He had not been able to uphold justice with honor after his wife was killed. Blood Land.
May 4, 2013
A VG Serial: Blood Land
After putting Ty back in his cell, Pruett tried to clean himself up. He decided not to call anyone in. Were the situation to have played out as the evidence suggested, Pruett would have handled it alone anyway. He wiped up the blood and tried to disguise the extent of his injuries. Make it look like Ty got the worst of it. Jorgensen would want to tack on the assault and attempted escape charges, so Pruett needed to make sure he kept the drama to a minimum.
He didn’t feel tough anymore, nor was there courage seething in his veins. He felt foolish, and it wasn’t a feeling cared for.
Revenge. It’s a word most have thought about at least once in their lives. But when Sheriff James Pruett swore his oath he was supposed to have risen above things like revenge and drama and savageness; he was supposed to uphold justice and honor and dignity—and most of all he was supposed to follow due process.
He’d done none of those things since Bethy was shot and killed. Oh he didn’t always fail on the external, like tonight, taking a prisoner north into the wilderness to murder him for what he was alleged to have done to the sheriff’s wife. Many of his failures were on the inside where no one could see them.
Pruett knew that’s how most people lived, though few would admit it.
He pulled the bottle of whiskey from the lower desk drawer—an old bottle of Rebel Yell he’d gotten as a gift for one holiday or another, before he sobered up those dozen years. It was still half-full. He’d always left it in there, figuring his refusal to reach for it meant something back in the day. It probably did. Then. Now he just needed a drink. Nothing more complicated than that.
He wiped clean the inside of a coffee cup with a paper towel and poured it half full of the cheap booze. Price or quality meant nothing to a drunk. All he cared was that it was proofed enough to chisel the edges of the shame he felt, born of the foolishness of a lawman that lost his way.
As he drank the warm medicine for his soul he realized in all the years, sober or drunk, booze never made him feel ashamed. It was Wyoming. People drank. Since before the prairies were won—ripped away from those who owned them first—alcohol was always at hand.
Many felt that was still the way the government kept Native Americans in line on the reservations, by keeping them stocked with cheap liquor and nowhere to go and nothing to do.
Pruett could attest to the feral waste such a combination could wage across a man’s will. Words like nowhere and nothing ate away at a person; ate away at him until he wasn’t the same in the mirror in the mornings; gnawed at every part of him until all he wanted to do was drown himself in the misery and the booze.
He finished off the cup and put the bottle away. He suddenly felt like being at home; the home he and his wife had built together with their own hands, just as in the days of the old land—just as generations had done before them.
He wanted to be where the memory of his dead wife waited to cocoon him in a false sense that he could finally kick the habit for good, that everything would work out, justice would be served, and the world would then, for him anyway, stop spinning.
One dry week that felt like a year.
How many years of sobriety have I pissed down the sewer this past month? Or was it two? Pruett wondered as he drank his second tonic water.
He sat at the Bar of the Willow Saloon, where he’d taken Ty into custody. Hanson, the lawyer, asked to meet him there.
“Sheriff Pruett,” a voice declared from behind him.
Pruett turned to see the smiling face of J.W. Hanson.
“Sit,” Pruett said. “Roland, whatever the man wants.”
“Tullamore Dew,” Hanson said.
“Heaven Hill,” the sheriff corrected. “You want to talk to a gentleman, you drink bourbon. No goddamn Irish whisky swill. Besides, this way I get to smell it at least.”
Hanson nodded to the bartender.
The two sat in silence for a time, Hanson screwing up the courage to say what he’d come to say. “You’re aware of Wendy and me?”
“I’m aware,” Pruett said. “You have any kids?”
“No,” said Hanson.
“Once,” Hanson said. “Divorced a number of years ago.”
“Bethy and I almost divorced,” Pruett said. “I was a hard drinker. Had a fling with this teacher in town. Stupid goddamn thing, but there it was. My daughter tell you about that?”
Hanson shook his head.
“Mostly why my daughter hates me,” Pruett said. “That and the war.”
“She doesn’t hate you,” Hanson said.
“Bethy forgave me. For both. Not like she should have. Took me a year to break it off with the teacher. Checked into a rehab place up in Cody. By the time I got back, teacher got herself fired. Bethy and I, we never talked about it again. I can’t even remember that woman’s name.”
“We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love,” Hanson said.
“You dream that nonsense up yourself?”
“Freud,” Hanson said, sipping on his whiskey. “Love ends up complicating things more than we’d hope, whatever you believe.”
“Never felt like my love for Bethy was complicated. What did Freud say about following the angst in our loins?”
“How’d you get yourself divorced, Professor?”
“Now see, I like a man better when he speaks from experience. To hell with the quotes.”
“Fair enough,” Hanson acquiesced.
“It’s hard,” Pruett said. “Being worthy of a good woman’s love.”
“It’s the staying worthy that challenges us.”
Chapters of the serial are published Monday through Saturday.
You can learn more about R. S. Guthrie’s novels on his Amazon Author’s Page.