Read The Deputy Online

Authors: Victor Gischler

Tags: #crime, #fiction

The Deputy (3 page)

BOOK: The Deputy
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But she could run. A rusty shit-mobile on the outside, but I had my head under the hood every weekend making sure she purred like a damn pussycat. I was good about changing the oil and the filters. She could fly.

Only two pinpricks of light marked the sedan behind me. East dust, bozo.

I held it steady like that, only slowing a few minutes later when the fuzzy smear of light signaled the Interstate up ahead. There were no cars in the Texaco lot, but I wasn’t worried about that since the place was open twenty-four hours. I parked up front and killed the engine.

A Coke and a pack of Winstons, and I’d be set. I checked for my wallet.

I didn’t have it.

Hell. My wallet was in the back pocket of my blue jeans back at the trailer. I opened the glove compartment and started checking under the seats, gathering quarters and dimes. Not enough. I went for the nickels and pennies. Underneath my car seats: crumpled Winston packs, pens, ATM receipts, fast food wrappers. I was embarrassed. I liked keeping the Nova better than that.

There was enough for the Winstons but not the Coke. Priorities, baby, priorities.

I got out of the car and saw a car parked on the far side of the gas pumps that hadn’t been there ten seconds ago. If it had been the car tailing me down The Six, it sure as hell could have caught up with me if it had wanted to. A totally cherry Ford Mustang Mach 1. And it was tricked out too. That car could chew up my Nova and shit it out the tailpipe no problem. Maybe it wasn’t them.

I went inside for the cigarettes.

There was a new girl on the counter.

“Where’s Wally?”

“I don’t know no Wally.” Hick accent so thick you’d need a hacksaw to get through it. She flipped through an issue of
Modern Bride
. Not so bad looking. Buck teeth.


“Larson hire you?”

She nodded. “Started last night.” She put her face back into the
Modern Bride

“You getting married?”


“Pack of Winstons.” I plunked the change on the counter in a messy pile.

She scraped it up and dumped it into the register without counting.

I opened the pack, stuck one in my mouth.

“You can’t smoke in here.”

I tapped my thumb against the star on my shirt. “It’s okay. I give myself permission.”

“You send away for that? My nine-year-old nephew got one in a kid’s meal.”

I let that go and ambled past the front window. The Mach 1 was still sitting out there. I tried to see in the front window without looking like I was looking, but I couldn’t see anyone. He wasn’t pumping gas or anything. I suppose I could have gone over there and stuck my head in the window like I did with the kids in the Trans Am, but I didn’t. I don’t know why. I just didn’t.

“You ever see that car before?”


I circled the store once like I was still shopping. The car still sat out there. I didn’t want to go outside.

“Well, I guess I’d better get a move on. You have a good night.”

The freckled girl waved without looking up. She was back at her magazine.

I went outside, kept the Ford in my peripheral vision all the way back to the Nova. I half expected it to crank up with fire in the headlights like devil eyes. I forced myself to move slow, put on the seatbelt, stick the key into the ignition. The hell if I was going to spook myself with crap about a devil car. My imagination was fucking with me.

I sat in my car with the window rolled down, my back slick with sweat. I watched the freckled girl through the store window. She flipped pages in the magazine. Why did women read stuff like that? She didn’t live in Coyote Crossing or I’d have seen her. I glanced over at the Mustang, and it just sat there being a Mustang. I sucked on my cigarette, leaned my head out the window and blew smoke at the moon. Big green cheese. Banana cream pie in the sky. The man in the moon had bad skin. The Mustang just sat there. I started the Nova and drove back north on The Six.

Back in the thick Okie night. I put the Nova in the center of the road and let it eat up the lines like Pac Man. Last Christmas Doris got this computer game that hooked to the TV, a bunch of vintage video games like Pac Man and Galaga. By vintage I guess they meant old crappy games you could get cheap. We stayed up late and played it some nights when we finally got the boy to sleep. When I got on full time with the department, I was going to get one of those new Wii games Nintendo makes.

I was humming along fine, sucking on a fresh Winston. Maybe three minutes and I saw the headlights in my rearview mirror again.

And this time they did look like the devil’s eyes.


Truth was I had a vivid imagination. My mother always said so. Too vivid. I hated the barn at night, back when the family had a few acres south of here. Up until I was twelve years old, I hated to go out there. The tools and the tractor and hay would make strange shapes in the shadows. A kid can imagine any kind of monster in the dark. Any sort of shape under the moonlight. A scurrying barn rat can sound like anything.

