When I first ventured into Haley Falls three summers ago, I had no idea what to expect. At the time I was working for the Martinsville Herald and they sent me there to do a story on an exceptionally large cucumber being grown on the farm of Mr. Hank Balton. It was my first travel assignment (it would be my first real article, not counting my coverage of local ping-pong tournaments), and I was as green as that cucumber. Never did I think I would end up writing a book about murder, corruption and, of course, the Crouton Conspiracy.
I often get asked if I embellished Haley Falls. I did not. The cobble-stoned streets and rustic brick buildings are as charming as I described. There really is a long-dry bronze fountain in the middle of town square in the shape of a giant, jumpsuit-clad Elvis Presley riding a pig. And as far as I know, every Sunday, rain or shine, the entire town still gathers there to eat apples and recite limericks. As far as the people of Haley Falls are concerned, well, characters like Itchy McGee and Mayor Rutherford Flenderson need no embellishment.
It was when I stopped for gas after viewing the big cucumber that I met the Tremonts. They’re a wonderfully friendly couple, and when I discovered the seamy underbelly of Haley Falls, it was the Tremonts I stayed with for the duration of the story, nearly eight months. They were an endless source of information — everything from where to get a great liver and onion sandwich to who was blackmailing who over some S&M photos. I can’t thank them enough for their help. Even after everything that happened, they remain in their small red-shuttered house at the end of that quiet cul-de-sac. Ed had hip surgery last fall but he’s up and around now. Henrietta still organizes her weekly sewing group, although, obviously, Francis Ferguson is no longer apart of the group. I wish the Tremonts the best of luck.
Another invaluable source of information was Sheriff Reggie “Fat Head” Maloney. Sitting at the counter in Millie’s Diner — on his customary stool at the far end — Maloney would hold court, regaling me (and countless others) with stories of his 48 years on the force. Above everything, he was most proud of never needing to fire his gun in all that time. Of course that changed on that fateful June evening; his gun certainly worked overtime then. A boisterous, jolly man, I never once saw Maloney’s smile waver, not even when he lost his left hand in the pancake-house riot.
More than anything — even the Gypsy midgets and the silo housing the Russian prostitutes — I get asked about Doogie Haymaker. People just seem endlessly curious about him. Yes, his stapler collection is as grand as I described. Yes, at first it was difficult riding behind him on his mo-ped with only his incredibly tiny torso to hold on to. And no, I never once saw him remove the ski mask, not even at Millie’s funeral. Doogie is truly one of the most unique people I’ve ever met and I’m honored to be able to call him a friend; I hope he finds that elusive hunter-green Swingline he’s been searching for all these years.
A lot of people wonder if I was scared being in such a tumultuous situation. The truth is I wasn’t; perhaps I was na
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