Loralee:The Dimestore Novella
Chapter Seven, Buffalo Nickel
Originally published on April 29, 2012
James Nevelle stood six-foot-five. Reed thin, he was what they called, “A long drink of water.” Perfectly silver foxed at the temples, his otherwise black hair combed back to a razor straight line an inch above his collar. His tanned face framed his eyes, their steely blue ripped holes into his enemies. He had no friends. He never married. His ranch spread out over forty acres. The police and the sheriff’s department were searching his professionally adorned home, and they were taking their time, proceeding with great caution and care.
He leaned against the stone bar off the kitchen, his well-heeled feet crossed, looking at a glass of Macallan drawn before the knock at his door. He thought to pour it out. Texas dust settling right into his glass, a thin film floating on top of the gold liquid. He’d let it sit too long. Waste. He looked around his own living room, smiling, nodding, as they opened cabinets, wooden boxes the decorator had chosen, nestled in with his great-grandmother’s Civil War trunk. It was all what you would expect. Leather furniture, craftsman style tables, and chairs, a moose head over the fireplace from a hunting trip in Alaska. When they wanted into the wine cellar, he’d calmly nodded at Marcella to unlock it for them. James Nevelle was always calm. James Nevelle was always cool. James Nevelle was as cold as the ice cubes that he ruined his scotch with.
“I am a dangerous man.” He said to himself under his breath.
“What was that, Mr. Nevelle?” A young detective in a cheap suit had asked the question with more authority in his voice than his paycheck covered. He kept his eyes going over a bookshelf full of books that James Nevelle had never read, and never would.
“Nothin’ son, nothing at all.” He smiled.
“Ivory?” The young man picked up a domino from a leather covered box on the coffee table. “My grandfather had a set of these. Never would tell us how he got them.”
“Killed the hippopotamus those were made from.” Nevelle smiled at the thought.
“I think my grandfather’s set was made from elephant.” The detective still wouldn’t look at Nevelle. He kept scanning the room, looking for ways to search without searching. Ways to follow the orders he was given to a T. He was looking to move up.
“Oh, I love elephants, beautiful creatures. Hippos are vicious. Violent. Have you ever heard of anyone else who had a set of dominoes from hippo ivory?” Nevelle kept smiling.
“Nice set of bones.” The detective moved on to the mahogany hutch, to inspecting the china.
“You have no idea.” Nevelle watched him. The china had also belonged to his great-grandmother. Funny that he should have ended up with it instead of his sister. She had all those big holiday dinners. “Leave the nickel,” Nevelle said. “It’s okay son, everyone tries to palm it.”
The Buffalo Nickel was from 1913, given to him by his father, who’d gotten it from he didn’t know where. Nevelle kept it inside the domino box. There were only three people who’d ever seen it who hadn’t tried to palm it. Nevelle could never quite figure that out either, why others would try, as if he didn’t know it was there. As if he wouldn’t notice. The young man put the coin back in the box. They pretended it hadn’t happened.
When the sheriff asked, Don McCoy, lead the men out to the barn, around the outbuildings. He showed them where they kept the vet supplies, where they tended to the animals. Everything was spotless, in perfect order. McCoy wasn’t sloppy like that backwoods, hillbilly fuck, Scorey Timmins. Malcolm was too romantic, that was his problem. Nevelle was more careful who he hired after Henry. That was the trouble with those throat cutter types. You could always count on them to cut someone’s throat eventually, but there was no way to know who’s throat it would be. McCoy had worked for Nevelle for twenty years, and he was ruthless, smart, willing to take orders. Nevelle often thought that had things gone a little differently, he might have been the one working for Don McCoy. Then he laughed at himself; like he’d ever work for anyone else. The police wouldn’t find anything. Don cleaned things up real nice. Were they even really looking?
He wouldn’t be able to see Suzanne for a while, and that was a shame. Sweet Suzanne, tasted like an apricot. Marcella could pull double duty in the bedroom for a while. Oh, but that little bitch Roxanne, he’d had it with her. Nevelle forgot himself and lifted the glass of scotch to his lips, looked at it, set it back down without taking a drink.
“Y’all about done here then?” He uncrossed his boots, put his feet under himself right.
“I think so, Mr. Nevelle. We appreciate your cooperation. Sorry for interrupting your morning.” There were five of them, all wearing different versions of the same cheap suit. Different shades of brown and grey. A dozen uniformed deputies and regular police combed his property, at least the parts of it that were closest to the house.
“No trouble at all. Sorry to hear about the Barlow woman.” Nevelle nodded at them as they were walking towards the massive door of his home, a ship’s door taken off a Spanish Galleon. That, had been worth the money.
“I’m also sorry that we’re going to need you to come down to the station, preferably this afternoon. We’d like you to answer some questions, officially. You’ll want to bring an attorney, of course.” The detective was holding a business card out to him.
“I’ve told you what I know.” Nevelle smiled, his lips slowly stretching back over his teeth.
“Mr. Nevelle, I’m not one to give advice. I know you’re not one to take it, but you might want to be more careful what kind of statements you commit to. We’d like to see you there at about three o’clock, we have some photographs we’d like you to take a look at. See if you can identify some people for us.” The fortyish detective smiled at the older gentleman whom he knew was no gentleman. He was the only one of the officers not wearing slacks to match his sport coat. Nevelle assumed that he must be in charge, in his jeans and boots, and rodeo belt buckle.
“Of course, anything I can do to help.” Nevelle’s smile never waned.
“That’s a nice attitude to have, Mr. Nevelle. I hope that you maintain it. Do I need to pull out all my clichés and tell you not to leave town? You don’t look like the jackrabbit type.” The detective was making his way across James Nevelle’s porch, never touching the heavy black iron rails.
“Oh, jack-rabbit makes for some good stew on a hunting trip now and then, but that’s about all it’s good for.” Nevelle kept smiling.
“Don’t I know it.” The detective tipped his hat at Nevelle, and put his sunglasses on, standard-issue aviators made precisely for his face. “See you this afternoon, Mr. Nevelle.”
“Have a good day,” Nevelle said. He watched the three cars drive away. He looked at the card in his hand and then gave it to Don McCoy, who was standing next to him in the doorway. “I want to know what kind of dental floss that son of a bitch uses.”
“They found an arrow. Thompson told me he’d picked them all up. I figure he must have replaced it with one of his own when we did the count. He didn’t come to work this morning. I told them the boys were drunk, shooting at coyotes and shadows in the dark.” Don said.
The smile gone from his face, Nevelle narrowed his eyes to a squint, watching the dust rise as the three cars turned off his paved driveway onto Two Mile Road, the dirt and gravel mess he’d been fighting with the county about for years.
“He didn’t believe you, not that one, too convenient. I want to talk to Henry Wellsy.” Nevelle said.
“It’s a good day to die.” Don didn’t like Henry. Henry had too much of a mind of his own, and that made him unpredictable, dangerous.
“There is no such thing as any such day. Good to know you’re afraid of him, though. I knew you were smart.”
To read previous chapters of Loralee, click here.