The Night Watcher – By Jonathan B. Ferrini

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Pic by Ron Lach

 

 

 

“Hey fella’s, it’s Mikey checkin’ in.

“Anything to know about before I begin watch?”

“Just a complaint about noisy bullfrogs out at the lake, Mikey.”

“It’s summer break and the kids might be up to no good out at the lake.

“I’ll head out there tonight and check in with you fellas later.

“What happened with the Writ of Foreclosure you were servin’ on farmer Jackson and his family this mornin’?”

“We drove out to evict the family, put their belongings on the road, and padlock the home.

“When the old man opened the door, he was smilin’ ear to ear and sayin’,

‘You ain’t foreclosin’ on this ol’ dirt farmer.

‘No Sir!

‘Jesus Christ came in the middle of the night and slid a cashier’s check under our door made payable to the bank.

‘Now you boys get off my land!’

“The bank accepted the check as payment in full for the mortgage and we have no further business with him, Mikey.”

“I’m headin’ out on patrol.”

“Take a drive by the high school football field tonight.

“I understand the kids are tearin’ up the turf with their bikes after the sprinklers have been runnin’.

“There’s a lot of blood spilled on that gridiron.

“I consider it ‘hallowed ground’.”

“Roger that.”

“The Sheriff’s department and townspeople appreciate your volunteer assistance, Mikey.”

“Just doin’ my civic duty.”

“Patrol One to dispatch.

“On Duty.”

“What’s Mikey’s story, Sarge?”

“He’s a lonely ‘ol soul who lives in a beat-up trailer in the woods.

“Hear tell he came to town about ten years ago after workin’ on the Alaskan pipeline most of his adult life.

“The ‘ol boy lives frugally but I’ll bet he saved a pretty penny workin’ those oil pipes.

“Some folks say he invested wisely in oil and gas leases.

“He comes into town and volunteers with our department to stay busy.”

“The dude’s wearin’ one of our uniforms and actin’ like he’s a sworn deputy.

“He creeps me out!”

“The uniform has no official patches or badge.

“His holster is official department issue but he’s licensed to carry a sidearm and there’s no law against sportin’ handcuffs.”

“What about that vintage patrol car he drives?”

“He bought the former Sheriff’s car at auction.

“It’s a ’65 sedan with a high-performance engine and a cage separating the passenger seats from the driver.

“The lights and siren were removed along with the Sheriff Department decals.

“The old two-way radio remains but it’s analog and seldom works.

“This small town has its share of freaks and geeks but Mikey is harmless.”

“When I hired on with the department, I was told about some escapee from the state mental hospital who was never caught who still might be at large ‘round these parts.

“Is that a ‘scare the new deputy’ story, Sarge?”

“Nope.

“It’s the biggest crime ever to hit this town.

“You might as well hear it from me so you get the facts down correctly.

 “Andy was a wilderness kid who loved playin’ in the woods.

“A true-born survivalist.

“When Andy got drafted back in the sixties, the Army discovered his survival skills and sent him to Ranger School and he ended up a Green Beret.

“He was a terror in the jungles and swamps of Vietnam with the medals to prove it.

“His daddy ran a broken-down farm just outside town on the edge of the woods and the family barely scraped by surviving on crops they grew and game they killed.

“Andy’s momma took in laundry and sewing.

“His daddy fell behind on the mortgage and the bank foreclosed.

“It was the former Sheriff of this town who personally foreclosed on behalf of the bank.

“That’s his picture framed on the wall with the black ribbon placed over it ‘cause he was killed while on duty.”

“Damn.

“How did that happen?”

“The Sheriff drove out to the farm and forcibly put the family and their possessions on the road then padlocked the house.

“Andy’s daddy couldn’t handle the humiliation of losing the family farm and workin’ as a truck farmer scrapin’ by on somebody else’s land.

“He hung himself on the old tree Andy would swing from as a kid on their family farm.

“Andy learned of it while waste deep in a rice paddy in Nam.

“Andy’s momma took up with the Sheriff.”

“That’s a gut punch to any man, Sarge.”

“To make matters worse, Andy’s momma began writing him about bein’ beaten up and abused by the Sheriff.”

Dearest Son,

You’ll never know the tears and fear a momma experiences when her son is off to war. I pray for you every night.

Life around home isn’t the same without you.

