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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2143272-The-Reckoning-of-Men
Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Mystery · #2143272
This would be classified as a modern western crime thriller. It's about an aging Sheriff.
A clock on the wall clicked loudly. An old man sat at a wooden kitchen table. His eyes were fixated on a body lying on the living room floor.

He started to cry as blood pooled around the body on the living room floor.

“I did what you wanted,” he said to the man with a gun who was sitting across the table.

“Yes you did. An admirable job.”

“Now, can I go?”

“You’re not finished yet, remember?” His speech was slow, each response calculated with hints of delight.

The sun was bright and beautiful. The light came seamlessly through the thin paned windows in the kitchen and onto the white tile floor.

“Why are you making me do this?” He felt his brittle hands crack against the table.

“You don’t get to find out why.”

“Why me?” He asked forgiveness, but he didn't know from whom to ask it.

“Oh, I’m sure there’s plenty reasons why,” the man said without hesitation. “But the man who hired me told me not to give you reason.”

The old man stared at the body. She wore a red polka-dot dress that was a shade darker around the bullet wound in her chest.

“He just told you to have me kill my mistress?”

The man clicked his tongue. “Yep, that’s about it.” He stared at the old man a moment, then leaned forward and smiled. “Pick up the phone, tell them what you’ve done, then get out of the country, and you’ll live. That’s the deal he told me to tell you.”

The old man shook his head and pressed his palms firmly against the table and spread his fingers.

“What happens if I refuse?”

“Then I’ll kill you and let the body rot.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“You’re nearly a 70-year-old man who was willing to kill his mistress in order for himself to live,” he said, looking at the bloodstained body on the floor “And that woman, she was having an affair with a man who just put his wife in a nursing home.” He leaned forward, resting his gun elbow on the table, inching it closer to the old man. “I have no moral quarrels in letting yours, or her body’s rot here while you two rot together in Hell.”

The old man took several deep breaths and reached with his right hand and pulled a cell phone to his head and dialed three digits.

“911 what’s your emergency?”

He didn’t reply.

“911 what’s your emergency?” The tone in the 'operator's voice raised with a slight inflection of annoyance.

He looked angrily at the man across from him.

“Do you need assistance?” The inflection grew higher in annoyance. “What’s your reason for calling?”

“I killed her.” He looked forward and began to cry. “I'm so sorry.”

“Could you repeat that, sir?” The annoyance was gone and replaced with surprise and concern.

He clenched and released his shaky hand as he breathed deeply in and out. In and out. Quick and painless. He picked up the revolver on the table.

He looked outside then back down to the table. He inhaled sharply and gritted his teeth and grunted.

“God forgive me,” he said as he set the revolver down. “I can’t do it.”
He picked up the phone and began to speak over the operator, who was about to ask a question.

“Can’t do wh-” The woman’s voice was cut short by a bullet that went through the phone and into and out of the man’s head.

He slouched over the chair and his upper body thumped against the table.

"I was going to kill you anyway," the man said as he wiped fingerprints from his gun. He stood up and placed his pistol carefully in the man’s hand "And I am sorry I had to lie to you. But I'm not sorry for killing you," he whispered in the dead man's ear.

He then stepped back to where he sat, picked up his black cowboy had and walked through the living room, tipping his hat and saying "Ma'am" to the dead woman's body as he passed by it on his way out the front door.

The sun continued to shine and the clock continued to tick. And blood began to pool on the table.

* * *
A ceiling fan squeaked in an old office room. A man sat in a chair with his legs propped on the desk in front of him. He wore tan pants, a tan shirt and a tan tie, and had a white cowboy hat covering his face. The phone in front of him began to ring. Snores were coming from underneath the hat. The clock behind him said it was 3 a.m.

The phone continued to ring.

The man continued to snore.

Clink clank. Clink clank. Hard cowboy boots came from down the hall. A young woman dressed the same entered the office and shook his head when she saw the man sleeping there. She walked over to the phone and answered.

“Sheriff’s office, this is Deputy June Adams speaking.”

She listened for a moment, then looked down at the sleeping Sheriff.

“Yes, he’s here. Can I help you with anything?”

She listened again and nodded at what she heard.

“I understand. I’ll go get him.”

She covered the mouth end of the old black receiver and shouted, “Hey. Dad. Phone.”

The man stirred from his sleep and readjusted his hat and looked to see a receiver held in front of his face. He took it and asked, “Who is it?”

“Sheriff?”

“Speaking.”

“Hey, Sheriff. This is James Donaldson.” The mousy old man on the other line was twirling the cord of his receiver as he paced back and forth in his living room, stopping every now and then to pull the curtains and peek at what was outside.

“I know who y’are, James. We’ve known each other since grade school.”

The man on the other end sounded upset at that remark.

“Oh I know, Sheriff. Can I talk without you interrupting me?”

“Yes, you can,” the Sheriff said nonchalantly. He waited a few moments. “Well, you going to get to talking?”

“Yes. Sheriff, you know that old motel on 69 outside town?”

“Yeah. I do.”

“Well it’s on fire.”

“I’m sure it’s just some kids accidentally caught it while smoking and drinking out there. Call the fire department to go put it out.”

“There’s nothin’ they can do. It all went up at once. All of it, Sheriff.”

The Sheriff stood and said into the receiver, “I’m on my way.”

He walked out the door and down the 12 cracked concrete steps and to the faded brown patrol car parked out front. His daughter followed behind. The sheriff noticed and turned and put up his hand for her to halt.

“You stay here and man the phones, Sweetie.”

“But-”

“Now. Go call the fire department. Call them and tell them to meet me there.”

