Have I got it right so far, Grim????


Multicolored leaves cuddle together in the street gutters in various levels of decay… much like the bodies of Grim’s victims in Valdosta those long 44 years ago. How many gone, how many murdered we are forced now to ask. How many banded together to protect the guilty… to deny their own culpability in the debauchery of a town? And how many knew the secrets? How many whose lips remained silent- while the victims lay gasping for air in the moonlight? How many whose consciences betrayed them on a daily basis?

When I write a book I generally write it backwards… thus the delay. Every time I build the final few sentences… they whisper in my ear…”there’s more…so much more…” and I am stalled by my own curiosity to see this to the end. As you have read before, I build my stories first with title- find the corresponding font- then write the ending and backfill. Originally this book started as, ‘The Covington Conspiracy’… but the more I learned (which now I see as so minimal, it amazes me I could fabricate a title at all) the more it became hinged on one cup of coffee- and then all the cups of coffee in Charley’s life. While the title of, “The Coffee Pot Conspiracy” sends you images of Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsly (of ‘Leave it to Beaver’ fame-recently deceased- God rest her soul) sitting down to coffee with Ozzy and Harriet Nelson to discuss last night’s episode of the Jackie Gleason Show- it now symbolizes so much more. Of course, I understand that you have not had unfettered access to Hazel’s journal and so your impressions will be hindered greatly- but you do remember that that was the last conversation-the last words between husband and wife that night? The mutual consent to share a cup of coffee, delayed by the interruption of a by a drive by moonshine investigation and an agreement to reconvene in the kitchen after his arrival home later that night? The timeframe ETA of ‘shortly after the pot had percolated’? A projected window of 45-55 minutes-tops? The cup of coffee they never got to share? The pot and the body that grew colder as the night went on? The unresolved marital issues? The breakdown of true communication? The uncertainty of a couple who had lost two children, blessed with two more and about concerns about how they could navigate the future with new understanding and appreciation for each other’s needs? And so it is not only fitting, but as I will explain to you- the absolute thread that binds all in this mind numbing ride.

Let us go back… not to the beginning, because in truth I cannot tell you when that is. I can only pick up the thread mid-stream and run with it. Let us begin with the summer of 1966. Our most recently discovered victim, Jessica was most likely murdered somewhere around the 4th of July in 1966. It fits the timing and the excessive heat she felt- the rapid sense of decay to her damaged face and skull as denoted by my dear friend R. So let’s conjecture for a moment shall we and find the common timeline for all this- want to?

As Betty Davis once said, ‘You better hold on tight… it’s going to be a bumpy ride!’

Ok… Jessica is murdered and beaten with a shovel somewhere around the holiday of the 4th. This fits- then they move her from where she was murdered- which was near someone’s home. (Just who’s, I will not say as yet.) She lays there in the woods- but he can see her. It excites him…maybe too much. He can see her from his window. He cannot tell his wife or children… but he likes it. This voyeurism… this lust for the dead. He keeps it to himself. He shares this with no one but Jessica. She lying dead outside his window… him enjoying the site of her mutilation and decay.

Then, the rumors begin to fly. Everybody hears, everybody knows… but nobody wants to get involved because they suspect  certain law enforcement members have their bloody little fingerprints all over this one. They wait a few days- then they bury her… oh, let’s just say possibly at a public works site. A friend reports her missing- but no one cares. She’s a hooker and a whore. Nobody cares about the lower class- not in this town. It’s all about the power and the money.

The four in flannel operate under their own power. The farther they get from the crime, the more they begin to miss the thrill. They plot for another. All the while Charley is working his AATD job and building houses on the side; they are pumping released prisoner workers on him, asking him to use them as ‘labor’. Hazel is forced into running a prison farm atmosphere and she talks about this in her journal. The unease of having so many violators on their property- she is worried with Charley gone so much of the time. Now- let’s get back to the timeline.

Jessica is probably murdered in the early portion of the month. Then buried at or under a local…. well, I know where and you will find out later. Then, G suddenly pops into the picture much more often. If Charley goes for coffee- so does she. G works for the P. O. at the courthouse. My how convenient! The same office whose prisoner’s work on public works projects- where Jessica is buried! Incredulously, they are the same people who are there that night at Charley’s murder searching for evidence- or shall we say- creatinng and destroying evidence. Stay with me now…The town is dotted with café’s and tiny restaurants that border the courthouse. The then county seat of injustice, as I like to call it. State and Federal Treasury agents all working together for the common cause, with the local law enforcement in support. Like an 18 hour bra, they support only their own though and those that hang over the sides are left to fend for themselves…

The ravens hob-knob and chatter. Who’se cheating who in and out of the bed. In and out of office. Suddenly now when Charley goes to drink coffee- everybody goes to drink coffee. At least everyone who is interested in what Charley knows and does not know about the missing girl. Take for instance, the PO boss who suspiciously arrives every time Charley steps into the P________ restaurant. He drinks with him and maybe calls his secretary over to join them- or she meets Charley and then calls her boss to join them. How very cozy this all seems. This continues for weeks- this dance of tempting and teasing information from one another. Even more odd is the fact that in mid July, G and her husband show up at Charley’s home to drink coffee, talk about construction loans and ask to borrow a gun of Charley’s to go camping with that next day. Seems nice and friendly- doesn’t it? Sure… if it hadn’t been for the fact G had filed for divorce from her husband the April before! And that it was after 10:00 at night when they showed up unannounced to borrow a gun. And that they had left 4 children home alone at the time to come and do it. Odd, right? I’ll say… don’t you find it curious that a woman who wants to divorce her husband so badly she has separated from him several times, is willing to go into the deep, dark woods with the same man she is wanting to gift with someone else’s weaponry? Hmmmmm….

