BEHIND THE BADGE excerpt
Crockett stood in the damp grass and eyeballed his pond, shivering a bit in the early April morning. A light ground fog was just beginning to wisp away and a small frog plopped into the water about ten feet from where he stood. Life was already rampant in, and around, the little lake. Turkey had arrived over the winter. He’d made sure the dozer guy had left a lot of the brush pushed out of the pond bottom piled up here and there for wildlife cover. The water and salt blocks had pulled in deer and he’d even found some bobcat tracks. At least he thought they were bobcat tracks, although, with Nudge around it was a little hard to be sure.
It had been a snowy winter and, at least so far, a wet spring. The water level was up to just four or five feet below the spillway already. Over twenty feet deep in some places, it seemed the pond was going to meet expectations. If the rains continued, he’d soon have about twenty acres under water and more shoreline than he could walk in a long day. His new yard area around the cabin was growing in nicely with a mixture of shade tolerant grass he’d sowed last fall, the addition on the rear of the cabin was complete giving Satin an office next to the new mudroom and a full bath and walk-in closet off the upstairs bedroom. A small deck extended off the side of the porch supporting the hot tub and a doghouse that Dundee refused to enter, and a single garage size outbuilding perched on the slab near the entrance to the property, complete with insulation, a bed, two comfortable chairs, a TV and blue-ray player, heat, air, and a three-quarter bath.
The dog came snuffling through the new weeds along the shoreline, a victim of her nose, with Nudge waddling along in her wake. She noticed Crockett, grinned, and bounced up to him, her abbreviated tail wagging at frightening velocity.
“No,” Crockett said. “Stay down. Your feet are muddy. You are the most useless dog I have ever known. Be nice. I feed you.”
Dundee sat, the entire rear of her body quivering with the force of her wag. “Boof!” she said.
“Goddammit, dog! If you jump on me I swear to Christ I’ll take you to the pound.”
Dundee held her position, trembling with the need to fling herself at Crockett. He turned his attention to the cat.
“And you, you old fool, don’t you have any influence over her?”
Nudge owled his ears and turned away, walking up the slope toward the cabin.
“Oh, hell!” Crockett went on. “All right. Dundee. House. Treat!”
The dog bolted after the cat, and Crockett began his limping way up the shallow hill. He shook his head and grinned. Just another morning with the children.
As usual, Satin was waiting in the porch swing with coffee. Her ratty pink robe and immense furry house slippers an intrusive splash of color in the otherwise woody pastels.
“Catch anything?” she asked.
“We have frogs,” Crockett replied, taking his seat, his coffee, and a short kiss.
“Joy,” she said. “Wildlife. No fish?”
“Fish soon. I’ll get a couple a hundred pounds of fatheads in, and several thousand sunfish and bluegills. A few grass carp, too. Then next spring, after the bluegill and sunfish have had time to spawn, come the bass. They’ll have lotsa minnows and fry to eat. In a couple more years after that, we’ll have a nice population that should be self-sustaining and fishable. Don’t wanna get in too big of a hurry.”
Satin sipped her coffee. “We wouldn’t want that,” she said.
“It’s a balance thing,” Crockett went on. “The right species in the right sizes in the right numbers at the right time, or the fish population goes to hell. You wind up with stunted growth, or over population, or under population, or not enough food for the game fish. There’s a lot to it. You have to maintain a viable eco-system.”
“Yawn,” Satin said.
“We’ve already got turkey and deer. I think there’s a bobcat. We’ll have foxes, quail, raccoons, all kinds of stuff. Lotsa birds, herons, and part-time geese. I’ll put out a couple of Wood Duck houses, we may even wind up with an eagle now and then. If the aquatic environment is healthy, everything else falls in line.”
“Birds are good. Deer are nice. Water is pretty.”
Crockett grinned. “You don’t give a rat’s ass about the fish, do you?”
“Nope. And you’re gonna obsess about ‘em, aren’t you?”
“Yep. Upon their slimy shoulders, all else stands.”
“Here’s the deal,” satin said. “I don’t catch ‘em and I don’t clean ‘em. I will, however, cook them for you, should you actually succeed in extracting some of the little darlings from their native habitat.”
Crockett’s eyebrows raised. “You’d do that for me?” he asked.
“Zing!” he said, his hand over his heart.
Satin smiled. “If you shut up about the lake and the fish,” she said, “and if you treat me with the deference I deserve, perhaps, a bit later, I might do something else for you.”
