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Part One: Unnatural Happenstance
"Come on back, Margie. That last transmission was a mite garbled. Over," Sheriff Masterson had said, holdin' that radio mike tight up to his lips. We was ridin' back from Knotts Valley, where he'd just picked me up for transportin' several hundred liters of JW Dant's finest Kentucky rot-gut to the Watts brothers. I'd been slumped over in the back seat' a his Ford Galaxy, sweatin' like a rented mule an' tryin' to figure out how many nights I'd be hold up in the county lock up this time. I'd just got out on a similar charge a few months past, havin' spent almost six weeks as a guest of Lauders County, but had the feelin' that Judge 'Iron Balls' Wilkes wasn't gonna be near as easy on me this time around. Besides which, the wife was gonna be beside herself. She'd laid down the law just a few weeks prior about my secret 'side job' activities, sayin' she'd have nothin' more to do with it if'n I got caught again. Figured she'd already stashed away a packed bag or three just in case, and would be headin' off to her mama's in Wheeling once this latest case of bad news came down.
Little did I know at the time, but such matters was gonna be the least of my troubles once early morning gave way to late afternoon.
Masterson had trailed me down Little Bear Creek Road 'til I'd ditched my pick-up, then chased me through Dickerson's woods on foot. Man ain't a thing if not persistent…I'll give 'im that much. Caught up with me whilst I was hidin' inside the old barn next to the Forrester's abandoned farm, but not 'fore a couple'a stray dogshad caught up with me first. Damned knee finally stopped bleedin' from the fall I took outta that hayloft, but it ain't quit smartin'. Wasn't real sure of my bearings after that pop on the noggin, least not 'til I was already takin' up space in the back of the patrol unit.
"Ya need to get back here lickitty split, sheriff. We got some serious going's on…plum crazy going's on…a-all over…all around town, I mean to say…over," came the woman's reply from the other end of that talk box, soundin' like someone had just goosed her titty.
"Could ya be a mite more specific, Marge? What kinda trouble? Bane McBride beatin' up on his wife and kids again? Over."
"No…no…nothing like that, Sheriff. You…it's just…you'll have to see for yourself. I've been hearin' about all kinds of strangeness. Phone ain't stopped ringin' since nigh on seven AM…from Pearl Jacks down atLake Meyers to Merle Dean up at Dry Creek Manor Over."
Masterson steered the vehicle (pronounced 'vee-hick-ul') through a steep series of curves that leads into Mill's Valley, then turned about and shot me a grave look, still holdin' that mike to his mouth. Wyatt Masterson had been the law in and around Bakerstownsince I was knee-high to a Blue Tick pup, a genuine straight arrow who didn't take bribes nor lip from no man. Big as an ox and twice as ornery, old 'WEarp' , as everyone called 'im, had no patience for my kind, and in truth, I can't say I really blame 'im. No doubt if I had to spend most'a my day runnin' down no count bootleggers, cow thieves and wife beaters, I reckon I'd have a similar disposition.
"I'm a good eleven miles out, Marge. Got Pete Van Zant in tow for haulin' fire water. I'll petal her down and be there as quick as I can. Have ya heard from Perry? Over."
"Not since 'bout ten AM. I'd got a call of a break-in down at Childer's Seed 'n Feed. Can't reach 'im on the radio and I can't get no answer at Childers. That's been pert near an hour ago, Wyatt. Over."
"Tell ya what, Marge…I'll head on over to the seed 'n feed from here and radio in once I get there. Over."
Perry Finch was Masterson's only deputy As tall as a valley pine but built like a bean pole, Finch was one sour, stone-faced SOB that took his job way too serious. Man wasn't much on brains but damned high on cockiness. Rumor had it he'd only got the deputy job 'cause he'd married Masterson's sister, and couldn't hold down a job doin' nothin' else.
The sheriff turned back to me just as we'd drove out of the western edge of Mills Valley, passin' the Wilbery farm on the left hand side. The man was sweatin' more bullets than his gunbelt could'a ever held. Even that thick, gray mustache of his was soppin' wet. Thinkin' back, I don't believe it was just the boilin' heat inside that patrol unit causin' such a meltdown. Can't help but recall my own gut was rollin' a bit from a spell of nerves. Didn't know why at the time, just had a bad feelin' somethin' wasn't right.
"We gotta take a little detour, Pete. You just hang tight. I'll get ya to the lockup soon enough," he'd said, his breathin' kinda huffy, like he'd just got done sprintin' up a steep grade in his stockin' feet.
"I'm in no particular hurry, Sheriff, By all means, take yore time."
It took us another fifteen minutes or so to wind our way down Old Hickory road towards Childers feed store. Funny thing was, I don't recall meetin' or even seein' a single vehicle along the way, despite the fact that farms littered Old Hickory like ants on a picnic trail.
"Unit B, you copy?" The sheriff had yakked into that mike as we'd got 'bout halfway. "Perry, are you hearin' me, boy? Come back, over…"
"Maybe his battery petered out, Sheriff. That unit ain't near as slick as this one. I'll bet th-"
"Shut your pie-hole, Van Zant. When I need the opinion of a two-bit bootleggin' rat bastard like yourself, I'll pound it outta you," he'd growled in response, tossin' that mike into the passenger seat and cursin' under his breath. I'd decided to heed the man's words, havin' seen up close and personal he wasn't one to mince 'em when dolin' out physical threats.
Copyright © 2007 Terry Lloyd Vinson.