WELCOME TO PICKETWIRE

A serialized  story

            by tim wintermute

INSTALLMENT 30

    Click here for previous installments       

VIRTUOUS RECYCLE

 

At forty feet, the 1955 Spartan was the largest trailer you could rent at Happy Trails. Inside its polished aluminum skin was a spacious wood paneled interior with a master bedroom in the rear, a large kitchenette with a four burner stove, a dining banquette and a bathroom, that most importantly for Margaret, had a tub. She stood at the counter next to the sink mixing two gin and tonics. “Do you miss it?”  Margaret asked Desmond who was half sitting on the outside  end of one of the banquettes of the dining area next to the kitchen.

 

“Miss what?” 

 

“Your previous life,” she said handing him one of the drinks.

 

“Which one?” Desmond asked, getting up then walking over and opening the Spartan’s front door for Margaret. 

 

“There’s more than one?” Margaret said after they had settled into in the canvas director’s chairs on the small front porch.

 

“Hindus believe in reincarnation.” 

 

Margaret punched him playfully on the arm. “I meant your life in Silicon Valley.”

 

“Silicon… Valley,” Desmond repeated, emphasizing the word silicon.  “It’s all about reincarnation.”

 

“I thought it was all about the revenge of the nerds,” Margaret answered and then took a drink of her gin and tonic.

 

Desmond stifled a laugh.  “You know how some scientists believe that alien forms of life on other planets could be based on silicon in the same way life on earth is based on carbon?”

 

“Yeah, but what’s that got to do with reincarnation?”

 

Desmond eyes lit up.  “Because it doesn’t just happen on other planets it’s what happened in Silicon Valley only it was through reincarnation not creation.  First carbon based lives get reincarnated on silicon chips then following a cosmic Karmic algorithm they’re reincarnated in various artificial intelligence versions…1.0, 2.0, etc...”

 

“Does that mean there’s some version of Nirvana for these silicon souls?” 

 

“Yes, it’s called the cloud.”

 

“I guess I prefer the carbon based version of life that drinks gin and tonics,” Margaret said, clinking her glass against Desmond’s. “And the only clouds I’m interested in are the ones that provide rain for the crops.”

 

“Spoken like a farmer,” he said. “I guess you don’t miss your previous life in Golden Valley.”

 

“My current reincarnation is working out just fine,” Margaret replied, then shifted in her chair and looked at Desmond. “But you still haven’t answered my question as to whether you regret leaving the life you had in Silicon Valley.”

 

Desmond stared at the line of vintage trailers and RV’s across from where they were sitting.  A 1954 Silver Streak Clipper, a 1972 Winnebago Brave RV, a Shasta AirFlyte, a 1968 Clark Cortez RV and the shiny, aluminum crown jewel, a 1960 Airstream Safari.  Not a programable part in them. You couldn’t get more low tech. Unlike Silicon Valley these start-ups were rolled out on wheels that transported you in a real world. Desmond realized he’d left the world of venture capital for adventure. “I did miss it at first but this place has sort of grown on me.” 

 

“It does have a certain sans chip charm to it…as well as running water.”

 

Desmond looked at Margaret. To think he’d met someone he really, really liked the old fashioned way through a chance encounter after all the algorithm driven online dates he’d been on. A real retro relationship.  “With your permission I’d like to use that phrase in the marketing material I’m putting together.  Not the bit about running water, though.”  

 

Margaret smiled. “Permission granted, but speaking as one who owns a farmhouse with charm but no indoor plumbing you shouldn’t underestimate the appeal of running water.”

 

“Speaking of water, I’ve been thinking of ways to conserve it. A lot of water is wasted here.

 I want to make Happy Trails more environmentally friendly.”

 

“You’re not going to ban taking a bath are you?” 

 

“Of course not. I was thinking of replacing the toilets with ones that use less water.  That sort of thing.”

 

 “If you really want to save water on toilets you should check out the composting toilet that Gretl Johan has in that cute little vintage trailer she’s in.”

