Chapter 1

Dale Rogers the new chief.
Mayor Laura Jamison
Lester Haines Sightly heavy night officer.
Mike Simpson day officer. Gym rat also a short 5’4”
Lucy Kerby chubby young secretary.
Jim Sloan evening officer
Adams the realtor.
Wesley Brown handyman.
Andrew Rice my roof repairman and plumbing repairman
Betty Booth the Sergeant at arms of Happy Valley
Colonel Williams rep for Happy valley
Diane Rogers his ex wife
Sarah Rogers his daughter
Wilson Thomas Daine’s bf
Allison Dempsey lucy’s temp
Raul andrew rice helper
Juanita Rauls wife
Myra Rauls daughter and Sarah friend.
Randy Reynolds Sarah’s bf


Being a long time sergeant on a big city police department put me first in line for the small town police chief’s job. Since I had recently retired, I moved down south for the job. I relived the ups and downs of a thirty year career during my first work day’s drive to the station.

I had been a detective twenty of those years. The last ten years I had been working the wheel in homicide. The wheel was how plain clothes cops in Baltimore got assigned cases. Since our only option was to respond to the crime scene instantly, those of us in homicide called it being a slave to the wheel.

When I pulled into my reserved parking space, beside the police station and city office building, I took a look down the almost empty main street. Then I decided that I wasn’t going to miss the pace of the Baltimore Police Department one bit. Things in Ansonville moved at a snail’s pace in comparison.

I stepped from the brand new SUV marked the police paint scheme. It had been purchased by the city as a welcome aboard gift for me. It didn’t matter that most police brass rode in discrete unmarked cars, I had requested the gaudy marked car. When I showed up at a crime scene, or public event, I wanted it known that I was a working chief not a figure head. I had been a working cop my whole career, and I didn’t plan to change that so late in life.

I made it through the front door without help, despite my advanced age, I had turned fifty five years old the month before. I knew I could be sitting on my ass in Baltimore watching the Price Is Right on TV at my previous home. Instead I chose to pretend that I was still a cop. I liked the idea of having a place to go every day, and a job to do when I got there. I expected it to help in my fight to stay away from the booze. Like they said in those meetings, it was a day at a time but life long fight. I knew that I had to keep my mind occupied somehow. Yes, before they hired me, the made sure the city council was aware that I was I was a ‘Friend Of Bill’.

The drive from the old sixties motel would have taken about three minutes, if I hadn’t stopped at the Downtown Diner for breakfast. The Downtown was the only restaurant I had discovered so far. To be honest it was the only one I had looked for, since it suited me just fine.

I could easily walk the three long blocks to my motel room to the station. It wasn’t nearly a permanent residence at the moment, but I was negotiating on something more permanent. It was even more of an eye sore than the fifty year old concrete block two story motel, but it was of some historic significance.

The brick building had been built in the nineteen thirties as a retail clothing store. At least that is what I had been told by the Realtor. I had wanted to recondition a building from that era in Baltimore, but never had the time or the money. I hoped I could do better in Ansonville, North Carolina.

The Ansonville town limits covered an area of about thirty square miles. There was nothing square about the town. It was strung out along an old state highway. The highway once ran from the coast of North Carolina to the blue ridge mountains. It had very little traffic by the time I arrived on the scene. There was a patchwork quilt design of bypasses and interstate highways tangled together by the time I arrived. That network was chaotic but it managed to carry most of the traffic from the coast to the mountains.

My newly optioned semi-historic building was made of brick with a tar and gravel flat roof. The roof of course leaked but not badly enough to have damaged the structure. It was going to require immediate repair of course. The roof repair and the replacement of the broken window glass was my number one priority.

I had a meeting scheduled for noon with a hot tar roofer, and a handyman who said on the phone that he would be able to deal with the windows. Hopefully no perp would be thoughtless enough to commit a murder the morning of my first day as chief.

I had occupied my first two days in town making calls about the building. I had seen it during the interview phase of my employment. During those two days, I became a little more familiar with the layout of the town. I was going to be bored to tears now and then, but I planned to find some hobbies to pass the time. Converting the downtown clothing store to a dwelling was just the first of my plans.

Once I had the price for the new roof and the windows I would make a final decision. In the meantime I had a job to do, at least till noon. I took a long breath before opening the glass door with ‘police department’ written on it. Inside I saw the same desks and chairs I had seen during the interview two weeks previously. On that morning there were two uniformed officers leaning against the first desk in the line of three desks.

“Good morning Guys, I’m Dale Rogers, the new Chief. Before you ask. I don’t stand on formalities, so find a name you can feel comfortable with for me. Just make sure you are also comfortable with your mother hearing it,” I said shaking their hands.

“I’m Lester,” the heavier one said. “I work the night shift five nights a week. If there are any calls on my nights off the county 911 operator calls the county deputies.”

“I’m going to look into that. At least for a while I’m going to take the over flow personally. We want to carry our own water as soon as possible,” I said. “And you?” I asked turning to the much more fit officer. Even though he was fit he was short. I had a feeling it was an issue for him.

“I’m Mike Simpson. I work the day shift five days a week,” he explained.

“So Lester you are finished for the day, and Mike you are just starting?” I asked.

“Yes sir,” Lester said.

“Well Mike it looks like you and I are the day watch,” I said.

“Well there one other person on days. We share a clerk with city hall. She answers the phone and does some the typing,” Mike said. “Lucy comes in at nine, so I stay here and answer the phone till she comes in.”

“Yeah, so I was told,” I admitted. “Mike just continue doing what you have been doing until I get up to speed with the procedures here.”

“Sure thing boss,” he said.

“So, I have about an hour until Lucy arrives?” I asked.

“Yes you do. She usually is on time, but not a minute early,” Lester said.

I wondered how Lester knew that since he was finished an hour before she was due to arrive. I didn’t asked since I feared it might be too personal. I didn’t need to start anything so soon.

“Who has the combination to the armory door,” I asked when I stepped into my new office. The armory was a reinforced closet with a heavy combination lock.

“I think it’s just you and Lucy. Well Lucy right now,” Lester said.

“That’s cool,” I replied.

I sat behind the third desk in the open front office while I read the procedures handbook first, then I read the town ordinances. The state law violations were mostly the responsibility of the county sheriff and the State Bureau of Investigations. We were mostly a peace keeping and security force. That suited me fine, I told myself.

I had a meeting with the county attorney after lunch. I had agreed earlier to call for an appointment when I had time. I did that because of my meetings with the tradesmen were more important than the county attorney. He wasn’t likely to make an issue since he was on salary.

I was into reading the 911 procedures and protocols when Lucy arrived. “Hello I’m Lucy,” the chubby young woman said.

“Hello Lucy,” I said. “I’m Dale Rogers, the new chief.”

“I remember you from the day you were interviewed,” she said.

“Okay, so they tell me you have the combination to the armory door?” I asked.

“Yes sir,” she said writing it down for me.

“Who else has this?” I asked.

“The mayor and it’s in a file with the county attorney,” she informed me.

“Good, is there a form I need to complete if I remove a weapon from the armory?” I asked.

“Yes I have it in my desk,” Lucy said.

“Good, I’ll decide about that later. I don’t think I need one right now.”

“There is only a small part of the vault used for firearms, the rest is used for secure storage,” she informed me.

“Now for the most important thing. Do we have a coffee pot?” I asked.

“I don’t make coffee,” she said with just a hint of reproach.

“That’s fine, so I assume the answer is no?” I suggested.

“That’s right,” she said.

“Where is the closest Walmart store?” I asked.

“There is one in Kinston on highway 70,” she informed me.

“Okay, I’m going out for a coffee maker. I shouldn’t be too long,” I said.

The drive to Kinston NC was about twenty miles over a good federal highway. The Walmart store was the same as every other Walmart in the world. I swung by the downtown of the Kinston on the way in. It was a little more than four times the size of Ansonville.

I had programed the local contact numbers into my phone, so I called the police non emergence number from the police car. “Lucy I have a meeting at noon, so I won’t have time to stop by the office first is there anything pending?” I asked.

“Just your meeting with the County Attorney his office is in Kinston,” she said.

“Call him back and tell him we will have to do it another day. Let his office pick the day,” I suggested.

“Not a problem,” she suggested.

“Good, if there is a problem call me,” I demanded.

I called the roofer whose office was also in Kinston. I arranged to stop by during his office hours, to get the results of his inspection of the roof. He also had an estimate of the repair work which was needed.

I picked up the written report from the secretary. I didn’t bother to open it. I just stuffed the envelope inside my belt while promising to call the next morning. From the roofer’s officer I drove straight to the Downtown Diner in Ansonville. I managed a cup of coffee before Wesley Brown arrived.

“Well Chief how how’s your first impression of smallville?” he asked.

“Hell, I’ve been here less than a week. Ask me in a month,” I suggested smiling. “So have you got a price to replace the glass in the windows?”

“You mean replace all the windows. I looked and it will be cheaper to replace the second story windows completely with modern thermal-pane windows. You have ten windows and they will be $2,500 total. The bill to replace the broken plate glass window display window will be $800. Let’s just say $3500 to be on the safe side.

“I’m not willing to do that much for just windows. How about metal storm windows for the second floor. You can replace the broken glass with regular glass there is only a couple of panes to be done. Caulk and paint the frames and be done with it,” I suggested.

“Okay I can do that for under a grand, You still are going to need something for that plate glass window,” he said.

“I’m thinking scrap the store front and turn it into a house entry with a large front door and some kind of decorative space filler. I can spring for a grand maybe.”

“$1,800 for it all,” he said.

“Let me see what I can work out with the owners and I’ll get back with you,” I promised. I took a look at the roofing estimate before I returned to the office.

I had a meeting with the mayor that afternoon. Mayor Jamison wanted to explain about my new duties. One of them was to be in the delegation representing the town at the local festivals. The next one would be held in the late spring only a couple of months in the future.

“As long a don’t have to ride a jackass or eat twenty hot dogs, I’m good with it,” I promised.

“Good, then welcome to town,” she said rising to dismiss me.

“Before I leave I want to ask you something. If I decide to convert one of the empty stores on main street into a dwelling, can I get a zoning exemption?” I asked.

“I have absolutely no doubt that you can. You will need to draw up some plans for the board to examine, but I can rush it through,” she said.

“I’ll have you some rough plans to look at in a day or so,” I said. “If I can get the Realtor to cooperate,” I agreed.

The repair estimates were in line, so I planned to negotiate in good faith with the owner. I knew I had to get out of the motel before the end of the Baltimore school term. I couldn’t ask my 15 year old daughter to live in the one star motel that I called home at the moment.

During the afternoon I made my decision. If I could get financing, I was going to buy the old clothing store. I made the call just before five. I spoke to the owner’s realtor. The owner was the grandson of the structures builder, he had explained when he showed it to me the first time.

“Adams, I want to put and offer in on the 513 Main Street building,” I said. Adams was a woman who dressed too upscale for the small town. It was filled with farmers and beach employees who needed a cheap place to live.

“So give me the bad news,” she suggested. She knew I was not going to be a push over. She also knew the building had been on the market for several years. Not only that the Real Estate market was depressed in general.

“You have it listed for seventy five K. I’m not in a position to pay that kind of money. Especially since the loan value is less than fifty k at the moment and likely to drop further,” I said.

“Since I have to take any offer to the owner just get on to it,” she said shortly.

“Okay, it needs at least twenty grand of work just to stabilize it, so taking that into account the best I would consider is forty k. Even then I’m going to regret it,” I said.

“I’ll take it to him. I don’t know what he will say,” she suggested.

“Well Adams, I am not accepting any counter offers. It’s going to take all my savings just to stabilize it, so there is nothing left,” I said.

Once I hung up I saw the young man in a police uniform standing at Lucy’s desk. He had been standing there during my conversation with Adams.

“Chief this is Jim Sloan. He is the evening patrolman,” Lucy informed me.

“Sloan I thought your shift started at four,” I commented.

“It does sir, but I stop by the County High School to help with the traffic. Since it’s inside the city limits we have always helped with traffic control,” Sloan said.

“I wasn’t aware of that. It sounds like good time management. I’m just about to make a pot of coffee, why don’t you hang around and have a cup,” I suggested.

The kid and I hung out for about two hours and discussed the job. He got into it because he did a couple of years in the Army. He wanted to stay in town, but didn’t want to be a farmer. According to him for some personal reason he didn’t care much for the Sheriff’s office. I didn’t pry I just accepted his feelings.

“You know I’m going to make some changes. You are the newest patrolman and shit rolls downhill,” I said seriously.

“Long as I keep my job, I’m good with it,” he said.

“Okay, I’m going home to make the hard decisions that have to be made,” I said. “I was hoping we would get a call, so I could do a ride along.”

“Maybe next time, or not. There are hardly ever any calls,” he said.

“That believe it or not is a good thing,” I said placing the coffee cups into a plastic dish pan. After Jim left, I walked them to the janitor’s closet. I used the mop sink to wash everything so that it was ready for the next day.

I stopped by the Downtown Diner for a burger and fries before returning to the Motel. Since I had some paperwork to complete that evening, I carried it with me. I honestly tried to think of something other than the Main Street building, but I failed miserably. That being the case I worked on the blue prints the Realtor had placed on line for prospective buyers.

I left the downstairs as one large room. I did make changes to the space along the east wall for a kitchen. The rest of the plan was to use a long display counter for a kitchen and dining bar. I had to think about the appliances. I could use either gas or electric. I wanted to make a decision and use it throughout the unit. That would require a thorough survey of the heating system. I already knew there was no working air conditioner in the place.

Upstairs the plans showed three large office spaces and one bathroom with attached Janitor closet. My sketch showed removal of the non load bearing walls between the bathroom and the closet. That would give me a larger bathroom with a wall of storage shelves removed from the stockroom. Even if I stayed with basic renovation, it was not going to be cheap.

The building needed the windows and roof repairs immediately, then I could give it a good cleaning and move in. When that was completed, the other repairs and renovations could be prioritized.

When I arrived at the office, I found that there had been one traffic stop over night. Lester found a local resident parked on the side of the road with the engine running. The driver had passed out drunk. Since there was a heavy smell of alcohol at the scene, Lester decided to call the Sheriff’s deputy to get a Breathalyzer. The county also gave our unconscious resident a bed for the night.

It was the right call. The local man wouldn’t think so, but Lester had done the right thing for everyone.

“Good job Lester,” I said. “How often do you call the Sheriff for a Breathalyzer.

“Once a month or so. I think Jim might have about the same number of drunk driving arrests,” he said.

“Okay, I’ll take a look at that, and factor it into our cooperating agreement with the Sheriff,” I said.

When I checked the agreement, I found that the Sheriff’s office charged us for every time their people were called by our people. The fee was well over the Sheriff’s cost. It was also not at a father son rate. It was more a monopoly vender’s rate.

I looked up the cost of a new style Breathalyzer machine that was acceptable to the court system. It could be administered by a certified operator as long as the perp was read his right to have a blood test administered on his dime instead. I figured to get myself certified as the on call operator. Hell I had no home life at the moment anyway.

The sample taking machine would pay for itself in less than a year. It could be attached to any computer for the analysis. It was definitely a win for the department’s budget.

I also devised a ‘time for double time’ swap to be use for weekend call outs. Since there were four of us, and the call outs were few, it should work out fine. An hour on a call out would earn you two extra hours time off that month. It took me the whole rest of the week to get it written up. Well there were two days of rewrites so that it passed Lucy’s editing programs.

I carried the flash drive and the hard copy to the mayor Friday afternoon. I also found that I had a variance approval of the Main Street building. The city inspector passed my provisional alteration plans. He also gave me permission to live in the building while making the changes. That news was worth the damn paperwork on the new weekend coverage plan. I just needed an approval from the owner and a closing date.

The mayor had assured me the state credit union would be happy to approve a mortgage on the building. I looked forward to doing the deal quickly to save the sleazy motel charges. I admit that I am a miser at heart.

I was in the motel another week while the people got together and we closed on the Main Street building. During that time I also advised the Sheriff’s office of our plan to renegotiate our cooperation contract. They were not happy with our plan, but had no choice. Everything I left in the cooperation contract was dictated by law, the optional things were cut from the contract.

