Every year for several years now, I’ve traveled down to Blacklin County, Texas, to help out with a murder investigation. Seems like somebody’s always ending up dead in little towns around the county and it takes a heap of investigating to set things back to rights.
Those little Texas towns are a lot like the ones where I grew up in Oklahoma. Same people, same diners, same economies, same problems. Now I like sophisticated murder cases too, and I like them spread out over the last couple hundred years all over the country, and all over the rest of the world as well.
But there’s something about these hometown murders that I relish. Maybe it’s the familiarity with the countryside, how everything is laid out on the page just the way I know things really are. Folks in small towns can be small-minded, yet still hooked into the technological marvels we have today, but they still worry about feral hogs and haunted houses.
I think one of the best parts of these Blacklin County murders is my good friend Sheriff Dan Rhodes. We’ve been riding the trail together for a few years now and I know how he thinks. Rhodes has changed a little over the years, got himself hitched and added to his critter collection, but he’s more or less the same guy I got to know in Shotgun Saturday Night (I started out a murder behind, but I caught up).
This year, Rhodes had another murder. A dead outlaw turned up in what is believed to be a haunted house, and Rhodes had to figure out who done for the man and what was going on. As usual, a simple murder in Blacklin County gets complicated because lots of other folks are protecting themselves, others, and their secrets.
In the middle of that investigation, there was a bull riding event, a brand spanking new paranormal investigation team (that I hope to hear more about), and a feral hog stampede that puts one man in the hospital and has the sheriff up a tree.
These are the way Rhodes’s cases go. Along the way, he’s aided and abetted by his usual crew (although he’d point out that none of them are as helpful as maybe they should be). Gradually, Rhodes works things out, and there are plenty of twists and turns you won’t see coming. In my opinion, Blacklin County has got to be one of the most interesting places in Texas. Or anywhere, for that matter.
If you haven’t been along for a murder in Blacklin County, come on down. And if you have, welcome back.