Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty-three.
Tonight we present: Sgt. Smith and The Rescue, Part 1 of 1
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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight, Mulligan’s father relates the tale of a sudden promotion during his early days in law enforcement.
Flash Pulp 133 – Sgt. Smith and The Rescue, Part 1 of 1
Let me tell you how I became Sheriff of Mill County.
It was 1956. Things were different back then.
Mill County was a tiny office up north, but they needed the help – there was the sheriff, a good and reliable man, his wife, Ellie, who covered dispatch, Neddy Thompson, Whisky Taylor, and myself.
Ellie was six months pregnant, Neddy was too young to know the difference between his sidearm and his brain, and I was a mute. Worst off, though, was Whisky. Back then you didn’t think of drunks like you do now. People drank, and Taylor was one of those guys who rode out on the macho routine. We didn’t treat him as we should of – that is, with treatment – but he knew all the local riff-raff by their first name, and his hard drinking and stiff breath left everyone looking at him like he was John Wayne. In general it didn’t do to question his slurring too much.
One Sunday morning, though, Whisky and I were out staring at the pavement passing under our wheels, when we received an excited shout from the radio.
“Shots fired at 884 Maple.”
Until then the closest I’d ever gotten to a shots fired call in Mill County was the occasional complaint about someone poaching pheasant in the off-season. Those, at least, we could pass onto the game warden.
On went the lights, and down went the pedal.
Saturday was always a busy night, down on the drag – that’s when the farmers and factory boys would slosh between the two bars that hunkered across from each other at the town’s major crossroads. The Sheriff and Neddy were sleeping off a hard night’s drunk-wrangling, and the nearest alternate back-up was an hour away.
We made a hard stop in front of a one-story bungalow, and Whisky says “I’ll go round back”.
Then I was alone on the dusty cloth seats of the Chevy Bel Air.
Well, hell, my lack of a tongue meant I couldn’t yell a warning as I was approaching the house, but they knew plenty well we were there, as my wobbly partner had felt no need to spare the siren. Stupidity in the line of duty was my bread and butter at that age, so I strolled up the walk like I owned the place. I hadn’t even drawn my gun when I got the warning.
“Hey, you. Yeah, you, broke-mouth – you stay back, or Lady Fillmore will have plenty to complain about.”
I’d gotten to know Dina Fillmore via previous disturbance reports, and Lady wasn’t the term I’d have used to describe her. The wife of Bobby Fillmore – who ran one of the gin joints I mentioned previously – she was known as a stickler, and her ability to find fault in every person, and situation, she encountered, was the stuff of beauty-salon legend.
It was well understood, however, that she was largely passing on the bile fed to her by her own husband, who often left her in such a condition as to require the steady hands of the beauticians to cover her injuries.
I backed up to the road, figuring I’d put the car between myself and the revolver that the voice was waving from behind a curtain.
While I was still taking cover, there came the sound of a scuffle, then a shot. My weapon was definitely in my hands by then, but there wasn’t much I could do. If I kicked in the door, I’d likely just catch a bullet in the belly, and the drawn shades made it impossible to know what was going on inside.
I started tapping out a Morse code update for Ellie, as quick as I could, trying to tell her to wake the Sheriff. It was so painfully slow.
Before I was done, Whisky came stumbling over the fender.
“Bobby shot me!”
He showed me his arm – it was bleeding, but barely, and his tone was one of indignation, not massive internal injury. I wondered then, and I wonder now, if he maybe just cut himself in his panic to get out of the line of fire.
“Either of you jerks comes waltzing up here again and I’ll start aimin’ straight,” came the voice from the house.
We didn’t have many options – we couldn’t even lean on the local firemen, as they were just an all volunteer squad of chicken-pluckers from the packing plant. We kept the rubberneckers in their houses, and waited for someone with a higher pay-grade to arrive at the scene and make a decision.
Whisky tried screaming a bit of a dialogue back and forth, but the gunman would have none of it. The sound of Dina’s complaints came shredding through the window screen, but, at that distance, her voice was nothing but a string of pleading shrieks.
