Leo pushes himself up from the table and I follow his lead, suppressing my groan of annoyance when Starla waltzes into the kitchen with Bo Jangles in one hand and a glass baking dish in the other.

“I see someone finally got you coffee,” Starla states with a nod of her head in the direction of the mug I’m holding in my hand. “Does that mean the crime rate in this town will go back down?”

Leo laughs and I do my best not to vault around the table and break one of Starla’s arthritic hips by remembering what Bettie said yesterday: I need to be nice to the people of Bald Knob if I want them to like me. Instead of assaulting the old woman, I paste a tight smile on my face and keep my mouth shut before I say something I’ll regret. Like, “Fuck off, old woman. And take your ugly ass dog with you.”

“What brings you by this morning, Starla? Can I get you a cup of coffee?” Leo asks, taking the baking dish from Starla when she holds it out to him.

“Just bringing by one of my pineapple upside down cakes for poor Emma Jo. You make sure she gets that. I heard she went to some fancy spa with a friend of hers last night. It’s good for that girl to get out of the house and get some pampering after the sadness of the last couple of days,” Starla says with a sorrowful look on her face that makes me want to scream because people are so upset over the death of a woman abuser and all-around asshole.

But again, I keep my mouth shut like a good girl. Damn Bettie and her stupid ideas to keep me out of prison.

“That’s very kind of you, Starla. I’ll make sure Emma Jo knows you stopped by,” Leo tells her, setting the cake on the counter next to the sink.

Starla stands in the kitchen staring between Leo and I and when I move to go to Baby Cecil and top off my cup of liquid courage to deal with this shit, Bo Jangles growls and tries to lunge at me out of Starla’s arms. I immediately stop and put my hands up in the air until Starla can get the damn dog to calm down.

“Bo Jangles, that’s enough, now. I know you don’t trust that woman, but there’s no need to make a spectacle of yourself in the sheriff’s presence,” she admonishes the stupid dog, cuddling him to her chest and kissing the top of his head.

Leo pushes away from the counter to stand next to me, sliding his hand around my back and pulling me against him. I didn’t realize how much I needed the comfort from him until I feel the warmth from his body and the strength of his arm around my waist, not afraid to show Starla Godfrey that he’s on my side in his own quiet way. And that just makes me feel like more of a jerk for not telling him about the pie yet.

“I see the rumors are true and you’re shacking up with her,” Starla huffs, glaring at me before moving closer to Leo’s side and lowering her voice. “Are you sure you feel okay sleeping next to a murderer? Are you being held here against your will? Do you need one of those safe word things?”

Leo chuckles softly again and I bring my cup of now-cold coffee up to my lips to once again hold my tongue.

“Now, Starla, you know better than to listen to gossip. Payton grew up here. She’s part of Bald Knob even if she’s been gone a while, and I’d appreciate it if everyone would try to be a little nicer and give her the benefit of the doubt,” Leo explains in a kind, soft voice that makes my heart go all-aflutter and want to throw him down on the kitchen floor and straddle him right in front of Starla and her damn dog. That will give the little shit kicker something to growl about.

“Of course, Sheriff Hudson,” Starla replies with a fake smile in my direction. “Well, I best be going. Just wanted to drop off that cake.”

She turns to leave and stops in the kitchen doorway.

“Oh, I almost forgot. Smells like something died outside. Don’t know what it is, but it’s awful. Might want to check that out. And while you’re at it, make sure that one was accounted for last night, you never know,” she says with a jerk of her chin my way, forgetting all about her agreement to be nice to me.

Leo removes his arm from around me and walks Starla to the front door, while I race to Baby Cecil and start drinking enough coffee to calm my nerves and think about the best way to inform Leo that he probably slept with a killer last night and he might just need the use of one of Starla’s safe words.


Recorded Interview

June 5, 2016

Bald Knob, KY Police Department

Deputy Lloyd: Ma’am, this is very unprecedented.

Starla Godfrey: A citizen of this town wants to give his statement and you’re going to deny his civil rights? I thought better of you, Buddy Lloyd, this is such a shame.

Deputy Lloyd: Mrs. Godfrey, Bo Jangles isn’t a citizen, he’s a dog, and he can’t speak.

Bo Jangles: RUFF!

Starla Godfrey: That’s right, love muffin. You tell him. See? He can speak and he’s telling you he doesn’t like Payton Lambert.

Deputy Lloyd: Ma’am, I don’t mean to be rude, but we’re in the middle of a murder investigation and I don’t have time to waste interviewing your dog.

Starla Godfrey: You won’t think it’s a waste of time when he tells you he was a witness to a crime this morning. Go on, Bo Jangles, tell him.

Deputy Lloyd: Ma’am I don’t-

Starla Godfrey: Quiet down and let him speak! Go ahead, baby. Mommy’s right here. I know it’s scary and I know you’re traumatized, but you need to tell Deputy Lloyd the crime you saw this morning.

Deputy Lloyd: Ma’am, how about YOU just tell me this alleged crime he witnessed this morning.

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