“It was your fault!! You shoved me first!” Veronia screamed.
“Liar! You’re always lying!! You never stop lying! You pushed my hand away! Liar!” spewed Vernita.
“Ladies, ladies, please” said the sheriff.
“Oh shut up, Pete, who asked you?!” Veronia and Vernita hollered in unison.
“Actually, it was Gil and Nona Merthon next door who called and asked me to come here. They heard you fighting and thought I should come and make sure you’re okay,” the sheriff quickly added, hoping to divert the girls’ attention from each other. It didn’t work.
“You always have to be first! This time, you’re not! I’m right! I know I’m right! I don’t care what you say! screamed Veronia even louder.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about! You’re so stupid! Why do you have to be so stupid! And gullible! That’s you, gullible Ver!” ranted Vernita.
The sheriff raised his hands as if to ask a question, or to give up, but instead stepped back and folded his arms across chest. He was beginning to think he might have to call for backup. Except there is no backup. Sheriff Terkinberry is the one and only police officer in Kertock County. And since he grew up in Maple Valley, just like everyone else, they all call him by his first name, instead of “Sheriff Terkinberry,” which makes him angry but he really can’t do anything about it.
“Ladies, please, let’s all sit down and talk this through like the adults we are,” the sheriff pleaded.
The girls both turned and stared at him, then shouted, “No!”
Veronia and Vernita Burthrap, identical twins, are known to everyone in town as Ver and Vee. When the girls were toddlers they couldn’t say each other’s names, it sounded like “Ver” for Veronia, and “Vee” as Vernita. The names stuck. Except for a mole on Veronia’s left ear, it is impossible to tell them apart. They wear their brown hair long, so glimpses of the mole are hard to come by. The girls, now in their thirties, are known for their arguments. This one is another in a very long stream of screaming competitions.
“And you never believe me!!” Vernita loudly added.
“What’s to believe?! You’re always wrong! I know I was the last one to talk to Sylvia!! Not you!!” Veronia screeched.
Now the sheriff was standing at full attention.
“Wait a minute!! Stop yelling right now!!” Sheriff Terkinberry thundered so strongly it seemed to shake the house.
For a moment, Veronia and Vernita looked like frightened kittens.
“You two are arguing about who saw Sylvia Meisner last?” the sheriff hissed through his teeth.
“Yessss!!” the girls both shouted together.
“One at a time!!!” the sheriff screamed. “Ver, you first.”
Veronia gave Vernita a satisfied smerk as if the sheriff telling her to go first confirmed everything in her favor.
Veronia straightened herself as if preparing to give an important speech. “Well, Sheriff Terkinberry, I know I am the last one to have spoken with Miss Meisner before she disappeared. I saw her driving out of town,” she said, nodding at Vernita with an ‘I told you so’ look.
“What do you mean you saw her driving?” asked the sheriff.
“Well, I was on third street at the end of town, and Sylvia was driving her car and I waved at her, and she waved back,” said Veronia.
“You waved at her? Did you actually talk to her and did she talk back to you?” pried the sheriff.
Visibly uncomfortable, “Well, in a manner of speaking, yes. I waved, she waved, that is a conversation,” Veronia said.
“Hah!! I knew it!! You liar!! You lie, you lie, you lie!! Just like always! You lie about everything! You liar!! You didn’t talk to her at all! I knew it!!” Vernita shouted triumphantly before the sheriff could stop her.
The sheriff continued. “Ver, waving at each other is not exactly a conversation. Did you verbally talk with Sylvia that day?”
“Well, no,” Veronia said quietly, looking down at her feet.
Vernita quickly jumped in, “Wellll, I did!! I did ver-ba-lly talk, with my mouth forming words, words that made sense, to Miss Meisner” Vernita said, mocking her sister.
“Where and when did you talk with her, Vee?” asked the sheriff.
“I was at the market getting a few things. As I was walking out, she was walking in,” answered Vernita.
“And what did you say? What did she say?” the sheriff continued.
“I said, ‘Hi, Sylvia,’ and she said, ‘Hi.'”
Pete Terkinberry stared at them. “Let me get this right. You two are arguing so loud the neighbors called the police. You’re screaming about who talked to Sylvia last, like it’s some kind of trophy, and neither of you actually talked with her?” the sheriff asked, his volume rising with each detail.
“I am the one…” Vernita started to say.
“Stop!!” the sheriff yelled with his hand up as if halting traffic. “Stop right there! Don’t either of you say another word! You have no idea what you’re talking about! I am getting calls from all over town because everyone is arguing about who saw and talked to Sylvia last!!” the sheriff said loudly as if trying to convince himself this is actually happening.
“You two lovely ladies who are nearly inseparable, you even say the same things at the same time, for crying out loud, are just about to start punching each other! This is ridiculous!”
For the first time, Veronia and Vernita looked at each other with something other than venom, and their gaze dropped to the floor.
“Here’s the truth,” the sheriff said. “It appears that something terrible has happened to Sylvia Meisner. We don’t yet have any idea what that is, or how it happened. All we have is her smashed and burned car. And all this arguing around town isn’t helping bring her back. Everyone is acting like a bunch of brats thinking only of themselves, trying to make the story about them rather than actually trying to help Sylvia! Hannah and Shorty Cloverton were fighting over who was the last one to wait on Sylvia at the Ya’ll Sit Cafe! Shorty slammed the front door so hard the glass broke out and shattered all over the floor. Ira Thibbers was sitting near the door and a piece of glass hit him! He’s talking about suing Shorty! This is crazy!!” the sheriff hollered, visibly shaken.
I have lived in Maple Valley all my life, just like everyone else. I’ve never seen anything like this. Bad stuff has happened before, all right. Like the time a couple buddies put rocks on the railroad tracks and derailed the old steam engine that brings shoppers into town. Wow, that was bad. This is different. I live in a house three doors away from the Burthraps. Them arguing isn’t anything new, but what they’re fighting about is.
Sylvia has been missing for two weeks. Because her car is wrecked, everyone thinks she must have died. Maybe her car was stolen, whoever took it crashed and it burned. That doesn’t answer how the car ended up under three tower bridge. At this point, your guess is as good as mine.