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Authors: Victor Gischler

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BOOK: The Deputy
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CHAPTER NINETEEN

I walked inside the station. It was dark except for the sad,

yellow light of the desk lamp. Karl snored in his cell. “Cowboy,” the hellcat whispered. “Hey, cowboy.” “What is it?” I didn’t whisper back, but I kept my voice

low. “Your cop lady friend was looking for you. I think you pissed her off. Eh?”

“Well she can come back and arrest me if she wants to.” I flopped into the chair behind the desk. “I’ll be right here.”

“You look like shit,” she said. “I mean even worse than
before.” “Thanks. I like you too.” “What’s holding you together?” “Cigarettes and energy drinks.”

“Some job, eh? You get beat up, wreck your car. They pay you for this?”

“Not very much.”

She grabbed two of the cell bars, pulled her face right up against them. “Then get me out of here. Okay? Get me out, and I can get us money. Lots of money, cowboy. More than enough. It goes a long way in Mexico.”

“Knock it off.”

“Me and you in Cozumel, cowboy,” insisted the hellcat. “Don’t you know the possibilities? Can’t you taste it?”

“Your sales pitch comes off desperate.”

“Damn you to hell.” She spat at me. It landed way short.

“You wanted to shoot me in the belly an hour ago.”

“I don’t want to go to prison,” she said.

“That’s why it’s prison.”

“Fuck you!” She erupted in a string of Spanish cursing I was glad I didn’t understand.

I waited it out. She trailed off and went quiet again. She slid down into a sitting position, rested her head against the bars.

I sat at the desk. The hellcat pouted. Karl snored. It went on like that a few minutes.

Amanda came into the station house, walked straight for me, leaned in, slapping her hand on the desk. She put her nose an inch from mine. “Did you not understand when I said to stay here, you goddamn retard?”

“Take it easy, Amanda.” I met her gaze. Yesterday, I would have flinched. Not today. I’d been through too much. Or maybe I was just too tired.

“Don’t tell me to take it easy, kid. What did you think you were doing?”

“Somebody had to go look for the chief.”

“And did you find him?”

“No. But somebody burned down his house.”

That made her pause a second. “What the hell for?”

“Maybe to fry me. I was inside at the time.”

“Maybe they thought you were Krueger,” she said. “Where do you think he might be?”

I sighed. “Amanda, I think the chief is dead. He’d of checked in or radioed by now.”

She nibbled her lower lip, thinking about it. “Maybe.”

“And the Jordan brothers are out there right now, looking to do me some bad.”

“In that case we’ll both stay put this time,” she said. “The state police will be here soon, and we’ll mop up this mess from there. Jesus, it’s turning into a long night.”

Tell me about it.

“I’m making some coffee.” She headed for the back room where the Mr. Coffee perched on top of the safe.

I didn’t know if my stomach could stand any coffee. It was still burbling from the energy drinks. And the station house coffee was this bitter black acid that could melt the paint off the side of a barn. Maybe I needed some food. I wondered if Amanda would let me scoot down to Skeeter’s for pancakes and bacon with Roy and Howard. Probably not.

I heard the faucet come on in the back room, water splashing into the coffee pot.

This one time I heard a radio psychologist remark how smells are the strongest triggers for memory, more than the other senses. And I guess that’s maybe so. The smell of charcoal reminds me of my father every time, how we’d camp out in the National Park and do hamburgers or whatever. I could be smack in the middle of New York City and smell charcoal and think of a campfire in the woods with my old man. Cough drops made me think of Mother.

But for Doris it was sounds more than smells, I think. I heard Amanda in the back room splashing in the sink, and the sound sent me right back to the trailer. I’d be sleeping in the bedroom, and I could hear Doris through the thin walls making coffee or doing dishes.

I wondered if she was driving straight through to Houston, or if she’d stop someplace, a little roach-ridden motel on the side of the highway. I didn’t like the thought of her ragging herself out, driving all night, nodding off at the wheel. I hoped she’d call when she got to her sister’s. I did
not
hope she would come back, but I hoped she would call. And anyway, something would have to be done about the boy if I ended up in jail, or even if I had to go off looking for work. She’d need to fetch TJ maybe take him back to her sister’s.

Man, I hated the thought of going to Houston every time I wanted to see my son.