“Reluctantly?” Crockett asked.
“So far,” she said.
A little after lunch, as Crockett was contemplating a stroll down to the dam to see if anything had changed, his phone went off.
“Crockett?” Female, familiar.
“Yes, it is.”
“Ha. A voice from your past. It’s Adele.”
Adele, his ex-agent. “Adele! Long time no hear. How are you? Still sucking blood out of no-talent hacks?”
“As long as there’s something in it for me. That’s why I called.”
“What, a job?”
“Jesus, Adele. I haven’t done any voice work in years.”
“That’s okay. You never were very good at it. Maybe your ability has festered…I mean grown, during your time outa da biz.”
Crockett grinned. “Anything’s possible, I guess.”
“It’s not a bad gig, Crockett. Can you still read?”
“The obituaries to see if I’m in them.”
“Close enough. There’s a guy named Lloyd Ponder that wrote a book called Blood on the Bricks. Pretty standard pulp fiction stuff. Couldn’t find a publisher so he published the thing himself. Sold about ten copies. Unfortunately for the unsuspecting public, one of those copies made it into the hands of a would-be producer with access to more money than mind. Now the thing is gonna be, I believe the term is, a major motion picture. In addition to a line of people waiting to publish the novel now that Hollywood has picked it up, one of the companies that produce those talking books that you get at Cracker Barrel and roadside water holes to help pass the time as you drive to see the Grand Canyon, got wind of it and want to produce the text of the novel, soon to be an upcoming major motion picture, on disc. Lloyd tells ‘em sure, but he has to have approval on the vocal talent and production before he’ll take their money.”
“He’s doing this in Kaycee?”
“Yep. He’s from here. Wants to flaunt his success at the next high school reunion, I guess. Anyway, he shows up at my office. While I’m playing him a bunch of recordings of people with real talent, he spots an old CD labeled “David Crockett.” Gets intrigued by the name. Gotta hear it. As strange as it seems, he wants you. I told him you were a nasty, old, uncooperative, sonofabitch. Wants to meet you anyway. The guy is nuts. What the hell. I couldn’t talk him out of it.”
“You read the book?”
“Some of it. Then I lost my nerve.”
“Makes Mike Hammer look like Carl Segan.”
“Got a uniformed cop carrying a chrome plated pistol.”
“Make that an uninformed cop,” Crocket said. “A chrome shootin’ iron is a helluva target.”
“Let me add extra incentive,” Adele went on. “The, and I use the term loosely, author wants to be in studio with you while you do the voice track.”
“You were a cop, weren’t you, Crockett?”
“A thousand years ago.”
“That’s what I was afraid of. How ‘bout it?”
“I don’t think so. Hard to stick to the script when I’m laughing. I might not give his deathless prose the treatment it deserves.”
“Money is money.”
“That’s true, but my pride is beyond price.”
“That would be a no, then?”
“That would be a no, now.”
“Love ya, Crockett.”
“Love you too, Adele. Don’t ever call me again.”
Crockett walked outside to find Satin sweeping the porch.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“That was my old agent. She had a job for me recording one of those talking book things.”
“You going to work?”
“Nah. Some cop story that she said sucked, and an author that wanted to be in studio with me. From the way Adele described him and his work, one of us might not have made it out alive.”
Satin grinned. “Getting pretty particular in your old age, aren’t cha?”
“I don’t know. I settled for you.”
“Best thing you ever did. Might be good if you took on some recording work again.”
“Why? We don’t need the money.”
“I’m not talking about money, Crockett. I’m talking about doing something besides sitting in the swing, puttering in the yard, or staring at that big-assed puddle out there. The way you’re going, by the time fall gets here, you’ll be a zombie. You need something to do. We all need something to do. Think about it.”
“Hmmm. Maybe I’ll sell Avon.”
“Go for Mary Kay. You’d look great in a pink Cadillac. You and your close friend Carl the gay psychic could go on road trips together.”
Crockett grinned, and Satin slid into him. He wrapped his arms around her and looked down into the best face he’d ever seen. “You’re right,” he said.
“Yep. You are the best thing I ever did.”
“That’s as it should be,” Satin said. “You’re the best thing that’s ever done me.”
Late afternoon, Satin sequestered herself in her office for a few hours work. Bored, Crockett got in the truck and motored into Hartrick for a bite at the café. The town constable, Dale Smoot, sat at a table near the front with the new mayor and a couple of city fathers. Crockett headed for an open booth in the rear. By the time he’d ordered the meatloaf special and iced tea from a waitress he’d never seen before, Smoot settled in across from him.
