanned the area looking for a comfortable and protected place to camp.
“Wasichus, I do not wish to sleep here.”
“Why not, you old squaw?”
“You see that bird with the horns?” Sleeps Plenty asked, pointing to a large pine tree to the west of where they stopped where a bird perched near the top.
“Yes, it looks like an owl.”
“It is a Screech Owl. They are the most dangerous of owls. My people believe that not all Screech Owls are real birds. Some are a transformed witch, an unquiet spirit of the dead that practices bad medicine. Only the Peju ‘ta, or holy people have the special knowledge to tell them apart. It is at the time of our sleep that we are vulnerable to spirit forces. We must not camp here. We go higher up the mountain beyond the bad medicine of this bad spirit.”
“Gray Wolf told me the Lakota Sioux view the owl as a symbol of hope and power and wisdom,” Esben responded.
“That is so, mi lita cola, but not all owls are such. Many Peju ‘ta wear owl feathers and get their power from dreams at night such as clear dreams like the owl’s sight. They promise never to harm the owl. I do not know a real owl from a transformed witch that has shape-shifted into an owl. That is why for our safety that we avoid all owls and go higher up this mountain.”
The next morning they rode slowly into town
It was as they were preparing to dismount that Sybil Cortez, who owned the crib where Carmen worked, came running into the street, grabbing the side of Shoots Plenty’s saddle.
“Something terrible has happened,” Sybil said. The older woman’s features were tear streaked and strained and her hands were shaking.
“Bad men came and they have kidnapped Carmen. They are angry because you killed their friend and because Carmen has an Indian man. They said they were going to teach her better.”
Shoots Plenty closed his eyes, wishing this had not happened when he felt someone shaking his shoulder. He opened his eyes and was staring into Sibyl’s pale blue eyes.
“They told me to give you this,” she said, handing him what was left of the dream catcher he had given to Carmen a short time before.
Shoots Plenty turned his horse, giving it a sharp kick and headed out of town at a gallop with Esben on his one-eyed mule desperately trying to keep up. A light rain began to fall as they disappeared over the horizon.
Shoots Plenty figured the best place to start looking for Carmen was to the north into the wasteland of the Texas panhandle. It was home to many of the outlaws and cattle rustlers who roamed the Arizona and New Mexico Territories as well as Texas, stealing cattle and killing innocent people, Mexicans, Americanos, and Indians alike. Why did they take Carmen? Was it to teach her a lesson for being with an Indian, or was it more? Were they after him because he shot their friend, that cowboy from Austin, and they knew Shoots Plenty would go after her, to find her and bring her back?
He was considering that question when they reached the rocks. They halted there, listening and thinking.
“One thing is certain, Shoots Plenty, we must find Carmen quickly. A pretty girl like Carmen in the hands of several outlaws like them would be in for a time of horror.”
Shoots Plenty nodded in acknowledgment and squeezed his horse into a trot.
They turned onto the flat and again halted to search the country for a sign of the outlaw camp.
Rain was beginning to fall again, this time in large and scattered drops. Ignoring it, the two men continued, scanning a dark band of trees that extended along the trail, hoping to see a fire glow somewhere in the thickening gloom. They saw nothing and by now Shoots Plenty was sure that taking the girl for their own pleasure wasn’t all they had in mind. They wanted him and Esben too. They knew that the two bounty hunters would follow.
They started their animals, walking slowly, along the edge of the grove. They drew their Colt’s and kept in the shadows as much as possible although the rain-filled darkness was more than enough to mask their presence. The moon was hidden behind a mix of clouds again and there were no intermittent surges of light as there had been earlier. The shower ceased for a brief time and then began again.
Far to the northwest lightening split the sky and thunder rolled ominously.
“It looks like a storm is raging in the mountains. Let’s hope that it stays to the west of us,” Esben said.
They moved on.
Abruptly, Shoots Plenty drew his big Appaloosa to a stop. Not far ahead, to the right of the grove, he caught sight of the glow of a fire. It was very faint, but it was there. He motioned for Esben to follow him as he cut back into the trees.
His mind was attempting to ingest what was happening and it was happening too fast. His heart began to pound and his whole body quivered with fatigue from riding all day but he continued to push on. He had to or Carmen would be hurt, or worse, killed.
He studied the situation. He knew they would have to make a move that in no way would endanger Carmen.
There were three men in the vicinity of the fire. Carmen was with the younger of the three outlaws. He appeared to be talking to her.
They picketed their mounts to an oak bush and circled the camp, coming to a halt when they reached a point almost directly opposite to where they had been. Carmen was now out of their line of fire as well as that of the outlaws, and they were in a position to cover the three men with no problem.
“Hello, my friends,” Esben yelled.
The two older outlaws came to their feet. The one engaged in talking to Carmen also rose and stood, facing the direction of the call.
Their hands reached down to the guns at their sides.
“Damn you, Nate, slice the girl.”
Nate lifted a large knife and swung it at Carmen’s neck.
Shoots Plenty opened up with his Henry Repeater. The rounds struck the young man closest to Carmen in the chest. An almost perfect shot pattern. While he was falling to his knees, Carmen started to scream and fell to her knees as well.
Esben unleashed a volley of shots fired directly at the other two outlaws. Shoots Plenty quickly followed. Both men fell to the ground. They looked more like raw shredded meat then the men they were only moments before.
Shoots Plenty ran over to Carmen. Her shirt was soaked in blood. Her blood. As he took her in his arms she looked up at him and smiled before she closed her eyes for the last time.
Shoots Plenty held Carmen’s body close to him.
“It is that Screech Owl. It was bad medicine for Carmen. The bad spirit was trying to tell Shoots Plenty.”
Esben saw the pain in Shoots Plenty’s face and noticed that his eyes began to tear up.
“Go ahead, you can cry, there is nobody around to hear you.”
“But I would hear,” he replied and he began singing a Lakota death chant.
They rode alone into town the next morning with Carmen’s body lying across Shoots Plenty’s saddle.
“Do you know what Carmen told me?”
“No, what did she tell you?”
“She said the white eyes now come to your cattle towns and they buy prairie dogs to take back to the East and keep with them in their boxes, that they call houses. They play with them and call them pets. Prairie dogs are the only animal left that your people have not been able to take from our lands. Perhaps we should stop this hunting of bad men and sell prairie dogs It would be safer. If they didn’t taste so bad, my people would eat them. Your one-eyed mule would taste better, Wasichus. We should eat him.”
Shoots Plenty pointed toward the sky about where a great eagle, with his headdress of white, flew. “Look at him, Wasichus. “Eagles are good medicine birds with magical powers. He is waiting for Carmen to fly away with him. Or, perhaps he is making sure the white eyes have not killed all the prairie dogs. Do you know why I wear this eagle feather in my hat?”
“To give you magical powers?”
“That and because in a talking circle the person holding the Eagle Feather is the only person who can speak.”



