The discovery of a skeleton just outside of town baffled the authorities. That's what the Clemensville Chronicle said anyway. A man and his dog, braving the dusty winds from the nearby plains, stumbled onto the body---or what was left of it. It really caused quite a stir.
Clemensville, Texas, nestled next to Highway 349, was west Texas at its finest. Dry, desolate, and no natural structures taller than a pumpjack for a hundred miles. They were everywhere, no matter which direction you turned. I used to pretend they were mighty Tyrannosaurus Rexes lowering their giant black heads, chomping on some poor little dinosaur and then rising to swallow their meals. Up, down, up, down, all day, all night.
Strangers were a rarity in Clemensville. Mostly just motorists passing through on their way to either Rankin or Midland, depending on which direction they traveled. Railroads crisscrossed the state, just nowhere near us; no bums or drifters to speak of and everybody knew most everybody. That's why the skeleton was so unsettling. The weird thing was nobody had been reported missing around here since old man Jennings disappeared a decade ago. They found the guy's ninety-year-old carcass less than a mile from his house. Nothing exciting; just a heart attack.
This was different, though. The paper said that foul play was suspected. That made pretty good sense; unless someone walked out there buck naked to die. There wasn't a stich of clothing found anywhere near the remains. The police called in a Midland-area dentist to take dental imprints and the results were circulated to surrounding communities. Nothing came of it.
Everyone talked about the discovery. In a town with a population just under 1200, other than football what else was there? Television crews came from Midland, Odessa, and as far away as Lubbock. People stood around and watched the newscasters do their on the scene reports like they were watching a circus act.
My wife, Carla, was nervous as hell during the investigation. Before the discovery we weren't all that worried about the boogey man. Afterward, Carla made me go through the house latching windows and locking doors. Then she did her own walk-through to make sure I did it right. I'm not sure if she thought I was an idiot or if she was just paranoid, but it got really annoying. After everything was locked, checked, and rechecked, Carla brought up the same stupid subject---buying a dog. She didn't even like dogs, but with strong proof of a murder not far away, she decided she could learn to like them. I interpreted the discussion as meaning she didn't feel protected. I guess I wasn't much of a man in her eyes. That's fine; she wasn't my dream girl either.
My argument against a flea-bitten mutt tromping through the house obviously wasn't very convincing because we added the security she wanted. He was an animal shelter rescue. Carla named him "Brutus," believing it made him sound like a dog to be reckoned with. He must have had his own name because that dumb-shit never once answered to ours. Carla thought he was cute; I thought he was a big 'ol pain in the ass.
So Brutus took over the role of "protector" and Carla lightened up with the whole paranoid thing; she had her dog and no longer feared getting raped, stabbed, beaten, and killed in the middle of the night. Truth be told, her frumpy housewife look wasn't going to draw any attention. I didn't think she had too much to worry about, whether we had a dog or not.
I tolerated the mutt as best I could, but I have to admit when the Brutus chapter came to a close, I wasn't all that sad to see him go. I suppose I should've been more comforting to Carla when she lost him, but she acted like such a whiny baby about the whole thing I just got irritated.
After the buzz about the discovery quieted down and all the reporters left, everything got back to normal. Until more bodies showed up.