The mayor called out your name at the Memorial Day town celebration.

Your new step-daddy, I’m sorry, I know you don’t like me to say that.

Charly brings his work home with him. It’s a challenge being Sheriff and he drowns his work in alcohol which makes him mean and abusive to Momma.

It took hours to cover my black eye with cosmetics before going into town to shop.

I’m afraid one day, Charly might go too far and kill your ol’ Mommy.

I know he wouldn’t beat me with you around.

I’m countin’ the days until I see you on our doorstep.

Love,

Momma

“Andy was stuck out in Nam and was helpless to do anything to help his momma.”

“The Sheriff sounds like a bad-ass dude.”

“Don’t repeat this, Deputy.

“The Sheriff’s courage came from a bottle of booze.

“He was just an elected ‘pencil pushing’ SOB and a sadist to boot.

“When Andy returned home, his first piece of business was to visit his momma and drunken ‘ol Sheriff who slammed the door in his face sayin’,

‘Hey, Woman!

‘Your mangy wolf son came back home and I think he’s got rabies so I ain’t lettin’ him inside the house!’

‘Get my dinner on the table or I’ll put a whoppin’ on you!’

“Andy beat the Sheriff savagely.

“It took four men to get Andy off the Sheriff who died of a heart attack at the hospital.

“Andy was prosecuted for voluntary manslaughter.

“The judge reviewed Andy’s war record and instead of sending him to prison said,

‘Son, you’re a war hero stricken with images and experiences none of us can imagine and these were aggravated by the abuse your mother received at the hands of the Sheriff.

‘I received letters requesting leniency from your commanding officers.

‘Justice wouldn’t be served by sending you to prison but the law must be served.

‘You beat the Sheriff so badly the doctors said he’s face would never look human had he survived the heart attack your beating provoked.

‘I’m sentencing you to a state mental hospital where you can find the rest and care you need. The term shall be indeterminate and reviewed again when qualified psychiatric evaluators deem you ready for release.’

“As they led Andy out of court in shackles, his momma shouted,

‘You didn’t have to kill him, son!’

‘What’s your poor momma to do now?’”

“Damn, the poor dude tried to avenge his momma but got balled out.

“What ever happened to his momma?”

“She took up with a cross-country trucker and left town.

“The truck and trailer crashed out of state and both his momma and the driver were burned beyond recognition.

“She’s buried out at the cemetery.

“Somebody took the time to carve her a beautiful granite monument.”

“So, it was Andy who escaped from the mental hospital?”

“We were alerted decades years ago to a ‘violent patient’ fitting Andy’s description who escaped into the woods.”

“Didn’t anybody marshal a posse to track him down?”

“A few times but a guy with jungle warfare and survival skills was too formidable for any posse.

“Besides, it was too frightening out there in the woods lookin’ for a guy on the run trained to ‘take it’ to the enemy.

“I suspect every member of the posse came to the conclusion hunting Andy wasn’t worth their lives and future searches simply stopped.

“The justice system gave up and presumed Andy died in the woods or made his way up through Canada and overseas.

“I tend to think a guy with Andy’s special forces skills took up as a mercenary or joined an outfit like the Foreign Legion which provides enlistees with a new identity.”

“Patrol One to dispatch.

“Code Seven at ‘Peg’s Café”.

“How ‘ya doin’ tonight darlin’?”

“The air is so thick with humidity, loneliness, and boredom, you can cut it with a knife.”

“The usual double cheeseburger, chili fries, and two shakes; one chocolate and the second strawberry?”

“Yeah, Peg.

“Don’t forget the double cherries on the strawberry shake.

“Katie would be upset.”

“Darlin, you’re still pining about the cheerleader who dumped you?”

“Don’t wanna’ talk about her Peg.”

“I’d wring the neck of that little princess who wrote you that ‘Dear John’ letter.”

Baby,

I hope this letter finds you safe and dry.

I’m heading off to California with a group of kids from the university. This bird needs to fly from this small town which feels like a cage.

I sold your engagement ring to the jeweler to get some money to live on.

I know you would want me to be happy.

I’ll blow a kiss your way when I’m standing on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Katie

January 24, 1968

“Wrap the burger and fries ‘to go’”.

“I’m sorry to upset you darlin’.

“The meals on the house.”

         “Patrol One to Dispatch.

