Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Moving On By E. B. Davis

I remember cruising through Hatteras Village and being glad the traffic and tourist crowds had lessened since it was mid-September. There were empty outdoor tables at the coffee shop so I steered my Dare County patrol car into the parking lot. A jolt of caffeine might revive me. I hadn’t taken a break in hours. The staff greeted me and brewed and frothed my usual cappuccino. When I returned to my

panda, an older man stopped me and asked if I had a minute to talk. I gestured to the umbrellaed tables. We sat on opposite sides. “What can I do for you?”


“Deputy, I’m a resident, me and my wife. We live in Frisco. A few months ago, my neighbor came over and asked to buy my house. I’m not ready to sell, but I listened to him because I know the day will come when we’ll need to move closer to more extensive healthcare services. The offer he made was at least one-hundred thousand under its fair market value. Made it simple for me. I told him I wasn’t interested and walked away.”


“Okay,” I said, nodding and hoping he’d explain why was this my business.


“He wouldn’t stop pestering me, like I’d eventually see the error of my ways. I kept telling him that his offer was too low. Told him to ask a real estate agent. But, and I emphasized this, I told him it didn’t really matter because we weren’t ready to move.”


“So, was that it?”


“Nope—that SOB sent me threatening notes through the mail.”


“He signed them?”


“Oh, well no, he didn’t sign them.” The man shook his head. “Guess I can’t prove it was him.” His shoulders slumped.


Lousy neighbors were the pits. He had my sympathy. “Do you still have the notes?”


“Yes, at my house.”


I followed him to his lovely Sound-front home where he gave me the two harassing notes in a plastic bag. But he admitted to handling them before he thought to put them in the bag. His name was Bob Womble, an old North Carolina last name, and his wife was Eleanor—a lovely couple with a problem neighbor—Rob Jones, they told me.


“I’ll process the notes and let you know if I get a hit. If I were you, I’d put up security cameras covering as much property as you can and get a backup drive so if anything goes amiss you can access the recorded images. Make sure the cameras have night vision and high resolution so the face can be identified.”


“I can do that—or at least—a friend of mine can. He’s a whiz with those things.”


“If we could prove these notes came from Jones, they would be evidence for harassment charges. Under NC code, he could get jail time and fines. If you get another note, call me and don’t touch it.” I gave him my business card. “We might be able to lift fingerprints and get a match if he has a record or, if a judge gives the go ahead, obtain fingerprints and writing samples from him. Do you have a record app on your phone?”


“No. What’s that?”


I showed him how to download the app and told him if Jones came over again to record the conversation. I left the couple with as much support as I could, but my parting shot about “everybody has one” probably wasn’t helpful, even if empathetic.


Hatteras Island attracted extremes. There were many retired military families, who were the best. But we also attracted antisocial people who thought of Hatteras as a remote, lawless place where they could do anything they pleased. I suspected some had emotional or mental health issues causing them to run afoul in more populated areas giving them incentive to move here. It seemed most neighborhoods had one of those bad apples. I knew from the numerous calls we’ve received about lousy neighbors scattered all over the island.


Back at the station, I processed the notes for fingerprints but only got a hit on Bob Womble, whose prints were in the military file. Looked like he’d served in Vietnam.




Two months later I had heard no more from the Wombles and hoped they were looking forward to the upcoming holiday season without harassment. My son, Jared, was in his room playing video games until bedtime. Woody, my fiancé and fellow Deputy Sheriff, and his daughter, Cindy, were arguing through the bathroom door. I escaped the house to my dock overlooking Pamlico Sound, where I sat on the bench, trying to enjoy the night, but I could barely think. Typical of mid-November on the island, the temperatures were in the mid 70s and the windows were open. I could still hear Woody and Cindy arguing.


“Get out of the bath, Cindy,” Woody yelled. “Other people need to use the bathroom, too!”


