This is the twelfth part of a fiction serial, in 1040 words.
On a day off, I decided to drive up to County Hospital. I wore my uniform to make it look official, and didn’t tell anyone I was going. Nobody seemed to ever talk about Tommy anymore, and I didn’t feel like bothering his parents. Even though I looked the part when I arrived at the Mental Ward, the staff were unimpressed. They made me fill out a form with my information and the reasons for my visit, and said I had to leave my pistol in a locker at the nurses’ desk. Then they kept me waiting for a long time before escorting me to a room where Tommy was sat in a chair, staring at the corner.
A big male attendant came inside with me, and stood with his arms folded, and his back to the door. I moved the only other chair in the room across next to Tommy, and sat close, speaking in a conversational tone. “Hi Tommy, it’s Clay. Look at me, I’m a deputy now, can you believe that? I work with Big Vince, and I’m still in Riverdale of course, living at my folks’ place. Been thinking about moving into town though, there’s a small apartment for rent over the hardware store, so I would be close to work”. Tommy continued to stare into the corner, not a flicker of recognition on his face.
“Tommy, did you hear they put away Old Man Henderson for Donna and Mel? Looks like the old guy will die in jail. What do you think about that?” Still nothing. I tried again. “It’s me, Clay. Why don’t you look at me, Tommy? You know me. I just wanted to talk to you about that day at the river, and to see how you are doing here. Why don’t you say something?” He suddenly stood up, and without giving me so much as a glance, walked over to the attendant. The big guy looked at me, and nodded. “Looks like your visit is over, deputy. Seems to me Tommy doesn’t want to talk to you”.
As I was waiting for the nurse to get my pistol for me, I called out to her from the small counter. “Tommy wouldn’t speak to me. Is that usual?” The woman came back and handed me the holster, her face was a picture of boredom and indifference. “Never says nothing, that boy. Never has, maybe never will”.
As I drove home, I thought about Tommy not speaking. Maybe that was a good thing for him, I couldn’t be sure. I diverted into town and went to see Mr Lucas. I said I would take the apartment over his shop, and paid a month in advance. He sure looked pleased when he handed me the papers. Having a cop living over your business was better than any insurance policy. The place was furnished, so all I needed was some bed linen, towels, and my clothes. When I told my Mom I was moving out the next day, she didn’t seem surprised.
There were times when I thought they didn’t really like me that much.
Late afternoon, still wearing my uniform, I drove out to Mr Hayes’ car dealership. Freddie was sitting in the office when I walked in, on the phone to a prospect. “I promise you sir, you won’t get a better deal than the one I offered you. Tell you what, you call around. Hell, drive up as far as Renton if you want. If you find the same car at a better price, then I will match that price. What do you say?” Whatever the customer said, Freddie hung up and turned to grin at me. “Clay, don’t tell me you’ve finally decided to get rid of that old man’s ride? Dark green? What were you thinking?”
“You got a Jeep Cherokee, third row back. The red one. Will you do me a deal on that, Freddie?” He seemed relieved that I was there to talk about cars. “Sure I will, Clay. Let’s go look at it”. He picked some keys from a rack at the back, and I followed him out to the car. I wanted something like that Jeep. Four by four, big engine, easy to fix, four doors, and plenty of room. Before Freddie could launch into his usual sales pitch, I put up my hand. “This is me, Freddie. Take my old car as the deposit, and I will fill out the papers for a loan on the rest. You know I’m good for it. And if the car is no good, I know where you are. We’re old friends, so I will trust you not to sell me a piece of junk. Besides, I’ve got a gun now.” I laughed at the way his face fell when I said that. “Come on, Freddie, can’t you take a joke anymore?”
In the office, I watched him as he did the paperwork, then made the phone call to get the loan approved. When he put the phone down, I spoke first. “Just been up to County Hospital, to see Tommy. Thinking of going to Renton soon, have me a good talk with Duke. We never did get to the bottom of what happened that Sunday, did we?” I had wrong-footed him, and it showed on his face. “Well Clay, you know the cops told us we couldn’t talk about the case. I mean, Old Man Henderson was guilty, and he’s in jail now. I don’t see what good can come of going over it again now. Things have changed, and we are all different now. Time to move on and forget that day, don’t you think?” He smiled weakly, sliding the papers across the desk. There was an ‘X’ marked where I should sign, in two places.
I signed, and handed over the keys and registration for my old car.
“No, Freddie. I don’t think that. Not at all. I will be around to see you again, you can count on it”. I grabbed the paperwork, and the two sets of keys for the Jeep, then walked out. As expected, he picked up the phone as soon as I closed the door.
I had a good idea who he was calling.