Tippy the terrier
had a temper. Ronnie kept him well-behaved through “Dog
Whispering” principles of exercise, discipline and affection but he was still a handful. The dog spent days with her father, a retired colonel who
taught him tricks and spoiled him with low-cal organic dog treats. His
last dog, Mitsy, died and they’d buried her on the mesa behind the
house. Tippy wasn't as smart as Mitsy but he was faster and could jump
higher. He spent all day learning tricks, patrolling the yard, walking
the neighborhood with the colonel and sleeping. Every once in awhile,
when Walter wasn’t paying attention, Tippy would jump the backyard wall
and cross the road to the mesa beyond - the wild edge of the growing
city where exciting smells and risks abound.
Walter and Tippy had moved to Duke City from
Minneapolis after visiting one beautiful week in October. She got a job
at a temp agency and rented a apartment downtown. But when she got the county job and decided
to buy a house, she found the sprawling west side of the city far
more affordable. They moved into a new house in Unit One of the huge
"Apostrophy" development just before the housing bubble popped and
construction stalled. The
realtor and developer had made promises about coming shopping, parks and
hiking trails but everything came to a stop, including completion of
several houses on her street "Parentheses Lane" that now stood half-finished, targets for vandals, tar paper and
insulation rattling all night in the wind.
lived at the Flying T RV Park after his wife disappeared. The truck stop was way out on the edge of town where the mesa dipped into the next
dry river valley west of Duke City. There was nothing but wind and dust
out there when Alva Simpson, Chairman Simpson’s father, built the
is a euphemism, of course. At the time, he had retired from a 40 year
career of throwing his weight around in the local land development
scene. He only had to nod his head in the direction of the Flying T to
get approvals from the county commission. They had already named an elementary
school and library after him and no one would say no to Alva's retirement nest
egg - The Flying T Ranch Travel Center.
The project was a complete success for Alva. He didn’t
have to bribe anyone or put up much money. He got the city and county to pay for every
inch of road and utility lines under an "economic development" grant and his franchise agreement with the gas
station and restaurant relieved him of constructing the
actual travel center. Alva's expenses were limited to the required surveying, the thinly gravelled driveways to 117 spaces and the crappy signage on the freeway identifying the "Flying RV Park" after the "T" was lost in a dust storm. Alva got rich.
edge of town was a fluid line always pushing outwards during the booming real estate years. Since Ace had parked his
travel trailer in space 27, subdivisions of stucco boxes had nearly surrounded
the Flying T on all sides. Development unevenly blanketed the mesa like a ragged
quilt patchwork of small subdivisions held together loosely by a few
crowded two-lane roads and a web of powerlines.
Unlike other engineers in the development business, when
the real estate market tanked and the furious land-scraping and paving
of the mesa slowed to a crawl, Ace was very relieved.
the backhoe operator, was the first to see bones that day but he swore
he never told anyone. No one but his priest. When Toby assured Ace
Scanlin of this a year after the job, Ace casually asked, “Who’s your
just kidding Ace. It’s a figure of speech,” he knew he should stop
talking but kept going because Ace always made him nervous. “The
confessional is private. You never know which priest it is and they
don’t know who you are.” He was betting on the fact that Ace Scanlin had
never set foot in a confessional. Or a church for that matter.
his daughter’s wedding later that year Toby noticed Ace staring at
Father John and felt a sudden wave of nausea. When the priest died of an
apparent heart attack three days later, Toby told Ace. He didn’t seem
surprised. On the contrary, he thought he saw him smile.
Hauser Redding, aka “Tommy Redneck,” pulled his new aluminum stock
trailer with his noisy shiny black Ford 350 into the college parking
lot. He was early. The “stockmen” as they called themselves were
supposed to arrive together - an organized caravan like Wayne, their
operation leader, had planned. But Tommy has missed the final meeting
and the crucial part about where to rendezvous because of his goddamn
mother in law.
had planned this thing for months, or a couple weeks. OK, last Sunday. The intent was to disrupt traffic to
the maximum extent possible - which sounds so simple. Traffic gets
disrupted all the time at campaign events. The visit by the President’s
wife was a great target - plenty of liberal media to become
disheartened. No way to get caught if they stuck to the plan. Too bad
he’d missed that meeting.