Dean took a deep breath and continued.
"Martha," Dean said, "you've got to trust in someone sometime.
Mr. Hutton introduced me to many of his literary friends, greatest of whom are Mr. William Dean Howells and Mark Twain.
"But remember," Dean continued, "your mother has a major say in what happens to you.
Dean certainly hoped so—at least the clean part.
Dean continued to stare at her, waiting for further explanation.
One morning there was a loud knock at Dean Swift's door.
The Dean took the rabbit and went out of the house.
She bore a look of defeated resignation as Dean and his wife joined her.
Dean could picture the messing around.
He was a great admirer of Dean Swift, and took pleasure in sending him presents of game.
The Dean went to the door.
Dean just rolled his eyes.
"I thought you were Jake Weller," Dean said with a smile.
The ten-year-old girl had resided at Bird Song with David Dean, his wife Cynthia, and Dean's seventy-seven-year-old stepfather, Fred O'Connor, for the past six months.
David and Cynthia Dean had experienced little success in trying to secure a more formal arrangement for long term custody of Martha, managing only undocumented assignment as temporary foster parents.
Dean went to cat and girl and gave them both a long hug.
"The next time he comes," said the Dean, "let me know, and I will go to the door."
Just step inside and make believe that you are Dean Swift.
Dean asked to break the silence.
When Dean first introduced himself, the young lady continued with her engaging smile until it became obvious she had no idea what he was saying—even after he sputtered the half-dozen words of Spanish he knew.
"Guess I'd better brush up on my Spanish," Dean said, but Fred shook his head.
Anyone in authority seemed habitually out of the office after Dean gave his name.
Dean followed his wife but she dismissed his concern.
Dean was replenishing the coffee and setting plates for late breakfast arrivals when Maria, their newly hired helper, arrived.
It was a beautiful smile that caused Dean to wonder what life the young girl had left behind.
Dean cautioned Pumpkin to keep his hand on his wallet, but the young hiker dismissed the advice with a wave of his hand.
Dean asked, trying to control the quiver in his voice.
Dean asked and she nodded.
"Here's something else for the Dean," he said roughly, and tossed it into the servant's arms.
"See here," said the Dean in a stern voice, "that is not the way to deliver a message here.
Then, taking out his purse, he offered the Dean a shilling.
And the Dean also took the hint; for he always remembered to give the man a "tip" for his trouble.
Jonathan Swift, often called Dean Swift, was famous as a writer on many subjects.
James Dean is locked in our minds with a cigarette.
It was Cynthia who volunteered for the nasty duty, turning down Dean's offer to join her.
The Dean's ages—both forty—and the financial limitations of their new business would make obtaining court approval difficult.
The Dean's private quarters, a sitting room-office combination and bedroom, were located in the rear.
"The thing about all this walking exercise is I can eat like a pig and stay thin," he replied to Dean's greeting.
Dean took a deep breath and looked at Cynthia who simply shook her head in wonderment.
Martha glanced over to the dresser and Dean's unused hairbrush.
Dean took a pencil and paper from the night stand and handed it to her.
"Yes, I do," Dean said and wrapped his arms around her.
Dean crossed to the bureau, picked up his hairbrush.
Fred O'Connor, dressed to the nines in a dapper suit, pink shirt, bow tie and sporting a boutonniere, asked Dean if his iron was broken when he took one look at his stepson's new but wrinkled slacks.
Dean paid no mind that the old man wasn't in the know about the latest Hollywood styles and so informed him.
"I like a place with an 'oops' bartender," Dean said as their margueritas were served.
Dean didn't even offer a quip about Fred's tightness with a buck and his moth-eaten purse as the old man called over a waitress to do the duties.
Dean was hoping to at least finish his salsa before having to stop Fred from dashing up the mountain to single-handedly solve the caper.
Dean held his comment.
Fred ignored Dean and reached in his coat pocket and withdrew a letter, handing it to Cynthia.
She read it with Dean nosed over her shoulder.
"You ought to have fun with that, Sherlock," Dean said.
To Dean's experienced ears, it didn't sound like a joke.