And Halloween night after a few scary movies? Forget it. You couldn’t have paid me a thousand dollars to go out to the barn. I remembered this one movie about killer spiders that bred in a barn, all full of webs and everything. Just forget it.

Dad lost that barn to back taxes then died. Two sure things in as many months.

But I had that crazy imagination.

It was pretty easy for me to imagine undead Luke Jordan behind the wheel of the devil Mustang behind me. There was never any traffic this time of night on The Six. Getting followed all the way to the Texaco
back? No way.

Okay, so probably it wasn’t the undead. But who?

I drove faster.

The car got up to about a hundred yards behind me and stayed there. Coyote Crossing loomed in the distance, and I stepped on the gas, slowed down again as I pulled into town but with a little more space between me and my tail. I took the first left without slowing or signaling, then another quick right into the alley behind the firehouse before the guy behind me could see where I was going. I backed up behind a dumpster and killed the headlights. If I leaned forward over the steering wheel, I could just see the road around the edge of the dumpster.

At first, nothing happened, and I thought I’d made a mistake. Then a wash of yellow light crept along the road, followed by the Mach 1. It cruised along about fifteen miles per hour, maybe looking for me, maybe not. It kept going. I sat there and smoked a cigarette. When the Mustang didn’t come back, I put the Nova in gear and eased out of the alley.

* * * *

I drove back down Main Street, heading toward the trailer park west of town. I kept glancing in the rearview mirror, but the headlights didn’t come back. I blew out a relieved gust of breath.

The town fizzled out again heading west, and I was back into raw wilderness, but not for so long this time. Two minutes later I hit the area near my home, a sorry little hamburger joint called Sam’s, a gas station, and an outof-business used car lot. Once or twice a month, some folks used the old car lot to set up a flea market. Two hundred yards later, I turned into the park entrance, a dingy collection of twenty trailers all waiting for a twister to come along and put them out of their misery.

I pulled in next to Doris’s old, yellow Monte Carlo. I let the Nova run, flipped around the radio dial until I heard a Garbage song and left it. Lit another cigarette. I didn’t know if I wanted Doris to be awake or not. I felt like talking, didn’t feel like being alone. When you’re with somebody who’s asleep, you’re basically alone. Unless they’re curled up against you maybe. That’s different.

When I came back to Coyote Crossing for Mom’s funeral, I was told I had inherited the trailer. It was nothing fancy or nice, but it was more than I’d had before. It was a place to flop while I got my plan together. Maybe I’d sell it and go to California or New Orleans or, hell, even London. You could hook up with all kinds of funky bands in London. Anyway that’s what I thought, weep my last tears over Mom’s grave then light out free as a bird on the big adventure of my life.

The night after the funeral a couple of old high school pals took me out to cheer me up with some beer and somebody’s cousin’s friend was there and felt so sorry for me that she took me out to her cousin’s Buick and hopped right on top of me and eased the pain of my loss, in that grunting, hunched-up way that makes us forget all about death. Twice. That was Doris. We saw each other a few more times. She seemed impressed I had my own trailer, said I was lucky to live on my own because she had to live with her folks. I told her she was lucky to still have folks, and I think that embarrassed her. She always just said things. But I was only hanging around town long enough to sell the trailer anyway.

Then one day Doris up and tells me she’s pregnant. Then her father’s right there on the front porch asking me if I’m going to do the right thing. Then I’m married. Then I’m a daddy. It happened so fast, it was like it was happening to somebody esle. Life can run you over like that when it comes at you so much at one time.

Which brings me to now, sitting in the Nova, wondering if I wanted Doris to be awake or not. Some nights yes, others no.

I finished the cigarette and went inside as quietly as I could. I didn’t want to wake the boy. That’s the first thing you learn as a parent. When they finally get to sleep, you do anything to keep them that way.

Every step I took creaked and rocked the trailer. Swear to God, a good sneeze would explode the place. I kicked off my shoes, tip-toed into the bathroom, looked in the mirror.

I looked like hell. Dark under the eyes. The stubble was getting a little out of hand, but I winced at the thought of shaving. Doris used my disposables to shave her legs. Might as well scrape my face with a spatula. I needed a haircut. It was in that in-between stage where it wasn’t short enough to look tidy, but not long enough to look cool. I felt greasy, and my mouth tasted like too many cigarettes.

