A police car just beyond tracks, men working.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 32: Quintin O’Dillmotte for Sheriff

It finally happened. Quintin O’Dillmotte has lost his marbles. The wheels fell off. The cows went to pasture. The dog left home. The last chicken’s been plucked.

While Sheriff Pete Terkinberry works feverishly to solve the greatest mystery to ever grip the good folks of Maple Valley, Quintin O’Dillmotte, of O’Dillmotte Funeral Home, “Where we lay you down easy,” has announced he’s running for sheriff.

Three things about Quintin’s decision have people talking. Pete’s term as Sheriff of Terkot County does not end for another twenty-two months. Launching a campaign now is ridiculous.

O’Dilmotte’s choice for a campaign slogan is slanderous. “With Sheriff O’Dillmotte, have no fear! No one else will disappear!”

What really has neighbors wondering if Quintin has completely left home is his choice of a campaign handout. But, on the other hand, it’s Quintin O’Dillmotte. Some folks aren’t surprised at all.

Most people trying to get elected hand out things like pencils, shirts, or bags with their name on it. Last Saturday, Quintin was standing in the middle of Maple Valley passing out little coffins with his name printed on the outside and the campaign slogan on the inside. They must have cost him a fortune!

Sheriff Pete’s phone has been ringing off the hook. Marty Kue, news anchor of WREK-TV, called on Sunday, of all days.

“Is it true that Quintin O’Dillmotte has launched a campaign to take your place?” Kue asked.

“I don’t have any comment right now,” the sheriff answered.

“Is it true Quintin O’Dillmotte believes you’re not doing everything you can to find Sylvia Meisner?”

“I don’t have any comment right now,” Pete said.

“Why don’t you come on WREK live with me and defend yourself against these charges?” Marty Kue asked.

“What charges! What are you talking about? This conversation is over!” the sheriff hollered and slammed the phone down.

Quintin’s announcement is doing exactly what he hoped. It’s brilliant, at least to him. Everyone is talking about the little caskets. Kids are begging their parents for them.

Sheriff Pete received an important phone call last week. Dr. Ham Gerlein, the medical examiner from Colmash County, formally identified the bones found at the site of the watermain break.

“Pete, I can tell you with ninety-nine percent certainty, the bones do not belong to Ert Kreisel, or Sylvia Meisner,” Gerlein said.

“Who do they belong to?” Pete asked.

“A man named, Traver Flirsden. He was the contractor responsible for the watermain installation,” the doctor said.

“That makes no sense. How did his body end up there?” Pete asked.

“That’s for the Sheriff of Terkot County to figure out, Pete. I have no idea,” Ham said.

“Swell. Just what I need. Another disappearance with no answers. Thanks, Doc,” Pete said.

The sheriff hasn’t decided whether to respond to Quintin. He doesn’t want to do anything folks might interpret as concern about his future as sheriff. To Pete Terkinberry, the craziness Quintin O’Dillmotte is calling a campaign is just another item on the long list of Quintinistics.

Sheriff Terkinberry is more concerned about his friend, Mayor Alvin Thrashborn. The sheriff was called by Agent Vernald Bersker, and told the FBI is going to question Thrashborn about his relationship with Sylvia Meisner.

Pete immediately called his friend and told him about the conversation and asked what the agent was talking about.

“How should I know? I didn’t have any relationship with Sylvia,” the mayor said.

“Al, listen, the FBI doesn’t send agents out to ask questions unless they have a pretty good reason,” Pete said.

“Why did they call you?” Thrashborn asked.

“Remember when those two agents showed up after Sylvia disappeared? I chewed them pretty good for starting an investigation in Maple Valley without talking to me first. Maybe that’s it,” the sheriff said.

“I guess I’ll just wait and see what they ask me,” the mayor said.

Sheriff Pete Terkinberry couldn’t shake the feeling his lifelong friend was hiding something.

People standing in the street, talking.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 31: Tongues are Wagging, Again

It really is amazing how great a firestorm a few bones can create. The good folks in Maple Valley are falling into old routines that have not been put aside in honor of Thanksgiving Day.

