Fired by Bullets
Fired by Bullets
by C. E. Chessher
A South Texas Mystery
Tags Mystery, South Texas, female sleuth, murder, fatal shooting, parade shooting, small town murder, political assassination
Release November 25, 2014
Witnesses scramble for cover as gunshots ring out during Pettrolius' first Oil Jamboree Parade, killing civil rights leader and newly-elected Vice Mayor Paul Ruiz.
Despite their strained personal relationship, newspaper editor Glennis Dunning and Deputy Sherrif Jake Briggs launch an investigation, exposing more secrets and foibles in this troubled town, rocked in recent years by continuing racial turmoil, labor strife, and the lingering aftermath of an old Indian curse.
Screak, screak, screak.
Ruthanne’s eyes sprang open. Damn that limb. Lunging from the chair, she darted toward the loading dock next to the tracks, the closest exit to the offending tree.
Wait a minute. Your life has been threatened. Get the gun. Responding to the warning from her inner voice, Ruthanne padded back to her desk and extracted a loaded Colt Junior from the top drawer. She refused to be victimized by some crazed hoodlum.
Slipping the gun into the side pocket of her dress, she returned to the exit. She slid open the freight door as thunder rumbled and lightning flashed, bathing the entire loading dock in electric white light. Crossing the dock, she stepped down onto a gravel walkway that paralleled the side of the building next to the tracks.
The chinaberry tree was near the front of the building. As Ruthanne reached to snap off the branch that had been scraping the window, a deep, raspy voice broke the silence. “Workin’ kinda late, ain’t you, Mayor?”
Startled, she lost her grip on the branch and spun toward the voice. Two men wearing domino masks met her gaze, evil grins plastered across their faces. The man who had spoken was tall and swarthy, with a black beard. The second man was shorter, with blond hair.
“Whassa matter, lady, cat got your tongue?” the blond said, elbowing Black Beard in the ribs. The men traded glances and guffawed.
Ruthanne stood her ground. “This is city property, and you’re violating curfew. Please depart the area immediately.” The part about the curfew was a lie, but a girl had to do what she had to do.
The men collapsed in paroxysms of laughter.
Ruthanne’s blood boiled. She’d been a big girl all her life, and if there was one thing she couldn’t stand—one thing that enraged her—it was derision. She’d done all the right things in life, built a successful business from scratch, and treated people fairly. She didn’t deserve this.
“I asked you nicely to depart the area. If you refuse, I’ll have you forcibly removed.”
The men laughed so hard, tears streamed from their eyes.
“Did you hear that, Billy Joe?” Black Beard said to the blond, slapping him on the back. “Miz Heggeman is going to have us forcibly removed.” He shot Billy Joe a smarmy look and hung his finger from his lip, like a doofus. “Hmm. I wonder who’s going to forcibly remove us? The telephone operator? Or the drunk constable?” They laughed like hyenas.
Apparently, the strangers were too dumb to realize they’d revealed a few important facts. First, she now knew one man went by Billy Joe, and second, they were familiar enough with the town to know that the telephone operators coordinated emergency responses, and about Roth Adelle’s drinking problem. They probably also knew that because of budget constraints, each of the May County deputies had to cover three precincts.
“As a matter of fact, I sounded the police alarm a few minutes ago when I heard a suspicious noise outside the window. The law will be here any minute now.”
A shadow of fear crossed Black Beard’s face, but a moment later he recovered his composure. “What you think, Billy Joe?” he said, aiming a goofy grin at the other man. “Should we wait for the law to show up? Or skedaddle before they get here.”
“Maybe the Mayor Lady would like to ride along with us, J.B.,” the blond said, meeting his friend’s gaze.
“Would you like that, Mayor?” J.B. said. “We can show you the underbelly of Mayvale.”
“We may have to hog-tie her,” Billy Joe added, smirking. They both roared with laughter.
The hog-tie reference sent Ruthanne beyond the boiling point. Snatching the pistol from the pocket of her dress, she pointed it at J.B.’s groin area. “We’ll be heading for Mayvale, all right.” Using both hands, she released the safety and cocked the trigger. “I think the sheriff’s office has some accommodations waiting for you two.”
The color drained from their faces, and the men glanced at each other with panic-filled eyes. “Hold on now, Miz Heggeman,” J.B. said, raising his hands. “No call for anything that drastic.”
Billy Joe held up his hands, too. “Yeah. We didn’t mean nothin’.”
Smirking, Ruthanne sauntered toward J.B. and got in his face. Leaning into him, she traced the barrel of the gun against his thigh.
He fidgeted. “Billy Joe was right, Miz Heggeman. We didn’t mean nothin’.”
Ruthanne pivoted and jammed the gun into Billy Joe’s belly. “Is that right, Billy Joe?” Ruthanne said, flexing her jaw. “You didn’t mean nothin’?”
“No, ma’am,” he said, backing away. “We was just teasin’, that’s all.”
“You two boys with that group of hoodlums in Mayvale?” Ruthanne asked, pivoting the gun from J.B. to Billy Joe. “That group that humiliated our majorette last year?”
“No, ma’am,” J.B. offered. “We didn’t know nothin’ about that.”
“I’ll bet,” Ruthanne said skeptically, raising an eyebrow. She could feel her blood pressure rising. “I could have sworn I saw you in the crowd that day.”