The Chief - Cover

The Chief

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

Chapter 6

It was the next day that Cecelia did something she's very good at – she got practical. I was sitting at the counter, eating a slice of pizza that I'd taken from the refrigerator – a frozen one originally, though Cecelia does make pizza from scratch – when she came from the sewing room into the kitchen and began doing whatever she does in there. To me, if it's anything more complicated than a skillet of fried potatoes, cooking is a magical art up there with making it rain and divining the future. I can follow the instructions on a can or a box, but that's about it.

As she diced onions – that much I could figure out – she said, "Have you considered the logistics, if the city council agrees to your conditions?"

"Not really. I've been thinking on whether to do it, not what it would involve."

She nodded. "That is your character – in your phrase, you burn a bridge only when you come to it. But I have been considering the matter, and I have reached the conclusion that it will be difficult."

"How so?" I asked around a bite of pizza.

"One example – this house. I do not propose to sell it, especially not with the house next door now in our possession, and waiting for remodeling into office space for our agency. Another example is the agency itself. You have moved out of the building, but we have not yet moved into our new offices – what shall we do with the detective agency if we're in Red Hawk for a year? A supremely important consideration is Darlia's schooling. The schools in Red Hawk may be superior to every other government school in the nation, but I do not relish the thought of pulling her out of Calvin Academy."

I nodded. "Yeah, there's a lot to it, I guess. I suppose we'll take both cars, and there are several people who can watch the house for us. The office ... well, I guess we could get the contractor to do the remodeling while we're gone – in fact, that would eliminate any need for a rush job. And we could just put the agency in abeyance for the year ... yeah, I know that word," I said as I saw her eyebrow go up. I don't normally use big words like that. "As for Darlia..."

"It is a puzzle," she said. "If she were older I would leave her here, with supervision, so that she could both guard the house, and attend her classes. None of the other students live particularly close, but I am sure that someone's parents would be compliable with a request to transport her, upon a guarantee of sufficient payment to cover gasoline and upkeep on the vehicle. But she is not older – she will only be 12 on her birthday."

"You know," I said, "she may be the one who breaks this deal. Even if the city council is willing to hire you just 'cause I want it, and even if they're willing to let me go after only a year, if we can't find a satisfactory solution to the Darlia problem I ain't a-gonna do it. She's more important than any cop job."

"She is," Cecelia said.

"Yeah," came Darlia's voice from my right. I looked and she was just emerging from the hallway into the living room – clearly she'd heard some of what we'd said as she came out of her room, where she'd been reading the last I knew. "What's this 'Darlia problem' y'all are talking about?"

"Darlia, you are not in the south," Cecelia said.

"No, but I like 'y'all' anyway. Like Dad says, it's better than 'youse guys.' I usually say 'you guys, ' but sometimes I like something different."

"As your father says, Darlia – you know your grammar well enough that I should not have to correct you on that point."

Darlia took the seat to my left, grinning. "Yeah, I know it – but I like talkin' like Dad."

"I suppose I must be content with the fact that you prefer my form of exercise to his."

"I guess he could bench his own weight," Darlia said, "but not as many times as you could."

"And I can bench press your father's weight," she said. I knew it was true – I'd once seen her blow up, three times, the weight of a guy who must have been around 200 pounds, almost twice her own weight, just to prove a point. She doesn't often go to a gym, having weight machines in the shed in the back yard, but we'd been on a trip and she'd decided to work out where she could. And in her sweats, with long sleeves that day, she did look kind of puny, since it takes about five of her to throw a decent shadow.

"Meanwhile," Darlia said, interrupting my thoughts, "I still don't know what the 'Darlia problem' is."

"Just what to do about your school if I do to go Red Hawk. One of the conditions I put on it was that if they hire me as the chief, they gotta let me hire your mom as an officer."

"Really!" How Darlia can squeal with that low raspy voice I'll never know, but she did it just then. "That would be so cool!"

"Yes, but it doesn't solve the problem of your schooling. I do not wish to subject you to the inadequacies of government schooling. I shudder to think what farcical requirements they would place upon you, while constraining you to sit in a class with students who know less than you do about every important subject."

"So I know about the Spartans, and the laws of motion, and how to do long division in my head, and I can quote the whole Declaration of Independence, and pretty big stretches of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers and a lot of speeches from that part of history. I could manage."

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