The criminal investigations were handled by the SBI or the Sheriff but routine calls would come to us day or night. We would no longer send traffic stop detainees to county jail until they were bound over by the judge. Then they became legal detainees and had to be housed by the judicial system. My plan was to house them in the police station. If it became necessary, I would go sit with them myself.

On the same day that I signed the papers for the Main Street building, the mayor signed the new cooperation contract with the Sheriff himself. I was happy even though it added to my work load. I hoped we would save enough money to hire a new employee before the end of the calendar year. I put the mayor on notice that I wanted one more patrolman. The increase in staff was duly noted, then we both ignored my suggestion.

I checked out of the sleazy motel on a Thursday morning. Then by dropping my duffel bag in the downstairs space I was all moved into the Main Street building. I had the key to the front door padlock. The rear door had a metal bar across the door. There was no lock of any kind on that door. The upstairs had a required fire exit which passed inspection temporarily. It was a larger window with a metal ladder attached to the outside wall. The last eight feet of the ladder was elevated so that access by it was almost impossible, but evacuation was doable for even a child. At the rear of he building there were also a couple of paralell parking spaces in the alley.

I left the building that first day while I arranged the roof patch. It would be considerably less than the re-roofing would have been. That was because a friend of Lester’s planned to do it in his spare time. The method of repair was a coating of a liquid cold patch with fibers suspended in it. It was used on Mobil home roofs to seal the metal joints. It sounded okay to me, but I had no factual knowledge about it.

Lester’s friend guaranteed the roof would not leak for five years. I trusted Lester on that, even though we both knew the deal was with his friend not Lester. I still maintained some hope for the repair.

The handyman didn’t want to work on Saturday so I planned to check out the windows and made a detailed list of the minimum amount of repairs I could live with. I also planned to go to Walmart in Kinston for cleaning equipment and supplies. I thought I might end up working all night to clean at least a little of the Main Street building before the weekend.

I tried to work all night, but I just gave out at 2AM. I did manage to get all the crap that was salvageable into the alley. The items I deemed reusable I moved to the downstairs great room. It was truly a great room. The room was 28’ bye 38’. Large enough to fit a small house inside. I wasn’t sure how it would end up being separated into different areas, but I knew something would come along.

I knew Friday morning that I was not going to be able to clean the place myself. I at least needed help with the cleanup before I could even consider starting the renovations.

I asked at the Downtown Diner for a referral but the waitress didn’t have any ideas. From there I moved on to the police station and city hall. I seemed to strike out there as well. I expected that I would be working alone that Friday night. It wasn’t exactly how I wanted to spend my time, but I knew I could do it. I got the first load of the ground floor trash into bags and into the alley that night. I knew there would be more first floor, and all the second floor trash to collect before I could declare the place clean, but it was a start. It was also 2AM when I got into bed.

After lunch on Friday the electrician recommended by Lucy Kerby called. He met me at the building and began work. When he called again at the end of the day, I had power and the minimum additions had been installed. I was also three hundred bucks and change lighter in my savings account. I had planned to spend all my profit from the sale of my Baltimore condo on the renovations. Even so it made me wince.

I also made the final arrangement for the roof patch that evening. It would be considerably less expensive than the re-roofing would have been. That was because the friend of Lester’s planned to do it between other jobs. Since he was a full time handyman, I had some faith in him. The repair was a stop gap repair at best, so I didn’t plan to hold anyone to high expectations if it failed.

The handyman didn’t want to work on Saturday, so I planned to check out the windows and made a detailed list of the repairs I could live with. I also planned to go to the Walmart in Kinston for additional cleaning equipment and supplies. I had run through black plastic bags by that time. I was also out of Comet and I needed an upstairs scrub brush. I might end up working late into the night again while trying to clean the building at 513 Main Street before the weekend ended.

The Electrician’s assessment of the wiring conditions had worried me. It left a lot to be desired, but I didn’t rush into the additional repairs. The plan was to sleep in one of the upstairs offices for a while before I continued the electrical and other inside renovations.

Saturday morning Lester’s friend came by to patch the roof. His repair was less than five hundred dollars. It was a damn sight less than the roofers from Kinston wanted for the new roof cover.

When he arrived I noticed he had a Mexican helper. I took a chance and asked the boss, “Do you know anyone who might like a job cleaning this place. I need it in better shape so I can get a thorough inspection.”

He held his hand up then went into a discussion with his helper. “Since you are Lester’s boss, I talked to may man Raul. His wife and two daughters would be glad to get the work. I suggest twenty dollars an hour for all of them.”

“I will pay them in cash but I don’t want to know any more about them,” I said.

“If you pick them up they can start at noon,” he suggested.

“Give me the address,” I demanded.

When the roof patch was completed by 1PM, the woman and her two teen aged daughters were hard at work. I couldn’t see much progress during that first hour, but after that thing took off. The kids were put to work scrubbing the pealing walls while mom worked on the floors. By 8PM the family had the upstairs walls scrubbed and the upstairs floor washed.

“Do you want us to come back tomorrow and finish the downstairs. If so, we can get papa to bring a ladder so we can clean the ceiling,” the older daughter suggested.

I handed her mother eight twenty dollar bills before I spoke, “I would be most grateful if you could return tomorrow. What time could you make it.”

They held a discussion in Spanish before the daughter said, “1PM if that would be satisfactory?”

“That would be fine. Do you need more cleaning supplies?” I asked.

After consulting with her mother in Spanish the daughter reeled off a list of cleaning products. She also mentioned more loose sponges, as well as another sponge mop and two extra mop heads. They planned to use them on the ceilings.

I drove the family home, then drove directly to the Walmart super store in Kinston. When I arrived home, I had to make two trips from my car to get everything inside the Main Street building. I worked on into the night using tools brought from my Baltimore home. I used a salvaged shelving unity from an upstairs storeroom to make a counter top for the kitchen area. The two 4’x2’ open shelving unit would work as a dry sink and counter for a while, I decided.

There was also room for the large toaster oven, the small microwave, and the apartment size refrigerator. It made for a small and inefficient but workable kitchen.

By the time I had the two shelving units screwed together, and everything in place I was ready for bed. Bed was a sleeping bag on a two inch foam mattress from a box. Even so it was surprisingly comfortable.

The next morning I couldn’t get a shower, but I managed a pretty thorough washing from the mop sink. After my half ass whore’s bath I went to breakfast at the Downtown Diner. The diner was one and a half blocks from my Main Street building. The people had gotten to know me at the Diner, so when the waitress asked about all the work at the vacant store. I had to explain that it was no longer vacant. I was forced to explain that I was living in the old clothing store.

“I swear Chief Rogers you are either crazy or brilliant,” she said.

“Let’s not give anyone the choice. Let’s just tell them all I’m brilliant,” I suggested. “Tell you what I do need a plumber though. Do you know a good one who works cheap?”

“Plumber and cheap don’t belong in the same breath,” she said with a laugh.

“I thought as much,” I replied.

Monday afternoon I met the roofing helper with his wife in tow. Since there were no daughters, I expected a problem.

“So are your daughters coming?” I asked.

“No sir, but I plan to help my wife if that is acceptable?” he mentioned.

“That will be fine,” I assured him. Since I had a little comp time coming I stayed to help. He and I scrubbed the ceilings upstairs and downstairs while his wife worked on the ceramic tile floor. He was a much harder worker than me. Even so by 6PM the building was clean and smelled of bleach and soap.

“Do you happen to know a plumber?” I asked as I handed him a hundred dollars for there work.

“The man I worked with on your roof does plumbing. You would need to talk with him,” Raul said.

“Have him call me tomorrow,” I said as I gave him my phone number.

After Raul and his wife left I walked to the Diner for dinner. I had meatloaf and mashed potatoes. It wasn’t great, but it was as good as I remember microwave meatloaf to be. I couldn’t bitch too much, but I decided to give the frozen dinners another try. It would be less expensive and probably healthier since there might be less animal fat.

When I awoke the next morning I was totally exhausted. I could have slept another five hours. I struggled through the cold bathing and dressing with minimal plumbing. I got to the station to fine a night with absolutely no calls. With nothing happening I settled in with my welcoming coffee from the coffee maker on a table near my desk. That was all courtesy of Lucy.

When the retail stores and offices opened for business, we had a couple of calls for B&E reports. A police report was needed for the insurance companies to process the claims. For those kinds of crimes against property, we did the investigations in our spare time. We had plenty of that.

I rolled out with patrolman Mike Simpson. We were busy with the report writing until 11AM. I found a message on my phone from the roof repairman. I waiting until I got to the diner to return it. After I arranged to meet him at the Main Street building I ate my burger then returned to the office.

In my mind I went over the crime scenes from the morning. We found the point of entry, dusted for finger prints and made a list of items taken. Lucy scanned the prints then entered them into the crime network computer system. She found no matches, so odds were good we would never solve it.

That bothered me a little, but for the moment I had other things on my mind. I spent the afternoon reading B&E reports that went back for the last year. I didn’t notice any patterns until I reclassified them into adult and youth suspects. Half a dozen of the youth B&E seemed to be perpetrated by the same person or persons. I left for the day with the facts still running through my head. The items taken were cash and things that would appeal to minors, at least I thought so. That was the first box I ticked off in my head.

Before I got any farther on my analysis, the roof repairman arrived. He and I walked the building looking for plumbing work I wanted done. I wanted the downstairs bathroom made operational again. It had a toilet and sink of course both were antiques.

Andrew, my jack leg roofer, said, “If I can get the parts to repair the toilet and sink, it wouldn’t be a problem. Let’s take a look at the pipes in the partial basement.”

“Shit chief your pipes are a nightmare. I can run new water supply line no problem but your drain lines are most likely shot unless the last owner had them replaced. The only why to tell is to hook up the new lines and then try them all for a while,” Andrew explained.

“Okay I want you to take the antique janitors sink from upstairs and reinstall it as a kitchen sink,” I said.

“It’s going to need all new hardware,” Andrew said.

“Yeah I figured that,” I agreed.

“I’m sure your hot water heater is toast. Someone has isolated it already. They do that so you can have water without having it leak everywhere. We isolate the leaking appliances,” Andrew said.

“Lets figure a new hot water heater into the mix,” I agreed.

“You have a fairly modern boiler. It’s one of those steamer trunk models. I think I can get it working, if there isn’t too much rust in the lines. Of course that depends on whether there are parts available for it,” Andrew continued.

“Lets take it a step at a time. Get the upstairs bathroom working, the one down here, and the kitchen sink hung. Also the hot water heater. So how much are you talking?”

“Five hundred and fifty labor that’s with the gas company hook up. The boiler valve is turned off I’m sure. The gas company needs to do the turn on,” Andrew informed me.

“Oh yeah I want a shower stall upstairs as well,” I suggested.

“Add five hundred and I’ll build the wall to stabilize it as well,” he demanded. “Understand chief that is using the lowest coast shower and thirty gallon water heater.”

“Can you do it for a grand? I would really feel better about it.” He nodded his agreement. “So when can you and Raul start on it?” I asked.

“We can start Wednesday and have it finished Thursday or Friday. I am going to need half the money before I start. And the other half after I finish the downstairs portion.”

“Fair enough,” I agreed.

After a trip to inspect the homeless shelter where I took a long hot shower and dressed for work, I stopped by the bank. I drew five hundred dollars from the ATM machine. Then I stopped at the diner for breakfast. The homeless shelter had only a couple of residents and a counselor. I could have stayed for breakfast, but I didn’t want to put any pressure on their meager resources.

I struggled with the schedules and the B&E problem most of the two days before Andrew got the plumbing resurrected. Once I had hot water and a cheap plastic shower stall I was reasonably sure I was ready for Sarah’s visit at any time.

Sarah is my daughter who I sometimes refer to as the devil’s spawn. She is a typical fifteen year old, I am told. I figured I could manage for two weeks. If not, I figured I could borrow a holding cell in county lock up.

On Saturday morning Raul stopped by to spay a texture over the hundred year old plaster which was cracked and otherwise damaged. I decided to go for the south western adobe look. It came close Raul told me and it also took only one day to finish. With the rental of the machine and the paint his work came in at just under two hundred dollars. I was burning through my savings, but I was being as careful as possible with the renovation expenses. I was saving the bulk of my savings for the serious stuff. I hoped to put it off as long as possible.

I didn’t have any renovation plans after I got a working shower and kitchen in the 513 Main Street building. I spent most of the next week working on paperwork and making plans for my new department. In other words I was bored to tears.

I had figured out that the related six B&E events were taking place between 10PM and Midnight. Since they were all in businesses there were never any witnesses. Since cameras hadn’t caught on with the locals yet, there was also no video.

After a week with nothing to break the boredom, I calculated the distance I could cover on a bike in a two hour time frame. The noise of a patrol car would no doubt send the kid burglars to ground. Our best chance to catch them was to do a 9PM to midnight bike patrol.

I decided I would do it rather than force Jim to do it. With that in mind I went to the storage building where we kept our recovered property to borrow a bike. I found an unclaimed recovered stolen mountain bike in pretty good shape but still in need of a rescue. It didn’t look too abused, so I took it to the mechanic at the city vehicle garage.

“Hi there I ‘m Chief Rogers,” I said to the man in charge. “I’m going to be riding this thing for a couple of weeks. Could you clean it up and grease it for me?”

“You got a work order?” he asked.

“Actually no, but instead of wasting my time writing one up, how about I check the DMV records and put out your license plate number for a special alert. No telling what kind of things we might find in the course of our patrolling,” I explained.

“I can have it for you this afternoon,” he replied.

“Thanks, and I’ll owe your a favor,” I said. “Not too large a favor, but a favor.”

“Not to worry chief,” he replied with a smile.

I didn’t worry about a bike rack on my car, since I could walk or ride the bike anywhere in town. Moving it from place to place just didn’t seem to be a problem, at least not for two weeks.

Back in the station I organized my six burglary reports by dates and locations. They were all in the areas south of the downtown. I kind of expected to find a couple of kids who watched too much TV, but I tried not to get tied to any particular theory. The plan was to just look around for a couple of evenings.

I rode the bike home at five and then took a nap. A 9:30PM, I put on one of the uniforms the city had given me. I then attached a badge and checked my cell phone and the Colt detective special .38 revolver. Only after I was sure I was set did I take to the road on the surplus mountain bike.

I began my patrol a couple of days before the prime Burglary nights. There was a chill in the air, but I was ready for it. I had on three layers of tops and a heavy pair of uniform pants. I was warm as I rode through the streets of town. I checked all the spots I expected kids to hang out. There were a few kids, but none looked suspicious. I had no idea what a small town suspicious kid would look like anyway. It was a pleasant enough ride with just a slight chill. I rode the route I had worked out several times in the two hour patrol. I even got pulled over once by Jim Sloan. He looked at the bike with a little envy in his eyes. Jim and Mike both looked as though they worked out some.

After two work days patrols, I decided to move to the weekend. Most of the B&Es were on weekends, specifically Sunday nights. So I scheduled my next ride for Sunday evening. The first week was a waste of time, but I knew it took lots of time to find people before or during the commission of a crime.

At home I cleaned and painted for the two weeks since the renovations ended. The electrician who checked my breaker box also eased my mind. He did that by telling me the wiring had been replaced in the sixties. It wasn’t state of the art, but it was safe enough to use a 1200watt state of the art ceramic space heater. I hoped that wouldn’t be necessary since I planned to have the boiler checked and any needed repairs performed.

The rest of the week Mike, the day watch patrolman, and I re-interview some of the recent burglary victims. I just wanted to touch base and see it they remembered anything else. None of them really did.

During the interview I asked them about there children. The both had teenagers. We left without talking to the kids.

“Are you thinking their kids are involved?” Mike asked at the end of our road trip.

“Mike I’m known for not knowing where an investigation is headed. I do think it’s a possibility that the kids could be our link. You wrote down the kids names and ages I hope,” was my reply.

We drove to he station directly. We didn’t even stop for coffee. The only connection we could fine in the available data was the county middle school. At the time of the burglaries all off the six victims children attended the same middle school. We even found a half dozen kids who were on line followers of all the victim’s kids.

I had no proof at that time but I would bet on one or more of those kids being our mysterious child burglar. A few years ago I would have picked the kids up and interrogated them to within an inch of their lives. Now I didn’t dare. The tide had turned so that the public saw the perpetrator as somehow being the victim. The police were no longer saviors, but villains. The world had turned upside down.

