"Tell me about this woman and her children, then," I said a little slowly. I was wondering what was going on here. Even Ma Dodd wouldn't intimidate the Sheriff into setting her boy up like this, no-one held a grudge against Dodd. It's hard to hold a grudge against a guy who can't even reliably tell a man what day of the week it is. "She been seen around these parts then?"
"I dunno," said Dodd, his face falling a little, sadness creeping in at the edges. "I was just trying to find her, and I figured I'd go around and ask a bunch of folks. She's mean, and she's mean to children too. I figured people are bound to notice that."
Maybe, I thought to myself. And maybe people who notice that are careful not to notice themselves noticing that; folks round here know what their own business is and are mindful to keep it that way. Same as me, my business is my own, and I don't rightly like people asking deep questions about it, so I don't go asking any deep questions about anyone else's business. And is that the kind of thing that lets a woman get away with stealing children? I wasn't much sure I liked the kinds of thoughts that Dodd was bringing up.
"I think you gotta be mighty careful asking questions like that," I said. I gestured at the house. "Might be I can get you something to drink, Dodd? Seems like talking's making me thirsty."
"Uh." Dodd looked puzzled.
"Lemonade, maybe? Your Ma lets you drink lemonade doesn't she?"
"Have you got Dandy-lion and Burr-dock?" Dodd drew the words out like they were two words each, clearly liking the sound of them.
"Sure thing," I said. I did too; not for me, but some of the visitors I got had old-fashioned tastes and liked the stuff. I thought it made you wet the bed at nights, but that surely wasn't my problem if it affected Dodd like that. "Sit yourself down while I go fetch."
When I came back outside Dodd was still standing by his car, so I hiked on down the path and handed him a tall glass with ice and a straw in. He sucked the drink greedily, and he looked a little happier again when he took his lips away from the straw.
"Any clue what this woman looks like then?" I still wasn't sure I wanted to know, but I sure as hell wanted to know why Dodd had a Sheriff's badge and was asking questions of decent, god-fearing folk.
"She has children with her, but they're not her own." Dodd sucked his drink a little more and I waited, seeing if he had anything else to say. "She's mean to them." Another slurp. The straw rattled a little in the glass. "She's always cold."
Now that was a surprise. The temperature out here in summer doesn't fall much below 70 and right now it was in the high 80s. "How do you know she's cold, Dodd? She telling folks that?"
"She's always wearing a coat," he said, sounding sly and proud at the same time. "It's a long one, brown, and comes down to her ankles and up to her neck. She's always wearing it. She must be cold to wear a coat all the time."
"That's a mighty fine piece of thinking," I said, and despite the temperature a chill had just run all the way down my spine and was making me want to shiver. I controlled myself, pressing my shoulders out and my chest forward, forcing myself to notice the sun beating down on me. "Maybe she's got no other clothes though, Dodd."
"Hadn't thought of that," he said. He sucked on the straw again, getting the last of the drink up. Then he looked up, his eyes bright and a smile on his face once more. "But then she's only got the coat and she'll be easy to find!"
"That's true," I said, nodding and holding my hand out for the glass back. "You should go and ask people if they've seen the woman in the coat. Tell them it's a brown coat, that'll help."
"Right! Right!" Dodd pushed his glass back into my hand and ran round his car, tripping and catching himself on the hood in his haste. He righted himself and got in, and started her up on the first try. He waved to me as he pulled away, and I waved back with my free hand.
"Holy crap," I muttered to myself as I turned back up the path to wash up the glass and wait some more for my parcel. "Dodd's going looking for Clarissa Kay? That can only end one way."