"I'd like to talk to Sherriff John Royale," Riley said to the uniformed deputy sitting behind the desk.
"You would, would you?" the deputy said. "That will be difficult. Sherriff Royale is dead and buried. He currently resides at the Oakwood Baptist Church cemetery on Troope Hollow Road. "
"And your name is?" the deputy asked.
"Sorry. I'm Riley Burke. I didn't know. I've been away for a few years. I guess I just assumed...." he explained.
"Kind of figured that," the deputy responded. "Unless you've been hiding under a rock these last few years."
"Well Mr. Burke, the Sherriff's in conference this afternoon and isn't available right now. The best time to catch her is first thing in the morning."
Had he said her?
"Sherriff Fitzsimmons will be here tomorrow bright and early."
"Thanks," Riley said, and turned to leave.
"Hey, before you go. Can I give the Sherriff a message for you? She'll probably stop back by here later before she goes home tonight."
Riley stopped at the double glass doors and turned toward the desk to answer.
"Tell Shelley that Riley Burke stopped by to discuss a newspaper article," and with that, Riley walked outside.
Caught off guard, he took a seat on a nearby bench to digest it all.
Shelley Fitzsimmons is the Sherriff and John Royale is dead. Unbelievable.
Recounting the newspaper article and the brief, but enlightening visit to the County Sheriff’s offices, Riley tossed and turned throughout the night. He was waiting in the lobby when Shelley Fitzsimmons arrived the next morning at 7:30 a.m.
“Good morning Shelley. Long time no see.”
“Well it’s true. Riley Burke is back in town,” the sheriff said. "Come on. I'll buy you breakfast."
Not really wanting to eat breakfast, but obliging the offer anyway, Riley followed her across the street to Emil's Cafe, a popular downtown spot for breakfast and lunch. Emil's served a traditional southern breakfast menu including choice of eggs; plain or cheesy grits; plain or pecan waffles; a side of sausage, ham, or bacon; and washed down with a choice of coffee or juice.
They took a seat in a corner booth near the windows that faced the street.
Riley and the new sheriff had a history. They dated in high school and enrolled in the R.O.T.C. program in college. She choose to serve in the Army Reserves and he chose active duty. She married a lawyer and he married the girl next door. The two hadn't seen each other since graduation.
"That badge suits you," Riley said.
"Well, they tell me it comes with the job," she said, blushing.
"When did you become a politician?" Riley asked.
"I'm not a politician. I'm the sheriff."
"Were you elected?"
"Then you're a politician," he explained with laugh.
"Let's change the subject."
"I'm sorry, Shelley. I'm just teasing you a little. How's Craig doing these days anyway?"
"Don't honestly know. He's been out of my life for three years now and I'm not keeping track of him any longer. He made some bad decisions, and I paid the price."
"My deputy tells me that you stopped by to talk about a newspaper article."
"Yes, I sure did," Riley agreed. "I stopped by the library yesterday to refresh my memory about that body I found out at the Turner's pond when I was kid."
"Oh? I remember my parents talking about that when I was a kid, but I don't recall the details."
"I'd like to see a copy of the police report, because I think the newspaper article contained some errors," Riley said.
"What kind of errors?"
"It said the body was unidentified, but Tim and I found his wallet and driver's license. I don't understand why they said the body was unidentified."
"Are you sure?" the sheriff asked.
"Sure as Carter was a peanut farmer."
"I'll take a look at the report, when I get time. Things have been pretty crazy here lately. We started a task force to address the growing crystal meth problem and that's got me tied up with the T.B.I. almost weekly now."
"T.B.I.?" Riley asked.
"You know, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation." she explained.
"Well, duh. Look at me. What am I thinking? After ten years in the military, you'd think I'd have that acronym thing down pat by know."
"Riley, it was nice to see you again. I better be getting back to work. You need anything else?" the sheriff asked.
"Just let me know when you find that report on the Turner pond."
"I will," she promised. "It might be a day or two, but I'll let you know."