Dixie and Sadie sped down the highway towards the Delta Regional Medical Center. The heater was cranked to ward off the cool evening air. Reba McEntire blared on the radio; both girls sang along.
When Dixie had picked Sadie up earlier their meeting had been awkward. They had walked to Dixie’s truck without speaking and slid in on their respective sides. As Dixie started the engine Sadie had stopped her.
Reaching out her hand to touch Dixie’s arm Sadie had said, “Dix, I don’t know why I’ve behaved like a fool, but I have. I guess, honestly, I’ve cared more about what other people think about me than about being myself and caring for the people I love. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
“Of course I will, Sadie. I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too.” Sadie’s eyes glistened and her gentle smile warmed Dixie’s heart. The friends hugged.
The weight of rejection and loneliness slid from Dixie’s soul and shattered at her feet in forgiveness. She felt the need to throw back her head and laugh. So she did! Sadie’s sweet voice joined her own. The sound of their laughter filled the truck like summertime.
Now they were joined together to encourage a friend. Their hearts were light. It felt like old times.
At the hospital Sadie and Dixie flanked Bo’s bed. Their friend’s face was pale but the old twinkle was back in his eye. “When are ya gettin’ out of this joint and taking me on a date?” Dixie teased her friend.
“Soon as I get my new parts put in! I’ll be good as new, girl.” He winked at her. Tenderly he reached up and touched her cheek. “Promise.”
Dixie blinked back tears. When had she started loving this boy? Maybe she always had, but now she knew it.
Linda Sheridan appeared in the doorway. “Hey girls. How’s our fella lookin’ to ya?”
Sadie and Dixie smiled at her, answering at the same time. “Good!”
He was looking good. Pale and tired. But good.
“What did the doctor say about the transplant?” Dixie asked Linda. “Is he going to need one? Are one of y’all a match?”
“None of us were a match. Dr. Webb said the next 24 hours were crucial. The swelling in the kidney hasn’t gone down. He thinks it’s begun to die and Bo will need to start dialysis and be put on the list for a kidney.”
“Well we’re going to get you a kidney!” Dixie’s fire made Bo and Linda smile. “Dad and I are going to recruit folks in town to get tested. I don’t think we’ll have a bit of problem finding the right person.”
“If anyone can do it, girl, it’s you.” Bo smiled from his bed.
“Darn right I can! If you need a kidney we’re going to get a kidney. I’ll be the first to get tested!”
Sadie shook her head and smiled. No, she wasn’t going to miss out on this friendship. Her parents would just have to deal. The two friends stayed and visited a while longer. Dixie probably would have stayed all night, but she could see Bo was getting tired.
As Dixie was telling Bo and Linda goodnight her phone rang. It was Joe. She hugged Linda. “I need to grab this call. I’ll be back tomorrow, we’ll be in touch.”
In the hall she answered. “Hey Joe, what’s up?” She felt a pang of guilt that she still hadn’t made it out to see Kenny.
“Well, Dixie girl, nothing good. Kenny’s daddy somehow found his way here. He’s outside making an awful ruckus. I’d say he’s good and drunk. Kenny’s nervous. Hiding in the bedroom. Says he don’t want to see him. I won’t make him, but I don’t know if I can keep him outta the house if he gets a mind to come in.”
Adrenaline poured into her system. “Oh, golly! Do you think you should call the police?”
“I remembered what you said about worrying Kenny wouldn’t be treated fairly. I thought I’d run it by you first. I don’t want to get his daddy in trouble if I don’t have to, or scare Kenny any worse than he is.”
“Okay, I’m on my way. I’m leaving Delta Regional right now. It will take us a good half hour to get there. I’m going to call my dad and have him let Sheriff Walters know what’s going on. He knows about the situation and then you won’t end up with some yahoo officer who makes things worse.”
“That sounds like a good plan. Be careful little lady. Don’t you drive too fast. We’ll be okay.”
After hanging up with Joe, Dixie called her dad. She and Sadie had reached her truck while she was talking, and were already rushing to Joe’s. “Daddy, just got a call from Joe. Kenny’s dad is there and wants to see him. He’s out in the yard hollering about it. Joe says he’s drunk. Kenny has said when he drinks he gets violent. I’m on my way now. Will you call Sheriff Walters and let him know? I don’t want the wrong officer showing up and making things worse.”
“I’m on it baby girl. Be careful.”
The drive seemed to take forever. But finally they rounded the corner and pulled up to Joe’s patch of yard tucked among cotton fields and big oaks. Her dad’s car and Sheriff Walters cruiser were out front. So was an ambulance. The blue and red lights of the two vehicles flung themselves around the yard and across the front of Joe’s house. The claws of fear dug deep into Dixie’s spine.
