Loose Lips Sink More Than Ships

Submitted into Contest #200 in response to: Your character is known as the town gossip. One day, it comes back to bite them.... view prompt


Crime Drama Fiction

       After operating one of the most successful and popular taverns in Annapolis for 30 years Johnny Spertulla was happy to hang it up in a move to the quiet Eastern Shore resort town of Snow Hill, Maryland. Little did he know that a group of his new neighbors would attempt to dash his hopes for a new life filled with weekend mornings of fishing the Atlantic and whiling away his afternoons in minimal stakes poker games.

     On his first day in town, Johnny stopped by the local grocery store to pick up a few necessities to stock the recently-completed man cave in his freshly-minted condo.  He filled his shopping cart with some top shelf bourbon, a few frozen pizzas and a number of finely-aged cigars then approached the friendly-but-suspicious-looking cashier.  The fresh-faced young man stopped mid sentence in an animated conversation with a good-looking young lady.

     Johnny thought he had heard the cashier whisper when glancing in his direction, “old man involved with big-city hoods” and “body hidden in the cellar behind cartons of booze.”

     Spertulla knew any number of seedy gin mills operated throughout Delmarva all the way up the coast to Maryland’s capital city, so, he didn’t, at first, think that much of the remark or realize it could be directed at him or his former establishment. Then again, he did find it a little eerie that what looked like two small town gossips suddenly should stop passing along the latest juicy tidbits just as he approached.

      “Oh well,” he said to himself, “nothing of my concern. I just want to settle into my new digs, prop up my feet and zone out on this afternoon’s football game on ESPN.”

      During the 10-block drive to his new digs, however, he thought he spotted the familiar black and yellow markings of Worcester County Sheriff’s cars almost up on the tail of his car–not once, but twice. In the quiet, rural county seat the patrol cars seldom appeared unless on the trail of a speeder or responding to an incident call.

     Along the practically deserted road Johnny saw no sign of speeders. Beginning to get a little spooked, he pulled over and looked up the sheriff’s department Daily Run Log on his IPAD.  No incident calls for the last two days.

     Johnny finally arrived at the condo, turned on the game and settled down for a quiet afternoon. His thoughts still kept wandering back to the curious coincidences that had punctuated the earlier part of his day.

      When he owned the tavern he always had run a law-abiding, clean establishment with not so much as a minor Alcoholic Beverage Control violation on his record.

      Even if nothing had actually happened at the bar though, ugly gossip had a way of destroying reputations–and lives.

      The former barkeep firmly resolved to keep his eyes open and his ears peeled to find the source of any idle chatter and put an end to it before it put an end to his peaceful resort area retirement. 

      After the game, darkness began to envelop the condo complex and hunger for a more substantial meal started to make Johnny’s stomach growl for dinner.   He decided to have a taste of the low-budget fare available at the nearby neighborhood diner.

      As he entered the crowded eating establishment for the first time since moving to Snow Hill, a number of heads turned in his direction as conversations came to an abrupt halt.  Just as quickly action resumed in the diner as if Johnny never had appeared.

      He ordered then finished the more-than-passable meal then started on the 10-minute trek back to his condo. After walking less than a block he heard an unusual whirring sound like a camera operating.  He turned quickly to see a large and shabbily-dressed man tuck something under his arm and flee behind a building.

     Even though a newly-minted Snow Hill resident, the retiree had carefully researched the area before deciding to establish himself there.

     He also had made a number of contacts in the local real estate establishment.

      The following day he called Jerry Winston, who had found him precisely the type of living accommodations the former barkeep had been looking for.  Because he had lived in the town 35 years he probably could provide a rundown of the most current scuttlebutt.

      “I can’t say I hear every bit of gossip,” Jerry said. “Even in a town with 2,200 people it’s hard to know what everyone is talking about. I haven’t heard anything about you, but I’ll certainly check around.” 

      Jerry got back to Johnny two days later with some startling news:

     “Some guy named Harry Samuels, who says he used to bartend for you, has been spreading gossip around town that your former pub hosted a real gangland crowd and you swept alot of criminal activity under the rug.  Harry has a number of connections in the sheriff’s department and it looks like he is using those connections to harass you. Is any of this true? Does this guy Samuels have an ax to grind with you?”

      “Had a number of problems with Samuels. Let’s just say that he had a well-developed taste for some of our prime products.  Also, word got back to me that he had a number of acquaintances who ranked high up in the Baltimore area underworld. Supposedly, if anyone crossed Harry they often permanently disappeared from the area very quickly. After I caught him  drunk at work more than a few times and customers reported physical confrontations with him and his friends I had to fire him. Guess this is his way of paying me back.”

     “I also have a few friends in the sheriff’s department and I trust them as real straight shooters. Let me set up a meeting for you with them and maybe we can straighten this mess out.” 

     “Certainly sounds like much less trouble than what I am tempted to do to this creep. Set up the meet.”

        Sheriff’s Deputy Jake Simpson suggested that he and Deputy Sean Hendrickson get together with Jerry and Johnny at Railroad Park, a small, out-of-the way area where Samuels and his friends likely would not spot them. They set the session up for dusk on a Wednesday.

       “We have heard reports of some of the other deputies getting involved in unauthorized illegal activities with some unsavory characters,” Simpson said. “Also seems these deputies have been harassing a number of other innocent citizens. Your friend Samuels seems to mysteriously show up at almost every one of these meetings.  The sheriff told us confidentially that he wants us to investigate this. He doesn’t want to poke his nose into something that may involve two sets of his own officers. If we come up with solid evidence though, he will gladly call in the State’s Attorney’s Office.”

       At the suggestion of Simpson and Hendrickson, Johnny agreed to call Samuels and tell him he had heard the rumors his former employee had circulated about him and wanted to clear the air.  They agreed to hold a rendezvous the following Wednesday at Railroad Park.

     Samuels showed up right on cue and, as Johnny had figured, he brought his two deputy friends along as witnesses.

      Harry and his posse didn’t plan on Simpson, Hendrickson and Jerry waiting in another location in Railroad Park listening on to the summit on a wire Johnny carried in his jacket pocket.

     Arrogantly, Samuels admitted right away to starting the rumors, and he and his friends in blue had conducted some good citizens’ surveillance activities.

     The trio promised to end all their extracurricular activities immediately for a price--$10,000 each.

     As soon as Jerry and the clean deputies recorded what they wanted they descended on the summit and the officer arrested Samuels and his friends for harassment and extortion. The sheriff and the state’s attorney joined in, and the FBI also filed federal charges against the trio.

May 26, 2023 17:38

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Colleen Ireland
23:04 Jun 07, 2023

I live in the Annapolis area, so it was fun to read a story set in a familiar location! Small-town horrible can happen anywhere, but in an actual small town, it's an even bigger impact, as you accurately described. I would have liked more layers, sudden changes in the weather, a show of nerves being followed and photographed, etc. Overall an enjoyable read!


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Anna W
20:42 Jun 07, 2023

Really enjoyed reading this story! Thanks for sharing!


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