 

“I didn’t know that’s what she had in there. She owns her trailer and rents the space so I’ve never been inside.”

 

“It’s pretty neat inside,” Margaret said.  “I saw her watering the flowers in the window boxes she has and I told her how much I loved her trailer. She told me it’s not a trailer but a shepherds hut from a sheep ranch around here.  Then she gave me a little tour - little being the operative word since it’s a tiny space - and showed me her compost toilet. She said she’d help me install one in the farmhouse.”

 

“I guess that would solve your indoor plumbing problem.”

 

“The flushing part but not the drinking and washing part. You can’t drink sawdust or take a bath in compost,” Margaret said. “Say, why don’t we go over there right now and see if she’s home?  If she is then she can show you how it works.” She quickly added.  “I mean explain how it works not give a live demonstration.”

 

 

Gretl handed Ari a glass of water and sat down beside him on the steps of her shepherd’s hut. Ari looked at the glass, then said. “After being with you and Will I know a lot more about this stuff, but what I really want to know more about is you.” 

 

“Sixty percent of me is water,”  Gretl replied, then took a long drink. “Maybe a bit more now.”

 

“Okay, but all I know about the other forty percent of you is your name, that you live in this shepherd’s hut that you inherited, that one of your great grandparents was a Basque and the other a Jew, that you read the same detective books as the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, that you work for a mysterious place called the Picketwire Institute and according to the business card you gave me you’re its Executive Director and you have a PhD.”

 

“My PhD is from Stanford.”

 

“In what?”

 

“I started out in astrophysics but ended up in geophysics.”

 

“In other words you gravitated to something more down to earth.” 

 

“That’s pretty funny,” Gretl said. “And here I thought philosophers were supposed to be serious.”

 

“Then, seriously, telling me what you got your PhD in isn’t all that personal.”

 

Gretl put her right index finger to her chin as if in deep thought. “Hmmm, something more personal than geophysics…”

 

“Howdy neighbor,” Margaret interrupted as she and Desmond approached them, their gin and tonics in hand. Jiggling her glass, she added. “We’re having a Happy Trails happy hour.”  

 

Gretl introduced Ari to them, explaining that, “Desmond is my landlord.”

 

“I don’t think of myself as the landlord,” Desmond said, shaking Ari’s hand.  “It sounds so…so…”

 

“Lordly,” Margaret said.

 

“Yeah.”

 

 “Since you’re lord of Happy Trails why not call yourself the trail boss instead.”

 

“I think I’ll just stick with Desmond,” he replied then turned to Gretl.  “Margaret tells me you have a composting toilet.”

 

“Do I need permission for it?”

 

“No, not at all. It’s just that I’d like Happy Trails to be more environmentally friendly and was thinking that I could start by replacing the toilets with ones that use less water.”

 

“My toilet uses zero water. Just sawdust.”

 

“I was thinking of something not so complicated.”

 

“But it’s not complicated at all,” Gretl answered.  “Plumbing is what’s complicated with all those pipes and hook ups, not to mention the leaks. With a composting toilet you just do your business, sprinkle some sawdust over it, empty the compost when the container gets full and use it to fertilize your garden where you can grow vegetables that you eat and then excrete.”

 

“It’s a virtuous recycle,” Margaret said. 

 

“Maybe you could show me this virtuous toilet?” Desmond asked Gretl.

 

“I’ll not only show you; you can try it out if you want.” Gretl said getting up.

 

Gretl ushered Desmond into the shepherds hut where she explained the compost toilet and a few minutes later they rejoined Ari and Margaret.

 

“Pretty nifty isn’t it?” Margaret quipped handing Desmond back his gin and tonic. “Did you try it out?”

 

“I passed, but I have to admit it doesn’t look very complicated.” 

 

“I told Desmond that you offered to help me install one in my farmhouse,” Margaret said to Gretl.  

 

“How could I not after you told me that George Takemoto was going to teach you and Sue Cohen how to farm using the Fukuoka method, which requires minimal water.”

 

“I was surprised that you knew about the Fukuoka method,” Margaret said.

