The Chief - Cover

The Chief

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

Chapter 4

It was a thorny deal to churn around in my head. I had Cecelia's input, and Rudy clearly thought I ought to take the job. But I couldn't come to a decision. I went to bed Thursday night thinking about it, and fretted over it Friday and Saturday. I spent a lot of time out walking – in the cold, which I hate with a purple passion – trying to figure out what I really wanted. And I was at a total loss. I certainly wanted to make Cecelia happy, and I didn't want to ignore Rudy's advice, but every time I'd try to make my mind up one way or another it would rebel.

Sunday I could hardly focus on the sermon, which is unusual for me – and not a good idea, since I'm one of the church's elders. It wasn't my turn to preach that day, or I'd have been in trouble; even though I use a full manuscript, I'd probably have gotten lost anyway, I was so distracted. We went out to the Chili's on Menaul at Louisiana, which should have gotten my attention, since it was the first place I'd ever taken Cecelia to eat, but it didn't. I ate something, and talked about something or another with my family, and drove back home somehow, but I was in a complete muddle.

Finally I decided to take a drastic step. I got up from my chair in the study, walked down the hall, and knocked on Darlia's doorjamb as I stuck my head in.

She looked up from the book she was reading – one called Beetles Lightly Toasted, I saw, one that I'd turned her on to. It might be a children's book, or at least young adult, but it's a perfectly good book for grownups too. "Yes?" she said. She's always been capable of imperial dignity, but as she's gotten closer to her teens she's seemed to become the epitome of self-possession.

"I wonder if I could talk to you, 'Lia," I said.

"Sure." She put her bookmark between the pages and closed the book.

"Could you come on in the study?"

"Sure," she said again, and got down off the bed, where she'd been leaning against the headboard. I looked at the bed for a second – her children's bedclothes were gone, and these days she's favoring white sheets and a dark blue "mink" blanket that Miss Kim sent her last year.

I led the way back to the study, which is in the former garage. As you go in the door, my desk is ahead and to the left, with my leather "judge's chair" behind it and two captain's chairs – also with leather upholstery – in front of it. And to the right, along the wall, there's a space without bookshelves, and in that space there's a little leather-covered loveseat. I sat down on the right end, and Darlia plopped down on the other end, turning to face me and sitting tailor fashion.

"What can I help you with, Dad? I know you've been somewheres else the past couple of days." She gets her speech habits from me, though – like me – she knows the big words and the proper grammar when she wants to use 'em.

"Has your mother talked to you any about the call I got Thursday?"

"I didn't know you'd got a call."

I nodded – I knew where to start, now. "Well, I did, from a guy who's on the Red Hawk city council. The short version is, they want me to go back and be the police chief."

"I sort of liked Red Hawk," she said, just making an observation. I'd sort of liked it too, when I lived there back in the 80s; Darlia's experience was more recent – we'd visited in 2006, going on three years ago. "Do you think you'd want to do it?"

"Did I ever tell you, 'Lia, that I love your voice?"

"Yeah, 'bout a zillion times."

I nodded. Darlia's voice is low, even lower than Cecelia's contralto, and husky. She reminds me of Stevie Nicks or Melissa Ethridge, both of whom sing with a husky voice – and of Ana Gabriel, a Mexican singer whose voice is my favorite in the world. But Darlia's is rough whether she's singing or speaking.

"Well," I said, "I don't know whether I want to do it. Lemme tell you what I've done so far. I've thought and thought about it, which is why I've been in another world. I've talked to your mom, who sort of kind of said if I do it she won't mind. And I've talked to Rudy, who thinks it would be great."

"Mom wouldn't mind?"

"It don't seem so."

"She got mad at you when you did that job for Chief Thomas."

"Yeah – but she's apologized for that, now. She says she was wrong, though I gotta admit I provoked her the way I just sprung it on her."

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