Dean held his tongue.
Something told Dean it wasn't the time for poking fun.
That takes guts," Dean said, then added with a smile, "So goodie little Cynthia used to get her bum-bum paddled, huh?"
Dean held his wife closely, expecting more tears, but they didn't come.
Dean stretched and extinguished the bedside lamp but neither slept.
Martha eventually slipped into a troubled sleep when Cynthia, with Dean by his side, again convinced the child they believed her, and promised to see the young girl's discovery reach daylight.
When Saturday's daylight arrived to David Dean's exhausted eyes, the time had slipped past his usual rising hour and voices and footsteps rattled the old timbers of Bird Song.
Cynthia hibernated to some serious tears while Dean sleepwalked through the daily chores, helped by Maria.
Dean sat in the corner, trying to read up on Colorado law as it pertained to the duties of sheriff, but was drawn by politeness and the darkened room to view the exhibit.
Dean was no expert, but he could tell his guest was a first-class photographer.
Dean was sorry Cynthia was missing the presentation.
Birds of a feather, Dean thought.
David Dean, without a remote control, had difficulty with the TV and these two old fogies were out surfing the net like a couple of Silicon Valley youngsters.
Dean left the group for the kitchen and found Paulette Dawkins had beaten him there.
Dean took a seat and joined her, part politeness, part to guard the remaining slice.
When Dean didn't respond—principally because he had no idea what this woman was talking about—she continued.
Dean's continued silence prompted her to explain.
Dean hadn't opened his mouth.
"He's been busy shooting hoops with Pumpkin Green," Dean said.
"There goes any chance of college," Dean said.
Westlake's eyes met Dean's in knowing sympathy.
"Go ahead," Dean said quickly.
"Besides," Dean added, "I have a little errand to run."
Dean telephoned the sheriff's office, crossing his fingers that the redheaded deputy Lady Larkin was out bagging the ten most wanted speeders.
Pumpkin Green returned while Dean was killing the few minutes before he left.
Dean was enlisted as part of the convoy to the popular spot.
On the way to the pool, with Pumpkin and the Texas widow as his passengers, Pumpkin told Dean that Langstrom had recruited him for the Fourth of July water fight.
He asked Dean what the event was all about.
Dean chuckled to himself.
In spite of the protective gear worn, the challenge definitely excluded the weak of heart, and, in Dean's estimation, the strong of brain.
In spite of the inclement weather, there was a large crowd of bathers frolicking in the earth-warmed water of the million-gallon facility when Dean dislodged his passengers.
Dean promised himself to keep driving past the building if the deputy Larkin's car was in evidence, but only the sheriff's vehicle was present.
While Dean was fully exonerated from any wrongdoing in the unfortunate affair, either Fitzgerald failed to agree with the determination or simply despised being judged wrong.
He publicly continued to express strong feelings about Dean's involvement.
Dean felt equally acrimonious toward the overbearing state official whom he hadn't seen since the winter and who, in Dean's mind, had no business being back in Ouray.
"If it isn't candidate David Dean," Fitzgerald said, not even trying to warm the ice in his voice.
Dean thought him to be in his late forties but he looked physically in shape and much younger.
"I have an appointment with the sheriff," Dean answered.
Dean ignored the sarcasm.
Dean cursed himself for not wanting to talk to the redheaded deputy, who would have been infinitely preferable to this obnoxious jerk.
Dean closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
Dean handed Fitzgerald the photocopy of Martha's drawing and comments she and Cynthia had made.
Dean dropped it on his desk.
Did Dean ever know that!
Dean was in front of Bird Song, trying to mow the lawn, still blanketed with the moisture of the now-ended drizzle when he remembered his promise to pick up Pumpkin Green and whoever else needed chauffeuring from the pool.
Dean felt satisfaction that his wife's dark mood had improved, but Martha's departure remained on her mind.
Dean shook his head no.
Dean grabbed a bottle of inexpensive merlot and three glasses.
"Sit. Have a drink," Dean said as he filled Fred's glass to the top and handed it to him.
Mind reader, Dean thought, remembering his conversation with Cynthia.