Maple Valleyans are thankful for many things, please don’t misunderstand. They’re thankful for the Ya’ll Sit Cafe where they can ask Hannah Cloverton to fix their pancakes with any number of add-ins, like mushrooms, peppermint candies, sticky gums, dried head cheese crumbles, or cookie bits. Elmita Verkelmor brings crushed laxative pills for flapjack sprinkles.

Neighbors are thankful for tourists to whom they sell certified Maple Valley originals, like photos of Quintin O’Dillmotte in front of his funeral parlor. Ver and Vee Burthrap are thankful they sold several pans of homemade binzelphrast for holiday dinners. Binzelphrast was created by the Burthrap twins. It looks revolting but tastes lovely.

The bones discovered under the watermain in Newtown have been officially designated, “Unidentified.” Sylvia Meisner has been eliminated. Eliminated as in, the bones are not hers. But, many in Maple Valley are not convinced. Some believe Sheriff Pete Terkinberry is purposely hiding the truth. They are convinced Sylvia has been found, and they will not be told otherwise.

Sheriff Pete is keeping information to himself because he is still working to identify the remains. He uncovered a file about another disappearance, forty-five years ago. Ert Kreisel left for work on a Tuesday morning and was never seen again. He never arrived at Leitwald’s Machine Shop where he was employed. His wife, Wahline, didn’t report him missing for six days, which caused suspicion.

“I thought he might have gone hunting or fishing,” Wahline Kreisel told police.

“For six days? And you didn’t know about it?” they asked.

“We have a cabin up in the hills near Maple Valley River,” she answered.

Pete read the file and couldn’t believe the investigation ended without a single answer. He thinks maybe the bones belong to Ert Kreisel. Wahline Kreisel should be questioned again, but that will be difficult. She’s dead. She died eight years after Ert disappeared. Her own death was a mystery as well.

Maple Valley Mayor Alvin Thrashborn plans to make his annual Thanksgiving Day speech on the steps of Maple Valley Church. Alvin will speak about his love of Maple Valley and how he desires to remain in office until his last days on this side of glory.

Music will be provided by Cranson Plikerway who has recently learned to play the four-string dulcimer. He accompanies himself while he sings tunes he has written about Maple Valley.

It’s been another memorable Thanksgiving in Maple Valley.

Sheriff Terkinberry, wearing work clothes, approaches site where bones were found.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 30: The Bones Investigation

A police car just beyond tracks, men working.

It’s difficult to say what has become of our happy little community in Maple Valley. Gossip has always been one of our strongest characteristics, but it’s getting ridiculous.

Last week, Vee Burthrap was convinced Shorty Cloverton was having an “uncommon relationship,” as she called it, with Wilomena Shermer, the good reverend’s wife. Vee Burthrap doesn’t even attend Maple Valley Church. If someone is going to gossip about church, they should at least attend!

The main talk topic has been the identity of bones discovered during an emergency watermain repair. Most folks are convinced Sylvia Meisner has been found.

Sheriff Pete Terkinberry contacted state forensics and a team was on the scene of the discovery within an hour of his call. Just that was something remarkable to talk about. A fact. Instead, neighbors have been trying to convince the unbelieving why the remains are undoubtedly those of the missing Sylvia.

Rev. Shermer had everything he could to do calm the members of the memorial dinner committee. They were so offended by the reverend’s comment about not being sure Sylvia had been found it almost resulted in an investigation by the bishopric.

Shermer received a phone call from Bishop Liftenwick, saying he had been contacted by Olenia Durgasmon, who expressed concern that perhaps Reverend Shermer had lost his way. The good reverend resisted the urge to call her a self-absorbed, big mouth bag as he explained the circumstances to his superior. The bishop did a fine job counseling the reverend away from doing terrible things to Olenia.

Quintin O’Dillmotte continues to stir the fury. Just a few days ago, he was arguing with two other men at Smith’s Overalls. He told Orville Pilsh and Merv Ohpe Sheriff Pete refused to allow him to order a special casket for Sylvia Meisner’s funeral.

