Amateur Sleuth in the Desert, One Point Five

Written by Mark Wm Smith

An overeducated, blue-collar cowboy, Mark Wm Smith grew up on along the banks of the Yellowstone River in Eastern Montana. Raised by a long haul trucker and a bartending waitress, Mark learned the hard ways of the modern frontier, scraping life from the unforgiving high chaparral.

August 18, 2018

“Desert Miles” Scene 1.5

Sheriff Mentz turned to grin at his new deputy. “Miles is planning a bed-and-breakfast out on the property where that kid got killed,” he said. “He thinks the Air Base is moving away. And a good chunk of Miles’s insurance business with it. Miles needs a new money-making venture.” Mentz turned back to Miles, the humor gone from his bared teeth. “Scheming runs in the Thurman blood.”

“It’s a financial planning business,” Miles blurted. “There’s risks. And they are moving out. I talked to…,” his voice trailed away.

Deputy Riley scrunched her perfect Scandinavian eyebrows. “You’re planning a bed-and-breakfast where the Walters’ kid died?”

“Those landscape drawings, now,” Mentz added, ignoring Riley, “they been hanging in the drugstore about a year, isn’t it, Miles?”

A rancid thought roiled inside Miles, where the empty feeling had been, refilling his shrunken psyche. It burst to the surface as he ground his boot toe into the concrete sidewalk. “It seems like political suicide,” Miles said to his toe, “to lock up the wrong guy before June’s elections.”

Sheriff John Mentz’s shadow loomed over Miles. It carried recollections of Mentz shoving an angry fist through a car’s window about ten years ago and busting Tully Smythe’s jaw. Miles blinked. Juneau growled.

“You questioning my ability as a law officer, Thurman?” Mentz curled and uncurled his fingers near the weathered handle of the Colt. “Maybe you’re looking to extort your own kind of justice out of this situation?”

Saliva sprayed Miles’s face. He stumbled back. “I’m just a citizen trying to protect an innocent man.”

The dog stood between them, barking at the sheriff.

Mentz shadow crowded Miles again. “You just want Jim’s money to close your stupid, hair-brained deal!”

Deputy Riley stepped in and laid her slender hand against the sheriff’s badge. “Sheriff. Let it go.”

Miles backed another step, keeping his eyes on his boot toe, and said, “When the military leave, everyone in this town will need a tourist draw like the bed-and-breakfast.”

Mentz feigned starting forward again.

Deputy Riley leaned against him with a stiff arm. “Sheriff!”

“You–.” Mentz pointed past his deputy, his fingertip brushing Miles’s nose. “You meddle with this, Miles…just give me a reason to slam the cell door on a Thurman!”

Juneau jumped up and snapped at the sheriff’s finger.

Mentz didn’t move for five full seconds. He took a swat at the dog, spun on a heel and stalked off.

Miles and Deputy Myrna Riley stared at the sheriff’s receding back. Juneau plunked his bottom and whimpered.

Deputy Riley turned to Miles. “Mr. Thurman, police business requires a certain amount of skill and training.” Her blue eyes glinted under the brim of her cowboy hat. “Best thing for a man to do? Let the law handle things the way they see fit. Amateur’s only solve crimes in books and on T.V.”

Miles pinched his lips. His thick neck turned hot. He rocked his teeth together, preparing to speak. Whose town was this, anyway?

“Stick with the drawing, Mr. Thurman,” Deputy Riley said. She swiveled and trotted after Mentz.

Juneau tipped his head and watched her go.

Miles stomped his foot and cursed.

Juneau barked.

Miles gave Juneau a dismissive wave. “Ah, forget it!”

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