“Chief,” Crockett said.
Smoot eyeballed him. “I know you?”
“Just passin’ through, Marshal. Don’t want no trouble. Got a herd about twenty miles south. Just in town with Cookie for supplies.”
Smoot snorted. “God, but you’re fulla shit. Where you been? I haven’t seen you in a couple a months.”
“Satin doesn’t let me out much. She’s insecure that way.”
“How is she?”
“Hateful, demanding, bitter.”
Dale grinned. “How’s her kid doin’?”
“Danni is in Sikeston living in an apartment near her aunt’s place. She found a Vet-Tec school over there. Satin’s sister is retired and taking care of the kid while Danni goes to school. Evidently, the change in Danni has Satin and Velvet on better terms than those sisters have been in years. I think they’re starting to feel a little like family again.”
“Now that’s just fine.”
“Everything all right with you, Dale?”
“You haven’t heard the big news, have you?”
“The Hart County sheriff, a fella named John Phillips, inherited a bunch a money. Told the county fathers to shove it. Leaves office next week.”
“They offered me his job.”
“No shit? Gonna take it?”
“Almost too sweet to pass up. I can keep the one I got and take over for him, too. Worked it out with the Mayor and county supervisor. Hell, the folks that run the city run the county. This is the backside of Missouri, Crockett.”
“I thought the county sheriff job was an elected position.”
“It is. Phillips has almost three years left on his term. Turns out that special elections are at the discretion of the county. They told me that if I took the job, the special election would just happen to be on the exact same date as the regular election.”
Crocket shook his head and laughed. “Holy shit!”
Smoot grinned. “Like I said, Crockett, this is rural Missouri.”
“I assume there would be certain monetary inducements.”
“Two jobs. A little over twice what I’m making now. Three years and I’m retired with enough money for a little place on a river back up in Nebraska.”
“Good for you, Dale. You got the city offices and the county offices on opposite sides of the square. Where your office gonna be?”
“I kinda thought this booth would do fine.”
“It’s a nice booth,” Crockett said.
“That’s why you showing up this evening saves me a trip out to your place.”
“Yessir. I’m offering you a job.”
Crocket laughed. “When it rains it pours.”
“This is my second job offer today.”
“You take the other one?”
“Good. Then you can take this one.”
“Damn right. I don’t have a cop in the city or the county that’s over thirty, except one; and that sonofabitch is gone the day I take office. Name’s Shorty Cantral. In a week he’ll be unemployed. He’s probably figuring on leaving anyway.”
“And you want me to take his job?”
“Hell, no. Patrolmen, I’ve got. Deputies, I’ve got. I want you to be a special investigator.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
Crockett smiled. “Sounds ominous,” he said.
“Look, I need somebody out there anytime day or night, who I can trust. Somebody who’s seasoned. Somebody who’s been there and back. Somebody who’ll answer only to me, who don’t give a shit about county or city politics, and who’s got no real ties to the area. Family or otherwise. Somebody who doesn’t owe anybody, doesn’t need anybody, and won’t play favorites. Somebody with fresh eyes and a good background who’s not afraid of the dark and isn’t impressed by the badge or the gun.”
“That’s me, huh?”
“Damn right, it is. Getcha eighteen dollars an hour for as many or as few hours a week that you wanna work, full life and health insurance, comp time for holidays, a beat to shit Ford Ranger to drive, and a two-hundred dollar uniform allowance, except I don’t want you in a uniform. Oh, and your very own badge. A gold one. Shiny and pretty. You’ll love it.”
“Lemme think about it,” Crockett said. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
An hour later, Crockett studied Satin as she sat on the couch. “That’s it,” he said. “What do you think?”
“I think I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“That makes two of us.”
“I also think that you can trust Dale Smoot.”
“Right down to the ground.”
“I think you attract trouble.”
“Now and then.”
“I also think that you are the most capable man I have ever known.”
“Here’s the deal,” Satin went on, her eyes filling with tears. “I don’t want a scanner. I don’t want to know what’s going on out there until it’s all over. I want you to wear one of those vests, I want you to have eyes in the back of your head, and I want you to have a purpose other than me and that pond.”
“And I do not want you to be careful. I want you to be full-bore and balls-to-the-wall. If you do that, you’ll come home. I always want you to come home, Crockett. Every goddamed time.”
