Copyright 2007 by Terriblethom. This story may not be

reproduced in any form without Author‟s written

permission.

Shamus Journals

Chapter 1

This is a story of cases that might have happened. It is also written as a work of fiction. I will give you a brief description of myself and my background, and tell you how I came to be in this business.

I got a divorce in eighty-nine, and after the usual time of feeling sorry for myself, I bought a small house on two lots in an unnamed Florida town. I was doing pretty good on my disability and working part time, taking some small cases for workman's compensation. I was taking pictures of case cheaters and small time grifters. It was working out pretty well, and I had a good little nest egg built up for a rainy day. I had just finished testifying in one of these cases, when I came home to find a survey crew in my front yard. I walked up to the white hard hat that looked to be in charge, and told him to get the hell off my land. He politely told me that I didn't own it, and my house was on the list to be torn down. I called the Sheriff and a deputy came out. After I showed him my deed, he politely gave the crew five minutes to remove the stakes and get off my property. The foreman gave him a hard time about it, and got himself arrested for trespassing. I started laughing out loud, and got a cussing out by the foreman. The deputy put some more charges on him before they hauled him away. I went in and called for a pizza, and while I ate, I wondered who thought this land was theirs

I woke the next morning to someone banging on my front door. I yelled out to them to get the hell of my porch.

"Sir, we need to speak to you right away about your land."

"Mister, I have a nice shotgun, and if you hammer on my door one more time I am going to shoot you through that

very same door you‟re pounding on. If you want to talk to

me, call Black's Investigations and set up an appointment."

They talked to each other for a little bit and I heard them leave. I started the coffee pot and went to take a shower and shave. I was sitting at the table drinking my coffee,

when I heard the familiar sound of my boss‟s Harley coming

in my drive. Damn, what now, I thought to myself? He let himself in the back door, got coffee, and sat down.

"Well, Harry, what the hell did you get yourself into now? I got a call from one of the biggest law firms in Florida, wanting to make an appointment to talk to you. They said at your earliest convenience, which I took to be right now."

"Charley, they can kiss my rosy red. I don't owe anyone money and my home is paid for, so I don't care what they want."

I told him what happened yesterday and about this morning‟s rude awakening. He laughed and told me that I should have shot and swore they were trying to break in. We discussed what they might want and why they were interested in my two little lots. We couldn't figure why they would make such a big deal out of it. Charley went on to tell me to go to the Federal Courthouse, and pick up my Federal Carry Permit. I had been finally cleared for it, and they wanted me to get my picture taken and get my identification card within twenty-four hours. They had a time limit for issuance, so it had to be processed within the prescribed time.

"You been trying for a year to get it, so you better go down there today. There's nothing going on at the office right now, so you have a day or two to recover from court. I am going for a long ride myself and relax. Shirley has the desk, so she will take any new cases that we might be interested in working. I'll catch you later, so call in sometime tomorrow. Do you want me to set you an appointment with those attorneys for tomorrow afternoon?"

"Yeah, if I don't talk to them, they will just drive me crazy. Set it for about twoish, so I can sleep in for a change."

He left, and I went to the courthouse to get my Federal Carry permit. I had been trying so hard for the last year to get it. It wasn't that I wasn't eligible, they had to have Homeland Security do the checks and they were slower than a seven year itch. I had finally had to call an old friend that was high up and have him push the clearance. It had finally come through, with a deadline on issuance. I wondered what would have happened if I had been out of town. I went in and went through all the government bullshit, and finally about three PM came out officially licensed to carry in all states and territories of the U.S.

I got back home about five thirty, just as the traffic was

starting to get heavy. There was a Sheriff‟s cruiser sitting in

my driveway and I had to stop and wait for him to move. He turned around and followed me to the house. When he got out, I could see it was my old friend Mark. I had saved him a lot of grief during his divorce by doing a little bit of picture taking at the right time. As a result, he didn't have to pay alimony, and got joint custody of his two little girls. He also was able to keep his house and property.

"Hey, Harry, who you got pissed off at you now? The Sheriff got a call this morning about the arrest of that surveyor. An attorney tried to tell him they owned this whole three blocks

and thus he wasn't trespassing cause it was their client‟s

land. Did you sell out and not tell anyone? Oh, I got some more news for you. I got promoted to Captain as of midnight tonight, so you better stay out of trouble or I'll put an APB out on you."

We laughed at his sickly attempt at humor. I showed him my Federal Carry ID and he was suitably impressed.

"So Mark, how do they figure this is not my land? I own this full lot, all the way to the street, and the one directly across there. I have a free and clear deed. Somebody read their plats wrong or something. I have to keep them mowed and

neat, „cause the city lets me know if the weeds get too high.

I hope I haven't been mowing the wrong lots all these years."

We both got a laugh out of that one, knowing that the city never makes mistakes. We finally got down to why he came over, and it was to invite me to a promotion party at his house tomorrow evening. They were having a BBQ and beer bash, and all the guys wanted me to come. Because of my background, most of them considered me a brother officer. I told him I was off tomorrow and would be there. I asked

him what I needed to bring, and he said; “Yourself.” I gave

him the finger, and he was laughing as he drove off. I went in the house, cracked a cold one, and sat down in front of the TV. That was the last thing I remember, „til I woke up to that damned crow cawing on my front porch. I had tried feeding it dry rice, figuring it would blow up and bust. But it seemed to thrive, even with a big belly. I had even thought about getting a cat to kill it, and I hate cats. It was there on the banister every morning. I thought about getting a shotgun and shooting the bastard, but with my luck, I would miss and hit one of the cars on the street, and end up getting sued. I went in and took care of my morning ablutions and could still hear the damn thing above the noise of the shower. Damn Crows! I went out and got my coffee and listened to the morning news as I sipped it. I almost choked when the news said a Charles Carmen had been killed by a hit and run driver yesterday on the turnpike. The funeral arrangements were pending the

release of the body by the Coroner‟s Office. I really felt bad,

not only because he was my friend and boss, but I was out of a job. Damn, what a way to start the day. Then I remembered the appointment with those attorneys. I hated attorneys, not because of what they were, but because I had never met one in my fifty some years that wasn't greedy

and crooked as a dog‟s hind leg. I got dressed and headed

for the office. As I drove over, I wondered if Shirley was in today. I knew she would take his death hard, because he was the only one to give her a chance when she got out of college. I let myself in, went to my desk, and sat down.

Shirley had been here, „cause the coffee pot was still hot. I

poured a cup and waited for the attorneys to show up and tell me why they were bothering me so much about my two lots. I was reading a file on private investigation licensing for each state, when the two attorneys showed up. They immediately came over and sat down.

"You are Harry Hanson, I take it, sir?"

"That's me ,so quit with the small talk, and tell me what the hell a big firm like yours wants with little ole me."

"We would like to make you an offer for your land. Our client would be more than fair, and you would make a profit from the amount of the offer."

"I am not interested in selling either lot. I bought and own outright both lots, so keep your men off my land."

"We represent a large company that has bought the block your house is sitting on. We thought we had bought to the

“Y”, until yesterday. It seems the realty company we were

using thought the last two lots were part of the package. There is a commercial development going in, and we need your two lots to complete the package. We will make you an offer that you can live with."

"I don't like attorney's and never did, so let me spell it out for you: N. O."

"Now you listen to me a minute. We can file for eminent domain and take it from you, but we prefer to be straight with you and make a good offer."

"No, let me tell you something. You can't take it using eminent domain, because it is zoned residential and commercial. By the law, that exempts me from any such action. You two think that I am a dummy, and that I didn't check all this before I bought the last two lots, seven years

ago. You‟re wasting my time, so leave before I call security

and have you escorted off the premises."

They had a sour look on their faces but left. Damn, as if I didn't have enough problems today. I went through my stuff in the office, and took all my personal files and things. I still had my pay coming from this last job, and wondered if I would ever get it. Dammit, Charley, why did you have to go

riding on the turnpike? I was going to miss him, „cause he

and I went way back. I wondered if his daughter would sell the business or just close it. She was working on her masters in college, and would probably not have the time to run the office. I had been looking at land and job opportunities in Nevada, and maybe this would be a good time to get serious about it. My PI License would transfer, and now that I had the Federal Carry Permit, I wouldn't have to wait for a weapons permit there. I headed for the house and my computer to look at land again. As I left the office, I put my key, with what I was still owed in the in basket. I knew Shirley would handle it with the estate attorney. I still had to find out when the funeral was, and I had the barbeque to go to tonight.

I got to the house, and was relieved to see that I was alone except for that damn crow that just wouldn't leave. I grabbed several hands full of rice and threw it in his direction. He jumped right down and started stuffing himself, and I hoped he would blow up this time. I went in and got a beer, and then sat down at the computer. I brought up the realty listings I had book marked for Nevada, and started going through them, looking a little closer for listings in rural areas. Nothing new on this one, so I jumped to another and one lone ad caught my eye. Old gold mine and cabin combined, thirty acres with year round water and plenty of trees. All equipment, including snowmobile and off-road jeep with dual winches. I wondered if there were roads or just trails that went to the cabin. I took the picture tour and was really impressed with the cabin and the surrounding scenery. I noticed a little diamond flashing at the edge of one pic. When I clicked on it, a note came up saying that the mineral rights to the acreage were included in the deal. Now this fellah was smart, because he had bought them in the first place. There was a number so I called and got a recording, asking me to leave a return number and the call will be returned within the hour. I went in and took another shower, and dressed for the party at Mark‟s house. By the time I was done and ready to go, the phone was ringing. I answered, and the man on the other end said his name was Abe and he was the one selling the property I had called about. We talked for about an hour and he filled me in on why he was selling, and what he wanted for the whole shebang. I asked how I could get ahold of him if I came out to look at it, and when it would be convenient for me to come out. He quickly told me how to get there and to come at any time.

I got all the directions from him, and then quickly went out

the door and to Mark‟s. I spent about three hours at the

party, and the food was great. Some of the people there got pretty wasted, so others drove them home. I always limited myself to three beers, so by the time I left, I was just about totally sober. I went to bed and slept good, without being awakened by the noise that usually occurred when traffic started up in the morning. I rolled over and realized it was Saturday morning, and I had nothing planned for the day. I called the airlines, and then got online and got some rates for motels stay in while I was there in Nevada. I hated cold weather, but really missed the change of seasons. After checking several sites, I found one that was the cheapest of them all. The motel was near where the cabin was, and it was a national chain that I had stayed in before. Now that I had the site and prices, I had to book within seventy two hours to guarantee the price. I wasn't going to make any plans until I went to the funeral of my friend and paid my respects. I got on the phone and called Shirley's cell. She said the funeral was Monday afternoon. I thanked her and quickly got off the phone before she started crying in my ear. I sat around the house all day and watched movies and football. Now I don't particularly like football, but I had bet fifty on this game at five to one and I just won. I would make it a point to see Mark tomorrow and collect. He always got me to bet him and won nearly all the time, so this time it was my turn to brag a little. Damn, what was the name of that team I bet on again? Oh yeah, the Patriots.

I went to bed that night with a smile on my face, thinking of

the expression that would be on Mark‟s face when I went to

collect my money. I woke up to the sound of that damned crow, cawing away on my porch again. This time it sounded like he had brought friends. I shook the sleep out of my head and went out the front door, fully intending to shoot him with the pistol I had grabbed. I threw open the front door, and I'll be damned if that survey crew wasn't back again. I called the Sheriff's office and asked for a cruiser to come out to run them off again. I was putting on my pants, when someone knocked on the door. I went out, and the deputy was there and for a change I knew him. I told him I was pressing charges on all of them, and wanted them arrested and their vehicles impounded. He laughed and told me I better put the gun inside before backup got there. I threw him the bird, and he went over to the survey crew. He had them all line up, and told them they were under arrest for trespassing and destroying private property. I watched them all start arguing with him as I went around and pulled the stakes out of both of my lots. As I passed the instrument set up on a tripod, I tripped and knocked it over. The crew chief started screaming. I picked it up and tossed it in the back of one of the trucks, and he about had a fit. The Deputy quickly cuffed him and told him he was also being charged with making menacing threats. Two more units showed up, and then two tow trucks. They were all hauled off, and the trucks towed to impound. Man, they wouldn't give up. The bonds this time were gonna cost somebody a lot of money. I had a smile on my face as I locked up the house and set the alarm. I wasn't taking a chance on someone breaking in and stealing all my guns and mementos.

When I got to Mark‟s, his girls ran out of the house, calling

my name. I grabbed them both up and gave them hugs and kisses as I walked in the house. Mark was making grilled cheese sandwiches and I ordered one too. He made sure the girls weren't looking and flipped me the bird. He laid my money on the counter and told me that what I had lost to him over the years, he might as well be paying me with my own money. I spent the afternoon playing with the girls and

replaying the morning‟s happenings. He said I ought to sell

and make a killing off it. I told him I was going to Nevada to look at a cabin and thirty acres with the mineral rights.

"What the hell you going to do in Nevada, Harry? That place

you‟re talking about is out in the middle of the boondocks. I

hiked all over that part of the state and camped at many of the lakes. I was stationed out in that area, and it gets really cold in the winter. That town is in the mountains, and during the winter, is snowed in for a month at a time. There are two casinos, three motels, and four combination bar and whore houses. There are only two restaurants in the whole town, and one closes for the winter every year. Are you sure you know what you‟re doing?"

"Mark, I am tired of the heat and hurricanes, and the insurance for my little place is sky high. I have my disability and a pretty good nest egg put by, and I am looking for a little peace and quiet. The guy in Nevada is not asking much for all he has, and I want to see it. I am sure I can find some part time security work, and maybe a little investigation work if I get bored. Mainly, I just want to go to a different place and live without people staring at me or my tinker toy car."

"You know, I'll hate to see you go, and a lot of the guys will too. Hell, Harry, half the guys on the department owe you a favor or two. You know that if you ever need help, just call and one of us will come running."

"I appreciate that, Mark, but I have one favor I need to ask. Make sure those damn surveyors stay off my property while I am gone. Have a car sit in my driveway and monitor traffic or something. If I come back and find those stakes all over my yard, I am gonna give you hell, Mark."

"Ok, Harry, I'll tell the guys at briefing, and have them keep

an eye on your place while you‟re gone. I will tell them that

anyone caught on your place should be arrested on sight. Is that fair enough, Harry?"

"I appreciate it, Mark. I will buy the girls a pizza, since all you ever make is grilled cheese sandwiches for them. Better yet, I will take them out to dinner at their choice of restaurant. That way I know they will get a least one good meal while they're here."

"Very funny, Harry. I give the girls what they ask for, and they always want these grilled cheese sandwiches."

"Yeah Mark, that's because that's all you know how to cook, and the girls know it. It's a wonder they aren't all clogged up from all that cheese."

I walked out of the kitchen laughing and he threw a dish towel at me. The girls came running and gave me a hug and kiss goodbye. I told them about going out to dinner with me and they both said they wanted Pizza Hut. They also whispered in my ear that I better hurry back, „cause Dad‟s food was getting old. I went out the door laughing, and I heard Mark asking the girls what they had told me.

I made it back to the house about dark and turned the alarm off and went inside. I popped a beer and sat down in front of the TV, and turned on a movie. I sat and thought about the cabin and what kind of privacy it would afford me. Man, that would be nice and to be snowed in without any human contact, would be great for a change. I figured to hang out my own shingle and to introduce myself to the local Sheriff. Maybe I could get on as a part time or reserve deputy.

I woke to that damn crow again, and stumbled to the kitchen and put the coffee pot on and went to the shower. I finished up and sat down at the table and sipped my coffee. I had to get on the computer and book the flight to Nevada and get everything confirmed. I figured I would set out tomorrow and look at the cabin and land on Wednesday and come back Friday morning sometime. That would give me plenty of time to check out the area and talk to the local law, and check about some work at some of the local casinos. I was really looking forward to this little mini vacation.

I went to my closet and got out my only black suit, and made sure I had a clean white dress shirt to wear. I made it to the funeral home across town, just before they called everyone inside. I signed the guest book as I went in, and grabbed a seat in the back. Charley's daughter came over and asked me to give the eulogy. I tried to get out of it, but she was insistent that I be the one, since we were friends for so long. I finally said I would, and she pulled me to the front to sit with her and Shirley. Great, I was sitting between two crying women, and I didn't have a hanky to offer either one of them. The preacher finally got done with his soul saving and called my name. I went forward and spoke for about five minutes, saying what I thought everyone wanted to hear. All the time I was cussing him in my mind for putting me in this situation. I did admit to myself that I would miss him and his asinine sense of humor, and the skewed way he thought of life.

I finished and sat down between the two sobbing women. Evidently I was the only speaker, but as always the preacher had to have the final word. I listened to him for about four minutes and when he said bow your heads I left. I got outside and lit a cigarette and headed for my car. Since Shirley knew how I felt about funerals, I figured she would explain it to Charley's daughter. Hopefully, she wouldn't be too mad that I had left. I cranked the car and started home, when I remembered about the car that hit Charley and left the scene. On an impulse, I headed south on seventy-five to a little city about thirty miles from where he was hit.

Six years ago, we had cause to do a sting on a plastic surgeon. As a result, he was sentenced to five years in prison and lost his medical license. He had gotten out last week, and we were notified by the parole board. Neither of us thought much about it, but I had remembered that the doctor had an old white Jeep Cherokee. A witness had told the State Patrol the car that had run away looked like one. I just had a hunch about it, and since it was Monday, and I had nothing else to do. I wanted to check it out for my own peace of mind. I owed Charley that much, so here I was, heading for the house to check it out. I finally found the turnoff, and cruised by his house. There were two cars in the driveway but no Jeep. As I went by, I noticed that the garage door was down and thought that was a little strange. I noticed a brand new shiny padlock on the hasp and this raised my curiosity level. I parked up the street and put a pancake holster on my belt at the small of my back. I walked down the street with my coat over my shoulder, hanging down to cover the handle of the gun.

I walked by the garage, and noticed a window on the opposite side of the house was open. I walked toward it as I went back by. I looked in the garage through the window, and saw there was a car inside. It looked big enough to be a Cherokee, but there was a car cover on it. Since it was about a foot from the window, I decided to crawl in and look at the front of it. I looked around and saw no one, so I climbed in the window. After finally squeezing through, I came to the conclusion that I was too old and brittle to be a burglar. I stooped down at the front and raised the cover. I immediately saw that the left front light was broken and the fender was bent badly. I knew that this didn't constitute a hit and run, but I felt sure that this was the vehicle that killed Charley. I got down on one knee and immediately noticed pieces of plastic the same color as his Harley in the front springs. I knew then that this was the vehicle that had hit him.

I got back up and pulled the cover down and went to the back to see if it had a plate on it. It did but was covered in mud and dirt, I wrote it down and looked at the sticker and it was current. I now had to get back out without being

seen. I knew this was going to be a problem, „cause the only

way open to me was that damn window. I gave some serious thought about going out the door, but I knew I could be arrested for B&E for being in here without permission. I decided to try the window again, and hoped I wouldn't be seen. I stuck my head out and looked around. I didn't see anyone, so I climbed back out. It seemed that no one noticed me, so I went to my car.

I got out my cell, called the State Police Barracks, and got on the phone with the shift commander. I told him what I had figured out about the hit and run and where I was. I gave Mark as a reference, and asked that they send a car to check it out. He told me that one was already on the way, and to wait on it. I told him what kind of car I was in and he laughed before he hung up the phone. First Charley, and now him. Why was my little car always the object of laughter? I bought it for five hundred and put about two in it. It got great mileage. I just couldn't understand why it always evoked so much laughter from everyone.

I was still contemplating this, when the State Trooper pulled up along side of me. He grinned when he saw my car.

"What's so damned funny about my car, Trooper?”

"That's the first yellow Yugo I ever seen. I should say, that's the brightest yellow Yugo I ever seen."

He laughed at the finger I threw him and said to follow him. I walked down to where he parked and we walked across

the street to the doctor‟s house. He knocked on the door and

it was answered by a young boy. The Trooper asked if his dad was there and he said yes, but that he was asleep. He then asked him if his mom was here and boy hollered in the house for his mother. She came to the door and got white as a sheet when she saw the Trooper.

"Can I help you, Officer?"

"Yes ma‟am, I need to see your husband about his Jeep Cherokee. Is the vehicle here or maybe in the garage

ma‟am?"

"It's in the garage, but it hasn't been driven in years, officer."

"Can we see it, ma‟am?"

"The door‟s open, so just help yourself. Close the door when you‟re done."

He looked at her and she closed the door in his face. He was shaking his head as we walked to the garage. We both went in and he walked over and pulled the cover back then looked at the window then at the car. He looked at the front of the Jeep and then shined his light underneath the left side. He got on his radio and called for a wrecker and another unit. We went back outside and stood in front of the garage door and waited.

"Don't you think you‟re a little too old to be crawling in

windows? He grinned at me and looked down at my pants."

"Sure enough, there was a wide white smear up the front of both legs. I was grumbling under my breath while I brushed them off as best as I could."

He went to his car and got a statement form for me to fill out, and he laughed the whole way to his car. I felt like a big enough fool, but the laughter just rubbed salt in the wounds. Damn, I was getting too old and forgetful to be doing this sneaky stuff. I smiled to myself as I thought about the story he would tell his fellow officers. I had the last laugh though, I had gotten Charley's killer. I looked up

and I said to the sky under my breath; “Now we are even,

my friend."

Chapter 2

By the time I had driven back home, it was almost dark. The traffic was pretty light so it didn't take as long as usual. I walked up on the porch and immediately noticed that the motion sensor security light didn't come on. I reached back and drew my Sig Nine. I dropped to a crouch and looked around. I didn't see any movement so I went around the house, checking the windows and the back door. All of them were securely locked and I didn't see any signs of anyone

trying to get in. This was damned strange, but I couldn‟t

find any reason to be more spooked than what I already was. I had a sudden thought and went around to the shed. I found that the lock was broken off and the hasp was bent sideways. I got the phone out and called Mark's number. I told him what I had found, and he said to stay put. He said he had a car close by and it would be there in a minute or two.

I went around to the front and sat on the step. In about five minutes, a cruiser pulled in and pinned me with his spotlight. I gave whoever it was the bird as he pulled up. It was one of the Corporals I knew and he was laughing.

"Damn, Harry, you never change, do you. We got word this afternoon that the State Police made an arrest in Charley's death. I also heard that a Trooper was showing pictures around of a bright yellow car that was supposed to be extinct. He was bragging that the sighting of the yellow fellow was the first in years."

"Well, not every one has the choice of color for their car.

Let‟s get down to business. Let‟s check out my shed and see

if my riding mower is missing."

He was laughing as we walked to the back. I stopped and grabbed my light from ole yeller. Hell, now I was doing it too. I just dropped my head in shame and went to the shed where the deputy was already opening the door. I noticed that he had donned rubber gloves, so I just kept my hands to myself. He called out that my mower was still there, but obviously I had been making money on the side.

"What are you talking about? The only thing that has ever

been the shed was the mower, gas and oil. I don‟t even own

a rake or other lawn instrument."

He backed out, holding a big plastic bag with what looked like white powder in it. I immediately knew this was a plant, and wondered who would be willing to sacrifice that much money to get me locked up. They hadn't done their homework and checked my background if they thought this was going to work.

"Harry, I don't know who would be dumb enough to set this up, but I think you came back and interrupted them. I already called for the print truck to come out, and they should be here in a few minutes. Have you been in the house yet?"

"No but I am going in now and put the coffee pot on. The alarm is set and you know what kind of alarm I have. You might have the print guy check the motion lights, because I think they unscrewed the bulb."

"Ok, Harry, go put the coffee on. When they get here we will have a cup and talk a little bit about this. I still have to test this stuff and have the outside of the bag dusted. This represents a lot of money and this whole thing smells all wrong. Someone's going to a lot of trouble on this for some reason. I called Mark, and boy is he pissed. I will have the grounds thoroughly searched by one of the dogs, just in case there's more hidden."

I nodded my agreement and went and unlocked the door. I turned the porch light on and went in the house. The alarm panel showed green across the board, so I punched in the code to shut it down. I went to the kitchen and put the big

electric pot to work making coffee, „cause I knew this was

going to be a long night. I was changing clothes when I heard the truck coming into the yard, but I didn't hurry up with what I was doing. I knew the drill and it would be at least an hour before any of them slowed down enough for coffee. I finished dressing and went to the kitchen. I got out the big Styrofoam cups from the cupboard and set up sugar and milk on the table for the guys.

I sat down at the table and thought about this. The only thing I could come up with was those damned attorneys. This was something they would try, figuring that they could get the property while I was in jail. Again, they hadn't done any research on me, or they would know I had a good friend that owned a bail bonding company, who would have me out as fast as I was locked up. This was a bunch of amateurs, and I had a feeling they were going to try again. Tomorrow before I left, I would call an attorney that I knew and let him take over. He was a shark and connected. He would eat these punks alive and spit out their boss. I had saved him from prison when he was accused of raping a young woman. I got her on tape bragging to her boyfriend that they would make a lot of money because the attorney would pay to keep out of jail. It turned out they had set it all up for the money. He had told me to call him anytime I needed help for any reason, so I figured it was time to call him in on these punks. I went to the front room and got the card with his home number. Being only shortly after nine, he should be still up. He answered on the first ring, and after exchanging pleasantries, I filled him in on what was going on. He got pissed on the phone, so I gave him all the information I had. He said he knew the owner of the firm personally, and would call him right away and give him hell. We shot the breeze for a few minutes more, then I turned him loose with his promise he would get the two punks in deep doo.

I went back to the kitchen and sat down and had a cup of the coffee while there was still some left. I heard steps on the porch and Mark came in and sat down across from me at the table.

"Harry, it looks like these guys are playing for keeps. There were finger prints all over the bag and the lights. We got a complete hand print on the mower where he leaned over to plant the bag. We identified two sets of prints and one of them is a local junkie and the other is unknown. Do you really think this is all about your two lots?"

"Mark, none of this started „till I turned down all their

offers. They have bought the whole block back to the interstate exit. Now that ought to tell you that they have spent millions already. My two little lots control the access to two different exits going in different directions. Just that alone is worth millions to them for traffic control. These guys are playing for high stakes, and this type of harassment has worked in the past here in Florida and other high money areas."

I filled him in off the record on who I had turned loose on them and he had a good belly laugh on that one. He never asked how I knew him, and with that my respect for Mark went up that much more. Since I had to catch the plane in the morning and he didn't pick up the girls till the evening, he said he would take me to the airport in his unmarked. With that, the other members of the team came in and emptied the coffee pot in a matter of about fifteen minutes. They all stood around telling tales for another couple of

hours, „till another call came in. Just that quick the whole

place was silent. I cleaned up, remembering the happy times I did the same thing for a living. I locked the doors, set the alarm for occupied, and went to bed.

I got to sleep the whole night through and got up with that damned crow practicing opera on my front porch. I went to the kitchen, set the coffee pot, and went to the shower. I got dressed, packed my bag, and set it on the couch. I went to the alarm and turned it off before Mark came to get me. I sat at the table and drank my coffee, and thought about the property I was going to look at. I just hoped that it looked the same in person as in the pictures I had seen. I had dreamed about it last night, and I wanted to move out of Florida. With the death of Charley, I didn't have anyone to hold me back. I had a lot of friends, but they had their own lives. Other than a few parties, I wasn't that close to any of them. I would miss Mark, and his girls I would miss a lot since they had always called me their uncle. I had some brothers somewhere, but I hadn't seen any of them in years. I didn't even know where they lived anymore.

I had cleaned up after myself when I heard a horn out front. Looking out, I saw Mark pulling up to the porch. I made sure everything was turned off, set the alarm, and locked the door before I went to the car. The ride to the airport went by pretty quick because Mark was telling me all about the lakes and the beautiful country that I was going to see. He probably thought it would discourage me, but it seemed to have the opposite effect. Now I was really looking forward to the trip more than ever. When we got to the airport, he parked in front of the terminal and dropped the law enforcement placard in the window. I checked at the counter and found the flight was early. Mark walked me to the gate and said to call when I got back and he would give me a ride home. We shook hands and I boarded the plane.

To my chagrin, I fell asleep right after takeoff and slept until the stewardess woke me to fasten my seat belt. I was looking at the big metropolis of Reno, Nevada, one of the smaller sin capitals of the west. The airport was easy to find your way around in, and since I only had my carry on, I went straight through to the rental agency. I had reserved a four-wheel drive Jeep as per Abe's instructions. It took longer to sign the papers than it took to walk through the airport since I was smart enough to get every coverage I could. I think the girl doing the paperwork was mentally challenged a little, because I had to help her do a lot of the spelling on the forms.

Finally we were done and I got a big surprise when I found the Jeep. It was a bright yellow with a black stripe down the middle, just like my Yugo. I was starting to think I had a yellow curse. It started right up and I headed out, using the directions Abe had given me. I drove for an hour and just like he said, county road ten sign came up and I turned right. I was supposed to go three miles down this road and he would be sitting in the driveway waiting on me. I went three miles and saw a man sitting in an almost hidden road that looked like it went up the side of the mountain. I pulled up, got out, and went over and introduced myself, asking if he was Abe?

"Yep, that's my name, so I take it you‟re Harry?"

"Abe, I have been looking forward to this all week."

"Harry, you better lock it into four-wheel, because you will need it for the last half mile of the road. That's why most people don't like it. It isn't paved and landscaped up to the house."

I followed and he was right, the last half mile was a rugged off road trail. The Jeep he was driving ate the ground like it was part of it. The one I was driving was making it, but it was earning the money I paid for its use. We went around a little bend and there sat the cabin. It took my breath away and I hadn't even been inside yet. I got out of the Jeep and followed Abe into the house. I just looked around and asked several questions about the deeds and how the land was laid out. He took me to a table and unrolled an aerial map. The property line was marked out and it matched the deed perfectly. There were two lakes fed by snow melt, and according to him, the trout were huge. I looked closely at the map and pointed to a dark area way south of his property line. I asked him what that was and his reply made me take notice real quick.

"I won't lie, Harry. That is an old chemical plant that used to be operated by the military. It's been closed for about ten years. They still keep a skeleton staff for security and there is a rumor that they still use it for storage. So what do you think of the place?"

"I love it Abe, but you never answered the question I asked you the other day. Why do you want to sell?"

"Harry, I fell in love with a special woman. She owns a small sheep ranch on the other side of Reno. We want to marry and expand the ranch, but the banks won't loan us any money without using our places as collateral. We don't want to owe anyone, so we flipped a coin and I lost. That's why I am selling."

"Abe, I congratulate you on your honesty and I will buy it. I want to buy the other thirty acres on the other side too. I will give you a fair price for the whole thing. That should give you and your bride a good start on your sheep ranch. We can go to town tomorrow and have the money transferred to your account, and get all the papers signed and recorded."

He got a big smile and shook my hand, and said I hadn't seen all the deal yet. He took me through the house to the big wall freezer and showed me a hidden lever. He pulled it and grabbed the freezer and it swung out from the wall to reveal what looked like a ships bulkhead door. He pulled the cross lever and it came open with a hiss. He reached inside for the light switch and flipped it on. I followed behind him as he went inside.

"Harry, this is a completely sealed survival shelter with its own power, water and oxygen supply. It's taken me almost twenty years to finish it and get everything working together. The way I built it, it should last better than ten years before any repairs ever need done. The water furnishes the oxygen and electricity. The water comes from a deep artesian spring that does not interact with any outside source other than what leeches through thirty feet of soil. I dynamited through to it and channeled the water to come through here and then back into the spring. The there is a small waterfall in the back of the mine runs a water wheel. When the lights are on, it kicks in and keeps the battery bank charged for the appliances in the main room. The walls and ceiling are rebar enforced by concrete, and are rated to withstand a 10.0 magnitude earthquake. I sprayed all the walls and the ceiling with waterproof rubber paint, so it insulates and seals."

"Damn, Abe, were you expecting a major war or something? I think it's great, show me more. Give me the guided tour, will you?"

"Ok, Harry, the kitchen is here and the stove is low power electric. There are extra elements and oven coils in the store room. This thing runs directly off the water wheel and saves the batteries. There is a power reducer that keeps it at the voltage it needs to run so it doesn't blow from a surge from the water wheel speed ups. That happens sometimes when the water speeds up from the spring pressure. There are extras in the store room if this one ever burns out. The heater and blower motor are the same way, but it will only get up to fifty-eight degrees because the water sucks out the heat when it returns to the spring. I never did figure out a way to stop that, maybe you can. The toilets run on a pressure system and drain into a twenty thousand gallon septic tank at the bottom of the mountain on the edge of the property. These toilets and all the drains will never clog and there is no way the outside air can get pulled inside by these pipes. There is always air pushing through them from a pipe attached to a fan at the waterfall. The drain pipes are six inches in diameter and are separate from the house. The hot water tank holds eighty-five gallons, and is on a timer hooked to the batteries. That way the water heats and stays hot, without draining the batteries."

"Abe, this is a great addition to the property, but tell me the real reason you built it. It seems strange to me that you would spend all the time and expense to build something like this without a reason."

"I have always been leery of that chemical plant, Harry. With all that's going on, it seems to me it would be a good place for some nut job to blow up. I had a couple of friends that worked there, and I was told by them that what is being stored there is more dangerous than a nuclear missile with all its radiation. I don't know that this will happen, but I wanted to be ready just in case."

"If the place is closed, this seems like overkill to me, Abe.

I'm not complaining because I love it, but how „bout

showing me the rest?"

"This is the TV room and communications center. There are cameras covering the whole property and the house. I have short wave and citizens band radios. The TV is a thirty-six inch flat screen and there are seven thousand movies, more or less, for the DVD player. As always, spares are in the

store room. I have kid‟s movies to hardcore and all types in

between. This next room is the store room, and it took me six months of blasting to get it the way I wanted."

He opened the door and it looked like a large food distribution warehouse with all the canned goods. There were bulk bags and barrels of everything that was available. One wall was all army MRE cases, stacked to the ceiling. Everything was shelved and neatly labeled as to what and how many. I would say that he was right that there was enough to last more than ten years, probably more like twenty.

"Abe, it is going to take you forever to move all of this."

"I got most of this for free, and a lot of the rest of it at discount prices. I have connections all over the west, and we all bought and stocked like this. There are seven of my friends that have similar places and we are connected by short wave. I have no intention of moving it. This all goes with the house, and now it's all yours as the new owner. That small room there has barrels of salted, dried, and pickled meat from beef to venison."

Abe, I couldn't eat all of this in twenty years. You sure you don't want to take it to your intended?"

"She already has a shelter and we have it stocked to the ceiling. Do you have an extra ten grand that you can invest?"

"Yea, I can afford that, but I thought we had set the price on the place?"

He laughed and said to follow him, and see what I would be getting for my money. We went down the tunnel to a small alcove and he opened a round door like the kind I had only seen on submarines. We crawled through and went about ten feet, and then came to another door that was the same. He opened it and I saw what looked to be a well stocked armory with its own machine shop and about fifty gun cases marked surplus.

"I bought all these at auction, Harry. There are AKs, M 16s, two cases of forty-fives, and all are still packed in grease and brand new. There are three cases of fragmentation and three of white phosphorus grenades from the Vietnam War that I picked up from one of my contacts. There are over ten thousand rounds of ammo in each caliber. The guns can all be converted to full auto and the kits are here to do it. The forty-fives have all been reworked by a friend, and won't jam like they did in the service. There is one case of the new Beretta nine millimeter that were given to me but I never liked them. Not enough stopping power for me. None are registered, and all paperwork has long since been destroyed. This is what your ten thousand buys. These I don't want to even think about moving, so you can buy them cheap."

"I am a gun nut and yes, I will give you the ten grand that you ask. I will have to go back to Florida to make arrangements to sell my place and hire a mover."

"The cabin furniture stays, Harry. The only thing you will have to move is yourself and whatever valuables you have. After we sign the papers tomorrow and give you the keys, I am leaving. You will have to buy tags for the Jeep. I will follow you back to the airport and you can leave the Jeep in long term so you will have transportation when you return. Let me show you the rest of your shelter and explain a few things that you will need to know."

I followed him and he filled me in as we walked. The master bedroom was huge with its own bath and closet. There were all kinds of winter stuff that went with the house, plus more clothes in all sizes for men and women packed and tagged by size and sex on the shelves of the huge closet. There was a smaller bedroom and what he called the bunk room with seven sets of bunk beds. The closet was also mostly shelves, piled high the same as the master closet. All had their own bathing area, and the bunk room had three toilets, sinks, and showers. There was a large washroom with two commercial washers and dryers that looked to be brand new. I was told there was every spare part in sets of two for everything in the place. He showed me how the control room operated, the manuals for repair and operation, and the code names for his contacts in the other survival shelters, including his if I had questions. The antennas were hidden and raised by motors, and spares were in the storeroom.

We went back out to the cabin and he showed me how to set the alarm for intruders. There were also several booby traps to protect the entrance to the cabin and the front of the house. I found out then that the windows were surplus bullet proof glass, and the walls were reinforced with rebar and concrete. He said it would stop a fifty caliber, but the second shot in the same place would not be stopped. I was wondering why all the cold war mentality, but knew better than to open my mouth. I figured I was too damned old to fight a war again, but appreciated the safety it provided. We went outside and he showed me the underground garage and storage area where there was enough wood cut and stacked to last for five cold winters. From what I could tell, it was all hardwood that would throw out a lot of heat while burning.

We came to the snowmobile, and it was one of the large Polaris models that seated two with a luggage space in the back. We walked to a covered vehicle and when he pulled the cover back, I saw it was a medium sized Arctic Cat with the combo track and wheel setup. He also showed me the large diesel commercial generator and the smaller backup gas one. I was in a daze, trying to remember all that I had seen and was getting a headache. We went back outside and to the back of the house where he showed me the thousand gallon fuel tanks that the generators ran from. He said they were filled to the top and would last eight months if I was easy on electrical use in the cabin.

"Harry, when the snow gets really deep, I shut down the house, except for several lights on timers, and live in the shelter. Once in a blue moon, someone shows up that's gotten stuck or lost, but the alarms give me plenty of warning so I can go to the house to greet them. The wood burner only has to be fed twice a day and keeps the house toasty warm. It is fan forced and will heat the whole house without a problem. I forgot to tell you that the generator only kicks on if the electric goes out, but in the winter that's for about three months at a time. Damn electric company tried to charge me for that three months and I took them to court and won. That's why I put the generators in, they still hold a grudge and I am always last on the list to get my power back on. The town of Gold Gulch is over that way and I take the snowmobile to visit for human company. There are three whorehouses with bars and gambling. There is a large grocery warehouse that sells bulk only, and now there is only one restaurant, but the food is great and cheap too. The girls stay around all winter and are all doctor checked by the clinic in town. They are all very clean and most are good looking to boot. In the winter you can spend a week sampling the wares at real cheap prices. They get lonely too, and sometimes will give it to you for free if you treat them nice. I have spent a lot of my winters there and know most of them."

"Damn, Abe, you have sure spent an interesting life living on this mountain. It makes me wonder if later on you will regret selling it. Even though I have a headache from all the information, I love it here. I am already looking forward to living here and enjoying the solitude and peace. I am going back to Florida and get my personal stuff and come right back out and move in."

"Harry, I still worry about that army chemical plant. I have seen a lot of strangers around lately. I tried to report it but I was laughed at. I don't want to scare you but I would go armed when you walk around the property. It is all fenced with eight foot woven wire but that hasn't stopped them from cutting across, especially down by the lakes. By law I had to put in six gates for federal and state egress. They get left open all the time, and I know the forestry service always closes it behind them. The head ranger is a friend and he says he has been seeing a lot of strangers camping in the primitive sites. I am not trying to scare or talk you out of buying, but you need to know this as the new owner."

“I don't care about that, Abe. I have a federal carry permit

and I am a licensed private investigator. I will apply as a reserve deputy as soon as I move in. Then I should be covered if I have to arrest someone for trespassing. I am going to move and live here, and try to be a good neighbor if at all possible. I will not stand by and let anyone run over me and give me crap of any kind."

He got a big smile on his face, and said since it was getting dark, I might as well stay the night and we could go in to town together in the morning. He didn't fool me with the

invitation, „cause I knew he wanted to keep his eye on me

till we signed the papers. That way if I were law enforcement, he could get away before I could act. Staying here would give him time to get to know me a little better, and keep me away from any phones and human contact. He hadn't realized it yet, but I was almost as paranoid about my privacy as he was and would guard it with my life.

We went inside and he showed me how to set the alarms. We had a pleasant meal and talked for several hours before I started nodding off and went to bed. My last conscious thought before falling asleep was how much I already loved it here.

Chapter 3 When, I awoke the next morning, Abe was already up and had coffee made. There wasn't too much in the way of

conversation „till we both woke up. He was like me, he

couldn't start the day without at least two cups of coffee. I was sipping my second cup when it hit me how much I was looking forward to today. All the papers would be signed and the ownership of this whole place would be mine. When I came back from Florida, I would look into finding some work in the area, and check out Gold Gulch and see what all it had to offer. I wondered how much I could squeeze out of that company for my property in Florida, and if they would settle immediately. I wasn't staying any longer than I had to before coming back out here to live.

"Harry, will I be able to have use of the money by tomorrow afternoon? I kinda had a hunch you would take the place and ordered the stuff we needed to do a bunch of building on the ranch. The contractors will be there tomorrow, and I have to pay half up front by cashiers check."

“You should have immediate use of the funds, „cause its an

electronic transfer. It will be sent immediately into your account when I give the release number I arranged with my bank. You haven't told me yet what the total price will be with the other thirty acres and the mineral rights for it. I need the total so I can transfer the correct amount, and have enough for me to pay all the fees and taxes."

"The taxes are paid for the year. I always kept them paid for the coming year so I‟d not get bothered by the county. You never said how much stuff you have to ship out here. There is a package and receiving company in town that will hold

your stuff „till you pick it up for a small fee. Everyone around here uses it, „cause the post office is a hundred miles away and won‟t accept or hold large shipments. I will take you

over there when we get in town so you can make the arrangements and open an account. The biggest pain will be the property clerk‟s office, „cause they are all retirees and slow as hell. They want to gossip and talk crap instead of working. Everything else will go fast so you will be able to catch the last flight out this evening to go back to Florida. I will leave your Jeep in long term with the ticket in the glove compartment."

"Abe, is there anything else you need me to know? I get the sense that you are holding back on something and I want to know what it is."

"Harry, I promise I will give you the last secret of the place when it becomes yours, and I have the money in my hand. It is not anything that should worry you, its just a little

something I have for my piece of mind. Let‟s go to town and

get this shit all done, then you can go home and get packed." It was a whirlwind day but we finally finished up with it all about three in the afternoon. I got the secret, and while it scared the hell out of me, I liked the idea behind it. I would keep it for an ace in the hole one day if I ever needed it. Abe

left me at the diner in town. He said he‟d head to his new

place, and I knew where to find the Jeep. I sat and thought about what I had bought and how little I had to pay for it all. I paid my bill, left a good tip, and headed for the airport. Before I boarded the plane, I called Mark and let him know what time I would be in. He was a little surprised that I was coming back so quickly. I told him I would explain when I got there as they were calling for plane boarding, I got seated, and as soon as it lifted off, I went right to sleep. I woke up when the flaps came down and the plane started slowing. The rest was the usual hassle of getting through the airport and outside. There was a marked cruiser waiting at the curb and I recognized the driver as the corporal I knew. He was the same one that was at the house for the big dope raid.

"Hey Harry, I was dropping off a prisoner and was told to pick you up on the way back to the office. Mark said that the realty company had been to your house four times since you

left, and we ran them off all four times. The survey crew hasn't been back, and other than that it has been quiet."

"I appreciate that you are picking me up, but you didn't have to be the messenger for Mark. He will probably be over tomorrow anyways. Have you eaten yet?" "No, I haven't had time to stop yet. Why, you hungry?"

"Tell you what, you pick the place and I will get the check. I am starving and I sure don't feel like cooking tonight. Mark missed out when he didn't show up to get me, so now you can brag about what he missed out on."

"Hey, works for me Harry. Let‟s stop at that big new Red Lobster by the mall. I haven't eaten there yet and since

you‟re buying, that's as good a place as any."

That's what we did. We spent a very pleasant hour just talking „bout different cases we had both worked on, and how they had been resolved. All and all, the drive and company was worth the price of the check. He insisted on getting the tip so we each spent some money. He dropped me off at the house and it looked quiet, with the motion lights working this time. I went in, shut down the alarm, and saw the blinker going on my answering machine. I made a pot of coffee and listened to my messages. Three were solicitors, and two others were important enough to answer tonight. As I dialed the first number, I wondered why she had called so soon after the funeral.

"Hello Shirley, this is Harry returning your call. No, I just got in the house." "Harry, your final check is in the mail and I wondered; since I am the manager now, if I could talk you into coming back to work? Charley's daughter decided to keep the office open and take a few cases for us to work on while she finishes school. She said she wanted to keep you on as the head investigator if you are interested."

"No, I don't think so, Shirley. I am moving to Nevada, and will hang out my own shingle after I settle in. I appreciate the offer and all, but I think you can handle anything that

comes along „till you can hire someone to help you."

"Ok, Harry, I am sorry to hear that because you and Charley taught me all I know. If it weren‟t for you two, I wouldn't have my license because no one else would hire me. I will miss you a lot, and if you ever need me, just call and I will come running. Good luck, Harry, I'll miss you."

I said good-bye and hung up the phone before she started sniffling in my ear. That's one thing about Shirley, she was a good investigator, but she had water faucets for tear ducts.

Once she got started, she never shut it off „till she was dry.

She was a sweetheart though. I placed the other call and got an answering machine, so I left a message, set the alarm for occupied, and went to bed.

I was startled awake by someone pounding on my front

door again. “Dammit, why can't people just leave me alone?” I grabbed the thirty-eight snubby from under my pillow and went to the door. Mark was standing there with a shit-eating grin on his face. I shut off the alarm and let him in, but you can bet he was catching hell the whole time.

"Will you quit your bitching, Harry? You knew I was going to come over to see how the trip went. Sorry it‟s so early, but I couldn't wait. So, Dammit, tell me what happened."

I went through the whole thing with him and when I told him about the trout lakes, I thought he was gonna drool on his uniform. He told me where he was stationed out there and sure enough, it was at the old chemical plant. I told him where the cabin and lakes were in relation to the plant. He said that even if they blew up the chemical plant, my place would be safe. Any of the agents made or stored there would stay in low-lying areas. All the high mountain areas would be out of the danger zone. He also said that it would

spread eastward „till it either dissipated or was washed

away by the seasonal rains. He said he didn't know what was stored there now, but a lot of it was very toxic and lasted for years in the air. He said that if it escaped, that Reno and Vegas would be sure to go and anything east of there. We were still talking about fishing when the phone rang.

I left Mark at the table and answered the phone. It was the attorney friend of mine and he wanted to know if I was going to be home this morning. When I said I would be, he said he was coming over in about an hour to talk. I agreed to his visit then went to finish my coffee with Mark. We talked for about another fifteen minutes or so, and then he said he was going home to bed. I watched him drive away and went back to the kitchen to finish my coffee. I had just finished getting dressed after showering when I heard someone knocking at the door again. It was Floyd G., the attorney, checking out the land deal for me. I let him in and got my hug and a smack on the back Italian style.

"Well, Harry, it seems that you are sitting on a gold mine here. I could not find out what is going to be built here, but

from all I could gather, it‟s going to be a huge project. They

have almost all of the property and permits, but you have the two most important lots for the whole project. They asked me to talk to you and see what kind of offer you'll accept. Harry, these boys won't quit till they get what they want. Have you considered selling, or do you want me to file a restraining order to keep them clear from your land?"

"Floyd, I will sell but they will have to meet my price and that will include your expenses and fees.”

"Dammit, Harry, I am not charging you and you know why. I would be in prison if it weren't for you and your little tape recorder. Just tell me what you want and I will handle it for you."

"I will accept one million dollars and they pay all taxes and fees. I also want you to charge for yourself and your time. I will vacate the premises within one week after receipt of the

money. There will be no crews on the property „till after the

week has passed. They will pay all expenses for my move, regardless where it may be, and they will pay for a one-way plane ticket to my new home. Floyd, can you practice in Nevada? If you can, I want you to handle any of my cases if I need you."

"Harry, I am not able to practice in that state because I never took the bar for there. I have a good friend who is in Vegas. I will call him and arrange for him to make himself available if you need him. Now give me ten minutes with your phone, and I will make your offer to them. I think they will accept without any argument and will settle immediately. Harry, what are you going to do with your little car? My daughter just loves it and if you are going to sell it,

I want to buy it for her. She will get her driver‟s license this

month, and she has always wanted me to talk to you about it. I offered her a new car, but she is in love with yours and wants it for school. I know, I don't understand it either. Hell, they don't even make them any more."

With that, he went to use the phone and I sat and thought about what he said about the car. I remembered his

daughter as a little dark eyed shy girl with her mother‟s

beauty just starting to show as she grew. I would have it completely detailed and give it to her as a birthday present. I would never survive the terrain where I was going, and I knew she would take good care of it. It was nice to know that someone besides me liked it. I would have the rear window shield put back on and have the front ground spoiler reinstalled for her. I had the window shield taken off because I didn't want the window blocked because of the pictures I took in my line of work. The spoiler was a cosmetic thing and I was worried about hitting a curb and snapping the plastic. I still had both, and with her being a young girl, I would have the radio replaced with a CD player and new speakers. I knew a guy down the street who could do it all in about two hours, and he did good work. His boy detailed cars and had done mine a couple months ago. I had sent them a lot of business over the years and as they became established, they showed their appreciation by making sure that my car came first whenever I took it in for work.

"Harry, the deal is settled and you will be paid a million five for your property. They want to meet in my office at ten in the morning for you to sign the papers. They will pay any expenses you have to move, and will furnish a professional truck and driver with a crew to help you. When the papers are signed tomorrow, they will have all the arrangements made. All you will have to do is to call a number, and the crew and truck will be here within the hour. They also agreed to pay me all costs and expenses for my work on your behalf. Now, about the car, how much do you want for it and when can I pick it up?" "Floyd, I will have it tuned and detailed and bring it to your

house on your daughter‟s birthday. I will give it to her as a

birthday present from me. How about I bring it by the day after tomorrow in the afternoon, just before she gets home from school?"

"Harry, I don't know how to thank you for this. The last time you saw her she was thirteen and I guarantee that you won't know her anymore. She is a beautiful young woman, and I wish I could put her under lock and key sometimes. I am like all fathers I guess, and if it weren't for her mother I would put her in a convent for my peace of mind."

I laughed at him and we spent the next half hour discussing my move and how to invest some of the money, since he was a multi millionaire. I told him he could invest five hundred thousand for me, but the rest would go in my account and would be transferred to my bank in the Reno branch. He said he would handle all of that for me and split the money into checking and savings. We finished and I told him I would see him in the morning. He left and I set the alarm, went to the garage, and dropped the car off with instructions of what I wanted done to it in the next two days. He assured me that it would all be done and the car ready to deliver with the wrecker at the day and time I expected. I went to the car rental and got a new Cadillac to use while I was on their dollar. I went to Wal-Mart, then to several other stores before I found the aluminum cases I wanted to pack my stuff in for the move. I had to have something that I could lock and put my guns and other items in that would be safe till they got to their destination. I bought ten of them in various sizes and the extra locking kits for them. I took them home and then went to the bank and made all the arrangements with them for the distribution of the money. I had a new limit put on the single credit card that I had always kept only for emergencies. I would now be using it for a lot more things and made sure I had it covered, regardless of what I bought with it. I had put a big dent in my account with the purchase of the cabin, but it surprised me how much I still had for my balance. I hardly ever spent my own money, because everything I had been doing was for work and was on an expense account. I was always reimbursed for what I spent including gas, meals, and dry cleaning of my three suits when they needed it.

I stopped and ate on the way home and then went to the house and started packing the trunks. I wasn't taking anything but my guns and personal items. The furnishings would stay. I arranged for the hospice to pick up everything in the house they could resell. I would be taking my laptop and the files packed in the trunk, along with my tax returns and other important papers. I looked around and realized that I really didn't have much in the way of possessions and wondered why I had waited so long to make a change in my life. I had it all packed and labeled in just a few hours. I stacked everything by the front door, set the alarm, and went to bed.

I woke the next morning with that damn crow carrying on and it was barely daylight. I was so glad that I was moving and after I left, he wouldn't have a home or an occupant to drive crazy. I laughed to myself as I put the coffee on and went to the shower. I came out and sat down and the phone started ringing as soon as I went to take a sip. I let the answering machine get it and it was Mark, saying he would be here in a few minutes. Damn, I sure didn't feel like company this morning. I hurried and got dressed and shut the alarm off, just as he pulled up in his unmarked. I sat back down at the table and waited for him to come in. "Hey Harry, I got some news you might be interested in. The

sheriff in that town you‟re moving to just died and they

offered you the job if you want it. They had your background checked and we were the ones they contacted first. Now you have real reason to move out there. They will appoint you to

fill out the rest of the old sheriff‟s term and will back you

when the election comes up."

"Are you crazy? I can't picture me playing politics with a bunch of rednecks. Hell, Mark, I sure don't want the job or the responsibility. Damn, I don't even like working with people. They can forget it. Why don't you take the job and move the girls out there? They would love it."

"I never even thought of that. My ex would have a fit if I moved the girls out there. If it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't even be able to see them. I really don't think that would be a good idea at all, Harry."

"Think about it Mark, your own department to run and no taking orders anymore. You would be able to hire and fire as you saw fit. I would give it some thought, if I was you, and the girls would love the different seasons. Hell, you could appoint me as a special deputy and I could work as a special investigator for you on the harder cases. Give it some thought, Mark, before you say no."

"You sure know how to screw with a man‟s sleep, don't you?

Ok Harry, I will think about it, talk it over with the girls, and make a decision. I have a few days before they contact you and I will let you know."

"Mark, if you do take it, hire a housekeeper that can cook. The girls will forever appreciate it if you do. I will be picking them up tonight to go to dinner with me about five thirty, so have them ready to go."

"I know that they have been talking about it all week, so they will be ready to go. I just hope you know what your letting yourself in for with those two. I will see you later, Harry."

He was gone just that quick and I had a big laugh at me being a sheriff at my age. I don't know where that town got that idea, but I sure wasn't interested in the job. I went in and got my pistol, set the alarm, and went to the restaurant up the road for biscuits and gravy. They had the best in the state as far as I was concerned. When I pulled out from the restaurant, I realized I was mentally saying goodbye to everything I had built for myself over the last seven years. I made it to Floyd's office in plenty of time and even had a cup of coffee with his wife while I waited. I must be nice to have your wife as your office manager. Even after all the years since I had first met her, she was still a beautiful woman. We talked about her daughter, how she had grown since I last saw her, and how well she was doing in school. In the short time we talked, I caught up on her family, and all the gossip from the last time I had seen them all. She was a little upset because I was moving, but wished me the best and said I was to call if I ever needed anything.

I went to the meeting and as usual with lawyers, it was full of language and terms only they could understand. I spent fifteen minutes listening to some damn suit read the contract and the clauses with all the other bullshit. I signed on the line and they transferred the money to my account. Then I called the bank to confirm and signed the deed over to them. I transferred the money to Floyd's account before I left, telling him I hoped he would be able to triple it in a

couple of years. He gave me that shark‟s grin and told me he

would see me tomorrow afternoon. I got the hell out of there before all the oil from all these attorneys rubbed off. I went back to the bank and had the rest of money transferred to my account in Reno. Of course, the branch here was sorry they couldn't keep my account, but the bank in Reno would handle my business without a problem. I walked out of the bank thinking I was a fifty seven year old millionaire and too damned old to enjoy it. I realized that I had two more days before I could fly to my new home. I went back to the house; called the number, and had a van there in about a half hour. I helped to load the trunks and got a receipt from the moving company. The driver told me that my stuff would be there within seventy two hours. They had a truck going that way tonight and my stuff would be on it. I thought great, I would pick it up on the way to the house. I picked up the girls a little early and had one of the greatest times of my life with those two. The trip and meal at Pizza Hut was one question after another, followed by more laughter. I would really miss these two when I left, and wondered if I would ever see them again. We stopped for ice cream, and again it was more fun than a non-father

should be allowed. We got back to Mark‟s and the girls

wouldn't let me leave till I came in and helped their dad tuck them in. I got plenty of kisses and hugs before they would let me get out of their bedrooms. I went out and sat down at the table and waited to tell Mark goodbye. He came out and sat down with me and I could see he had something on his mind.

"Harry, the girls had a blast tonight. I wish you weren't

moving away, „cause I will miss you and so will the girls. I

have a vacation coming up next month, and was wondering if me and the girls could come out and visit with you for a couple of weeks?"

"Mark, you and those two are always welcome in my home and you know it. I will build you a nice a-frame on my property and give it to you and the girls if you want. You have enough time in to retire with a full pension, so if you want to come out there to live, I will have it built for you. I will sell it and the land it sits on to you for ten thousand dollars if you do. I would really like to be there to watch those two grow up and see what all they get into."

"Thanks, Harry, I really thank you for the offer, but in order to get a Captain's pension I have to be in rank for a minimum of six months. I am thinking about a change for me and the girls. This job is getting more dangerous everyday, and I would hate to see the girls raised by their mom if something happened to me. Just that thought scares

the hell out of me. You‟re the one that opened my eyes to

what was going on so you know exactly what I am talking about."

"Yeah I do, and I would hate to see it too. I hope like hell

you keep your head down „till you can retire and get out of

here. You could always put me down as a guardian, and you know I would keep an eye on them for you. Well, I am gonna go, so you stay in touch and let me know what's going on. Learn to cook something besides grilled cheese all

the time. They love macaroni and cheese and it‟s easy to

cook."

He started laughing as I headed for the door and my car. I

would miss them „cause they were the only ones I was close

to in the area. I went to the house and went to bed, thinking about the girls and all the fun we had this evening.

Chapter 4

I awoke to almost total silence and wondered if something had happened while I was asleep. I had gotten so used to that crow and the noise, I was getting a little worried till I heard the traffic in the background. I looked at the clock and realized I had slept in, it was almost ten in the morning. I hadn't done that in years I thought, as I sipped my coffee. I had one more thing to do today and one thing in the morning then I was free to leave for my new home. I was starting to get excited when I started thinking about the new adventures and trouble I could get into in a whole new state. I had already sent a fax to start the transfer of my license. I also found out that my concealed weapons permit would transfer with a rather stiff fee and transfer charge. I would have to register the weapon I was planning on carrying but with the federal carry I could carry anything up to a small tank. I got dressed and called the hospice to make sure they would be here on time and as I looked out the door Mark's car was coming into the driveway. I wondered why he was coming so late.

I waited on him in the kitchen and already had a cup of coffee poured for him before he sat down.

"Harry, I have made up my mind after our conversation last night. Will you build me the cabin you mentioned? As soon as I finish the next four months I am taking my retirement and moving out there with the girls. I don't care if the ex likes it or not, because I have full custody. As you already know, she has missed the last three visits I set up for her.

The girls don't hardly mention her any more, but I know they miss her. I hope she gets her act together before she catches something that kills her."

"If you're sure I will have it started as soon as I get settled in. I will have it ready so you guys can move right in and the girls will love it. How come you worked so late?"

"One of the patrol deputies was shot last night on a traffic stop. He is in fair shape but when I got the call it sure made me start thinking. My girls are too young to have to explain something like that to them. I don't want that to happen and that's what made up my mind. I been thinking about it all night Harry. I know the girls will love it especially if their favorite uncle lives next door. Hell, maybe I will buy them a couple of ponies to ride over to your house so they can visit."

"Mark, I will be happy to have you as my neighbor and the girls are always welcome to visit. I am transferring my license so if I get some cases I will hire you to back me up and help me with customers. That will give you some extra money but on a Captains retirement you will have a good income. I know about the bored factor so I will use you when I can. Hey, you better find a good four wheel drive cause you'll need it out there. I have a Jeep that eats off road trails. It came with the cabin along with a snowmobile and a small Arctic Cat. Wait till you see my place you will want me to let you guys live there too. It has four huge bedrooms and two full baths."

"Slow down Harry. You light up like a light when you talk about it. I can't wait to see it and we will stay overnight with you the first night we get there. I have got to go home and get some sleep, so I will talk to you again in the morning before you fly out. I will also give you a ride to the airport. I took tomorrow off so I could spend the last day with you. Yes, the girls had a fit and they will be with me so you will be busy till you get on the plane. I'll see you tomorrow Harry."

I watched him as he left, and knew he hated to have to retire, but the girls were his life. I absently wondered what I would do if I were faced with his situation. I decided since it was almost one thirty I would head for Floyd's and meet the wrecker and make sure the car was set up for his daughter. I grabbed the title and went out the door trying to remember his daughter's name. It was almost three by the time I got there and I was tired of fighting the traffic.

When I pulled up the wrecker was arriving too. He unloaded the Yugo and if I hadn't known better I would have sworn it was brand new. The outside and the inside looked like it was new and it even had that new car smell. I raised the hood and it was clean enough to eat off of. I pulled it in the garage and took my plate off and shut the door. I went back out and sat in my car till someone came home. Evidently everyone was running late because the first to arrive was the teenager and the only reason I knew it was her was because she was a young image of her mother and about three times more beautiful. I got out of the car and approached her and she recognized me immediately.

