Candi tossed her blazer on a chair in the break room, stretched her back. “Where’s the Sheriff?”

“Note on the board says he went to Home Depot in search of one Deeder G, the accomplice formally known as Donald Guillory.”

“He thinks the accomplice will roll?”

“My money’s on the Chief sayin’ somethin’ along the line of ‘accessory to murder’ and ‘bro’ Deeder takin’ a panic dump all over Aiden’s stonewall.”

“We don’t know for sure if Aiden or anyone else murdered Jimmy Pierce. Forensics didn’t find anything connecting Jimmy to that suit except his DNA inside it.”

“No, but it sounds scary as hell to a twenty-one-year-old kid. Which makes me wonder why none of Jimmy Pierce’s family – not his ex, his kids, his buddies – nobody has asked how he died, when can they get the body back, what mortuary to send it to, nothin’. Even Aiden’s more concerned with keeping his lie intact than helpin’ us figure out what happened to his old man.”

“I’m convinced now that at least Ivy’s not a liar. She confessed to her prints being in that studio or whatever they had out there when we don’t even have those prints back. Not to mention we don’t have her prints on file anywhere. She folded from a guilty conscious about telling us a lie.”

“The world needs an honest kid. What about her and the B&B? How did you square that with the budget?”

“I own it. That big old house belonged to my maternal grandmother and came to me when she died. I put all of my paltry volleyball endorsement money and a chunk of my parents’ life insurance into fixing it up, hoping to make a buck or at least pay the taxes. An accountant told me to sell it to my non-profit if I didn’t need the income. I’d turned my education into ‘investigator’ by then. It made sense, so adios Nana’s house living in my bank account.”

“So, when you say you own it, you’re at least one step removed?”

“You’re asking can I expense staying there to the State and the NP can write off charitable activity like Ivy? Yes.”

“Slick. I sent the latest from forensics to the printer. Ready?”


Unlike Harden’s trip to Walmart to speak with Lisha Patrick, it only took three minutes from the manager’s overhead page clicking off for ‘Don’ Guillory to make it from the garden center to the employee break room. He turned the corner, saw his manager sitting at a table with a dad age guy in a County Mountie uniform, a stiff white cowboy hat in the middle of the table.

“Ahhh, Donnie,” the manager stood, gathered up a binder, clipboard and two bulky leather clad phones. “Just the man Sheriff Harden’s lookin’ for.”


“I have Lucia’s build-your-own fajitas for four.” Harden set two large ‘Thank You’ plastic bags on the conference room table. “One of us gets to eat twice. What have you two got?”

“Lace.” Bash pointed to spaces between photos and documents laid out on the table.

“Candi,” Harden unloaded tubs from the bags, “take everything from Aiden so far, put it in a bullshit folder, and put up what we know and I’ll try to fill in the blanks.”

“We know where he was until he tossed his phone. We also know from his DNA inside that he wore a modified Wookie costume that was also loaded with Virgil Green’s DNA, urine and dry-cleaning fluid. We have Aiden’s DNA on his phone and the respirator and both phones from the bag. His prints were on the trash bag and the Honda spare. His phone was the last one used by fourteen minutes beyond either of the burners, which backs up what Bash already suggested about Aiden being the bagman and the last man out.”

“Other prints on anything?”

“Too smudged to be any use.” She pulled a chair out with her foot. “Bash?”

“He bent the frame on the Honda getting out. It would have been dead on the spot if it had an automatic transmission. It was leaking oil, and he used a pair of ruts through the brush and limped into the trees where it quit not far behind the squat trailer. His prints were all over the car and the box of trash bags left in the spare well. I didn’t find his missin’ Marlin over-under rifle, neither did forensics. Prints on the trash time-lined against purchases say he ‘probably’ stayed in that trailer until Monday. Why is anybody’s guess.”

“Aiden’s ‘bro’ had that rifle in his car. Along with a bag of stinky clothes Aiden had on at the river. The two of ‘em are of a size so Deeder must’ve been waitin’ on gettin’ his clothes back before he handed Aiden’s over. And a burner Aiden had given him for communication that night that he gave back so Aiden could phone in his antihistamine and dinner orders.” He pulled a chair out as well. “We have beef, chicken and shrimp. Ladies first.”

“I’ll eat any of it,” she fished in her purse, found a couple of dollar bills, “but I need something to drink, so you two—”

“Steer clear of that crooked vending machine. Bash, there’s adult and carbonated blanks in my truck. I was just outta hands. If Candi wants to make a case for preferential gender treatment, then she’ll have to find something wrong with ‘free’ or ‘guest’.” He held up both hands like he was blessing the fajitas. “Guests first?”

“Lady was fine.” She popped the lid on a styrofoam container. “Say bye to the shrimp.”


“So the why of it, as Donnie, or Deeder told me, their original plan was he’d meet Aiden at the trailer at two AM on account of his car bein’ the more likely to get ‘em to Dallas than the Honda.” Harden leaned over a paper plate, wiped fajita juice that was about to get away off his chin. “They’d take off from there, come back on Monday an Aiden’d pick up his car, drive home with some tale of gator huntin’ he’d gotten from watchin’ a show on cable and nobody’d be the wiser. Not Ivy or his dad or anybody.”

“Gone to Louisiana on a ‘pair a bros’ road trip for five days, then ‘Lucy, I’m home’, no questions asked? Jesus. Who gets away with that shit?”

“Come on Bash,” Candi set a sweaty Seven-Up can on the table. “It was a standard bro-and-go whorehouse run under a ‘gone fishin’ veneer except it went to hell. I have to give him more points than I’d like for trying to make his original thinner-than-air cover story hold water this long.”