Woody’s daughter was taking a long bubble bath. At twelve, she hogged the bathroom as much as she could. Unfortunately, my house had only the one bathroom. When we got engaged, a few years ago, we’d sold Woody’s house, which wasn’t any bigger than mine. The sale gave us a nice nest egg that we earmarked as the college fund, but I wished for a bigger house, at least one with two and a half baths. I focused on a star and made the house wish. “No, wait. I didn’t wish that—I take it back.” I slapped my thigh and expelled a breath. With Covid 19, at least my sanity had been restored.


Woody must have been successful because I could now enjoy the silence. Looking up at all the stars was a treat on Hatteras Island because we had little light pollution. I shifted my shoulders to relieve tension and leaned back, gazing at the stars. A shooting star streaked through the sky.


“Ahhhh,” I uttered, my gut twisted with a sharp stab. “No! I took back the wish, really I did.” I held my head with both hands trying to keep hold of my two-year sanity. But no, the streak was coming closer, and I knew it would land on my dock. Sure enough, the streak transformed itself into a yellow banana, which landed next to me, unpeeled itself with multiple side zippers, and out popped Pam, the Sprite of Pamlico Sound. As she stepped out, her bootie heel caught on the slippery peel. She crashed onto the dock on her butt.


“Are you okay?”


“Does it look like I’m okay?” Her voice was stroppy. “Put your finger here.” She pointed aside her. When I complied, she leaned on my finger, took her wand out of a pocket, propped up her other side, and levered herself to her bootie-clad feet. 


Her low-pitched voice still surprised me. For a pipsqueak, she wasn’t squeaky. I hadn’t seen her in two years, but then, we’d all been sequestered and isolated in the interim. Pam didn’t look good. All six inches of her screamed weary, like a deranged and beaten Tinker Bell. Her hair was in shambles, and her belted raincoat hem was ripped. If anything, her fashion sense had gotten worse. Her signature booties now matched her banana ride. Even in bright colors, she still reminded me of a female Marlon Brando playing the role of Godfather.


“It’s been a hell of a two years. No fun at all. I’ve been run ragged with all the delegated prayer requests. I keep telling management, I’m wishes, not prayers. There’s a difference. Do I look like an angel to you?”


“Hell, no!” I blurted out. Pam glared at me. “I didn’t mean to summon you. I wasn’t thinking.”


“No, you haven’t been.” Pam paced on the dock like she was itching for a fight. Her eyebrows formed a low straight line across her forehead like she was drawing a line. Had I made some breach?


“What did I do now?”


“It’s what you and Woody haven’t done.”




“I’ll have you know I went to a lot of trouble getting him to propose. Not that he didn’t want to, but he was gun-shy after his marriage and divorce from that woman.”


Unfortunately, our marriage had also been put on hold and never got resurrected. It was just a formality anyway. “We had plans, but when Covid hit, we couldn’t invite anyone. We wanted for it to be a celebration with family and friends. So, we delayed.”


“You’re living in sin!”


“Come on, Pam. You’re the one dressing me up like Megan Fox, so don’t come off like you’re Miss High Morality.”


“It’s not just the immorality. It’s the responsibility and commitment part.”


“What are you talking about? Marriage is just the formality.”


“Oh really? And what about the kids? What happens if something happens to either of you? Do you have all the legalities in place to make sure your kids are okay?”


I opened my mouth but closed it again. “I agree, marriage would help in that regard, but it wouldn’t grant us guardianship of each other’s kids. We’d still need to have our exes sign off on guardianship or adoption.”


“True, but it would give you a leg up with a judge if you were married—legally! You know all this, Sue. What is the problem?”


I looked away. “It’s stupid.”


She put her hands on her hips and tapped a bootie on the deck. “Probably, but out with it.”


“It’s been two years since Woody proposed. I don’t even feel like we’re engaged anymore.”


Pam cupped her hands and yelled, “You want Woody to re-propose?”


“Would you shut up? The windows are open.”


