Maude gave up on her knitting and moved on to a crossword puzzle. She chewed on the end of a pencil as she stared blankly at a particularly confounding clue.
“Hmm…number fourteen across,” the old gal mumbled. “An eight letter world that starts with N. ‘This small fellow rode high in the saddle until he got his Waterloo.’”
At the desk to Maude’s right sat Officer Burt Duncan. He was a year older than Maude and only a year away from retirement. Thus, he didn’t really try to hide the fact that he was openly sleeping at his desk during his shift.
“Burt?” Maude asked.
“Hey!” Maude shouted. “Burt!”
Burt snored some more.
Maude wadded up a piece of paper into a ball and chucked it at Burt’s head. The old, gray haired man jumped up with a start. “Huh? What?”
“What’s an eight letter word that starts with N and is a small fellow who rode high in the saddle until he got his Waterloo?” Maude asked.
“Oh, hell, Maude,” Burt said. “You woke me up for that?”
“You’re an officer of the law, numb nuts,” Maude said. “You should be awake already.”
“Eight letter word that starts with N,” Burt said. “Let me think.”
“OK,” Maude said as she studied her crossword puzzle. “Don’t hurt yourself.”
“Nipples?” Burt said.
Maude mouthed the letters as she counted them on her fingers. “N-I-P-P-L-E-S…you dumb ass, that’s seven letters.”
“Close enough,” Burt said.
“It needs to be better than ‘close enough,” Maude said. “And ‘Nipples’ isn’t even the name of a person.”
“Oh well,” Burt said as he closed his eyes. “I tried.”
Maude’s phone rang.
“Hello. Sitwell Police Department.”
The voice of a frazzled woman was on the other line. “I’m gonna kill him!”
Maude rolled her eyes. “Henrietta Wilkinson, is that you?”
“Yeah!” Henrietta shouted. “Ernie done come home drunk again! He’s fat, lazy, don’t got no job, and I’m sick of cleanin’ up after his loser ass.”
“Calm down,” Henrietta said.
“I’m gonna shoot his ass!” Henrietta shouted. “You better send someone down here to stop me!”
Maude sighed. She covered up the receiver then looked over to Burt. “You feel like breaking up the Wilkinsons’ weekly bru ha ha?”
Burt pulled his hat down over his eyes. “Not particularly. She sound serious?”
“About as serious as the hundred other times she’s pulled this stunt,” Maude said.
“She’s bluffing,” Burt said.
Maude spoke into the phone. “Henrietta are you bluffing?”
“No!” Henrietta said. “I’mma put two in Ernie’s ass! One in each cheek!”
Maude turned to Ernie. “She says she’s not bluffing.”
Burt shrugged his shoulders. “Eh. Ernie had a good run.”
“Maude!” Henrietta said. “You better do somethin’ quick or else I’ll…”
An angry look took over Maude’s face. “Henrietta Dorothea Wilkinson!”
The other end was quiet for a minute. There was some light sobbing before Henrietta finally answered. “Yes, ma’am?”
“Don’t you sit there and bark orders at me, young lady!” Maude shouted. “You used to be such a nice girl when you’d come over to my house and play with my granddaughter, Bernice, but lord have mercy, I just don’t know what’s come over you, girl.”
“I’m sorry,” Henrietta said. “I just feel down.”
“We all do, darlin,’” Maude said. “But that doesn’t give you the right to go and threaten your husband and call the police department, making all kinds of crazy demands. That’s a good way to get yourself locked up.”
“I know,” Henrietta said.
“Look, girl,” Maude said. “I know Ernie isn’t much to look at. Lord knows that on the day he was born he must have fallen out of an ugly tree and hit every single branch on the way down, but you gotta be honest and realize you’re no prize pig at the county fair either.”
“I know,” Henrietta said.
“Sure, Ernie doesn’t have a job,” Maude said. “She’s he’s dumber than a box of rocks and he drinks like a fish but honey, we all know that big sore on your lip isn’t a zit like you keep telling everyone. I know a herpes sore when I see one.”
“I tried rubbin’ some cream on it,” Henrietta said.
“Herpes is for life, sweetheart,” Maude said. “So what’s your big plan? You’re gonna shoot Ernie and then what? Prince Charming is gonna ride on in on his noble steed and whisk you and that big purple golf ball on your lip away to a better life in his castle?”
“Well,” Henrietta said. “When you say it like that…”
“Truth is you’re both ugly as sin and no one else wants either of you so you two had better make the most of it,” Maude said.
Henrietta sniffed. “We will.”
“Good,” Maude said. “Are you lying to me about having a gun?”
“Yeah,” Henrietta said.
“I thought so,” Maude said. “I thought Chief Walker took your piece the last time you pulled this.”
“He did,” Henrietta said.
“Good,” Maude said. “Now baby girl, this line is for serious police business so you can’t be calling it just because you want some attention. You want attention, you go on over to the library and join the ladies’ book club or flash your titties to strangers on the inter webs or something.”
“OK,” Henrietta said.
“I mean it,” Maude said. “Our officers are too busy chasing down the killer that did in that singer with the fat ass to worry about your bullshit.”
Henrietta blew her nose…loudly. It was a snotstravaganza, right in Maude’s ear.
“Oh yeah,” Henrietta said. “I been hunkerin’ down in my house watchin’ Network News One around the clock like that handsome anchorman fella told me to. They catch whodunnit yet?”
