Survivors Will Be Shot Again (2 page)

BOOK: Survivors Will Be Shot Again
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“Not the sheriff,” Rhodes said, not that he wasn't armed. He had a pistol, a little Kel-Tec PF-9, in an ankle holster. He liked the concealment that the ankle holster provided, but the pistol wasn't easy to get to in an emergency. Luckily, he hadn't needed it. The bread had worked just as well.

Rhodes looked around. “Where's my loaf of bread?”

Ferris pointed. “Over there on the floor. You want to get a fresh one?”

Rhodes walked over and picked up the bread with his free hand. “I wasn't really here for bread.” He tossed the loaf to Ferris, who caught it easily. “I was here for a Dr Pepper.”

“Have one on the house,” Ferris said.

“No, thanks,” Rhodes said. “I'm not thirsty anymore.”

 

Chapter 2

Rhodes hadn't had any time off in months, but as there hadn't been any major criminal activity going on in the county that day, he'd decided he could afford to take a break beginning at noon. He'd enjoyed not having to deal with the criminal element in Blacklin County for a couple of hours and had hoped to spend the entire afternoon without thinking about crime and criminals. It was just his luck that he'd be in the Pak-a-Sak when somebody showed up to rob it. Except that it wasn't luck. It was his own fault. He'd let the thought of a Dr Pepper tempt him. Anyway, it had turned out to be good luck in a way. He'd prevented the robbery, and the robbery had helped him resist the urge to buy the Dr Pepper.

Rhodes was in no hurry to get to the jail, so he drove around for a while in his rattletrap pickup. Nobody recognized him. He didn't get out in the truck often enough for anybody to identify it with him, so he was happily anonymous as he checked out Clearview's downtown area, or what was left of it. Many of the buildings that had been there when he was growing up were gone now. Some had fallen down, and others had been demolished. Of the ones that were left, a few were being restored and there were a couple of new ones, including a senior center that stood next to an antiques store owned by Lonnie Wallace, who also owned the Beauty Shack down the street. And of course there was Randy Lawless's office complex, the Lawj Mahal, as Rhodes thought of it. It occupied most of a half-block area that had once held six or seven businesses.

Everything was quiet. Only four or five cars were parked on the streets, with a couple in the parking lot of the Lawj Mahal. Rhodes didn't see a single pedestrian. The downtown would never be what it once was, no matter how many buildings were restored or how many new ones were built. All the action was out on the highway around the Walmart, and if Clearview was growing at all, that's where the growth was and would be.

Rhodes decided he'd given Buddy long enough to book Rayford Loomis, so he went on to the jail. He was a block away when Buddy passed in the county car, going in the opposite direction, light bar flashing, siren wailing. Rhodes wondered what that was about. It could be anything. People fighting at an RV park, a mother who'd called about a son who'd taken money from her purse, somebody stealing a propane tank, harassing phone calls from a blocked number, a stolen cell phone, or a lost one, or a dozen other things. A hundred. Even in a small county on a slow day there was always something going on.

Rhodes parked his pickup outside the jail and went inside. As soon as he walked in the door, Hack Jensen, the dispatcher, started talking, just like he always did.

“Hail the conquering hero,” Hack said.

That was something Hack had never said before.

Rhodes looked around the room. “Where's the hero?”

“You know where,” Hack said. “He's standing in your shoes. Caught a robber, took away his gun, and whipped him with a loaf of bread.”

“I didn't whip anybody,” Rhodes said.

“That ain't the way I heer'd it,” Hack said. He'd taken to listening to old radio shows on the computer, which is where Rhodes thought he'd picked up the line. “The way I heer'd it—”

“Where do you get all your information?” Rhodes asked.

Hack looked sly. “I got my sources.”

That was the truth. Even Buddy didn't know about the bread.

“The prisoner talked, didn't he,” Rhodes said.

Hack grinned and touched a finger to his pencil-thin mustache. “Yep. Sure did. Seemed like he was kinda embarrassed by the whole thing. You want to know what else?”

