Monday, March 11, 2013

Character Interview: Darrell Spruce from The Devil in Merrivale by Jackie Griffey

Jackie Griffey, author of the cozy mystery, The Devil in Merrivale is here interviewing one of the characters from the book. We'll slip quietly out of the way and let Jackie do her stuff.

"A KILLER INTERVIEW" performed by Jackie Griffey

My footsteps slowed as I entered the high school. I was aware of it; nervous; out of my element; and didn't like my assignment. That didn't change a thing. I was here and the principal's secretary was smiling at me since I'd asked to speak to her boss.

I pulled out my press card and she took it with her into his office. She soon came out smiling as if trying to put me at ease. John Squires was right behind her and stood in the door wearing a smile that would even have put a teenager at ease with his hand extended.

I took the hand already feeling better and was ushered to a chair as he closed the office door.

"I'm sorry to bother you, sir," I began. He listened patiently. "I tried to get an appointment with Judge Troy Spruce but I couldn't get in touch with him. I've been assigned what's gleefully called the police beat at the paper 'and other related things' as it says on my job description.'" This was accompanied by a hopeful smile. "I just couldn't seem to get past the office help at the Judge's office."

John Squires grinned as if this didn't surprise him. He was smart enough not to say so. Instead he asked, "I'm not sure I can tell you anything either. How can I help you?"

"I'd like to interview Darrell Spruce and it looks like this is the only way I can get to him. If he's not taking a test or something, may I talk to him for a few minutes?"

John Squires thought a few seconds then got up. "I'll see what I can do."

He left the office closing the door behind him. I shook like a leaf not knowing if I might be breaking any laws or not. No one had actually told me I couldn't talk to the people involved in this murder investigation. I'd been turned down before and it hadn't killed me. I was just giving some thought to my last will and testimony when Squires came back looking pleasant enough to raise my hopes.

"He'll be with you shortly. You can talk in here." He hesitated. "He asked for permission to call his father so if I were you, I'd ask my most important questions first." He left on a deep sigh that was as good a warning as what he said. Then I saw the secretary ushering in a big, mad looking kid I'd never seen before except on the football field. I steeled myself and pointed to a chair as the secretary closed the door. I gave him a quick glance at my press card which he ignored.

"I'm hoping to get your insight in this crime investigation and I understand Denise Davis was a classmate of yours—"

Darrell shook his head looking grim. I was glad we weren't in a dark alley and help was at hand.

"No. Not classmates, she was a sophomore and I am a senior. I hardly knew her." He looked like he couldn't care less about the less important students. Or me either.

"But she, Denise Davis, was your father's secretary's daughter?"

After a brief hesitation the answer was, "Yes." Nothing further was offered.

"I understand that Sheriff Larkin has spoken to you— "

"He's talked to everyone here. This a waste of time." He took a deep breath, frowning at me. "I don't know anything about what happened to Denise." He deigned to look me in the eye. "My father has retained Attorney Laurence Fields to represent me."

"The Sheriff has you in his sights then?" The moment it was out I regretted that. He gave me a look, eyes boring into mine like he was planning on having me for lunch.

“That's exactly right. He had no one else and he just went for me." The eyes bored into mine again.

"But he doesn't know what he's getting into." It was a threat and he looked like he could back it up.

I fished for another question, one that wouldn't get me sued, jailed, or bitten by this mean and probably unbalanced bully.

"I've heard you may have psyhic powers, just a rumor I heard. Is that true?"

Darrell actually looked pleased. I could hardly believe I'd hit paydirt with that one.

"I come from a long line of people with—certain powers."

"Certain powers," I thought that over. "I suppose you want this interview off the record?" I probed.

"No! I mean, I'm not ashamed of it. You can print whatever you want to." He paused. "I guess you have quite a large circulation?"

"Yes. Here and in the state capital and of course things of particular interest are always picked up by the larger newspapers." I had got lucky talking about the boy's favorite subject, himself. "I know you're on the football team and are active in a lot of school activities—" he looked away, I'd lost him.

"None of that is important." I could see his muscles tighten up and his hands made fists. "And I don't have to answer your questions about Denise or what happened to her. You can call my father or my attorney. I don't have to talk to you."

Before I could flatter any more information out of Darrell we heard loud voices outside the office. Darrell and I both stared at the door.

The door was flung wide, Janice, the secretary was standing ineffectively near, unable to stop the man who stepped inside.

No spoken words were necessary when father looked at son as if looking for bruises or other forms of ill treatment. The only thing I saw that marred Darrell's looks was the smart-ass expression when he got up to join his father.

"I've put in a call to the paper and I'll have your job for this." The judge's statement was accompanied by one of those looks I know the condemned must have got before his gavel fell. I had sense enough not to answer and was already planning on interviewing some of Darrell's friends and fellow students while I was there. Looking the opposition in the face brought out all my reporter instincts and I was no longer scared silly. If I lost my job, by George, I'd not be the only loser. This was just the first round. I made myself quit biting my lip and stood straighter.

Judge Troy Spruce put his arm around his son's shoulders and slammed out of the office.

The door and I shuddered.

Jackie Griffey likes to read as well as write cozy mysteries and romantic suspense. She and her family, two cats, a Chihuahua, and a couple of wild bunnies live in Arkansas where she is working on another cozy mystery. You can visit her website at
About The Devil in Merrivale

Murder isn’t the usual order of business in the little town of Merrivale, Tennessee, so the brutal stabbing death of popular high school student Denise Davis sends a shock through the community. Sheriff Cas Larkin is determined to find the killer, and the last thing he needs is distractions like the increasing reports of missing cattle and other livestock.

But as he digs deeper, Cas uncovers another mystery–a strange “club” the members are afraid to talk about, and for good reason. One of the recruits is brutally beaten when he refuses to take the club’s activities seriously. He also refuses to talk about those activities–until they turn turn deadly.

There’s something dark and sinister going on in Merrivale, and if Cas can’t figure out what it is and put a stop to it, there’ll be the devil to pay.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

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