Today, for #HumpdayHorror, I wanted to do something special. My 4th book, The Blood in Guthrie, releases on November 26th, and today, I want to give you a sneak peek at the world I created in that novel.
In this excerpt, you will get to meet a few of my favorite characters. Sheriff Elmer, Deputy Jack McMann, and Earl Grover. I chose it because it lets you get to know the characters, just a little, without giving away too much of the plot or any very important details. It does, however, show you that the novel is not only chalk full of horror and mystery, but that the characters are also quite humorous as well. So, without further ado, here is your sneak peek of The Blood in Guthrie--find it on Amazon and Kindle in November.
Elmer sat at his desk at the Guthrie police station, his uniform shirt unbuttoned revealing a yellowed undershirt. His face in a metal desk fan. The sheriff’s wispy, brown hair blew back and tiny beads of sweat caught on the breeze and scattered into the air for some unfortunate soul to absorb or swallow or get pegged by.
“It’s hotter ‘n Satan’s armpit,” Elmer whined into the fan making his voice sound robotic. “I’m hungrier than a dog ‘n I might be too hot to eat. Ain’t that a cryin’ damn shame?” Elmer reached across his desk, grabbed the last piece of pecan pie that sweet old Mrs. Heady Boudreaux brought in, and stuffed it into his mouth.
“You could help me examine this,” Jack said.
Jack held the recently discovered head of Bernard Duperon. He had convinced Elmer to let him store the head with some dry ice to keep it from decomposing. Now he had it laid out on a metal tray with some scissors, tweezers, and paper bags with the hopes he might find something to help him catch the killer.
“I ain’t a touchin’ that thing there. Couldn’t pay me to do it,” Elmer said.
“That’s literally what they pay you to do,” Jack said as he poked into the flesh of the neck with the tweezers. He extracted four long strands of hay. Some had burrowed themselves deep into the muscle, but one piece had only penetrated the fat a little. The rest of the strand was clean as it was when it was cut. Jack put the three blood-soaked ones in a bag and marked it ‘Hay—Duperon’. The other piece he sat carefully on a folded paper towel. “Would you look at that. This one is pretty clean.” Jack took the scissors and cut off the bloody tip. He was willing to do a lot, but he wasn’t about to put coagulated dead man’s blood up to his nose.
He twisted and turned the little stiff piece of hay between his fingers releasing any oils that might still be intact within it. Jack slowly lifted it to his nose and gently inhaled. A mild scent caught him. Slightly sweet and woody. He knew that scent but couldn’t place it. He sniffed again. “Hey, Elmer,” Jack said, “come over here and smell this.”
“Ain’t gotta. Can smell it all the way over here. Ain’t no peach.”
“Not the head. This hay. I can’t place it.”
“Didn’t you just dig that outta Bernard’s skull! Uh uh. Ain’t no doin’. No way, no how,” Elmer argued like a child.
Jack sighed and stood up out of his chair. He paced around the station sniffing and rolling the hay between his fingers, trying to place the familiar odor. He walked behind Elmer, still sitting in his chair, and in one quick motion wrapped one arm around Elmer’s fatty shoulders while he shoved the piece of hay up under Elmer’s nose with the other. Elmer arched his back the best he could and tried to hold his breath.
“You can’t hold it forever, Elmer. Just smell it.”
Elmer shook his head fast back and forth.
“One one-thousand, two one-thousand. I bet you could use some lunch, Elmer. Three one-thousa—Minnie’s food isn’t the best in town.”
“Hey, now you take that back,” Elmer shouted.
“Well, that there’s alfalfa,” Elmer said suddenly.
“Shit.” Jack ran over and bagged up the rest of the hay, then he bolted to the bathroom and soaped up his hands and face, but he figured the whole mystery out just a hair too late.
Poor Deputy McMann learned at the age of thirteen, when he spent the summer at his grandparent’s farm in Sandusky, Ohio, that he was terribly allergic to alfalfa hay. His grandparents were the proud owners of two beautiful painted horses, and he had broken out in itchy, ugly hives when he volunteered to give those horses a flake one night. Much like that day, when Jack emerged from the restroom at the Guthrie police station, his nose, upper lip, and fingers were covered in nasty looking red welts.