I began to gnaw on the problem like a dog with a bone. So much so that I had to be reminded that I had an appointment with the boiler man. The summer hadn’t begun but I might need the time between now and winter to raise any money needed to repair the boiler.

Since he drove from Kinston I had a larger than normal service call fee. I sure as hell didn’t want any unnecessary charges for waiting time. That being the case I rushed to my building to meet the service technician.

I stood around while he cleaned the heating element. He told me it was serviceable, so I felt a little better. He turned the gas valve and there was the smell of a gas leak, but it was just the pilot light being primed he assured me. When he lit it I heard the roar of the flame catching.

“Well that’s another test the old girl passed,” the older service technician suggested.

“That’s a good sign,” I said.

“I checked the water flow to the boiler before I lit it, so now all we have to do is see if it will heat water and then check the whole system for leaks. It’s a steam boiler so there is no hot water return line. Your radiators have a single pipe. We just have to go around and check each one for leaks,” he explained. “See this glass tube?”

It was a clear glass tube less than a foot long. “Sure,” I said.

“It should always be showing water between a third and half full. That’s how you know your auto filler is working. You should check it once a month or so. This is the valve you use to add water to the boiler,” he explained. “Do not add water if there is no water showing in the pipe or it had a burnt smell. Add cold water to a hot boiler and it will potentially explode,” he explained.

“Let’s go check the system for leaks,” he added,

Even though he said it was heating, it still took another fifteen minutes to get the heat up. He tightened a couple of couplings and replaced three bleeder valves.

He explained, “Those valves allowed the radiators to purge themselves. When there is an air lock that one radiator won’t heat. Now for your thermostat, it is a self contained unit. This boiler has a gas pilot generator. It’s just a fancy way of saying if the power goes out, you will still have heat. It was common feature on the early boilers.”

“That’s a good thing,” I said.

“Not necessarily,” he replied. “When an electric thermostat goes, it’s probably a hundred bucks to repair. If this one goes, I probably five hundred.”

“Well I’ll start a coffee can savings account now,” I said.

“Good idea,” he suggested. “Well it seem like everything is good. Chief it’s been a pleasure.”

“Give me the bad news before I agree with you,” I said laughing.

“It’s going to run about two hundred and fifty dollars. I don’t have the parts cost, so it’s just a close estimate now,” he said.

Since I had expected it to be double that I was pleased when I shook his hand. I had to rush back to the office, but I had to use only two hours of my compensatory time. I had already earned more than I would ever use. The problem with comp time was I couldn’t be paid in cash for it. Should I need to leave for any reason it was just a losss. I had known it was a losing endeavor for me, but I followed my need for stimulation. Boredom was my greatest enemy.

When I returned to the station, it was to find that Lucy drew a blank while looking for previous police encounters with any of the kids. I had pretty much expected that to be the case. Even the worst criminal was innocent till his first arrest and conviction. That didn’t make him innocent the week before that first arrest. No he wasn’t innocent, he was just not yet caught.

“Lucy get a copy of the school’s year book and make copies of all the kids we have on our suspect list. We want to know what they look like in case we come into contact with them,” I suggested. “Ask our officers if they have any insight as you deliver the prints. Don’t send a bulletin just a friendly question.”

“No paper trail?” she asked.

“That wouldn’t be playing nice, now would it?” I asked with a smile.

The phone rang and Lucy said, “It’s for you Chief, Wesley Brown.”

I nodded then removed the phone’s headset. “Mr. Brown what can I do for you?” I asked.

“Just reminding you that you want to get those windows taken care of before Winter,” he said.

“Wesley it’s the last week in May summer isn’t even here,” I said a little taken aback.

“Well I’m kinda running a special right now,” He said.

“Well Wesley, I frankly have a guy who is a genius at making things work rather than replace the whole thing. I thought I’d get him to give me a price on patching up and painting the old windows,” I informed him.

“Well like I told you before, I recommend you do it once and do it right,” Wesley said sounding irritated.

“I’ll listen to him and make a decision. I will keep that in mind though,” I said.

I knew that first I had to have an air conditioning plan for the building. Even though we had already experienced a few warm days, it wasn’t anything like it would be a month farther into the summer.

Since I had it on my mind, I called Andrew. “Andrew what do you think I need to do to the air conditioner in my basement?”

“I would be shocked it that unit would cool at all. If it did, the cost of running a system that old in a building that old is going to be enormous. I know how cheap you are. It is not going to be worth fixing. You would be better served to see how cooling with exhaust and ceiling fans worked. Then supplement that with a couple of the new high efficiency window units.”

“Well first things first, I need the windows repaired and ceiling fans installed. Can you do that?” I asked.

“Sure I’ll be over to price it out this weekend, if that’s okay?” he asked.

“That’s fine, bring a test meter there is an exhaust fan we need to look at,” I agreed. I had managed to have most of the renovations jack legged, so it would be good if I could do the windows and fan installations done before Sarah came. Since she had always had air conditioning, she would be the one to suffer the most without it.

“Chief, the Mayor is on the phone,” Lucy said as she stood in my doorway.

“Okay, anything else?” I asked.

“Can we talk after the call?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said. Into the phone I said, “What can I do for you Madam Mayor.”

“I have a four PM meeting with a representative of the Happy Valley Retirement Village,” she said.

“Yes I have driven by it on the way to Kinston, so do they have a problem?” I asked.

“I don’t know, I thought you might like to be at the meeting,” she suggested. “Shake a couple of hands.”

“Of course I do if there is a problem I can deal with. I suppose there aren’t too many problems the city can deal, with so sure I’ll be there,” I agreed.

“It’s at four and thanks,” she said.

I left my office before I started anything else. “So Lucy what can I do for you?” I asked when I reached her desk.

“Chief I really enjoy working here and I don’t plan to leave until I retire or die.” she said then paused.

“However,” I said to help her move forward.

“However I need to take a leave of absence. I probably am going to need to take at least a year off,” she said.

“Could I ask why?” I said.

“My fathers has been diagnosed as suffering with cancer. My mom passed two years ago so there is no one else. I just can’t stand the idea of him going into a facility. At least not as long as he is able to be home,” Lucy said.

“I can understand that. Is there anything I can do personally?” I asked.

“No Sir, I just need to move my request to the mayor and I don’t know if she will hold my job,” she said sadly.

“I don’t know either, but I will try to put in a good word for you. Since I’m so new here, I have no idea what good it will do. I’ll speak to her today. If there is anything else I can do, just ask,” I said.

I went up a little early and found that Lucy had told the mayor before me. Since I didn’t really control Lucy, I wasn’t surprised that she had done that. I explained to the mayor that Lucy was a good and very knowledgeable employee. We were for sure going to miss her. I was capable of running the inquires but I sure as hell didn’t want to do it.

“I’m bringing in a temporary replacement for Miss Kerby on Monday. The temp will need to train at least a week with Lucy then we can decide what to do with her,” The mayor said. “Now I need to give you some background on the happy valley complex.”

“Okay let’s have it,” I said.

“Ten years ago a developer, came before the council to pitch the city council members at the time to annex sixty five acres. Then rezone it institutional for high density housing. They didn’t want the county butting into their day to day lives,” she said.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“The residents of Happy Valley at the time were all military retirees. They didn’t want the government telling them what they could an couldn’t do in their own community,” she said. “They knew our law enforcement was more geared to community service than criminal investigation and that suited them fine.”

“So what’s the deal today. The guys surely know I plan to leave them alone. Hell I didn’t know they were in my jurisdiction until an hour ago,” I explained.

“Frankly, I don’t have a clue. They have their own councilwoman since they have the greatest density of population and they vote as a block. Even the mayor has to listen to them. Just remember that if they ruffle your feathers.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “I think I’ll wait outside.”

“No don’t go they will be here soon. I wanted to talk to you about your bike,” she said.

“It isn’t mine it belongs to the department. It stays at the station not my home,” I said. “I use it for a bike patrol.”

“What are your plans for it,” she asked.

“I thought it might be a good patrol method for a town this small. Most of us could use the exercise,” I suggested.

“That last is for sure. How have the officers reacted?” she asked.

“They haven’t to be honest. Have they said anything to you?” I asked.

“No, the weekend call idea seems to please the men. The two for one time swap was a good idea. You are probably going to need one more patrolman,” she suggested.

“When I interviewed for the job, you suggested that it might be on the table, so now I think I can justify it,” I said just before the city clerk knocked on the door.

She ushered in a ramrod straight man and a younger woman who also looked military. They seemed to fill the room somehow.

“Hello Colonel Williams,” The mayor said to the man in a business suit.

“This is Betty Booth she is our head of security,” the colonel said in introducing the female sergeant at arms.

“Nice to meet you both,” I said.

“We hear good things about you,” the Colonel said to me.

“Thank you,” I replied. “I’m afraid I didn’t know about Happy Valley before today.”

“That’s a good thing,” Ms Booth said.

“So exactly what can we do for you?” the mayor asked.

“To be honest I hate to bring this up but it is a problem. We have had some vandalism at the estate,” Ms Booth informed us. “It isn’t enough for us to bother hiring extra security, but we do want to stop it. In order to do that we added several security cameras. The cameras captured a lone female spray painting our sign at the entrance to the campus. We have brought the footage to you in hopes you can handle this without bringing the Sheriff’s department into the matter.”

“Well Ms Booth that might not be possible. Did you have our officers investigate it?” I asked.

“No, we hoped that wouldn’t be necessary,” The colonel said.

“You probably know that you can’t bring a charge unless you can document the crime. You might pursue it as a civil matter,” I suggested.

“We are not willing to pursue it in civil court either. There are other factors at play here,” Ms Booth said.

“Forgive me Ma’am but you seem pretty sharp, so would you mind if I ask have you identified the perp already?” I asked. “Perhaps the grand daughter of a resident?”

“What makes you ask that?” she suggested.

“Well Happy Valley isn’t exactly on the national register. The footage shows the young woman just got out and painted the sign apparently without any concern for patrols. And finally the footage stops before she reenters her car. It would have been helpful to see her drive away since we could get the license plate and then identify her. So that leads me to believe she drove through the gate into the estate. I would need a weeks worth of tape from that camera to identify her, then it would probably lead to a resident anyway.”

“So I have to wonder, what do you honestly wish me to do?” I asked.

“Conduct an investigation which leads you to the perpetrator. That would not make us the villain,” the Colonel said.

“I can do that, but I need the missing footage. Footage either showing her tags after the paint job, or tape until it shows the same car coming or going. Then I think a thorough interrogation in front of her guardian might produce the desired results. Then we can all just move on.” Thinking on my feet was something I was good at. I thought I had done really well. Obviously the same could not me said for the two of them. They held a meeting in whispers which lasted several minutes.

During that meeting the mayor looked very nervous. I on the other hand felt calm. What I had suggested was the only reasonable thing to do.

“Since, I don’t want to give you access to the whole security network I’ll email you the rest of the tape. I’ll even include and enhanced shot of the plate for you,” Ms Booth said.

“I would appreciate it. Should I call ahead so one of you can be present for the interview?” I asked.

“Why don’t I coordinate a time that is convenient for everyone?” she suggested.

“That makes perfect sense. Would doing it over the weekend work, since we are more likely to get the young woman at home. You might advise the family that I am on a fact finding mission concerning some residential burglaries. Since they haven’t had a burglary, it shouldn’t be worrisome. You might mention the girl’s friends might be involved. That should put a little fear into her heart.”

Saturday I met with Andrew and walked him through the work I wanted done. He had finished all the other work so I felt like I could afford the next set of renovations immediately. He gave me the price at five hundred dollars plus the cost of storm windows and the fans. It was the final renovation for the year, I hoped. It was also the only about half of what I had budgeted for the items I had done so far. I got more done for the money and sooner than I expected.

Sunday I did some house cleaning while waiting for the call from Booth. When it came, I was sitting in a do it yourself laundry between Ansonville and Kinston.

“Can we set this for about two hours, I’m out doing my laundry?” I asked.

“Okay that would be fine, I think,” Betty said. “I’ll meet you in front of the office at 3pm, if you don’t hear from me again.”

“You will recognize me by the SUV with the garish paint job,” I said.

“Perfect,” She said with a laugh.

I used the two hours to finish my laundry and finish the floors. Those floors were a pain in the ass. There was just too many square feet to keep clean. I decided I needed a decorator, but not before I had more money in the bank.

I made it to the Happy Valley office five minutes early. Sure enough Betty Booth was sitting on a stone bench by the front door. She was dressed in her security uniform, which hid her fairly nice body. She obviously worked out, something I needed to do, I thought yet again.

“Hello Chief,” she said.

“Hello Ms Booth,” I replied. “So which way do I go?”

“Turn right at the gate and drive the perimeter road for a few blocks. Take a left on Company B Drive.” she said.

“So what is the name of the Grand Parents?” I asked.

“Mr and Mrs Edward Arnold,” Betty said. “I know he is frustrated with his grand daughter. He isn’t used to the constant drama. Edward was a Sergeant Major of a combat company. He and the company were deployed four times to the middle east. He told me it was easier over there than raising his grand daughter.”

“That would make her a handful. Is there nothing you can do to help?” I asked.

“Unfortunately no, the residents have a buy back clause in there deed’s. If we ask them to move, we must buy the property back. Frankly we do have a waiting list but, we don’t want to set a dangerous president. To be honest the grand daughter does a lot around the house for the two of them. I just hope we can scare her straight.”

“That is highly unlikely, but maybe we can talk some sense to her. If she stays on this path it’s only a matter of time before she comes to my attention. Even worse or someone in the sheriff’s department. Then it’s out of our hands and into a judge’s.” I said.

“You might want to tell the Arnold clan that,” she said. “Shelly will be leaving in a month. Her ninety days will be over then. Hell she probably would be happy to leave now,”

“Does she have parents to take care of her?” I asked.

“I gather they aren’t parent of the year material. Too busy with their careers. They live in Charlotte so there is no shortage of alternate live styles available to her there,” Booth informed me.

“I have heard that. She was probably pampered. Most likely she wont be frightened by a threat of juvenile hall, but we will see,” I suggested.

“Well we can make her somebody else’s problem, but that means giving up on her,” Betty said.

“Remind me to keep her away from my daughter when she gets here in a couple of weeks,” I suggested.

“That House on the left with the flag pole,” Booth pointed out. She took the lead to the door and she made the introductions.

After my greeting I began. “We have had several Breaking and Entering incidents. The perpetrators appear to be teenagers. Since your grand daughter is about the same age, I wanted to show her some pictures, if that’s okay with you?” I asked.

They looked over to Shelly who shrugged. I showed her the still images of our five most likely suspects. “I never met any of them,” she said.

“I have one more thing to show you,” I said as I started the footage of her spray painting the sign. “Do you recognize this girl?”

“No,” she answered.

“Well we got the license plate and traced it back to your car Mr and Mrs Arnold. Do any other teenage girls have access to your vehicle at night?”

“No,” Mr Arnold said looking to Shelly for answers.

“Well here is were we are. We have enough to charge Shelly with vandalism which is a misdemeanor. Also possibly Grand Theft Auto which is a felony.” I said. “If convicted it would probably be a probation sentence since it’s your car. If she were sixteen or over it could stay with her the rest of her life. So frankly Shelly you need to lose the attitude and cooperate. If not I’m prepared to take you into custody. If I do that, she can be release only to her parents or legal guardians. It is my understanding that her grand parents are not the legal guardians. That being the case her parents will have to drive down to get her released. Something I’m sure we all want to avoid. So let’s see what we can work out here.”

“What if we call a lawyer?” Arnold asked.

“If you decide to do that Chief Rogers will have no choice but to file charges, and Happy Valley will be forced to go along and enforce our policy. You realize you asked for and were granted a waver to our thirty day visitor policy. There is only one week left on the regular visitation limit.” Betty explained gently.

“So you three take a minute to decide,” I suggested. Then walked out into the small rear yard. Betty walked outside with me. “Do you have a lawn service for the cottage residents?” I asked.

“Yes we do,” she said.

“I wonder what the chances would be of my daughter getting a part time summer job with them. I wouldn’t mind seeing her cutting and raking grass,”

“Call me when she gets here. We can give her an interview. No promises though and no special treatment,” Betty explained.

“Of course no special treatment either way,” I suggested.

