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Authors: Victor Gischler

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The Deputy

BOOK: The Deputy
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A lone man, in over his head, against a corrupt town in the middle of nowhere.

Toby Sawyer starts the night with a simple job: babysit the body of Luke Jordan. Luke, one of a family of four brothers (all bad apples), has gone and got himself shot over what appears to be getting too friendly with someone else’s girl.

Toby’s working part time for the police department, hoping he’ll someday get the bump up to full-time deputy. He’s got a trailer, a wife, a baby boy, and not much else. Coyote Crossing isn’t exactly a hotbed of opportunity for a young man, after all.

Unless, of course, a young man has a knack for the illegal. Turns out Luke Jordan might have been involved in smuggling Mexican illegals up through Texas. Turns out Luke Jordan might not be the only one in town with a stake in the operation. Turns out Luke Jordan’s death might not be the last one on this hot Oklahoma night …

The Deputy
by Victor Gischler

Published by Tyrus Books 1213 N. Sherman Ave., #306 Madison, Wisconsin 53704 www.tyrusbooks.com

Copyright © 2010 by Victor Gischler

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

ISBN 9781935562009 (paperback) ISBN 9781935562016 (hardcover)

For Jackie

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thanks big time to my whole family, especially my wife Jackie and son Emery who had to put up with a grumpy writer when things weren't going smoothly and a slightly silly writer when things were going well. First readers (and super cool pals) Anthony Neil Smith and Sean Doolittle will always get props. Video Golf on me next time, guys. Super-fly agent David Hale Smith derserves big thanks as does his right hand Shauyi. Hello to all my peeps back in Oklahoma. You didn't think I was done writing about Oklahoma, did you? And thank you, readers. And finally, I am grateful to Alison and Ben of Tyrus Books. You gave this novel a home. Much obliged.

CHAPTER ONE

I faked a cough, put my hand over my mouth to hide the grin. I knew it wasn’t funny really, but the surprised look on Luke Jordan’s dead face caught me just right. Luke was the first dead guy I’d ever seen up close except for in a funeral home.

Chief of Police Frank Krueger sighed out long and loud and scratched his big belly, pushed his straw hat back on his forehead, wiping the sweat off his face with a red handkerchief. He looked down at the body of Luke Jordan lying half-in half-out of the old pickup truck and began counting, stabbing his fat finger at the body. Finally he said, “I count nine bullet holes. That what you got?”

I didn’t bother counting. “Yeah.” I fingered the tin star pinned to my Weezer t-shirt, feeling stupid in untied high-top sneakers and sweatpants. When the chief phones you out of bed at midnight, you grab what you can and run out the door. I held the holstered revolver behind my back. I’d tried clipping the holster to the sweatpants, but the gun was too heavy, kept pulling the waistband down past my ass-crack.

So I didn’t count the bullet holes, but I looked hard at Luke Jordan, eyes wide and surprised as hell, blood all gunky and black and starting to dry on his plaid shirt. Luke was one of these good looking rednecks in a rough way, all faded jeans and t-shirts with the sleeves ripped off. Cowboy boots, some kind of fake lizard skin. Probably told everybody they were rattlesnake.

In high school civics class, Luke used to chew up notebook paper until it was nice and soggy then fling it at the back of my head. After graduation, Luke’s brothers had driven him down to Tulsa to see the Army recruiter. The Army had sent him back a month later. Luke said it was bad knees, but I’d heard somewhere they’d kicked him out for fighting and drunkenness. He’d been kicked out of gym class for pretty near the same thing.

Chief Krueger slapped a hammy hand on my back. “Stay here and watch the body, Toby. I’m going to talk to Wayne.”

“Okay, Chief.”

“Billy gets here you tell him he’s on my shit list,” Krueger said. “He only lives on over to Dixon. Should have been here ten minutes ago.”

“Check.”

The chief walked over to Wayne Dobbs who sat on the front steps of Skeeter’s, the local watering hole and burger joint. It had been Wayne who’d found Luke’s body, called the chief at home. You’re allowed to call the chief of Police at home if you’re on the town council, I guess. Wayne had been the late night cook and wash-up guy at Skeeter’s for as long as I could remember, even kicked me out of the place when I was sixteen and trying to get beer on a fake I.D. Now he was the owner. Wayne had American dreamed himself to the top of the food chain. Hell, it sure was a small damn town.

Wayne stood when the chief came over, wiped his hands on his apron then started pointing and talking, and I knew he was telling the same story over again about hearing the shots and finding Luke’s body.

The chief nodded, and they both walked into the bar.

I went to my rusted as shit Chevy Nova and opened the passenger door, leaned in and fished a pack of Winstons and a Bic lighter out of the glove compartment. I leaned against the hood and lit up, sucked the smoke in deep, then blew a long gray stream into the night.