Amanda returned and took the chair opposite me. “It’s brewing.”

“Now what?”

“Now we wait.”

“You ever been married?” I asked her.

“No.”

“Lucky you.”

“I came close once,” she said. “We lived together first, and it didn’t work out.”

“What happened?”

She bit her thumb, shrugged. “We met during this triathlon in Tulsa. You know, run and swim and cycle. We had a lot in common. Sports and outdoor activity. Then when we moved in together things just got all domestic. We hardly did any of that stuff anymore. Just went to work, came home, sat around the apartment waiting to go to work again the next day. I don’t know why, but we both knew it wasn’t going to work.”

“Sounds like you parted amicably.”

“Yeah.”

The silence stretched.

I said, “I’m going to need you on my side, need you to speak up for me, I mean.”

“It’ll all get sorted out,” she said.

“I killed a fellow deputy.” Billy’s dead face flashed through my mind. “And we’ve got another one locked up. I can’t lose my son, Amanda. I’m all he’s got.”

“They’ll investigate it. You tell the truth, and you get what you get,” she said. “That’s all you can do.”

“That don’t make me feel too much better.”

“I didn’t say it to make you feel better. I said it because that’s how it is. But if you told it to me right, you did everything in either self-defense or the line of duty. At least in the big picture. Some of the details might work against you.”

I thought about putting Roy’s rig through the Mona Lisa Motel. No, that wasn’t quite by the book. Some real professional cop with experience probably would’ve had it all handled by now, wrapped up neat and pretty. But I was the dumbass, part-time deputy, fumbling his way from frying pan to fire.

Sizzle.

“Anything like this ever happen to you before?” I asked her.

She shook her head. “My career hasn’t been so colorful. But I knew a guy who shot a thirteen-year-old kid once. It was dark, and the kid had a toy gun. He was finally cleared, but I don’t think the guy was ever the same. Last I heard he’d gone in with a private security firm.”

And least I hadn’t killed anyone who hadn’t been asking for it. Amanda shrugged. “Anyway, those State boys will be here soon and then we can—”

The cinder block shattered the window, flew through glass and the blinds and landed five feet from us. We both dove to the floor, and I saw Amanda pop back up a second later with her gun drawn. I drew mine too just to feel involved, but I stayed under the desk.

A rough voice from the street yelled, “Get your ass out here, Sawyer, and take your medicine.”

The voice sounded like Jason Jordan’s, but it could have been one of his brothers. They all had the same rough redneck bark.

“Who is that?” she asked.

“The Jordan Brothers.”

“All of them?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “Maybe.”

“They want you.”

“I’m popular tonight.”

“You seem pretty glib about it.”

“I’m pretty tired. Being afraid has sort of worn off.”

She went up to the window, but stood off to the side in case another cinder block or worse came through. She still had the gun drawn, and I wondered if she was going to lean out and start shooting like in some old western.

“Who’s that out there?” she shouted. Silence. Maybe they thought I was in here alone. Amanda tried again. “There’s a world of hurt heading

this way, boys. State Police. If I were you, I’d get home and clear the streets.” I grinned at her. “Why don’t you go out there and ar

rest them?” “Go to hell, Sawyer.” I laughed. “You here me out there?” she shouted again. “Clear

off.” “We don’t have no quarrel with you, Miss Amanda,” one of the Jordans yelled back. “Just send Sawyer out.” “You heard him, kid. Get out there.” It was her turn

to grin at me. “They’re trying to divide us up.” “I know,” Amanda said. “They can’t afford any live
witnesses, and they must know the phones are out.” “They’re probably the ones that done it,” I said. “Yeah.” “Send him out,” came the shout again. “For what he
did to Luke.” “I didn’t kill your dipshit brother!” I yelled. Why the
fuck did everyone think that? “Shut up, idiot,” Amanda said. “Well, I didn’t do it.”

“But now they know for sure you’re in here.”

Oops.

Amanda shouted, “God damn it, boys, this is a police station and I’m an officer of the law. You’ve jumped in a lake of shit and you just keep getting deeper and deeper. You get what I’m saying?”

Another pause.

Finally: “This ain’t over, Sawyer. Miss Amanda, you get in the way and whatever happens, happens.”

I heard an engine rev high, then the squeal of tires, and the engine roar faded down the road.