“You gonna cry?”
“Yes, I am. Once.”
“Fair enough,” Crockett said.
At eight the next morning, Crockett sat in the customary booth across from Chief Smoot. Dale smiled at him. “Well?” he said.
“I have some conditions.”
“I’m shocked,” Smoot said.
“I’ll use my truck. I want gas and oil on the county, plus fifty cents a mile.”
“I want a radio and the minimum necessary other equipment that you guys have in your cars.”
“And I don’t want a light bar or something like it on the roof of my truck.”
“We have alternatives. Anything else?””
“Yeah. Satin wants me to have a vest.”
“Wrong. Satin wants you to wear a vest. She phoned me this morning while you were driving in. Issued a few threats as I recall.”
“She’s good at that. When do I start?”
“’Bout a week. Tomorrow I’ll make arrangements at Morton’s garage to get your truck set up and you and I’ll talk things over. There’s a lot you don’t know about this county.”
“There’s everything I don’t know about this county.”
“Just right,” he said.
Late the following morning, with Satin gone to Liberty to do some shopping, Crockett met Dale at Morton’s Garage on the eastern outskirts of Hartrick. As he climbed out of his truck, a small chubby man with a dirty ball cap and dirtier hands met him by the fender.
“Gotcher keys?” he asked.
“In the ignition,” Crockett said.
“You the new cop?”
Crockett smiled. “I look new to you?”
The guy grinned. “Not very,” he said.
“I’m the latest addition.”
“City or county?”
“Is there a city around here?” Crockett asked.
“He’s both,” Smoot said, stepping from the open bay door. “Crockett, meet Albert Morton.”
“Nice to meetcha,” Morton said. “I cain’t shake. Hands are too dirty. Call me Jelly.”
“My grandmamma was old enough to remember listening to Jelly Roll Morton records when she was a kid. Always called me Jelly Roll when I was little. Jelly stuck.”
Crockett grinned. “It usually does,” he said. “Good to meet you, too, Jelly.”
“You got a burglar alarm on that Ram?”
“We’ll fix ya up with one a them, too. Give ya a white strobe where your bed light is, put a blue lens on the right of it where the red lens is and put another strobe under each side. That’ll give ya good red an’ blue police lights to the rear to go with the strobe. In front, we’ll put a six-inch red an’ a six inch blue behind yer grill, and strobe out your high beams. That way when ya flip the switch you’ll have red, blue, and strobes flashin’ front an’ back. Yer low beams’ll still giva ya headlights. Siren’ll go under the hood on a wheel well with the speaker behind the grill between the lights. It’ll work as your outside speaker an’ bullhorn, too. We’ll drop in a bigger alternator and add another battery. That okay with you?”
“How’s that truck handle?”
“Like a truck, I guess. Ride’s pretty good.”
“Maybe we oughta double shock it an’ go to fatter 35 inch tires. Whatcha think, Chief?”
“Sounds good to me,” Smoot agreed.
“Wait a minute,” Crockett said. “I’m not going to the mud races, for chrissakes!”
Jelly grinned. “Ya never know ‘bout somethin’ like that. You might.”
“Dammit, Jelly, you’re havin’ too much fun.”
“Ain’t my money. I’ll git it an’ the rest a your stuff together in a couple a days, an’ finish yer truck by the end a the week. Nice to meetcha, ah…I call ya officer or dep’ty?”
“Call me Crockett.”
“Suits me. See ya in a few days.”
“I’ll get out at the cop shop and take a cruiser. You can have my truck until yours is finished,” Smoot said as he pulled out of the lot. “Jelly is good people. His father started that garage back in the seventies. Jelly took it over after he got out of the service back in the early nineties. Was in the mechanical support business for the Army. Worked on tanks and shit. We called it the motor pool in my day.”
“He’s sure got plans for my truck. I get to keep all that stuff when I quit next month?”
“Some of it. There’ll be a radio, too. And a phone. If you’re out at night after midnight, you’ll be the only cop out there. All calls to dispatch will come directly to you. You need help, you’ll have a direct line to me. I’ll get anybody else we might need.”
“I’ll be the only one?” Crockett asked.
“Yep. After midnight there probably won’t be any state police within thirty minutes of you either. Welcome to the country.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“You’ll also have a little bitty computer and GPS. Type in an address and the machine’ll show you how to get where you need to go. Type in a plate number, and you’ll get registration information, warrants, whatever. Same with a name and D.O.B. I’ve got a radio at the house, and you’ll also carry a little pac-set for when you’re away from the vehicle. Now, what else do you want, and what do you not want?”