Sheriff Clay Tiswell

The two bounty hunters lit a fire and prepared food. They sat apart, their backs against a fallen tree and watched as the sun sank deeper, turning the sky a deep blood orange. Shoots Plenty stood and threw more wood on the blaze, sparks flew up in firefly showers and flames roared, streaming in the wind like a torn red and yellow flag.
“Are you ready to hear the story told to me by my grandfather on how the catfish got flat heads?
“I don’t care how catfish got flat heads. I have more important things to worry about, like Liam McCloskey. He is another one with a $500.00 reward on his head, as there should be. He and his boys chopped off the head of the sheriff of Alamogordo, New Mexico. The sheriff’s name was Clay Tiswell. Captain Smith said they put his head on a post in front of the Sheriff’s Office to warn everyone that the McCloskey’s were not to be messed with. He will be the next one we get. His boys as well.”
“We will find this Liam, but first, you should listen to this Wasichus, how the catfish got flat heads is about the Lakota history. It is important history.
You remember the Lakota lived as underwater people before we became people who walk on land. Long ago, when the fish and the animals could talk the chief of the catfish said to all, “Listen, my brothers, I am very tired of eating things from the mud at the bottom of the lake. I think we should have meat as do the wolves. Let us watch for the moose when he wades into the lake to eat the lily pads and let us spear him and kill him for meat. He comes when the sun is at the edge of the sky, so we will hide among the lilies and grasses and that is when we can spear him.”
One day when the sun was at the edge of the sky the moose came to the lake. When he entered the lake the chief of the catfish called council and said, “Now, he is in! I will spear him as soon as he gets further from the shore where the water is deeper.”
They waited until the moose was in deep water and then the catfish chief speared him as hard as he could.
The big moose bellowed with pain and jumped around in the water. He was hurt and frightened at the same time.
“Ho,” he said, “What is this? Who has speared me in my leg? I will find out who has done this.”
He then stuck his head right down into the water until he could see beneath the surface. There in the grasses, he saw the catfish tribe getting ready to spear him again.
They were going to kill him for his meat. This made him very angry.
“I can understand why” Esben replied.
“His eyes turned red and his heart was bad toward the catfish tribe. He bellowed his war cry and said, “Ho. Listen to me. Catfish has speared me in my leg. I will make war on them. I will trample this tribe into the mud.  Hear me! I will go to war!”
He began to jump up and down all over the edge of the lake and trample all the catfish he could find. He crushed them with his big hooves and trampled them deep into the mud. He did not stop until all the catfish were trampled into the muddy bottom of the lake. Then he left satisfied he had avenged the wrong done to him.
After the moose left, some of the catfish managed to wriggle out of the mud and get away. Now there are catfish in all lakes and rivers but everyone has a flat head because of the war from the big moose that flattened the heads of their grandfathers.
In old times there were very large catfish but now they are small. They still carry spears. To this day, they are black and are flat headed and they are so afraid that they stay hidden in the daytime and only swim at night, which serves them right for trying to kill the big moose long ago, right?”
“So you say. You Lakota seem to have an answer to everything, don’t you? It may not be the right answer, but at least you have one.”
“People want answers, Wasichus. People need answers.”
Esben shook his head, “I’m turning in.”
The cold wind picked up, kicking out his poncho behind him as he reined in his one-eyed mule.
“That’s Alamogordo down there,” Esben said. “Are you ready to earn some money?”
“I am ready to kill some white eyes.”