“The funeral home belongs to you, right?” Orville asked.

“Yes, so what?” Quintin answered.

“How can the sheriff stop you from ordering a casket for your own funeral home? If you want to order a casket, order it!” Merv said.

“But the Sheriff’s Office should pay for it because it’s an official investigation!” O’Dillmotte yelled.

“Quintin, you’re crazy! Sylvia Meisner hasn’t even been found yet!” Pilsh hollered.

“Yes, she has! I know it! I’m sure they’re gonna find out those bones are hers!” Quintin yelled even louder.

Orville and Merv both walked away from Quintin, shaking their heads.

Freight traffic has been stopped while the investigation unfolds. A long train has been standing at the Maple Valley curve for several days. Businesses in Newtown and other towns down the line are waiting for supplies.

Sheriff Terkinberry arrived at the burial site wearing work clothes and a hardhat. It was a good choice for the situation, but it surprised folks to see the sheriff drive into an investigation scene in the patrol car, but not wearing his unform. People in Maple Valley are very serious about protocols and when someone like the sheriff steps outside the expectations, it makes them nervous.

Several people in Newtown have contributed to the theory that the bones are those of an animal. They’re too small to be from a cow, like Burch Mazzlif suggested, after he told everyone his grandfather buried a holstein there. He didn’t want to drag it back to Maple Valley, so he buried it where it dropped.

Sheriff Pete Terkinberry finally revealed at the end of this week, according to the forensic research, the bones are indeed human. How long the remains have been buried there will be determined in the weeks ahead.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 29: Bones

Sixteen months doesn’t really seem like a long time. One summer, one Halloween, one Thanksgiving, one Christmas. The new year is not so new and will soon join the list of forgotten others.

For close friends of Sylvia Meisner, months have been years. One day Maple Valley folks were happy, greeting each other, opening their shops, welcoming visitors. The next, mystery and sadness took over.

Sylvia’s neighbors have taken care of her house and yard. Questions remain about items found in the home.

Sheriff Pete Terkinberry has endured calls for his firing by the likes of Quintin O’Dillmotte and others. Mayor Alvin Thrashborn supports his friend, Pete. They meet periodically to discuss any new information about the disappearance. There hasn’t been much to talk about in recent months.

Everything changed this morning. A water main break in Newtown required emergency excavation so workers could repair the damage. As work began, digging revealed bones under the leaking pipes. Sheriff Terkinberry was contacted and he called in a forensic team.

News spread faster than Marvella Vilcher’s hives. Quintin called Pete and asked if he should order a special coffin for the remains. After all, services at O’Dillmotte’s Funeral Parlor, “Where We Lay You Down Easy”, are only $129.00. Quintin makes the coffins himself. The sheriff declined the offer.

In a situation like this, and any other time answers are hard to find, folks are always willing to provide information they know nothing about. Folks in Maple Valley like things neat and tidy. Questions make everyone uncomfortable.

Shorty and Hannah Cloverton at the Ya’ll Sit Cafe are sure Sylvia, or what is left of her, has been found.

Burch Mazzlif is certain the bones are those of a cow his grandfather buried in Newtown eighty-five years ago. The cow escaped from the family farm in Maple Valley in 1930 and died in Newtown. Rather than carting the cow back to the village, he buried it, illegally, in Newtown.

Reverend Shermer of the Maple Valley Church is preparing for a memorial service. He called Olenia Durgasmon, chairperson of the memorial dinner committee, who called Bethanne Szetzen, who called Urliva Boots, Letha Arthgoss, and Wilerma Mitts. Olenia assured Brother Shermer all the details would be covered. The memorial dinner committee would provide a lovely meal in honor of Sylvia Meisner.

“Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves,” Shermer told Olenia.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“We don’t know that Sylvia has been found, yet,” he answered.

After ending the call with the good reverend, Olenia called Bethanne, who called Urliva, Letha, and Wilerma, and told them the dinner was off because Sylvia has not been found.

“Why did Reverend Shermer call the committee if Sylvia hasn’t been found?” Wilerma asked.

“I don’t know,” Urliva answerd.