Rhodes did have a bit of curiosity about what else, but he knew that Hack wasn't going to tell him, not right away. Hack and Lawton, the jailer, always had plenty of information that they wanted to share with Rhodes, but they made him drag it out of them. It was their way of entertaining themselves. Either that, or they were on a mission to drive Rhodes crazy. So far they hadn't succeeded in doing that, but there were times when Rhodes thought they'd driven him close to the edge.

“I need to enter something into evidence,” Rhodes said. “Then you can tell me.”

“If you want to wait, that's just fine with me,” Hack said.

Rhodes took care of the paperwork on the revolver and put it in the evidence room, finishing up as Lawton came in from the cellblock.

“I got our new customer all settled down and tucked in,” Lawton said. He noticed Rhodes. “Well, well, look who's back from his so-called day off.”

Lawton was Hack's opposite in appearance, being clean-shaven and rounder, but he was the dispatcher's full partner in trying to annoy Rhodes.

“Caught yourself a gunslinging crook without even havin' to pull your own pistol,” Lawton said. “Ain't just anybody who could do that.”

“He don't know the rest of the story,” Hack said.

“You didn't tell him?”

“Nope.”

“You want me to tell him?”

Rhodes tried not to smile. If there was anything that could start a fight between Hack and Lawton, it was Lawton trying to tell one of Hack's stories before Hack had had the chance to draw it out for a while.

“I was the one started tellin' it,” Hack said. “I'll be the one to finish it.”

“I was just askin',” Lawton said.

“You oughta know better than to have to ask.”

“Well, it's as much my story as it is yours anyway. I was right here when—”

“You better watch out,” Hack said.

Lawton bristled. “You can't tell me what to do.”

“Yes, I can. I got seniority.”

Hack was right about that. Rhodes knew that the dispatcher had been hired at least a year before Lawton. Both men were past what some people considered retirement age, but they'd never shown any desire to leave their jobs, maybe because they enjoyed aggravating Rhodes whenever they could.

“I'll tell you what,” Rhodes said. “I'll flip a coin and we can decide that way who gets to give me the bad news.”

Hack looked at him. “I never said it was bad news.”

“Me neither,” Lawton said.

“It's never good news with you two,” Rhodes said.

“That ain't so,” Hack told him. “Anyway, this ain't bad news.”

“Depends on how you look at it,” Lawton said. “Some might take it one way, some might take it another way.”

Rhodes sighed. “Why don't you just tell me?”

“I was gettin' to it,” Hack said. “You're too grouchy, you know that? I think it's 'cause you got the low T.”

“Don't start that again,” Rhodes said. “My testosterone's just fine.”

“Sure is,” Lawton said. “I'll vouch for that. Nobody with the low T's gonna face down a crazy gunman with nothin' but a loaf of bread.”

“I'm glad somebody's on my side,” Rhodes said. He hardened his tone. “Now tell me what's going on.”

“Just the usual,” Hack said. “Local hero sheriff is gonna be the star of the Internet again.”

“Jennifer Loam,” Rhodes said.

Loam, who'd been a reporter for the local newspaper, had been a victim of downsizing. Since reporters weren't exactly in high demand, she'd started her own news Web site,
A Clear View of Clearview,
and she had enough advertising to keep it going almost immediately. The way she managed that, in Rhodes's opinion, was by sensationalizing local news, especially news that involved law enforcement. Any of Rhodes's accomplishments, no matter how small, were inflated so as to become something on the order of Batman's exploits in Gotham City.

Hack and Lawton laughed, and Hack said, “I guess we don't have to tell you, then. You bein' an ace lawman and all, you figgered it out yourself.”

“What was she doing here?” Rhodes said.

“Came in to ask about the fella we arrested for exercisin',” Hack said.

Rhodes shook his head.
Here we go again.

“That's not against the law,” he said. “What was he doing?”

“Jumpin' jacks.”

Rhodes didn't say anything.

“In his underwear,” Lawton said. Hack gave him a look, but Lawton didn't notice. “Tighty-whities. I'm a boxers man myself.”

“Too much information,” Hack said. “Point is, the fella wasn't exercisin' in the privacy of his own home but out in the middle of the street. Can't have that. Might've got hit by a car.”

“It was Henry Horton,” Lawton said, as if that explained everything, which it did. Horton had some form of dementia, and lately he'd taken to leaving his house and wandering off, though not in his tighty-whities.

