Britt stood on the deck of his home in the sweltering July heat, presiding over a smoking grill. His wife had mentioned wanting fried catfish for supper, and by golly, he had fetched her one from the cove and had set about to cook it, but by some means other than fried. With a tall glass of ice water in hand, he was tolerating the sticky Southern air as best he could. He looked up to see Dena leading an Iredell County deputy through the living room. Deputy Leon Stokes, or so the guard at the gate had announced. Britt couldn’t imagine what the local sheriff’s department could want with him, but he was determined not to let this man ruin his good mood.
Dena introduced the deputy and stepped over to the grill. “Will you take a look at that, Mr. Stokes?” She lifted the lid to reveal a whole catfish that was staring straight up at the deputy with both eyes, its belly spread out on either side. “Tell him no self-respecting Southerner would ever cook a catfish whole. He hasn’t even skinned the thing. All he did was gut it and slap it on the grill.”
“I’m telling you, that’s how the Internet said to cook it.” Britt slammed the lid of the grill shut and smiled at Leon. “Have a seat, Mr. Stokes. Can I get you anything to drink? My wife makes fine iced tea. I haven’t learned to drink it yet, but I’m sure it’s fine.”
“Uh, no, thank you.” Leon sat and stared at Britt, scrutinizing him closely.
Britt had a feeling that the man wasn’t star-struck. He perched on the edge of a chair, facing Leon, and asked, “What brings you all the way out here this evening?”
“I need to ask you a few questions.”
Leon squinted at Britt. He seemed perplexed about something. “Where did you go after you were released last night?”
Britt squinted back at Leon and didn’t answer.
After a silence, the deputy said, “If you would prefer to do this down at the station, feel free to call your lawyer.”
“Mr. Stokes,” Britt began, keeping his voice level, “I have no idea what you’re talking about or what you think I might have done, but my wife and I returned from New York yesterday evening. I only left the house once, to take my car for a spin. She hadn’t been driven in over a week, which isn’t good on a racing engine.”
“Where did you go?”
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