What I didn't expect was the greeting of a kiss and a hug that left me breathless. Man I was glad I wasn't her father. I wished I were young again because girls in my time weren't built like she was. She was smiling and cutting up about me not seeing her for so many years and did I like how she had grown up. I wasn't going to answer that question an quickly changed the subject.

"I came over to give you a sweet sixteen birthday present, but your dad and mom never met me like they were supposed to, so I guess it's just us. Happy Birthday sweets and your present is in there I said, pointing at the garage."

She looked at me with wide eyes and made a beeline for the garage. The way she opened it she must have been a weightlifter in another life. The scream when she saw the car and the jumping and laughing made me smile. Now I knew my little tinker toy would be well loved. I hated to part with it but it wouldn't last a month in those mountains. I finally remembered her name as she came running at me and threw herself in my arms. We both ended up on the ground because she was not light by any means. She was kissing me when her mom and dad pulled up and he gave me a look that chilled my bones till he recognized me and then he just busted up laughing.

"Hey Harry, your supposed to give her the car not get beat up. What did he do honey try to pick you up? Harry is an old pervert from way back."

Now it was my turn with the look and he came right out and said he was just kidding. His wife was giving him hell and told him it‟s no wonder he didn't have any friends talking like that. I walked to my rental and stood over the trunk and filled out the title and handed it to Maria. I again wished her a happy birthday and got in my rental and left. I was pissed and I didn't want to ruin the joy of her having her own car. I knew if I stayed with my feelings about perverts I would probably knock him out.

I headed back to the house „cause tomorrow was trash day

and I had a lot to put out. I cleaned the refrigerator and gathered all the stuff I wasn't going to take and put it all out. I had just finished and poured a cup of coffee when a car pulled in my drive and came straight to the house. I didn't recognize it and grabbed the stubby and tucked it in my belt. When the driver got out I saw it was Floyd and he looked like he had been kicked. I let him in and poured him a coffee and sat down.

"I came to apologize to you Harry. I know how you feel about that word and I don't know why I said it. My wife is threatening to divorce me and my daughter says my big mouth ruined her birthday gift. Dammit Harry, I am sorry, and I know you wouldn't do anything towards my daughter. I guess I get over protective sometimes but she acts just like her mother and trusts everyone. I guess I am not cut out to be a father or something cause they both are someday gonna get hurt bad Harry."

"Floyd its not my place to tell you how to be a father. You are a typical Italian and family always comes first. You're going to have to learn that your daughter is a separate person, and is old enough that she doesn't want daddy running her life and making all the decisions. She is going to get hurt and the best thing you can do is to be understanding and give her a shoulder to cry on. You ever call me a pervert again and I will knock you on your ass."

"Ok Harry I had that coming and again I am sorry. She told me how you two ended up on the ground and it made me feel like a bigger fool. I owe you more than any other person in this world and I almost ruin it by my big mouth. I promise I will make you a lot of money with your investment and for the first year if there are any losses I will make them good. I have to get back to the house and eat crow the rest of the evening but I didn't want to leave it with bad feelings between us."

He came over and shook my hand and wished me good luck and left. He was right about one thing though. If I were seventeen I would be chasing his daughter like probably every other boy in her school. I hoped when she did meet the right one he would treat her good. I went to bed and nodded off thinking about seeing the girls tomorrow.

The crow opera singer woke me up at the crack of dawn. I groaned as I got up then cheered up when I realized this would be the last morning he would be bothering me. He would be homeless and I would be ensconced in my cabin. I got the coffee ready then got my shower and in that order. I got dressed and finished packing my last suitcase and sat and waited for hospice to pick up my stuff. They came about a half hour late but I still had plenty of time to catch my plane. The guys who loaded the stuff were pretty good and had it all loaded in less than an hour. I saved the DVD player and the small flat screen TV for the girls. I ran to the post office and did the change of address thing and went back to the house just as Mark and the girls came driving in the yard. The girls wanted my Harry Potter movies with the DVD player. I let them trade me a kiss apiece for the player and two each for the movies. I came out on the better end of the deal and loved it. Mark just stood back and laughed at the girls actions and cheered them on when they refused to give me more than two kisses each for the movies. We loaded the TV and other stuff in the trunk of his car. He followed me to the car rental to turn the car back in, and I didn't have to fight the agency over the miles cause they put me on the unlimited mileage special. I didn't care about the cost because that was part of the contract when I sold my house.

We all loaded up in Marks car and went back to the house and I did a final walk through and was glad I did. I remembered the emergency stash of money I had kept in the wall of the closet and it was still there. I didn't think anyone would find it but I was glad the bugs hadn't cause Palmetto's will eat anything. It was five thousand in twenty's and I had to stuff them in my pocket till I could put them in my carry on. I hoped security didn't check to close or I might have a hard time explaining all that cash. I took a final look around shut the main power off, and left the keys on the counter as I walked out the door. I looked around one last time and making sure the girls didn't see me I gave the bird to the crow on top of my roof.

I was laughing to myself as I sat down in the car and we drove off. The girls immediately started asking questions about where I was moving, and would they ever get to see their uncle again and how soon. I answered all the questions before I told Mark it was lunch time and I was treating for everybody. There was an argument about where to eat and I settled that by saying I was hungry for McDonalds. That was accepted by everyone except Mark but we out voted him and he took it in good grace. We had a blast and ice cream was on the list as desert, and then we were off for the airport. By the time we got there both girls were asleep in their car seats and I kissed them goodbye as I unloaded my two suitcases. Mark and I shook hands and I told him I would have his cabin ready by the time he retired, and would furnish it so he could sell his place as is.

I waved at him as I walked away and went in to the ticket counter and claimed my ticket. I went to the boarding gate and went almost straight through until my name was called and I was pulled aside because a gun was found in my checked suitcase. I showed my federal permit as was released to continue boarding. I got on the plane and was seated and wondered how Mark would react when the girls showed him their hundred dollar bills that Uncle Harry had given them to buy some more movies for themselves. I fell asleep almost as soon as the plane took off. I was dreaming about my new home and I just knew I had a smile on my face as I dreamed.

I woke up as usual when the flaps came down on the jet. I looked out and saw the big town of Reno again. I hoped I didn't have too much business here because I just didn't like the fake glitz and glamour. I grabbed my carry on and I waited for my other suitcase to go through the crap to get to me. I realized I was getting excited more and more as I waited. I hoped no one had stole my Jeep cause I was going to set a few records getting to my new home. Tomorrow I was going to get familiar with my property and make sure the gates were closed. I was going to read up a little cause I believe that I can lock the gates as long as I furnish an extra key for the agencies that had a right to cross my land. Damn that sounded good to me, my land.

My suitcase finally came around the carousel and I grabbed it and headed for the shuttle. I was walking so fast I almost ran over a little old lady struggling with too many suitcases. I stopped and offered to help her and we walked at a crawl till we got where she said she would wait for her ride. She thanked me for the help and I said she was welcome, and rushed out the door to catch the shuttle for long term just as he was shutting the door. We took the bus to long term by way of California cause of the time it took us to get there. The driver was shooting the breeze with a bleached out blonde with ten pounds of makeup on. I had seen hookers on the street in the rain that looked better than she did.

I finally had my Jeep in sight and pulled the cord to sound the chime to stop. I grabbed my luggage and almost tramped on the blonde as she stepped into the aisle as I was coming to the door. She got out ahead of me and I made a beeline for the Jeep as soon as I hit the ground. I got the keys out and it fired right up. I got the claim ticket out of the glove compartment and as I popped the clutch to take off I almost ran down the blonde. She was pulling a one of those wheeled suitcases and she stopped right in front of me with her back to me. I lightly tapped the horn and she jumped and moved to the side and I got the hell out of there before something else stopped me.

I paid the eight dollars and fifty cents and headed for the open road. It was clouding over the closer I got to the mountains, and I hoped it didn't rain or I would have a wet ass before I got home. There was that word again, home. I would have to put the hard top on the Jeep, if I were going to be running around the next few days picking up my stuff. I turned onto the county road and I was almost to my driveway when the blues went on behind me. Now what the hell was going on „cause I knew I wasn't speeding. I pulled over in my driveway and stopped and dug for the registration and insurance papers. I had it all ready by the time the officer came up to the Jeep.

"Mr. Hanson? I am Deputy Bruce Sharpe and I wanted to welcome you to our county. Sorry about lighting you up, but if you got into your driveway too far the cruiser would bottom out before I could catch you. The county commissioners want to talk to you tomorrow if you can make it in. They said to tell you they will treat for lunch at the steakhouse if you can come in by twelve."

"Why do they want to talk to me Bruce? You don't mind if I call you by your first name do you?"

"No sir I don't, and I appreciate you asking first. Most people don't and sometimes it kinda upsets me, them getting so familiar like they know me and all. I don't know what they want, but I can give a good guess since I was the one that run the background check on you. You have had an interesting life Mr. Hanson and I have never seen a more interesting resume' from anyone before I checked on you. So what do I tell them sir?"

"Bruce, just call me Harry will you, and tell them I have to come in anyway so I might as well get this over with."

"Ok Harry. Well I got a call so I guess I will probably see you tomorrow. Bye now."

He got back in his car and did a half ass u-turn on the narrow road and took off with lights and siren. I headed up my driveway to my house and when I got to the rough part I shifted into four-wheel, and the Jeep seemed like it became part of the ground the way it seemed to squat and dig in. I came around the little curve and the cabin was in front of me and again it just took my breath away. I took my luggage in the house and disabled the booby traps that Abe had set before he left and then I went to the fuse panel and shut off the dryer breaker and breathed a sigh of relief. I wondered how much C-4 he had packed around the house as his little surprise. I had to give him credit though because unless I hit the remote that was hidden it could not go off. There were five redundancies built in so it couldn't go off by accident even if the house was struck by lightening. I still breathed a sigh of relief when it was shut down. I went to my bedroom and unpacked and put everything away except the snubby and I stuck it in a belt holster and put it on. It would have to do till I got my own weapons tomorrow. I didn't feel like cleaning the grease from one of the forty fives right now, so it would be my weapon of choice.

I went to the little shed and got the Jeep hardtop out and hooked it to the come-along mounted in the tree by the shed. I backed the Jeep up and lowered it down till it settled even with the windshield. I released it from the hook and set the little t-bolts that Abe had welded to make it easier to do it with one person. In about fifteen minutes I had it fastened and sealed with the slotted rubber strips that Abe had made from some kind of a strip of flexible tubing. I could not see any daylight in any of the cracks and hoped that I had done it right and it didn't leak. I pulled it back to the front of the cabin and parked it by the steps.

While I was in town tomorrow I was going to look for one of those company's that sold and built log cabin kits. I knew the girls would love it and they were very warm, and easy on the pocket book to maintain. I wanted one with the lofts on either end with a walkway between the two. I would also make sure it had a generator for back up power in the winter. I wondered how deep the water table was up here and how much the larger septic would run. I was going to do it up right for the girls and Mark. I would make sure they would be warm and comfortable in any kind of weather. I would have a small barn with its own hayloft for storage and feed for the ponies I knew the girls would want. I would also check on types of dogs that were around here for a watch dog for them. I knew Mark would have a fit but I figured me and the girls could out vote him like always. Hmm, they would need their own four wheelers too, as would I to run around the property with. It would make it easier for me and the girls to go fishing too.

I was so busy making plans I didn't even realize it had gotten dark and I turned the lights on and fixed me a big thick venison steak with fried potatoes and onions for supper. I topped it off with an ice cold beer and thought to myself that life couldn't get any better than this.

Chapter 5

I woke the next morning in the chair still gripping the beer bottle in my hand. The sun was barely up but I was wide awake. I set the coffee to brewing and went to the shower,

and then I grabbed a shave. I almost passed on doing it „till

I remembered the lunch meeting I had today. I went to the kitchen and marveled about how silent the house was, because I could see all kinds of birds in the trees and even a few crows on the ground in front of the cabin. Man this was great, no crow opera in the mornings anymore. I couldn't stand it and went to the front door and opened it to actually find out for myself what the noise level was outside. I opened the door and almost immediately closed it. Damn, and I thought the noise level was bad at my old place, this place sounded like a zoo with all the animal noises. I wasn't about to be stupid enough to do that again. I will stay inside

where it‟s quiet till I had my morning quota of coffee.

I remembered I needed to clean one of the M-sixteens and keep it near the door, just in case I needed it for an emergency. Abe had taken his with him when he left. I figured I might as well convert one while I was cleaning it. My federal permit would let me have it fully automatic, and I also wanted to see the reworked forty-five Abe had bragged about his friend doing. I went to the big wall freezer and swung it away from the wall, pulled the cross lever, and flipped the light switch on. The hiss was a little louder this time or at least it seemed that way to me. I went to the sub door and undocked the first one of two and as I bent almost double to get into the armory, I wondered why Abe had put two doors instead of just one.

I pried the lid off the top case and immediately realized that these things were still packed in the original packing grease for wet or humid climates. The smell that hit me upon opening brought back a lot of bittersweet memories. I got into the box of rags and soaked one with the cleaning fluid. Then I wiped the outside down in preparation to tearing it completely down to clean. Damn I hated this stuff, but I had spent a month working in the armory on base with five other unlucky stiffs, cleaning case after case of these things. That's how I learned the difference between the smells of the packing greases.

I dug through the boxes till I found the conversion kits and set one on the tool bench. I finally got the damn thing clean and broke open the kit and spent the next twenty minutes of

trial and error „till it came back to me how to put it in right. I

finally got it all back together and ready to fire so I loaded one of the magazines that was handy and went outside. I walked down the hill toward the lakes and found a large tree and tried it out half expecting it not to work.

As it turned out, I didn't have anything to worry about and the thrill of shooting on full auto was a helluva rush after all these years. I went back to the armory and reloaded several of the mags and stacked them on the bench.

I pried the lid up on the box containing the forty-fives and found that they had been re packed with more modern packing. I pulled one out and cleaned it in about ten minutes and spent another fifteen looking for the magazines for them. They were in a box behind the AKs. I loaded six of them and cleaned up my mess. I grabbed the sixteen and clipped on the shoulder harness, grabbed all the loaded mags, and headed for the front room. I piled it all on the couch and went back and closed everything up. I swung the freezer back against the wall and grabbed everything off of the couch. I leaned the sixteen against the front door and took a mag and the forty-five out to the same tree. This I had noticed was of the Second World War issue, so I knew it was better than a lot of the newer styles. I had noticed when I cleaned it the action was glass smooth and the trigger pull had been lightened considerably.

I loaded the mag and pulled the slide back hard like a normal army issue and almost busted my own nose. My hand slid clear off the action it was so light and smooth. I

had to be a little more careful next time; I wouldn‟t want to

break my own nose. Damn that smarts, I thought, as I aimed it at a mark I made in the bark of the tree. I fired and the trigger pull was about half of the normal specs. It still had the same kick but it was accurate as hell. I fired it till it locked open and walked to the tree, and all the hits were right in the mark except for two and I figured I had pulled as I shot. I was going to keep this in my bedroom for use in the house if I needed it. I headed back in and went to wash up and get ready to go to town for my lunch meeting.

I cranked the Jeep and headed down my driveway and almost ran over the deputy that stopped me yesterday.

"What the hell are you doing walking up here Bruce? Didn't you get your message across yesterday?"

"No, Harry it isn't that. The commissioners sent me up to remind you about the meeting and to make sure you made it. I tried to tell them you said you would be there, but you know how politicians are."

"Do the commissioners in this state run the sheriff‟s office or is it just because they have no sheriff right now?"

"In this state, if an elected official dies while in office, the commissioners run the department until another is appointed by the Attorney General to fill the term. Then the commissioners have no say how the office is run. Since

you‟re obviously headed to town, can I get a ride back to my

car?"

"Sure, Bruce, jump in and I will keep you from overheating walking up the side of the mountain."

"Harry, are you planning on smoothing out the road to your cabin? Ole Abe hated company and never wanted anyone up there. I sure hope you aren't going to act like he used to

toward lawmen. Heck you‟re one of us and you know we

don't set out to purposely pick on anyone but I know it happens. Abe was a loner and didn't particularly like anyone. I tried to get permission to fish in one of the lakes and he run me off as soon as I got to his door."

"I am not Abe, but I dearly love my privacy and will probably just leave the road like it is. That way, no one will

be knocking on my door unless it‟s an emergency or they

are lost or something. Hell, Bruce, why do you think I bought the jeep from Abe? I may relent and smooth parts of it out a little, but not to the point to where a car could drive up it. Well here's your ride and you can tell them I will be there for the lunch date. I have some running to do so I may see you later."

He got out and I waved to him as I headed down the road to town. He seemed to be a very good deputy, but if I was in his position, I would have told the commissioners to do their own legwork instead of wasting a deputy's time when he could be answering calls. I went to the storage place to see if my stuff had arrived yet, and as I figured, it hadn't gotten there yet. I went over to the local electronics store to see about switching my cell number, and find out how to hook up some kind of antenna or a booster system at the cabin. I had to be able to be reached when I started working in the area.

I got a pleasant surprise there when they switched my area code and I was able to keep the same number. The booster system was a total loss though, but I did find out that there was a cell tower less than five miles from the cabin on the other mountain peak. It seems that about everyone out here uses cells and they had towers all over the place. I was told even in the worst weather the one near me had never gone down. I did buy one of those signal boosters that fit in the phone and was guaranteed to extend the signal from my phone ten miles further that what it already reached. I immediately called Mark and gave him the new area code so he could reach me if needed.

Since it was about noon, I headed over to the steakhouse for my meeting and free dinner. If a politician was buying you a meal, you could bet he was carrying Vaseline with him somewhere. I had a feeling I was going to get the shaft somehow, and I really wasn't looking forward to this lunch date with a whole bunch of them. I got out of the Jeep and went into the restaurant and the smells of cooking steak made me hungry. I saw several men in suits sitting at a large back table and headed that way. When I walked up to the table, a man about sixty or so stood up and shook my hand and introduced everyone. Three were commissioners, one was the prosecuting attorney, and the other one was from the city managers office. I sat and ordered coffee and waited for someone to tell me why I was here. The oldest one whose name was Mike or Mick or something was evidently the one chosen to do all the talking and he was doing a good job of it to everyone but me. I sat for about ten minutes and stood up to leave and headed out the door to the Jeep. The one whose name was Mick caught up with me as I was opening the door to the Jeep.

"Harry, where are you going? I thought we were going to talk?"

"I came for the lunch and to listen but no ones said a word to me. If I called you to lunch and ignored you, you would leave too. I suggest that next time you people want to talk to me, call on the phone „cause I won't come to town for nothing again."

"Mr. Hanson, please accept my apologies for the way I treated you. I wanted to wait till after lunch to talk business, and to totally ignore you like I did was inexcusable. Please come back in and have lunch with us. I promise I will include you in any conversation this time."

"Well, Mick, I will come back in but let me warn you that if you or any of your friends pull something like that again, I will leave and I will tell all of you what I think about your politeness toward strangers and new residents. I am

nobody's lackey and won‟t be treated as such by anyone."

I followed him back into the restaurant and immediately saw him nod toward the other men as he sat down. Now what the hell was that all about, I wondered? If I didn't know better, I would think it was a deliberate setup to see my reaction and how I would act in that kind of situation. Now this was something I understood and I could play this little game too.

I stayed in the conversation till lunch was served and to their credit they didn't talk much while eating so I could enjoy my meal without answering a bunch of questions. We all finished our meals and when the waitress had cleared the table off and brought all of us fresh coffee, they all quieted down and waited for Mick to start the ball rolling.

"Mr. Hanson, we wanted to have this meeting to get to know you a little and to give you a history of our county. Now I am going to speak for about fifteen minutes and then you can ask all the questions you want and we will answer them."

"We lost our sheriff about a week ago and we have to recommend a replacement for the Attorney General. This department has had the same family as sheriff for the last fifty years. You would think it just passed from father to son and so on. The department has been nothing but good ole boys and relatives during this time and we want to bring it into the new century with all that entails. We decided to hire an experienced man with a varied background and experience. We want someone to clean up the department and hire some experienced people to help him run it. When you bought Abe's place, we ran a check on you and we all felt that you will fit the bill. Your little action toward me and the others let us know that you didn't back down from anybody and that just helped us to decide. We want you to

take over the sheriff‟s department and run it straight and

make it something we all can be proud of."

"We also want you to run for election in the next term and we will back you a hundred percent. I know that you vote as an independent and we all like that because then no political party has any hold on you. You will have a large budget for equipment and personnel. You can hire and fire as you see fit to do, as long as it is within the laws of Nevada. Mr. Hanson, will you accept the appointment for the next three and a half years as our sheriff?"

"Gentleman, I am honored that you thought of me, but I think you want someone younger and with a lot of current experience. I will suggest someone to you and I think he will do a better job than I could. He started as a street deputy and worked his way to the rank of Captain. He is honest and has two children and hates the good ole boy network in all departments. He is planning to retire in a few months and move out here anyway, so you will have him as a resident and as your sheriff. I will take a position as a special investigator with the department so you will also have my expertise at your disposal. If this is acceptable, he can start within the month."

"Mr. Hanson, will you excuse us for a few minutes and we will give you our answer."

I went to the center beverage area and refilled my coffee cup and wondered how Mark was gonna react to being a sheriff of his own department. I would work the felony crimes and let him run the department. That way he would have a lot more time with the girls and have a department vehicle to drive. I would do the call out work and he would be able to spend nights at home with the kids for a change. I just hoped these guys were smart enough to hire him for a job he would be very good at. I was on my second cup of coffee when I was called back to the table.

"Mr. Hanson, we have decided to take your advice and contact the man you recommended, and we need you to write down the numbers where we can reach him. We would also like you to take over and run the office till we can get the hiring done. You will be sworn in right now as an under sheriff until then. You will essentially run the department until we get someone to take over. Can you do this for us Mr. Hanson?"

"I will accept the position for thirty days and I probably will be the most disliked man in the department."

"Let‟s go see the Judge and get you sworn in, and then we

will leave you alone."

We all tromped over to the courthouse where I was quickly sworn in. Then I was told where the department was and left to my own devices. I headed to the department with my command appointment in my hand. This was the shits, „cause I was a total stranger to everyone. I just knew that it was going to cause a lot of grief „till I could get control of

everything and meet with all the ranking officers.

I walked in the front door and was told to take a seat and wait by a young desk clerk. Since he was so snotty with the attitude, I quickly set him in his place. He about fell all over

himself being nice as he showed me to the captain‟s office.

I walked in and he introduced himself as Captain Andy Shepard and asked what he could do for me.

"I am Under-sheriff Harry Hanson and you can call me Harry. I am now in charge of the department until a new sheriff is appointed. I want to meet with all the ranking officers and shift supervisors within the hour. I also want to meet with every available man before they go on shift."

"Ok Harry, but don't expect them to come in on such short notice. The supervisors do things their own way around here and the previous sheriff let them."

"You tell them if they don't come in for the meeting they will be suspended without pay and an insubordination notice will be put in their files. I am not going to play games with them over this. Get someone on the phone and call them in."

I headed back to the front and went into the id section to have my card made so I would be legal. The lady took one look at my appointment and had me pictured and issued in about fifteen minutes. She took the paper and time and date stamped it and put it in the file. I told the clerk to direct me to the radio room and he pointed me in the right direction. I went down the hallway and found it by the noise coming out the open door. I walked in and stood without being noticed for about ten minutes. Finally an older man came over and asked if he could help me. I introduced myself and asked if he was the supervisor and he made a face and pointed to a private office. I thanked him and went to the door and walked in.

"Who the hell are you and why are you in my office?"

The man behind the desk was watching a porn movie and feeding his face with a big sub sandwich. He looked to be about four hundred pounds and was wearing as much as he was chewing.

"I am your new boss and as of right now you are fired, so get your ass out of my department."

His mouth fell open and I jerked the DVD player out of the shelf and threw it in the trash can by the desk. He was struggling to stand up from behind the desk and speak at the same time.

"You can‟t fire me, I have been a supervisor here for thirty

years. My brother was the sheriff and if he were alive, you wouldn't try to pull something like this."

"I can fire you for the porn I just threw away. I will allow you to submit your retirement papers as of today. Don't ever show your face in this building again or you will be arrested for child pornography. If that movie was any indication, you should have been in prison years ago. Now get out! "

I watched as he waddled out the door and the man that greeted me started clapping his hands and within seconds everyone was clapping. Man, I thought, he must have been a real asshole to work for. I hope when I leave they all look sad or anything besides this.

I went back in the office and started going through the drawers and found about ten of the underage movies in the bottom drawer. I took them and the player and went looking for the evidence clerk. I was stopped by the man that had directed me to the office.

"Who is going to be the new supervisor on days, now that you fired old fat Charlie?"

"Whoever has the training and the most seniority will step in until I go through the personnel files and do some house cleaning and changing around. For right now, you are the acting supervisor. I want that office wired with a radio monitoring system so that anyone in there will be able to jump in and help if they are signaled by one of the operators. I will be having a meeting with every shift tomorrow."

"Sir, my name is Pinky Thomas, and I was next in line for head supervisor if Charley ever quit. I would like to handle the personnel in here if that's ok with you. I want to get rid of some dead meat and make some changes to make it run smoother. This place is in need of a restructuring and some new equipment, if you will give your approval. I have a list and it can all be installed within a week. It is way under what Charley was going to spend and put in his pocket."

"Bring the list to me in about two hours, Pinky, and we will go over it. My name is Harry, so if anyone gives you any flack, just have them see me. I want no personal vendettas so if you are planning to let someone go, bring their file to me and I will make the final decision."

"Thanks, Harry, I will see you in about two hours."

I went in search of the property clerk to check in the stuff I had gotten from the office. I wanted an itemized list, so if I had to use it later in court, the chain of evidence would be intact. I finally found it and a woman was in the cage and she was a civilian to boot.

"Ma‟am are you a deputy?"

"No and I ain't the evidence clerk either. I'm just filling in till he comes back from his lunch hour and as usual he is a half hour late."

"What is your job here, ma‟am?"

"I am the intake desk clerk, and I should have been back there, if Sergeant Chapel ever gets back."

"I am your new boss so you can give me the keys and go back to work. Have Sergeant Chapel come to me to get the keys and we will have a little talk before he goes back to work."

She looked at me in shock and came out of the cage, and handed me the key ring without saying a word. I locked it up and still carrying my evidence, went to the Captain's office to have a seat to wait till the sergeant found me to get his keys back.

Chapter 6

I sat in the captain‟s office for almost fifteen minutes before

Sergeant Chapel showed up to get his keys and when he did, his attitude immediately pissed me off.

“I am looking for the ass who ran my relief from the cage and took the keys.”

“That would be me and if you value your job you better tone it down and do it fast. From now on, you don‟t leave the

cage unless you have a relief and the relief is a deputy. If

that don‟t suit you, then tender your resignation. The attitude will change too or I will fire you for insubornation.”

“I run the evidence room, and who the hell are you, anyway?”

“My name is Undersheriff Harry Hanson, and I am your new boss and I will be writing you up. I will put a copy in your

personal file and I may demote you if I can.”

“When did you take over the department and why wasn‟t I

informed of this? I am sorry about the attitude, but I am the personnel supervisor and I should have been informed

immediately.”

“If you didn‟t take such long lunches you would have been

informed. But, since you are no longer the supervisor of personnel, there was no reason. I have some evidence I want marked and a complete itemized list of what I am turning in. Take these keys and I will be down in a few minutes. I suggest you take a few minutes to adjust your

attitude or you won‟t have a job in the department.”

He took the keys and headed back to the property room, mumbling under his breath. I heard the captain in the background telling somebody off before he slammed down the phone. I turned around and faced him before he could say anything.

“Andy, if they are giving you flack about coming in, pull rank. If you can‟t command your men, then I want to know

how you became a captain. I also want to know if I have an

office I can use for meetings.”

“Harry, you are going to be the most hated man here „till a

new sheriff is appointed, Dammit, though, I like your no

nonsense style. The old sheriff‟s office is through there and

it is all yours. His stuff was packed and sent out yesterday

so you won‟t have to worry about changing anything. I just

hope you know what you are doing, because this department has its own groups that won‟t answer to anyone but the old sheriff.”

“Andy, if the man I am thinking of becomes the new sheriff,

I will bet this department will change for the better within six months and there will be a lot of new experienced personnel. I am hardly making a ripple compared to what he will do. This good ole boy shit will stop and will not be tolerated. I am looking for a new evidence room clerk, so if you know anyone that wants the job, send them to me. Until the new sheriff comes on board, I will be making a lot of changes. Not only in personnel and job descriptions, but

also in the upper echelon and shift assignments.”

I got up and went down to the evidence room. The sergeant had calmed down and was almost polite to me when I came to the window. He took the evidence and itemized it piece by piece before asking me how I wanted it classified.

“I want it marked charges pending. I hope I don‟t have to use it but I want it handy if I have to.”

“Where the hell did you get this smut? This is a felony just to own it.”

“Would you believe I confiscated it from the radio room

supervisor? He was watching it and eating dinner when I walked into his office. He no longer works for the department and if he shows his face again, he will immediately be arrested and charged.”

“Damn, Sheriff, you shore start big, don‟t you. If it‟s who I

think, you will be getting repercussions before the day is over. I will tell you right now that family carries a lot of

weight here in the department and won‟t hesitate to try to get you fired.”

“They can try but it won‟t do them any good. This

department is about to undergo a big change and there will

be a lot of shakeups and firings „till it‟s straightened out so

it runs smooth. By the way, I want to look at the itemized list of everything in this room and what its status case wise

is. From the looks of this mess, it‟s time to start cleaning all

the outdated junk out of here so there is better control and

shelf room.”

“I couldn‟t agree more. The old sheriff went through

everything once every two years and had an auction of all

the stuff he didn‟t want to take home for himself. I have

over a hundred firearms he was saving for himself and his family. They were scheduled to be destroyed but he always signed them over to himself and took them home or gave

them away to his family and friends.”

“Now I know why he was so well liked, he bribed everyone.

From now on anything taken out of here will be signed for and make sure the signature is readable and followed by the officer‟s badge number and unit. Do not let anyone in here without me being with them or you escorting them at all times. I want the list this afternoon and then we will decide what will be sold at auction and what will be destroyed or burned. Who is the night clerk and how many sets of keys

are there for this room and who has them?”

“I don‟t know how many keys are out there. I know the lock hasn‟t been changed for the last fifteen years. There is no

night clerk, just the supervisor on duty who has a key for the cage. I will have your copy of the list within fifteen minutes. I have always kept a separate set of books that date back to when I started here. I made up my mind then that I would always cover my own ass, just in case something like this came up. I knew that sooner or later it

would happen, and I wasn‟t about to spend any prison time because the sheriff did things like he wanted to.”

“Now that‟s the first smart thing I have heard today. I will

have to reconsider my opinion of your capabilities and how well you run this department. I will have a locksmith come in this afternoon and change the locks. You and I will be the only one with keys for right now. After you get off duty this afternoon, come to my office and we will have a long talk about the personnel in the department.”

“I will look forward to it sheriff. I hope this department gets straightened out and run like it‟s supposed to. There are

some damn good people here that have been held back or ostracized for their ideas and honesty. I will look forward to the changes and see how many of the old crowd quits when they find out they are not running the department any

more.”

I smiled at that and went back upstairs to the captain‟s

office to wait for the men to come in for the meeting. I wanted to check out the sheriff‟s office and see how big it was. I wanted to hold the meeting there where I could close the door and control the room.

When I went into the sheriff‟s office, I realized that he had

what would be called in the city a penthouse suite. This place was the size of three large apartments. I now knew where the radio room would be moved to when Mark or I changed things around. The front offices would be for the investigators and squad room. Looking around the office, I realized it was set up to be a home away from home. It had its own bath with a shower and all the amenities including a small bedroom with a full size bed. All the furniture was leather and looked to be brand new. The desk was an old refinished roll up and was the size of a small couch. I looked at the walls and there were outlines where pictures and other things had hung for a long time.

I sat down at the desk and rolled the cover up and found it was packed with files and other paperwork. I would spend time going through all this. I wanted to see what was left behind and how much of it would be incriminating and to whom. Whoever had packed had purposely left it all behind for whoever took over to find. I would thank him when I found out who it was. Someone knocked at the connecting door and I closed the roll top before I answered. It was Andy and he informed me that the officers and supervisors were all here for the meeting. I told him to show them all in.

I watched as they all came in the office and found seats. Some looked like they were curious and some mad, some

half asleep, but all looked like they didn‟t want to be here at all. There were two Lieutenant‟s and five sergeants

including the now smarter property room supervisor. I waited until they were all seated and then started with my little shocking speech.

“Gentlemen, my name is Harry Hanson and I am the new

undersheriff. I will be running the department until a new sheriff is appointed. You may call me Harry or Mr. Hanson or sheriff. I am not going to ask you to introduce yourselves because I will be meeting with each one of you over the coming week. There are going to be a lot of changes and

some of you will like them and some won‟t. I really don‟t care if you do or not. If for some reason you find you don‟t

then put in your resignation papers and I will sign them so

you can look for employment else wear.”

I waited till all the grumbles and gripes quieted down then went on with my speech.

“I will be changing shift assignments and supervisors in the

coming weeks. I am also going to purchase new four wheel drives and replace many of the cars in the fleet. Locks will be changed and only authorized personnel will have keys to sensitive areas. I am new in the county and just moved here, so expect to see me around and learning the area. I will do investigation and patrol duties until I become familiar with the patrolmen and the areas. Some of you may be related to the old sheriff, so I am putting you on notice right now that the old ways will not fly in the department anymore. You will be judged on your performance and how you act and treat the public and brother officers. There will be a briefing before every shift from now on and the supervisor from the previous shift will bring the incoming

shift up on what is going on.”

I waited again until the murmuring slacked off before I went on.

“I want all of you to understand that you will do incident

reports on accidents and the reports will be exact and pictures will always be taken. We will always cover our butts and the shift supervisors will be responsible for all paperwork and records of his shift. There will be demotions and promotions and the personnel files will all be reviewed. Ok, gentlemen, that is all for now, but be prepared to be called in individually for your performance reviews in the

coming weeks.”

They all looked a little shell shocked as they went out the door. Andy and the property room clerk stayed behind as they all left. I waited until the door closed behind them then Andy stepped up first.

“Harry, you have shaken them all down to the core. The personnel files are in my office under lock and key and I have the only key to the cabinet. I will have it moved in here this afternoon and here is the only key to it. He handed it to me before going on. I suggest you call an outside locksmith because both of them in town are relatives of the sheriff. I also suggest that if you are going to replace the cars you take bids and make them all inclusive. I will go back to work

and let Shorty talk to you.”

He went through the door and that‟s when I realized he was the perfect one to handle the departments purchasing and all supplies having to do with the department. He would also write all the government grants for money and equipment.

“Well sergeant, do you have that list for me and is it ok if I call you Shorty like Andy does?”

“I don‟t have a problem with it as long as I can call you

Harry when we are alone. Andy was the last one hired and that was about two years ago. He has a college degree in accounting and does all the records and books for the department. He is a whiz with the books and the budget. If I am not being too forward, he would be a valuable asset and

he is totally honest.”

“You seem to know everyone and their backgrounds. Why

the attitude when I first met you. I almost fired you on the

spot. Do you want to explain or should I guess?”

“I have had to walk the line being friends with no one since I started here. That‟s why the two sets of books and getting

me appointed as personnel supervisor. I am a good cop and like you, I hate this good ole boy mentality. I have watched it flourish here since I started fifteen years ago. You have three of the supervisors that have felony records. They were hired by the sheriff and the background checks were pulled from the files, but I have copies of all. You also have six of the deputies that have been convicted of domestic violence that was also covered up. I have copies of their convictions and they are still being covered up by the supervisors I previously mentioned. They don‟t deserve to be law enforcement officers on any department. This is just the top

of the barrel you have taken on to clean up.”

“I have them all right here and until you have the locks

changed on the evidence room, I have put a log chain on it.

There are only two keys and here is yours. You‟ll notice that

none of the papers in the desk were sent onto the widow,

and that‟s because I considered them to be departmental

property. I am sure you will have an eye opening experience when you go through them.”

“Well, Shorty, I think you have covered almost every

question I was going to ask. I want the personnel file cabinet put in the evidence room under lock and key from now on. I know Andy said he gave me the only key, but I have a feeling there are more out there and I will have that lock changed too. I must admit that you have changed my original opinion of you and I think that you will make me a very valuable asset. I also think you will be getting a promotion very soon and you will be handling the personnel for the whole department. You also will be handling promotions and will help with job performance reviews and all punishments and firings by my side until the new sheriff

comes on board.”

“Harry, I think you already know who the new sheriff is going to be, and I have a funny feeling it‟s somebody you recommended to the commissioners. I would also be willing to bet you turned the job down because you are too

independent to be a sheriff. The sheriff‟s four wheel drive is

downstairs and here are the keys so you can use it until the new sheriff comes in. I am going to get one of the trustees to move the cabinet, then I am going home to my wife and

give her the good news and take her out to dinner.”

After Shorty left I went back to Andy‟s office and told him to call an out of town locksmith and gave him the list of the

locks I wanted changed. I got directions to the department‟s

garage and the list of our refueling stops and the county gas

card for the sheriff‟s vehicle. I headed out for the garage to

see what kind of facility we were running.

Chapter 7

I had gotten almost to the garage when I remembered that my unit had no call sign, and I had forgotten to tell Andy how many keys I wanted for each lock change. I did a U-turn and headed back to the department. I came through the front door and there was not a soul in sight. I heard the

sound of raised voices coming from Andy‟s office and

headed that way.

The sight that greeted my eyes was an impromptu meeting of about all the civilian employees with a few uniforms mixed in. I listened in as they were grilling Andy about their jobs, if they were going to be let go, and all the questions that were asked when new leadership took over. I listened for a little bit then stepped forward and cleared my throat loudly.

“Listen up, people, you have nothing to worry about when it

comes to your jobs. If you were all let go this department would come to a stop for months until we could train new people. There will be some changes in the civilian workforce but nothing drastic like a mass layoff. The new sheriff will be doing most of it when he comes on board. I will be having a meeting with all employees and updating the personnel files and having a look at job descriptions and this type of thing. All of you are worried about the future and you have a right to be. As you all know; any department depends on its civilian employees because they practically

run the department. Now let‟s get back to work and keep

the place running smoothly like you always have from your end.”

They filed out and many had smiles and relief on their faces. I had been through all this before when I took over another department, many years ago. I knew how they felt as a lot of just elected sheriffs fired all the civilian employees and hired all new. I had always been against this type of thing because in the long run it always cost more to retrain than to keep the experienced ones in place, doing what they knew best.

“Thanks, Harry, I had no idea how to answer their questions. The locksmith will be here from Reno in the morning around nine. He offered us a good rate and I would like to have him sign a voucher for future work. He is a young guy just starting up and was recommended by the department in Reno. They say he prefers to work for law enforcement exclusively since he is a wounded on duty deputy on medical pension. I also just talked to the local Wal-Mart store and they offered the department a very good rate on instant cameras and VCRs for the cruisers. They even said that they would recommend someone that would give us a break on installation. I have been trying for years to get them installed, but the old sheriff was too secretive

and didn‟t want any record made about the unit‟s activities.”

“Andy, if you do this, make sure they are of the locking type so only authorized personnel will be able to remove and replace the tapes. Also make sure they are the constant time date stamp type of recorder with voice records built in. I want every angle covered and a strict set of guidelines set up for them. The officers with something to hide are going to have a fit about them being in their cars. Remember, Andy, always cover your ass when you introduce anything new in a department that has fought against modern

equipment.”

“Thanks again Harry for the help with the personnel. I have

a bunch more calls to make and then we need to sit down and talk about the equipment we are going to put in the new four wheel drives when we order them. I am getting bids from the different dealers now, but the dealer that always got the job is going to have a fit when he finds out he will

not have the exclusive contract anymore.”

“Let him bid on it like everyone else. He probably was paying a kick back to the sheriff anyway. That‟s usually how it‟s done in a small town. I have been through this before

and if you encounter any problems, tell them to come talk to me. I will lay it out so they can understand the new rules in this department. Hell, Andy, when you make changes to a system that has been in place for fifty years, it gets everyone in the pocket book in some way or another. Andy you are a captain with this department. You are going to have to be more assertive or would you rather be a civilian under contract? That is your choice to make and I bet you can make more money as a civilian than as a captain. Think about it, Andy. I will keep you in rank, but to be truthful

with you ,I don‟t think you like being in charge and just

want to do the job you spent years in college learning how

to do.”

“Harry, if we did that can I keep my active status and maybe

be in charge of the reserve deputies? I would love to clean it

out because most of them are the sheriff‟s relatives and only

use their badge for their own gain. I have wanted to weed it out since I started but was told to leave them to their own

devices and not to interfere with the way they do things.”

“I would be overjoyed to have you act in that status. I want

you to handle all contracts, the purchasing of equipment, and writing of federal grants for equipment and emergency vehicles and this type of thing. I have contacts I can use to get the department a lot of things that are too expensive to buy outright. I especially want to see if we can get the scrambled radios and walkie-talkies. That way the citizens will not be able to hear our every movement and where the patrol units are. You let me know what you decide and make

a recommendation who should be promoted to captain.”

“Harry, I think you should start on the personnel files tomorrow. When you run your background checks on all the deputies, you will lose two sergeants and probably all three

lieutenants. I can‟t see any way they will be able to pass the

check. There are going to be a lot of promotions coming up and I think you should consider Shorty as the new captain. He has seniority and he is good at what he does with the personnel. He never made any waves to bring him to the old

sheriff‟s attention and he knows where all the bodies are buried. We don‟t have a jail for you to worry about because it was built jointly by our county and the next county over. It is run by a private company that also runs several prisons

all over the west.”

“Have there been any problems with the prisoners, like mistreatment or anything like that?”

“No, and the state keeps a close eye on them. The sheriff

always bitched about it because he had no way to make any money from it. The county sharing it with us just had the same shakeup we are having with a new sheriff being elected. He has really gotten his department together and

he runs it straight.”

“How many men are we short in the county Andy? From

what I have seen this department is short at least twenty

men from the size of the county.”

“More like twenty-five to bring us up to state minimum. We are short on cars, equipment and personnel. That‟s how the

old sheriff made his money. Nothing was ever said because he ran the county under his rules and if you complained you

didn‟t get elected to another term. That‟s the way things were run here for the last forty years or so. I don‟t pretend to like or agree with it but I think you and the new sheriff

are about to change a lot of those ideas and habits.”

“It‟s not a matter of change, but just being honest and being

proud to belong to a department that is smooth and run for everyone. People have to learn we are here for them and not for our own personal gains. Hopefully before we are done, they will have as much pride in their department as we do,

Andy.”

I bid him goodbye and went to the radio room and almost ran over Pinky who was rushing out the door for our meeting.

“Man Harry, I thought I was going to miss meeting you. I

have all the plans we talked about earlier. I have been

finishing them all afternoon.”

“Come into the office, Pinky. I have some news that I think will make your whole month. I am going to have the sheriffs personal office converted to the new combination radio and nine one one center. They will be combined and the room will be air conditioned and soundproofed. All this space here

will be the investigator‟s offices and the sheriff will have this office.”

“Harry‟s you have made my whole year. We should have

been separated from the department years ago. I only ask that you find a deputy for each shift to advise us on the law and codes on some of the calls we receive. Half the time we are guessing what department to send the alarm to. The deputy could help us to separate between law, fire and

hospital.”

“Well Pinky, I think we can make that happen and get some new more comfortable headphones for your people to work with. Those things look to be about twenty years out of

date. Hell you can‟t even go to the coffee machine without

taking the headsets off. You should be able to unplug, go

the machine and plug back in to resume your work.”

“Harry if you can swing that, these people will worship at

your feet. Most of these people have been here for years being treated like pariahs by the deputies. These people are the ones that make a lot of difference to you guys in the

field.”

“I agree a hundred percent, Pinky. I had my ass saved by a

cool thinking dispatcher several times. I will be the first one to applaud their work and believe me, they will have their kudos before I am done. From now on every rookie will have to work a month in here before they go out on patrol. That way they will learn to appreciate the effort put into making

them safe on the street.”

“Harry, my people will love that idea. There are several

already out there that need to come in here for a month so

they will be more polite to my people on the radio.”

“Pinky, notify your people that if one of my men gives them

a hassle or smart mouth to mark the tape for review. I will listen to it personally and we will all have a little meeting about their manners. Whatever they say, tell your people to always be polite and just mark the tape for my attention. I will have a man in position to hold disciplinary meetings in a very short time. Then we will start changing attitudes. By the way, my call sign will be unit one seventy special. Tell

your people that if anything pops off that‟s serious, to call

me in on the call too. I am still learning the county so tell them I might need directions. They can switch me to a

scrambled channel to give them to me as I respond.”

“Hmm, you‟re in the new cruiser so that will be channel four

on that radio. Channel two is the patrol and one is the supervisors. Your private channel is three and it is only in two of the units. Yours and the old sheriff‟s cruiser and that is parked right now at the garage. That‟s the one you will be

assigned when the new sheriff starts. It is almost new and is a lot better unit than the new one. I suggest you go over and get it and use it. You will see what I mean when you see it. I have an old undersheriff badge I would be proud to give to you to wear. It will take several weeks to order a new one unless you drive to Reno where they have them in stock. The uniform store here was run by the sheriff‟s sister and she made a bundle on everything she sold to the department. I have a feeling you will be looking for another

supplier and she will raise a stink, so be prepared.”

“I am having Andy take bids and if she can come up with the

lowest bid, then she will keep our business. Everything will be done this way from now on so anyone can bid and win if

they are legally registered with the state. I don‟t and from now on the department won‟t play favorites. I am also going

to go over wages and benefits and bring them up to standards with other departments in the state. I want my

people happy and proud to work here.”

“If you do a quarter of what you say and the new sheriff

keeps it up you two will be the most popular people in the county. There hasn‟t been a raise in this department for five years. Most of my people barely get by but they need the job so they stay on regardless. There is no overtime pay and if

someone doesn‟t come in, another stays over to cover and

gets paid straight hourly. God I hope you make some of the changes you have talked about. It will do wonders throughout the whole department and I guarantee it,

Harry.”

I just shook my head, absorbing everything he had told me, and knew we had an uphill battle ahead of us. I needed to talk to Mick and see if I could start some of the changes immediately and how much money I had to play with. I

stopped by the squad room and got the sheriff‟s walkie and

headed once again to the garage. Pinky hollered at me and came up and handed me the badge already mounted on a belt clip. It was worn and rough on the star tips but it had the right county, and I clipped it to my belt, thanking him at the same time. He smiled and went back to the radio room while I went out the door.

I got in the Ford and headed for the garage and what would probably be another hassle about leadership. I figured the place would be filthy and a fire hazard. When I got there and pulled into the lot I thought my eyes were doing tricks. The outside was spotless and the cars were neatly parked with plastic tags on the wipers with all their information on them. There was no trash or stacks of rusting parts like a normal police garage.

I opened the door to a well lit and a spotless garage with ten bays. All the oils and supplies were behind a wire cage in the corner with a parts man taking care of the stock and spare parts. There was a sign out sheet along with a computer generated paper of the parts signed out. Damn, from what I could see so far, this place was better run than the main headquarters. The office was on the raised platform that looked out over the whole garage. The tires were chained in racks around the outside of the platform but the window was not blocked. I went up the stairs and thought I would be a smart ass and knock first. I heard someone tell me to come in so I opened the door and got my second surprise from the garage.

The woman in coveralls sitting behind the desk would best be described as very pretty, even with the grease all over her face. No wonder Andy gave me that shit eating grin when I said this was my next stop. I went to introduce myself and was interrupted immediately.

“I know who you are. I have been hearing about you all day. Have you come to fire me too?”

“Not that I am aware of. Should I fire you for some reason not apparent yet?”

“Well, everyone says you are firing all the old sheriff‟s

relatives. I am a distant relative so I guess I am next then. My name is Doris Barclay and I have been running this place for the last five years. I took it over when my husband died

and it‟s been an uphill fight ever since. I have ten good

employees and I want them to stay. We are underpaid and overworked but we manage to do about all the work on the fleet that we have parts for. I have fifteen cars sitting out

there that I can‟t buy the parts for because I don‟t have a

budget to work with. It all has to be approved by the sheriff and he spends parts money to line his own pockets. Now

that he is gone, I suppose you will be doing the same thing.”

“Now that all that poison is out of your system, it‟s my turn

to speak. You will have a budget, make a list of what you

need and we will get bids for the parts. No, I don‟t line my

pockets, and anyone I find doing it will be fired and prosecuted. I have to compliment you on your shop. It is the cleanest one I have ever been in bar none. I am not interested in firing you as long as you do a good job and keep the fleet running. Looks to me like you have everything under control. I came by to drop off the new sheriff‟s car and pick up the other one he used. This new one is to be locked up and no one is to be allowed to sign it out unless I

call and accompany them to do so. Here are the keys.”

She looked at me in shock like she expected to be fired because she was a woman and related to the old sheriff.

Hell, I didn‟t care who ran the garage as long as they kept

the fleet in good shape and kept the place as clean as this one was. I had to have the cleanest and neatest shop in the state. Mark is gonna freak when he lays eyes on it.

“Here are your keys and this box is locked every night when

I leave. Check it over before you leave and if it needs anything, drive it in and I will get someone on it. I talked to Shorty earlier and he warned me that you said what you thought. I must say that is very refreshing as far as I am

concerned. How come you‟re not against a woman running the fleet?”

“I don‟t care if it is a transvestite, if they do a good job and

keep the place looking like this. This has to be the cleanest county motor pool in the state. I compliment you and your men and I am going through personnel records and will be

meeting with you about your budget and worker wages.”

“None of my people have had a raise in years, and even

when they went to the different classes that were mandated they were never paid while they attended. I have all the records and expenses and they can all be verified by the companies involved. If you can address that first, we here in the motor pool will be very happy. I have several other things to discuss with you when you find the time.”

“I am making a lot of changes but I want to have a meeting

with you as soon as I can fit you in. No, I am not putting you off; Andy will call and set a time within the next few days. I have to go and meet with someone else, so let me get my

car and get out of here.”

She told me where it was parked and I went out the back as she went out the front to bring the new car in the shop. What I had inherited was one of the older style Dodge Power Wagons. I had been freshly painted and everything on it was new, including the low profile high-power light bar on top. It had dual winches front and back and the big wrap around brush guard with the mounted push bars. When I opened the door, it even smelled new. It had two front and rear mounted spotlights that were electronically controlled from a small panel mounted on the top of the center console. I could spend a half hour trying to describe all the options, but it had everything but a bathtub. I looked under the hood and it had the high performance three eighteen with factory headers and the oversize heads. Damn, what a vehicle to just park to buy that new comfort wagon. I climbed in and turned the key. It started on the first turn and it was really quiet even with the headers. I checked all the lights and they all worked perfectly. I did notice that the spotlights were the million candlepower and would blind you if you looked straight into them. I could see nothing

was needed and the tank was full so I headed for Mick‟s

place to see how much money I was going to have to work with.

Chapter 8

I was headed to Mick‟s house and listening to the patrol

radio and it was dead. There was no traffic to speak of and I wondered how many of the deputies were patrolling, and how many were shooting the breeze at some store or

snoozing. It didn‟t take me long to get to Mick‟s house and

to my surprise it was a small cottage surrounded by flowerbeds.

I got out and walked up to the door and knocked loudly. It was answered by a gray-haired lady and she greeted me by name and asked me to come in. I was asked to sit down and offered coffee, which I accepted immediately. She said her husband would be in shortly. I sat with her and learned her name was Eva and she had been born and raised in this town. She was quick to point out to me that it was way past

time for changes in the sheriff‟s department and the way it

was run. Mick came in about this time and she refilled our cups and left the room.

“Ok Harry, what‟s on your mind?”

“I need to know how much money I have for wages and equipment. That has got to be the saddest department I have ever seen. None of the personnel have had a raise in years and almost all of the civilian employees are barely above minimum wages. I hope you commissioners are ready to back up the promises that were made when you hired

me.”

He handed me a sheet that laid out the wages for each civilian job with a break down of years and wage increases. I looked at it for about five minutes and decided it was more than fair. It also had a lot of latitude for performance raises.

I didn‟t see the motor pool employees listed at all and I

asked him about it immediately.

“Harry, that comes out of the department‟s budget. Any

raises or benefits fall under the purview of the accountant for the department. Here are the sheets for the monies

available by department and how it‟s used or allotted is up

to you and the new sheriff. By the way, your friend Mark accepted the job and will be starting the first of the month. Everyone was very impressed with his credentials and his own sheriff gave him the highest of recommendation. Harry, I have been hearing about you and your changes all day and

I hope you keep it up.”

“Mick, this department budget is about sixty percent above what I expected. I don‟t see any allotments for equipment and repairs of outdated equipment. Don‟t even try to tell me

that comes under the heading of the department budget. Everything of this nature has to be put out for bid and approved by the commissioners. I will not allow the kickbacks to local merchants that have been going on for all these years. The department will be above board in all matters concerning bidding and awarding of contracts. Andy is taking bids and will have them together within two

weeks.”

“We don‟t have a problem with that, Harry, and we feel the same way. The lower we can purchase everything, the more you will be able to use for the department budget. We have three new casinos up and running and they are paying the county big tax dollars. The commissioners decided that the first year a lot of the money will be used to bring our

sheriff‟s department up to date. We have the money and you

have the experience to use it the right way to make our department one of the best in the state. Harry, I guarantee

you that if you need something, you will get it.”

“The first thing is the payroll will be changed to every two

weeks instead of every month. That is so old it has mold on it. There will be a lot of promotion and personnel changes and I reserve the right to promote by experience and/or seniority. Dammit, Mick, almost all the senior officers have records and will have to be let go. I hope the prosecutor is ready to roll because when I start going through the books, there will be charges brought on some people. I already

know that Mark feels the same way so he will push it too.”

“We have all new commissioners and a new criminal court

judge taking office the first of the month and most are not from here originally. The prosecutor will make sure you get your warrants if you need them, and I am sure since the judge is a retired sheriff he will sign them if the reason is good. You have the sheets on the money available for all departments and we made sure that they were set high so you would have plenty to work with. I am going to bed and I suggest you go home too. You will have a long day tomorrow meeting with the department heads and ironing

out the new wages and firings.”

I stood up and shook hands and Eva called from the kitchen saying she was glad to have met me. I said the same and headed for the door. I got back in my cruiser and called in, signed out for the night and headed home. I went up the driveway and by the time I got to the cabin I realized I was exhausted. I made a quick supper and went to bed.

I woke up and it was almost eight o‟clock. I put the coffee pot on and went to the shower. I was glad to hear that Mark

was coming on the first, „cause I was too damned old to be

doing this all over again. I had done my thing years ago and looked forward to setting back and taking it easy. At least when I went in today I would have a monetary figure to work with and dole out so it was fair to everyone. Paid once a month, what the hell kind of sheriff had this old coot been? Starting the first they would get paid every two weeks and the raises would be on the first check. I knew

that Mark and the girls would stay here „till we could get the

cabin built and the girls would love it.

I had to take time to meet with a cabin builder and get that project going real soon. Since it was late spring here, the girls could get settled in before they had to go to school in the fall. I planned to have their cabin up and livable by then if it killed the contractor. Well I better get going to work and the all day meetings I would have today. I drove down the driveway and hit the hard top road and floored it. The car jumped and went to seventy really quick before I slowed it down to the speed limit. I was leaving early today so I could pick up my stuff from the storage place and take it to the cabin and unpack it. All my guns and holsters were in there

and the stubby I was carrying didn‟t do it for me. I wanted my Glock .40 „cause I might end up needing it. That was

another thing I had to handle were the department weapons. Everyone I had seen were all carrying different caliber pistols of every shape and form.

I pulled the car into the sheriff‟s slot and locked it up and

went inside and was greeted with a cheery good morning by the intake desk. I answered back the same way and went to

Andy‟s office and settled into the chair in front of his desk.

“I have all the figures we need to meet with the different

departments and from now on, starting the first, the pay will be every two weeks with the increases starting then. Here you go, read them over and see what you can do with them while I grab a coffee. I will be in my office when the locksmith gets here and we will hold all the meetings in there. I want the motor pool supervisor here sometime today and tell her to bring all the personnel files with her.”

I handed Andy the sheets and headed to the radio room for a cup of coffee and to talk to Pinky. I walked into the room and one of the lieutenants was there and he was shouting at Pinky and the language was off the charts.

“Hey, in the office now, Lieutenant.”

I went in and he followed me and Pinky came in behind him

and shut the door. I looked at him and he wouldn‟t look me

in the face and I started to get pissed.

“What the hell is your problem? You don‟t come into the 911

center and cuss at the top of your voice like you were doing. The public can hear it and it is unbecoming for an officer to

do something like that.”

“Sheriff, I broke down last night and it took them almost

two hours to get me a wrecker. The driver told me what time he got the call. That is just like a civilian, they think they are more important than we are. I want that operator

wrote up and suspended.”

“What right do you have to circumvent channels? If you had a complaint, you should have taken it to the captain.”

“That milk toast wouldn‟t do anything if it was right in front of him.”

“Now you just crossed another line. What is your name anyway?”

“My name is Dub Johnson Sheriff. I have been with the department for two years.”

“Pinky, call Shorty and have him bring the file on this officer to me and tell him I want it all.”

“Now Dub, how did you make the rank of Lieutenant in two

years? How many years have you worked in law

enforcement?”

“I went to the academy and graduated at the top of my class and was hired in at this rank by the old sheriff.”

Shorty knocked on the door and handed me the file with a wink. He went out and Pinky came back in. I opened the file and on the top was a note from Shorty telling me to look at page three. I did and it was the background check and it seemed that Dub had been a naughty boy for several years. He had been convicted of B&E twice in Maine and also had been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in Arizona five years ago. This was all I needed to know. It had the official FBI stamp on it so I knew it was real.

“Dub, how did you ever become an officer with three felony convictions on your record?”

“The old sheriff said it didn‟t matter because I was in his

county and he said whom he hired and fired. I have done an excellent job and expect to be here until I retire. I plan on

running for sheriff in a few years.”

“I hate to bust your bubble but the laws in Nevada like all other state‟s make it clear that an ex felon cannot be a

peace officer. Turn in your badge, gun and ID card right now. You are fired from this department effective as of right

now.”

“I will fight this in court and own this place. The gun belongs to me and I am not giving it to anyone.”

He laid all but the gun on the desk and as I stood up I pulled the stubby and ordered him to lay the gun on the desk. He did and I swept them into the top drawer.

“Dub, you are stupid as well as rude. It is against federal

and state laws for an ex con to own or carry a gun. If you have any more, sell them or give them away. If I see you on the street, you will be checked and arrested if you have one on you. I could arrest you right now for having one. I want the badges and uniforms in this office by quitting time tonight. If you keep them and you are caught with them in your possession, you will immediately be arrested for

impersonating an officer and that‟s a felony. I don‟t care if

you or the department bought the badges and uniforms, get them turned today. Now get out of here and give Pinky the department keys and any other department property you

have.”

He was red in the face but didn‟t say a word, just opened

the door and left. I looked at Pinky and his mouth was wide open and for once he wasn‟t talking. I took the gun from the drawer and unloaded it and it was filthy. I am glad it wasn‟t

mine because it would have probably blown up if you fired it. I was an old .38 that had seen its better days. I would have Shorty inventory it and put it in the evidence room. The ID would be turned into the proper department and his paper work would be filled out by me or Andy today.

“Um Harry, how did you know all that stuff about the laws and his record.”

“I have twenty eight years in law enforcement and his sheet

is in the file for anyone to check. All personnel will have new background checks run in the next thirty days. If anyone has a felony, they will be let go. It makes no difference if it civilian or law enforcement. The state and Federal laws are plain on the rules when it comes to employment with any law enforcement connotation. Homeland security has the last say, when it comes to employment in any department if you want federal money and equipment. I will bring his termination papers in for you to witness when I get them done.

“Ok Harry, have you found out anything on the wages for my people yet”

“I have the budget and starting the first of the month

everyone will get paid every two weeks. All the civilian employees will get a raise and I think they will like what I am going to give them. Get all your personnel records up to date because today or tomorrow you will be meeting with me and Andy to discuss all of this. I also want bids to move the radio room and bids on new radios. If you know anyone that wants to bid on the sales and service contract let me

know and have them make a list and give it to Andy.”

He was smiling as I left the office with the stuff from the deputy and the file I had to get done. Damn I would be glad when all this was straightened out and I could patrol and

learn the county. I made it to Andy‟s office after a stop at

the records room to turn in the ID and get the paper I needed to fill out on Dub. Damn what a name that was. I wondered if it was short for Aubrey or something like that. I went into my office and filled out the paper and called Pinky in to witness it and had him drop it off at records with the second one going to Andy for payroll purposes.

I was going through the paperwork in the desk when I came across some interesting sales receipts and payments. One was a paid receipt for three hundred and fifty .40 caliber Smith and Wesson pistols being held at a local gun shop for

pickup. Maybe we wouldn‟t have to worry about handguns

after all. I would check into this on my way home today. If he had them then I would have them brought to the evidence room until I could get everyone qualified on them.

If he didn‟t have them then I would have the prosecutor

press charges for the sale of stolen weapons. I was also sure the ATF would be interested too.

I was really getting into the stuff in the desk when there was a knock at the door. I closed the desk and invited the person knocking in. It was Andy and Doris and she had a big stack of personnel folders in her arms.

“Harry, I will need an hour at least to go through the files with her and then make the recommendations for you to

approve.”

