The Simsville Inheritance
Copyright ©2006 Elizabeth G. Cox. All rights reserved.

Chapter 9 - Who Do They Think I Am

I stood there a few more minutes, staring at the closed door but not really seeing it. I was seeing red, is what I was seeing. Answer the phone if it rings? Who do they think I am, the answering service? Answer the phone my foot. I turned back toward the kitchen, stomping a little as I went in search of coffee.

The coffee carafe was empty. Scrounging in the pantry I found the filters but no coffee grounds. I finally found the sealed coffee container in the freezer. As the drip coffeemaker did its thing, I contemplated the situation. Yes, I understand why they didn't ask me along. Too new to town, too uninformed, too green, too young. Everyone else seemed to have real law enforcement experience. Of course, they were all a good decade or two older than me. I sat at the kitchen table and gave myself over to thoughts of Charlotte Dunston, Charlie for short like her dad. Only sixteen and kidnapped. She must be terrified, wherever she is.

When the coffee was ready I took a mug up to my room and unpacked my suitcase. The case with my laptop stood by the desk. I pulled it out and looked around for an internet connection. All the other high-tech in this place, surely there was one and there it was, right beside the desk. I checked my email, deleting spam and junk as I went. There wasn't much else, most friends knew I was away. Then I googled Simsville, pulled up a detail map and started work. I didn't have my printer with me, hadn't thought I would need it, so I jotted down the names of major roads around town and out into the surrounding county. I needed a real road map. I sketched out a general outline of the area, closed up the laptop and swallowed the rest of my coffee.

The only full-service station I'd noticed was at the edge of town. They'll probably have a state map, maybe a city-county map, I thought as I turned the car in that direction. A full tank of gas later, I had several candy bars and a Sumter County map in my hand. I moved the car to the back of the parking lot, sat and studied the map. A fifty mile radius? Too far for one afternoon; maybe twenty miles to start with.

Simsville proper didn't extend far in any direction from the center of town. Most back roads were single lane, paved farm-to-market routes with little traffic. I picked the Kingston Road as my first choice. Intersecting the highway about six miles out, it more or less circled the north side of town in a wide arc. As I drove, I noted mobile homes, brick houses and older frame dwellings interspersed with stretches of woods and idle farm land. Farmers being paid not to plant cotton or not to plant soybeans I thought as I passed uncultivated fields. Occasionally I'd see a pasture with several horses or a sprinkling of cows, and once in a while a small mobile home park. No real subdivisions out this way, no abandoned houses or barns. Narrow dirt driveways turned off from the paved road, most well traveled and leading to farm houses still occupied. Quite a few wider dirt roads intersected the pavement. Slowing the car to a crawl, I made notes on the map of these roads to check out another time. This might prove to be a long, long chore, I thought to myself, speeding up again.

It took more than an hour to complete the swath around Simsville, leaving the Kingston Road as it angled north and joining the Matthews Road for the southern swing around town. Here I found more empty fields and stretches of woods, and several likely unused-looking buildings. I pulled the car off the road at a dumpster and jotted down as exact a location as I could in my pocket notebook of the last spot. A barn and stable and the remains of a burned farmhouse, about twelve miles from the Simsville town limits. A couple more miles brought me back to Kingston again. I'd finished this first circle.

I had five possibilities, counting one old grain silo with waist-high weeds surrounding it and one closed-up country store fronted by rusty gasoline pumps. I'd made a note of a large delapidated chicken coop and decrepit storage shed, but right across the side field was a nice brick home that had probably replaced the original farmhouse. The best possibility looked like an unused horse stable, way off the road. There was no nearby house and no barn or other outbuildings, but the dirt driveway was free of tall weeds and brush. As I turned the car back toward town, I realized daylight would soon be gone. I'd have to check out those dirt roads another time.

Back at the house I found no sign of Jones or Smith having returned yet. I was hungry. Those Nestle's Crunch bars had been delicious, but that was a while ago. Left-overs? The refrigerator yielded sliced roast beef, tomatoes, lettuce and mayo. I made myself a sandwich and poured a glass of milk, carrying them upstairs. Time to crank up the laptop again.

Okay, so maybe I don't have the kind of field experience Jones has. But what I do have might go a ways to making up for that. Connections. Access. Records. By the time I heard voices downstairs, I had researched several state and local databases. I'd made notes of land and building ownership, current condition and occupancy, and chosen three definite locations to check out in person. Before daylight would be best. I put on my best demure behavior and headed downstairs to see what Jones and Smith would be willing to tell me.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 |