from Behind the Redwood Door, by John M. Daniel
Blue Heron is the sheriff of Jefferson County, the smallest county in California. It’s so small most people haven’t heard of it, and it’s on the rugged, rocky coast up north in Redwood Country, between the Pacific Ocean and the skyline of the Jefferson Alps range. Blue Heron, a member of the Steelhead Tribe, has been Sheriff since the early 1990s, and the case he remembers best happened back in the summer of 1999.
Sheriff Heron, tell us about that case. What made this case so special?
Call me Blue. Everybody around here does. Well, to start with it was a clear-cut case of
cold-blooded murder, plain and simple, except the cut wasn’t clear, it was ugly; and the case wasn’t simple, it was a jar of black widows. Okay, so Pete Thayer, the editor of the Jefferson Nickel back when it was a political weekly with a radical slant, got himself stabbed in the throat with a kitchen knife next to the Dumpster out back of the Redwood
Door tavern. Gloria, she owns the Redwood Door, called me and I was over there like a jackrabbit, my cherry-top pulsing like the heart of an elk in rut.
There he was, poor Pete, slumped down against the brick wall, looking more surprised than he looked dead. But he was dead, all right. And parked there, not twenty feet from the body, was Seamus Connolly’s dark blue BMW.
River Webster wanted me to haul old Seamus in and string him up at dawn. Not only because Pete was River’s lover, but also because Seamus was the publisher and editor of the Jefferson Republican, and let’s just say the two newspapers didn’t see quite eye to
eye. But mainly, let’s face it, those Connollys and those Websters have hated each other since day one, and day one was way over a hundred years ago.
What made the case so hard to solve?
Well, of course I was just itching to book old Seamus, even if it was just for illegal parking, but turns out he had an alibi, seeing as how he was over in Redding with his girlfriend that night. My next suspect was Seamus’s teenage son, Chunky, a hell-raiser if there ever was one, but Chunky had an alibi, too. Then I was taken off the case.
Taken off the case? But aren’t you the sheriff?
Yes, but the damn powers that be decided this was a city crime, not a county crime, so they—namely Seamus Connolly and his cronies, who do their drinking over at the Wildcat Saloon—gave the case to Wayne Marvin, the total incompetent chief of police. What an idiot. He charged River Webster with the murder, of all people. That didn’t stick either of course.
Are you saying you didn’t solve the case?
I’m not saying that. I got involved when there were more crimes involved, related crimes, outside the city limits. Up in the Jefferson Alps. Showdown time.
Did anyone outside your department, or outside law enforcement, help you solve the case?
Well, River badgered me a lot, and of course I put up with a lot of badgering when it was River doing it. I still do. And then there was Guy Mallon. Him and his wife Carol own the used booktore in town. Nice folks, but that Guy has a talent for stepping in piles of trouble. Stubborn and touchy, you know what I mean? I guess a lot of short guys are like that. They’ve had to put up with a lot of teasing all their life, and Guy was shorter than
most. Like Mickey Rooney, Danny DeVito, that kind of short. That kind of stubborn, too. Wouldn’t let go. Seemed to love trouble. He was a pain in the butt, is what he was, but I got to admit, I never could have brung the murderer to justice if it weren’t for that little shrimp. In fact, weren’t for him I’d be one dead sheriff.
Did this case affect your personal life in any way?
Oh lordy, yes. The good news is I lost forty pounds as a direct result of the case.
And the bad news?
I can’t drink coffee anymore. I haven’t had a cup of coffee in over twelve years. Not even decaf. I suppose that’s not such a bad thing, but can you imagine an Indian sheriff sipping camomile tea?
Thank you for being with us today, Blue. Congratulations on your weight loss.
John M. Daniel is a freelance editor and writer. He has published dozens of stories in literary magazines and is the author of ten published books, including three mystery
novels: Play Melancholy Baby, The Poet’s Funeral, and Vanity Fire. He and his wife, Susan, own a small-press publishing company in Humboldt County,California, where they live with their wise cat companion,Warren.
Behind the Redwood Door is the third Guy Mallon mystery and is published by Oak Tree Press: http://www.oaktreebooks.com/. You can order direct from the publisher, or ask your local independent bookstore to order it for you. The book can also be ordered online from Amazon or Barnes& Noble. For an autographed copy, see ordering instructions on John’s website: http://www.danielpublishing.com/jmd/index.html.