Junior quickly put on the clean shirt. He looked at Dan and then smiled.
“Daddy won’t be mad at me for getting my shirt dirty now?”
“How did you get it dirty?”
Junior walked over to the bunk and huddled into the corner. “I don’t want to talk about it. It wasn’t my fault.” He started rocking and mumbling incoherently.
Dan shook his head, not wanting to deal with Junior any longer. Maybe later after a few aspirins he could deal with him, but not right now. He walked out of the cellblock and back to the office. Mac was on the radio and when he saw Dan he quickly cut off. Dan walked over to the desk and looked at the stack of mail. He finally turned to Mac.
“Do you know anything about the new medical examiner?”
“Wondered when you’d get around to her.”
“It isn’t what you think.”
“Billy Bob says she’s pretty.”
“I only saw her the one time and there was a dead body on the ground.” Dan hesitated a moment, pretending to read a memo lying on the desk. “I hardly took notice of what she looked like.”
“She’s not married, if that’s what you want to know?”
Dan quickly looked up as he was definitely interested in that little tidbit of information. It was the sign that Mac was waiting for.
“Not anymore at least.”
“You sure about that?” Dan asked. As much as he did not want to appear interested, he wanted to know more about her and Mac was the one person who always knew the latest town gossip.
“She was married to some high-powered lawyer in Little Rock.” Mac laughed before continuing. “Turns out he was providing more than legal services to his clients. If you know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t know what you mean?” Dan asked, trying to look ignorant as to what Mac was saying.
“Well, word has it he went both ways. He wasn’t choosy about who he bedded down with.”
“How long?” Dan asked.
“How long has he been screwing the clientele?” Mac asked, looking puzzled for a moment. “How in the hell should I know?”
“No! How long has she been divorced?”
“Not long enough to make her forget what jerks some men can be.”
“Explains her attitude.”
“Billy Bob said she took a liking to you.”
“You two gossiping old women.”
“You should hear what they’re saying about her over at the hardware store,” Mac laughed, and could tell Dan was interested in hearing more.
“Whom did she tangle with?”
“Mind you, this is only rumor,” Mac motioned Dan to come closer. “Jackson over at the bank made some remark to her the other day. The way I hear it, she chewed him a new asshole.”
Dan laughed. “Jackson was always crude when it came to the ladies.”
“You going to try your luck?”
Dan shook his head. “I like my life just fine the way it is. Kelly and I manage.”
“Kelly ain’t going to be around forever.”
“She has three years till college and right now I have my hands full.”
“Kay has been gone two years now. It’s about time you start living again.”
“It’s been eighteen months.”
“Well almost two years. Besides, it was an accident, nothing you could have done to prevent it. I don’t think she’d want you living like a hermit.”
Dan ignored Mac for a moment and walked over to the desk. “Don’t forget the shirt.”
“You want me to have her pick it up?” Mac asked with a big grin on his face.
“No! On your way out for lunch you can drop it off. Tell Ms. Davie I’ll stop by to get the report on Richie Ames later today.”
Without saying another word, Dan got up and then walked over to the door and hurried out. He didn’t want to sit and listen to Mac talk about Nancy any longer. The less he knew about her situation, the better he liked it.
Dan pulled up to his house and parked the squad in front of the garage. For the longest time he just sat there looking at the comfortable raised ranch that he called home. He remembered a time when he looked forward to entering those walls, but lately as the time grew longer he was having a hard time remembering what it was like when Kay was alive. So much he took for granted back then. Kelly tried to fill that gap, but it was hard for Dan to explain to Kelly how much her mother meant to him.
Slowly he got out of the squad and strolled up the walk. Kelly had planted the same flowers as her mother, but it just was not the same. Nothing was. Dan opened the front door. He took off his gun belt and his hat and put them on the hat hook behind the door and then took off his shoes and set them on the rubber mat next to Kelly’s flip-flops. Kay didn’t like anyone walking around the house with his or her shoes on, something about tracking the dirt in. Even after all this time he still abided by her wishes even though he never bought into it while she was alive. There were so many little things that he still did that pleased her. Hoping above all else that maybe it had all been a mistake and the call that she was dead was never made.
Dan walked into the living room. He glanced over at the fireplace and the array of photos on the mantel. The pictures were of happier times in Dan’s life. There had not been any new pictures added since Kay’s death. God, he missed her, and he hated this funky mood when it hit and wondered if it would ever get better.
Dan walked past the mantel and headed for the kitchen. He went to the fridge and opened the door. Dan grabbed the pitcher of lemonade and drank from the pitcher. He turned at the sound of footsteps behind him.
Kelly looked at her father with disgust. “I’m not drinking any of that now,” she snapped.
Dan stopped drinking the lemonade. “Didn’t think you were home,” Dan said finally.
“Where would I be?”
“Pool doesn’t open until one,” Kelly said rolling her eyes. She reached in the fridge for the casserole dish. “Ms. Witherspoon dropped this off. It was to welcome us back from our vacation.”
Dan turned his nose up and pretended he would throw up. “That’s the third one this month.”
“Well, she thinks you like it,” Kelly laughed mockingly.
“The garbage men are threatening to boycott our place, the stuff reeks so bad.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t throw it out. Did you ever think of trying it?”
“That was one thing I never let your mother make me. I hate tuna,” Dan said and then turned to Kelly. “Did you ever read a consumer report telling you the allowable percentage of rat droppings found in tuna?”
“Oh, that’s disgusting.”
“My point exactly!” Dan snapped. “I just won’t touch the stuff. Give me a T-Bone any day.”
“Why don’t you talk to her?” Kelly asked.
“Don’t think I haven’t tried. It only encourages her to do more.” Dan shook his head with innocent eyes. “Why do you think she makes me this crap anyway?”
Kelly looked up at her father and grinned. “She’s nice. Besides, what are you going to do once I’m gone?”
“I’ll think of something. Maybe I’ll take up bowling. In the meantime I don’t need another woman in my life complicating things.”
“Oh, that reminds me, a Nancy Davie called. She said something about setting up a time to talk.”
Dan perked up. It did not go unnoticed by Kelly, who shook her head, smiling.
“It isn’t what you think,” Dan said quickly.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Did she leave a number?”
“Yeah, it’s on the fridge.” Kelly walked out, smiling at her father. “You won’t hurt my feelings if you start dating.”
“Not you, too.”
Dan turned to the door, but Kelly had already disappeared. He turned around and pulled the note off the fridge. Dan smiled at the note. Kelly suddenly peeked around the corner.