Fred just snorted, but Dean noted the old man didn't deny the question.
"It's easy to get into trouble when you're out scratching on your own," Dean said, prompting for more detail.
Like hell, Dean thought, but he let Fred go on.
Dean said with a salute as Fred rose and drained his glass.
By the time Dean finished listing the information, Fred was gone and Cynthia was off to read in their quarters.
Dean, sensing she wished to be alone, returned to the living room.
"This is great timing," Dean said.
Dean could hear Randy taking a deep breath.
Oh, shit was all Dean could think, but he willed the words to stay put.
This time Dean was silent.
"Maybe I'd better let you speak to her," Dean said cautiously.
Dean closed his eyes as Randy explained excitedly about an offer to play ball.
In spite of the seriousness of the situation, Dean was forced to stifle a chuckle.
Dean asked, "Do Jen's parents know?"
Dean could picture the meal.
Dean knew Joe Calvia; they'd met when he was first dating Cynthia.
Randy and Jen made a great pair and Dean knew it would all work out in the long haul.
Dean could hear the sound of Cynthia crying and then the click as she hung up the extension.
Dean acknowledged he was still there and started to make an excuse for Cynthia's exit but Randy cut him short.
Dean promised to talk to Cynthia but Randy was devastated as he ended the call.
When Dean entered their bedroom, Cynthia was no longer crying, but furious.
Dean could do little more than put his arm around her.
Cynthia telephoned her son and apparently made temporary peace, although Dean wasn't privy to the details.
It was only a week past the longest day of the year and still light outside but Dean joined her, in case she changed her mind and needed him.
Dean continued to exhibit restrain with his comebacks in deference to the improved moods around Bird Song.
Joseph, smiling for the first time in Dean's memory, said he and Ginger planned to walk about town and perhaps hike up to the nearby Box Canyon waterfall.
If that were the case, Dean wondered, why had Joseph also rented a Jeep and parked out of sight behind Bird Song?
Dean was feeling more comfortable that Cynthia just needed time to get her priorities in line.
Dean suggested before returning that they drive ten miles to the Ridgway fairgrounds, where a Sunday morning farmer's market offered fresh fruits and vegetables.
Dean was loading three full sacks in the rear of his Jeep when he was surprised to see Ginger Dawkins several yards away.
She stood with a tall, good-looking man with a rounded haircut that might have been stylish somewhere but to Dean looked silly.
"Looks like one of our guests is making a friend," Dean said to his wife as Ginger reached out and held the man's hand.
Whether it was wedding plans, baby names, or ways to kill her son, Dean didn't know.
Which sounded to Dean exactly like 'coming to terms,' but who was he to say?
"Let's see," Dean answered.
Dean asked over his shoulder.
Joseph stormed by Dean and Fred without a word, but Ginger lingered to finish her cigarette.
Dean asked, as he shaded his eyes from the late afternoon sun.
Dean looked at Fred, who had no idea what was going on.
Dean just smiled, wondering how Ginger and Joseph would know where brother and sister-in-law were if they themselves hadn't lied like the proverbial rug and done the exact same thing as the pair they were accusing.
Cynthia would attend the New Jersey wedding—thank God for Visa—while Fred and Dean would hold down Bird Song.
Silly David Dean for thinking more time might be needed to put all these pesky details to rest.
Dean and his wife joined the group, followed by Brandon Westlake, Pumpkin Green, and a newly arrived Midwesterner named Hank.
Unfortunately, Cynthia Dean had chosen the wrong audience.
Even David Dean, although he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut in front of his wife, was forced to cross every finger of both hands.
Time to scat, thought Dean.
Cynthia wasn't finished, but now her sole audience was David Dean.
Dean was sure that, deep down, she thought whacking at a ball or chasing one someone else clobbered was an extended children's game and certainly not a worthwhile profession.
In spite of being a mediocre athlete at best, Dean had thrived on sports.
Dean only caught snatches, but enough to know Cynthia was speaking to Rose, son Randy, and Jen.
"Jen was her high school valedictorian," Dean remembered.
"They'll make do," Dean said.
