And So Are You!

“I see everybody survived the potty break and we didn’t need to call a plumber,” Harden tilted the fishing cap replacement for his cowboy hat, stood behind the chair he’d occupied during Virgil Green’s polygraph. “First off, we can’t leave Virgil pinballin’ around a cell in here by himself on Sunday, and I’m not about to put him in the county lockup until I’m sure he can handle it. This bein’ Bash’s on-call weekend,” he shifted to look to his left. “Do you come in an babysit, waitin’ for the phone to ring? What if you get a call? Does Betty round us up a reserve to stay here all day? Do we tag Virg and put him up in the Travelodge? What about—”

“Sheriff?” Betty wagged her pen. “One problem at a time, please?”

“Alright. Disposition of Virgil. Bash?”

“I can come in if I need to. I might put him to work in the storage closet.”

“You might get the ACLU’s panties in a twist over that bein’ cruel and unusual punishment. Candi?”

“I have no problems with the Travelodge. Betty?”

“None a y’all are afraid a Virgil walkin’ across the parkin’ lot, stickin’ his thumb out,” demonstrated, “an bein’ in the wind?”

“I’m more worried about him doin’ something to himself, thinkin’ it’ll put everybody involved outta dealin’ with what he sees as the misery he’s caused.”

“I’m with the Sheriff. He was a mess when I brought him in.”

“I hate to remind everybody,” Bash, yawning, palms on his cheeks, “but he did kill a man.”

“With a damn catfish.” Candi offered a small, tired smile. “How dangerous can he be?”

“None, I guess,” Bash, leaning back in his chair. “Unless Bigfoot has his eye on the Travelodge.”

“Done.” Harden swept up the loose paper in front of him. “Virgil goes to the Travelodge. I’ll go fishin’, Betty’ll go to church, Bash’ll keep his phone on and Candi—”

“Will drink too much wine, take a long, hot bath and spend a whole day letting nothing be important.”

“Sunday’s settled, then… Betty can you—”

“Updating Virgil’s info and signing out a GPS ankle monitor as we speak.”

“We don’t pay you enough.”

“No, you don’t. It was okay for playin’ solitaire, but now I that I’ve unleashed my mad computer skills…”

“Yeah, yeah. Wait’ll we see if Cotton’s consistently worth a damn,” with a wink. “If she is, I’ll move some budget your way. Speaking of Agent Cotton,” he’d dropped his shoulders, hands in his pockets. “When do you plan on unleashing the Pontotoc war on graft? And if it blows up, what are we gonna do about a judge?”

“I have that,” Candi leaned to pull a folder from her bag.

“Just tell me, Candi. Spreadsheets make my head hurt.”

“Right,” the folder dropped back in the bag. “First thing Monday morning, I’ll give all the information I have, which is broad and not as specific as I’d like, to your beloved County Attorney-slash-prosecutor.”

Specifics of spreadsheet crime are that dickweed’s job. Don’t feel guilty. Prime his ass with what you’ve got and set it on fire. Next, and this is a bigger problem, how deep does the corruption go, and how much is it gonna to cost the county? ‘Cause if it’s bad, I might need to call in some favors to keep you from gettin’ shot in the back.”

“The fines were all judgement calls and always under the allowable max for the violation. That lets the county off the repercussion hook. The crimes are where that money went. Your other question, what will they find outside of our immediate dealings with the court?” Her hands came off the table, open and wide.

“You’re sayin’ it could be every chicken shit gas station with a post office an speed trap, or just the local courthouse barflies. What’s your gut tell you?”

“I ate too many breakfast tacos, and honestly? Betty and I didn’t see enough money going through the court’s books to say,” quote fingers, “‘widespread corruption.’”

“What about the judge?”

“He’s oblivious. The question is can he still do his job without his clerk feeding him legal answers and fines through the monitor on his bench?”

