Who was he protecting? It was somebody worth dying for. Blood Land.
May 21, 2013
A VG Serial: Blood Land
Chapter 13 – 3
The call came on Pruett’s cell phone later that night, when he was home, busy washing a week’s worth of dishes caked with the grime of unwanted bachelorhood.
“Pruett,” the sheriff said.
“That murderer’s going to fry, Sheriff. Thought you’d want to know.” The voice was muffled, as if the words were spoken through gelatin.
“Who the hell is calling?” Pruett said.
“An interested citizen. The jurors, we know where the bear shits, sir.”
“So you’re on the jury. Calling the county sheriff. Not smart. Not smart at all.”
“I figured you’d be happy,” the caller said. “Figured I was callin’ the widower of a murdered wife ‘stead of some dumb…”
“Dumb what?” Pruett growled.
The call disconnected. Pruett wondered about how much stock to put in such a call. Number one, even if it were true, it was no big surprise. Hanson was losing the case. It wasn’t like it had the gleam of a winner in the first place. And he couldn’t prove it was a juror. And he sure as hell didn’t have a clue as to which one, anyway—though because of the near commentary, he had a couple ideas.
Pruett didn’t know how to feel about the call, either. Assuming the information was accurate. He’d tried to be impartial about the trial, the outcome and verdict—and Ty had, after all, let him live. He’d also stayed put to face the music; he could have headed off for Canada with the sheriff alive or dead and he didn’t. The old sheriff wasn’t sure if those facts alone made the defendant worthy of admiration. More than a small part of him had wanted to die up in the wilderness. Die or kill his wife’s murderer—or both—and there still wasn’t any reconciliation on either of those counts.
Besides, he was on the side of the law. People guilty of murder were supposed to be found guilty. And as far as Pruett knew it, Ty McIntyre was guilty. He may not have intended to kill her—hell, he might not have intended to kill anyone—but he’d shot Bethy. There was no disputing that.
Or was there?
Something about the whole situation seemed off. And that something had been worming its way into Pruett’s brain since the very start. The sheriff grabbed his hunting coat and his hat. He had some questions of his own he wanted to ask and he wasn’t going to wait until the attorneys got around to asking them.
* * *
“Wake up, Ty.”
Ty rolled over and look up at the cage door. “Weren’t asleep.”
“I brought us coffee,” said Pruett.
Ty stood and rolled his neck, joints snapping like tiny kernels of popcorn going off in his spine. “Gettin’ old’s hell, Sheriff. And that cot you all tryin’ to pass of as a bed ain’t helpin’ matters none.”
Pruett handed a lidded cup of black coffee through the bars. “They didn’t have any cream,” he said.
“Don’t take none. Obliged for the hot joe.”
“I want to talk to you, man to man,” Pruett said, pulling a chair over and sitting his two hundred and forty pounds down in it.
“Always do,” Ty said.
“Another one of those ‘off the record’ kinda deals,” the sheriff said.
“Hmm. Not sure that’s a grand idea anymore. With the trial and all.”
“Why do you want to die so bad?” Pruett said.
“Each of us owes a death,” Ty said. “Some of us owe a pile more’n one.”
“You told me once that you didn’t remember shooting that night.”
“I remember enough,” Ty said.
“Tell me again.”
“I remember tearin’ over there like a banshee, nearly tippin’ over the truck twice on that piece a shit road…then…hmm…stopped before I got there. I got out the truck and set my ass down on a big rock. Wanted to think.”
“What about?” Pruett said.
“All of it. How my old man could try and kill me. His son.”
“Didn’t sit well.”
“No it did not. But I got to thinkin’. Past the anger touched off in my skull…methodical kind of thoughts.”
“Like how killin’ Rory weren’t just about me, or about revenge. It would be like wipin’ a scourge from the Earth.”
“He’s no good, Sheriff. Everyone’s bad, in one way or another. But Rory’s kind…they just go on hurtin’ and hurtin’. Never fuckin’ stops. I drove over thinkin’ I would be the one to put an end to it.”
“But your conscience got the better of you.”
“You serious?” Ty said.
“Let’s say thinking about doing it and doing it are not one and the same,” Pruett said.
“That’s goddamned right.”
“I knew when you asked me if I killed anyone in ‘Nam,” Pruett said. “Knew you couldn’t have done it.”
“You had a look in your eyes,” the sheriff said.
“There’s this look a man gets in his eye when he talks about taking another life. It’s a look of awe. Like the act itself is this sacred thing, which it damn sure is. Once a man has killed, though, he loses that look.”
“That’s why I stopped and started drinkin’ some more,” Ty said.
“I know. Didn’t help, did it?” Pruett said.
“Nothing can help that, Ty. Nothing.”
“I decided then and there I was going to warn ‘em, though. Just put the fear of the devil in their hearts.”
“You think about winging one of them?”
“Sure. Considered pickin’ a few a them gray hairs off the old man’s head.”
“You’re a helluva shot,” Pruett said. “Just the kind who could do it.”
“’Cept I had a few more drinks.”
“Passed out, did you?”
“Yep. Sat down on my rear end and fell over. Went directly to sleep. Everything else was a blackout.”
“Why haven’t you told all this to your attorney?”
“I have told him. Why you think he’s arguin’ I didn’t intend to kill no one?”
“I mean the part about you passing out.”
“I did. Told everyone I blacked out.”
“You just said you passed out. Took a nap, as it were.”
“No difference,” Ty said.
“Yeah, well I say there is,” the sheriff said, standing up, pushing the chair back across the stone floor.
“All the times I ever got drunk,” Pruett said. “All those times I blacked out, you know I never once actually remember passing out? That’s why they call it a blackout. You don’t remember anything.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Man passing out, Ty, just ain’t the same thing as him blacking out.”
“You’ve lost your mind,” Ty said. “Black out, pass out. Damn you if you think there’s a difference.”
“You didn’t shoot anyone, did you, Ty?”
“Fuck you, Pruett.”
“Your truck was there. You were there. But you didn’t pull that trigger, did you?”
“I said fuck you, sir.”
“Who’re you protecting, Ty? Who’s worth one of those deaths owed?”
“We’re done talking.”
Pruett walked away and never said a word about the phone number his prisoner had carved in the wall. He also neglected to mention the homemade etcher, made of a fork—the one that Pruett had returned to its hiding place wondering just what his wife’s accused murderer might carve next.
Pruett left the jail with nothing but drinking and sleeping on his mind.
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.