It took the Arnold family several minutes to decide. When they called us back inside Mr Arnold spoke, “Shelly is going to cooperate. We gave her the choice and she would like to stay till the end of summer,” Arnold explained.

“My requirements are that she look seriously at those photographs. I know she has been in my town hanging around. If she knows anything, Narc on the bad guys, or I’ll make them the same deal when I bust them.” I said.

“Honest Chief I don’t know those kids or anything about any break ins,” she said with the attitude still showing.

“Kid I’m going to put your picture on our look out list.” I shot a picture with my cell phone. “If my patrolmen see you in my town they will likely follow you around. I doubt that will make you popular with the crowd you run with. If they catch you driving your grand parent’s car on a public road, it’s go directly to jail do not pass go. You got it?” I asked. She just nodded. I turned to Betty for her input.

“As for the Happy Valley security force we will be looking at you first for any further damage to the facilities here. If we even suspect you, you will have twenty four hours to vacate the campus. You grandparent’s status here will be reviews. For now I’m going to keep it to myself, but any infraction no matter how small, then we will prosecute or enforce our contractual agreement with you grandparents. Do I make myself clear?” Betty said.

“Yeah,” Shelly said.

“That’s yes Ma’am,” she demanded.

“Yes Ma’am,” Shelly said grudgingly.

Mr. Arnold followed us outside. “I don’t like being ambushed,” he said.

“That was my idea sir. If we had warned you, then I couldn’t depend on Shelly not haven’t prepared a bullshit story for us. Catching her off guard was absolutely imperative. You should know that some decisions are never popular, but always necessary,” I said then turned away toward the car allowing Betty to make nice, if she wanted to.

“Come by my office soon and we will discuss my actions with the Colonel,” she said.

“That won’t be necessary Sergeant,” Arnold replied.

In the car on the way back to Happy Valley’s reception center parking lot I asked, “What was the sergeant stuff?”

“It’s what I get now and then from the old timers. I mustered out as a sergeant. It was an early retirement from the Corp due to a combat injury,” Betty replied. “It wasn’t an address of respect. It was a reminder of my inferior rank. I was the first female to go through the Army Ranger School. I went as part of the experiment to qualify women for combat.”

“I see, well I don’t understand all that, but you seem exceptional to me,” I said with a smile.

“To the old timers, I’m just Betty Boobs I guess,” she said it with a smile.

“Since I find it a compliment, I hope that isn’t meant to be derogatory,” I said smiling.

“What a PC thing to say. I should hang around with you wimpy guys more often,” she said.

“Hey, I’m considered very Macho by my peers,” I said. “And if you mean that how about a drink sometime?”

“Sure, I’ll call you,” she said with a laugh.

Back in the Main Street Building, I decided what it really needed before Sarah’s visit was a decorator’s tough. Problem was I didn’t know any decorators and I hated most of the houses done by a pro. They were so over thought, I decided. I know it was just my opinion, but I just didn’t want someone else’s every whim in my house.

When Wesley Brown my first handyman applicant called, I was stewing in my own juices while I tried to make a decision. “Chief Rogers, I hear you decided to go with that jack leg builder Andrew Rice.”

“I did so what?” I asked.

“Is he a licensed builder?” Wesley asked.

“I have no idea. Since he isn’t going any new construction, I’m not sure it is pertinent,” I said.

“Well I would keep an eye on him were I you,” he said.

“Wesley I’ll worry about my renovation, but thanks for the concern,” I said. That is all I need more fucking drama, I thought. I lay in bed wondering how concerned I should be about Wesley. I wondered if there was a veiled threat in there somewhere.

I drove the SUV to the station and parked it in the reserved space. The weather channel called for warm sunny weather for the next week, so I decided to ride the bike for a while. It would make me an easier target, so I went through with it. If I had to deal with an attempt of some kind, better now before Sarah arrived.

When the next threat of rain came on Thursday, I drove the SUV home for lunch. I also loaded my laundry into the back for a trip to the DIY laundry after work. That was one of the few things I needed the truck to accomplish.

Andrew finished the latest repair list by Thursday so I was still on tract to have the place usable by Sarah’s arrival date of June 15th. It was still two weeks away. I was amazed at how much I had gotten done in only one month. Yes I dropped a lot of cash, but it was all money from the sale of my condo in Baltimore. I was awarded half the equity in the house which had only been ten grand. That kind of money did not go far. I had a small mortgage, but I didn’t want home improvement payments as well. I had to keep my expenses in line with my retirement income, just in case the chief of police job didn’t work out.

It was two days before Sarah was due to arrive when I got my first break in the Burglary cases. I was in the DIY laundry when a kid came running from a convenience store. I left the clothes and went to the SUV which had been parking on the side of the Laundry out of sight. I pulled it into the road and followed the running kid until the call came out for Mike.

“Mike, I have got the shoplifter in sight. I’m on main street headed back to town.” I called on the cell. When we finally ran him to ground, I recognized him as one of the five suspicious kids on my look out list.

“So Kevin you fucked up this time,” I said as a greeting.

“I didn’t do anything,” he said.

“Okay we play it that way. First Mike get the tape of the kid’s actions. Hold off calling the Sheriff until we give Kevin here a chance to cut a deal.” Like it or not Kevin listened while I gave mike his instructions.

Even though I knew how police work goes, it pissed me off that Kevin fell into my lap. Especially after I spent every night for almost a months checking buildings on a bike. He decided to talk to Mike and I, rather than take a chance on the Sheriff’s detectives.

He copped to seven of the burglaries. He didn’t want to give up any of the other kids at first. Finally we got through to him. His pitch to the kids was, “I’ll go into their office at night. No one will get hurt. You just need to tell me where they keep the money and any other valuables.”

A few days later he would go into the building through a back door. If they had an alarm system he would shake the door at 3AM. When the alarm went off, he wouldn’t be there. When the parent turned it off, he shook it again. If no sirens sounded or no one came, he went inside to take the cash and computers. It was a nice little scam till he ran out of parents. He went into the convenience store to steal snacks and cigarettes.

He was just unlucky that I was doing laundry at the time. The clothes were piled on one of the tables when I went back for them. Of course my police uniform was gone. They weren’t cheap but I ordered two sets of navy blue fatigues. I would just have to wear my jeans till they arrived. I didn’t want the regulation uniform. As always I intended to be a working cop, not a desk jockey anymore than necessary.

The renovations were about eighty percent complete when Sarah called me. Her mother had decided to drive her, so they were in Kinston and headed my way.

“It’s almost five, so I’m going to take off. I might have time to get the twins out of the place before you arrive,” I said into the phone.

“You better be kidding. We are going to drive to your new place. See you in ten minutes Dad,” she said then rang off.

I knew that she was coming, so I had Juanita come and do a good cleaning. Raul’s wife always did a good job. So I expected it to be extra clean for Sarah and her mother to inspect.

When they arrived, I came to the Main Street Building dressed in blue jeans and a gray sweat shirt. I looked like a homeless man. Maybe I would have dressed better, if I had known Iva was bringing her new boyfriend.

“Hi Sarah,” I said giving her a big hug. I was looking at Diane’s boyfriend while I held Sarah.

“Dale, this is Wilson Thomas. He and I have been seeing each other off and on,” Diane said.

I gave the stranger a cold handshake. “So Diane you could have put her on a train. I could have picked her up in Kinston.”

“Sure, but she might have gotten into trouble,” Diane suggested.

“She’s going to be sixteen in a few days. I think she could handle a train ride,” I said.

“Thanks Dad, mom thinks I’m a child,” Sarah said.

“I plan to treat you like a young adult till you show me I can’t trust you to behave,” I said.

“That should be tomorrow,” Diane said. “Thomas and I have reservations for a long weekend at the beach. The season has just started.”

“And if Sarah calls you in tears, you can pick her up on the way back,” I said.

“Exactly,” Diane admitted. “Or you calling to say you can’t handle it.

“Thanks for trusting me mom,” Sarah said showing a little attitude.

“Well I sure hope you too have fun at the beach,” I said dismissing them.

“Okay, so I guess we will leave you hear. The place looks nice in an old sort of way,” Diane said.

“Don’t listen to her Dad, it suits you,” Sarah said.

“It isn’t quite done yet. I was waiting for you to come be my decorating consultant,” I said to Sarah.

“Cool,” she said. “What’s for dinner.” She had effectively dismissed her mother and the boyfriend.

“I hope you like Mexican,” I said.

“I love Mexican,” Sarah said.

“Well lets go Thomas, we aren’t needed here,” Diane said.

“Bye Mom,” Sarah said from the funky kitchen.

“Okay kid get the big bowl from the tiny refrigerator,” I said.

“Which one there are two?” she asked.

“One is a salad I’m not sure which, I explained. “We are going to need both. You should get a coke as well. I don’t think you will like the iced tea I have in there.”

“What no beer?” she asked.

“No beer for you as long as you are in Ansonville. When did your mother start letting you drink beer?” I asked.

“Don’t worry she doesn’t. I was just checking on your sobriety status,” She informed me. “This Mexican casserole is excellent.”

“Juanita is an excellent Mexican cook,” I said with a smile. “So you are spying for your mother?”

“That was may only mission,” Sarah said.

“Good, let’s eat dinner in peace,” I suggested. “It’s good to have you home.”

“Thanks. but you really have to have some furniture. The place looks like a warehouse,” Sarah commented.

“Tomorrow we can go shopping,” I suggested. “I’m taking the day off to show you around.”

“We drove though town daddy. There is nothing to show,” Sarah said.

“Well, we are going to go shopping at the stores in Kinston. I bet we can find a furniture super store,” I suggested. “Just remember, I’m retired.”

Her room had a twin bed, a wall full of empty shelves and a night stand. There was a hanging bar which ran three feet from the shelf unit to the wall. It anchored the shelves as well ad gave her a place to hang her clothes. I had a similar unit on my bedroom wall. I had found the shelf unit in the storeroom. I moved them shelves into the offices. The bed and those shelving units created bedrooms from the bare offices.

After dinner we sat at the bar in the kitchen to watch the TV. I had a satellite dish so there was a choice of shows.

“Your TV is so small,” Sarah said.

“When we get a bigger one for the living room, we can install it in your bedroom,” I suggested.

“I’m going to my room to unpack and call my boyfriend,” Sarah said around 10PM.

“Okay, but don’t stay up too late,” I demanded.

The next morning I took a shower and dressed before she awoke. When she still showed no signs of movement, I left her a note and did a bike patrol of the town. It had become a habit. I knew I was going to have to buy a bike of my own, and maybe even one for Sarah. I doubted it but one could hope.

The living room had one wall full of display shelves left behind by he owner. My plan was to clean and oil them, then turn them into feature wall complete with entertainment center. Sarah should like that, I thought. That was all decided while riding my bike through town. I stopped at the Downtown Diner for take out. The owner seemed happy to know Sarah was in town for the summer. It could have been because I doubled my breakfast order. I carried the large plastic bag over the handle bars to get it the block and a half home.

When I went inside, I found that Sarah had not bothered to get out of bed. I knocked on her door. “Hey lazy bones, breakfast is served in the main dining room. Get your ass down there now.”

I went to the kitchen for coffee while I waited. I turned on the TV on the rolling cart also a ‘hand me down’ from the store days. Mr new plan called for that TV to go to Sarah’s room and a slightly larger one to go on the display wall, which previously held men’s suits.

Sarah looked like hell when she arrived downstairs. I tried hard not to mention it, but failed miserably. “So did you sleep at all last night?” I asked.

“Some, not much. I guess it was the strange bed and strange noises,” she said.

“There are no noises here,” I replied.

“That’s what you think,” she said with a smile. “There were clicks and bangs all night,”

“That was the radiators nothing to worry about. You’ll get used to them,” I explained. “Today we buy electronics. I’m going to have to wear my cop suit so I can use the SUV. It’s going to rain and my pickup will just screw everything up,” I explained.

“Do I get to wear handcuffs?” she asked with a wicked smile.

“Not this time,” I replied seriously.

“That was a good breakfast by the way,” Sarah said after finishing off half her biscuit.

“Then why did you leave half of it,” I said.

“I try to watch my weight,” she explained.

“Okay, do you want to do a bike ride with me in the mornings?” I asked.

“Not if you are going to wear that cop suit,” she said.

“Get ready and we will get started on the first big day of the summer,” I said.

When Sarah came back an hour later she looked like a different person. Her hair was combed and styled. She was wearing make up. She was all dolled up but also wearing funky clothes. Torn Jeans and a sweatshirt obviously two sizes to large. Worst of all was the nose ring. I tinkered with the idea of letting it go, but again I just couldn’t ignore it.

“Nose ring really?” I asked. “What are you a bull?”

“Hardly,” she said with a hint of attitude.

“Let’s make a deal you and I. You leave the nose ring at home and I won’t object to the triple ear piercings.” I said.

“No deal, you are just being a bastard because you can,” she said.

“That is true, but I’ll tell you why. I’m the police chief and people expect me to act a certain way. Part of that is to be in control. That includes control of my family. So I need you not to be look too much like a junkie whore. I expect your mom knew this would come up early in your visit. That’s why they are just twenty miles away,” I said.

The attitude remained but she removed the nose ring. “Only when we are out in public,” She demanded.

“Fair enough,” I admitted.

“For your part of the bargain, if I want to dye my hair pink, not a word,” she demanded.

“Damn you drive a hard bargain,” I said with a laugh.

She removed the nose ring and we drove to Kinston. I drove into the Walmart parking lot.

“God I hate Walmart,” she said.

“Okay but we need a slightly larger TV for the downstairs, so lets get it here. You will be gone in a couple of months, and I’ll never use a smart TV again. So let’s buy a cheap and dumb one here,” I suggested.

She also found a knock together plastic table for a bedside lamp, but mostly to hold her phone charger. It was cheap and I promised her anything for the room as long as it stayed behind. I also bought three bright orange plastic milk carton storage boxes for her clothes. She agreed to keep them on the shelf unit not all over the room.

She also picked out a bike from their large selections. I wrote down the name in case I came back to get it without her. I picked up a cheap toaster for her frozen waffles. I already had two boxes of them in the cart.

My check out was almost five hundred bucks. I can’t say I didn’t expect it. I know they say you can’t buy love. I also know that the people who said it didn’t have a teenage girl.

We stopped by a furniture super store for a sofa set. The one she chose was a comfortable three cushion over stuffed canvas looking set. She also chose a stand alone chair. The sofa set was brown but the chair was gold colored. I had to admit, Sarah had good taste. She chose two tables for the living room to complete the almost two grand purchase. I put them on my credit card with the intention of moving some money around to pay for them before the end of the month.

During the afternoon Sarah installed her nose ring. Then she and I worked on the heavy living room display case. We washed it with a cleaner meant for antique surfaces, then rubbed it down with a furniture oil to protect it. When we finished it was gorgeous.

While we worked the furniture super store called to arrange for an early morning delivered of our new living room. I knew better than to ask Sarah to remove the nose ring, so I didn’t.

The next morning I rode my bike while Sarah slept. Since everything appeared quiet, I covered the town, then rode to the diner. I ordered one biscuit and one order of hash brown potatoes.

“Your daughter gone already,” the owner asked with a concerned look.

“No, she is just dieting. It’s one of those teenage girl things,” I replied.

When I arrived home, I cut the biscuit in half and split the potatoes then called her. I watched her struggle down the stairs, then eat her breakfast.

“Did you sleep any better?” I asked.

“Yes but it’s just so quiet,” Sarah said with a laugh. “Except for the heat in here.”

“You’ll miss the noise when you go home,” I suggested. ‘We don’t really need the heat, except for the 3AM ocean breeze. It will be warm I’m told by the natives.”

“I don’t think I’ll miss that noise at all,” she said.

“Since I have been here, I have done my own laundry. I expect you would prefer I not do yours, so I’m going to call Raul to see if his wife could use some extra money. We can get one of those cloth laundry bags for each of us. I can drop them off and then pick them up the next day. Would that be okay with you?” I asked.

“Sure whatever,” she said with the attitude again.

“His wife Juanita is the one who made the casserole we had for your first meal here,” I said.

