This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 1209 words.
Trying on the uniform made me feel very grown up. Especially the hat. I bought myself some mirror-lens sunglasses too, to complete the look. Driving into work wearing the belt rig and the pistol in the holster felt strange that first day. Vince seemed amused to see me looking like that, and raised his hands. “Oh my Lord, look what we have here! Deputy Farlowe, all growed-up and looking for all the world like a real po-lice-man”. He opened a drawer and handed me two bright badges. One was to wear pinned to my shirt, the other to go on my hat. They looked just like the badges worn by Sheriffs or Marshals in western films, and I didn’t hesitate to get them fixed on.
I spent the morning with Hoogstraten. He showed me where all the forms and paperwork was kept, and how to lock somebody in one of the cells if I had to. He seemed pleased to be off patrol, and was exceptionally friendly. I had brought a sandwich for lunch, and Vince told me I would be riding with him that afternoon. “You can drive me around, Clay, get the feel of things. I reckon you should be good to go by next week, then you can try things on your own”.
Once we were out in the car, I saw the other side of Vince DeWalt. he talked a lot about taking no nonsense, and making sure people knew who was boss. “Anyone talks back to you, Clay, don’t be scared to give them a good whack with your stick. I’ll always back up your side of things”. He told me to drive out to the gas station on Forest Road. That was on the road to the Country Club, and he said if we sat in the car out back we would be sure to catch some speeders there, late afternoon. I asked if he kept the radar gun in the trunk, and he roared with laughter. “Radar gun, boy? We don’t need no radar gun. We say if someone was driving too fast, and that’s the end of it”. I could see that studying law had been superfluous. We operated by a different set of laws.
Vince DeWalt’s laws.
After ten minutes sitting supposedly out of sight, Vince sent me in for coffee and donuts. I poured two coffees into styrofoam cups, and went up to the counter. Bernice looked at me funny, and I realised she hadn’t recognised me. “And two donuts please, bear claws”. As she put them into a paper bag, Bernice grinned. “So it’s you, Clay. Didn’t know you were working with Big Vince now”. I offered some dollar bills in payment, and she put her hands on her hips. “Come now, you know you boys never pay”. I felt embarrassed, but had learned another lesson. Cops in Riverdale don’t pay for stuff. I hadn’t known that, but wasn’t about to argue the case with Bernice.
Forest Road was quiet, and I saw Vince check his watch a few times, shifting his weight in the seat. A convertible went past, music playing on the car radio, the driver with a big smile on his face, and a girl in the front passenger seat with her head thrown back, laughing at something the driver was saying perhaps. Vince slapped my thigh. “Get going, Clay. He’s your first speeding ticket”. The limit was forty, and I guessed the driver wasn’t doing a great deal over that. But I did as I was told, and pulled out behind the car, turning on the lights and siren. Expecting a chase, I got up a good speed, and felt the short thrill of going too fast on a road I knew well. I soon caught up to the convertible.
He stopped the car so quickly, I almost ran into the back of him. Following procedure, I called up on the radio, advising Milly I was stopping a car, and asking her to check the plates with County. She sounded surprised. “Are you still with Vince, Clay?”. I confirmed I was, and the Sheriff started to chuckle. “No need for all that, Clay. Just get up there and give him a ticket”. I put on my sunglasses, and approached the car with my hand close to my holster. We had been shown this many times during training, and it felt pretty cool to actually be doing it for real.
The guy driving the car was still smiling. He looked to be about thirty, though the girl with him was a lot younger. “Is there a problem, officer?” I stood up straight, and removed my notebook. ‘Licence and registration please, sir”. He handed them over without hesitation. I reckoned he was used to being stopped like this. “You were driving over the forty limit for this road, so I’m afraid I am going to have to give you a ticket for that”. He just shrugged.
After writing everything down, I filled out the speeding ticket, gave him a copy, then reeled off how he should pay, and how long he had to do so. The girl was staring at me as if I was something in a cage at the zoo but the guy didn’t seem at all bothered. Vince suddenly appeared at the passenger side. His booming voice made the girl jump out of he skin, and startled me too. “Out the car! Let’s see if you have been drinking. Get round the front”. The driver had stopped smiling now. From his address, and the shiny new convertible, I guessed he was pretty wealthy and had probably been at the Country Club earlier. He got out quickly, and walked to the front of the car to stand next to Vince.
What happened next was obviously for my benefit. The guy may have had a drink before, but he certainly wasn’t drunk, and didn’t even smell of alcohol. The Sheriff made him close his eyes, then touch his nose with one finger, then another. Then he made him stand on one leg, as he timed that with his wristwatch. The girl was starting to look scared now, probably wondering how she would get home if her date was arrested. Vince continued to speak loudly. “Now, walk that white line at the side of the road there. One foot in front of the other. Nice and slow now”. The driver did as he was told, and Vince walked behind, urging him on. “That’s the way, keep going just like that”. After ten paces or so, I saw the Sheriff’s cowboy boot extend, as he tripped the man. He fell to his left side, extending an arm to stop himself ending up in the scrub.
As he got up, rubbing his hands to shake off the road dirt, Vince was grinning at him. “I will put that down to you falling. I don’t reckon you’re drunk. But I don’t want to see you speeding in Riverdale again, you hear? Off you go now. Take your sweetheart straight home”. When we were back in the car, the Sheriff turned to me with a serious look on his face.
“Like I said, Clay. You have to show them who’s the boss”.