I call them the Old Farts. Actually, that’s what Isabel Long, the protagonist of my mystery, Chasing the Case, calls them — with a capital O and a capital F.
The Old Farts are a group of six gossipy old men who hang out early mornings in the back of the Conwell General Store. They appear to know everybody’s business for miles around, including Isabel’s.
For that reason, she finds the Old Farts useful when she takes her first case trying to find out what happened to a woman who went missing 28 years earlier in that town of a thousand people. They know all the players.
Actually, Isabel takes it one step further and gives the men nicknames. Here they are: the Fattest Old Fart, Serious Old Fart, Bald Old Fart, Silent Old Fart, Skinniest Old Fart, and the Old Fart with Glasses. You can guess how she came up with those names.
The Old Farts, of course, don’t know a thing about it. It’s likely the only one they don’t.
And once in a while, there are Visiting Old Farts, but they aren’t regulars.
Isabel starts visiting the Old Farts in the back room on a regular basis after she loses her job running a newspaper and decides to be an amateur P.I. She always sits on a bench besides the Fattest Old Fart because nobody else does.
The conversation is lively although the Silent Old Fart lives up to his reputation and rarely speaks. (When he does, it’s significant.) They like to tease Isabel about her personal life. But they do give useful tips or at least some history because unlike Isabel, they are all natives of Conwell. They’ve know each other forever. And they have no better way to start the day than to drink coffee, eat a donut, and shoot the shit.
Perhaps you have a group of Old Farts in your town. One friend who has read Chasing the Case recalled the ones he encountered in his.
For Isabel, they are her Greek chorus. The Old Farts will also appear in the two sequels for Chasing the Case: Redneck’s Revenge and Checking the Traps.
Here’s an excerpt of Chasing the Case featuring the Old Farts.
A bit of back story: Isabel is going to meet Andrew Snow, the father of the woman who went missing and the store’s former owner. She has her baby granddaughter, Sophie, with her. And one last thing: Sam is Isabel’s late husband and a carpenter.
I hear the Old Farts yakking it up when I step inside the side door and walk along the shelves holding canned goods, jars, and boxes. They go silent when they see me. I know every one of them, retirees with nothing better to do than get up early and drink coffee while they chew the fat in the store’s backroom. There are six main Old Farts: the Fattest Old Fart, the Skinniest Old Fart, the Serious Old Fart, the Old Fart with Glasses, the Bald Old Fart, and the Silent Old Fart. Of course, they don’t know that’s what I call them.
There are others who drop in, the Visiting Old Farts, but these six are the Old Fart regulars. Then there are the blue-collar workers on their way to a job site. This is only a pit stop for them. Actually, two carpenters pass me on their way out. Sam’s worked with both of them. They say their hellos and ask after me.
The Old Farts are likely the biggest gossipers in town, worse than any group of women, I wager. Sam told me they bring up a topic, say a touchy decision the board of selectmen made or a recent divorce in town, and weigh the details they know or suspect. They thrive on being the first to break the news. It’s almost embarrassing how excited they get, Sam said. As a former reporter I can relate to the thrill of breaking news, but I had to attribute every fact. I used the word “alleged,” which is unlikely in the Old Farts’ vocabulary.
There are no females back here, except Sophie and me. They show up later in the morning, the women who drive school bus, or who are married to one of the Old Farts and have come to pick something up at the store.
“Isabel, what are you doing back here?” the Fattest Old Fart asks.
“I felt like bothering somebody today,” I answer. “I don’t get to do enough of that anymore.”
The Old Farts laugh.
“No, really, why are you here?” the Bald Old Fart on the opposite bench says.
I sit on a bench beside the Fattest Old Fart. I unzip Sophie’s snowsuit, so she doesn’t get overheated.
“I wanted to see what I’ve been missing all these years,” I say. “Go ahead. Don’t let me stop you. This is my granddaughter by the way, Ruth’s little girl. Her name’s Sophie. Try not to swear in front of her. Ruth doesn’t want her picking up any bad habits.”
“Cute baby,” the Serious Old Fart says.
I look around as if it’s my first time here.
“Gee, this is awfully cozy back here. I’m an early riser, too. Might be a nice way to start the day, getting all the town news.”
They glance at each other. I’m having fun pulling their legs. Actually, I’m supposed to meet Andrew Snow. He called last night to say he found the box containing the contents of Adela’s car.
A few have guessed I’m teasing them. They snicker.
“So, what were you talking about when I came in?” I offer.
“About getting a vasectomy,” the Skinniest Old Fart says just to see my reaction, I’m certain.
“I wouldn’t think any of you would have to worry about that,” I fire back.
“Nah, we’re talking politics,” the Fattest Old Fart says. “But while you’re here, I’ve got a question for you. How’s your detective work going?”
MORE: Thank you to those who have bought or pre-ordered Chasing the Case. Here’s the link to Amazon: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase
Chasing the Case has an official launch May 18. If you pre-ordered a Kindle version, that’s when you will get it. Paperbacks can be purchased now.
If you are on Facebook, please join in on the May 18 launch at 2 p.m. Eastern Time Zone. https://www.facebook.com/JoanLivingstonAuthor/
The public online party will be lively for two hours or so with contests and discussion. I will leave everything up for 24 hours so people living on the other side of the planet can participate. More as the event gets closer.
ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A view of the two bridges across the Deerfield River linking the two sides of Shelburne Falls in Western Massachusetts. This spot is a short walk from our home.