The milky colored April morning sky drizzled rain, hitting the cracked pavement, and filling shallow puddles around the old depot as I sat on the wooden bench waiting for the train to take me away. I should feel something. Remorse? No. I've lived here too long; letting the world drift past me as I watched her grow from a toddler to a young woman, and leave for an exciting life in New York. She'll knock 'em dead once they hear her sing. I should have left years ago, when she was little. But, that would have raised questions.|
I had plenty of time to get a bite to eat over at Millie's diner, so I checked my bag in a locker, turned my collar up and trotted through the steady drizzle to the eatery, where I've had more meals than I can count. Millie was behind the counter, and smiled at me as I entered. The aroma of fresh coffee and old grease hit me with a realization that it would be the last time I tasted Millie's cooking.
" So, you're really leaving town, Lester." She said as she poured my usual coffee and set it in front of me." I never thought I'd see the day."
" All things end sometime, Millie." I said as I stirred in two spoonfuls of sugar." If I stayed here what would I do? The new Police Chief doesn't want old men on his force."
" You could stay and let me take care of you. After all, you've been coming in here every day for the last thirty years." The dour look she gave caused me to hold off coming back with some wisecrack." With you leaving who will I pick on now? "
Had it been any other time in my life I would have blown off her offer with some crass remark, but, not today. Somewhere behind that hard boiled facade she held up to the world was a warm, caring heart for me. In my salad days on the force Millie was an on going joke in the locker room. We kidded and flirted with her, giving each other "Bob's your uncle" winks. But, I never heard of her ever having anything to do with the others. I seemed to have caught her eye the first time I walked in.
Though she was still pretty, in her younger days, Millie was a beautiful woman, with ash blond hair, a slender frame, and the greenest eyes I've ever seen. All the young bucks in Scottsdale were after her, but, she kept them at arm's length. She married briefly. The guy got her pregnant and left her. Millie lost the baby. I wanted to hunt the rotten SOB down, but she insisted I leave him alone. Over the years I learned he re-married and lived up around St. Paul; some country club snob with oodles of money. I never told her about it. Why rub salt in an old wound?
" Ready to order your last meal? " She asked, and realizing it's implications, quickly added." Before you leave, I mean."
I gave her a grin, letting her off the hook." I'll have the beef Manhattan, as usual."
" As usual", she nodded, scribbling the order and sticking it on the wheel in the kitchen pass window.
When the order was up she brought it over and slid it in front of me. Then, she sat down next to me at the counter." What are you going to do, Lester?"
"I've taken a security job for a firm in Indianapolis." I said as I took a bite, savoring the rich gravy." I guess I'll shake door knobs until I'm ready to retire."
" I can't see you doing that." She said, cupping her chin in her hand and resting her slim arm on the counter." Lester Holbrook, the best cop in town rattling doors and making rounds. You can't really want to leave. You lived here all your life. You know you're going to miss Scottsdale."
I didn't want to look at her knowing smile. Yes, there were many things I'd miss: the kids playing in the park across the street from my upstairs apartment. The gossip mill in Gary Huston's barbershop every Saturday morning. They say women are gossips, but, you couldn't tell it there. Rumors flowed fast and furious inside that old shop. I'll miss coming off a long shift and walking out of the station, taking a deep, cleansing breath, knowing I've done a good day's work. It was then that Dan Wilson walked in and made me realize I'd made the right choice.
There was an aura around him that you instantly disliked. I've worked with difficult Chiefs before, but, none of them made me hate them as much as I did him. His recent appointment by Mayor, Richard Haysley, was no surprize. They were old buddies from High School, and played golf at the Crescent Hills Country Club. The old Chief, Marlon Akerman, was a fair and just man who treated his officers with respect; something Wilson and Haysley despised. He cornered me and two other officers at his retirement party two months ago, and gave us the bad news. We were marked men. Either we took retirement, or Wilson would find a way to fire us.
" I thought you already left, Holbrook. " He said with a smirk I wanted to smash with my number ten brogan. He picked up a menu after sliding into a booth. " Can I get some service around here? "
Millie rolled her eyes and smiled at me as she got up and walked over to his table. " What'll it be? " She said, taking a close look at her ticket book with pen poised, avoiding his hyena features.
Wilson ordered a T-bone medium rare, fries, tossed salad, and iced tea. Millie dutifully wrote it down, stuck the order on the wheel and brought him his drink. Then, she went behind the counter and made herself busy with his salad.
" You taking the train out, Holbrook? I hear they're going to shut the line down soon." I nodded as I sipped my coffee. " The railroad isn't much good now that the plant shut down, and the new interstate opened."
His pathetic attempt to engage me in conversation was making me feel a little sorry for him. But, only a little. What the hell? I could at least be civil to this sorry excuse of a human being. " It leaves in three hours." I said. " What are your plans? " He asked, looking out the window at a passing young woman.
Suddenly, I was getting that same feeling I had when I was at Chief Akerman's party: Betrayel. Why should I be civil to a sniveling coward, like him?
" My plans, Chief, don't include telling them to you. It wouldn't surprise me if you tried to queer my new job by phoning ahead and telling them I was unreliable, or something." The color of his face went white, and then turned beet red.
" You got no right to talk to me that way ! " He sputtered. " Face facts, Holbrook. You're too old to do the job here ! "
Millie walked over and laid his salad on the table in front of him. " I'll not have either one of you raising your voice in my place. " She said, arms akimbo. " Understand? " She said eyeing the two of us.
" I apologize, Millie. " I said turning back to my meal." I"m ashamed to have explained myself to this creature. I'm not an ass whisperer."
" Call me anything you like, Holbrook. It's you who's leaving. Not me. Trimming off deadwood, like you, is part of my job." Regaining his composure he took a bite of his salad with relish, thinking he'd just performed the perfect squelch.
" Did it ever occur to you that one day the same thing will happen to you? " I said.
He scoffed and nearly choked. Too bad he didn't. I would have forgotten how to perform the Hienlich Maneuver.
#9. Chapter Ten The Last train from Scottsdale
ID #803610 entered on January 17, 2014 at 8:07am
#8. Chapter Nine
ID #661871 entered on January 8, 2014 at 7:49am
#7. Chapter Eight
ID #658347 entered on January 5, 2014 at 10:52pm
#6. Chapter Seven
ID #654550 entered on January 5, 2014 at 10:50pm
#5. Chapter Six
ID #652590 entered on January 4, 2014 at 9:19pm
#4. Chapter Five
ID #652560 entered on January 4, 2014 at 8:28am
#3. Chapter Four
ID #652558 entered on January 8, 2014 at 8:50am
#2. Chapter Three
ID #652556 entered on January 8, 2014 at 8:37am
#1. Chapter Two
ID #652554 entered on January 4, 2014 at 7:58am