For today’s post, I thought I’d give away another chapter from MKPI Odd Case Files: The Cow & The Coven. If you’re on the fence about throwing money around on a book you’re not sure you’ll love, or even like, maybe this will help you make up your mind. I hope you enjoy this chapter from the book, and feel free to comment–any and all comments are certainly appreciated–it’s all part of our journey together!
“The Cow Hearse Cometh”
Being a private investigator has its perks. There’s the hours, the pay, the long lunch breaks and of course the whole being self-employed aspect of the biz. Granted, the hours can sometimes be long, especially if you have a particularly complicated case. However, generally speaking, you can make your own hours. The pay, although hardly ever steady, is usually superb when you actually get paid. There’s no one to jump down your throat if you decide you need to spend two hours eating your lunch. That just brings us right back to the point about being self-employed.
Working for one’s self is, for the most part, pretty empowering. No, not in the traditional, ‘there’s no boss man you have to kiss up to’ kind of way, either. The empowerment found in being self-employed is based solely on the fact that you can tell a client to get lost without so much as a single person telling you how you’re ‘bad for business’. Unless it’s your own conscious, of course. I say you should just stab that pesky inner voice with a cotton swab and move on.
Now, I’ve told a few clients to find another private investigator in my day. Even my partner has turned away her fair share of clients. However, when one of our best clients, the Woodman Police Department, calls us about a case, we don’t tell them to get lost. We may want to, but since the city does pay a good chunk of our bills, we tend to not do that.
However, one might still wonder why I would be standing ankle deep in mud over a mutilated cow carcass and not telling the city to get lost. Especially when I was wearing my new leather dress shoes. I guess this is where I explain a few things to that certain wondering person. My partner and I operate the largest private investigation agency in the entire region. More precise—we operate the only private investigation agency in the entire region that is willing to deal with…odd cases. Even more precise—we operate the only legitimate private investigation agency in the entire region that takes odd cases. With these facts, one should assume that we’re the only folks to call when the Woodman Police Department runs across an odd case. I love the way the city labeled cases that they had absolutely no clue about.
‘Odd cases’ happen from time to time in Woodman. Texas, that is. Actually, they happen as frequently as my partner Dayl wore her favorite cowboy hat. Which, for those of you unfortunate enough to have not met her, that’s quite often. It happens daily, actually. Regardless of their frequency, we were fortunate enough to not have all of the cases drawn to the attention of the Woodman Police. If they noticed every strange blip on the normal person’s radar, we’d never do anything but work for the city, and there goes all those perks I mentioned about being self-employed.
I stood up to face Lieutenant Dan Wilson, finally letting go of the breath I’d been holding. Inhaling over a day-old cow carcass isn’t pleasant—especially when it happens during an unseasonably warm October morning. I avoid it at all costs, even if it means taking a chance of passing out from lack of oxygen.
“Too late to butcher for steaks.” I shrugged.
I was met with a tight grin.
“Okay.” I sighed. “Okay. Give me a minute.”
He nodded and clomped off, managing to send mud—God, I hoped it was mud—splattering onto my pant legs.
“Awwwwesome.” I turned up my nose as I looked down at my pants and poor shoes.
Trying to avoid my devastated wardrobe, I took a deep breath, turned around and crouched next to the dead cow once again.
Does this paint a fairly clear picture of what it’s like being the only legitimate private investigation agency that handles odd cases in the region? It usually does for most. For the rest, it doesn’t sound nearly as glamorous as you’d think such a business would be. However, my partner Dayl and I tend to look at the glass half full. Granted, our glass was half full of…we’ll just continue to play like it’s mud, okay?
Dayl and I hadn’t really intended to start a private eye business that focused on odd cases. We wanted to do strictly private eye type stuff. Spy on cheating husbands, find missing relatives and lovers, locate stolen cars—ya’ know, the easy stuff. A year after we started our business, we got tangled up—through no fault of our own, mind you—in a magickal antiquities smuggling ring case. Yes, you read that right. The Woodman P.D. found out, got mad, and then decided to get smart. They put us on retainer. It was a good thing for the most part. They paid by the hour. Of course, we always made sure to deliver the bill in a timely manner.
