The River: Part Fourteen

This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1085 words.


Not long after I became Sheriff, everything started to change. It was no longer viable for a small community like Riverdale to bear the whole cost of running the office. The town was growing, and there were more people to deal with. I had a meeting with the Mayor, and it was decided we would approach County in White Oaks, to talk about becoming part of the County Police. I was keen for that to happen, as it would give us access to all their facilities and resources. Everything we did would carry on as normal, and all that would really change would be that we worked for County, and would come under the authority of the Captain of County Police in White Oaks. We kept the name of Riverdale Sheriff’s Office, just so folks wouldn’t be alarmed by any drastic changes.

I called in my deputies, and gave them what I told them was good news. All the old faces had gone except Tyler, and he was happy at my suggestion that he took care of the office and radio, now that Milly was retiring. We never saw anything of Vince since his stroke, and people said he wasn’t able to leave the house without help. I didn’t think that much about him. He was well past his time, and had enjoyed a good run. He was drawing his pension, and one day his name would fade from memory.

I had spent a long time going through the few records Vince had bothered to keep, and was not at all surprised to discover that they contained only the flimsiest details of that Sunday at the river. So I requested copies of the statements taken by County in White Oaks at the time, and a transcript of the trial of Old Man Henderson. I stayed living above Lucas Hardware, as it suited me, so I laid out all the papers in time order, and spent my evenings poring over them until my eyes hurt.

After all that hard work, I didn’t find out that much. Duke claimed to have left the swimming spot while Freddie was still there, and the girls were still in the water. He didn’t mention me at all, except to say I had stayed at the bank further down. Freddie’s statement was that he had watched the girls swimming, but had decided not to join them. When he suggested moving on, he claimed they had decided to stay in the water, and said they might see him later. He made no mention of me at all. Eddy Silverman stuck to the fact he was suffering from the bug bites, and had gone home before anyone even got into the water. As for Tommy, he was interviewed by a State Psychiatrist, but she recorded that he had refused to say anything. Before the swimsuits were found at the Henderson farm, Tommy had been considered to be the main suspect.

Once the search at Henderson’s revealed the glaringly obvious evidence, everything else had just been filed. All the documents concentrated on the old man as the killer, and mentioned his historical sex offending. During his trial, there was little mention of the rest of us that day, and he continued to claim he was fishing at White Oaks, so knew nothing about what had happened. They used Freddie’s and Duke’s statements to allege that Donna and Mel were alone at the swimming place for an unknown time, and concluded that must have been when Henderson carried out the crime. He was wrapped up and ready for roasting, before he even stepped into the court.

What I read over those weeks was pretty much as I had expected. As soon as Henderson was charged, they had all but forgotten the rest of us were ever there.

It was all boxed up, and sent back to County. I had found out everything I could, and nobody was going to thank me for raking over it after all this time. Freddie and his Dad bought into a second dealership in Fairview, and Freddie left town to run things down there. So I got on with being one of the County Sheriffs, responsible for the same territory. I changed what I could. No more free meals, coffee, or anything else. My deputies had to pay for what they had, or there would be trouble. They also had to stick to procedure, rules of evidence, and reading anyone their rights. No more fake speeding stops, or using their nightsticks for no good reason. As Riverdale grew, I like to think our office grew with it, and finally had some real respect.

That Sunday at the river stayed in my mind as I got older, but work was busy now, with a new mall, and three fast-food joints built out on the road to the Interstate. They relocated the bank to an upgraded site on the strip mall, and the shops in town started to suffer a little. The cafe was struggling, but I always ate there, and paid of course. I didn’t like to see the centre of town looking run down, and unloved. It was still my town, to my way of thinking.

Then not long before my fifty-second birthday, I got a call from the State Police up in Renton. Some detective wanted to come and see me. He was interested in the murders at the river. He told me Old Man Henderson had died of cancer in prison, years earlier. He had lived to be ninety-one, and made a deathbed statement that he was completely innocent, and had been framed. It struck me that I had never been concerned to find out about Henderson in all that time. Nobody had even bothered to tell us he had died. His place was still shut up, and no relatives had ever appeared to claim it.

The detective’s name was Liam Doherty. He told me he specialised in old cases, and unsolved crimes. I told him the Henderson case was solved, and I didn’t see what he hoped to gain from talking to me. “I have gone over that case in detail, Sheriff Farlowe, and it doesn’t ring true to me. I understand you were unhappy about Mr Henderson being a suspect at the time, and I would like to come and talk to you about that Sunday”.

I couldn’t very well say no, so I arranged for him to come on the following Friday.

24 thoughts on “The River: Part Fourteen

  1. Ah, this is good occurrence… I think. Way too much time has passed. I’m surprised that Clay never delved into investigating Henderson, just to help support his theory of innocence.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. (1) From Clay’s point of view, Sheriff DeWalt’s early departure was a stroke of luck.
    (2) “He didn’t mention me at all, except to say I had stayed at the bank further down.” / “They relocated the bank to an upgraded site on the strip mall…” So the bank went from the river to the strip mall.
    (3) Old Man Henderson “made a deathbed statement that he was completely innocent, and had been framed.” I can picture him framed by the bars of his prison cell.
    (4) Prison cells confine, and cancer cells spread out.
    (5) Folks found Fast Freddie of Fairview Ford to be fair and friendly.

    I’m still wondering why “Tommy was wide-eyed and crazy looking” when he scrambled downstream, all torn up by thorns and branches. If the girls had been left alone, as Freddie and Duke had testified, then how did Tommy, who supposedly did not stay behind, know the girls had vanished? Seems to me Tommy’s manic reaction indicates he did stay behind, and that he saw what happened to them. This makes me doubt that Freddie and Duke are telling the truth. And was Eddy’s alibi ever substantiated? Did he actually go home, or did he swing back to join the others at the river? I have a scenario in my mind as to what actually happened, but I’ll wait to see if it’s correct.

    Liked by 1 person

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