“Shit.” Amanda holstered her pistol and went to the gun cabinet, unlocked it, took out a pump twelve gauge and a box of double-ought. She started thumbing shells into the shotgun. “This time when I say stay and hold the fort I mean it, okay?”

“You can’t be going out there.”

She kept loading the shotgun.

“The State Police are coming. Just hang in here, and we’ll be okay.”

“If it were me,” Amanda said. “I’d pile a few loads of lumber against the front door and the back too. Couple gallons of gas. That would smoke us out pretty quick. You want to wait for that?”

I didn’t think the Jordans were that clever, but then I remembered the chief’s house was probably a pile of ashes by now. Maybe Amanda had a point. Passively sitting and waiting on the defensive had a few drawbacks. And yet I couldn’t quite bring myself to believe it was a good idea running out there looking for trouble.

“And anyway, I’m still the law,” she said. “I can’t let a bunch of rowdies rip up the town. At the very least I have to go keep an eye on them.”

“I still don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“I didn’t ask your opinion.” She went to the gun locker, came back with another twelve gauge and set it on the desk in front of me. “Hold the fort.”

She opened the front door, paused before stepping out, looking up and down Main Street. She gave me one last look, walked out and closed the door behind her. I went and locked it. A second later I heard her squad car crank and drive away.

“You’re all alone now, cowboy,” came a soft voice from the cell.

“I still have you, hellcat.”

“You know those men will come back,” she said. “And if they can get inside, then they will kill you.”

“Maybe.”

“Fool. Let me out, and we will escape.”

I tried to imagine it. Not seriously, just for something to do. I imagined her in a bikini or maybe topless on some Mexican beach. I sipped on some kind of rum thing with an umbrella poking out the top. There’s a reason they call them fantasies. Because it’s not life. I had to stay in my life and take care of my son. And anyway, how long would something like that last before the money ran out or she stabbed me in the back? But in my fantasies, she looked pretty good naked, the surf splashing up around us.

“What are you thinking, cowboy?”

“Nothing. I’m not thinking a thing.”

I sat at the desk and put shells in the shotgun.

CHAPTER TWENTY

Amanda had left before the coffee was ready. I filled a Styrofoam cup and caffeinated myself in her honor. The coffee didn’t do much for me, but I drank it anyway. I swallowed and winced.

Like battery acid.

At some point I was going to hit the wall. A man can’t go forever on adrenaline and caffeine. I wondered what it would look like. If I’d be walking or in mid-sentence and then suddenly my eyes would roll up and I’d collapse into a snoring heap, slip into some kind of turbo coma. Or if my head would just explode and splatter brains all over the room.

I heard the engines outside so soon after Amanda had gone, it made me wonder if they’d been watching and waiting for her to leave.

The revolver hung heavy and reloaded on my hip. I grabbed the shotgun, flipped off the desk lamp. I stood in the darkness, palms sweating on the twelve gauge, strained to listen. A pale green light flickered from the obsolete computer in the corner. Another sad glow from the radio dial. Just enough light in the room to keep from bumping into the furniture.

“They are coming for you, cowboy.” The hellcat’s whisper was so low, I thought maybe it was a voice in my head.

The engines cut out, and I heard car doors
thunk
shut. I took a step forward, tried to catch a hint of movement through the wrecked blinds that still hung over the shattered front window. I could not make my breathing quiet down, breaths coming shallow through my mouth, my heart thumping up to speed.

I swallowed hard and waited.

Would they bust in all of a sudden with gun blazing, or would they burn me out like Amanda said? If they had the balls to torch the chief’s house then why not the station? Sure. Or maybe they’d come at me from two directions at once. I glanced over my shoulder at the door to the back room, thought about the other door out to the alley. Had I locked it? I couldn’t remember.

Hell.

I went to the back room, trying to stay quiet. The room smelled like gun oil and bitter coffee. My mouth tasted like acid. I reached for the knob to check the lock.

And froze.

The knob was already turning, so damn slowly so as not to make any noise, I guess, but there was still this slight rattle, and I’d never have heard it if I hadn’t been standing a foot away. And maybe if I’d been thinking clearly instead of feeling my gut flip-flop and my heart beat in my throat, I would have thought to put my shoulder against the door and hit the lock.

