Flowers for Lobelia

So, as you sleep, I seek your bed
And lay my careful, quiet ear
Among the nestings of your hair,
Against your tenuous, fragile head,
And hear the birds beneath your eyes
Stirring for birth, and know the world
Immeasurably alive and good,
Though bare as rifted paradise.
—James Wright, The Quiet (Above The River)

Jonas Wright stood there looking down at her body knowing that looking wasn’t going to bring her back; wasn’t going to bring her back, ever. The Medical Examiner, Sandra Kercher, and Sam Wolfson, the Case Detective, had been over the scene with a fine tooth comb. He’d read their report tomorrow. Nothing he could do here now; he knew that. Yet, he didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to blink his eyes, didn’t want to move his old bones, didn’t want to hear his partner telling him what they should or shouldn’t do… he just wanted to go back home, sit down, pull out his standard issue .38 snub nose 2-inch special revolver and blow his gawd dam brains out. “Hell,” He thought half-joking in a gallows humor sort of way: “I should upgrade to my partner’s Glauck 9mm and do it right. That’d be a good ‘un for the boys back down at the precinct, they’d remember that for a long time.

That’s what he wanted to do, but he knew very well he wouldn’t do it, he knew he’d have to ride this dark horse all the way to the end of the race… there would be no stopping it now, no turning back, no easy way out; he’d have to pay the pied-piper the full tilt fare; for only the bittersweet pain of life lived out till it was sucked dry of every last ounce of strength he had left in him would satisfy the demons of his broken mind now; and, there’d be that other payment as well, the one he’d exact from hell itself… He’d have to find Lobelia’s killer, and he’d have to make the bastard pay the Devil himself if it was the last thing he did in this crummy life.

But instead he was standing here listening to his partner trying to comfort him, trying to get him to follow protocol, trying to get him off the site and away from here before Captain J.T. Willis arrived and chewed their ass out. He’d heard it all before, knew what was coming, but at the moment he just didn’t give a dam, period.

“C’mon, Jonas,” Caulfield Collins, his partner said anxiously: “You can’t do her no good standing here, and you’re just getting in the way and you know it. Hell, Jonas, Cap’s goin’ be here soon and fry our ass; especially mine for driving you out here in the first place.”

“You got that right, Caul,” Captain Willis said as he walked up, pulling his night coat closer round his neck. “Burrrr… who the hell let Old Man Winter loose so soon in the year. Dam. Going to have to order a new set of coats and gloves for the squad.” He looked at Caul and said: “Give me an Jonas a second, will you?” Caul nodded, and shuffled off to talk to Sam and the ME, Sandra Kercher. Willis walked around in front of Jonas and turned to face him, saying: “Jonas, I’m not going to burden you with the formalities. You know the score better than I do. All I’m going to say is we’re going to skip them. This one’s goin’ off-grid, got me?”

Jonas peered into J.T.’s brown eyes real close: saw nothing but the dark black light of something old and wizened moving around in there like a rampaging beast on the hunt; and, he kept wondering what had gotten into J.T. of late, being so nice and all. Captain Willis was a hard man to figure out. Played everything by the Book, right down to the fine print; yet, at times, he’d throw the book away and do it old school, do things that used to work, off the grid things that no one or nothing ever was the wiser; because it was never documented, never recorded, never even remembered. When J.T. Willis laid down his law no one questioned him, and everyone gave a pass in silence without judgment; even the boys up in IID at the Capital gave deference to Willis as long as it didn’t come back to bite them, all the required was not to know nor to be able to find out. Jonas shook the Captain’s hands, “I understand Cap, nothing ever need be said again.”

“Then we have an understanding. You know the drill, detective. Just keep me in the loop. That’s all I ask. Got it?” Jonas nodded. “Good. Well, back to business…” The Captain turned away and yelled over to the ME and Sam asked them what was taking so long, and why wasn’t the body already downtown in autopsy. Captain was a fair man, balanced in every way, but he didn’t want anyone to think he was soft. It was his way.

Jonas glanced at Caul who was standing there fidgeting like he didn’t know what the hell to do with his self. “C’mon, Caul, let’s get the hell out of here.”

Caul looked back at him, didn’t say a word, just headed to our patrol car got in and started her up. I followed suit.

He kept thinking about Lobelia, why she was out here in the middle of this gawd forsaken wilderness at this time of night, and why here where the three rivers met Crow Creek. Didn’t make sense, just plain didn’t make sense. He shook his head. What was she doing…

They were driving back toward town on Wolfcreek Way about twenty miles out. It was a clear night, frosty and the moon set up high like a bone eyed minion watching her dead. The hill country took on a misty glow as the fogs rose off the channels in the early morning, made everything appear almost silvery and haunted. There was a certain beauty in it, but also something deadly. In Nature there was never any black and white, only the nuances of death and decay, the passing and the mulching, the endless parade of forms changing through all their multifarious glory. Jonas kept thinking “My Lobelia is changing, she’s wandering back into that dark bargain where time is the only victor.”

“Where to, Jonas?” Caul whispered, like he was afraid to interrupt his partners silence.

“No need to whisper, Caul, I’m not dead yet,” He tried to get a rise out of him. “And, anyway, we don’t have any particular destination. Let’s just ride nice and touristy like, amble our way back, see what we can take in. Something out of the ordinary.”

“Okay, Jonas,” I didn’t mean nothing by it.

“I know you didn’t Caul, I know you didn’t, let’s pull in at Pete’s Place up ahead have us a couple quick ones being as how late it is and all.”

Caul smiled at that and put his foot to the peddle. The road narrowed at the bend and they saw the lights of the Road House blinking. Wasn’t much traffic this late at night on a weekday, so they could have a couple drinks without being disturbed. And, he needed to talk to the Old Man see if he’d noticed any new faces or anything unusual. They pulled in next to an old beater Ford pick-up. Looked like it’d been by a river lately, had mud on the tires. He’d have to ask about that.

