Small Town Problems


Even though his… her… no, let’s go with its, helmet was cracked, the head didn’t explode like the movies predicted. I carefully removed and sat the helmet aside, avoiding the ooze of what I assumed was blood. The helmet was some sort of a crystalline mesh, slightly bumpy and a bit rough. I guess it didn’t matter what you made clear stuff out of, it’s not going to stand up to you tripping over your feet and banging it against a rock. This wasn’t exactly how I planned to start my Thursday.

I couldn’t help but think that old coot, Jim, was right about those lights he’d been seeing in the sky the last six months. If he hadn’t gone on to talk about how they abducted him and done some rather unchristian things to him, I might have believed him. My head involuntarily shook as an odd mix of bitter almonds and rotten eggs hit me. The light began to tunnel and I stumbled back into a chair as the strength left my legs. The smell seemed to dissipate quickly, but I figured I’d leave the room anyway.

I left the door open as I sought out fresh air. It hadn’t warmed up too much and the grass still held its morning dew. It felt like it’d been ages since I caught that thing creeping around my barn, but getting up before the rooster left a lot of time for the morning to linger. I reached for a smoke, hoping it would calm my nerves. Catching myself, I shook my head and laughed. It’d been two years since Maggie left and asked me to quit that “nasty old habit”. She wanted to tell the Lord she accomplished one good thing on this Earth. “I’m sorry Maggie,” chuckling as I looked up, “I kept my promise, but my mind still plays tricks on me from time to time. Can you blame me though?” I gestured to the workshop, “I mean, you’ve seen that thing.” Ever the wise counselor, I heard her tell me to call Bill.

Brushing my boots off before entering the main house, I cautiously opened the door and listened for anything out of the ordinary. It seemed safe, but just in case I grabbed my shotgun from the den and headed to the phone in the kitchen. 

“Well hello, Betsy. How’s your girl?” 

“Well that’s great news! How soon until I can call you Grandma?” 

“You know I’m only teasing you! Give her my best. Now, can you pass me off to Bill?” 

After a bit more chastising, she finally relented and got Bill on the line. 

“Bill, hey it’s Robert. Would you have time to come to my farm later today?” 

“Oh, it’s no rush, but could you bring Doc Hutchins with you too?”

“Yes, I’m aware that he’s the coroner.”

“No, I haven’t finally shot him. But if that kid tips over one of my cows again…”

“I was aiming for the tree last time and you know it, now look…”

“Hell if I know.”

“Don’t you think I would have called her if it was an animal?”

“Look, I just thought you’d be the guy to call on this, okay?”

“Great, I’ll see you then.”

I headed out and started back in on my morning chores. They were likely a way’s out, so I figured I might as well clear my head with something routine. Lord, I hope the chickens weren’t too spooked to lay.

After feeding the horses, I saw their car kicking up a dust cloud down my drive. Well, that was a bit sooner than expected. I bet Bill thinks I shot that kid. As they skidded to a halt near my house, I saw one of Bill’s young deputies riding shotgun… literally. I put my hands up just in case, “Howdy, Bill. Tell the kid he can leave the gun in the car.” Bill adjusted his hat, which the last ten years of poker nights told me wasn’t going to end in my favor.

“Where is it, Robert?”

“Right over there in the workshop. Look, I ain’t got nothing to hide here.”

“Ryan, go scout it out. Robert, get over there with Doc.”

I sauntered over to Doc and watched as they circled my workshop. “Hey Doc, sorry to get everyone so worked up.”  

“Well, you know how Bill can be.” A laugh slipped out, “But it’s not like you…”

“Oh sweet Jesus!”  Ryan burst out of the workshop, “What the hell is that?”

We all watched as Ryan stepped to the side and proceeded to throw up on my marigolds. “What? You never seen a dead body before? Bill, where did you get this kid?”

Bill shook his head at me, “Doc, it’s all clear. But you’ll need a mask or something for the smell. It’s tough to say, but I think Robert spilled some cyanide and sulfur in there.”

“No, that came out when I took the helmet off.”  Doc shot me a quizzical glace, but I just motioned for him to proceed, “It’ll make sense shortly.”

Ryan composed himself and took a seat on the cruiser’s hood. We waited in silence for the next 20 minutes as Doc examined the body. When Doc finally came out, he looked even worse for wear.

“Robert, I don’t know what you expected. I’m a coroner, not a xenobiologist.”  

“Don’t they have night classes at the college for that?”

Doc didn’t even laugh, he just looked at me solemnly, “I don’t know who you need to call, but this is out of my depth.”

I turned to Bill, “You’re the sheriff around here, so I’ll trust your judgement.”  They loaded up the body and headed back to town.

* * * * * * *

The following part was the original ending to what started out as the short story above, but now that it’s a longer work, it’s no longer cannon.

* * * * * * *

“Well Doc,” Bill said as he lit up, “You think he was convinced?”

“Easily. We’re getting better at this.”  He lifted up the tarp in the back seat, “I guess we’ll get Ryan to bury it with the others.”

“I don’t know why these suckers don’t bug the city folk every now and then.” 

* * * *

Like what you read? This story has become my first novella! Click on the link below if you’d like to follow along and see how Robert will solve this mystery.

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