“Don’t say.” She smiled. “Now that I got that off my chest, you can start planning a Christmas wedding and, in the meantime, get me a shot of whiskey and some pretzel crumbles. Guess it’s too early for Christmas Cookies?”


“It’s not even Thanksgiving yet. But I could use a shot, too.” Boy, could I, I thought, as I stormed back to the house, my mind zooming. I hoped Woody hadn’t heard that exchange. I hoped he didn’t ask me who I was talking with. I hoped neither our German Shephard, Dude, or our Corgi, Sir Lancelot, came charging outside to greet Pam, who was responsible for finding them their forever home. Pam was also responsible for Woody and I having to house train two puppies simultaneously. The things that sprite had put me through. I heaved a huffy breath out as I opened the house backdoor. I hoped I could get rid of Pam before I lost my mind—again! I paused my labored thinking. But she was right about Woody and me. It was now or never.


I walked into the empty kitchen, retrieved the Evan Williams from the shelf above the refrigerator. For Pam, I poured a shot glassful, and for me, a larger measure in a cocktail glass. After returning the bottle, I pulled open the snack drawer, grabbed the Snyder’s Pretzel bag, took out two pretzels, and put them in a plastic baggie. On my way back to the dock, I broke up one of the pretzels into tiny pieces.


I placed the shot glass on the dock and sat down, cross legged, beside Pam. She took a sip of whiskey and smacked her lips. “Now that hits the spot. Look, Sue, about the case you have. I need to warn you—you’ll have to stake it out if you want to catch this guy.”


Taken aback, I stammered, “Whoa—what case?”


Pam squinched her eyes sprouting a long vertical crease in her forehead. “You’ve always had a hard time keeping up, Sue. This isn’t the first case we’ve worked together.” She looked at me in exasperation. “The-Womble-case,” she said, one word at a time like she was spelling.


“You can’t get involved with my cases, Pam. You’ve helped in the past, but things happen when you’re around. Things I can’t explain.” I had to give her credit. Yes, she had helped me on a few cases, once resulting in the undercover Megan Fox disguise, but that could have been very embarrassing and unexplainably demented to fellow officers had anyone but Woody caught me dressed in that get up. Luckily, his appreciation was such that he never questioned why I was dressed like that. The drug dealer liked it enough to incriminate himself.


“You seem to forget I’m up to my eyeballs in your cases, Sue. They’re my jurisdiction, too. Remember those prayers and wishes I’m responsible for up and down Pamlico Sound, which is almost every bit of Dare County. The Wombles wish to remain in their house and that their neighbor decides to return to the mainland from wherever he’s originally from.”


“Womble’s got his property covered with high-resolution cameras.”


“Yeah, won’t help if the neighbor’s wearing a ski mask and gloves. Besides, he’s upping the ante. It’s getting dangerous.”


“The neighbor’s name is Rob Jones. What do you know?”


“I went over to the Jones’s house to see what he was up to. He’s going to almost saw through a stair tread going up to their back deck. At very least we’re talking about broken bones.”


“How do you know these things, Pam?”


“Wishes tip us off, but bad intentions smell offensive to wee folk like me. He’s giving off big repulsive stink vibes. He wants to injure them so they won’t be able to live in their house. With the first floor elevated twelve feet and no elevator, they’d have to put their house on the market or rent it, neither of which they want to do. Putting in an elevator takes time and money they don’t have. Jones is hoping to induce them to sell during a health crisis so they’ll let it go below its market value and use it as a rental.”


“They can avoid selling to him.”


“He’ll make it hard. He lives next door and will act obnoxiously to potential buyers. They won’t make offers knowing the next-door neighbor is crazy or criminal.”


“Do you know when?”





After Pam left, I went inside to find the kids had gone to bed. Woody, tilted his surfer-bleached head full of blond curls and asked, “Who were you talking to?”


