Trooper Sam Neely is fresh out of the State Police academy and finds himself assigned to the dullest backwater town he's never heard of. Things heat up quickly in Eden, U.S.A., however, when Ed Harris, the banker, finds his wife in bed with his best friend, Hayden Elkins. Ed picks up a shotgun, escorts them both to the door, and tells friend Hayden, "Guess what? She's yours!"
"I've got a wife, Ed," says Hayden.
"Now you have two. . . ."
Forced to take his paramour to live under his own roof (after all, they had only intended to share an afternoon of delight, not to leave their spouses), Hayden suddenly finds himself the butt of every joke in town.
That's where things start to spin out of control.
Before long, Elijah Murphy, the town drunk, and the snooping widow next door, to whom he'd exposed himself, are falling in love; sleazy Sheriff's Deputy Delmar Clay is about to get a butt-full of birdshot for the pictures he's been snapping of young couples getting hot and heavy in parked cars; and the Barrow Boys are out of jail and looking for trouble. Soon, Neely finds that managing the crises in the sticks is a full-time job, and it takes a whole community-from the compassionate local magistrate to the new female preacher-to keep things from exploding big-city style.
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|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.73(d)|
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The Garden of Eden
By Eve Adams
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2005 Black River Corporation
All rights reserved.
The road to Eden runs up the valley from the town of Indian River. All along its length are small farms, occasionally a large one, and, set back from the road in the edge of the forest, a few fine homes. Although the valley is wide, as valleys in that country go, the road is not the straightest and is only two lanes of asphalt. The centerline was repainted by the state not long ago, so that looks nice.
The village of Eden is twelve miles from Indian River. Due to some bureaucratic oversight the village still has a post office, a small brick building with an American flag on a pole out front. Old Mrs. Marple puts the mail up, sells stamps, and passes the time of day with anyone who walks in. She has been behind the counter in the post office for almost forty years, longer than many of her customers have been alive.
Across the road from the post office sits the primary business in Eden — well, the only business in Eden. The sign on Doolin's Restaurant and General Store is faded and the paint flaking off, but everyone in four counties knows it. The enterprise is owned and operated by Moses Grimes, who bought it from Doolin years and years ago and never got around to having the sign repainted. Doolin moved away after he sold out and may even be dead now — no one seems to know for sure.
In the general store Grimes stocks groceries, fresh meat, tools, nails, nuts and bolts, electrical and plumbing items, ammunition, fishing equipment, and a breathtaking array of over-the-counter medicines, beauty products, pots, pans, school supplies, etc. Out back in a cinder-block shed he keeps fertilizer, bulk pet food, culverts, charcoal and the like.
Every item in Doolin's General Store can be purchased cheaper in the county seat, Indian River. Most of the patrons tend to buy only things they forgot to purchase on their last shopping expedition in town. Grimes would probably go out of business if it weren't for the restaurant, where he features good, plain country cooking at rock-bottom prices. Packed three times a day, the restaurant is the social hub of the Eden community. The dining room is not large, so people talk to their neighbors at the other tables. Sometimes four or five of these conversations are in progress at once; since the volume can be awe-inspiring, it takes a trained ear to hear the remarks directed at you.
All this hubbub takes place before the worst mural ever painted, a stupendous outdoor scene that covers the largest wall. The grossly distorted perspective of this work is trendy enough, yet one suspects the artist was color-blind or had decided this wall was the perfect place to dispose of a large quantity of hideous green paint. Regular customers find that the food goes down easier if they avoid looking at the mural.
There are four houses in the village of Eden, nice old houses with two large rooms downstairs and two up, with chimneys on each end and fireplaces in every room. Three of the houses are in fair condition, and one is ready to fall down because miser Hardy, who lives there, never spent a cent on paint or nails in his life.
A village would be incomplete without a church. Fortunately Eden has one: the Eden Chapel, a white frame building with a small bell tower, surrounded by a graveyard brimming with past Edenites. The former preacher, the Reverend Mr. Henry Davis, just retired, lives in the house beside the post office with the good Mrs. Davis.
At the south end of the village is a schoolhouse, now abandoned, located between two county roads that lead away from Eden. The left fork goes off through the hills to Canaan and Goshen; the right fork goes to Vegan. Although both forks are paved for the first mile or so, they are narrower and more twisty than the Eden road, and the state didn't waste any paint on centerlines. Once they pass through Eden, most tourists turn around in the old schoolyard and head back down the valley toward the town.
Tourists do visit Eden. The trees may not be straighter there, taller and more symmetrical, the grass greener, the sky bluer and the distant mountains more purple and majestic, but it often seems so. On fine mornings the locals like to tell each other that, indeed, God made this place first. While no travel or leisure magazine has ever done an article on the Eden country and probably none ever will, word-of-mouth keeps a steady, dripping trickle of cars driving slowly up the Eden road, visiting Doolin's and turning around in the schoolyard.
Today Trooper Sam Neely of the state police pulled his cruiser into the schoolyard and sat looking at the abandoned one-room frame structure with its peeling paint, broken windows and weeds growing in the playground.