Before the delivery arrive, I called Raul. Before I offered him money, I was careful to make it sound like I needed a favor. Since I usually cost me over ten dollars to do my own laundry, I offered him twenty five a week cash to do both of our laundry. To Raul’s credit he asked his wife first. He came back to the phone and gave me his address. I told him it might be couple of days before I needed her services. I also thanked him profusely being sure to explain there was never any rush on the laundry.

By the time the Delivery came we had the smaller TV in Sarah’s room. We also found that the Satellite dish worked just fine. When the delivery men left, we also had a furnished living room. All that by the time Saturday night dinner was served. Well I didn’t serve it the Downtown Diner waitress did.

After dinner we drove the twenty miles to the beach. I found the pier, then picked up a cup of coffee. Sarah and I walked to an empty bench to sit watching the waves roll in.

“This would be great if my boyfriend was here,” Sarah said.

“Yeah, I guess so,” I said thoughtfully. “But the water is still calming. Take a picture of it for him.”

She raised her phone to take the shot of he moon over the breaking waves. It would most likely be a very nice image for my wall as well. Since she had a smart phone, I asked her, “Mail me a copy of that file in as high a definition as possible please. I’ll get a large wall size print made. That way I can have a part of your visit forever.”

“Ah dad that is so sweet,” she said.

“We need to talk about your days here,” I said. “We have to find you a way to pass them.”

“How about I just sleep all day,” she suggested.

“Sarah that’s how people get into trouble. Believe me thirty year with the Baltimore Police taught me that if nothing else. Idle hands and all that. I have a friend at the Happy Valley Retirement Village I would like for you to consider volunteering there. If she offers you a part time job, it’s up to you. You can only do it for a couple of months, so most likely it will have to be volunteer work.

It you commit to it, you will have to honor your commitment and no nose ring. The Easter bunny hair you need to ask her about,” I said. “This will really look good on your college application.”

“Stop with the sales pitch. I was sold after you pointed out there was nothing to do in this town. I had that impressing as we drove though the streets,” she said.

“Good be dressed tomorrow at 9AM and I’ll drive you out to talk to her. That is if she can see you. She is a busy lady,” I explained.

“Good enough, can we go home and watch the Zombie show on TV now?” she asked.

I really enjoyed having her around, even if it did mean watching zombies on TV. She also loved British TV mysteries. I had already found that they were not nearly as boring as I remembered them.

“Security Director Booth,” her voice said into the phone.

“Ms Booth, this is Chief Rogers I would like for you to meet my daughter today. She has decided she would like to volunteer at at the village. I hope you can find something to occupy her.”

“I would be happy to speak with her. If I think she will be a good fit, I’m sure we can keep her busy,” She said. “That is the idea isn’t it?”

“Yes of course, but I don’t expect you to damage your operation out there just keep her occupied for a month or so,” I said.

“Bring her out around lunch time, and I’ll spring for lunch,” she said. “You said she was sixteen I think.”

“I don’t remember saying it, but she is,” I said.

“Good we have some kitchen people eighteen she might enjoy their company,” Betty said.

I called Sarah to give her a pickup time of 11:30AM. I got my work done before 11:00 I filled in the comprehensive time request for two hours, then handed it to Lucy and her trainee. The trainee was a part time clerk in the water and sewer department who had wanted to go full time. She seemed to be bright enough. God knows she was more attractive than Lucy, not that it mattered. It didn’t matter because I had no choice in that job. Lucy and the new girl were city employees not Police department employees.

Miss Allison Dempsey was in her mid twenties and was very attractive. She would have been more attractive if she would gain thirty pounds. She looked anorexic. I’m told that it was a new wave goth look. I could imagine her working in one of the zombie clubs over weekends. Maybe to support herself while she was a part time employee, she could easily have been a zombie stripper. I knew I was not allowed to ask that, but it still made me chuckle.

I sat at home having a glass of instant iced tea, which I stored in previously used milk jugs. Sarah found it gross, but that didn’t have any impact of my plans for the future.

“So what kind of things am I going to be doing out there?” Sarah asked.

“First of all, I’m not sure they will accept you. Second, if they do I have no control over what you will do,” I explained. “I’m just your designated driver.”

“I have to wait until I get back home before I can apply for a learners permit, bummer,” she said.

“It’s not far out to Happy Valley, I can find you a ride I expect,” I informed her.

Sarah idea of being ready would never fly with an employer. She had to finish her hair and make up after she should have be ready to leave. It was a good thing that we had no start time for the interview.

When we arrive, Betty was waiting for us. She took Sarah into her office for the official part of her interview. Sarah had to fill out her application before anything could be started. When all that was done, I had to wait while Sarah was taken to yet another office.

“Well I start tomorrow, I’m going to do a week or so with housekeeping. I won’t be cleaning though. There is a lot of training required for that. I’ll be assisting anyone who needs help,” Sarah said.

“Good how many days a week and what hours,” I asked.

“Three week days and one day over the weekend,” Sarah said. “It’s a good thing you have no life.”

“Yes it is,” I said.

“Betty is taking us to lunch in the staff dining room,” she said.

“That should be interesting,” I agreed.

Betty introduced us to several of the people who worked on the support teams at Happy Valley. I didn’t even try to remember them. Halfway through my cheese burger and fries the yard crew came in. The young men were of interest to Sarah, so I took a little interest them as well. I saw that there were a lot of young Latino men on the crew, but that didn’t surprise me. They all looked clean cut which shouldn’t have surprised me considering the number of retired military residents. To keep the peace I’m sure the personnel office screened the applicants hard.

“So chief we are thinking we could use Sarah between 9A and 5P. Would that be a problem?” Betty asked.

“Absolutely not,” I said.

“Good,” Betty replied. “I need to get back to my office, can you find your way out?”

“Of course,” I replied.

“I’ll see you at 9AM sharp tomorrow,” Betty said to Sarah. “Remember black slacks you furnish, and the tee we will give you tomorrow.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Sarah replied. I liked that show of respect I have to admit. Betty nodded and then was gone.

“So I guess we go buy you some black slacks?” I asked.

“Yes most of the girls get theirs at Walmart. Betty told me that while you were checking out the Colonel,” Sarah said.

“Well at least I wasn’t checking out Betty’s ass,” I said.

“You did that several times. You do know you are wasting your time. Betty is gay,” Sarah informed me.

“Oh exactly how do you know that?” I asked.

“You aren’t the only one who notices things. She has a picture on her desk. It shows her and another woman in wedding dresses,” Sarah said.

“That doesn’t prove anything,” I said just to argue with her.

“It was a typical wedding shot of the bride and groom at the alter only it is of two women in wedding gowns. It’s what gay brides do,” Sarah explained.

“Should I be worried that you know so much about the lesbian life style,” I asked.

“Don’t worry dad I’m not gay, but I have friends who are,” she said.

“Enough,” I said stopping her before she confessed anything. I also laughed.

“Okay, so lets just go straight to Walmart,” she suggested.

“No can do. I have to go to work. Be ready of five and I’ll take you then. We can eat in Kinston,” I volunteered.

When I got home at five she met me at the door. “We don’t have to go to Walmart. I already bought my slacks,” Sarah admitted.

“Where did you go,” I asked.

“Myra, Juanita’s daughter called. She wanted to know if we had our laundry ready yet. I told her we didn’t need it done yet. Then I asked if she knew a place here to buy clothes. She explained about an under ground clothing store. I walked couple of blocks to the store. I only bought one pair. I wanted to see how they did before I bought more. Besides they only one one pair in my size,” she told me.

“So you are going to need more than that,” I stated.

“I know, but it can wait. Myra is a year older and she drives her mother around, she is going to call me when they go to Walmart to buy groceries. So I’m going to need money,” she said.

“Okay you get one hundred dollars for clothes. It has to last your whole visit so buy wisely,” I suggested.

The call came on Wednesday after Sarah’s day at Happy Valley. So it worked out well. I also gave her twenty bucks to buy us a medium frozen pizza. I feared my toaster wasn’t large enough for a large one. Sarah and Myra apparently bonded well.

Myra invited Sarah to the community center Sunday after noon. The community center was holding some kind of county band concert. I expected it to be less than Sarah’s cup of tea, but I really had no idea what her cup of tea was in those days. I spent Sunday on my bike, then cleaning the building. It really was beginning to look like a home.

“So how was the band concert?” I asked Sarah when she arrived home.

“Fine,” was all she said.

“Okay, how was work?” I asked.

“It was fine. I got offered a job with the landscape crew. Happy Valley offered to pay me, but it would mean keeping regular hours. 8AM till 4PM,” she explained.

“If you took that you would need to ride your bike. There is a route that is all rural so there isn’t much traffic,” I was already planning for her to be armed with pepper spray and a stun gun. Yes her safety was an issue even in rural North Carolina.

“That would be a five mile ride twice a day,” she said.

“Yes it would. Everyone needs a little cardio workout. It’s absolutely up to you, but I think it would work fine,” I suggested.

“I already said yes,” she informed me.

“Then we need to get you a bike today. Let’s go to Walmart in Kinston and look for a beach cruiser that isn’t too girlie since I’ll be riding it after you leave.” Her smile told me she agreed.

The drive was filled with details about the job. According to Sarah the language of choice for the crew was Spanish. Also according to her, it was a good thing she had finished her second year of advanced Spanish. Of course she didn’t know shit about horticulture, but I expected her job would be no more than watering and cutting grass. There was certainly enough grass to cut out there.

Monday morning we left home at 7AM for the time trials. I took a picture with my cell phone. I wanted to compare how she looked that first morning and how she would look a month later. I added an air horn to her 24” blue cruiser bicycle, so that she could make a loud noise if she needed to do so.

I figured we had time for breakfast, but decided to monitor the uninterrupted speed instead. It took us twenty nine minutes exactly from my building to the door of the administration building. The thirty minute ride would be good for us both. I could ride with her in the morning, since I did it everyday anyway.

I waved to Lester as he passed. Sarah left me to enter the side door of the administration building. She was all smiles though they might have been forced smiles.

The return ride was a little longer as I went on a circle of downtown on my way to the Downtown Diner. I had a breakfast special and coffee before moving on to the station. There had been no calls from the 911 system over night. I expected a call or two when the businesses started to open.

Sure enough we got a call about some truck vandalism. Lester had finished his tour so Mike and I rode over to the scene. It was a broken windshield. Since it lay on the hood of the beast, the offending object used was pretty obvious. It was one of the smaller type concrete blocks.

“Well prints are out,” Mike said.

“With the cost vs benefits assessment, so is DNA testing,” I said. “Find out if any of the workers are absent today.”

“While I’m at it I’ll see if anyone has been fired recently,” Mike suggested.

“You might want to go back a year. Sometimes it takes a while for the anger to grow into actions,” I suggested. I just wanted Mike to realize an investigation had to be thorough. “Be sure Lucy enters it into the local data bank. Something may ring a bell or something next month might.”

“Right Boss,” Mike said. “By the way, Nelson the mechanic over in the city garage saw you on the bike this morning. He said if you brought the bike by, he would shoot it with a black and white paint job.”

“Hell Mike, I just might do that,” I replied.

“Boss what do you think about me getting a bike from the impound to do my patrolling. I could use the exercise.” Mike suggested. “I could store it in the training room down in the basement.”

“Sure if you think you can keep up your work on a bike, I’m fine with it,” I said.

“Thanks boss,” Mike said.

“While I returned my messages, which included Happy Valley, Mike wrote his report. He also clued Allison, who was the new Lucy, in on the uses of the local data bank.

“Hello Ms Booth what can I do for you?” I asked.

“I wanted to let you know how Sarah is doing. She is a very willing worker. She is out there pushing a lawn mover in the hot sun. So far she hasn’t complained,” Betty said.

“That’s good to hear, but I don’t think you called me just to tell me Sarah is a good employee,” I said.

“Caught me, I was hoping I could get a tour of your building on Main Street.” she said.

“Oh are you thinking about doing the same?” I asked.

“Maybe do you have any advice for me?” she asked.

“Yeah, don’t believe what anybody says. It’s going to cost more than the seller says, and less than the renovation experts tell you. You just have to know what you really need and in what century you wish to live,” I said. “Come by anytime to get the tour of the last century renovation.”

“How about this Friday night?” she asked.

“Absolutely Sarah and I will be glad to have you,” I said.

“Can we make it for 7PM?” she asked.

“Wonderful, come tour the building and stay for dinner. I have found a great place for shrimp,” I advised her.

She broke the connection after saying “Wonderful.”

I had a few days to try to figure out what she really wanted. I already knew that it was something she wanted done, but for some reason didn’t feel she could do it herself. Like last time, if the favor cost me nothing, I might consider it. If it had a cost, I likely wouldn’t do it. Then again she owed me one. Maybe she just wanted to return my last favor. I wouldn’t hold my breath for that.

The days dragged by until Friday. Sarah had gone to work every morning while riding her bike with me. Then she rode back on the bike by herself. I always worried but she had made it home without any injuries do far.

“So you are home,” I said on the Friday afternoon at almost 6PM.

“Of course I’m home. What’s the big deal?” Sarah asked.

“I taking Betty Booth to dinner after she tours our home. So go make your bed and put away your clothes. She will be here in an hour,” I said.

“You and gay Betty are going to dinner?” Sarah asked.

“Yes we are,” I said.

“I never figured you for a liberal,” Sarah said.

“There are lots of things about me that you do not know,” I said. I went upstairs to straighten up my room and the bathroom before Ms Booth arrived.

When Betty arrived Sarah was very nice to her, but also rather cool. She seemed to be a little standoffish. I put it down to teenage hormone overload and just took Betty on the tour. She seemed rather impressed with all I had managed to do. She loved that I had used a lot of the salvaged material from the former clothing store. She also praised Sarah’s taste. Sarah smiled at Betty’s praise, so I decided the time was right.

“So ladies dinner time in small town USA. Sarah you are coming with us,” I demanded.

“No I’m not. I know where you are headed and I am not going to eat greasy food tonight. I’m going to have a frozen mac & cheese dinner. You two go along to the fish and chips store alone. Just don’t do anything I would do,” she said.

“Okay smart ass, we are headed to Wrightsville Island,” I said.

It was 9PM when we arrived. The fish and chips food truck was parked in the fishing pier’s parking lot. I got a plastic Walmart bag filled with newspaper wrapped trays of deep fried fresh fish and french fries. There were also trays of coleslaw inside the plastic bag. Betty Booth and I sat on bench almost at the end of the pier eating the food.

“You know I have lived here two years and I’ve never been here. I always thought this was a snooty private beach,” Betty said.

“Maybe it is. This is kind of a little island inside the larger island. It’s a place for fishermen to mix with the tourist. At least the ones who are not part of the snooty crowd. There is even a beer bar across the street with beer so cold it hurts your teeth. At least that’s what a marine told me last time I came to this pier alone,” I said.

“Was he trying to pick you up,” Betty asked.

“I doubt it. Even if he had been that was the wrong approach I’m a reformed drunk,” I said.

“I need to know something. How do you feel about pornography?” she asked.

“I really don’t have and opinion. You would probably find some on my computer if you checked,” I answered. “I’m not a porn addict even though I don’t run away from it.”

“Okay how do you feel about child porn?” she asked.

“I do draw the line there. It’s illegal for one thing, and just wrong for another. Best I can determine the producers of it are truly evil. Much like drugs the buyers of it really drive the market. That’s why possession of it is illegal,” I said. “So tell me why do you ask?”

“What if you had a confidential informant, one who refused to be named. Could you keep his name out of the investigation?” she asked.

“I could try, but no guarantees. Before I gave him or her up, I would advise them. I probably would need to give the name to a judge for a search warrant,” I said.

“Yeah try to figure out something else,” she said.

“Is this person with the porn a collector or dealer,” I asked.

“That’s not information to which the informant has access,” she said.

“Well I’ll investigate it, but there is not a lot to go on here,” I said while eating my last french fry. “How did you discover the information.”

“He found out I’m gay, so he sent me an email. The email had links to some private site supposedly on the dark web. The website isn’t listed anywhere you have to know it is there to get to it. Anyway there was a lot of gay pornography. Mostly of interest to men but some would be interesting to women I suppose. It was very graphic to be honest. Like you I’m ambivalent about porn, but there were some images of grown women and very young girls. Of course also men and boys. He emailed again to ask me how I enjoyed the images of women with girls. He referred to them by number. Then he offered to sell me a membership to the site. So I have no idea whether he is the web owner, or just a member. He told me that the password changes every week, so only members have access to it on a regular basis.”