Dean stood up and held her close so she couldn't see his cheering smile.
Dean looked up from squeezing honey from a plastic bear onto a piece of whole wheat toast smeared with peanut butter.
"I imagine she'd have kept trying if the line was busy," Dean answered.
"Maybe I'll call the state and see if I can get a number where we can reach Martha," Dean said as they put away the tools of their trade.
The last item on Dean's list of pleasurable activities was punching one if you want this and two if you want that buttons, then sitting on hold while listening to elevator music from some bureaucratic office.
"Look," Dean said, "I don't want to violate any rules, but this little girl was in our care up until a couple of days ago and we're very interested in her welfare.
But as Dean hung up the phone he had no illusions about the pledges ever coming to fruition.
Fred O'Connor had arranged the affair and Dean had reluctantly agreed to subject himself to the scrutiny of the cream of the town's lady folk.
While the entire program was new to him, Dean realized that if he was running for public office, certain obligations were mandatory.
"Quick work, Sherlock," Dean said, giving Fred a pat on the back.
Even the cat looked up, more from the cessation of her patting than Dean's expletive.
Dean didn't answer but had no intention of asking the boys diddly, at least for the near future, at least until he sensed what was going on.
"Her little friend Caleb knew the bones were there," Dean said.
Maybe so, but the pronouncement gave Dean no solace.
He was a handsome kid who somehow reminded Dean of Cynthia's son, Randy, but more brash.
Dean wondered if the boy played other sports.
Cynthia suggested an outdoor barbeque for dinner and Dean began preparations in the late afternoon.
Dean moved into the shade and closer to the building for better reception.
Dean explained how she'd stopped him for speeding.
She's got legs that—" "Yeah," Dean said.
Dean considered mentioning Martha's discovery of bones but decided not trespass on Jake Weller's vacation.
Dean looked up to see just such an opportunity present itself.
Dean was introduced—as the new sheriff— while Fred winked and the ladies laughed and clapped.
Cynthia emerged with a tray of drinks and Dean was surprised that beer was the beverage of choice.
Dean had trouble remembering who was who but all were of like mind in their affection for the old man who turned up the charm meter a notch or two.
When Dean questioned her, she told of receiving a phone call concerning that same property some weeks earlier.
Dean, towel over his arm, answered it.
Dean just looked at him.
Dean held back the door and Fitzgerald brushed past him, turning into the parlor where most of the Bird Song guests were gathered.
"Maybe we should talk about this out back," Dean said but Fitzgerald was already in the room.
Dean grabbed Fitzgerald's arm.
Mr. Dean here, part time detective and sheriff candidate, tracked down a hot lead on some bones—maybe a long dead villain—up at The Lucky Pup mine.
He turned to Dean.
He turned and looked at Dean as he spoke.
"Let's take one thing at a time," Dean answered as he looked down at the articles spread before him.
Dean gingerly checked the pant's pockets but they were empty.
"The clothes are old even if the bones aren't," Dean said.
Dean turned to his wife.
"Even if that were true—and I don't think it is," Dean said, "it doesn't answer what happened to the real bones."
Tell me that, Dean continued, picking up a large bone and looking at it closely.
"It's all still too much of a coincidence for my taste," Dean said.
Dean shook his head.
The next-to-last thing Dean wanted was to have to look out for the safety of his stepfather—the last was going himself.
"Like the pack of cigarettes," Dean said.
"All things considered, you seem to be holding up pretty well," Dean said to his wife as they cuddled beneath cool sheets in the dwindling hours of the evening.
"And shouldn't, even if you could," Dean added.
I take great comfort in your company, Mr. Dean.
Mr. Dean wished he felt a modicum of confidence in himself as the three drifted off to sleep—David and Cynthia Dean, with SB, the Bird Song owl, snuggled next to them.
Cynthia and her husband were appreciative of his efforts, which Dean knew came as much from nerves over his pending jury duty as early morning kindness.
"It's not fur—it's pulp and it's good for you," Dean answered.
Dean filled his coffee cup.
It's practically still dark out there, Dean answered.
Dean figured Fred was making a last ditch effort for a dispensation from his public duty.
