No Damn Sense!
Officer Lindsey Stuart was almost done with her patrol when the radio cackled yet another domestic violence call. She really disliked those since they typically were the most random, with violence from both sides being the usual common denominator. But since Lindsey was well known for her peacemaking and negotiating skills, she tended to get more than her fair share of them. There was something strange about this one, though. Dispatch said the fight was over at the Cross Keys Tavern and there hadn’t been any trouble there in years. As a matter of fact, Lindsey was there when Cross Keys Tavern had burned down to the ground ten years ago.
Maybe they meant the fight was in that location, not actually in the tavern. Lindsey couldn’t make any sense of the call, since the only thing left of the tavern was the dirt road leading up to it…and the mailbox. The tavern had been owned by a married couple, Bob and Carol Penn, both college friends of Lindsay, and they never had any issues, or so Lindsey thought. Sure, there was the occasional problem of customers drinking a bit too much, but the only real problem was that one night, when an unexpected girlfriend showed up. Hearts were broken, and according to the coroner, so was Bob’s jaw and neck. Lindsay remembered being in shock over the whole sordid affair.
The police investigation at the time surmised that the girlfriend showed up, the marriage vows were proven to have been only suggestions, and an ultimatum was given. When the party of the first part did not want to stay with the party of the second part, the fight ensued, leaving Bob dead on the floor. The crowd panicked, and in the rush to get out the door, someone knocked over an oil lamp used as a table decoration. The old wooden tavern was engulfed in flames in a matter of minutes and by the time the fire department arrived, the only thing left was the smoldering charcoal frame of the building and the charred remains of Bob, Carol and the girlfriend. Police were never able to identify that third body. The whole thing never quite added up in her mind, so Lindsey could not imagine what she would find today. Lindsey pulled off the road, stopping at the start of the driveway.
Getting out of her patrol car, Lindsey saw no one. There were no combatants, no crowds of witnesses, no one. Who made the call? This was making no damn sense. Then she noticed the mailbox. The flag was up, as if someone was trying to send off a letter. Opening the lid, Lindsey saw a letter inside. Carefully lifting it out of the black box, her hands started trembling. The letter, which had insufficient postage, was addressed to her. The return address? Lindsey almost dropped the letter when she read Bob’s name.
Lindsey had dated Bob while they were in college, only to have Carol steal him away during their senior year. Carol came from a family with money and was used to getting whatever she wanted. Lindsey had been hoping for an engagement ring, but eventually got over it, finding a new love by taking a job with the police department. But now there was this letter. Lindsey was actually scared to open it. How could Bob have sent a letter? Could it have been in this mailbox for ten years? Gritting her teeth, she opened it. Tears started flowing down her cheeks when she read how Bob had always loved her and that he had realized the mistake he had made marrying Carol. The girlfriend…she was Carol’s. Lindsey was stunned.
“I am so glad you came. I have been waiting so long to see you again.” Lindsey dropped the letter as she looked up to see Bob, standing on the doorstep of the tavern. Lindsey was speechless. “It’s okay. I can explain. Why don’t you come in and we can catch up. It’s been what, ten years?”
Lindsey’s mouth was trying to form words, but couldn’t. Bob? When did the tavern get rebuilt? How could I not notice that? Nothing is making any sense!
After walking up the driveway, she stepped inside. The tavern looked just as she remembered it. There were no customers yet, but Bob had been polishing wine glasses, getting ready for the night’s business. “So, Bob…did you call in a domestic disturbance? I mean, I thought you were dead. Everyone saw that you were dead. What the heck is going on here? Bob, help me understand!!”
Seeing that Lindsey was starting to panic, Bob explained. “I just wanted you to know that I had always loved you and that I found out much too late that Carol was only using me to get back at you. She was always so jealous of you, but you probably knew that. I just wanted to see you one more time, and get down on my knee and propose like I should have years ago…”
The ATF team arrived at 6 PM. After as short investigation, it was obvious that Officer Lindsey Stuart had been killed by a letter bomb at the old Cross Keys Tavern lot. Her boss was quoted in the newscast that evening, saying “That makes no damn sense…”
© D.J. Lutz – March 2011
This was written after spending a week enjoying the fresh air in the Massanutten area of northwestern Virginia. Cross Keys, a nearby unincorporated “town,” did have a tavern once, but now is known for an excellent vineyard!