“You know this is likely to be too wide spread for me to handle,” I said.

“Yes, but I can’t be named in the warrants, but you can. So, I need you to come up with a story to get an investigation started,” She explained.

“It’s going to be a problem. There is no way I could know a local resident involved in Internet porn without having a CI, or running a sting. Even then I would need probable cause,” I suggested.

“Give it some thought I have faith in you,” she said.

“Very well I’ll let you know if I come up with anything,” I promised. I drove her back to the main street building where she had left her car. I was more than a little surprised when she kissed me good night at her car. The fact that she kissed me at all was a surprise, and that she did it on main street was also a surprised. I realized, that since there was no one in town to see us, it meant nothing at all.

Since the front door was unlocked, I just walked into the building. I was a little upset by the unlocked door. I was on my way to remind Sarah that even small towns have criminals when I heard the noise on the second floor. It sounded like Sarah was injured. I rushed up the stairs. I did stop long enough to grab my .38 Colt detective special from my bedroom.

I was listening at the door ready to perform a hard breach, aka kick the door, when I heard Sarah’s voice. The words convinced me she wasn’t being assaulted. Well maybe but I doubted I could get a conviction based on her words. I was seriously considering breaking the door and shooting whoever was inside with her.

She was underage but at sixteen what could I do. Any thing I did at that moment would most likely alienate her. I chose to return to the downstairs the have a cup of coffee. I hadn’t seen a car parked in the street when I pulled into the alley. There was not a car in the alley either.

“When I got down stairs, I walked into the first floor rear storage room. Since I used the room for temporary storage, we hadn’t done any renovations there. I found three bicycles in the room. Someone had ridden a bicycle to visit Sarah. Hopefully that meant he was younger. Somehow his being close to her age would make it easier to stomach. Unless he was some kind of thug. Young thugs rode bikes, I thought. I was just making myself crazy with all the guessing.

“Sarah, we need to talk,” I shouted up the stairs. After a second I added, “bring your friend with you.”

After ten minutes I called up again. “Come on guys it’s time to face the music,” I said.

The young man looked terrified. Sarah looked defiant. “Have a seat,” I said walking into the kitchen for more coffee. When I turned around, they were sitting at the kitchen’s dining bar.

“I would ask you what the hell you were doing in my house, but I have a pretty good idea. What I want to know is why you decided to disrespect me this way?” I asked. I just sat there looking at them waiting for an answer. Neither of them spoke of course.

“Mr. Rogers we didn’t mean to disrespect you. I just got carried away sir,” the boy said. “It wasn’t planned.

“Kid what’s your name?” I asked.

“Randy Reynolds sir,” he said.

“How old are you Randy?” I asked.

“I’m nineteen sir,” he said.

“Randy did you know Sarah was sixteen?” I asked.

“Yes sir, but she is very mature for her age,” Randy said.

“Daddy please you are scaring him,” she said.

“Good, he should be scared. Besides being guilty of statutory rape, he almost go his ass shot tonight. I should take your ass to the hospital and have them do a rape kit on you. Then get a DNA sample from Mr. Reynolds here and arrest him. Tell me why I shouldn’t.” I demanded of Sarah.

“Daddy it’s no big deal. Kids do it all the time. Even much younger kids do it now. Mom knows I’m not a virgin. She put me on the pill, so she doesn’t have to worry,” Sarah informed me.

“Randy get on your bike and get out of hear. Don’t let me see any reference to tonight on social media sites, do you understand me?” I asked.

“Yes sir,” he said.

Sarah walked him to the back door. She didn’t even kiss him goodbye.

“How did you two meet,” I asked when she returned.

“He is working at the Valley for the summer,” she said.

“Doing what?” I asked.

“He is a cook in the kitchen. When it starts this fall, he is going culinary school in New York,” She explained. “He wants to open a restaurant of his own.”

“Good,”

“Go take a shower then go to bed. We will talk again in the morning.”

“I fixed a glass of the instant iced tea, then took an allergy pill. Twenty minutes later I was calm enough to try sleeping. It didn’t come easy, but it did come.

I almost wished it hadn’t. I had a dream. In the dream I pushed into Sarah’s bedroom and found her doing the things her mother and I did back in the day. Only it was Sarah’s images not Diane’s I saw.

The most troubling one was when Randy’s image was replace by mine. It shocked me into waking in a cold sweat. I could not get back to sleep, nor did I want to do so.

I rode the streets of Ansonville on my bike until well past breakfast time. I was upset with Sarah sure, but a lot of it was me being haunted by the images I had seen in my sleep.

Fortunately Sarah was gone when I arrived home. She came in about 5PM and went to her room with a bag of burgers from a fast food restaurant on the highway to Kinston. I was still upset, so I said little to her the rest of that night.

Sunday after my morning patrol of the town, I got a call from the 911 dispatcher. It wasn’t an emergency call, but most of our calls came through them anyway. The manager of a Thrift store was holding a shoplifter for me.

I grabbed my badge on a chain and climbed into the Marked SUV for the ten block drive to the small warehouse store. When I entered the cashier pointed me to the manager’s office.

I found the large black woman sitting in a lawn chair. I didn’t get to say a word before she started with the Attitude. “I knows my rights,” she said.

I nodded to her than asked the manager, “Do you by chance have cameras inside?”

“I do and I have footage of Miss Black shoving clothes into that big ass purse,” he said.

“Let’s look inside that purse of yours Miss Black,” I demanded.

“Hell no, you ain’t looking into my purse. I knows my rights,” she repeated.

“Then let me explain them to you. I’m going to arrest you for shoplifting. Stand up and put your hands behind your back.” When she had done that I slipped a zip tie around her hands. Then I read her the Miranda warnings. I opened her bag and found the items the manager identified as his inventory. There were a couple of things he didn’t have her on tape stealing. I checked her driver’s license for her full name. I needed it for the booking sheet an my report.

“Make me a copy of this file. I need to take it into evidence as well.” I put everything into a plastic bag which I brought in with me.

It was 4PM before I cleared the courthouse in Kinston. I had her get her before a magistrate and then into the system before I could leave. I stopped for lunch on the way home. It was awful tight but I managed to do it all before I arrived home at 6pm. I didn’t give a damn what Sarah did for dinner.

Once inside I found the note on the bar. ‘Have gone to the concert at the community center with Myra.’ Sarah.

Of course I had my doubts about that. Still I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt one more time.

When my new doorbell rang, I was sitting at my laptop writing the Rhonda Black report. I walked to the door then looked out. I saw Betty Booth standing on the sidewalk.

“Well twice in the same week, people are going to talk,” I said.

“They might, I’m afraid this isn’t a social call. I really wish it were,” she said.

“That sounds really ominous. What’s up?” I asked.

“Dale, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the Happy Valley website was hacked sometime last night. We had to shut down the site, but we haven’t repaired it yet. I’m sure you want to investigate the unauthorized content posted on to it,” She said.

“What was posted on the site?” I asked fearing the answer for some reason.

“These were among other images.” She slid a stack of hard copies over the bar. The images were all young people in various pornographic poses. The last ones were the most disturbing because they were of Sarah in some unspeakable poses.

I felt sick seeing the images especially the ones of Sarah. I also saw some of Sarah and Randy in several compromising positions.

“I obviously need to talk to Sarah. I need to know who these men are. She is only sixteen. I intend to charge them all. I also intend to find out who the other kids are and charge their partners as well. I need to get the State Bureau of Investigation in to find out who hacked the website. We want everyone involved.

I think I will start with Randy Reynolds, can you give me his home address?” I asked.

“Tomorrow yes,” she replied. “I need to get with personnel to get the paper files. All our files are shut down as well as the web page. Tomorrow I can get the paper or the digital file on him. If he works for us,” Betty promised.

“Sarah told me he works in the kitchen,” I suggested.

“Well let’s just see about that,” Betty said. She dialed a number on the cell phone. Chef do you have a Randy Reynolds working for you?” She turned away and began to listen.

“Not a word Chef. I will be there in twenty minutes make sure Randy doesn’t leave before I arrive”

“Shall we go?” I asked.

“Do you want to call Sarah’s phone,” Betty asked.

“Better she doesn’t know that I’m looking for her,” I replied.

We drove the marked SUV. It was a little garish in the parking lot filled with dark SUV and sedans. We entered through the main doors to find the doors to the restaurant locked. Betty had a key of course.

The kitchen staff was hard at work cleaning. I found Randy busy scrubbing down a giant mixer. “Hi Randy, looks like you and I need to have a talk,” I said.

“Do I need a lawyer?” he said.

“Not yet, but I might need one,” I said showing him a photo of Sarah standing naked in front of him with her back to him. He had his arms around her and his hands covering her small breasts. “I’m considering beating you senseless.”

“Where did you get that?” he asked.

“Someone posted it on the Happy Valley website. If you know who, you need to speak up now,” I said. “We can keep this local, or I can call in the SBI. They are going to charge you with raping my daughter.”

“I swear it wasn’t rape and I had nothing to do with that image being on the Valley’s website. I swear to you chief,” he said.

“It is your image, who did you send it to?” I asked.

“I swear on my baby’s life, I didn’t send that picture to anyone. Sarah told me she was eighteen and was visiting for the summer,” Randy said.

“Well that picture didn’t get on the Valley website by itself,” I said to him. “You better come up with a better explanation, or you are going to do time,” I said. They probably need a decent cook in the state pen. You are going to be real popular there.

“Look, I took that picture Friday night before you caught us. You said the site was hacked Saturday night. My phone was in my locker over there during my shift on Saturday, and today even. Someone had to have taken it from there,” he said.

“Let me search your phone,” I asked. He handed it over. “The SBI will do a better job, but I want to see how many other pictures of Sarah there are.”

“That is the only one,” Randy said.

“Okay, even if I believe you, I am going to take you home computer as well. I also have to wonder how someone else knew to search your phone for that one photo?” I asked.

“Okay, I showed it to a friend on the day shift yesterday, no nobody got a copy of that image from me,” he said. “Don’t you need a warrant for search my home computer. I’m not giving you permission.

“Turn arround asshole. You are under arrest for statutory rape. Now I get a warrant,” I said. “Also I can keep you available for the SBI to interview. If everything you say can be verified, I will drop he rape charge. If not, I will be coming for you,” I explained.

Betty and I moved to her office. “Do you have a camera on the locker room?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “When the tech is here tomorrow, I’ll get you a copy of the file.”

“Okay Betty, but be prepared to testify about it all. Even the website. Were I you I would have the tech check your computer to be sure there is nothing incriminating on it.” I said.

Sure I thought she hacked the Happy Valley website. It gave her the excuse to roll up the guy with the porn site on the dark web. She could blame it on the hacker and me of course. I was for sure going to call the SBI at least maybe even the FBI. I hoped the Betty was good enough to hide her tracks. I was pretty sure law enforcement would get sidetracked by the porn site. I was willing to wait on my investigation into Sarah’s images, but I couldn’t put off the first discussions with her. I needed to hear her explanation, before I decided to beat the shit out of Randy. I had plenty of time before I made the decision whether or not to beat his ass and leave him on the side of some remote road. If I did that he would have a very long walk home possibly with a broken bone or two...

That night I needed to wait up for Sarah. I knew that I needed to talk to her before she had too long to think about her answers. I was sure Randy had been on the phone with her from the lockup. I sat drinking instant iced tea while I really wanted instant Jack Daniels. I chose to stay sober through one more crisis.

“Well hello Sarah, come on in and have a seat,” I said.

“I’m really tired,” she said.

“If you don’t I will come upstairs, get you out of bed, put you in cuffs, and take you to the station for interrogation. If you would rather play it that way we can do that,” I suggested.

“What are you talking about?” she asked without conviction.

“I’m talking about these,” I said I shoving the stack of prints Bette had given me. “It’s called child pornography, and it is a really big deal. I want to know what you know about these.”

“I have never seen this stuff,” she said. She seemed shocked. “How could you?”

“Shut up and just talk to me. Tell me how Randy came to be showing this crap around his workplace?” I asked pointing out the print of the two of them nude.

“Okay maybe I did that one but I did not do the others,” she said. “It’s disgusting that you think I would do this.”

“I want to believe you, but you didn’t exactly want me to see you and Randy in the buff either. So look carefully at those sick images and tell me where the faces came from. That is assuming you are telling me the truth about your not having any idea about the porn?” I demanded.

“Someone could have gone though my Facebook account and downloaded the images then photo-shopped them,” she said with tears streaming down her face.

“Who could have done it?” I asked. “These are very good images.”

“I have no idea,” she said.

“The images be sick but the quality of the photo shop work is first rated. You didn’t ask where I got them,” I said. “Is that because someone else has already told you?” She really looked confused.

“Tell me Sarah. I’m going to find out,” I demanded.

“Randy call me at the center to tell me what happened. He wanted me to lie for him. To tell you that he didn’t know how to do that, but he does know how.” she explained. “He made those images as a joke just for us, he said.”

“This just fucking gets better and better. He better get out of town fast when the SBI finishes their investigation,” I demanded.

“Please don’t hurt him,” Sarah said.

“I don’t have to. I’m going to show this to your mother,” I said in a hard cold voice.

“Daddy please don’t,” Sarah said.

“When the investigators get here, You tell them the absolute whole truth. I mean include every painful detail,” I said.

“I promise I will,” she said.

“Now go to bed before I take a belt to you,” I demanded. “By the way did you know he has a kid?”

“Not till tonight,” she said as she turned to the stairs.

The next morning after my ride around town I called the head of the Sex Crimes unit of the SBI and gave him a vague story about it all. I promised to allow him access to every witness of any time before I did formal interviews.

He agreed to send a team of investigators from the Raleigh office to our little town. “They will be there over night and ready to hit the ground running tomorrow. We may have to go to the FBI, but not too soon I hope. I don’t want to lose control to those jerks. They tend to try to freeze us out.” he said.

“I’ll have to take your word for it. I’m from Maryland,” I admitted. I called Betty at Happy Valley to advise her that she would be called upon sometime the next day. Then I called Sarah at the renovated clothing store to warn her. I also advised her that she better not try lying to to the SBI. “Understand that if you lie for Randy, I will cut her loose.”

When I got home Sarah met me at the door. “I don’t understand why this is such a big deal.” she stated.

“Trust me, it is a big deal. The hacking of the Happy Valley website is more than prank. It’s about people taking advantage of those who are less fortunate. Some of those kids will be scarred for life. These assholes need to be stopped. Whatever it takes to do that is what we have to do.”

“What do I do now?” she asked.

“Tomorrow you have to be interviewed. First of all dress like a church lady. No face jewelry, no skin showing, Get rid of the purple hair, if you can. You need to be respectful and don’t let them fluster you. Maybe I can work out a deal for you, if you want me to be in the room during the interview. Otherwise I’ll try to find you a lawyer who knows how the game is played.”

“No, I want you to be with me. Dad I’m so afraid,” she said.

“I know honey, just tell them everything and you will be okay,” I said. I hoped it was true.

When I arrived home after my morning bike ride and town patrol, I spotted the state unmarked car easily. It was a new black full sized Ford SUV. It wasn’t clean, so I supposed that it was an attempt to disguise it. It didn’t work it still looked like a cop car.

Inside the car sat a man and woman. Unless they were mother and son, they were unrelated. My guess was that she was the senior agent, though I really could have that backwards. In these days of quick promotion for digital savvy individuals, it was possible for a nerd to slip ahead of a hard working cops.

I tapped on the window of the driver’s side. The thirty something cop rolled down the window. “I’m Chief Rogers, can I help you?”

“I hope so,” the woman stated authoritatively. “Agents Mallo an Silvers.”

“Which are you Ma’am, the candy bar, or the Lone Ranger’s horse?” I asked.

“I’m Agent Mallo,” she replied without so much as a smile.

“So what is it I can do for you?” I asked.

“I had hoped we could get some information and some breakfast before we checked in officially,” she answered.

“Okay come on in while I wake my daughter. It won’t take long,” I promised.

The two of them followed me inside. The ride around town in the mornings wasn’t really a workout it was just a patrol. Therefore I wasn’t in need of a second shower. I was in need of coffee, which I had made before my ride. I reheated a cup in the microwave.

“You guys want a cup?” I asked.