“Ok, I have some personal business I have to take care of so

you will have at least two hours. Make sure the first thing you settle with her is the training pay and reimbursement of expenses and see that they get an immediate payment for this. It is way overdue. Have a quiet argument, guys, and I

will see you later.”

I left before they tried to drag me in the middle of it and headed for the gun shop with the receipt and the contract in hand. I called in and told dispatch I was signal 33 and my destination. I went through the town just sightseeing and memorizing the streets as I went. I arrived at the gun shop and it was very big for such a small town. I got out of the car after giving a signal 39 and went in the store. The place was laid out like a warehouse with all the weapons behind the counter and all the other hunting and sports gear was on counters in long rows down the center of the store. A young clerk came over to me and asked if he could help and I asked if the owner was available. He said he was in his office and he would get him for me.

I was looking at the assortment of new pistols when he came over to me and introduced himself.

“Hi, I‟m Trent Group the owner, what can I do for you?”

“I came to make arrangements for the pistols you‟re holding for the sheriff‟s office. I want them delivered as soon as possible.”

“Sir, I don‟t know who you are but I am not holding anything for the sheriff‟s department. They were picked up

almost a year ago by the evidence room sergeant. I suggest you leave before I call for an officer to escort you out of my

store.”

“Very well then I will call the ATF and have them start an investigation into what happened to those pistols and how the sale and delivery was handled. I suggest you get your books in order because they will go through every sale and

background check for the last seven years.”

I turned and went back out the door and climbed into the car and headed for the storage company to see if my stuff had arrived yet. When I arrived, I called dispatch and gave them my present location. I figured I would be getting a call soon about the guns and how I would profit by not pushing the investigation on their location. I went into the storage office and was told all my stuff had arrived and they would be happy to load it for me. They finally got it all in but it took a lot of changing around before it fit enough for me to take it home. I pulled out and headed for home after giving dispatch my final destination. I took the road to the cabin slowly because of all the jostling and bouncing of the cases.

I worked hard and got them all unloaded and the first thing I did when they were in the house was to dig my .40 out and put my shoulder holster on. Great, I finally felt dressed. I locked up and headed back to the station to see if Andy and Doris had killed each other yet. I had to laugh about the situation considering that Andy was so quiet and Doris was like a bulldog when it came to her employees and how they were treated. I hoped they had been able to work out all the

details so I wouldn‟t have to be the referee. I stayed off the

radio and just went straight to the station and into my office.

They were sitting across from each other and from the sound were hashing out the last details of the wages and raises. Doris looked up at me with a smile on her face and from the width of it I would guess she was very happy with what the motor pool was getting. Andy brought some papers over for me to sign and he had a smile on his face too.

“Harry, we got it all worked out to everyone‟s satisfaction.

Doris is happy with what we worked out. I am going to ok her to start ordering the parts she needs to get all the fleet up to par. Several of the cars can be used for parts then junked out. She also asked for what I thought was a small budget but it will work for her. The only big expenditure was the cost of a new wrecker so we won‟t have to pay outside contractors. She says we can also use it for the other county towing and charge them a flat fee as we will have the only

county wrecker.”

“Ok, ok, give her what she wants, but I want the fleet up to

specs as soon as possible. I plan on having a running fleet. Many of the old cars will be sold at auction and replaced with new four wheelers. Any vehicle we sell at auction will be in good running shape and painted a straight white. I

want our department to have the reputation that we don‟t

sell our junk, but we sell good running vehicles to the public. That way they will bring top dollar and draw buyers

from all over the state.”

They were both looking at me with a look like they couldn‟t

believe what I was saying. Most departments sold off their worn out junk for what they could get out of them but the concept I was putting into effect would double the amount we would make from the old cruisers. I signed the immediate pay vouchers to pay for the monies owed from the schooling and training the motor pool had to take to stay certified by the state. I noticed that Doris was watching me

like she couldn‟t believe this was finally happening. I looked

at her and smiled and she actually blushed. I had all I could do to keep from laughing out loud at her discomfort from being discovered.

When all the paperwork was done they both left my office and I got on the phone with Shorty and brought him up to date about the guns and he was flabbergasted at what he was supposed to have signed for a year ago. After talking to him, I got on the phone with the ATF and brought them up to speed and formally asked for an investigation into the gun store and its owner. I also called my friend in Homeland Security and brought him up to date on where I was and what I was doing. I caught hell, because only a year before I had turned down a position with them, and to do this

instead was what he couldn‟t understand. We swapped

bitches back and forth for a while then I brought him up to speed about my request to ATF and he told me they would be there Monday to ream him out and I was to lock up the documents I had till they could copy them.

The locksmith still hadn‟t made an appearance, and I buzzed

Andy to see if he had heard from him. I was informed that he had an emergency callout at another department and would be here as soon as he cleared from that job. I went back to the paperwork in the desk until the next meeting.

Note: all the radio codes used in this story are real. I will not say from what state or department.

Chapter 9

I was making good headway with all the junk in the desk and most of it was junk. I found a new NRC code book and set it aside to read and memorize. I also found a little notebook that listed all the payments received from the businesses in town. Thumbing through it, I found the gun shop payoffs and I had to admit they were quite substantial. I set it aside and finished out the cubbyholes in the right side and started on the left. I remembered the cabin and decided to call Shorty and see if he knew a company that did the kits. Sure enough, he gave me a number which I immediately called, and was told they would have their contractor come over with the plans and the cost layouts for the different models. Now I was getting somewhere. I looked at the clock and realized it was lunchtime and I was hungry. I buzzed Shorty and Andy telling them it was time for lunch and I was buying.

We all climbed into my car and headed for the steakhouse. I knew from my previous visit they had a lunch buffet that was cheap and compared to where I came from it would be

great for anyone‟s budget.

“Shorty, do you want to work the desk or patrol? I am going

to give you a choice whether you want to be patrol captain or the captain in charge of the station. It‟s your choice so think about it before you give me an answer.”

“I knew this was more than a free meal.”

We all laughed at his show of disappointment. I looked through the rear view mirror at him and he was grinning back at me.

“Harry, I want the patrol captain‟s position. I have a lot of

changes that should have been done to make the department smoother and a lot more efficient. A lot of the road officers have not had their updated state courses in years. Several that I personally know of spend their shifts sleeping instead of patrolling. You also have several that spend their shifts drawing double pay. They work at several of the whorehouses as security in uniform when they should be on patrol and this type of thing. Two of them are the supervisors that will be fired when you see their records. You and the new sheriff have a long road ahead getting this

department back on track and running like it should be.”

“Well Shorty, find me an honest officer to take your job in

the evidence room. As soon as you do you will be promoted to captain and the patrol is yours. I think you have a good idea of what I want so get it done and soon. I want to run an ad in the Reno paper for three retired officers to be radio room advisors. I want this implemented right away. I want fit men that are willing to work closely with Pinky and the 911 center staff. I will also want their input on the new

radio room we will be taking bids on.”

Andy‟s cell went off and he talked for a few minutes then

put his hand over it and turned to me.

“The locksmith just arrived and they have him waiting in the lobby.”

“Have them send him to the steakhouse to join us for lunch. Tell them to tell him it‟s on the sheriff.”

He got back on the phone and talked for a couple of minutes before hanging up.

“He is on his way and said to tell you he hadn‟t eaten yet because he wanted to get here.”

“Good lets go eat „cause I am hungry.”

We all got out and trooped into the restaurant and ordered our drinks and went to the buffet table. I got a shock when I saw how much food Shorty piled on his plate.

“Damn Shorty, you got a hollow leg or something? How do you stay so skinny when you eat so much?”

He mumbled something back to me between forkfuls and I laughed and settled in to eat. The locksmith joined us about five minutes after we got settled. He looked to be about twenty-five or so and walked with a pronounced limp, probably from the wound he received in the line of duty. I absently wondered how he would like to go back to work as a supervisor. I looked over at Shorty and he must have been reading my mind because he nodded yes to my unspoken question.

He sat down and introduced himself as Beau Gentry and I choked on the food I had in my mouth. He was watching me and busted out laughing at my reaction. Shorty and Andy were both laughing at me too. It took two drinks of water before I could speak again.

“Sorry about that Beau, but the name kind of caught me off

guard. You seem to get around very good even with the

limp. How come your department won‟t let you come back to work, if you don‟t mind me asking?”

“It was the department policy that since I couldn‟t pass the

physical qual. they refused to let me return to work. I really miss it but I don‟t have a choice in the matter. I had been a road deputy for nine years when I got hit in a bank robbery.

It‟s taken me a year of intense physical therapy to get to

where I am. According to the docs I have come further than they thought I would.”

“I have a proposition for you if you‟re interested. I need a day shift road supervisor and I don‟t give a damn about the

limp if you can do the job and do it right. You can start the

first of the month and your rank will be sergeant. You don‟t

have to answer right now, talk to your wife and anyone else you need to before you give me your answer. You will have

to live in the county though.”

“I am not married and I don‟t have to think about it. I love

law enforcement and for you to offer me a dream job like this, I will take it without reservation. I rent a little apartment in Reno so moving will not be a problem. I will keep my business open on a weekend or part time basis if

that‟s not a conflict.”

I smiled and assured him this was not a conflict and introduced him to Shorty who will be his commander and to Andy our department budget officer. I then introduced myself and at the same time telling him I would be in the position till the new sheriff started the first of the month. I shut up and went after my meal again and we all stuffed ourselves. I noticed that he and Shorty seemed to hit it off and I was glad that Shorty seemed to be coming out of his shell a little. I knew that he was going to be a good patrol captain and the officers would be treated fairly but firmly. We finished our meal and I got the check with my credit card and the three of them left the tip.

Beau followed us back to the station and we all went to our offices with Beau following me to mine.

“Beau, the first thing I want done is to have the safe opened and the combination changed. When you get that done, talk

to me and we will start changing locks.”

“Ok Harry, but this shouldn't take long.”

He went to work and Andy knocked and said he needed to talk about some figures concerning the state mandate training for officers. He also wanted to talk about the hiring of some new officers for the patrol division. I told him he needed to talk to Shorty about all of that since he was the new patrol captain. He smiled and went back out the door saying he would be in the dungeon if anybody wanted him. I smiled at his archaic mention of the evidence room. I heard Beau chuckling in the corner and ignored him. I had just returned to the cubby holes in the desk when the receptionist knocked on the door. I told her to come in and was in turn told that Mrs. Hawkins wanted to speak to me. I asked her who that was and damned if she didn't giggle and tell me it was the department uniform lady. I told her to give me five minutes then send her in.

“Well Beau, this will be your first official duty. I want you to witness this conversation and please don't start laughing

and stir her up more than she already is.”

“Ok, Harry, but I reserve the right to snicker now and then.”

“Very funny, Beau.”

I got the knock on the door and the receptionist opened the door and let her in. She looked to be about forty or so and was wearing jeans that looked to be painted on and let me tell you she ought not be wearing jeans, let alone jeans that tight. Her rear was as wide as the big floor safe Beau was trying to open.

“I understand you are temporarily in charge of the

department now. I would appreciate it if you would ask that

man to leave as this is a private meeting.”

“He is not going anywhere and if you wish to talk to me then I want the door open, so please open it or leave and make

an appointment for another time.”

She glared at me for a moment, took a deep breath and opened the door then sat back down in the chair beside the desk.

“I have a contract with this department for uniforms and I hear they are being opened for lowest bids. I want to remind you that the contract I have gives me all uniform

sales and equipment for the sheriff‟s department. If you try

to break it, I will have my attorney start action to freeze any

purchases until this is settled.”

“Now let me give you a taste of the law, and when you

leave, call your attorney and he will tell you the same thing. By law, all contracts have to be put up for bid. The old sheriff never did this and he was in violation of state and federal laws. You do not have any contract that is valid with his death, and you will not freeze the bidding process. I will have the county prosecutor go through your books and if you have made more than 25% profit in your dealings, then you will have to give all the money back to the department. I suggest you think very carefully before you try any legal moves because it will cost you big time. I have seen the books of your dealings with this department from the past. Now do you want your books audited or not? That is the big

question facing you, Mrs. Hawkins.”

I watched as she thought it through and watched the disappointment cross her face as she came to realize that I wouldn‟t be bullied and with a witness and the door being open she couldn‟t pull anything to give her an advantage.

She got up and left without saying another word. After she left, I heard Beau snickering in the corner by the floor safe.

“Oh shut up Beau and open the safe.”

He busted out laughing and I joined in with him. I decided that I was going to have her books audited and see how much money she had made off the department over the years. I started digging through the desk again when Beau let me know the safe was open and I better take a look what was in it. From the sound of his voice he was shocked and excited at the same time.

I got up from the desk and walked over to where I could see the inside and got a shock when I looked. Both of the large compartments were stacked completely full with bundled currency and from what I could see they were bundles of hundred dollar bills. At the top were several of what looked to be account books. I told Beau to close the door and change the locks on the office while I went to the phone. I called the evidence room and told Andy and Shorty to come to my office immediately and for Shorty to bring a book of evidence login sheets.

“Beau when they get here you will be a witness to everything that‟s logged. This will be kept in this office until

I look through the books in that safe. I will then make a decision whether to turn it over to the local prosecutor or

call the Attorney‟s General office in.”

He just nodded his head and then my other two captains arrived. I told them what was happening and how we were going to do this. I wanted to make sure our ass was covered six ways to Sunday when it comes to the stuff from the safe. I told Andy to pull the money out and count it and if the numbers on the bills were consecutive then he would record the numbers after checking to make sure they all were in the stack. I took the books out and went to the desk leaving them logging in the money and anything else that was in there.

I sat down and started reading through the books and realized that no part of this whole town was clean. He had kept records going back about thirty-five years and every penny of graft and kickbacks were recorded in these books. I spent about twenty minutes going through just one and I knew from the list of names that I was not going to deal locally with anyone and was going to have to go to the

capital or maybe federal. The names were a who‟s who of

representatives and judges and prosecutors in this and several surrounding counties.

“Fellas, these books are way above our heads so I am going

out of town and maybe even out of state to the federal level.

I don‟t even want to see all the other names in the other

books. This is really big and beyond our scope of investigation. Since I am going to cover our asses I want a copy machine brought in here and we will copy every page for our own protection. When we are through all this money and the copy we will take to the bank and put it in a safe deposit box. It will be set up so it cannot be opened unless all four of us are together to sign. I will hide the copies of the books and will tell no one where they are at until the investigation into their contents breaks then we will give them to the press to make sure the prosecutions are

conducted honestly. Do you all agree to this?”

They all thought it was a damned fine idea, so we decided to do it that way. I would hide the copies in my shelter and would keep them to do just what I said I would do. Beau

wheeled the copier from Andy‟s office in and I made the copies which we all signed to assure that they weren‟t fakes or made up. They finished counting the money and I

checked the books to see which bank wasn‟t listed and we

went there and did just what I said. It turned out that after inventory there was more than two million in the safe and it was all in new bills with all the stacks having consecutive serial numbers so they could be traced that way too. We came back to the office and Beau gave me the new keys to the office and went with Shorty to change the locks in the evidence room and personnel file cabinet. I told Beau to change the combination on the evidence safe also.

I got on the phone to the AG‟s office and was given the

runaround, so I told the clerk to tell the AG that I had tried to give him first crack at my stuff then hung up the phone. I waited for ten minutes and when he didn‟t call back I called the FBI in Vegas and asked for a supervisor. I did not get the runaround there after I identified myself. I was transferred directly to a supervisor and when I laid out what I was sitting on he told me that he would have his team fly in immediately. He asked if there was a place they could land the helicopter and I said the landing pad was right behind the station. He hung up after saying they would be there in about an hour. I told Andy what was going on and that I would be back shortly. I went directly to the cabin and hid the copies then went straight back to the station. I was going to disclose the copies but would not surrender them until the prosecutions were well underway. I heard the chopper and it landed in back of the station and then the feds came in and tried throwing their weight around with

my intake clerk. They didn‟t even faze her and I had to laugh

when they got frustrated and asked her politely where my office was. She answered just as politely saying if they would have a seat she would see if I was available.

They all had a seat before she came out from behind the counter and came to my office. I gave her a smile and a thumbs up when she knocked on the open door. She smiled back and announced them with a wink at me. They came in and as was their protocol the head fed introduced himself.

“Sheriff, I‟m agent Hadley the supervisor of the team you

see before you. Where are the books and the evidence? I want to get started on this immediately.”

“Before I turn over anything there are going to be some ground rules laid down.”

“You don‟t dictate any ground rules to my department,

sheriff. I dictate the rules and how we work.

“Agent Hadley, don‟t bullshit a bull shitter, I was working in

law enforcement before you graduated high school. I spent

eighteen years as a U.S. Marshall so don‟t try that bully shit

with me or I will call Homeland Security and have a little talk with them about your attitude toward my department. You will get the money and books but you will sign the evidence log sheets before I release it to you. Also I have made a complete copy of all the books involved and we will keep a copy until you start prosecuting some of the bigwigs in the books. If you don‟t do the investigation fairly, then we will release the copy we have to the press. I want you to understand clearly how we stand and how we will respond if

the important people in the books aren‟t prosecuted like all the others.”

“Ok sheriff. You made your point and you know the steps. We always act this way and since you have experience with federal service you know why. Where are the books because that is where the interest lies in Vegas. The money you should keep in a special account until its disposition is

decided.”

“Agent you will have to take the money too. It is all brand new hundreds and the serial numbers are consecutive. You

might be able to trace it that way.”

“Damn, I was hoping that it was all old bills. Ok. We will sign for the money too. Now can we have the evidence?”

“I will have my four men gather, and we will all go to the

bank where we put it in a safe deposit box. That way you can have your team check the bill numbers before you sign

for them.”

“Sounds like a good plan to me. I like the privacy angle of being in the box room out of public eye.”

I called Beau, and the others together and we loaded into three cars and went to the bank. As each bundle was checked off of the sign in sheets, Agent Hadley was going through the books and every once in a little while he would whistle when he came across a certain name.

“Harry, have you looked at the contents of these?”

“I have read them all and made the copies so they would be readable. I know what you‟re after and I will tell you now

Agent Hadley, I will not forget the names and the copy is totally safe. Tell the federal prosecutor that all the names are fair game or the press will get them all with the

monetary figures included.”

“That‟s blackmail, Harry. You know what will happen if you

release that list. You also know the prosecutor has to do what her or his boss says when it comes to the prosecution

of the names in this book.”

“I know that they‟re better not be any walks. They don‟t

have to go to prison but they better disappear from public office or positions of trust. I will be making a call to Homeland Security tonight and I will apprise them of what you removed from this safe deposit box. I will also make several recordings of the names and figures in the books and give them to someone I trust to make sure they get in

the right hands if something happens to me.”

“Come on Harry, they don‟t do things like that anymore. Nothing‟s going to happen to you.”

“Hadley, if you believe that bullshit then you need to go into

another line of work. I will cover my ass and my

department. I always have and always will.”

We decided to drop it and I got all the signed documents, and we went back to the station. The feds left in their chopper and we went back to my office. I gave the signed documents to Shorty and told him to copy them and put the copies in his safe and I would hide the originals with the book copy.

“Harry, do you think you are really in any danger? I heard what you said and it pissed me off.”

“Shorty, with some of those names in that book they will try every trick. They cannot to be prosecuted and stay in office. Anyone they think knows something will be a danger to them and they will eliminate the threat if they can. I am in the process of making copies of the books and they will be sent to people that I trust to get even if something happens to me. You guys are safe since I made it plain to Agent Hadley that I was the only one that read the books. I am going to Reno tomorrow to mail some of the copies. When I hear that they have arrived I will mail the rest. Guys I am sorry you got dragged into this but I have protected you the best I could. Beau, since you are not a member of this

department yet you won‟t even be mentioned and I will be able to use that to help me if need be.”

“Harry, we all talked earlier and we will back you in any way we can. All you have to do is ask. I will drive your Jeep to your cabin and drop it off and Beau can pick me up and bring me back to the station before he leaves. I have already sworn him in and he is a member of this department. I can do this as the captain, since you already hired him. He will have his ID before we leave so he can

carry. All three of us voted on this so you better not bitch.”

I looked at all three of them and realized I had the core of a damn good department right in front of me. I knew that once Mark met them he would agree.

“Thanks Guys, I appreciate the help.”

Chapter 10

When the guys went out, I sat back to think for a little bit. I was realistic and knew I had seventy two hours at the most before I would find out if I was going to be hassled by any of the names on the list in the books. I was going to Reno tonight and make some copies and send the original copy to Floyd and tell him to cover my ass from his end. He was connected and high in the family and a good friend. I had other dealings with him and he always covered me ten ways from Sunday. I knew he would this time too.

I went out the door and called dispatch from my car with a signal 43 and went toward the cabin. I was watching the rearview and saw no tails. I went up the driveway and there was my Jeep that Shorty had delivered. I parked behind it and went in the cabin. I went to the shelter and got the copy, put it in one of the waterproof document packs and grabbed the M-16 and four of the mags and went back to the car and back down the driveway. I was well armed and if I ran into trouble I was prepared.

I knew I was rushing but the need was on me so I floored the car and flew down the freeway about eighty-five miles an hour. The Dodge was smooth and never seemed to strain as I went up the mountain and down the other side toward Reno. I got off at the second exit near the airport and started looking for a copy shop that had overnight express. I spotted one across from the sheriff‟s substation and pulled in there. I hid the rifle under the seat and locked the doors and went inside. The clerk showed me how to run the copy machine and I went to work. I was finishing the final copy of them when a deputy came in the door with a bundle of papers and gave them to the clerk. He looked at me then came over where I was stuffing the last of the copies in the overnight envelope. I already had them addressed and the clerk said the pickup for them was due in about ten minutes.

“That your unit out there?”

“Yeah, I had a bunch of paperwork that had to be sent

overnight so I came down here to send them out. This was

closer to where I was going anyways.”

“I heard the old sheriff died and they have hired a man out of Florida to be the new sheriff for the rest of his term.”

“His name is Mark Simmons and he was a captain until he accepted the job here. What‟s your interest in the department there?”

“Easy there, I was just talking. That old sheriff was well

known here for causing problems when he came to town. He and our old sheriff were close friends. Now that we have a new sheriff, he asked us to watch for units from your county and to make contact with the deputy driving it and see why he was in town. I am not trying to make you mad, just doing

my job.”

“Deputy, give me a few minutes to pay my bill and make

sure these go out and I will buy you a cup of coffee and answer all your questions. Will that help you out in doing

your inquiry?”

“Give me a minute to call in and I will take you up on that cup of coffee.”

While he walked across the street, I paid for the copies and the overnight charges for my packages. I waited and watched the driver as he picked up all the outgoing packages and headed toward the airport. I was in a clear sight and watched as the packages in his truck were unloaded and x-rayed the put on the plane. Since he had sorted them as he put them in the truck I knew they would be away and out of mind when to plane took off. I had paid the extra fees for the return receipt requested and I would have proof of their delivery within forty-eight hours. I knew

whom I had sent them to and when I got the receipt‟s I

would burn them so there would be no trail of deliveries. I watched the plane take off and headed across the street to the substation to meet the deputy for coffee.

I almost ran him over as I was going in as he was coming out.

“I am not familiar with this town so you will have to pick a place to go to, deputy.”

“There‟s a small café down the street about three blocks from here. Just follow me and we will go there um, Officer.”

“My name‟s Harry Hanson and I am the acting sheriff till the

first of the month when the new sheriff comes on. Now that you know my name and who I am, suppose you tell me who

you are.”

“My name is Theo Morgan and I am a patrolman with the sheriff‟s department. I have been a full time deputy for five years in the western division here.”

“Well Theo, now that we have formally met, let‟s go get that coffee.”

We both laughed and headed for our units. I pulled out and followed behind him as he led me to the coffee shop. We pulled into a small lot and there were four other units already there. Great, a cop hangout. I followed Theo inside and we were greeted by several of the officers already seated. We took a small booth and ordered coffee and sat

back to talk. I liked Theo‟s personality and his humorous

way with word. He seemed to be laid back and not wound up like a lot of the modern officers were. We talked about the department and how I was hiring officers to fill out the openings I was experiencing. I had left several of his questions open ended and he finally asked the question I was waiting for him to ask.

“Harry, how many years‟ experience does your department require for another deputy to be hired as a supervisor?”

“Theo if you have five or more years experience and are up

to date on your state mandates then we would be interested in talking to you. If you or anyone else passes the interview then he would start the first of the month. I do need new supervisors for second and third shifts. I just hired a man

for first and he used to be a member of your department.”

“Who might that be Harry? I might know him or previously worked with him”

I hired Beau Gentry for day shift supervisor and I think he will make me a good one.”

Now I was just feeling him out to see his reaction and really

didn‟t give a damn what he thought. I just wanted to see his

reaction and how he handled me hiring Beau with his handicap.

“Wow Harry. You couldn‟t have hired a better man. Beau

was a great deputy and was always good working with

people.”

My respect for Theo had just notched up to the top ten. I knew then that he would make a good leader if I could get him to change departments.

“Harry maybe I‟m out of line a little by saying this but the

new sheriff prefers his supervisors and officers of the higher ranks to be married. I know several of the guys that are single who would love to live in the mountains and be able to hunt and fish when they wanted to without taking time off for the season. Would your department be interested in hiring men like these? I could spread the word and see how

many might be interested.”

“You do that Theo and if you‟re interested in one of the supervisor‟s jobs, then come up on your next day off and

talk to me and my patrol captain. Tell your friends we need men on all three shifts and they can transfer and keep their

seniority.”

“Thanks Harry and I am off the day after tomorrow. I think I will come up and talk to you. Well, I have to get back to work so I will see you the day after tomorrow, and will probably bring a couple of the guys with me who will want

to interview also.”

“Ok Theo, bring all the men who are interested and we will talk to them and go from there.”

He got up and went out and I had to laugh as he put down a quarter for the tip. I added a couple of dollars to it, paid the check and went out to my unit and headed back to the cabin. Since it was getting dark, I knew I was going to bed early after setting the little traps Abe had showed me to

protect my cabin from strangers. I wouldn‟t have to worry if

they were friends because these little traps were warning systems only and not lethal. The lethal ones I would set if I felt I was in danger of being attacked. I made it to the cabin without falling asleep and checked the little light set in the doorbell to see if it was red. It was still green so I knew nobody had visited. I went in and made a sandwich, had a beer and went to bed.

I woke up at six with the persistent beeping of the alarm. I set the coffee to brew and headed for the shower. I realized I had two more weeks to go before Mark would take over and I would become a man of leisure again. To be honest, I would miss the patrol but not all the meetings and paperwork. I owed it to my friend to get the department up and going for him as much as possible. I finished my coffee

grabbed a “to go” cup and headed for the station. I called in

a signal 33 and headed in. I was about two blocks from the station when a call of 65f came over the radio and then the signal 65 followed it and I called in for the location. I was told to go to the gulch Golden Glove Casinos ASAP. I told dispatch I was on my way, threw the lights and siren on,

and hit the gas. I knew how to get to the gulch from Abe‟s

directions and figured I would see the other units to tell me where to go.

I pulled into the main street of the gulch and saw several flashing lights at the end of the street and headed there after killing the siren. I climbed out of the car and was met

by a Sergeant I didn‟t know.

“Sheriff we have a fatal stabbing of one of the whores and the suspect is in custody. He is still drunk. He doesn‟t remember what happened. I called the coroner and we were

waiting on you before we questioned him any further.”

“What‟s your name Sergeant?”

“I am Sergeant Abram‟s sheriff and it‟s good to finally meet

you. I came on duty an hour ago and this is my first call this

morning. Helluva way to start the day, Sheriff.”

“Well Sarge, for the record my name is Harry and from now

on you will refer to the woman by her name, not whore. I want the suspect isolated, preferably in the back of a unit with a deputy making sure nobody talks to him. I also want a unit to stop any press that show up. I want them kept at least a hundred feet from the scene. Make it clear to the deputy handling the perimeter that any press person that breaks through will be arrested and charged with impeding an official investigation. Get on that and then we will wait till the coroner arrives before we print and handle any

evidence.”

“Sheriff, the coroner already called back and said to just

haul her in. He said he is too busy to come out to handle a

dead whore.”

“He said what?”

“I swear, that was the call I got from him, just a few minutes ago.”

“Ok. We will play it that way this time Abrams. Bag her hands and collect any evidence that‟s visible and transport

her. I will have a talk with the coroner when I get back to town. Take the prisoner to the jail and collect his clothes right down to his underwear. I want pictures of everything as you strip him. Make sure you bag and tag all the items. I don‟t want the chain of evidence broken. Log it in to Shorty after you‟re done. Have a man take statements from all the

witnesses and make sure he checks and records all the

information from their IDs so we don‟t have any non

appearing witnesses if this goes to court. I am going to let you run this and I want it done the way I told you. If it‟s not, it will be your ass on the line.”

“Ok sheriff, I think I will be able to do all that you asked. Do

you have any other suggestions that might help me doing

this?”

“Just remember, if you have any doubts about anything remember the old saying; if you have doubts bag it and tag it. Try not to use plastic bags as they sweat and destroy evidence. Use paper bags and if you have to buy them, do it and I will make sure you get your money back. Label everything plainly with ink and make sure the deputy you use for the statements can write legibly and that all

statements are signed and dated. That‟s all the advice I can offer you, Abrams.”

“Thanks for giving me this opportunity sheriff. Before we were kept away and told not to interfere.”

I went back to my unit and while I was sitting, I saw an older man covered in blood led to a cruiser and put in the backseat. The deputy stayed outside by the door watching him. I wondered if this Sergeant was one of the ones that had a domestic violence conviction. I would check and see what his jacket had to say. I called the prosecutor and asked if the coroner was elected or appointed by the commissioners. He said he was an appointee, and said if I were having trouble with him that I had the power as the sheriff to fire him and have the commissioners appoint someone else if I wanted too. I got his location and found out he also ran one of the three funeral homes in the county. I pulled out after waving at Abrams and headed back into town.

I called in a signal 33 and headed for the funeral home and my talk with the so-called coroner. I liked Abrams attitude

and he wasn‟t afraid to ask questions to help himself. I

hoped that I could keep him on and would talk to Shorty about him. I pulled up in front of the funeral home and called in a signal 39 telling them I would be signal 37 and where.

I had yet to figure all the weird last names that the people of this town had, and wondered if all their distant relatives were from other countries and had settled here for some reason. I walked in the front door and was met by a woman that was showing more cleavage that a dancer in Vegas. I personally thought it was highly inappropriate for a funeral home and grieving families. She had me take a seat in the directors private office saying she would send him right in to talk to me. She had not asked my business with him and to me that was a sign he was always talking to strangers in private. I looked around and his walls were covered in diplomas for his work and certifications for the funeral home. I did not see any M.D. license or any hospital affiliations. How the hell can a man be a coroner and not be a doctor, and do autopsies and expect the findings to be used in court.

I was waiting for about ten minutes when he came in and shook my hand introducing himself as Mr. Thump. He asked what he could do for me.

“It‟s not what you can do for me. It‟s what I am going to do

for you. From this moment you are dismissed as the coroner for Porter County. I will have your termination entered into the duty log and will send a letter to the commissioners of

my action.”

Instead of being upset or mad he sat back in his chair and laughed at me. Now I was getting pissed and got up to leave before I broke his pretty white teeth.

“Sheriff, you are new to the county and you don‟t have the

pull it takes to fire me. I can have your job if you push this matter. I suggest you return to your office and throw your weight around there, because you don‟t impress me at all. I am sure the new sheriff will see it my way also, so you may

leave my office now, and don‟t bother me again with your attempt at throwing your weight around.”

I looked at him for about three minutes and then laid the bombshell on his ass.

“I have the books of all the bribes and kickbacks, and if I

remember correct, your name is on the first page. I am going to push to have your license revoked by the Attorney General, and I will bet your smug ass I will have it done within seventy-two hours. Now who is throwing their weight

around?”

I got up and left him with his mouth hanging open in shock. His name was a small fry, but he did have enough on him to

get his license suspended even if he wasn‟t prosecuted. I

was pissed but laughed out loud as I walked out his door and went back to my unit. I called in a signal 33 and headed

for the station. I still hadn‟t heard from the gun store and

wondered if he was dumb enough to think he would be able to bluff his way through the ATF investigation. I was going to set it up with Pinky and have all my calls recorded until further notice. I also would stop at the electronics store and pick up one of those tape recorders that voice activates and record any conversations I had with the visitors that came to discuss business.

I got the recorder and went back to the office and went to

the records room. I asked the clerk to type up the coroner‟s

dismissal and enter it into the day duty roster. I wanted the letter stamped and a copy filed and immediately hand carried to Mick. I went back to my office and called him to warn him about the letter that was on the way. I also filled him in on our conversation and he was pissed that anyone had the gall to think the new commissioners could be blackmailed by a funeral director. I called the prosecutor back and gave him the information about the funeral director and the payoffs and he said he would contact the appropriate authorities and start the procedure for immediate suspension of his license. When I got off the

phone, I was smiling and that‟s how Shorty found me with a

big grin on my face.

“You look like the cat that swallowed the canary. What have you got stirred up now?”

I told him all that had occurred last night and this morning and he was grinning right along with me when Andy and Pinky came in with arms full of personnel folders. I groaned out loud and they all laughed at me. I told Shorty to bring me all the folders on the supervisors as soon as he could. He left me with Pinky and Andy, laughing as he went out the door. My good mood went down the drain as soon as Pinky opened his mouth.

We argued back and forth for about three hours and finally reached an agreement that was acceptable to Pinky and his people. I had to admit he fought for everything he could get but I could tell by the smile he was very happy with what he had gained. Before he left, I made it clear to him about recording all my calls, even on the private line. I also told him about the hiring of the retired officers for his radio rooms and how I wanted the ad to read. I told him to call it into the Reno and Vegas papers and he would be responsible with me for the interviews. He was happy with my idea and said he would phone it in this afternoon. They all left the office with smiles and I leaned back in the chair and just kept on going. I picked myself up off the floor cussing and checked the chair and saw a recorder taped to the bottom of it. It was one of those small micro jobs with the voice-activated feature. I didn‟t touch it but got on the phone and told Shorty to bring a fingerprint kit up to my office. I got a rubber glove off the shelf and carefully took the tape off and laid it on my desk and shut the recorder off.

I waited for Shorty to show up and put my finger across my lips to indicate to him to keep his mouth shut. He looked at the recorder and his eyes widened when he saw what it was. I motioned him to search the office and we started going over it with a fine-toothed comb. We found a twin to the one on my desk on the bookshelf behind the desk. I shut it off and set it down beside the first one.

“Well Shorty, seems someone is worried about something.

This is my fault because I forgot to lock the door last night. Go out to reception and see if there were any visitors signed in after hours and whom they visited. If there is nothing, then we know it was someone that works here on second or third shift. I will do the prints since I have hundreds of hours of experience with them. He went out and I opened the kit and started dusting the recorders and both sides of the tape. I ended up with four really good prints. I walked them up to records and scanned them into the computer and started running them through the local database for our department. I got two different hits within minutes and got a shock when one of them stood out. The recorder under my chair had the prints of someone that I would not have

believed if I hadn‟t processed the prints myself. I printed

out the information, covered my tracks with the computer, and went back to my office.”

Chapter # 11

“Hey Harry, you daydreaming or something? Did you find out if there were any prints on that stuff?”

“Yea Shorty, I did and your not gonna believe whose they

are. I find it hard to believe that they would have the gall to even attempt it, let alone act on it. The first recorder I found

had Pinky‟s fingerprints on it. The one you found had the

intake clerk's prints all over it. I think we better call Andy in with the prosecutor then we will all meet with Pinky and see why he did this. There were prints on the tape but they are not in the departments files. I am going to run them through

the state database before we have our meeting.”

“Damn, Harry, I always liked ole Pinky. Before I came here

he was the undersheriff but had a falling out with the old sheriff. He decided to run the radio room and gave his position up. They never spoke after they fell out. I know you found his prints on it but I find it hard to believe he would do something like this. Let‟s talk to him before we call anyone else in and see if he can explain his recorder being

here.”

“Ok Shorty, I‟ll go along with you on this, but if it backfires,

I am going to blame you, and demote you to the evidence

room.”

We both had a laugh at that and he went to get Pinky. I sat and thought about the whole thing and realized that I had to

agree with Shorty on this one. I really didn‟t think Pinky

would do this either. I wondered whose prints were on the tape and then I went to the records room and started them through the state database. I knew this could take awhile but I really wanted to know who the prints belonged to. I was still waiting for the results if any when Shorty handed me a cup of coffee and said that Pinky was in the office and he would keep him occupied till I got done. I was still there five minutes later when the computer beeped and I had a

match to the prints. I looked at the results and wasn‟t

surprised when I saw whose name popped up. I printed it out and cleared the computer and headed back to my office.

I walked in and they were laughing. It cut off quickly when I sat down in my chair. I reached out and flipped the cover off the recorders.

“Pinky, do you recognize this recorder? I found it taped to the bottom of my chair and your prints were all over it.”

“That‟s the recorder from my desk drawer that I use for

meetings with my people. I have no idea how it got under

your chair. Do you think I put it there?”

“I know you didn‟t Pinky, but I find it odd that you have

such a close relationship with Mrs. Hawkins. How come she

was visiting you here last night?”

“Harry, she was my brother‟s wife before he died last year.

She came in the radio room to talk to me about how she could bid on the uniforms for the department. I told her she was in deep enough and better just find some other line of

work. She didn‟t stay long and left mad because I wouldn‟t

help her. Hell, I never liked her, but I had to try 'cause my

brother loved her.”

“Well Pinky, I hope you don‟t like her too much because I am going to put her in jail. If she hadn‟t left her finger prints on that tape, you would have lost your job. From now on, no one is to be in the radio room unless they work there. If anyone has visitors, have them meet in the lobby. I think when the new radio room is done, the only entry will be by key card. The supervisors will have them and will let their

own shifts in.”

“Harry, I am truly sorry that I didn‟t see this coming. I

never saw her take the recorder or come into your office. If you want to fire me, I will understand and won‟t fight it.”

“Pinky, I must admit I was shocked to the core when your prints showed up on that recorder. If it hadn‟t been for the

prints on the tape, you would have been fired. Shorty talked me out of calling the prosecutor until we could get your side of the story. Dammit, Pinky, with all the changes going on,

you‟re going to have to be stricter with your people, and make some solid rules of conduct. You‟re the supervisor, so supervise. That‟s all, so you can go back to work now, and remember what I said about visitors.”

He got up and left and Shorty and I discussed how to handle the intake clerk. He went and got his personnel file and the file I wanted on the patrol supervisors. I sat and decided when the radio room was built there would be camera‟s mounted in all the common areas. That would include the offices and all the entrances and halls. I wanted to have a cover if someone said we were acting unprofessionally or if someone got too aggressive with a prisoner. Shorty walked back in with a handful of files and we sat down at the table and started going through them.

“Shorty, this intake clerk was recommended by Mrs.

Hawkins. I want him gone today so you better get ready to fire him. I don‟t know what relation to that woman he is, but nobody puts a recorder in my office and expects to keep

their job.”

“Calm down, Harry, he is gone as far as I am concerned and

I will be glad to be the one who tells him. You need to look at the other files I brought in so we can make a decision on

them. “

I sat and started going through the personnel files of the men in the department and immediately saw that at least three of the patrol deputies had been convicted of domestic violence. They had to go unless they could get their records expunged. With the new federal regulations, I knew this to be almost impossible. The name Abrams caught my eye so I opened his folder and started reading. His jacket was pretty clean except for one incident that he was involved in. This was a minor misdemeanor and he had already paid his fine. I laughed out loud as I was reading and Shorty looked at me and just shook his head.

“Shorty, do you think we should fire a man for pissing on his ex wife‟s cat, or should we fire him for being stupid enough to be seen?”

We both busted out laughing then Shorty said something that caught my ear.

“He was only arrested because her brother was the town

cop where it happened. He beat the hell out of him after he was cuffed. He was a deputy but was let go after too many complaints about his abuse towards prisoners. I wish he

would come around here and let me catch him.”

“I liked the way Abrams conducted himself on that murder

of the woman at the casino. I hate cats myself, so we are going to keep him on. I would have shot the damn thing if it had rubbed up against me. Did he get all the evidence

logged in to you?”

“Yes and I have you to thank for all the writing. I have

never seen so many paper bags in all my life. He had every one of them stapled with the evidence seal covering the fold across the bag. He had them numbered, logged and all the statements clearly written. I am no field investigator, but I think he did a hell of a job and he had pictures of everything. He sent to body to Kerry county and had their

coroner do the autopsy.”

“Good, he acted pretty smart and was not afraid to ask

questions to help himself to do the job better. I want him on

the list to be interviewed for a detective‟s position. By the

way, I have several officers coming in tomorrow to interview for jobs with our department. I think they will accept just to be able to hunt and fish without having to

take vacation time off for the season.”

“Man, Harry, do you ever stop working? I was going to go to the academy next week and interview several of the class that is due to graduate in a week. Do you have any objections to hiring women for patrolman? They have several that have black belts and I wanted to talk to them

about working here.”

“I don‟t have anything against hiring women as long as they

can do the job. I have trained a couple that have gone far over the years. One is a lieutenant now and the other a chief of detectives. I would rather have an integrated department because it will make us receive federal grants quicker. Let‟s get back to these folders.”

I finished going through marking the ones I was going to fire with the word terminate and handed them back to Shorty.

“Call these in starting tomorrow afternoon and we will let

them go one at a time. I have to think about filling positions and I will if at all possible use some of our own personnel. You need to sit down and make a list of who we might promote and where we should put them. Tomorrow is Friday and I am going to take the weekend off, and do some fishing in my lakes. Abe told me there were some huge trout in the lakes and I plan on catching some. I also want to check with land management and the forestry department about

chaining my gates so my property can‟t be used as a shortcut. I have time right now so I think I will call them. “

“Ok Harry, while you do that I will get the list ready and then maybe we can get something to eat. I haven‟t eaten today and my gut thinks my throat‟s cut.”

He sat down at the table and started going through the files and I got on the phone to the forestry department and found out the information I was looking for on the first call. I told the officer I would be at the lake Saturday and would give him the extra key then. He said the BLM manager for this area was his neighbor and he would make sure he got his key also.

“Shorty, where‟s a hardware store in this town? I need to

buy some log chain to close the gates on my property and to get some good locks to put on them. I just found out as long as I give a key to the right people, I can legally shut the

shortcuts off that cross by the lakes.”

“I never knew that Abe was having trouble with trespassers up there. Of course he didn‟t like too many people and I still can‟t figure out why he decided to sell after all the years of work he put in the place.”

I laughed and said; “it‟s called love, Shorty. Don‟t tell me that you married for lust. I bet your wife don‟t know that or you would be sleeping in your evidence room.”

He laughed and looked a little sheepish like he didn‟t want

to admit to anything. I got up and told him to round up Andy and we would go eat. We spent forty five minutes looking for Andy and finally found him in the weight room. Hell I

didn‟t even know there was such a thing in this station.

They had a nice workout room with a spa and sauna. There were lockers up both walls and a large PT area by the sauna. I wondered how they had raised the money for this stuff then decided I wasn‟t going to ask, just start using it to get myself back in shape and relieve some stress. We finally talked him into breaking off his workout and come with us to eat.

Andy picked the place since we took him away from his daily workout. We headed up the steps to the front lobby to get my unit. We were going to a place called the Shady Lady where they had Chinese and American food and one of the largest buffets outside of the casinos in the county. We got there in about five minutes since it wasn‟t that far from the station and went inside. They sat us at a back table, and then my worst nightmare happened with a voice that floated out of the air from the kitchen.

“Harry Hanson, you old dog. Long time no see. Where have you been keeping yourself?”

Andy and Shorty were looking at me with a grin on their faces. I recognized the voice almost immediately and knew I was about to be embarrassed big time. All she would blab would be true and from my younger and wilder days as a Marshal when I was here for a year. Her name was Tran and she used to be the madam from the famous Mustang Ranch. She was at the time about four foot tall and a very beautiful woman who ran the place with an iron fist and a tire thumper. (Wood stick a foot long used to check tires on a semi.) I groaned aloud and the guys busted out laughing at the look on my face.

I looked up as she approached and saw she was still very beautiful, even after all these years.

“Harry, I heard that you were the new sheriff but I wasn‟t

sure it was the same Harry Hanson that used to wear all my

girls out every weekend.”

Well that brought big guffaws from the guys and I just hung my head knowing it was only starting. Tran was a loud mouth and had always loved teasing me, and it looked like she hadn‟t changed.

“I see you are still the good looking guy I remember. I

retired when the place went to the IRS. I bought this restaurant and never looked back. You still chasing oriental

women or have you gone and got married on me?”

“Tran, I am not married and will you please hold your voice down a notch or two? I see your big mouth still has all the venom it used too. You always were beautiful and that

hasn‟t changed but you never learned how to be discreet in your mannerisms.”

“Harry, if I ever wrote a book about your visits to the ranch with your friend Monk, you would really be embarrassed and

so would Monk.”

Now while all this was going on, I noticed that both Andy and Shorty were leaning forward in their seats and absorbing every word and I knew they would remind me about all she said when they wanted to get back at me for whatever reason. I wanted to put some duct tape across her mouth but it was already too late and she would probably like it. Damn, of all the people to run into just when I was starting to earn some respect. I looked at the guys again and they were all smiles, listening to every word she was saying. It was going to be a long lunch break and one I would probably have nightmares about.

“Well Harry, are you going to ask me to sit down and introduce me to your friends?”

I did and although I couldn‟t remember her last name it didn‟t seem to faze her in the least and she just kept

running her mouth to the guys about my exploits at the ranch. I didn‟t say anything, just hung my head and ate my food, swearing that I would never set foot in here again. Just when I was swearing that to myself, she said something that made me feel about two inches tall.

“You know, if I hadn‟t been a whore and in another life, I could have easily fallen in love with Harry. I know I razz him

and embarrass him, but he is a fine man. He‟s about the only

man that I would ever consider as being husband material.

He is a true gentleman and an honest man.”

I could not believe what I was hearing and even with her big mouth, this was the first time I had ever heard her say anything good about any man. I looked at the guys and they

were smiling at me and I did something I hadn‟t done in

years, I blushed. They all cracked up at my embarrassment and Tran leaned over and kissed me right on the lips. I could feel myself getting redder when she did. She whispered in

my ear; “I hope you come by again to see me because you‟re the only man I was ever in love with, even after all these years.”

I leaned back in shock at her statement and was totally

tongue tied, and didn‟t know what to say. She got up and

said the meal was on her and took the check as she left. I put down a five for the tip and the guys all did the same and we walked back to my unit in total silence. Of course when we got seated Shorty had something to say as usual but what he said was a shocker.

“Harry, ex whore or not, she is one beautiful woman and

you need to stop back and see her again. I think she has more than a friendship in mind. I don‟t know anyone else in this burg that is as pretty and still single.”

I didn‟t say anything and just kept my mouth shut. I

realized he had said was what I was already thinking to myself. Then Andy said something that took the conversation off of me and I was glad that the subject had changed.

“Harry, Doris called me this morning and said she had found

one good deal on an almost new wrecker. She said it was a combination rollback and big enough to tow a semi so she could handle the big road equipment the county uses. The price is about thirty thousand under book and she wants the

ok right away before someone else jumps on it.”

“Andy, that‟s your purview so why are you asking me?”

“Because by law, you have to sign off on it because of the amount involved. I called around to several equipment dealers and she is right about the savings. What do you

want me to do?”

“If it‟s a good deal, jump on it and I‟ll worry about the

consequences. That woman is a damn good supervisor and that motor pool is the cleanest one I have ever been in. I think that I am going to enter it in the national data base so they will be inspected. I would bet that they will win one of the slots for the most orderly and clean motor pools in the

state.”

“I didn‟t know there was anything like that, but me and Andy both agree with you that the place is cleaner than most of the dealerships we have seen. Are you gonna do it

Harry?”

“Yea I will, after we get the wrecker and it‟s painted with the department colors.”

“Not that, I mean, are you going to go back and see Tran?”

They were both looking at me and waiting for my answer.

“Why don‟t you guys mind your own business? I don‟t think I asked for your advice and I sure don‟t want to discuss my love life with a bunch of married men.”

“Well, as stubborn as you seem to be, and the fact that she‟s

already told us how great of a lover you are, I would think you would be interested. I can have my wife tell you the advantages of being married if you want. I‟m sure she would love to sit down and talk to you about it.”

“Why don‟t you both drop it? I don‟t want to get married or

fall in love with anyone. I been there and still have the scars that go with it. I think I will give Tran and her big mouth a

wide berth from now on. I don‟t want to hear about you

guys or your wives giving her updates on me when you go

there to eat either.”

They both busted up laughing as we pulled up to the station.

Chapter # 12

We made it back to the station and I quickly ducked into my

office, hoping I wouldn‟t hear more about my love life and

Tran. I had just got settled in the chair when Shorty came in with one of the Lieutenants on the list and told him why we were letting him go. He didn‟t seem upset and explained that he had been expecting it with the new leadership. He was pleasant about it and wanted to know if we would give him a good report when he applied to one of the casinos. I told him I would and then reminded him that by law he

wasn‟t allowed to carry a weapon or own any unless he got

his record expunged. He seemed to understand everything that he was being told and made it clear to Shorty. He would have all his stuff turned in by the end of the day tomorrow.

We spent the rest of the afternoon firing the supervisors and

trying to do it in such a way that there wouldn‟t be too many

hard feelings. For the most part they expected it with the change of sheriffs but a couple had to be threatened with immediate arrest before they calmed down and accepted the facts of life. I had to remind a couple of them that if they tried to play officer and were caught, it was a felony and they would not like jail being an ex officer. It was around five when the secretary from the front buzzed me and said she was leaving. She wanted to know if I needed anything before she left and I told her no and to have a good evening.

I looked at Shorty and said since we were done, now would be a good time to knock it off for the day. He agreed and we both headed for home. I remembered to lock the office this time before I went to my unit. I was finally going to get home before dark and then groaned when I remembered I had to pick up the log chain and locks from the hardware store. I headed that way and found it fairly easily. I got the stuff I went in for and threw it in back of the unit and once again I headed for home.

I had just walked in the door when I remembered the log cabin contractor had never showed up at the office. I put the M-16 by the door and got the coffee going. I had just sat down in the chair when I saw a bright yellow Jeep pull up in front of the house. That thing looked like the one I had rented from the airport, and it was. It was filled with suitcases and two little girls that I had missed since I had left Florida. Mark had come and he was two weeks early. Good that meant I could get him settled in the next week, and give up my position and go back to being a man of leisure. Now I was really happy as I ran to grab the girls up in my arms.

They were both trying to climb into my arms at the same time and I was eating it up. Mark was watching and shaking his head at our struggle. I was finally able to get free and went to help him with the bags. We made three trips before we got it all in the cabin. The girls directed us by telling us which suitcases were theirs and to be careful how we handled them. I was laughing and for a while it felt like home having them here. We finally got done and we all sat down in the front room. Mark and I sat on the sofa and the girls went to the windows, sat down on the window ledge, and were watching the deer as they came out of the pines to eat the green grass growing in the little meadow in front of the cabin.

“Harry, sorry we showed up early, but the house and contents sold quicker than I ever dreamed it would. Those people bought everything in the house except our personal stuff. Our things are on a moving van somewhere on its way here. I appreciate your offering your cabin for a place to stay, and I have to say it‟s beautiful up here.”

“Hell Mark, you know you and the girls are always welcome

in my home for as long as you need to stay. I am trying to get a contractor nailed down to start on your place. Since you‟re here, you can help me pick out the type of place you would like to have built for you and the girls.”

“Can‟t I just take it easy for a few days and enjoy the peace

and quiet? I want to walk around with the girls and just

relax before I take the sheriff‟s job.”

“Tomorrow is my last day till Monday so let‟s take the

weekend and just explore with the girls. Maybe we can find a spot to build your cabin and do a little trout fishing. I bet your daughters would love it. We can use my Jeep since it was made for the country around here. The back seats are in the garage and we can bolt them in so the girls will have

seat belts.”

“Sounds like a good plan to me, Harry. I am looking forward to the whole thing. I haven‟t had any fresh caught trout since I was stationed out here in the service. I know my daughters will love being able to explore the area and get used to the different animals. I will have to watch out for

snakes and show them the poisonous ones if we see any.”

“I have snake bite anti venom in the refrigerator for emergencies. Abe kept it for some reason. I have plenty of food and will cook so they get something other than grilled

cheese sandwiches.”

I left Mark growling about cheese and cooking and headed for the kitchen to cook our dinner. Dina, the oldest came in and asked if she could help me fix supper, and I told her I would be glad for the help. We fixed fried taters and for meat we had big thick pork chops that had to be the thickest chops I had ever seen. I cooked everyone one apiece since they were so big. I had juice for the girls and beer for the guys and we sat down to eat. The girls were yawning about half way through the meal and I could tell the excitement of the day was catching up with them. We took them to their rooms, and made sure they brushed their teeth. We both tucked them in before I went to the kitchen to put everything in the dishwasher. I made a pot of coffee and sat down in front of the windows and just watched the stars and the moon rise. I felt like I now had a home with the girls and Mark being here. I had always thought the sounds of kids laughter was the most relaxing sound you could hear. I now had that in the cabin, thanks to my friend and his family. I knew I would miss them when they finally moved to their own place. I set the coffee pot to go in the morning and went to bed.

I woke with the alarm, turned the coffee pot on, and went to the shower. My guests were still sleeping so I had my coffee and got my to go cup and headed for the office. I turned the radio on but it was silent, so I had a quiet ride in. Tomorrow I would be running around my property with my temporary family and having fun for the first time since I had arrived.

I pulled into the station and went inside and found part of the lobby was set aside for uniforms and gear that had been dropped off already this morning and last night. I could not believe the amount of clothes each deputy had issued to him. No wonder Mrs. Hawkins had made such a profit from the department. I went behind the counter and there was a box full of badges and other equipment. The ID cards were there with a rubber band around them. I took the band off and found that each deputy had three ID cards issued to them for some reason. I decided that I would have a talk with the records and ID section this morning. From this point on each man would have one ID, and if he lost it he would have to fill out a form, and have it approved before another one was issued. I headed into my office and saw that Andy‟s desk and personal possessions were gone. What the hell! I called the evidence room and there was no answer so I headed for the radio room to talk to Pinky and see if he knew what was going on.

I walked in and it was bedlam in the radio room. I saw Pinky and Shorty in the office and it looked like they were shouting at each other. I walked over and opened the door and they both swung toward my entrance and relaxed when they saw it was me.

“Somebody want to tell me what‟s going on? It seems the

station is empty and all the employees are here in the radio room. I suggest you get your people under control, Pinky, and then we can see why everyone looks like a bomb hit the

station.”

I must have said the wrong thing because they both looked at each other in shock. Pinky went out and even through the office door I could hear the noise die down. I saw my clerk headed out of the room followed by the other personnel that worked out front. I sat down and sipped my coffee and waited for Pinky to come back in the office. He returned shortly and sat behind the desk and looked at me.

“Harry. I have some bad news. Andy was hurt last night

when he and his wife were on the way to dinner. The story I am getting is that a truck came around a curve on the wrong side of the road. He swerved to miss him and went off the road and hit a tree. His wife will be ok but he is non

responsive to treatment. They don‟t know if he will make it

or not. The truck driver was drinking and he is under arrest. His truck has been confiscated as material evidence.”

“Damn, how is his wife taking it and is she still in the hospital?”

“She is home with cuts and bruises but is expected to be

fine. She seems to be taking it all very well considering how

much they loved each other.”

“I want a unit at their place for transportation if she needs it. Have Doris get one of the unmarked units ready for her to be driven back and forth in. I want full department support for her for whatever she needs. I want flowers sent to the hospital and I want a deputy on his door until we find out if he is going to be ok. Now, goddammit, get it done! The both

of you!”

I got up and headed for my office, telling Shorty I wanted to talk to him when he got through doing what I had ordered them to. I went in and couldn‟t sit still so I went to the records room and had the clerk type up a notice to put in all the boxes about having more than one ID. I made it an order and gave all the personnel one week to turn all the others in. I asked her if she had a list of all the reserve officers and I was told that no list existed. I called the newspaper and put a notice in on the front page. I made it

clear what the consequences would be if the order wasn‟t

followed. I very carefully worded it so there could be no misunderstandings and no recourse if they broke the law by impersonating an officer.

After I got off the line with the newspaper, I called the prosecutor and we had a little conversation about the charges he was going to put on the driver. I also wanted the information on the company he drove for and all the information on his insurance company. I planned on talking

to Andy‟s wife and giving her the name of the attorney that

Floyd had given me out here for my use. I would call him and put him on notice that she would be calling him and how much he wouldn‟t charge her. I called the prosecutor back and inquired about the license of our crooked coroner, and was told he was under investigation by the attorney generals office, and his license was suspended until the investigation was completed. This could take up to five years since they had a backlog of cases. I had to laugh at that and asked him if he knew of a doctor that might be interested in becoming our coroner. He could not think of anyone but would put the word out at the hospital. I told him I wanted to meet anyone they found before they were hired.

I sat at my desk and thought for a minute and went back to the records room and sat down with the clerk and had a little talk about the special and reserve deputies. Turns out she had a complete list of the specials and some of the reserves. I told her and also put it in writing that all the special and reserve positions were to be terminated immediately. I told her about the ad in the paper and how I wanted the paperwork to be stamped. She started to get a little attitude and I told her that she could sit down right

now and write out her resignation if she couldn‟t follow the sheriff‟s orders. I finally found out that her husband made

extra money by working the football and other games in uniform as a special. I asked her if he had taken the course and she said no, not that she knew of.

I sat down with her and explained by law he couldn‟t be a

special or reserve without taking the course. He could be arrested for impersonating an officer if someone checked. I asked her where he worked and she said the county motor pool. I then asked her about his raise and she knew nothing about it, only the one she was due to get. She said she would be getting paid almost double what she had been making.

I wondered why Doris hadn‟t told her people about the raise

they were getting and decided I would make a trip over there later. Better yet, I would have her come here and

explain why she hadn‟t told her people yet. I finished up in

the records office and headed back to mine and Shorty joined me at about the same time.

“I, or should I say we, got everything you said done Harry. I never heard of the things you are doing for Andy‟s wife. This

department has never gone out of their way to take care of an injured officer. Pinky and I thought that it was very kind

of you to have a driver for her since she doesn‟t drive.”

“Shorty, we always take care of our own and always will.

What I ordered is standard procedure for most departments, and from now on it will be for ours too. I am going to call Doris in and have a talk with her and I want you to stick around to witness everything that is said. I want the door left open even if she raises her voice. I just found out that she hasn‟t told her employees about their raises and the repayment of school costs. I don‟t like the sound of that and I am going to find out why.”

I got on the phone and called the garage and was told that Doris had taken the week off and would be back sometime next week. The man I talked to said he was in charge and

she hadn‟t told anyone why she was taking time off. I spent

about ten minutes on the phone with him and found out the information I needed.

“Shorty, I was just informed that Doris took a week off without clearing it with me or payroll. She doesn‟t have any vacation time coming or any sick time. She submitted her pay hours for the coming week and charged the county for

sixty hours that she isn‟t going to work. I am calling payroll

now and having her check stopped until she talks to me

about all this.”

“Harry, I know for a fact she has to clear any time off with her boss first and that‟s you. What the heck is going on Harry?”

“Shorty, I want you to find a replacement for your evidence

room and quick. I need you up here since Andy is out. Also, what happened to all the stuff from his desk and all the

paperwork?”

“I have it Harry. I put it in the evidence cage so it wouldn‟t

disappear. Things have a habit of doing that in a very short

time.”

“I want a spot and report APB put out on Doris. I want to know where she is and I really want to talk to her as soon as possible. Have Pinky run her through the computer and

get all the information and put the call out statewide.”

“OK Harry, be right back.”

I called payroll and put a hold on her check until she contacted me or called in. I wondered if Andy had got all the paperwork on the raises turned in before his accident. I called payroll back and was told that he had turned in everything yesterday afternoon, and all the raises would be on the next check. The school reimbursements had already been sent to the people on the list that was turned in by Andy.

If all the paperwork had already been turned in, then why

hadn‟t Doris told her people about it? This was getting

weirder and weirder. I had a feeling the other boot was about to fall and on top of me. I was still thinking about it when Shorty came back in all excited.

“That was quick, Harry. We sent it out and within minutes her car was spotted at the gun store in town. Let‟s take a run over there and see what‟s going on. I have a unit watching the store.”

We went out the door and I locked my office as we went

out. We jumped in Shorty‟s unmarked and went flying out of

the parking lot, headed for the gun store. We made it in about five minutes and the unit we had waiting disgorged two officers as we pulled up and got out of our car.

“One of you cover the back and the other one goes in with us.”

We went in the front door and the same clerk was working and he frowned when he saw the uniformed officer. I asked him where his boss was and he said in a private meeting with a customer. I headed for the office and the young clerk grabbed me by the arm, and I put him on the floor immediately.

“Cuff him and stay with him until we return,” I told the young deputy.

“Yes sir, sheriff.”

The clerk‟s eyes got big when he heard me called by my title

and I wondered why he was so shocked. Shorty led the way and we went into a back room that had boxes of guns stacked clear to the ceiling. This place was like an armory on a military base. There were a lot of M-16's with the U.S. Government stamp clear on the sides. I looked at Shorty and he was staring at all the boxes as we walked. We walked another hundred yards and came to a small office, and there were loud voices coming from inside so we stopped to listen to what we could hear and it was interesting to say the least.

