Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another excerpt from THE EARTHQUAKE LADY, available as an e-book in February

Here is a short excerpt from THE EARTHQUAKE LADY, third in the Gideon Marshall Mystery Series. The first two from this series are BE CAREFUL, DR. RENNER and THE STITCHER FILE, both available on all e-readers. The excerpt:

“Because of that incident last fall, we’ve had an on-going conversation with Mr. Bennett,” says Burkholder. “And Mrs. Bennett,” he adds. “Over the past several weeks. They’ve agreed to help.”
If I remember the events of last fall correctly—“that incident,” in Burkholder’s words—Elizabeth ended up in custody as a result of finding that body, her car was towed to the city lot and probably dissected for whatever local police thought might be of value in an investigation, and in the middle of a storm that shut down travel over half the state for a full day, Joe ended up driving his tractor to town to rescue his wife. The “rescue,” of course, didn’t happen until after some fairly extensive interrogation and the attachment of an ankle monitor. I found out some time later that Elizabeth also underwent counseling as a result of her experiences that early morning and the events that followed discovery of Stitcher’s body on the tracks.
Elizabeth Bennett is the last person on Earth that I would have thought needed counseling for anything. After all, she is a farm wife that’s helped rear two sons, now grown, and been a partner to Joe, doing her share of both the physical and mental labor required to stay in the production agriculture business. I will say, however, that if you own enough land in Iowa, and manage it correctly, you’re going to do just fine. It’s the “manage it correctly” part that’s the challenge. As you drive across our state, every well-kept, painted, clean farmstead you see, those quintessential pastoral scenes reminiscent of landscape paintings, are screaming “managed correctly.” They might as well have billboards proclaiming that fact.
“How are they able to help?” Now I’m actually curious.
“In a number of ways,” replies Burkholder, although I can tell he’s not all that eager to share the full list. “We told them we might have to train some local people and needed some fairly secluded location to do it. They volunteered their property.”
If Broderick Burkholder honestly believes that you can conduct any kind of criminal investigation training on a piece of Iowa farm land, and do it in any kind of seclusion, that means he’s pretty clueless about social interactions in our part of the Great Plains. Make that former Great Plains. It’s still plains, but it’s mostly all corn nowadays.
“So, officer Burkholder,” asks my wife; “when do we get to go out there to Joe’s farm and learn how to kill someone?”
Burkholder is either patient by nature, or he’s heard so much of this smart-ass tone of voice that it no longer affects him. Or, maybe, he doesn’t listen to tones of voices—“paralanguage,” they call it, in the anthropological literature, the meaning of some utterance that has nothing to do with the words involved. If you’re curious about the communication power of paralanguage, consider how many different ways an actor could say “I love you,” or “go to Hell;” or, if you’re sitting in the Marshall living room: “when do we get to go out there to Joe’s farm and learn how to kill someone?”
“I’m ready whenever you are. Mr. Bennett knows we’re coming.”
Mr. Bennett knows we’re coming?
“Like now?” I ask.
“Whenever you’re ready,” he repeats. “You may want to put on some appropriate clothes.”
Broderick Burkholder does not look like he has on appropriate clothes. My mind imagines him in all kinds of situations where he may not have on appropriate clothes, or, alternatively, he dresses like this all the time and just deals with the diversity of tasks typical of a detective in the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
“We’ll be out in the field?”
“I can drive up pretty close to the ravine, but ideally, you might want to put on some jeans. It’s probably still a little wet out there.”
“You have this all worked out? You’ve actually been to this so-called ravine?”
“Yes,” he answers, his patience showing; “and I talked to Mr. Bennett earlier this morning.”
“Detective Burkholder,” I ask, simply out of the blue; “are any of those samples from the Bennett farm?”
“I can’t say where they are from,” he answers, verbally, but his eyes tell me “yes.”
“Are we taking two cars?” Ah, the old married couple whose kids have left home question.
“I’m driving,” say Burkholder; “we can drive right up to the site.”
He looks at his watch; he’s ready to go shooting with a couple of folks who have never handled a pistol, and he’s probably going to “expedite the permit process” afterwards. As I walk back to the bedroom closet, looking for some “appropriate clothes,” I’m wondering what detective Burkholder knows that Mykala and I don’t.

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