Because I’ve been editing LawDog literally all day in preparation for the upcoming release of his unforgettable African Adventures, I don’t have much intellectual energy left for posting. So, I’ll leave you instead with one of his stories from The LawDog Files, that, if less amusing than most, is no less worth reading.
“Car 12, County.”
“Go ahead, 12.”
“I’ve an open door at 1201 Second Street. Public service the Williams and see if they can put an eyeball on Dot.”
There’s more than a touch of amusement in dispatch’s voice as she replies, “10-4, 12. You want me to roll you some backup?”
“Negative, County,” I said as I stepped into the front hall of the Conroe and Conroe Funeral Home, “I’ll be on the portable.”
A dollar will get you a doughnut that I was going to find the same thing I’d found the last umpteen Open Door calls we’d gotten here, but I was well aware that Murphy hated my guts—personally. So my P7 was hidden behind my leg, finger indexed along the frame as I shined my Surefire through the business office, the guest rooms, multiple viewing rooms, the Icky Room, casket storage, finally to be slipped back into the holster as I found the small, slim figure sitting all alone in the chapel.
Dot Williams was dressed in her standard uniform of hot pink sneakers, blue jeans, and Hello Kitty sweatshirt, one foot swinging idly as she gravely regarded the awful plastic gold-painted, flower-adorned abstract sculpture stuck to the wall behind the altar. In honor of the evening’s football game, a red-and-black football was painted on one cheek, and red and silver ribbons had been threaded into her ever-present ponytail.
Eleven years ago, a college kid with a one-ton Western Hauler pickup truck and a blood alcohol concentration of 0.22 packed the Chevy S-10 driven by the hugely pregnant Mrs. Williams into a little bitty mangled ball and bounced it across Main Street. The Bugscuffle Volunteer Fire Department earned their Christmas hams that evening in as deft a display of the Fine Art of Power Extrication as any department, paid or volunteer, could hope for. A couple of hours after the Jaws of Life were cleaned and stored, Dorothy Elise Williams was born.
I scraped my boot heels on the carpet as I walked around the end of the pew, being careful not to startle the little girl, although, truth be known, I had no idea if Dot had ever been startled in her life. Or if it was even possible to startle her. Then I sat quietly on the bench just within arms’ reach and pondered the sculpture.
Yeah. It was bloody awful.
I reached into my vest and pulled out a pack of chewing gum, unwrapped a stick and chewed for a bit before taking a second stick out of the pack and—careful not to look at Dot—casually laid it on the bench midway between us. A couple of breaths later, equally casually, and without taking her eyes off the plastic abomination on the wall, Dot reached out and took the stick, unwrapping it with ferocious concentration and putting it into her mouth one quarter piece at a time before meticulously folding the foil wrapper into little squares and laying it on the bench midway between us. After a couple of breaths, I carefully picked it up and stuck it in an inner pocket of my denim vest.
Dot is odd.
Probably not very long after I sat down, but considerably longer than I would have liked—I was sitting in a funeral home, after dark, and I had seen this movie—Dot slid a battered something or other that I think was probably once a stuffed giraffe along the pew toward me, while maintaining a firm grip on one of its appendages with her left hand.
Careful not to touch the little girl, I grabbed a hold of a fuzzy limb and then carefully stood up. A beat later, Dot stood up herself, and then we started walking toward the exit.
Dot doesn’t like to be touched. As a matter of fact, the only sound I’ve ever heard the wee sprite make is an ear-splitting shriek whenever someone who isn’t family touches her. Learning that lesson left my ears ringing for days. However, as various and sundry gods are my witnesses, I swore that if this little girl turned and waved at the altar, I was picking her up and carrying her out the door at a dead sprint, probably emptying my magazine over my shoulder as we go, banshee wails and damage complaints notwithstanding.
Like I said, I’ve seen that movie.
Fortunately, anything Dot might have been communing with seemed to lack an appreciation for social graces or simply wished to spare my overactive imagination, and there was no waving.