Well, if I like it or not, I’ve got to start writing my third and final installment of the Brownsboro, Tizzy/Ridge Trilogy. I’ve re-worked the first chapter. I’ve even changed the dead guy’s name and I’ve put boots on him. I still need a title for the book, so I hope some of you will make suggestions. I have some suggestions,( and many are good) but would love more, because I’m having a hard time deciding on one. So, please leave me a comment with your idea of what I should name this book. I’d love to hear from you.
Jay Roy Hobbs held the county record for talking women out of their panties. At least that’s what Tizzy Cooper had been told. Known for his arsenal of one-liners, she’d heard ladies ignored his lack of good looks and fell for his quick wit. Now, staring at him through binoculars, she wasn’t so sure.
Sunlight filtered through the naked limbs of an old tree and cast spindly shadows across early morning dew. Tizzy couldn’t decide if the scent of wild privet or the shock of seeing a dead body caused her stomach to turn. She stepped up on to an old stump to get a better view and focused the field glasses. About fifty yards from the dead tree, Jay Roy lay naked, except for boots, on a patchwork quilt, face toward heaven, arms outstretched.
Sandwiched between best friends Synola Harper and Rayann Tatum, Tizzy adjusted the straps of her pink sundress and decided they must be as surprised as she by the sight of the dead man, because neither of them said a word. A wave of sadness washed over her. Jay Roy and Tizzy’s mom graduated together. Much too young to die. She passed the binoculars to Synola.
“Lord, can you believe the size of that thing?” Synola tugged her tank top down against warm mocha skin, tucked it into the slender waist of her jeans and looked at Rayann. “I don’t suppose you’ve ever seen anything that big.”
Her friend narrowed green eyes and frowned. “Of course I have. I watch HBO.”
Synola giggled, adjusted the focus, and peered back at Jay Roy. “It kinda looks like a wilted purple tulip.”
“It does, doesn’t it? Especially with the bow tied around it.” Tizzy craned her neck toward the road where clouds of dust billowed like smoke signals.
Two patrol cars pulled to the side of the black-top and Sheriff Dan McAlister, Tizzy’s older brother, climbed out first, followed by Rayann’s husband, police officer Dwayne “Bubba” Tatum.
Over six feet five and two-hundred forty pounds, the spittin’ image of their daddy with dark hair and blue eyes, Dan made a beeline toward his sister. “What the hell are you doing out here this early?”
His massive bulk blocked the rising sun and cast Tizzy in shadow. “Don’t get bent out of shape, Dan. We’ve stayed far away from the body, so nothing has been disturbed.”
“I’m not worried about that. You come from three generations of law men. I hope you have enough sense not to upset a crime scene.” Dan removed his hat, threaded his fingers through his hair, spit on the ground, and resumed his chew of tobacco. “Just curious, that’s all.”
“In a nutshell, Rayann spent the night with me because Bubba worked the graveyard shift and Ridge is still investigating an out of town case.”
The mention of Ridge made Tizzy’s heart ache. Being married to a Texas Ranger could sometimes be a bad thing, especially when he worked jobs involving nights away from home.
“Fraidy-cat Rayann can’t be alone at night,” Synola said.
When Bubba walked to stand next to his wife and plant a kiss on her cheek, Rayann stiffened and Tizzy wondered why.
“Shut up, Synola,” Rayann said.
Tizzy nodded toward the house down the road. ”Synola spent the night with her aunt. This morning, they noticed all those buzzards.” She pointed up at the sky filled with birds patiently gliding, forming a circle of ebony above Jay Roy. “Synola called us, I called you, and here we are.”
The shrill whine of sirens sliced the air as the ambulance arrived followed by the Justice of the Peace.
A sudden breeze caught long strands of Tizzy’s hair and blew wisps across her face. She pushed them behind her ear and widened her eyes at Dan. “Do you think Ridge will be assigned this case?”
“What’s wrong? You feeling neglected?”
“Kinda. Ridge comes in after I’ve gone to bed and leaves before I get up. Sometimes he doesn’t come home at all. I’ve barely seen him in the last two weeks.”
“I’ve already talked to him. Turns out, he’s almost done with the investigation in Gun Barrel City anyway, so the local guys can finish it up. As soon as he concludes his paperwork this morning, he’ll be home.” Dan put his hat back on and hooked his thumbs in his pockets. “Wait a minute. You didn’t kill this guy to get Ridge back in town, did you?” He broke into a rowdy laugh.
