Her smile was translucent, dimming—but not concealing—the rage behind her face full of perfect teeth. She had reason to be enraged. Preston Smithers had stolen her lawnmower, the same Preston Smithers who bought his daughter a brand new Porsche Carrera for her sixteenth birthday. The Preston Smithers who paid cash for an acre of land near the heart of downtown Torment Grove and let it sit idle for ten years.
The lawnmower wasn’t the first thing he stole from Denise Buxom. A week earlier, he stole a telephone pole, the one she bought to host a halogen light to illuminate her rural storefront at night. And Denise claimed he stole sixty railroad ties she bought for a raised-bed garden, though the circumstances surrounding that transaction were in dispute.
Smithers’ first indication of trouble that morning was seeing a car pull onto his lawn. He looked out the window and watched the car climb the curb and drift slowly to the middle of the yard; the engine started to whine. Suddenly, the car lurched to the left, a spray of grass and mud erupting from the rear tires as she engaged the clutch. A dozen doughnuts later, Smithers’ lawn was a mass of chocolate swirls punctuated with chunks of ruined green sod.
Once the yard was utterly ruined, she turned the car toward the front door. Smithers scrambled out-of-the-way just as the 1999 Lincoln Towncar smashed into the wooden steps leading to the wrap-around porch, propelling giant splinters of lumber like wooden missiles.
Smithers’ daughter, the Porsche driver, was the most immediate victim, when the sharp end of a pine board—a broken two by four, eight feet long—entered her upper left thigh, shattering her femur and spilling an enormous volume of blood. The EMTs told him before they put her in the ambulance the tourniquet he had applied to stem the flow of her blood had saved her from bleeding out.
Sheriff Tom Bly listened to Preston Smithers’ version of the events of the day, occasionally jotting notes in a three by five-inch red spiral notebook. Denise Buxom and the Lincoln Towncar were long gone, but the evidence supported the story Smithers told. Except, to Bly’s knowledge, Denise Buxom did not own a 1999 Lincoln Towncar and he was reasonably sure she had been asleep in his bed that morning; she had been when he left at 5:45 a.m.