STELLA STONE IV
Leaving the courthouse through the basement door, Stella Stone came into the parking lot in the shadows. It was time for her shift to start, and she wanted to get out of the lot without having to visit with her boss. Willard “Bo” Didley, the sheriff of Barksdale County, liked to give a little encouragement to each shift change, and tonight Stella didn’t want a pep talk.
In addition to not wanting the pep talk, she wasn’t exactly Bo’s favorite deputy at the moment. She’d jumped into the middle of an armed robbery, killing three men, in the biggest shootout the county had seen since reconstruction. The fact was, the State Police ruled it a good shoot, and Bo was actually proud of her. He was still a little pissed that her brand new Ford Interceptor had nearly been totaled, but he’d soon be over that too.
In truth, as of this afternoon, the latest problem bothering Bo had been resolved. The District Attorney had dropped all charges accusing Stella of excessive force during an altercation with Johnny Higgins. The reality that Johnny had blown himself to smithereens trying to make a batch of meth, had played a major part in the DA’s decision.
This was her first shift after being returned to duty, so she wanted to give Bo a few days to calm down. It was 7:00 on Friday night, and she could see the lights from the high school football field glowing in the distance. Bo and most of the rest of Leesburg would be filling the stands to see the home standing Wildcats take on the Booneville Bears. Stella would be there too, if she didn’t have to work.
Stella’s beat was in the northern part of the county, so when she turned onto US45 heading north, she tuned her AM radio to the local station, WLLC, to listen to the ball game. She turned the volume low until kickoff so she could hear the police band. Friday nights were usually pretty quiet until the high school games ended, so she could expect a slow night until about 10:30. At that point things would pick up, mostly wrecks or bar fights.
Stella stayed on US45 and set her cruise control on 65. Nothing screwed up traffic like a police car going the speed limit. When the ball game started she turned off 45 and headed east on MS 4 toward Ripley, and began listening to the game. She wandered all over her beat until the game ended, with Leesville losing a heartbreaker to Booneville 21–20. She’d just gotten back on US45 when Betty’s voice came on the police band.
“Stella, this is Betty. You need to get over to Rocky Mount; there’s been a big wreck right in the middle of town.”
“10–4,” she replied. “On my way.”
She flipped on the light bar, did a u turn, and headed back south. Rocky Mount was the second largest city in Barksdale County and had its own town Marshall, but the sheriff’s department usually responded to anything more than a fender bender. Rocky Mount was a typical hill country town, complete with a downtown square. The City Hall occupied the square, and as Stella pulled in, she immediately spotted the wreck, or in this case, wrecks.
There was a Ford Mustang sitting atop the remains of a fire hydrant. The hydrant had been destroyed, and a geyser of water was pouring through a hole in the Mustang’s floor board, spraying fifty feet in the air out of the broken windshield. The second car had made it all the way to the marble civil war monument. It had slammed against the base of the statue, and the Confederate rifleman had been toppled and was sticking through the top of the Chevy, bayonet first.
Stella took in all of this as she parked across the street from the City Hall. She spotted a group of men standing at a safe distance, observing the spectacle. She recognized Barry Smothers, the seventy year old town Marshall, talking to a young boy who stood with his head hanging down. When she neared them, she picked up the unmistakable aroma of stale beer. She said,
“Evening Barry. Were there any injuries?”
“Hey Stella. No, there was no one else involved, just this idiot and his buddy who left the scene,” he replied as he pointed to the boy who stood studiously examining his sneakers.
“Have you figured out exactly what happened?”
“Hell, Stella, you don’t have to be Sam Spade to figure this one out. Just take a look at those fifty foot skid marks leading up to the square.”
Stella looked where Barry was pointing, and saw two parallel sets of black skid marks shimmering in the mercury vapor street lights. The marks led from one of the streets that emptied onto the square. Stella had worked enough wrecks to be able to estimate that the skid marks had been made by vehicle traveling at least 80MPH. She shook her head and said,
“Looks like a beer fueled drag race to me.” She looked at the kid and asked, “What do you have to say?”
The teenager, who looked to be about fifteen, kept his head down and said,
“No ma’am, we weren’t racing. We were headed to the Krispy Kreme, when a dog ran out and we had to hit our brakes.”
“Well, I can see you can’t lie any better than you can drive. I’d think that story over before we get you to Leesburg.”
“Aawh, c’mon ma’am. I ain’t done anything wrong. I just had an accident. Why you taking me to Leesburg?
