Murmuration Agitation (with a little Bible recitation)

3ef024404abdee652d9a1635c923c75aOn my damn lawn, at least twenty people stood behind Mrs. Stoddard. Some chanted, some murmured. I took in a breath and let it out, trying to appear unruffled and bored. “And I won’t rest until Marcy’s true killer is found. Sadie didn’t do it, Mrs. Stoddard. But I assure you, Sheriff Tobin is doing everything he can to find the killer.”

“Tobin, huh!” Stoddard spat the words. “From what I’ve heard, the big sheriff is only protecting you for personal reasons. How’s he going to help if he’s playing nice with you under the covers?” She looked down as if shamed by her words.

Even so, I clenched the fabric of my dress to keep from smacking her clear across the street.

“We want justice,” the crowd chanted, louder each time.

“Now listen here,” I shouted, my patience waning. “We want justice too. We are all upset. Let’s work together and find the real killer. Now, as I said. Get. Off. My. Property.”

“Tells them to kiss your hiney and go to grass,” Reba whispered beside me, still hidden from view.

Reba’s version of “go to hell” gave me the idea. “Good Christian folk…” I forgot the passage, turned to Reba, and whispered out the side of my mouth. “What’s something good to quote from the Bible? Something about judgment.”

Reba put a hand on her chin and peered down at her feet. “You wants Saint John or Deuteronomy?”

“Whichever’s better.”

“Well, Saint John says—”

“Reba! Give me something.”

“Tell ’em, ‘Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment.’”

Reba tugged at my elbow. “You gotta say it’s from John 7:24.”

“Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment,” I repeated loudly. “John 7:24. Isn’t that what Jesus taught?” I knew I was pushing it. Over the years, only once or twice had I glanced at the Good Book. The Bible never spoke to me like it did for Reba. “You are judging an innocent woman because of her chosen profession. Shame on you. Shame on you all. Now leave before I have you arrested for trespassing.” I lifted Ratchet slower than necessary and heard the gasps of fear. I perched the shotgun over my shoulder like a marching soldier and closed the front door.

Reba and I waited and listened, our backs against the front door. The thrum of mumblings and chanting didn’t stop. “Now what?” I asked my best friend.

“Whiskey slam?”

Excerpt from The Last Bordello, a historical novel

Murmuration

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