I closed my eyes. There was no way I could tell him about Pam, the Sprite of Pamlico Sound. Inspiration struck. “An informant.”


“Really. Do informants always give you hell for not getting married?” he asked, and then dropped to his knees. “Sue, would you marry me? And soon already.”


I smiled. “I’m sorry you heard that. But, yes!”


“Whoever she was, was right. Let’s get married at Christmas.”


“Okay—it’s only six weeks away, but we weren’t going over the top on the wedding anyway so we’ll have enough time to plan. I wish we could have it here, but the house only has one bathroom and with all the guests, it wouldn’t work.”


“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that, too.” Woody stood up. “I’ve been wishing big time for a larger home. One with more bathrooms. I’m sick of fighting for bathroom time and with Cindy.”


“It will only get worse when she’s a teen. I’ve been wishing for it, too.” Between the two of us, we’d summoned Pam as if we’d used a bull horn. “Let’s see what’s on the market and ask around. Maybe someone is thinking of listing and hasn’t yet. We’ll have to get this house listed, too.”


“So, what did the informant tell you?”


“Stakeout time!” I proceeded to give Woody the details of what, when, where, and why. I’d told him before about the Womble’s problem, but that had been two months ago.


“How did the informant get the info?”


I hesitated, then told a whopper. “Friends but not friends with the neighbor, Jones. The guy bragged about how he was going to get them to sell.”




Woody and I planned the stakeout. After bringing our boss into the loop, our first step was to get a sitter for the kids. Woody called his sister, Nelly, who agreed to come over while we were gone. We looked at the property online at the Dare County GIS site, which had aerial and front shots of properties, to find the best places for us to hide and observe Jones doing his dastardly deed. Then, I called Bob Womble to ask him not to come out of the house or turn on any lights that normally wouldn’t be on. They were to follow their normal nighttime routine.


The evening before the stakeout, Woody was on night duty, and I was home with the kids. I heard tapping on the backdoor. Curious, I opened the door and found Pam.


“Sue! It’s going down tonight, not tomorrow night. Jones must have gotten impatient.”


“I can’t take him down alone, Pam. I need backup.”


“I’ll back you up.”


“How? I know you beat demons with your wand, but I don’t think that’s going to be enough to help me cuff the guy.”


“I’ll bring help.”


“Not Buck.”


“Not Buck, but you do have to admit that big deer did the job.”


I ground my teeth. When Pam had turned Buck into a man, he was big, goofy, and, ah, …uninhibited. “I’ll have to get a babysitter.” I called Nelly, who came quickly. I told the kids I had to go into work and to let the dogs out for a potty break before bedtime. Then, I called Bob Womble to let him know the stakeout had been rescheduled. Woody was my last call.


“Don’t try to go after him without me, Sue.”


“I’ll text once I witness him sawing through the step. Hang out in the neighborhood nearby. But not within sight of the house.”


“You’re still going in by boat?”


“Yep, my best bet to go undetected.”


Womble’s house had no foliage for cover. Taking my boat over and observing from it was our only option. We were afraid Jones would be suspicious or scared off seeing an unfamiliar car in the driveway. A boat tied to the dock would be harder to see, blending into the darkness hidden by the dock itself.


I tied off the boat and knelt in the bottom while peering over the side, hiding and spying simultaneously. It was my only recourse given it had the best vantage point of the staircase. I would not be able to react quickly since I’d have to jump off the boat and clear the dock before running after the jerk.


I bided my time devouring miniature candy canes, my usual Christmas treat. It was early in the season, but when I saw them for sale I couldn’t resist. My dentist wouldn’t be happy, but they kept me occupied.


It was painfully boring until two in the morning when a man I presumed was Jones sneaked onto the Womble’s property. He carried a small handsaw that fit between the steps. He started to saw, then stopped, listening if the noise he made had alerted the Wombles. He continued to saw in slow and measured strokes. I saw him push up on the step from the underside. Then, he climbed the stairs until he got to the sawed step. Holding his weight on his arms, hands grasped to the handrail, he lowered his weight gently onto the step. Satisfied the step would break under his weight, he slunk down the stairs and furtively walked toward the side of the house.


