I feel so relieved to have gotten this far in my story since I have been incapacitated for a month with two operations on my forearms for Carpal Tunnel due to excessive use of my word processor. But, now I am back on it, and it seems good to be able to put my thoughts on paper once more. I expect this story to be finished in two months or so. I shall not push it, take it easy. My mind is working overtime, producing material my hands are not capable of transposing as quickly as I would like.
As they say, here goes nothing.
The stranger walked down the long dirt road that leads to Bickford, a small community with a population of 1200, thirty miles west of Portland Maine. His long black coat heâ€™d bought at Goodwill hung close enough to the ground to collect dust and pricker burrs along the way. His suit was old and tattered, andÂ hisÂ black felt hat stove in on one side had a wide satin black band.
As the stranger rounded the curve at Wilsonâ€™s Creek, he could see the lights of the town in the distance, his trek nearly finished, but not his job. He had business to attend to in the town. While in prisonÂ heâ€™d made a promise to his cell-mate that when he got out, he would take care of the matter for him. His cellmate was a lifer, and dying of lung cancer.
The strangerâ€™s one year sentence was up, and he was released four days ago. It took him that long to get to Bickford. He slept along side the road in wooded areas for the last three nights. Tonight, he will have a bath and a good nightâ€™s sleep in a cozy bed. He had enough money for one nightâ€™s lodging. The next day he would take care of his friendâ€™s business and be on his way again.
Putting my work aside for now, Iâ€™ll concentrate on helping my wife in her business, running our B and B. The inn keeps her busy during the tourist season. I help as much as I can during the summer months, but she can handle the stress and strain by herself in the off season. Fact is, she is glad to get me out of her hair for those off-season months each year.
As I was standing at the front desk assisting a couple from Vermont, a man in a long black coat stood near the door. He looked familiar, as though I had seen him somewhere before. The suit under his long coat showed signs of wear, and his felt hat was as old as dirt.
â€śIâ€™ll be right with you,â€ť I said to the stranger, a young man in his twenties.
â€śItâ€™s okay, take your time… Iâ€™m in no hurry.â€ť
He stepped up to the desk; a smile manifested a mouth full of crooked, stained teeth. He must chew tobacco; I thought. I hoped he saw the sign behind me on the wall: No Smoking of any kind, or chewing of tobacco. His clothes wrinkled, his hair shaggy and matted. It was apparent he hadnâ€™t bathed in a while; his body gave off the odor of stale tobacco and BO; turning my stomach.
â€śOne night,â€ť he said, how much?â€ť
â€śTwenty-two dollars, room with bath.â€ť He passed me a twenty and two ones. I gave him a receipt and directed him up the stairs to number 2.
What an odd duck, I thought. He wasnâ€™t very talkative. I know Iâ€™ve seen him somewhere before, but the time and place elude me at the moment.
After supper, I went into my office and worked on my story. It was slowly beginning to take shape.
The stranger checked in at the local inn, room number 2. He was an odd person, not very talkative, almost eerie.
The next morning the stranger came downstairs and over to the desk.
â€śDo you know a… Stanley Thompson?â€ť he asked.
â€śSure, he runs the drugstore down the Street. Why, do you know him, Mister?â€ť I asked.
â€śNot directly… heâ€™s a friend of a friend.â€ť
â€śYep, youâ€™ll find him at the store this morning… I swear he works 24/7.â€ť
Just then the stranger from last night came down the stairs. He was clean shaven, smelled of cologne; same clothes hung loosely on his small frame. I closed my computer. I would work on my story later. The stranger stopped at the desk.
â€śCan I ask you a question?â€ť
â€śDo you know where I can find a… Stan Thompson?â€ť I rocked back on my heels. This is the same question the stranger in my story asks the desk clerk at the inn. I must have looked very bewildered because he asked. â€śAre you all right, Mister. You look pale.â€ť
â€śYeah, Iâ€™m all right… just… thinking.â€ť The stranger stared at me incredulously. â€śEh… nothing, nothing that is important. Stanâ€™s drugstore is down the street on the right.â€ť
â€śCuriosity. Do you know, Stan?â€ť I asked.
â€śNope, a mutual friend of mine asked me to look him up if I got to Bickford.â€ť I knew it was more than that. It would be too much of a coincidence for this man to ask for Stan too.
I watched the stranger go out the door and disappear down Main Street. I shook my head and kept on working. I was repairing the hinges on the door to the office; one had cracked with age, and my wife has been after me to fix it since February. Finished, I got back to work on my novel, I picked up where I had left off.
The stranger approached a clerk in the drugstore. â€śAre you Mr. Thompson, Stan Thompson?â€ť
â€śNope. Thatâ€™s him over there puttinâ€™ away stock.â€ť He pointed to a man in his fifties, gray, thinning hair with horn-rimmed glasses.