“Lotta good that done ya,” Elmer laughed.
“More than you’ve done. We have a lead now, anyway. We can look into who’s using alfalfa hay.”
“Jus’ ‘bout everyone with a farm I suppose.”
“It’s a start. We can narrow them down from here,” Jack said.
Jack sat down at his desk and boxed the Duperon evidence back up carefully. Sheriff Elmer never took much time to go over crime scenes or evidence. It was as if he wasn’t even trying to solve the murders in Guthrie. Jack was determined to figure it out, with or without Elmer’s help.
Jack forced old Elmer to button up his uniform shirt and remove himself from the fan, and they headed on down to Grover’s Feed Store on County Road 586 on the west side of town. Grover’s wasn’t much of a place to look at, but it was the only place a local farmer could get farming supplies, it was the only place the ladies got their spades and flower pots and hyacinth seeds, and it was surely the only place alfalfa hay came in through.
The little brass bell above the door chimed brightly when Jack and Elmer walked through the door. Jack’s face read business and allergies. Elmer’s read heat, hunger, and naptime. Earl Grover sauntered right up to the front of the store when he heard the bell call him. Grover wasn’t a fancy man. He shuffled around in faded overalls and a cotton t-shirt that appeared to have seen too many washes—it was nearly transparent. Earl was older than the dirt the cotton grew in. His face was pot-marked and wrinkled, like a dress shirt at the bottom of the laundry basket. He had white whiskers that stuck out in every direction and close-cropped white hair that matched. He wore thick, black-rimmed glasses that looked about two sizes too big for his sunken face, and his nostrils were big enough to encompass a grown-man’s big toe. When Earl opened his mouth to speak half his teeth were missing.
“What can I do ya fer gentlemen,” he slobbered, slow and thick.
“Are you the owner, sir?” Jack asked politely.
“Always I have bin ‘n always I will be.”
“Grover’s Feed’s been ‘round since my daddy was little. Ain’t that right, Mr. Grover,” Elmer said playing kiss ass.
“That you little Elmer Avant?” Earl Grover said adjusting his glasses and squinting.
“Sure as the day is long,” Elmer answered and slapped the old man’s back, too hard.
Earl Grover stumbled and nearly tipped over. Jack grabbed him. “To what do I owe tha pleasure,” Grover slurred.
“Mr. Grover, I’d like to ask you a few questions,” Jack said.
“And who are you?”
“Jack. Deputy Jack McMann. I just need to ask you a few questions about your deliveries.”
“I ain’t never heard a ya. I don’t know no McManns.” Grover grumbled and shook his head.
“I just moved here a few weeks ago. It’s about the murders. Elmer and I…”
“Elmer’s a good boy. Strong.”
Jack sighed. “Mr. Grover, I just need to know who in Guthrie uses alfalfa hay.”
“Alfalfa hay?” Grover blew a raspberry through his purple withered lips and rubbed his stubble. “Fancy shit. Let’s see.”
Finally, Earl hobbled over to the counter and used it to prop himself up while he circled around it. Earl Grover moved like a sloth while he searched with his fingers under the register, then in a tin can, then in some shelves overhead. Eventually, he convinced his rusty old knees to bend and he dug through old ledgers and papers in a cupboard under the counter and, after several long agonizing minutes during which Earl mumbled a litany of cuss words, huffed, and snorted, he popped up with a leather journal in his hands.
“Here we go. This ‘n here’s ma order book.”
He slowly opened it and thumbed through pages of dates and names and orders. The handwriting in it was shaky and difficult to read. It was made worse by the fact that it had been recorded in pencil, by a sweaty hand, and was terribly smudged. Earl Grover leaned in close, his nose nearly scraping the ledger. Jack watched with trepidation, terrified that Grover would smear his only hope of finding a lead. Elmer stood whistling Dixie while he examined flower seed packets.