Trent: we have to make the delivery tonight because I need to get them out of my storeroom.

Doris: I don‟t have a vehicle to take them to the drop off points. The new sheriff is too damned smart for me to use the department truck.

Trent: we have to deliver them tonight. This was your idea and now that we have a big payoff on those M-16's you‟re backing out on me. I have paid you thousands of dollars to

store them in your garage and now you tell me you won‟t

move them?

Doris: I still have those pistols stored there too and I don‟t

think I can hide them too much longer. I have kept my people in the dark so far, but with all the changes, that can‟t last.

Trent: I have a buyer for them and they should be gone next week. How about if we rent a truck to do the move? That

way we won‟t look suspicious when we drive to the old

mine.

I looked over at Shorty and saw he had a small tape recorder in his hand, taping everything that was said. I smiled at him and shook my head in wonder. Damn he was a good officer.

Doris: I got into this to pay for my daughter‟s college not to

kill anyone. That little trick last night was stupid. Hell Trent,

even you should know you can‟t kill a captain and get away

with it. If this new sheriff gets a whiff of your involvement, he will be on you like a tick.

Trent: He is just another has been that is trying to look important to everyone. He threatened me with an ATF inquiry and I laughed at him. I am smarter than any washed up has been.

Doris: Let me tell you a little of his history Trent. He was a

U.S. Marshal for eighteen years and was wounded nine times in action. He spent eight years as a lieutenant with a

sheriff‟s department in another state and when he left it

was rated one of the best in the state. His friend is a connected lawyer that owes him more than he can ever repay. Now you think you are smarter than he is, then you better leave the state. He has been busting people like you for more years than you are old, Trent, and he scares me.

Trent: Ok, Doris. We will wind it all up this coming week and then lay low and see what happens. This has made me too much money to just shut it down. I would hate to see you in

jail Doris but don‟t try to back out on me now.

I looked at Shorty and he was grinning at me like a Cheshire cat. I motioned for him to follow me and we went back far enough that we could talk without giving ourselves away.

“We are going to play this off for right now. I want a watch

put on the motor pool and this shop tonight. I will call the prosecutor and get some warrants pushed through and we will take them down in motion. This shop is going to be the first to fall, and then Doris and the guns stored in out motor

pool. Now follow my lead and I hope I don‟t raise any suspicions.”

I walked back and knocked on the door and it was answered by Trent.

“Is Doris here? I want to talk to her about the wrecker she was going to buy.”

“Doris, the sheriff‟s here to talk to you about a wrecker or something.”

She came out smiling at me and Shorty and acting like she was surprised to see us. This was working great so far.

“Harry, what about the wrecker? I told Andy it was a good deal.”

“It‟s not that Doris, I wanted to know how soon we would be able to pick it up and get it painted. You‟re the boss of

the motor pool and I depend on you to get things done. Call my office tomorrow and let me know how long before it can be in service. By the way, Trent, your clerk is under arrest for assaulting an officer. You can bail him out after court

tomorrow. Let‟s go, Shorty, I have a dinner date in Reno and I don‟t want to be late.”

Chapter # 13

We went back out into the showroom and the clerk was still on the floor with the young deputy standing over him.

“Grab your partner and book him for assault on an officer.

Have them hold him for seventy two hours for investigation. Then come back to the station and see me or Shorty for a

special assignment. Bring your partner with you.”

“Yes sir, sheriff!”

He yanked the clerk up with little effort and marched him out the front door. I saw him speaking into his radio as he went out. We stood and watched him search the prisoner and read to him from the card all officers carried. Now me, I

had it memorized so I didn‟t need the card anymore.

I started for the unit and Shorty was following me and he was mad from the expression on his face. We pulled out heading for the station and Shorty exploded before we went a block.

“That dirty son of a bitch is mine, Harry. He was the one that ordered the accident. Don‟t look at me like that, I know the tape‟s no good but I can use it to force a confession from him. He is going to pay for hurting my friend.”

“Your damn right he is and he is yours. I want that woman

because she stood and treated us like she was surprised to

see us. She must think I am stupid. I don‟t need a warrant

for the motor pool because its county property but I am getting one for the gun shop and his home. I want the pistols that the department paid for and I want him for attempted murder. We will be bringing that truck driver in to the station to talk to him and we will also use your little tape to make him talk. I think when he hears that part of the conversation, he will be willing to make a deal to save

his own neck.”

“That‟s a damn good idea. I will fill out the papers for the

warrants and I hope to God the old judge is half snockered

or he won‟t sign them. He hates the department and I think

he and the old sheriff were related somehow. How many

men are we going to need for this bust, Harry?”

“I plan on using the two that were there today, and I want

you to call Abrams in and see if he wants some overtime. I

don‟t know anyone else we can use that I would be willing

to trust. Damn, I have those guys from Reno coming in today too. We will make all their interviews the quickest on record and hire them if you agree with the way they

interview and conduct themselves.”

“I don‟t have a problem with doing it that waym Harry.

Sometimes the first impression is the best when it comes to hiring. I can tell by his attitude if he will work out or not. At least if we hire them we will be getting experienced officers. They can go on the road right away. Maybe we will find a

couple that‟s good enough to be supervisors.”

“I have one coming in that‟s a good candidate for that

position. I talked to him in Reno and had coffee before he had to go back to patrol. He had a high opinion of Beau too.

Hey! Let‟s give Beau a call and see if he wants to come in

and help tonight. I bet he is ready to get his feet wet about now. If at all possible I want the ones buying the guns too. The money we will confiscate for the department and put it

in the fund for equipment and officer assistance.”

“You sure know all the angles, don‟t you? Does the new

sheriff have your knowledge about this type of thing? I sure hope so, Harry. You are going to stay on when he comes,

aren‟t you?”

“Shorty, I plan on turning in my badge and spending a week

with two girls and a lot of fishing. I am going to become unemployed till I decide I want to work again. Mark will run the department and I have a feeling you will be his second.

Hell, I‟m looking forward to being unemployed for awhile. This kind of work is too hard on this old man.”

“Yea right, you‟re an old war horse, and you will always be in some kind of law enforcement. I can‟t believe you‟re

going to quit. You are one of the best officers I have ever known. You have more information in your head that most of the sheriffs in this state all together. I want it on record that I am going to ask the new sheriff to keep you on in the same position. I finally found someone in this business that

I can respect and now you‟re quitting. Not if I have a say so about it Harry.”

We made it back to the station just as four men were getting out of a car in the lot. I recognized Theo and the other three must be his friends. I wave to them to follow me in and we went right to my office. Shorty and Theo had a

long conversation about patrol and hunting. Now I couldn‟t

figure out how hunting fit into patrol but he was the patrol captain.

“Harry, I think I will follow your advice and say we hire him as the second shift supervisor. He can start on the first

when the new sheriff takes over.”

He got up happy and shook our hands. Out of the other three we hired only two of them as patrolmen for second and third shift. We passed on the other deputy because he copped an attitude with Shorty about working nights. He seemed to have a problem with that shift and said he would

only work first. Needless to say he didn‟t make the grade

and they went back to Reno with us having three more experienced deputies for our department. Theo had told us there were four or five more that were planning to come up to interview.

Shorty got on the phone with the prosecutor and I got on with Beau. He said he would be here within the hour and ready to go. The prosecutor told Shorty he would have the warrants for him in about an hour and then we could go. The two deputies from the store came in with smiles on their faces and I found out their names were Jim and Jerry and had been on the department for six years. Neither had been given the chance to work anything major and wanted the experience. I told Jim to get a unit for himself and make sure the radio worked on the scrambled channel. I told them to make sure that they wore their vests.

“Sheriff, no one in the department has vests. They were never given to us in all the time I have been here. I can‟t afford to buy one.”

Damn, no one in the whole department had vests. This was not good. I looked over at Shorty and he was smiling at my expression.

“What are you grinning at? I will get my men vests if I have to buy them myself.”

“You won‟t have to do that Harry. All of you come with me.”

We followed him to the gym and right through the back door to a storage building behind the station. He took a key from his pocket and opened the lock and the place had about two hundred new vests still in the factory boxes. I noticed immediately that they were the new ones that had just been released for law enforcement. They were less than a year old and never been opened. I looked at Shorty and he was smiling again.

“Ok, quit with the grin and tell me what‟s on your little pointy mind. You been holding out on me again.”

“I took these six months ago when the state sent them to all the departments. I hid them away so the sheriff wouldn‟t sell them to the private sector. I also still have some of the 9mm rifles in the evidence room. The rest were sold to someone when they came in. I hid three cases of them for a rainy day. We can issue them to all the units tonight along with several magazines in case we get into a firefight. They are semi-auto but better than nothing.”

“Remind me to tell Mark to give you my job when he takes over.”

We all picked out our size vest and were closing the shed when Beau wandered in and we had him pick one out too. We all went back to my office and Shorty and Jim went to the cage to get the rifles for tonight. I went to the front and

got Beau a sergeant‟s badge and one of the belt clips to

mount it on. I then sent him and Jerry to the motor pool to pick up one of the sergeants units for him to use. I sat back and planned our moves for tonight and how to make double sure none of my men got injured.

I wasn‟t fooling myself because I knew I was the only one

with any experience in this type of thing. Beau was the only one with any experience in gun battles and that was by accident. According to his captain he gave as good as he got and saved several lives against big odds. I figured he would hold his ground, but the others were unknown players in the game and we would have to watch them. Damn, this was

getting complicated and I didn‟t know the danger factor

from the people he was delivering to.

There were a lot of holes in what we were doing, so I had to make sure I got all the pieces together. This was a throw together operation and it all depended on the gun delivery, and whether the M 16's in the store were stolen. We could confiscate the store and contents, sell them at auction to dealers, but the stolen stuff would have to be returned. I

wondered if he had the back that I hadn‟t seen set up as a

warehouse. We would have to check it out later. The men all wandered back in and I sent Jim and Jerry out to eat. At four they were to set up surveillance on the store. Shorty said he had binoculars for all of us and they went to get them from the cage.

Beau came back in with coffee for the both of us, and then I remembered I had left my go cup in my unit. I got on the phone and called Mark through his old number and to my surprise he answered on the second ring. I told him I would be late getting back and to make sure the girls had their pick of some of the pre-made meals that were in the freezer. They were all labeled by content and how long to set the microwave for to cook them. I knew they were delicious

because I had already put a dent in them. I figured Abe‟s

lady had made them for him to make sure he ate a good meal.

Mark said that was a good idea and said he was having fun with the girls, feeding the crows stale bread. I finished talking to him and hung up. Then it hit me what he said about the crows and the girls feeding them. I made up my mind right there that after they went to their own place I would declare open season on the damn things. I remembered the crow from Florida and just knew he had followed me somehow. Damn crows!

“Harry, thanks for calling me in on this. I will try to keep an eye on the two young guys as we go through the tail.”

“Those two guys have been on this department for six years Beau. I think with a little teaching they will make us good officers. I have a whole list of men that have to catch up on the state mandated training courses. I need to contact the academy and find out how many courses they have to take

and how long it will take them.”

We sat and talked about the schedule and other duties that he would have as the first shift supervisor. All the guys on the detail showed back up and we decided that we would start the surveillance at about six and everyone needed to be in place no later than seven. I made sure the two young deputies knew what they were to do and how to utilize the unmarked units in the tail of the rental truck. We all went back to our duties and I grabbed Shorty and Beau and we went to lunch. I was deep in thought when Beau asked me a question. I

didn‟t hear him but I did hear Shorty say something about my brain being overtaxed with all that‟s going on.

“Very funny, Shorty. I was wondering where this mine was

that they could use to deliver that many guns. They must be delivering to some survivalists from out of state or

something.”

“Maybe Harry, but we have several of those groups around

this area. The old sheriff dealt with them all the time. He made a lot of money from them over the years. It could be that all of the gun running started with him and Trent just kept it up after he died. I had a feeling that those vests

were to be sold to them and that‟s why I hid them when

they came in from the state. The rifles went out before I had a chance to hide them. They were given to the department from the state also. I think we better be careful tonight or we might end up in a fire fight with the ones who are buying the guns. They are all armed, even when they come to town

to buy supplies.”

“I think we better start checking permits for our county and

see how many we can revoke for lying on the applications when they filed for the permits. I do know we can revoke

them as the law enforcement of the county. That‟s Nevada

law and it is very plain on that particular item. I will get the

list from the clerk when we get back to the station.”

“I think it will stir up a lot of hard feelings for the

department if you start revoking the permits. We need to set down and make up a list of the rules of how and use of guns before we start doing that. I know for a fact that at lease

fifty percent of the permits issued were to the old sheriff‟s friends and relatives. That‟s a can of worms I don‟t think we ought to open, Harry.”

“Shorty, I don‟t give a damn what the permit holders think because if they haven‟t taken the training course, they are a

danger to our men in the field. They have to file the

paperwork when they file for the permit. If it‟s not on file,

then the permit will be revoked until the right paperwork is

filed.”

“I never knew they had to take a course to get a permit. I

wonder how many of them have taken the course and are

legal?”

“They also have to register the gun‟s serial number when

they file. The law here states that they have to carry the gun they registered and if they carry any other gun they can get in big trouble. Nevada law states that they must take a

shooting course that‟s certified by the state every three

years or lose the permit. The paper work on this is filed with our department because the permit is issued from there. I think we need to go through all the paperwork real soon. By the way, Shorty, I put a notice in the paper dissolving the sheriff reserves effective immediately. It will be on the front page where everyone can see it. That ought to take care of any problems of people using the badge to further their own

agendas.”

“Hell, Harry, half of the reserve is the old sheriff‟s relatives.

They are not going to take that without raising hell. I hope

you don‟t get shot for that move.”

“If they have completed the criminal justice course required

in Nevada, then they can have their commission back. If

they are not up to date with their courses then they can‟t be reserve officers. That‟s the law and it will be enforced by our department like it‟s supposed to be.”

We went in to the steak house and sat down to eat and again Shorty filled his plate heaping full. Beau and I both got a kick out of how much he was able to eat. Damn, I was glad I didn‟t have to pay his grocery bill. Like all the other times I ate with everyone, there wasn‟t much said during

the meal. It seemed that they concentrated on eating and not talking. That was fine with me, because I could concentrate on eating instead of having to listen to someone talking. I paid the bill and they left the tip, then we headed back to the station.

When we went into the lobby, the uniform stack had grown again. I told Beau to go through them and pick out something that fit him and have them dry-cleaned on the department. He said that he would be glad to instead of buying them. I told him where the badges were and to get

himself one or two of the sergeant‟s badges. I told Shorty to

see if there were any of the shirts that had no stripes sewn on them for his use as a captain. The rest could go to the evidence room for further disbursement to whoever needed then. Most of them looked brand new and some were still in plastic from the cleaners. I would have to make a decision on the uniform contract soon because of all the new guys coming in. They would all get four sets of uniforms that the department would pay for. Over that amount they would have to buy themselves. I had plenty of badges so I would

not have to order any of them. I wasn‟t ordering any

equipment belts until I got the new weapons for the department. I hoped the pistols we would be seizing tonight would be the ones I had the receipts for. Then I could get everyone certified to carry the same weapon on duty.

I went into my office and called that company back to see what happened to the contractor they were supposed to send out. I got the runaround from the woman on the phone so I told her they had just lost a cash sale. She tried to salvage the conversation but I was already pissed at her attitude so I politely told her that I would hire an out of county company to do all the building. I slammed the phone down, ending the call. I got out a phone book and started looking for what I wanted. I found a company that was located in California, just across the border from our county. I told them what I wanted and they said they would have a contractor salesman out to see me on Monday morning first thing. I looked up at the knock on my door and said come in.

It was Pinky and he didn‟t look very happy.

“Harry, I am getting all kinds of calls from the reserve and

special deputies, wanting to know why their positions have

been revoked.”

“Pinky, just tell them that if they want to discuss it then we

will have a meeting Monday at noon, in the gym here at the

office. If they don‟t want to meet then, tell them the order stands as written.”

“How come you decided to revoke all the reserve and special

deputy positions? Some of them have been specials for

years.”

“Pinky, how many of them have taken the peace officer certification course?”

“I don‟t know, Harry, but probably none of them have. The

old sheriff gave then their commissions if they asked him or

wanted to work at one of the schools as security.”

“Pinky, by law they are supposed to take the same courses the deputies have to take to stay certified. If they haven‟t, by law they can‟t be reserve or special deputies. They also

have to pay for the course out of their own pockets because as reserve or specials the department is not responsible to pay for the training. They also have to keep up to date with the mandated update courses they have to take every year.

Again they have to pay for the courses. That‟s why the notice was put in the paper.”

“Ok Harry, I will tell them about the meeting but the rest is

up to you to tell them. They are pretty angry that they are losing their badges. Some of these ole boys are pretty salty

and won‟t want to listen to what you have to say. I suggest you have some extra people at the meeting.”

“I‟ll take that under advisement, Pinky. I don‟t really care if

they like it or not because that is the law and they have to learn to abide by it. The old sheriff broke it to suit himself but that is not the way it will be done from now on. If they don‟t like it then they can always move to a different county.”

Pinky was laughing as he went back out the door. I sat and thought about all the changes I was throwing at this department. I had done this before somewhere else, but that time I started out by firing half the people and starting over with all new personnel. I had only had to let all the supervisors go this time. Speaking of supervisors, I wondered if Shorty had called Abrams yet to see if he could work tonight on this bust. I called down to the evidence room and asked him, and was told there was no answer at his house and he would try again later. I wondered if he had a hobby that he did on his days off. Maybe he fished or something. I would have to find out when he made it in this evening to work this detail.

Chapter # 14

The more I thought about the bust tonight the more little

details came to mind that I hadn‟t discussed with the men. I

decided I would call them all in and have an operations meeting before we started. I knew we all had cars and all but two were unmarked. I had to make sure we all had walkies and that they were charged. Mine was sitting on the charger so I knew it was charged. Since Jim and Jerry were new to this type of detail, I wanted them to be in the least danger if it went south on us.

I got on the phone and asked Pinky to come to my office for a minute. He came in with a smile on his face and whistling as he sat down.

“Ok Pinky, give it up. Why are you so damned happy all of a sudden?”

He gave me a shit eating grin before he answered my question.

“I decided that I am going to attend that little meeting of yours Monday with the reserves and specials.”

“Ok, why the sudden change of mind?”

“I got it from a reliable source that if you don‟t reinstate the

reserves and specials, that you will have to fight with Hubba

Hodson or quit your job here.”

“Who or what is a Hubba Hodson?”

“That‟s the old sheriff‟s stepson and he is meaner than a

rabid wolf. He just called me and when he told me that, I had to laugh and think cheerful thoughts. He is almost seven foot tall and dumber than a hoe handle. I can just picture him being dumb enough to go up against you. I will also make sure there is a PR-24 in the gym for your use. Try not

to break it over his thick head.”

I groaned out loud, and Pinky started laughing so hard he was turning red.

“I don‟t see where that‟s so funny. I am not going to fight

some idiot to prove I am tough. If he gives me some shit, I will shoot him in the knee and let you sort it out with his relatives. Didn‟t you tell me you were distantly related to all of them?”

“Ok Harry, truce. I am sorry but the thought of him fighting

with you just tickled my funny bone. Believe me when I say he will try you, and if he does and wins you will be laughed out of town by these rednecks. Just about everyone of that crowd is afraid of him because he is big and was the

sheriff‟s son. He has been arrested about ten times for

assault but none of the charges ever stuck because of his daddy. You will know him by the big wad of tobacco in his jaw. He will try to spit it in your eyes before he swings at

you.”

“I have a cure for that and also for him. If he makes a move

he will go to prison for a few years and spend some time in the hospital before he goes. I hate bullies and anyone that helps them. I called you in here to tell you I want the

scrambled channel clear for the rest of the night. I don‟t

want the radio room monitoring it. If I need to reach you I will use the private channel. Make sure all your people

understand that or they won‟t have a job come morning.”

“No problem Harry. Do you want me to put the state police on alert status until you say otherwise?”

“I will call in and let you know on that one, Pinky. Make sure

your lead dispatcher monitors channel three until I clear all units. If any word leaks out it will be from your end, so restrict telephone usage to emergency calls only. I want to make sure they have no early warnings of what we are

doing. It won‟t start till after midnight but the orders go into effect immediately.”

“What‟s going on, Harry?”

“We are helping the state gaming commission raid one of

the gulch casinos for drugs and money laundering. I know

that we won‟t move in until after midnight, but better be safe than sorry.”

“Ok Harry, can I go back to work now? Remember about Monday and Hubba.”

He was laughing at the scowl on my face as he went out. I hated to lie to him but I had this itch about the radio room

and couldn‟t drag it out. I decided if I was wrong, I could

always eat crow later. Damn, I had crows on my mind again. I got hold of Shorty, and had him tell all the guys to assemble in my office at six sharp for a pre mission meeting. I also reminded him to call Abrams again and see if he was home yet.

I got up and went to the records room and asked the clerk to give me any files she had on this idiot called Hubba Hodson. There were no records but the clerk told me a lot of history on this ole boy that Pinky failed to mention. I found out that she knew most of the reserve and specials from way back when the sheriff had appointed them. Some were strictly used to guard his deals and property up in the mountains somewhere north of here. The only way the other county would let them be armed was because of their association with this department. This was getting more interesting by the moment.

I went back to my office and closed the door and made a few calls to the county mentioned and informed them about me revoking all their badges and appointments to this department. I got a very respectful thank you very much for the information, before they hung up saying they would see about disarming the whole bunch starting right now. I had to chuckle to myself about the enthusiasm of the sheriff there. He sounded like he was relieved that he had a reason to go after them. I wondered to myself about how many problems he had with them in the past. I happened to think of something, and hit redial and talked to the sheriff again. Now that ought to create a few shake ups within the ranks of the private guards.

I got on the phone to the Attorney Generals office and asked for a complete list of the 9mm rifles that had been sent to this department last year and got some more good news. If any were recovered that belonged to the department that

weren‟t disbursed to full time deputies, then they would be

charged with possession of stolen state property. I told the investigator I was talking to about the old sheriff selling them to the private sector, and he said he would put out an alert on NCIC immediately. I told him I would personally fax him a copy of the serial numbers of the ones we had at the department. Now that would maybe recover some of them from being used against someone in the future.

I called down to Shorty and told him to write the numbers down for me and he said he already had them filed. I gave him the fax number, and to whom to send it to, and he said he would get it out right away. Damn, I was starting to cook on all burners. I looked at the clock and it was only two forty five. I needed a cup of coffee so I headed for the radio room to get a cup.

I was stopped at the front desk and asked what they were supposed to do with all these uniforms. I looked and they were in three stacks almost waist high. Most of the stuff I could see looked like they were brand new and had never been worn. There were two boxes of badges and other stuff behind the counter. I told her to call the cage and tell Shorty to move them down there for safe keeping for right now. I told her to make sure the records room destroyed the ID cards after recording the names and how many were turned in.

I went to my unit and got my go cup and went back in to get fresh coffee. I wondered how many sets of uniforms had been charged off to the department by Mrs. Hawkins and what she had made selling them to us. We had fired seven people and it looked like we had fired twenty from the stack of uniforms and badges. I got my coffee and after returning the greetings from several people in the radio room, I went back to my office.

I got on the phone with the prosecutor and filled him in about the uniform problem and all the other information I had about Mrs. Hawkins and asked for an investigation of

her business from the Attorney General‟s office. He said he

would make the call and see if he could get the ball rolling right away. I also filled him in on the rifles and what I had done about them, and he said he hoped they could be found or the state might hold the department responsible for their loss. I informed him that I had already reported them sold by the old sheriff before I took control. He said he thought that it might get us off the hook but to keep a watch out for state auditors. I told him that I had all the current records, and Andy had all the records and dealings from the previous years on tape and secured.

He gave a sigh of relief, and said that he was relieved that it was all safe, just in case the state started raising Cain about the department. I was also congratulated for the article on the front page, and that I had resolved the department of any responsibility if they used their badges for anything after today. He said I should have been a lawyer the way I worded the article. I quickly told him where he could go and he hung up laughing. As much as I hated crows I figured they were smarter than lawyers.

I leaned back in the chair with my feet on the desk thinking

about tonight, and damned if I didn‟t doze off. I was rudely

awakened by the telephone ringing. It was the deputy at the hospital letting me know that Andy had come out of the coma and was talking to his wife. I warmly thanked him and called down and let Shorty know the news. I had barely hung up the phone when he came bursting into my office

saying let‟s go and see him. I was shaking my head at his

exuberance as I got up and grabbed my coffee. I locked the door as I went out, and we once again were flying out of the lot with Shorty having the pedal to the floor.

“Slow down Shorty or we are going to be in the beds next to him. We have plenty of time to visit and get back before the

meeting.”

“I know Harry, but I am really happy he is out of the coma

and talking. We have been friends for over ten years and his wife and mine are school mates from grade school. Nina introduced me to my wife and it has been the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I love the both of them like family. We were going to go with them that night but Trudy had cramps and didn‟t feel like going. We would have been in the car too if not for that.”

“Shorty who else besides you four knew you were going to dinner there?”

“The only other person we told was Pinky so he would be

able to reach us if something happened. Oh no, Harry, you

don‟t think he had anything to do with it do you?”

“I don‟t know Shorty but several things haven‟t been adding up about the radio room and him. Something‟s fishy but I haven‟t been able to put my finger on it yet. Something is

telling me from now on we need to watch what we say in his presence. I am not saying he is crooked but my gut is telling

me that he‟s not on the straight and narrow.”

We drove the rest of the way to the hospital in silence. Shorty seemed to be thinking hard about what I said, so I kept quiet on the ride up the elevator to the third floor where Andy was. The deputy on the door was an older man

that I hadn‟t met yet so I stopped to talk to him while

Shorty went in the room to see his friend.

“Sheriff it‟s nice to finally meet you. My name‟s Bob Vale,

and I have been with the department for twelve years. This is the first time I have ever had the pleasure to actually meet anyone with your expertise. I am glad the department is finally starting to straighten out, and be something we the

officers can be proud of.”

“Thanks for the sentiments, but we have a long way to go before that happens, Bob. I can make the changes but it‟s

up to the deputies to carry them out and make something of

them.”

“I sure hope with the change of leadership things will start to happen. I haven‟t been to any of the state mandated

classes since I started with the department. The other deputies are all in the same boat. This department would only let us have all the uniforms we wanted but no raises or schooling. I hope you and the new sheriff will be able to

change all of that.”

“That‟s one thing that tops the list for me. If the deputies

we have are willing to work with me then I will get the monies for the training. I am going to call the academy Monday and see what classes we all need to catch up to mandates. I also want to have all the officers carrying the same caliber of pistol. From what I have seen so far there are about every weapon known to man and none of them in

good shape.”

“I think there are three of us that have modern weapons.

None of us has qualified with a registered instructor since I joined the department. I would be afraid to be in front of half the deputies on the force at the range. Sheriff, I will tell you right now that most of the deputies want to get up to

grade, and be proud to be in this department. That‟s all we have been talking about since you took over.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Bob, and tell the others

that we will have one of the best departments in the state.

Tell them to hang in there and it will happen.”

Shorty came out and he had a big smile on his face. He stopped and shot the breeze with Bob for a few minutes and we headed for the unit as it was getting close to the meeting time.

“You going in to see him, Harry?”

“Not this time around, Shorty. I will let him spend the time with his wife. That‟s more important to them than being

interrupted by visitors all the time. I will give it a few days then spend some time with him.”

“Why is it you always seem to make sense in what you do

Harry? So far you seem to be able to feel what is happening before everyone else does. I have never worked with anyone like you before. I hope as the patrol captain I can do

it like you do.”

“Shorty, this is not my first department to clean up and I

always go with my gut. So far it has saved my life several

times. I have learned to sense the people‟s feelings around

me and it pays off more often than not. You and Andy were the first two I sensed would make good officers because you wanted to work with me and not try to undermine the changes. I first thought you would be the first to go when Andy told me your situation. I understood your reluctance to get close to any new people. I had to take it into

consideration when I interacted with you. Hell you‟ve grown up and become an entirely different person in just a week.”

“Thanks Harry, I have to admit that I have always stayed in

my cage, so I could cover my ass with all the crooked dealings going on all these years. I have a lot of information I have yet to tell you and paperwork to back it up. Even

Andy doesn‟t know all of what I do.”

“Let‟s talk about this later and get this meeting going so I can get all the guys set up. Did you get hold of Abrams yet?”

“I can‟t reach him at any of the numbers he has listed. It‟s

like he dropped off the face of the earth or something. Maybe he went to Reno or maybe he has a girlfriend in another county. His unit is at his home but his personal car is gone.

“We will do this tonight with those we have. I can put the State Police on alert but I don‟t want to do that unless we are totally outnumbered.”

We pulled in at the station and there were at least a dozen units in the parking lot. I looked at Shorty and he looked as puzzled as I was. We went inside and there were deputies sitting in every chair in the lobby. I stopped and looked at

them for a minute and realized that I didn‟t know any of

them. They must have chosen a spokesman because one of the older ones in the crowd stood up.

“Sheriff, we heard what you did for Andy and we came in to personally thank you. You‟re looking at what‟s left of the patrol officers. There are seven more we couldn‟t reach in

time to come in, but they already said how thankful they are that the sheriff is taking care of the men. I am the oldest man on the force and I been here for twenty two years. This is the first time I have ever thanked a sheriff for anything. These men feel the same way. We will back you and follow your orders because Bob said you would make us the best department in the state, and after all these years of graft,

we are looking forward to the change.”

“Men, I will promise you that if you stick with me, you will

receive your state training and new units and a lot better pay than you have been getting. All I ask for is for you to be straight up with all your dealings with the public and this department. I will be going over all your files and bring your pay grade up to match the years you have served. You also will get merit raises as you complete your schools and get up to date on state mandates. The new sheriff feels the same as I do about this. He worked his way up to captain from patrol. He knows what you need and will see you get it. Gentleman, I thank you all for coming in. I would love to sit down and talk to all of you right now but I have to make another call to the Attorney General about a lot of the missing material that belongs to the department. Remember

when you‟re out there and need help, don‟t be afraid to get on that radio.”

I left Shorty there to talk to them, while I went to my office to put the final thoughts for tonight together. I had to admit that having that many deputies willing to do what it took to get their pride back was more than I expected. That older officer should have made rank years ago and I would personally look at his file and see if he was clean and then I would immediately promote him. Damn, I had to get this department up to speed and manpower. I was wishing I had never volunteered for this when faced with that kind of hope from men who had never had any.

I sat down at my desk and started making notes for the

meeting so I wouldn‟t forget anything.

Chapter # 15

I just about had all the notes together for the meeting tonight when my phone rang and I about jumped out of my chair. I picked it and it was Sergeant Abrams on the other end.

“Sheriff, I just checked my answering machine and there

were several messages on it to call you. Have I done

something wrong or did I screw up that murder somehow?”

“No, Abrams, you haven‟t screwed up or anything like that. I

wanted to know if you wanted some overtime and to help

work on a special operation that‟s going down tonight? If

you are interested, come in wearing civvies for a meeting at

six.”

“I would be glad to work with you again, sheriff. I will be there at six sharp.”

“Ok Abrams, see you at six then.”

He hung up the phone sounding happy to be coming in for extra duty. I had looked at his file and still thought he would make a good detective for the department. His actions tonight would better help me make that decision. I would have him ride with me so I can keep an eye on him and see how he acted under pressure or in a firefight if one happened. I had about an hour before anyone showed up, so I decided I would see if there was an extra coffee pot up front for my office.

I called the clerk and she informed that there was a brand new one in the storeroom that she would be glad to set up for me and make sure I always had fresh coffee. I told her

she didn‟t have to make my coffee for me but I was politely told that she considered it part of her job. I couldn‟t

dissuade her from it so I told her to get it set up.

She came in a few minutes later with the new pot and all the condiments and proceeded to start a pot brewing for me. She was at least sixty years old and reminded me of

someone‟s grandmother, whom I found out she was, thirty times over. When I asked her why she hadn‟t retired I was politely told that she was too young to retire. I also found out her husband was in a nursing home with advanced

Alzheimer‟s disease. She informed me that she had got the

job here to have something to do instead of staying home all day long.

We talked awhile longer about the department and what she had seen over the last three years she had worked here and how much the morale had changed since I had taken over. I

found out her name was Sunny with a u and she didn‟t like

the old sheriff at all. She said she thought he was one of the cruelest men she had ever met and his son was just like him. She figured that they both would have been in prison if

he hadn‟t known all the politicians in this and several other

counties.

She broke her conversation off when she heard the phone ringing at the front desk. Shorty and Beau came in and found seats. Then they both noticed the addition of the coffee pot and helped themselves to a cup and sat back down.

“Abrams just called and he will be in at six sharp. I didn‟t tell him what the duty was but he didn‟t seem to care. I still

think we will consider him for a slot in the detectives when they start up. I figure we will put him in homicide and see

how he does.”

“Well if that stabbing was any indication then I feel sorry for the new guy in the cage when he brings his evidence in to have it booked. Do you know it took me almost two hours to record all the bags he brought in. I thought I was going to

have writer‟s cramps before I was through writing.”

“I told him if he had any doubts about anything to bag it and

tag it. He must have taken what I told him to heart. I still

think he did a good job with the whole thing.”

“I will agree with you there, Harry. He had all the evidence

tape set perfect and all the bags stapled and sealed. Whose idea was it for him to use paper bags instead of plastic,

anyways?”

“Shorty, you need to learn a little about forensics. Plastic

bags are great for certain things, but they draw moisture with temperature changes sometimes. If you have sensitive evidence you put it in paper, even if you have to triple bag it. I have seen DNA taken from stuff stored in paper bags years later, but it breaks down in plastic bags and gets degraded. Wax bags are about the best but they are hard to

find. I told him to put it all in the paper bags.”

“Now that you have explained it, I know why he used all

paper. I learn something new from you everyday. Did you

know that stuff, Beau?”

“Nah, we had a forensics team in the Reno department. I

never knew none of that stuff Harry was saying. I would like to learn more though. It sounds interesting as heck and something that would come in handy. Harry, do you ever think we will have a department with all the modern stuff

like the big cities have?”

“I doubt it because the expenditure would be too much for this small of a department. The only thing we can do is always teach our men to keep the chain of evidence intact until it goes to wherever we have to send it for analysis. That will probably be the State Police forensics lab in Vegas. You can bet they will always ask about the chain of evidence to protect their butts when it goes to court. Tonight is a prime example of what I am talking about. If we impound all the guns then you two and Abrams will have to itemize every piece and take every serial number down for the State

Police.”

They both groaned and I laughed at their expression on their faces at the news they would be responsible for all the

paperwork for tonight‟s sting. I opened my mouth to say

something else when Abrams came in followed by Jim and Jerry. They were carrying folding chairs and I figured my clerk had a hand in this one. Everyone noticed the coffee pot and got a cup and sat down around the desk talking to each other. The clerk came in again and started another pot of coffee and closed the door as she left. How the hell she knew that all the bodies I was expecting were here I will never figure out.

“Ok gentlemen and I say that loosely. This is a small

briefing before we head out to our little sting tonight. Jim, you and Jerry will be our eyes on the target. Both of you will

park where you won‟t be noticed too much, and watch the

front and rear of the gun store. You will call in as soon as they start loading any truck. Beau will do the tail as long as he can, then Shorty will take over since he has a dark colored unmarked. I will follow along with Abrams in the rear in my unit. Jim and Jerry will drop back and follow me

on side streets as much as we can. That way we won‟t stand

out with all the cars. We will be using channel four at all

times. Those of you that don‟t have it in your units get one of the supervisor‟s walkies and use it to monitor. Do not tie

up the channel with conversation. The tail car will be doing all the talking, giving us all directions. I have my own M-16, but Shorty will give Abrams one of the rifles like the rest of

you have been issued.”

“My rifle is fully auto but all of yours are semi-automatic. I want no shooting unless you are shot at. If that happens, shoot to kill and don‟t try to be a hero by trying to shoot someone in the arm or shoulder. That‟s an idiot‟s move and I speak from experience. Remember, I don‟t care how many

of them get hit by us if they fire first, but we will not start the firefight. We will give them every chance to surrender.

Now, with that ,are there any questions?”

“Since there are no questions then the two spotters can go

and set up. You have binoculars so you can park far enough away not to be too noticeable. Shorty, give Abrams one of the vests and a rifle then both of you come back here. Jim, Jerry, I want you to head out and set up. Call in and give us

your location as soon as you‟re set. That‟s all folks so let‟s get going.”

Everyone except Beau got up and left to do as they were told. I handed Beau the search warrants and told him to go over them and see if there were any holes in them we needed to know about before they were served. I sat and sipped my coffee as he read then and he was smiling when he finished.

“Harry, these are the plainest warrants I have ever read.

They cover everything including outbuildings and vehicles.

Who drew these up?”

“Believe it or not, Shorty did all the paperwork. I read them

and they looked more like federal warrants instead of county warrants. I have never seen a warrant done so

thoroughly to cover all the things you normally wouldn‟t

think about including. I wonder where he learned all that

and what books he has read to learn it.”

“I don‟t know, Harry, but they are good. I am going to sit down and learn all this when I have a chance and find out

where he learned to do it this way.”

We dropped it when Shorty and Abrams came back in and they were laughing. I watched as Abrams took off his shirt and put the vest on making faces the whole time he was trying to get it on. We were laughing as he struggled to get

into it. I could tell he hadn‟t worn one before and when he finally got it on his shirt wouldn‟t button over top of it. I

nodded at Shorty and he took him back down to the cage to find some shirts that fit him from the uniform stacks he had there. He was in civvies but I knew there were several light jackets he could wear over it. I got another cup of coffee when my walkie went off.

“Unit twelve and unit twenty are in position. Do you copy one?”

“This is one and you are coming in four by four, twelve. Keep me apprised of any movement. One out.”

Shorty and Abrams came back in and he had on one of the light jackets on over the vest. I had to ask so I went ahead.

“Abrams, do you have a first name or would you prefer me to call you by your last name all the time.”

“I have a first name but everyone just calls me Kit. That‟s about the only name I ever answer to. I believe it‟s in my

personnel jacket the same way. My real first name is Kitchard after my great grandfather. I shortened it in school

so I wouldn‟t get picked on.”

“Ok Kit, works for me. Since we will be riding together the

rest of the night it makes it a lot easier.

“Unit twelve to one.”

“Go ahead twelve.”

“A moving van just backed into the dock and they are loading it with gun boxes.”

“Ok twelve, we are on our way. Keep me apprised.”

“Roger one.”

“This is it, fellas, they are loading up right now. Beau, park

down the street where you can see the store, and follow when they pull out. We will be one street over waiting for

your call. Let twelve and twenty know when you‟re in position.”

We all headed out and I made sure I locked the door as I grabbed my walkie. I followed Shorty to a vacant lot one street over from the gun store. We had just shut the engines off when I heard Beau contact the spotters and let them know he was in position. Now it was just a matter of waiting until they left the store with the guns. I hoped they would pull out while it was still daylight, but figured they wouldn‟t leave until dark. I also wondered if Doris would be with him when he delivered. Either way she would be arrested tonight like the rest of them.

“One this is twelve. I have two subjects getting into the truck. One female and one male driving. Do you copy, over?”

“I copy twelve. Let five take the tail and you both stay in place until we see which way they are headed, over.”

“Copy one.”

We started our units up and waited for Beau‟s call for direction. It wasn‟t long in coming when he radioed that they were headed west on county road 101.

“Stay with them for awhile at a distance, five. Three, you

start moving up and close the gap until five has to drop

out.”

“Copy that, one.”

“Twelve and twenty, you come out and follow at a distance of a mile and I will be behind you.”

“Copy that, one, we are moving now.”

I pulled out and we were off to the races. I noticed that Kit

hadn‟t said a word and was sitting with a smile on his face

as he listened to everything that was going on. I wondered as I drove if he would ask any questions as we went along. We had been driving for about an hour when five called in.

“Three, this is five. I am pulling off so you move up as soon

as I do. I think they are headed for the old Thornton mine.

It‟s the only one out this way.”

“Copy, five, I am moving up now.”

“Twelve and twenty, close the gap to a half mile but be slow about it.”

“Copy that one, we are moving up now.”

“Unit three, close the gap a little because I don‟t want to lose them now.”

“I know where the mine is one. We will know for sure in five minutes if they turn into there.”

“All units, if they turn in do not, I repeat, do not follow. Go

past the entrance to a wide spot and pull over and kill your

lights. Do all units copy that last transmission?”

I got come backs from all units and was told by Shorty there was a truck pull off at the top of the hill above the entrance. He suggested we all meet there to talk about the next move we would make. I agreed with him and we all pulled in and got out of the cars.

“Shorty, can you see the mine from up there?” I said

pointing at the small hill above us.

“I might be able to, let me try and see.”

We all stood around and waited till he stood up on top and looked through the binoculars.

“The truck is there Harry and they have portable lights strung around in a circle for some reason.”

“Watch them Shorty while I get on the radio.”

I turned the walkie to channel 3 and asked for Pinky. I was told he left early without telling anyone where he was going. I told her to call the State Police and have them contact me on channel 4 right away.

I didn‟t have long to wait when I was contacted by a

Sergeant from their office. I told him where we were and what I suspected and asked if he had an air unit up. He said it was just finishing refueling and I asked him to send it our way as soon as possible. He acknowledged my request and said they would contact me when they were airborne. He said they would send several units to back us up if we needed it. I told him to have them run silent because we were still undetected and I wanted to keep it that way. He acknowledged my request and said they were on their way.

I told Shorty to sit down and try not to move too much. I told the others to move their cars in a row next to the hill so they would be in the shadow of it. I knew what was coming and wanted to make sure my guys understood why they had to stand still. I heard it before I saw it and immediately recognized the familiar sound of a Huey at low altitude.

I stood still and used the binoculars Shorty had given me to track its progress. It was coming in from the west so unless it circled, it wouldn‟t see us. I watched as it feathered out to land and saw the missile tubes mounted to the skids. Shit, I had to warn the State Police chopper that they were armed. I got on the radio and they answered on my second call. I filled them in on what I had observed and they said they would call in a Blackhawk from Nellis to handle it. I told them to stay outside hearing range from my position and they said they were hovering ten miles away. Beau asked what was going on.

“All of you gather round. Come on down Shorty, you need to hear this too. The chopper that landed is armed with air to air missiles. There is a Blackhawk coming in from Nellis to handle him. We are not moving in until it gets here. There are several State units on their way and should get here soon. We are way out of our league with an armed Huey and

I don‟t know how many men aboard.”

“Damn, Harry, I watched it land and never saw all of that. How were you able to tell all of that from here?”

“Shorty, I am familiar with it because I was in Viet Nam and

rode in hundreds just like the one that just landed. I recognized the missile pods mounted to the skids on either side. They would have shot down the State Police chopper

with no problems. That‟s why they called in the Blackhawk

from Nellis Air Force Base. It can handle just about anything in the air. I was worried what this was going to turn into. I knew the Blackhawk would handle the Huey with no problem, but I would lose the evidence I wanted to put them both away. I had the warrants that we would serve,

but I didn‟t know how many stolen guns were still in the gun shop.

“Unit one, this is Nellis one do you copy?”

“I copy Nellis one, your target is in the valley ahead of you

and is presently on the ground. When you go silent and cover, we will move in. If they fire on you take them out by

my order. Do you copy Nellis?”

“We copy one and consider it done.”

I waved my guys to their units and waited for the Blackhawk to go over before I led them out with lights and sirens on. I turned into the dirt road leading to the mine and clearly saw the Huey trying to lift but the Blackhawk was

over them and they couldn‟t lift off. I kicked the power

wagon in the ass and closed the distance to the rental truck. I was about fifty feet away when someone opened up with an automatic rifle and shot the shit out of my windshield. Kit ducked saying oh Shit as he went down. I could see he

wasn‟t hit just shook up. I slammed on the brakes and

bailed out with my M-16 and started working toward the gun that was firing. I could see a shoulder so I shot it and when the rifleman fell out from behind his cover I shot him in the head twice and moved toward the helicopter.

I didn‟t hear any other gunfire as I came out from behind

the rental truck. I fired two shots where I knew the co-pilot would be sitting and immediately the helicopter started shutting down. I waited until I could hear better and shouted out to the helicopter.

“This is the Porter County Sheriff‟s Department. I will open fire if you don‟t shut it down and come out with your hands up. You are not taking off so you can‟t go anywhere. I will

open fire and I guarantee you I will shoot for the fuel tank.

It‟s your choice.”

The blades wound down and men started coming out of the chopper and lay down with their hands stretched out in front of them. I noticed that there were two of my deputies covering the chopper while I watched the prisoners.

“Jim, Jerry, clear the chopper.”

“Kit, get some of those Troopers to help you handcuff and

search the prisoners as soon as the choppers cleared.

Where‟s Shorty and Kit?”

“Over here sheriff, we have a couple of friends of yours.

They were trying to climb the slag pile in all the confusion. I

think they were rather surprised to see us show up.”

“Ok, hold them by the rental until we get these ones cuffed. Make sure you read them their rights. I watched as the prisoners were cuffed and searched then sat back down

with about three feet between them so they couldn‟t talk

without raising their voices. I watched and listened as Jerry read them their rights as a group then ask them individually if they understood them. When they all had answered to the affirmative, I dropped the barrel of my gun towards the ground and breathed a sigh of relief.

“One to Nellis, do you still copy?”

“We copy loud and clear one.”

“Thanks for a great job, Nellis. You saved a lot of lives

tonight and we all appreciate it. Have a safe trip back and

the next time I am in town the beers are on me.”

“That‟s a big 10-4 one and thanks. Nellis out.”

“One to State Police Air Unit, do you copy?”

“Go ahead one, we read you loud and clear.”

“The sky‟s safe and all is under control. You might have your

people send a forensics unit. We have one DB at this location. We also need a coroner. Did you copy last transmission?”

“We copy loud and clear one. We have a unit already on

route and will place the call for the 65f. Do you need any

other support at this time?”

“Negative air unit. Thanks for the assist.”

“No, thank you for the warning one. We won‟t forget it. Air unit 30 clear.”

I turned around and looked and saw about forty men in uniforms milling around, waiting for instruction. I took a deep breath and walked to the biggest knot of Troopers and prepared to get into an argument about jurisdiction that I knew would happen. This was my county and I sure as hell

wasn‟t going to let anyone take the bust from my men at

this stage of the game.

Chapter # 16

I got the milling troopers attention, and asked if their supervisor was there yet? I was told he was on his way and would be there in a few minutes. I watched as still another State Trooper unit pulled up and it was a Sergeant who got out of the car. I called him to the side to speak in private.

“Trooper get most of these men of yours out of here. They are tramping over my crime scene and interfering in my

investigation.”

“Now look sheriff, I think this should be a combined bust and investigation.”

“No, it won‟t be combined. I called for backup and forensics. Your men arrived too late to back us up and we already had the suspects under arrest when the first of your men arrived. Do you want to call them off or do I call your

Commander and feed him the facts? Your choice Sergeant.”

“Ok sheriff, we‟ll do it your way.”

He started sending his men back to their patrol duties and

kept four there to help guard the prisoners. I wasn‟t worried

about the prisoners; I wanted to have a little talk with the two who started this whole thing out of the State Police hearing. I walked over to Shorty and pulled him to the side.

“Take these two into the station in separate cars and keep them separated. Here‟s a key to my office, put him in the

bedroom with a guard and put her in a chair in front of my desk. I will be in shortly, so don‟t let them call or talk to anyone. Take Kit with you, he can take Trent in Jim‟s car and

you use yours for Doris. Make sure you leave the interior light on the whole trip and note it in your report. I will explain it later. Now get Kit and get them out of here.”

He took off and I saw him grab Doris and Kit grabbed Trent and they snuck around to the cars. I called Jim over and explained why his car was being borrowed and he got a laugh at my little ploy. Things were winding down when the coroner and forensic unit showed up and took over that end of the investigation. I had already taken several rolls of film and then I put a claim on the chopper and called Nellis to send a ordinance team or a pilot to fly it to Nellis to unload the missiles and fly it back to the pad next to the station. I would almost be willing to bet the missiles were stolen from some base just like the crates of M-16's on the truck. They were all there and none had been moved to the chopper. I lowered the door on the truck and had Jerry stand guard on it until I could have it driven back to the gun store.

I had to give my rifle to the forensic team, but I made sure I got a receipt for it as I knew it wasn‟t stolen. I had seen and still had the receipts for all my arms I had gotten when I bought the cabin.

I had the State Police Sergeant have his men take the passengers from the chopper and told him he could have them. I made out a statement about the shooting but I knew

with the holes in my unit there wouldn‟t be any

repercussions from his death. After all, he had opened up on me with an illegal weapon. I also gave the Sergeant the automatic weapons that the men were carrying. While I was talking to the coroner, another chopper came in and three men repelled down on ropes from about a hundred feet up. The asked for me and I was pointed out to them and they came directly over to me without talking to the Sergeant who tried to question them.

“Sheriff, we‟re from Nellis ordinance depot and were told to

report directly to you and follow your orders. This tall drink

of water next to me is the pilot you asked for.”

“I want you to fly this bird back to Nellis and remove the

missiles and see where they were stolen from. Then I want the ship flown back to my department and set down on the pad behind the building. I plan on impounding it and using it for the department in the future. Also tell your superior I have a truck load of stolen M-16's he might want to check

into.”

“Damn, sheriff, you hit the jackpot tonight didn‟t you? I bet

I already know where the rifles were stolen from. If it checks out, your department is in for a considerable award

from the government. It‟s an open reward so it will be collectable with the right paperwork.”

“Ok fellas, count the missiles and give me a receipt for them and the chopper and you can leave anytime you‟re ready.”

They hustled over and started counting and the pilot was writing down the serial numbers on the chopper when the Sergeant came over to me.

“What are they doing sheriff?”

“They are getting ready to take the chopper to Nellis and

disarm it. After that they will return it to my department

since we impounded it as evidence.”

“Sheriff, you can‟t let them take it, we are planning on flying it to our headquarters.”

“You can bet your ass that‟s not gonna happen Sergeant.

This is my county, my bust, and my investigation. I have already impounded the chopper, and the truck and contents. I gave you the men and the illegal automatic weapons they

were carrying. Be glad you have that since you didn‟t do

anything but arrive after it was all over. I have a brand new unit shot to hell that I have to get repaired. I suggest you take your prisoners and be happy or I will just send you and your men packing and let you explain how you arrived after

it was all over.”

“Ok sheriff, you have the upper hand on this one, but the way you are there will be other times when you‟ll be glad to share with my department.”

“Hell, I will be giving you busts in my county when we start

cracking down on the past dealings of the old sheriff. You know as well as I do it would be a conflict of interest for us to make the arrests. If you give me your card with all your numbers I will be sure to tip you off so you can handle it.”

“Now that sounds like a good trade off to me, sheriff. Here‟s

my card and I will be expecting your call when it starts

going down.”

He turned and called to his men to load the prisoners and weapons. He stopped for a minute and asked the forensic team how long they would be and if they needed someone to stay. He was told they were almost done and to go ahead and go. I waited till they had all pulled out and called my men over and told Jim to drive the truck back to the gun store and we would be there shortly to serve the warrants. I told Beau to get on the horn and get a wrecker out and have my unit taken to the garage for repairs. I told Jerry we would all be riding back in his unit and that he and his partner would be helping with the warrants. He shook his fist in the air with a loud yea. I had to laugh and wondered how long it would take him to get tired of the drudgery of law enforcement.

While they were all doing that, the pilot from Nellis came over with the list and a signed receipt for me on the chopper and missiles it contained. I told them it looked good and they could take off as soon as they were ready. They all thanked me and ran for the chopper. I waited until they were airborne and told my men to get ready to go. Jim left in the truck but I called him back and we all loaded the large generator and lights in the back of it for impounding. I figured to either keep it for emergencies or sell it at auction for money for the department. Hell I wasn‟t going to leave it to sit out here and let it be stolen.

I knew I was nitpicking but this was my nature and you could never tell when the power was out, maybe some child or family would appreciate the heat that the generator could provide them when they were cold. I watched as the forensic team packed their stuff up and climbed into their van and left. I got the chain and locks from my unit and the extra mags for my rifle and threw them into the unit we were taking back to town. We followed the wrecker all the way into town. He went directly to the garage and the night man buzzed him in the gate. I told him to leave a note for the day crew to get it fixed as soon as possible. We went back to the station and piled out of the unit and went inside.

We all walked to my office and went in. I pulled Shorty to the side and gave him his next instructions.

“Take everyone but Beau, and take your prisoner to the

store and serve him with the search warrant. Take the guns from the rental and put them in the store and close it up. Put a deputy on guard until tomorrow and then take Trent to the jail and book him on these charges. 1-Dealing in stolen government property. 2-Violation of the patriot act as in selling to terrorists the stolen weapons. 3-Attempted murder of a police officer. 4-Three counts of destruction of county property. That should hold him for the weekend. I will get the ATF involved when they get here Monday. I will also call the prosecutor and see if he can block bail until we have a chance to go through the store and his house.”

“Ok Harry, what about Doris?”

“I am going to question her with Beau as the witness to the

interrogation. I want to make sure she is given every

opportunity to help herself by turning state‟s evidence. You

go do your thing and make sure Kit is in on the whole thing. If Trent gives you any shit, just book him and do the

searches without him. With the warrants, we don‟t need him

there anyways. Maybe he will give you his sales list for the last few years. Do not remove the cuffs for any reason. If he has to piss take him outside and let him piss against the

building. He may have the store wired so don‟t take them off

inside or take any crap from him. If he gets snotty, just take

him to jail then do your search.”

They all left without saying anything more and I grabbed a recorder and Beau and we sat down at the desk with Doris.

“Doris, I will be doing the questioning and I am going to

read you your rights again and will inform you I will be recording the interview. Now please state your name and

address for the record please.”

“My name is Doris Barclay and I live at 2334 East Second

Avenue, Porter, Nevada. I have had my rights read to me twice and I understand them fully. I will cooperate and am under no duress to do so. I have not invoked my right to an

attorney and have no plans to do so.”

“I am undersheriff Harry Hanson and will be conducting this

interview with the subject Doris Barclay, with Sergeant Beau Gentry as the witnessing officer. Now, state in your own words how, and how long you have been running guns and storing them on county property. I will let you tell it in your own words, and will withhold any questions until you have finished giving this recorded statement, on this 22 second day of April 1998. It is now twenty two thirty hours.

You may begin, Mrs. Barclay.”

We spent the next two and a half hours listening to her story and confession and we got it all on tape. She was so thorough that I only had three questions to ask and she answered them without any hesitation. I looked at Beau and asked if he had any additional questions and he declined saying that he thought it had all been covered. I informed her that it would be transcribed to paper for her to sign. I asked her again if she wanted an attorney and she declined. I stood and cuffed her again and we left for the jail.

It took me longer to book her in that it did to get her confession. Maybe I was stretching it a little but they were slow as hell getting her booked. I asked the desk clerk who was in charge of booking and got his name and number. She got a little snotty and asked who I was and when I identified myself to her whole attitude changed. I got her name from her uniform and made a note to call her boss first thing Monday morning and put a bug in his ear about all the time that was being wasted with the slow bookings.

Beau and I went to the gun shop and the crew was still there going through the store. I called them off for the night and sealed the doors and called one of the night shift deputies in to watch it till morning. I got back to the station and made arrangements with the radio room to make sure he was relieved at shift change tomorrow. I sent everyone home and realized I didn‟t have any wheels, so I went to my room off the office and went to sleep.

I woke up in the dark and was disoriented until I remembered where I was. I went in and there was a pot of fresh coffee and Shorty was sitting at my desk with a cup.

“Damn Harry, you look like death warmed over. I forgot you didn‟t have any wheels and when I came back you were out, so I locked the door and went home myself. Here‟s your key

that you loaned me. I went by your place and picked you up some fresh clothes. I met the new sheriff and he seems like he is going to be a good boss to work for. He had a lot to say about you and how he knew you would be staying on when

he takes over.”

“Thanks for the clothes, Shorty, but I am not staying on and last night was a good example why I won‟t. I am getting too old for all the late hours.”

“So you say, but the way you handled yourself last night

saved our asses. I had no idea where the shots were coming

from. I was hunkered down behind cover and didn‟t have

the courage to raise my head to see who was shooting. Kit told me how cool you acted when your unit was shot to hell.

We couldn‟t believe you went to the shooter instead of taking cover like the rest of us.”

“Shorty, I went to the shooter because I was mad he shot up my unit. I didn‟t want to shoot him but he didn‟t give me a chance to ask him to surrender. I don‟t even know who he

was. I was more worried about him shooting one of you or some other person. I automatically shot to kill. I want you Kit, Beau and myself to do the searches today. I especially want to search his house. We also have the unpleasant duty

of firing a snitch today.”

“I heard about Pinky but I don‟t know where he went after he left here.”

“I do because I put a G.P.S. tracker on his car yesterday. I borrowed it from the local Radio Shack for just that purpose. I told you I had a feeling about the radio room and it came to me last night. I had a feeling that someone was feeding information to the bad guys. I told Pinky we were going to raid one of the gulch casino‟s with the gaming commission. According to the G.P.S. he went directly there and stayed for

fifteen minutes before going home.”

“I don‟t understand him Harry. He got promoted by you and

is now making good money. Why would he throw it all away?

“I don‟t know the answer to that one, Shorty. I never

understood why any man would throw his career away for extra money or favors. I like Pinky, but this has put him in a

situation where I don‟t have any choice but to let him go.

The information that passes through any radio room from the units in the field is not for public consumption. That

information is not to be leaked or used by anyone.”

“I see what you mean, Harry, and as usual you‟re right. You have done more for this department in the short time you‟ve been here than anyone I have ever seen. I want to be the one to let Pinky go. He betrayed my patrol units and if you

hadn‟t set him up, someone could have been killed.”

“Let‟s call him in here and see what he has to say and you can take it from there. We have to conduct the searches today so I need to call Beau back in and the rest of the crew we used last night. I liked the way they worked together so

we need to use them today. “Let‟s get this over with, go get him will you?”

I watched as Shorty went to the radio room. This job stinks but while I am here, I will continue to weed out the bad ones, so the department can be free of the few that would endanger the men in the field. That depended on having their backs covered by their own people. I personally knew how important the people that answered the calls on the radio were. I had my life saved by a cool thinking dispatcher who kept me awake when I had been shot while serving a warrant. Nobody ever gave them the credit they so much deserved. No department in this country could run without them.

Shorty walked back in with a paper in his hand. He sat down with a glum look on his face and handed me the paper. I looked at it and it was a written resignation from Pinky and another supervisor from the night shift. I looked at Shorty with a puzzled look on my face and he quietly explained.

“The night shift supervisor is related to Pinky and they both

spend all their off time together. I have seen them and their families at the roller rink many times. He must have been in on it with Pinky and they both decided to get out before you

fired them. I will have this stamped and file it with records.”

“Make a copy of it and keep it in your safe. I still have to get

the G.P.S. tracker from his car. When we go out here shortly, keep your eyes open for him. I have a feeling he is

tied up in all this somehow but I can‟t put a finger on how

he ties in. We also need to get the stuff that Doris said was

stored at the motor pool.”

“Ok, Harry, I already called the guys and they are on their way in. Kit asked me if he could bring his son along and I

told him I didn‟t see any problem with it. He gets his kid on

weekends. His ex had a live in boyfriend and he and the boy don‟t get along at all. I wish there was something I could do to help him get full custody of the boy.”

“How old is the boy Shorty?”

“I believe he is almost thirteen now. Ok Harry, I see that smirk, you know something that we don‟t.”

“Well, if Kit took his ex back to court and filed for custody, I can almost guarantee he will get it. The boy is old enough by law to decide who he wants to live with, and if her live in was named in the case for change of custody I would almost bet she would sign the papers without a hearing. I read the NRC and by law here if Kit is paying support, and her boyfriend is working, then she has lied to the court. She has

to report any income coming into the household whether it‟s hers or not. If he doesn‟t work, then she cannot receive support until he marries her or he moves out. Kit is not

required to support his son and her boyfriend. That‟s how the court looks at the situation.”

“Dammit, Harry I read the NRC from cover to cover several times but I don‟t remember that being in it.”

“That‟s because you haven‟t read the civil rules of the NRC

in the second book that was just published and released last year. That one is a real eye opener if you take the time to thoroughly read it. Some of the state laws are great for the father that wants custody or wants his visitations

increased.”

“I didn‟t know there was a civil NRC. I can‟t wait to tell Kit

all about this. He will go crazy and will probably file the first thing Monday morning. Harry, you never cease to amaze me with all the information you have rolling around in that head of yours. How come you got out of law enforcement and

went private?”

“That‟s a long story Shorty. Sometime we will sit down and I

will tell you about it. Now I need to grab a shower and shave then put on clean clothes. When the guys come in, have them help themselves to coffee. There are some sodas

in the little fridge under the coffee pot for the boy.”

Chapter # 17

I took a shower in the bath off of the bedroom and to my surprise, found a cupboard full of towels and other stuff. I found new razors and shave cream, and toothbrushes still in their original packages. I felt like a new man by the time I was finished. I went back out to my office and all the men

were already gathered waiting on me. I noticed that Kit‟s

boy was there and was joking with Beau and Shorty. He was built like a football player and sure looked older than his thirteen years. I sat down after getting a cup of coffee and one of the donuts someone had brought in. I cleared my throat and laid out the plans for today.