She parked beside her dad’s car and swung out of her door. Sadie stayed put. As Dixie ran across the yard she heard the wail of a fire truck barreling down the road behind her. She took the steps two at a time and burst through the already open front door. All she saw was red. Her limbs stopped moving and she stood perfectly still. Her eyes swept the scene. There were so many people in the room. Her dad and a paramedic were leaning over a body in the center of the living room carpet. Behind them Sheriff Walters and another paramedic kneeled over a body by the fireplace. Blood covered their shirts and hands. Near the kitchen door a third body lay to the side, as if it had been shoved out of the way. The floor underneath it had bloomed a flower of blood.
Dixie felt herself pushed gently to the side by strong hands as firemen rushed in to help. As the new emergency crew spilled in her dad looked up and caught sight of her, his eyes locked onto hers speaking shock - and determination. He hesitated, then turned back to helping the medic in front of him.
Dixie heard a wail and realized it had burst out of her. One of the firemen was standing behind her. His hands had never left her shoulders when he had moved her to the side to let the others in, now he was guiding her out the front door to the rocker on the porch. She sat under a pool of gold from the porch light as the emergency light’s fiendish glare danced across the yard. The fireman knelt in front of her. Two more police cars and another ambulance had arrived. The yard was swarming with uniformed people.
“Miss, can you hear me?” The fireman in front of her was working to get her attention. Pulling her from the shock that gripped her mind. She looked up and saw Sadie, white faced, staring at her out of the truck windshield. “Miss.” he had taken off his gloves and hat and was holding her hands in his own. She looked down into his eyes. They were gray. A pretty, deep gray like the morning before the sun his risen over the horizon. “Can you hear me? Do you know the people in this house?”
“Yes.” Tears started falling, scalding her cheeks. “Yes. Are they dead?”
“I don’t know, miss. But they’re doing everything they can to help them.” Empty stretchers rolled past.
“Okay.” It sounded like someone else’s voice. Her teeth started chattering, even though the evening was only slightly chilled.
“Come on, let’s go get a blanket and move out of the way.” The fireman put his arm around her, supporting and guiding her to the back of the fire truck. He grabbed a blanket from somewhere and draped it across her shoulders. “How are you feeling?” His concerned face was looking into hers.
“I don’t know. How did this happen? They can’t be dead. Oh, God, they can’t be dead!” Suddenly she pushed past the shock and felt frantic. She tried to stand up.
“Hold on, take it easy. I know you’re upset, but the paramedics are doing all they can to help them,” he repeated.
“I know.” Dixie conceded. “It was his dad. His dad shot him.”
He stood up straight, looked over her head and waved one of the police officers over.
It was Andy Braley. He had gone to school with her brother. “Dixie, what’s going on here?”
“She said she knows who shot the people inside.”
Andy arched his eyebrow. “Can you tell me what you know?” His voice was not unkind. He took out a booklet and pen, holding it poised to write her answers. Should she tell him what she knew or wait for Sheriff Walters? Andy saw her hesitation. “Dixie, anything you can tell me will help our investigation. Three men have been shot. We need to know what happened.”
“It was Kenny’s dad. He must have gotten in the house and shot them.”
“Who is Kenny.”
Dixie took a deep breath and shook clear her thoughts. Rubbing her temple she began again. “Kenny McNab was staying with Joe. His father was an alcoholic and had kicked him out. Joe had taken him in. I don’t know how Kenny’s dad found him. We were trying to keep it quiet that he was staying here. His dad was sometimes violent, according to Kenny.” Her voice was shaky, she hated that. “I was at Delta Regional when I got a call from Joe that Kenny’s dad was outside, yelling he wanted to see his son.” Andy was writing quickly, Dixie paused for him to catch up. Once he looked up at her she kept going. “I called my dad and asked him to call Sheriff Walters to see if he would go over and make him leave Kenny alone. Joe thought he was drunk. When I got here an ambulance was already in the drive and they had been shot. I don’t know who shot Mr. McNab.”
Andy finished writing the last sentence. “How long ago was that?”
“I think I called dad about 5:30 or so. It took me about half an hour to get here.”
He scratched on his pad some more. “Had you ever met Mr. McNab?”
“No. I didn’t know him.”
“Why would he want to kill his son?”
“Kenny is gay. His dad didn’t like that and had kicked him out.” She felt defensive. “I don’t know why he’d want to kill him though. Kenny had left him alone.”
One of the ambulances started to back out of the yard, siren blazing. Dixie hadn’t even noticed them putting anyone inside. Her heart started racing again as she started toward the house, both men following her.