Her apology was as easy to see through as an old man’s comb-over. I didn’t believe one word of it, but I smiled sweetly just the same.
“Don’t bother your pretty little head about it, Honey, “ I dripped. “You all surely didn’t mean anything by it, I’m sure.”
If ever there was a woman perversely named, it was Honey. There is absolutely, positively not one single sweet thing about her. We are some kind of distant cousins, like most folks in our teeny little town here, but I will not claim her bitterness as a family trait. I think it just grew on her like warts on a horny toad handler.
“I jes’ mentioned it, ‘cause I thought I saw you with him,” Honey started up again, “but it must have been someone else that you was with or he was with, one or t’other. Whoever they was, they was holding hands.”
“For the last time, I was in Macon for the whole day, so it could not have been me.” I was lying, of course, but she sure didn’t need to know that. I turned to leave her porch, my sweet tea half drunk and sweating in its glass. Stepping off the landing, I say, “What were you doing, at the quarry, anyhoo, right smack dab in the middle of a hot day?”
“Jes’ none of your beeswax, is what.” Honey leaves me standing on the top step as the screen door slaps her butt in retreat.
At Honey’s front gate, I pause to choose which way to walk. Go right, over to the 5 and 10, or go left to home? I decide to go poke around in the eye shadows and mascaras at the dimestore to take my mind off my troubles.
. . . . . . . . . . .
I never have seen such a crowd at the fountain. There are folks 3-deep, all talking at once, so it is hard to understand the gist of it. Then, all of a sudden, they turn like they are one person toward me as I walk in. The talk slows, some stare with their mouths still part open, like at a freak show. What the…. Snatches of conversation blow by me.
“There she is.”
“Scoot on over and make room for me on the stool; this is going to be good.”
“Do you suppose someone called the sheriff?”
Before I can open my mouth to inquire politely, I feel a tap on my back. Whirling around I see Ben Biggs, County Sheriff’s Deputy, clearing is throat and starting in on me, “IllaMae, I am placing you under arrest for the murder of Jimmy Ray Johnson. You have the right,…”
I can’t hear the rest of his speech, just see his mouth moving, because the roar in my ears blocks it out. Jimmy Ray is dead. I pert near faint.
. . . . . . . . . .
“Honey was there, ask her.” My lawyer is shushing me as I say it. My lawyer…that is a laugh. It is Ronna McItee, our town’s only Public Defender, and its only woman attorney. There is a joke around town that if you are in need of Ronna, you may as well make out your will and get a two-fer, ‘cause you are going get the death sentence no matter what you done.
“It’s Honey who helped us i.d. you as a suspect. We have ourselves an eye witness.” Ben looks self-satisfied as he blurts this out. This must be fun for him, must be the pinnacle of his career. Investigating a murder and arresting a suspect in a town that doesn’t even have a stoplight is a big-deal.
“Did you ask her what she was doing there? Huh? Huh?” I think I am making a great point but Ronna grabs at me, turning purple.
“Just hush, IllaMae. I am advising you to be quiet.”
I clam up then. Ben Biggs sends me back to my cell.
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