Despite his complaints, Whisky refused to leave the scene. I suspect he was mostly concerned about his long-term reputation. It didn’t shut him up any.
The Sheriff was pretty blurry eyed when he pulled-up, with Neddy in tow, and when I beeped to let Ellie know, she told me, very seriously, to take care of him.
“Galdang, galdang,” he said.
“C’mon out, Bobby,” said the Sherrif.
“Screw you,” replied Fillmore.
The Sheriff raised his aviators, and gave his eyes a good rub. That’s when the waiting began.
The day grew warmer, then colder. We sat in the car to rest our legs; we stood up and paced. We put on jackets, and took turns refilling our two thermoses of coffee from the Chinese place on Elm. Eventually some highway guys, from Walmont, came to help out – they brought donuts, and joined us in our vigil.
The boys kept trying to talk to him, but the later it got, the more we became worried about his intention to end the situation with a bullet. Neddy was sure it was going to be in Dina, but I’d suspected for a while that the whisky-dispensor’s shack was soon to be the odd-man-out – that the town had one bar too many for the size of the market – and it seemed to me that he was working himself up to ending his problems at his own hand.
I passed about a few notes saying as much, and, despite a round of jibber-jabber from Neddy, which included a suggestion he go home and retrieve his own hunting rifle, the Sheriff decided he was going to sweet talk his way into the house.
After a long hour of creeping and gentle conversation, he was in.
Nothing more happened till dawn.
There were no cellphones then, and, as stupid as it was, we didn’t really think to leave many messages with dispatch. It was just a case of nothing going on, and not thinking it through.
Both patrol cars were off the lot, so Ellie came in the family sedan that they’d invested in for after the baby’s arrival. She didn’t stop for the mail box, or the neighbour’s picket fence – she barely even stopped for the porch. We should have been at hand to prevent her from such a stupid thing, but she was so fast, even for being so pregnant.
I’d never thought of her as a big woman, but she’d been born into raising a cow herd on her parent’s plot, and she swung her belly like a wrecking ball as she bounded up the steps.
Lack of sleep, and the kind of high-powered chemicals that make a woman’s body fit to house a child, gave her voice a level of command usually reserved for ranking celestial beings and four star generals.
“Bobby Fillmore, you step out onto this porch immediately.”
If I were him, I’d have swung the door wide while begging for redemption.
Ellie was a woman ahead of her time – she’d always insisted on uniform slacks to work in, and wore a pair of Doc Marten boots, just like those of us who rode around in the cruisers.
The still unborn Avery, who would eventually come out weighing eight pounds and ten ounces, gave her the extra momentum necessary to kick through the locked door, revealing the captor within.
He may have been a suicidal nutter, but he’d been raised at a time when it was impolite to point a loaded gun at a pregnant woman – or maybe he just didn’t think a woman of her size, and state, would be a problem – whatever the case, he held the weapon across his chest as he addressed her.
“What?” he said.
She didn’t bother responding, she just laid him low with a swift kick.
As Bobby writhed on the floor, she snatched up his pistol. She disappeared further into the house for a moment, then we saw her coming back, directing her husband like an errant child, and pulling Dina along behind her.
Whisky was yelling from where he’d stationed himself as a lookout, but, by then, he’d decided his wound was probably fatal, and had taken to openly drinking away the pain of his already healing scab.
Neddy and I rushed in, but the fight was basically over. We handcuffed Bobby and hauled him away.
In the end, the fallout was that the Sheriff quit. He told me he couldn’t risk doing his job if it put Ellie in the danger of someday attempting another rescue. Whisky was offered pension if he retired early on his supposed gunshot wound, and Neddy was deemed too young – and eager to retrieve his rifle – to take on the mantel. That left me.
For for three weeks, I was the new interim sheriff in town. Before proper elections could be held, however, the powers-that-be juggled things, and the highway patrol out of Walmont were extended to cover the area.
With half of the town’s major problem centers closed while Fillmore was serving time, I couldn’t blame them.
My brief term made a great resume point, though – and I’d had enough of backwaters – so your mom and I were soon on our way to Capital City.
Anyhow, enough of one old man’s prattling, Jeopardy isn’t going to watch itself.
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