Doc is in her office talking on the phone to Austin, the guy down the road who is in the
process of fixing the carberator on her old Honda Accord, which he works on in his back yard. He has a place
under a hugh maple tree and here he has a hemp rope hanging from a limb so that he can
hoist an engine whenever he needs to. After ending this conversation, the phone rings
and she answers and as she listens to the voice on the phone her face contorts into
anguish and then she steels herself as she always does, so that she can do her job.
Sometimes she is inwardly overcome because of her great love and empathy for animals, but
has learned to project a controlled and professional manner.
The office in her home has a beautiful, ornate Edwardian, mohogany, antique desk that
sets opposite a wall of windows, through which she can always see her beloved Tennessee
mountains. On another wall there are book shelves from floor to ceiling carefully arranged
with lovely old books, veternarian medical books and assorted novels and paperback
mysteries. The hardwood floor is covered with a Persian Meshad antique rug of bluish red
and navy that compliments the tiny detailed wallpaper. This is where she spends most
of her time when she is not at her clinic. Her dad worked at the south plant at Alcoa
Aluminum Company in Alcoa, TN and her mother was a housewife. But she has always
wanted to be a veterinarian because of her love for animals and her desire to heal them.
SARAH AMANDA O'HARA, or "Doc", GATHERS HER RED SUNSET COLORED HAIR AND TWISTS IT AROUND
AND AROUND UNTIL SHE CAN PIN IT ON THE TOP OF HER HEAD AND PUSH IT UNDER HER BATTERED
ATLANTA BRAVES CAP, THAT SHE PULLS DOWN CLOSE OVER HER ALERT, LUMINOUS, GREEN EYES.
Dropping everything and
Grabbing her truck keys from the top of the desk where she always
drops them into an old ashtray that belonged to Papa, her maternal grandfather, she heads
for the door.
Fifteen minutes later, approaching the scene, police car lights bounce from
surrounding tree tops and intermitantly illuminate the cattle fence and wooden
posts and fields of grazed grass.
The police blue lights on his shirtless back alternately make his skin look the color
of copper tarnished blue and crimson rose red. His hands are cuffed behind his back and
all of the town's officers that are on duty tonight are at the scene. They are tense and
watchful as though he were a fierce wild animal that might suddenly break loose and
attach and kill them all. Suddenly her attention is diverted from him.
Doc snapped her head around and hurried in the direction of three people circled around
a German Shepherd lying on the ground in a pool of blood.
"Doc O'Hara, she's not going to die?"
"It's her side, the bullet went all the way through!"
Dolly Hodge's eyes are red and swollen, her red face covered in freckles and her stout
body pressed against her police uniform making her look like a bratwurst sausage.
Dolly has been a K-9 officer for three years and in that time she has worked with two dogs.
Max a white German Shepherd was a nine year old that had been a K-9 for six years before
he retired to a country life of sleeping in the upstairs bedroom of an old two story
farmhouse in the hills of East Tennessee. Spending lazy summer days on the front porch
that spans three sides of the house, with Grandma Joines, whose neighbors and friends
and family scratch his tummy and spoil him with constant attention. Dolly only
worked with Max for four months. After Max was retired he was replaced by the standard
colored German Shepherd that is now lying in its own blood. Doc does what she can at the
scene but quickly realizes that she must stop the flow of blood and that will require
surgery so everyone hurries to carry the dog into her truck.
While the officers carry the quickly bandaged Aggie and place her into the back of Doc's
vet truck, Doc hurries to the cab of her blue truck and jumps onto the light brown leather
upholstery where lying on the seat is a medical sachel along with a couple of dog collars
of different sizes and a dog chain. Doc will rush the German Shepherd back to her
office to do emergency surgery. Opening the cab door, she takes a cell phone from the
seat and calls Julie Martin-Smith, her fellow doctor, business partner and best
friend to meet her at the vet clinic, where they will do everything possible to save the
Officer Hodge climbs into the bed of the truck with her K-9 partner to ride along side
of her and comfort her as best she can.