The stranger walked over to Stan. â€śAre you, Stan Thompson?â€ť
â€śYes I am,â€ť Stan said, smiling. â€śWhat can I do for you?â€ť
â€śPaul Dubois wanted me to look you up.â€ť
â€śBut… b…u…t Paulâ€™s, Paulâ€™s in prison.â€ť
â€śYeah, I know. Heâ€™s dying too… lung cancer… maybe got two months.â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s too bad, nice man, I…â€ť
â€śSave the platitudes… It doesnâ€™t do him any good, and it certainly wonâ€™t do you any good either.â€ť
â€śWhat do you mean?â€ť
â€śYou know what I mean. If it wasnâ€™t for you… he wouldnâ€™t be spending his last days in an iron-barred cell upstate.â€ť
â€śWhat do you mean. I didnâ€™t…â€ť
â€śSave it, Mister. You were the foreman at his jury trial fourteen years ago, werenâ€™t you?â€ť
â€śPaul Dubois was… is guilty of murdering Hank Goode. They found him standing over the body of his victim, gun still hot. Several people heard the shots. Goode had two bullet holes in his chest, died before he hit the floor. The police arrested Paul at the scene.â€ť
â€śHe was framed, Thompson, and he thinks you framed him.â€ť
â€śMe? I didnâ€™t frame him. Sure, I hated Goode; he was a louse, a no good cheating two-timer, but I didnâ€™t kill him.â€ť
â€śWasnâ€™t he running around with your wife, Thompson?â€ť
â€śEh… yeah, and we got divorced over it. I havenâ€™t seen her since…she left me, two weeks after Dubois was convicted.â€ť
â€śWhy didnâ€™t you disqualify yourself from the jury when you knew Dubois was cheating with your wife?â€ť
â€śI believe in the justice system, and Paul Dubois got what he had coming to him. He killed Goode for sure.â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t think so, Mr. Thompson. I think you killed him and framed Paul, and I intend to prove it. It is the least I can do for Dubois… I promised I would do it. Have a nice day.â€ť The stranger walked out of the store. Thompson was as pale as a white linen sheet.
After my afternoon nap, I began to work on my story. It was progressing faster than I had anticipated earlier.
The stranger confronted Stan Thompson, told him about his cellmate in prison. After some debate, the stranger, feeling he was justified, shot Stan twice in the chest and watched him fall to the floor in a lifeless heap. Dark red fluid was seeping through his white shirt.
The store was empty; the stranger had made sure of it before he killed Stan. He had now completed his promise to his cell mate; killed the foreman of the jury that got his cell mate institutionalized fourteen years ago.
â€śCome on up to bed, Honey,â€ť my wife called. I closed my laptop cover and went up to bed. I fell quickly into a deep sleep. I dreamt I was at a book signing in New York City, the tall buildings so much different than the two and three story edifices in Bickford. As I was signing a book, I looked up into the face of a man who could have passed as twin brother to the killer in my novel. He smiled and passed me a copy of my book. I signed it, and he left. I couldnâ€™t shake the feeling he was a that killer.
I woke to the sun streaming in my bedroom window, making shadows on the hardwood floor that danced with the blowing of the curtains in the slight breeze coming through the open window.
I went downstairs after showering and got ready to face the day. It was six thirty, and the stranger was coming down the stairs, small suitcase in his hand, one he hadnâ€™t had yesterday.
â€śNew case?â€ť I asked.
â€śYeah, bought it yesterday.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s a nice one. Where you headed to now?â€ť
â€śWest I guess— maybe south to New Hampshire, and then on to California if my luck holds out.â€ť
â€śI wish you the best, Mister.â€ť I spun the register around, and for the first time it clicked; I saw the name he had used to sign in, William H. McCarty Jr. I smiled; that was Billy the kidâ€™s birth name.
McCarty hadnâ€™t been gone ten minutes when Mel Moody came running in the front door. â€śAmos, Amos, Stan Thompson is dead… two bullet holes in the chest… someone shot him. Doc Miller says, sometime early this morning.â€ť
I sat down; my energy sapped and the strength in my legs gave out. It was exactly as I had planned to write it. The only difference, my Stan Thompson is fictitious while the Stan Thompson down the street is real.
I have never had a story fill out in real time while I wrote it on paper. Now if I publish the story, I will probably be considered the number one suspect. After all, who would believe Billy the Kid killed Stan Thompson. For that matter, who even knew, besides me that this stranger was in town overnight?
Another good story will lie unpublished. I think Iâ€™ll spend more time with my wifeâ€™s B and B and less time on my word processor. I donâ€™t want to use my imagination to create real time crime.
The next guest, a smart looking man, dressed to the nines with a small mustache and black wavy hair asked for a room for the night. I told him twenty-two dollars, and he paid me. I put him in number 2, McCartyâ€™s room. He went up the stairs, stopped half way and asked if a William McCarty had been here.
â€śYes, he left about two hours ago.â€ť
â€śDid he say where he was headed?â€ť the stranger asked.
â€śNew Hampshire and then across country to California I think.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll grab some shut-eye, and then Iâ€™ll be heading out first light,â€ť the stranger said.
I looked at the signature on the register. I jumped back in shock. He signed his name, Pat Garrett, New Mexico.
Who said truth is stranger than fiction?