“Everybody knows,” Betty, scowling, repeatedly hitting one key on the laptop, “the man cain’t find his butt with both hands in his back pockets since before his wife died.”

“Don’t we have three other District Judges?”

“Sure, Bash, but who else is familiar with Virgil, will take Man Two and go light on sentencin’?”

Candi, with some trepidation, “Tina Perriman?”

“I’ll go Perriman. She’s as weird as they come, but she leaves it outside the courthouse. Let’s see if we can get Virgil and the prosecutor in front of her before your corruption news breaks. I don’t want her thinkin’ we set the dogs on her nightstand drawer.”

“You forget I have to live and work here now, so it won’t be my corruption investigation. Any fallout will belong to the prosecutor. Connor Yates can carry it because he’ll be leaving for the state house at the end of his term.”

“How d’you figure that?”

“Dropping the corruption investigation in Yates’ lap is contingent on him leaving to join the Attorney General’s office. The AG loves a bulldog, so Yates has sixteen months to clean house and become ‘Connor Yates – the people over politicians’ hero.”

“Which means he’ll be too busy to hassle my massage parlor. I knew you had to be good for somethin’ or Merton would’ve kept you underfoot.”

***

Bash walked out the back door into the parking lot, found Candi, hands on hips, scanning the area from fence to fence. “Where’s my Jeep?”

“County Service garage.”

“I thought you had it.”

“I did. I swapped the tires, drove it for a day. The alignment was so bad I could hardly keep it on the road. I got called names by an old woman just for drivin’ it, and then shot at. I’d had enough Geronimo Ken in the wrong Jeep and dropped it at the County garage. Besides, they needed the tires I’d borrowed for it back by Monday. Come Monday mornin’, though, they’ll have your new tires.”

My new tires?”

“Special order. They’ll mount ‘em and align that beast, set you to streetin’ smooth instead of gettin’ beat up by Baywatch Barbie’s Ass Buster. But… I have no problem with you keepin’ my truck till your Jeep’s done.”

“What are you driving?”

“The big, pewter Chrysler.”

“Yours?”

“Only on weekends I pimp.”

“Nice to know you have a hobby. But I don’t believe you own the wardrobe, so I say it’s an impound lot forfeit.”

“You’d be right. I picked it up when I dropped your Jeep.”

“Then you can keep your damn truck, cowboy. I’ll take the Chrysler.”

“Indian. And no, you won’t.”

Won’t hell,” frustration seeping out. “It’s a loaner for my Jeep, Bash. Not for your rust—”

“Forget won’t. Can’t. You gotta be on the County’s liability.”

“I know insurance law, and with the owner’s permission, I can drive anything.”

“That law applies to individuals, Justice Cotton. The County, as a government entity, has their own rules, and one of them is you gotta be in the risk pool to drive a county vehicle.”

“Bull. Shit.” Steaming, her voice coming up. “I drove the Tahoe half the day yesterday.”

“As an officer of the law, performing her duty. If it’s crime busting, you can commandeer a ride if you have to. But I don’t seem to recall goin’ home to take an expensive fragrance infused bath and lie around eating chef’s choice meals and designer chocolate for a day-and-a-half in an upscale B&B as raisons d’etre of law enforcement.”

“You are so,” fists to temples exasperated, “full of it. You know that?”

“Look, I said I don’t mind loanin’ you my truck. Since borrowin’ it without tellin’ me is how you got to standin’ here all car-less an pissed off.”

“Thanks,” she smacked the top of his Ranger. “For being so fucking considerate.”

“What are friends for? Soon as the County opens up Monday morning, bingo. But you won’t need it because the Barbie-mobile will be ready by the time you’re through sweepin’ out the courthouse.”

You get a sweet ride for my Jeep, and I get stuck with your rust bucket,” acute disbelief. “You know,” over her shoulder,” I just keep getting screwed on this deal and nobody even offers to buy me dinner.”

“Hey,” a theatrically smug, blameless shrug, “I don’t make the rules.”