“Sheriff Tiswell had a Navajo wife, you know. McCloskey killed her as well. They slit her throat.”
“I did not know. Let us go find this McCloskey,” Shoots Plenty said, spinning the chamber on one of his Colt .45’s forcefully slamming it back in its holster. “If we find his boys, it will be a bonus, is that not so, Wasichus?”
A creaking sign, waving in the persistent wind, told them they were in Alamogordo.
They rode side by side down the main street. Single-level wood framed weathered buildings lined both sides of the street, a Wells Fargo Office, a doctor’s office, and a general store. The sky was gray and moody. Even in the middle of the day, there was an eerie quiet, a lack of human activity in the town. The only consistent sound was their animals hooves striking the hard dirt packed street and the whine of the wind.
“I do not like this place, Alamogordo,” Shoots Plenty said.
“It’s not so bad,” Esben replied, pulling out a revolver. “You might want to keep a pistol in your hand, just in case.”
As they turned a corner, they noticed a crowd speaking in soft tones, hovering outside the sheriff’s office. The crowd parted as they passed. Sheriff Clay Tiswell’s head was still planted on the post in front of his office.
As they passed, they searched the crowd, trying to find a face, a face belonging to Liam McCloskey or one of his boys. They saw only fear and judgment in the eyes of those they passed. Fear has a metallic taste and the air in this town was filled with it.
They dismounted and stood in the street facing the crowd of fearful strangers. As they approached the crowd parted and a man stepped forward wearing a black suit and a white shirt. He had a prominent nose and flushed cheeks and light eyes. He identified himself as Wesley Bell, the Wells Fargo agent.
“Who are you?” he asked, glancing at Shoots Plenty and then at Esben.
“It doesn’t matter. Where is Liam McCloskey?”
Wesley Bell stared at Shoots Plenty for a moment before nodding his head in the other direction, further down the street. “Down there, at the blacksmith’s, getting their horses shod.”
Esben nodded and turned before feeling a hand grasp his arm. He jerked it away and turned around with his pistol belly high. It was Wesley Bell.
“You don’t want to go there, mister. There are four of them. Liam and his three boys and they are all armed.”
“They are why we are here. Do you have a telegraph in town?”
“Yes, in my office,” Bell replied.
“That’s good. We’ll be needing to use it,” Esben said as he mounted his mule and along with Shoots Plenty, they continued on their way.
“I think I should ride around to the back of the blacksmith’s shop, Wasichus. They will be surprised.”
Okay, stay out of sight until you hear me speak.”
Shoots Plenty peeled away.
As Esben approached the front of the shop he noticed a man bent over an anvil hammering a red-hot shoe. A horse stood next to him and the four men Esben was looking for were in the back leaning up against a railing. Three of them looked no better than ragged saddle tramps in greasy hats, shirts missing buttons and jeans with enough holes in them to embarrass a scarecrow. These clothes and their bandannas hung off pocked skin that was blackened from dust and dirt. The fourth wore a leather patch over his right eye. It matched the hole that was cut out of his vest. He was taking a drink from a bottle. All wore their pistols low on their hip.
“I’m looking for Liam McCloskey,” Esben said, sitting his mule. “Know where I can find him?”
The blacksmith dropped his hammer and stepped back while the three men holding their horses stepped forward on broken-down boots that wobbled on their ankles.
“Why are you looking for him, stranger?” The man with the leather eyepatch sneered, dropping his bottle, his hand dropping to the butt of his revolver.
“I’m going to kill him that’s why.”
All four men reached down for their guns. Before Esben could crack the hammer on his .45 he heard a blood-curdling Sioux war-cry from inside the barn.
McCloskey and the others turned only to be met by a barrage of lead from Shoots Plenty’s gun. One of his boys spun around as a bullet from Esben’s gun drilled into his body. Flame bloomed out of Shoots Plenty’s Colt as he triggered wildly, punching slugs into the other two bodies. By the time the smoke cleared all four men were dead in a pile and the blacksmith was cowering in the corner of the stables.
Esben turned and motioned toward the horses. “Do these belong to the McCloskey’s?”
“Yes, yes they do. Take ‘em, mister they’re yours.”
“I think you are right. Let’s go, Shoots Plenty. We’ll wire their pictures to the captain and then get something to eat.”
As they rode with the bodies back to the Wells Fargo office, Esben looked up as lightning glared across the sky.
“Think the good folks of Alamogordo will object to an Indian spending the night in their hotel?”
“Shoots Plenty is not comfortable sleeping in the white man’s boxes. I will sleep up there,” he said, nodding his head in the direction of the Sierra Blanca and the Capitan Mountains to the northwest of the town.
“Yeah, it does look mighty nice, doesn’t it,” Esben replied.



Wanda Winchester
Reconciliation Expert
Zippy Doo, Head Of our Displaced Persons & Pest Control Divisions

My name is Max Fly, I’m a private eye and a damned good one. It was a Tuesday afternoon and it was raining cats and dogs and I just returned from the offices of the Burnt Corn Hippogryph, Burnt Corn Alabama’s weekly newspaper, where I dropped off a press release stating that our firm, Max Fly Private & Nefarious Investigations and Pest Control Services, was just named as Burn Corn’s largest, and only law firm, Dewey, Cheatam, & Howe, LLC, as their in-house investigators. I was dripping wet.