“I think we can hold off till we get a restaurant,” Mallo answered for both of them

“Up to you,” I replied.

I climbed the stairs then knocked on Sarah’s door. “Wakey wakey,” I said before I entered.

“What time is it?” she asked.

“It’s 8:30 and time to answer for your actions. The SBI agents are here,” I said. “Get a move on so you can come out to breakfast with us.”

“Do I have to?” she asked.

“No you can go down to the station and wait for us there. What you don’t want is for me to have to send Mike for you,” I said.

“I checked the web last night and I don’t have to give you a statement,” she said.

“No you don’t, but then I proceed with the case against Randy Reynolds. I also link him to the child porno ring. That might get him ten years of being someone dance partner in the state pen,” I said.

“You would do that?” she asked.

“You bet your ass I would. You might understand in ten or twenty years. If not I can live with you hating me,” I explained. “Well to be honest it isn’t you ass you are betting with.

“I’ll meet you at the station at nine,” she said. “Can I have ten bucks for breakfast?”

“No put on your church lady outfit and meet with us at the Downtown Diner,” I explained.

When I got back downstairs I said, “She is going to join us for breakfast in a few minutes,” I suggested.

“So where is this place we are going?” Silvers asked.

“Two blocks, I’m going to walk, but you can drive. You can’t miss it. As you might guess this is a one cafe town,” I said.

I left the front door of 523 Main Street, turned left and quick marched the block and a half to the Diner. I got inside a couple of minutes before Mallo and Silvers. When they arrived, I was still standing talking to Andrew my renovator. I waved and found us a table for four.

“I see you didn’t have any problem finding the place,” I said with a smile.

“No we didn’t even have a problem finding a parking space,” Mallo said.

“Good, we missed the rush hour traffic,” I said. “It’s a little too crowded to talk about the case. Is there anything else you would like to know?”

“I think we can hold off till we get to the station. I’m hungry,” Silvers said.

“I would go with the breakfast special were I you,” I suggested. To the waitress I said, “I’m going to have an egg biscuit with a slice of cheese.”

She nodded then took the order of the other two. “Is Miss Sarah coming,” she asked.

“Yes, she is embarrassed to be seen walking with me,” I replied. “Of course we all want coffee. And Honey give the bill to the young lady.”

“Nice move Rogers,” the woman said.

“Dale please,” I said.

“Right Chief Rogers,” Silvers said.

I shrugged but didn’t speak. Sarah came in just as we finished. I introduced her to both the Agents. “She is going to meet us at the station after breakfast. Aren’t you Sarah?” I asked.

“Sure dad,” she said.

The three of us left her sitting in the restaurant soon after her arrival. “You two drive on down to the police station. I’m going to walk. At our age it’s good to walk everywhere we can.” I said to the two of them.

When I arrived, I found the two of them waiting in my office. Ashley had taken the initiative and seated them in the office. “Sorry about making you wait. Ordinarily I ride the bike in, but today I walked just to drag this out a little.”

“Why would you do that,” Mallo asked.

“Well one of the witnesses/suspects is my daughter Sarah. I wanted her to get a good meal before we took her statement. I don’t want her to have any excuses.” I said. “Here is the background for the weekend from hell. On Friday night I took Betty Booth the head of security at the Happy Valley Retirement Village to dinner. I renovated the building where Sarah and I live. Betty came for the tour and then we went to dinner.

Dinner ended early so I got home earlier than expected. I entered carefully because I found the front door unlocked. I didn’t see Sarah, but I heard noise from upstairs. I was afraid she might be hurt because of the sounds, so I went up. I stood by the door ready to kick it in, but the sounds I heard more clearly convinced me that she was not in danger. I went downstairs calmed down while a cup of coffee heated up, then called to her.

A few minutes she and a young man came downstairs. When I questioned the young man, I found him to be a nineteen year old young man named Randy Reynolds. Sarah begged me not to process it as a statutory rape, so I gave them both a lecture and threat, then sent him on his way.

Relations were cold between Sarah and I the next day. I was trying to come to grips with the facts as I knew them to be., but having little success.

Then Sunday morning I got a visit from Ms Booth. She explained her employer’s Website had been hacked. She also brought me these.” I said it as I handed Mallo the printed images. “They were added to the website.”

“I gave some serious thought to beating hell out of Randy Reynolds, since one of the images of Sarah also features Randy. I advises Ms Booth to pull the website down, but to preserve all the code, both old and new.”

“Of course I talked to Randy. During the discussion I became aware he was a risk to destroy evidence of a hacking, so I arrested him for the rape of my daughter. That allowed me to seize his computer and other evidence from his home. That is where we stand as of this moment. I’m ready to bow out of the investigation, or to cooperated in any way you would like.

One thing though, I insist on being involved in any interrogation of Sarah. Anything else you can do whatever you want and let the chips fall where they may,” I said. The whole narrative took about ten minutes.

Then the follow up questions took about twenty. In all Sarah had been waiting thirty minutes or more.

“Okay you can sit in on the interrogation of your daughter. You can ask us to end the interview, but do not advise her how to answer the questions. Is that clear,” Mallo demanded.

“Abundantly,” I said.

“You realize there could be somethings you don’t want to hear?” Silvers asked.

“Yeah I get it. Why don’t you advise Sarah that she can ask me to leave at any point in the interview. Let her decide what is too embarrassing for her,” I suggested.

“Let’s do it that way,” Mallo suggested. “You are sure we can interview this Randy Reynolds?”

“Yes the judge didn’t schedule his bail hearing till Friday after seeing the hacking evidence,” I said.

You said here one of the images was on his cell phone and several more were on his laptop,” Silvers said.

“Yes, but you need to talk to Ms Booth. Her story leads me to believe there are others involved in a much wider child pornography site somehow connected to the hacking incident. It might even be international,” I explained.

“Okay, we will go where it leads us,” Mallow said.

“This might be the kind of case that make your career,” I said.

“Or ends my career,” Mallo said. Silvers nodded his head in agreement.

“I have an idea,” I said. “Let’s leave Sarah here while we go have a cup of coffee. Let her stew for a while.”

“That borders on being evil,” Silvers said.

“I need to make sure she isn’t going to lie for that asshole. I don’t think she knowingly posed for child porn, but that feeling is not supported by any facts,” I explained.

“Sarah we have to run out to speak to someone before we speak to you. It will only take a few minutes so just hang tight,” I said.

Sarah looked absolutely miserable. It should have moved me, but I was still upset with her attitude. I just felt anger in her behavior with Randy and whoever else she was sleeping with. I really wanted to know why she felt the need to hop into bed with a stranger, and how long it had been going on. I could tell from the way the two SBI agents looked at me they were dumbfounded as well. Probably their questions would be different, but they had plenty of ground to cover.

“Why don’t we go check on a place for dinner? I would really like a place where everything isn’t fried in the same grease,” Silvers suggested.

“It’s just 10AM. Isn’t that a little early to be worrying about dinner?” I asked.

“Silvers is an obsessive compulsive,” Mallo said. “The grease thing is just the compulsive worry de jour.”

“Let’s get a cup of coffee instead,” I suggested.

When we returned to the station, we had been gone a half hour. First thing I had to do was introduce everyone to Mike the day shift cop. He was really impressed with the two SBI agents. Hero worship I expected.

“Come on Sarah. We will go into the interrogation room. Let me turn on the recorder and lock the observation room. We don’t want any peeping toms,” I explained.

When everyone was seated I identified all of us all for the tape. Agent Mallo would you like to begin?” I asked.

“Sarah, I have a twelve year old daughter so I’m not totally ignorant of how things work. So lets start with an easy one. Was last Friday night your first sexual encounter with Randy Reynolds?” Mallo asked.

“It was the first real encounter between us. We had flirted and kissed before that night,” Sarah admitted.

“When he showed up at your house, did you expect that to happen?” Mallo asked.

“I guess so,” Sarah said.

“Is it true that you knew he was over eighteen?”

“Yes I knew. I like older boys,” Sarah answered.

“How old is the oldest boy you have slept with?” she continued.

“A high school teacher, who was really old, maybe thirty,” Sarah said.

“It’s good that you told us that. It will go a long way in helping your dad to decide to drop the rape charges,” Mallo said.

“Good, because it wasn’t rape,” Sarah said.

“It does seem that way. Now about the picture of the two of you nude. Whose idea was that?”

“It was Randy’s idea something to remember the experience,” Sarah suggested.

Mallo was very good, I thought. She was building a case against Randy for kiddie porn.

“Did he show your picture of other girls?” Mallo asked.

“A couple, but it didn’t mean anything. Those were taken before we did anything. He said he would delete them since he had me,” Sarah said. “It made no sense, but sometimes her thinking was unimaginable to me. I struggled not to tell her she was a fool.

“Now Sarah explain about the other images of you, the pornographic ones?” Mallo asked.

“I don’t know anything about them,” she said.

“Well to produce them someone had to have pictures of you. You may not have been doing any erotic poses, but they needed head shots at least,” Mallo informed her. “Did Randy or anyone else take a lot of pictures of you recently?”

“Yes Randy made a lot of pictures of me. I just thought he liked me. Friday night he showed me a dozen or so that were naked and doing things. He said no one else would ever see them unless I wanted them to see. I had no idea he photoshopped me into those poses. He promised to delete them. I was shocked when dad showed them to me again and said they were on the Happy Valley Website,” Sarah informed her.

“Could Randy have hacked the Happy Valley Retirement Village Website?” Mallo asked.

“I honestly don’t know,” Sarah said. “I don’t think that he is that big a nerd.”

“Okay, let’s take a break and start again after lunch. Let’s end the tape for now,” she said.

“Sarah is there anything you wish to tell me off the official record,” Mallo asked.

“I don’t want Randy to go to jail. He really didn’t mean any harm. He was just showing off his skills. That is what he said,” Sarah explained. “As far as the sleeping together goes that no big deal, right?”

“Honey that remains to be scene a lot has to do with his intent. I’ll have a talk with him this afternoon or in the morning. After that I will make a recommendation to the prosecutors. Nothing you said to me today hurt his case, I can assure you of that.” Mallow was lying her ass off, and I approved of it.

“We need to get that phone and laptop to our lab,” Agent Silvers said after Sarah left to wait for me outside.

“Make sure those images don’t leak,” I demanded.

“You should worry about Randy, not me,” Silvers said.

“I worry about everything,” I replied.

“Now tell Sarah we are through for today. I want to have a conversation with Randy Reynolds now. I need to rattle his cage. Then I have Ms Booth to interview. Silvers request a computer tech and the van. If he leaves Raleigh by five, we can get him started on Randy’s computer and cellphone first thing tomorrow. Maybe by the end of the day he can check the website as well. I don’t figure Randy is going to be all that tough a nut to crack.”

“Okay boss I’ll put in the call,” Silvers said.

“As for you Chief, I am pretty sure Sarah is just a stupid teenage victim of a smooth young asshole. One who is going to grow into a real first class asshole. I doubt a statutory rape charge will fly. But a conspiracy on the porn charges might. Either way we are going after his ass hard.” she said.

“Thanks,” I said.

“NaDa,” she replied. “Besides you had it all done for us. I’ll let you know what Randy has to say for himself when we finish tonight. We should be finished by dinner. This time you are buying, and not at the diner. I’ll find somewhere on line.”

“Well take it easy on me, I’m a poor small town cop,” I suggested.

“Right,” she said. “With two incomes.”

I spent the afternoon calling previous employees of Happy Valley. I got their names from Betty. She wasn’t crazy about it, but she also understood the need for me to do it. I needed to show the SBI that I had been thorough. If nothing else to cover her ass. I was also curious about Betty Booth.

May first call was Janice Peabody. Her uncle was a resident of the apartments, as well as being a former employee. “So Janice how did you like working at Happy Valley,” I asked.

“You mean Crappy Valley,” she said. “The Colonel fired me for stealing. I didn’t steal nothing.

“Then why did you get canned?” I asked.

“I refused to kiss him and he made up the theft thing. Things are always going missing out there, but I’m the one who got canned,” she said angrily.

“I’m sorry to hear that. Do you have any idea who is taking the items?” I asked.

“No, I think most of those people are just old and forgetful. They don’t remember where they lost the stuff. Trash cans probably and just forget,” she said. She hung up before I could ask more.

I decided not to call anymore former employees. I expected the SBI would want to know there was some question about the administration at Happy Valley. I really didn’t want to investigate the retirement village. It would be a lose, lose for me.

I took off early and went home. Sarah met me in the kitchen, “Daddy I’m so sorry. I know how this makes you look. I didn’t mean to cause any trouble.”

“Well what the hell, life would be boring as crap without a little drama,” I said.

“Daddy please don’t charge Randy,” she pleaded.

I just nodded my head at her. It was easy to agree, since the SBI was setting him up for a child pornography charge. He might not be into the big shit, but he most likely would have to register with the sex offenders roll people. That would do a number on his future plans.

It was a little after six when Agent Mallo called me. “Meet us at the Rebel Steak House in the Gun Runner Motel. You do know it don’t you?” asked.

“Yeah I know it,” I said.

“We will be waiting in the bar,” she said.

“You do know dinner will cost more than my last renovation? Each,” I asked.

“Since you gave us the information we have so far on a plate, we are going to put it on the per diam,” she explained.

I redressed then drove out to the Island. The upscale motel’s name and reputation was familiar to me. I had checked it out because I was curious when Diane and Wilson stayed there during their visit. It was a four and a half star resort motel. That’s how it was billed. Top floor, Ocean view rooms started at five hundred and change a night. The SBI traveled first class for sure.

When I got to the bar I spotted the two of them since the crowd was thin. “Candy and Horse, nice to see you again,” I said.

“You know Silvers out of the cheap suit you don’t look half bad,” I said.

“You still have that pale skin and are as skinny as a junkie just out of rehab,” Mallo said.

“That’s because I’m a reformed drunk,” I sagreed. “And yes the mayor knows it. So how about we move to the restaurant?”

“Fair enough,” Silvers said.

I ordered the cheapest steak on the menu. It was still thirty bucks. “So I’m on pins and needles what’s the word on Randy.”

“He started out with Sarah told him she was eighteen. From there he went to he had nothing to do with her images on the Happy Valley site. He was being framed by you. After he discovered Sarah rolled over on him his story changed.

Randy and Sarah 2.0 was close enough to Sarah’s version for us to let it slide. He admitted to manipulating her image onto porn shots from the Internet. According to him since the images came from the web it was a no harm no foul offense. He was just showing off his photoshop chops. He didn’t mean for those to ever get away from his laptop,” Mallo said.

After a couple of hours and some really graphic descriptions of what you could have done to him inside, he changed his story. He added Sarah’s images to his former lovers list. Brace yourself chief there is more to come,” Silvers said. “When the tech arrives and dumps his laptop and cell phone.”

I pushed the plate away. “I have lost my appetite,” I said.

“Well he confessed to everything including knowing Sarah was only sixteen,” Mallo said. “I think the states attorney is going to take a plea based on the child porn trafficking. Even if we can’t prove he sold any of it.”

“Well he doesn’t have to worry, I don’t know anyone in the North Carolina penal system,” I said.

“Best we don’t tell him that till after the sentencing,” Mallo said with a smile. “By the by, I called your pal Betty Booth. I asked her to make room for us first thing in the morning. Can you drive out there with us?”

“I can meet you. Happy Valley is on my morning bike route since Sarah worked there. I think she isn’t going back after Randy showed those images to the other employees,” I admitted.

“I know you want to kill him, but hold off till after the trial,” Silvers said.

“Do you know the AA serenity prayer? Randy is one of those Things I can’t accept. I won’t kill him. It won’t change anything,” I said. “I might beat the shit out of him. That would make me feel better, so it would change something. If I do it, you can use this statement against me.”

“What statement?” Silvers asked.

After dinner I went home to sleep in my own bed, and to be damn sure Sarah slept in hers. I didn’t get a lot of sleep since the images on Happy Valley’s website haunted me. In spite of what Sarah said, I knew the images of Randy and her were not faked. He just weren’t slick enough.

The next morning after a shower and breakfast at the diner, I rode the department’s bike to the Happy Valley retirement village. After a tour of the cottage sections I returned to the apartment building. Inside that building were the offices, meeting rooms, and the resident’s dining facility. It was a rather large building with two wings and plans for a third wing as well.