The smoke clung, drifted, looking for a puff of wind to hitch a ride. But there was no breeze. Humid. It was hot, hot, hot fucking August in Oklahoma, and when the sun came up and cooked Luke Jordan’s body for a while it would get awful ripe real quick.

I looked up and down Main Street. The road glistened a dead black, the brick buildings closed up and sleeping. The chief said he chased a few folks back inside before I’d arrived. Guess they’d heard the shots. Only a few folks lived over their stores like in the old days. The barber shop, dime store, bank all looked like a deserted movie set. The light at the four-way stop blinked a hellish red. God cued a cat somewhere to meow and knock over a garbage can.

Headlights flashed at the other end of Main. They came close, and I saw it was the other squad car, Billy Banks behind the wheel. He pulled in next to me and climbed out. He wore ironed khaki pants and shirt, black tie. Shoes polished. His gun belt hanging at a jaunty, gunslinger angle. Billy was all close black haircut and brushed teeth and trimmed finger nails. I thought he was running for some office, although God knows what out here at the ass-end of Oklahoma. Dog Catcher maybe.

He nodded at me. “Toby.”

I grinned. “Chief says you’re late.”

Billy smiled back. “He in there talking to Wayne?”

“Yeah.”

Billy squatted next to Luke, wrinkled up his face like he’d eaten some bad egg salad. “Jesus, Luke pissed off somebody bad, huh? I bet he got drunk and his hands got busy after the wrong girl. Half these good old boys around here got pistols under their car seats.”

“Uh-huh.” I kept smoking. It was too hot to keep up my end of the conversation.

Billy saw the chief coming and stood, straightened his tie. “Got here as quick as I could, Frank.”

Krueger looked at his wristwatch then back at Billy. “Have yourself a cup of coffee? Read the morning paper?”

Billy smiled like it was a joke, but he knew it wasn’t.

I dropped my cigarette, ground it into the dirt with my heel. Krueger motioned he wanted to have a pow-wow. We made a little huddle.

The chief thumbed a giant wad of tobacco into his mouth, cheek bulging. He chewed, spit, then said, “Wayne says Luke was talking to some Mexican gal an hour before closing.”

Billy lifted an eyebrow at me, smile twitching into an
I told you so
. Yeah, you’re a genius, dude.

“Probably had a boyfriend.”

“He ever see the Mexican gal before?” Billy asked.

“Nope.”

Chief Krueger blew his nose into the same red handkerchief he’d used earlier to wipe his forehead. That handkerchief got around. He was sweating pits under his arms and around his collar where his jowls hung over. The sun wasn’t even up yet. Jesus. I hope I never get that fat. But the chief wasn’t just fat. He was big. Like some kind of king grizzly bear. I’d seen him punch a man into the next county.

Chief punches a guy, and the guy stays punched. So no fat jokes coming from me. At least not out loud.

“You think his brothers know?” Billy asked.

“I thought of that,” Krueger said. “Thought maybe I’d ride out there.”

The Jordan brothers. Six of them—well, five now. The oldest brother Brett was doing a stretch for transporting crystal meth, but the others wouldn’t take the news about their brother Luke too well. Matthew was like a big, dumb bull. Evan and Clay could be downright mean, and I knew for a fact the next oldest one, Jason, had killed a man with a meat cleaver. Got off for self defense.

I said, “Maybe just call, Chief. It’s almost twenty miles out to their place.”

He shook his head. “Some news you have to deliver in person.” He spit tobacco, left a thin trail down his chin. “And I think I’d like to make sure their trucks are parked out there. If I call and there’s no answer, they can say they didn’t feel like getting out of bed.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I didn’t say nothing.

Krueger rubbed his chin. “I’ll drive out there. Billy, I want you to open up the office and get the paperwork started. Toby, watch the body.”

I blinked. “What?”

“Watch the body.”

“He ain’t going anywhere.”

Krueger gave me a look that made me wilt. “Son, you can’t leave a corpse lying in plain sight unattended. You’re the part-time deputy, so you get the grunt work. You want to earn your way on full time, don’t you?”

“Okay.”

“Billy will get the paperwork started and leave a message for the county coroner. Lord knows how long it’ll take that lazy son of a bitch to make it out our way. I won’t be gone long.” He looked at the holstered revolver in my hand. “Stick that under your car seat.”

Billy gave me a wink and headed for the station.

The chief put a hand on my shoulder. “You know I have faith in you, boy.”

“I know.”

“I need you to grow up a little bit. We get you on the payroll full time, we need to show the other fellows that you’re mustard. That you belong. Right?”

