This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 1125 words.
Sheriff DeWalt was true to his word, and sent me out on my own the second week. He kept me off night shift for a while though, until I was feeling confident enough. We used to operate two cars on days, one taking half of the town limits, north or south. Vince’s daughter Olivia was in the second car. Seemed she was going to run alongside the same shifts with me. Luckily, I didn’t have to see too much of her, except at changeover, when we picked up the patrol cars. I was still a bit afraid of her, mainly because I didn’t have the first idea what to say to the scary woman.
I chose the northern patrol, as it would keep me close to the river, and the Henderson farm. Driving around on a regular route only took around forty-five minutes, and I would be back where I started. Hoogstraten told me I could go up as far as the Country Club, and over onto the edge of the Interstate if I wanted. “Try not to get involved in anything outside of our jurisdiction though, Clay. It gets messy once you start dealing with County and the State Troopers”. Vince was supposedly available to back up me and Olivia, when he wasn’t getting a free breakfast from Betsy, or drinking bourbon and milk in Leroy’s Bar.
Obviously, not much happened. I had lived there all my life, so I already knew that. The murders at the river had been the most exciting thing in the history of the town. Riverdale Sheriff’s Office was mainly window-dressing, keeping people happy that they were protected, even though there was nothing to protect them from. I wrote some traffic tickets to make it look like I was earning my pay, and checked on some of the local shopkeepers to let them know I was around.
In my first month, the most exciting thing that happened was a burglary at Widow Claiborne’s place. I got the call on the radio, and rushed up there as if it was life and death. At least it was something to do. The old lady was more excited than scared. “I can’t believe I slept through it all, they broke a window and all. Will it be in the newspaper?” I took a report of what she claimed had been stolen, and looked around at the back of her house. I could see some good shoe-prints, and also fingerprints on the window glass they had smashed to get in. Before I left, she insisted I had some coffee and cake.
I went back to the office to file the report, and asked Milly to contact the County Forensic team. “There’s some good prints out there, and shoe prints too”. Milly smiled. “I will have to run that past the Sheriff, Clay. We get billed by County for all that stuff”. She took my report into Vince’s office, and he returned with her. “Good work, Clay. But that stuff she had stolen will be long gone by now. And even if we catch who did it, she won’t get it back. Likely it was kids anyway, not very professional, don’t you think? And Miss Claiborne wasn’t hurt, was she? Just file it for now, see if there are any other similar cases later on. If she has insurance, she can claim”.
No point kicking up a fuss. It was still Vince’s laws that applied there.
I started to spend more time at the river. Sitting in the patrol car by the old spot, or taking the dirt road on the other side of the bridge, to where the railroad bridge crossed. On my last day shift before Vince said I should try night duty, I saw my first official dead people.
There had been a bad crash at the junction with the Interstate. Olivia had taken the call, and asked for me to go and back her up. By the time I got there, the Fire Department had shown up with their ambulance. A small Volkswagen had been hit by a truck, as it turned onto the Interstate. There wasn’t that much left of the car, but the truck seemed to hardly be damaged. The truck driver looked shaky, but he was talking okay, and giving his version of what happened to Olivia. The bodies had been taken out the car, and were at the side of the road, covered up. I waved the traffic around for a bit, and then Olivia asked me to check the dead couple for any I.D. The man was messy, his head pretty smashed, and lots of blood all over. By contrast, the woman looked like she was asleep. One of the Fire Department guys shook his head. “Shame. Broken neck, I reckon”.
I checked her purse that had been taken from the car, then fished around inside the man’s jacket and found a wallet. They had the same name and address, probably a married couple. The address was out of state, and according to Olivia, that meant County would deal with it. She told the guys to take the bodies to the County Hospital at White Oaks, and she would go back and phone County to hand over the case. Young Clyde Morrison turned up with his Dad’s tow truck, and she told him to load the wreck, and take it back to his garage. “Who’s paying, Olivia?” She shrugged. “Better bill County, Clyde. It’s their case now”. Once the road was clear, I went back on patrol. I was starting to wonder if there was anything we did actually do. No wonder Vince hadn’t been considered capable of dealing with a double murder that day.
Night shift was a real drag. We only had the roadhouse out on Palmer Road and Leroy’s bar to worry about, and hardly anything happened in those places, except maybe at weekends. The motel was usually busy with people passing through, but we rarely got troubled with any calls to there. I checked the locks on the shops and businesses, and wrote that down on my paper log. Olivia was nowhere to be seen, and I guessed she was cuddled up at home with Velma, hardly bothering to drive around. I felt like I was the only one stupid enough to be doing my job. Tyler was supposed to be answering the phone and keeping an ear on the radio. But when I drove past the office, it was in darkness. He was probably asleep in one of the cells.
But I didn’t mind. It was easy money, and I would soon be established and accepted.
Once that happened, I could start to do what I had joined up for.