Dewey arrived back at the sheriff’s office, jerked on the reins to bring the horse to an abrupt halt. He jumped from the wagon and ran into the office. The sheriff wasn’t there. Great. What was he supposed to do with the body? He took off his hat and scratched his head as he looked around. No solution came to mind. Molly was expecting him within the hour. This just could not be happening again.
He stepped outside and stood on the boardwalk. The undertaker’s shop was four blocks down the street. Would it be quicker to walk or unhitch the horse and ride? Walking, he decided, a brisk walk.
Where in the world was everybody today? Toby wasn’t there. He walked around back. “Toby, you here? Come on; I need to talk to you.”
“Hang on, I’m comin’.”
Dewey paced. “I got a date, Toby, and a dead body. Don’t know who it is and don’t know what to do with it.”
Toby came around the corner of the building, wiping his hands on a rag that looked as if it needed cleaning before his hands ever got to it.
“Where’s the body?”
“In the wagon in front of the office.” Dewey started to walk off, expecting Toby to follow.
“Hold on a minute,” Toby said, still rooted to the spot. “How big is it?”
“How big is what? Oh, the body. Well, come on and look at it. I didn’t measure it.”
Toby sprinted to catch up, wheezing and sneezing as he came. “Give an old man a break, will ya?”
Dewey looked at him. “You ain’t that old; ye’re what? Forty?”
Toby nodded his head, his short but pointy gray beard touching his shirt front. “Pert near.”
They arrived at the wagon and Dewey unhooked the gate.
Toby peered in. “How’m I s’posed ta see if’n it’s all wrapped in burlap?”
Dewey reached in, grabbed the burlap and yanked the bundle until its end hung over the edge of the wagon. Both men started gagging and coughing. Dewey backed up.
“Good night. What’d you do? Dig it up out of a swamp or somethin’?”
Dewey grunted. “What am I supposed to do with it?”
“Drive it on down to my place. Can’t bury it ‘til we identify it, though. Reckon somebody be lookin’ for ‘im.”
“Hop on. I’ll give you a ride back.” Dewey shoved the bundle back in, hooked the gate back and jumped into the driver seat. Molly was not going to be happy.
Dewey leapt off the driver seat, ran to the back of the wagon and pulled on the body until it was in a position to be picked up and carried. He put the kerchief over his nose and mouth, then slung the body over his shoulder and deposited it behind Toby’s shop. He ran back to the wagon.
Toby was sauntering back to his shop. Dewey passed him like a rabbit passing a snail.
“You cain’t leave yet,” Toby hollered as Dewey passed. “There’s papers ta be filled out. I need. . .”
“No time, Toby. You’ll get it later.”
There was no time for him to go home and clean up, but he had expected this to happen. It always did. He had his change of clothes in the sheriff’s office. The bath house was next door.
A group of young boys was hanging around the livery.
“You there,” Dewey called.
The boys looked at him but didn’t move.
“Who wants to earn a dollar?”
They all came running.
“I can only pay one of you,” he said.
Six boys at once clamored, “I do.” They all stuck their hands out, eagerly awaiting such a large sum. One boy stepped forward and looked up at the deputy. He was the only one who did not have his hand out.
“What’s your name, son?”
Dewey pulled a dollar out of his pocket and held it in his fist. “How fast are you at running?”
Joey wasn’t one to brag so he hesitated. The other boys answered at the same time. “He’s the fastest boy in school.”
“Yeah,” another boy said. “Nobody can catch him when we play tag.”
Dewey laughed. “Well, that settles it, then. Joey, I need you to go down to the mercantile. Do you know where that is?”
“Sure. That’s where we go to buy candy and stuff.”
“Good. There’s a lady that works there named Molly.”
Joey nodded his head. “I know Miss Molly. She always gives us an extra piece of licorice.”
“I will give you this dollar if you go as quick as you can and tell her I am going to be a few minutes late, but I am coming to pick her up. Will you do that?”
“You bet I will.” Joey held out his hand, received the dollar and stuck it in his pocket. Wow. A whole dollar. He would buy each of his friends one piece of candy. The rest would go in his piggy bank towards a new yo-yo or a bag of marbles.
Dewey drank in Molly’s appearance as if the rest of the world paled in comparison. Her blue dress seemed to shimmer a little as she moved toward him, its full skirt swaying with each step. Her silky dark blond hair was curled and hung in a cascade from a shiny clasp on the back of her head. He stood mesmerized for a few moments before he approached her.
He hadn’t worn his hat tonight since there was no good place to put it when he wasn’t dancing. He held out his hand and she lightly placed her left hand on top of his right.
“May I have the honor of this dance?” he said after swallowing the lump in his throat.
Molly curtsied slightly and lifted her eyes to his. “You may,” she said.
Dewey led her to the dance floor as the fiddlers began to play a lively tune.
After three dances the couple was a little breathless. Dewey led her to the refreshment table where they each got a cup of cider and stepped outside.
Molly led Dewey to an area where they could be seen but not overheard. They found a bale of hay to sit on.
“I heard some people talking in the store, Dewey. I don’t know if any of it is true, but thought it might bear investigating.”
“What did you hear?” He couldn’t stop smiling as he looked at her.
“Dewey, this is serious. It was two men and….”
A hard hand clapped Dewey on the shoulder. “How ya doin’?” Seth Raines bellowed.
Dewey turned to look at his friend. He stood and the two shook hands.
“Doin’ just fine, ‘til you showed up,” he laughed. “What’re you up to?”
“Aww, nothin’ much. Hangin’ around town, pokin’ my nose in other people’s business. You know me.”
“Seth, this here’s Molly Brandt. Molly, this is a good buddy of mine, Seth Adams.”
Seth walked to Molly and offered a handshake. “Pleased to meet you, ma’am.”
Molly smiled politely and said it was nice to meet him, too.
“Well, Seth, it’s good to see you, but I really want to spend some time with Molly here. My job seems to keep getting in the way.”
“Sure, no problem. See you around.”
Seth left and Dewey sat down next to Molly again. “Where were we?” He reached for her hand. She didn’t pull it away.
Her green eyes were soft as she looked at him. “There were two men. They come in probably a couple times a month.” She took a sip of her cider.
“One of them said something about a house burning down. The other fellow told him to be quiet. It made me nervous. I turned away so they wouldn’t know I heard.”
Dewey’s eyes registered shock, then turned hard. “Did you tell anyone else?”
“No. I only heard it day before yesterday. I haven’t had an opportunity to tell anyone until now.”
“I’d sure like to know who those two fellas were. I need to tell Clyde.”
Molly’s eyes opened wider. “Of course,” she said, excitement bubbling in her voice. “I don’t know his name, but he was tall, wore pointed toed boots, and smoked a pipe. He comes in fairly often. Oh, I wish I could remember his name.”
“It’s okay, Molly,” Dewey said. “I’ll find out. Thank you for telling me.”
“Well,” she smiled demurely. “I couldn’t let somebody get by with a crime, could I?”
He was tempted to kiss her right there, then thought better of it. It would not be appropriate.
He stood up and took her hand in his. “Shall we go back to the dance?”