“We are going to search Trent‟s house and business today. I

will take Kit and his son with me to search his house. The rest of you will go directly to the store and start going through it. All of you going to the store, be careful of booby traps. He is the type that would set them in his own business to wipe out evidence. Beau will open the safe if there is one, and the rest of you will take a general list of the cases of different firearms. You don‟t have to record serial numbers this time but before this is over you will have to record everything in the store. I have the ATF coming Monday morning so they will be taking over the store part of

it.”

“Kit and I with his son will search his house for any records pertaining to sales and buys. I may have to call Beau over to

open the safe if he has one there. Guys, be careful and don‟t

set off any booby traps. I will draw an unmarked from the motor pool for transportation. If you get snowed under then

call Jim and Jerry in to help out. Shorty you‟re in charge at the store. Let‟s get going, guys.”

“Harry, there is an unmarked already out front for you to

use. I had it brought over from the motor pool on my way in this morning. They said to tell you that yours ought to be ready to go by late this afternoon. They said the window shield was the only damage to it. You have several holes in

the body but nothing important was hit.”

“Thanks for the good news, Shorty. Now let‟s get out of here so we can get done before dark.”

I locked the office door as we went out, and I also

remembered to grab my walkie. I didn‟t know if the

unmarked had the right channels, but I would use the walkie for channel 4. I had to drive around the block several times before I finally found his house. It was sitting back in

a type of cull de sac and couldn‟t be seen from the road. I

pulled into the driveway and up in front of the house. I told the boy to stay in the car until his dad and I cleared the house. I knocked on the door while Kit went around back. I knocked louder announcing myself and tested the door to see if it was locked and it was. I knocked a pane of glass out of the window closest to where I thought the lock was and slipped my hand through to unlock the door. The handle lock was easy but the lower one was a deadbolt that was locked and unlocked by a key. I stood back and kicked the door by

the deadbolt. It didn‟t do anything but crack the first try so I

kicked it again and this time the door jamb split so with the third kick it came open.

I went in with my gun drawn and cleared the lower floor. I heard Kit come in and I pointed to the second floor. We went up the steps and cleared the rooms up there one at a time until I was satisfied the house was unoccupied. We went tramping back downstairs where I found his desk and computer. I told Kit he could bring his son in but to keep a close eye on him in case we might have missed someone that might be hiding in the house.

I holstered my gun and sat down at the desk and started going through the files that were shoved haphazardly in

about all the drawers. I didn‟t find anything I considered

important until I booted up the computer. I found a treasure trove of information that he kept there. I started printing files for my records and hoped they would lead the federal boys to his buyers. It took me the better part of an hour to print all the sales files and then I started on where he had bought the stolen guns he was selling. There were names and bases and the amounts that had been bought and what he had paid each individual for each purchase. This stuff I would turn over to the military investigators for them to

handle. This was way out of my department‟s league. While

the last files were printing, I got on the radio to Shorty.

“One to three, do you copy?”

“I copy one, and I must say there are more of the guns from

last night stored in the back warehouse. I make it out to be

almost a thousand cases total. Did you copy that one?”

“I copy four by four, three. I want you to keep looking and call the two others from last night in. Have them go to the

motor pool and impound what they find stored there, copy?”

“I copy loud and clear one. Do you want them brought here or taken to the cage?”

“If they are pistols have them taken to the cage where we can check the numbers against our stolen pistols. Also have someone in dispatch call Nellis and ask for their investigations division and see if someone can come in today to check serial numbers against stolen base weapons.

One out.”

“Three out.”

I went on with the printing and decided that I would impound the computer and the printer for a little extra security. This enterprise he was running covered some big names and ranks from what I could see. I wanted to make sure I covered my department and men as much as I could. Those government boys would be frothing at the mouth if they knew the extent of what I had. From some of the dates in the computer this had been going on for at least ten

years. I was watching the printer and didn‟t notice Kit‟s son

come up until he spoke to me.

“There is a large picture file you haven‟t opened yet sheriff.”

“You know about computers do you?”

“Yes sheriff, it is a hobby of mine and I have a good one at dad‟s that he bought me last year. I went to the community

college last fall to learn how to program them. I got straight

A‟s through the whole course.”

“Well now son from here on you‟re the departments computer whiz. What‟s your name boy?”

“My name is Danny ,sheriff, and I would be glad to help. Do you want me to back up the pictures on disk? You won‟t be able to print these because the printer isn‟t a photo printer.”

“Danny, you back everything up on disk if you have enough of them to do that. I will make sure I buy you lunch for your

help.”

“Gee, thanks sheriff. This won‟t take long at all.”

I walked away shaking my head, wondering what the world was coming to when a kid was smarter than the adult. I didn‟t know a damn thing about computers but a thirteen year old had learned to program them for fun. Now I knew it was time to retire and sit on the porch like a good old man. I went to looking for a wall or floor safe but if there was one I

couldn‟t find it.

“Um sheriff, I think you better come and look at this.”

“What did you find Danny? Is it a blueprint of this house or the store or something like that?”

“It‟s all of that sheriff and more. I don‟t think I ought to be

looking at this stuff. I think I will go talk to dad for a little

bit.”

I looked at him in confusion as he got up and went out the door, looking for his dad. I sat back down at the computer and realized that I should not be looking at this stuff either. He had a death list with all the facts and pictures of the persons he had watched being shot in the head in cold blood. He had the graves marked by longitude and latitude and how deep they had been buried and by whom. I looked at twelve of the pictures and realized there had to be at least a hundred more. I could not believe the neat bookkeeping he kept from the shooter to the grave diggers. God, I had a headache. I yelled for Danny to come back in and asked him if he had enough of the disks to put all this on them and he said there were plenty. His fingers danced across the keys of the pad and he brought up the blueprints of the store and this house. I got on the walkie and told Shorty about the full basement that ran the length of the store and how to get in it. I also reminded him to watch out for strings or other booby traps on the floor and the steps. He acknowledged my warning and then I had Danny bring up the blueprints for the house we were in. I discovered where the safe was and that there was a complete underground house under the little knoll in back. I found the entrance on the computer and went in search of it after telling Danny to put a copy of everything on disks, especially the pictures and sales and the list of sellers. He said he could do that in a very short time. I told him to get after it and yell when he was done. I found Kit in the kitchen and told him to stay close to Danny while I had a look around. I told him to keep an ear open for any one coming to the door and to make sure not to let anyone in.

I went to the kitchen and found the basement door and went down the steps. I finally found a light switch and it flipped on to show a small grow area that had pot plants at least a foot high and almost all of them had big buds already formed. I knew that they could be harvested at any time. I found the shelves and swung them out to get to the door behind them. There was a light switch that lit up a long hallway the led to the underground house. I stopped at that point for some reason. My gut was telling me not to go down that hallway. I had a hunch and lay down flat on my stomach looking down the hallway. I saw that there were a set of tiles in a zig zag pattern that were maybe a tenth of an inch lower than the rest. These had to be trigger tiles that were a trap for anyone walking

down the hall that hadn‟t been there before. I wondered

what was so important in this place that he had gone to all the trouble to set it up like this. I backed out and closed the door and slid the bookcase back. I needed an expert for this job. I knew I could do it by memorizing the pattern but I was afraid that someone would come looking for me and walk straight down the hallway setting the traps off. I closed it all off and went back upstairs to see how Danny was progressing with the disks. I had just shut the door to the basement and started for the front room when I heard strange voices talking from the front of the house. I pulled my gun and checked to see that one was up the spout before I slowly moved toward the voices I could hear clearly.

One was Pinky‟s and the other was a stranger to me. I let

them talk as I crept up to the door so that I could peek into the room. There was a man with a shotgun standing just inside the door facing away from me. I looked a little farther around the door and saw Pinky sitting on the couch and he

wasn‟t armed, just running his mouth. This would be easy as long as Pinky didn‟t have a gun hid somewhere I couldn‟t

see. Then I got a break from Danny.

“Well, if you‟re here to steal the computer how come you don‟t have a gun like your friend does?”

“Well sonny, I figure I am big enough that I don‟t need a

gun to handle one and a half men. Besides, If I had a gun, I

might get excited and shoot someone.”

That was the information I needed and stepped up and hit the dummy with the shotgun as hard as I could right behind the ear. He dropped and when Pinky jumped up I had my pistol pointed right at his chest.

“Gee Pinky, sorry to bust your bubble but you and your friend here are under arrest. Don‟t move because I might accidentally shoot you in the leg or maybe your privates by

accident. Lay down on the damn floor with your hands out in

front of you like you know how.”

I heard Danny sniggering in the background. Kit came over and quickly handcuffed Pinky and then went to the unconscious man and cuffed him with the cuffs I threw to him. I walked over to Danny and asked him if he was ok?

“Sheriff, this has been the greatest weekend of my life. If I

knew my dad did this all the time I would love to work with

him every weekend.”

I just laughed out loud at his enthusiasm and boyish excitement. I helped Pinky up and searched him and found a small derringer behind his belt in the center of his back. I rubbed it in about him bragging about not carrying a gun. I sat him and his friend on the couch and got my walkie from the computer desk and called Shorty.

“One to three, do you copy?”

“I copy one, the basement is stacked to the ceiling with any

kind of weapon you can name. There is also ten cases of C-4 here. I think we need help with all this stuff Harry.”

“I agree Shorty, put a pair of deputies on the door and seal

it up until we can make some phone calls. I need Jim and Jerry at my location for transport. I have two to be booked

as soon as possible.”

“What happened one, do you need help?”

“No just transport and another deputy to guard my location until I make those calls.”

“I have them on their way one, they are ten away. See you back at the station. Three out.”

“Danny did you get your little job done?”

“I shore did sheriff. I have them all in this case.”

“Can you break down the computer and load it in the trunk along with all the other stuff.”

“Yes sir, it will take me about ten minutes to load it all up.”

“Harry, you don‟t know who you‟re messing with. This

computer can get you killed if the information is made

public.”

“Is that what made you sell everyone out, Pinky? I never

understood how a man could sell out the people he works

with.”

He never answered me just hung his head. I noticed the other man was waking up and knew he was going to have a hell of a headache. To cover the department I would have him checked out at the hospital before he went to jail. I heard a car out front and looked out the door. Jim was climbing out of his unit. Jerry pulled in and they walked up to the porch together. I caught them before they entered and had a quick talk to them. They both agreed and went in the front room. I watched as they read both of the prisoners their rights and loaded them up and pulled out. I went back in and saw that Danny had almost all of the computer and disks loaded up in the trunk. I kept all the papers I had printed out and laid them on the front seat of my unit. I pulled Kit to the side to talk to him.

“Kit, the next time you are working a special detail make sure you carry your damn gun. You could have gotten both

of you killed back there. Suppose I hadn‟t been there?”

“I am sorry Harry, but with Danny coming along with me to

work I forgot all about it. I guarantee you it will never

happen again.”

“I think you learned a good lesson here today Kit. It could have gone the other way very easily.”

I dropped the conversation when Danny called and said the stuff was all loaded. I went out the front door and there was another unit pulling into the driveway. I went to meet it and it was Bob from the hospital. He greeted me with a grin and I laid out what his duties would be. He said he would be glad to work a double if I needed him. I said it was very possible but he was to radio me in three hours.

We all piled into my unit and went back to the station where I had Beau and Kit take the computer to the cage for safekeeping. I took the disks and put them in my office safe and had Beau change the combination again. I took the printed copy of the files to my desk and we sat down to go over them. I separated them by sales and by buys and split each stack with the men, giving them high lighters so they could highlight the names they recognized. Each had a different color so when they exchanged stacks they could tell who knew who.

Since I was the odd man out because I didn‟t know anyone

in this area I was free to think about that booby trapped hallway. I knew I could make it but for anyone that was not an expert with this type of trap, it would be suicide. I wanted to know what was stored in that underground house.

I called Nellis and asked if they had a bomb guy that dated back to Nam. They were a bit puzzled by my request but put me through to a man they called Stubby. I had to laugh at the picture that came to my mind with the nickname. He answered and I immediately recognized the voice. I disguised my voice and told him what I thought I had and he was immediately interested. He asked when he could bring his team over and I said how about this evening when everything had quieted down? He said he would be here at seven and asked if we had a helo pad. I told him there was one behind the station where they could land. I sat back and thought about the voice on the phone and our history together. I wondered how he had ended up in the Air Force when he had started out in Special Forces during the war.

Chapter # 18

Shorty spoke up and ended my thought process.

“Harry, this stuff is so far beyond us I hate to think about it. I know a lot of the names on this list, and let me tell you, they will do anything to keep this from coming out for public consumption. I think we need to get that smart ass FBI

agent back here with his team and turn it all over to him.”

“I am going to call my friend in Homeland Security and see if he can‟t get that ATF team in here tonight. Let me get on the phone with him right now.”

I called him and gave him a general outline of what we had and he put me on hold for a few minutes, then came back on with the director on the other line. I laid it out in a general way again and he told me I would have a team of agents there within the hour along with a federal prosecutor. I informed him I had a bomb disposal squad from Nellis coming in at seven he said that he could see no problem with it. I reminded him that since I had so much trouble

with Agent Hadley that I wasn‟t going to take any shit from

anyone whether they were a prosecutor or not. He said that he would make it plain to all personnel that I would be in charge and if I had a problem to call him personally. He reminded me that he was very familiar with my record and how many federal investigations I had run in the past.

He gave me his personal cell number and said to use it if I needed anything. I hung up the phone and all my guys had a shocked look on their faces. I told them to shut their mouths

or we wouldn‟t have a live fly in the building. That broke the

tension and they were all laughing.

“Shorty, did Jim and Jerry bring in those pistols from the motor pool?”

“They shore did and they all matched what you had receipts

for. I spot checked twenty of them and the numbers matched. We now have all new pistols for our guys as soon as we can get them qualified with them. I know a retired man that is a state licensed instructor and will qualify all of us for a single fee. He travels around to all the small departments and does this for a living. He is cheap and

honest.”

“Sounds good to me, give him a call Monday and see when he is available.”

I heard the chopper fly over the station and sent Shorty out to show them in to my office. I had a feeling this was going to be a very long afternoon. I was right about it being a long

afternoon, but I didn‟t know we would still be going strong

till three on Sunday afternoon. I sent Kit and his son home after sending them to the steakhouse for dinner on me. I sent Shorty, Jim, Jerry, and Beau to the gun shop with the ATF team and they were out of my hair. The federal prosecutor set up his table with his fax and the computer

from Trent‟s and went to work on what it contained. I never

let on I had a complete set of everything that was on it. I heard the second chopper about fifteen minutes after seven and knew my bomb guys were here to go through the house with me. I wasn‟t telling anyone about it until I saw what was hidden inside of it.

I waited for the voice on the phone to come in knowing he was going to give me hell for not keeping in touch over the years.

He came walking in and saw the federal prosecutor and went over to him asking if he was the sheriff and what the hell he wanted with a bomb disposal unit here in bumfuck Nevada. The prosecutor looked up in surprise until I spoke up from the side of the room.

“He didn‟t call for you, asshole, I did. You got a problem with that, Preacher?”

“Harry, my god, I thought you were dead. Last I heard you got shot in the head and they didn‟t know if you were going to live. Damn, it‟s good to see you again. What you got for me that you had to ask for a Viet Nam era vet?”

“Bring your team and come with me. This one is not for little ears.”

I pointed at the prosecutor and grabbed my walkie telling him I would be out for awhile. I called the radio room and told them I could be reached on channel 4 and would be out and about. I got them all loaded in two cars with one of his men driving one and me driving the lead car. I filled him in on what I had seen and what I thought was the setup and he just shook his head before saying anything.

“Damn Harry, your gut feelings are still saving your life like they used to do for all of us in Nam. If what you think is true, then we are in for a long night trying to figure out what kind of booby traps are set like that. For some reason they don‟t sound like pressure release to me. I ran up against something like this five years ago and it cost me two men before we got it figured out. The guy that used to set these up is dead but he never kept a list of how many he did for private individuals. I know he did several hundred before he died. He was a disposal expert for Aberdeen Proving

Ground for twenty years. He was one of the best and I don‟t

think he has ever been beaten for his ingenuity over the

years. I hope for all our sakes this isn‟t one of his setups.

We pulled up at the house and Bob met us as we got out of the cars. I told him to stay put and not to let anyone in unless he cleared it with me first. We went on in and I took them to the basement where they laid eyes on the pot plants.

“Hey sheriff, if we disarm this, can we have some of these buds for our fee? Man, that is some huge home grown. Look at those buds, they are dripping with resin. Betcha they

would make you float above the floor after a joint or two.”

“Yeah, or make you stupid enough to think you were Peter Pan and could fly, you idiot.”

I had heard this type of banter before from close knit teams

and didn‟t pay any attention to it. I opened the door and had

Preacher lie down and look at the tiles and how they zig zagged and were depressed just a hair from the others. He got back up on his feet and said it was a Harness set up for sure. He wanted to roll a bowling ball down the hallway and just set them off but I put the kibosh to that idea. I flat told him that wasn‟t an acceptable option as I wanted to search the house at the end of the hallway. I asked if he had a can of black spray paint I could use?

“What the hell you got in mind, Stinger?”

“It‟s Harry now, Preacher.”

“I don‟t care what your men call you but to me you will always be Stinger. Now, what you got on your mind?”

“I am going to mark the safe tiles as I go down the hallway.

I can memorize their pattern and mark around the pressure tiles as I go. I want a look in that house before we take a chance and blow it up using your bowling ball method. I will take the chance I can negotiate through them without stepping on one of the triggers. I suggest you move your

men back until I see if I can make it through.”

“Stinger, you‟re nuts, you know that? Shit, if your going to do this, at least take one of my portable sniffers with you.”

“I think I will stick with the can of paint and my gut

Preacher. Keep your men back in the basement away from

the door.”

I lay down on my stomach and looked at the tiles that were depressed and then counted the tiles and then recounted the depressed ones. I closed my eyes and memorized the pattern of the depressed ones and how many there were and how they cris-crossed between each other. I spent almost a half hour doing this before I stood up. I heard Preacher pull his men back and then the almost silent good luck Stinger.

I stepped on the first solid one I had memorized and then leaned down and felt for the depressed one and marked it with an X with the paint. It took me almost an hour to go halfway down the hallway. I ran into two of the depressed tiles side by side and felt in front of the two and there were two more on the right side of the two center ones. I marked all of them with an X and stepped over to the single solid one in the group. I stood on it and felt ahead and ran into the same pattern again, but the forward two were on the left this time. I marked them and moved up to the only solid one again and felt the floor and there was one directly in the

center. I marked it and then I didn‟t find any for about four

feet and then there were two together side by side. I

marked them both and then didn‟t find any more until I got

to the door at the end of the hallway and there was one right directly where you would step to turn the door knob to open the door. This was the last one in the hallway and I made sure to mark it with the X so it would be noticed. I checked the door for any booby traps but didn‟t find anything, so I twisted the knob and it turned easily.

I opened the door and the smell immediately made me almost gag. I had smelled this before and knew what it was. Rotting human corpses and from the smell, many of them in various stages of decomposition. I closed the door and went back down the hallway to the basement where I found the team sitting around waiting to see what would happen if I screwed up.

“Preacher, I marked all the trigger tiles with an X. Can you and your men disarm them?”

“I don‟t know, Stinger. All we can do is try.”

“I have I don‟t know how many rotting corpses in that

house that are going to have to be identified and removed. I need those things disarmed so I can have a cadaver team in full hazmat suits go in and get them out. Preacher you know the drill and what has to be done. Try to disarm them, will

you?”

“Ok Stinger, I will try but it scares the hell out of me to even have to touch those tiles.”

“Tell you what Preacher, I will do the first one and see how it‟s set up and then we can decide if we want to go any further.”

“Hell Stinger, Now I know you‟re crazy. Man you just don‟t know when you‟re well off, do you?”

“Will you just give me the damn tool kit before I change my mind?”

He handed me one of the small kits and I laid down on my stomach by the first marked tile. I took the miniature pry bar and slid it under the edge of the tile and pried it up far enough to pit one of the small wooden wedges under the side. I repeated the same procedure with all four sides. I then carefully slid the small camera underneath of the tile and saw the coil had been glued to the bottom of the tile. I continued to look at all four corners of the tile and saw a secondary trigger set up with a string that was tied to a pin that came out when the tile was stepped on. The spring was a swivel only and had nothing to do with the pin through the anti personnel device. I took the long handled snips and cut the string then pulled the tile out of the floor with the spring still attached. I turned around and threw it like a frisbee to Preacher. He yelped but caught it.

“Dammit Stinger, that wasn‟t funny. You scared ten years off me with that trick.”

“I think you will find all of them set up like this one but don‟t take any chances. Check each one to make sure. You and your men start taking them out and I will call for a

hazmat team to come in to handle the bodies.”

“Well Stinger, you did it again. I never understood how you

do and know everything you do, but like Nam, I am sure glad you still have the touch.”

“Me too, Preacher.”

I went back up the steps feeling like I was a hundred years old. I had learned one important thing about myself today. I no longer was an adrenalin junkie like I used to be. God I would be glad when Mark took over this department. I went out the front door and took a deep breath before I got on the walkie to base.

“One to three, do you copy?”

“I copy one.”

“Put the ATF commander on the horn.”

“This is Sikes, what can I do for you sheriff?”

“I need a full hazmat team. I have what is thought to be at

least more than a dozen code-16's in various stages of decomp. Can you arrange this from maybe Nellis or somewhere Sikes? I will also need a refrigerated truck at my location. One clear.”

“Please repeat last transmission one. Did I hear that right, one?”

“You heard right Sikes. Now how about getting on the horn and get things moving. One out.”

I gave a sigh and sat down on the steps and Bob sat down beside me.

“Sheriff, I hope you don‟t let all this get you down. I am

surprised that you have held it together so far. I heard about last night and from what I heard you did a hell of a

job. I don‟t know what you found in there but from the transmission I just heard it must be pretty bad. I don‟t envy you your job, but everything you have done so far is for the betterment of the department. If you need help, I know many of the men will be more than glad to come in on their off time and give you a hand. Just say the word sheriff and I

will start making calls.”

“Bob, what I really need more than anything right now is a

big cup of coffee. I have an ATF crew in the gun store and the Nellis bomb squad in the house and a federal prosecutor in my office. I need a cup of coffee to settle my nerves.”

“There‟s a small gas mart three blocks away and if you will

relieve me for a few minutes I will go get you the biggest

one they have.”

“Bob, consider yourself on break for ten minutes. Better bring ten of the largest cups you can find back. Don‟t forget to get yourself one too. Here‟s twenty and that ought to

cover it. Make sure you get plenty of cream and sugar will

you?”

He took off and I sat back and just closed my eyes and relaxed for a few minutes. I started to doze off when it seemed to get dark on me. I came awake with my gun in my hand and was looking at two kids who were staring at me and blocking the sun from my face.

“Hey mister, you better not let the deputy catch you with a gun. You will be arrested and throwed in the pokey.”

I just busted up laughing and told them I was the sheriff and I was supposed to have a gun on me at all times. They both ran off laughing at me saying that I was sleeping on duty like most cops do. I smiled and sat up straight waiting for Bob to come back with a cup of coffee so I could get some alertness back after the adrenalin high I had come down from. I wondered how Preacher and his team were doing when Bob pulled in with the coffee. Damn I was tired and the day was only a little better than half over.

“Here‟s your coffee, sheriff. I got the biggest cup they had. I hope you like it hot „cause this stuff is strong and hot.”

I took a sip and sighed with pleasure. I got up and took the rest into the house to the team in the basement. From what I could see they had almost all the tiles pulled and the mines were stacked next to the wall by the door. I looked at them

and saw all the pins had been spread so they wouldn‟t pull

out easily.

“Hey Preacher, if you guys want to take a break I have hot coffee for everyone.”

“We have two more to go Stinger and then we will be done.”

I watched as they repeated what I had done by the

numbers. I hadn‟t realized it but I was holding my breath as

they removed the one by the door. I had a hunch all of a sudden.

“Stop! Don‟t take the last one out yet. I have a feeling that all isn‟t right with that one.”

“Back out guys, if he feels that way he is probably right. Let‟s all back out and take a break and let him sort it out.”

“Come on Preach. You‟re going to go on a stranger‟s hunch?”

“Damn right I am. He saved me and our team more times than I care to count by following his hunches.”

“You mean to tell us that he is that Stinger you talked about so much?”

“Yep, he‟s the one.”

“Well I‟ll be damned. We finally get to meet the legend. Hell, Preach, we always thought you were full of it.”

“Only you would think something like that, Hays. This is the,

Stinger, otherwise known as Staff Sergeant Harry Hanson. He is personally responsible for saving his team more times than I can count. His gut has been responsible for evading more booby traps and ambushes than I care to count. Hell, he can sniff an ambush two klicks away. He saved my life four different times that I can remember. If he says

something‟s not right then take his word for it without question.”

We sat and drank our coffees as I thought about what I thought was wrong about that last tile. Then it hit me right between the eyes.

“I just figured out what‟s wrong with that last booby trap. It‟s not the last one. It‟s a series connect to a timer in the

house. It was never meant to go off just start the timer to destroy the house. I will bet there is at least five pounds of plastique set throughout the house.”

“Come to think about it Stinger you might just be right. That

means there at least four trip wires set against the spring with a battery to start the current. When you step on the tile it creates a short sending the current through the wires. Damn boys we almost screwed up trying to pry the tile off like the others. If we had it would have shorted that way too. Damn how do we disarm it without setting the charges

off?”

“I have an idea that might work. All the other strings have

been nylon right. Then these have to be copper filled In

order to carry the current. Doesn‟t liquid nitrogen spray immediately break copper threaded wire?”

“Damn, you‟re right, Stinger. If we all spray from all sides

then it will all freeze and break without carrying any current. The battery will also be discharged if we can hit it

directly with one of the sprays. Let‟s try it and see if we can

use the real thin wedges to hold it up until we can all spray

the hole under the tile.”

They went back in and I watched as they carefully placed the small wedges under the edge of the tile. From where I stood there was more than enough room to fit the small straw nozzles under the tile. Man I hoped this would work. If it didn‟t then we could all kiss our asses goodbye. I watched as they all got a small can of the nitrogen spray and counted down and started spraying into the hole under the tile. I held my breath as they emptied the cans and pulled the tile up from the floor. Preacher looked at me and gave me the thumbs up. I knew it was clear and walked forward to look into the hole. I was wrong, there were eight wires that had been connected to the spring. The battery was one of the six volt types that campers use in lanterns.

“Well Stinger, you saved my team again. Do any of you guys think I am full of it when it comes to this man?”

I heard a resounding no from all of them as they thanked me for saving them from being a statistic on a piece of paper. One of the guys opened the door and got green around his eyes and closed it quicker than he opened it.

“Damn, I‟m glad I don‟t have to work in there. I think we

better wind this up and take the mines back to Nellis and

dispose of them.”

“Stinger, I thank you once again. If you ever need us just

make the call and I am sure we all will come again to help you out. I think I will write a full report on this in case

anyone else runs into a Harness trap setup. I think you‟re

the only one who has ever figured him and his traps out. I will make sure all the disposal departments know that they

can call on you for advice if they need it.”

Chapter # 19 I followed the guys out and watched as they put the mines in the trunk of the car. I told Bob to drive them back to the department and then to take time to eat before coming back. I had to wait for the team to move the bodies and for the refrigerated truck. I was hoping against hope there was maybe only a couple of bodies in the house but I guess deep inside I knew I would be wrong. I had smelled that type of decay before and this was stronger than I had ever smelled. I knew that there would be at least fifty or more bodies and would bet that there would be more. I wondered if this was a dump of some kind and why there were no reports on missing people. I now knew I would be charging Trent with enough murder charges to get him executed. I still wanted the whole story from Doris besides the tape. There was

something there that I hadn‟t been told and I wanted to

know what.

I heard the truck before I saw it and when it went by I radioed the unit following it and had him turn it around. They pulled into the drive and were followed by a passenger van then my unit with Jim driving. This was one briefing

that I didn‟t want to give or be part of. I felt sick inside that

I had opened up this can of worms that everyone called a town. I thought that I had seen and did everything a law officer did during his career but this place was a sore waiting to be squeezed. I had all of them come into the front room and have a seat.

“What we are about to get into is everyone‟s nightmare. I

am going to suit up also because I want the make sure there are no more booby traps to threaten anyone. I hope you

brought a large amount of body bags because you‟re going

to need them. We have cleared the hallway of booby traps

but without masks we couldn‟t enter the house itself. That

will be my job and none of you will enter until I clear the whole place. I am going in blind because I have no idea how

many rooms or how big it is. Are there any questions?”

“I have one sheriff. If you haven‟t been inside how do you know how many bodies we will be dealing with?”

“I spent three tours in Nam and I have more experience

with this type of thing than any of you do. I am sure you were told that I was in charge but if any of you think you

can do a better job then stand up and go for it.”

They all looked at each other but none of them stood up. I went back outside with them and got my suit and told them

that we would suit up inside so the neighbors wouldn‟t get

upset or panic. I told Jim to guard the front until Bob got back from his break then he would help carry the bodies to the truck. He gave me a shocked look and dropped his head without saying a word.

I led them into the basement and of course they all had something to say about the dope growing and how big the buds were. I gowned up and said I would keep in touch on the built in radio in the suit. I walked down the hallway

wishing I didn‟t have to face what I was about to see.

I went down the hallway and opened the door to the underground house and immediately noticed that all the lights were on. Then I saw the first body. It was leaning up

against the doorway leading to another room. I didn‟t see any marks or bullet holes upon close examination. It wasn‟t that old and hadn‟t started to decay yet but was starting to swell. I moved further in and came to a large room where bodies were in rows and stacked two and three high. What the hell was this and where had all these bodies came from? I bent over and examined a few of them and there wasn‟t any sign of violence on any of them. Some were just skeletons while others looked fresh. I went to another room and it was the same way. No signs of violence. I checked the other rooms and made sure there were no booby traps. I saw several blocks of C-4 scattered about and gathered them after taking the detonators out of them. I had gathered twelve blocks in all the rooms and roughly counted one hundred and ten bodies from skeletons to fresh corpses. I was totally stumped as I walked back down the hallway to meet with the team that would be hauling them out. I walked into the basement and they all were suited up except for the headgear. I took mine off and could smell the death on myself.

“There are by rough count over a hundred bodies in there. The most puzzling thing to me is the fact that none show any signs of violence. Some are fresh and some look like

they have been there for years. I really don‟t know what to

make of this. I want one of you to take photos of everything in there. If you can get clear shots of the faces that are

intact I want them taken. I don‟t know which one of you is

the team leader but you are going to need a lot more help

than what you have right now.”

They were all looking at me like I had lost my mind.

“Sheriff there is no way that many bodies could all be in one place. My name is Thomas Reasoner and I don‟t want you to

think I am calling you a liar, but I worked for five years in

Bosnia. Are you sure of the count?”

“Tom, I have more experience than you and take my word for it when I say there are over a hundred bodies in there. There are also fifteen blocks of C-4 stacked in one corner. I think I found all of them but tell your people to be careful. I have the detonators in this bag. Tom, why don‟t you suit up and go on in and verify what I told you and then you can call for more people and a bigger truck. Remember, this is your operation but I want photos of every body and of the faces

that are still intact.”

I stripped off the suit and went upstairs and into the fresh air. Jim came over to me and said Shorty had been trying to reach me. I got on my walkie and called him.

“One to three.”

“This is three, where you been one, I was starting to worry.”

“I have been counting bodies three, why were you calling?”

“These ATF guys want to work through the night. My guys

have been going strong all day and we are tired, and none of

us have had anything other than coffee all day.”

“Let me talk to Sikes three.”

“This is Sikes. What can I do for you sheriff?”

“You can cut the smart ass attitude Sikes. Wrap it up for the night and report back to the department.”

“You can forget that sheriff. I am running this investigation and as of now you don‟t give me orders.”

Now I was pissed off royally. I told Jim I was taking his car and I headed for the gun store with lights on. I slid to a stop in front of the store and went in and told the first fed I ran into to get his boss up here right now. I waited till the short heavyset man came up to me and he had that superior smirk on his face that seemed to go with the feds because they thought they were smarter than all the locals.

“Sikes, I said we were wrapping it up and unless you want

to keep your job as team leader you better listen when I

give you an order.”

“Sheriff, you can kiss my ass because you don‟t tell me or my men what to do.”

I almost hit him but I held myself in check and pulled out my cell and called the director of homeland security. He answered on the second ring and asked what was wrong and I proceeded to fill him in telling him that his man was about to be ran out of my county along with his team. I told him what he told me word for word and he said to give Agent Sikes the phone. I smiled at him nastily and handed him the phone. He turned away and then he started stuttering and saying he had no idea, and that he would cooperate in any way and yes he liked his job. He looked at me and handed me back the phone.

I told the director that either he get this asshole out of my sight or I would call the commander of Nellis and have him take all the weapons to his base and he could run the investigation. I handed the phone back to Sikes and he simply said two words, yes sir. He handed me the phone and all it had was a dial tone on it. He called his men together.

“Gentlemen, we are no longer investigating this case by

order of the director of Homeland Security. My attitude to our boss here on site had caused this case to be taken out of our hands. This team will be reassigned and I will be sent to another duty station. A new team will be flown in tomorrow

to resume where we left off. Let‟s close it up and seal it up.”

I took my men and thanked them all for the help and called dispatch and asked that men be assigned to the store and the house for the next two shifts. I had Shorty take me to the motor pool and my unit was ready to go, almost as good as new. I told him it was in his hands now and that I was going home and would be back in the morning and not to bother me unless it was an emergency.

I went straight home and Mark was in the driveway playing ball with the girls. I waved them off saying I stunk and would give them hugs as soon as I got a shower. I hurried up and did just that and got myself a cold beer and sat down on the porch to relax. The girls had to have their hugs from Uncle Harry so I had to do my uncle duty. God after what I had been through the last couple of days the hugs were worth more than gold. Mark came over and sat down beside me and said that I looked bad and wanted to know what was going on. I looked him in the eyes and flatly told him to enjoy the time with the girls because when he took over he had a mess to clean up. I was quitting the day he was sworn in. He looked at me in shock because he had never heard me speak in that tone of voice before. He started to say something else but the girls were calling him to play some more ball. He went back with them but he had a thoughtful look on his face as he went.

I got up and went into the house to see what I could fix for our dinner. I found several more of the venison steaks and I got them out to thaw and dug through the canned goods to find something to go with it. I found a dozen roasting ears frozen in the second freezer and got those out to thaw also. While they were thawing, I made a cherry cheese cake and put it in the fridge. I knew I was going a little overboard but I needed the change to get my mind off of the horrors of the last two days. Especially today with all the bodies in the house. This was my way of relaxing and getting my mind off everything. I thought about the girls and how much they would like the cheesecake. I knew there was whipped cream in the cupboard and got a can out and put it in the refrigerator. I was cutting the onions when I felt a small pair of arms wrap around my waist from behind.

“What‟s wrong Uncle Harry? You seem so sad and I was wondering if I could help in some way.”

I turned around and went to my knees and hugged her enjoying the little girl smell of her.

“No honey, I had a hard day at work today and I was just trying to forget about it. You go play with your dad and sister and I will get us all something to eat. That is unless

you want your dad‟s grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.”

“Eww, I would rather eat TV dinners than more of dad‟s grilled cheese glue cakes.”

I busted up laughing and she grinned impishly at me and ran back out to play. I had to remember her nickname for them to use the next time Mark wanted to cook for all of us. With that thought in mind, I got the big skillet out and set it on the counter. I put the water on to boil the corn and mixed the spices into the oil to fry the steaks.

I had just put the corn in the boiling water when I heard Mark and the girls come in and he sent then to wash up for supper. He came into the kitchen and just watched as I turned on the fire under the skillet.

“Harry, is there something going on that I need to know

about? I have never seen you in such a bad mood in all the years I‟ve known you. Something‟s eating at you and I have a feeling it‟s because of me.”

“No Mark, it‟s not because of you at all. I wished I had never

talked you into taking the job as the sheriff for this county. I have never seen such a corrupt town and such a history of murder and crooked dealings. I want you to enjoy all the time you can this week with your girls. When you take over on the first I guarantee your whole attitude toward law enforcement will change. Hell, Mark, I wish now that I

hadn‟t volunteered to run it until you came on. That‟s all I

have to say about the subject until the first when I hand you this badge and spend my time with the girls and just be an

old retired private eye.”

He didn‟t say anything more about the subject but I could

see he was doing a lot of thinking. I started frying the steaks and he went into the other room after grabbing a beer from the fridge. The girls came running into the kitchen saying how good whatever I was cooking smelled. I laughed and put them to work setting the table as I finished up cooking the food. They were chattering back and forth and for awhile I was able to forget all the horror I had seen. I took the corn in and put the butter on the table. I poured milk for the girls and brought out the steaks and we all sat down to eat. I was chosen to butter the bread and to cut up their steaks into edible pieces for them. Mark was just grinning on how the girls were fussing over me. I was eating it up and made a great big fuss cutting the meat into pieces. We all sat and the girls stuffed themselves with the corn and meat. I waited till they were all rubbing their tummies saying how full they were before springing my surprise on them.

“I guess that since you‟re all so full I will have to eat all the dessert by myself.”

“Uncle Harry, you know we always have room for dessert. What kind is it anyway?”

“Well girls I went all out and made fish Jell-O with whipped cream.”

To my surprise Mark was the first one to say yuck. He thought maybe I ought to give it to the first cat that wandered by. I was laughing at all the yucks I was getting from the girls when I finally broke down and told them what I had made. I told them I would bet they would like it better than their dads grilled cheese glue cakes. The girls thought this was hilarious and wasted no time saying anything would be better than those, even fish Jell-O.

“I have cherry cheese cake with lots of whipped cream. Who has room for a piece?”

I heard three quick me‟s before I got the question finished.

I was laughing to myself as I went to the kitchen and got us all a piece with liberal amounts of whipped cream all over the top. I set them down in front of everyone and they wasted no time eating them. I was watching the girls shovel it in and wondered where they were able to put it all. The girls cleaned up the table and I put it all in the dishwasher. I asked them if they wanted to watch a movie and had to list the ones I had and then wait till they decided which one they wanted to watch. I got them all set up in front of the big screen TV and turned the movie on.

I grabbed my cigarettes and went outside and sat down on the porch. I smoked and thought about the corpses I had found and where they might possibly have come from. I was smoking my third cigarette when it came to me and I knew I had the answer to the mystery. I ran it through my mind again and it all fit. I went in the house and grabbed my walkie and went back out to the chair and called in. I switched to channel 3 before calling.

“One to dispatch, do you read?”

“Go ahead one, we read you loud and clear.”

“Have three contact me ASAP on channel 4 dispatch.”

“We will track him down one, and give him the message.”

“Thanks dispatch, one out.”

I switched the walkie to channel four and waited for Shorty to call me back. It took about ten minutes but the call came loud and clear.

“Three to one, do you copy?”

“Reading you four by four three, will you call me on my cell?

I want a private conversation about the subject I am about

to discuss.”

“Roger one, give me five and I will call you back. Three out.”

My cell rang in six minutes exactly. I asked him where he was and he said he was now at home. He had been to the hospital visiting Andy. I asked how he was and Shorty said he was being discharged home tomorrow. I said that was great. I told him my thoughts about the corpses and he said he would check it out and have an answer for me tomorrow when I came in. I told him to get pictures if at all possible and he said that he would. I let him go and told him to make sure Beau was coming in tomorrow so he could open a safe for me. I was told he was staying with Kit tonight so he would be there. I let him go feeling better about the whole body situation. I lit another cigarette and sat and watched the sun going down and wondered if I was right about what I thought.

Chapter # 20

I sat until the girl‟s movie went off and they came out to get

me to help tuck them in bed. I made a big production out of it as I always did. I went back to the kitchen and set the coffee pot up for the morning. I remembered my favorite go cup was still in my unit and went to get it. I found it on the floor with a bullet hole through the center of it. To say it was ruined would be an understatement. Now that pissed me of because I had used it for years and it was the only one I had ever found that kept the coffee in it hot longer than an hour. Damn, now I would have to find another one and finding one like this would be impossible since the company had gone bankrupt several years back. Maybe this was why because their products worked as advertised. I dug through the cupboards and found one that Abe must have kept for years because of the wear and tear on it. I washed it out and decided to try it in the morning until I could find another one that I could be happy with. I figured with the mountain air and climate Mark had gone to bed so I set the alarm and did the same thing myself.

I woke to the beeping of the alarm and for the first time in years I did not want to go to work. I hated the thought of going in today and having to face more of the shit that was coming down. If I had it figured right, I was going to be one of the most hated men in the state when all the prosecutions started. I kicked the coffee pot on and got my shower and shave. I drank a cup sitting on the front porch, watching the sun come up and I knew I was just putting off the inevitable by not going in. I went in and filled the go cup and headed for my unit. I noticed a puddle of something under it and checked to see what it was and I felt the puddle and realized it was oil leaking from somewhere. Damn what a way to start the day. I got down and looked underneath to see if I could find out where it was coming from and couldn‟t tell. I pulled the hood release and opened the hood and immediately noticed it was leaking from the oil cooler mounted in front of the radiator. I also noticed the grenade that was taped to the brake line off the master cylinder. I looked a little closer and saw that the fishing line had

melted from the engine heat. That‟s why it hadn‟t gone off when I put it in gear. I didn‟t touch it because I wanted to

preserve any prints that were on it. I checked the other two Jeeps and they were clear and I was relieved that they were only after me. It had to have been done at the motor pool because the line had melted and I had let it sit and run until I finished talking to Shorty on the radio.

Well I was starting to think I would be cleaning house at the motor pool, then remembered the mechanic that had beat a hasty retreat when I had climbed into the unit. He had practically run to the other side of the garage when I started the engine. I think I will have a little talk with the motor pool today. I had a lot of loose ends to tie up and I was determined to do it all so I could have an easy Monday meeting with the reserve and specials Monday. I had an idea that there were going to be a lot of disappointed people come Monday.

I fired the unit up and turned on the radio and it was quiet on all channels. I cruised into the station and saw several

unmarked cars already there. I saw Shorty‟s car and Beau‟s

sitting at the back of the lot. There was a chopper on the pad behind the station and I figured the ATF team had arrived early wanting to start to work. I went in and passed the empty lobby headed for my office. Damn, I had forgot that the prosecutor was there when I kicked the AT team out last night. I had forgotten all about him being here without a car or any food. Now I felt like an ass because he had been working away and not hassling me or my men. Maybe he found the bedroom and crashed there. I hoped he was ok and not mad about the rude treatment he had received from my department. I opened the door and walked into a mess between Shorty and what I took to be the team leader of the ATF team. I went to my desk and dumped the man who was sitting in my chair on the floor.

Now that caught everyone‟s attention and shut them all up.

“All of you sit the hell down and shut up. I am in charge here and if any of you FEDS doubt it I will be glad to wake up the director of Homeland Security and let you talk to him.

I am sure he will appreciate the call and thank you for it.”

That quieted any more of the loud voices and argument. I asked Shorty what happened to the federal prosecutor and he said a unit had taken him and his gear to a motel and was due to pick him back up at nine this morning. Now that

news made me feel better. At least he hadn‟t been left

without any means to sleep or shower.

I sat back and sipped my coffee, knowing from the

impatient look on the ATF team leader‟s chief he wanted to

start a conversation but he knew what had already happened to the previous team leader so he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut and wait for me to start the conversation.

“Gentleman, this is how it‟s gonna go. The ATF will do their

thing but any moves will be cleared with me. I will have one man from my department representing my department. He is not your errand boy and speaks for me. If this is not satisfactory for you, team leader, then you can take your

team and leave right now.”

“Sheriff it has been made very clear to me and my men that you are in charge. I don‟t like it but unlike my predecessor I am not stupid enough to make a splash about it. I have been told you have more experience at this than I ever will, and that you know what we do and how we go about it. This will make it easier for me and my team. I am not here to run the investigation just to get some idea of the enormity of the

thefts.”

“Team Leader, I am going to make your career and if you

play along with me you will be able to name your duty station. That of course is based on the assumption that you play along with my little plan, and not be the pain in the ass

that most ATF agents are.”

I got a laugh from him and his men over that one. They

knew I was once one of their little club and wouldn‟t be

bullied or ordered around.

“Sheriff, my men and I would all like to have us and our families posted to Hawaii. If you can arrange that we will walk over glass for you and your department. Now what do

you have in mind?”

I got the sheets that showed the sales and buys that I had printed out, and handed them to him telling him what they would do for his career if he got on them before the kid prosecutor figured out what he had and started acting on it. He was so excited his hand was shaking.

“Sheriff, we will have warrants and get on this within thirty

minutes. We are flying back to Reno where we know a federal judge that is friendly. The gun store will have to wait

until we get back, if that‟s ok with you.”

“Go for it, Team Leader, and remember where it came from

and you owe us a big one. The computer over there has all the files on it so if you take it, then you have to give me a

receipt for it to cover my ass.”

He grabbed a sheet of paper and wrote on it for several minutes and signed it. He handed it to me and him and his men took the computer and were gone within five minutes. I heard the chopper winding up to leave when the prosecutor came back in looking like death warmed over. He went to the coffee pot poured a cup and sat down at his table. It took him about five minutes to notice the computer was gone. He got a shocked look on his face and turned red asking where the computer had disappeared to. My men all busted up laughing and he just looked confused. I told him the ATF team had taken it to a federal judge about ten minutes ago. His shoulders slumped and he mumbled something and I asked him to repeat himself.

“I spent hours on it yesterday and couldn‟t get any of the

files open or read anything on them. I guess I am a failure

as a prosecutor.”

I felt sorry for him but the hilarity of the situation hit my funny bone. I busted out laughing and he and my men all looked at me like maybe I had gone over the edge or something. I finally wound down and then explained why I had been laughing so hard.

“Danny cracked that machine in less than five minutes. Why do you think I hired him as the department‟s computer whiz?”

They all looked at me then at Kit with the surprised look on his face, and they all lost it. The poor prosecutor was looking lost so I explained it to him and he gave me a sheepish grin before laughing at himself. I waited till they all settled down and told them to take a seat.

“I am not worried about the guns right now. Has there been any word from the cadaver team I left at Trent‟s house?”

“I haven‟t heard a thing, sheriff. Want me to check with the deputy at the house and see what‟s going on?”

“Go ahead Kit and see what the progress is and let me know. See if there‟s anyone on the front desk while you‟re at it.”

He went out and I looked at Shorty and said we have another problem in the department we need to settle this morning. I told him about the grenade and who I thought had put it there. I also told him how I discovered it and that I had an oil leak that we needed to address with the motor pool. I asked him if anyone on the department had experience with fingerprint kits besides me. He said Bob Vale had been to several schools on forensics and had paid for them from his own pocket during his vacation time. I told Shorty he was now a Sergeant and to call him in to work.

By the way, Beau, I have a safe at Trent‟s house that needs

to be opened so when we leave here we will head over there and you can open it up for me. I told him it fell under the purview of the warrant so we would be covered legally. He said that he would be able to open it and he had all his stuff in the car. He also told me that he had not opened the one at the gun store yet either, so we had two for him to open. I gave him a big smile and said I wondered what we would find when we opened them up. I personally was hoping that the one at the house might contain the names of the bodies and where they had come from. Kit came back in and he was not looking happy with the news he had found out from the deputy on the scene.

“Harry, they have been working all night and thought they had them all until they found a basement under the house that had at least another hundred or more bodies piled three high the whole length of the basement. There is a new team just came in to relieve the others. They have taken two semis to Nellis already and have called for two more. He says he would like to be relieved so he can go home and take a shower and try to forget all the body bags he has seen all night. I had radio send Jerry out to relieve him. I ordered breakfast sandwiches from the restaurant down the street and the radio room would like to talk to you when you

get a chance.”

I felt sorry for the deputy, but I knew a shower wouldn‟t

help and he would have the picture in his mind for a long time. I got up and headed for the radio room to see what they wanted. I arrived and was immediately asked to go to the office. I walked in and was met by a woman who was built like a professional wrestler.

“My name is Kate and I am taking over as the supervisor since Pinky is gone. I would appreciate your cooperation

with the way I run my department.”

I looked at her for about three minutes before I exploded all over her. Wrong day and wrong time to try to bully me.

“You‟re not taking over anything. As of this moment you are fired for insubordination. I suggest you pack your personal things and quietly leave or I will have you forcibly removed

from the building.”

She looked at me like she couldn‟t believe I was serious.

When she realized I was, she got up and grabbed a lunch bag and quietly left the building. I watched the reaction from the other operators and while some had shocked looks on their faces some had smiles. I walked out of the office and stopped in front of the booths.

“All of you listen up. Make no mistakes about what I am about to say. I decide who gets promoted and who doesn‟t.

If any of you have a problem with this then you need to clock out and leave also. This is not the same department you‟re used to and never will be again. You do your jobs and you will be paid a fair wage for doing it. I have already

raised your pay by at least fifty percent but if you don‟t like

it, then clock out and I will hire new operators. I will not be bullied or threatened by anyone and if you get a new supervisor it will be based on their personnel jacket and not by how tough they think they are. You are all getting a new radio room and 911 center combined. Your equipment will be modern and you will be treated with respect by the officers that depend on you.”

I walked out the door headed for my office and heard a loud applause coming from the room I had just left. I figured Kate was related to someone who thought she was tough or something. I would make a note to call personnel tomorrow to make sure she was taken off payroll. No, I wouldn‟t either as I had underlings now to do that sort of thing. Something more I would throw at Shorty for him to do. I also needed a personnel Sergeant and I had just the person in mind if he wanted to get off patrol and retire as a Sergeant. I figured he would jump at the chance at his age and being able to work regular hours. I would talk to Bob about him when he came in today. I had a little more than one week before Mark took over and I was out of here and it would be his to run and set up like he wanted. I was going to be an old uncle babysitter for the girls. I was really looking forward to getting out of this pressure cooker and relaxing with a fishing pole and two cute companions for the rest of the summer. I went back to my office and all the men were back with Bob having a big smile on his face.

“Thanks for the promotion Harry. I will try hard not to let you down. Now what are we into today?”

“I have a grenade attached to the master cylinder of my

unit. I want you to remove it and dust it for prints along

with the tape that it‟s attached with. Don‟t worry, it won‟t

go off unless you pull the pin as you remove it. You are now

the department‟s forensic expert. You have the training so let‟s put it to use starting right now. I will arrange for a special unit for your use and only your use. No one else will be authorized to drive it. I want you to set it up with what

you need to collect evidence and handle crime scenes.”

He asked Shorty for a new fingerprint kit and said he would take care of my problem immediately. He was smiling as he went out the door. I now had to get hold of the old deputy and all I knew was his name was Dale and he was respected by all the road deputies according to Bob. I waited for Shorty to come back and then we all piled into two units and headed for the motor pool and the little prick that tried to blow me up. We pulled into the driveway and I sent the second unit around to the back and told them not to let anyone leave. I was the first one in the door and the acting shop foreman came over to see what was going on. I saw the little asshole and went after him and got him as he reached the back door. Being the gentleman as always, I helped him go out by using his face to depress the bar across the door that opened it. He fell out bleeding on the ground and Kit very kindly helped him up by using his foot to raise his head while he was read his rights. They cuffed him and let him slide down the building with his face and then apologized to him while helping him back up to his feet. He was loaded into the car and Beau volunteered to keep an eye on him while we finished our business in the shop. I called the acting manager to the office and laid it out for him. I could smell the fear that was coming off him. I pushed a little more and he broke down.

“I had nothing to do with it sheriff. Hubba set it all up and

told me I would disappear if I said one word to anyone. He brought the grenade and had Peanut rig it to your unit. I am so sorry but he said he would do things to my daughter if I

didn‟t go along with him. I love my job here and I guess you

will fire me now. My wife said I should tell you but I was

afraid for my daughter. That man‟s a beast and he will do things you can‟t begin to believe.”

“Well Mr. Shanes, you will not lose your job. If I was in your

shoes, I would think about my kid first too. I do want my unit fixed today and done right this time without any extras

added to it. Where is the Hubba Hobson right now?”

“He is usually at the Golden Goose with his buddies getting drunk. Peanut was supposed to call him there as soon as he had any news. Sheriff, I heard about Doris and I think you should know that she has been paying back what her husband got into years ago with the old sheriff. Hubba raped her over and over until she decided to do his bidding. He finally had to threaten her daughter to get her to do what he and Trent wanted. They whipped her daughter with a bullwhip right here in the garage one night. After she got out of the hospital Doris had to send her to her sister‟s so she could heal. She spent several years in a hospital to get back to where she could function normally. Doris sent her to college and the last I heard she was a straight A student. That‟s the type of person this Hubba Hobson is. Now you realize why I was so worried about my daughter.”

“I promise you after today you won‟t have to worry about

Hubba again. I plan on arresting him and I hope he resists

when I go after him.”

We left the garage and Kit met us out front with his prisoner. I told Kit to have him checked out at the hospital and under no circumstances was he allowed to make any kind of phone call. He was to stay by his side at all times and take no shit about it from anyone.

He left and we went back to the station. I was so mad I was

going to do something I hadn‟t done in years. Find an

excuse to beat a very deserving man to death. I knew what I was capable of and feared it, but sometimes it was something that couldn‟t be controlled. This was one instance that I figured it wanted out and free. I called it my inner rage and had only let it loose once before when I was after a man that liked to rape three and four-year-old girls to hear

them scream. That‟s why I had left federal service; I scared

myself with what I had done to him when I found him. The alligators thought he was a good meal and I quietly retired and dropped out of circulation for years.

Chapter # 21

We went back to the station and I called all the remaining men into the office. I closed the door and told Shorty and Beau to check the office. They started checking and when Bob saw what they were doing he told them to leave it to him. He dug into the bag at his feet and pulled out a small box which he flipped the switch on and it started beeping.

I recognized it immediately as a modern sniffer and knew it had only been out for federal use for a year. I watched as he went around the office and it only went off once and it was a weak signal. I waited until he was done and took the small directional bug from him.

“That thing is really old, Harry, and isn‟t working anymore. I will tell you that the room is clean and I guarantee it.”

“Thanks Bob. I am not going to ask where you were able to

lay your hands on that thing, but keep it out of sight unless we need it. You have just earned the promotion and you will

make a hell of a forensics man when you get going.”

“All right gentlemen, this is what‟s going to happen this

afternoon. We are going, or should I say I am going after

Hubba. I don‟t know about all of you, but after what I heard

this morning he is mine. I want to make this very clear to all of you. I am not planning on taking him in if he resists arrest. None of you are to interfere in any way if you decide to go with me. You men are the core of this department and

if you don‟t think you can handle what‟s going to happen, then don‟t go. All of you know he won‟t come in quietly and

this is what I am counting on. Bob, I want you to take a marked unit and go in and check the place out and let me

know where he‟s at and where his cronies are. They all know you so it shouldn‟t bother them with you coming in like you‟re on patrol.”

“Shorty, Beau, if you‟re going, then come in through the

back and cover the cronies when Hubba and I get into it. Both of you have unmarkeds so you should be able to come in through the alleys behind the casino. Remember, none of you are to interfere regardless of what happens. I want this

made very clear and I will also make it an order.”

“Are you sure you want to try to take him by yourself, Harry? I know this man and he is an animal and has hurt a lot of people over the years. He has never used a weapon,

just his hands and feet. No offense, Harry, but you‟re getting up in years and he is a young man.”

“Shorty, I have a few advantages he doesn‟t know about and this won‟t be the first time I have done this on my own. He deserves what‟s going to happen to him and I will be the

one who takes him down. All of you heard what he did to Doris and her daughter, so how many more has he done this

to we don‟t know about?”

“Shorty, I want her released if I don‟t come back for some reason. She doesn‟t deserve to be locked up after what she‟s

been through. Get her off on probation and put her back in charge of the motor pool. I want your word you will make this happen even if we have to drop the charges for lack of evidence. Remember, you do not interfere for any reason,

just keep my back clear. Let‟s go, fellas, and Bob will go in

first and do the scouting. We will be using channel 4 like

always”

I watched as they filed out to go take up their positions. I sat and thought about what he had done to so many people

over the years because he was protected by his daddy‟s

badge and position. Oh well, time to go, I thought to myself as I locked the office door and headed for my unit. I had one of the unmarkeds for use till mine was fixed again and I took my shoulder holster off and locked it and the extra mags in the trunk. That left me with only my cuffs and I had a use for them. I climbed behind the wheel and headed for the gulch. It took about fifteen minutes for me to reach the main street and sitting in the car, I could see the casino

Hubba was in. I noticed Bob‟s unit sitting out front and

waited for him to come back out and give his report to me before I moved in. I got the call from him as he was standing next to his unit.

“Harry, he is sitting by himself to your right as you go in. His

friends are at the bar on the other side of the room. Shorty and Beau are in the kitchen watching his friends. I will come in behind you so I can watch your back and the stairs to the

left of the door. Whenever your ready, my friend.”

“Remember Bob stay out of it regardless of what happens to me.”

I drove down the street and pulled up in front of the casino and shut off my unit. I got out and went to the open door and stepped inside moving quickly to the side so my eyes could adjust to the dimmer light. I looked around as I waited and saw the man I was looking for sitting by himself in the corner and he was a big fella alright. Well now was as good a time as any. I walked over to him and sat down in the chair across from him.

“Hello Hubba, I am the new sheriff and I have come to arrest you for attempted murder of a law enforcement

officer.”

“You can‟t arrest me „cause I am a deputy too.”

“I revoked yours and all your friends‟ badges so you are no

longer a deputy. Stand up please and put your hands behind

you.”

He stood up and I walked forward to put the cuffs on him and caught an elbow in my chest. Damn, I had fallen for that one like a rookie. I was backpedaling and trying to breathe as he turned around and started after me. I was finally able to get a breath and as he came after me he swung a fist that looked like a twenty pound sledge. I sidestepped and kicked

his knee as he went by. It broke „cause I felt it go and he

screamed like a woman. He swung around and started after me again so I kicked him in the balls with the point of my steel toed shoe as hard as I could. I figured that would put him down but he only grunted. Oh Shit! He swung at me again and I let him hit me in the top of my head and I went down seeing little birdies flying. I rolled to the side and was able to regain my feet because he had watched me go down with a smile on his face. I sidestepped and he came after me again and swung at my face. I stepped into him and he missed and I kicked him in the kneecap on the other leg and I felt it break through my shoe. He staggered and didn‟t go down so I stepped in and he caught me with a glancing blow to my ribs and I went down again. I was a little slow getting up this time and he was up before me and kicked for my face. I rolled and came back to my feet and kicked him in the shinbone between the knee and the ankle. I knew I had shattered the bone because he screamed again from the pain of the kick. He caught his balance somehow and came at me again so I jumped up and kicked him in the ribs as hard as I could kick him while in the air using my body weight to complete the kick. I felt his ribs go and I went down. Before I could roll to the side he somehow kicked me in the forehead and this time the little birdies were in color and there were twice as many. I got up and he was standing bent over at the waist gasping. I circled him and side kicked the knee I had first kicked and this time he went to his face on the wooden floor. I went behind him and he was up to his knees again so I kicked him as hard as I could in the balls again. He still only grunted and I stepped back to see what his next move would be. He was holding himself up with his hands and he started coughing and I saw a large amount of blood hit the floor coming from his mouth. I waited and he did it again and went down to the floor in his own mess and twitched a couple of times and was still.

“Bob, call for an ambulance and get statements from

everyone. I want this place closed down and let the women take all the perishable food for themselves. Also, let them

split all the money at the tables and bar.”

I sat down and heard the siren from the ambulance coming and it made my head throb. I felt the top of my head and there was a big knot right in the center of my head and one on my forehead. They hurt like a bitch but I figured I had gotten off easy considering how slow he had been. I could see he was still breathing so he was alive but not in good shape at all. It took five men to put him on the Gurney and all five again to get him loaded into the ambulance. The medic gave me an ice pack for my head and was filling out

forms. They didn‟t seem to be in any rush to get him to the

hospital so I figured he would be able to stand trial for his crimes. Shorty came over and said he was taking me to the hospital to have me checked out. I told him I would drive myself and he could follow. I also told him my weapon was locked in the trunk of my unit. The ambulance finally left and again the siren raised hell with my head. I told Bob to lock this place up and that we were taking it over to be sold for auction unless the owner came forward and then we would charge him and still sell it. The girls all thanked us for the food and money they had been given and then they all were gone. Bob cut the electric and locked it up and put the signs from the department on it. I walked to my unit and opened the trunk and got my weapon and badge out and told Shorty to have someone drive it back to the station. He could drive me to the hospital to get me checked out since I had a hell of a headache.

“Harry, you are a real mess. Your eyes are swelling shut and

the knots on your head are the size of baseballs. Keep that ice pack on them till we get to the hospital. You know that he almost killed you with that head punch. What the hell were you thinking about? Did you think you would break his fist with your hard head or something? You sure made him a

soprano with those kicks to his privates. I will bet he won‟t rape anyone else in his lifetime.”

“Shorty, will you please shut up. My head is killing me and your mouth flapping is making it worse. Man, I hope I don‟t have to do that again because I am too old for this shit.”