As they approached the door a couple burly guys and a gal came out, a little tipsy and almost bumped into them. The bigger one spoke up: “Ought a watch where you’re goin’ bud…” Jonas decked him, saying: “I was. Now I don’t need to watch, I found.” The guy sat up, saying: “What youse do that fer, Mister? We’s just having fun with you, didn’t mean anything by it.” The other one, who was with the woman chirped up, too: “Why you do that buddy, I have a mind to call the cops on you.” Jonas laughed, “Go ahead, want me to call them for you. I’d be happy to tell them you’re about to drive home drunk. Why don’t we just walk over here to my patrol car and I can radio it in for you.” Their eyes got big and both started apologizing profusely, backed away toward the woman’s vehicle that was parked off to the side of the building. “Honest, we didn’t do anything wrong. Did we, Louise?” The woman grinned, “Sure didn’t Charley, now get your ass over here and let me drive you two home before they lock you up, will you.”

As soon as that back door closed they heard the back tires whining and the dust flying. He and Caul both laughed a bit watching those tires scream and the gravel flying, and then they went on in to the bar.

Pete had his back to them, putting the heads back on some beer jockeys and setting things up for tomorrow. He spoke without turning: “Evening, Gents, place is shut down I just haven’t had time to lock up yet. Got about ten minutes left if you want a quick one.”

Jonas and Caul ambled over the bar. Pete had inherited the place from his Old Man Jefferson Thorndike. Pete had been in the first Iraqi conflict and lost an eye and had shrapnel scars all over his body. He’d gotten an early medical out and a small stipend from the Government for his effort. Not much, but with that and the little he got off the bar and his Old Man’s Trust Fund it kept him afloat.

Pete turned around as he finished up that last fitting. “Dam, if it isn’t Jonas and Caul the dynamic duo from County.” He motioned to put our billfolds back: “Hell, you boys know your money’s no good here. Put those things back up and tell me what it’ll be.” Caul ordered Jim Bean and a floater, Jonas went with a Bourbon neat. He gave them both doubles and poured himself a snifter from something below the bar along with a cool draft ale.

“So what brings you out this time of night, fellows?” He knew something was up.

Caul spoke up first to distract the old soldier: “See ya got some guests.”

“Yea, if you can call it that,” He pointed to the back booth where it was dark and shadowy. “It’s my cousin and his gal, Shana,” he spit a little red man into a bucket below. “Don’t know why I put up with that boy, but he’s a hard worker so I shouldn’t complain. At least he doesn’t drink a hell of a lot, nor get in trouble like some of my kin.” He was speaking of Joe Meary, his first cousin, meaner that all get out. Was in County for beating a guy just because he looked at his wife wrong. Not a bright future for that boy, not at all.

“So tell me Pete,” Jonas said. “Any strangers been around the vicinity you know of in the past few days or tonight?”

“Strangers? Can’t say as I’ve seen any, at least none come in here lately. There was one fellow that came in tonight though, all out of breath…” He rubbed his chin. “Come to think of it that boy works for Jacob Henderson and his gang down in Coopersville. Yea, I’m sure of it.” Jonas’s ears perked up at the mention of Henderson and his boys. He’d had a run in with them a few years back. Running bootleg and guns up from Lathan and selling them to the influx of Mexicans and foreigners. Bad bunch. But what would Lobelia be doing with that bunch… nah, that made no sense, Jonas thought. Strange though. “Can you describe this fellow?”

“Sure.” He was about to do just that when Jonas cut him off.

“Why don’t you close shop, get some rest and meet Caul down at the office in the morning. Let’s get a artist in who can put this to a face. Okay?”

“Fine by me, Jonas, anything I can do to help… by the way, what’s up?” He looked at Jonas expectantly.

Caul did the knife slice across the throat.

Pete did an eye roll knowing he’d committed a faux pas, but knew he couldn’t take it back. “Oh, okay, I understand, need to know and all that stuff… sure fellows, I’ll be there in the morning bright and early.” He said apologetic.

“Thanks, Pete, appreciate it; really do, it’d be a real favor to me.” Jonas reached over and shook Pete’s hand.

“Caul, let’s get out of this man’s hair, I think we’ve done enough damage for one night.”  Jonas swallowed the rest of his bourbon, and they left.


©2016 S.C. HickmanUnauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Note: Yea, reworking my Country Noir novel I started last year under the title of Lobelia. Changed the title, kept some of the action sequences but am adding in more detail and character construction. This is just the opening, not going to bore my readers with any more than this. Just thought you might like or give a feedback response on this opening…



2 thoughts on “Flowers for Lobelia

  1. thanks for posting more of your fiction writing lately. certainly resonates with my real and mythologized experience growing up in Texas but still a poignant vehicle for what you’ve developed in your other musings. great stuff

    Liked by 1 person

    • thanks Derek… Yea, I grew up in West Texas, but lived in the Austin Hill country, down in Houston and Conroe area, up in Shreveport and down on the old depression farm my Big Daddy and Big Mama had out of Baton Rouge where my cousins, aunts and uncles all lived. Haven’t lived there for forty years, but it’s there in my head – real as ever. In some ways you’re right, I keep thinking of those mythical counties and towns of Faulkner, William Gay, Joe R. Lansdale – whose works use the Texarkana region of Big Piney etc. Combine a mythical county with some fictional towns out of Austin is where this one is heading… try to bring in that doom ridden fatalism to the natural world and the rage of all the broken souls around parts of Texas I grew up with. Been reading a lot of this Country noir, Redneck – Hill Billy, etc. lately I know Good Reads has a good bunch of links for it:


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