Authors: Karen G. Berry
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Humor - Trailer Park - California
|Karen G. Berry - Mayhem 01 - Love and Mayhem|
|Number I of|
|Karen G. Berry|
|Murder Prose (2014)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Cozy - Humor - Trailer Park - California|
Mystery: Cozy - Humor - Trailer Park - Californiattt
Welcome to the Francie June Memorial Trailer Park, just outside Ochre Water, California. The annual talent show is imminent and the residents are restless. On a night when tempers keep rising and the wind won’t settle, a body is found face-down by Space 48. Who killed the Right Reverend Henry Heaven? County Sheriff Memphis LaCour is determined to find out. As he makes his methodical way through the decaying doublewides, he uncovers secrets that might break apart his community, his family, and his own sober heart.
“Karen Berry’s beautiful sense of language, keen eye for detail, masterful ear for dialogue, and sense of humor will make you happy just to be alive. A very special book by a highly gifted writer.”
—William Kowalski, author of
The Hundred Hearts
“Karen Berry makes a sublime kind of magic on these pages. Her characters proselytize, rhapsodize, nitpick and rejoice, hearts crooning with regret and jubilation.”
—Tiffany Midge, author of
The Woman Who Married a Bear
Outlaws, Renegades and Saints: Diary of a Mixed-up Halfbreed
“Both a madcap romp through a week in the lives of more crazy characters than you can shake a stick at, and a work of literature. The lush descriptions of haunting music and romantic yearning will leave you wanting more.”
—Shannon Page, author of
Love and Mayhem
Francie June Memorial Trailer Park
Karen G. Berry
This book is a work of fiction. The story’s setting, characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be considered as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
LOVE AND MAYHEM AT THE
FRANCIE JUNE MEMORIAL TRAILER PARK.
Copyright © 2013 by Karen G. Berry. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews.
Cover photography and design by Lauren Modica.
Ebook design by
MurderProse.com logo by
Black guitar graphic by Getty Images.
This book is dedicated to my parents, with thanks for their love, support and never-ending encouragement to just publish a damn book already.
early, before the paper arrives
A CHARGED AIR
hung over the Francie June Memorial Trailer Park, just outside the official city limits of Ochre Water, California. The wind rattled plastic shutters, uplifting trellises, unsettling tarps and setting them a-flap despite the best efforts of aging retreads to keep them on the rooftops. Men clutched their caps and women smoothed their skirts. The wind was determined to lift whatever it could.
It could have been a twister coming. After all, the gathering of so many manufactured homes of varying widths and ages made a tempting target for a natural disaster. Perhaps an invisible funnel cloud already danced, skipping and jigging, across the thousands of miles from Ohio to California. But there are limits to the terrors of a tornado. There are limits to whatever makes the wind rage.
There were no such limits to the forces that sought to congregate over the roofs of the Francie June Memorial Trailer Park, just outside Ochre Water, California.
ASA STRUG, THE
Park’s official hermit, came to wakefulness over in Space Nineteen. He woke up alone. He slept alone, he ate alone, and he worshipped alone. Asa didn’t mind his solitary life, because he had God on his side.
He’d fallen asleep the night before praying for a message. He woke before dawn and immediately gave thanks to the Lord for the verse that lit his mind like the mercury lights illuminating the twin cement lions guarding the gates to the Francie June Memorial Trailer Park. He didn’t need to confirm the citation. He knew his Bible, back to front and back again.
Asa was his own concordance.
He slipped on the treacherous pile of glossy print that carpeted his floor as he rose from his cot, his hands grabbing for the table, his feet skidding over a few
before he regained his balance on the cover of a
. Asa Strug was not the first man whose footing was threatened by printed pornography, but certainly he was the most righteous.
“Thou hast best clean up this iniquity, before it killeth thee.” He spoke in a manner reminiscent of the King James Bible, an archaic mode of address that bothered no one, as all his conversations were with God. He stretched and scratched and shook his lion’s mane of dreadlocks, found his boots, but it wasn’t necessary to dress. His overalls fit him like a second skin of rancid denim.
The winds of Hell roared round his head as he swung open his door. Asa Strug descended his steps in righteousness. He made his way to the reader board affixed to the side of his trailer. All around the park, insects swarmed and pulsed and burst into life. In the soft pallor that precedes dawn, Asa reached for letters, the glow of the fluorescent tubes lighting the shine of his nose, casting shadows under his brows, making of his face a Caravaggio tribute to a Moorish slave.