“Seems like he should have been sure before calling the committee into action,” Olenia said.

“I’m going to call Kurson Dwiller and report this,” Urliva said.

“Good idea. We can’t have this kind of indecision giving orders to the memorial dinner committee,” Olenia said.

With dedicated folks like members of the memorial dinner committee, it’s no wonder Maple Valley has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kertok County, or any other county.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 28: Hank Rider and the Saddlehorns

Another Founders’ Day celebration has come and gone. Except for a few minor problems including a bunch of chickens escaping from a farm float during the parade and running through the streets of Maple Valley, it was a great success.

The special guest band for the main event was Hank Rider and the Saddlehorns. It’s incredible that two years in a row, Maple Valley has been able to bring in a famous country show. And just like last year, when Hank Rider sang the smash country chart topper “The Old Man”, everyone in the crowd knew the words. Tears were even seen on a few faces.

The Old Man

“I quit my job and hit the road, I married my guitar
Tired of my dead end life, it was time to be a star.
I couldn’t wait to hear the crowds all screamin’ out my name.
What happened next was all my fault, there was no one else to blame.

The first time I was on the stage there was no one in the room
‘Cept one old man way in the back, standin’ with a broom.
Well I sang my heart out anyway without a single cheer,
And when I was done the old man came and handed me a beer.

He said, ‘Son, don’t let it bother you that no one heard your songs,
I can see this kind of life just ain’t where you belong.
Pack your stuff, forget all this, today it’s not too late
To go back home where you belong before you share my fate.

He said he had a little boy he left for wealth and fame,
I didn’t care about what he said until he spoke his name.
Memories came flooding back, the name he breathed was mine,
I knew I was that little boy the old man left behind.

He said, ‘Son, I’m sorry for leaving you alone
If I could go and change it now you know I’d stay at home.
I never even thought how much my choice would cost,
But nothing I have ever done was worth the life I lost.’

I left the road and headed home to bury my guitar,
Dreams of fame and fortune didn’t get me very far.
When I arrived my little boy was standing at the door,
I knew then, and I know now, he’s what life is for.”

In other news, disturbing signs have been showing up around town. They read, “Recall Sheriff Pete Terkinberry.” Other signs are also appearing that read, “Elect Quintin O’Dillmotte, Sheriff of Kertok County”.

Sheriff Pete stepped into the Ya’ll Sit Cafe, as he does every morning, and Shorty called out from the kitchen, “Hey, Sheriff! What’s going on?! You don’t want to be sheriff anymore, or what?”

“Shorty, what are you talking about?!” Pete yelled back.

“Haven’t you seen the signs around town? Quintin wants to replace you. He says you should be recalled!” came the voice from the kitchen.

“Quintin O’Dillmotte couldn’t be sheriff of a playground!” the sheriff yelled, wishing he hadn’t. He looked around the cafe and several customers were staring at him.

Pete left the Ya’ll Sit without his coffee.


Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 27: The Pancake-Off Fiasco

So much has happened in Maple Valley it’s difficult to know where to start.

Here we are in the dog days of summer, and Maple Valley School is already preparing for the first day of the new year. Students can’t wait to get back in the class room.

We are obviously well into the tourist season, and so far, the numbers have been good to Maple Valley businesses. Karpin Nickwall at Nickwall’s Genuine Maple Valley Candy has reported sales surpassing last season by 7%.

Hupgern’s Dairy has completely sold out of their famous homemade cheese curd ice cream twice. The next most favorite flavor is oyster on the half-cone. Marv Hupgern makes all the ice cream at the store and visitors can watch him.

The Founder’s Day celebration was a huge success. The Old General performed beautifully. Visitors can’t get enough of the General whether they’re watching or riding. I can’t either. I’ve been able to sit at the throttle twice and it never gets old.

The featured band was Hank Rider and the Saddlehorns. It always amazes me that my neighbors in Maple Valley know the words to all these country songs.

