Here, our hero, Jimmy Rogers, is in the midst of his investigation of Tammy Long’s mysterious death (she being the late wife of upcoming country music star Eddie Long). Jimmy goes to speak with Carl, a man who — unbeknownst to Jimmy — had been having an affair with Tammy.

It was dark by the time Jimmy left the Lytle’s farm. He wanted to go by Eddie’s and Tammy’s old house before returning to Jackson but he didn’t want to go at night, so he got a room at the Roadway Inn in Hinchcliff. He’d go by the house tomorrow to take some photos, even if he had to break in to do it. Seems the place was still considered a crime scene since the National Crime Information Center bulletin had piqued FBI interest.

Jimmy was sitting in a booth in the back of the motel’s coffee shop. He was working on his fourth Budweiser and starting to get angry with himself for thinking about how much he still loved Megan and how much he missed her despite how she’d done him wrong. What the hell happened to my self-respect? He was just drunk enough to think he should write a song about it. But before he could get started, the waitress stopped by to take his order. “I’ll have the catfish and the dinner salad.” He handed her the menu. “And another Bud when you have a chance.”

Jimmy toyed with some lyrics for his been-done-wrong song: You left without a word, and got a number unlisted; love flew off like a bird, just ceased and desisted. He shook his head, deciding he was either way too drunk or not near drunk enough for country songwriting, so he turned his attention back to his book. Looking over the sheriff’s report Jimmy found something he thought might be helpful. The sheriff had made a list of everyone they’d interviewed after Tammy’s death. Jimmy hoped to find someone on the list who might be willing to answer a few more questions. The Teasdales were at the top of the list but Jimmy wasn’t prepared to pester the parents of the deceased, so he skipped down a bit. There was a Steve Teasdale, an uncle, way the hell over in Fulton but Jimmy didn’t think his questions warranted the two hour drive to Itawamba County. Next on the list was one of Tammy’s co-workers, Carl. He circled the name just as the catfish arrived.

Jimmy got to The Dollar Store about ten the next morning. He found Carl lining up a putt on the little Astroturf green in the middle of the sporting goods section.

“Excuse me,” Jimmy said.

Carl never broke concentration. “Be riiiight with you,” he said. He reset his feet, looked at the cup, then stepped up to address the ball.

Jimmy waited for Carl’s backswing before speaking. “Sheriff tells me you knew Tammy Long.” Carl’s putt soared across the green and disappeared into cosmetics. Jimmy looked off in that direction. After a pause, he looked back at Carl. “That’s a bad case of the yips.”

Carl’s right leg suddenly got the weak trembles. He thought all this was behind him. Ever since Tammy’s death, he’d been going to church regular, had been faithful, more-or-less, and was starting to feel better about himself. Until now. “You shouldn’t talk when a man’s fixin’ to putt,” Carl said. “It’s bad manners.”

“Yeah,” Jimmy nodded. “I guess that’s why they won’t let me join the country club.” Jimmy glanced at Carl’s leg and wondered what had triggered the sudden palsy. “You seem a little tense,” he said. “Have you tried decaf?”

Carl spoke through clenched teeth. “Well you come up in here messin’ up my putt and talkin’ about what the sheriff said and . . . what’s this all about anyway? You with the FBI or something?” He feared Jimmy was about to ask for a semen sample.

“I’m just doing a little investigative work is all,” Jimmy said. “Relax.”

Oh God, Carl thought, they’ve caught me. I’m done for. When the truth gets out, I’m gonna get it from all directions. Mr. Teasdale’s gonna wrap this putter around my neck and my wife’ll use the driver to cave in my testicles. How did they find out? I thought the investigation was all over. Maybe I should call a lawyer. No, wait until he makes an accusation, otherwise I look guilty. Meanwhile, I better say something instead of just standing here. “What kind of investigative work?” Carl’s voice cracked slightly.

Jimmy looked at his note pad. “Well, I figured since you and Tammy worked together you might be able to answer some questions.”

“I already answered the sheriff’s questions. Besides, I’m married and have a new baby.”

Jimmy nodded slightly unsure what to make of Carl’s non-linear thinking. “Were you and Tammy close?”

“Were we close?” Carl leaned up against a display case trying to get his leg to stop trembling. “Close for working in different departments, I guess.” Carl suddenly read a little something extra into Jimmy’s question. “What do you mean by close?” He squinted at Jimmy.

Jimmy thought poor Carl was going to have a stroke. “Listen, I’m not with the police or anything. I’m writing a book about Eddie. I’m just trying to find out a few things.”

Carl’s eyes flashed skyward in a thank you, Jesus glance. ‘Not with the police’ were the sweetest words Carl had ever heard. He took a deep breath and leaned forward on his putter. His twitchy leg began to settle. “A book about Eddie, huh?” Carl’s rusty wheels began to grind. It seemed like there might be some way to turn this whole thing to his advantage. He just hoped he could figure out how before it was too late. “What kinda book you writin’?”

“Biography,” Jimmy said.

Carl nodded sagely. “What kinda biography?”

Jimmy hesitated, unsure how best to answer such a question. “Oh, uh, all about his life, his music career, major events, like his wife’s death, that sort of thing.”

“What makes you think people wanna read about Eddie? He ain’t never done nothin’.”

“I’m thinking he might, now that he’s moved to Nashville.”

That’s when it occurred to Carl. “Lemme ask you a question,” he said. “You talked to the sheriff. Are they still looking into this? I mean I’d hate to think they’d stopped looking for who killed her.”

“Sheriff said as far as he was concerned the case was closed in Quitman County. I think the FBI still considers it open but I don’t know how active their investigation is.”

Carl nodded some more. He figured if the Feds were still poking around on this thing, they might end up talking to this fella writing the book about the husband of the deceased, in which case Carl figured this would be a good chance to direct attention away from himself and cast it in other directions. “All right,” Carl said, “I’ll answer your questions, but you gotta promise not to use my name or nothing if I tell you anything.”

“Fair enough.”

“So what kind of things you wanna know?”

Jimmy glanced at his notes. “Well, for instance, I was wondering if you knew why Tammy and Eddie used to make a two-and-a-half-hour round trip to Memphis for Chinese food. I mean, I hear that place in Clarksdale serves a pretty good egg roll.”

“What, Chow’s?” Carl shook his head. “Nah, Tammy liked that Hunan food what they serve up at that place in Memphis, real spicy you know, with them little peppers.” Carl curled up a pinkie finger to indicate the size of the peppers in question. “Things’re stronger’n horse piss with the foam farted off,” he said. “Turns out you’re not supposed to eat ‘em.” Carl looked a little embarrassed. “Anyhow, Chow’s serves that Mandarin style. It was too bland for Tammy.”

“Do you know if she was allergic to MSG?”

Carl shook his head. “No, we weren’t so close that I’d know stuff lack ‘at. But I’ll tell you somethin’ else I do know. . .”

Copyright © 2001 by Reduviidae, Inc.

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