This is what we’ve been doing for going on seven years. The police officers and detectives themselves didn’t care for us much, but we actually got along with the guy in charge of dealing with us. Specifically, Lieutenant Dan Wilson. He understood us. He believed us, and he always treated us with respect. Of course, we’d solved more cases in the last seven years than ten of his best detectives put together. Anybody with a brain would love us. Besides making sure our retainer was paid monthly, he would slip us some pertinent information about the cases we had when not working with the police. It was a good set up. Working with any police officer had its difficult moments, but with a little professional banter, I got along with Dan Wilson just fine.
It’s a good set up that allows me to waller in cow shit on an autumn morning while my partner was M.I.A. Lieutenant Dan—how I loved saying his name with a hint of Forrest Gump-ish glee—had called me at home. Dayl had apparently already left her house to head to the office, thus missing his call. Even if he had tried her cell, she probably would have ignored it.
So, instead of arriving as a team, I arrived at the investigation scene alone, without coffee, and got to traipse through cow feces up to the ankle. I had been helpless. All I could do was call Dayl on her cell phone, give her the skinny and ask her to pick up my digital camera and some coffee. I knew as I stood, holding my breath over the mutilated cow carcass, that Dayl had better show up with a jumbo coffee. As quickly as possible, too.
“Probably too late to ask you if you want booties to cover your shoes, huh?” Lieutenant Dan slipped by on his way to talk to another officer.
“I’ll add the shoes to the bill.” I gave an innocent smile over my shoulder then turned my attention back to the cow.
Okay. So, I was looking at a day old mutilated cow carcass. Ankle deep in cow shit. Or we could go on pretending it was mud. To be honest, I’m not a forensics specialist, so I didn’t have a very professional opinion of what I was looking at exactly. It looked like the cow had lost a fight against a combine harvester. The cow was—as we say in the world of private eyes—fucked up. Someone…or probably something had attacked the cow for some wicked reason. And if they were wicked enough to attack a cow in such a way, they’d probably get much glee out of my ruined shoes.
The cow was laying on its right side in its own filth—or possibly the filth of a hundred cows. Ankle deep, remember? Its head had been severed at the base of its neck, just above the shoulders. The head was a few yards away. Completely eviscerated, the cow’s insides were now on the outside and smelling like you can only imagine. And it was attracting a few flies to boot. Patches of hide were torn away from the cow, exposing fat and muscle tissue. One hoof appeared to have been torn completely away from the cow and was unaccounted for presently. There wasn’t much blood—or dried blood—to be specific. So, maybe that was my angle?
“Coffee, Zeph.” I heard Dayl’s voice from behind me. “Just the thing to chase away the absolute lack of chill in the air.”
I sighed and stood upright again, turning to face my late partner. That could actually have a double meaning—late partner. With the mood I was in, it was a severe possibility that it could become a reality.
Fortunately for Dayl, the disposable cup she held out to me was quite large. Otherwise two heifers would be lying in what we could still be calling mud.
“You’re late.” I grunted as I accepted the cup, noticing that Dayl had on booties. “Why’d they give you booties and not me?”
“Because,” Dayl flipped her thick mane of wavy black hair over her shoulder, “I am a lady.”
“In theory only.” I snorted as I peeled the lid of my cup off, finding a coffee-like substance below. “Mmmm, white coffee.”
“You should just drink milk.” Dayl rolled her eyes as she moved to my side, looking down at the dead cow with a look of disgust and anger.
“Sorry.” I shrugged as I turned to look at the cow with her. “Not all of us are lady enough to drink it black.”
“Yeah, yeah. Thanks for the coffee.”
“The five–dollar cup of coffee, mind you.”
