Under Sheriff Garrity had been working for thirty straight hours. He had reached the point of sleep deprivation where his mind began morphing things out of the shadows that darted across the highway in front of his police SUV. He slapped his face back into consciousness.
The past two days had been without precedent. He received a call from a condescending prick from the Department of Homeland Security who advised him that the agency would soon be “coordinating” (i.e. ‘taking over’) the Sheriff’s department. Garrity would have a new dotted-line boss and this new command structure would be for an indefinite period of time. It was explained that it was out of the necessity of national emergency that the Feds take over coordinating security.
A black SUV appeared at the station soon after the call and two young, well-groomed, sunglass-wearing agents in black suits set up shop in his office…at his desk. They treated Garrity rudely and even at one point asked him to go get them coffee. Garrity was not to keen on the new arrangement. As Under Sheriff, his part of Hamilton County was his appointed responsibility. He resented the Fed usurpers.
An appeal to his boss, the Sheriff, was of no use as his boss had a new Fed master, too. To make matters worse, Garrity was scolded for his uncooperative and unpatriotic attitude. He almost quit right then and there. It wasn’t like they were paying him, anyway. He was being issued scrip as Hamilton County was officially insolvent. The new fancy paper was worth even less than the old Federal Reserve Notes…when it was accepted at all.
Garrity escaped the meddling Fed busybodies by excusing himself to make their coffee run. He went immediately on patrol and didn’t return, ignoring their calls. There was plenty of work for him to do maintaining visibility and enforcing the nationwide midnight-to-dawn curfew— government workers and far away parts of N.Y.C. and D.C. exempted, of course.
It was 2 AM and Garrity could barely stay awake. For the past few hours he had been working through a list of registered gun owners, ‘temporarily’ confiscating their rifles, pistols and shotguns. To his surprise, no one seriously resisted although some complained and threw that ‘goddamned piece of paper’ (aka The Constitution) in his face. Garrity would just smile at them, allow them to vent for a moment, then conspicuously slide his hand down towards his taser which was clipped to his belt. This motion alone pacified all the resisters.
Garrity was not surprised to find that neither Joe Joe nor any of his MS13 gangbanger affiliates nor any other known felons or persons-of-interest appeared on his gun owner list. Ex-cons couldn’t by law own a gun but he knew they still had them. He chuckled. A lot of good confiscating guns does when the only ones that give them up are the law abiding citizens.
He turned on the Hair Metal channel on his taxpayer funded satellite radio. The ballad ‘Every Rose Has It’s Thorn’ filled the taxpayer funded cab. It was so familiar a song to Garrity that he thought it a chore to even listen to it. But he felt himself starting to doze off again so he rolled down the window, stepped on the gas, took a swig from his flask and burst into verse…
“Though it’s been a while now…
I can still feel so much pain.
Like a knife that cuts the wound heals…
But the scar, that scar remains.
He took another swig.
Every Rose has it’s…oh…fuck this!”
He switched off the radio and tuned into the frozen night air as it swooshed in. He looked down at the speedometer and noticed he was doing 80. That was double the speed limit on the winding foothills road. No worries. There wasn’t a soul out save for him. His SUV bobbed and pitched as the road rippled and snaked down off of Ed’s Hill. He slowed to make his turn, then floored it again as he straightened out on a dirt road with the wheels kicking up a swarm of stones and pebbles. Two more turns and he was pulling into his garage.
Garrity got out and opened the back hatch. He stared excitedly at the neatly stacked stash of confiscated guns and rifles, contemplating adding one— an early 1900s double barrel shotgun— to his permanent, personal collection. It would look especially keen over his fireplace, he thought. When or if it was ever to be returned to its rightful owner was anybody’s guess. If so, he could merely deny any knowledge of it. The irate owner would undoubtedly file some sort of grievance that could be ignored until the owner finally gave up in frustration. Citizens usually gave up on those sorts of things after about 90 days so the vintage gun was all his if his conscience would allow it.
Garrity’s two German Shepherds barked away inside his house. He opened the door into the house and apologized to them, made his way to the kitchen and offered them some cheese which they each wolfed down in one gulp. Dogs cannot grasp the concept of savoring.
Daisy and Himmelstoss were Garrity’s family and he loved them as much as anything in the world. ‘Daisy’ seemed to be an anachronistic fit of a name for a shepherd and Garrity had vaguely recalled the name ‘Himmelstoss’ as some WWI German war hero from his High School literature class…from some book he never bothered to read. ‘Himmelstoss’ was a bit clunky for a dog’s name so he shortened it to “Stossy”. Thankfully, Daisy and Stossy had outside access through a doggy door so the very long shift did not result in any accidents.
