looked to be a pile of dirty laundry was actually a person slumped
in the seat in the lobby of the small airport. A duffel bag was
on the floor, laying there like an old stuffed sock. The lump
of a person had been there since early morning. The woman at the
ticket counter had seen 'it' move several times so knew 'it' was
alive. She knew the person wasn't a local, else she would recognize
at least the jacket. There had been an early morning landing,
scheduled before she had arrived, so 'it' most likely had been
lunch in the airport diner, the ticket clerk and the rental car
clerk had commented about the 'it' sitting in the lobby. The cook
and waitress had added their two cents but no one knew anything
specific. The only thing they knew was the sheriff ought to be
called, just because.
Phillips pulled up in her patrol car, leaving it parked out front.
She had already circled the parking lot, looking for an odd car
or whatever. Nothing to comment on other than Bea the waitress
had a flat tire again.
Sheriff headed toward the ticket counter, then saw the lump over
in the corner of the lobby. She paused and turned to walk in that
direction. To her professional eye, she saw no unusual bulges
such as a weapon and the duffel was too limp looking to have a
rifle. To the left was a small drum with its beaded strap. Across
the lap was a mismatched pair of crutches. She continued over,
then sat on the seat directly across from the person. Neither
the duffel nor the jacket was military issue, which narrowed the
possibilities only slightly.
jacket was at least two sizes too large and both hands were pulled
up inside the sleeves. One arm lay loose in her lap, the other
held up her head. The face was not pale or gray, and the sheriff
could tell the person was breathing by the rise and fall of the
zipper on the jacket. Ducking down to look under the brim of the
hat, she was surprised to find the face of an exhausted looking
female, not the grizzled unshaven male she'd expected.
Phillips sat a moment longer, waiting for the person to sense
her sitting there. When it was evident the other was sleeping,
she reached out and tapped a knee. One eye slowly opened and stared
at her, then closed again. She waited. She reached out again to
tap the knee, but this time the knee moved away at the last second.
The eye was open again.
I don't feel like playing with Terrance Hill so why dont
you sit up a minute and answer some questions."
name is Nobody?"
at least you knew who I meant. I am Sheriff Phillips. And you
Wesley. Nice to meet you Sheriff Phillips."
to meet you, too. Are you waiting for someone or something?"
Phillips was a patient woman. She had to be in this rural community
where nothing ever happened fast except gossip. But this young
thang was pushing the limit. "What would that person or thing
nerve. I'm not exactly thrilled to be here. I've spent the morning
catching up on sleep while I consider moving or not."
not but it was polite of you to say it. I'm here regarding Becky
Sheriff twitched. "What about her? Oh, wait, you must be
I must be." She sighed. "I had nowhere else to be or
go and when the news finally found me, I decided on a whim to
come here. Now that I am, I think I just might change my mind."
for? If nothing else, you can sell the house and move on."
The sheriff stood.
know. It just seems odd coming here as the only heir to an aunt
I didn't know I had."
Well, that's a different subject altogether. Becky Helton was
a friend of mine. Reckon I should honor her memory and help you
yes. I considered going over to that diner but then it would answer
their questions, now wouldn't it?" Jo Wesley's smile brightened
up her face. "I bet I am the most excitement to come here
in a long time."
Phillips laughed. "Yes, actually, you are. Why dont
you come with me then? I haven't had lunch either. I have a pasta
salad in my fridge we can share. Then we can discuss your aunt."
girl sat there a second and seemed to be thinking it over. "Guess
it can't hurt to at least eat, huh? And I guess you are safe enough,
you being the sheriff and all."
some would say that, yes."
others wouldn't?" Jo Wesley smiled up at the sheriff again,
then struggled to stand using the crutches. Looking down, the
sheriff could see the bulge of the braces under the ragged jeans.
"Need help with the bag?"
you can just pick it up and hand it to me..."
Sheriff Phillips picked up the bag and the young woman attached
the drum's strap through the handle of the bag before slipping
the strap of the bag over her shoulder. Using the crutches, she
crossed the room by planting the crutches, then swinging both
legs in tandem.
guess in case of fire you would be in trouble." The independence
of this woman was obviously part pride but mostly sheer stubbornness
which both irritated and intrigued the sheriff.
I suppose so." Jo Wesley chuckled. "I had to sell my
chair to get here. Wouldn't've fit on the plane anyway. Little
thing I came in on."
don't get any of the big ones any more. I guess we are lucky to
get even the puddle hoppers now. But we are the only airport for
quite a distance." The sheriff was proud of her small county.
They couldn't afford both a county sheriff and a county seat police
chief so instead both contributed to pay for a sheriff. She'd
done them proud by fighting for and getting the state capitol
to fund an emergency medical triage and helicopter base. While
it had been the best thing to happen to the region in decades,
it had not been enough to save Becky Helton.
Offutt lives in western North Carolina with six dogs, four
cats, and her partner of 15 years. She is a regular contributor
to "EDSToday", a printed newsletter for, by and about
people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. She has also been published
in "Vision: A Resource for Writers." She is currently
preparing her first fiction manuscript for submission to a publisher.