Everywhere I went late last week, all anyone wanted to talk about was the Greenwood County Sheriff's Office story that finally broke open after months of bubbling just beneath the surface.
"What a (expletive) storm!" is how one political operative phrased it in a Friday afternoon text message. You can imagine which expletive he used.
In case you have been living under a rock, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) currently is investigating GCSO's finances, at the request of Sheriff Tony Davis. Davis reportedly asked for the investigation in February after being made aware of some unusual activity in several sheriff's office accounts.
Shortly after the sheriff asked SLED to investigate the matter, he fired sheriff's office employee Sandi McAllister-Owens, noting "investigation turned over to SLED" on her personnel form.
The Index-Journal requested, and received, financial information regarding the GCSO accounts in question. About 750 pages of information, to be exact.
Associate editor Scott J. Bryan spent hour after hour combing through the documents, logging the expenditures that seemed inconsistent with transactions normally conducted by a sheriff's office.
Honestly, there are a number of items in the sheriff's office accounts that are indeed highly unusual.
There was a trip to Disney World listed among the expenditures, at a cost of just less than $4,000. A host of charges - more than $5,000 worth - were logged with various businesses in the mountain tourist town of Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
More than $11,000 was spent with the Miss South Carolina pageant and more than $12,000 was spent with Miss America.
Also of note, some of the GCSO money was used to make purchases at Victoria's Secret, the renowned lingerie chain. I've heard a rumor Victoria's Secret was introducing a line of body armor negligées and lace G-string panties with a loop to hold your bullet clip, so maybe that's what the law enforcement funds were spent on.
And then there were the food expenses. According to a Friday report from Bryan, GCSO funding was used at more than 80 restaurants from 2009 until earlier this year, ringing up more than $37,000 in expenditures. One Powdersville catering company received more than $26,000 of those dollars.
The list of more than 80 restaurants - in towns across the state - that received GCSO funding was an eye-opener. Though, as a local foodie, I noted Uptown favorite T.W. Boons didn't receive a dime of the GCSO cash. I guess they don't love T.W. Boons' shrimp po-boy as much as I do.
SO, WHERE IS ALL of this headed? Your guess is as good as mine.
SLED is on the case and has been since February. There have been rumors and whispers SLED's investigation into the matter is a "priority" and a resolution could come at any time.
I wish I could tell you more about where SLED is with the case, but they don't really talk to us, other than to say "No comment." That said, SLED spokesman Thom Berry gives some of the most cordial "No comment" statements you've ever heard.
Sheriff Davis has also declined comment on the matter, at the behest of SLED. Bryan and I did our best to get the sheriff to speak on the record with one or both of us last week, but he said he simply could not do so, at least not yet. I've known Tony for quite some time, and I think he will speak with us when the time is right.
One thing is certain: Until this mess can be sorted out, the ordeal has cast a dark cloud over the sheriff's office. A dark cloud that is unfair to the vast majority of men and women putting in work every day at GCSO.
These are men who are busting drug dealers, arresting violent criminals and doing whatever it takes to keep us safe.
Men who respond to help when there's been a storm and a tree has fallen across a dark highway and traffic has to be re-routed.
Men who provide security in the hallways of our schools and in the stands at high school football games.
Men who are first on the scene at murders, encountering dead bodies and frantic friends and family members.
Men who are called in to assist when there is a house fire in a crowded neighborhood and the firemen need help with crowd control.
Men who are out running the roads late at night, responding to calls for help to break up domestic disputes, assist stranded motorists and clear parking lots after the clubs close. They are doing all of this while you and I are asleep.
I think it is a pretty safe bet the majority of GCSO deputies and employees had nothing to do with this expenditure fiasco. For most of them, the only money they receive is a hard-earned, but unfortunately meager, paycheck.
We're going to find out where this rabbit hole leads. The newspaper will keep digging, SLED will keep investigating, attorneys will represent clients with bravado and panache. Political careers hang perilously in the balance.
So, strap on your body armor negligées, hike up your bullet clip G-strings and hold on tight. It could be a bumpy ride in Greenwood County.
Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-5650; email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @IJCHRISTRAINOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.