By far, the most requested song of the night was, “I’ll Bet You Three Biscuits!” Other great hits were, “Don’t Waste My Lard”, “Fry That Fish One More Time”, “Boot Fuzz Whiskey”, “She Loves Me For My Grits”, “I Can’t Help It If My Horse Likes Beer”, and finally, “You Ain’t Better Than My Ma”. It was a fantastic show that lasted well beyond ten o’clock.

The Annual Pancake-Off is a favorite event for residents and visitors. This year, the pancake-off played a more significant role because the funds raised were donated to the cause of finding Sylvia Meisner.

The event is a competition between all those who believe their pancakes are the best. Large griddles are set up on the front porches of the contestants and folks can go from porch to porch to sample the pancakes.

Shorty Cloverton always expects to win but never does. Clem Bittlefin is the champion, three years running. His batter is a secret even Mara, Clem’s wife, doesn’t know.

This year’s contest became something of a fiasco when Mayor Thrashborn and Sheriff Terkinberry, two of the four contest judges, got into a heated discussion that seemed to have nothing to do with pancakes. Those who were close by said they were arguing about a phone call. That’s all anyone knows. The mayor walked away from the sheriff and the contest. It was embarrassing.

After the pancake-off was over, when asked about the confrontation, Pete Terkinberry said it was nobody’s business. That answer seemed out of character for a man so well respected as the sheriff.

The prize for the fifteenth annual Maple Valley Founder’s Day Celebration Pancake-Off, to everyone’s surprise, was awarded to Ver and Vee Burthrap for their Jalapeño Surprise Buttermilk Pancakes. Photos were taken and will appear on the front page of the Kertok County Advertiser.

As a result of the pancake-off being used as a fund raiser, three thousand seven hundred and five dollars was added to the Find Sylvia Meisner Fund.

A hearty “Thank You!” to all who participated in and donated to the Founder’s Day Celebration Pancake-Off.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 26: Events Turn

There’s good and weird news coming out of Maple Valley. Folks have been waiting for months to hear about the suit that was brought against Shorty Cloverton and several members of the town council including Sheriff Pete Terkinberry and Mayor Alvin Thrashborn.

For those who may not know, which, not ever wandering very far from Maple Valley, I honestly don’t know how that’s possible. But, last fall, a woman named Madeline Overweist stepped out of the Ya’ll Sit Cafe, walked a few steps, and a bat landed on her face. Mrs. Overweist, a visitor to Maple Valley who had come to town on The General, did not survive the shock.

Several weeks passed after the incident. Shorty Cloverton, owner of the cafe, was surprised by a stranger who gave him a large envelope from attorneys Skellson & Skellson. The family of Mrs. Overweist brought a suit against the town council and everyone on the BAT Strategic Health Investigation Team. The papers said all of them were at fault because they knew there were bats in Maple Valley.

The defendants almost didn’t make it beyond the depositions. Quintin O’Dillmotte could have been a witness for Skellson. He kept saying too much when he was answering questions.

“Mr. O’Dillmotte, tell us, what is your responsibility as a member of the BAT Strategic Health Investigation Team?” Mr. Skellson asked.

“Please, sir, call me Quintin.”

“Ok, Quintin, thank you. Would you like me to repeat the question?”

“No, I can tell you. I’ll be honest, I told everyone we have a serious bat problem and it’s going to be a sad day in Maple Valley when someone is attacked by one of these vicious creatures.”

“Quintin!!” hollered defense attorney, Kelso Mackverd. “Just answer the question, and nothing more!”

Quintin continued, “I have been on the BAT team for seven years. During that time we have literally done nothing to alleviate the bat problem in Maple Valley.”

“Quintin!! Stop!” demanded Mackverd. “Can we take a quick break?” he asked.

“Yes,” answered Skellson.

When the process resumed, Quintin looked like a scolded school boy. From then on he said little more than “Affirmative”, or “Negative”.

To everyone’s surprise, the judge in the case dismissed the suit. He said, in spite of the tragic events, no one could have known, under any circumstances, what an individual bat would do at any time. Complete control is impossible. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

The other news involves Sylvia Meisner, who has been missing for more than a year. Sheriff Pete received a phone call in the middle of the night. The female voice said, “What is wrong with you people? You can’t see the forest for the trees. Your answer is right under your nose.”