"As beautiful as it is," Dean said, "it feels more like a Harrison Ford movie than a travelogue."
"End of the line," Dean said as he studied Martha's map.
Dean glanced up, trying to catch his breath and spotted the mine portal before them.
This is it, I guess,' Dean said glumly.
Dean dittoed her sentiments.
They sat for a moment while Dean opened his knapsack and checked their limited equipment.
Dean was thankful they both wore old hiking boots as they stepped forward, gazing with trepidation as the cool breath of the mine met them.
Dean nodded in agreement, his stomach roiling and his heart racing as he hoisted his knapsack to his shoulders and they slowly entered.
Dean examined the ground for tracks but the water, which while shallow, in most places covered the width of the narrow passageway and obliterated any footprints.
A few feet further, in a dry grotto scooped out from the main walkway, something glinted in Dean's flashlight.
"I'd sure need more than one bottle of vodka myself," Dean agreed.
To Dean, the tunnel was even more claustrophobic as he hunched forward, taking baby steps like a second grade schoolyard game.
As they moved forward Dean stumbled when his back pack caught on a particularly low place.
The excavation was wider here and Dean could see signs of some earlier passage in the mud at the edge.
Dean was hoping to find it or at least telltale signs that a body had decomposed on this spot, but no such evidence was apparent.
Dean had no stomach for going any deeper than necessary and the water from the mine seepage was getting deeper.
As they neared the first turn, something glinted in the beam of Dean's flashlight.
Cynthia was the first to comment but Dean at first dismissed her concerns as mutual nervousness.
Dean tried to remember all the methods he'd been taught to stem panic and act rationally.
Dean was sure they had not passed an unmarked turn.
Dean saw no reason to lie.
"It wasn't posted," Dean said.
This isn't his first time here, Dean thought, but they took his exit as their cue to leave.
Dean slammed his fist against the Jeep in frustration at the sight.
Dean knelt and examined the tires.
Dean sat on the ground next to the vehicle.
"There goes our ride down the mountain," Dean said.
There was a look of resignation, not concern, on Cynthia's face as Dean shouldered his pack and Cynthia's camera equipment.
Dean waved his arms and at first thought the driver didn't see them, but finally the vehicle stopped.
While Dean discounted hooligans as the source of his vandalism, he was more than happy to accept Brandon Westlake's timely rescue.
Cynthia held the door handle, looking ready to jump while Dean contorted around the shift stick, barely able to press the pedal with his toe.
Dean was sure the old man and his dilapidated old Scout had done this a thousand times before.
Dean acknowledged and explained the directions.
Dean wasn't anxious for Westlake to pursue the conversation and was relieved that the subject apparently held no interest for him.
Dean asked, picturing the Scout creeping along a Kansas Interstate.
"You should have bought real estate twenty years ago," Dean offered.
He chuckled as he reached over Dean and patted Cynthia's arm.
Dean's arm felt as if he'd taken on half the World Wrestling Federation.
"If there's a gal in the crowd, Fred will find her," Dean commented as Fred joined them.
Congratulations, Dean said as Fred climbed in back.
Dean pulled away from the curb, keeping his speed to a parade crawl.
"A real juicy case, I suppose," Dean prodded.
Dean said as he braked the Jeep, nearly tossing his standing passenger.
Dean looked back at Fred in the rear view mirror but there was no hint of clarification.
Dean's question was met with a smile and a kindergarten finger to Fred's shushing lips.
They pulled up to Bird Song but Dean made no effort to alight.
"He's about as open-minded as the Ku Klux Klan," Dean muttered.
Dean thought a moment before answering.
Dean considered his poking options as he used half a cake of soap to scrub away the stink of the mine.
While Cynthia took her shower, Dean made a few phone calls, asking for Ms. Dawkins, but after a dozen tries, he came up empty.
Dean could tell his stepfather's curiosity was at a peak.
"I guess we should set up some ground rules here," Dean answered.
Dean had blanked his campaign for sheriff from his mind, but now it returned with a headache fury.
That was fine with Dean.