I nodded.

The chief had known my parents, knew my situation when I came back. Some of the folks around town had looked at the chief funny when he’d given me the tin star. Even if it was only part time. But nobody questioned him. He was the chief.

He was the Sheriff too. Town council gave him the chief job, but he had to get elected to be sheriff, and Krueger had won reelection four terms in a row. Paychecks for the deputies came out of the county fund, and the chief position was overseen by the city. Since Coyote Crossing was the only town in the county, I wasn’t sure how it made a difference.

Anyway, the chief liked to be called chief, not sheriff.

Krueger gave my shoulder one more friendly squeeze.

He got into his squad car and drove off into the dusty wide nothing of Oklahoma. The darkness ate his taillights, and I stood with my shoe-laces untied, babysitting Luke Jordan’s mortal remains.

About ten minutes and three cigarettes later and I’d had about enough of watching Luke’s wide-open eyes, and it was hot anyway. I wondered why I had to watch the body. Couldn’t we just bag it? And why didn’t Krueger call the county boys? We’d never had a shooting inside the town limits before. On
Law & Order
some guy usually snapped a few pictures of the stiff, and I wondered if maybe Billy was coming back later with a camera. Maybe they’d let me take the pictures. That would be cool if I snagged the corpse photographer gig.

I left the body and went into Skeeter’s. Wayne was pushing a pile of dust and bottle caps across the floor with a ragged broom. He looked at me. I waved, reached into the cooler and grabbed a Coke. “Pay you tomorrow, okay, Wayne?”

“Sure.” But he didn’t sound thrilled about it. Guys like that always worried on the details.

Wayne was on the town council and still swept up his own place every night. Coyote Crossing was that kind of town. Hell, if I ever got to be the boss of anything, be damned if I was still going to do the sweeping up. What was the point? Wayne was stooped. His bald head gleamed with sweat. Deep, dark eyes and an acne-scarred face. He worked so damn hard at everything, it seemed to me like he was always about to fall over.

I picked up the pay phone and dialed Billy at the station. He answered, and I asked, “Billy, how come the chief didn’t call the county?”

He sighed big. “Let him worry about it. Just keep the flies off Jordan.”

“You want anything before Wayne closes up?”

“No thanks.”

“Okay.” I hung up.

But instead of going back out to the body, I took down one of the stools Wayne had put up and perched there, sipping the Coke. I put the cold can against my forehead. I’d sure be glad when it got around October and cooled down some “Looks like Luke had trouble with some Mexicans.”

“No Mexicans in here.” Wayne didn’t look up from his sweeping.

“Chief said he was grabbing ass with some Mexican girl.”

“Oh.” Sweep, sweep. “He told you, huh?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“Just didn’t want to make a story out of it, I guess. The chief’ll handle it.”

“Yeah.”

I put the stool back and took my Coke outside.

I went back to the body. Luke Jordan’s eyes looked like wet glass, his skin like rubber or something. A body sort of looks fake when the life goes out of it. He looked like a fake dead body in a Shriner’s haunted house fundraiser. I looked up and down the street. Nobody around. I knelt next to Luke, took the wallet out of his back pocket. No cash. Damn. I put the wallet back. I found a set of keys in his front pocket. The chief would probably ask me to move Luke’s truck later, so I took them and put them in the glove compartment of the Nova.

I leaned against the Nova, sparked up another Winston. How long would this take? If I stood here all night, I might need to arrange some things. My wife Doris had to be at the diner for her shift by seven which meant somebody had to watch the boy if I couldn’t be there. Maybe that old Indian woman we hired sometimes. She worked cheap.

Damn. I sure as hell needed the department to put me on full time, but Coyote Crossing sucked hind tit as far as the state budget was concerned. What pioneer dumbshit named this place Coyote Crossing? Some white guy probably. It probably used to be called some Creek Indian word that meant scorpion hell spirit bullshit or something, and then the railroad came through and some white guy changed it. I’d have to remember to look that up some time.

I had a long list in my head of things I wanted to look up. Some day. Not like I owned any encyclopedias. Maybe in the library.

I finished the cigarette, flicked away the butt and looked at my watch. I’d killed exactly ninety-seven seconds.

Hell.

Screw this.

I hiked the three blocks to Molly’s house. Molly was about the only good thing in this town when I came back. I’d left with a guitar and six hundred bucks I’d saved up mowing lawns and pitching sod. Came back to bury my mother and got stuck. The town hadn’t grown one inch since I’d been away. Hell, we were so far out you couldn’t use cell phones. Satellites didn’t fly over. We might as well have been in another fucking dimension. I’m surprised they bothered putting us on the road maps.

BOOK: The Deputy
8.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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