Odd, but not even close to what else happens. G dogs Charley everywhere he goes- G loves sex…but apparently with everyone but maybe Charley. G continues to bait Charley with it though- flirting and teasing. Charley falls- maybe not to heavy- but heavy enough for her to begin to have some emotional influence. The coffee drinking continues- a lot and everyday. It is the way they can be together and still be innocent. G knows everything about Charley- but more importantly- she listens for what Charley knows. She’s been hired to keep tabs on Charley by people in high places- high positions. Where he goes, what he does; finding out who and what he knows. They get kinda cozy here and there- Charley gets comfortable, G hopes he will slip up and tell her things… but Charley is not stupid. Meanwhile Grim and company begin to get a bit uneasy… they worry the murder of Jessica may be a problem. But who is gonna dig up an entire _____________to find her?

August rolls through and the rumors still swirl about what happened to the pretty little girl from the American Legion Club. Rumors fly about cops messing with local ladies of the night- young ladies of the night-girls- and I don’t mean arresting them! Girls go missing- people talk. Charley listens and finds out a few things. Not enough to send someone to the gallows- but he’s got some dirt and he keeps quiet about it until September rolls on through. The heat waxes and wanes just like the Indian summer moon and suddenly the boy’s club gets a little braver. If one hooker can disappear and nobody gives a _______, then what about two? What about a club? The club of killer’s?

This is where poor Roxanne enters the picture. Dear sweet young Roxy- pretty little thing that works at the bakery- likes older men- likes badges and a man in uniform. The boy’s club gets even braver. The banker and the sheriff run a tight ship- the porn ring business seems to be just as successful as the illegal gambling and booze. High rollers from Hollywood like to fly into this sandy little burg and play high stakes poker. They like drinks, cigars and pretty girls. So… what the customer wants, the customer gets and if along the way- the local boy’s club gets a few of the bread crumbs left over… whose the wiser?

Rox spends the night with one man that ends up being accompanied by three more… it is the initiation into the boy’s club. She says something wrong and before you know it- three sets of hands are on her throat- crushing her windpipe. She fights back leaving a scar beneath Grim’s left eye. There in the mud, they kick and beat her. The air escapes her lungs one final time as they toss the coin on who gets to finish her off, but the b________ dies before they can be satisfied. Angry, the kick her some more and when they are done with her, they roll her body into a swampy area. Where you might ask??? Oh, silly children… did you really think I would tell you?

This is where the MOT comes in. The MOT (man on tape) was there with her that night. He sees, he knows and he is scared to death that he is now involved in a murder- not just a sexual tryst. The MOT panics and makes a tape- calling them all out by name…telling everything these men have done- who the mastermind is and who his minions. Grim doesn’t know whether to sh______ or go blind he is so enraged and frightened. He, the fair haired boy… the golden child… caught with is pants down and his ________ so far from home! How can he explain this? Who will believe him that is was an accident? That he didn’t mean to strangle her- just rough her up a bit? What will his wife think? What will his church think?? Funny, how he never seemed to care what God would think, isn’t it??? Funny how now that’s all he thinks about!!!

The MOT gives a copy of this, ‘spilling his guts’ tape to Charley. Charley makes several copies and then foolishly takes one to a law enforcement official outside the city, thinking it the lesser of two evils. Poor Charley- he chooses wrong. G has done her best to keep Charley on a short leash, but he is fast becoming a problem for everyone. What if he digs further? What if he finds out where Jessica was buried- or where Rox was dumped??? What if he can tie the entire law enforcement system for an entire city to these two murders? What if it goes higher… say to high ranking state officials???? Then what?

Something must be done about the coffee drinking ATTD agent. He is too smart to leave untethered for too long. The MOT and Charley meet… Charley begins to piece things together. Grim is young- ruthless and stupid. He thinks he is clever and with the arrogance of youth- immortal. The brotherhood band together- they plot, they plan… the leave the sleaze factor to G. She passes money for the boy’s club. Hush money- bribery money- one hand washes the other…they are all dirty now. All, but the guy who walks the line and drinks coffee; the one guy who could destroy the kingdom. But they have to be careful. They have to build the plan- set the mood. He has to fall for G, so that the affair will stick. So that when they do the deed, they can manipulate the press. He died of a broken heart… he couldn’t live without her or live with the shame… It was almost too perfect. They could have it all and get away with it. It was the perfect crime.

A call is made. The hook is baited, the lure cast and the black widow reels him in… nice and slow. So slowly he barely knows what is happening to him as she winds the thread tighter and tighter around his throat- pulling him closer… ever closer to her fangs. They meet… they gather… they murder… they manipulate… they lie and malign. Then 44 years later- they forget.

So we have Jessica in early July, Rox in the end of September- then Charley on October 9th, 1966. It doesn’t take long- they close the investigation in less than 3 weeks- they declare it suicide. But the MOT knows different. He holes up in a hotel hiding- hoping they won’t find him- but they do. Six days later they demand he tells them ‘Where are the other tapes? Where did Charley hide the other tapes? We know there are copies!!! Where are they?”

Their faces are red with anger. Lips afire with cursing, their hearts black as coal. They have already committed three murders in their game, one more will never matter. But he dies of a heart attack before he can give them the location.

They begin the search… house to house… intimidating and beating those who will not comply.

Have I got it right so far, Grim????

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