A Killing at the Creek: An Ozarks Mystery: Chapter 17


IT WAS DUSK when Ashlock pulled the car into the courthouse parking lot. Chuck Harris hopped out without ceremony and raced off for the comfort of his own vehicle. Elsie and Ashlock sat in silence, watching Harris hurry away.

Elsie spoke first. “You want to get something to eat?”

Ashlock frowned, shook his head. “I should log this stuff in right now. I better get my reports written up, too, while everything is fresh. I’m heading straight over to the PD.”

“Oh,” said Elsie. “You still mad about the casino?”

He exhaled, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes. “I’m not happy about it.”

Unbuckling her seat belt, she turned in her seat so that she could see his face at a better angle. “Are we going to go around and around on this?”

“I’m still disappointed in you.”

“You ain’t my daddy, Ash. I get this feeling that you want to punish me for what happened back there. Just stop it. Snap out of it.”

“You think I can just overlook it?” He turned his head to look her in the eye. “I think what you did was unprofessional. Immature.”

His words stung, but she affected a careless air. “I know. I have feet of clay. I’ve never deceived you about that.” She leaned against the inside of the door, uncomfortably aware that the armrest dug into her back.

“I gotta be honest. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do.”

Her heart hammered with hurt, but she tried to keep her face impassive. “Because you’re so grown up.”

“I’d say that’s right. I am.”

“While we’re being so honest, here’s something that has me puzzled. If you’re so grown up, such an old-­fashioned fucking straight arrow, why aren’t you interested in forging a real relationship? That integrates all the parts of your life?”

He started to speak, but she interrupted him. “Because you obviously are delighted to fuck my brains out every chance you get. But you don’t want to make a commitment. Won’t let me anywhere near your kids.” Her voice broke on the last sentence, but she covered it with a laugh. Mockingly, she added, “That seems pretty goddamned immature to me.”

She thought she detected a flinch.

“Cops make bad husbands. Just not good marriage material,” he said.

“I know you’ve got a divorce under your belt. Not that you’ve ever confided in me about it,” she said. “But you were a kid then.”

“And you’re a kid now.”

She fumbled for the door handle.

“Okay. That’s it.” She managed to unlatch the door and flung it wide open. “You’re not looking for a relationship that’s going anywhere. And you’re not too crazy about me.”

She struggled to get her papers and purse in one armload. With a ball of rage wedged in her chest, she added, “If I’m just going to have a fuck buddy, maybe I’ll find one who’s more fun.”

He didn’t respond. Elsie slammed the door, stalking off in search of her car. She didn’t look back.


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