Dean looked down at the two holes in his belt, now rendered unusable.
Dean cringed at the word "fat."
And I'll start cooking lean and mean Dean specials.
"You haven't seen Ginger, have you?" he asked as he sat in a chair next to the chaise and eyed Dean's last ale.
"Go ahead," Dean said, trying to hide the disappointment in his voice.
Paul sipped his drink and looked around as Dean returned to the chaise.
Dean asked, jumping up to move the meat from the splattering grease.
"Tell me about the phone call," Dean asked, but saw immediately he'd pushed too far.
Before Dean could answer, Paul added, "Thanks for the beer," and was gone.
Dean hadn't even managed a last name for bitch-Jennifer, much less the details of Dawkins v. Dawkins.
Dean reached in his pocket as he was undressing for bed a few hours later.
She gave a shiver and handed it back to Dean.
"I'm not sure it truly proves anything," Dean answered.
"Fred's father did," Dean reminded her.
Dean resolved to try once more in the morning to get word to her.
Dean was hoping so.
Dean had to admit—never out loud—that Fred O'Connor was far ahead in this junk collecting game.
While Dean planned to again call the state agencies in an attempt to run down Martha, he didn't have to wait.
Dean explained, as succinctly as possible, their concern for this child who'd spent six months in their care.
The woman listened patiently, or so Dean assumed by her silence.
"Kids," the woman said, as if that answered all the questions plaguing Dean's mind.
Now Dean was silent.
Dean felt compelled to do something even if he didn't know what.
There was the Friday meeting with the town ladies— just two days away—and Dean knew he should be gathering thoughts and notes but his mind was too scattered to construct a coherent speech.
A male voice answered and after Dean explained about the bone, he was told to bring it over.
After a jotted message to his wife who was back on the wire, Dean was on his way.
After introductions, Dean was led to a laboratory in the rear of the building.
Dean reached for his wallet.
Dean had no desire to know the macabre contents.
"Try and give it a hand—and an owner," Dean said as he left.
Dean felt as if he might be getting somewhere, at least in identifying Martha's bones.
That would take some research by Fred and his stalwarts, if Dean could figure a way to distance that investigation from Fred's court-dictated jury duty restrictions.
As Dean rolled his Jeep down the main street of Ouray, he caught sight of a familiar figure with a rounded haircut.
Buoyed by his successful human authentication of Martha's bone, Dean decided to do further snooping.
Absent one of those gizmos to see around corners or a newspaper with a hole in it to held high like all the really cool spies do, Dean tried the direct approach.
The man rose and came over to Dean's table.
"David Dean," he said.
"No," Dean replied, but not adding he probably couldn't afford these digs.
"Well, good luck in selling or buying or whatever you do," Dean said, crafty interrogator that he was.
Dean asked with a smile.
Dean considered a further prompt, but a dozen years of dealing with attorneys taught him it would be both unsuccessful and unwise.
As long as he was on a roll, albeit a limited one, Dean had one more errand.
While it was a long shot that the bitchy deputy could be any help, Dean was frustrated enough with the other available avenues to bite his tongue and ask for help.
As Dean neared the structure, a figure emerged from the building.
Dean stopped his Jeep beneath the trees and watched.
Detective Dean might have been on a roll, but his wagon had suddenly come to a stop.
Dean bumped into Pumpkin Green, who was leaving, a black cape and tuxedo over his arm.
Dean felt a pang of sympathy—a child herself about to bring a life into the world.
"The Missus makes the best pie in town," then he added, "next to Mrs. Dean."
And, Dean thought, the price is the same—free.
Dean wondered if the young man knew the girl's condition.
Pumpkin trotted off, bouncing on legs Dean would die for.
Twenty-four hours after his hour-long downhill hike from the mine, Dean's stilts felt like he'd run a barefoot marathon on cobblestoned streets.
Dean willed his hands to remain in his pockets.
Dean said something polite as he glanced at the abundance before him and then at his Jeep across the street.
Dean figured the trunks sold for about a dime a pound.
The other four trunks displayed like goods—a moth-eaten gorilla suit, two bloody collections of dresses, and an outfit Dean supposed Frankenstein wore when he went out for a little nightlife.