“Add it to the P.D. bill already.” I rolled my eyes. “Did you get the camera?”
Dayl patted the bag hanging from the strap on her shoulder.
“Great. Let’s get some shots of this thing. The surrounding area. The head. Then let’s get out of here.”
“Why don’t we just tell them Martians did it?” Dayl winked a big green eye at me. “Send them a huge bill and call it case closed?”
“Because it’s not Martians.”
“They don’t know that. Besides, that’s what they expect anyway.”
“Come on.” I winked back. “Let’s milk it for all it’s worth.”
She relented with a waggle of her head.
“Camera, my lovely assistant!” I held my coffee out which Dayl quickly scooped up before pulling out the camera for me.
For the next few minutes I walked around the decaying corpse of the malodorous mammal, snapping pictures from every angle. Why? Because it was expected. Did I think the pictures would turn up any ideas? Not so much. But when you make one-thousand dollars a day with a two-day minimum, your clients expect a big show of things. Even the P.D. Especially the P.D. If we didn’t at least act like we were taking the mutilated cow carcass seriously, the entire P.D., and especially Lieutenant Dan Wilson, would be severely upset with us.
After having a Kodak moment with the majority of the cow’s body, Dayl and I made our way to the severed head. Considering the decaying cow carcass and stench of cow manure in the air, you can only imagine how lovely it was to behold. Once again, I made a big show as Dayl shadowed me and Lieutenant Dan looked on with a couple of his detectives. When it was quite obvious that we had done all we could, Dayl waved Lieutenant Dan over.
“What do you boys think?” He asked, grinning at Dayl.
She returned his grin with a blank stare.
“Dead cow.” I shrugged.
Dayl and Lieutenant Dan both turned to me expectantly. I shrugged.
“Martians did it.” I snorted.
Dayl grinned evilly but Lieutenant Dan wasn’t nearly as pleased.
“I don’t know!” I threw my hands up in the air with a pleased smile. “It looks like someone took a machete after it.”
“Hm.” It was the only response I received from our client.
“Possibly a chainsaw?” Dayl added for good measure.
“Hardly anything that would warrant you calling us.” I continued.
“Hm.” Came the standard response.
Dayl rolled her eyes, but tried to keep the expression out of Lieutenant Dan’s line of sight.
“Then you don’t think it’s paranormal?”
“Not so much.” I shrugged, making Dayl shoot me a warning glare. “Possibly occult since some of the organs might be missing. But you’d have to have a necropsy done to be sure…”
“Way ahead of you.” Lieutenant Dan nodded as a large pick-up truck pulled into the field behind him with a trailer behind it.
The side of the trailer was emblazoned with: North Central Texas Animal Sciences Lab.
“Cool.” Dayl glanced at the pick-up. “Cow Hearse.”
I smiled as Dayl let loose with siren sounds.
“Is Animal Planet going to jump out at any second?” She grinned at our client.
“Or Alan Funt?” I added, making the frown wrinkles in Lieutenant Dan’s forehead deepen.
Lieutenant Dan frowned a fraction of a second longer before addressing our hijinks.
“Just make it look like we investigated all avenues here, boys.” He put emphasis on the last word just to irritate Dayl further. “If you hadn‘t noticed, the Girls‘ Club is right down the way. The public swimming pool is just on the other side of the street past those trees. If we had found the cow this evening instead of this morning, we’d have a Haunted House’s business to deal with. This is a highly visible location to the public. The mayor’s already heard and he’s fit to be tied that there was a possible paranormal…or occult killing in such a public place. He doesn’t want bad press. So keep this under your caps and do all that you can.”
Dayl and I sighed collectively. I couldn’t blame Lieutenant Dan. We were within a half mile of Pecan Park and a mile of Pecan Elementary. Things were going to get ugly with civilians asking questions. There were nice homes and people living in and around Pecan Park. People that voted. Mayors hate it when those people get pissed off.