“Yes sir.” She put her hands on her hips, sighed, and watched him step in the vehicle. "Love you too, dad."

The patrol car sped off and the siren pierced the silence and the lights pierced the night.

* * *


The red and white lights from the fire department’s trucks were slowly coming into view from the motel. He had been there 10 minutes watching it burn while waiting. By the time the trucks pulled up and the Fire Chief Morton Andrews assessed the situation, there was nothing they could do to save the abandoned motel.

“Hey, Mort,” said the Sheriff.

“Hey, Walt.”

The two shook hands the same way they did every time they met: a hardy grip and one quick, powerful shake before letting go.

“Hell of a fire, eh?”

“Hell of a fire,” Morton said, admiring the destructive beauty of the fire as it consumed the old motel.

Walter took to coughing some because of the smoke. Then he reached into the patrol car and pulled out a six pack of cheap canned beer and separated two from their plastic circles and offered one to his old friend.

Morton took it and opened it and mumbled something about since there was no one in the building, waiting until the fire died down before sending his men in, “Best not to risk lives when there’s none to be savin’,” he said as he drank the contents of the 12 oz. silver can.

“Yep. I figure I’ll stay out here ‘till the morning light hits. I want to go walking around it with you. I’m a bit curious as to how it started, myself.”

“All right.” morton crumpled the can and tossed it in the back of the Fire Chief’s red F-150. “Well, me ‘n the boys will be back here in the morning to do a walk through.”

“See ya then.”

Walter waived with a lackadaisical hand at the firemen as they drove back into town, then got to drinking the rest of the six pack and watching the fire as it continued to burn what remained.


* * *


Walter was woken by knuckles rapping against the car window. The morning light that shone down on him and made his eyes squint. He had to wait a moment for his head to quit spinning.

“Hey, Walt,” said Morton.

“Hey, Mort.” Walt sat up and collected the beer cans that were strewn on the floorboard and tossed them in a small plastic bag he used as a trash can.

“Nearly 60 and still goes to sleep drunk,” he overheard one of the younger firefighters tell to another. It was the truth, so it didn’t bother him much. Not anymore.

It was only 7 a.m. but the Sheriff was already sweating. He fumbled around in his glove compartment and pulled out an old stick of deodorant that had sculpted to one side from being left out to melt and reform. It didn’t help his smell much.

“Howdy, Walt,” Morton said with extended arm. “It’s a scorcher already.”

Walter met it with his and they gave their customary handshake.

“Yep. If I had some eggs I’d cook us up some and use the black tar as the cooking pan. Lord knows it’s already hot enough.”

The two chuckled a moment then looked at the smoldering remains of the motel.

“Not much left to it.”

Walter put his hands on his hips and leaned back and forth once.

“No. No there isn’t.”

“Well, let’s walk ‘round it and see if I can’t see what started this inferno. Watch closely, maybe you can learn a thing or two about a real profession.”

Walter pointed down to the revolver strapped to his gun belt.

“I’ll stick to the one that lets me carry a gun.”

“Suit yourself, Walt.”

The chief, the sheriff, and the nine other firefighters went walking through the ashen abode.

“Chief!” One of the firefighters waved to the chief from the far end of the motel.

“On our way.”

It didn’t take long to see where it started. The chief hobbled his heavy fram over the debris toward the young firefighter. The two, and the remaining firefighters converged around him.

“Good job, Phil,” the chief said as he patted him once on his back. He then turned to Walter and explained, “You see this room?”

“Yep.”

“See how it looks darker than the rest; like the fire burned hotter?”

“I can see.”

He pointed around the charred remains.

“I bet you 10 to one you’re gonna find plenty of ILRs.” He turned back to Walter and said “That’s Ignitable Liquid Residue to the common fold.”

Walter smirked.

“Duly noted.”

Morten leaned back and puffed out his chest. He looked like a rooster that beamed with pride and said with a long “Y” “Yip, someone wanted this room to burn I can tell you that much right now.” He motioned to his men. “Start bagging some the evidence here.”

The men were moving a steel queen-sized bed frame when one of them dropped it and it fell with a loud crack on the floor.

“What the Hell, Josh?”

Josh didn’t respond, but looked agape at the body of charred bones that was underneath where the bed used to lay.

The chief and sheriff were on their way back to the cars when they heard the men calling their titles.

“What is it, Frank?” Morten said as he walked back to where they were.

Walter’s walkie-talkie began to crackle in his car with a voice that said, “Walt, are you there?”

Morten was calling to the sheriff as he walked closer to the other men.

“Yeah, be there in a minute, chief.” Walter jogged the four steps to the sheriff’s car.

“Walt, pick up if you’re there.”

Walter reached in the driver’s side door and pulled out the two-way radio.

“Yes, Sweetie. What is it?”

“It’s Mr. Masterson, Dad.”

“What about him?”

“I’m out at his place.” She paused.

Walter heard the chief calling his name as he ran toward him.

“Hang on, Sweetie. Mort’s telling me something.”

Morten was out of breath when he reached him. Through labored breathing he told him they found a charred body of a little girl.

“Oh good Lord.” Walter sighed and took off his cowboy hat and said a quick prayer out of habit.

June’s impatient voice crackled through the radio again.

“Dad, he’s dead. And so is his girlfriend, Sandra. Looks like murder/suicide.”

“Oh my,” said Morten when he heard the news through the walkie-talkie.

Walter leaned against the car and looked out at the motel a moment and cursed at the sun as he wiped more sweat from his brow.

“Dad?”

“Yeah Sweetie. Hold tight. I’ll be there soon.”
© Copyright 2017 J. L. Hamrick III (hamr1ck3 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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