Tizzy punched him on the arm. “No. That guy, by the way, is Jay Roy Hobbs.”
“No shit.” Dan looked toward the body, then back at Tizzy and laughed again. “Are you getting’ anything? You know, any communication from him? It’d sure be nice if he sent you some message from beyond to let us know what happened.”
Even though she’d spoken with the dearly departed since childhood, and the talent sometimes proved useful during investigations, her brother still teased about it.
“Nope. Something’s changed for me. Ever since I found out my ability passed on to my daughter, my connection to the afterlife has dwindled.”
“Yeah, who would have thought sweet little Gracie would not only speak to her dead daddy, but see him too. That’s spooky. She’s not seeing any other dead people, is she?”
“Right now, just him, and for her, he’s more like an imaginary friend.”
“Looks like the JP just pronounced him, so I’ll take a look.” As Dan walked away, Bubba followed.
Within a few minutes they returned to the women and Dan spoke. “Yeah, it’s J.R. all right. Nekked as a jaybird, dead as a doornail, and looking happy as a Lark.”
“So, his tally-whacker really is that big?” Synola asked.
“What? You think it’s fake?”
“No, I thought maybe the binoculars magnified it.”
“Nope, it’s actually that size.The blue ribbon is a nice touch.”
“Yeah, looks like he won first place in a Cock-a-Doodle-Do Contest.”
“Maybe it’s just for presentation,” Bubba said.
“Could be, or maybe somebody killed him and put it there,” Dan said.
“You think he was murdered?” Tizzy asked.
“Gee, I don’t know, Tiz. Let’s think about it. J.R.’s naked, in a field at daylight, and he’s got a ribbon tied around his johnson. I don’t think he came out here, stripped off, tied a bow, and died of natural causes. Do you?”
“Maybe. He could have come out here for a rendezvous and had a heart attack.”
“Yeah, could be, I guess. But it is suspicious and if it does turn out to be foul play, Ridge is gonna have plenty of suspects.”
“Whataya mean?” Synola asked.
“All the girls from J.R.’s graduating class are in town for an all ladies reunion and the story goes J.R. nailed almost everyone of ‘em their senior year. I remember Dad telling stories how back in the day this was the place J. R. brought his dates.” Dan spit again. “With all the women here, maybe he planned on hooking up with one again for old time’s sake and got caught by someone who didn’t like it.”
“That may be a good starting point, but J. R. was a legend when it came to the ladies. Could be a recent conquest,” Bubba said.
“Yeah, maybe, but something tells me finding him like this and a class of former lovers being in town may not be a coincidence.”
“Wow, I bet those girls had some interesting slumber parties! Did any of them fall in love with him?” Synola asked.
“Hell, yeah,” Dan said. “He married three of ‘em. One of ‘em, twice.”
Tizzy shaded her eyes with her hand. “How’d he get here? I don’t see a car.”
“He still has his boots on, so he probably walked. He just lives right through those trees.” Dan pointed past the crime scene.
“Well, Rayann and I need to get to the bakery. I imagine our customers will be sharing plenty of Jay Roy stories today.”
Back at the car, as Tizzy pulled onto the road, Rayann burst into tears.
Synola leaned forward from the back seat. “What the hell, Rayann?”
“I don’t know what to do. I think Dwayne is having an affair.” She took a quick breath and babbled on. “Should I have him followed? Bug his phone? I can’t believe he’d do this to me!”
“Oh good God. You’ve jumped off the cliff of insanity and landed in the middle of crazy town. There’s no way Bubba would cheat on you,” Synola said.
When Rayann sobbed harder, Tizzy reached over and patted her shoulder. “Synola’s right. He’s been in love with you since high school. He waited while you married someone else hoping it wouldn’t work out, and when it didn’t, I’ve never seen him happier. What makes you think he’s having an affair?”
Rayann tried to catch her breath. “I—found—make-up—on—his—collar.”
“That’s not proof of anything. An innocent hug could leave make-up,” Tizzy said.
“I’ve found it more than once. How many innocent hugs is the man getting?”
“Lord, this is why I’m never getting married,” Synola declared. “The two of you are still newlyweds and one’s being ignored and the other thinks her man is cheating. Damn, and I thought Jay Roy’s pocket-rocket was going to be the drama of the day.”