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Someone Went And Killed Tickly Thomason
About the Author: Robert Mangeot is the author of more than forty published short stories. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, The Forge Literary Magazine, Lowestoft Chronicle, Mystery Magazine, the MWA anthology Ice Cold, and the Anthony-winning Murder Under the Oaks. In 2023, his short fiction received the Claymore Award, and he was given SEMWA's Magnolia Award for service to the writing community.

This was it, the reason S.R. Jefferson went into law enforcement, why he kept his mustache trimmed, why he invested in Men’s Wearhouse suits. Tickly Thomason, legendary piano man and retired Opry member, the very Tickly of Tickly’s Prime Rib Tack House and the Tootle Bootle Boot Emporium, had been found dead inside his party barge, Tickly wearing a bathrobe of his own Internet line. The family and county examiner leaped to natural causes, a heart attack, everyone failing to grasp the probable irony of a murderous mind. Moments like this launched a Central Precinct detective groomed and ready into the limelight.

S.R. called his partner Reyna while roaring the Silverado toward I-40. This was Sunday morning, slate-skyed, and Reyna said, “Seriously, were you up listening to the scanner again?”

“A Nashville Saturday three-quarter moon? Damn straight, compadre. Saddle up. This bad boy has got the scent.”

“Look, it’s Mia’s mommy day. She doesn’t care where I take the kids so long as I’m gone six hours.”

S.R. stepped through the situation as best one could going seventy on a two-lane. “This stinks like turned guac. We break this, we headline the Action News.”

“Homicide doesn’t have Thomason as a case. It’s not any case, unless he tried going firebug again.”

There’d been questions about how the Tack House burned, yes. There was that Tickly known to arson investigators, and there was Tickly from A.M. radio and police ball performances and those gloriously flexible boots even now on S.R.’s feet.

“Bro,” Reyna was saying. “Captain freaks if she hears you riled a dead VIP’s family. And didn’t Thomason do PSAs for his heart condition?”

Further irony, but how they left it, S.R. would proceed solo, and Reyna would take the kids to the water park.

S.R. zoomed on toward his moment. Already in his mind rolled his big press conference: S.R. with his charts and laser pointer, his cocksure stance of someone freshly aboard the fast track.

Thomason’s spread was two acres off Granny White. Only a lone prowl car watched the driveway when S.R. skidded in hot. He swaggered over to a patrol officer engrossed in an egg biscuit.

S.R. flashed his badge. “Sitrep.”

“There’s a dead guy,” Biscuit said. “Hey, nobody radioed anything about Downtown coming out.”

“Can’t confirm or deny.”

“Because if you’re on the job, you have to sign the log.”

S.R. emblazoned his name on the clipboard. “Was Tickly moved aboard his bus, or did he expire there?”

“I’m supposed to know? He’s a dead guy.”

S.R. shrugged his suit lines clean. This truly was it, then. A near-perfect crime and his solo march toward destiny. He walked the driveway’s length and around Thomason’s split-level ranch, to get the land’s feel and assess for suspicious objects left behind. Nada, and footprints were a no-go after people had stomped everywhere.

Behind the house was a firepit patio with plastic cups and beer empties strewn around. Parked inside a camper-style carport down a sloping path was the party barge, Tickle Your Fancy, a sawed-off bus of considerable wear painted like a piano keyboard. The smell of diesel fuel drifted in heavy.

There ought to be police tape. A TBI crew ought to be gathering trace evidence before the rain in those clouds fell. S.R. ought to have a LUDS order, every phone from every household member. Banking transactions, smartphone locations.

Footsteps behind him. S.R. eased his aviators off, and here came a slim Caucasian woman standing five-foot-five and approximately thirty years of age. In a mumble, she introduced herself as granddaughter Eliza.

“Metro Police,” S.R. said. “You have my sincere condolences.”

Eliza didn’t look away from the party barge. Didn’t seem able to.

“Ma’am,” S.R. said, “might you have seen anything out of place here last night?”

“It was his birthday. We had ice cream cake.”

Birthday, S.R. wrote. Cake, ice cream. “Any uninvited guests?”

“I don’t know. Maybe someone was moving around back here later.”

A shadowy figure. Bingo. “Someone with Tickly?”

“Or maybe it was nothing. I was exhausted.” Eliza tugged her pullover tight. “He was so still, you know? Grandpa.”

“You discovered him then?”

This story appears in our MAR 2024 Issue
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