This morning I lie in bed for a few minutes and wish things could have been different. Frazier knows I’m awake and he starts to stir, but like the gentleman that he is he waits until I start to move around before he leaps off the bed and gives a sharp bark to hurry me up. He has no use for self-pity. He wants to be out patrolling the yard to find out what mysterious creatures have visited in the night. He runs a tight ship and expects me to do the same.
“At your service, sir.” I swear he smiles when I say that. I let him out the back door and start the coffee and then go back to the bedroom to put on yoga pants and a T-shirt. I don’t exactly do yoga, but I do some stretches to get my blood moving. While I stretch, I hear Frazier give a few barks, telling the cat next door to stay in his own yard. By the time I’m done, Frazier is at the back door looking pleased with himself and ready for breakfast. The two of us eat together, although I draw the line at him sitting at the table. I listen to the news while I eat my toast and boiled egg.
It’s 7:30 and time for me to go to the studio. Classes don’t start until 9AM, but I like to get a sense of the day before the students come in. Today is Thursday. The beginning watercolor class meets on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Monday and Wednesday mornings are for more advanced watercolor students, and Friday is for private classes. It’s seldom I have a student with real talent. After all, this is a small town. But most of the people who attend seem to really enjoy art class. I am touched at how attentive they are and how earnest in their endeavors.
Only one student has surprised me. Loretta Singletary is a fussy, gossipy old woman. I guess all small towns have their share of women like that. But first impressions can be misleading. I found that she’s also generous and has a sly sense of humor. I was startled when she told me she wanted to take a watercolor class. Not only did I have no idea that she would be interested in painting, but I thought she didn’t like me because she has her eye on our chief of police, Samuel Craddock, and Samuel clearly was partial to me. But as soon as we got started, I found that she had a natural talent. I think painting has changed her in subtle ways. She’s quieter, and more thoughtful. But maybe she was that way all along and I just noticed it because I’ve gotten to know her better.
When new classes started this fall, I told her I wanted her to go into the more advanced class. I expected her to get all twittery and demure, but she said, “Good. I’m ready.”
I teach classes to make ends meet. My ex-husband is reluctant to pay me the money the judge awarded as alimony. I worked to put him through school, kept house, raised our kids, and yet he seems to think my work toward our mutual success was worth nothing. I know partly it’s because he is so angry at what happened between us, but that can’t be changed. At any rate, I’m pleased that I can make my own way when he withholds funds.
Classes go smoothly and the day speeds by. Eventually I’m alone to work on my own painting. I’m working on a landscape I like. Nothing earthshaking. I’m never going to take the art world by storm. But I sell a few pieces every year—enough to pay for personal art supplies. Samuel doesn’t know I sell them through a gallery in Houston. He thinks the ones here in my studio are the only ones I’ve done. He doesn’t like the art I produce. He likes modern art. I like it, too, but I don’t have the inspiration to do that kind of art. I’m not sure why I keep quiet about the work that gets sold. I never thought of myself as a secretive person, but it seems that I am about that.
I work for two hours, until Frazier barks to tell me it’s time to go home. Samuel will be coming over later. We spend a lot of evenings together. I know he’s working up to a fine romance, and I keep putting off the inevitable confession I’ll have to make before things go too far. I do wish things could have been different, but they’re not.
AN UNSETTLING CRIME FOR SAMUEL CRADDOCK is the sixth book in the Samuel Craddock mystery series published by Seventh Street Books, January 2017.
When the Jarrett Creek Fire Department is called to douse a blaze on the outskirts of town, they discover a grisly scene: five black young people have been murdered. Newly elected Chief of Police Samuel Craddock, just back from a stint in the Air Force, finds himself an outsider in the investigation headed by the Texas Highway Patrol. He takes an immediate dislike to John Sutherland, a racist trooper
Craddock’s fears are realized when Sutherland arrests Truly Bennett, a young black man whom Craddock knows and respects. Sutherland cites dubious evidence that points to Bennett, and Craddock uncovers facts leading in another direction. When Sutherland refuses to relent, Craddock is faced with a choice that will define him as a lawman—either let the highway patrol have its way, or take on a separate investigation himself.
Although his choice to investigate puts both Craddock and his family in danger, he perseveres. In the process, he learns something about himself and the limits of law enforcement in Jarrett Creek.
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About the author
Terry Shames is the Macavity Award-winning author of the Samuel Craddock mysteries A Killing at Cotton Hill, The Last Death of Jack Harbin, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek, A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, and The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake. She is the coeditor of Fire in the Hills, a book of stories, poems, and photographs about the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire. She grew up in Texas and continues to be fascinated by the convoluted loyalties and betrayals of the small town where her grandfather was the mayor. Terry is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
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