Soon, the waking words that had marched through his mind marched across the side of his singlewide in all their Heavenly command. He stood back to take it in.
Asa frowned a little. “Well, then. This is the verse the Lord hath sent.” It was a fairly mild one. No blood, no threats, no wrath at all. Not even a speck of smiting. It sounded like The Lord Almighty was simply calling for a family reunion.
Well, he had done his part. God could handle the rest. Dawn was on the way.
Behind him, a small pair of silvery eyes shone like salmon skin, watching him. Asa was used to those eyes on his broad back. No one else paid him any mind at all. He turned and caught a flash of white legs and black boots, black hair flying out behind her like a flag as she slipped away into what was left of the night. She was more wild than child, and Asa worried for her. While the world twisted and moaned and hungered and wept and slept, she prowled, peeking in windows, cranking the jacks that leveled the trailers. The signs of her passage were a tilted floor, a smooth rock, a puddle of urine, her initials traced on a dirty car along with the words, ‘wash me.’ Sometimes, all she left behind was a quiet sense of having been observed.
He watched the dirty little girl as she slipped away. She might be too young to read what he posted, but Asa knew it was for her. That child was a place where demons and angels wrestled, and he didn’t know which would win.
Inside at his table, he sipped a cold cup of Postum, paging through King James with the callused tips of his fingers. Engrossed in the Gospel, he was deaf to the morning music of the park as it came back to life: dogs barking, tires squealing and screen doors slamming. Someone cranked up the radio, and the knowing, lilting songs of the park’s namesake joined the symphony of awakening. It all had nothing to do with him. Set apart and strange, Asa Strug was the most contented man in the Francie June Memorial Trailer Park.
He had God on his side, after all.
just outside Portland, Oregon
A BLONDE BEAR
of a man stood in the parking lot of the Jubitz truck stop, trying to get up the nerve to ask for a ride. He’d had a mental image of what a truck stop was, but this place didn’t fit it at all. It was more like a combination restaurant, bar, video arcade and luxury hotel with no rooms. Truckers liked things nicer than he’d imagined. He wandered around the parking lot, smoking his last Camel. Smoking was too expensive, anyway. He needed to quit. The big rigs idled, belching their invisible and foul fumes. Mechanical mastodons.
He didn’t usually have any trouble asking for anything. He radiated an essential goodness, disarming the people he asked for directions or the occasional cigarette. “Excuse me,” he would say in his growly, kind voice. Everyone listened. Everyone helped. But the truckers were a breed apart. Cold-blooded, bandy-legged, barrel-bodied, and speaking in a code he couldn’t break, they had caused him to lose faith in the communicative power of his own language.
She came out of the ladies lounge. Medium height, spare. A tight white t-shirt with the sleeves torn off showed brown arms, faded jeans worn to white thread across the knees, black boots. No belt, no rings, no watch. No extra on her, anywhere. A black ponytail snaked over one shoulder from under a pale yellow cowboy hat. That hat shaded her face, but he knew she was beautiful. Looking like that, she had to be beautiful.
He licked his parched lips. What a waste, he thought. Some fat old trucker had a girlfriend like that. She swung up to the driver’s seat of a black and silver Kenworth. As she climbed, he saw a flash of skin through the seat of those frayed Levis.
He loped across the lot on his big feet. He landed against the door of the eighteen wheeler and pounded hard on the words ‘Independent Trucking.’ “Excuse me!”
He saw a sharp elbow, a corded neck, a set mouth and narrowed eyes of quicksilver. A pinkish-white scar trailed down from her cheekbone like the shadow cast by a willow branch. That scar startled him as much as her question. “What the hell do you want?”
I want you to be beautiful, he thought.
“A ride.” He kept his eyes away from the scar, seeing instead the fine arch of her nostrils, the underside of her hat brim, the sparse black hair under her arm.
“Thanks!” He ran to the passenger side and hefted in his guitar, his backpack, his sleeping bag, his duffel bag, his camera bag and himself. It was everything he owned in the world. Well, except for what was still at his parents’ house.
He saw with relief that this side of her face was smooth.
She put the idling rig in gear and deftly angled it out to the road. The rig moved with a curious lightness, like an animal ready to prowl. “I take it you’re heading south.”