Beatrice 1963 Part Three
Declan Connors the son of Cormac Connors, sheriff of our small town, was always the diplomat. Why take for instance the name of our town. Some kids at school got into a debate one day about how its pronounced. Most were of the popular opinion that it should come out as Bee-at-trice, while some said it was named after a some judge’s daughter, and there-fore should be pronounced as Bee-a-trice.
Dec said, “Names of towns can only be named for famous folks, such as Lincoln, capital of our state. Why look at all the surrounding towns. No judge’s daughter was famous enough to have a whole damned town named after her! Therefore, Bee-at-trice is how it’s pronounced.”
Usually when Dec spoke, everyone listened. If they didn’t, rumor was his dad, Sheriff Mac, would come in the middle of the night and put you in jail, forcing you to share the same cell with Oscar the monkey that Harv Brindle kept in a cage as a pet. Dec’s words were usually the last on any subject. Because no one wanted to end up a locked in a cell with Oscar, except maybe Hiney Scrabble. Hiney, too, was the only one who had bragging rights when it came to wrestling with Oscar. He was the only one in our town strong enough to give that chimp a run for his money.
One night, Sheriff Mac and his two deputies had to extract the big chimp out of Harv’s Tavern when he escaped from his cage. Mac and his two deputies took Oscar to the ground, wrestled him around some, and then along came Hiney, who ended up taking Oscar by the hand and leading him back to the cage on the side of Harv’s oak tree beside my dad’s vacant lot.
No kid in our school ever wanted to test the theory that Sheriff Mac would do his only son’s bidding and arrest his fellow classmates so they could spend a night in county with big ol’ Oscar. Funny how rumors like that get started, because the last thing Mac would ever do is terrorize some poor kid on a whim from his son. No, Mac was the most fair-minded upholder of the law that I had ever seen. And to think that he would even consider doing something that mean would be absurd.
Dec and I knew firsthand Sheriff Mac’s idea of justice. The first time we ever got caught cobbing candy from Lawrie’s Shop, old man Lawrie phoned Sheriff Mac and told him he had two hooligans in custody. Mac showed up, apologizing to old man Lawrie. When Sheriff Mac got us down to the jail, he escorted us inside the jail house. Silently, he led us into the back room where the cells for prisoners were, and there he sat us down in two chairs facing one of those cells. Inside of it lay the infamous Rome Kowski. The big ogre was sound asleep, his mouth a big O within his bushy red beard. Mac then turned and without saying a word, left us seated there while he went off to his front office.
Dec and I sat there, fidgeting and fretting for nearly three hours. Not once did Rome wake up from his booze-induced coma. We both just sat there, not even whispering to each other for fear our hissing voices would arouse the sleeping giant. At the end of those three hours, Mac came striding down the hall leading to the cells, looking every bit like Clint Walker the cowboy hero of the TV western, Cheyenne. Big and handsome, his sheriff’s outfit fitting him like a second skin, muscles rippling on his large frame, every black hair on his head neatly combed into place and slick with Brill Cream. And then Mac quietly said, “How do you think Mom would feel about this, Declan?”
Dec’s mom had died two years ago of cancer, and the last thing that Dec would ever do is disappoint her, so I’m figuring Mac had made his point as he finished with, “Mom would be disappointed to know you ended up being a jailbird. Is that what you want?”
Dec said, “No, sir. No way, no how.”
That was it. Mac let us go, and just before shooing us out of his office, he reached out with both of his massive hands and ruffled our hair.
I wished right then and there I had him for a dad. Instead of the dad I’d gotten stuck with.
Hiney Scrabble and Chris Catlin pulled up in the street next to Sheriff Mac in their tow trucks straight from Catlin’s junkyard, south of town. Being real quiet so Sheriff Mac down there in the street didn’t hear us, I whispered, “Both cars are both gonna end up at Catlin’s. Think anyone’s gonna notice those keys are still sticking out of that trunk?”
Dec replied, “Betcha my dad will. Ain’t like Sheriff Mac not to notice something like that. I’ll bet he searches both cars before Hiney and Chris cart them away.”
We watched big ol’ Hiney approach Sheriff Mac, looking to him for instructions. Huge and brawny, dressed in his blue denim overalls, Hiney looked like a mountain man. His long red hair hung loose about his broad shoulders and a bright bushy beard covered up most of his face. Dec once saw Hiney actually lift a horse off the ground by standing under it and hefting it up on his shoulders. He was big and strong like a pro-wrestler straight from All-Star Wrestling, which came in handy in his line of work as a tow truck driver out at Catlin’s junkyard.
Hiney didn’t talk much, which doesn’t mean he was stupid or not too bright. It was just in his nature to speak only when he was spoken to. And like I said, Hiney saved the day that night dealing with Oscar down at Harv’s tavern, calmly walking him away from what had turned out to be a free-for-all between Oscar and the three lawmen of our town.
Chris Catlin whistled, then loudly declared, “Mac, it looks like Jon Kennedy was driving around town armed with a gun, too!”
Then, wiry, dark-haired Chris reached inside the Kennedy car and removed a pistol from the front seat. As Chris handed it to Sheriff Mac, I began to wonder how he knew the dead guy’s name? The man was a complete stranger to our town, so how did Chris know his name?
“What in hell?” Sheriff Mac said in disbelief. “He opened the cylinder on the .22 pistol, checking on the status of its six bullets. “Two of these have been fired,” Mac said to no one in particular.
He called my dad over to talk with him, asking if he had heard any shots being fired. I think he was trying to determine if maybe Henry hadn’t killed Jonathan in self-defense. Which would have changed things considerably. Dec and I knew, though, that Jon Kennedy hadn’t so much as even drawn his pistol, let alone fired it. Which we badly wanted to tell Sheriff Mac. But we couldn’t since we were skipping school.