When Dean shook his head and wondered aloud why Westlake, who obviously wasn't poor, would mess around with five and ten-dollar items, Fred explained.
Dean had just finished telling Cynthia the bone was human when Fred knocked and entered.
Dean couldn't think of any reason not to confirm its authenticity to the old man and did so.
As he left, Dean rolled his eyes in frustration.
"It's not nice to be speculating on the sex lives of our guests," Dean mimicked.
Dean bumped into Joseph Dawkins, who was coming in from the patio, a beer in each hand.
He glanced in the kitchen and asked Dean if he'd seen Ginger.
Dean followed Joseph into the parlor.
I'm sure you miss him, Dean said, fishing for a reaction.
Or whoever's ass ends up owning the mine, Dean thought, but he simply waved away the apology.
Joseph was ready to end the conversation but Dean was hoping for more fish in his creel.
Dean wandered back to the kitchen, where his wife was fixing supper.
The phone rang, precluding a pithy rejoinder, and as Cynthia was elbow-deep in dishwater, Dean answered.
Randy asked about Fred, and Dean related Fred's latest exploits with the bargains from the props of the play Boo!
Dean handed the phone to his wife as the light went on like in the comic books—a flashing bulb of inspiration.
Dean could barely wait for Cynthia to finish her conversation before he tossed out his inspiration concerning the skeleton.
While Dean could have officially requested Fitzgerald to pursue the matter, his past experience was beginning to teach Dean when to keep his mouth shut.
Cynthia Dean, in hoping for further confirmation that the bones had been switched, tried to contact the parents of Caleb Jones, Martha's friend who was with her in the mine.
Dean called the auctioneer but reached only his answering machine.
At least Dean had refrained from disclosing the tie to the Dawkinses—Josh, the missing mine manager—nor had he mentioned he knew the name of the Dawkinses' stepmother.
Both Dean and his wife felt comfortable with Fred researching the identity of the skeleton as long as Fred remained unaware of any direct connection to the Dawkinses.
While Dean distrusted the Dawkins, given their mutual animosity toward one another, any collective effort on their part—on any project—seemed questionable, if not impossible.
Nor, for that matter, would have anyone else Dean could think of, Acting Sheriff Fitzgerald included.
Dean had to agree as she continued.
"Even those aren't foolproof," Dean answered.
Dean could see Cynthia bite her tongue.
Me too, thought Dean as the hall phone rang and Cynthia hurried in to answer it.
"Tomorrow's the big water fight," Dean said, as he reached over and retrieved the disappointed cat.
"I don't even like the word politician," Dean answered.
Dean turned toward her.
Dean wished Cynthia had waited until they were alone to bring up the subject.
Dean followed close behind, with Fred O'Connor trailing.
The three entered the Dean's office.
"No harm done," Dean answered.
"Good work," Dean said.
"Women's lib," Dean answered.
"You've got the bastard part right," Dean muttered.
Yes, Dean thought, unless someone decides to get more serious about stopping us.
David Dean was hanging patriotic bunting by dawn's early light when Cynthia finished setting out the usual assortment of pastries for the guests and joined her husband for the short walk to the Community Center.
"Now there's a way to lose a few pounds," Cynthia said, motioning outside toward the entrants as Dean returned to their table with a plate of seconds.
Dean planned to spend his free time biking, but changed his mind when he saw the crowds in town and remembered the traffic that would clog the narrow roads.
Dean pulled down the top on his Jeep and slowly drove uptown, giving off what he hoped were candidate smiles and waves to the locals, all of whom seemed to be walking the sun drenched street.
Dean had a feeling the woman was the tall blonde he'd seen leaving the courthouse behind Fred O'Connor.
She might have been a fellow juror, but Dean sensed that he was watching Jennifer Radisson in his rearview mirror.
One of Fred's nameless cohorts buttonholed Dean as he stepped from his vehicle, and by the time he extricated himself from her verbal grasp, the blonde was lost in the crowd at the park.
Dean looked around the crowd but couldn't spot her.
