This sky, a roof of murky grey-blue, shelters the prone body of Deputy-sheriff Earnest C. Loll. Crowned with an explosion of sword fern and blood, his head rests for good on a fallen Douglas Fir in the lonely woods of Mount Sylvania. Dead center.
Roughly twenty-four hours earlier, the deputy sheriff, rises to a sitting position under a similar mis-colored sky with the November air biting his bare skin.
His legs are sore and stiff. Annoyed by the itch of a heavy woolen tricolored blanket, Loll tugs long underwear up from his ankles as shiny ice-covered fir trees come into focus around him.
She is gone.
And with her, his steel-toed boots. The woman who had burned away his night and the boots that won his days were gone. This is not what Loll had expected from the morning after such unplanned, chaotic passion.
Woman. She gives. She takes. And then she leaves.
On his way back to the station, thoughts uncontrollably focus on the sheriff’s possible reactions and condemnations of his lack of common sense. “Self control,” the sheriff would say, “is the mortar in the stone facade that is an officer of the law.” Is that so, he mutters at the sky. Loll knows he can never be the selfsame man as Sheriff Anzac. He’d have to be content, then, riding out his days on Anzac’s coattails.
“What I need,” he repeats to himself, “is a new pair of steel-toed boots the selfsame as my pilfered pair.”
If he could just get them quickly enough and slap some greasy dirt on them he could make it to the office well before the sheriff. Problem is, there’s only one shop in town that carries tuff-lugged, steel-toed boots in a size 14 and it’s run by the sheriff’s cousin Palmerston.
Quick steps, all thoughts on lockdown, and Loll aims his bow toward an uncertain harbor at conundrum bay.
Palmerston—a round face with sleepy, cylindrical eyes that never miss a thing—lives by the motto: my mercantile, my kingdom. Hoping to keep the bell from clanging, Loll gently pulls the mercantile’s front door open as he moves quietly onto the field of play.
There’s a detective’s axiom the sheriff has slowly tattooed into Loll’s mind. It strikes him now as the most important five (or so) words ever crafted. “If it stinks, it’s dead.” And the bloodied, crumpled body of Palmerston looks anything but alive.
Loll shuffles forward: Shell casings, five. Holes in Palmerston, five. Loll steps around the body, attempting to catalogue every detail of the scene. He must get this right. He must… a boot! A large black boot, clearly not new. His boot! Is on the floor. And it’s hanging over his head.
Loll takes a thoughtful step back. Darts around the front counter. Motive, motive, motive. Money? No. The cash register is closed, unmolested, and with a single button pushed, slides open. Green bills and tarnished coins. Loll slides the till shut. Not money, then.
Five entry wounds in a man who spent his leisure time eating roast duck and shuffling Bicycle playing cards around a table. Did Palmerston fight back? Minimally, for sure. So why did it take five shots to put him down? No. It wouldn’t take five bullets to put down the sheriff, and he has the endurance of a bull. This Palmerston killing had to be a message. A statement. And people who make statements on this level, want to be known.
To be continued