Authors: Jaycee Ford
“So, Eric Sigmon lived here with his friend Miguel Santos,” Parker said as he looked at the file for the hundredth time.
“I’m not familiar with anyone by the name of Santos.”
“He’s not from the U.S. He’s from Mexicali.”
My foot eased off the gas pedal. “Mexico?”
pay attention in Geography,” Parker joked, always the asshole.
I shook my head, avoiding the jab. “What are we dealing with here?”
“I don’t know, Caleb. I’ve got a weird feeling about this one.” He closed the file and stared out of the passenger window.
My thoughts went back to Angie. Not the normal thoughts of her smile and her hair, though. She showed up on my doorstep out of nowhere, and now there was some weird activity up at the old farmhouse, not to mention Parker’s weird feelings about a drug case that should have been closed already. If her story was true and there were drug dealers chasing her …
God, please let this be a coincidence.
I pulled off the highway onto a dirt road that cut through trees and brush before spilling out onto Sigmon Road. The backside of the old farmhouse came into view. Its exterior needed a paint job, but it stood as solid and erect as it had been back in the early 1920s when it was built. A Sigmon had always owned the land. All of them, including current owner Roger Sigmon, had been a family of pompous asses. Roger became a businessman straight out of college and moved away from Olde Town. My father knew him in high school. Sherriff Harmon had known him too. I couldn’t speak about the feelings of the current sheriff, but the old one hadn’t liked Roger Sigmon much. I trusted my father’s instincts here. I didn’t know Eric Sigmon growing up. He lived with his father in Raleigh, so he didn’t come around much. But he came back as an adult to cook meth at the old farmhouse. Now he was in jail.
Two pickups were parked alongside of the house. A car pulled in between them, kicking up dirt and obstructing our view. When the dust settled, we saw it was a shiny black Audi. I found myself agreeing with Parker’s assessment: something about this place felt suspicious to me. Back in high school, we certainly drank our fair share, but drugs hadn’t been much of an option. I was sure they were around, but as the starting quarterback, I didn’t seek them out. Whiskey had always been my drug. I became a cop after a two-year stint at a community college, and drugs had never really been a problem in this area. They started becoming a problem around the time Eric Sigmon showed up. Busts started happening almost every two months in and around town. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to tackle him as he ran through the field behind his house. It felt good to take the scum down. He would be living at the Caldwell Correctional Center for quite some time.
“Does it say in that file what happened to Miguel Santos?”
“He was extradited back to Mexico. He wasn’t a U.S. citizen.” Parker said without referencing the folder.
I nodded my head toward the house. “Because that sure looks like him.”
Two men stepped out of the Audi. They didn’t appear to be your average, run-of-the-mill rednecks. Parker reached down to retrieve a pair of binoculars from the floor and pushed the door open. I drew my hand down my face, watching the two men walk around the back of the Sigmon house.
“Mother fucker,” Parker breathed, standing outside the open car door. He lowered the binoculars from his eyes and eased back into the driver’s seat as we both stared at the house. “This is too big for us, Caleb.”
“Maybe we should call in Hickory.”
“I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let Hickory cops run all over my town. Hell no.” I threw the car into drive, and we headed down Sigmon Road. This
too big for us, but I was too proud to let those guys – guys whose asses I’d beat on the football field time and time again – come back here and laugh in my face. I was a cop, damn it.
I pulled up to the edge of the driveway. No one lingered outside. We parked and stared at the house for a half of a second. I nodded to Parker, and we got out of the cruiser. Ball caps down and aviators on, we strolled up the barren walkway, up the wooden steps. I pulled back the screen to bang on the faded red door. I stepped away, letting the screen shut again. Parker stood next to me with arms over his chest. I hung my thumbs from my belt and waited. I could tell he was feeling as uneasy as I was, but we kept our game faces visible as we stared at the door.
The lock twisted and the door opened. A man of about thirty-five stepped out, his head shaved and his facial hair speckled with grey. He had a normal build but kept his shoulders square in an attempt to evoke some intimidation of his own.
“Need something?” He held a rag, wiping his hands with it.
I spoke first. “Just coming to see who’s been living down on the farm lately. The owner hasn’t lived around these parts for a while.”
“Just moved in. Renting the place.”
“What’s your name?”
“Why do you care?”
I caught Parker’s eye. He smirked, and I said, “You don’t have to cooperate, but I’d advise it. A few phone calls will determine if your story checks out, and once I have your name, maybe I’ll run a background check really fast.”
He looked at us, nonplussed. “The name’s Neil. Neil Lucas.”
“Are those your vehicles parked alongside of the house?”
“Yep,” he answered, looking me dead in the eye. I stared back, studying him intently.
“You know I can run those plates really fast too.”
His jaw flinched as he looked between Parker and me. “They’re mine and my brother’s.”
“Who’s your brother?”
“Is there a reason you’re here? Am I under arrest?”
I tried to diffuse the situation with a smile. “We don’t want any problems. Just wanted to see who’s running the land up here. It’s a small town. We like to know the people living here.”
“Well, we’re gonna have some problems if you don’t get off my porch.”
“Are you threatening a police officer, sir?”
“I know my rights. If you have a warrant, let’s see it. If not, then you’re trespassing.”