I hit send on a text to Woody and shot out of the boat—only to fall on my face.


Crouched in the same position on the boat, my legs were numb. Jones was almost to the front of the house. “Halt! Police!” I yelled while crawling to the yard. The guy was gaining ground and had no intention of minding me. As he advanced, I heard him say, “What the hell?”


I got to my feet and saw Pam flying toward Jones. Accompanying her were two men; one large with dark hair, the other, very short and blond.


The larger man jumped in front of Jones, knocking him to the ground on his back. Jones held up the saw as a weapon, waving at the large man. Suddenly, the man lunged for Jones’s hand holding the saw and bit. I heard Jones swear, “What man bites?” He dropped the saw, trying to yank his hand from the man’s clamped jaws.


The shorter man walked to the side of them. He waved with his index finger pointed at Jones. “When my mistress gives you an order, you obey! She said halt. You halt.”


When I approached, the large man detached his jaws and rolled off Jones. I knelt on the ground, pushed Jones over while taking one of his hands and cuffed it. “That was assault. I want to press charges,” he said.


I tried to roll Jones the opposite way to get his other hand cuffed, but he resisted. The large man assisted me in rolling Jones over. I got the second cuff in place while Jones remained faced down. “He didn’t even draw blood,” I told Jones. Pam came over and buzzed around the back of Jones’s head.


I stood and asked, “Who are they, Pam? Where did you get them?”


“You don’t recognize them?”


“Should I?”


“Are you sure you don’t know them?”




“Meet Dude, your German Shephard, and Sir Lancelot, your Corgi.”


















My jaw must have dropped. “My dogs?”


The large man bounced close to me. “Hey, Sue. Love the peanut butter bones. Get more of them, would ya’?”


The short blond frowned. “But don’t waste your money on those organic pumpkin treats. They’re terrible. More of the bison snacks. I think I could take down a bison so it’s a natural treat, like if we were hunting on the prairie.”


Dude rolled his eyes. “You might trip one, Lance, but taking one down—probably not.”


“I’m of royal stock. Quite capable!” He flounced, turning his back to the group, which would have been more affective if his cute butt wasn’t apparent clad in jeans.


“Tell Woody to teach me to surf. I know I could do it. I saw a program about surf dogs on Animal Planet. Please, Sue,” Dude begged.


“I’ll try,” I said, not knowing what else to say. Dude licked my face. “Arrhh, no, down.”


Sir Lancelot stopped pouting. “Glad Cindy finally stopped dressing me in hats and jackets. That was an awkward stage. But now she often serves dinner late. Really, I need a regular schedule. Five o’clock on the dot. Please remind her to be prompt.”


“Okay,” I said. Awkward situations arose whenever Pam was involved. I should have known I’d end up taking orders and relaying messages for my dogs, but then, they had taken down and lectured the perp so we were even.


Pam flew over. “Okay, boys, time to get you back to the house. Woody is on his way. Besides, the kids will be worried you’re gone. Come here.” They stood in front of her while she waved her wand over their heads. “Calacazak, calacazoo, turn these boys back into the dogs we once knew.”


My prisoner said, “What was that all about? Was a mosquito talking to you? I heard buzzing around my head.”


“Are you on drugs?” I asked. I didn’t know or care what the neighbor had seen. Served him right. I saw headlights come up the road and helped Jones to his feet. “You are being arrested for Reckless Endangerment, Trespassing, Prowling, and Resisting Arrest. You have the right to remain silent…”




The next day, I compared Jones’s fingerprints to those I’d taken from the notes Womble received. I got a match and added Harassment to the other charges and called the D. A.’s office. Then, I called the Wombles to let them know how it had all gone down. “They’re all misdemeanors, but added together and showing an escalation in his tactics—I think he’ll be in jail for a good six months with fines. The prosecutor’s office will be in contact.” He thanked me, and I felt good about how we solved his problem.