But I stood there watching the doorknob turn like some dumbass in a cheap horror movie.

And then someone was pushing it open. Somebody was coming in.

I held my breath and stepped behind the door, pulling the shotgun in close to my chest. The door opened inward until it was an inch from my face. Let him come in. Let him go by. Take him from behind. Sure. It seemed pretty simple when I rehearsed it in my head. So how come my legs felt like noodles?
Stay focused, idiot
.

He was trying to be quiet and not doing a bad job, but the old floor creaked with his footsteps, one after the other pretty slow as he eased his way in. I saw his fist first, wrapped around a short-barreled revolver, then his arm and then the rest as he went through toward the main part of the station house. From behind it could have been Jason, or maybe it was one of the others. Too dark to be sure, and anyway the brothers were all built more or less the same, this one maybe a bit on the larger side.

I waited two more seconds in case another brother came in behind him. I didn’t want to get caught in the middle. When I was sure I was only dealing with one, I stepped out and leveled the shotgun at him. Just shoot, I told myself. Pull the trigger.

No, do it proper.

“Drop the gun.” I said it pretty quiet, but I tried to sound mean.

His shoulders hunched and he froze. “Damn it.”

“Put the gun down. I mean it.”

He dropped it.

I thought how cool and threatening it might sound to pump a new shell into the chamber, but that would only eject a good one. “Now I want you to turn around nice and slow, and—”

He spun fast, grabbed the shotgun barrel and pushed it out of the way. If I’d fired the blast would have gone past him, but I didn’t even think of pulling the trigger. I was too surprised. The shotgun flew away. I stepped back, mouth falling open, probably to say something clever like
hey, stop that, no fair
. But I never got any words out.

He stepped in, fist coming up hard to pop me one in the mouth, mashing my lips against my teeth. A little bell went off inside my skull. I tasted blood, took another hit on the jaw, tumbling back along the lockers before I figured it was time to give a little back.

I put my head down and pushed forward, gut punching him. My fists didn’t seem to bother him, and he brought a knee up into my groin.

Little multi-colored firework explosions went off in front of my eyes, and all the air went out of me. I shuffled backwards as fast as I could, trying to put a few feet between us and catch my breath. Except I couldn’t catch any breath. When I tried, my throat made a deep hoarse sound.

He wasn’t about to let up, came at me fast. I reached out for anything to hit him with, and my hand landed on the handle of the coffee pot. I splashed it straight at him, and the hot coffee caught him full in the face.

He screamed, hand going up to claw at his scorched eyeballs. I broke the coffee pot over his head, and he staggered and cursed. I hit the side of his face with my fist, mustered everything I had and hit him again. He went down and didn’t get up.

I slumped against the wall, gulping for air. The ache spreading out from my groin almost made me puke. I thought also I might have wanted to cry a little bit, but I didn’t. I gave myself thirty seconds to rest, then I pushed myself up and hit the light switch.

It wasn’t Jason on the floor but Matthew. A little bigger and slower and dumber than Jason, younger than all the rest except for Luke. I took a spare pair of cuffs from my locker, slapped one bracelet on Matthew’s wrist and the other to one of the locker handles. I picked up the shotgun and limped back to the front part of the station house, just in time to hear all hell breaking loose on the front door.

They must have been using something as a battering ram, because each slam almost banged the door off its hinges. On the fourth bang the door popped open and bodies filled the doorway, wide-shouldered silhouettes all holding rifles.

I lifted the shotgun and fired.

The whole station house filled with the thunder. The hellcat screamed, and the lead man in the doorway convulsed and pitched forward. Some guy I’d never seen before, another Jordan toady, I guessed. I pumped in another shell and fired, but the others had already retreated.

A hand came around the corner and filled the station-house with random pistol fire. I ran forward and threw myself behind the desk. Bullets
pinged
around the room. Pencils and paper on the desktop danced and flew in all directions. I raised up, eyes and shotgun just above the edge of the desk, ready to blast anyone who came through. I didn’t plan on arresting anyone. Shoot to kill.

There was a lull in the gunplay, and I heard quick footsteps and muffled voices.

A bright, flickering orange blur flew threw the doorway in a low arc, landed with the sound of broken glass. The gasoline spread and a wall of flame sprang up as if by magic, washing the stationhouse in hellish dancing light, The wave of heat hit me, and I hoped there wasn’t another Molotov cocktail following the first or things would get impossible pretty damn quick.