I hung up my dark brown oilcloth duster and white Stetson hat and unbuckled my rigging that held my Smith and Wesson .357 revolver and threw it next to my partner, Zippy Doo’s, that was hanging on the coat tree behind the door as I dropped down heavily into my chair. I was exhausted. I was wearing my Dan Post cowboy boots, my tight skinny Wrangler stretch jeans,  my bucking bronc belt buckle, and my yellow Snead State Community College sweatshirt. I lit a Cohiba and I grabbed a PBR out of the cooler sitting on the floor between my desk and Zippy’s.

Chico “Zippy Doo” Rodriguez, a sort of illegal green card carrying Hispanic from Matamoros, Mexico (his green card is a forgery), who heads up our displaced persons and pest control divisions, was seated next to me finishing a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. He let out a loud belch as he stacked his third empty on top of a pyramid of cans on the edge of his desk which he had started building last week. We were in the middle of discussing the recent and untimely death of Alabama’s longtime State Senator who was from Burnt Corn, Miss Dixie Normous, who was struck and killed by a transit bus driven by Van Ryder, one of the proprietors of the Burnt Corn Shuttle Service and Transmission Shop which is located off State Highway 84 on the outskirts of Burnt Corn, Alabama when the phone rang.

We both reached for it. Zippy was faster and he got there first.

“Max Fly, Private & Nefarious Investigations, and Pest Control Services. What do you want?”

I made a mental note to work on Zippy’s phone etiquette.

“Yeah, okay. How much do I owe you? What, $6.95? That’s highway robbery. I ought to turn you into Sheriff Wyatt Hertz for price gauging,” Zippy yelled as he slammed down the receiver.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“That little Chinese guy, Sum Tsing Wong, who owns that new Chinese Restaurant,  Soon Fatt Chinese Take Away. Wanda and I are sharing a plate of Shitake Fried Rice with Water Chestnuts. Sum Tsing Wong is on his way over with the delivery.”

Wanda is Wanda Winchester who is our Reconciliation Expert and also serves as our firearms instructor when she’s sober.

“Are you paying for it out of petty cash?” I asked.

“Yep. I’ll give him a buck tip, even though he is overcharging for that stuff. I know how much rice you can get for $6.95. Hell, when I was in Viet Nam an entire village could eat rice for a month on that kind of money.”

“You were never in Viet Nam, Zip. Since you are paying for that out of petty cash, I’ll take a little plate of it to see how it tastes.”

“Help yourself. You know she wants to be cremated, don’t you Max?”

“Who wants to be cremated?”

“Dixie Normous. I think she’s doing it because she realized that her last hope to have a smoking hot body is to be cremated. Claire Voyant, the personal secretary for Hugh Cheatam, called and said that Mr. Cheatam would appreciate it if we showed up for Dixie Normous’ celebration of life.”

“Where is it going to be held?”

“They took the body to the Barry M. Stiff Funeral Home in Monroeville. The celebration is at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow.

The door swung open, almost toppling the coat tree that stood behind it that was holding our Smith and Wesson .357’s, coats and other paraphernalia, and in strutted this little bald Chinese man, Sum Tsing Wong, carrying a small white bag that, I have to admit, gave off a tantalizing aroma.

Zip grabbed the bag from him and said, “What’s this? This can’t be the entire order. Not for $6.95.” Zip opened the bag and looked up at Sum Tsing Wong and yelled, “Something’s wrong, there’s no fortune cookie in here? What kinda Chinese joint doesn’t serve fortune cookies?”

“I sorry, but Hymie Horowitz’ Food Service truck it break down this morning and no make delivery. So no fortune cookie. Now you pay.”

“You get your food from a Jewish food service? I can’t believe this. Not much in here,” Zip said, still peering into the bottom of the small white bag.

“Horowitz truck have rice too. This all you get today. Call again and you might get more. Now you pay.”

After Sum Tsing Wong left, muttering under his breath because he couldn’t convince Zip to cough up the $1.00 tip, Wanda walked in and sat down and opened the lower drawer of her desk and pulled out her bottle of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey and an empty jelly jar, pouring in a couple of fingers of the brown liquid. We shared what little there was of the Shitake Fried Rice with Water Chestnuts and we each cracked open another PBR when the phone rang again.

Thankfully Wanda got it before Zip did.

“Good afternoon, Max Fly Private & Nefarious Investigations and Pest Control Services, how may I help you?”

“Oh hi, Evelyn, how are you?”

“Good, I am glad to hear that. Really? When? Okay, I’ll pass that on to Max. He’s sitting right next to me. We are finishing our lunch. Shitake Fried Rice with Water Chestnuts.”

“From that new Chinese restaurant that just opened up in Burnt Corn, Soon Fatt Chinese Take Away. The little owner is so cute. His name is Sum Tsing Wong. Isn’t that funny?”

“I know.”

“Yes, yes, a three bedroom and two baths; that’s right as long as it’s not too far out of town. Okay, I’ll tell him. I’ll see you then, goodbye.”

Wanda hung up and grabbed her can of PBR. It was empty.

“Zip, would you mind grabbing me another Blue Ribbon?” she asked.