 

“It was really a young colleague of mine at the Picketwire Institute, who is a hydrologist, that told me about it and that he had met Mister Takemoto.  My colleague is convinced that it should be used here.  I think your farm can demonstrate that it is effective and will hopefully spur others around here to adopt methods that conserve water,” Gretl said, then turned to Desmond. “And if you installed composting toilets here that could help convince people in town to consider putting them in their homes and businesses. It would really cut down the amount of water that’s wasted.”

 

“We’re doing our part by diluting our tonic water with gin,” Margaret said, raising her glass.

 

 After the laughter subsided, Ari said. “Seriously, about water…” He paused and looked at Gretl.  “And I’m not speaking as a philosopher.” Turning back to Margaret and Desmond he continued. “I didn’t understand how important water was until Gretl took me to this town today and the owner told us that everyone moved out because of a severe water shortage.” 

 

“Wait a second!” Margaret exclaimed.  “How can a person own a town?” 

 

“By default,” Gretl said.  “When the droughts came there wasn’t enough water for irrigation so the farmers left and once they left there weren’t any customers for the stores and businesses so the townspeople left. Except for one family who stayed so they ended up with the town and the surrounding land.”

 

“Are you talking about Played Out?” Desmond asked.

 

“You know the place?”

 

“I drove over there yesterday with Rich Best to meet someone at MacDonalds.” 

 

“You’re saying they don’t have water but they have a McDonalds?” Margaret asked, shaking her head.

 

“This MacDonalds doesn’t have the golden arches and its spelled M A C not M C. Fergus MacDonald is the name of the owner.” Desmond answered then turned and asked Gretl and Ari.  “What took you to Played Out?”

 

“I wanted to check out a rumor that Wylie Boone was trying to buy out the MacDonalds.”

 

“Wylie Boone is the person we were meeting at MacDonalds.  He promised to donate to FRED X.”

 

“What’s Fred X?” Ari asked.

“Farm and Ranch Entrepreneurship Expo.” Desmond answered.  “It’s a project that Rich Best came up with to promote rural entrepreneurship. He got the idea from TED X.  Anyway, I agreed to help him. But that’s another story so to get back to what you said, Fergus MacDonald told Rich and me the same thing – that Boone wanted to buy him out and was putting a lot of pressure on him. He said that he didn’t want to sell because of some family thing about never selling to the Boones, but he said that Boone is putting a lot of pressure on him, including threatening to not renew his lease, which is their major source of income. What Fergus couldn’t understand is why Wylie Boone insisted that the town be sold to him as well as the ranchland that he’s leasing.  I have to admit it doesn’t make much sense.”

 

“That’s because he may not want the land or the town on top of it, but what’s under it.”

 

“What would be under it that has any value? Oil? Gas? Gold?”

 

“Something even more valuable around here,” Gretl answered. “Water.”

 

“But that’s one thing everyone knows it doesn’t have.  That’s why Played Out is played out.” 

 

“That’s what everyone thinks they know, but the hydrologist colleague of mine that I mentioned has been studying Purgatory County for any hidden sources of water and he thinks there’s an aquifer under Played Out.  It’s deeper than the normal water table so the wells never reached it, which is why it hasn’t been discovered. It’s not large but he thinks that if proper water conservation methods are used it can supply the town and farms in the area for years to come.”

 

“Does Fergus know about this?”

 

“He didn’t until today when we met and I asked for his permission to sink a deep test well to see if our hunch is right.”

 

“And you think Wylie knows about this aquifer and that’s why he wants Played Out?” Desmond asked.

 

“My colleague discovered that Boone had a drilling rig on the property he leases from the MacDonalds and figures that he dug a test well. Of course, he wasn’t going to share that with Fergus.” 

 

“So Wylie Boone is after their water just like he wants mine,”  Margaret said. 

 

“What do you mean he wants yours?” Gretl asked.

 

“I inherited my Uncle Arvid’s ownership interest in the Purgatory irrigation ditch and he told Desmond that he wants to buy me out.  Not that I’m interested in selling.  A farm, even one that uses the Fukuoka method and has a composting toilet, still needs water.”