Garrity scooped them each out some dog food but they were curiously disinterested so he grabbed a beer from the fridge and made his way to the family room with his dogs in tow. He fell back into his leather sofa and flipped on the television. Big media talking idiots materialized giving calm reassurances to the semi-panicked Americanus.
“Hello, Bobby,” came a velvety female voice.
Garrity spit out his gulp of beer. Looking into the shadowy corner of the room he noticed her. I knew it, he thought. She came back. I knew she would.
“What are you doing here?” He asked, feigning indifference, “and why didn’t my dogs rip you apart? Bad dogs!”
“There, there Daisy. Good boy, Stossy,” she replied, stroking their heads as they came to her and sat at her feet. “They know me, Bobby. C’mon. Aren’t you happy to see me?”
“What makes you think I wanted you back? Didn’t you think of calling first?”
“Oh Bobby, I wanted to surprise you. Tell me you’re happy to see me.” She got up and slithered over to him as the dogs watched with wagging tails. She took a spot next to him on the sofa. “Bobby.” She always did that— just purr his name in a sultry voice. That simple trick always knifed in under his armor. He was defenseless against it. “It’s been a long time, Bobby. I missed you,” she explained as she extended her arm over his shoulders.
Garrity kept up the phony resistance. “What do you want, Mae? How’d you get here? Don’t you have a million Treasury things to do these days? I’m sure there’s some faggot French banker you’d rather be ‘having dinner with’ right now.”
“Oh, Bobby. Don’t be crude,” she pleaded. “I came here to see you.”
“You expect me to believe you came out here just to see me? What do you take me for, Mae? What do you want?”
“It’s crazy out there, Bobby!” Mae continued, shifting to a begging tone. “I had nowhere else to go. They closed the D.C. office and wanted us to stay in some dungeon at that awful DIA. I couldn’t stay there, Bobby. That place is just weird. They wouldn’t fly me back to D.C. and they won’t pay for my hotel anymore so I had nowhere to turn. You’re the only one I could turn to, Bobby. Please help me.”
Garrity pretended to be irritated. Deep down he was, of course, elated to see his estranged ex-wife. She left him a year and a half before when she got the Treasury Department gig. Lured by world travel, prestige, a fat salary, and the chance to hobnob with the most powerful men in the world, she ditched her bumpkin cop husband. He was not a suitable escort in the spheres of political power. Bob Garrity, of course, did not take her rejection well. He tried to maintain a tough exterior.
“Do you have any money?” he asked.
“Huh? Oh…no…nothing but scrip and this special debit card.”
“You can’t hardly buy anything with those. We go shop to shop making sure the stores accept them but as soon as word gets out their taking scrip their shelves get cleaned out.”
“So how do people get by.”
“They eat a lot of cornbread and cheese and wait in lines, I guess. Some barter. People survive, that’s what they do. I’m lucky. I get to eat at the Department and commandeer gas. I even get dog food rations. Got Daisy and Stossy rated as police dogs.”
Mae started caressing Garrity’s forearm. “Bobby…”
“What?” He asked, refusing to make eye contact.
“Will you just let me stay with you a little while?”
“I don’t know, Mae. I don’t think I can provide you the aristocrat lifestyle you’ve become accustomed too.”
“Don’t be cruel, Bobby. I came back because of you. I’m not asking a lot. I know how tough things are. I realize I was wrong. I know that, now. Please just give me a chance. Where else can I go? I need you, Bobby.”
She massaged his shoulder and the wheels in Garrity’s brain started to turn. She had him and they both knew it. She knew all along that she could just reappear in his life and that would be enough. She knew she was an irresistible temptation for him.
For Garrity, it was as if his prayers had been answered. He was already plotting in his mind how to extract repayment from her and to what level of depravity he might be able to extract it. Mae never had any boundaries. He had, in fact, considered that it was probably the toll of stress on their physical relationship that paved the way for their separation. But now here was a spectacular stroke of good fortune and perhaps a final opportunity to redeem himself and recapture the woman who was his only obsession. He wished he had been working out.
The wheels kept turning.
“We gotta get out of here,” he explained.
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know, away from here. Some place warm. Mexico? Costa Rica? At least until things settle down.”
“How much money do we need for that?”
“How ya gonna get it, Bobby,” she asked, wrapping her other arm around him and squeezing his barrel chest, pressing her breasts against him. He had totally dropped even the façade of resistance with the sensation of her firm curves and the warm, smooth skin under her rayon dress. She placed her bare right leg over top of his lap. He caught himself panting.
The wheels in his brain stopped.
“I have an idea,” he answered.
“I knew you would, Bobby,” she answered as she pulled back, got up and sauntered into the kitchen. “That’s why I loved you.”
Chapter 11 Chapter 13
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