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Archive for January, 2016

Motivated!

TMaidhis morning, following breakfast, I felt a surge of energy to clean house. It wasn’t a real surge it was more of a guilt trip kind of self-motivation. You know, “you better get your butt moving or someone will catch you with dust devils in the back hall”. Dust devils-the horror. Like some man is coming here, wearing his pressed white gloves, to check the dust level of my furniture before he sits.

I know that sounds far-fetched, but this did happen to me on Okinawa. My Okinawan maid was a miracle worker. I normally cleaned before she came so she wouldn’t think bad of me. Yet, she made floors sparkle using the same cleaner and rags I used with less dramatic results. One of my hobbies at the time was throwing ceramics. When cleaning the green ware before painting the dust in our abode resembled a wind storm in the Sahara. A couple, new friends, dropped by unexpectedly, and found me resembling a recently unearthed mummy. Her husband took one look and they never came back.

I digress.

Now you would think that being retired, I would have a spotless house where guests could eat off the floor and I could flaunt a pantry arranged in alphabetical order. No, that was when I worked a full time job.

Saturday mornings I hit the floor running to get the house work done, clothes washed, dried and put away. And a habit I developed in childhood, I baked something sweet for the family to munch on for the next week. While at the time it was a sign of love, now the modern woman would mention it sets someone up for high cholesterol and diabetes later in life.

Being retired I should be relaxing in front of the television, eating chocolates and laughing. Instead I put pressure on myself that my current writing venture isn’t progressing like I would like. Worry. Rewrite. Worry.

Being laid back just doesn’t seem to be in my DNA. I do still like to bake, sometimes after an afternoon nap. Okay, so I’m working on being laid back.

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CHAPTER 1

Judas Steer Front (1)

Well-meaning friends told her the worst part of being a widow was going to bed alone. They didn’t have two teenagers and a ranch to run. Just once she’d like a night where she didn’t drop into bed so tired she welcomed the dark silence—invited it, even. The worse part for her was the pink and yellow sunrise that started the painful process all over again.

Rebbie and Ty were great kids, but both required constant prompting to get up and dressed, to feed the cows, and still get to school before the bell rang. Psychiatrists who advised parents not to address a child’s negative behavior before sending them off to school were evidently single, childless, or owned nothing larger than a miniature poodle.

“Don’t make me come up there, boy,” she yelled again.

Bare feet pounded the floor overhead.

“About dang time.” Irritation coated her tone.

With Ty now vertical, she hurried through the living room where her daughter Rebbie primped for school in front of the television. A familiar Texas two-step blared from surround sound speakers. Aubrey stopped to listen to lyrics that always slowed her breathing. Mickey Gilley ran his fingers over the ivory of an upright piano while he leaned forward and moaned into the microphone. Here comes that hurt again. You’d think I’d learn. The more that I believe in love the more I get burned.

She remembered Mark spinning her around the hot, overcrowded dance floor at the Barbed Wire, his body pressed against hers, the comingling odors of peanuts, beer, and sweat—so strong she smelled them even now.

“Rebbie, you’ve seen that movie at least ten times,” she said, pulling herself back to the present. “You must have every move memorized. Turn that television off and get in there and eat your breakfast.”

Aubrey headed to the kitchen to finish making sandwiches then stuffed them into brown paper bags and folded the tops.

Rebbie ambled into the kitchen, whining. “I know, Mom, it’s just that I love watching the guy. He’s so handsome and he moves across the dance floor like nobody’s business. I wish Brett could dance half that good. He can’t seem to stop tripping over my feet when he tries to twirl me.” She took a bite of her eggs. “These are cold.”

Aubrey shrugged and gave a raised you think look.

Rebbie popped the plate in the microwave. “You and Daddy owned the floor of the Barbed Wire in your day. Don’t you miss the live music and all?”

“I miss everything about your daddy, like….” Aubrey’s words caught in her throat. “Like how he smelled fresh out of the shower.”

