Nut Check, book three of the Payne County Weekly series
A historical fiction novel set in Oklahoma by Joe Harwell
Chapter 1. December 23, 2011, Los Angeles, CA
“Have you reviewed the plea deal with your client?” asked Special Prosecutor, Boone Frye.
“Yes, but what about witness protection?” replied attorney, Paul Lurtz.
“Unfortunately, your case doesn’t meet the criteria,” replied Frye.
“Are you kidding?” said Guyla Herdison. “My ex-husband threatened to kill me if I testify against him and the others.”
Frye stood, walked around his desk and said, “Verbal threats are one thing, Mrs. Herdison. We weigh the potential danger from your husband and his co-conspirators against their backgrounds and track records, and frankly, they have no history of violence or serious criminal records. It costs millions to maintain someone in protective custody and the Attorney General won’t approve it. We’ll keep you in a safe house until the trial is over, then you’re on your own. In my opinion, and the opinion of the Attorney General’s staff, you’re in more immediate danger from the press than from your husband.”
Guyla glanced at Paul, then said, “I see. So, you promised things you knew you weren’t capable of delivering to get me to agree to testify, and now it’s just take it or leave it.”
Leaning toward her, Frye said, “You can leave it, but it means going to jail with at least a million dollar bond. All in all, the plea agreement is a good deal allowing you to go about your life as you please with no probation after the trial, regardless of the verdict.”
“I’m filing a breach of agreement complaint,” said Paul, standing and moving inches away from Frye. “You promised to…
Guyla put her hand on Paul’s arm and said, “It’s okay. I’ll sign. All I want is a chance to get out from under all of this and move on.”
“Are you sure?” asked Paul.
“Yes. Being out of sight until I testify will be a relief. This will be a helluva Christmas present for Charlie.”
Frye backed off and said, “I’ll give you a few minutes, but it’s decision, Mrs. Herdison.”
“Five minutes will be enough.”
When Frye left the conference room, Paul said, “Guyla, what are you going to do after you testify? You’re nearly out of money and don’t have a place to stay.”
“I’ll make it, like I always do.”
“Okay, if you’re sure, but they’re clearly in breach of the promises they made.”
“I know, but they hold all the cards. I’m pleading guilty to things I didn’t even do, but if I’m free with no probation or restrictions after testifying, then I’ll make it. I appreciate what you’ve done to get me this much. No one else would have taken the case for the small amount I could pay.”
“Sometimes it’s not about money. It’s about doing the right thing.”
Guyla let out a low, insincere chuckle and said, “If I’d walked away and done the right thing years ago, I wouldn’t be in this mess.”
Neither one of them spoke for a moment, then Paul reached for the papers and said, “Initial on the highlighted short lines at the end of the paragraphs, then sign and date at the end. This will be filed this afternoon and you’ll be taken to a safe house.”
“Charlie and I will both have a bad Christmas this year.”
“Yeah, but next year will be better.”
Guyla initialed and signed the plea agreement as Paul watched.
Chapter 2. Four months later
“Hi mama,” said Guyla (Caraway) Herdison, trying to sound positive without being cheery when her mother answered the phone.
When Myrtle Caraway didn’t respond, Guyla was sure her mom would hang up until Myrtle replied, “It’s been a while.”
“I know. How are you and Daddy?”
Although they haven’t spoken in four years, Guyla hoped her mother would be more responsive, but at least Myrtle didn’t hang up the minute she heard her voice. Doing her best to convey a smile over the phone, Guyla continued, “I’m glad. Is Daddy on the road?”
“You knew he would be if you called on a weekday. I’m glad to hear your voice, but things must be pretty bad if you’re calling us. Is the trial over?”
The forced smile dropped off Guyla’s face. The chit chat was over. It’s time to tell Myrtle the truth and ask for something she swore she’d never do. She said, “The trial is over. Charlie was a good man when we met and I had no idea he was involved with drugs. I should have left when I first discovered …”
“Stop right there,” Myrtle interrupted. “Honey, it was obvious to everyone that Bubba, I mean Charlie, was doing something to enhance his athletic ability, even in college. You’re smart, you had a good life and a career in medicine ahead of you and gave it all up for, well, I’m not sure, but the damage is done. No amount of regret and apologizing is gonna fix it.”
Struggling not to cry Guyla said, “I really loved him, Mama.”
“I know. And now?”