“Who is this?” Pete asked. The caller hung up. He spent the next two hours sitting on the side of his bed, going through scenarios in his mind of what the call might mean. Was it Sylvia? How could it be? If it was Sylvia, where has she been, and why? If it wasn’t Sylvia, who was it and what did she mean the answer is right under our nose?

At daylight, Pete called Alvin and told him about the call.

“The answer is right under our nose?” Alvin asked.

“That’s what she said.”

“Did you recognize the voice? Did it sound like Sylvia?” Alvin asked.

“She did, a little bit. Or maybe I just wanted her to sound like Sylvia,” Pete answered.

“This is so crazy. First don’t stop looking, now this,” Alvin said.

“Listen,” Pete said, “don’t tell anyone about this, especially Quintin. Don’t tell anyone. I want to wait and see if anything else happens in the next few days.”

“Right, right. No, I won’t tell Quintin, or anyone else,” Alvin said, thinking about who he could tell first.

“Alvin, please, I’m telling you as the sheriff. Don’t tell anyone. I mean it. I could actually charge you if it gets back to me that you talked about this.”

“What do you mean, charge me?” Alvin asked loudly.

“I could charge you with hindering an investigation,” Pete answered.

“You would do that?!” Alvin asked.

“I’m going to tell you again. Do not tell anyone about the call,” the sheriff said.

“Pete, you worry to much.”

“Alvin!! Are you listening to me?!”

“I hear you, Pete. Come on, we’re friends.”

“Yes, we’re friends, and I’m the sheriff, and I’m still investigating the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner. Don’t mess this up!!”

“Thanks a lot,” Alvin said.

“I’m just trying my best to find Sylvia or find out what happened to her. This is driving me crazy. I think I might be getting somewhere and then I end up no where. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. If it was Sylvia who called me, why wouldn’t she tell me? She has to know we’re looking for her. Why wouldn’t she just say, ‘This is Sylvia, Pete, how are you?’ Sometimes I feel like giving up. But, somehow, some way, I have to find her,” Pete said. “Do you know what I mean, Alvin?”

“Alvin? Alvin, are you still there?”

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 25: Finding Sylvia Meisner

Everyone loves a parade, and the good folks in Maple Valley are no exception. When news quickly reached everyone that Sheriff Pete Terkinberry would soon patrol the three streets of town in a new squad car, excited anticipation of a parade swept like a wind-blown grass fire.

From one end of town to the other, neighbors gathered in the streets to watch the sheriff drive by in his new car. They waved, shouted, laughed, and a few cried. The dream of Maple Valley having its own police car finally came true.

The patrol car isn’t new. The Maple Valley council purchased it from the Chicago Police Department. It only has 61,000 miles on it, so folks here believe it was a good investment. Sheriff Pete is happier than anyone else. He’s been patrolling in his own car since he took office fourteen years ago when his father, Sheriff Wilton Chase Terkinberry passed away after thirty-four years as Sheriff of Terkot County.

Folks in Maple Valley are happy with any reason to have a parade. Believe it or not, last summer there was a parade because Hazel Wiklaten’s spaniel, Gertrude, had twelve healthy puppies. They were loaded into the bed of Berton Pilshur’s old pickup truck and before he reached the end of First Street, crowds of people stood on their porches waving as the twelve grand marshalls rolled by.

That parade went a long way to support rumors that Berton has eyes for Hazel. His wife Nellie passed away eight years ago. Hazel has been alone since her husband, Maxil Ned Wiklaten III, went on to his barn in the sky nine years ago. A year after Nellie died, neighbors saw Berton talking to Hazel over the fence. There’s been talk ever since.

With the arrival of the new police car, there seems to be more determination to find Sylvia Meisner. Certainly, with this fine new used patrol car, there won’t be any reason why answers to this year long mystery can’t be found. Sylvia is sure to come home now.

