Volume 2 in the Clear Springs Series
Johnny headed to the parking lot. He looked at his watch, “Crap, there goes lunch.”
I’ll stop by the Miner’s Den after I pick up Rick. A cup of hot coffee always mellows Rick after a bender, he thought.
Johnny had dealt with Rick Thompson before. Several times a year, Rick would get drunk and paranoid. The episodes almost always lead to Rick abusing his wife, Molly and ending up in county lockup for a few days to dry out.
Johnny was well acquainted with Rick from their time together in the Sheriff’s department during the eighties. They had been deputies, and occasionally, partners on surveillances under old Sheriff Taylor. Rick’s career ended abruptly with disability when he was injured during a high speed pursuit.
Rick had been a good cop, but retirement was never easy to stomach, even for a good cop. He took up fishing and drinking, and slid from the public eye years before Johnny became Sheriff. Johnny felt they retained enough of a relationship that he could defuse almost any conflict Rick could create.
The 911 call from Molly was fairly typical. “Rick’s gonna be an asshole. He was in here earlier. Said if he couldn’t have me, nobody could. I ain’t cheatin’ on him, but he just won’t listen. My friend Evan is here to try to talk some sense into’m, but Rick don’t listen to nobody when he’s drinkin’.”
As Johnny drove the cruiser out of town to the somewhat isolated house, he passed a big billboard. Vote Johnny LaRoy, Sheriff 2000 – Law and Order, 24/7. It was huge, a giant-sized photo of his head and shoulders in full uniform, including a hat he seldom wore. The billboard cost a pretty penny. He hated it. He was by no means shy, but he didn’t like having to put himself out there like that. He felt it was too early to put up the advertisement, but his campaign manager had pushed him to start his run officially. The election was still a year away, and it was his third campaign. Johnny didn’t anticipate any problems. He assured himself the billboard was only a formality, as he was well-liked and there was no competition on the horizon. Even so, he didn’t look forward to the next year. Elections were a major pain in the ass. The early start was a distraction from the real work and he couldn’t wait until the election was past history.
Johnny pulled the cruiser off the main road and drove down the long gravel drive. He didn’t turn on the siren or the lights.
In front of the modest concrete block house were two cars neatly parked on a paved parking area. An old pickup truck, probably Rick’s, was awkwardly blocking the cars from easily exiting. Johnny pulled his cruiser in close behind the truck effectively blocking all the vehicles from a hasty departure.
As soon as Johnny got out of his cruiser, he heard yelling and screaming.
“Rick, you got it all wrong,” Molly yelled. “Evan is just a friend from church.”
Suddenly, the screen door burst open and a man ran head long into the yard. A blast from a shotgun erupted through the open door and the man’s chest burst in a bloody mess as he cascaded to the ground.
So much for a quick snack. This wasn’t going to be the usual Thompson’s domestic crisis.
Johnny regretted he had not brought backup.
He drew his Sig Saur 9mm with his right hand without thinking. As he pointed the gun ahead, he remembered what the physical therapist said. “You will have to work hard to overcome the dominance of your right hand and shift to your left”.
Johnny’s right shoulder had never completely recovered from that Chinese woman’s bullet years back. He was still a far better shot right-handed, but his aim was unpredictable. He quickly switched his stance and moved the pistol to his left hand.
“Sheriff’s Department,” he yelled. “Throw down your weapon and come out with your hands on your head.”
In a flash, Rick was in the doorway, crazy anger sweeping from every pore. A trail of smoke drifted up from one of the barrels of the sawed-off double-barreled shotgun that was now pointed at Molly’s head, as Rick held her tightly with his left arm. Molly was much smaller and shorter than Rick, exposing much of his body in the clear for a winging shot.
“Oh, my God!” Molly wailed, as blood dripped from several abrasions on her face down her light blue blouse. “Look what you’ve done to Evan! He was only trying to help.”
Nervously, Johnny switched the pistol back to his right hand.
“Drop the gun to the ground, Rick. Let Molly go. We can still work this out,” Johnny said, as he stole a glance at the unmoving corpse. Not a weapon in sight.
Rick tightened his grip on Molly as Johnny continued. “I’d like to hear your side of the story, Rick. You know you can talk to me.”
“Come any closer, Johnny, and I’ll blow her head off!” Rick yelled. “You know I mean business. It’s gone too far to turn back. Cops don’t make it in the slammer, especially ones with my history. You know how it is. We got enemies on all sides.”
“Just put the gun down and let’s talk,” Johnny said, as Molly cried and squirmed.
“You better hold still, woman,” Rick scolded, “or this things goin’ off on its own.”
“Come on, Rick. We’ve been down this road before,” Johnny said, knowing it was beyond the point of logic.
Even in the cool spring weather, sweat poured down Johnny’s face as he concentrated on the situation. Trying to take it all in— Rick, Molly, Rick’s finger on the trigger….
Johnny thought he saw Rick’s finger going for a pull on the trigger, so Johnny steadied his aim. Johnny’s brain signaled his right finger on the trigger. As he squeezed, his finger froze in sharp pain for a split second. As he recovered, his aim moved slightly to the right and down as the pistol fired, ejecting the spent shell as if in slow motion.
Horrified, Johnny saw his bullet rip through Molly’s chest. The bullet did not slow as it exited the back side of Rick. As Rick’s hold on Molly relaxed, she fell to the ground, loudly gasping for air. Rick was shaken, but not enough that he couldn’t readjust the shotgun to move it under his chin and pull the trigger. The top of his head lifted into the air and spun off as his body crashed to the ground.
Johnny wasn’t sure how long he stood there in silence as he stared at the bloody scene. His offending right arm dangled at his side as if disassociated from his body.
When his brain came back to life again, he rushed over to Molly just in time to hear her last gasp. He placed a fingertip to her neck. Her heart had stopped and why wouldn’t it? There was a huge, bloody hole right where it should have been.
There wasn’t much need to check Rick.
Johnny walked over to the first victim, who lay face down, with a bloody penetration wound to the back. He pulled the man’s wallet from his back pocket and opened it to check his license. It was Evan Tobin, whom Molly had mentioned on the 911 call. A ‘friend’ in the wrong place, at exactly the wrong time.
Johnny would never be able to puzzle out what had transpired just before he arrived, what the relationship was between the parties, and how it actually got to the point that Evan died. In that brief time, the lives of four people were irreversibly and impossibly changed.
In Johnny’s twisted mind, the others three were lucky. They died.
He knew there was no end in sight for his life. He went back and sat in the cruiser to collect himself for a few minutes. But there was no relaxing, no calming down, no resolution.
He radioed in, not using formal call signals. His brain couldn’t handle that.
“Send Shawn and a couple of ambulances out here to Rick Thompson’s place, ASAP.”
Then he slumped back in his seat and closed his eyes.