Everybody said I smoked too much. They were right.

I stripped, reached in the shower and turned the water lukewarm.

* * * *

I stepped in and soaped up, closed my eyes and let the spray hit my face. Some of the tension drained out of my shoulders, and I stood there until the water went cold. The trailer’s hot water heater might as well have been the size of a thermos. I dried off with an almost clean towel.

I got lucky with a fresh laundry basket on the toilet and slipped into a pair of clean boxers. A shower and clean underwear can make anyone feel human again.

I went to the boy’s room and looked inside. He made a fat little lump under his blue blanket, and I heard his steady breathing. He looked perfect. There were those crazy times, when the boy was screaming, a loaded diaper, the trailer a mess, Doris calling to say she’d be late, and I thought how could I do it anymore? How was it possible? All I had to do was look at the boy asleep and it was all good again. He was starting to walk and say words. I went to our bedroom, closed the door behind me and slipped in next to Doris.

She smelled nice, like Pantene. Not like fried eggs and bacon grease when she first gets in from work. Doris had a nice round shape in the hips, full breasts. It would probably all droop and go to fat in a few years like her mother, but right now it was still pretty good. She had a broad tan back, and she slept naked, so I moved in behind her and spooned. I put my nose in her blond hair and stayed like that a minute. I knew she was awake because she backed her ass into my crotch, grinding back at me a little until I took the hint. I reached around and cupped a breast and felt her hand slip back and into my boxers, guiding me into her. She gasped very softly as the tip went in, sort of cooed as the rest slid home. I settled into a rhythm, kissing the back of her neck.

Sex with Doris was always familiar and comfortable. Not like the reckless thunderstorm of passion with Molly. With Molly I felt my teeth rattle, muscles strained. Both of us went at it like we were trying to win something. Doris was like easing into a warm bath. I liked having both.

I felt Doris go rigid next to me and swallow a moan. She was never loud. I sped up my hip thrusts to keep pace and came thirty seconds later. Her being on the pill made spontaneous humps more possible. It was so convenient, I’d told Molly to get on the pill too.

As soon as I’d shuddered to a stop, Doris rolled out of bed, and I could hear her in the bathroom.

Maybe I dozed some after that, but I wasn’t sure. Couldn’t have been more than five minutes. The trailer’s air conditioning hummed full blast to keep it bearable. I lay there in the darkness with my eyes open, thinking the same old thoughts. What to tell Doris when I got fired. What to do when Molly left. How to feed the boy and keep him in diapers and pay the doctor when he got sick. I could think these thoughts in a circle so fast it made my stomach ache, but I never came up with any answers.

I sat up in bed, swung my feet over the side. God, I just wanted to go to sleep. Hell.

I got up, paused in the hall to peek through the blinds. I half expected to see a Mach 1 cruising the trailer park then felt stupid. Some guy out for a drive and I get all jumpy. I wondered if the chief had heard about my stupidity yet. I thought about calling Billy at the stationhouse but went into the boy’s room instead.

Toby Austin Sawyer Jr. was perfect and pink. He’d kicked the blue blanket off one leg, and I saw Doris had put him in the Bob the Builder pajamas. He was the best looking boy in the world.

* * * *

At that moment the need to scoop him out of the crib and hold him firm against my chest nearly overcame me. Even if it woke him up. He was such a heavy little ham hock. Thick. He’d probably be a linebacker. Get a football scholarship to Harvard and be a brain surgeon. My boy.

I didn’t pick him up. I satisfied myself with stroking his forehead. He stirred, and I jerked my hand back, but he did-n’t wake. Doris would be turbo pissed off if I woke him up.

I pulled the rocking chair close to the crib and sat awhile looking at him. A little night light shaped like a blue fishbowl cast a soft glow on everything, all the second-hand toys and stuffed animals. Even the crib and rocking chair had come from Doris’s older sister. My folks were dead, but Doris’s mom and dad did a pretty good job bringing toys and clothes. We had enough. It was close, but we were just making it. Of course, that was probably about to change.

Toby Junior. TJ. I got this tight, anxious feeling whenever I looked at him and thought something could go wrong or he’d get sick or any little thing might not be right somehow. Like iron fingers grabbing my chest and squeezing. I folded my arms over the edge of the crib and put my head down, sat there a while.

The boy’s gentle breathing was like some kind of lullaby.

BOOK: The Deputy
11.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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