 

“Why does Boone want to buy up everyone’s water?” Desmond asked. 

 

“Not just buying,” Gretl said “He’s diverting it from the Purgatoire even though he doesn’t have the water rights. In fact, some of that water is owned by the Purgatory Ditch Company that you have shares in.”

 

“That’s stealing…from me!” Margaret exclaimed.  Noticing that she had spilled some of her drink when she gestured with her hands, she apologized. “Sorry for watering your place with my gin and tonic. Anyway, there must be a way to stop him even if he is Wylie Boone.”

 

“There is,” Gretl said.  “And you can help.”

 

GOTCHA

 

Just when Harry needed a drink he discovered he was out of coffee. His shiny, top of the line Italian espresso machine was as useless as a sleek Italian sports car without gas. There was nothing to do but set the plastic hands on the cardboard clock face of the closed sign for fifteen minutes and hang it on the front door so he could go next door to Sue’s Pretty Good Café.  It was between breakfast and lunch and the only people in the The Pretty Good  were Bea Trujillo who was sorting silverware and Sue Cohen at the far end of the counter hunched over her laptop. Still, it seemed impolite if not downright antisocial to sit at a booth or table and make Bea walk over to take his order. Instead, Harry sat down on one of the stools at the counter and asked Bea if she could make him a latte.

 

“I’m surprised that you’d want to drink one of our lattes instead of one you make with that fancy Italian espresso machine of yours,” Bea answered.

 

“Turns out you can’t make a latte without coffee no matter how fancy the espresso machine.”

 

After making the latte, Bea placed the cup in front of Harry. “I hope my latte isn’t too much of a letdown for you.”

 

 “As they say, better latte than never,”  Harry said, then took a sip and was pleasantly surprised.  “And I must admit this latte is not only better than nothing, it’s really good.”

 

Sue Cohen walked over and put her arm around Bea’s shoulder. “Bea is our espresso queen,” 

 

“Just call me Be-a-rista,” Bea replied cheerfully with a grin then turned to wipe down the steamer on the espresso machine.

 

Sue crossed her arms and leaned on the counter and looked at Harry. “By the way, I couldn’t help noticing that Wylie Boone paid you a visit.”

 

“Hard to miss with that fifty seven, candy apple red Chevy of his.”

 

“And those men in black bodyguards,” Sue said, unable to suppress a giggle. 

 

Harry chuckled in return. “It’s like Wylie rode into town with his gang and were going to bust some books out of jail.”

 

 Sue leaned closer to Harry and whispered. “I’m curious as to what books he wanted to buy, or is that confidential?”

 

Harry whispered back. “Really hard core stuff like Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz, Wind in the Willows.”

 

Sue rolled her eyes and dropped the whisper. “You have to be kidding, a billionaire, vulture capitalist like Wylie Boone reading children’s books.”

 

“I don’t think he’s interested in reading them.  He said he wants them because they used to be in the library at the Double B when he was a kid and he noticed they were missing. Part of his ranch restoration project.”  

 

“At least he decided to shop locally instead of ordering them on Amazon.”

 

“He didn’t have a choice since he wanted the copies that had originally been in the library rather than duplicates.  They’re all first editions.”

 

“And you have them?”

 

Harry nodded. “I bought them from a woman named Rosalind Bennett. Technically, it was from her estate - she died just before you arrived - but we agreed to the purchase while she was still alive.” 

 

“The Rosalind Bennett!”

 

“You’ve heard of her?”

 

“Of course I’ve heard of her. She was a founder of the Picketwire League for Independent Women.  I’m a card carrying member, although you don’t actually get a card when you join.”  

 

“Then you’ll be happy to hear that PLIW along with the Picketwire Public Library received all the proceeds from  sale.”

 

“Jemma Lu, who sponsored me for membership in PLIW, said that Rosalind was a role model for her and other girls in Picketwire when they were growing up.”

