Poplar Plains Town Councilman Sam Smart isn’t focused on his secret Santa, but rather a secret prankster, as his constituents seek vengeance against a jokester pulling off pranks all over town. The prime suspect? Sam’s high school crush Kirby Dumas, who just returned to town.
One nice, one naughty, Sam and Kirby were known as Smarty and Dumbass. When Kirby abruptly fled after confessing his love for Sam and also to a whopper of a prank pulled on a teacher, Sam is left to wonder what could have been.
Why did Kirby leave? Was it the joke or something else? Why has he returned? To pick up where he left off with his pranks, or to pick up where he left off with Sam?
Sam wondered what the sexy mechanic had on under his coveralls. “It’s good to see you again.”
“It’s good to be seen. Every month, I wonder if it’s time for you to get your car inspected.”
“December.” Sam had Kirby’s gaze locked on him, and he didn’t want to let it go.
“Ah. And you were planning on coming here for it, right?”
“I thought about it, but I didn’t know ...”
“Good thing I came to you, then,” Kirby said. “To the meeting.”
“Plus, I was interested to see if the prankster would reveal himself.”
“Nope.” Sam trailed his fingers over the hairiness of Kirby’s arm below one rolled up gray sleeve. “No confession, no ah-ha moment.”
“Henry believed he had one.”
“I don’t think he convinced anyone it’s you.”
“Not for lack of trying. But we’re good now.” Kirby did the same up the sleeve of Sam’s black fleece jacket.
“Just as many people probably think it’s him. Unresolved anger between exes ... the shopping carts.”
“I feel bad Henry had to pretend he was someone he wasn’t, and that Mrs. Penny was caught up in it. Deep down, they really loved each other, he said.”
“Hopefully, they’ll get to a good place soon, like you two did.”
“Part of me wondered if Henry was trying to get me sent up the river.”
“A frame job?” Sam took Kirby’s hand. “I wouldn’t have let that happen. Really, nothing’s been done anyone could be arrested for.”
“Sheriff Emerson’s not looking to haul the prankster in, Kirby. I mean, a trashcan with a plaque, shopping carts, leaves in the mail ...”
“Tampering with US mail is a federal crime. The FBI trumps a local sheriff.”
“The leaves were sent UPS.”
“Ah.” Kirby reached up to remove Sam’s winter hat. “And you know this how?”
Sam shrugged again, wondering if Kirby’s plan was to strip him of everything he had on. “Jo mentioned UPS at the meeting.”
“Ah. I guess I missed that. Probably too busy looking at you.” Somehow, they were now body to body.
“Travis was the only one to go to the authorities.” That still worried Sam some.
“Homophobic ass. The prankster was just trying to beautify his truck. Leanna and Pauline’s gardens are much prettier to look at.” Kirby brought Sam’s hat to his nose and inhaled. “Damn thing blocks them, though. And he’s got the other parking spot. Use it.”
“Right?” Sam wanted to breathe in Kirby, too, his flesh, not his clothing.
“Probably blocks the sun to their hibiscus plants or whatever.”
“You know about the sun needs of hibiscuses, do you?” Sam asked.
“Is hibiscuses even a word?”
“No clue.” Kirby’s smile hadn’t changed in thirteen years. “I wonder if the pranks were just subtle or not so subtle ways of pointing out situations when people might have been acting in a less than considerate manner toward their neighbor or community? You know, Betty Penny leaving her shopping cart for someone else to put away, that mother and her kids’ toys in the street likely forcing others to try to drive around or get out and move them?”
“Listening to someone else’s loud disco music can get annoying, right? And the leaves ... If that woman was dumping them over her neighbor’s fence, that’s not cool,” Kirby said.
“Not cool at all.”
“I wasn’t back here last October, but I heard about Derrick Lyons and his friends smashing jack-o-lanterns. Not a pumpkin was ruined this year. I’m guessing the boys got the hint with the anonymously delivered smashed pumpkin goodies, even if Derrick’s mother didn’t.”
Sam reached for the counter again.
“The trashcan ... that one ... What’s the pharmacist’s name?” Kirby asked.
“Right. That whole thing stumps me.”
“Yeah.” Sam chuckled. “What was that all about?”
Kirby shrugged, and just that little bit of movement sent a wafting scent that made Sam want him. “And how the prankster avoided the cameras when putting the carts around Betty Penny’s car ...”
“Another stumper,” Sam said.
“Except anyone who really knows about the cameras knows they sometimes reboot, which means there are brief periods ... ten ... fifteen minutes once a month or so, when one would be off. It’s not common knowledge.”
“But some business owners might know.” Sam raised a brow.
“So ... is this a confession?” he asked.
Kirby let go of Sam to step around him and hoist himself up onto the front counter.