Chapter Three
Connie cracked her neck side to side. She tuned the television to The Weather Channel. Her radio was on as well. Long days were ahead. She opened up her mini-fridge. Gatorade, bottled water, and diet soda. The break room was stocked with provisions during hurricane season. They were well-prepared for the storm as far as food was concerned. The emotional status, hell, another issue. Storm fatigue: you want to look away from the destruction, but you can’t. Updates on the hour, every hour. Video interviews with people too stupid to get out of the way. One surfer spoke of how these were the best waves ever. Connie noted the location of the said surfer in case she would have to identify the body.
A knock on the door. She got up and opened the door. Deputy Wallace "Wally" Dodge stood. "Sorry to disrupt you, Sheriff, but I thought you want to know. We’re serving the inmates their dinner."
"As long as you don’t need money to pay the delivery man, you don’t need to inform me, Wally."
Wally started in Connie’s office two months ago and was a true Southern gentleman from Plant City, the home of the best strawberries in Florida. For the first month, every Monday he brought in fresh-picked strawberries to make homemade strawberry shortcake. Biscuits or pound cake, your pick. He had warmed up since his transfer. Toward the beginning of his arrival, Connie was nervous at the prospect of the newly transferred deputy. She had worked the big city long enough to know some superiors unloaded the undesirables to unsuspecting rubes. Wally reiterated again and again that he asked for this transfer. His twin sister found a job at a local elementary school, and after their parents died, she was all that he had left. He worked hard but had an irksome habit of double-checking his entire itinerary.
"No, ma’am, we have bologna sandwiches and apples and milk."
"Healthy and unassuming." Wally stood as if he waited further orders. "Was there anything else?"
"Yes, ma’am. That new prisoner, Russell Bruen. I heard what he done. I don’t know if I can deal with him."
"’Deal with him?’ I’m not sure what you’re hinting at, Wally."
"I mean, converse with him."
"You don’t," Connie said. "You hand him his delicious meal, and you ignore him. He’s a cobra at a zoo. Dangerous, but safely behind glass. Don’t pay him any mind and don’t poke him with a stick, and you’ll do fine."
He responded with a smile. "Thank you, ma’am. I know I’m a pest, but I like it here. Everyone’s so nice. My sister was saying so just the other day. In fact, she was telling her third grade class how nice and kind you are to me and how I’m a deputy. The kids, they got all excited and they–"
"Want a tour?"
"If it’s not too much trouble. If it is, don’t–"
"After Fiona blows over, we’ll set something up. How about that?"
"That would be great. I was nervous about asking you. I saw that picture on your desk of that little girl. I heard Marvin say that girl was his niece, but she passed. I didn’t know how you would feel about having little ‘ums around here."
Connie held up her hand. "It’s all right, Wally. You didn’t overstep your bounds. Feed our inmates, and I’ll see you later. Okay?"
Wally nodded and left. She wandered back to her desk. She put on a brave face, but she struggled with the memories every day. Simple things triggered it–a little girl with the same hair color, or with pigtails and bangs. A damned Hallmark commercial hit her last week. She couldn’t say that she was getting better, but she dealt. Holidays were the hardest. At least she had her cousin Marvin and Uncle Milt to keep her centered.
The six o’clock update came on. She upped the television’s volume. NHOA anticipated Hurricane Fiona would make landfall within twelve hours and turn into a CAT Four.
The gate that separated the inmates from the security booth clicked open. Bruen opened his eyes. The sound of a cart rolled down the aisle. He sat up. His stomach grumbled. He hadn’t realized that he was hungry until the cart came tumbling by. What’s on the menu? Grits? Fried green tomatoes? Yams? A new deputy stopped at his cell. This one was younger than the others. He averted Bruen’s gaze. This made Bruen smile. The measly man slid a tray into the slot. White bread and what looked like cold cuts peeked out from the crust. An apple and a pint carton of low fat milk decorated the tray. Bruen reached for the food. The deputy placed his hands on the cart.
"But I like mine cut in four pieces on the diagonal."
The deputy failed to meet Bruen’s eyes. "Sorry, sir, but everyone gets the same."
He proceeded to deliver the rest of the meals. Bruen watched him as he moved. The deputy was efficient and quiet as he passed out dinner. Once the deputy finished he headed to the security booth. After the click of the closed door, Bruen summoned the old-timer. "Yo, old man?"
"I ain’t that old," he said.
"You still responded though." Bruen chewed on his bologna sandwich. "What’s the deal with scared-of-his-own-shadow?"
"He’s new," the Hispanic said. "I’ve been here before, but he wasn’t there then. Don’t know his deal."
"What the deal with the female sheriff?"
"Connie Corvus. She’s new, too," old-timer said. "Her uncle was the sheriff before. Milton Moore. That pretty-boy deputy is his son. Marvin Moore."
"Christ, does everyone in this backwater dump like alliteration?"
"Don’t know. I’m Hank Hillerman. Maybe it is something in the water. Moore Sr. still lives here. He retired. He asked, and she moved down here for the job. Appointed her until the election. Then she ran unopposed."
"She wasn’t a deputy before?"
"Nope, she was a big-shot, big-city police detective. She shot some guy. What the hell was his name? That freak. That Walton killer."
"Todd Walton?"
Todd Walton. Jesus. Bruen realized who that was. A bit of a gruesome news junkie, he’d followed the Walton case. God’s the only one who knew how many people Walton whacked. A real sick fuck. Shit, here he thought she was some product of nepotism. Decorated detective. One who wouldn’t be afraid to shoot him, too.