“Well Harry, he was the pretty much the glue that held the

old crowd together and now that he is out of action you shouldn‟t have any trouble from that bunch again. You do know that you are going to be the talk of the county, don‟t

you? You are the only person that has ever beaten him in a fight, even though you may have broken your hard head

doing it.“Shorty, will you please quit with the..........."

Chapter # 22

I woke up and there was a beautiful oriental woman sitting in the chair next to my bed. Damn, it was Tran. What the hell was she doing here and in my room? When she saw my eyes open she ran out of the room. I looked around and realized I was in a hospital. Damn but my head hurt. Within a few minutes, two little girls came running in and climbed into my bed with me, and I got all kinds of hugs and kisses from them. Now this was the kind of healing I could get used to.

“Uncle Harry, you look like a raccoon. Yeah like the one that

comes out of the woods at the house, but his eyes are black and yours are yellow. Are you coming home pretty soon?

Auntie Tran says you will be better soon now that you‟re awake.”

Mark came in and told the girls to wait outside while he talked to me. Tran came in and I just glared at her until she left. Mark and I talked for a little while and he said he had to get the girls to the house and would stop back tomorrow. Shorty came in next and sat down looking at me.

“Harry, you look like hell. I bet those are the yellowest eyes I have ever seen.”

“Shorty, how long have I been here. Seems like a long time

except for the fact that I feel like shit and still have a

headache.”

“Harry, you almost died from the swelling of the brain. We had no next of kin listed so they wouldn‟t operate, just kept you packed in ice as the swelling went down. Hubba wasn‟t

so lucky. He died on the way to the hospital and it was listed as accidental due to resisting arrest. He bled to death because a shattered rib pierced his heart. Beau opened both

safes and the one at Trent‟s house had a complete list of the

bodies and where they came from. Most all of them have been identified and buried by relatives. You know every man on the force has been here at one time or another checking on your condition. The guards on the door are all volunteers

and none would take a cent for doing it.”

“We got Doris off with five years non check probation. The

prosecutor and the new judge went to bat for her at the federal court in Reno. She was released to your custody and is back running the motor pool like you wanted. She says she owes you her life and will take care of the fleet or die

trying.”

“How damn long have I been in here Shorty?”

“You have been out of it for sixty seven days, Harry. All of it

packed in ice and in a drug induced coma. I know you are a hard head, but that woman sitting out there crying her eyes out has been in this chair holding your hand almost the whole time. The only time she ever left was to go home and change and come back. Those two little girls love her to death and have adopted her as their Auntie Tran. She has been taking care of them for the sheriff and according to him, they have never been happier with anyone other than

you. I know you don‟t want to hear it but she loves you a lot more than you deserve boss.”

“Shorty, I know she is beautiful but her past does not lead

to a trusting relationship. I will be taking care of the girls when I get out of here. We have a fishing date with some big trout. I have to turn my badge in and go home to my

cabin where I belong.”

He looked at me and went out the door, laughing his head off. I heard one of the nurses tell him to hold it down. Tran came back in and sat in the chair looking at me.

“Why are you here Tran? Haven‟t you spent enough time

away from your business? The girls will be back with me

once I get out of here so you can run your restaurant.”

“Harry, will you please shut up for a while and let me speak. I know I have made fun of you for years but I need to tell you the whole story. Do you remember when the Mirage burned down? My husband was there gambling and died in the fire. I was alone and the only work I could find to feed myself was the Madam of the ranch. After the life insurance and lawsuits I was a rich woman. I stayed on there because

I wanted to make sure the girls weren‟t mistreated or

beaten. I never sold myself or was with any man other than my husband. When you and Monk started coming in I fell in love with you almost immediately. Monk and Judy are married and have five kids and I am their godmother. He runs the security for a casino in Vegas where they live with the kids and very happily. I made fun of you because every time I got around you I got so nervous I had to do something to cover it up. That was the only way I kept myself from being a fool in everyone eyes. Judy was the only one that knew and she never even told Monk. I will leave but please don‟t take the girls away from me because I love them like they are my own.”

“Tran?”

“Yes Harry.”

“Why don‟t you shut your pie hole and kiss me.”

She did and man could that woman ever kiss. I had cramps in my toes by the time she was done. We talked for about two hours and we both decided to see each other and take it day by day and see how it turned out. I did however make it clear that I and the girls would be going fishing on a regular basis. I was in turn informed that she wanted to be included because she loved trout fresh caught and cooked. I sent her

home and told her to get a good night‟s sleep and I would

see her tomorrow. She wanted to know how soon I was going back to work and I told her my days of carrying a badge were over and I was retired again.

She walked out of the door laughing almost as much and loud as Shorty did when he left. I heard a nurse tell her to hold it down there were sick people here. I heard her tell the nurse yeah and she had just left his room. Now what the hell was the joke here? Two people laughing like that so what was I missing in all this? I must have dozed off because when I woke, Doris was sitting in the chair next to the bed. I got a drink of water and asked her what she wanted here.

“I came to thank you for interceding for me. I wanted to thank you in person for the help. I didn‟t figure I had any friends anywhere. My daughter passed the bar for Nevada and is going to start her practice here. This is all because of you and the arrest of Hub or should I say his death. Why did you take such a chance because of a sorry person like me

Harry?”

“It wasn‟t just for you, Doris. It was for everyone he hurt over the years with his dad‟s help. You and your daughter

were just the catalyst that set it all off. I still find it hard to believe you and she went through all that and are still nice

people. I don‟t know your daughter, but for her to go on and graduate with straight A‟s makes her special in my book. I hate bullies and their kind so it didn‟t take much of an excuse for me to go after him.”

“Harry, I promise you I will have the best garage for you and Mark. I have already made several changes that you wanted and the wrecker is painted and ready to go. We have already made three thousand dollars with it just locally. I have fifteen units ready for auction and they are in excellent running condition so they will make money for the department. Your personal Jeep has been completely redone from top to bottom by the employees at the shop. It has been rebuilt and painted and a few extras added for your convenience. There was no county money used in doing it.

You hurry up and get well and I will see you again.”

She got up and left me with several questions that I wouldn‟t get answers for until I got out of here. I got up and had a little dizziness but it passed so I went to the shower and took a nice shower and put the pajama pants on that Tran had left for me at sometime or other. The top was way too small but the bottoms fit fine. There were also slippers so I decided to take a little walk. I had forgotten about the deputy outside the room and he almost had a heart attack when I walked out of the room.

“Sheriff, are you sure its ok for you to be up and running around?”

“I am fine deputy and I am on the hunt for a good cup of coffee. If you know where there‟s any at tell me or I will fire you.”

He gave me a wide eyed look then realized I was only joking.

“There is no such thing in this place sir. They have the worst

coffee I have ever tried to drink. I have one of the guys stop by on patrol and get me some from the gas mart as he goes

through.”

“How soon is he due to go through deputy?”

“He should be there right about now sir.”

“Get him on the radio and have him bring me the largest cup he can buy. I will pay him when he gets here.”

He got on the radio and had his friend bring the extra cup with him when he stopped off, so we walked to the front lobby and waited for his arrival. I could feel my taste buds getting ready for a hot sip of coffee. I was sitting there thinking about it when I saw a vision of beauty coming down the hall towards me. It was Tran and she was dressed to the nines. Man, I thought the deputy was going to break his neck the way he was bending it to watch her walk my way. She came up and leaned over and kissed me and I put dents in the toes of the slippers. Man she was hard on my feet with those kisses.

“What are you doing back here? You trying to hurt one of

my men or what? He about broke his neck trying to watch

you walk down the hallway.”

The young deputy turned red as a beet and was trying to apologize to her when we both cracked up. He just smiled

when he realized that we weren‟t upset with him but

thought it funny.

“Seriously though, I thought I told you to get a good night‟s sleep and to come back tomorrow.”

“Harry, being here has become my own form of relaxation. Besides I enjoy being here with you and now that you‟re

back to your old grouchy self, I will have someone to talk

to.”

“Well I am waiting for a cup of good coffee to be delivered since there‟s none to be had here in the hospital. My

personal expert here told me that when I came out to find a cup. You are too late to order though so I will share with

you.”

“I do not drink that nasty stuff. I prefer a cup of tea.”

“Must be your oriental background. I can‟t believe a true

American would turn down a cup of good coffee. I see I will have to teach you a few things about how to please your

man.”

“I have not said you were my man, and if it came down to it hinging on coffee or tea, I guess I will stay single because I

hate the taste of coffee in any form.”

“That‟s probably because you‟re an oriental heathen and

never accepted our ways. I can see right now you have some changing to do if you want your green card.”

“Mister, my family have been citizens in this country since 1834 and we do not require green cards.”

“Well you don‟t have to act so hoity toity to all us barbarians.”

The deputy was listening to all of this and couldn‟t tell if we were serious or not. I turned toward him and said in a loud voice.

“See what happens when the inscrutable oriental falls for a barbarian. Things are never the same afterwards.”

He looked at Tran and then at me and just laid his head in his arms like he was trying to hide from it all. I looked at Tran and she was smiling at me and the deputy, and I leaned over and kissed her real quick while his head was down. She just shook her head at my silliness and gave me one of those inscrutable smiles only oriental people know how to do. I think she was starting to grow on me or maybe it was my head wound acting up because I swore I could see her getting younger as we sat together waiting on my coffee. I heard the outer doors swish open and here came Dale with two huge coffees. I noticed he was wearing Sergeant stripes

and was glad that he had made rank. I couldn‟t remember if

I had told Shorty to promote him or not. He had made it and

that‟s all that counted in the end.

“Hey sheriff, glad to see you finally up and around. Things were just too quiet with you sleeping all the time. I think I have you to thank for the stripes. I finally made supervisor

after all these years. Well hello, Miss Tran, I see you‟re

looking beautiful as always. I hope this old man appreciates

a beautiful woman. If he doesn‟t, remember I am still single and looking.”

“Dale, you have outlived three wives already and I have no

wish to be the fourth. I think I will stick with Harry because I stand a chance to out live him.”

They both busted up laughing and I just smiled at them, because you or anyone could tell that they were friends and always had some kind joke between them. I gave him the money for the coffee and put cream and sugar in it and took a sip as soon as I had it all mixed up. Damn that was good. I just sat back in the chair with my feet stretched out and sipped it with my eyes closed. I had just taken another sip when I felt a tug on the cup. I opened my eyes and a nurse was trying to take it out of my hand.

“Just what the hell do you think you‟re doing nurse?”

“You are not allowed to have coffee and I am taking it to throw it away.”

“I am going to say this one time just so you understand me.

If you touch my coffee again you will be wearing it in the jail because I will have you arrested for assault. Now get away

from me and my coffee.”

The deputy stood up quickly and stepped between us and flatly told her if she touched me one more time she was going to jail. I watched a kid go from that to a lawman just that quick and I was proud of him. The nurse backed away and I sat back and sipped my coffee again. I was hearing a funny noise and looked at Tran and realized she was busting up laughing and trying to cover it up with her hand. I smiled and winked at her and she couldn‟t hold back any longer and busted out laughing.

“Harry, remind me never to try and take your coffee away

from you. I think you and your deputy scared her half to

death. I bet she never tries that with anyone ever again.”

Our mirth was short lived when a doctor came up to us with an attitude.

“Mr. Hanson, I would appreciate it if while you stay here you

abide by hospital rules. There is to be no outside drink or food to be consumed in the hospital. Now throw that away and return to your room.”

“Doc, if you had decent coffee in this place I wouldn‟t have

to send out for it now would I? I will finish it and then

return to my room, thank you.”

“I drink the coffee here and have for years and I don‟t see a thing wrong with it.”

“Well that explains it then Doc.”

“Explains what Mr. Hanson?”

“You been drinking the coffee here, and that‟s probably why you‟re such an asshole. Get out of my face before I forget I am the sheriff, and bust your head for you.”

He looked at me in shock, and stomped down the hall and disappeared around the corner. I leaned back in my chair again and sipped my delicious coffee to the sounds of laughter from the deputy and Tran. Damn, but this coffee is good.

Chapter # 23

I sat and sipped my coffee with Tran and the young deputy. She was laughing and kidding around with him as we sat in the lobby. I finally decided I was tired enough to go back to my room and lay down. We all three walked back and the deputy took his station outside of the door and I crawled back into bed. That little bit of exercise had taken more out of me than I ever thought it would have. I was almost asleep when Tran kissed me goodnight. I remember smiling but nothing after that. I woke with the sun in my eyes and Tran was asleep in the chair next to my bed. I looked at her and even asleep she was a beautiful woman. I found it hard to believe she was a year older than I was. She was like most oriental women and kept their beauty for more years than most other women. I turned to my side and just watched her sleep. She was stirring and opened her eyes and saw me watching her. She smiled and asked how long I had been awake?

“I just woke myself and I must say the scenery gets better

every day. I am going home today whether they want me to or not. I cannot stand just laying here when I could be

having a good cup of coffee and some jelly filled donuts.”

She just laughed at me saying that if I ate them then I would have been twice as fat as I was.

“Hey, I am not fat nor have I ever been. I still have the same waist size that I had when I got out of the army in

1970, so there.”

“Boy are we grouchy in the mornings. Do you want me to have the deputy get you another coffee?”

“Would you please dear, I would be forever grateful if you could arrange that for me.”

“Oh Harry, will you quit trying to be nice. It doesn‟t fit you worth a damn.”

She got up and patted her hair and went out the door with an extra wiggle for my benefit. I laughed at her and damned if she didn‟t stick her tongue out at me. That definitely was not the action of a refined full grown woman in her senior

years. Well will you listen to my old grouchy ass. I couldn‟t

believe I had even thought that, and at my age. I should be grateful she even saw any good in me after the way I had treated her last night. Now I knew I was getting old I was talking and answering myself in a hospital of all places. Man I needed to get out of here and quick. I got up and went to the closet and my clothes were hanging there. I grabbed them and went to the bathroom and quickly got dressed. I had just tied my shoes when the doctor came in.

“Where are you going, Mr. Hanson? I haven‟t released you

back out into the public yet. I think you better get back

undressed and into bed.”

“Doc, I am not getting back into bed but I will go home and sit in the sun and enjoy the view. I have had enough of your hospitality here. Now you can release me to go home or I

am leaving, even though you haven‟t signed the paper. What‟s it going to be, Doc?”

“I personally don‟t think your ready to go home, but you‟re

a stubborn man. I will sign the papers but I will not ok you to return to work until I am satisfied you are completely healed. I know you are having headaches and I will give you a script but it will be non narcotic since you have a head

injury.”

“I know the drill, Doc, so you don‟t have to give me the pep

talk. Give me 600 mg ibuprofen and that should handle any headache I have. Now write it so I can go get a good cup of

coffee.”

“He smiled and signed several papers and handed me the script saying at the same time he wanted me back in his office in one week for x-rays and a checkup.”

“I will be there Doc and bring you some fresh caught trout

for your dinner. I will even clean them and pack them in ice for you.”

“If you get lucky enough to catch fresh trout then I will

check you out for free if you bring me some packed in ice,

Sheriff.”

He smiled and left the room, leaving me wondering why

everyone didn‟t think I was a good fisherman. Now I would

have to put up or shut up. Oh well, the girls would help me

catch them and if Tran wasn‟t too finicky, then she would

help too. I headed out the door with a smile on my face and almost ran over Tran. She had a cup of machine coffee in her hand so I took it and dropped it off at the nurses desk as I

went by headed for the sun and home. I didn‟t see the

deputy until he caught up with us saying he was supposed to stay by my side until the sheriff dismissed him.

“Good I need a ride to the station so I can get some transportation and go home.”

“Your personal Jeep is in the parking lot sheriff. The keys are in Miss Tran‟s possession.”

I turned around and looked at her and she handed me the keys with an impish grin on her face. I hugged her and we walked out the door with my arm over her shoulder laughing my fool head off at the irony of it all. I walked to the parking

lot with Tran and didn‟t see my Jeep so I asked the deputy

where it was at.

“All I know is that the motor pool brought it over and gave Miss Tran the keys saying she was to give them to you when

you got out.”

I looked down at Tran by my side and she was laughing into her hand again.

“Ok lady, where is it?”

“Right in front of you Harry, don‟t you know your own Jeep?”

I looked where she was looking and saw a Jeep with a four inch lift kit with wrap around brush guards on the front and back. It had new all terrain tires and winches on the front and back. Did I mention the damn thing was painted a bright yellow, with a wide black stripe down the center front to back. Mark you dirty SOB, I am gonna kill you with my bare hands if it takes me all year. Tran was laughing into her hand again at the expression on my face.

“I really don‟t think its funny Tran and the fact that my best friend was behind this even makes it worse.”

“Oh Harry, will you ever learn? The girls chose the color

because they loved your little car in Florida. Mark tried to

talk them out of it but they both said that‟s the color you

would want it painted. They even pooled their money to have a picture of it blown up so they could hang it in their

cabin when it‟s done.”

“What cabin and where are they building it, Tran? I was

supposed to have it built for them as part of my surprise for the girls when they moved out here. Damn, I had some

special plans for the girls and the cabin. Shit, shit, shit.”

“Harry, please calm down. I have them doing it like you

talked about for days while you were under. I know

everything you wanted done and it‟s being done just that way. Please don‟t be mad, but from your talking, I knew how important it was for you to get it done before winter set in. I bought all the rest of the ground around you when Abe recommended that I grab it because it was a good tax write-off for me. Between the two of us, we own the whole area up there all the way to Gulch City. Their cabin is being built on a flat mesa that straddles the property line. It will be sheltered in the winter and cool in the summer. They will have the lofts you talked about so much and the barn for their ponies and other critters they might want to gather. I

promise you it will pass your inspection and it‟s not far from your place so they can visit you as much as they want.”

“I‟m sorry Tran but the whole thing threw me off from

seeing the Jeep and all the rest coming at me so fast. Damn I have a headache. Can you drive the Jeep or should I have the deputy drive us to the station to find me a driver so I

can go home?”

“I can drive anything with wheels Harry. I used to race in

the desert when I was at the ranch. I owned my own racing dune buggy. I have a house full of ribbons and trophies I

won over the years. Let‟s get you home before you pass out on me.”

We climbed into the Jeep and I thanked the mechanic for putting the steps on the frame to make it easier to get into. Tran sat down and slid the seat up and she caught me staring at her legs.

“You are not healthy enough to even think about that. Put your eyes back in your head and look forward.”

I leaned back and closed my eyes, reliving the picture of what I had just seen. I must have had a smile on my face because she told me to quit being a dirty old man. I laughed out loud and looked over at her and she was smiling.

“You know, as beautiful as you are, I can‟t for the life of me figure out why you fell for me. Tran, I haven‟t had any kind

of relationship for over ten years. I have worked and went home and repeated it every day. The only pleasure I got out of my life was the time I was able to spend with the girls. I had a lot of friends but I never got close to any of the

women I knew. I just made friends with them so I didn‟t have to show any feelings toward them.”

“I haven‟t been with anyone either Harry. I have a lot of friends here but haven‟t dated anyone. When you walked

into my restaurant with your men I almost fainted. I could not believe that after all these years you had walked back into my life. I almost ruined it off the bat because I was so

nervous. I couldn‟t seem to shut my mouth like it always

used to be. Harry, will we work out or do you think any

relationship we have won‟t work because of our differences?”

“Tran, I can‟t answer that right now. We can only take it one

day at a time and see if we are compatible. You love people and I am a semi hermit that hates crowds. I only took the job as undersheriff so I could help Mark get a good start

with his own department. I don‟t even know what happened

after I went to the hospital. I had a lot of things going and like a fool I had to try to be a hero and ended up leaving him in the lurch. I did leave him with some good men if he had

sense enough to keep them on after I left.”

“Harry, hasn‟t anyone told you anything since you woke up?”

“I haven‟t seen anyone but you and Shorty. Mark was there

for a few minutes as you know and the girls. What was so

funny to you two when I said I was quitting?”

“I won‟t tell you anything right now. Mark made me promise I wouldn‟t talk about the department to you and I gave my

word. Can you lock the wheels in or should I get out so you can stare at my butt as I bend over?”

I hadn‟t realized it but we were at my driveway. I winked at

her and got out and locked the hubs in and away we went. I should have looked at her butt because my headache was now throbbing. What I needed was a cup of coffee. Hey, wait a minute.

“How did you know where I lived at anyways?”

“I have met Mark several times at your driveway when I

brought the girls home. He always drove down to meet me because he said there was no way anything but a four wheel drive could make it up to your place. Oh Harry, it‟s beautiful. No wonder you love it up here so much. This place is all the girls talk about when I am bringing them home. I can see

why they are so proud of it.”

We stopped in front of the porch and I slowly climbed out. My head hurt but I wanted a cup of coffee so bad I could taste it. I sat down on the porch to rest for a minute and Tran asked if I was ok. I told her I was going to rest a moment then make some coffee for me and tea for her. I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I remembered was Mark shaking me asking if I was all right. I opened my eyes and it was almost dark.

“Where‟s Tran at, is she ok? Did something happen?”

“Calm down Harry, she just went to town to get some

clothes and get your prescription filled. She made coffee for

us and said she would be back shortly. Come in because it‟s

getting chilly out here. The girls are worried sick about you. They thought you were dead when we first pulled up. It was all I could do to make them believe you were taking a nap.”

I got up and went in the house behind Mark and was immediately mobbed by the girls. I had to accept lot of hugs and kisses before they would believe I was ok. Dina brought me a cup of coffee and sat it down on the coffee table and crawled up on the other side of me and gave me another hug.

“How do you like your new Jeep, Uncle Harry? We got to

pick out the color so we had them do it like your little tinker toy. We always thought it was so cute, but we could never figure out how you were able to get into it and drive it. It was so small and tiny and we thought you would like the

Jeep the same color. Well, do you like it, Uncle Harry?”

“I love it, sweetheart. I thought your dad was playing a joke

on me when I first saw it. Then I found out it was you two that picked the color so I liked it then. If it had been him I

would have made him sleep on the porch with the crows.”

Mark busted up laughing and said it was time for bed. They said that since I was sick, I could give them their hugs and kisses from my chair. I did and they said goodnight and went to bed. I saw headlights coming up the drive and tensed for a minute till I saw it was my bright yellow Jeep coming back from town. Damn, now I had to get used to driving a yellow vehicle again.

Chapter # 24

Tran came in wearing jeans and a sweat shirt. She was carrying a small bag and had a paper bag from the drug store. She handed me an ibuprofen and refilled my coffee cup so I could have fresh hot coffee. I had to admit, being

home I felt a lot better and my head wasn‟t hurting. Mark

came back in and sat down, sipping his coffee. You would think we were at a wake the way they both were looking at me.

“All right you two. What‟s up?”

Mark laughed and looked at Tran and she nodded her head at his glance. This was getting more mysterious all the time.

“Harry, what are your future plans? I mean, will you stay on

as my number two like all the men seem to want or are you going to quit like you keep saying you will? Before you say anything, I have to tell you that you have been awarded commissions for life from the FBI, ATF, State Police and the Department of Homeland Security. You have to be the most decorated Undersheriff in this state. I have given you your commission on a permanent basis and the commissioners

voted to have it entered into the county laws.”

“What brought that shit on, Mark? I was just doing my job

like any lawman would do. I was trying to make sure you had a good department to start with. I left you with a good

core of men and I really hope you kept them all.”

“Harry, I have not let anyone go and have used Shorty‟s

knowledge to further what you started. The casino is going up for auction in a week and will make the department a lot of money. The gun store has been bought already and with the stock, it made more money than the tax base of the whole county last year. There have been over a hundred federal arrests and several hundred state arrests. There is a State Police Sergeant that is now a Lieutenant, thanks to

you, and he has been by almost every day to see how you‟re

doing. I met Tran when I went to the hospital and she and the girls have been inseparable ever since. Now I find out she is an old friend of yours from when you were a Marshal. I have a felon running the county motor pool, thanks to you

and several high ranking individuals. By the way, that‟s the cleanest motor pool I have ever seen.”

“She didn‟t deserve what happened to her and her daughter,

Mark. It was my fault she got charged so I felt she deserved

another chance.”

“By the way, Harry, having a safecracker and a professional

CPA on staff was a good touch. Also, there was an ATF agent who called from Hawaii to tell you thanks for the boost. What the hell kind of a racket were you running? Also, after all the years in law enforcement, you should know better

than to use your head to try to break someone‟s fist. It‟s

almost impossible. I am going to bed now because unlike some, I have to go to work in the mornings.”

I just looked at him with a stunned expression on my face as he went to the steps. I looked at Tran and she was smiling at me with that damned inscrutable grin again. I leaned back and rubbed my head and tried to absorb what I had been told when Mark called to me from the steps.

“Harry, thanks for being my friend. Any man would be proud

of what you have done and I am. I am also proud that you tried almost to your death to give me a department I could be proud to run. Whether you think so or not, I have just

that, thanks to you.”

I sat there with my mouth open in shock. In all the years we had been friends, that was the most I had ever heard come out of his mouth when he wasn‟t talking about his x-wife. Tran came over and sat in my lap smiling.

“I think it is time for us old folks to go to bed. Since I am a visitor, where do I sleep Harry?”

I looked at her in shock and almost broke my own neck trying to twist around to hug her before she could get away.

“You are sleeping with me because I might have a relapse, and if you were too far away I might not recover.”

“Remember Harry, we are sleeping and you are not well

enough to think about what your dirty mind is already

doing.”

Well that put a dent in the libido but whether I would admit it or not, I wasn‟t thinking about sex. I was still trying to absorb all that Mark had told me as we cuddled under the blankets. (Oh, and for your information she made me wear sweats, and she wore a flannel straight jacket that would take a knife to get into) I thought about if for a whole five seconds before I passed out.

I woke up with the sun shining through the blinds and when I looked at the clock it was almost ten in the morning. Man I

felt pretty good this morning. I hadn‟t realized how much I

missed having a warm body next to me, even if she wore a straight jacket to bed. I wondered whose honor she was protecting. I got up and stretched, and went for my usual

shower and shave. I got dressed and that‟s when I noticed

my gun and badge sitting on the dresser. I just glanced at it as I went out and headed for the voices in the kitchen. I walked into the kitchen and just busted up laughing at the sight that greeted me. Dina and Dana were licking spoons and Tran was beating the hell out of something on the counter. She had flower all over the side of her face, and her hair which was usually in a bun, was hanging in her face. Every time she brushed it out of her eyes, she left more flower on her face and in her hair. I was totally ignored by all of them so I got my coffee and snuck back to the porch where I sat down in a chair. I had to admit, it was peaceful sitting here drinking my coffee and listening to the laughter and voices in the background.

I got up and went to the garage and dug out the fishing poles and the tackle box and took them back to the porch with me. I was testing the poles and checking the line, changing what I thought was weak. I had bought several dozen small spinners in different colors and was storing them in the box. The girls came running out the door wanting to know what I was doing. I explained to them about fishing and how I was checking the poles and stuff for our first trip to the ponds. Dina was dancing from foot to foot like she does when she wants to speak, so I said they could ask questions if they wanted to. Since they were both very polite, this was the invitation they were waiting for.

“Uncle Harry, does it hurt the fish when you hook them?”

“I don‟t think so honey, at least I never heard them say it did.”

Of course the little one had to put her two cents worth in and her question threw me for a loop.

“Is it easier to shoot a deer to eat or catch fish? I like the deer you cook but I don‟t remember you cooking any of these fish you‟re talking about.”

I was saved giving her an answer by the arrival of Tran. I looked up at her and she was back to her usual clean self with no flower showing that I could see. I had to say something because my machoness made me a fool like most men when it came to beautiful women.

“Hey Auntie, what happened to all the white makeup you were wearing earlier?”

I thought it was a cute thing to say because the girls agreed with me by giggling at my remark. Boy, for future reference I would remember to keep my mouth shut.

“Would you like to eat today or would you rather sit out here and watch the girls and me eat moo goo gai pan for supper? You need to remember that I am cooking for all of us, and we heathens know all kinds of ways to starve big

loud barbarians.”

“Auntie Tran, what‟s a barbarian?

I looked at her and busted out laughing while she thought of an answer that she could tell the kids. I decided I would break in and do my thing.

“Honey, a barbarian is what Auntie Tran calls me because she is a lady, and can‟t say bad words in front of small children.”

“Auntie Tran, don‟t you like our Uncle Harry?”

I watched with a smile as she took a deep breath to keep from hitting me over the head like I knew she wanted to. The girls were looking back and forth between the two of us, waiting to see if she was going to answer their question. I saw her take another deep breath as she tried to think of some way to answer without showing she was ready to clobber me.

“My little honeys, I love your Uncle Harry but sometimes he makes me so mad I could just clobber him.”

“That‟s ok, Auntie Tran, dad says the same thing sometimes, but he knows we all love him too.”

Now I don‟t know what Tran thought, but I was

flabbergasted at their answer and felt like I was ten feet tall. Tran on the other hand had tears in her eyes and was hugging the girls while shooting daggers at me. Hey, what did I do? I was the one that was loved by everyone. I smiled at the roof as I looked up and felt the impact of a foot kicking me in the shin.

“Ouch, that hurt. Alright, who kicked the loved one?”

The girls started giggling and Tran was avoiding the glare that I was sending at her. I got up and pretended I was crippled, and the girls started giving Tran hell for kicking their poor sick Uncle Harry. I tried to keep a straight face but the look of guilt on Tran‟s was all it took to set me off. I was laughing my head off and the girls were laughing with me, and I was getting hugs and kisses and watching Tran the whole time. I could see she was fighting back a smile while watching us carrying on. I finally got an arm free and stretched it out toward her and she came into it and sat on the arm of the chair, laughing like the rest of us. The girls grabbed their ball and went to play catch and I waited for the chewing I knew Tran was going to give me.

“You know, Harry, this is a side of you that I would never have believed existed if I hadn‟t seen it for myself. You truly love those two, don‟t you? If I wasn‟t already in love with

you, I would soon be, seeing how you feel about those little girls. Did you ever have any kids, Harry?”

“I have a daughter that refuses to speak to me. I think she

is about twenty four years old now. We used to be really close until she had a mixed racial baby and I said a dumb thing. From that point on, she would never speak to me again. I was being my usual smartass, and I did it at the wrong time with the wrong word. I have a granddaughter

that I will never know or get to see. I was wrong but it‟s something I will have to live with. It‟s just another black

spot on my soul that I will have to answer for. Can I get the

fishing stuff done now?”

“Harry Hanson, you are just an old softie and I love you for

it. I hope we can work it out between us because I would hate to love for this long and find out I was wrong in my feelings. I have food to cook so you keep an eye on the girls

while I do it.”

I finished getting the poles ready to the sound of the girls laughing. I heard Tran call us to dinner and I in turn called the girls saying chow was on. They ran in the house and I told them to wash up as they ran by. I had a sudden thought and instead of going in, I went and got the spare pistol from where I had hid it and climbed into the Jeep. I cranked it up and drove down the track to the pond. Something had caught my eye and even though I didn‟t know what it was, it was bothering me. I checked the pistol and put one up the spout as I eased down to the first pond.

There! A reflection of some kind, coming from the small gully between the two ponds. I pulled up to the edge, shut down the Jeep and got out. I walked along the bank and the hair was standing up on the back of my neck. I finally got close enough to see a body laying in the gully. Whoever it was had binoculars around their neck and they are what had caught the sun. When I stood over him I could see he had been shot several times in the torso. I could also see he was wearing some kind of uniform. I looked carefully around me and there was no movement. From here I could clearly see the old chemical storage facility. I wondered if this had

something to do with this man‟s shooting. I got my cell out

and to my surprise I had a strong signal. I called in and identified myself to dispatch and told them I had a code 32 and to have the units enter from the old logging road by the depot. I would wait on scene till the lead unit took over. Then I called the house and when Tran answered the phone, I told her to keep the girls inside for now. I also told her where I was and what had happened, and that I would be back to the house shortly. I was going to have her take the girls to her house and they could stay there for right now or until I thought it was safe to come back. I stood and waited until the first unit came on scene. It was Bob, and he was driving a four-wheel drive van that looked to be almost new.

“Hey, Harry, good to see you. What do we have?”

I told him and while he took pictures, I filled out a statement. I decided to go back to the house and gave him my statement, telling him where I was going.

“I got your statement, Harry, so you can go ahead and leave. You‟re still out until the doctor says you can come back.”

I climbed back into the Jeep and wondered if everyone at the station knew my status. I pulled up to the porch and put the gun back into the hiding place, then went into the house and straight to the kitchen.

“Tran, I want you to take the kids to your house for an

overnighter. Have them pack clothes and their toothbrushes. Take the Jeep and I will pick it up later. I am going back to the pond and I will tell their dad what‟s going on.”

She looked at me for a minute and quietly said ok. I went to my bedroom and put my gun on and grabbed the extra mags and my badge which I clipped to my belt. I grabbed a jacket and went back downstairs. Tran and the kids were loading bags into the jeep so I went over to the girls and got my hugs and kisses from them. I went over to Tran and kissed her, much to the kids delight.

“Harry, you be careful. Remember, you just got out of the

hospital. I will heat up some supper when you come after

your Jeep so you will have a hot meal.”

“Ok, Tran, I am going to help out a little then I will come over to your house. Oh, where do you live?”

She laughed and told me. I said goodbye to the girls as she started down my driveway. I turned around and went back down the hill to the pond where I could see several units spread out around the scene. When I walked up, Shorty came over and immediately shook my hand.

“Man, Harry, you just can‟t stay out of trouble can you? The fellow you found is the Federal Ranger for this area. There‟s an FBI team on their way and should be here soon. They told us to contain the scene until they got here. I had Bob take pictures and make sure we were covered if they

wanted to give us hicks a hard time.”

“Yeah, they are good at that shit and have it down to a science. I suggest you get Bob out of here before they see his van and take everything he has gathered. This is my

property so they won‟t give me too much shit or I will throw them off by a law they don‟t know is still on the books. It will probably be Hadley again and you know he is power

mad.”

He went over to Bob and sent him back to the station along with several of the other deputies. I stayed with him waiting for the FEEBS, or the proper initials FEDS. I liked FEEBS better because they almost all were over educated idiots that thought they were better than anyone not a FEEB. Of course most of the federal agencies were that way. It seemed with the new age, education made you a lawman and all your common sense went out the window with a degree. I heard them long before they came into sight. It was a damned shame the taxpayers had to pay for all the expensive cars and other luxury vehicles the just had to have for status.

They came in three four-wheel drive Suburbans with a van to haul the body. I was right, it was Hadley again. When he saw me, he kind of shrunk in stature and the usual

cockiness wasn‟t there when he walked over.

“Hello, Harry, how you feeling?”

“I‟m fine, Agent Hadley. This is your crime scene now, so do me a favor and instruct your team not to tear up my land. I would hate to call the director and fax him a bill for damages. The area from that gate over there to the one you came in is the only egress to this area. MY home is up there

and no one came in that way. That‟s a polite hint to stay the hell away from my home.”

“Don‟t worry, Harry. I will have my team walk the ground

from gate to gate looking for evidence. Under no circumstances will I allow my men close to your home. This

area is all private land, right?”

“That fence down there is the separation from mine to

federal. That old chemical storage facility is Army land as far as I know. The rest of the area is also private and I know the owner. The federal public campgrounds are down the old logging road you just drove up to get here. That all the

information I can give you, Agent Hadley.”

“Thanks, Harry. I appreciate the geography lesson. I didn‟t

even know there was a chemical storage facility around here. I am going to have to check with Washington to see what all they have stored there. That might be the reason for the death of this man. We have been getting alerts for the last two months about Middle Eastern tourists coming to Reno for their vacations. I may just have found the reason

why, right down there.”

“I suggest you get on the horn and put a call in to Homeland

Security and put them on the alert and let them find out

what‟s still being stored down there.”

“I would, but we always get put on hold until some low level clerk gets around to transferring our call. Hell, even the

Reno director can‟t get through half the time.”

“I tell you what, Hadley, I will make the call and see what I can do. I have the director‟s number.”

“How the hell did you get that? Never mind, just make the call, will you?”

I wasn‟t even sure if it still worked, but it was worth a try. I

rang the number and he answered on the second ring. When I told him who it was and why I was calling, he told me to spill all I knew and he would take it from there. I spent almost fifteen minutes filling him in, and he only asked two questions and I was able to answer both. I turned the phone over to Hadley and he talked for just a few minutes, backing me on everything I had said. The Director rang off, telling us he would get right on it and have a Special Ops team fly in to the plant immediately and to stay until he could find out what we were dealing with there.

Hadley looked at me with new respect, and smiled at Shorty who was trying to look inconspicuous beside me.

“I appreciate that, Harry. I only know of three people who

have his personal number and they are so far above my pay grade I am a pauper next to them. I am not even going to

try to find out who you know, because I don‟t want to be

like that poor ATF team leader that got smart with you. That story is still being told around the office. Besides, you

outrank me by a long shot.”

I told Shorty we had to go, and we left Hadley with a warning to watch his six. We went back down the logging road which was smoother than my driveway. When we hit the gulch, we headed straight for the station. I wanted to tell Mark where the girls were and pick up my four-wheel drive from the motor pool. I went in the station and was practically mobbed before I could get through the lobby. The lady that had been making my coffee gave me a hug and a big smooch in front of everyone. I finally got through all the well-wishers and made it to my old office.

Shorty was laughing his head off at my discomfort. We walked into Mark‟s office in just that way. He was sitting behind the desk and when we came in, he stood up and asked me what the hell was going on. I filled him in and he just looked at me in total shock.

“Harry, thanks for thinking of the girls. I know they‟ll be

safe with Tran. I just got off the phone with the director of Homeland Security and he was telling me they were still using the old storage facility for plutonium storage. They were taking it to an undisclosed location but suspended the shipments three months ago. They are in the process of

beefing up the security as we speak. I hope it‟s not too late,

but we will see. The company responsible for the shipments

went belly up and not a soul knew about it. They don‟t even

know how much is there and what else might be stored there. You have become quite a celebrity, Harry. He gave all the credit to you and asked me if you were staying with the department. Seems he wants you to work as a trouble

shooter for him.”

“Mark, I am retired and am not now, or ever, going to work for the federal government again. I have two little girls I

still haven‟t taught to fish yet. Besides, Tran would kill me.”

Chapter # 25

“Technically I am not allowed to let you go to work, but

since you have all the other commissions and your federal

carry permit, I don‟t see the harm in letting you nose around a little to see what you can find out.”

“I want to pick up my marked unit from the motor pool and

I want someone to call State and find out where the hell is my M-16 they were supposed to return to me two months ago. In one of the units is some chain and locks for my gates

and extra mags for my 16. I don‟t suppose they are in the evidence room are they, Shorty?”

“I have all your stuff locked up and no, I haven‟t found anyone I can trust to take it over. I am doing double duty with that situation and Beau refused to open the safe there without your permission. He says only you have the combination and you have important evidence locked up in

there.”

“Shit, that‟s right! I have all the copies on disk of what was on the computer from Trent‟s and some other stuff I didn‟t

want the FEEBS to get their hands on. There is also a matter of a little over two million dollars that belongs to the department that I take it hasn‟t been returned. The judication of those cases is almost over so we should have had the money back. Come on, Shorty, and get my stuff and let me pick up my unit. I will take a ride and have a talk with

Agent Hadley.”

While Shorty was getting my things from the cage, I called the lab and asked for a supervisor. When I finally got to talk one, I told him who I was and why I was calling. He told me to hold a sec and he would talk to the lab and find out about my rifle. I was on hold about three minutes and he came back on and said since my weapon had been full auto it had been destroyed. I went off on him ordering him to give me the State Commander immediately. I was put on hold for about five minutes and then a secretary came on telling me he was in a meeting and I would have to call back

tomorrow. I told her bullshit, and if she didn‟t put me

through I was going to come up there personally and arrest him for destroying private property, mainly mine. She hung up on me. Bad mistake on her part since I had the rank, with them, of senior commander for life bestowed by the governor of the state.

I decided I was going to be an asshole and find out if the rank meant anything or was just a gesture to make him look good in front of the voters. Mark was laughing like hell,

trying to be quiet about it and I glared at him. I didn‟t think

it was funny at all and I was pissed about the situation. Imagine some damn desk jockey ordering my rifle destroyed without doing any kind of check to see if I was legal to own it. I had to get my temper under control „cause I was starting to get a headache and I didn‟t need that right now.

What I really needed was a cup of coffee and, as usual,

there wasn‟t any in Mark‟s office. I would have to go to the

radio room for it. Oh well, I might as well get it over with.

I kind of knew what was going to happen, but I was still unprepared for it when it happened. I walked up the hall and as soon as I stepped in the door, everyone who was not on the phone immediately stood up and started clapping. Amid the shouts of welcome back, and all the other confusion, I was able to grab a cup and escape before I was engaged in conversation. I waved my hand in the air as I exited. Jeesh, the way they acted you would think I had died and came back to life or something. I walked back into

Mark‟s office and he and Shorty were laughing, so I flipped

them the bird before I sat back down by the phone. They were laughing their asses off at my actions. I was still pissed, but the headache had eased off. I took a pill and got on the phone, hearing Mark tell Shorty to listen to this because he was about to hear a master of ass chewing at work. I flipped them the bird again while the phone was ringing. The main switchboard answered and I identified myself, asking to speak to the governor. I was immediately put through to my surprise.

“Hello, Harry, what can I do for you today? By the way you

are welcome to stop in at any time to talk to me, or the

attorney general and we will see you in person.”

I immediately got to the subject and he was as pissed as I was, from the tone of his voice.

“Give me five minutes and I guarantee you will not only get

an apology, but your weapon replaced by one of the brand new tactical M-16's.”

He hung up and Mark had to put his two cents worth into the whole thing.

“Gee Harry, you going to run for office? If you are, you need

to practice being a little more long winded with your

speeches.”

They both cracked up again but I didn‟t think it was very

funny, especially since Mark knew I hated politicians of any kind.

“You know how I feel about those people, and since you will

be running for office, you could be put in the same

classification as they are with me, my friend.”

The smiles disappeared immediately, but he couldn‟t resist the last barb at me.

“Well that‟s true, but remember you will have a new boss if I don‟t get reelected for the next term.”

I looked at him and smiled nastily and said; “He might not be a big pain in the ass like you are sometimes.”

He glared at me and we both busted up laughing. Shorty looked totally lost with that remark but before I could explain, the phone in front of me rang. I purposely let it ring several times before I answered it.

“Porter County Sheriff‟s office, how can I direct your call please?”

I heard sniggering from the two of them again as I waited for the secretary that had hung up on me to finish her spiel, and I hung up on her when she was done. The two clowns in the office thought this was hilarious, and were mimicking my voice with high pitched girlish tones when the phone rang again.

I answered the phone in an almost perfect imitation of

Mark‟s voice and even identified myself as him. I was asked

if a Harry Hanson was available to talk to the State Commander of the State Police.

I answered in Mark‟s voice again, telling her that he was on

his way up there to make an arrest and was out of radio contact. I hung up the phone after telling her I had to go, there were more pressing matters that I had to handle.

“Harry, that was a dirty trick to pull. I can‟t believe you used

my voice to do it. Man, I can just see it the next time I have to call up there for any reason. I will be put on hold forever. Hey, how did you learn to mimic my voice so well? How many other times have you done that? Hey, now I remember. I got my ass chewed for letting one of my men

have a bachelor party that I was supposed to have ok‟d at

the station squad room. I remember because I never did such a thing. It was against department rules to have

private parties for any reason at the department.”

“Well it was his retirement party and we got a stripper for him free, and couldn‟t find a place to rent. We had a great

time. Too bad you were at a law enforcement conference in another state where your supervisor couldn‟t reach you.”

“Harry, it took a year for me to get that letter of reprimand taken off my record.”

I busted up laughing at the look of total dismay on his face at the little joke I had pulled on him.

“Hey, all the guys thought you were the greatest thing that had ever hit the department. They drank at least three

toasts to your leadership abilities.”

I watched Shorty‟s face getting redder and redder from

trying to hold back the laughter. The last statement was the breaker and he totally lost it. He laughed until I thought he

was going to pass out. Mark didn‟t think it was very funny,

until he glared at me and I winked at him, at the same time pursing my lips in a kissing pucker. He smiled and shook his head in a disgusted manner before laughing softly to himself.

“Ok you two, this little clown patrol is over. I have work to do. Both of you get out of here and get back to work.”

I grabbed the chains and the lock packages, letting Shorty grab the extra mags and we went out of Mark‟s office, closing the door behind us.

“Harry, I have had more fun and laughter serving with you

than I did in the service. You and Mark are really close

aren‟t you?”

“Yea Shorty, we have a long friendship and history together. I would tell you the story, but it‟s not my place to do that.

When you get to know him better maybe he will tell you

about it. Until then, let‟s get my unit from the motor pool.”

We went down the front steps and a chopper flew over and landed beside ours on the pad. I watched as a State Trooper climbed out of it carrying a rifle case. He walked over to us and spoke to me.

“Do you know where I can find Sheriff Harry Hanson? I have a gift for him from the Air Wing of the State Police.”

“I am he, how can I help you, Trooper?”

He handed me the case he was holding, stood at attention and saluted me.

“I am one of the Troopers that you saved when we were

flying the night you busted the gun runners. We all got together and got this rifle for you as a token of our appreciation. If not for you we might not have gotten to see our kids at the end of the shift. I told you that we owed you and if you ever need our services, you call this number and

we will be there at any time, Harry. The command doesn‟t know we‟re here, so I have to go.”

He ran back to the chopper and they were gone just that quick. I looked at Shorty and he looked back at me as puzzled about the whole thing as I was. We went to his unit and put all the stuff including the gun in his trunk. We climbed in, headed for the motor pool and my first visit to it since I had gotten out of the hospital. We pulled into the yard and I had my first glimpse of the wrecker I had signed for. Damn, that thing was huge. It was set up like no other wrecker that I had ever seen and the emblems on the door were as tall as the unit we were sitting in.

“Impressive isn‟t it, Harry? You ought to watch Doris drive

it. I bet she could thread a needle with that thing. Look up at the top of the door and check out the name everyone

voted on for it.”

I stepped out of the door and stepped up on the jamb where I could see the top of the door of the wrecker. Yes it was

that big. The name in gold lettering said; “Hard Head!” I sat

back down in the seat rubbing my head and Shorty was smiling at me and the look on my face.

“Did you say the name was voted on?”

“Yep, open voting by everyone in the department and that name came up in ninety percent of the votes. That‟s also your unofficial nickname now, Harry. No, it‟s not meant as an insult, but a token of affection by everyone that knows about you and your fight with Hubba. Within a day everyone in the county was talking about it, and how you were the first one that ever whipped him in a fair fight. You have become a local legend and they are all glad that he‟s dead. By the way, Andy and his wife settled out of court with the trucking company and the insurance company. They are set for the rest of their lives and when the truck driver heard the tape, he came clean and cooperated with authorities. He

did a lot of the delivery and pick up for Trent‟s little

enterprise. They are still making arrests from the list he

wrote for them.”

I shook my head and was still thinking of the wrecker‟s

name as we went inside. Just like at the radio room, as soon as I was recognized everyone started clapping and shaking my hand. I looked up at the office and Doris was in the window looking down, smiling from ear to ear. I finally was able to get free and we went up the steps to the office. I took a seat shaking my head as I sat down.

“What‟s wrong, Harry? Don‟t you like all the attention?

Everyone here has nothing but good to say about you

because of Shane and me. I won‟t forget it and neither will he.”

“Doris, can I have the keys to my unit? Tran has my Jeep and I need transportation.”

“It‟s ready to go, Harry, and I will personally guarantee you

there are no extra surprises hidden in it. It has been kept in the wash bay and everyone keeps an eye on it. We had to make a few changes in it because of the oil leak, but it runs

like new. While you‟re here, I want you to look over the

units we are selling at auction next week and see if we

missed anything.”

I took the keys to my unit from her and followed her out back to where the auction stuff was stored, and about fell over at the sight that greeted me. The cars we were selling had been painted every color including yellow. There were some with racing stripes and all kinds of different types of airbrushed pictures on some of them. Out of the units there, there were only five that had not been tricked out in some way. I looked at her and she was smiling at the look of disbelief on my face.

“That semi that hit Andy was loaded to the roof with fifty

five gallon drums of equipment paint. The insurance company wrote it off and told us to either dispose of it or we could use it on county equipment. The semi is in the auction too. We repainted it and it should bring a large amount as it is almost new. Jim and Jerry went crazy with their air brush hobby and this was the result. Hell, it took ten gallons of paint to do Hard Head. It was painted a lime green when we bought it. We have enough paint to last for twenty years if

we don‟t get too carried away. Well, do you think they will sell for good money or not?”

I didn‟t answer her right away I just walked down the line

of cars looking at some of the finest airbrushing I had ever seen outside of a custom car show. I wished I had a camera to record some of the work I was looking at. Jim and Jerry were wasting their talent being deputies. They should open their own graphics shop and do cars and motorcycles. If a scene came to mind it was represented here on these cars. I came to the little Volkswagen at the end of the row and immediately thought of Tran when I saw it. It was painted black with a small dragon coming out of the front over the top where the main part of the body was. She was covering a clutch of eggs. It was so realistic the head actually looked like it was rearing up at the bear it was facing. The bear was a grizzly, it was up on its back feet and it looked like it was real. I fell in love with it immediately and I was going to buy it for her if it cost me all that I had in the bank. The longer I looked at it the more real it seemed. I hadn‟t realized I was being spoken to until Shorty waved his hand in front of my face breaking the mesmerizing effect the car had on me.

“Earth to Harry. Haven‟t you ever seen a Volkswagen before?”

“Not like this one, Shorty. I am going to buy this one for myself for a gift for someone. Damn, the longer you look at

it, the more real it seems. Doris, what‟s the story behind this little bug?”

“It was in the garage at the casino you confiscated. It had

been totally restored from top to bottom. It had no VIN number so we gave it one and had a title made for it so we could sell it. Jerry did the dragon and Jim put the bear in

when he wasn‟t looking. They almost got into a fight over

that one. Then they both just stared at it, just like you, and

decided to leave it like it is. You know that by law you don‟t

have to bid on it. You can pay the fair market value and purchase it now. I have the list the state auditor left and

you can pay that and it‟s yours. Of course none of these were painted when he made the list out.”

“Are you sure that‟s legal, Doris? I don‟t want to get anyone in trouble. I can wait and bid like everyone else.”

“It‟s perfectly legal, Harry. If you don‟t believe me you can

call the tax office and they will back me on what I am

saying. That‟s why they are back here out of sight until the

auction. Anyone could walk in and pay the fair value and drive whatever they bought home. Write a check and I will do all the paperwork for you and you can pick up the title tomorrow.

“I don‟t have a check book with me. I only use a credit card these days.”

“Hey, I have a machine in the office and it will go directly

through the tax office and cut down on the paperwork. That way I only have to have you sign the title and the county

purchase papers.”

“Ok, let‟s do it now so I can make sure I‟ve bought it before someone else does.”

“I need you to come here when you can spend a few hours

with me, Harry. Those bays there are full to the ceiling almost, with equipment and other stuff I need to get

cleaned out. I can‟t do it without your or the sheriff‟s

approval. A lot of it is new and can be sold at auction for cash for the department. Some of it is so old it needs to be

sold for scrap. You won‟t believe all the stuff that‟s in those six bays.”

“I don‟t have anything planned for tomorrow that I know of

so we can do some of it then and maybe fit it into the auction next week. How much of it do you think you can sell

in the auction next week, Doris?”

“If we can go through it with my people, we can get a lot of it ready to go. I have a big surprise for you when we get to the last bay. I will save it for tomorrow so I can see how you

react to this one.”

“Do you have someone working for you that I can have go through the little VW and make sure it‟s ready to go?”

“Damn Harry, don‟t you listen? Every one of these cars is in

tip top condition. That little car is brand new from top to bottom and I have all the paperwork on the restoration and what company in Vegas did the work. I called them when we found it and they said everything was new from the ground up. It even has the aftermarket heaters and air in it.

It runs so quiet you can‟t hear the motor standing five feet

away. I will have it put in the spot your unit is in and have one of the guys give it a good wax job. Jerry gave me some sealing wax I never heard of for it. He says it will seal the

airbrushing so it won‟t ever fade or get dull.”

I went in with her, signed all the papers, paid the fair market value of fifteen hundred dollars and it was mine. I decided to just go home and got halfway there, and

remembered I hadn‟t stopped at Tran‟s like I had promised.

Chapter # 26

I decided I would call Tran from the cabin and explain why I

wasn‟t coming over. I had a few hours of daylight left and I

wanted to get the chains on the gates and put the signs up that I had ordered. I got her on the phone and she sounded like she was out of breath. When I asked her about it she informed me she was playing twister with the girls and losing badly. I had to laugh at the picture of a grown woman of our age trying to get into some of the different positions required for the game. She said she was sorry, but there was moo goo gai pan in the fridge for me and Mark for supper. The girls had to get on and make sure that I was ok. I told them their Dad would be stopping over, and to make sure they gave Auntie Tran a kiss for me.

After I got off the phone, I drove down to the ponds and went to the gate by the federal lands and put the chains on the gate. I walked along the fence line putting up the signs that would be in plain view of any camper on the federal side. I had already made up my mind that if I caught anyone on my side they would be immediately arrested and prosecuted. I was mounting a sign to the corner between all three boundaries when a voice on the other side broke my concentration.

“Mister, does this mean me and my dad won‟t be able to fish for breakfast anymore?”

I looked up, startled, and there was a little boy about ten years old, standing on the federal side. He was dressed for hiking and had a fishing pole and a small tackle box with him.

“You and your dad will have to get written permission to

fish in the ponds from now on. The owner lives in that cabin up there, and if you walk along the fence there is a gate by the cabin to get in. If you want to fish, you will have to

enter that way from now on.”

“Is this „cause the Ranger got killed up here? The news is all

over the campground, and a lot of the campers have left. The two ponds they have for campers to fish in are all yucky

with green stuff, and the fish don‟t bite there anymore. Me

and dad always caught fish here for our breakfast and they

are fun to catch. They‟re really big here, too.”

“What kind of green stuff are you talking about?”

“Algae and moss is what dad says it is, and grows there

because the ponds are stagnant all summer. Will the owner

give us permission to fish here if we ask?”

“I don‟t see why not, if you make sure you leave it as clean as you found it. I will write you out a permission slip right

now if you will give me your name.”

“My name is Reggie and my dad‟s name is Stuart. Our last name is Edwards. Are you the owner?”

I wrote out the permission slip for him before I answered him.

“Yes, I own all of this and quite a bit more. I also am a law

officer. I hope you and your dad enjoy fishing here, and

don‟t catch them all before I get a chance to do some fishing myself.”

“You don‟t have to worry about that, Mister. It only takes two of them to feed us since they are all so big. That first pond has some huge catfish in it. We caught one last year that weighed over thirty pounds. We had him for supper and breakfast. I‟ll tell dad so he can tell the other campers that fishing‟s not allowed here anymore with out permission.”

He turned and ran off before I could inquire how many of the campers were fishing here on a regular basis. I shrugged to myself and finished with the last sign on this side. I went back to my unit and went to the other gate that

separated my land from Tran‟s and did the same thing. I

was standing and looking out at the pond when I heard a vehicle coming toward me in low gear. It sounded like a

truck and I wondered why they were on Tran‟s land.

I was standing beside my unit when the truck came into sight. It was a heavy four wheel drive with a large camper on the back. The driver stopped and looked at the locked gate and signs. He went back to the truck and came out with a large set of bolt cutters, and I smiled to myself at the surprise he was about to receive. I wondered why he hadn‟t seen my unit when it dawned on me, I was parked at an angle that only let the back of my unit be seen from where he was. He obviously hadn‟t seen it because he would not be trying to cut the lock and failing. I was about to laugh out loud at his frustration at not being able to cut the lock when he did something completely unexpected. I watched as he walked back to his truck and tilted the seat forward and was searching for something from his digging actions. I watched as he came out of the truck with a stick of dynamite with the fuse attached. I could not believe anyone would be stupid enough to do what he was going to do. Time to put a stop to this shit, and right now. I walked down to the gate and he was concentrating so hard on what he was doing I was standing in front of him before he knew anyone else was around.

“Mister, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you‟re under arrest. Now put your hands up.”

I startled him so bad he dropped the dynamite on the ground and squealed out in fright.

“Who are you and what do you mean I‟m under arrest? I ain‟t did nothin.”

I pulled my gun because I didn‟t like what he was doing

with his right hand as he talked to me in obvious fright. I

pointed it at him and his arms went straight up, and that‟s

when I saw the grip of a pistol in his belt on the right side. I kept my gun pointed at him and unlocked the gate.

“You keep your hands right where they‟re at, Mister. If you

even twitch I will shoot you where you stand. I am

Undersheriff Hanson.”

I went behind him and pulled the gun from his waistband. It was a stainless .357 and was a nice weapon. I stuck it behind my back and holstered mine. I cuffed him and then searched him. He had a hunting knife on his belt and I threw it to the side. I pulled his wallet from his pocket and opened it. He was from Reno and carried an Aryan Brotherhood card

in his wallet. I didn‟t say anything but walked him over to

my unit.

“This is unit two to dispatch.”

“Go ahead, two.”

“I have a code 40 under arrest and need someone to

transport. Have them come in a four wheel through the

cabin entrance.”

“Roger two, one is en route as we speak. I have four on the way to transport. Do you need anything else?”

“No dispatch, that is all for right now. Two out.”

I knew Mark was one but who the hell was four? I guess I would have to wait and see who showed up. I saw Mark

coming from the cabin and he wasn‟t wasting any time, even

if the trail was rough. He slid to a stop about ten feet from my unit and hopped out.

“Who the hell is this guy?”

I told him and had him hold the prisoner. I went back and got the dynamite he had dropped. I carefully pulled the cap out of the end of the stick and laid it on top of the fence post. I walked back to Mark and I thought he was going to shit when he saw what was in my hand.

“What the hell was he doing with something like that, Harry? It looks like it‟s a brand new stick.”

I told him, and he looked incredulous that someone would go through all that trouble to trespass. I said until transport got there I was going to search his vehicle. He showed a big reaction to that statement.

“You can‟t search my truck. You cops have no right.”

“This stick of dynamite gives me all the probable cause I need. Didn‟t the brotherhood teach you anything?”

Before he asked, I handed the license and the card to Mark. He glanced at it then did a double take, realizing what he was holding. I walked back to the truck and looked behind the seat. There was a metal ammo box filled to the top with sticks of dynamite. There was a roll of slow burning fuse and a plastic sandwich bag, of all things, full of the blasting caps. Man, this guy was a total idiot. I stepped back from the truck and heard a noise coming from the slide in camper on the back. I whistled and when Mark looked at me I signed what I wanted him to do. He caught on immediately. The prisoner was handcuffed to the tow hole in the front

bumper using Mark‟s cuffs and mine. He came to me and I

hand signaled him to cover the other side of the camper. I grabbed the keys from the ignition in case the camper was locked and walked around to the back next to, but out of sight of the window in the door. I reached out and turned the knob slowly. It was locked! I looked at the keys in my hand and picked the only one on the ring that looked small enough to fit the door lock. I slid along the back to where I could put the key in the door hoping that whoever was

inside wasn‟t armed. The shell on this camper was thin as an egg shell and I didn‟t have a vest on. I motioned to Mark

to move when I opened the door. I would be blind for a moment because it opened toward me. I turned the key and distinctly heard the lock release. I grabbed the knob and looked at Mark to see if he was ready. He had his gun in both hands, ready to move when I opened the door. I mouthed on three at him and he nodded he understood. I mouthed the count and pulled the door wide on three. He went to his knee and pointed the gun into the camper. I heard several small screams as I moved into line to cover him. He had a shocked look on his face and when I looked inside I felt the same shock.

The inside of the camper had been gutted and was full of young women sitting on the floor. They looked to be

Mexican or Latino. I didn‟t speak the language but Mark did

and he started asking them questions. I left him and went to check on the prisoner and use the radio. How the hell were we going to get them to a road? They all looked like they were starving and every water jug I had seen was empty.

They obviously hadn‟t been able to use a bathroom from the

smell when the door opened.

“Alright, Bubba, who are the women in the camper? Where were you taking them?”

“I picked them up hitch hiking about midnight last night. I really had to squeeze them so they all fit in the back.”

“Be a smart ass, doesn‟t make me any difference. My

partner speaks fluent Spanish and I am sure they will tell him everything. You, on the other hand, have about thirty

federal and state charges you‟ll be facing.”

“I wanna call my attorney. I‟ll be out on bail in about an hour after I‟m booked.”

“You‟ll have that opportunity. You won‟t be getting out on bail though. You will be held without bail under the laws of the Patriot Act. That means federal charges, then state charges. I guarantee you will be in jail for the next fifty years on the state charges. You being from Nevada, you probably should know this is the worst state you could have been caught in. Nevada has the harshest laws concerning

white slavery and transporting illegal aliens in the U.S.”

He didn‟t say anything, just hung his head and refused to

answer any more of my questions.

Mark came back over with the girls following him. I noticed they were talking between themselves as they walked. I got a glance at them in better light and about half of them looked to be twelve or thirteen years old. I wondered where their final destination was to be. I was glad that we had stopped it before they went any further. This setup had to be a regular thing for the driver to know to come this way. I wondered if the Ranger had been taken out by one of his friends when he discovered something he shouldn‟t have. I told Mark I was going to unlock the other gate so Doris could get the wrecker in to tow the camper truck. I also wanted the traffic to use the federal logging road instead of my driveway. I heard Mark on the radio as I unlocked the gate. He was having the old school bus at the motor pool brought out for the girls along with water and food from the burger place in town. We had an account with them for emergency use just like this. I would have to have a talk with Tran and see if I could talk her into putting some fence up where that road came in.