“On its way,” Zippy replied.

“Well, aren’t you going to tell us who that was on the phone and what the call was about?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m sorry, that was Evelyn Sackryder, from Sax Real Estate Brokerage over in Monroeville. She has been looking for a house for me and she thinks she found one that is pretty close to the office here in Burnt Corn.”

“Okay, but you said ‘I’ll pass that on to Max’ so what will you pass on to me?”

“Oh, she said something fishy is going on over at the Gentle Dental Drill ‘Em and Fill ‘Em Family Practice on Payne Avenue. The front entrance was open when she drove past it and it was still open about thirty minutes later when she returned. She thought you might want to go over and see if everything is okay.”

“Why didn’t she call Sheriff Wyatt Hertz or his deputy, Hiram Firam?”

“She said she did, but nobody answered the phone.”

“That’s not surprising, nobody is ever there,” Zippy burped, “I don’t know why us taxpayers even bother providing an office for those two clowns.”

“You don’t pay taxes, Zip,” Wanda, who also doubles as our bookkeeper, said.

Zippy ignored her. “Did she call over to Patty Mae’s All Night Bar and Pool Hall? They’re usually there getting comped for something.”

“She did and Patty said she thinks they are over in Monroeville looking at Dixie Normous’ body before they set it on fire.”

“Okay, finish that PBR and grab your shootin’ iron, Zippy. It looks like we got us another situation here. Wanda, you try to reach Sheriff Hertz over at Barry M. Stiff’s Funeral Home in Monroeville and see if he can break away and get over here.”

“I’ll get the Fly Mobile,” Zippy yelled as he strapped on his rigging while checking the chambers of his Smith and Wesson .357 to make sure it was loaded.

Dr. Ken Hurt opened the Gentle Dental Drill ‘Em and Fill ‘Em Family Dental Practice in May at 100 Payne Avenue in downtown Burnt Corn and has seen a steady growth in business ever since. Most of the residents of Burnt Corn had been driving the fifteen miles to Monroeville to get drilled and filled at Dr. Henry Drewel’s Dental Office who on numerous occasions was heard saying, “When I’m in doubt, I pull ‘em out.”

Burnt Corn folks find it more convenient to be able to walk downtown in Burnt Corn and be sitting in Dr. Hurt’s chair within five minutes and still be able to make it back in time to enjoy the various activities available in Burnt Corn, like hearing local author, Rhoda Book, recite her poetry or Clay Earth, proprietor of the Burnt Corn Nursery and Cemetery and his wife, Helen Earth, sing the famous aria Glück das mir verblieb from the 1920 opera Die tote Stadt (The Dead City), in acapella in the Burnt Corn City Park.

When Zippy and I arrived at the Gentle Dental office, the front door was still wide open and we both drew our .357’s as we entered the building.

The lights were on and soft soothing music was coming from the speakers in the ceiling but no one was around.

I turned to Zip and motioned for him to follow me. “Stay close, in case someone decides to shoot. It will give them someone else to aim at.”

We looked in both procedure rooms and the chairs were empty as was the doctor’s private office. While there, we heard a noise coming from behind a locked door across the hall. The sign on the door said “Storage Room.”

We tried the door but it was locked, we would have to kick it in. Normally, Tommy “Sneakers” Corona, head of our Wire Fraud and Money Laundering Division, did the kicking in of doors for us because he had his black belt in karate but he was unavailable; he was vacationing in Cosa Rica.

“You want the honors of kicking in the door, Zip?” I asked.

Before he could respond, we heard a muffled voice in the storage room say, “Please, don’t kick it in, a spare key is in the middle desk drawer in the lobby.”

Zippy found the key and we were able to open the door and untie the doctor and his young assistant, the lovely Ginger Vitus.

About this time, Deputy Sheriff Hiram Firam drove up in his Chevy Caprice with his blue lights flashing and his siren blasting. He entered the office with his service revolver drawn, a Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum.

After we brought him up to date on the information we had, he sat down with Ms. Vitus and Dr. Hurt to fill out his report.

“So, do you know who did this to you?”

Ivan Oder, Number 3 on Burnt Corn’s Most Wanted List

“Yes we do, Dr. Hurt said. “It was Ivan Oder. He came in for a cleaning but his teeth were so bad I told him we couldn’t clean them that he would be better off having them extracted. He misunderstood me and thought it would only be one or two teeth, but we had to extract almost all of them.

“When he saw how many teeth were gone he went crazy, saying we made him look unattractive and he would have a difficult time dating anyone. When presented with the bill he refused to pay and pulled out a gun demanding his teeth back before forcing us into the storage room. Before he left, he took all five tanks of laughing gas.”

“He took what?” Deputy Firam asked.

“Nitrous Oxide; it’s a controlled substance and can easily be overdosed. We mix it with oxygen. I think I heard him say something about using it to fill balloons. If he doesn’t know what he is doing, he could die.

“Maybe we should get the Drug Enforcement Agency in on this since it’s a controlled substance?” Zippy interjected.

“I can handle this,” Deputy Hiram Firam spat at Zippy before looking in the direction of the cowering Ms. Ginger Vitus.

“Usually it’s high school kids around graduation time who steal laughing gas. We never had an adult steal it,” Dr. Hurst said.