 

“She was also a hell of a first grade teacher for little boys like me.”  Harry patted his belly and added.  “Although, it’s probably hard to imagine me as being little.”

 

“How did she end up with books from the Double B library?”

 

“Wylie’s father, Charles, gave them to her. From what I’ve been told they were friends at one time.” 

 

“Rosalind Bennett and Wylie Boone’s father were friends?”

 

“It was before Wylie was born. Charles wasn’t married then.”

 

“Were they more than just friends?”

 

“They might have shared more than a passion for books but…” Harry voice trailed off and he shrugged his shoulders. 

 

Sue knitted her brow in consternation. “I find it difficult to imagine that the Rosalind Bennett that Jemma Lu told me about would have any romantic interest in a Boone.”  

 

Harry replied with a smile. “Then I guess you don’t know that Jemma Lu and Wylie dated?”

 

Sue stood up straight. “What?  First it’s Rosalind and Charles Boone and now you’re telling me that Jemma Lu was involved with Wylie Boone.” 

 

“It was at least thirty years ago, Sue.”  

 

“You’re saying he was a nice guy thirty years ago?”

 

Before answering Harry took another drink of his latte. “I grew up with Wylie, in fact he and I were in Rosalind’s first grade class together. As I recall he was a pretty nice as a little kid but then his ego started inflating and by the time he graduated from high school he was completely full of himself. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, he became an asshole gradually then suddenly.” 

 

Sue laughed so hard she started to cry.  She grabbed a napkin from the holder on the counter and dabbed at her eyes. “Sorry,” she apologized.  “That sometimes happens to me when I laugh really hard.” She stuffed the napkin in the pocket of her jeans. “Anyway, you were saying that you sold him these books that he wants for his library.”

 

“No, I told him I wouldn’t sell them to him even though he said I could name the price.”

 

“They’re that valuable to you?”

 

Harry smiled. “No, they’re that valuable to him.”

 

Sue nodded. “You want to show him that he can’t buy everything. It’s about time someone did.” 

 

“Actually, I found out recently that a woman showed him that a long time ago, only he didn’t get the message.”

 

“Was the woman Jemma Lu?”

 

“No, this was before Jemma Lu and Wylie started going together, although Jemma Lu probably gave him the same message and he ignored it as well.”

 

“You think he got the message this time when you told him you wouldn’t sell him the books no matter what he offered to pay?”

 

“Nope,” Harry answered then finished his latte. He put the cup down and looked at Sue. “The only message Wylie is going to get is gotcha.”

 

LOCKED UP

 

As soon as she saw the Sheriff’s patrol car blocking the gate of Our Lady Of Lost Souls, its lights flashing, Gloria knew that this would be a scoop. She pulled off and parked.  Looking at the two purses on the seat next to her, she picked the small one. The last thing she wanted was to be delayed as the Deputy made her empty everything in the larger one. Making sure her pad and paper and smartphone were in the purse, she put the lanyard with her press ID around her neck, got out of her car and walked up to the Deputy Sheriff who was leaning against the patrol car with his arms crossed over his ample belly. He stood up straight, rested his right hand on the butt of his holstered gun and looked at Gloria as she approached, at least she assumed he was since his eyes were hidden behind aviator sunglasses.

 

The bigger they are the harder they fall Gloria thought before she stopped several feet from him and asked. “What’s going on, officer?”

 

“No comment.”

 

Gloria pulled out a pen and small pad from her purse, and said out loud as she wrote slowly. “Deputy Sheriff…” Gloria looked at his nametag. “Tucker refuses to state why he is blocking the entrance to Our Lady of Purgatory. It appears that he is part of a raid being conducted by the Sheriff’s Department on a convent.”

 

“I didn’t say that. I said no comment.”

 

Gloria held her pen poised over the pad. “You deny that this is a raid on a convent, a community of nuns?”

 

Officer Tucker put his hands on his hips and looked up at the sky.

 

“You think you’re going to get any help answering my question from up there?” Gloria wisecracked.