Several officers surround Charles Ross Murphy, the suspect who is being arrested for
shooting Miss Aggie, but more seriously for the rape and brutal murder of three women.
All young women who lived in this small, southern community of Cherokee Rose, that is
deep in the surrounding foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Charles Ross Murphy looked
right into the eyes of Doc and caused her to freeze in mid stride. She was at once
repulsed and fasinated and a little frightened. His wide shoulders were muscular and smudged with dirt and
sweat from having run through woods and fields for forty minutes before being run down by
Aggie and Dolly Hodge. His wet black hair is covered with dead leaves and his dirty
face and his dark colored skin rippled with muscle and Doc stared at the bloody cut just
above his jeans that were torn and muddy. His skin is dark because his
father was a man who was black and descended from slaves.
His mother who was white lived only until he was two years old. Doc is unsettled by
what she sees but hearing Dolly comfort her canine partner she quickly climbs into
the cab and jerkily peels rubber as she begins planning her care for the dog, who
yips in pain with the movement of the truck.
Later in one of the clinic's treatment rooms, she finds that the dog has been shot in
the area behind her stomach. Her liver, intestines and other vital organs have been destroyed
and there is nothing that can be done for her. Dolly doesn't sob, she just stands beside
the still the german shepherd in a state of disbelief. Doc leaves the clinic room and
walks down the dark, unlighted hallway and out the front door of the small clinic.
Early the next day she arrives at the jail and sits monentarily in her truck before
heading for the offices of the sherriff.
Last night in a hot, humid, stuffy
room upstairs in the two story building, three officers were with Murphy. The jail has
a total of four cells with a small office downstairs and window air conditioning at
each end of the building. The upstairs serves mostly as storage space, because it
is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter to be used for much of anything else.
But last night the space was being put to use for purposes the officers would just as
soon the few prisoners in the downstairs cells not see even if they couldn't help hearing.
Murphy is bloodied around his left eye, which is beginning to swell, his nose is bloody
and his lip is swollen and cracked and bloody. The cops have worked him over pretty
good before allowing him to make his one phone call. But all they have managed to
get from him is that he was in the neighborhood where the latest victim was
discovered, because he was searching for his four year old niece's lost puppy.
Which statement only earns him another series of blows and a reminder that the penalty
for harming a police dog in the state of Tennessee is the same as that for harming his
human counterpart. So he would be facing charges for murder. The murder of Miss
Aggie if not for the three women who have died during this horrible summer of 2000.
As Doc enters the building she sees Irene Hazelett in the area of the cells and so she
takes a seat to wait to see the sheriff.
Irene Hazelett has long straight hair pulled in a knot on top of her head. It is dark
brown and always worn the same way.
"If you confess your sins, he is faithful and just to forgive, that is a promise that
the Lord has made, and you can count on that Mr Murphy." Irene Hazelett spoke with such
a pious and self righteous tone. There is a little cry in her voice as she pleads for
Mr Murphy to come to the Lord.
"Will you please excuse us Irene, who allowed you back here, anyway?" "Oh hello Cathy
Jo, and how are you today?" Every syllable drawn out all surpy and sweet. "I'm fine
Irene, but right now I need to talk to my client, Mr Murphy, if you will excuse us please."
"Absolutely, but just let me leave these phamplets with you Mr Murphy and if you
need anything at all you just let me know, ok? I'll be back tomorrow to check on you
ok?" Although she is about 50 her shoulders slump like an old lady's and she ambles
from side to side in her cotton shirt waist dress and little plain flats as she
leaves the cellblock. She passes Doc and the sheriff, talking behind
the glass of his office window.
Walking along Bus Road, Irene Hazelett is thinking about what she will say to Josie Lou
Brown. Irene recently had visitors from the local health department, and she has been
forced to get rid of her little two seater and have a bathroom built onto her house,
and to have George Rayburn dig a cesspool for her. She believes that Josie is the one
who reported her to the Health Department and she intends to confront her about it.