“I’m waiting for a couple of more guests. Why don’t you wait for them before you ring Ms Booth,” I suggested.

She nodded her agreement. So I moved over to sit on one of the overstuffed chairs. I was quite comfortable during my fifteen minute wait. The whole think went through my mind again as I waited. I still believed that Betty hacked the Happy Valley website. It was her cover for rolling on her source for the kiddie porn website. I did not tell Mallo and Silvers what I thought. Let them figure it out for themselves, I thought.

When Mallo arrived she commented on my fatigues. “Do you think you’re SWAT or something?”

“Sure I’m the whole team on a bike,” I replied.

Betty came out before they could check in. I made the introductions then shut up. Betty led the way back to her private office,

“Our computer geek will be here in a couple of hours. If you will give him all the assistance you can, I think we can sort through this quickly. The chief told me you might have an idea who did the hack.”

At that point I excused myself. I didn’t want to listen to any bullshit. I walked back to the staff locker room. I found the locker with the sticker attached to warned people not to disturb it. I also found his friend who saw the image of my daughter.

“Kid let me see your phone?” I demanded.

“Do I have to?” he asked.

“At the moment the SBI does not have you on their radar. If you want to keep it that way shut the fuck up and give me your phone,” I said with a little attitude of my own.

I checked the phone and of course there were several images of Randy. A couple of them included Sarah in some pretty disgusting poses. “Do you know these images are of a minor and therefore are illegal. I am sure by now you have been told that they are of my daughter, so I’m taking this personal. You either give me the memory card from this phone, or I get you charged with possession of kiddie porn and get you on the national sex offenders registry. That will follow your ass for life.” He quickly deleted everything then pulled the memory card and handed it to me.

Silvers came into the kitchen as I handed the phone back to the kid. “Now make me a list of anyone who has a copy of the images.”

“Honest to god chief, I don’t know of anyone,” he said.

“I better not find out any different,” I said leaving it at that.

“You gonna kick his ass,” the SBI agent asked.

“Not today, but real cops have long memories,” I said.

Silvers nodded. “Mallo is looking for you. It’s time to meet again greet Betty Boob’s not so secret admirer.”

“Does he live in my town too,” I asked.

“Right here in Happy Valley. He is some kind of computer nerd. He repairs computers for everybody in the valley. No telling what kind of shit he is putting on them.”

“I doubt there is much of a market for granny porn,” I suggested to him. “I would expect identity theft is more likely.”

“We haven’t talked to him yet. Marty our computer nerd is still working on Randy’s shit but he said he could do this guy tomorrow. Might be time for you to kick Randy’s ass,” Silvers said.

“From your mouth to God’s ear,” I said.

“Are you Jewish,” he asked.

“Not me, my first wife,” I admitted. “Her dad was a rabbi. Let’s go meet Candy. By the way is the Computer guy at home now?”

“Oh yes and his wife to. She answered the phone when Betty Boob called to make the appointment.” Silvers explained.

“So is Betty going to confront the pornographer?” I asked.

“No, she is going to give us a statement to present to the judge for a warrant. That and the Nerd’s information from the email trace will be enough for an arrest. We are going to take him to the County jail for interrogation and incarceration,” Silvers explained while we waited.

“Then what does Mallo want with me?” I asked.

“No idea, I was just told to find you, and to keep you here,” he explained.

About five minutes later Mallo arrived. “Give us a minute Silvers,” she said. He walked away shaking his head. Mallo turned to be and quietly spoke. “You know she is full of crap?”

“Is that a statement or a question,” I asked.

“I guess it’s a statement. You know this is going to make you a local hero because she wants no part of the blame or credit?” Mallo said.

“Well I hope he doesn’t have any homicidal partners in that case,” I said.

“That’s why I’m warning you. We aren’t far enough into it yet to be sure, but Betty Booth is pretty sure some of the porn stars are Russian. No telling how far this can reach. So watch your skinny ass.”

“I always do,” I said.

Mallo and Silvers picked up Angelo Martinez later that afternoon. I expected that to be the end of it for me at least. Of course I was wrong.

“Chief Rogers,” The phone call I received two days later began. I recognized the voice. “This is a courtesy call. You may be visited by the press after Mallo does her news conference today at noon.” Silvers said.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“She is going to name you as the source of the information. Long as I’m handing out bad news,” He said. “Randy was selling images to Angelo for the net. Your kid is on the Dark Website. The not so bad news is Marty managed to shut the site down for now. Not sure how he did it, but that part of the dark web is really dark now.”

“Tell him to send me his Starbuck’s bill for the month and I’ll pay it. When is Randy getting sprung?”

“He is moving out of your town and county chief. He won’t be coming home at all. Frankly he is scared shitless. He is expecting a long hospitalization if he returns home. Since that part is known now, I think it’s a good move for you both. Frankly it started him talking, so something good came from it. Don’t worry he is going to be prosecuted. His deal does not include special prison treatment. ‘He’s going into general population in the state pen, if I have any say in it, ‘ that’s what Mallo said. I think she is sweet on you.”

“Not a chance she is your girl,” I said.

“One last thing. The local Russian population in Charlotte has a few less than upright citizens. Mallo is afraid they may want to talk to you. Well mostly just silence you in case you are going to be a witness against their comrade.”

“You are just full of good news,” I said.

“You did know that no good deed goes unpunished,” he said.

“Of course I did,” I said. “I just never did a good deed before. Any chance I can get Mallo to come down and explain everything to Sarah?” I asked.

“Sure we are going to be in your area again. We want to talk to Matrinez’s friends and neighbors. I can get her to move it up.” he said.

“I was just kidding. I’m going to send her back to her mother, if the Russians are coming.” I said.

On the way home to give Sarah the bad news, or maybe it was good news, I stopped by the diner for a couple of really sloppy hamburgers with fries. I found Sarah still in bed at 10AM.

“Hey Kiddo, I have lunch,” I shouted from the front door. I sat at the kitchen counter will she dragged herself down the stairs.

“What’s up?” She asked.

“Why does anything have to be up?” I asked in return.

“Daddy you never come home during the day unless there is trouble,” she said.

“I’m going to put you on the 12:30PM AMTRACK to Baltimore. Your mom will meet you at the station at 4AM.” I explained.

“Why are you doing that,” she asked. “Has something happened.”

“No the case is heating up and it’s just a precaution. I don’t want you around where Randy can find you. Promise me you won’t communicate with him. It could put you and your mom in serious danger. I don’t think so, but don’t risk it.”

“Okay I’ll pack. Are you in danger because of me?” she asked with a worried look.

“Just realize the things you do have far reaching consequences. That’s just the way life is.” I didn’t want to pull any punches with her. “But don’t worry I’ll be fine.”

I went back to the office to arrange with my old Lieutenant to have a couple of cops to meet her train. Since I hadn’t told anyone about it, I didn’t expect a Russian presence at the station but I wanted to cover every possibility. It was my family after all.

“Go pack now,” I demanded. Then I drove her to the station.

At 2PM I returned to the Police Station where I had the really dangerous thing to do. I had to call Diane to explain why Sarah was coming in with no notice. That call did not go good at all. I had to tell her that Sarah would explain it all when she got home. I demanded that she just meet the train then hung up.

It was 4:30PM when the phone call came from Betty Booth. “What can I do for you?” Yes I was suspicious to get the call from Betty. Betty had proved herself to be manipulative. So far it had worked out so that I had to cut my daughter’s visit short. I was not happy about that but I couldn’t blame for it. Sarah had managed to get herself into that situation.

When Betty found out, she had not hesitated to use it to her advantage. The fact that it screwed up a summer with my daughter didn’t seem to bother her at all. It also didn’t bother her that she had put but us both in danger.

“Did the SBI agents call you?” she asked.

“Yes, they warned me that the Ukrainian immigrants might pay me a visit,” I said.

“I also got that warning. The colonel decided I should go on vacation till this mess was settled. The hint was very strong that it be somewhere off campus,” she explained.

“Well maybe it’s time for a second Honeymoon. Might be a good time for a wilderness experience,” I suggested.

“What the hell are you talking about?” she asked.

“Aren’t you married?” I asked.

“Dale, I tried marriage a few years ago, but it was not for me. I have no where to go. I am not rich believe it or not,” she explained. “What are your plans?”

“I plan to hunker down and continue my life,” I said.

“How would you feel about someone to watch your back?” She asked. “You have an empty bedroom and I need one.”

I gave it some very quick thought. There were no pros that I could see, but there were lots of cons. “I don’t know Betty. I think I know too much about the Happy Valley web site hack to spend time alone with you,” I explained.

“I really don’t want to discuss that on the phone, so I will either come there or start calling other people,” she said.

“Oh hell it can’t hurt to have one more gun, come on over,” I said. “But I warn you, we are going to have that discussion sometime.”

“Fair enough,” she responded. “Just not tonight.”

“I’ll be home after five,” I suggested. “If you need to get in sooner come by the station for Sarah’s key.

“I can wait. I need to pack a few things anyway,” she said.

“Right,” I said.

Jim our night shift man came in with a man in cuffs. “I caught the man who has been vandalizing the trucks over at lightning delivery. Son of a bitch was breaking the gate lock when I rode up on the bike.”

“I’ll be damned. So who is this gentleman?” I asked.

“Junior Rollins,” Jim said. “Just like you and Mike thought he got fired by them six months ago.”

“How about while you transport him, have the calls sent to my cell phone. I’ll be hanging out at home unless something comes up. Take him to the county jail to complete the processing. Question him over there,” I explained.

Betty was waiting in her car parked across the street from my building. I still thought of where I lived as The Building, or by the address 513 Main Street. Main street ran from the traffic circle to the intersection with NC route 1. I was five short blocks from the traffic circle and about a mile from NC 1. I called it home now and then, but never a house. If anything it was my residence.

I pulled behind the building and went inside. I walked through the ground floor without stopping. When I arrived at the front door, once I arrived there I opened it and walked across the street. I even helped Betty with her two large back packs.

“I brought my own sleeping bag,” she said once we were inside.

“God, I haven’t had time to change the sheets on Sarah’s bed. No telling what you might catch,” I said with some scorn in my voice.

“You know I didn’t mean that,” she said.

“Okay,” I said. “What did you mean.”

“I meant, I didn’t want to be any trouble,” she said.

“Good then how heating us a frozen pizza,” I suggested.

“Sarah’s room is the one on the left?” she asked.

“You remembered?” I asked.

“Of course, it is a little too girlie for my taste,” Betty said.

“If you stay a month you can redo it into a barracks room. On your dime of course” I suggested. First of all, I figured she couldn’t stand me as a roommate for more than a week, secondly coming out of her pocket would keep the decorating to a minimum.

It was 9pm and we were watching a movie on the Internet when her phone rang. She mostly listened then said, “Do not give them my cell number under any condition,” she said into the smart phone.

When she shut the cellphone case, she said. “Two big men with Russian accents were looking for me. That was the Happy Valley receptionist.”

“Let’s get ready for them to come here. I’m easier to find,” I informed her. From the locked shelving unit in my bedroom, I removed a Mossberg 12 gauge pump shotgun with the riot length barrel. I also removed a Winchester .30 M2 Korean war vintage carbine, with a thirty round clip. I also picked up a box of 12 gauge #2 shot for Geese, and a thirty round spare clip. I had to load both magazines for the occasion.

“Do you need a pistol?” I asked.

She lifted her sweatshirt to show me a Colt .45 caliber 1911 handgun in a fanny holster inside her shorts. “I’ll make do,” she said.

I nodded. “So which long gun?” I asked.

“The shotgun, if you please,” she said.

“Remember you break it you fix it,” I said. They will be coming through the hallway from the back door most likely. They aren’t going to draw attention to themselves by crashing through the front door,” I suggested.

“Just in case I’m wrong I have a go pro on the front and rear of the building. They are way high up to discourage painting the lenses. Those fuckers are not cheap. Now Betty get on the phone to your friend Agent Mallo. Give and get an update.” She nodded then walked away to make the call on her Smart phone.

“She has some highway patrol officers blocking the roads in an out of town, but it seems a little late for that,” Betty reported.

“Well at least she will get credit for any arrests,” I said.

“I don’t know if this is good or bad news,” Betty added. “But the Russians got Randy according to Betty. They had an agent with him, but a sniper shot him while he was on the deck smoking a joint to calm him down.”

“Well my guess he is that he is pretty calm now that he has gone to a better place,” I suggested.

“Or at least he is warm where he went,” she added.

“I’m sure he will still complain,” I injected. I removed a quarter from my pocket, “Call it.”

“Head’s” she guessed. It was a head. “So what did I win.”

“First turn sleeping. I’ll stay awake till 3AM, then wake you. Keep an eye on the cameras till dawn. After that we will arrange a greeting for the bad guys. Preferably one away from 513 Main St.

My Cams were mounted so high and the town so small, I could get an idea of anything moving between 10PM and 3AM. I saw only one car cruise main street after 10PM. It wouldn’t have gotten my attention had it not been traveling so slow.

At three I ran the two minutes of tape for Betty. “If you see that SUV anywhere on cam, wake me.”

“Is that them?” she asked.

“I can’t be sure my guess is we will find out pretty soon, unless there is a group of Russian soldiers looking for a retirement home,” I suggested.

“This shotgun reeks of gun oil. I like that,” she added.

“Good we might get along after all,” I said.

“Wake me at 6AM,” I demanded. I was exhausted so sleep was easy.

“Rise and shine,” she said at exactly 6AM. ‘‘There is plenty of time to sleep when we are dead.”

“Or Tomorrow which every comes first. Rerun that files on both camera’s at 10x speed and look for anything we might have missed. We need some idea of what our comrades are up to this morning.

I was making toaster waffles and coffee while she reviewed the film. “Got ya asshole,” she said aloud. “There were headlight stopped in an alley on the next block over. The building probably has a view of this building’s front door.”

“Keep looking. They parked that tank somewhere,” I demanded.

“Yes they parked it in the closed convenience store parking lot,” she informed me.

I called Lester and Mike. I told them to ride together and block access to the round about from Church Street. Then I called the SBI Agents and demanded some backup for our little raid. It turned out that Betty and I were bait for the trap they had already planned. Of course our intelligence was appreciated. Her advice to me was to stand down.

“Like hell, my men and I will participate in this, or the press is going to have a story to run about local police being bait for your trap,” I said.

“That’s blackmail,” Mallo said.

“Blackmail or local cooperation, phrase it anyway you like, but my men at on the road block at the down town traffic circle. Call it good faith but I’m going in with your agents at the vacant building.”

“If you get shot and survive, I will kill you,” Mallo said.

“At least give me a five minute head start. I’m leaving the residence at 7am on my bike. I never go through the front door, so they will be scrambling. If they come at all.”

“I’m coming with you. Before you object, it will be more likely that they follow if we both are out,” Betty said. “I know Sarah’s bike is in the store room in back. I checked last night.”

“Okay we go straight to the round about. If they are watching our street, they will try to catchup to us there. My guess is they will let us go through the round about and then try to catch us out on the state road. If they do, they will be a traffic stop for the highway patrol. If they don’t move, we will join the assault team. It’s a not so simple plan.” I explained.

My alley connected to four other alleys finally bringing me out to main street half a block from the traffic circle. When I got there I found out from Mallo that the criminal assault team had been contained in the building where they had squatted the night before.

All that planning for nothing, but it was typical cop plan gone just a little wrong, I thought.

“You two stay the hell back. The highway patrol SWAT team will be going in first. Then you can go in when the battle is over. This is going to make you a local hero.” Mallo said.

“Let’s get it done first,” I said.

I stayed on my bike during the assault. My Smith and Wesson model 580.357 magnum revolver stayed in the shoulder holster. Betty’s .45 colt model 1911 also stayed in it’s holster inside her jeans in her fanny pack holster.

We watched all smiles while the Swat team brought out the four men. They were in chains when loaded into the police van. Mallo who walked up said, “This might not be over. I have a feeling this was not the A team.

“Oh my god not another of the presidents JV teams,” I said.

“I didn’t say that, and that was the last president,” she replied. “You two make a cute couple, deadly but cute.”

“Wrong flavors, but thanks,” I said quietly so a not to overheard by everyone.

“Who knows. One of you may decide to switch teams,” she said.

Betty and I both said in unison, “No way.”

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Story tagged with:
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