“I don’t want to write speeding tickets or work traffic crashes. Let the kids do that shit. And I want a shotgun.”
“I’m not sure. Something short with a good light. Black. Twelve gauge. Seven or eight shot. I’ll get the gun and the light. The county will, of course, cover my expense.”
Smoot smiled. “Of course,” he said. “You want some kind of dashboard lock for that?”
“Nope. I want it short enough to hang on the driver’s door. I’ll figure a way to mount it. Or Jelly will.”
“Serious weaponry, Crockett.”
“If I’m gonna be out here all by myself, I want to make my ten percent as fat as I can.”
“What ten percent?”
“The ten percent chance I’ve got if somebody really wants to kill my ass.”
“Oh,” Smoot said. “That ten percent.”
“This is costing a lot of money, Dale. Where you getting the cash?”
“Got our county federal funding for the year. Phillips was gonna use it to fix the jail up. Spread the wealth. His brother-in-law is a contractor. Instead, I believe that money’ll go for equipment and two new deputies. You, and whoever I get to replace that shithead, Shorty Cantral. Your ass is worth a lot, Crockett. Satin made that real fucking clear. I’m a little scared of her.”
Satin was home when Crockett arrived. “Oh!” she grinned when he walked in. “It’s only you. I thought Dale Smoot had come to call while you were out again. Imagine my disappointment.”
Crockett returned her grin and they hugged for a moment. “Dale said you called him.”
“I thought I might as well make some things clear. Did it work?”
“How come you’re driving his truck?”
“Mine’s getting a bunch of official police equipment installed. By the time Jelly’s finished with it, it’ll be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
“Jelly is a hoot, huh?”
“Yeah. He’s all right. What can you tell me about Shorty Cantral?”
“Where’d you run into that asshole?”
“I didn’t. Dale’s gonna fire him.”
“That figures. Only reason he’s on the country is because him and Sheriff Phillips are cousins or something. Crazy little shit. Shorty’s got two brothers, Spud and Jack. Spud is a real shithead. Did prison time for aggravated battery or something. Beat a guy almost to death, I hear. Got a bad reputation. Been in county jail a bunch a times. Resists arrest. Takes two or three cops to bring him in. Drinks a lot. Rawboned sonofabitch. A little taller than you are. Around forty. Almost everybody is afraid of him. Works off and on for the third brother, Jack. Jack owns the car wash in Hartrick and two or three buildings and a couple of houses he rents out, plus a large appliance store in Liberty and another car wash out by the Home Depot.”
“Nice to know. Am I likely to run across Spud?”
“Only if you’re alive.”
That evening, Crockett called Clete.
“Son!” said the Texican, “how the hell are ya?”
Crockett grinned at the sound of that voice. “Great, Cletus. How’s everybody?”
“Finer’n frog fur, I reckon. When you an’ ol’ Satin commin’ up this way? I speck Goody’ll fix some a them blueberry scones she likes so much.”
“Thought we might visit this fall sometime, after I get a load or two of fish in the lake.”
“Stitch can be there in the helo in three hours, Crockett.”
“Thanks for the offer, but I’m sorta busy. Actually, that’s why I’m calling.”
“Aw, hell. What are ya into now?”
“Nothing serious. I just need some supplies and an invoice to the Hart County Sheriff’s Office.”
Crockett chuckled. “Your ears going bad, Texas?”
“Shit! The Sheriff’s Office?”
“That’s what I said.”
“What in the hell are you doin’ with a Sheriff’s Office?”
“Employed? You a law, son?”
“Will be in about a week.”
“Jesus Christ! Have you looked at yer birth certificate lately, Crockett?”
“Never confuse longevity with ability.”
“I ain’t the one that’s confused, ya old fart! You mind is gone, son. I believe you got a case a that oldtimer’s disease. Can ya remember whatcha had for breakfast?”
Crockett pretty much lost it then, laughing into the phone. After a beat or two, Clete joined in the giggles. When they settled down, the Texican spoke up.
“I need a Beretta PX4 Storm, full size in .45 auto.”
“A Beretta? What about that ol’ Smith wheel gun you sleep with?”
“My 686 is fine. I just want something a little easier to carry without having to wear a big-assed gun belt.”