 

He looked at her, shifted his weight back and forth. “It’s not a raid. Okay?  It’s a search. We started…” He looked at his wristwatch. “At 0700.”

 

It was already 9 :30 AM so Gloria knew she needed to move quickly. “What are you searching for?”

 

“You’ll have to ask Sheriff Riggleman.”

 

“And where is the Sheriff?” This time it was more of a demand than a question.

 

Deputy Tucker looked down at the pointed toes of his cowboy boots peeking from behind his pot belly, and mumbled. “He’s inside…searching.”

 

“Thanks,” Gloria said, stuffed the pad in her purse and quickly walked around him.

 

Deputy Tucker called after her. “Wait, where do you think you’re going?”

 

Without stopping, Gloria shouted back over her right shoulder. “No comment.” 

 

Inside the Visitor’s Center she showed Sister Rachel and Sister Louise her press ID and announced that she was there because she’d heard about the search and asked where the Sheriff was. “He and his Deputies- there are several of them - are inside searching for some undocumented immigrants that they claim we’re hiding,” Sister Rachel answered.

 

Sister Louise added.  “Sisters Mary Margaret and Beatrice are with them.”

 

“I wonder if I can talk with the Sheriff and Sister M’s and ask them some questions?”

 

“Sure, I can take you,” Sister Louise, answered. “It might take a while to find them, though.”

 

 

Fifteen minutes later they entered Cell Block B where they found Sister Beatrice and a Deputy.  Gloria flashed her press ID at the Deputy with Miller on his nametag.  “Where’s Sheriff Riggleman?”

 

“We don’t know. He said we should split up and me and Bernie…Deputy Peters, who’s up there.”  He looked up at the top tier of cells where a Deputy was leaning over the railing looking down at them.  “We should search this cell block while he’d go ahead with JT, that’s Deputy Thomas, and the other nun….”

 

“You mean Sister Mary Margaret?”

 

“Yeah, the nun who’s a sister and also a lawyer.” He spat out the word lawyer as if it was a plug of chewing tobacco.

 

Gloria pulled out her cellphone.  “Give me the Sheriff’s number so I can call him and find out where he is.”

 

“Don’t waste your time,” Deputy Miller replied. “There’s no service here.”

 

Sister Louise explained.  “We have bars on our cells but none on our phones.” 

 

“Then I’ll just have to go and find him,” Gloria said, pocketing her cellphone.

 

“I better go with you or we’ll be searching for you as well,” Sister Louise said.

 

When they entered Cell Block C another Deputy was jogging toward them. “Where’s the Sheriff?” Gloria asked.

 

The Deputy stopped and said. “He’s trapped in a cell.”

 

“What?”

 

“He’s locked inside one of the solitary confinement cells at the other end of the cell block.”

 

“How did he do that?” Sister Louise asked, unable to hide her incredulity.

 

“We split up and I was searching the cells at this end and he went down to the other end where  the solitary confinement cells are. A few minutes later I heard this heavy metal door slam shut and the Sister who was with us started shouting something so I high tailed it over to where they were.  I figured the Sheriff had found the illegals but when I got there the Sister was standing in front of one of the solitary confinement cells. Its steel door was shut and she told me the Sheriff was locked inside.” 

 

“But the cell doors can only be locked from the outside with a key so it’s impossible for someone to lock themselves inside.”

 

“Well, the Sheriff sure as hell found a way,” Deputy Thomas said.  “Sorry for language, Sister.”

 

“Don’t be, we use the word all the time, although not necessarily the way you just did.”

 

“Anyway, Deputy Thomas continued.  “The Sister said that all the keys are kept in the old Captain of the Guard’s office, which is all the way at the other end of the prison. It seems that our cellphones don’t work in here so I’m on my way back to get the key. I’m sure the Sheriff is mad as… well you know.  He’s probably cursing a blue streak although you can’t hear him through the door. There’s only a small slot in the door and it seems to be rusted shut. Well, I got to get going.”

 

“I’m going with you,” Sister Louise said. “Otherwise, you’ll never find the Captain of the Guard’s office much less the right key. You can run if you want, but it won’t get you there any faster because I’m walking.”