“Well, let’s start with a breath test. I’ll bet we’ll find a bunch of empty beer cans when we search those cars. So along with driving under the influence, we’ll have destruction of public property and reckless driving. How does that sound to you?
“No ma’am. Y’all won’t find no beer cans. I threw ‘em out when I finished ‘em.”
“Okay, I’ll buy that. Now we can add littering to the charges. While we’re at it, I need to see your license and registration. You do have a license, don’t you?”
“No ma’am, but I have a learner’s permit.”
He pulled a folded piece of paper from his back pocket and handed it to her.
She unfolded the paper and read that Lucien Reagan was fifteen on August 21, and lived at 299 Euclid Street in Rocky Mount. He’d been driving less than a month. Before she could say more, a pickup pulled up to the square, and a sleepy looking gray haired man came over and said,
“Damn, Barry, you called a wrecker yet?”
“No Buster, I don’t work for the damn public works department. Call your own wrecker.”
“I hope you remember this the next time your sewer overflows. Maybe you can fix it yore self.”
The man went back to his pick up and used the radio. Stella smiled to herself, and then looked the kid dead in the eye and said,
“Okay Crash, why don’t you give me the name of your buddy who got bayoneted by a Rebel?”
“I don’t know his name; we just met at the Junior’s after the ball game.”
“Damn. I’ve told Junior to card anybody that looks like they might not be on Medicare. He ought a have to pay for all of the damage you the guys did to the City of Rocky Mount. Now what’s his name?”
“I ain’t gonna rat him out, so you might as well quit asking.”
Stella grinned at the boy and said,
“Lucien, Barksdale County might not be Las Vegas, but we do know how to look up a license tag. That Chevy has a Barksdale Tag, and I’m guessing the owner of the car is not going to want to take the blame for his retarded son. This whole business can go a lot easier if you’ll help me out.”
“How much easier?”
“Well, for instance, if I knew who to call, I’d suggest that he and his son meet here at the scene of the crime. Then we’d call your Dad and invite him to join us.”
“Oh hell, Miss Stone, my daddy’s gonna wring my neck if he finds out about this.”
“Lucien, believe me, he’s gonna find out. If Buster doesn’t get that water main cut off pretty soon, somebody’s Daddy is gonna have a hell of a water bill, not to mention the cost of restoring that statue. I suspect you’re gonna want to let me help you work this out. I’ll call the tag in so you can say you didn’t rat on anybody.”
Stella got the other cars owner’s name and home phone number. She rang the number, and a sleepy voice said,
“Taylor residence. This is Ted.”
“Mr. Taylor, this is Deputy Sheriff Stella Stone. I’d like for you to find your son and meet me at the City Hall.”
“Can you tell me why I need to find Brad and come there?”
“Mr. Taylor, I think you’ll figure it out as soon as you get here, and I’d hurry it up if I were you.”
She finally got Lucien to call his dad to tell him to come, and the two of them leaned against her Interceptor and waited. In a short time, two cars pulled to the curb, just as the wrecker showed up.
Mr. Taylor and Mr. Reagan got out and walked over to the cruiser. Taylor was trailed by a sick looking little kid with serious acne problems. Both men took in the scene with the wrecker, and Ted Taylor said,
“I see what you meant by figuring it out. Where do you want to start Officer? It looks like an open and shut case to me.”
“Yes sir, not much to add to it. I think the both of you already know that you’ll be getting a sizable bill from the City. How you handle that with your insurance company is up to you. Here’s what I suggest we do with Larry and Moe. I don’t see any point in making Barksdale County spend a fortune trying two fifteen year olds. They’d end up with suspended sentences and a criminal record.”
If the two of you can square this with the City of Rocky Mount, I’ll make the rest of it go away. The only thing I’ll demand is that these idiots surrender their learner’s permits, and that they don’t get behind the wheel of a car until their seventeenth birthdays. What additional restrictions the two of you may choose to impose, I’ll leave up to you.”
Taylor and Reagan looked at each other and quickly agreed to the deal. Taylor took his son by the arm and drug him toward his car. Bill Reagan looked at Stella and said,
“Thanks for the slack. I had a little problem with the law when I was his age, and the judge cut me some too.”
“What’d you do?”
“Turned a pinball machine over during the process of a bar fight.”
“That’s been known to happen. What’d the judge make you do?”
“I got the opportunity to join the U.S. Marine Corp just in time to make the landing at Cam Rahn Bay.”
Hydrant image pixaby.com
Categories: As I Like It!