He glanced back through the village. He could see past the chapel to Doolin's and the post office. Although the scene looked inviting, with huge old maples and oaks towering over everything and still in full foliage these first weeks of September, there wasn't another person in sight.
Sam Neely groaned.
He was just one week out of the state police academy and this county was his first assignment. This morning his sergeant told him the southern half of the county was his beat. His colleague, Trooper Tutwiler, with two years in the state police under his belt, got the northern half.
After the sergeant left to return to Capitol City, Sam Neely got into his police cruiser with the bubble-gum machine on top and drove slowly along the Eden road to see what he could see.
It was bad.
Oh, the houses were spiffy enough, the meadows mowed, the pastures full of hundreds of fat black cattle, the late-summer foliage lushly verdant, yet to young Sam Neely the place was as exciting as a postcard from Iowa.
He had joined the state police because he wanted adventure, and they sent him here! To this rusticated nowhere. The most interesting thing he would ever do here in the line of duty would be to chase a cow that slipped though a gap in a fence.
Neely turned off the engine of his car and listened to the wind in the leaves. Listened to his heart beat. Listened to his youth slip away. He felt like crying but didn't because he was young and tough.
He started the engine while he wondered if he should go on up the road to Canaan and Goshen, then maybe swing back through Vegan.
He decided against it. He could only stand so much of this excitement. He would leave that odyssey until tomorrow.
And the day after, and the day after ... The days stretched away before Trooper Neely into an appalling, dismal haze.
He cranked the wheel around and aimed the cruiser down the Eden road toward town.
Rot. He would rot here watching the cows chew their cuds, rot while listening to these rustics prattle endlessly about the weather and hay and politely nodding, nodding, nodding ...
He, Sam Neely, a young man in perfect health ready for any adventure — a true American ready to put his life on the line to defend honest citizens and the American way of life when the clarion call of duty pealed once again — already had one foot in the grave. He could almost feel the slimy worms crawling over his flesh. He shivered involuntarily.
His pistol would rust from disuse. The twelve cartridges they issued him for the pistol were a lifetime supply. He would still have all twelve when he retired — in thirty years.
Musing along these lines, Trooper Neely didn't notice the driver of the car he passed just outside of Indian River headed up the Eden road. Even if he had, Neely had not yet met the man and would not have known who he was.
Mrs. Eufala Davis, the preacher's wife, was a mile behind Trooper Neely, and she saw the car and recognized the driver, Ed Harris, the banker.
That's odd, Mrs. Davis thought. Ed Harris should be at the bank on Wednesday afternoon. Why, Ed Harris was bragging just last week that he hadn't missed a day's work sick in ten years.
She made a mental note to ask Mrs. Harris, Anne, why her husband was going home at two o'clock on Wednesday afternoon.
What Mrs. Davis would later learn was really no mystery. Ed Harris was going home because he was indeed sick. Stomachache. He felt slightly queasy. Didn't think it would look right if he threw up in his office at the bank, so he had made his excuses and was on his way home.
He turned off the Eden road into his private driveway, which led across the meadows of the valley, past the huge sycamore that had been threatening for years to fall over. He steered the car carefully as the driveway wound its way into the trees.
The house sat a hundred yards back in the forest on a low hill. It was a big two- story with eight rooms. Ed and Anne had designed it themselves, valuing privacy more than a scenic view.
Ed pulled into the turnaround in front of the house and killed the engine. He sat staring at the car beside Anne's.
Looks like Hayden Elkins'.
Naw. Couldn't be. Hayden was his friend, his best friend. Why on earth would Hayden be over here on a Wednesday afternoon? With Anne alone in the house? With Ruth away at college? With Hayden's best buddy Ed Harris at work at the bank?
Ed got out of the car, his nausea forgotten. He used his key to let himself in through the front door. He walked slowly toward the stairs, climbed them one by one. They were covered with carpet and didn't creak. Not one of them. He and Anne had built this house to last. Their house. Their home!
On the top of the stairs was one of Anne's shoes. And a tie. A short distance down the hall was a skirt. And a sports coat ... and a man's shoes.
He could hear them giggling. The bedroom door at the end of the hallway was partially open.
Ed Harris turned around and went back down the stairs. He went to the den and sat in his favorite chair, which faced the magnificent ten-point buck's head hanging on the wall.
He sat staring at the wall, his thoughts tumbling over one another in no particular order.
Later he couldn't recall just how long he sat there or just what he thought about, but when he arose from the chair he went to his gun cabinet.
He selected a twelve-gauge shotgun from the rack and a box of shells from one of the bottom drawers. He shoved three shells into the magazine of the gun. Then he jacked a shell into the chamber and engaged the safety.
Here he paused. He took off his tie and tossed it on the desk.
Grasping the shotgun tightly in both hands, he strode for the stairs.
They were naked in bed. Anne was on top, her head flung back, her dark hair bobbing.
Hayden saw him first. He pushed Anne sideways off of him.
"Jesus Christ, Ed! Don't shoot us!"
Ed Harris held the shotgun across his chest, the way he did at the skeet range just before he said "Pull."
Anne turned and saw him, then swept the hair back from her eyes and looked again.
"Now, Ed ...," she said.
