Jeff Abbott: Only Good Yankee

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Jeff Abbott Only Good Yankee
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    Only Good Yankee
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    Криминальный детектив / на английском языке
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    Английский
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Only Good Yankee: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Jeff Abbott


Only Good Yankee

CHAPTER ONE

There wasn’t much to begin with in Mirabeau, so I was awful surprised when someone started blowing up parts of town. I mean, we did need a little excitement-but no one in his right mind thought explosives were required. The first local landmark to go was Fred Boolfors’s toolshed. Early one Monday morning it popped open like a jack-in-the-box on fire-spewing trash, back issues of Playboy, and Fred’s unparalleled collection of borrowed lawn-care tools fifty feet in the air. No one was hurt, but I think his immediate neighbors were pissed that their trimmers were returned in small pieces. The police were investigating the remains of Fred’s shed when Pepper Tepper’s doghouse got blown sky-high. I should explain that no one here calls Pepper by her full name except her owner, Clyda Tepper. Pepper’s the most spoiled, orneriest French poodle you can imagine. No wonder the French are so rude with dogs like that around. Pepper is Clyda’s pride and joy-and that woman has spent unholy amounts of money to make that canine look as stupid as possible. It’s fortunate Clyda never had children. God only knows how she would have sent them dressed to school. Probably adorned with giant bows on their heads and asses.

Clyda also spared no expense on Pepper’s doghouse. It was a miniature version of a French chateau, complete with wood trim, a slate roof, and a little tiny flagpole with French and Texan flags. Rumor had it that Clyda had installed a little stereo system to play “La Marseillaise” when Pepper entered. Anyhow, about three days after Fred’s toolshed kissed the sky, so did Pepper’s chateau. Fortunately Pepper was off at Le Pooch Salon in Bavary getting her nails clipped.

She was undoubtedly put out at having to sleep in a common dog bed.

Clyda was sure Pepper was the target of some anticanine campaign and claimed to see poodle-hating Iraqis lurking around every corner. At that point, with two pipe-bomb explosions in town, people began to get a mite nervous, myself among them. My name is Jordan Poteet and I run the library in Mirabeau. I found myself checking if anyone had borrowed books on explosives or if any returned tomes featured wires sticking out of them with attached timers. (The answer was no.) I wondered if someone bore long-buried hatred for Clyda (or Pepper) Tepper or Fred Boolfors. I didn’t wonder long. I’d spent the night at my girlfriend Candace’s house and I wasn’t quite over the guilt. I don’t feel contrition about spending time with Candace; her company is pure pleasure. But I felt guilty about not pulling my weight at home by staying out all night. See, I came back to Mirabeau several months ago to help take care of my mother. She’s dying a slow death from Alzheimer’s. I’d given up a good career in textbook publishing in the faraway land of Boston to come home to this little river town halfway between Austin and Houston. My sister Arlene (who I just always call Sister) and I split duties on taking care of Mama. Fortunately, we’d had the recent help of an in-home nurse, so Sister had been able to go off the night shift at the truck stop she cooked at and enjoy a more normal life. But whenever I was away from the house, and not at work, I felt like a shirker. Even when I was lying in Candace’s arms. It was a beautiful Thursday morning, with early-summer light beginning to stream through the louvered shades in Candace’s bedroom. The first rays fell across my eyes and woke me gently. I could pick out the details of the room: her white frilly lamp shade, the clump of friends’ pictures on the wall (I was glad it wasn’t Kodachromes of her parents staring down at us on the sweaty sheets), the delicately flowered blue-and-yellow wallpaper, the comforter that we’d crumpled in the night. Men won’t admit it, but they love sleeping in a woman’s room. There’s an indefinable feeling of lying on a lady’s sheets, resting on a lady’s pillow, even breathing the air a lady breathes when she’s in her private place. I rolled against Candace, buried my face in her sweet-smelling brown hair, and began to nibble at her ear.

She gave up playing possum. “I never should have let your long legs in this bed,” she said, pushing me away playfully. Since she’s barely five feet two and I’m a whole foot taller, she can’t push me too far.

“It’s not my long legs you should be worrying about,” I said innocently. “Hmmm. Is that so?” She kissed me and it turned into one of those five-minute, ignore-the-morning-breath affairs, full of heat and groans and raw-edged laughter deep in the throat. Our relationship was new enough, I told myself, that this fervor made sense. I kept waiting for the boredom to set in. Except for one other relationship, monotony had always entered the picture, but it hadn’t yet with Candace. That worried me no end. This could be love. I thought of saying just that to Candace, but the words caught hard in my throat and instead I kissed her. I’m a show-er, not a tell-er. I broke the kiss and smiled down at her. “I probably should get over to the house and check on Sister and-” I started, but didn’t get to finish. “I don’t want to hear about your duties right this minute, Jordy. You have your own duty, right here.” She was right-I was standing at attention, so to speak. “I know, honey, but-” “No buts. Look, y’all have that nurse now, so quit worrying so much. You and Arlene are getting a break. Now you can enjoy it, can’t you?” I shrugged, leaning back on the pillow. “I’m trying. But it’s not easy, even with all this generosity coming from Bob Don.” Candace rolled over in disgust. “I’ve always counted patience as one of my few virtues, Jordy, but you have just about exhausted mine with Bob Don Goertz.” I’d learned a lot since I came home. I’d learned just how exhausting it was to be a caretaker. I’d learned being a librarian was a tough job that was underappreciated. And I’d learned my daddy wasn’t my daddy. Two months ago I’d landed in the middle of a murder investigation where I found myself a suspect, along with Bob Don Goertz, Mirabeau’s reigning car-and-truck czar. One of the unpleasant secrets that had come out during that investigation was my mother’s long-ago (hell, not that long ago, I’m only thirty-two) affair with Bob Don when she and Lloyd Poteet were briefly separated. I was the product of that affair, and Lloyd (who I thought was my daddy) raised me with kindness and love and never let me know. Since Lloyd had died several years ago, Bob Don had been aching to be a father to me. Now Bob Don was trying to make up for three decades in two months. He’d nearly killed me with kindness. Part of his help was hiring the nurse to take care of Mama so Sister and I could pretend we had normal lives. Candace had been a pillar during that tough time, but I think she was sick and tired of hearing about Bob Don. She spoke from beneath her pillow. “Now what has he done?” “He insisted on giving me some land. Several acres down by the river.” Mirabeau sits on a curve of the Colorado River, pretty and lush and verdant. The river winds through the gently rolling hills and the stately loblolly pines that encircle Mirabeau and never fail to surprise folks who think Texas is one big desert. The eastern half of central Texas is like a garden that God made just for us fortunate few that call places like Mirabeau and Smithville and La Grange home.

A blue eye peered at me from under the pillow. “And him giving you land is a problem?” “I feel funny about it. I never owned land before.

What do I do with it?” “Well, I own plenty and it’s no shame.”

Candace’s folks are the biggest bankers in Bonaparte County. She works with me at the library on a part-time basis and fills the rest of her time with volunteer work. The small salaries that annoy librarians are of little worry to Candace. “What you do with land is simple. You keep it and let its value climb until someone wants to buy. Then you sell it and make a little money off of it.” Having completed her introductory lecture in Candonomics, she threw the pillow at me as I sat up and I caught it. “Does your guilt about not being a Poteet know any bounds?” “I haven’t changed my name yet and I don’t intend to,” I answered with dignity. Jordan Poteet was hardly melodious, but Jordan Goertz? It sounded like a Danish laxative. “Well, sugar, if you’re not coming back to bed, go get the paper and scandalize the neighbors.”

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