“A right side pancake holster, a couple of extra mags, and a case for ‘em.”
“And a shoulder holster. A real one. Not one a those contraptions that snap the muzzle down by your belt. Something high and tight. An upside down clamshell or some such.”
“Whatever you think is best.”
“I’ll gitcha three or four hundred rounds a good practice stuff, and a hundred rounds a some a them Hornady Critical Defense loads. Nasty bastards, Crockett. At least as good as them Black Talons you got for that Smith. What else?”
“A Beretta 3032 Tomcat.”
“That little feller? The thirty-two?”
“Yeah. With whatever kind of holster you think will work best for the small of my back.”
“Hell, you can carry that little shit in your pocket, son.”
“And shoot myself in the knee. Nope. Want a holster so I can shoot myself in the ass.”
“Okay by me. I’ll send ya some shells for it, too. Nothing special. I don’t know of any hotloads for a thirty-two. Better off if ya just throw rocks, anyway. Buffalo Bore or somethin’ similar might do. That all?”
“One more thing. Could be hard to find.”
“A Mossberg Bullpup 12 gauge.”
“Hell, Crockett, they ain’t made them things in years.”
“I know. I had one once. Bought it for two-hundred bucks. Sold it a couple of years later for twice that. Wish I’d kept it.”
“Them things is goin’ for eight-hundred or more now, if you can even find one. I’ll talk to Goody. Shells for it?”
“Winchester’s got some personal defense stuff out there. Shoots a one-ounce slug an’ three rounds a double-ought buck outa each shell. Should do the job.”
“Great. I yield to your expertise.”
“’Bout goddamed time. There a woman behind all this?”
“Nope. Just a friend and the fact that I need something to do.”
“Why the hell doncha take up bungee jumpin’ or skydivin’ or bull fightin’? Shit. If ya got a death wish, just go lay down on the tracks. Southbound freight’ll end yer problems for ya.”
“It warms my heart to know you care, Cletus.”
“Care? I doan give a damn. I just hate to see ol’ Satin upset for a whole afternoon. Then again, that might not be so bad. Could be she’d require some compassion. Maybe I’d hafta console her a little bit, if ya git my drift.”
“You’re so fulla shit, Clete.”
“Yeah, well, you just watch yer ass, pard. There’s a lotta injuns out there in them weeds. I’ll git the stuff together for ya, as much as I can find.”
“Thanks. Just send it to me, in care of the Hartrick Police Department, and enclose a bill to the Hart County Sheriff’s Department. No, wait. I’ll pay for it myself. No point in having to give it all away when I leave the job. Thanks, Clete.”
“Yessir. You just tell Satin that I’ll be down right after the funeral with a big bottle a scotch. So long.”
Crockett poured himself a cup of coffee and headed out to look at the pond.
Ah, the simple life.
Crockett met Dale Smoot at the café the next morning. The big man was sitting in the customary back booth grimacing at a cup of coffee.
“I been drinkin’ this stuff for eight or nine years now,” he complained. “Don’t seem to be able to get used to it. I think they grind the beans with their feet.”
“Morning, Dale. You seem cheery.”
“Been arguing with the city and county fathers already this morning. I won, though. We’re gonna have just one dispatch for both the city and the county. It’ll be in the Sheriff’s Office. Should have done it that way years ago. My office’ll be where the Sheriff’s Office has always been. Your office will be in the city cop shop.”
Smoot grinned. “Yeah. Used to be mine. Now it’s all yours.”
“What the hell do I need an office for?”
“Because you’re my go-to guy. Second in command. Super trooper.”
“Oh, hell! What have I done?”
“Relax, Crockett. I’m still gonna have a head deputy and a senior patrolman to take care of the bullshit. I just haven’t come up with a title for you yet.”
“How ‘bout Chickenshit?”
“Not assertive enough.”
“How ‘bout Head Chickenshit?”
“What the hell am I supposed to do, Dale? What’s my job?”
“You’ll figure it out.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“I want you out there, Crockett. Mostly evenings and nights. Not all night, for chrissakes, just ‘til around midnight or one in the morning. Cruise, look things over, watch stuff, see what’s going on. I need your eyes and your experience. You’re a smart man and a tough guy. You’ve been through a lotta shit that I may never know about unless I get you drunk. You’ll notice things. I need that. If I’m gonna do this job, I gonna do it the best way I can. Most of that will come from the people I work with. You, for instance.”