She patted Rebbie on the shoulder. “Now, you and your brother get those cows fed before you leave for school. I can’t do it this morning. It’s my volunteer day at the center.”

Rebbie yelled up the stairs. “Ty, get moving, you hear me? Get your butt down here. We got work to do before we leave.”

“Rebbie, not so loud—”

Their conversation ended with the slam of a car door out front. Aubrey pulled back the curtain. “Dang, it’s Sheriff Burleson, that mean-tempered old fool. He’s the last thing I wanted this morning, or any morning for that matter.”

“Maybe he has new information on Daddy’s case.” An impish grin appeared on Rebbie’s face. “Maybe he’s come courting.”

“Very funny, baby girl.”

Aubrey pushed open the screen door.

“Come on in Earl. What can we do for you this morning?”

Chest puffed out and one hand resting on his revolver, the sheriff took a step inside. He didn’t remove his hat, which sent a clear message—something teed him off.

“I came to ask for the key to the lock for your pasture gate on Highway 113—that and your permission to visit the crime scene again. I’ll bring the key back when we’re done.”

His paternal, official-sounding tone aggravated Aubrey.

“Seems the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations’ Forensics Services wants to look into Mark’s death starting with the area where his body was found, but you probably already know about that.” Earl hesitated like he expected her to respond. When she didn’t, his tirade continued.

“Did you have so little faith in my investigation that you felt the need to get the OSBI involved Aubrey? You know we’ve done everything we can to find Mark’s killer, and I hate that we haven’t. Just because them city boys have some big highfaluting title don’t mean they’ll find any more than a hick county sheriff did.”

Aubrey had enough of his bull. She shoved a chair out of her way, stomped over, and pulled the loop of keys off the peg and tossed them to him.

“Well, it certainly wasn’t a request from his widow,” she said, “or they’d have been here three years ago. I’d think you’d want to pursue every county and state resource available to solve his murder. After all, Earl, Mark was your officer!”

“Well, I don’t know what you think they’re going to find.” He stepped out and slammed the door in her face.

Neither do I, you arrogant ass.

Ty rounded the corner with a tortilla-wrapped breakfast in one hand and his phone in the other. “Woo we temper, temper. Not becoming of an officer of the law. Bye, Mom.”

“Ty Fox, get off that phone. Everyone in the county doesn’t need a text that you just took a pee or that Sheriff Burleson is a hot-headed fool.”

He dropped the phone into his pocket.

“Your sister knows what needs to be done. Don’t give her any trouble. Please ride Smoke today. That horse is getting fat and lazy.”

“Yes, ma’am, consider it done.” Ty kissed her cheek on his way out the door, and quickly pulled out his phone.

Aubrey shook her head—some things just weren’t worth fighting over. She handed Rebbie two lunches. “Here, your brother might get hungry later. What’s that boy going to do when you leave for college?”

“Starve and miss me terribly. Nice friendly visit with Sheriff Burleson this morning. I guess he can’t count on you to lead his re-election campaign.”

“Yeah well, if he’s done his job then he has nothing to worry about. Let Ty drive the truck out in the pasture. Don’t tell him I said so, just move over and make him think you’re letting him.”

“Yes, ma’am. Love you.” Rebbie left with a wave.

Aubrey stood in the door and watched her children head for the barn. Rebbie backed the diesel dually truck out of the pole barn where Ty loaded two bags of Equine Adult in the back.

After the horses, they’d feed the cows in the south pasture and make sure they had enough water in the trough. Another dry spring in Oklahoma left the stock pond a shallow mud puddle. Everyone prayed for rain. She sure didn’t want to pay to have water hauled from Lake Eufaula again this year. Her cow-calf operation barely made money as it was. Even new tires for the truck would have to wait.

Aubrey went upstairs to shower and dress for the day. Her morning routine always helped her mentally prepare to meet the public.

She undressed and tied up her auburn hair. A quick test of the temperature and she stepped into the tepid stream of water.

So the OSBI was reopening Mark’s case. That sounded like a positive sign. Perhaps she’d get a straight answer to her one question. Why?

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