I took a step forward, daring him to make a move. “I can get one of those pretty quick too. Don’t give me a reason to come back here.”
“How about you get off my porch and come back when you have a warrant. Until then, this conversation is over.”
Our eyes locked in a combative stare down. He was right, of course. The fact that he was right only fueled my anger. I took a step back and turned away from the door. Parker followed me down the steps.
“Thanks for stopping by, Officer Harris and Officer Abernathy.”
A chill ran up my spine when Neil called out our names. We wore name tags so it wasn’t like our names were secret, but something in the way he said it made me feel as if we had a new enemy at our backs.
● ● ●
I sat in my office, staring at the file on Neil Lucas. The thirty-six-year-old had been in and out of jail since he was a kid: armed robbery before he was an adult, arrested for drug possession at twenty, bootlegging moonshine was his last arrest. Found his way to Olde Town from Tennessee. I could handle a Tennessee moonshiner; they were a dime a dozen. I was more worried about the two men who got out of the Audi.
My phone vibrated across my desk. Angie’s name lit up the screen. I tapped the button.
“Caleb,” she whispered in a low, frightened voice before I could even greet her. “Someone’s outside. Someone’s here.”
My heart slammed against my chest as I ran out of my office.
“Angie, what’s going on?”
“I don’t know. Please hurry. Two guys are walking around the house.”
I ran past the dispatch desk, calling over my shoulder. “Devon! Get Parker to my house now!
I didn’t wait for a response, pushing through the door and jumping into my cruiser. “Angie, stay on the line with me. Where are you?”
“I’m sitting on the floor of the closet with one of your guns.”
. “Stay on the phone with me. Don’t hang up!”
“Please hurry, Caleb.” My heart turned cold at the fear in her voice.
“I’m coming, baby. I’m coming. No one’s going to hurt you.”
I caressed my stomach as I stared up into the brown eyes of Dr. Cooper. His eyebrows pinched together, his dark skin wrinkled in concern.
“The little guy is wanting out, Angie, but he really could stand to be in there a few more weeks. You’ve been dealing with a lot of stress considering the reason why I have to examine you here, which I’m totally against. This would be much easier to do in my office.”
“I know, doctor.” I sighed, resting my head back on the pillow.
“Talk to Officer Harris and get to my office soon so I can properly examine you. We can do it after hours if you need extra discretion.”
I shook my head.
“Angela, this isn’t a joke. You’re in duress. I will call Caleb and explain the situation.”
I looked into his stern face, the severity of his words etched in his furrowed brow. I could only nod. He stepped back and reached out his hand to assist me from the bed. He grabbed his bag and crossed it over his chest. I followed him out of Caleb’s bedroom. He turned to me as we approached the front door.
“Bed rest?” My jaw slacked. He nodded his answer. “You mean I can’t get out of bed?”
“Oh, you can,” he said, opening the front door. “To move to the couch.”
I sighed and nodded.
“I’ll set you an appointment for three days from now, Angie.” And he was gone. I locked the door behind him and turned back to the living room. I eyed the leather sofa with a bit more distain. There was something about knowing I was stuck here that stripped the luster from the room. I rubbed my hand along my stomach and looked down.
“Calm down, little guy. You don’t want out just yet. It’s cold and boring out here. Stay in there where it’s warm.”
I heard the slam of a car door. Assuming Dr. Cooper had returned with some more depressing information about my medical house arrest, I opened up the door to greet him. It wasn’t him. Instead, two men approached the house; two men I’d never seen before. I closed the door quickly and locked the deadbolt. My heart sped up. My protective hands covered my stomach as I stepped backwards carefully until I found a good spot between the sofa and the chair. I crouched out of view. Caleb had curtains covering the windows, but they were slightly open, which was a really stupid idea on his part. People were after me, and he left the fucking curtains open!
Three loud bangs erupted. The breath caught in my throat. My hands held still against my stomach. I couldn’t hear anything but the nervous blood pumping in my ears. My heart thumped as loud as the door. Through the partially open curtain, I saw a man pass by. He stopped, peeked inside. I crouched closer to the floor. Only the man’s black ball cap was visible so I couldn’t recognize him. He moved away from the window a moment later.
A fist banged against the door two more times. I saw another figure pass by the window. I scrambled back, sliding against the hardwood floor and down the hall. Once I maneuvered into Caleb’s room, I stood up and reached for the space in between the mattress and the box spring. My fingertips brushed against metal. I carefully removed the black and silver revolver kept there. I grabbed my cell phone from the nightstand as my eyes darted around the room to find the closet door ajar. I crossed the room just as the man with the black ball cap passed by the window. I threw myself against the wall and crouched low to the floor again. I peeked to see if the man was still at the window. He’d apparently moved on. Seeing my chance, I eased myself into the closest. I nestled down to the floor, holding the gun in one hand as I dialed Caleb with the other. He picked up after the first ring.
“Caleb. Someone’s outside. Someone’s here.”
“Angie, what’s going on?” he asked. Just the sound of his voice gave me a sense of calmness, despite the men prowling outside the house.
“I don’t know. Please hurry. Two guys are walking around the house.”
“Devon! Get Parker to my house now!” he hollered away from the phone, and then his voice got louder as he spoke into the receiver. “Angie, stay on the line with me. Where are you?”