The Patriot: A Short StorySean Dexter / Mystery & Detective
By Sean Benjamin Dexter
Copyright 2014 Sean Dexter
Also by Sean Dexter
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Maggie's Drawers: The JFK Assassination
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Denial of Duty
A Novel of Political Intrigue and Murder
"You want to run that by me again." The man sitting across from me was well-dressed in a small town Oklahoma way—jeans and a heavy-duty blue work shirt fresh out of the package and buttoned up tight at the collar, factory creases sharp enough to slice bread. His heavy Okie twang almost required an interpreter, and on top of that, he wasn't making a lot of sense. His name was Wayne Magee and he worked at the stockyards east of town. He couldn't have been more than twenty. Morris was a small town but not so small that I knew everyone well. I'd seen him around town, but I didn't know much about his personal life."Some of what you said went by a little fast for me to get hold of."
"I want to hire you," he said.
"I got that part," I said. "It was the rest that sort of slipped past."
He sighed heavily as if burdened by my stupidity. I get that a lot. "I operate a short wave radio from my garage."
"Yeah," I said, "that I got." I sat up a little straighter and scooted the old, oak swivel chair a little closer to my desk. The wheels hadn't seen any oil since FDR took office—the first time.
"I picked up some people talking. One of them sounded like a Ruskie…the other one sounded normal."
"Yeah, you know, like one of us." The young man squirmed like a ten-year-old sitting in the principal's office. He kept running his hand gently across the top of his head like he was checking to make sure the pomade was still holding his flat-top high and tight. It was. Should have been a dipstick stuck back behind one of his ears.
"Can you tell where these folks are located?" I said.
"Hard to tell. It's weird what you can pick up. I've even picked up telephone calls a time or two. I think maybe these two fellas was on the telephone, but I'm not for sure. A couple Eye-talian brothers with a rig a lot like mine swears to the almighty they heard some Russian lady astronaut screamin' for help up there in space somewhere like she was burnin' up."
I nodded. I'd heard the same rumor and knew it to be true. "And this worries you because…?"
More squirming, but his face was serious. "Well, you know, them Commie sons-of-bitches, pardon my French, just about dropped an atom bomb on us over that Cuba thing."
Wayne was referring, of course, to the Cuban Missile Crisis a few years back that had most of us peering up at the sky for a few days waiting for the BIG ONE to come barreling down on our fair little community. I wasn't quite sure what Wayne expected of me, but he did have my attention. "Did they say something that worried you?"
He nodded. "Them boys was sorta talking in circles, almost like a code."
"What did they say?"
"It was a weak signal, kept cutting in and out. But twice I heard them say something about a man in place. I also heard something about the Dow chemical plant."
Now he really had my attention. There were a few things about me the locals didn't know, and it was best for everyone that they stay in the dark. If someone was interested in the chemical plant, that could be trouble.
Dow Chemical manufactured a multitude of chemicals for plastics and agricultural products, but rumor had it that they also had a government contract to produce napalm and defoliant for the war effort in Vietnam. Theory was, you kill the jungles, the Commies wouldn't have anywhere to hide. I figured it probably wouldn't work…Communists are good at hiding in plain sight.
"Did they say anything else?"
"Yes, sir, they did. I think they said the guy was right here in Morris. I think they might be Commie spies."
I sat up straight. This was definitely bad news. "Why come to me and not the sheriff?"
I saw sweat break out on Wayne's forehead. He was not the kind of man who sweated easily unless he was tossing bales of hay around.
"Well," he said, his voice breaking an octave higher than usual, "that American boy…"
"That American sure sounded a lot like my wife's big brother, Sheriff Boyd."