 

After they left Gloria walked to the end of the Cell Block where Sister M’s was standing beside the closed steel cell door. 

 

“What are you doing here?” Sister M’s asked.

 

“Covering what started out as a breaking news story, but’s now it seems more like a breaking out story.  How did the Sheriff lock himself in there? Sister Louise said it was impossible since it can only be locked from the outside with a key.”

 

“You’ll have to ask him yourself after we get him out. Our only communication has been pounding on the door. Unfortunately he doesn’t know Morse code.”

 

“You do?’

 

“I still remember a bit from when I was a Girl Scout. They gave me a merit badge for it, but probably would have preferred it if I earned it for selling cookies.”

 

“What do we do now?”

 

“We wait.”

 

“You think he’s okay?”

 

Sister M’s looked at Gloria and said. “The Sheriff is locked inside an eighty square foot cell behind a solid steel door in total darkness. Of course, he could see this as an opportunity to take up meditation.” She paused and added.  “That was off the record, by the way.”

 

--------------------------------------------

 

They waited almost an hour before Deputy Thomas and Sister Louise returned.  They were accompanied by Sister Beatrice and the other Deputies.  “Sorry it took us so long but first we had to find the key to open the cabinet where all the keys are.” Sister Louise explained, as Deputy Thomas held up a ring with half a dozen keys attached. “Fortunately, even though we don’t lock people in the cells we didn’t throw away the keys.  Inside the cabinet we found this ring with six keys on it hanging on a hook labelled solitary confinement. There are six solitary confinement cells so one of the keys should fit the lock on this door.” 

 

Deputy Thomas tried the keys in the lock one after the other until he reached the last key on the ring. “If this one doesn’t work we’ll have to get an acetylene torch and cut through the steel,” he said, inserting it into the keyhole and turning it. The lock clicked and he pulled open the heavy door open. Sheriff Riggleman  didn’t emerge so Deputy Thomas went inside the cell.  A  minute later they came out with the Sheriff’s hand on Deputy Thomas’ shoulder to steady himself.  He held up his other hand to shield his eyes from the sunshine that flooded into the cellblock from the windows high overhead. Deputy Thomas plucked a pair of aviator sunglasses from his breast pocket and gave them to the Sheriff. After putting them on Sheriff Riggleman withdrew his hand from Deputy Thomas’ shoulder and stood there silently, his eyes now hidden behind the dark lenses.

 

Finally, Deputy Miller broke the silence. “How are you Sheriff?” The Sheriff looked at him but didn’t say anything. “Tucker can drive you back to the Sheriff’s Department and me, Bernie and JT will continue the search.”

 

“Sheriff,” Gloria called out.  “Before you leave can you answer some questions about the search, Sheriff?” 

 

The Sheriff shook his head and said with a slight quiver in his voice.  “I’m calling off the search. I’d appreciate it if everyone left except Sister Mary Margaret. I want to talk to her about what just happened.” 

 

Deputy Thomas, who was standing next to the Sheriff, leaned over and said softly in his right ear.  “Okay, Sheriff, but you should know that if you think the Sister locked you inside that cell I don’t see how she could have.  It takes a key to lock it and the only key is on this ring I’m holding and I had to go all the way to the other end of the prison to get it.”

 

“Deputy,” Sheriff Riggleman replied.  “I don’t want to talk to the Sister because I think that she locked me inside the cell, I need to talk to her because of what happened when I was in there.” 

END OF INSTALLMENT 30

 
Previous installments of Welcome to Picketwire
(click on PDF)
Installment 1

Installment 2

Installment 3

Installment 4

Installment 5

Installment 6

Installment 7

Installment 8 

Installment 9

Installment 10
Installment 11
Installment 12

Installment 13

Installment 14
 
 
Installment 15

Installment 16

Installment 17
Installment 18
Installment 19

Installment 20

Installment 21

 Installment 22

Installment 23
Installment 24
Installment 25

Installment 26

Installment 27

Installment 28

Installment 29