Early the next morning, Melvin strolled into the sheriff’s office on the way to meet his client. It was a fact-finding mission as much as it was a personal courtesy. Melvin rarely did anything out of simple courtesy.
The office was tiny and furnished with little more than a couple of visitors' chairs and a large black file cabinet. The room was so small the walls seemed to be closing in on the sheriff, who was sitting at his plain pine top desk looking over some paperwork.
“Morning, Sheriff,” Melvin said casually as his gaze traveled over the sheriff’s head and landed on various pictures: the sheriff with the governor, the sheriff at the shooting range, the sheriff with Ronald McDonald at a charity golf tournament.
The sheriff nodded. “Melvin.”
Rather than taking a seat at one of the two empty chairs on the visitor’s side of the desk, Melvin chose to stand. “Sheriff, do you mind telling me what kind of evidence you have to hold the Reverend?”
Sheriff Maddox looked up over the rim of his glasses. “Who’s a reverend?” he asked. "I wasn't aware that I was holding a member of the clergy."
“Baxter," Melvin said. "He may not have his own church just yet, but he's definitely got his preacher's license."
“I don’t suppose that hurts you any,” Sheriff Maddox said. “A man of God is more likely to impress a jury.”
“You got that right,” Melvin said. He decided to take a seat after all. “So what do you have on him?”
“You mean other than the voodoo chickens?”
“I'm not familiar with the recipe. I prefer my chicken friend.”
“According to my men, your reverend butchered a chicken and spread the blood all over his doorway.”
“A little late for Passover,” Melvin said.
“It’s supposed to be some kind of voodoo magic.”
“So, you’re holding him based on chicken blood?”
“We also found out he took out a substantial insurance policy out on his wife three months ago,” Sheriff Maddox said.
“That don’t mean nothing,” Melvin said. “Circumstantial.”
“What it means,” the sheriff said, “is he had motive.”
Melvin stood to go. “Well, I hope Henry Russell has more evidence than that if he plans to bring this thing to trial.”
“Oh, our friendly neighborhood prosecutor has more than that,” the sheriff said. Melvin thought he noticed a twinkle in his eye. “He’s got himself an eye witness.”
“The hell you say.”
The sheriff leaned back and threaded his fingers behind his head. “A neighbor saw Baxter loading the body into the car.”
“I don’t believe it,” Melvin said.
“Good luck collecting your half of the insurance money now, Melvin.” Sheriff Maddox exploded into laughter.
Melvin fled the room. “Goddamnit,” he thought. “This is going to be harder than I expected.”
Go to Chapter 7