Monday 28 September 2015
Every night was the same. Sitting in the dark and the cold despite being indoors, he was unable to use any form of light lest someone see that the house was occupied once more. It was a lonely existence, but it was his. Every so often she appeared at the house, and he had to make his way into hiding. He could see on some occasions that she felt there was someone else in the house with her, but the stray cats, more often than not, allayed her suspicions. There was a life to be had outside of the walls of the old house, especially if he moved away to another town, but the past was a harsh and vigilant jailer.
He’d wanted to let her know that he was still alive, but feared the outcome. He’d come close once or twice, but instinct kicked in and told him it was not the right time to announce his presence, and he’d backed off. She looked exactly like her mother, moved the same way, and he would have put money on the fact that she would have reacted in a similar manner. And that would mean fireworks when she found out that he had been so close for so long.
‘We’ll take the boy in, Sheriff Rockwell. We’ve got four of our own, but the boy needs a solid base, and a strong family to help him through all of this.’ Grace Smith paced around the Sheriff’s office wringing her hands.
‘That’s all well and good, Mrs. Smith, but Lonnie is in a lot of trouble,’ replied the Sheriff. ‘He’s taken a baseball bat to Bartholomew Price, and threatened to do the same to Francis Mannello, and Daniel Bergman. He’s gone too far this time.’
Grace sat on the edge of the chair next to her husband. She let out a sigh, rubbed her eyes, and looked at her husband. Bob Smith jumped in as support.
‘Now Sheriff Rockwell, didn’t you just get finished telling us how those boys have been going after Lonnie for years? How’s a boy supposed to react when he’s sick of getting pushed around by bully boys?’
Rockwell mirrored Grace’s sigh, and eye rubbing. ‘That’s not the point, Mr. Smith. Lonnie took matters into his own hands, and hunted those boys down. He has to pay for what he’s done.’
‘You’re not very consistent, are you?’ Bob snapped.
‘And what’s that supposed to mean?’ asked Sheriff Rockwell.
‘Word around town has it that you’ve been aware of what Price and his buddies get up to. That you know they pick on younger kids, weaker kids, kids that they just don’t like, and you turn a blind eye because you’re scared of Price’s old man. Word around town has it that you know how Lonnie’s been treated by those other kids, that you’ve known for years, and you’ve let him fend for himself, especially since Henry died. You’re meant to serve and protect, sheriff, and yet it seems the only person you’re serving and protecting is yourself and your position.’ Bob Smith’s face had turned red. He was furious. As the only living relatives of Lonnie Corwin, he was determined to see the boy released without charge.
‘Well I never,’ started Rockwell.
‘And you never will if you continue in that manner, sheriff, because I’ll have your badge and your pension if you don’t bend over backwards to help Lonnie out of this predicament. Surely there’s some self-defence thing you can utilise? That is assuming you want to keep your job and your reputation.’
Rockwell seethed but tried to maintain his cool. ‘How dare you insinuate that I don’t do my job.’
‘I wasn’t insinuating, Sheriff Rockwell,’ said Bob, ‘I was telling you what practically everybody in town is saying about you. I was, however, insinuating that if you don’t help my nephew, you’d be out of a job. I’m sure my old frat brother, Senator Marshall, given his recent stance on law and order in this country, would gladly have your head on a stick, and make a mighty fine example out of your apparent ineptitude . . . or is it more likely to be your corruption?’
Grace couldn’t stifle the smile that was breaking free. Sheriff Rockwell couldn’t possibly worm his way out of helping Lonnie now that Bob had shown his hand, and his connection to Senator Ian Marshall.
* * * * *
The office was a hive of activity. New evidence was constantly rolling in regarding the series of robberies and related assaults that Beth Corwin’s team was following up. She examined the police sketch artist’s interpretation of the main suspect. It looked awfully like an aged Lonnie Corwin, but it couldn’t possibly be him. Lonnie had disappeared off of the face of the earth some ten or so years ago. No body had ever been found, but there had been no activity on his bank account, so it was widely accepted that he had perished at sea whilst trying to escape the latest assault he’d been accused of committing. Still, if she looked hard enough, squinted her eyes, and slightly tilted her head at just the right angle, it definitely looked like Lonnie.
‘Corwin? Where’s your head at?’ Beth’s boss sat his sizable behind on her desk.
‘Sorry, Sarge, what did you say?’
‘I asked you where your head was at. You’ve got this far away look about you. Have had for the last five, maybe six weeks. What’s going on?’
‘Nothing I can’t handle,’ she replied.
‘See, what I’ve heard on the grapevine is that you’re running a private investigation into your father.’
Beth tried her best not to display any sort of reaction to his words.
‘Beth, come on, my father was the sheriff around the time Lonnie disappeared. He was sheriff when ol’ Henry passed on, and Lonnie was a kid, and he was sheriff when the Smith’s came to take Lonnie back home with them. I saw what the case and the disappearance did to my father, and it looks to me like it’s doing exactly the same thing to you. It’s all-consuming, and you need to let it go before it eats you alive.’
Rockwell Jr. stood up and adjusted his ill-fitting pants. ‘Let it go, Corwin, let it go.’
Beth held the artist’s impression up for Rockwell Jr. to see. He squinted at it, unable to see it clearly, before relenting and sliding on his reading glasses.
‘Does this remind you of anyone?’ Beth asked him. He scrutinised the picture, snatching it from Beth’s hands, and holding it closer to his face.
‘Not really. Should it?’ Rockwell Jr. replied.
‘You don’t think it looks like those mug shots we’ve got of Lonnie Corwin, just aged?’
‘Oh shit, Corwin, now you’re really clutching at straws. Get that insane idea out of your head, and start looking for legitimate suspects . . . suspects who are alive.’
. . . To be continued . . .