Leo finally takes his eyes off of Jed long enough to glance down at me.

“Trust me, Payton, this isn’t what it looks like,” he confides softly. The serious look on his face softens when he smiles down at me. “Get in the house, check on Emma Jo, stop picturing me naked, and I’ll let you apologize to me later. I’ll make a list of ways you can show me you really mean it.”

With those parting words and a wink, Leo steps out from around me. His boots thump against the porch as he walks across it toward Jed, holding his arm out for Jed to lead the way.

With an angry growl under my breath, I storm into the house and slam the door behind me, securing the deadbolt and making up a bunch of new nicknames for Sheriff Stupid-Face Hudson.


Recorded Interview

June 2, 2016

Bald Knob, KY Police Department

Deputy Lloyd: Mrs. Pickerson, can you tell me what you remember about the night of May 31st?

Justine Pickerson: Well, I was heading out to my car to drive into town and help my husband, Roy, close up the bar. I heard some shouting coming from across the street at the Jackson’s. I try not to pay too much attention to gossip, mind you, but I heard from Starla Godfrey, who heard from Teresa Jefferson, who heard from Andrea Maynard down at the Hungry Bear that Payton Lambert was back in town. I figured her first stop would be to go see her mamma and daddy, but obviously she felt the need to cause trouble for Emma Jo and poor, poor Jed. Is he really gone? I just can’t believe it. He was such a nice man and took such good care of the people of Bald Knob.

Deputy Lloyd: Why do you think Miss Lambert would cause trouble for Emma Jo and Jed?

Justine Pickerson: I caught that girl squatting in my yard, doing her business in the wee hours of the morning. No pun intended. She also stole alcohol from our bar.

Deputy Lloyd: You saw Miss Lambert going to the bathroom in your yard and stealing alcohol on the night of the murder?

Justine Pickerson: Well, no. It was back when she was seventeen, but that girl has always had bad news written all over her. If there’s trouble in Bald Knob, you can bet Payton Lambert had something to do with it.

Deputy Lloyd: So, you’re referring to an incident that happened thirteen years ago, when she was in high school?

Justine Pickerson: Don’t you look at me like that, Deputy Lloyd. A girl freely drops her drawers in front of God and all creation when she’s a teenager, Lord only knows what she’ll do now that she’s an adult.

Deputy Lloyd: Ma’am, can we please get back to the night of May 31st. You said you were walking to your car and heard shouting. Do you remember what you heard?

Justine Pickerson: A lot of cursing and bad words, I can tell you that. I mean, I’m not one to eavesdrop, mind you, but our houses are close together and Payton was yelling loudly. I heard her threaten to shoot Jed Jackson. Was he shot? I heard from Andrea Maynard, who heard from Teresa Jefferson who heard from Starla Godfrey that he was shot. Starla lives right next door to Emma Jo and Jed, you know, and I heard she discovered the body so it must be true.

Deputy Lloyd: Actually, Mrs. Godfrey didn’t discover the body, and no, Jed Jackson wasn’t shot.

Justine Pickerson: Was he stabbed? I heard from Teresa Jefferson who-

Deputy Lloyd: He wasn’t stabbed. That’s all I can really tell you about this since it’s an ongoing investigation, and I’d appreciate it if you kept what we’re discussing in this room to yourself until we can finish questioning everyone.

Justine Pickerson: I told you, I’m not one for gossip, so you have my word that nothing we talk about will leave this room.

Deputy Lloyd: Thank you for your cooperation. Now, can you remember what Jed Jackson was doing when Miss Lambert was shouting at him? Did you see a weapon in his hand or hear any shouting from him?

Justine Pickerson: Jed Jackson has never raised his voice at anyone, he was a wonderful and kind man. Whatever he might have said to Payton, I’m sure it was warranted considering, all the nasty things she said to him. Are you going to arrest her?

Deputy Lloyd: I can’t disclose any of that information with you, Mrs. Pickerson. We aren’t making any arrests until we finish with the interviews and gather as much information as we can.

Justine Pickerson: Well, you should arrest her for indecent exposure and theft. Those wine coolers cost us $1.75 a piece.

Deputy Lloyd: We can’t arrest someone for something they allegedly did thirteen years ago.

Justine Pickerson: First it’s stealing wine coolers, then it’s selling your body for the marijuana, and next thing you know, you’re murdering someone in cold blood. I’ve seen Cops, I know how fast people spiral out of control. Payton has been living in Chicago since she left town. I heard from Mo Wesley who owns the Gas n Sip who heard from his son Roger who had a friend that visited Chicago once and told them it’s a seedy place full of good-for-nothing criminals. I heard Payton owns a coffee shop called Liquid Crack. You know crack is a fancy word for drugs, right? She probably sells drugs and hangs out with a bunch of rabble-rousers.

Deputy Lloyd: Mrs. Pickerson, do you remember anything else from the night of May 31st?

Justine Pickerson: I don’t think so. But I’m having lunch with Starla after this, so I’ll ask her and get back to you.


Coffee: Do stupid things faster with more energy.

—Coffee Mug

“Bettie, shut off the music.”

I wince at the sound of my own voice, even though it’s muffled and raspy. The combination of my voice and the song blasting through the room makes my head pound so hard that I want to cry.

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