She wore an impish look, high cheekbones and the only lavender eyes Dean had ever seen.
Dean guessed no male juror would even bother listening to the testimony before giving her anything her little heart desired.
What else could it be, Mr. Dean?
You're going to have to do much better than that, Mr. Dean.
Dean clapped as a pair of poodles pranced by.
She looked at Dean.
Jennifer paused so long before answering that Dean thought she'd not heard his question.
As soon as Dean said it, he knew he'd made a mistake.
Dean thought he'd lost her completely but she remained sitting, clapping with the other spectators—a bit too strenuously—as the puppy parade continued.
She turned to Dean.
"It sounds as if you were very fortunate in your choice of a husband," Dean said honestly, but he noted she'd failed to answer his earlier question.
Dean assumed she remained interested.
Dean was more than just surprised by her request.
Dean arranged to pick up Jennifer Radisson at her hotel later that afternoon, after the parade and the water fight.
David Dean whistled a patriotic tune as he strolled up town from the park.
While the walk was less than a half-mile, Ouray's 7,800-foot elevation and the uphill rise caused Dean to quicken his breathing—one more reminder to get in shape.
Deputy Sheriff Lydia Larkin drove by in her official white Blazer and Dean repressed the impulse to give her a one-finger salute.
Dean spotted another public servant at the liquor store.
Acting Sheriff Fitzgerald was slipping two one-pint bottles of vodka into a paper bag as Dean was about to open the door.
Dean asked without answering the question.
Dean wondered if Fitzgerald might be a closet drunk.
Cynthia was seated with two other women at a card table in front of the Post Office when Dean arrived.
Dean, the big spender, reached for one ticket, but a look from his wife changed his purchase to seven.
He grabbed Dean's arm.
He tugged on Dean's arm.
Dean looked at his wife for help, but she just shrugged and smiled, and Dean let himself be led up the street.
There, amid a cluster of floats, Boy Scouts and ballerinas, four of Fred's lady friends were in the final stages of hanging bunting about a beautiful old touring car whose vintage or name Dean couldn't identify.
"Dean for Sheriff" signs were being wired on the doors, front and back.
Liz plopped a straw hat with a red, white, and blue band on Dean's head just as three jets in close formation screamed overhead, buzzing the town in a deafening roar.
"Here," said Mrs. Worthington, shoving a bucket of hard candy in one of Dean's hands and a cluster of strung beads in the other.
Fred explained the beads—she'd gone to Mardi Gras—as he unceremoniously pushed Dean into the rear seat of the open vehicle.
A man Dean didn't recognize turned around and shook his hand before starting the old car.
The vehicle, older than Fred, sounded better than Dean's Jeep.
"I'm impressed," Dean said and he meant it.
"Wait until I get a speeding ticket and I'll remind you," one lady kidded, reminding Dean of his yet unpaid citation.
While Dean felt foolish, he couldn't help feeling a tickle of pleasure as hundreds of people clapped and cheered as they passed.
Dean caught sight of Paulette Dawkins grabbing wildly at a purple contribution.
One of the fire trucks, a few positions ahead of Dean, periodically let go with a squirt to the screech and scream of the victims.
Dean wondered if he'd fortified himself with one of the pints of vodka.
Dean tossed one—at him, not to him—as he passed.
The six ladies-in-waiting of the Dean for Sheriff brigade cupped their hands and booed the competition, to the delight of the crowd.
Dean spotted Cynthia waving from the corner, just as Pumpkin shocked her with a stream of liquid.
It was here Dean was finally able to tell his wife about meeting Paul Senior's widow and his offer to show her the high country property in litigation.
Dean took advantage of the time before the water fight to detail to Cynthia his conversation with the Dawkinses' stepmother.
"Possible, I suppose," Dean said.
Cynthia had missed the prior year's duel, and Dean explained the procedure.
Dean didn't want to go there.
Besides, Dean thought, Randy—single or married—probably has more sense than to get knocked on his ass by a zillion pounds of water pressure aimed at his body.
While Dean enjoyed the spectacle of the exciting contest, he harbored no envy toward its participants.