Hesitating before answering, Guyla summoned all her courage and said, “It’s like you told me once, sometimes love isn’t enough.”
Myrtle knew why Guyla quoted this and regretted saying it to her twenty-five years ago to explain why she lost contact with her grandfather Caraway. He was an alcoholic who caused grief for the family and Guyla’s father blocked his own father from their lives. Guyla only saw it as being separated from a kind man she loved and who loved her with all his heart. Myrtle was momentarily shaken by Guyla’s words, and then came back to the reality of her daughter calling after years with no contact and asking for help.
“So, Miss Guyla Marie, what do you need?”
Knowing her mother was serious by using her middle name, Guyla said, “The modeling agency dropped me and I can’t get decent work here. My phone rings constantly, but the only offers are for nude modeling or worse.”
During the relentless press coverage of Charles ‘Bubba’ Herdison’s fall from grace in Major League Baseball for using performance enhancing compounds, a video surfaced of he and Guyla at a college party skinny-dipping in a hotel swimming pool.
Myrtle said, “I saw you and some high powered lookin’ lawyer on TV when you were leavin’ court. I guess testifying put an end to everything between you and Charlie.”
“I had no choice, Mama. If I hadn’t, they were filing charges on me. It was the only way to avoid prosecution. Our marriage hasn’t been working for a while because of the effects of the drugs on Charlie.”
“Well, I guess I shouldn’t say anything bad about him then.” Myrtle hesitated a moment before continuing and said, “Are you broke?”
“God, how can she always know everything?” Guyla thought, remembering how Myrtle could always see right through her. She replied, “Legal fees, the divorce and everything else took all I had. I have a car and a few hundred dollars from selling my jewelry.”
“What are you gonna do?”
Knowing this was a do or die moment, Guyla asked, “Can I come home?”
Myrtle didn’t want to say no, but knew helping Guyla could damage her marriage to Ferguson Caraway. She sighed and said, “When can you be here?”
“If I leave in the morning, I can be in Stillwater sometime Thursday.”
“I don’t want you driving straight through. How’s your car?”
“I traded my nearly new Mercedes for a GMC Envoy. It has 70,000 miles on it, but it’s paid for, in good shape and now holds everything I own.”
“Where are you staying now?” asked Myrtle.
“At the home of one of the few friends I have left. She and her husband are out of town through Friday and asked me to house sit, but they just did it so I’d have a place to stay.”
Guyla could hear her mother walk through the house and begin typing on a computer keyboard. After a minute Myrtle said, “I booked you a room for tomorrow night in Flagstaff with a late check in guaranteed with my credit card under Caraway. I’ll wire details on the hotel and some money for the trip on Western Union along with my cell number. Call me on it instead of the house number from now on. When you get here, I’ll pay three months rent and utilities on an apartment to get you started, which will about dry up my mad money, then you’re on your own. Personally, I don’t see much relief for you coming back to Stillwater, given the limited job market here.”
“I just need to get out of the spotlight and have time to breathe. Reporters hounded me through this ordeal, especially after the video hit Youtube. I’m just glad they don’t know where I am now. Thanks for helping. I’ll pay you back.”
“I don’t care about the money. Just drive safe and call when you get to Flagstaff and let me know you made it.”
“I will, and thanks again. I love you.”
“I never doubted that. Love you too.”
PRINT COPIES PREORDER PROMOTION
Preorders offset my cost of bringing a book to market and I appreciate the support of readers of this series who have been asking for another installment.
Option One – Print copies of NUT CHECK may be preordered for $9 each, including shipping, through September 30, 2016. Those who preorder will receive a six chapter preview via email. The Amazon retail price will be $12.95.
Option Two – Order all three books in the series for $20, including tax. Payne County Weekly and Mile of Cars Murders will be shipped immediately and Nut Check will be shipped upon publication. The Amazon retail price of all three is $12.95 each.
Option Three – Order all nine of my novels and two memoirs for $70, including tax and shipping. The first eight novels and two memoirs will be shipped immediately and Nut Check will be shipped upon publication. The list includes my two vampire novels based on the Heavener Runestone, The Indian Rock Vampire and Upside Down Heart. Also included are Payne County Weekly and Mile of Cars Murders, plus One Drug, Dragline, Welcome to Utica, and Izzy Cavanal. The two memoirs are Letters From Becky and Wolf Mountain Weekend 1976. The Amazon retail price of the novels is $12.95 each and the memoirs are $9.95 each.
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