“Now who in Sam Hill wrote this dagum thing? Can’t barely even make out tha writin’.”
“Do you mind if I take a look, sir?” Jack suggested politely.
“If’n you think you can do better’n I can, go on an’ make a go a it.”
Jack examined the book and, although the script was difficult to read, he could see that there were only five people in town that had alfalfa hay delivered to their property. He pulled paper and a pen from his uniform pocket and took down the names and addresses from the book. Then, he turned the ledger and slid it back to Earl Grover who was presently staring off into space.
“Thank you, Mr. Grover. Elmer and I appreciate your help,” Jack said.
“Elmer? Elmer Avant? You tell yer daddy I said to stop feeding ya all that cake. Growin’ boy needs meat or he’ll git slow ‘n fat.”
Jack looked at Earl Grover with a furrowed brow. Earl Grover looked into space. He had clearly gone somewhere in his mind that was not 1934, because he was trying to save Elmer from something he had already become. Elmer looked across town to the smoke rising from the brisket cooking out back at Minnie’s.
Jack was satisfied when Elmer pulled the police cruiser into its usual parking spot in front of the station. It was late in the afternoon. Bessie had already ended her shift for the day and headed off to the beauty parlor to gossip with the rest of Guthrie’s pretty young singles before they went on over for dinner at Minnie’s and drinks at The Delta. Elmer was less satisfied because hunting down leads at Grover’s Feed Store caused him to miss lunch hour at Minnie’s and that meant his gullet was rumbling and hollering like a volcano near explosion. Elmer had protested and pleaded with Jack to allow him to stop for a chopped beef sandwich, at least let Minnie wrap it up for him so he could carry it back to the station. But Jack wouldn’t budge for Elmer’s crying belly.
“Ain’t ya got no sympathy for a starvin’ man,” Elmer whined as he waddled up the cement stairs to the doors of the police station.
“Elmer, you could live for a month without a morsel.” Jack swung open the door and walked straight to his desk. “Don’t you have any sense of urgency?”
“I got a urgent need to eat’s what I got.” Elmer plopped down like a child whose lollipop was prematurely taken away, turned his fan back on and stuck his face in it. “You want me to wait out supper? That’s three hours away, I reckon. I ain’t gonna make it that long.” Elmer’s voice was robotic again as he spoke through the fan, “You tryin’ to kill me, Jack?”
“Elmer, you should have joined Vaudeville,” Jack sighed. He dug through the drawer of his desk and pulled out a sandwich wrapped in brown paper. He tossed it across the room, smacking Elmer in the side of the head.
“What’s this?” Elmer voraciously unwrapped the sandwich and looked between the two pieces of bread, his face drooped. “Jam? You keep a jam sandwich in yer desk?”
“I was planning to eat it for lunch.”
“For lunch? This ain’t no lunch. This is barely a snack.”
“Better than nothing,” Jack said taking out the paper he had written the names and addresses on at Grover’s.
“This strawberry,” Elmer sniffled at the sandwich, “or raspberry jam?”
“Does it matter?”
Elmer grimaced, “Where’d ya get it?”
“The corner store.”
“Their’s got too many seeds. They get all stuck in my teeth an’ I gotta spend the rest a my night pickin’ em out.”
This was officially the hardest Elmer had ever examined anything in the police station, including Bessie Gale’s long, slender brown legs.
“Look Elmer,” Jack finally cracked, “eat it or don’t. There are a hell of a lot more important things going on in Guthrie than the contents of your stomach. For instance, the dead people whose heads keep showing up all over town. Now, I don’t know about you, but I guess me and a whole lot of other people would like some answers about that. So, if you don’t mind, I am going to call the folks on this list and make arrangements to talk with them.”
Elmer’s mouth attempted to move, words attempted to come out.
“Shut up and eat, Elmer,” Jack said as he picked up the phone and rotated the dial.
#HumpdayHorror Copyright Kira McKinney 2018
Welcome to my blog. Sit back and enjoy a short story, a poem, or some flash fiction--whatever I have recently cooked up. I will post a new piece as often as possible. Check back once a week to see what's new.