Frisky Friday Flashy Fiction
Hello from smoking Atlanta! We passed hot days ago. With the heat index, temps feel like the triple digits. My office faces the parking lot in our complex. We used to have a huge acorn tree out front that blocked a lot of the sun. Well, last year the HOA decided the best way to get rid of the squirrels was to take down the tree. Now my office heats up as if somebody turned the heat on. Big fun!
As we enter the month of August, our time is winding down in Georgia. There’s still plenty to pack, and we still need to find a place to rent for the next six months to a year out in California. I’m not stressed…yet!
Ready for the next installment of Deception?
Sheriff Amy Fogle pulled into the parking lot of JoJo’s Hometown Eats, a diner on the edge of town. From all the cars, I guessed the spot must have been pretty popular. When we stepped through the door, however, getting a seat didn’t seem to be a problem—the place was empty.
“Where’s everyone at?” I asked.
Amy smiled. “Baseball game down the street.”
Scratching my head, I hadn’t glimpsed a diamond on the way.
Noticing my confusion, she added, “We came from the opposite direction. Some folks like to park here and walk to the game. Easier to get out afterwards.”
A gray-haired, rotund lady exited a doorway with a towel in her pudgy hands. “Hey there, Amy. What can I get for you?”
The sheriff pointed to a nearby table. As we sat down, she asked, “Is it too late to get a little lunch and a cup of coffee? Maybe some of your famous chicken?”
“I’ll make up a batch for you.” The woman jerked her chin in my direction. “And your friend?”
“JoJo, this is Detective Calvin Reeves from California.”
“Well, well. I don’t think I’ve ever had in anyone from Cali-for-nee-i-a. Bet you’ve never had any good fried chicken, detective.”
I wasn’t a big fan of fried foods outside of fries, but I would have eaten just about anything at that moment. “The chicken will be fine. Any chance I could get fries with it?”
She laughed. “Not a problem.”
After JoJo ambled off, the sheriff leaned in. “So what all can I tell you about Apryl Atkins?”
“I only know what was in the newspaper article. Do you believe her sister committed those murders?”
“Hell, no!” Amy glanced out the window. “Roberta was the sweet one. She was the kid who was always rescuing some stray animal. Couldn’t harm a fly. That Apryl was different. Girl was just pure evil.”
“In what way?”
The sheriff’s gaze met mine. “Those animals Roberta rescued?” Amy shook her head. “Apryl drowned them.”
“Kittens, puppies…even baby skunks. Roberta would take them home. The next day the poor child would walk down the center of mainstream in tears. Over and over again, Apryl would stuff the little rescues in a bag with a few bricks and then dump in the creek.”
JoJo returned with two mugs and a pot. “It’s true, Detective. I had to say something to Elwood. Tell my brother to stop letting Roberta bring home the critters. Poor girl was a bit touched in the head, if you know what I mean?”
When the owner returned to the kitchen, I asked Amy, “Is everybody related around here?”
“Just about. It’s a small town. If you’re not family, you’re married to somebody who might be related to someone else. The Atkins family is the backbone of Blowing Rock. A lot of folks were related to either Janet or Elwood.” When I cocked my hand to one side, Amy clarified, “There are other families, Detective. We’re not talking incest.”
“Understood.” I dumped three packets of sugar in my cup. “So if Roberta didn’t kill her parents, why did she have the knife?”
“I have a theory, but it’s just between us.”
“Apryl hated her parents. They were always stopping her from doing the things she wanted to do.”
“She once lured little Tommy Rathbone away from his house. Told him she had a bag of candy for him if he’d follow her.” Amy swallowed hard. “We found him just in time. She’d tied the boy home and left him buck naked in the cold. He lost a lot of blood…”
“How old was Apryl then?”
“Ten. Tommy was six. He survived but was never quite the same again.”
The smell of grease tickled my nose and made my stomach growl. Trying to stay focused, I asked, “Did Mr. and Mrs. Atkins do anything about Apryl?”
“No. Elwood said a ten-year-old couldn’t have done it. Plus, that girl was good for batting those long eyelashes and folks believed her. She only got worse with age. Rather than get her some help, Elwood and Janet had a blind eye while the rest of the town grew scared of their daughter.”
I exhaled. Honestly, I didn’t know what to think. There was a slim possibility that Apryl wasn’t the culprit of crimes in Los Angeles, but I had to be sure before ruling her out. “Amy, I’m hunting down a serial killer. I’m guessing the suspect could be female. Whoever it is has knowledge of drugs.”
Amy’s lips pressed together into a thin line as she removed her phone. She scrolled through the screen and then held it out for me.
“What am I looking at?”
It was the coroner’s report for Janet and Elwood. The medical examiner had found traces of a paralytic in their system.
“Before you ask, Apryl worked for old Doc Howard. The town veterinarian. That drug is a neuromuscular blocking agent that the doctor used for surgeries.”