Bruce DelReno, retired mailman and avid golfer finds a body near the golf course. His sleuthing centers on a close group of friends in the fictitious Arizona town of Willowtree.
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Willowtree is the first Bruce DelReno mystery. Willowtree is a fictitious Arizona town. Bruce, a retired mailman and avid golfer gets involved in murder investigations after finding a body near the golf course. He sees several murders conncted through the secrets and entangled relationships of a group of weed smoking locals. He feels the police are not moving fast enough to get these cases solved. He enlists the help of his Apache friend and golf buddy, a fellow postman, and others. The story is told with much dry humor.
I figured Miggy was working as his pickup wasn’t at the bunkhouse. No vehicle parked at the big house either. I pulled in near the front porch steps. I expected Squeek to be alone, but walked around the back of the house to see if a car was there. Nothing but the old golf cart was under the carport.
I went back to my car and picked up the bag of burgers and fries I’d stopped at Sonic for. I closed the car door, turned and saw the door of the house open.
“Hey, there! Ya need somethin?” It was Squeek stepping onto the porch, in his sunglasses. Not wearing his old jeans, just sunglasses. The skinny, wrinkled, old naked man, his jewels exposed to the sun, yelled at me. “What you sellin, buster?”
“Hello, Mr. Grey.” I said, “Annabel sent you some lunch. Like a cheeseburger? Real Angus beef?”
“Had some real good Angus here, Herefords, too. Where’d they go off to? What you do with Annybell? Where is she?” I tried not to look, but he was quite animated, and parts of him were swinging in the sunlight.
I went up a couple of steps, offering the opened bag from Sonic. Maybe his sense of smell would be working. “How about a cheeseburger and fries, Squeek? I’ll tell you about Annabel.”
“Set there at that table, will ya? It’s cold out here, I gotta get a shirt on.”
I went to the table with the tin can ashtray, pushed it to the far edge, pulled a chair out for Squeek, and sat in the other. He was back in a minute wearing a cotton, striped western shirt, unbuttoned, and plopped his bare buttocks into the chair. I focused on his face the whole time. Same pallid complexion as the first time we met. Gray skin, gray hair, gray teeth. Mister Grey.
I placed a burger on napkins for each of us and the french fries on the folded bag so we both could reach them, and several packets of ketchup. I said I was sorry I forgot to buy drinks.
Squeek tore open all of the ketchup and squeezed it onto his burger, without first removing the top part of the bun. He lifted it to his mouth, ketchup dripping off it, and took a huge bite. At least one packet worth of ketchup bounced off his chin and landed you-know-where. Not bothered, he said, “Umm, good.”
Squeek had eaten about half of the cheeseburger, and the fries that didn’t end up on his lap, when he decided he was still cold. It was about 75 degrees and we were sitting in the light from a high in the sky, mid-day sun.
“It’s cold out here.” He said, getting up and leaving a trail of red droplets and potatoes on his way into the house. Man, this guy was weird. And I hadn’t decided if he was high or not. He was back in a minute.
Squeek was now wearing sunglasses, unbuttoned cowboy shirt, a pair of old man’s mule slippers, and Hunt’s ketchup on his limp manhood. He sat, sipped the beer he brought out for himself, then went back to work on the burger. I was finished mine, and I passed on the fries.
“Squeek.” He rolled his eyeballs toward me. I continued, “Squeek, do you know where Annabel is?”
“Work’s down the road. Brings me lunch.”
“Squeek, do you know where Vernon is?”
“Do you know that your brother, Vernon, died? He died in this house.”
“Guess so. Don’t know where he’s at.”
“Bob,” I said, thinking maybe using his other name would spur cognitivity, “Do you know Hannah? That pretty girl, Hannah. She ever come out to the ranch?”
“Bitch.” Then, “Want another beer?”
“No, thanks. When was Hannah here last?”
Sipping his beer, “Who?”
“Nope. Annybell brings me lunch.”
