“Quincy’s on line two for ya, Sarge.”
I answered Deputy Mullins with a sigh and a nod before picking up the receiver. I cleared my throat. “It’s a bit early, isn’t it?” Grabbing my coffee, I leaned back in the chair. “What do you got today, some chickens choked by a crazy cauliflower?” I took a sip. “A pesky Pekinese pummel a Pomeranian?”
Quincy frequently reported fictitious crimes. He had found a dead cow once along Route 4 and called it in as a UFO probing gone deadly. A gang of rogue raccoons broke-in to Petey McGee’s barn, and for the assault on Darla Jenkins’ cat by an armed and dangerous Blue Jay, he had secured two witnesses who had seen the whole thing. As irritating as his antics were, you couldn’t blame the guy. He was the Medical Examiner in a town that had never had a violent crime. He was bored, but in all my years as Chief of Police, Quincy had never called this early.
“Uh, Sarge, I think we’ve got a problem. I’m over here at Eagle Ridge, and you know how they’re doing all those renovations on the houses?”
Usually booming, Quincy’s voice was quiet, borderline shaky. I became suspicious. He was a good actor, had a hankering to hitchhike out to Hollywood in his youth to take a gamble at the silver screen, so I played along. “They got some loose pigs pillaging the pantries?”
“Uh, no,” Quincy said. “Looks like the boys found what appears to be…human remains.”
I didn’t respond. On the other end of the conversation, Quincy was silent. A few seconds passed before I spoke. “Human remains, you say?” I took a gulp of coffee.
I set the coffee down but kept my guard up. Quincy was known to keep a gag going, even after the jig was up. “Don’t think we got a call about that,” I said. I looked at Mullins. “We get any calls this morning about human remains over at Eagle Ridge?”
Mullins shook his head. “Not that I’m aware of.”
“No,” I said to Quincy. “I can ask Imogene if she got a call. She ran to Anita’s to get some fritters, but she’ll be back,” I looked at Mullins again, “what, in about ten minutes?”
Mullins shrugged. “It’s Tuesday. Likely to be a line. Could be twenty.”
“Yeah, Quincy, could be twenty before I can get back to you on that.”
“Look, I know I bust your chops and poke fun a lot, but this isn’t a joke.”
Truth be told, I didn’t have much to do that day, but no matter how light my load, time would be better spent taking care of other things besides a crank call, so I got serious. “You do bust my chops, Quincy. Just last week you reported vandalism at the high school. I drove all the way out there only to find a bird had shit on the window.”
Quincy chuckled. “That was a good one.”
“I’ve got work to do.”
“This is real, Sarge. You know I’ve been dating Charlene’s sister, right? Well, she lives over there in Crest Mont. I took that damn dog of hers on a walk this morning. Needed a cigarette, but Sandy thinks I quit, so I gotta sneak out of the house like some––“
“Get to the point, Quincy.”
“Well, I saw there was a commotion. I checked it out. Now, I’m calling it in. You need to get out here, Sarge. It looks like they’ve found a kid’s foot in the pipes.”
Quincy’s shenanigans stayed on the light, funny, and pranky, if there was such a word. They were never dark and rarely involved humans, let alone a child. I was still suspicious, but a drive wouldn’t kill me. Besides, I needed a cigarette myself. “Well, guess I better get out there and check it out then.”
I waited for Quincy to close the books on the charade, but instead he ended the call. I hung up the phone and looked at Mullins.
“You going to Eagle Ridge?” he asked.
“Looks like it.”
“Want me to tag along?”
“Nah, don’t bother yourself. I’ll probably get back before Imogene does.” I stood, put on my hat, and grabbed my coffee. “But, if not, you better tell her to save me one of those fritters.”
“I swear to Christ.” I headed towards the door. “They don’t pay me enough, Mullins.”
“Not even close, sir.”
The door flung open, and Imogene rushed inside, carrying a bag of fritters. “Dwayne, they didn’t have peach. Apple will have to do.” She looked at me. “Where you off to?”
She rolled her eyes. “That boy’s a handful. Well, hold on.” She sat her purse and the white sack stained with fritter grease on her desk. “I got you some more of those cigarette patches.” She smiled, and tried to hand over a brown pharmacy bag. “Two weeks and counting.”
I declined. “Hold on to those for now. I won’t be long.” I reached into the white sack and fished out a fritter. “I’ll just take this to tide me over.”
She shook her head. “You better watch it, Woody. My sister gained nearly thirty pounds when she quit smoking. Dr. Peebles is already saying you need to lose some weight. By the way, his office called this morning. Your appointment–”
“I’ll call him on my way to Eagle Ridge.”
“And, Janet called.”
Mullins chortled. “Here we go.”
Imogene shushed the outburst before relaying Janet’s message. “She said she prefers to handle the teacher conference alone, but the school said you both should be there.”
I took a bite of the fritter and walked out the door. Before it slammed shut, I heard Imogene bark an order at Mullins. “Well, you’re just sittin’ there. You can’t make a fresh pot of coffee?”
Inside the prowler, I put the pastry on the dash, rolled down the windows, and popped open the glove box. With a flick of the lighter and a long drag on a Dunhill, I dropped it into drive, gunned it onto Route 4, and sped towards Eagle Ridge.