About a week later, Bob Womble called me. “You’re not going to believe this.”




“Eleanor fell down the front steps and broke her hip.”


“Oh no. I’m so sorry.”


“Looks like we’re going to have to move anyway. I was in denial. Those steps were too much for Eleanor. If I had been honest with myself, she wouldn’t have gotten injured.”


“Hindsight is always great.”


“After Jones was arrested, we thought about living next door to him. It was bound to be difficult at best. At least with Jones in jail, we won’t have interference from him when buyers come to look. I called to let you know we won’t be on Hatteras Island. Even if we could get Eleanor up the stairs, if a fire broke out, I couldn’t get her out in time. We’re going to our son’s house in Greenville. Call me if I have to testify.”


I didn’t want to appear mercenary, but I had to ask, “When are you going to list the house?”




“I might be interested. If you keep it off the market and sell it without a real estate agent, that will save about six percent on commission. What price are you asking?”


He named a price that was doable for us, but given the six percent, I negotiated. “I liked what I saw of the house, but my fiancé and I need a detailed tour. We’ll also need to get an inspection, you understand. How can we access the house?”


“I’ll call my friend, the camera whiz, and you can pick up the key from him.” He gave me his friend’s number and address in another island neighborhood. “I won’t list the house until I hear from you.”


“I doubt we’ll change our minds. But I will consult my fiancé and let you know.”


Bob chuckled. “Having his arresting officer live next door seems like justice to me!”


“Yes—and we have two kids and two dogs, who are very protective. I doubt they’ll like him. Perhaps he’ll realize his best bet is to sell.”


Woody and I walked through the house. It had not only two bathrooms, but two half baths as well. We were thrilled, and when the inspection report revealed nothing but a torn screen on the porch and a cut step on the back staircase, we were full steam ahead. I thought maybe we could close before Christmas and have our wedding at our new house, but that didn’t happen. Too much, too fast—so we decided to get married on New Year’s Eve instead. We closed on the house a week before Christmas and moved in immediately.


We were married at sunset on the dock of our new home on New Year’s Eve. After the ceremony and dinner, we watched fireworks over the Sound that were fabulous even if set off illegally. I was glad Woody and I weren’t on duty.


 On New Year’s night, I wandered out to the new dock with a glass of wine, a shot glass full of Evan Williams, and a bag of leftover wedding cake crumbles. After sitting on the bench, I wished to see Pam, wondering how she would answer my question.


“What is it, Sue?” Pam asked, after landing her banana and carefully disembarking. She looked at me suspiciously. “First time you ever directly summoned me.”


I handed her the shot glass and cake crumbles.


“Bribes, too?”


I let out a breath. “Do you have to deny someone’s wishes for others’ wishes to come true?”


“You want to know why the Wombles’ wishes weren’t granted and yours were.”


“Yes. I feel bad about that.”


“Sometimes the boss has plans for people that they can’t conceive. In two months, the Womble’s son will announce that their first grandchild will be born around Christmas. By then, they’ll be in a new house nearby, close to healthcare facilities. Eleanor’s hip will be mended, and the light of their lives will be born. No need to worry.”


My shoulders released the tension I’d held. “I’m so thankful. We really needed to move. The house is big enough for us and has a dock. I know we’ll be happy here.”


“I know you will, Sue.” She held up her glass for a toast. “Let’s toast to new beginnings. To the end of illness, isolation, and hope for the future.”


I touched my glass to hers. “Amen!”

The End




Links to previous Sue Stories


2014    “The Christmas Tree”


2014    “The Christmas Cookie Conviction”


2015    “Christmas Wishes”


2016    “Pam vs. The Demon”


2017    “Puppy Christmas Passage”


2018    “Mixed Blessings”