The Chief - Cover

The Chief

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

Chapter 28

The last day of my service was March 30, 2010. I went into my office and signed the last pieces of paperwork I needed to. Cecelia was off that day – she'd put in her resignation at the same time I did, and requested that her last two days on the force be off days – but she came in with me, just to sit in my office. Darlia was "in school," taking care of the last few items necessary to close out her time learning via computer and resume attending classes. She wouldn't, though, be going directly back to Calvin Academy. Because as police chief I couldn't just take off and go places the way I'd been doing for years as my own employer, we hadn't been able to go to Lanfair Valley for a month in August as our custom is, nor had we been able to spend a month in Leanna visiting Cecelia's parents. We had put Darlia on a plane up to Washington, where she spent a month during the summer on the Lahtkwa reservation with my brother and his Korean wife, so she had gotten at least some of what she was used to – but not all of it.

So we were going to go south and east from Red Hawk, down to Alabama, and spend time with Gram and Gramp – or Mama and Daddy, as Cecelia and I call her parents. And then we'd make the long, long drive out to California, and spend time in the Mojave Desert. It wouldn't be the full-blown month that would come in August – for it could come, in 2010 – but it would be something. We've been making that trip every year since 1996, even in 1999 when we nearly destroyed our marriage, and since we hadn't been able to do it in 2009, I figured a quick trip early in 2010 and then the regular visit in August would sort of make up for the lapse.

It was about noon when I finished up the paperwork. There was more that I could do, but nothing that couldn't wait till the next day, when the new chief would be sitting in my chair. I reached into my right rear pocket and pulled out my badge holder. I looked for a moment at the Red Hawk PD chief's shield there, and the ID card, then took them out and tossed them on the desk. I opened the center drawer and pulled out my PI badge, which I'd ordered way back in 1988 when I'd left the Red Hawk Police Department to become a private investigator. I slipped it into the badge holder, and put it back in my pocket. Cecelia's badge and ID were already on my desk, waiting for whatever disposition the new chief wanted – probably he'd return the shield to the cabinet where the department stored badges, which is what I'd have done if I were staying.

"I feel freer than I've felt in a year," I told her. She was sprawled as bonelessly as a cat in the wooden chair on the other side of the desk. She had on a white t-shirt whose sleeves came to just below her elbows, and a black skirt that reached, I knew, to the floor when she stood up. On her feet were a pair of cowboy boots she's had for ages – black, scuffed, and very run down at the heels. I looked at her as I've looked at her for years – as though I can't get enough of her, which is the exact truth.

"As do I, Darvin," she said. "I would not trade this experience for anything. But I am glad that it is over. I have missed our house tremendously, and seeing our friends again will be most satisfying."

"This place was home for me once," I said. "But it ain't now. These days home is in Hoffmantown, in a house that you've owned since 1991."

"Home is not, then, where you hang your hat?"

"No, it's where my heart is. And in a sense that's wherever you are, 'cause you got my heart in your hand. But my roots are in Albuquerque now. They weren't when we met. I'd been in town a couple of years by then, and probably wouldn't have stayed more than two or three more if I'd never known you. But I met you, and there ain't never been no reason to go nowheres else ever since."

"That last sentence," she said, "is one of the most egregiously bad I've ever heard, even from you, and you are adept at making your mother tongue seem like the gibberish of alien hordes."

"If you ever wonder whether I'm really me, just listen to me talk. If I sound all the time like I know how to speak English, you'll know it's an imposter."

"That, Darvin, is the unvarnished truth." She straightened up in her chair. "I know that you absolutely forbade any reporters to make a ceremony out of your departure. Nevertheless, I believe I hear Samantha in the outer office." I think Cecelia's the only person in all of Red Hawk who ever called Sam Sowell by her complete name.

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