I heard Mark asking dispatch where four was. He was told he was trying to get through an accident in town. The traffic was backed up waiting for the wrecker to tow the car that was involved. He told dispatch to have the unit on scene to push it to the side but to take pictures before he did. If there were any injuries he was to be sure to take pictures of the whole scene and cars. He was doing it like they did in Florida and I hoped it didn‟t come back to bite him. The people here were taught never to move the cars until an officer had given permission. They also believed that they were not to allow anyone to leave the scene unless critically injured. I was still getting used to the laws here and I hoped Mark had been doing his homework too.

I heard the wrecker long before I saw it. God that thing was loud from a distance. I headed back to the camper to get the explosives from behind the seat. I still wondered how this moron hadn‟t blown himself and his illegal passengers sky high. I was surprised to see Bob following the wrecker and school bus. Good, I would have him take the explosives and the caps. He would have proper storage so he could transport them to the evidence room. I heard tires spinning and saw a State Trooper Crown Vic following the parade of vehicles. Now who the hell called them? I outranked whoever it was and would be glad to pull rank if needed. I watched Doris handling the wrecker and I had to admit she was good. It took her one try to back to the camper truck and she was ready to hook up to it. I walked over to where she was climbing out.

“Doris, before you move it, I want Bob to go through the cab and collect everything in it. I hope there‟s some paperwork

to help us find out where these girls were going or coming from. The driver has clammed up until he talks to his

attorney.”

“No problem, Harry. I can use the overtime.”

Chapter # 27

I watched as the Trooper pulled up next to Mark‟s unit and shut it off. I saw who it was immediately and wondered what he wanted. He nodded at Mark, looked at the girls and came straight to me.

“Hey Harry. I see you‟re back at it again. Can‟t you ever stay out of trouble or at least till your healed?”

“What are you doing here? I hadn‟t heard the State was called in on this.”

He looked at me and busted up laughing. I just looked at him like he was nuts.

“You really don‟t know do you?”

“Know what, you idiot? If all you‟re going to do is laugh, just leave. I don‟t have time for your cryptic comments.”

“You‟re now a Senior Commander with our unit. We were

ordered by the Attorney General that regardless of men already on a call, if you were involved we were to back you up in any way we could. You are an Undersheriff for this county, but you are also a State Trooper now and have all of our units at your disposal. I was in the area to replace your M-16 so I took the call instead of a road unit. Thanks to you I got promoted, and I am now a roving Supervisor for three

counties. I have your badge and ID in my unit.”

“Oh man, just what I need, more confusion on a scene. Did you guys have to take the order literally? This whole deal might be good if your guys know that they are not to interfere in any way.”

“They have already been told this and that when they are

backing you up, they are under your orders just like they were with any other Supervisor. If you have any problems with any of my men you let me know immediately. The guys on the Air Wing still credit you with saving their lives that night. I don't know the whole story, but you are a hero with

them.”

“Well you'll have to excuse me for a moment as I still have work to do.”

I went over to Bob and explained what we had found and he said he had just the thing to put them in. I watched as he packed then in a foam layered box that was used to transport any explosive thought to be unstable. I left him at his work and walked back to Mark. He was feeding the girls from the bags of food on the hood of his unit.

“Harry, these girls have been out of water for two days and

haven't been fed anything for three days. From what they told me, they were brought over the border in a boxcar, then this idiot picked them up and has been having his fun with them every time he stops. If I could shoot him I would. Four is coming now so he will be transported before I lose my

temper with him.”

I now knew who four was. I had to laugh when he saw me; he did a double take and came over shaking my hand.

“Hey, Harry, glad to see you up and about. Sorry I was late,

but the traffic in town is all screwed up with that truck full of live chickens overturning. Everyone in line was helping to

catch the ones running loose.”

“Good to see you too, Beau. This is what we got.”

I told him the whole story and some of the charges he was to be booked with. I also told him he was to call the prosecutor to make sure that he wasn't released because of some screw up. That's when he gave me the news I hadn't heard yet. Trent had been released on bail because the FEDS thought he had turned and would cooperate. Now I was pissed and I asked if Doris had been told or warned that he was free. He didn't know, so I decided I would warn her. I walked back over to where she was and pulled her out of earshot of everyone.

“What's wrong Harry?”

“I just found out some news you need to know, Doris.”

I proceeded to tell her and I could see she was upset about it. I gave her the cell number of Shorty's phone and mine, and told her to use it if she laid eyes on him anywhere. The FEDS might have set him free, but we could re-arrest him with the state charges and hold him until I got a chance to talk to the dumbass prosecutor who thought he could turn him. He should have been kept under surveillance the whole time he was out. I decided I was going to call Hadley and ask him who the ass was that came up with this bright idea. I went to the side and called him and didn't give him a chance for any pleasantry. I went right to the subject and proceeded to give him hell about it. I have to admit he never lost his cool, just let me go on until I got it out of my system. I finally ran down and to my surprise he was laughing on the other end of the phone.

“Harry, he is not running free. He is being monitored

twenty-four hours by the U.S. Marshals. He has an ankle bracelet and is physically checked every four hours. That young prosecutor made the deal with him. We didn't have a say so about it and I threw a fit about it too. He also refused to release the money because he said it was from crooked enterprises, and the department shouldn't be able to use it a second time for the same thing. I'm sorry, Harry, but it's out of my hands unless you come up with something.”

“Do you have his boss‟s number? I am going to give him a call and mess up that punk‟s whole career.”

He gave me the number in Vegas and I got on the horn. To my surprise, he took my call and knew who I was. He explained that the Director had called his boss and they were all given orders to give me any assistance they could. I explained what was going on and how he had acted in my office, and the whole background of the case. I brought him up to date on Trent and his house, and what we had found and all the weapons he had sold and bought. I reminded him that Trent couldn't be helping much since we had all the records of his deals and buys. I also reminded him that without me and my department they wouldn't have so many guilty pleas and good convictions. I also made it very clear

to him that this young pup‟s attitude towards my

department was an insult to me and the men that had worked hard getting his case set up. I told him that if we were going to be treated this way, I would make sure that all the cases from now on would be turned over to California Federal District to prosecute. He immediately said that he would get on it and see if he could get us a prosecutor that wanted to cooperate with local law enforcement. He said he would make a call when we were through and get the kid, as he called him, transferred to Idaho where he couldn't screw up so much. I thanked him for his time and was told the money would be sent back with the release papers tomorrow by armored truck. I thanked him again as I hung up the phone. I was smiling to myself as I walked back to where Mark was still trying to get the girls ready to go to the shelter in town. They would all get showers and clean clothes plus a clean bed to sleep in until INS came to get them.

“I hope you have good news for me, Harry. INS says we

have to take them until they can get Border Patrol to transport them back to the border. From what they told me it would be next week sometime. What are you looking so smug about?”

“I'll tell you later. Here's what we are going to do with the girls, Mark.”

I told him the plan I had in mind, and he was laughing his ass off by the time I got through laying it all out to him. He looked at me for a minute before saying anything.

“Harry, if I ever make you mad at me, please tell me. I

would hate like hell to have you for an enemy. You have got to have the most devious mind I have ever heard tell of. I think it will work but you'll have to be the one to do it. The sheriff cannot be involved in such chicanery by an underling

that's not supposed to be on duty.”

“Bullshit, Mark, you just want to protect your reputation if it

backfires on me. When it doesn't, don't expect any credit, and don't be jealous because I pulled another one off.”

“Never entered my mind, Harry, because I have faith in your

stupid ideas. Whether they work or not it's still fun to see

you work.”

“Thanks a lot, boss, I appreciate the confidence in my assistance to your problem.”

He must have thought it was funny because he was laughing as I stomped away from him.

“Harry, here is your replacement 16 and your badge. I need your signature to prove I gave them both to you.”

I signed his paper, took the gun over to my unit and locked it in the box in the back. I threw the badge and case in with it. If I kept it up I wouldn't have enough pockets to put all the IDs in. I was waiting on the call from the Marshall's to tell me they had locked Trent back up.

I was leaning on the back of my unit when my cell rang. It was the call I was waiting on and I was told he was back

behind bars. He also had a “Do not release” stamped all over

his folder. I thanked the Marshal and went over to the wrecker, just as Doris was getting ready to leave with the camper truck.

I gave her the good news and she was smiling from ear to ear by the time I finished.

“Thanks, Harry, that takes a big load off my mind. I know

you had something to do with it and I will repay you for all you've done for me these last few months. I don't know how, but I owe you more than I like to owe to anybody. Do you want me to deliver the VW with a big red bow tied around it? I know Tran and she is one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met. You couldn't have picked a prettier woman

to date.”

I told her to go ahead and make sure she knew it was a gift from me and I would call later to see if she liked it. I just hoped she would like the gift, and that she wouldn't think it was too pretty to drive. I was still trying to get accustomed to having a girlfriend, and that, I thought, would take some getting used to. I watched as the whole parade went back out the gate. I told Mark I was going to lock the gates back up and then I would meet him at the cabin. I drove to the gate at the federal side and re-locked it. I had already locked the other one before I left, so I went to the cabin to relax a little bit before I got on the phone and made a few calls to set up tomorrow's party for the press and the governor. I knew he would love the exposure and would go for what I had in mind. I just hoped that the INS would be so embarrassed they would send someone right away for the girls at the shelter. When I walked into the cabin Mark handed me a beer and a pill.

“You‟re as bad as Tran. She left us moo goo gai pan for our supper. I hope you like it „cause that's all I'm cooking tonight.”

“I guess I'll have to like it, even if I can't pronounce it. I hope it's good „cause I am hungry. Harry, what the hell is

going on around here? I thought slavery was outlawed a hundred years ago. Those poor girls were scared to death and being raped by that jerk-wad didn't help them any. Aryan Brotherhood. How the hell did they get into slavery and the selling of human flesh? That is rare for them, and I know that it can't be nationwide. They deal in arms and other things that make them money, but I have never heard of them dealing in humans. How long do you think they have

been running through here, Harry?”

“I would guess for a while now. That idiot knew all the back roads through here too well. With the shape the girls were in, I wonder if he wasn't headed for the casino we shut down. That might have been a stopover place for them. We need to send Bob in since he knows everyone down there. He needs to talk to the girls that worked in the casino. I bet they know more than anyone about the workings there. I think we should also do a thorough search of all the buildings on the property. I never checked anything out, just shut it down. We need to do it before the auction and

the place has a new owner.”

“I agree with you there, I never thought about it either. Harry, you‟re going to stay on and be my second, aren't

you? I sure don't want to lose you because you're my eyes and ears out in the field. You know, as sheriff, I spend most of my time sitting behind a desk answering phones and being the thing you hate; a politician. I hate it too, but I

don't have a choice as it comes with the job.”

“You‟re gonna have a busy day tomorrow. There is an

armored truck coming from Reno tomorrow with two million and some change that goes into the county coffers. You also need to get with Andy and take care of the bids for the new units before winter comes. Mark, it snows in feet here and you‟re going to need the new four-wheel drives. The only other one we have is Bob's van and we can't use it for

patrol.”

“I know, Harry, but since it's finally starting to settle down a

little I have a lot of catching up to do. I wanted again to thank you for making sure the girls were safe with Tran. If someone should shoot at the cabin for some reason, all this

glass would be a deathtrap for anyone inside.”

“Mark, this glass is bulletproof to anything but a fifty

caliber. Every piece of glass on this place is like that. That's one of the reasons I liked the idea of all the windows. I also have booby traps all over the place that are both lethal and non-lethal. Don't worry, the girls are perfectly safe here and anyone else that's inside once I set them. Abe, the previous owner, was a total recluse and valued his privacy. He was also somewhat of a survivalist and made sure he was protected on all fronts. I inherited all of the extras when I

bought the place.”

“Harry, you never cease to amaze me with some of the

things you know and stumble into. I am going to tell Tran she can bring the girls back tomorrow evening. With all you have set in place, I don't think I have to worry too much about their safety, but I will make sure to tell Tran to keep her eyes open. I am supposed to give you your goodnight hugs and kisses, but I just did cause I ain't kissing your ugly

ass.”

I laughed and went to the kitchen and re-heated the food. To say it was delicious would be a lie. It was great and from the taste, Tran was a first class chef. By the time we finished eating it was all gone and we were stuffed. Mark said he was going to get his shower and go to bed. I told him I was going to be up for a while longer making some other calls to contacts I knew from way back when. I spent the next two hours on the phone and then when I hung up from the last one, it rang and almost made me jump out of the chair. It was the governor telling me he liked my plan and he would be there at nine with his whole entourage, but only if he could present me with my plaque from the state. I took a deep breath and agreed, thinking I was going to make someone pay for all I was going to go through tomorrow. I headed up the steps after setting the non lethal surprises that were scattered around the cabin. I left a note for Mark explaining where the switch was and how to shut it off before he left. I got my shower and set the alarm and passed out.

I woke hearing Mark cussing to himself, and smiled at his description of the coffee pot being so slow when he was running so late. I went down to the kitchen and it was only a little after six so he wasn't running late to work.

“Why the rush, Mark?”

“I wanted to stop by and see the girls on my way to work. I

was going to stop and get them some of their favorite donuts from that little Gas Mart on the corner by Tran's. They have the best home made donuts I have ever tasted, and they make them fresh right there every day. Tran loves

the blueberry muffins so make a note of it.”

He poured his coffee gave me a smart assed grin, and was gone. I went to the bathroom and did my thing to make me less ugly and had my first coffee of the day.

Chapter # 28

I was sitting drinking my first cup when it hit me. I hadn't called Tran to see if she liked the little car. If for some reason Doris hadn't delivered it, I was going to give the whole surprise away. I decided I would wait till I got done with the governor's big press conference. I got my go cup and locked the cabin, set the alarm, and cranked my unit. Yes, I checked it first, and since I had the other problem, Doris had made a few changes to protect me from it happening again. I turned the radio on and called in and was immediately told to contact one on channel four. I switched over and asked him what was going on. He said to come to his location immediately. I kicked the lights and siren and started breaking speed limits. If something had happened to the girls, I was going to prison for killing someone. I shut down the siren when I got to the Gas Mart and went from there with just the lights on. I saw all of them standing outside next to the little car and wondered what the hell was going on. I was shaking as I pulled up next to them and got out.

“Didn't take you long to get here, Harry. I'm sorry if I scared you but this woman of yours threatened to beat me with a ball bat if I didn't get you here immediately. Now that you're

here, maybe me and my girls can finish our visit.”

I turned to Tran and she came into my arms crying like a baby. I looked at Mark and he was smiling at me and both the girls were giggling at me. What the hell was this all about? I just stood and held her while she got it out of her system. The longer I stood there feeling like a fool, the more puzzled I got at her actions.

“Tran, what's this all about? I thought something happened

and my so-called friend thinks it's funny. The girls are laughing at me so will you please tell me what I did to you that made you cry?”

“Oh Harry, I was up almost all night waiting for you to call. I

wanted to tell you this is the most beautiful gift anyone has

ever given me. How do I thank you for it?”

“All of this is over a car? I was scared to death something

had happened to the girls and you, and all this is because I

gave you a car!”

I knew my voice was getting loud but I was upset with the worry and all the bullshit because of a car. How was I supposed to react to all of this, I wondered? Damn, I needed a hot cup of coffee. I tried to untangle myself from Tran to get my go cup but she was stuck to me like glue. I just stood and waited in the middle of the street, feeling like a fool, wondering if I needed a girlfriend after all these years without one. I was going through the memories of all the bad luck I had with women over the years when she stepped back and slapped me.

“What in the hell was that for?”

“For making me worry all night.”

I turned away got in my unit and left without saying a word. I went to the station and made arrangements for Bob to go to the gulch this morning and do some talking. I told him to track down some of the girls and see if they knew anything about the girls coming through. I told him to take Beau and see if there were any safes in the casino we needed to open. I also told him to confiscate any monies or paper they found and to bring it all in. We were going through the place with a fine tooth comb this afternoon and I was leaving it to him and Beau to pave the way for us.

I went to the radio room and re-filled my coffee cup, and headed for Marks office to talk to him. I walked in and he was on the phone so I waited for him to finish before I gave him the news.

“Mark, from now on Tran is not welcome in my home. She

can bring the girls to you at the driveway like before. I don't want her any where close to me for any reason. I will give you the new alarm code tonight for your use only. I suggest you tell her to leave the keys to my Jeep at the gas mart and I will have Doris pick it up later today.”

“Harry, don't go off half cocked. Will you listen to me for a minute?”

“Mark, we are friends but my personal life is off limits to you

or anyone else. I don't need a woman and I sure as hell don't need the domestic problems she brings with her. The girls love her so they need her, but I sure as hell don't. I don't want a repeat of her performance ever again. I will be cleared by the doctor next week so I will work for you, but don't throw her up in my face again. I have to meet the governor in a few minutes and then we are going out to that casino to do a complete search of it. I'll see you later at the

cabin.”

When I left he was sitting there with his mouth open in shock. I was pissed but this was going to be a long day so I should be over it by tonight sometime. I knew the girls loved her, but nobody slapped me and I sure as hell didn't need a girlfriend. I was in the state of legal prostitution if I needed it that bad. I climbed back into my unit and went to the shelter to meet with the governor and the press.

I stood and took all the praise and bullshit along with the plaque. Then he turned the mike over to me telling them I had a message to send out to the immigration services.

“Ladies and gentleman, I want to thank the governor for the award and I also want to try to shame a certain bureau that says they do good work to stop illegals from coming into this country. I have twenty-two girls, ages thirteen to seventeen that were brought into the state from Texas. Law Enforcement here thinks this is part of a pipeline in this area. When we called the INS to inform them we had the girls, they in turn informed us they were too busy to send them home. These girls were mistreated badly by their transporter and he is in jail as we speak. These poor girls deserve to go home, but the INS seems to think that children are not important, and them being enslaved is not a thing they worry about. I don't know about all of you, but if someone had taken my daughter and she was found, I would want her back. The girls were fed for the first time in

three days yesterday by my department.”

I waited a few moments for what I was saying to sink in, then made the sign for the shelter to bring them out in front of the cameras. The governor was standing by the door helping them to line up so they could be seen, and he was eating this up.

“These are the little girls we found yesterday. All of you can

see how young they are and how helpless in a foreign country. I don't think any of them speak our language so how would they call out for help if they could? I think they are a little young to be used by some pervert as a sex slave, don't you? We need your help by calling your elected officials and give them an earful about how these poor girls are being treated by our country and the INS. Thank-you for your time. I am sure the governor has a few things to say

about this too.”

I stepped down, and when I caught the governor's eye as he stepped back in front of the cameras, he winked at me. I smiled and left the whole mess before one of the news people wanted to interview me. I knew he was going to stir it up more and figured the INS would be calling within the hour. This was all live so it was going out all over this part of the west. I was laughing at the picture of Mark fielding all the irate calls from INS officials.

As I pulled out of the circus I called in and asked dispatch what three and four's location was. I was told they were in the gulch and had left word to have me join them as soon as I got off the cameras. I thanked dispatch and headed for the gulch and my job. I pulled up in front of the casino and saw several women standing around outside. I got out of my unit, set the locking system and headed for the door. As I stepped up to the porch they parted for me as I went inside. I saw my men all gathered around Shorty so I went that way.

“Harry. Glad you made it. We have a bit of a problem. This

whole place sits on top of a big cave and was built so it could be used to store the stuff the casino would need to run. There are no blueprints and none of the girls know the way in. They said Hubba and his dad were the only ones who knew how to get in. They also said there were always deliveries during the night and they all came in through the doors in the rear. Beau has opened three safes and they were all full of money and all kinds of jewelry. I think the jewelry is from the bodies that you found at Trent's place. Don't ask me why but from the looks of some of them they

are clearly heirlooms.”

“Leave them in the safes for now. I am more worried that there might be more people in the cave and I pray they are still alive somehow. I think this was a clearing house for slave auctions of women and children. Grab a few of those Bic lighters and let‟s go find the cave entrance. Is the electric still on here?”

“We never had it shut off because of the reefer units in the back. They are all full of beef so we kept it frozen.”

“What the hell would they need all that beef for? Let‟s head back there and look from that point.”

“Bob, I want you to get all the lanterns you can find and set

them in here for right now. We might need the extra light if we find the entrance and it's not wired. All the rest of you spread out and check the walls for square or round cracks

that look like some kind of door.”

We went over the whole place with a fine tooth comb for about three hours and didn't find shit that even resembled a door or a way to the cave. We took a break and everyone sat down by the reefers and had a soft drink from the cooler in the casino. I was staring at the reefers lined up covering almost half of the loading dock, thinking about the stuff Beau had found in the safes in the casino when something out of place caught my eye.

I sat and looked at the reefers for about five minutes before it finally came together. I walked over in front of them, looking at the doors on the end of each one. From the way they were sitting together, the only doors that could be opened were the end doors on the outside two. The rest would be blocked because there wasn't enough space between them to open. I walked around behind them and there were rolls of electric wire in spools behind each reefer. I went back to the side where I was having my soda and got down and looked under the end one. They were all on wheels and every wheel that I could see had a grease fitting so they wouldn't seize up. Now this was weird and getting weirder. I pushed the one I was looking under and it rolled as easily as rolling a two-wheel cart. I pushed it all the way to the door by the kitchen and went back and moved the next one up against the first one. I noticed that as they rolled, the wire on the spool behind them unrolled as I pushed them. I got them all moved over and started looking for the entrance I knew had to be there somewhere. I looked around the whole area I had just cleared and didn't see anything that even looked like an entrance. I sat down on a milk crate and just looked at the area, hoping something would pop out at me.

Damn! Damn! Damn! I couldn't see anything different in the area where the reefers had been sitting. The spools were set up like that for a reason and it was up to me to figure it out somehow. I got up and walked over and started looking behind the spools next to the wall and that's when I saw the metal plate set into the floor behind the third spool. I rolled the spool to the side and put my finger in the hole and pulled the door open. Inside were two pull handles about the size of a small ball bat. I pulled one and nothing happened. I pulled the other one and it was the same thing. I pushed them both back down and heard a distant rumbling. I stood up and watched the whole floor where the reefers had stood sink down inside a hole. When the movement stopped, I walked over and looked down into the hole. It was a vehicle ramp and I would be willing to bet that it had seen plenty of traffic, as smooth as the rock was. There was a moldy smell but it wasn't the smell of death. I hoped that we wouldn't find any bodies down there when we searched it, but I wasn't holding my breath that would happen. I looked around and saw that a similar piece of concrete had folded down at the outside edge so that a truck could pull in the back and right down into the cave with no one seeing it from the outside. I yelled out front where the guys were trying to get another game plan together.

“I think I got it guys. Grab some of those lights and come back here.”

They all came out of the door from the casino and just looked at the hole in the floor.

“Harry. I am not going to even ask how you figured it out.

That's a hell of a neat set up though. Do you think it's wired for light? I would really prefer not to walk down into a hole blind. We don't know what kinds of booby traps might be down there.

“I'll go first, I really don't think there are any because it's

too well used. It might be wired to blow but from some other place. I don't see any other way to find out, Beau.

Give me one of the Mag Lights and then give me ten minutes before anyone comes in behind me. Whatever you do, don't turn on any lights or flip any switches until I can check it all

out, ok?”

I looked at them and wondered if I was doing the smart thing. Oh well, you only live once, I was thinking, as I went down into the hole in the floor.

Chapter # 29

I went down in the hole one step at a time, shining the light ahead of me as I went. I noticed dust along the sides of the ramp and grabbed a handful as I went. I was walking and throwing it ahead of me as I walked. I wasn't taking any chances of there being a floor ankle height laser system. If there was, the dust would show it and keep me from breaking the light. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble setting this all up. The ramp had a slight curve to it and came out in the middle of a huge cavern. I stood still and shined the light at the ceiling to see if there were lights mounted within sight. I could see twelve foot commercial lights mounted on the ceiling throughout the cavern. I started looking for the box or a switch to turn them on. At the side mounted on the wall was a huge electric box so I went over to it and opened the panel. All of them were marked except four that were in the lower corner of the box. They were small and had no label at all, so I had a sneaking hunch these four were the arming timers for the cavern.

I flipped the switch that said overheads and all the lights on the ceiling came on and almost blinded me they were so bright.

“Harry, ok if we come down now?”

“Come on down but stay in the middle of the ramp till you reach me!”

I watched as they came down and all of them stayed right in the middle like I had told them to do. I waited till they were all standing by me and asked Bob if he had a screwdriver I could use. He handed me one of those Swiss pocket knives with all the attachments on it. I took the flat screwdriver blade out and proceeded to remove the screws holding the outside cover on the box.

“Harry, please don't tell me you‟re disarming something. I hope to hell you know what you‟re doing. That little knife

was a gift from my son, so don't break it or he will never

forgive me.”

I had the cover off by that time and I could see that I was right about the four switches. The set up was nothing that I had ever seen before so I decided not to try to disarm it. I handed the knife back to Bob and just stared at the setup in the box to see where the wires were leading. From what I could see, they ran inside the conduit with all the other wires so I couldn‟t see where they went. Someone with more knowledge than me would have to work on it later. I wanted to look around before I called any outside help in our little operation.

“Ok guys, let‟s look around and see what all this shit sitting

around is. Whatever you do don't open any doors for right now. This thing has an arming system that I've never seen before and I don't know what will set it off. Just stay in the

main cave for right now „till I get the boys from Nellis in here to disarm the whole place.”

“You can bet I will do what you say, Harry. I sure don't need a big bang to make my day.”

We all had a laugh at Bob's statement before we spread out to look around the cave. I had been in underground chambers before, but this place looked to be bigger than five or six football fields all put together. There were doors leading off the main area all over the place. That was where I wanted to search because if there were any records or valuables, that's where we would find them. I had a sneaking suspicion there was an office here and I would be willing to bet my cabin it was wired to blow if you didn't know how to get in. I was thinking about the rooms and what might be in them when Shorty yelled at me to come here and look at this.

“Harry, these are some kind of missiles and there must be

thirty cases of them. There are also thousands of AK-47s all stacked behind these. Man, someone is going to be out of some serious cash when they don't get these. Harry, there's enough arms here to start world war three. We need to make some calls again. I have a feeling these came from a

foreign country „cause all the writing on the crates is in

another language and more than one. What the hell was the

old sheriff into?”

“Let‟s all go back up top until I can get the boys from Nellis

in here and the ATF again. We are going to be hip deep in federal agents again in about an hour. I need to call Mark and bring him up to speed and then start making some calls. This is going to be a long day, fellas, so I hope you all don't

have any plans for tonight.”

We all walked back up the ramp and I left Bob to guard the back while we went out front so I could make a bunch of calls. I called Mark and he listened for a few minutes and said to make the calls and he was on his way. I called Nellis and got my friend. I told him what I thought I had and they said they would fly in right away. I told them to land anywhere in town they could find room and there would be several other choppers coming in besides theirs. I called the ATF next and they said they would be there shortly too. I called Hadley to tell him to get word to the Federal District in Vegas. He said he and his boys would be coming in too since the FBI did all the domestic terror calls now. I made a call to the governor and told him what we had. He said he would send the State Troopers in for me to use as I saw fit, but to make sure they got some of the credit. I assured him they would be in it all the way but to keep the Commander away from me. He laughed and said no problem. I was sitting on the seat of my unit when one of the women that was on the porch of the casino came over to me.

“Sheriff, is this going to stop the auction this weekend? We

all need jobs again and I was chosen by the girls to ask

you.”

“I don't see how. We will still hold the auction and I will tell

you there are a lot of bidders coming to bid on the casino. If it sells, you all will probably have jobs because it was stated in the notice that all the previous employees were to be given first preference in hiring. If the new owner gives any of you problems just let one of us know and we will have a

talk with him about the rules of his ownership.”

“Gee thanks, Sheriff, the girls will all appreciate the good news.”

“After this all calms down in the next day or so, I will be

giving everyone in town all the frozen beef in the reefers out back. Everyone in town needs to meet and make arrangements to have a butcher dress all of it out. I

guarantee that it will fill everyone‟s freezer to the top by the time it's all cut up and packaged.”

“Sheriff, we will all appreciate it as we are all scraping

bottom trying to feed our families. Here in the gulch we all stick together and help each other, but even with some of us

working, the money only goes so far.”

“I have probably two semi's full of canned goods I will make

sure I hand out with the beef too. Some of it will have to go to the shelter, but I can give the rest to the families here in

the gulch if you want it.”

“Sheriff, you‟re going to be an even bigger hero to the

people here if you do that. Did you know the casinos here act as the bank for their employees? All of us that had savings with the Golden lost it all when you closed it down.”

“You tell anyone that worked there if they have paperwork

or receipts showing that, we will honor all of them. Someone should have let me or my people know. You spread

the word that I will do what I say.”

“Sheriff, we asked Bob about it several times but he always blew us off. We didn't know anyone else to talk to.”

“I will take care of it and you can tell your people I will do

some of it this evening if they show up with their

paperwork.”

“Gee thanks, Sheriff, we'll be there with all of our savings books and we will make sure nobody tries any funny

business.”

She went running over to the people on the porch and I heard a cheer go up within a few minutes of her returning. I also heard the familiar sound of a Huey coming in for a landing in the field behind the store. When I got them in place, I was going to have a serious talk with Bob and make sure he knew the rules that Mark and I went by when it came to handling people. I didn't care what their work was, we treated everyone with respect and courtesy. I watched as Preacher and his team came swaggering over to me. I had to smile thinking about the last time we met and how he acted like the same old hardass he always thought he was.

“Hey Harry, how's it hanging? You got another problem you can't handle?”

“If you were a comedian like you thought, you would be a

millionaire by now instead of still being an NCO in the air jockey corps. What I have is something entirely new to me.”

I went on to describe what I had and that I wanted the whole place checked so we could search it. He got serious as soon as I started describing what I had seen in the electrical box.

“That don't sound like anything I have ever seen either. We better take it slow till I can figure out what I have. Ok, let‟s go men.”

I watched as Beau met them and they went inside. I had a couple more calls to make before I could go back into the building. I heard a motor and looked up to see Mark's unit pulling behind mine. I was still on the phone so he stood and waited for me to get off before he spoke.

“How high is the explosive danger, Harry? Should we evacuate the area or what?”

“That's not necessary Mark. Any booms will be under the casino and will destroy it. I doubt Preacher will let that happen. That's why I called him in to disarm the device. I think we have it under control, but to be on the safe side, no one goes down there until Preacher gives me the all clear sign. I have Troopers coming to handle the crowd and will make sure they get some of the credit. Mark, we have three times as many arms in that cave as what we already found. The only difference is, this stuff is war material and is too heavy duty to be sold locally. I think there was a hell of a business being run here and we have only scratched the

surface of it.”

I went on to tell him about the money and all the other stuff I had going on and he fully agreed with me on the previous employee‟s money being returned to them without all the paperwork. I told him I would collect the paperwork for our files to cover our ass. He smiled and told me it was my ass not his, and that I should remember this when I pulled one of my famous stunts.

“You know, boss, you really inspire loyalty in your employees and fellow workers. I only hope when you get old like me, and go to the great beyond, you have some one you

call friend to mourn your passing.”

He looked at me in shock and then busted out laughing. Boy, some people just didn't appreciate me like they should. I heard the chopper coming long before it got to the little town. I wondered who would be in this one. I decided to make myself scarce for a little while and see how Preacher and his men were doing. I told Mark to tell everyone to stay back until I gave the all clear. I went back to the casino and told Beau to watch the front door, and to keep everyone out for right now. I also told him if he got some lip to tell them I would chew ass if any of them broke my orders. He gave me a shit eating grin as I walked away. I felt a lot of pride in these men and I hoped they would all stay with their jobs as long as they wanted to be with the department. I still had to promote two men to Lieutenant and soon.

I came out of the door and Bob wasn't in sight so I went looking for him. I walked to the back where the dock was and he was talking on a cell with someone. I turned to walk away and a part of his conversation caught my attention. I froze just out of his sight and listened to him for a moment. I don't know who he was talking to, but whoever it was, they were catching hell. I knew right then he wasn't one of us and it really bothered me because I had really liked him. I would talk to Mark before I made any moves but he was on thin ice as far as I was concerned. Damn, the day was turning bad again. I couldn't catch any more of the conversation so I went back down the ramp to where Preacher was working on the electric box. I looked around and saw several of his men checking all the arms for booby traps, and others were checking the doors to see if they were wired in any way. I knew they had already been ordered not to open any of them, for fear of setting off a chain reaction if they opened the wrong one.

“Hey Preacher, what did you figure out about this one?”

“Stinger, this is the most convoluted setup I have ever run

across. Part of it was done by an expert but the rest was cobbled together with what looks to be scrap radio parts. Half of it doesn't even work, it's just there. Two of the switches weren't hooked to anything but the box. I am in the process of disarming the main timer relay that runs all over this cave. My men have already cut all the wires running to over ninety shaped charges they have found so far. Man, if this had gone up it would have made a big hole in the middle of town. Harry, there are two of the concrete and lead plutonium storage slugs in the corner. We checked

them and they are not leaking and seem to be pretty new.”

“How the hell did they get hold of those? Damn, this changes the whole picture. I will have to call the NRC into this and that's not going to be pleasant for the governor. Preacher, do not say a word to anyone, at least until I can search behind all the doors and see what I have. The NRC will shut me down and I don't want that happening yet. I still have a lot of searching to do before that happens. Send one of your guys to let me know when it's safe to do the

search, will you? Make sure he only tells me, Preacher.”

He gave me a thumbs up and I headed back up the ramp. I figured there were all kinds of federal agents outside wanting in. Knowing the FEDS and me, it was only a matter of time before I got into it with one of the Team Leaders.

Chapter # 30

I walked back outside and Bob was sitting on a milk carton, holding his head in his hands. I didn't say anything to him, just headed out front to see who else had showed up. Beau was sitting on a chair blocking the doorway as I came up behind him.

“Harry, there have to be about thirty feds from a half a dozen departments out there and they all want in. I sure don't envy you your job today. Mark told them all that you were running the investigation and they would have to talk to you. Have fun, Sheriff, better you than me.”

“Gee, thanks a lot, Beau. I just may put you in charge of the public relations part of this, buddy.”

“You do and you'll be looking for a new officer. I wouldn't touch this mess with a ten-foot pole.”

I laughed and walked back outside to be mobbed by all the FEDS hanging around outside. I held up my hands and cleared my throat to get their undivided attention.

“Some of you know me and some don't. I am running this

investigation and if you think I'm not, then leave now. I know Agent Hadley, so all of you can get together with the both of us to coordinate your movements, and what part in this you think you might play. The only people I want involved right now are the FBI and the ATF agents so the rest of you find a place to roost till I bring them up to speed. If I catch any of you inside before I ok it, you will be asked

to leave and not return. Have I made myself clear?”

I waited till I saw most of them shaking their heads in agreement, then I went over to Hadley and the man standing next to him.

“Harry, this is Agent Barry Thomas from the ATF. I pulled

him aside so you could brief both of us together. What the hell have we got here, Harry? I haven't seen so many agencies in one place since the towers fell.”

“Hadley, I am going to send them all back where they came

from shortly. We have a serious situation here and I don't want anyone but your teams inside the cave. The team from Nellis is disarming the booby traps but it's a lot more serious than that. I will show both of you when we go inside but until then I want to get traffic and news under control. I have State Troopers coming in for that job. Barry, if I may call you that, I have enough weapons in that cave to start world war three. You are going to go into shock when you see the stockpile down there. I suggest you start getting

some semis lined up now ,because you‟re going to need them and a couple of heavy forklifts.”

“Sheriff, are there that many weapons in that little cave?”

“That cave is the size of several football fields and it is stacked to the ceiling with pallets of weapons. You name it and I think you will find it in the stacks. It's all in foreign

languages and from several different countries.”

“Sheriff, I got a memo about a month ago that a ship load of weapons disappeared from a storage warehouse in Florida. They were never found, and even more have been rumored to have come in from the West coast. If these are them,

then you‟ve solved one of the biggest mysteries that nobody

could ever explain. My men and I are happy to work under your command and yes, we already heard about the last ATF

team leader that bucked you.”

I laughed and walked away headed for the crowd that was all silent watching me coming at them.

“Gentlemen, unless you‟re with the FBI or ATF climb back in

your choppers and cars and leave. They are the only two agencies that have jurisdiction in this matter. There is nothing for your agencies, whatever they are. You have ten minutes to clear out before I call the director and tell him

you‟re refusing to cooperate with me.”

One luckless soul started to say something but the guy standing next to him pulled him to the side and after a whispered conversation they both walked away. I watched as the area around the casino cleared out and heard a voice to the side talking to me in a muted tone. I turned and there was a young State Trooper standing there trying to get my attention.

“Commander, I have ten men waiting to be assigned

wherever you want to use us. I was told to tell you by the Lieutenant that he will be here in about ten minutes to

assist you.”

“Trooper, I want the entrances coming into town blocked

off. No one gets in except residents with a valid ID for this town. Instruct your men that if any news people get in, I will hold them personally responsible. If they want to know anything, tell your men to tell them we found a large amount of unstable dynamite in an old mine. If they break the roadblocks, arrest them for trespassing on a crime scene. If that's not good enough, then charge them with something else that will keep them out. When your superior

gets here, tell him to report directly to me.”

“Gotcha, Sheriff, we will keep everyone out until you clear it.”

I went back to Hadley and Barry to talk to them some more until Preacher finished up. Damn, I didn't want to tell Hadley about the plutonium, but I knew I had to sooner than later. I saw Mark and changed direction to talk to him to see what he thought I should do. He was on the phone talking to someone so I slowed until I saw him put the cell back in his pocket.

“Damn Harry, you sure ran everyone off quick. This place

was starting to look like a helicopter parking lot. Where did all those agents come from? I heard at least four different

agencies besides the two you held back.”

“Mark we got a more serious problem.”

I went on to tell him what was found in the cave, and he got a shocked look like someone had kicked him in the stomach.

“Harry, you know the regulations as well as I do. You can't put them to the side just to satisfy your curiosity. Do you

want me to make the call or do you want to do it?”

“I want to wait till the supervisor from the State Trooper

side gets here. I promised the governor to give them some of the credit on this, so we would have all the man power to handle traffic we needed. Dammit, Mark, I wanted to search all those rooms to see what was in them. I especially wanted to find the office, to get my hands on the paperwork to find out about the human side of this, and how much they were involved. If the NRC moves in then we lose everything until they go through everything. If they find any traces, they will want to burn it all to kill the trace. You know how they work, Mark. Will you give me at least an hour to check after Preacher clears the cave? I also want to get the money and stuff from the safes and pay the people who had savings there. The NRC will freeze it all and probably want to destroy it to be safe. Preacher has a counter and I will have

him check ahead of me as I search.”

“Harry you are walking on thin ice here but you‟re right in a

lot of your points. Have Beau move the money and stuff to his trunk after it's checked. Once the cave is cleared, you will have one hour only to check it out, then I make the call, like it or not. Sorry, but this one is out of my hands

completely and you know it. Go on and do your thing „cause you have to get Beau cleared first.”

I headed for the cave again to borrow one of Preacher's team to check the safes so Beau could move the money. I stopped by and told Hadley that they better get comfortable because it was going to be awhile. I went back to the door and stopped at Beau's side and whispered in his ear to open the safes and wait for me. I went back to the cave and Preacher was still working at the box. I stood next to him and explained what I was doing. He called one of his men over and told him to take the Geiger counter and go with me. I went back up the ramp with him by my side and noticed Bob wasn't at his post. I walked to the edge of the dock and he was on the cell again talking to someone. I knew then when we got back to the station he was in deep shit and he would explain or he would be fired on the spot by me and Mark.

Beau met us and showed me the first safe and it checked clear. We followed him to the second one. It was smaller and didn't have much in it, and it was dirty as hell. The counter went off quick when we got near the door. I pushed the door closed with my foot and used a bar rag to spin the dial to lock it. The soldier checked us and when we had very little residual reading, we both let out a sigh of relief. The soldier spoke up then.

“Sheriff, I don't know what was in there, but it was one of

the highest readings that I have seen in a small space. Man, I am glad you were smart enough to check before you leaped. I am headed back to my team and I won't say a

word to anyone.”

I thanked him and took Beau to the side.

“Every casino I have ever seen has those armored car carry

bags. See if you can find some and pack the money in them and put it in your unit's trunk. Put the jewels in a separate bag and do the same with them. We will be paying these people out of the money you collect from the big safe. Try to keep the small stuff together and when we pay them, we will have them sign their paperwork and keep it for our records. I want to pay them, but we will have to cover our

asses when we show where the money went.”

“What you‟re asking shouldn't be a problem, Harry. The bills

are all stacked by denomination and the change is all rolled. The jewelry is in a bag already, and it's a very large one and heavy. There are a bunch of Krugerands in the bottom of the safe in a chest. I don't think I can pick it up by myself though. Want me to have Bob help with this?”

“I want Bob to stay where he's at. Call me when you're

ready and I will give you a hand with it. If you have to, break the Krugerands down in bags if you have enough. I want this between us if at all possible. What we're doing could have repercussions for Mark and the department if it's found out by the wrong people. This is an order from me so you won't have any trouble. If I get fired, it's no big deal to me because I have a nice little nest egg put away. I told Mark what I was going to do so he would be covered too, so

now you are safe too.”

“Harry, this is more than some damned guns ain't it? I have

a suspicion you found something down there that is bigger than all of us if it was known.”

“Beau, you don't know the half of it. Just do as I told you

and let me take care of any repercussions that might come

down.”

“You got it, Harry. I will make sure to do this as quickly as I

can and get my unit away from here as quick as I can to

keep the money safe.”

He went off and I headed back to the cave to start my search, if Preacher would let me. Bob was still talking on his cell when I went through the dock area and it pissed me off because not only did I not trust him now, he wasn't at his post so anyone could come in without us noticing. He looked up and saw me and I motioned him back to the dock. He nodded his head and started back toward me.

“Bob, dammit, you're supposed to be on the dock, not

talking on your cell with your back turned. Stay up here and

do your job, will you?”

“Ok Harry, it was my kid calling me from home saying he would be at the neighbors eating supper.”

I thought, yea right, and I have a wife at home. I didn't say anything else and went back into the cave.

“Hey Stinger, it's all clear now I think. My guys have cleared

the doors except the four on the far end and they refused to go in those. They are full of dead bodies like the house was.

Man, you sure have an interesting job.”

“Preacher, I want you and your team to stick with me while I search the rooms. Have the counter ready to check anything I want to take out. I am on a short leash here so I need all the help I can get. You know what happens when the NRC comes in and takes over. I want all the clean evidence I can find out of here first. Have any of your guys

found anything that looks like an office?”

“Walk to the end of the ramp and the door directly across

from it has a desk and file cabinets in it. Could that be what you‟re looking for? I suggest you take one of my guys with you to check the room before you start digging around in

there.”

“Thanks, Preacher, and that's a good idea.”

I headed for the door and one of his guys met me there and that's when I realized they were all wearing close contact radio earphones. They didn't use the standard frequencies to talk between headsets but a special wavelength that was classified. He went ahead of me and checked the file cabinet first. He spent about five minutes doing this after popping the lock with a little tool I had never seen before. He found a phosphorus grenade in the drawer with a line running directly to the leg of the desk. If I had gone to the desk first, I would have immediately destroyed all the records in the cabinet. Damn that was a close call.

He finished checking the cabinet and the rest of the room including the desk and pronounced it clean. I started going through the file cabinet first and found a complete inventory in a folder marked “Hubba”. I didn't find any name lists or anything that would lead me to buyers or purchasers. I did find another sheet with the names of the people the jewelry belonged to itemized by name and piece. I took it and in the bottom drawer I found a complete list of employees and how much the casino was holding for them. Several of the names had deceased hand written beside them. Of course they kept the money because next to the amount was a little

notation that said; “ours now”.

Oh that was really cute. I would make it a point, since I had their social security numbers, to check and see if there were any heirs. Just glancing at the amounts, I would say some of the women had quite a bit set back, or taken from them so they couldn't leave. Either way, they were getting it back today. I couldn't find any lists in the cabinet so I went to the desk, and since the drawer that locked had already been popped like the file cabinet, I went to it first. There was only a book in it and it was an old first edition Mark Twain signed by the author. I opened it and noticed letters designated by different colored highlighters throughout the book. The back cover had the country color coded with the highlighters. It didn't give a clue other than that little bit of information. There was nothing else of importance in the drawers. I had a sudden hunch and pulled the drawers out one at a time and checked the bottoms. Aha! Taped to the middle one was a yellow envelope that was full of microfiche. Man, this was old school and would take a special projector to look at it. I didn't find anything else that was important to me.

“Harry, the NRC is here and they want everyone out now.

Grab a few of these charges and carry them in your arms like they were hot. You might be able to sneak out those papers if you do. Stuff the folder in your back under your shirt and tuck the book under the waist in front. Now let me stack these so the books don't show. I left several of the detonators hanging out of these, so don't touch any electric wires or your day will be a big bang. Let‟s go before they get suspicious.”

Chapter # 31

We made it out of the cave ok, but I noticed that Bob was still talking on his cell to someone. I followed Preacher out the front door. I handed the blocks of explosive off to one of his men, and went to my unit. I immediately locked the folder and book up in the lockbox in the back of my unit. I went over to Mark and the man standing beside him and introduced myself.

“I am Steve Johnson from the Nuclear Regulatory

Commission. From what the sheriff has told me you are in

charge here.”

“Yes I am unless you decide to over-rule me. Here is what we have.”

I spent the next ten minutes explaining it all to him and what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. To my surprise he totally agreed with what I wanted to do with a few stipulations.

“Harry, if we don‟t find any more hot spots I don‟t see any

reason to destroy the casino. We will remove the two slugs and the safe, and then scan the whole area for any further

readings. If we don‟t find any, we will turn the whole works

back over to your department to handle. Will our truck fit into the opening to remove the slugs or will we have to cart

them out?”

“You should be able to drive right to the corner where we found them. Your people should look around, but I don‟t think there‟s any more than the two. The safe is behind the

bar and it is on wheels so you can load it for disposal easily. There is another safe in an office off the casino. We haven‟t had a chance to check it yet so I will leave it up to your

people to do that. If we can help you in any way just yell.”

“Thanks, Harry, we will try to be quick, but thorough. By the

way, good job on the news this morning. Thanks to you and your Governor, we now have a new Director of the INS and I

hope this one does his job.”

He walked away from us and when he was out of earshot I turned to Mark.

“I got a whole file of records and a code book. Preacher

helped me get them out. Mark, we need to call a meeting tomorrow about a personnel matter. I think we have a spy

in our ranks.”

I went on to tell him about Bob and what I had seen and observed. He was as disappointed as I was, and said that personnel was my job and he would back me all the way in any changes. He also asked me if we had got enough money out to pay these people off this evening. I went on to tell him about Beau and what he had done at my request. He said good deal and then walked away, dialing a number on his cell. I turned around and there was that same lieutenant from the State Troopers waiting on me by my unit.

“Harry, I was sent over to help you with our people. What do you need that isn‟t here already?”

“I think your guys have got it pretty well covered, Lieutenant. What the hell is your name anyway? I‟m tired of calling you by your rank.”

“All my guys call me by my nickname, which is Butch. My full name is a real doozey to pronounce so that‟s what everyone calls me. Since I call you by your first name, it‟s only right that you call me what everyone else does.”

“Well, Butch, NRC is taking over for right now so I want you to help me with another little job I have to do.”

I went on to explain about paying the money to the people that worked in the casino and the circumstances behind it. To my surprise he fully agreed with me on the whole thing. We headed over to where Beau was sitting in his unit, guarding the money and other stuff we had recovered. I wanted to ask him about the contents of the third safe and see what had been in it.

“Hey, Harry, I see you‟re out of a job for a little while. When do we start the payout to the employees?”

“Just as soon as they gather around your unit. I have an

itemized list I found in the cave of all their money amounts. We will match it to their little books and see whose is closest. I think the one I have is actual but you can never tell for sure. Butch is going to help us with the payout and watching the money. He is going to take all the jewelry and with the list I have found, and hopefully the State Troopers will be able to return about all of it to their rightful owners

or their families.”

“What the hell was in that third safe, Beau? You never said a word about it to me.”

“Harry, I think most of the paperwork you have been looking for is in it. I didn‟t let anyone know what was in it. I

told everyone it was empty. I hope you are able to get us back in there to get it out. Damn, will you look at that, they

must have radar or something?”

I looked the way he was looking and there was a long line of people in front of the unit with little books in their hands. I went back to my unit and got the list of names and amounts

out. I walked back to Beau‟s unit with it in my hand.

“Open the trunk and have one person at a time come around and we will pay them that way. I want to see every one of

them as we pay them off.”

I didn‟t know what I was looking for but that little itch was

bugging me again. I watched as Beau matched the book they each had to the list I had. So far they both matched perfectly so I knew the one I had was on the money and was the right one. We went through about thirty people when my little itch really started acting up. I started looking

around but couldn‟t figure out what was bothering me. I

motioned Butch over to me and whispered to him.

“Get on your radio and have two or three of your men check

out the town and the roof tops where they can see them.

Tell them to be careful.”

He looked at me with raised eyebrows but got on his radio and did exactly what I said. He put six men in different patterns patrolling the area around where we were at.

“Ok Harry, they are moving. Mind telling me what‟s going on now?”

“I don‟t know, Butch, but I have this little itch telling me to be alert. Something isn‟t right but I don‟t know what it is.”

“I guess we‟ll have to wait and see won‟t we?”

I looked around again and still had that little itch.

“Butch, keep an eye on Beau here while I look around, will you?”

“Sure Harry, but watch your ass will you? I don‟t want to have to come see you in the hospital again.”

I left him with Beau and headed for the dock to see why Bob

wasn‟t out front with us. When I walked into the casino,

everyone I saw was wearing white, light weight, haz-mat

suits. The radiation level couldn‟t be very high, or they

would have the heavy weight ones on with the oxygen tanks. I went out through the kitchen and on the dock and

didn‟t see Bob anywhere. I went back into the casino and

found my way to the office Beau had told me about. When I walked in, there was someone in one of the suits trying to

open the safe. Now this picture didn‟t look right to me. I

pulled my weapon and shouted out for him to stand up and identify himself. He stood up slowly and whirled around to face me, and he had a gun in his hand. I saw it in the split second it took for my eyes to tell my brain I was in danger. I already had my gun pointed at him so I fired immediately, shooting him in the upper part of his chest on the right side. He raised his gun up fighting the shock and tried to align it with me. I stepped to the side and fired again. He went down on his knees and then fell face down on the floor. I heard someone behind me and whirled around bringing my gun to bear, when the figure threw his hands up.

“Don‟t shoot, I don‟t have a gun or anything. Who is that? Is

it one of my people? Why does he have a gun? Who are you

and what are you doing in here?”

“Why don‟t you shut up with all the damn questions and get your boss. While you‟re at it, get the sheriff and have him come in. Tell him it‟s an officer involved, code 52. I‟ll wait

here until someone who has some authority over me tells

me to leave.”

I wanted to see who was in the suit, but I knew I couldn‟t

touch anything until I had another officer with me, in case of any problems with the officer involved shooting, and the investigation that always follows. I stood and waited for someone to show up to see what the shooting was. First in the door was Butch and I immediately told him to have his roving patrols cover the entrances and not let anyone leave. I also told him that applied even if they were wearing a white suit. The next person in was the NRC supervisor.

“Harry, I hope you haven‟t shot one of my people. What the hell is one of my people doing with a gun?”

“Don‟t touch it! I don‟t think he‟s one of yours or one of

mine. I have a man missing and then I find this one trying to open the safe. I want you to call all your people in and have them remove their head gear and make sure they‟re all yours. Something is wrong with this whole set up, and I

haven‟t figured out what it is yet?”

“Ok Harry, shouldn‟t be a problem since the cave is clear

and all my people are all in here moving the safe, and taking readings in all the rooms and the kitchen. I‟ll get them all in the main casino and do the check.”

“Butch, get two of your men on the front, because I think

we are going to have a runner real quick like. You take over the shooting investigation to keep my department out of it. Send one of your men to keep an eye on Beau, just in case.

Here‟s my weapon, the case is yours now.”

“Harry, you get into some of the craziest situations I have ever seen. Ok we‟ll do the shooting investigation. You probably know the drill better than I do so let‟s see who‟s under the mask.”

He pulled the hood off and there was a complete stranger

under it. Well at least I didn‟t know him. As it turned out,

neither did Butch and he was quick to say so. The ID said his name was Edward Jones and he lived in Texas. We had just started to check his pockets when the radio went off saying a runner had been caught trying to leave by the front door. Butch told his man to hold him and then told the others to stay alert for more. He told me he would stay with the body and for me to go check around for my missing man. He handed me his weapon before I left. I checked it to make sure there was one up the spout before I left the room. I went to the main casino and the NRC supervisor came over to me immediately.

“Harry we are done here and these are all my men. The

driver is out on the dock waiting for the ok to come around

and pick us up.”

“Let‟s go make sure it‟s your driver in the truck. We have

caught another person dressed like your people so it a good idea not to take any chances. Tell your people to wait here

while we go check the driver.”

He immediately went over and told his people to wait where they were while he did another check. We walked out the kitchen door together and were checked by one of Butch‟s men. When he saw me, he let us go. I immediately noticed the driver still had his suit on. I cocked my weapon as we walked toward the truck. The driver looked over and saw us coming and immediately tried to start the truck. I ran toward it bringing my gun up and got it lined up on him before I shouted at him.

“Start that truck and I will shoot you! Very carefully slide to this side and get out.”

I tracked his movements with my weapon as he slowly slid across the seat and opened the door. A gun fell out on the ground when he opened the door.

“You touch it and I will shoot you in the head.”

I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and moved a little so I could see that side without taking my eyes off the driver. I immediately saw that the trooper was covering the driver with his weapon and following my lead.

“Walk this way five steps then get on the ground on your face.”

I watched as he followed my directions and when he was down, I motioned for the Trooper to cuff him. When I saw he was cuffed securely, I went over and picked up the gun and released the magazine. I racked the slide back and

caught the round before it hit the ground. Damn, I hadn‟t

done that in years. I walked to the prisoner, pulled his hood off and it was another stranger. Before I could get to his wallet, the supervisor came over to me.

“That‟s not one of mine, Harry. I don‟t know who he is, but I want to know what happened to my driver.”

The prisoner spoke up immediately.

“Your driver and that dumb deputy are inside of the cave

tied up. They are fine. We were told the deputy on the dock

was ours but he didn‟t want to help us so we knocked him out. How the hell did you find us out so quickly?”

“Your stupid partner made a mistake and pulled a gun on me. I‟m afraid you are one short on your crew now. I hope

you know that the charges on your bunch will all be federal terrorist charges. The one for assaulting my deputy is peanuts and with your big mouth, he will be charged with

you. All of you will be very old men before you get out.”

The supervisor called one of his men out to drive the truck and I sent the deputy out front with the prisoner. I went down the cave ramp again and immediately saw Bob and the other man tied back to back leaning against the wall. I took

Bob‟s cuffs and cuffed his hands before I untied the rope.

The NRC worker was awake and watched my actions.

“You know he was one of them, don‟t you? I will admit he wouldn‟t help them, but he was the one who let them into the cave. I watched them put on our suits and then they pulled his gun and made me get out of the truck. From what I could hear they wanted the slugs and a bunch of important paperwork that had some kind of list they needed. Your deputy told them that the sheriff had already taken the papers and they should take the truck and leave. He argued with them, then one of them hit him with a board and they

tied him up with me.”

“Do you recall anything else they said?”

“No, that‟s about all I heard. Oh, they also said something about moving the girls while they were here. I heard the one guy talking about a big warehouse that was almost full.

I didn‟t get the location but from the way they talked, it couldn‟t be far away from here. The one that had the board said he would take them water as soon as all the cops

cleared out of the area.”

I helped him up and then I leaned over and slapped Bob in the face a few times and he started to come around. When he was almost back in the world of the living I pulled him up to his feet and helped him up the ramp. He was trying to walk on his own but was dragging his feet as he walked with me. When we stepped out, we were met by several Troopers so I handed him off to them. I took his cell and his badge and ID from him before they took him away. I was going to get a warrant for his cell calls and see if we could trace all of his calls. This whole deal had almost succeeded and if it weren‟t for the idiot pulling a gun, it would have worked. I was going to have Hadley take all the prisoners. I felt like hell and I still had a lot to do here plus all the damn paperwork. I was going to make sure I got my gun back this time. I really liked that Glock and it felt comfortable under my arm.

Chapter # 32

I went back out to the main part of the casino and into the office to give Butch his gun back. I noticed that there was a Coroner there with him. I handed him back his gun and arched my eyes at him in question.

“This is the State Coroner, Harry. Since Porter County

doesn't have one assigned yet I called ours in. I will make sure your Glock is returned to you personally. I think we have destroyed one too many of your guns. As soon as the

Coroner is done, you‟re back in business. We turned those

prisoners over to that FED of yours. He was a little shocked to see one of your deputies in cuffs with them. I'm not

gonna ask what that was all about.”

“I really don't want to discuss it either, Butch. I need you to call in more men for a search of the area. Seems I just found out there is a warehouse in this area somewhere that is full of illegals. Those men haven't given them water or food for several days. I would guess with the information I have there are over a hundred of them. I think we are about to

embarrass the INS again.”

He was laughing as I walked out of the office. I went back out and hunted up the NRC supervisor. He was talking with one of his men so I waited till he was done before I approached him.

“Mr. Johnson, have you cleared all of your people? I also

want to know the status of the casino. Can we sell it at auction or are you going to blow it up? I need to know what to tell all the people who are expecting to go back to work

when all of this is over.”

“Sheriff, there were no hot spots to be found except for that

small safe we hauled out. I will let you know what kind of radiation was in there as soon as we get it back to the lab. The slugs we recovered came from a country other than ours. Since their shipping point and the information about them is classified, that's all I can say. I will tell you that your respect from Homeland Security has shot way up. The director said to tell you if you need anything you have his number. I need to get my people and the contraband back to

the lab, so it's all yours again.”

With that statement he went out the front door and was gone just that quick. I headed out the same door looking for Barry so he could turn his men loose with the weapons in the cave. This was starting to get more complicated, and I was tired and my head was splitting from all the tension. I still had several hours to go before I could take a break. I walked up to Hadley and Barry who seemed like they never moved from where they were. I must have looked pretty ragged because Hadley handed me a large cup of steaming coffee. I took a deep sniff and a drink in that order.

“Hadley, have whoever's interrogating those men see if they

can find out where the location of the warehouse is they were using to house the illegals in. That comes first before anything else. Those poor women haven't had any food or water for several days. If I have to shut this whole operation down till we find them I will. Barry, you better get your men busy in the cave, but tell them to stay out of the

rooms. Some of them might still be booby trapped.”

I watched as he called his men together and headed for the cave. I knew I wouldn't see him for several hours with all they had to do. I went over to where Beau was sitting in his unit. I got in the passenger side and sat down with a sigh.

“Harry, I heard about the shooting. Why was he trying to

get in the safe? It's empty and he was wasting his time since I changed the combination when I opened it.”

I looked at him for a moment then busted up laughing. The whole picture was running through my mind as I laughed the tension away. I finally settled down and Beau was looking at me like I was crazy.

“Are you ok Harry? Do you need medical or have you gone off the deep end on me?”

“Neither Beau, I thank you for the comedic relief though. I

think we need some food because we still have a long day

ahead of us. Did you get all the casino people paid off?”

“I got all the ones on the list and a few who had the little books that weren't on the list. I have all the books and the list in the trunk. There is still a lot of money left plus the Krugerands. I have all the papers from the safe too, Harry. I am really sorry you had to shoot someone because I didn't

tell you the safe was empty.”

“It wasn't your fault, Beau. He didn't give me any choice in

the matter. I need some food, let's go to that little restaurant and get something to eat. Maybe my headache will ease a little if we do. Stop and pick Hadley up on the

way, will you?”

We stopped and Hadley climbed in with us saying he was at a stand still until his chopper got back from Reno. We all went to the little restaurant which was already crowded with the locals eating. We waited by the door until a table opened up so we could sit down. I didn't want to sit at the counter because I wanted to stretch my legs. I decided to ask Beau a question while we were waiting for a table.

“Hey Beau, I haven't seen Kit since I got out of the hospital. Where has he been?”

“I thought Mark had told you, Harry. He took a leave of

absence for six months. His ex-wife's boyfriend got drunk and beat his son Danny half to death. He is still in the hospital recovering. Kit went back to court and got full custody of him, and put his ex and her boyfriend in jail. Her brother, the cop, has threatened Kit with harm if he doesn't drop the charges. He is having to be very careful going back

and forth to the hospital.”

“Why the hell wasn't I told about this Beau? Mark should have let me know. I have some pull in certain areas and I think I can put the brother out of business for a while. I will

also have Danny transferred out of the brother‟s town so he

will be powerless to interfere. Kit isn't planning on dropping

the charges, is he?”

“No, he said she and her so called boyfriend deserve time in

jail for what happened. He has been trying to get the boy moved here but he doesn't have the money for the ambulance charges. Our crappy insurance here in Porter County doesn't cover it. Kit doesn't have the extra money to

do it so he is driving back and forth everyday.”

“You tell Kit to have his boy transferred here immediately.