"For the love of Christ, Ed ...," Hayden pleaded. He was twenty pounds too heavy, Ed Harris noted objectively, and would be bald as an apple in five more years. In bed with his wife! Of all people ... his friend — Hayden Elkins!
Anne lowered her face into her hands and began sobbing.
Hayden wanted to argue. "Now Ed, this isn't worth killing someone over. You don't want to go to prison, have someone's death on your conscience, do you? Of course not! My God, Ed, I am sorry. This just ... happened! After all, we're healthy people and Anne loves you — you know how much Anne loves you! — and this was just a roll in the hay, something to do on a Wednesday afternoon. We're not in love, not like Anne loves you. You know how she loves you —"
"Get out of bed," Ed Harris ordered. "Get dressed."
"Ed, it was just a roll in the hay, for God's sake —"
He gestured with the barrel of the shotgun. "Shut up! Get out of bed and get dressed. Both of you."
Anne was sobbing hard, with her hair down over her face. Ed got a glimpse of tears streaming down her cheeks. Oh, Christ!
They dressed quickly. He went out in the hall and kicked the shoes and skirt back toward the bedroom, all the while keeping the muzzle of the shotgun pointed in their general direction.
When Hayden got his trousers and shoes on, Ed gestured with the shotgun toward the closet door.
"In there," he said, "are her suitcases. Get them out. Pack all her stuff. All her clothes, her jewelry, cosmetics, everything. Quickly now."
"What are you going to do?" Anne asked.
"Do as you're told," Ed replied roughly, and backed against the wall so he would be out of the way and could watch them both.
Not that Hayden was going to try anything. Not with Ed standing there holding a shotgun. Hayden might be dumb enough to screw your wife on a Wednesday afternoon, but he wasn't crazy stupid.
Anne was crazy enough, and unpredictable to boot, but the shock of being caught in bed with another man had apparently taken the starch out of her, at least for a little while.
They opened the suitcases on the bed and Anne threw some things into them. Not all of her clothes, of course; it would have taken a small truck to haul all her clothes. Just the stuff she liked and wore often. One valise was for beauty paraphernalia and jewelry.
When the suitcases were about full, Hayden broke the heavy silence with a question: "What are you going to do?"
"Me? Nothing. It's what you and Anne are going to do."
The way Ed said that made Hayden queasy. "Now, Ed, you aren't going to shoot us. Please! The kids ... Please!"
"Shut up, Hayden," Anne snapped. Her eyes were red, and tears were still leaking down her cheeks, but she had pulled her hair back out of her face and was biting her lip as she emptied her jewelry case into the small valise. "What are we going to do, Ed?"
"Pick up the suitcases."
They closed them, and Hayden hefted three and Anne took the two small ones. That left one medium-sized one that Ed hoisted with his left hand. He held the shotgun in his right hand, his finger outside the trigger guard, and followed Hayden and Anne along the hall and down the stairs.
In the driveway Ed pointed the shotgun toward Hayden's car. "In there."
Hayden loaded the suitcases in the trunk and on the backseat. "What now?" he asked when he finished, turning to face Ed Harris.
"Hayden, ol' buddy," Ed replied. He poked the barrel of the shotgun into Hayden's ample stomach. "Anne's all yours. You are going to take her home and treat her right and be a good husband to her. She's wonderful in bed, as you've found out. She can't cook very well and won't clean the bathtub or the toilets no matter how much you bitch about it. She's a little selfish, highly opinionated, mildly spoiled and appreciates the finer things in life. Likes vacations in the Bahamas and gold jewelry at Christmas and Valentine's Day. You are going to make her happy, Hayden. You are going to provide her with all that. I worked my ass off for twenty-two years doing it, and now it's your turn."
Hayden Elkins' chin worked; his Adam's apple bobbed up and down several times. Finally he found his voice. "I've got a wife, Ed."
"Now you have two."
Anne tittered, a touch hysterically, Ed thought. She wiped the tears from her cheeks with her hands.
"Ed, think of what you're saying," Hayden pleaded. "Give me a break!"
"You're a lucky man, Elkins. You've lost a friend and gained a wife."
"What on earth will I tell Matilda?" Hayden moaned.
"Your problem," Ed Harris said brusquely. He backed away from Hayden several steps. "You might start with the truth. Matilda is a strong woman. Gotta be — she's put up with you for a long time. Tell her the truth."
"I'll bet you're bluffing," Hayden said belligerently. "I'll bet that gun isn't even loaded."
Ed Harris pointed the gun to one side and pulled the trigger. The report was like a punch in the chin to Hayden Elkins. Then Ed worked the Remington's slide, flipping the spent shell on the ground at Hayden's feet.
When Hayden raised his eyes from the shell, Ed told him, "You had better treat Anne right, amigo. If I hear that you're not treating her as well as Matilda, if I hear that she's unhappy" — Ed leveled the business end of the twelve-gauge full in Hayden's face — "then this gun is going to go off again."
He lowered the gun. "Now get out of here. Get in the car and get out of here! Now!"
Excerpted from The Garden of Eden by Eve Adams. Copyright © 2005 Black River Corporation. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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