We’ve driven from the coast to rural Florida, passing herds of cattle, fields dotted with cabbage palms and passed a cowboy on a horse. This is certainly not the Florida of sun, fun and bikini-clad babes. As we enter the tiny cell in the Big Lake Sheriff’s Department, we see a rotund, bearded man slumped in the corner of the bottom bunk. Unwilling to speak at first, he’s been informed by the sheriff that cooperating in this interview might make the judge think better of him. His name is Toby Sands, and he used to be a detective with the local police department until he ran into a bit of trouble. We’ll let him tell you about it.
“See, I don’t like being called a dirty cop ‘cuz the whole thing was just a misunderstanding and caused by one ‘a them winter visitors, a little Yankee woman and her sassy daughter. My partner believed what they said because he’s always been jealous of my ability to get to the bottom of what’s happening around here. I was born on the Big Lake, the best fishing lake in Florida. I could have been a fishing guide, but I’m not real good around water. Makes me queasy.
“Here’s the real story behind that kidnapping. I was actually commissioned by the daughter’s husband to bring her back home. They claim I took her against her will, but the truth is she was kidnapped by her mama, the Yankee gal. I was really rescuing the daughter, though she didn’t seem real happy about it. Kind of ungrateful.
“What’s that? No, the charges haven’t been dropped yet cuz I can’t get a hold of the husband. I think his cell phone ain’t working. But when I do, he’ll clear this all up. Yeah, right. He’s under investigation too.
“Murder? I never kilt anyone. I just played along with the killers until I could turn them in.”
At this point, Toby gets off the bed and approaches the front of the cell. We retreat due to the pungent smell of him, sweat, but worse than that, chaw tobacco gone real ripe.
“You got a chew on you? They let the other prisoners go outside for a smoke, but they won’t let me have my chewing tobacco. They claim it stinks up the exercise yard. It’s not fair to old Toby.
“Anyway, anyone will tell you I skedaddled off to the police station soon as I heard the plan to murder those two folks. Did my duty and where did it get me? I got throwed in here.
“People said I was lazy cuz I spent a lot of my duty time sitting in my cruiser under a shady palm tree or resting in one of the local watering holes. What they don’t know is I was scoping out the county, seeing what folks was up to. I learned plenty. It’s what I call creative copping.
“I think I got into this trouble because I’m too ambitious. In this county everyone’s a good old boy, not that I’m not, but I went beyond my job and developed other enterprises on the side. Made myself a little money. Nothing wrong with that. Folks will take advantage of the law. They got to or they won’t get anywhere in life. Lucky they got me to do their work for them. Nothing too big, you know. Just some little jobs, grey areas of the law, like rescuing that gal and sending her home to her husband. And I worked hard on that job. Laid in a drainage ditch, kinda a stakeout and got chased outta there by a gator. I don’t mind taking on dangerous jobs if they pay good. How much? Uh, the guy never came through with the money.
“So regardless of how all this turns out, I know I’ll be picking barbeque pork out of my teeth and sipping an icy one in the Burnt Biscuit any minute now. I’ve decided to take an early retirement, go into business for myself, maybe do a little consulting work for the police departments around here or on the coast. They’d be lucky to get someone as savvy as me. Like I said, Toby Sands is an enterprising ole boy.”
Toby steps back, but before he returns to the bunk, he flashes a smile, showing brown, tobacco-stained teeth. “You gals need a tour guide for around this area, I’m your man.” He waves a pudgy hand and throws himself onto the bunk, hands crossed over his large stomach, a satisfied look on his troll-like face.
“So when’s Toby getting out of here?” we asked the sheriff on our way out.
He laughed so hard we felt the walls of the jail shudder.
Toby Sans appeared in DUMPSTER DYING, the first book in the “Big Lake” mystery series and will make another appearance in Grilled, Chilled and Killed, out soon from Oak Tree Press. Look for Lesley’s short stories and others books on Amazon.com or order them from your local book seller.
Meet the author
Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats, and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work. She is author of several short stories and several mystery series: the microbrewing mystery series set in the Butternut Valley (A Deadly Draught and Poisoned Pairings) and a rural Florida series, Dumpster Dying and Grilled, Killed and Chilled (to be released late in 2012).
She recently signed a three-book deal with Camel Press for The Consignment Shop Murders including A Secondhand Murder. For something more heavenly, try her mystery Angel Sleuth. Several of her short stories have been published by Untreedreads including one (Murder with All the Trimmings) in the original Thanksgiving anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry and another (Mashed in the Potatoes) in the second anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping. She invites readers to visit her on her blog and website.
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.