“That’s classified,” Maude said.
“Oh,” Henrietta said. “Say, Maude. Do you think it’s safe to shit?”
Maude was taken aback. “What kind of question is that?”
“Well,” Henrietta said. “You got three people who all died when they were trying to take a shit so, I figure this killer has got it in for people who take shits.”
“Young lady that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard and I’ve answered this line in a town full of degenerate drunk ass hill billies for thirty years,” Maude said. “You go and get off this line and think about what you’ve done.”
“OK,” Henrietta said.
“And go take a shit!” Maude said. “Maybe you’re all backed up and that’s what’s causing you to have a screw loose.”
“OK,” Henrietta said. “Bye.”
“Goodbye,” Maude said.
Maude hanged up the phone. She turned on her computer and logged on to the Network News One website. “Big story our little town is wrapped up in, huh?”
Burt was back to snoring again. Maude looked at the old man and shook her head. “Sitwell’s finest.”
The phone rang again. “Hello. Sitwell Police Department.”
A random male voice was on the other end of the line. “Hi. I had a question about something I saw on the news.”
“You’re talking about the famous girl with the big butt and the other two people that got killed?” Maude asked.
“Yeah,” the man said.
“I’m not sure I have much information to give you sir,” Maude said.
“Well,” the man said. “I was just wondering. Do you think it’s safe to go to the bathroom?”
“Pardon me?” Maude asked.
“I got one giant, angry turd in the chamber, lady,” the man said. “But these people on the news, constantly talking about people getting murdered while they’re on the toilet…kinda makes me afraid to go to the toilet.”
“Sir,” Maude said. “I’m not an expert on toilet related homicide, but I’d say the odds of you getting murdered on the toilet are pretty slim.”
“But,” the man said. “It’s still possible. I mean, Countess Cucamonga and that old guy and that college guy probably thought the odds of them getting murdered on the toilet were slim, right?”
“I suppose so,” Maude said. “Look, sir. You’re a grown man. You need to make your own decisions vis a vis your bowel movements. I can’t decide for you.”
“OK,” the man said. “I think I’m gonna try to hold it for a little while longer. It’s just gonna be hard because I had a deep dish pizza with stuffed crust and extra sausage last night and I’m prairie dogging like there’s no tomorrow.
“Prairie dogging?” Maude asked.
“That’s when the shit pokes out of your butthole like it’s trying to take a look around because, you know, it’s ready to come on out into the world, but then it pops back up there because you’re trying to hold it,” the man said.
“Sorry I asked,” Maude said.
“OK,” the man said. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it,” Maude said.
Maude hanged up the phone. She worked on her crossword puzzle for a little while. “Eight letter word that starts with…”
Ring! Maude picked up the phone. “Hello. Sitwell Police Department.”
The voice of an angry old man was on the other end of the line. “Do you have any idea how much I pay in taxes every year just to pay the salaries of all you useless people?”
“I have no idea, sir,” Maude said.
“I practically want to slit my wrists every time I pay my taxes,” the old man said. “But I pay them anyway because I’m a good, God fearing American.”
“Are we going somewhere with this, sir?” Maude asked.
“Yes,” the old man said. “I want to know why is it that with all the taxes I pay, you morons can’t make it safe for everyone to shit.”
“Huh?” Maude asked.
“The news!” the old man shouted. “People are dying as they shit and you people haven’t done a damn thing about it. My wife just had to shit in the woods like a bear. I feel one coming on in a minute and now I’m going to have to shit under a tree because I don’t dare use the commode while a lunatic is running around killing people on the can!”
“I’m very sorry for the inconvenience, sir,” Maude said.
“You better be!” the old man said. “I’m going to write the governor, my congressman, both senators, the president and…”
“OK sir,” Maude said. “I have to go do anything but be on this call now. Bye.”
Maude hanged up the phone. Over the course of the next ten minutes, the calls came in at a fast and furious pace. All of the callers had one word on their minds – “shit.” As the calls came in, Maude jotted the details of each one in her notebook:
Ed Larson – wants to know if it is safe to shit.
Sarah Michaels – is it safe to shit?
Terry Bradford – Is it possible to throw the killer off the trail by shitting in a neighbor’s toilet instead of your own toilet?
Jenny Waterman – What if you just have to pee? Does the killer have anything against people who pee?
Mitch Douglas – Is it safe for me to shit in a box and then bury the box in my back yard?
Kate Rooney – Has the town considered setting up police monitored port-a-potties?
Finally, there was a lull in the calls. “Burt,” Maude said.
“Burt!” Maude shouted.
Burt kept snoring. Maude threw another wadded up paper ball at the old man’s head. “Burt!”
“Damn it, Maude!” Burt shouted. “What now?”
“Do you think it’s safe to shit?” Maude asked.
“I don’t know,” Burt said. “What’s the alternative?”
Maude was about to turn back to her crossword puzzle when she noticed something peculiar about the items on her desk. The photo of her and her grand daughter, her cup of pens and pencils, even her cup of coffee – everything was shaking.
“What in the…”
Maude looked out the front window of the building. There, in the parking lot, a giant, jet black RV with government plates pulled up. The door opened and Sharon stepped out, her eyes masked by her sunglasses.
“Aw shit,” Maude said.