“And,” Harden said, “I have to take points away for the kid thinkin’ a pair a twenty-one-year-old yokels could make twenty-five hundred bucks fund a four day safari through topless bars in Dallas, plus a motel.”

“That must be the figure Aiden laid out for the party trip.” Candi, furrowed brows, scanned a page with her fingernail. “Here’s a three grand transfer from the Credit Union in Ardmore to Aiden’s local account. On the Wednesday before the Wookie party at the river.”

“Who made the transfer?”

“No unique logins. Could have been Murphy, Green or Pierce.” Candy searched another sheet. “The warrant inventory didn’t find any computers in the Pierce residence, only the studio.”

“Doubtful Vigil Green’s got one, either,” Harden mused. “He’s still usin’ a flip phone he forgets to charge. Seems strange that Ivy, if she really is a whiz kid, wouldn’t have her own computer, or have all that streamin’ stuff on her phone so she wouldn’t care if the TVs worked or not.”

“That’s if you assume the content accounts on those devices are legitimate, Chief.” Bash swallowed, pointed a rolled tortilla for emphasis. “There’s a box out there made by a video card company that runs hundreds of global content apps. One person sells that box with a masked address and fifty hacked apps, offers to open requests for others for a price and charges a low subscription fee that’s paid monthly to an offshore bank. The buyer has more content than you can watch for twenty bucks a month.”

“I almost don’t wanna know how you know that.”

“People on the rez are creative.”

“Rez hell,” Candi closed the folder. “My insurance agent told me about it.”

“Well…” Bash killed his black lager, bagged the can, his paper plate, and fajita trash. “Time to go see Altus Murphy. From what I’ve heard, aside from Ivy Green, he’s the only one involved in this mess who has an electronic clue.”

“Wait till mornin’ an take another courtesy of ‘bro’ Deeder item with you.” Harden handed him a bagged burner phone. “We now have all three that Altus bought. Tell him we know it was used it in a conspiracy to commit murder plot and we already know who belongs to all the numbers that were dialed from it.”


“You don’t mind dropping me at my parents’ house, Chief?”

“Chief. Now he’s got you doin’ it. Been your place nearly ten years, Candi. Since your folks passed. And I’m gonna wait here till I’m satisfied you’re safe whether you like it or not.” He shifted his cruiser to park. “Still don’t see why you asked me and not Bash, though, you two bein’ more of an age.”

“When I open this garage door you’ll understand.” Candi unlocked two padlocks, raised the door, and the overhead light clicked on.

“Oh… shit… It’s gotta be a Unicorn or a flashback. You know,” nostalgic, “I still have my daughter’s plastic version in my shed. Waitin’ on grandkids.”

“That’s why I’d rather he saw it in the parking lot. I can live that down. Him finding out I owned this, much less that I was hiding it out here, embarrassed to drive it…”

“I remember seein’ the pictures. My daughter had one on her wall. I thought it was a fake.”

“You and the rest of the world. Except for the five lawsuits I had to defend to keep it.”

“Why’d you do that,” Harden ran his hand over the glossy spare, “if you’re embarrassed to drive it?”

“Principle.” Candi raised the hood, unhooked the trickle charger. “Barbie wouldn’t run around in the sand in a bandaid and a thong, for free. Why should I?”


Published by

Phil Huston

19 thoughts on “Principle”

    1. Interesting. I suppose if one considers a fictional masked cartoon of indeterminate age (a fallacious argument for comparison) as a reference for “dad” or limits the non-dystopian assumption of “dad” to a Pleasant Valley Sunday stereotype then it would follow that the use of “dad age” as a descriptor is disparaging. However, discriminating against all other male (or nonspecific gender father figure) adults, regardless of vocation or avocation, who are, or might be the fathers of reference for a vast populace of early twenty somethings whose fathers are neither science fiction cartoons nor white Nike wearing stereotypes is an untenable sociological precedent. Having experienced Friday evenings at Rosa’s Tamale House where a predominance of men over a certain age are wearing white athletic shoes there are also, as a reflection of society at large, a mixture of such aged “men” in tassel loafers, work boots, cowboy boots, colorful cross-trainers, and sandals (with and without socks). Prejudicial pigeonholing of “dad age” suggests “issues” with paternal figures, or an extremely limited cultural experience. Get out more, expand your experience, study “dad age” feet (sans fictional icons) at length and get back to me. Thanks for dropping by.


    1. Under control. 1) They do all the work 2) Too many characters is harder on readers which is what this exercise is about. I could have gone out and spent time with the dudes behind it, talking all their junk and set up but I’ve seen too many reviews where a good protagonist or two get lost in the sub plots and splainin. Only guys with daughters know about Barbie Jeeps.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. My next door neighbor in Austin, while thin, was also older and had a beer or two in the middle, used to mow his yard in a Speedo, Only. One of the most vile and often visually shocking things ever exported by Britain!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. You know we did that in Austin, found out it was BS. The same with all the schools “recycling” the Styrofoam plates. Not. I even got a sticky from the city of Plano that styrofoam is not recyclable, put it in the trash! Plus, like Kelly Clarkson says on that commercial, 60% of plastic isn’t recycled even if you put it in the bin. Which is weird because how do they get to all the 5 or six or 7 numers on the bottom of chemical containers? Or the Walmart employee vests proudly claiming they were made from 7 coke bottles, or all the carpet that’s supposed to be recyclable that gets dumped. Liek I said, we sorted like fools in Austin to find out most of it went to the dump anyway. In NorTx the won’t hardly take anything. Own a shredder? Forget it, even in a clear bag. And that went away! Recycle driver tells me no plastic bags! I say I have mail that says use a clear one. Nope, not anymore. Wine and Jalapeno lemonade bottles, beer and soda cans and paper, water bottles. What a scam. It’s like peeing yourself in dark pants…

          Liked by 2 people

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