Out here there were family cemeteries every couple of miles. Pioneer families liked to keep their dead close for a lot of reasons. The county historical commission had tracked down and inventoried hundreds of old cemeteries not long ago and more had been missed. It was impossible for anyone to patrol them all. The next one was three miles away.
The Insall/Gauss Cemetery was looking neat as Pen drove up. Lisa Garrison’s SUV was near the gate. Pen parked along the bar ditch and looked around as he walked up. Lisa and Mae Insall were standing in the shade. Pen ignored them for bit as he tried to examine the ground. Not much traffic there lately, that was good. The ground was rock hard, not so good. The thin grass showed something had passed. Pen opened the gate and walked over to Lisa. The damage was glaring. Broken headstones littered the ground and tire tracks crossed the softer earth on some of the graves.
Pen looked at the two women. There was quite a contrast. Lisa's faded jeans, Grateful Dead t-shirt, and feed store cap next to Mae's ancient house dress and poke bonnet. Lisa was taller, but Pen had have bet on Mae in a fight, especially now. She looked mad enough to eat nails and spit tacks. Mae saw saving the old cemeteries, and especially this cemetery, as her personal crusade.
“This is sickening!” was Lisa’s greeting. “Mae saw the headlights.” Mae snapped out the words. “It was near midnight, I couldn’t sleep."
“Could you tell how many?”
“Don’t think it was more than two pickups”, she said, “the motor’s weren’t very loud. I came over this morning to see if they’d left any trash. You know how those parkers are. They leave the most disgusting stuff, horrible. Anyway, I found it like this. I tell you I just saw red! That's Grandpa Isom's grave with the tire track on it, and his second sister's stone is broken. They left the gate open. I had to chase them cows out!”
Lisa patted her shoulder. “Mae called me, and Sarah Beth both.” Mae shrugged off Lisa’s hand impatiently. “It’s them Satanists again, I keep telling you how bad they are.” Pen and Lisa looked at each other behind Mae’s back. Both of of them pagans, they weren’t aware of any Satanists practicing around Shin Oak.
Their shared glance wasn't lost on Mae, she was still pretty sharp. “Penrod Sadler! You know they’re always desecrating cemeteries and such. You have to catch them! The Insalls and Gausses have been here since Sam Houston. Grandpa Isom fought at San Jacinto right alongside him! He deserves some respect!”
Pen couldn't help but agree. Mae wasn't mollified. She refused Lisa’s offer of a lift home. She tugged her faded bonnet snug on her gray hair, took her cane and stalked back through the gate and across the field to her house. “She’s right about one thing,” Lisa told me. “They do need to be stopped. These limestone markers are almost impossible to repair, and some are over a hundred years old!”
“Stay put, let me look around.”
Pen knew he wouldn’t be able to get any sort of forensics team out for this, so he got out his camera and sketch book to record whatever he could. There was one clear track of a mud-grip tire on a grave, and a few brown streaks of paint on a broken stone. Small metallic pieces on the broken stone jumped to the magnet on his flashlight. Steel, maybe from a hammer, or a fender. Poor boy forensics.
“Okay, I think I’ll recognize that tire, and the paint. Must be a brown pickup, with mud grips, carrying some dents. Sound familiar?"
Lisa said, “Can't be more than a hundred or so trucks like that out here, but I’ll put the word out.” Pen knew she would. Lisa knew everyone. Between her and Mae the news would spread faster than the radio and twice as effectively.
They walked back toward Lisa's SUV, a worried look on her face. “This is awful, and always bad for us!” Many of their friends were in the "broom closet". Lisa and Pen were both fairly openly Wiccan, and this sort of thing always seemed to focus suspicion on pagans.
Pen told her goodbye, and went back to the car. Once again, the radio was calling his name.
“Pen, better get over to Dolly Holt’s place. There's been a shooting.”
Pen told Karen he was on his way, and drove off through the dust devils.