          “Back on duty.”

My old analog two-way radio provides spotty service. I sometimes pick up radio broadcasts from somewhere. It must be an “Oldy but Goody” station ‘cause the music is from sometime long ago I barely remember like this tune from a band called “The Animals”,

…Watch my daddy in bed a-dyin’
Watched his hair been turnin’ grey, yeah
He’s been workin’ and slavin’ his life away
I know he’s been workin’ so hard…

When I cruise by the funeral home, I see lights on inside the garage apartment which covers the hearse doubling as an ambulance. Tonight, the lights are off. I guess Randy and Charly who inherited the place from their gramps are getting “shut eye” tonight. We sure had some scary Trick or Treat’s and Halloween parties in that funeral home.

You see just about everything late at night when it’s dark. Most folks don’t remember to close their blinds.

I drive into town and all is quiet on Main Street. No need for a shopping mall around here because everything you’d need was all nestled together in two blocks just like a family.

Just up ahead is the former home of my high school Principal. I remember helping him replace his roof during one rainy winter. He was so grateful, I graduated with “Honor’s” even though I struggled with my coursework.

Just behind his house is the high school. It’s dark now but on Friday nights it was lit up like a Christmas tree and full of happy kids and townsfolk. I don’t see any kids on bikes messin’ up the playing field.

I was a tough offensive lineman keeping my best buddy the quarterback from bein’ run over by charging defensive bulldozers. He lives and works in town.

I’ll drive out to the cemetery where kids do drugs and have sex. It’s just not right to disturb the dead who deserve their peace and quiet.

…We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do…

Sure enough, there’s some kid humping a girl atop a hand-cut granite tombstone defiling the memory of somebody near and dear resting below. I have a mind to tan some teenage hide!

“You kids beat it out of here, now!”

“You ain’t no cop.

“You’re that creepy dude who drives around in the old police cruiser pretending to be a deputy!”

“Climb off that girl, punk, or you’ll find these handcuffs around your wrists as you bob up and down gasping for air in that cold lake!”

“Look at your boyfriend run away and leave you here all alone with the ‘creep’.

“How does that make you feel young lady?

“You’re judged by the company you keep!”

“I’m sorry, Mister.”

“It took the stone mason forty hours to cut, carve, and polish that granite, young lady.”

“I was bein’ disrespectful layin’ on top of this nice tombstone.

“It’s somebody’s loved one underneath.”

“You look like somebody familiar.

“What’s your name?”

“Janice Dixon, Sir”.

“Was your mommy a cheerleader and baton twirler in high school?”

“No, Sir.

“It was my grandmother.”

“I’ve lost sense of how much time has passed.

“How’s your grandmother?”

“She has a hard time getting’ around with her bad knees.

“Doc says she needs replacements but can’t afford them.

“She can barely make it up and down the porch!”

“Can’t your granddaddy afford the new knees?”

“Grandma met my granddaddy at a rock concert back in the day and never got his name.

“Me and momma moved in with grandma.”

“You look just like your grandma, ‘Katie’, with those two long pig-tails and freckles on the tip of your nose.”

“Did you know her?”

“I thought I knew her but really didn’t.

“I’ve got to get back on the beat.

“Gather up your friends and get on out of here so the dead may rest in peace.”

       “Patrol One to dispatch.

       “End of watch.

       “Comin’ back to station.

       “10-4?

       “Anybody listening?”

The ‘ol two-way radio sparked back to life with an answer, of sorts,

…We gotta get out of this place
‘Cause girl, there’s a better life for me and you…

“How was night watch, Mikey?”

“Uneventful as usual, fellas.”

“See you tonight?”

“Nah, this ‘ol offensive lineman will sit the rest of the game out on the sidelines.

“Someone else will have to watch your skinny quarterback ass for now on.

“Make certain that high school girl Janice Dixon gets this envelope, Sarge.”

“What should we say to the kid and her family, Andy?”

“Sarge?”

“Stow it, deputy!”

“Tell ‘em,

‘New knees from an ‘ol friend’.”


 

About the Author

 

Jonathan Ferrini is a published author who resides in San Diego. His partial collection of short stories are included within his book, “Hearts Without Sleeves. Twenty-Three Stories” available on Amazon. Jonathan received his MFA in motion picture and television production from UCLA.