Nature Noir

Nature Noir by Jordan Fisher Smith Page A

Book: Nature Noir by Jordan Fisher Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jordan Fisher Smith
the best of his knowledge she was now living with a man named Ronny Chisholm down some bad road to an abandoned mine up in Dutch Flat.
    ***
    From there, the rest of the story came limping in bit by bit, all torn up. A week later I was filling out reports in our kitchen when our part-time secretary—no one called her by her name; she was referred to only as MacGaff's Girl Friday—called on the intercom from the little front office at the lower end of our compound. A woman had come in wanting to talk with me personally and no one else, she said. I told her I was on my way.
    When I opened the door to the little anteroom of the office, MacGaff's Girl Friday was bent over her typewriter and Mary Murphy stood staring wistfully at a framed photograph of a meadow full of poppies and lupines hanging on our office wall. She was a stoop-shouldered woman in her late thirties who looked like this crash wasn't the first bad thing that had ever happened to her. Her clothing was asexual—old jeans and a lumpy brown blouse. She wore no makeup. Her face was weathered and plain, and bore an expression of blank-faced sadness you see in women whose main talent in life is getting mixed up with the wrong men.
    At the sound of the screen door closing, she turned to look at me. I introduced myself. She said she knew who I was: I was the one who had taken Ricky's gun. I told her I guessed I was starting to be famous. She said she had come only to get her purse. I told her I would release her purse, but first I wanted to ask her some questions about how her car had come to be upside down against a tree in Bunch Canyon.
    She looked at me and then away, and said in a low, scared voice that she didn't want to talk about it. Her boyfriend would be very mad if she did. I told her as gently as the circumstances allowed that she might be charged with abandoning her vehicle at the scene of an unreported accident if she didn't. I ushered her through the sliding door between the receptionist's anteroom and the small windowed office where the rangers did paperwork. The other rangers were all out on patrol. I offered her a glass of water. She declined. I motioned to an old chair by one of the desks. She sat down. From a drawer I removed a pad of lined notepaper and placed it on the green blotter in front of me. She kept her eyes lowered and her hands in her lap, fiddling with the keys to the borrowed car outside.
    I asked her a few unthreatening questions—where she lived, where she worked (she didn't)—and then began to inquire about circumstances of the crash. Again she said that her boyfriend had instructed her not to talk about it. "He's got a temper and you don't cross him," she said. For a while we went around and around, until finally she said that someone named Ricky had raped her, and that's how her car had come to be over a cliff along Yankee Jims Road. I got up and closed the sliding door between us and the tapping of MacGaff's Girl Friday's typewriter.
    "Just tell me the whole thing from the beginning," I said, sitting down again.
    She sighed, and began in a low monotone. On Wednesday—the day before we found her car—she had been driving onto Interstate 80 headed east at Auburn when she saw two men hitchhiking on the on ramp, Ricky and his partner, Jerry. She normally didn't pick up hitchhikers, but the one with the red beard—Ricky—gave her a really nice smile, so she stopped. They got in—Ricky in front—and on the way up the highway the three of them made small talk. Ricky told her they were miners, living down on the river. They seemed nice, so she offered to drive them home to Yankee Jims Bridge.
    When they got there, Ricky asked her to stay and drink some wine. She did. Eventually they ran out, so she drove them up to Colfax to get another bottle. She was a little tipsy by then, so on the way back she gave Jerry the car keys, and he drove them back down to the bridge. It was getting late, they had some

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