It’s good that the arguing over the cost of sending the sheriff and mayor to Chicago to pick up the new police car has ended. The vote to send the two officials was a tie. Since the mayor holds a higher office, he said his vote carried more weight, thereby causing the motion to pass. Well, that brought some of the folks attending the meeting to their feet. A few walked out. Nothing unusual for Maple Valley council meetings.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 24: Don’t Stop Looking

Sheriff Pete couldn’t drag the phrase from his mind. “Don’t Stop Looking!” Vee Burthrap had told him. “What does that even mean?” he thought, walking toward the cafe.

After the horrible dream Pete had a few nights ago, he was hesitant about going back to the Ya’ll Sit, but he needed a cup of coffee and didn’t want to make it himself.

“Hi Pete!” Hannah called from behind the counter when the sheriff walked through the front door.

“Hello, Hannah!” the sheriff answered, feeling a shadow lift from his mind. “Is the coffee any good today?”

“Always good, always ready!” Shorty Cloverton said, walking out of the kitchen with a big tray of fresh cinnamon buns. “How about a C-bun to go with that coffee, Pete?”

“I think I’ll just have coffee,” Pete answered. He caught himself staring at the table by the door where he sat in the nightmare.

“Suit yourself, Sheriff, but these are warm and the icing is running off like a spring thaw.”

“Okay, okay, you convinced me. Bring one over here,” Pete said.

Shorty scooped a cinnamon bun from the tray and put it on a plate, making sure to slather it with extra icing. “Shame about Vee Burthrap, isn’t it?” Shorty said, putting the plate on the table and pouring Pete a warm-up.

“What are you talking about?” the sheriff asked.

“Vee Burthrap was taken to the hospital last night. Her sister called the ambulance because Vee was acting strange.”

“Why wasn’t I called?” Pete asked. “I didn’t know anything about this.”

“I don’t know, Pete. I only know Ver called an ambulance and Vee is in the hospital,” Shorty answered.

Pete had a strange feeling. He wondered whether this had anything to do with Vee’s idea about the letters, DSL. “This is stupid!” Pete thought. “It’s a coincidence and nothing more.” Pete finished his breakfast and headed for the hospital.

“Don’t stop looking. Don’t stop looking for what?” Pete thought as he drove. “If it does mean ‘don’t stop looking’ for Sylvia, who wrote it? Who cut the letters into the bridge? Is Sylvia still alive? Is the person who took her toying with us?”

When the sheriff arrived at the hospital, he stepped from his car and heard a person yelling.

“Don’t stop looking!!” someone hollered.

Pete turned to see where the voice was coming from. He saw a woman in a back yard calling toward a boy who was running.

“Don’t stop looking!” she hollered louder. “You find your bicycle before you come back! Don’t stop looking!”

Pete felt stunned. “This can’t be real! What is happening to me!” he thought as he continued watching the woman yelling at her son.

The sheriff walked into the hospital and approached the front desk. A doctor stepped through a door and called back toward the hall. “Don’t stop looking for that file! I need it to see it before we can proceed,” he said to someone Pete couldn’t see.

The receptionist said, “Vee Burthrap is in room 214. Take the hall to the left and the elevator or the stairs to the second floor and turn right.”

Sheriff Pete thanked her and walked toward the elevator. The doors opened just as he reached it. Three people were inside, deep in conversation. “I told her, ‘don’t stop looking, you’ll find it if you don’t stop looking.’ I hope she took my advice,” one woman said to another. Pete stared at them and they stepped wide of him as they left the elevator.

He found room 214 and Pete knocked on the door. Hearing no answer, he knocked again.

“Don’t stop looking! Don’t stop looking!” came a woman’s voice from inside the room. Pete pushed through the door.

Vee Burthrap seemed to be sound asleep. “Don’t stop looking!” she moaned again and again.

“Vee, Vee…” Pete said as he gently shook her arm.

Vee’s sightless eyes were wide open, looking far beyond Pete Terkinberry. With a loud voice she again said, “Don’t stop looking! Don’t stop looking!”

The sheriff recalled the feeling he had the night he opened Sylvia Meisner’s house to Miss Wonderment, the so-called psychic. What crawled over him now was far worse.

