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Sheriff Joel Harper was pissed, more than that really. He was madder than a hornet, and there was no one within a fifteen mile radius for him to vent his spleen on. Just as well his younger brother Toby wasn’t with him right now. The kid would most likely hear language never intended for his young ears. Who was he kidding? Toby could most likely match him curse for curse.
He just couldn’t believe it. He was being sued—sued by a no good son-of-a-bitch who should be behind bars for his flagrant drug use, but who instead had got himself some city attorney and was suing Joel for kidnapping, assault and battery.
“That lyin’ sack-o-shit,” Joel muttered under his breath still seething after reading the details of the suit in which Daniel Francis Hutchins, the plaintiff, had filed a complaint to the effect that while leaving a local tavern, he was attacked by an assailant he later recognized as Sheriff Joel Harper, taken to the Denton Sheriff’s Office where he had been summarily stripped naked, beaten, and handcuffed to the bars of his cell for several hours while being denied access to a toilet. Hutchins also claimed that the entire time he was subjected to this humiliation, Sheriff Joel Harper—who was not in uniform, and therefore Hutchins surmised him to be off duty—had taunted, slapped him around and generally debased him.
“Bullshit,” Joel muttered again, gunning the engine of his Police Department issue SUV, and sliding back onto the road from the gravel shoulder where he’d pulled over to study what, in his mind, was the biggest pile of horse manure he’d ever read. As he sped down the road toward Denton, a small rural town about twenty miles outside Sacramento, he figured his next step would be to call the Attorney General’s office and find out how they were going to handle this.
His main concern was that Danny Hutchins was the son of one of the wealthiest ranchers in the county, and no doubt his father, who had no love for the Denton Sheriff’s office, would use every ounce of influence he had to get Joel fired. Old man Hutchins just couldn’t let go of the fact that two years earlier, just after Joel had been elected Sheriff, Joel had arrested him for being drunk and disorderly and trying to beat up the manager of the Sizzlin’ Steak, one of Denton’s better restaurants. A night in the local jail cell to cool him off had only angered Hutchins more, swearing to ‘get even’ as he left the following day.
Joel hadn’t listened to Hutchins’ threats of reprisal then, nor would he let the deprecating letters Hutchins would demand the local paper publish on a regular basis, bother him. He didn’t doubt that this latest attempt to get him fired was instigated by Hutchins Senior. Joel figured he wasn’t above using his useless son as a means to an end.
It galled Joel that Danny had turned out to be such a shiftless individual. He and Danny had gone to school together, had been friends briefly until Danny had got himself mixed up with a bunch of riff-raff Joel couldn’t stomach. He’d railed at Danny on several occasions that he was wasting his life, that with his talent for electronics and the fact he was a whiz with computers, he should be out there making a career for himself instead of getting wasted with a bunch of losers. But the last time they’d spoken, Danny had given him the finger and told him to go fuck himself.
Despite all that, Joel would never have imagined Danny would sink this low.
Patty Saunders, Joel’s administrative assistant, gave him a bright smile as he entered the office. Patty could never quite resist giving Joel and what was, in her opinion, his sweet, sweet body the once-over, no matter that they’d worked together almost every day for the past five years, from the time Joel was a patrol officer.
“’Mornin’ boss,” she cooed, eyes raking over Joel’s body, his wide shoulders, narrow hips, and long legs. If ever another man filled out a uniform more beautifully, she’d yet to see him, she’d told her girlfriends on many occasions. In addition, Joel’s short cropped, curly black hair, green eyes and his dreamy mouth were always guaranteed to make her toes curl inside her sensible shoes. Never mind that her boss was openly gay—she still harboured fantasies about getting him in the sack. Fantasies she kept to herself, especially the one where Joel joined her and her husband, Tom, for a torrid three-way.
“’Mornin’ Patty.” He looked over at his deputy’s empty desk. “Bob been in yet?”
Patty pursed her lips in displeasure. “No, and he hasn’t called in, or returned my call. He’s an hour late, again.”
Joel sighed. Bob Perkins, Deputy Sheriff, was one more problem Joel knew he was going to have to deal with before long. He’d been with the Denton Sheriff’s Office longer than Joel, and made no bones about the fact that he thought he should now hold Joel’s position.
It didn’t help when people had pointed out to Bob he just hadn’t run as convincing a campaign as Joel, who had won the election two years ago by a margin no one could argue with. That didn’t stop Bob from being uncooperative to the point of insubordination at times. He was continually late, sometimes not showing up at all, especially for the late shifts. Joel had time and again tried to talk to him, reason with him, but the man’s resentment toward Joel precluded any rational conversation. One of these days, Joel knew he would have to fire the man.
Denton’s sheriff’s office was small. Just Joel, Bob, Patty, and two patrol officers, Brent Elliot and Josh Palmer. Fortunately Joel felt he could rely on Josh and Brent to do their jobs well, and as for Patty, there was no one more loyal to him than her. He smiled at her plump face, her baby blues now gazing at him with expectation.
He waved the envelope he was carrying in front of her. “Danny Hutchins is suing me for assault and battery.”