“Well, they’re shit.” She climbed in, slammed the door. “And so are you.” She jammed the aging Ranger into reverse, backed out, ground the gears again, raised a one-finger salute and chugged out of the lot.

***

“What’s with Cotton?” Harden appeared on Bash’s right side.

“She’s drivin’ my truck.”

“She’s been drivin’ your truck. What caused her to flip you off?”

“The big Chrysler.”

“Godamighty… ” It took a few seconds for Harden’s weary sigh to die away.

“You see how it happened, right?”

“I wasn’t born yesterday. What kinda bullshit you spread on it?”

“Told her she had to be signed up with the county to drive vehicles requirin’ county liability.”

“That’s true. But I listed her Tuesday. You knew that.”

“Knew what?”

“Dammit, Bash.” The heavy wait ended when he wiped his forehead with a wrist. “How long you plan on bustin’ her chops?”

“Till she stops thinkin’ we’re just like everybody else.”

“Reckon she knows that already. You’re after her behavin’ like she knows, an that’s gonna take a while. Maybe an act a Congress. So be careful with that shit. She ends up thinkin’ we’re really bustin’ her for bein’ who she is, then we are like everybody else.”

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Phil Huston

https://philh52.wordpress.com/

17 thoughts on “And So Are You!”

  1. I was waiting for the next installment to drop before reading this, because I like two at a time from you. Then, I’m three behind. Way to eff up my system, Huston.
    Also, why do I feel like I missed something in Betty’s arc? Maybe I pigeonholed her upon her initial appearance, but she seems like an old southern broad who knows people and cannot be surprised, but now also seems to have previously unknown competencies.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Somewhere, without making too much of a point of it, Candi used her as a sounding board for the original money trail, and on an early arrival she and Betty got square on coffee making with one of those minor letting go of control moments. Somewhere, with no more than an “I took the liberty of showing Betty how to run this stuff”, Betty taking that initiative to open drawers and read manuals, and a side comment from Candi to someone that “Betty is under-utilized.” Small bits making even bit players more than popsicle sticks. You didn’t miss a big Betty Gets a Clue scene. She’s still all about being Southern Baptist Tammy Faye Baker makeup and loud Mexican Pueblo embroidered dresses. The equivalent of a psychedelic round lady’s moomoo. And matching sandals with big plastic flowers.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. 1) Virgil’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer and is a long time county fixture 2) He’s genuinely upset about Jimmy bein’ dead 3) Jimmy wasn’t a likable guy 4) Virgil didn’t set out to kill Jimmy, just to get him to quit laughing and not let Bigfoot make them dinner 4) Virgil’s daughter was concerned he was about to hurt himself over the whole thing 5) finally, there’s some backstory I whacked about Virgil’s downward spiral. Most of all, this will read much faster bundled when things are a page or two, not a week or two away. It’s about done. When it is, I’ll put up the backstories I cut for time’s sake on everything from Candi’s Jeep and too pretty three time political loser “roommate”, Bash’s baseball career, Virgil’s slipping grip on reality (which has always been tenuous). In the beginning there was a short bit about Virgil being in the county lockup for possession of old dynamite he and Jimmy’d found and got jail time simply because the judge didn’t think somebody like Virgil needed to be in possession of old, unstable explosives. The plot holes I fixed and curt were sometimes single lines. Where’s Jimmy’s truck? Virgil took it back to Aiden. What about the TV studio Ivy now owns except for the property it’s on? What’s Candi gonna do about her condo, “roommate”, the Jeep and her parents’ house? She can’t live at the B&B forever. What about her apartment in her non-profit office? Sheesh indeed🤣

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Like the team speech from somewhere earlier. She needs to be Candi as part of the not as dumb as he appears Sheriff, and the strong, not long on words empathetic Apache trio. I have no idea why as this was another experiment, but hey. Why not?

      Liked by 1 person

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