I leaned the shotgun against the desk and grabbed the key ring, ran to the hellcat’s cell and unlocked it, swung open the door.

“Quickly, out the back!” She made to run past me.

I grabbed her wrist and hauled her back, drew the revolver with my other hand but didn’t point it at her.

“Are you insane,” She said. “The fire will spread.”

“Get that fire extinguisher off the wall over there.” I pointed with the revolver. “I’ll cover you.”

“If we run, we can make it.”

I put the gun in her face. “Get the Goddamn fire extinguisher!”

Her eyes stabbed hatred at me, but she bit off whatever curse she’d been about to offer and ran to pull down the extinguisher. There was a pin she had to pull and a handle to squeeze. She started messing with it, and for as second I thought I’d have to put down the revolver to show her how. But she got it right and pointed it at the flames and squeezed the handle, a blizzard of white whooshing out, shrinking the fire a bit at a time.

And I guess that’s what they’d been waiting for because then suddenly Clay Jordan filled the doorway with a deer rifle in has hands and brought it up to his shoulder for a shot.

I squeezed the revolver’s trigger three times. The first two shots chewed up chunks of door frame, splinters of wood flying around Clay’s head. On the third shot, Clay dropped the deer rifle and grabbed the fleshy part of his upper thigh. He threw his head back and yelled. I saw hands yank him back from the doorway.

The hellcat had half the fire out and seemed to have the jump on the rest. Maybe if—

Blinding pain erupted at the base of my skull. I staggered forward, but somehow kept my feet, turned around, trying to bring the revolver to bear, but it felt like it weighed a ton. I saw a long, flat piece of metal swing down and smack my hand open. The revolver flew away.

I saw now that it was Matthew Jordan hulking over me. In the firelight I could see one ear bloody from the bash I’d given him with the coffee pot. He was still handcuffed to the locker door which he’d ripped off the hinges and was using as a club. He cranked it back for a swing at my head.

And got a face full of extinguisher foam. The hellcat was there, thrusting the extinguisher nozzle at Matthew and running out the rest of the foam.

He coughed, pawed at his eyes. “Fucking bitch.”

“I owe you this, Matthew.” I kicked him in the balls. Hard.

He let out this little squeak and went to his knees. One hand still wiped at his eyes. The other went to his groin. His face went so red I thought he might rupture.

I picked up my revolver and slapped him in the side of the head with it. He flopped over like a dead fish. I lifted the gun to bash him again but stopped myself. I wanted to, but no.

I motioned to the hellcat. “Help me lift him. We can drag him into the cell and—”

She slammed the empty fire extinguisher into my gut. I bent double sucking for air and went down, looked up just in time to see her vanishing through the back room.

I lurched to my feet, took three steps after her and stopped. Forget it. The one that got away. She was a criminal, probably a killer. The hellcat had trafficked in human lives across the border. The star on my shirt meant I was supposed to go get her, lock her up. But she’d helped me in the instant I’d needed it, right when Matthew Jordan was about to smash my head in. That probably didn’t go very far to balance out whatever wrongs she’d done, but it would have to do for now.

And anyway I had bigger worries. More Jordan brothers who wanted to kill me. And the station house was still a little bit on fire.

I grabbed a blanket from the cell, used it to smother the last few patches of flaming floor. That put us back mostly into darkness, except for the extra street light coming through the open front door. I dragged Matthew into the vacant cell and clanked the door shut.

It was suddenly weird and quiet in the stationhouse. I couldn’t even hear Karl’s snoring anymore, and I wondered how he could have kept sleeping with all the gunfire and mayhem. Maybe he was pretending.

Let him pretend.

I drew the revolver and took a few steps toward the front door, cocked an ear and strained to listen. For a second I thought—hoped—the rest of the Jordans had pissed off. Maybe shooting Clay in the leg had stung them into giving up. But I could still hear them out there, voices raised like maybe they were arguing.

Maybe deciding what they were going to do about me. Maybe toss in another gasoline bomb.

No more waiting. I grabbed the shotgun, loaded fresh shells. Time to take it on the offensive.

Showdown.

BOOK: The Deputy
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