“Can you give me a description of this Ivan Oder?” Deputy Firam asked.

“I can do better than that. We have his picture. It’s on the Happy Face Wall along with all of our happy patients. We were going to take it down anyway. Some of the mother’s of the children said their kids were scared of it. I told Ginger we should only have children’s pictures up there anyway.”

“Do you think you can catch him, Deputy Firam?” Ginger Vitus asked, batting her eyes coyly at the portly officer.

“He can run, but if he does, he’ll only be going to jail tired ‘cause we’ll catch him, little darlin’. That you can bet your teeth on.”

“We are sure fortunate to have you around, deputy. I feel safer already.”

Zippy turned to me and stuck his finger in this mouth and rolled his eyes.

After Deputy Firam finished up and left, taking Ivan Oder’s picture with him along with Miss Ginger Vitus’ telephone number, I approached Dr. Hurt and suggested that he contact Burnt Corn Good Humor Alarm and Security Systems, that we monitored them 24/7. If he had, we could have been here much sooner and most likely have apprehended the perp.

“I think I will call them tomorrow. Thank you, Mr. Fly. Would you care for a cleaning?”


Max Fly, Private Eye
President & CEO of
Max Fly Private & Nefarious Investigations & Pest Control




There is a place out there that lies on the fringe of the law. A world of people who cross borders, lose themselves in a crowd. A world that knows where illegal papers can be found, visas, licenses, whatever is needed to move about.
They are easy to find if one mingles with the right kind of people, those who live on that fringe. There are ways to cross borders, avoid checkpoints, and to exist away from the eyes of law enforcement officials. You learn where places are where you can go to meet people with similar interests. People who deal in guns and ammunition, some in information, and others in smuggling of goods or people. These are the people who comprise the underbelly of society. This is the world I know, the one I am most comfortable moving around in and this is why people hire me, to find people in this seedy underworld of humanity.
My name is Max Fly. I’m a private investigator and my firm is located in Burnt Corn Alabama where we specialize in finding errant husbands, outing people who file fraudulent insurance claims, and the occasional people who jump bail. What we don’t do is deal with drug and weapons dealers. That is until the day I received a call from an old friend in Atlanta requesting that I speak to an associate of his whose son recently died from multiple gunshot wounds while in downtown Atlanta. Apparently, he was making a crack cocaine purchase. As I mentioned, we normally stay away from drug-related cases due to the danger associated with it. But, I owed my friend a favor and he turned in the chit, so…
Two days later I left my friend’s office, located on the tenth floor in the Federal Building on Peachtree Street, with a dossier about two inches thick on the guy he wanted me to find.
My next stop was at the Atlanta Police Department, the Homicide Division, where I got as much information as I could squeeze out of an Atlanta Homicide Sergeant, a Loretta Lincoln, who was heading up the investigation. She was a cute little thing, about five foot nothing, but I could tell we wouldn’t be the best of friends when she told me she didn’t appreciate me monkeying around in her business. Luckily my client possessed some leverage with the mayor of Atlanta and was able to pry loose a meager amount of information from the lovely sergeant. Enough to get me started, anyway – a name.
From reading over the files, I found out the main suspect, a Cletus Cooper Morgan, was born and raised in northwest Georgia in a small town called Burning Bush. Up to this point, I thought the burning bush was in Midian near Egypt.
I filled up the Fly Mobile, a 1958 Oldsmobile 98 with its powerful Rocket V8 engine, with twenty gallons of high test gasoline and pointed her north.
I pulled into downtown Burning Bush around three in the afternoon and found a parking space in front of an old weathered building that looked like it once housed some sort of hosiery or sewing mill, one of the countless textile plants you could find throughout the southern states into the ’90’s that used to provide a living for many of the women in the rural south before President William Jefferson Clinton decided to hurry the process of sending all the manual labor jobs to Mexico and points south by pushing through that damned North American Free Trade Act.
The building was painted a bright yellow with brown trim around the windows and doors to match the brown and yellow sheriff’s badge that was painted on a sign hanging over the front door, declaring it was the home of the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office, Bodean Johnson, Sheriff. I did a little background check on this unincorporated community prior to leaving Atlanta. Burning Bush is located in the northwest corner of the state near Chattanooga, Tennessee and was named after the nearby Burning Bush Baptist Church. It is so small that the population isn’t given but there are 1095 members of the Baptist church listed, so I assumed the population of the town would be pretty close to that of Burnt Corn, Alabama, somewhere around 100-300 close-knit residents. I also figured that would make it easier for me to find the man I was looking for. Evidently, he had roots in the community. His great-grandfather owned a farm between Burning Bush and Fort Oglethorpe.
By the time I arrived, I had been driving about three hours and found myself a little road weary. As I stepped out of the Fly Mobile onto the cracked and heaving sidewalk, I noticed an attractive and very shapely redheaded woman standing across the street, staring at me.
“What’s your name, handsome?” she asked.
It was apparent her eyesight was 20/20. “Max,” I replied. “What’s yours?”
Della Daisey. Della Daisey Morgan. You got a last name?”
“It’s Fly, Max Fly. Did you say your last name is Morgan?”
“Yes, I did. Why do you ask?”
“No reason, just curious.”
“What kind of car is that?” she asked pointing at the Fly Mobile.
“It’s a 1958 Oldsmobile 98. You are just full of questions, aren’t you? Are you a cop?”
“Ha, ha, no I’m not. What you doin’ in front of Sheriff Floyd-William Floyd’s Office? Lookin’ for someone?”
“Yes, I’m looking for someone. I’m a private investigator.”
“Well, good luck Mr. Max Fly, Private Investigator. If you’re looking for something good to eat, stop by and see me. I can be found down the street at the Della Diner and Dance Studio. Maybe you can show me your private investigator’s badge?”
“Did you say, ‘and dance studio’?”
“I did. We provide live entertainment after 6:00 p.m. on the weekends and Thursday nights,” she replied as she walked away.
I watched her bottom twitch left to right as she walked away, wondering how she did that so provocatively.
After cooling my heels for the obligatory twenty minutes, a burly deputy whose name tag told me his last name was Johnson, ushered me into the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff was a thin, balding older man, at least in his mid-sixties. I was informed that the sheriff held the post for the past thirty-five years and is as well established in Burning Bush as any elected official could expect to be.
He stood and grasped my hand. His hand was warm and his shake was firm.
“Name’s Floyd-William Floyd, you can call me Will. Everybody does.”
“The sign says, Sheriff Bodean Johnson.”
“That was the previous sheriff. I just ain’t got around to changing it yet.”
“How long you have you been sheriff here?”
“Going on thirty-five years, I guess.” He was looking at the card I gave to the burly deputy in the front of the office.
“Max Fly from Burnt Corn, Alabama now visiting me at Burning Bush, Georgia, such irony. What can I help you with, Max Fly, Private Investigator from Burnt Corn, Alabama?”
“I’m looking for someone, Sheriff. He goes by the name of Cletus Cooper Morgan. Here’s a picture of him it’s about ten years old, but it’s the best I could find. I have been hired by a firm to try and find this guy. He is a former boxer who boxed under the name of Kid Morgan, small-time but he got far enough to get into the ring with Danny Cyclone Ciorrocco but that was as far as he got. Cyclone knocked the last nut out of his grill and Cletus quietly faded away until he showed up in South America, dealing in illegal weapons, portable rocket systems, and high tech devices such as night vision scopes, radio sensors and certain explosive detectors. He participated in different types of security operations with foreign governments. Basically, he was doing things he wouldn’t want his mother to know about.”
“You don’t know his mamma.”
“No, I don’t. He was involved with the killing of hundreds of peasants in remote villages and left the bodies for the families to find. He was serving many clients down there. It didn’t matter what their political persuasion as long as their money was green.
He became a partner in a bean processing factory in Jamaica and went on the CIA payroll. Now they are trying to keep a lid on it but it is hard, considering the activities Cletus participates in.
They said he’s into kidnapping, extortion, and robbery, and engaged in the bombing of an El Salvador civilian airlines and hijackings as means of raising money for political upheavals in South American countries-upheavals in which the CIA played an active role.

