The Chief - Cover

The Chief

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

Chapter 2

"How much do you owe that police department?" she asked.

"Pretty considerable," I said. "I wouldn't be a PI today if it weren't for bein' a cop back there."

"I too owe the department," she said. "For your experience as a police officer there shaped you – or at least helped shaped you – into the man you are today. When I proposed to you, I was proposing to a man who had emerged from police work, and was still involved in law enforcement. Indeed, had you not been in law enforcement, we would not have met; you still have the records of my case in your files, as I shamelessly discovered when you hired me to do your filing."

"I got so many old files I oughta get a storage unit," I said, though in fact it wasn't that bad.

"That is not the issue, of course," she said, waving away the irrelevancy. "My point is that though you were a sworn officer for only two years, those two years determined the future course of your life more than any other two years of your existence. Your time as a cowboy didn't move you into ranching. The odd jobs you did as a youth didn't influence your career. But you became – as you have described it, almost by accident – a police officer, and you have done no other type of work since. You are now 43 – you will be 44 in a very few months – and you have been working in crime, as you put it, since you were 21. You have been in law enforcement longer than you have been my husband or Darlia's father. That is how profound the Red Hawk Police Department's influence has been."

"And your point?" I asked.

"Simply that I do not wish you to cavalierly dismiss this call to service. If you in the end choose to turn down the opportunity, I shall support you. But I wish you to make your decision only after you have given it sober thought. For most of your life you've been in law enforcement; you embarked on that career when a callow youth, and now you are a mature man with a family. Do not lightly dismiss that."

"I recollect that the last time I got the call you got upset when I accepted the job."

"I did," she said, "and I have since regretted it. It is true that your acceptance of the assignment interfered with our vacation, but the obligation you felt to the town, the department, and your friend was real, and you could not have responded differently. Chief Thomas has, of course, retired since then – your friend is no longer an element in the matter. But the town and the department remain. And with the benefit of clear hindsight, I see that my previous reaction was not fully appropriate. I wish to avoid unjust anger – and I wish you to do what is right."

"Your one o' them elves, all right," I said.

"One of these days, Darvin, you shall refer to me with a literary allusion which does not emanate from Jane Eyre."

"I really don't think you want me to compare you to la Pilar," I said.

"Though she was a large woman and I am notable only for my lack of width, I more closely resemble her appearance than that of María," she said with a smile.

"I oughta know better than to get into a literary argument with a lady who writes literary criticism," I said, but I was smiling too. "Okay, I'll think on it. But here's one thing – we ain't goin' if either your or Darlia don't want to. Either of you's got a veto on this, even if I decide to go, which I sure don't expect I will."

"I would have insisted on such a qualification, had you not proposed it." She was putting together a second sandwich; I'd gotten about halfway through my second while she made her speech about my obligations. "You are the head of this family and I do, and shall, submit to you as such. But I do not intend to submit to raw tyranny."

"Look at me, C," I told her.

She did, and smiled a little. "No, Darvin, you have never attempted to become a tyrant. I spoke heatedly, and without justification."

I shook my head. "I took umbrage where I ought not to've, didn't I?"

"You are human, my husband. You act as a human being acts."

"Thanks goodness for grace, huh?" I said, and got up from my chair.

"Just hand me your plate, Darvin – you do not need to walk all the way around."

I did. "You claim you don't read my mind," I said to Cecelia.

"I don't need to read your mind, when you have your plate in your hand and are turning to walk. I know the geography of this house as well as you do – better, perhaps, since I lived here for three years prior to meeting you. Now cease to trouble me – go play solitaire, or otherwise divert yourself."

I grinned. "Whatever you say, boss," I said, and went off to play solitaire on the computer, or otherwise divert myself.

I'd run through a bunch of games, winning twice and switching decks several times – I'm not superstitious, but it does seem as though sometimes, not always, switching to another deck in the Windows solitaire program makes a difference – when I had an idea. The problem was that Darlia doesn't have a cell phone, but that gave me another idea. I shut down the program and headed out of the study. I could hear the whirring of Cecelia's industrial sewing machine, so I stepped into her sewing room – what had been the third bedroom when I married her, where she kept her weights, and then had become my study, and now was in its third incarnation.

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