I reach my hand out and speak, but my voice is barely above a whisper. “Give me the papers and leave.”
He holds them against his chest, taunting me. “You should be on your knees thanking me. Do you even realize what I did? I couldn’t wait to be rid of you, so I called in a few favors. If you sign these and get them to my lawyer by Monday, he’ll be able to expedite the process.”
In California, it’s supposed to take six months.
I wonder what kind of strings he had to pull to get rid of me that quickly, but honestly, I don’t care. I’m so excited I want to rip the envelope out of his hands. I won’t though. I don’t want to get that close to him.
“I need to have a lawyer look over everything.”
He smirks. “If you think you’ll be able to squeeze another cent out of me, you’re wrong. We were only married for five years. My lawyer confirmed that you have no leg to stand on. You left me. It looks bad, don’t you think? I’m the doting husband who’s been reaching out to your sister and sending you flowers while you can’t even bother to call me back. In fact, everyone we know has been lovingly referring to you as the gold-digging disappearing act. It has a nice ring to it.”
Just then, his attention cuts behind me as the screen door is thrown open. I glance back to see Edith step out onto the front porch with a shotgun resting by her side.
“There a problem out here?”
“Who the fuck are you?” Andrew snaps. “I’m having a conversation with my wife.”
Edith narrows her eyes and glances thoughtfully into the distance. “Now, see, that’s not how we greet people here in Cedar Creek. Would you like to try that again?”
The door to the SUV opens and the blonde steps out. “Andrew! C’mon, this is stupid. Let’s go.”
“Get back in the car!” he snaps.
I glance to Edith and shake my head. She doesn’t drop the shotgun, though I don’t think she plans on using it. With Edith, though, you never really know.
“I’ll have my lawyer look at the papers and then I’ll sign,” I tell Andrew. “After that, you leave me the hell alone.”
He tosses the envelope in the gravel at his feet and dust puffs up around it.
Even in the end, he couldn’t act like a decent human being. It’s a shame. If he’d just walked over and handed the envelope to me nicely, maybe Edith wouldn’t have cocked the shotgun and fired.
A few pellets ping off a trashcan in the distance and Andrew cowers, hands covering his head.
“Are you fucking insane?!”
Edith reloads the shotgun. “Senility is exceedingly common at my age.”
His girlfriend slams the car door and cowers behind the dash.
Andrew jerks up, eyes blazing. “I’m calling the cops!”
Edith pumps the shotgun. “Good. I’ve got the number for the station if you need it. Petey’ll probably answer. You let him know Edith McKnight’s the one ’bout to fill your sorry ass full of birdshot.”
He curses under his breath and runs for the SUV like he’s concerned she’s going to open fire again. I’m not 100% sure she won’t.
He puts the SUV in reverse and hightails it down the gravel drive. I have no doubt he was serious about calling the cops.
“Think you’ll get in trouble?” I ask, slightly worried.
Edith levels me with a bored stare. “Welcome to Texas, darlin’.”
I’m having lunch in San Antonio with the heads of the grocery chain on Monday afternoon when I get a call from Cedar Creek’s sheriff. I excuse myself and walk outside before answering.
“Pete, what’s going on?”
“Jack, hey. I don’t want to worry you, but I have an Andrew Wilchester down here at the police station wanting to press charges against Edith, spoutin’ off about attempted murder.”
It takes a second for the name to click, but when it does, I see red.
“Wait, wait—say that again. Andrew Wilchester is there now? In Cedar Creek?”
“Got him right outside in the waiting room. Won’t leave until I issue a warrant for Edith’s arrest. From the looks of it, he’s chewing out one of my deputies at this very moment. Better him than me.”
“What’s Edith got to do with anything? Did something happen at the farmhouse?”
“Sounds like it, though I haven’t been able to get the full story from him. He’s real worked up, rambling on and on about how his lawyers are going to take Blue Stone for all it’s worth after locking Edith away. I think he really expects me to march down there and put your grandma in handcuffs. Can you imagine? I think she’d have me cuffed before I got within ten feet of her.”
He’s not making any sense. Why would Edith need handcuffs?
“Pete, start from the beginning. What happened?”
“Andrew showed up wanting to talk to one of your employees—Meredith? Claimed he had some business with her. Apparently Edith didn’t like the look of him, because she may have, well, fired at him with a shotgun.”
Of course she did.
“Did anyone get hurt? How’s Meredith? And Edith?”
“Everyone’s fine, which is why I’m not too worried about this guy causing trouble. I do have an obligation to investigate, so I had Martinez go down to the ranch to take statements. The way this Wilchester guy kept going on, I half figured Edith would blast on him too, but there she was rockin’ on the porch, inviting him inside for some sweet tea and homemade cookies. He’s still over there, gettin’ fat.”
“Good. Keep him there, please, until I get back into town.”
“Should I be worried about this guy?”
“I don’t know, but if Andrew’s that worked up, I don’t want him going back by the house. I’d rather have you keep an eye on him until he settles down.”
“I can’t hold him here, but I can stall him.”
“I can probably make it to the station in an hour at the most.”
“You don’t think it’s a better idea for you to head back to Blue Stone?”
“I just need five minutes with him.”
He lowers his voice. “Now listen, I don’t consider Edith to be a threat to public safety, and besides, she was defending her own property, but if you hit him inside the station, we’ll have to book you.”
“Then tell him to wait outside the station.”
“Jack,” he warns, but I’m already heading back inside to excuse myself from the rest of lunch.
That drive back to Cedar Creek is a blessing and a curse—a blessing because it gives me time to cool down from my initial rage that Andrew had the audacity to show up on my property unannounced, a curse because that calmness doesn’t last long. I have time to rebuild my anger a dozen times over, right up until I whip my truck into a parking spot at the police station beside a fancy black SUV.
When I walk inside, Andrew’s still there, pacing in the waiting room like a caged animal. He’s shouting about the “damn hillbilly police force wasting his time” and I don’t hesitate. I don’t think of the consequences. I think of the night Meredith drunkenly opened up to me about the abuse she sustained over the years, the twisted manipulated hold this sick fuck had over her, and I march right up to him and sock him square in the face.
My punch is solid. I wouldn’t be surprised if I broke bone.
I’m in a daze as he hits the ground, knocked out cold.
Police officers rush over and put me in handcuffs.
Pete finds me in the holding cell, my hands between my knees, my gaze on the floor.
“Goddammit, I told you not to touch him,” he admonishes with an annoyed tone.
I peer up as he pulls a keychain from his belt buckle and unlocks the door.
“Coulda killed him, you idiot. Then you’d really be up shit creek.”
“Is he pressing charges?”
“Obviously—you heard what kinda guy he is. Luckily, most of the witnesses saw it as a little slap. Misdemeanor assault, $500 fine most likely.”