“Ruth took care of it,” Hack said, meaning Ruth Grady, one of the deputies. “Went over to get him inside while I called his wife and had her come home from the high school.”

Lucille Horton was the school nurse, and Rhodes knew she was having problems dealing with her husband's condition.

“She's going to have to find somebody to stay with him,” Rhodes said, “or get him into a nursing home.”

“She knows it,” Hack said. “She told Ruth she's workin' on it.”

“You still haven't told me where Buddy was going.”

“Oh, that,” Hack said.

“Yes,” Rhodes said. “That.”

“That's nothin' much. Just somebody's found a ‘mysterious package' on the front porch. Tom Gatlin. You know how he is.”

Rhodes nodded. He'd dealt with the mysterious Gatlin himself a time or two. He sometimes ordered things, forgot he'd ordered them, and then been surprised when a package showed up on his front porch. He'd call the sheriff to come out and make sure there wasn't a bomb or a box of anthrax on his property.

“What we need is a bomb squad,” Lawton said. “Then we could let the professionals handle it.”

“It'll be a book or a new shirt,” Hack said. “Last time it was a new flashlight. It ain't like we got a mad bomber on the loose around here. Buddy'll take care of it.”

Hack might have said more on the topic, but the telephone rang. Hack answered it and talked for a couple of minutes. When he hung up, he turned to Rhodes and said, “Since your day off is over with, you might's well take a run down to Billy Bacon's place.”

“What's the problem?”

“Thieves got a bunch of his stuff.”

“Again?” Lawton asked.

“That's right,” Hack said. “Again.”

 

Chapter 3

Rhodes stopped in the turn-in for the gate to the B-Bar-B ranch and waited until the gray dust from the county road settled before getting out of the big black and white Chevy Tahoe. Blacklin County had had a lot of rain earlier in the year, much more than average, in fact, but there had been none for the last couple of weeks.

The Chevy Tahoe was practically new, only a couple of weeks old. Mikey Burns, one of the county commissioners, had convinced the other members of the commission to buy two of them for the sheriff's department, although Burns had made it clear to Rhodes that he'd rather have gotten a couple of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles free from the United States Army. Lots of other small counties had them, Burns said, but Rhodes was happy with the Tahoes. He didn't think anybody would be planting mines in Blacklin County.

Rhodes looked past the closed gate and saw Billy Bacon standing next to a weathered tin barn with rust streaks running down its sides and roof. The barn formed part of one side of a small corral. Billy's dark green and dusty Dodge Ram pickup was parked by an old hand-dug well nearby. Bricks had fallen away from the well's wall and lay on the thin grass around it, along with thin gray pieces of concrete that had covered the bricks. The bricks might have once been red, but now they were a faded pink.

Billy saw the Tahoe and waved. Rhodes opened the door and got out. He was still getting used to being so high off the ground when he drove. He didn't have to use the assist step, but anyone shorter than him would have needed it.

A chain was looped around a post and around the end of the gate frame. The heavy padlock that had held the ends of the chain together lay on the ground where it had fallen after it had been cut away with a bolt cutter. Rhodes put on a pair of nitrile rubber gloves and got an evidence bag. He didn't think there would be any fingerprints on the lock, but you never knew. He put the lock in the bag, sealed it, and put it in the Tahoe. He tossed the gloves in, too, and pulled the gate open. It was well balanced and squealed only a little bit. It was painted silver, and the B-Bar-B brand was welded to it in two-foot-high red letters. The hinges of the gate were to Rhodes's right and attached to a tall post that looked like a telephone pole cut in half. Rhodes noticed four nails in it that had white cardboard behind them as if something rectangular had been ripped down from the post.

Billy had been watching all this. He called out to Rhodes, “You might want to drive on in, Sheriff, and get your vehicle away from the road. People come around that corner too fast sometimes, and you don't want that thing to get hit.”

Billy was right about that. Rhodes was in enough trouble with the commissioners about damages to county vehicles already. He didn't mind walking, but he didn't want the Tahoe to get a scratch on it.

BOOK: Survivors Will Be Shot Again
8.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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