He more firmly grasped Vee’s arm and shook, “Vee!”

Vee Burthrap sat straight up in the bed and screamed. Pete jumped back and tripped over the bedside table sending a lunch tray crashing to the floor. Pete landed on top of the mashed potatoes and gravy.

“Sheriff! What are you doing here?” Vee asked.

Pete wiped the mess from his pants as he stood up. “Vee, I just found out you were in the hospital and I came to check on you. What were you dreaming about?” he asked.

“I wasn’t dreaming about anything, why?”

“You kept saying, ‘Don’t stop looking,'” Pete answered.

“Why would I say that? Don’t stop looking for what?”

“More like ‘who?’ you mean.”

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 23

Sheriff Pete walked into the Ya’ll Sit Cafe on Monday morning, just like he does every week. Something felt different. He didn’t know what it was, but he had the eerie sense he should sit by the door instead of taking his usual seat at the counter.

“Good morning, Hannah!” he said.

Hannah Cloverton looked up but said nothing.

Pete noticed a few people turned to look at him. He knew them and nodded. Nothing.

He picked up a copy of the Maple Valleyan and was surprised to see his name on the front page. “Questions Swirl Around Sheriff Terkinberry” the headline read in bold letters. “What is this?!” he almost said outloud.

Hannah startled him and Pete dropped the paper face down. “Do you want to order, Sheriff Terkinberry?” Hannah asked.

Pete saw a stranger in his friend’s eyes. “Hannah, you haven’t ever called me ‘Sheriff Terkinberry’. What’s going on?”

“Would you like to order now?” she asked.

“Yes, Hannah, I’ll have the same thing I’ve had every Monday morning since the first time I came in for breakfast twelve years ago.”

“What would that be, Sheriff?” Hannah Cloverton asked.

“Hannah, what is going on? Are you okay? Is something wrong?” Pete asked.

“No, sir, why do you ask?”

“Why do I ask? Are you kidding me? You just called me ‘Sir’!”

“Sheriff Terkinberry, would you like something to eat, or not?”

“Yes. I’ll have two scrambled eggs with onion, bacon, hashbrowns, toast, and coffee. Please,” Pete said, perturbed.

Hannah wrote the order down as if she hadn’t heard it a hundred times before and might forget. She left without saying anything more and returned to the kitchen.

Pete picked up the paper once again and started reading.

“Questions regarding the behavior of Sheriff Pete Terkinberry have residents of Maple Valley concerned. A confidential source told this reporter, ‘Sheriff Pete Terkinberry allows people to see him in his boxer shorts.’ This reporter asked, point blank, ‘How confident are you that Terkinberry wears boxers? Could you be mistaken?’ My source responded, ‘I don’t make mistakes like this.’

“Outrage has swept across this town. With tourist season just a few weeks away, shock, dismay, and horror are words that have been spoken in the wake of this devastating news.

“Questions roar in everyone’s mind. Will Sheriff Pete Terkinberry resign? Will he be removed from office? Will the town council act quickly enough to repair the tattered remains of this battered community.

“This reporter has been on the front lines of news for several months. I can tell you, without equivocation, this has shaken Maple Valley to its core.

“I’m on the scene for you. Derk Quimberz, reporter, The Maple Valleyan.”

Someone grabbed Pete Terkinberry’s shoulder and shook him. “Pete!! Pete!!”

Pete opened his eyes and was surprised to see his own bedroom, with Alvin Thrashborn standing over him.

“Are you alright?! You were yelling about someone named Derk Quimberz! Who is that?!” Alvin asked.

“What are you doing here?!” Pete yelled.

“Don’t you remember? We were supposed to go fishing this morning. I banged on the door but you didn’t answer, then I heard you yelling, so I came in. Your door was unlocked.” Alvin said.

“It’s always unlocked.” Pete said, sitting on the edge of his bed, trying to find his way through the fog.

“Get up, we have an appointment with several big bass,” Alvin said, walking out of the room.

“Who is Derk Quimberz?!” Alvin yelled from the kitchen.

“I don’t know! Some reporter who doesn’t like boxer shorts!”