This department has a fund for that type of thing and we have money to handle the transfer. If you have his number, call him now and tell him to have it done right away. If the ambulance service gives him any crap, tell them to call me. Danny is a member of our department and we take care of our own. He is our computer expert and as such we will make sure he has the best. If his ex's brother, the cop shows up around here, I want him arrested immediately and held till I can have a one on one with him. He, or anyone else doesn't get away with threatening a member of our

department.”

Harry, I think the FBI can give this rogue cop a little talking to and help out too. I hate bad cops as much as I hate terrorists. To me they are one in the same except people like him just want to use their power to feel big. Let's eat, Harry, I don't want to get started on this subject right now.”

We went over to the table that had become available and sat down. I immediately ordered another coffee since I only had the one in the unit that Hadley had bought me. I took a sip of the water and wondered where Shorty and Mark had disappeared to. I was about to ask Beau when his walkie went off with my call sign. He looked surprised as he handed it to me. I told dispatch to go and was informed that the Coroner was looking for me. I radioed back and gave them my location saying I was not to be disturbed unless it was an emergency. I handed the walkie back to Beau with a smile.

“Harry, one of these days you‟re gonna get told off by one of

these officials. I just hope it's not a high ranking one that can cost you your job.”

I laughed at the thought of losing my job. I really didn't care

because I wasn‟t looking for a job when I found this one. If

I got fired I would be getting away from a lot of stress, and the other headaches that went with it.

“Beau, if they fired me it would be no great loss. I didn't want the job to begin with. Now that Mark is settled in I

don't need to stay and can enjoy my retirement.”

“I got news for you, Harry, the whole department would

have a fit if you were fired. You have done more for the men in the short time you have been here than anyone ever has. Being an outsider, I hear everything that goes on from the different shifts. Theo has been one of your biggest

supporters.”

“I hired him for his experience and due to the fact he had no complaints because I hired you with your leg like it is. He was one that immediately had nothing but praise for you, even with your disability. That's the kind of Deputy I like to have on this department. He will treat the people he comes in contact with like this department should be treating them. There is still a lot of work to be done before we become one of the best in the state. That is the ultimate

goal of Mark and myself.”

Before he could say anything else our food came and we dug in. I had heard this little restaurant had good food but someone had understated just how good it was. What we had ordered and were now shoveling down our gullets was just like Mom used to make. Man, if it wasn't so far from the cabin I would eat here every day. I was watching Hadley eat and had to smile at the way he was cleaning everything on his plate. He must not have any access to a good eating place in Reno. I was thinking about turning this part of the investigation over to him, and spending time looking for the women locked in that warehouse. I also wanted to go through the papers and the other things we had recovered from the casino. This was going to take several hours if I did it the right way. I also had to write up the statement on the shooting, be interviewed by the internal affairs of the State Troopers, and be cleared by them. I knew it was a righteous shoot, but there were rules any law officer had to follow. If it is done by the numbers the chance of a law suit fell remarkably. I was just finishing up when Butch came walking in. He saw us and headed for our table and sat down.

“The men you ordered are here, Harry. What exactly are we

looking for, and how far should we spread out in the

search?”

“Have a coffee, Butch, and I will lay it all out for you.”

I told him what I thought we were looking for and how to go about the search. I also told him he should have the air units up looking in the hills and places where we couldn't drive our units. We hadn't found the truck the men had come in, but I would bet it was a four wheel drive. I went on to turn the casino over to Hadley to run and I wanted to be kept in the loop about everything. While we were all together I had Hadley call and find out if the interrogation had produced any results yet. I was really hoping one of the men would give up the location of the warehouse so we wouldn't have to search. I told him to tell his team if one of the women died while they were locked up that we would go for the death penalty and confiscate all their personal property. I was hoping at least one of them was married and with this threat hanging over their heads, they would talk.

Some how we had to get those women and kids free and out of confinement. This county was going to be checked from end to end as soon as I had the manpower to do it with. I was also going to get on the county code enforcers and make them get out and earn their salaries for a change. I knew the commissioners were on our side and would push from their end.

I was sitting there drinking my coffee and absently rubbing my cheek, when the mornings little slap from Tran went through my mind again. Damn, I didn't know why she did what she did, but as far as I was concerned she had slapped any feelings I had for her out the window. I had never hit a woman in my life. I knew quite a few that I would like to just knock on their asses, but I didn't believe in hitting a woman. I did believe that regardless of how much you liked or loved someone, if the relationship came to any physical contact you should walk away. I knew sometimes it was hard, and I already had the scars to prove it, but it taught

me this was the best road to follow. After this morning‟s

little show, which I hoped the girls had missed, I would stay without a regular woman in my life. I had been doing it for years and I was reasonably happy with my life. I sure as hell didn't need all the complications that a relationship brought into a bachelor's life. I would never speak ill of her, and not ever talk about her in front of the girls. I knew I would be facing a barrage of questions from the girls but I could deal with that when it came.

“Harry, the Commander is raising hell about all the resources you‟re pulling in here. What do you want me to tell him?”

“I'll call the Governor and shut him down. Just tell him I have the approval of the Governor to use all the manpower I

need. If he wants to call him then he has my blessings.”

Butch busted out laughing as I pulled my cell out and hit the speed dial for his personal line. When he came on I explained what was going on and that the Commander was raising Cain about me using resources without getting his approval. The Governor told me to carry on and he would handle the Commander from his end. He also said the priority right now was to find those women and get them

help. He hung up with the words of you‟re doing a good job,

and the Troopers could use the publicity and appreciation from the people for the rescue of these women. I looked over at Butch and he was still listening to the phone in his

hand. I heard him say „yes sir‟ a couple of times before he

closed the cell.

“He had to let me go to take a call from the Governor. What

the hell did you say to the Governor to get him to call the Commander so quick, Harry? That man is a political appointee and doesn't know anything about field work. Our old Commander was demoted to supervisor of field operations so he could take his job. He makes the same salary but he just goes through the motions these days. He is putting in his time until he can retire in the next few

months.”

“Butch, the Governor gave me use of all the manpower I

needed to use here. The Commander has no say over me because I report directly to the Governor and I also outrank him. You won't hear anymore from him after he talks to the Governor, and gets set straight on who is in charge down

here.”

We were sitting at the table talking shop when we heard the sound of a chopper coming in to land.

“That will be my men coming back, Harry. Let's go see if they have any new information on that warehouse you‟re looking for.”

We all got up and paid our bills, leaving a good tip for the waitress. We went out to Beau's unit and climbed in, heading back to the casino.

Chapter # 33

Before we got back to the casino, I turned in the seat and told Butch what I wanted him to do in relation to the illegals.

“Butch, I am turning over the search operation to you to

run. I want that warehouse found and help given to those poor women and girls. If anyone gives you any shit, call me on my cell and if you need warrants then you will have them. I will put the prosecutor on notice and he will be ready for your call. I have the bus filled with bottles of water coming and if you need ambulances don't hesitate to call for them. I need to grab another weapon and do a little chore I think needs to be done. Beau, I want you to take the stuff in the trunk to the evidence room. I want the papers kept aside for me to look at. The rest I want in the cage safe for right now. All of you know my cell number so you will be

able to reach me. I will be back later to check in.”

I got out of the unit and got in mine and headed for the motor pool. I wanted to pick up my personal Jeep to make the run I wanted to make. I made it to the lot and my Jeep was sitting out in front. I parked my unit beside it and went in to get the keys from Doris. She was in her office so I went up the stairs and entered. She had a pot of coffee going so I took a cup and sat down.

“Harry, how do you get yourself in so much trouble? Here are your keys, and the owner of the Gas Mart said to tell you the color of your Jeep clashed with the color of his store. He also said to tell you that he is holding a dozen donuts with

your name on them.”

I had to laugh at the way she put that one at me.

“Doris, I am going to another county and I want my unit put

inside and kept an eye on until I come back. Here are the keys but unless it's Mark asking, you don't have them. I have some sensitive stuff locked in the weapons box and this is the safest place I know to hide them. I don't want anyone to know it's here unless something happens to me.

Then you let Mark know where it's at immediately.”

“Harry, what the hell are you getting into now? You spent two months in the hospital and now it sounds like you‟re getting into it again. I don't want to have to come see you in the hospital again so watch your ass this time. Why don't you let me send little Jimmy with you to watch your back? You're a hero in his eyes and he would love to help you.”

“I don't know who Jimmy is but this is something I plan on

doing myself. I won't be in any danger and sure won't need backup. I just want to make sure that I have covered myself in case of any repercussions. I have to go, so remember what I said. I will see you later when we go through the

bays.”

I got up and walked out and went to my Jeep. It started on the first twist of the key and I headed for the house and my gun trunk. I went up the drive to the cabin, went inside and got into the trunk where I kept my guns. I was looking for my 10mm and the extra mags I had stashed. I finally found it and put the shoulder holster on and put the mags in my pocket. I grabbed my extra set of cuffs and looped them through my belt. Now I was going to visit Danny and have a talk with Kit about his brother-in-law and his threats. Normally I wouldn't have interfered, but this had been bugging me since Beau had told me about it. I considered Danny to be one of the family and he deserved better than he had gotten from his mother. Her relatives were not going to threaten my people and hassle one of my men for protecting his son.

I drove to the little town of Pickens, hoping I would stick out enough with my bright yellow Jeep that I would attract some attention. Not gonna happen, I thought, as I parked in front of the hospital. I got out and went inside to the reception desk. I asked the candy striper at the desk what room he was in and as I went to the elevator I saw a uniform watching me.

I took the elevator to the fourth floor and started looking for the room Danny was in. I finally found it and he was alone watching television. I walked in and sat down in the chair next to the bed. He looked at me with a surprised look on his face. He was still showing the bruises from the beating and had his right arm in a cast. I was trying to keep a rein on my temper as I looked at his injuries.

“Hello, Sheriff, what are you doing here? I didn't know you were out of the hospital.”

“I been out for a while Danny. I just heard about what happened, so I thought I would drop in and see how the

department‟s computer expert was doing. You didn't think I

forgot about you, did you? I want you to get better because I might need your expertise again and you can't do me any

good lying in here.”

“Gee, Sheriff, I thought you were kidding when you said I

was the department computer expert. I shouldn't be in here too many more days. I have to go to physical therapy when I get out but I will be back to school soon. I do my homework as dad brings it in from the school. I have kept my grades up and I am still carrying a B+ average. My uncle is causing Dad a lot of problems because he won't drop the charges against Mom. I know Dad is trying to get me transferred to the hospital by his house so he doesn't have

to drive so far every day.”

“I have already made the arrangements for your transfer as

soon as I talk to your dad. I don't want you to worry about anything but getting better. When you get out, I want you to come into the station so we can get your ID card done. I didn't get a chance to have it done for you before. I also want to introduce you to the Sheriff while we are there. I am sure he will want to meet you since you are the youngest member of the department. I am proud of the way you assisted us during the investigation, and the crimes you uncovered on the computer. If you decide to go into law

enforcement when you get older, I will help you all I can.”

“Gee. That's really nice of you Sheriff. I don't really know what I want to do when I grow up but having an official ID from the department will sure make my buddies jealous.

Dad will sure be proud of me.”

We were interrupted by the appearance of the uniformed officer I had seen in the lobby. By Danny's reaction to his appearance I guessed this was the uncle that was giving Kit a hard time. He was about my size with the look of a heavy drinker about him. He had the red eyes and prominent blood vessels in his face from too many nights of getting drunk. His identity was confirmed as soon as he opened his mouth and the way he addressed Danny.

“Hey kid, who's your friend?”

“I don't think that's any of your business, officer. If you

want to know my name, then ask me respectfully and you might get it if I feel like telling you.”

“Mister, I don't know who you are but I am the law here,

and if I ask you a question then you'll answer or go to jail.

This little sissy is my nephew, and since you're not related,

you'll have to leave.”

“I don't care who you are or how you're related to him. This is a public facility and is open to anyone for visitations. I know a drunk like you is not his dad, so you have no say as to who visits him. If you don't like me being here, get his dad to order me out. Better yet why don't you leave and let

us resume our conversation.”

“I will leave for now, but this is my town and once you get out on the streets you come under my jurisdiction.”

He left as abruptly as he showed up and I had to smile at his backing off from his bluffing. I now had the answer I was looking for and I knew when I left I would see him again. That was the meeting I was looking forward to. I would make a phone call before I left and then we would play his little game out to its conclusion.

“Sheriff, you better watch out for him. He is almost as mean as Mom's boyfriend. They used to drink at the house all the time, and Mom drank as much as they did. I always went to my room so they would forget I was there but this time I didn't move fast enough. Manny kicked me in the butt as I went by him and when I told him that he wasn't allowed to touch me, he went crazy and I ended up in here. I remember hearing Mom and my uncle cheering in the back ground. I didn't know that he was so mean and I didn't fight

back because Dad always told me never to fight.”

I sat and listened to him as he relived the whole thing and grew madder with every word. I couldn't believe his own mother would let someone beat up on this gentle child. Well, two were in jail, and if it worked out like I wanted it to, there would be a third spending time and would no longer be a peace officer.

“Danny you should not fight except to protect yourself. Your

dad is right except for one thing he forgot to teach you. When your life is in danger, it's ok to fight back with anything you can lay your hands on. Especially if it's an

adult that's attacking you.”

“My dad was in Desert Storm and has a bunch of medals. He

has been trying hard to keep his temper under control, but he told me he was getting to the point to where he was about to explode all over my uncle. Sheriff, please don't let him go to jail for beating my uncle up. He's all I got left and I love him a whole lot. I am afraid he will hurt my uncle really bad, and end up in jail with Mom.

“Don't you worry about your uncle, Danny, he will be taken

care of by me today. I have a feeling he will be in jail before the day is over. Tell your dad I was here and the department will pay for the ambulance to transfer you to the hospital by

your dad's house. You‟re one of us and we take care of our

own. You be good Danny and get better so I can swear you into the department as our resident computer expert. I have to go and I will see you again.”

“Ok, Sheriff, I promise I will be out of here soon and will

come to the station for my ID as soon as the doctors say it's

ok for me to walk around.”

I went back out the door and caught the elevator down to the first floor. I got on my cell and made the call I planned earlier, and was told it would take ten minutes for them to get into position. I was told that they would call when they were ready for me to move.

I sat down in the lobby and thought about what Danny had told me about what happened to him. I was already mad enough to chew nails and made up my mind I would hurt his uncle before he went to jail. I hated bullies and he was the worst kind of bully; he carried a badge and was supposed to protect the innocent and helpless. I didn't know how good a fighter he was but I was going to find out as soon as he moved on me. I had a feeling he depended on his badge more than he should, and would use it to scare and coerce his victims. I was still thinking about it when my cell rang and startled me. I answered and was told my people were in position and I could move whenever I was ready. I walked out to my Jeep, climbed in and pulled out of the parking lot. I was headed out of town and doing three miles under the speed limit. I was about a half mile from the city limits when the blues went on behind me. I pulled over about five hundred feet outside of the city limits. I rolled down the window in the Jeep and waited to see who got out of the cruiser. Sure enough it was Danny's uncle and he was acting like a real cop.

“May I see your license and registration please?”

“Why was I pulled over officer? I was under the speed limit.”

“I pulled you over because I warned you in the hospital this

was my town and jurisdiction. I didn't like your smart mouth in front of my nephew. I think you need to be taught a little respect for officers of the law. Why don't you step out of the vehicle? I see you're a resident of Porter County. I hear they have a new Sheriff there and he's looking for good men. I think I might get on there and then I can keep an eye on

you. Come to the back of the vehicle please.”

I went to the back of the Jeep and waited for him to make his move. I didn't have long to wait. He pushed me up against the spare tire and hit me in the kidney where I thought he would. I was braced for the punch but it still took my breath away and hurt like hell. I waited for him to draw back for another punch, and when I felt him tighten up his hand on my shoulder I turned around and kicked him in the balls. He went down on one knee holding himself. I stepped back and gave him time to recover and let him get back up.

“You just made a very bad mistake, Mr. Hanson. Now I have

you for assault on an officer and battery and resisting arrest. I am going to beat the hell out of you before I take

you in.”

“Since we are more than five hundred yards beyond the city

limits you have no jurisdiction, and you assaulted me for no reason. You couldn't charge me for resisting arrest because I was never under arrest. You seem to have totally forgotten your law enforcement training, officer, or should I say prisoner. Allow me the pleasure of introducing myself to you. I am Undersheriff Harry Hanson of Porter County. That's just one of my positions, but I don't need to tell you the rest because you don't need to know. You can give up on

your own or I will be glad to make you.”

He didn't answer, just drew his baton and came toward me. Now this was my kind of fighting, I thought as I pulled the cuffs from my belt. He smiled when he saw me do that and swung the baton toward my head. I blocked him with the cuffs and hooked the baton in one of the cuff openings. Doing this, I was able to pull him close to me where I nailed him on the chin and then the nose before I stepped away from him. He dropped the baton and went for his gun and I out drew him by a large margin. He dropped his gun and I kicked it in the ditch. I put mine back in the holster and smiled at him.

“Don't you think you are a little over weight and out of

shape to be a cop? I think you better give up before I beat the shit out of you like your friend did to Danny. I can't believe you would cheer while watching a child get beat senseless by a full-grown man. You're a worthless son of a bitch and don't deserve to carry that badge.”

I was hoping to get the opportunity to beat on him some more but it wasn't to be. My backup arrived with their unmarked cars. I wondered what had taken them so long to get here, but then they arrested him and read him his rights. They took the video camera from my Jeep and marked the tape as evidence. I took his badge and walked away from him holding the badge in my hand. I watched as they cuffed him and picked up his weapon from the ditch. I realized then that they had given me the extra time to handle him my way, but when he had given up fighting me they had

moved in. My respect for the Attorney General‟s men went

up about three notches at that point.

I watched as they drove him away, and I headed back into town to go to see his Chief. I wondered what his reaction would be and if he knew about his officer and his mean streak. I pulled up in front of the small Police Station and parked. I got out and went inside to the front desk. I asked the clerk if the Chief was in. I was asked who I was and I showed her my ID. She called on the phone and I was told to go to the third door on the right where he would see me. I knocked on the door and was told to come in. I went in and had my first look at the Chief of Police for this town. I was not very impressed at the picture I was seeing behind the desk. He was, I would guesstimate, about seventy years old and was in the middle of some kind of trembling fit. He was shaking so bad he wasn't able to pick up the cup of coffee he was trying to drink. He tried two different times as I watched. He gave up and swung his attention to me.

“What can I do for you, Sheriff? It isn't often I have such high ranking officers come to see me.”

I caught onto his game immediately and played along with him. I had a sneaking hunch our conversation was being recorded.

“I am bringing you news about one of your officers, Chief.

He was arrested this afternoon so I thought I would bring

you his badge. He won't be needing it anymore.”

I reached out and dropped it on his desk in front of him. He had calmed down a little and was able to pick it up to look at it.

“I don't know this officer but if what you say is true then he

will no longer be on this department. How did you get involved in this, Sheriff?”

“I was the one he chose to try to rough up this time. He

came out on the losing end and was arrested outside the city limits by Special Investigators from the Attorney General's office. I am afraid he will be prosecuted and go to jail. I hope you have a better officer to replace him.”

“I don't think I will have to worry about it after next month.

The city is disbanding this department and the city will be patrolled by the Sheriff's Department. None of the men here were offered a position so they will all have to look for work in other departments around the state. I am retiring and

hope to spend my last few years doing some trout fishing.”

“I wish you the best of luck, Chief. I hate to see any

department disbanded and the men unemployed. I need to

get back to my own department so I'll be heading out.”

As I got up to leave, I dropped one of my cards with my cell number on it. He quickly put his hand over the card. I went

to the door, and he said, “It was nice to meet you”, as I left.

Now what the hell was that all about, I wondered to myself as I headed out of town.

Chapter # 34 I was still thinking about all that went on in the Chief's office as I drove back to Porter. I went directly to the motor pool to pick up my unit. I parked my Jeep in front again and went inside. Several of the mechanics waved as I walked through the shop. I went up the steps and went into the office, grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down for a minute.

“That was quick Harry. Are you ok? Here are your keys and your unit is in the wash bay. I am going to put your name on the floor so you will have a reserved spot to park here. Your

unit spends more time there than the cars we're washing.”

“Doris, how well do you know the gulch area?”

I went on to tell her what was going on there and what kind of building we were looking for. She sat and thought for a minute then she perked up with what looked like an idea.

“Harry, you might want to check the old Peters‟ place. He

belonged to the old Sheriff's crowd and his old place is out in the middle of nowhere. He had several buildings on his

property that were big enough for what you‟re talking

about. It's hard to find and even harder to get to. He has been dead for several years, but his son ran with Hubba all the time. Let me get my county map out and I can show you

where it's at.”

While she was digging her map out I got on the phone with the prosecutor and told him I needed a search warrant for the property. I wanted it to be for the aliens and for illegal weapons. He said he would draw it up and I could pick it up on my way back to the gulch. Doris came back to the desk,

unfolded the map and she started looking for the Peters‟

place on it.

“Here it is, Harry. You have to take the old logging road up the hill behind the casino you‟re checking now. It's about

five miles back in the hills. There's only one way in and out of that area. I suggest you watch your step with the son, because he is mentally challenged and has a real bad temper. He is like his papa, and hates the law and won't give up as long as he can fight. Harry, he is not very stable and will shoot at trespassers at the drop of a hat. He is also a very good shot and he and Hubba used to hunt together all the time. He knows all that area up there like the back of his

hand.”

“Well, this will be a real challenge for the State Troopers. I

guess we will find out when we get in there. Where the hell do all these nuts come from? How many of these antisocial

clans are there around here?”

“You forget, Harry, this county has been the haven for all

these nuts for years. The old Sheriff encouraged them to move in here and he was the unofficial leader of them all. You will run across this type of thing for many years until they all die off. You have only come across a small number of them. I suggest you and your people wear vests if you

have them, „cause Scoobie always shoots for a heart shot and for an instant kill.”

I thanked her as I handed her the keys to my Jeep. I

climbed into my unit and headed for the prosecutor‟s office

to pick up the warrant. I double parked in front of the courthouse and went in. The prosecutor was coming down the hall and when he saw me he waved a paper in the air to catch my attention. I walked over to him and he handed me the paper.

“This is somewhat broad based, but the Judge said to tell

you it will stand up in any court. Harry, one of the women that works in the recorders office knows the Peters boy and said to tell you he is very dangerous. She said that since the old man died he has never been seen in town. She also said

there were booby traps all over the hills up there.”

“Tell her I said thanks for the warning, but I was told all of that by Doris at the motor pool.

“Harry that was a nice thing you did for her and I think you

will never regret it. Before you leave, I need you to sign her probation papers since you are her sponsor. The Federal Court was very adamant that you be her sponsor. Just make sure she stays out of trouble while she is on probation.”

“I really don't think she will be any kind of problem, but I will keep my eyes on her just the same.”

I followed him to his office and waited while he got the papers out. I signed them and before I left he gave me his card with his home and cell numbers on it. I thanked him before heading out the door to my unit. As soon as I pulled out, I got on the radio and had dispatch call Beau to meet me at the gulch. I was informed he had already returned and was acting as the go between for our department and the State Police. I cleared and headed directly for the gulch. When I went down the main street of the gulch, I noticed that there were a lot of State Troopers units and there seemed to be more coming in. I pulled up beside Beau's unit and got out. He was on the radio and Butch was standing

beside the driver‟s side as I walked up.

“Butch, have you found any sign of the girls yet?”

“Not a sign of them, Harry. We have checked all the

buildings big enough to fit the description you gave us but nothing so far. That ATF team leader has been looking for you. I told him you were off the radio for awhile and that Hadley was in charge while you were gone. Harry, the air units want to know if you have any idea where they should

look.”

“Butch, I have uncovered information about where they

might be. I have a warrant, but I want to hold up for a minute until I can check it out by air. Have one of the air units pick me up, will you? While I am up, pull all your men in except the ones on the roadblocks. This shouldn't take too

long.”

He was on the radio almost immediately so I stood by and waited for the chopper to land. I watched as one of their units landed behind the building in front of me. I ran over and climbed in the back and was handed a headset to put on as we lifted off. Man, I hadn't been in one of these things for years.

“Commander, where are we going?”

I directed them to where Doris had told me the buildings were. As we flew over the faint road, I noticed the truck sitting in the brush up the hill behind the casino. I had the pilot call it in, with the warning for whoever checked it out to be careful of booby traps. We had cleared the ridge behind where the truck was parked, and I saw the buildings that had been described to me. I told the pilot to fly over, and we would give it a casual check before we went any lower for a closer view. I warned him that the resident of the property might shoot at us if we got too low. He informed me this was a retired combat chopper, and it was armored in all the vital areas. Unless he was shooting armor piercing bullets, he wouldn't do anything but ping us.

We flew a high pass over the buildings and I immediately saw a white rag being waved from one of the windows. I pointed it out to the pilot and we went in for a closer view of that building. I told him to fly over the smaller building first so we didn't draw attention to whoever was waving the rag. We dropped down over the small barn and just as we started to turn to go into our run over the big building I felt a PING right under my feet. I told the pilot immediately and he swung the chopper to face the small building. I put the binoculars up to my eyes and saw a man standing in the doorway of the barn with a rifle pointed toward us. I saw the flame out of the barrel and there was SPLAT sound from where the pilot was sitting. I looked around the seat and there was a big Star in the front part of the window in front of the pilot. He was laughing like crazy as he dove the chopper toward the barn and the shooter.

“If you get me killed, I will haunt you forever!”

“Don't worry, Commander, I'm just gonna scare the hell out

of that idiot. I can't believe he would draw attention to

himself by shooting at us. Hang On!”

I was, believe me, and the pilot was laughing like crazy as he flew almost into the open barn doors. Damn, this guy was crazier than I was when I was young. He was laughing as the shooter dove flat on the ground and he pulled up. I swear from my seat we only cleared the barn by about an inch or so. As we turned we were over the big building, I had the binoculars to my eyes and could see a small girl waving what looked like a pair of panties between the bars over the window. This was all the confirmation I needed and I immediately ordered the pilot to take us back to town. While we were flying back I had the pilot tell Butch to have Hadley at our landing site. When we sat down I jumped out and went over to them pulling Hadley to the side away from the chopper as pilot was shutting down.

“I want you to get on the horn and call your Swat Team in

immediately. That SOB has all the advantage and I don't want any officers getting shot because he does. I doubt any of them have ever been in a shootout or ever had a gun shot at them. The women are in a large building at the back of the property. I don't want to give him any time to harm any of them so get your team in here now!

“They have already been called in and are on their way,

Harry. When I heard you were taking hits I called and ordered them in. I also called in the bomb team you use from Nellis and they are on their way also. Sorry if I jumped the gun, but I anticipated what you would need. I think I am finally starting to get a handle on how you think. They will be here in ten and ready to rock and roll, Harry. They have

been ordered to wear full body armor.”

'You won't hear me complain because you jumped the gun. I'm glad you did because it will cut down on response time. Hadley you tell your guys this man is not operating on all cylinders, and that they should shoot to kill if they have to. I don't want anyone hurt here today if we can avoid it. I don't know how many women are in that building, but the one I saw couldn't have been over twelve years old. Damn the rotten bastards for locking up these kids to sell. If I had my way I would just shoot them all right on the spot.

“Calm down, Harry, we all feel the same way. Here come my men now.”

I watched as the chopper landed about fifty feet from the other one. The door slid open and a man came running over to us dressed in full assault gear.

“I was ordered to report to you sir. You lay it out for us and we will go in to get him.”

I described the situation and layout of the area, warning them to look out for ground set booby traps. I told them I wanted two of their men to set up a perimeter with a clear field of fire to cover the warehouse when it was established where the shooter was. I also told him the man was an avid survivalist and he was to be considered to be extremely dangerous. I touched on a few other points before telling him to shoot to kill if they had a barricaded subject and he refused to surrender. He nodded his head at me and Hadley then ran back to the chopper and they took off. We would have to wait for the all clear before we went in because they would maintain radio silence. I watched as they disappeared over the rim and hoped that he wasn't smart enough to use the women as hostages. I didn't want them to kill him, but I had a feeling he would go out hard. I sure hoped he hadn't wired the building the women were in. Oh well, it was out of my hands now. I watched as the Air Force chopper landed and Preacher and his men jumped out.

“Hey Stinger, what the hell have you gotten yourself into now?”

He had that shit eating grin on his face and for a moment I flashed back to another time and place. I quickly shook my head and went on to explain why he and his team were back again. He started cussing before I finished the explanation. Man, his language hadn't improved over the years. Hadley and Butch were both laughing at his vivid description of what he thought of someone who would do something like that to a child.

“Harry, we will be more than glad to help out in any way we

can. I'll go and brief my guys but don't get mad if they start

cussing when I tell them.”

I looked over at Hadley, and he and Butch were both laughing like hell at what he said.

“Will you two quit laughing? He doesn't need any further encouragement. I have known him for over twenty years and he just gets worse as he gets older. He was and still is a damn good soldier, but he doesn't have the temperament for authority figures, and will tell an officer off in a minute.”

Nobody said anything, but just stood there smiling like a couple of idiots. Man, don't they teach these young guys how to act professional any more, I wondered? I just shook my head and found a nice soft spot of grass and sat down while I waited for the all clear on the radio. I must have dozed off because I woke with the feeling of someone kicking the bottom of my foot. When I opened my eyes Hadley was standing over me with a radio in his hand.

“We got problems, Harry. They have him cornered in the house but we have two men down, one with a serious wound from some kind of booby trap. The team leader says he will be ok until they can clear the area. He wants to know

what you want him to do.”

“If he is holed up in the house and has harmed two men then I don't have a choice. Wait here, and tell him to establish a perimeter around the house, and keep him in

there for about twenty minutes until I can get there.”

I got up and ran for the casino. I went through it and down the ramp to the cave where Barry was still working with his team to get all the pallets broken down for shipment. I called him over and asked him where the crates of RPGs were. He looked at me in surprise for a minute and pointed to his right. I went over and since one of them was open, I took three of the grenades and the weapon to shoot them out of the box.

“Harry, you can't take those. I have to account for them when the stuff is transported.”

“I don't have time to explain now, Barry. I will take full responsibility for them so you won't have to worry.”

I ran back up the ramp and back toward the chopper. I ran toward Preacher and his men and as soon as he laid eyes on what I was carrying, he made a circling motion over his head for the pilot to wind it up. I climbed into the Huey and all of his men piled in behind me. We were up and flying in a few moments, headed for the battle area. I heard Preacher whoop as I was arming the grenades. We topped the ridge and I could see the SWAT team had the house circled so the person inside wouldn't escape. I motioned to Preacher to have the pilot hover just off the ground about five hundred feet to the side of the house. I didn't see any windows there so we could dismount in relative safety. His pilot was damned good because he feathered, Preacher and I were out in seconds, and he was back in the air. I motioned to one of the SWAT team members to come to me, and when he went to one knee by my side, I asked him where the suspect was located in the house relative to where we were at. He pointed to the front of the house and made the motion that he was on the close side of us.

“Have your men move back about ten feet so any debris

doesn't hurt any of them. Tell them to duck because I am going to blow that bastard out of there.”

He got on his radio with a big grin on his face. I waited until they were all back and I shouted at the house.

“THIS IS THE PORTER COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT! IF

YOU DON'T SURRENDER IMMEDIATELY WE WILL BURN YOU

OUT!”

I waited for his reply and it wasn't long in coming.

“I AIN'T GONNA SURRENDER! THIS HERE'S PRIVATE

PROPERTY AND YOU AIN'T GOT ANY BUSINESS

TRESPASSING ON MY PLACE!”

“I HAVE A LEGAL SEARCH WARRANT AND YOU HAVE

WOUNDED SEVERAL FEDERAL OFFICERS. I WILL GIVE YOU THREE MINUTES TO COME OUT OR WE ARE COMING IN

AFTER YOU!”

“KISS MY ASS!”

I saw Preacher smiling and I gave him the finger. I told the SWAT man to have the team leader to draw his fire to the far right side of the house and I would do the rest. I waited for the fire to start up and him to answer it, and stepped out where I had a clear shot at the front right window. I fired the RPG at an angle into the house. It exploded and I stepped up and fired another one angled a little lower, a little farther to the right. When it exploded, I fired the last one at the front door and blew it and whatever he had braced against it to hell. I dropped the now empty RPG on the ground, pulling my pistol as I ran in the front door. I kept going through a door way heading for the last spot he had been firing from. He was down but he wasn't dead. I walked up to him and pushed the scoped rifle away and quickly cuffed his hands behind his back. I called the all clear and then the house was full. I was surprised that the whole place wasn't on fire but I had gotten lucky with the type of grenade I had picked. It was not an incendiary. Hell, it didn't matter because I couldn't read Cyrillic anyway.

Chapter # 35

I watched as the SWAT team gathered up the prisoner along with their own wounded. They wasted no time getting them all loaded on the chopper and flying out. I watched as Preacher's Huey landed in the front yard of the smoking house. His team climbed down and came over to us.

“Preacher, I want this whole front area cleared of any booby traps. I am not going to let those women out of there until I know it's clear. I also want your pilot to go back and get loaded with the bottles of water from the bus I have there. Tell him to tell the others to stay away unless they speak fluent Spanish. If they can, then have them hitch a ride with

the water and come in.”

“You got it, Stinger. Man, this is just like old times isn't it?”

“Will you get your war mongering ass busy? I don't have time for this shit right now.”

He laughed and went to his pilot and talked for a few minutes, then went to his men. I watched as they started checking the ground and anywhere else they thought might be a booby trap. I knew this was going to take a while, and I was trying to ignore the crying from the big barn like building. It was really getting on my nerves. I could feel the misery without having to see it. I heard the distinctive sound of the Huey before I saw it coming. I hoped they had plenty of water on it for these poor women. I watched as it landed almost in the same spot it did before. I was surprised to see Mark and Hadley both jump down from it. They immediately started unloading the bottles of water and when I got there, they had most of this load on the ground. I was glad they had all this excess energy because my ass was dragging. I saw another chopper hovering to the side and as soon as ours took off it landed almost in the same spot. Butch jumped down and the three of them were unloading more water. I sat down on one of the stacks and waited till they were done and the chopper had took off again.

“Harry, me and Hadley both speak fluent Spanish, and we are here to help.”

“Mark, you should be home with the girls not working this

late. I have to get some portable lighting in here because there is no electric. I have Preacher and his men checking the grounds before I am letting any of them come out. This whole thing is FUBAR big time. They are all going to have to be walked out of here and it can't be done tonight.

“Dammit, Harry, where do you think I have been all day? I have a complete portable hospital coming in and a field kitchen with the lighting and everything else you need. The Governor has it all coming from Nellis and it should be arriving at any time. Relax Harry, let someone else do some work. You have been hard at it all day, and not only in this county from what I heard. Why don't you sit there and let us

do our jobs for a change?”

This was the first time that Mark had ever given me an order so I did what he said, lit a cigarette and just relaxed. I was watching Preacher and his men spreading out in an ever widening circle, checking the ground before it got dark. I saw Mark and Preacher talking before Mark carefully walked up to the warehouse door. Hadley came over and sat down beside me.

“Harry, you did a hell of a good job here today. Those

women owe their lives to you and your actions. Mark told me what happened in Pickens. Man, you just don't let anything get by you, do you? I still find it hard to believe you have accomplished all you have today. I bet you were a

hell of a Marshal when you were younger.”

“Hadley, I am the first one to admit I have a rigid sense of

ethics for myself, but I still have feelings for the innocent and helpless around me. I hate the fact that these girls went through all this horror just to try to find a life for themselves. I also hate it that there are men like us that have to be the ones to send them back to the poverty they were trying to escape from. I am sworn to uphold the law, but I don't have to take any enjoyment out of doing it. If I had my way, they would all be given to a host family, and let them earn the right to be citizens so their family doesn't

have to go through what they did.”

“Harry, I am married to a beautiful Latino woman and we have three kids. We all have learned English and Spanish together so they would not forget their heritage. My wife used to work sixteen hours a day to make ends meet, but she never gave up. I feel the same way about this whole situation that you do, but I am realistic enough to know I can't change it. I am with you about it, but it's not up to us. I have to have my wife talk to me sometimes, to keep me from ruining my whole career because of the hate I have for the men who do this. No, Harry, you're not the only one

who's mad here today.”

I watched him walk up to the warehouse and was thinking about what he said. Just goes to show you that you never know all you thought you did, about the people you worked with. I watched as Preacher went over to Mark and they talked a little before he came over to me and sat down. His men all gathered around us in a circle waiting for their ride.

“Stinger, this is one part of your job I don't think I would like to do. You have to send them all back, don't you?”

“The INS will. I don't have a say in it, Preacher. I am just

thankful I found them before they all died of dehydration. I

feel sorry for them „cause they will be shuffled around like

cattle after they leave here. I just hope they get treated better before they get home to their families. I want the people behind this operation and I will get them sooner or

later. They won't be able to hide forever.”

I watched the Huey come in with a sling underneath it. They lowered it down to the ground and went to the side and hovered while fifteen soldiers came out both sides of it to the ground. They went running over to the sling and started pulling out crates of stuff. I watched as they sorted them and then they started pulling the contents out. They were portable lights and they were making a huge circle of them with two pointing toward the warehouse. They set the empty cases off to the side, stacking them neatly. Then another Huey came in and more men and equipment came out. There was a large kitchen being set up to feed everyone.

I watched as another one came in and set the field hospital by the house. Several of the soldiers came over to me like they knew who I was. “Sheriff Hanson, we were told to report to you. We are all fluent in Spanish and are here to

help with any language problems.”

“Those two men over there by the warehouse are in charge

now. I suggest you report to them for your assignments. I will warn you now the conditions inside there are gonna turn your stomachs. Please do not let those poor women see you show any type of rejection toward them. I will promise you if you do, I will personally take you out in the dark and kick your ass. Those poor girls deserve every bit of kindness

you can show them.”

I watched as they slowly went over to Hadley and reported into him. They talked a few minutes and I saw him look over at me and smile, before he said something to the soldiers that made them come to attention immediately. Preacher came back over and sat down beside me and we both watched the tables and chairs being set up in the yard of the house in front of the hospital. From the smiles I was seeing on the soldiers, none of them looked unhappy to be here.

“Harry, looks like me and my men are going to be here for a

while. They took our ride to haul more supplies in. There are also a lot of the women from town walking out to help out so there will be other females around. You must be very popular there, because when they heard you were staying, they all decided to come out and help. I know I act like an ass sometimes, but you on the other hand, are still out here saving lives like you did for our team in Nam so many times.

I still owe you my life ten times over, my friend.”

“Preacher that was war and it doesn't count. We had to cover each others‟ back to stay alive. I would rather have

your friendship, than have you think you owe me for saving

your miserable hide.”

We both had a good laugh at that and watched as a private helicopter flew over the area. I told Preacher to get on the horn and warn him off before we had him arrested. He was trying to get permission to land, but he was told the area was an Air Force Training area and was closed to civilian craft for ten miles. He finally flew off but wasn't happy about it. I called Hadley over and asked him to close the area to air traffic unless cleared by Nellis or him. He got on the horn to Nellis and informed them of the orders and they agreed right away. They didn't want some dummy crashing into one of their choppers flying in and out of the area.

I leaned back and amid all the confusion I fell asleep. I don't know how long I was sleeping when I heard a scream and sat bolt upright from a lying position. I came up off the boxes with my gun in my hand looking for the source. I felt a hand on my shoulder and started. Mark was standing beside me pushing the pistol toward the ground. I quickly holstered it and heard another scream.

“We had two hundred and ten-people still alive in there. They found fifteen really small children that didn't make it. The screams that startled you are the mothers venting their grief in the only way they can. Damn, I hate this job, Harry. Let's turn it over to Hadley, and go get the girls and go

home.”

“Why don't you do that Mark, and give them a kiss and hug for me, will ya? I will stay and see this through and help all I can. Take my unit home with you and I'll catch a ride back

with someone. Here's the key.”

He looked at the mother kneeling on the ground next to the body bag and walked away with tears in his eyes. I spied Hadley still by the warehouse and walked over to him. I was standing a little to the side, and realized he was crying while silently watching the little bodies being carried out to be placed in body bags. I turned and walked out of the lights and watched as another mother recognized a body and went down to her knees sobbing. I sat down on a log and let the tears flow. I couldn't hold it back any longer. I thought I had it under control but I didn't, and I couldn't stop the tears from coming after seeing all the little bodies lying on the ground. If I thought cussing would help I would have let loose but I knew it wouldn't. I just stood numb and hurting while I watched the same scene play out four more times. I walked away and went to find a cup of coffee. I was so very thankful I wasn't the one having to move those tiny little souls from the building. I found the coffee pot and had my first cup of the evening. I noticed about a dozen girls eating but most were stretched out on the ground in sleeping bags asleep. I sat down at the table and lit a cigarette wondering where all these kids had come from. I only saw maybe twenty adults in the whole crowd. The woman I had talked to about the money saw me and came over and sat down next to me.

“Sheriff, this is the most horrible thing I have ever seen in

my life. One of the little girls from town was found in that place. We didn't know she was missing until they found her here. The State Troopers let her parents take her back to town until the funeral home could come get her. He said she would be taken to the hospital for an autopsy, but they would release her to her parents tomorrow. Why is this

happening Sheriff?”

“Lady, if I could answer that then I would be able to find out

who brought them here. If I ever do, he won't have a chance to explain to a jury of his peers. I don't want to talk

about it anymore. I need another cup of coffee.”

I got up and went to the coffee pot and damned if she didn't follow me. I guess she couldn't take a hint.

“Sheriff, I'm sorry for talking about it. I have seen the effect

this has had on all the law enforcement and the soldiers. I never saw so many men crying in my life. My ole man made me cry, but he didn't shed a tear when our daughter was killed by that animal Hubba. I will always be grateful to you

for giving her peace after all this time.”

“How old are you, lady? You look like you‟re about thirty at the most. How many years ago has this been?”

“I didn't mean to make you angry Sheriff. I lost my girl five years ago come this June. I am fifty-four years old. I work as a bartender in the other casino in town. The money I collected was mine, from when I worked there when it all happened. I quit right after that. I'll go now and quit bothering you.”

I watched as she walked away, trying to figure out why she had approached me in the first place. I looked up and saw Hadley coming for the coffee pot, and I waited for him to come up.

Chapter # 36

I made sure I met Hadley at the coffee pot as he came up to the feeding area.

“Harry, if I didn't have a family to support I would spend the

rest of my life looking for the people that could do this to children. This is one time that I need to go home and hug my kids and my wife. If she saw this, she would be in the hospital with shock. Do you have any idea at all who is

shipping these kids to this part of the country?”

“I haven't had a chance to go through all the papers I

confiscated from the casino yet. That first bunch we found were being driven by a member of the Brotherhood out of

Texas. I still don't believe they are doing this.”

“If they are, it's a first for them. They deal in arms and

drugs and other smuggling but they have never been connected with something like this. No, I think it's some other group. Maybe the Mexican Mafia or one of the Drug Cartels. I have not seen any memos or any other information about anyone dealing in children like what we have found here. My team will sweat that man you blew up

as soon as he is able to talk.”

“I don't think I had much of a choice on that one Hadley. I wasn't going to let him hurt anyone else or blow that

warehouse. Sorry, but it was my call, Hadley.”

“I am not blaming you for what you did, Harry. I would have

done the same. By the way, will you call me by my first

name?”

“If I knew what the hell it was I would.”

“It's Sean, and I'm sorry I haven't been very polite toward

you. I didn't realize how many years of experience in the service you had. I about had a heart attack when I finally was able to get my hands on your jacket. If you don't mind me asking, why did you drop off the face of the earth after

the Butler case?”

“Sean that's one subject I would like to forget about. Let's

say I got him, but he died before he could stand trial. I decided right then I was done with government service. That's why I went with the County service. It was rife with the same mentality as the big boys were. I went private, and the only reason I am carrying this badge now is because of Mark. Hell, Sean, I don't have to work, but I need something to keep me busy. I don't think I would rate this as such, but maybe it will help to erase some of the black spots on my soul. What are we going to do with all these

little kids, Sean?”

“That's not for us to decide, Harry. I can tell you that most of the ones I talked to were orphaned from all over the Latin countries. There was one little girl, the one who was waving the rag, told me a big white man bought her and ten others for fifty dollars American each. She told me she has had only had three meals in the last ten days, and very little water. She also said some of these kids had been in that barn for two weeks before they got here. She didn't know where they were going from here, but she said anything was better

than being in that barn.”

I didn't have any type of comeback for that statement so I just sat in silence and drank my coffee. I looked at my watch and to my surprise it was only a few minutes after midnight. I looked around and all the girls except one were asleep. The one sitting at the table was staring at me like she knew me, or was trying to remember if she did. Now this was disconcerting as hell. I noticed Sean was taking it all in with a frown on his face.

“Do you know her from somewhere Harry?”

“I have never seen her before that I know of Sean. I wish she would quit staring at me.”

She must have been reading my mind because she went over to an empty sleeping bag and went to bed.

“That was really weird, Harry. Are you sure you don't know her?”

“I am positive Sean. I must remind her of somebody or

something. Let's go see if they have any food left. I haven't

eaten since this morning.”

He looked at me in surprise and nodded his head. We walked over to the chow line and asked, and were told all they had left were some bologna sandwiches and some soup. We were told they were having a full breakfast in the morning. The choppers were due in at daybreak with more food and water. They were also expecting clothes and the stuff to set up portable showers for all the girls. They said the women from town were coming back to help with bathing and getting clothes to match the girls. We were also told there was a tent set up for the two of us by the house. He said a Sgt. by the name of Preacher had made sure it was set up for us and even pointed us out to make sure they all knew who it was for. We thanked him and headed for it. There was a light burning inside and two cots with sheets and a pillow. I stripped down to my briefs and climbed in between the sheets. Sean wasn't far behind me and since the light was closer, I was the one who turned it off. I did make sure I put my gun under my pillow, close at hand just in case. I fell asleep thinking about the girls.

I don't know how long I had been asleep when my eyes popped open, and I realized I was holding my pistol. I didn't know what had awakened me so I lay on the cot listening to the sounds around me. I heard what sounded like steps outside of the tent. I didn't move, just laid and listened. There it was again, in the rear of the tent, coming around to the front. I could hear Sean breathing in a steady pattern so I knew he was still sound asleep. The steps were almost by the flaps now, and I had the pistol pointed at the opening of the tent flaps. Whoever was out there would be outlined when they opened the flaps so I would be able to see who it was. I waited for what seemed like an hour to me, when I saw a hand grab the flap and ease it open. I almost shot, but at the last minute I was able to see it was the little girl who had been staring at me at the table. I wondered what she was up to as I watched her ease into the tent. I reached up and turned the light on and she let out a little scream when the light came on. Sean sat up wide awake looking toward where the scream came from.

“Why are you here and what do you want?”

“I don't think she speaks English, Harry.”

“Oh I think she does because her eyes widened when I spoke to her. Now little girl, why are you in my tent?”

“I was looking for you, Harry. My mom said she thought you

were out this way. That's why I let myself stay with the other orphans. I could have escaped at any time. Don't you remember who I am? I know I was only five the last time

you saw me, but I haven't changed that much have I?”

“I don't know who you are and I certainly would have remembered if I knew you. Where is your family?”

“My mother is dead, that's why I was in the orphanage in

Sonora. I did have a letter for you but those men burned it when they searched me. If you could have read it, you

would have understood why I was trying to find you.”

“You don't have it, and I have no idea who you are, or who

your mother might have been. If you have some kind of explanation, then I suggest you tell me or get out of here.”

“I will tell you, and I will also tell you where Mom said the

records were she locked up for you to read. My name is Sandra Hanson and until we went to Sonora we lived in Columbus, Ohio. My mother's name was Cindy and she was your daughter until she died of cancer. I am your granddaughter, and I have been trying to find you for two years. I wrote to everyone Mom told me about, but nobody knew where you were. Can I please stay with you or are you going to send me back to Sonora to be sold again?”

I was sitting there with my mouth hanging open with my gun still in my hand. My God! Did she say she was my granddaughter? My daughter died of cancer two years ago? Why hadn't someone told me about all of this? How come my ex never let me know? She knew where I was as I always sent her and her family a Christmas card every year. Sean spoke up and it took a couple of minutes for it to register he was even speaking to me.

“Harry, say something will you? If this is true, then you are twice blessed in the last twenty four hours. I think she is

waiting for you to answer her.”

“How come your grandmother never said anything to me?

She would have taken you and your mom in if she needed

help.”

“You don't understand. Mom and I moved down there after grandma died of the same cancer that killed Mom. That was a year before we moved. Didn't anyone ever tell you

anything?”

“Your grandmother's dead, too? This is the first I've heard

of any of this. How come her family never told me or wrote

and let me know?”

“Grandma‟s husband was scared to death of you. Mom used

to use your name to scare him when he would treat us mean. All she had to do was threaten to call you and he would leave us alone. He used to beat on Mom and Grandma when they didn't do what he wanted.”

“He knew about you and your mom, and didn't call or drop

me a line? I think he needs a little jolt of reality. I don't know what to say as your mom and I haven't spoken since

you were born.”

“Mom told me all about it and she always regretted that she lost you over a stupid comment. She spent hours telling me about you while she was in that filthy hospital down there. She kept telling me to get to you no matter what it took. She loved you, and cried because she couldn't see you before she died. I don't know how many times she made me promise to find you. I have and went through all of this and now you don't want me either. I am beginning to think I am

better off alone.”

I was still in shock but Sean wasn't, and he spoke up for me immediately.

“Sandra, I have a feeling he is still in shock from all of this.

Can you tell us a little more of how you got here all the way

from Sonora? It might help us to find out who's doing this.”

“I know who the one is who is buying all these girls. It pays

to be able to speak both languages. He lives in Austin and runs several large grocery stores there. We stayed in one of his warehouses the first night we came into this country. He picked two of the little girls and we never saw them again. He has a big ranch with the circle L on all his trucks and clothes. He was one of several that came through and looked at us. He was the big boss and wasn't afraid to brag about it. We were all supposed to be loaded on a ship going to some desert country to be sold as slaves for a big profit. I overheard them talking about this being the biggest load so far, and that they all would make millions from us. He keeps his records in his office at his ranch and he told the rest he would be sure to write down how much their shares would

be.”

“Sandra, that's the most information we have been able to

find out since this whole thing started. I think Harry is starting to come around a little. Why don't you wait outside

while we get dressed and then we will join you?”

I watched still in shock, as she smiled with her mother's smile, as she ducked out of the tent. Now that my memory had been shocked into reality, I could see how much she resembled her mother when she was that age. I still couldn't believe that her mother was dead as well as my ex wife. To think she went through all of this to find me was incredible. I did know that her grandmother's husband was in for a big surprise as soon as I got to a phone. I had promised him years ago I wouldn't put him away with what I had on him, unless he mistreated my daughter. He had and he was going to pay big time when I got through with him.

“Harry, I know this has been a big shock, but you need to

get a grip, and tell me what you are going to do about her. She deserves to have a home after all she has been through. Are you ready to be a father again? I think you both need to sit down and get to know each other. Why don't you get dressed and go out there and talk to her some more?”

I didn't answer, but got dressed and put my gun away. I went out of the tent and she was sitting all alone at one of the tables drinking coffee. I stopped and watched her for a little bit, and the more I watched the more the memories of my daughter came back to me. Damn, that black spot on my soul had just gotten bigger. If I had known where she was I would have brought her home to stay with me and taken care of her. I was fifty seven years old with a granddaughter that was at the most ten going on twenty. She was wise way beyond her years from all she had been through. I would be willing to bet her mom made sure she had a good education, more than normal kids her age. I knew I was just putting off the inevitable so I slowly walked to where she was sitting. I detoured and grabbed a coffee on my way. I sat down beside her and lit a cigarette waiting to see if she would start the conversation. I couldn't think of anything to break the silence between us. I was thankful when she started the conversation with a question.

“You never did answer my question.”

“Which one was that?”

“Whether you‟re going to accept me or send me back to be sold again?”

I looked at her in shock, and she smiled at me, and once again my mind was taken back to the past. I had to quit doing that, and get a hold of my mind. This was all surreal to me and getting worse.

“I don't think I could do that. I might have to rescue you

again and I don't think I could stand the shock. I am an old man and these shocks are not good for me. Will you tell me

why your mom chose Mexico to live?”

“She was working for a travel agency, and they offered her

a job there to teach new employees. After she got sick, thieves stole everything we owned including all our papers. We were stuck, and when she got too weak to leave, I was put in the orphanage while she was in the hospital. They didn't watch us very close so I spent most of the time with her. That's how I knew who you were when you sat down. We used to have an old picture but it got taken too. You haven't changed much, well, maybe your face is a little fatter. The papers my mom left for you are in the bank, in your name, in Columbus. Mom opened the box and paid for ten years so it would be there. It has all my records in it, along with the papers for you to be my guardian. That's all I

know.”

I was deep in retrospect again when Sean sat down across from us. I noticed he was trying to use the phone but the signal here was weak, as I had already discovered. Preacher had used the radio and his pilot for me to get my messages out. He was talking to Sandra and I caught the tail end of the conversation. When he addressed me by name, it snapped me out of my thought pattern.

“Well Harry, do you think you will be able to stand having a

child in your world? I think this one will keep you on your toes. I am going after the man she told us about as soon as INS comes in tomorrow. Since it spans several state lines, it falls under our purview. Harry, will you help by calling the Director and telling him what I am planning to do? If we get

him in on this, I will be able to use Homeland‟s clout for warrants or anything else I need.”

“Sean, if she wasn't here, I would go with you, but I might

shoot him so I will make the call, and pull in a few of the points I have made with him in the last week. I think this

guy‟s weak spot will be the bodies he had to bury

somewhere. If you can get pictures, I will have Sandra look at them. Maybe she can identify some of the people she saw

there.”

“I would be glad to help out all I can. The girls here deserve

someone to help them so it doesn't happen again. I just

wish they all had families to go home to.”

“Believe me they will be treated better after all the

reporters get here tomorrow. I think Mark is planning on having them come in early in the morning before any of them can get the new clothes and showers. Sandra will be going with me to the cabin. I am sure she will like the girls when she meets them. I have to arrange to get her in school and whatever else she needs. She is going on a big shopping trip as soon as things settle down here tomorrow. We still have the auction coming up this weekend and I have to get

it all organized.”

“Grandpa, do you think maybe I can get some breakfast first?”

Chapter # 37

My God! I still couldn't believe I had found my granddaughter among all these poor children. I was going to have to readjust my whole way of thinking and living. I would have to remember I had to think about someone

besides myself for a change. The shock of my daughter‟s

death still hadn't set in yet, but I knew it would. To die in a filthy hospital leaving her daughter must have been hard on her. I remember how independent and proud she was when she turned 18. I still remember taking her out to celebrate her birthday and she got drunk on one mixed drink. We laughed about it for months afterwards. Sandra, this was the first time I had ever heard her name since she was born. I looked over at her, sound asleep with her head in her arms, and wondered how much horror she had been through and seen, trying to find me. I knew if I ever found out some worthless adult had molested her, I would hunt him down if it took every cent I had. How can one so little be so sweet with everything she had gone through? It was almost light outside when I heard the first chopper coming in. I woke Sean up and told him I was catching a ride out with Sandra on it, and that he would be in charge until Mark came in with the reporters. I had some phone calls to make and couldn't do it here.

He looked at her sleeping, and smiled and wished me good luck. I waited till I saw the chopper with a sling on the bottom coming in and I woke her.

“Come on, we are catching a ride out of here right now.”

I ran over to where the chopper was disgorging troops and waved it down. The pilot settled it on the ground and I helped her inside. I put the head phones on and told him where to set down and let us off at. He gave me the thumbs up and we were airborne. I was looking down and saw a long line of people walking into the valley down the old logging road. Some were women but others looked like reporters because they were all carrying cameras and equipment. I had to laugh thinking about the unaccustomed exercise they would all get carrying all that junk.

The pilot set us down where I told him to, and when we were out and away he took off, heading back to Nellis. I saw Butch immediately with about two dozen troopers. We walked over to him and I told him I wanted one of his men to take us to the motor pool. He looked at Sandra but other than raising his eye brows, he never said a word. We got in the car and took off with the lights on. We passed Mark coming in and I don't think he even recognized me. We pulled up at the shop and my unit and Jeep was sitting out front. We went inside and since it was so early, only Shayne was there doing paper work.

“Hello Harry, who's your friend?”

“This is my granddaughter, Sandra. I need the keys to my personal Jeep. I am going to stay out of radio contact for a

while so you haven't seen me today.”

“The Sheriff just dropped off your unit. I will pull it inside

out of sight. I suggest you turn your cell off too. I have already had a dozen calls from different news agencies looking for you. Seems you're a hero again. The Governor has already had one news conference this morning naming you and the State Police the heroes of the hour for finding all those children. The radio room has been swamped with reporters trying to get to see you. My wife said they are

pulling their hair out with all the calls already this morning.”

“Thanks for the tip. We will go straight to my cabin from

here. They better not try to walk up there or I will have

them arrested for trespassing.”

“I don't think you have to worry about that, Harry. Nobody

would tell them where you lived or anything else about you. Doris has already called everyone saying if we said anything we would all lose our jobs. I don't know of anyone that

wants to get on her bad side.”

We both had a good laugh at that one. I walked out to my Jeep still holding on to Sandra's hand. When we climbed into the Jeep, her eyes were so big they looked like dinner plates.

“Sorry to rush you around like this but I need to stay low for

a while or I will get hounded to death. I think you are going to love your new home. I will fix you a big breakfast as soon as we get there. I think Dina has some clothes that will fit you until we can go shopping to get you a whole new

wardrobe.”

“Grandpa, will you please slow down a little? I have been

two years trying to find you so we don't have to do everything in one day. I just want a hot shower and some clean clothes. The food can wait till after I have that. You don't have to spend a lot of money on me for clothes and stuff. I haven't had much for years so it doesn't bother me to wear hand me downs until we can go shopping. I have learned to do without and it doesn't bother me anymore. I am happy I finally found you after looking so long. I bet Mom's smiling right now up in heaven seeing us together. I did what she wanted, but you have to know that I don't expect you to try to spoil me. I just want a roof over my head and food on a regular basis. I will work to earn

everything you get me because I am not lazy.”

“Sandra, finding you means more to me than anything else.

I shudder to think what would have happened if you hadn't found me. They would have shipped you back to Sonora because you don't have any papers. I promise you right now, as long as I am alive, you will have anything your heart desires. I have a lot to make up for and you are just

part of it. I will have your mom‟s body brought back up here

for you if you want. If I had known, I would have come and

gotten you both without any hesitation.”

“Mom was happy working with the people down there. I was

the only loose end for her, and she was powerless to help me other than to tell me to find you. I have looked for a long time and it was hard for me to not be discouraged as I had to eat garbage to live sometimes. I was one of the lucky ones because I wasn't molested like a lot of the girls were. I remembered everything Mom taught me and believe me it saved me a couple of times. She told me she would always watch over me until I found you. When I was about to give up, I could hear her telling me to keep going because I was closer than I thought. When I saw you last night, I couldn't believe my search was finally over. Now I just want to be a little girl again and let someone besides me make all the decisions. I want you to promise me if I get on your nerves or become a pain to you that you won't throw me away. I

just want someone to love me for a change, Grandpa.”

“I promise you here and now, I will never throw you away or stop loving you. If we have problems we will talk and work them out so we both can be happy. When everything settles down in the next two weeks, we will fly to Columbus and get the papers. I will not only be your guardian, but I will also adopt you as my own. What about your father?

Won't he want you to come and stay with him?”

“Mom put those papers in the box too. He signed away any

rights he had so he wouldn't have to pay child support. Mom told me everything before she died, and she also said to tell you that you were right about him being a moocher and a leech. I don't remember him at all, and Mom always said I would have a better life when I found you. That's all I want, Grandpa, a happy home I won't have to leave because I am

no longer welcome.”

“You won't ever have to worry about that ever again. Well here we are, what do you think of your home?”

She looked around and was out of the Jeep almost before I could shut the motor off. She was looking all around and had a childish ear to ear smile on her face.

“Is this our home? This is so beautiful, Grandpa. Is it all yours?”

“No honey, it's ours and I hope you like it. I have two big

fish ponds and there are animals roving everywhere. Come on young lady, let's get you cleaned up and a big breakfast

in your belly.”

We went up on the porch and I shut the alarm down and we went in. She just stood and looked around taking it all in. I asked what sizes of clothing she wore and she told me what she thought she wore now. I took her up to my room and told her to take her time with her shower and to use all the hot water she wanted. I got her one of the small sized robes from the closet and gave her towels. I told her there were toothbrushes and everything else she needed in the closet in the bathroom. I heard the water come on as I headed for the shelter. I went into the bunk room and found the sizes she had told me and gathered up everything from undies to boots. I made sure I went up and down in sizes just in case. I found a bomber jacket in her size and grabbed it too. I had a huge stack of clothes on the table when I heard the water shut off in my room. I looked at all the things I had gotten for her and realized as far as I was concerned this was just a start for her. I would also make sure she had a college fund and anything else she might want for. It took me three trips to move all the stuff up to my bedroom and pile it all on the bed for her to pick out what she wanted to wear. I decided to give her the privacy I felt she needed and headed for the kitchen to start coffee and her breakfast.

I was almost finished with the meal and was taking the eggs to the table