“I’ll give you a few moments to say your ‘goodbyes’ to your loved one.” He grinned. “Then we’ll haul it off for a necropsy.”
And with that, we were left with a decapitated cow head. And no, the smell had not improved in the last few minutes.
“Occult killing?” Dayl growled at me.
“Brilliant, but brainless, I know.” I shrugged.
“Just have them burning witches at the stake, why don’t you?”
“Oh, come on.” I snatched my coffee cup out of her hand and replaced it with the camera. “It’s a possibility as always.”
“Since when do we care if it’s a possibility? Jeesh!” She stuffed the camera back in its case.
“This is not Salem. I think we can avoid the next big witch trial, thank you very much.” I added for good measure.
“Oh, come on, you know it’s possible.”
“Be that as it may,” Dayl jabbed a finger at me for emphasis, “you don’t have to tell the cops that.”
“It’s on their list anyway. Right next to Martians.”
She harrumphed. A harrumph never looked good coming from Dayl. An abnormally tall, Amazonian woman cannot harrumph correctly. Dayl, with her thick, wavy black hair, emerald eyes and nearly six-foot tall athletic body was never one to wear a harrumph well. Of course, being a guy didn’t mean I managed it any better. Not sexy by any means, but not ugly for that matter, a harrumph didn’t sound good coming from my five-foot-eleven athletic frame, either. Only men built like brick shithouses or old geezers could do such a thing and not sound ridiculous. No. We couldn’t pull it off if we tried.
“So,” Dayl exhaled, finally losing her aggression, “what do we think?”
“Chupacabra?” I shrugged.
“Nah.” She shook her head absentmindedly. “They attack goats and nest further south. A Redcap could do it, though.”
“Or an overzealous kid with a machete and a penchant for listening to Heavy Metal.” I added.
“Maybe the heart is missing?” I stated, basically to hear myself speak.
“Some of the guts were hanging out.” Dayl nodded, looking in the direction of the rest of the cow’s body. “Maybe some intestines. Or if the cow was pregnant they took the unborn calf?”
“Possible. When I first got here I couldn’t even tell if this was a bull or cow.” I grimaced.
“I was raised around cows, Zeph.” Dayl shook her head in disgust. “I could barely even guess at its sex it’s so butchered.”
“I know.” I put a hand on her shoulder, feeling how upset she was at the brutality of it all. “If it’s occult or otherwise, we’ll figure it out.”
“Or maybe it was fucking Martians.” Dayl sighed. “Are we ready to get the hell out of here or what?”
“I’m over it.” I shrugged as I moved past her, leading the way to our cars.
We made our way past the cops, getting greetings from the two detectives that were standing near Lieutenant Dan.
“Good to see you again, Miss Mayeaux.” One of the detectives winked at Dayl, getting a rather un-ladylike hand gesture in return.
“Goodbye, Mr. Klynick.” The other detective nodded at me.
Yes, as you might have guessed, our business went by the name of Mayeaux Klynick Private Investigations. It seemed hilarious when we decided on the name. Of course, we didn’t have to make it up. Mayeaux and Klynick were our last names, after all. It stopped being funny when certain people began taking issue with our business’s name. We’re still waiting for all of the lawyers to stop calling to threaten us.
“Let me know as soon as you have something.” Lieutenant Dan hollered after us as we made our way past him and his detectives.
“Yeah, yeah.” I waved him off.
Dayl and I walked past the detectives and the cow hearse and headed towards our respective vehicles. To say that I was anxious to get out of the unseasonal heat and humidity and into an air-conditioned vehicle was an understatement. I don’t like to sweat. Which is why I avoid exercise at all cost. Not to say that I don’t enjoy activity. But if it was an activity that took place in a gym, on a Stair Master or a treadmill, I’d hiss like a cat and run away before doing it. Dayl is somewhat opposite. She loves going to the gym to work on stress relief and will participate in just about any outdoorsy activity. But she didn’t expect participation on my part. It was one of the very fundamentals of our friendship.
