Friendly Fire is an oxymoron

“You think you can fill this out, Ell?” Eddie slid the forms
he’d written my name on at least a dozen times before across the desk, “I’ll
get us some Joe.” Station house coffee is about the best coffee in Pierce County,
so I readily agreed and set to penning in my information. Scribbling in the
answers faster than a slacker who’d memorized the answer key to a standardized
test, I tossed the pen onto the desk, sat back and closed my eyes.  Pictured Delbetter trying to start that truck
of his and cussing the air blue when he couldn’t.

“ So,” Eddie barked and I jumped, “why don’t you tell me
what you did to Delbetter’s beater?”  He
folded into the squeaky office chair and slammed down a manila file folder, my
name sharpied down the side.

I smiled. “Why, Deputy, I don’t know what you’re talkin’
about-,”

“Cut the crap, Ell,” he leaned forward, “strictly OFF the
record.” He stared me down, and broke into a grin, “Spill.”

Look, I’m as vain as the next criminal mastermind, being
particularly proud of hitting the three-time, all-district star pitcher
Delbetter smack in his swollen ego. Truthfully, I couldn’t help myself.

“Alright, first? I pulled all his fuses and superglued them
to his headliner.” I laughed at the mental picture of him trying to pull all
those fuses without marring the vinyl. “Then I dumped a bunch of confetti into
the vents and set his fan speed on high,” the deputy laughed out loud, “so when
he DOES get his fuses back in and starts the car, the vents’ll blow the paper
all over his cab.” I sat back satisfied that Eddie appreciated the humor of the
situation.

He shook his head, and then struck me with a hard look,
“what were you doing under the truck, Ellen.”

Shi-take mushrooms. Deputy did it again. Disarmed me with
that ‘just one of your pals’ thing he always did. “It ain’t that bad, really,
Eddie.”

“So you can go on and tell me, then.”

“I –uh, I wrapped a zip tie ‘round his drive shaft is all.”
I squirmed in my seat.

Deputy Eddie Bishop was no more’n four years older than
me.  He’d been a senior at the LaFoy K-12
school when I’d first transferred in during the first half of eighth grade.
He’d looked out for me during that first year when I was kind of kicked around
for being the new kid, appearing out of nowhere like some kind of cartoon hero.  He was always nice and I always repaid him by
telling him to stay outta my business. Even back then, he had a kind of
authority with everyone. Even the teachers.

He was a natural for law enforcement.

I cleared my throat and sat up straighter in the nicked up
wooden chair, “Alls it does is make a clicky noise, Eddie. Delbetter’ll be
scratchin’ his butt for a week and then he’ll figure it out.” Biting the inside
of my cheek to keep from laughing, I chanced a look at the Deputy.  A slow smile spread over his face. Not what I
was expecting. Finally he laughed and leaned back in his chair, stretching his
long legs in front of him.

“Nah, he won’t, Ell,” he stared at his coffee cup, swirling
the contents absent-mindedly, “he’ll have it figured out ‘afore he leaves the
parking lot.”

For a moment I just stared at him. “And how will he do that,
Deputy,” I glared at him, “thought this’s all off the record. You gonna rat me
out?”

He pulled his feet down and sat forward again, “First of
all, young lady,” he opened the file folder and pulled out a sheet covered in
tightly packed lines of print, “I’m a sworn officer of the law. You already
know,” and he held up the sheet which I now recognized as my list of
altercations with his department, “anything you say can be used against you.”
He slid the sheet in front of me, “So, I don’t ‘rat people out’.  And finally,” he stretched his arms up and
clasped his hands behind his head, “off the record means off the record, Ell,
how the hell long you known me?”

I glanced down at the list. “How else is he gonna figure it
out?”

“Ah hell,” he laughed again, “Gary Delbetter’s been ‘round
engines his whole life, first click, he’ll climb under that truck and spot that
tie right off.”  He turned to the
paperwork and made red marks beside the places I was supposed to sign. An
unnecessary kindness, as I was pretty familiar with them, but nice all the
same. “He’s prob’ly home right now.” He glanced up and slid the papers over toward
me. “Sign on the lines, initial at the check marks.”

Staring at the forms, I kept my still-cuffed hands folded
best I could over my chest. Only thing I had to look forward to, and Bishop had
to go and ruin it. “How’m I supposed to sign anything with these things on?” I
raised my hands and shook the cuffs.
“Dang Deputy, I ain’t done nothing illegal-,”

“Uh- Ellen, you broke into a vehicle belonging to someone
else, and that means-,”

The big door in the back swung open and the Law of Pierce
County, Sheriff JT Forks, stood framed in it so the late afternoon sun lit him
like an old time Hollywood star. “Well, Ellen Wiel,” he shook his head, “this
is a surprise,” he said. He jingled his way into the room, money and keys in
his pockets announcing his approach. He grabbed a paper coffee cup and poured
up the last dregs in the pot. “What’s it been, a week, week and a half? Some
kind of record for you, idn’t it?”

Bishop’s head swung around and he cast a wary eye on his
boss. A much repeated rumor around town said Bishop and Forks didn’t care none
for each other. Something about Bishop’s outsider attitude and tendency to keep
to himself, although I suspected it had more to do with Forks’ general attitude
of superiority to anyone and anything not directly related to him or his way.

Eddie shifted around in his seat and gave me a cautionary
look. “I was just finishing up processing a minor complaint, Sheriff.” That was
another reason Forks had no use for Eddie Bishop. He was about the only person
in LaFoy who didn’t address the Sheriff as “sir”. Well, aside from me.

“Yeah, Forks, Eddie just brought me in on a formality, it’s
not like-,” another warning look and I shut up.

Forks eyes narrowed and he studied me like something on the
bottom of his shoe. “A formality, huh?” He walked over to the desk and flipped
the cover on the manila folder, “Bishop, I’d like to see Ms. Wiel in my
office.” Not a request, an order. Eddie’s brow knitted and he glanced back at
me and bit the inside of his cheek.

“Yeah, sure, Sheriff.” He stood and fished the keys to the
cuffs out of his pocket and started toward me.

“That won’t be necessary, Deputy.” Forks stared
hard in my direction, his lip practically twitching with disgust.  Eddie nodded and stuffed the keys back into
his pocket, then fell in step beside me toward the office. We reached the door
and the Sheriff stopped Eddie with a hand to his chest. “Alone, Deputy.”

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