Why would he say, “bitch,” unless he knew Hannah? Otherwise this conversation was not informative, yet it was entertaining. This guy didn’t seem to be strung out on the locoweed. He wasn’t having those spaz attacks like before. But he sure wasn’t in the neighborhood of reality. Annie said he was really sick. I figured he had alzheimeral schizophrenia. I didn’t know if those were real words, but to me they described his malady.
“Have another Bud,” he said.
“No, thanks, Squeek.” I began picking up the trash, “I’ll throw this away. Waste basket in the kitchen?” I wanted a peek inside; he did not seem to object as I opened the door. I went in. He followed with his beer, silently.
I was in a very large living room, very dusty. The furnishings looked old, but of quality. A pair of worn jeans was laying on a stuffed sofa, a coffee mug on the end table next to it. Otherwise the room was neater than I had expected. I spotted the kitchen through a doorway next to an old upright piano against the far wall. I went in to dispose of our lunch wrappings, which I tossed on top of beer cans in the basket next to the fridge. I was a practicing snoop, so I peered into the refrigerator. More Bud, milk, eggs, bread, and not much else. I did notice a can of Folger’s coffee. Beer didn’t really explain the schizoid behavior. But I was no expert, since I quit beer in favor of lemonade many years ago. My reasoning was that the money I saved would be better spent on greens fees.
The freezer section was stocked with TV dinners. I noticed a coffee bag, less than half full, in the freezer door. It had a rubber band around it. I removed the band, unrolled the top of the bag, and read the label. BLACK MAGIC ESPRESSO, from Vermont Coffee Roasters.
I returned to the other room. Squeek was standing, unsteadily, one leg in the jeans. He hopped, trying to get the other foot in, and fell onto the sofa. I helped him to a sitting position, then to get his left foot into the jeans. I did not want to, but I noticed the ketchup.
He said he was feeling fine and seemed to be resting on the sofa. I told Bob, Squeek Grey that I enjoyed dining with him and I’d see him another time. I left the house, proud to have at least fed and clothed someone in need.
I walked to the back of the house for a look beyond what I’d seen around the carport previously. Another road, or trail led into the brush and a stand of junipers. This led to the north. I had never before thought of anything on that side of the ranch. It must be another former horse riding trail, one that now has tire tracks. There were tracks from a golf cart, also from a full sized automobile. One third, the outside third of the tread mark, looked like bent fingers pointing toward one end of the vehicle. The inner third like fingers pointing toward the other. The middle third reminded me of two Mr. Peanut shells at an angle.
Driving out, I stopped at the end of the long dirt driveway leading from Squeek’s house, in front of the old, unused mailbox. The dirt road to the right, or south, soon turned to pavement and led back toward the golf course and the town. I had thought it ended here at the driveway of the Grey’s ranch. I certainly did not notice on my first trip here, or my second, with Ben, that the road continued past the ranch. I would have noted it, especially if there were tire tracks, like the tire tracks I was now looking at, maybe from an off-road vehicle. They looked similar, if not the same as those near the house. Fingers and Mr. Peanut.
The old all-wheel-drive Subaru did well on the rough, narrow, dusty, northbound road, which quickly turned left. I followed the car tracks about a quarter of a mile. They abruptly ended behind Squeek’s house. I had made a circle. I could, anybody could, visit this house using the back driveway, maybe part of another old horse riding trail. I could arrive quietly through the junipers, park there, and go into the house through the carport. I would be unnoticed from the bunkhouse where Miggy-Mike lived.
Driving home I thought maybe Vernon was surprised, or secretly visited by his killer, who had come in the back way. Whoever shoved Calvin off the cliff came from the ranch the front way. Or from the golf course. The trails and roads and paths formed a maze. The killer or killers had found their way through the labyrinth. As I tried to get through it in my mind, a dead body made me start over, and the maze became larger. I had gathered some clues traveling through the maze. I had to find others elsewhere.
Genny would be home at around four o’clock. I learned long ago that a 7 to 3 nursing shift ended closer to 3:45. My plan for the evening was to put the clue search on hold and convince Genny to go out to dinner.