Of course, not all aspects of our friendship were based around my loathe of all things healthy and her acceptance of the fact. I didn’t just sit around and eat Little Debbie’s and watch the idiot box, nor did Dayl go to the gym like it was an obsession either. Our friendship was steeped in something much more complex and serious than sloth and lack thereof. There was trust, respect, honesty and very similar ethics and morals. The fact that we had both been members of the same Pagan coven around a decade ago shows how long we had been cultivating our friendship. Moreover, it was a fight that broke out within the coven that brought us even closer together. The fact that we were the only two surviving members of the coven strengthened that bond as well. But that’s a long story.
“Goddess, it’s too damn hot and humid for October.” I groaned. “Even in Texas.”
“It’s a fluke.” Dayl shrugged. “News said last night that this morning was going to start out bad but we’d be back in the mid-sixties by noon.”
“Frickin’ cow shit.” I grumbled as we approached our cars.
“Interesting.” Dayl stated evenly.
“You avoided the f-word, yet you didn’t hesitate to say ‘shit’. What’s up with that?”
“I’m in the presence of a lady after all.” I grunted.
“You know, you’re kind of bitchy this morning.” Dayl replied mirthfully as she turned to lean against the side of her pick up.
“Ya’ know, you’re kind of odd.” I replied. “And it’s not just this morning.”
Dayl chuckled lowly.
“Why do you drive that fuckin’ monstrosity anyway?” I stomped my feet, trying to get clumps of cow excrement off of my shoes. “I mean, crunchy, Earthy gals aren’t supposed to drive gas guzzlers that have more emissions than a coal fueled power plant. Even if they are cowgirl-esque”
“I drive this gas guzzler because when I’m driving it a Honda Civic is merely a speed bump to me.” She chuckled again and looked over my head. “And they don’t sink into black land mud.”
I growled and spun around to face my car. Sure enough, the wheels of my Honda Civic had sunk so low into the muddy field that the chassis was basically resting against the ground. I spat a curse and tromped over to the side of my car, delivering a swift kick to the part of the driver’s side front tire that was still exposed. Dayl sashayed over to my side, grinning amusedly down at my car.
“Honda Tin Can.” Dayl patted me on the shoulder. “Told ya’ to put your money to good use.”
“I’ll have you know that Civics, on average, get over two-hundred thousand miles. And they’re good for the environment. And they have great warranties.”
“Right now it ain’t gonna go nowhere but that hole in this field.” Dayl cackled. “And I’m sure the warranty doesn’t cover excavating it from cow shit, either.”
“Son of a bitch.” I growled, kicked the tire again and turned to lean against my crippled car. “I have a feeling that this day was a total waste of caffeine.”
“Come on.” Dayl wrapped an arm around my shoulders compassionately. “Get in the truck. I’ll drive us to the office and you can call a tow truck from there.”
“All right.” I sighed, letting my partner lead me towards her monstrosity of a vehicle.
“I think I have a tarp in the back you can sit on.” Dayl turned her nose up as she looked me up and down.
“Oh, bite me.”
Dayl chuckled as she led me towards her truck.
“Did you get Ollie and Ossie off to school?” Dayl inquired.
Dayl knew everything about my personal life. Thus, she knew what having to rush out of the house to a crime scene in the early morning would do to my schedule.
“Amada said she’d take care of it.” I shrugged. “They’re having Halloween parties today, so it’s not that big a deal.”
“Too bad Halloween falls in the middle of the week this year.” Dayl chuckled. “I hated that as a kid.”
“Me, too.” I gave up on my poor mood and chuckled with her. “I’m going to take them to the Halloween parade tonight.”
“That’ll be fun.” Dayl nodded with a smile as I opened the passenger door and climbed in. “Are you going to dress-up with the kids?”
I just gave her a look. Dayl laughed and headed around to the driver’s side.
Until next time…