Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Barnes County: An Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from the novel I finished revising last summer and will one day get around to submitting to agents.

Terry Stegman did not know that she was about to die. Her heart did pound in her chest harder than she wanted to admit. It was surely due to the speed at which her cruiser traveled the narrow gravel road, gliding just on the surface of the stones. If any animals, a thin little whitetail, a possum, a mangy dog, dared to step into the road they would die. She could not swerve for fear of her own safety. Or, if another vehicle approached from the other direction, just over the next blind hill, the outcome was certain. This danger elevated her heart rate, but it was also likely due to the images of two dead bodies that flashed in her mind.

Terry, Deputy Stegman when she donned the tan uniform, had worked for the Sheriff’s Department for more than ten years and had many occasions to see the dead. Auto accidents were common on the winding black-top highways of Barnes County, Missouri. Elderly who had died alone at home. Farm accidents, men gored by bulls. She had never been early on the scene of a double murder. A young couple, meth-addicts most likely but a young couple just the same, each shot several times and apparently beaten as well. It did not horrify her, nor did it really sadden her. She had her own experience with the sadness of death for perspective. It was the violence of it that left her feeling a little stunned. And here she was, speeding these back roads to the home of the suspect.

At least Bill was right behind her. County Sheriff for what must be twenty years, he had saved her, given her purpose after her husband’s death. He had leaned his long arms across the cattle gate and told her that her sense of justice would make her a natural.

“What makes you say that?” She was lining a trough with sweet grain.

“You want to set things right. You always knew how to keep Bob from going too far.”

“He knew how to conduct business.”

“A powerful man can lose sight of right and wrong. I expect he had some help keeping hold of how things should be done.”

On Sunday mornings Terry and Bob used to have breakfast at a place called Lou’s in the nearest town, the nearest thing that amounted to more than a dot on a map or the crossing of two state highways. It had been a time they set aside to be together, away from the responsibility of the farm, the phone calls from Bob’s lawyer or various realtors. All of that could wait.

They could have been going to church. They probably should have. Around every corner there seemed to be tucked a little white Baptist church, so many in fact that no one likely knew that there wasn’t a one that they’d set a foot in since the day they were married. Asking someone what church they went to was a common question when getting to know someone, right up there with ‘Do you think we’re gonna get some rain?’ A question by itself that irritated Terry because they’d next ask when you thought the rain’d let up. She’d usually answer the church question by saying she’d go to any church that had a preacher worth her respect. To the other question she’d say ‘eventually.’

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