Apparently, he is heavy into the shipment of drugs and gun running that started while he was down in Buenos Aires, Argentina, training with their military, which is one of the most brutal and are considered pariahs in other parts of South America. The feds found a canceled plane ticket with his name on it showing he flew out of Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires last week. His destination was Atlanta.
“That sounds like something our Cletus would get involved in. Why are you needing to find him, Mr. Max Fly, Private Investigator from Burnt Corn, Alabama? I’ve never been to Burnt Corn. Is it a nice place?”
“It is. A bit larger than Burning Bush, but still nice. My client’s son got mixed up with Morgan about five years ago and ended up dying at the end of a Mac10. My client was told by a former agent with the DEA that Morgan was pushing about 20 kilos of cocaine into Atlanta every month and they believe he was supplying someone near Chattanooga. Then come to find out, ol’ Cletus has family in these parts, Burning Bush, to be exact.”
“I know Cletus. I haven’t seen him in years. He left to play football down at Valdosta State back in ’63, I think. That didn’t last long. I figured it wouldn’t. As soon as they asked him to read something he was beyond his pay grade if you know what I mean. He ended up in the United States Army and served in Southeast Asia for a couple of years. He came out more screwed up then he was when he went in.”
“If he was to be around these parts, where would you guess he could be found?”
“The Morgans got a homestead ‘bout five miles north of here.”
“How would I get there?”
“Mr. Fly, the Morgans have a reputation around here and it ain’t a good one. If you have no need to, then don’t go near their place. They’re a mean bunch if there ever was one. Ol’ Pa Morgan was known to run shine out of the hills behind his farm and then his oldest boy started growing’ that funny tobacco that all them hippies like to smoke. I was with the ATF and the DEA a few years ago when we arrested the oldest boy, Duane Dale Morgan. We burned down a few acres of his weed. The feds didn’t keep him very long. When he came back he was into something entirely different. He was cookin’ up some of that methamphetamine that seems to be the elixir of choice for all the big city folk nowadays. We had to go up there again and now they throwed his butt into the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. Still there, as far as I know.
If you just feel you have a need to stir up a hornet’s nest, then, by all means, go on up. It’s pretty easy to find. You just head north outta town on Burning Bush Road toward the Burning Bush Baptist church. When you get out about five miles, turn right on Poplar Springs Road and go about a half mile and turn right once again on Peggy Sue Drive. About a mile down you’ll see a small dirt road going off to your left into the woods. There ain’t no mailbox or nuthin’ markin’ the place. You just have to take my word for it. Turn down that dirt road and you won’t have to worry, one of the Morgans will find you.”
Sheriff, Meth is no longer the drug of choice, it’s crack cocaine and it’s taking this country by storm. It’s easy to make. It’s cheap and it’s highly addictive. They say one hit is one too many and a million hits are not enough.”
“I just met a Della Daisy Morgan. She doesn’t happen to be related to the Morgan family we have been talking about, is she?”
“I believe she is a cousin. Probably a kissin’ cousin. Up here in these parts that could mean anything. But that red hair gives her away. Ain’t no way you can hide that.”
Well, now the feds are gathering string on Cletus hoping they can put him away. They have to find him first and that’s where I come in.