“You. I got three city patrolmen and six county deputies, after I replace Shorty. They’re babies. Maybe you can’t run the hundred in eleven flat anymore. Maybe you can’t still vault fences or dive through windows. That’s what these kids are for. Knowing you are out there will keep them on their toes. Knowing that you’re slippin’ around in the dark if they need you will help their confidence. I’ll take ‘em from seven in the morning ‘til five or six in the afternoon. “You take ‘em from then ‘til midnight or one in the morning. Hell, you can sit at home half the time, I don’t care. Just so you’re available, just so they know somebody has got their ass. Be there for ‘em, but keep your distance. You are not their friend. You have to be more than that.”
“Shit. You’re dead serious about all this, aren’t you?”
“Okay. Lot of responsibility.”
“I know it is, Crockett. In some ways your job will be tougher than mine. That’s why, if there is ever a problem with the city or county fathers and politicians, I’ll deal with it. You just do what you think is right. You take care of the job. I’ll take care of you.”
“Thanks, Dale. That means a lot.”
Smoot smiled. “Pass it on,” he said.
When Crockett got home, he retrieved a box from the storage shed and lugged it inside. Satin was in the kitchen.
“Where ya been?” she asked.
“In town talking to Dale.”
“I’m not sure. Box a stuff from the old days. I been dragging it around for years.”
He put the box on the floor in front of the couch and sat down. Satin joined him, kissed his cheek, and passed over a cup of coffee. Crockett ripped the tape and pried the top of the box open. Inside was an insulated dark green nylon flight jacket with a faux fur collar.
“My God,” Crockett whispered, shaking out the coat. Near the top of each sleeve was sewn a Champaign Police Department patch.
“Think it’ll still fit?” Satin asked.
“Fat chance,” Crockett replied, laying the jacket aside.
Beneath it was a battered Samsonite brief case. Crockett put it on the floor and peered into the box. “Ha!” he said, and lifted out a cheap Rohm .22 revolver. “Leotis Washington tried to shoot me with this thing one night at the University Elks,” he went on. “Got the hammer hung up in his pants pocket and popped a round into his right foot instead. Wanted to sue me for police brutality ‘cause I made him shoot himself.”
Satin laughed. “Really?”
“Yeah. Old Leotis was not the brightest bulb in the marquee.”
Next came a silver knife. “Look at that,” Crockett said. He pushed a button on the side of the handle and a four-inch blade snapped into the open position. “This is solid stainless steel. Best switchblade I’ve ever seen. Kid named Paco Martinez stabbed me with it behind The Red Lion Inn one night.”
“He stabbed you?”
“Not exactly. He stabbed the cartridge case next to the buckle on my gun belt. The case stopped the knife. Paco’s hand slid up the blade. Cut the hell out of himself.”
“He try to sue you, too?”
“No, but all that blood sure ruined a brand new uniform.”
“Life in the big city, my dear.”
Continued exploration revealed a pair of stock grips from Crockett’s Ruger .357 service revolver, an old magazine from the M1 Carbine he used to have, a spring loaded sap he’d owned but never carried, an untrustworthy half can of Mace, and other odds and ends from days past. Finally, he opened the brief case. Inside was a bundle of zip ties, a couple of half-used old traffic ticket books, a hat badge with a broken clasp. A pair of black leather gloves caught his attention. He smiled and put them on the end of the coffee table. Satin picked them up.
“These are heavy,” she said.
“Sap gloves,” Crockett replied.
“Sap gloves. Put one on.”
Satin did. “Wow,” she said.
“Twelve ounces each,” Crockett went on. “Pouch of lead dust sewn in across the knuckles and another on the palm. Punch through a wall and not hurt yourself. Leave those out.”
More briefcase inspection revealed two pairs of Smith and Wesson handcuffs, several loose rounds of old Super Vel .357 ammo, various unused complaint and contact forms, and finally, a picture of Crockett and a young fellow officer on their day of graduation from the Police Training Institute.
“My God, Crockett,” Satin breathed. “Look at you. You were so young.”
“Twenty-one years old,” Crockett said.
“You were just a baby. Just a baby. And look at the world you stepped into.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “But being that young had its advantages.”
“I didn’t know any better.”
They were silent for a moment, until Satin spoke up.
“Who’s the other guy?”
“His name was Paul Case,” Crockett said. “He didn’t make it.”
Satin went to the kitchen and left him alone to repack both the box and the memories.
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