This was written for Wakefield Mahon’s Motivation Monday flash fiction contest. 500 word limit & the prompt is the first line of the story… in this case, “You’ll find monsters where you least expect them”.
“You’ll find monsters where you least expect them,” said Mrs. Petry. “Wouldn’t you agree, Sheriff Barton?”
The sheriff put his teacup down on the end table, next to his hat.
“I’ll always be Rollie to you, ma’am.”
The old woman patted the back of his hand and sat down next to him on the settee.
“I know it, but I believe when a man’s earned the right to be addressed by a title folks ought to go ahead and use it.”
“Fair enough,” said Rollie.
He looked around Mrs. Petry’s parlor.
It was a room he’d been in dozens of times over the years and it never seemed to change.
The furniture -the old settee and end tables, a sideboard, table, and chairs- was the same. Gingham was everywhere from window treatments to tablecloth to Mrs. Petry’s dress.
He tried to think of the last time he visited the house.
“It was right after my Wilson passed, Sheriff Barton. You came over with your ma and brought me a chicken pot pie.”
“I do believe you’re right.”
He took a sip of tea.
“Maggie radioed you wanted to see me?”
Mrs. Petry put her teacup down and cracked her knuckles.
She was a still a strong woman, wiry strong and as tough as they come. She raised seven sons, lost three of them to the VC in ’71. Her husband, Wilson, was gone almost six years.
“Your pa was a good man. Good sheriff too.”
“That he was, ma’am. Thank you for saying so.”
“It’s a damned shame, him up and vanishing like that. Must’ve been tough on you and your ma.”
In all the years since there’d been nothing new. Rollie worked the case sometimes but the trail took him nowhere.
“Well, I called you out here today on account of the Wilkes and Thompson case.”
Rollie just about choked on his tea.
Donna Wilkes and Jimmy Thompson were a couple of hitchhikers who disappeared back in the late ’70s. The case confounded Rollie’s father. It ate at him right up to the day he disappeared himself.
“It has to do with your pa and the time he came to see Wilson and me about it.”
“I didn’t know he questioned you. Isn’t in the file.”
“Drink your tea, dear. I’ll tell you about it.”
He took a gulp and winced. “I was gonna ask, what kind of tea is this? Kinda gamey.”
“Hemlock,” said Mrs. Petry. “Don’t you like it?”
Rollie wanted to answer but couldn’t form the words.
“It’s all right, Rollie. I’ve never yet had one that cared for the taste of it.”
She got up and locked the front door.
“I’ll be back to check on you in a spell. Then, if you’re ready, I’ll take you on down to the cellar to see your pa.”