Carmen walked out of the general store carrying the merchandise she purchased that included a slab of bacon, cornmeal, and flour as well as some other dry goods when Shoots Plenty approached her and relieved her of her burden.
“You needn’t do that, Shoots Plenty. I am certainly capable of carrying these things.”
“Shoots Plenty wishes to,” he replied. “You work very hard. It gives me pleasure to help.”
“Hey whore, what are you doin’ with a filthy Injun,” a gaily dressed cowboy barked. “No one in they’s right mind is gonna wanna touch you after you with one of ‘em.”
Shoots Plenty stopped and turned to look at the cowboy sitting his horse in the middle of the street with his hand resting casually on the butt of his gun while looking at Carmen.
He was wearing leather leggins with a gun belt sporting a Colt .44 revolver on his right hip. His brown Stetson was adorned with a rattlesnake skin hat band that was sweated through and caked with mud from the dust gathered from riding the dry trails in western Texas. The hat was retained by a leather cord caught about the back of his neck and garnished with 3 perforated silver dollars. He was wearing a red handkerchief knotted loosely around his neck with the knot around the back of his neck so he could wipe the sweat from his face on those hot Texas days when the sun beat down unmercifully on both man and beast. He wore iron spurs and his chaps were made from the hair of a Newfoundland. The hair was thick and long and laid in the correct way that defied the rain. His saddle was made of fine Spanish leather, stamped with an intricate design with gold inlay on the saddle horn and cantle. His saddlebags, or war bags, were made of the same Newfoundland hair and most likely contained his wardrobe, a change of underwear and another shirt.
Shoots Plenty handed back the merchandise to Carmen and stepped into the street.
The cowboy got off his horse, slapping it in the rump as it walked slowly to a water trough located in front of the general store.
They made an odd couple, standing there in the street. Shoots Plenty with his cotton shirt and deerskin leggings, knee-high moccasins, and a black stovepipe hat, bearing an eagle’s feather, cocked precariously on his head. He was covered with crossing bandoliers slung sash-style over his shoulder and across his chest filled with .45 shells for the two Colts he had holstered on each hip, with the butts of the revolvers facing forward affording a faster draw. The bandoliers kept the ammunition off his hips, making it easier for him to retrieve ammunition when needed, something he learned from his old friend and fellow bounty hunter, Esben Hjerstedt
Shoots Plenty recognized the cowboy he was facing from a poster Esben had given to him before he came to town that morning. He was a hired gunman from Paris, Texas who was wanted by the law for killing a store clerk in Austin, Texas. He had been on the run for close to two years, hiding out in the New Mexico Territory and Matamoros, Mexico. At the top of the poster it said $500 Reward. That was all Shoots Plenty needed to know.
It was a game of two and Shoots Plenty got there first, slapping leather so fast the cowboy looked stunned as he gazed down at the hole left by the .45 round that pierced his chest before his hand was even able to twitch. He folded like a paper fan.
Shoots Plenty bent down and removed the gun belt containing the Colt .44 revolver and threw it over his shoulder.
“Are you all right, my brave chief?” Carmen asked.
“I am. You should go to your crib and I will meet you later. I have a gift for you but first I have to file for my reward money.”
“Reward money? What reward money?”
“This man is wanted by your Texas Rangers. We help your Rangers find bad men and bring them in dead or alive. I prefer dead.”
Shoots Plenty went over to the cowboy’s horse and picked up its reins and led him in the direction of the Marshall’s Office. Maybe now Wasichus will take this pretty horse and let me shoot his one-eyed mule.
Later, after finishing off a meal of cornbread, fried bacon, and bean soup, prepared by Carmen, Shoots Plenty reached into his bag and removed a dreamcatcher that he made for Carmen to keep in her crib.
“What is this, my big brave chief?” she asked.
“It is what we Lakota call a dreamcatcher. Dreamcatchers represent the web of life. You should hang it above your bed. It will sift your dreams and visions capture the good dreams in the web. They will be carried with you but the evil dreams will escape through the center’s hole and will no longer be part of you.
There are many forces and different directions that can help or interfere with you and the harmony of nature and also with the Great Spirit and all of his wonderful teachings.
The Lakota believe the Dreamcatcher holds the destiny of their future.