She knows Josie will be in her yard and she will be able to confront her, and Josie
won't be able to hide in her house. She has been refusing to answer Irene's phone
calls as well. But now Irene will finally get to see her face to face. It
is Monday and Josie's prayer group will meet at her house today and they will sit
on her front porch and drink cokes and coffee and eat home baked goodies while they
pray and gossip. There are hugh maple and oak trees that shade Josie's front porch
and practically block the view to Bus Road.
Irene has had to walk from the jail for two miles but finally has arrived at the long
shady lane that leads to Josie's house. She knows she will find Josie and all the
hypocrites that attend the Church of God on Farner Street. Her own church is the Church
of Christ on Oak Grove Road. She has to pass the Farner Street Church in order to
attend her own place of worship, but she knows that God is pleased about this
because of the sorry things that take place among the members of the Church of God.
Because of the thin and worn soles of her shoes, her feet hurt as she walks on the
gravel lane leading to Josie's. Passing under the trees and bushes one hundred yards
from Josie's house she is invisible from view as she walks along. She imagines the look
on Josie's face when she quotes the scripture about a good woman being above the price
of a pearl. She goes over in her mind once again how she will tell Josie that the
good Lord said that it is a sin to ruin someone's reputation by ruining their good
name. To gossip is as bad and sinful as actually, physically hitting someone.
But being the good person that she is, of course Irene has always turned the other
cheek when the neighbor who lives within a mile of her tries to run her down to
anyone who will listen. But this last thing has caused her a lot of trouble and a lot
of money as well and this time she is in no mood to turn the other cheek. Under these
special circumstances, surely the Lord will suspend 'turn the other cheek'.
By the time Irene reaches the paint chipped trelis covered with a climbing pink rose,
she has come into the view of the prayer group on Josie's front porch. The chatter and
laughter and the clink of cups and dishes stops suddenly as everyone on the porch slowly
begins to realize that Irene is walking toward the porch. "Hello everybody!"
Irene breathlessly calls out in a christian voice dripping with thornes.
No one says anything. "And how is everyone today?", Irene continues. Finally Josie
knows she must say something, "Well Irene come on and sit fer a spell and join our prayer
meetin." Josie's face is not sure what kind of expression to wear but tries to
smile. Irene walks carefully toward the steps looking down at the ground as she
does so. When she reaches the bottom step she looks up at Josie and using a very christian
attitude that says I am soooo good and saintly she begins with her most surpery
voice, "Josie did you know I have a new bathroom in my house?" "You do?" Josie
knowingly, asks cautiously. "Someone reported me to the health department."
"They did?" "Nobody lives within a mile of me except for you." "Me?"
"Why didn't you tell them about your daughter-in-law spreading veneral disease
all over the county while you were talking to them?" Her sweet voice getting higher
and more hysterical. "You don't have to get smart with me Irene!" Jose squeaked
starting up from her rocker. "Well you didn't have to go reportin anybody to the
Health Department neither Josie!" Walking to the top of the steps Josie shouts,
"Why don't you jest git on outa here and leave us to our prayer meetin, you hussy!"
"Nobody asked you here!" "Git outa my yard!" Irene stiffened and she looked like she
would burn holes in Josie with her eyes as she glared at her, "Don't you call
me a hussy, you old bat!" "Gii Git outa my yard!" Josie squealed, so angry she
could hardly speak. "Allllrite!" Irene screamed, and she walked a few steps back
pulled up her dress and not wearing any underwear, she spread her legs apart about
a foot and barely bent at the knees, but standing up, she peed in a big long stream like
an old cow, moving her hips in a circle and perfectly making a wet circle around Josie's
pink begonia. As she turned and stomped away a honeybee circled the begonia
and then flew away as a bumble bee buzzed in the honeysuckle.