This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 992 words.
By the time Summer came around again, it felt like I had always been a deputy. I spoke to Mom and Dad about maybe getting a place closer to town later that year, and they agreed it was probably time for me to move out.The job was second nature by then, and I had slotted into the routine of the shifts. I had even made a couple of arrests. One was a drunk-driver, and the other a guy who beat someone badly in a bar fight at the Roadhouse. Then there were the regular drunks at weekends, but Vince normally let them go in the morning, once they had sobered up.
Everyone had got used to seeing me cruising around in the patrol car, and the local traders liked how I never took stuff for free, and always paid my way.
Then one hot August day, something happened in Riverdale.
I was parked out by the river, staring at the spot where I had seen Tommy sit down in the water, and suddenly Olivia’s voice came over the radio. I could tell from her tone that it was bad, and then Vince came on too, with an ‘all units’ order. Saying ‘all units’ in Riverdale was rather overstating the case. There was me and Olivia out there, and Vince as backup, with Hoogstraten as a last resort. That was it. For the Sheriff to sound so stressed, It had to be something out of the ordinary.
Someone was robbing the bank in town, and Margie had set off the alarm.
I drove faster than I ever had. The bank was a small affair, and barely managed to stay open. There was talk that the head office would close it soon, and folks would have to travel to White Oaks to do their banking. Only two tellers worked there, and they mostly operated with just one position open. Mr Lutz was the manager, an old guy who sat out back, and dealt with loans, foreclosures, and the good customers.
I stopped the car at an angle to block Main Street. Vince and Olivia had already done the same with their cars at the other end. They were both out and kneeling by the car doors, handguns ready. Vince waved me over, and I crouched next to him. My heart was racing, and I had a real tingle of excitement in my gut. Vince looked really calm, and winked at me. “We wait until he comes out, then drop him, okay?” I was wondering whether or not the Sheriff had ever dealt with anything like this before, when the door of the bank opened.
A skinny guy ran out, holding a sports bag. He looked around and didn’t seem to see the police cars, or the fact that there was nobody on the street. As he started to turn and run to his left, Vince and Olivia both started firing. The noise of the gunshots broke the silence, and made me jump out of my skin. I lost count of how many times they fired, but the robber was on the ground long before they stopped. Olivia ran across, covering him with her pistol, and Vince stood up with a big grin on his face.
It was only then that I realised my revolver was still in its holster.
People started to emerge from nearby shops, and peered along the street. Mr Lutz and Margie came out the door to the bank and Mr Lutz clapped Vince on the shoulder. Olivia called me over. “He’s dead, Clay. Check the bag”. I unzipped the bag and found a sawed-off shotgun inside. I cracked it to make it safe, and was surprised to discover it wasn’t loaded. I lifted it to show Olivia, but she shrugged. “Margie weren’t to know, was she? And neither were we”. She took the shotgun from me, as I searched the dead robber. He had nothing on him, and certainly didn’t look like a familiar face from around town.
I was expecting something to happen, but not sure what. An investigation, calling in County, maybe even the State Police. But Vince just handed the bag of money over to Mr Lutz, and smiled at Margie. “You okay honey? Not hurt or nothing?” Margie just grinned. “I’m fine thanks Sheriff”. Then she turned back to Mr Lutz. “We better get back to work”. So, no crime scene, no real investigation. The small truck came from the funeral parlor to take the body away, and the nearby shopkeepers brought out mops to clean up the sidewalk. Olivia found an unfamiliar car parked behind Leroy’s bar. That turned out to have been stolen in Renton two days earlier. Nobody took any photographs, and the only statement from a witness was given my Margie, when Olivia went to the bank close to closing time.
Vince was going back to the office to file a report to be sent to County, and the State Police. But not before he slipped into Leroy’s for a free bourbon and milk. He took the shotgun to be marked as evidence, then sat in the bar with it on the seat next to him. Even after such a startling event in quiet Riverdale, and a man gunned down on the street without so much as a shout of warning, life for Vince carried on as if nothing had happened.
Olivia walked over to where I was standing by my patrol car. “You best get back out on your route, Clay. And next time, at least draw your gun, even if you don’t want to fire it. Okay?”
After driving back across the bridge, I took the dirt road until the path to the Henderson barn. Even though it was still uncomfortably hot, I went into the barn and sat down at the back, thinking.
Things were going to have to change, whether Vince liked it or not.