This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 925 words.
It was close to three weeks later when I got the chance to drive to Renton to talk to Duke. That wasn’t his real name of course, just something his real Dad called him. Paul Tyson was known to everybody as Duke, even the teachers at school. But when I called County to check on his address through his driver’s licence, I remembered to use Paul. I regretted not being able to get up there earlier, as I was sure Freddie had called him that day I bought the Jeep. I was worried that he had skipped town, and wouldn’t be around to talk to me.
Despite being on a busy street close to the centre of town, the house looked like some run-down shack in a country district. It was the home of Duke’s step-father’s brother, so I guess you could call him a step-uncle. I wasn’t wearing my uniform that afternoon, but I had my badge ready to flash if need be. It took a while for someone to answer my knock. The woman looked to be around fifty, and her clothes were stained. She was smoking a cigarette, and holding the pack and lighter in her hand, ready for the next one. I was very polite.
“Sorry to trouble you, ma’am. My name is Clayton Farlowe, and I’m an old friend of Duke’s from Riverdale. I was up in Renton for something, and hoped to be able to look him up. It’s been a long time since we got to have a good talk”. She didn’t reply, but turned in the doorway, yelling. “Woody! get out here! Someone to see Duke”. She stayed where she was, holding the door almost closed. I could actually smell the man before I saw him. Beer and sweat, overpowering. His clothes were stretched tight across his bulk, and his jowly face was red from the effort of walking from his armchair.
“What d’you want with Duke, boy? He owe you money or something?” I stayed polite. “No sir, nothing like that. We are old friends from school, down in Riverdale. I haven’t had much chance to see him since he moved here. Is he around? Still at work maybe?” The woman exchanged a look with Woody, as she lit a second cigarette from the stub of the previous one. She flicked the butt over my head into the front yard. Pulling up to his full height, the man shook his head. “Duke’s gone, boy. Job didn’t work out. Said something about going north, Chicago maybe. Pay’s better up there, so he said”. The woman turned and walked back inside. I heard the volume on a TV get louder.
“Would you have an address for him, sir? A phone number even?”. The fat man grinned. “Reckon if he wants to speak to you, he will call you”. He closed the door without another word.
When I got back to my apartment, I thought about my old friends. Tommy was not saying anything to anyone, and Duke was running, so he wouldn’t have to talk. I could apply some pressure on Freddie of course, but then I would never know for sure if he was telling the truth. I needed to get them all together, and thrash out the story. But that seemed unlikely to happen, anytime soon. Meanwhile, Mom told me Dad was ill. He was off work, and complaining about finding it hard to breathe. Stubborn as ever, he wouldn’t go see the doctor. I gave her some cash to make up for his lost pay, but couldn’t see any point in talking to him about it. As far as he was concerned, I would always be his kid, and someone like Dad took no advice from kids. Years of inhaling sawdust at the lumber yard, and a fondness for Chesterfields had taken their toll. He wasn’t that old, but he didn’t look too good.
I went back to my routine. For many it might have seemed boring, but it was fine for me.
The years passed. Olivia resigned as a deputy, and went into nursing. I got a new shift partner, Clyde. He looked up to me, though he was older. Vince started to slow down. I knew instinctively he didn’t have too long left in the job. so took my time until his inevitable demise. All those years of free food and bourbon had taken their toll, and I was happy to wait him out. Hoogstraten had taken his pension, and Tyler had no ambition. I was about all that was left, so I reckoned that if I stood for election for Sheriff, nobody would bother to oppose me.
My Dad died less than two years later. He ended up in County Hospital on a respirator, but he had left if too late. Died young, so everyone said. Mom sold up and went to Indiana, to be close to an elderly aunt. That pretty much convinced me she and Dad had never been that bothered about me.
I was left as the senior deputy after Vince. Tyler was looking to go when he could, and marking time. I began to canvass opinion about being elected to Sheriff, once Vince called it a day. The feedback was good, but I knew I had to wait for my time. When Vince had a mild stroke not long before my twenty-seventh birthday, I was confident of getting his job.
And I did.
Now I could start to delve into the available records.