He stepped inside, shook the snow from his jacket, and realized that everyone in the room was staring at him.
Jeff wasn’t surprised; the police uniform tended to draw attention, especially this far out in the woods. His grandfather used to say cops only showed up around these parts if someone had just died or deserved to, and his grandfather ran a still for forty years so he knew a thing or two about it.
Nobody had died on that particular night; and as far as Jeff was concerned no one at the Little Mountain Community Bean Supper deserved to, unless the cornbread was dry. He was there because a bunch of idiots he had gone to high school with were planning to break into the grange’s basement and steal the legendary Moonshine Ruby.
He had to admit, it was impressive how Rudy Belanger and his crew discovered that the ruby – missing for generations, and considered by most to be a backwoods myth – was buried there. But they planned the heist on Facebook, for God’s sake. He wasn’t exactly dealing with Ocean’s Eleven here.
Jeff tucked a five dollar bill in the bucket by the door, and felt the eyes in the room dissipate off of his back as he piled generous servings of beans and potatoes onto his plastic tray. He took a seat among a clatter of old dubbers and relaxed, waiting for the show to start.
Rudy’s pack shuffled in a half hour later, right on schedule. Jeff wiped his mouth with a napkin and sauntered to the basement door in back, just ahead of them.
“Jeff Pressley?” Rudy blurted, and Jeff could practically see the curse words screaming at him from behind the little weasel’s eyes. “You’re a cop?”
“Suits me, don’t you think?” Jeff smiled. “So what brings you fellas out on this cold winter night?”
“Oh just… like, supporting the community and whatnot.”
“Mighty thoughtful of you,” Jeff said. He leaned against the door to the basement like there was nowhere else on earth he’d rather be, as Rudy shuffled back toward the front of the line and grabbed a tray. “Hey Rudy,” Jeff called after him. “Don’t forget to put cash in the bucket.”
Rudy was miserable about it, but his plan was destined to fail anyway. He was missing an important part. The basement was only forty years old; so the ruby would have to be in the root cellar, which he didn’t even know existed. Only a local boy who descended from moonshiners would know such a thing. And the only way to get into the root cellar was around the back of the building, where Jeff had come from right before settling into the main hall for dinner.
He patted the rock in the breast pocket of his police uniform, which he had lifted from a dry cleaner down in Bangor where his girlfriend worked. Jeff smiled, and helped himself to another slice of cornbread.
Travis Kennedy lives in Scarborough, Maine, with his wife Liv and daughter, Ella. His day job is serving the greater Portland area as the Regional Representative for a United States Senator. His work has been featured in the Haunted Waters Press literary journal From the Depths, the humor website The Rotting Post, and the annual international fiction contest sponsored by Saugus.net. His first novel, ‘Booty,’ an adventure comedy, is available on Amazon.