“A body was found up near the tall pines.”
“Not on my land?” Felix said defensively.
“No, it wasn’t on your land. But that doesn’t mean that maybe you didn’t hear someone driving by. The car would have had to pass by your place.”
“I said I was sleeping, or weren’t you paying attention? I might as well be dead for all you care.”
“It isn’t the same and you know it. I listen to everyone,” Dan quickly added. “Mac says you have a hog problem.”
“Hogs? Them’s razorbacks in those woods,” Felix snapped, not believing Dan’s indifference.
Felix pointed to the tree line in the distance, in the opposite direction that Dan had just come from.
“Are you sure?” Dan asked.
“I know the difference. These ain’t no puny little pigs. The biggest one has got to go at least three-fifty, if not more.”
“From what I hear they are mean buggers,” Dan said, looking concerned now.
“They killed my best milker last month. Mutilated the poor animal,” Felix paused for a moment. “Last night they took down my prize heifer.”
Dan shook his head while rubbing his chin. “Felix, I don’t know what you expect. I can’t form a posse to go after pigs.”
“Razorbacks,” Felix corrected.
“Okay, I’ll give you that.”
Felix in frustration turned and walked away but then turned back to Dan and shook his fist at him. Dan knew by the look on Felix’s face that this was not going well. He always had a hard time dealing with him and this was no different.
“I’m just supposed to wait?”
“Maybe you could gather up a couple of your neighbors and go after them.” Dan looked around. “But don’t go alone.”
Felix raised his hands. “This is the kind of protection my tax dollars get me?”
Dan looked in disbelief. “I’m in the middle of a murder investigation. What do you want me to do?”
Felix laughed and then responded sharply, “Your job!”
“I can’t argue with you over this.”
“You’re going to just walk away?”
“I told you what you could do. I’m sure Gordon down the road would go with you to get those hogs.”
“He ain’t talking to me.”
“Yeah and whose problem is that? Christ, Felix, you alienate everyone.”
“Is that any way to talk to one of your bosses?”
“Don’t pull that crap on me. I’ve got a job to do and standing here talking to you about your hog problem isn’t getting it done.”
“I can hardly wait for the next election.”
“Hey, you go for it. Hell, why don’t you just run against me?”
Dan was losing his temper with Felix and it was getting him nowhere fast.
“I might just do that,” Felix snapped.
Dan turned and walked away before he said something he might regret. It was always that way with Felix. He always seemed to bring out the worst in Dan.
“I got to get going. I’ll check back in a couple of days. If you still haven’t tracked them down, I’ll go out with you.”
Felix was already up the porch steps but managed to yell back at Dan, “Don’t do me any favors.”
Dan got into the squad and quickly started the engine and sped off down the road. He turned on the radio and listened to some music while trying to put Felix Murphy out of his mind.
Dan pulled onto the highway. He tapped his finger to the beat of the music. He liked old time rock ‘n’ roll. It always had a beat you could dance to. He used to take Kay dancing on Saturday night for their date night. He sure missed those date nights. He also missed the time they had together. As much as the women in the county pursued him, there was no one around who came near to replacing her.
In the distance Dan saw Junior Youngblood, a simple-minded Indian boy in his late teens, walking along the shoulder of the road. Junior turned as the squad car approached and then he started running and veered awkwardly onto the roadway. His behavior was not normal and caused Dan to step on the gas and take chase, but when Junior veered into the brush, Dan quickly stopped the squad and took chase on foot.
Dan almost caught Junior when he tripped and fell, angering himself. Dan quickly got up and brushed off his pants. He continued his pursuit. Junior zigzagged through the open field allowing Dan to catch up to him. He was about to grab Junior when Junior suddenly stopped and turned around, taking a wild swing at Dan, which caught him broadside, sending Dan to the ground. But being simple-minded, Junior just stood there for the longest time not doing anything more. It was when Dan started to get up that Junior took off running again. He ran into the thicket of thorns causing his shirt to get torn. Dan reached for Junior and grabbed him by the collar. Once he had hold of him Dan swung him off balance and Junior tumbled to the ground. Dan quickly straddled Junior, grabbing his hands and then cuffed them in back.
Dan stood up, trying to catch his breath. He bent down for a moment and just stared at Junior on the ground. It was then he saw the red stains on Junior’s shirt, it definitely looked like blood not paint, but whose blood was the question now.
Dan searched Junior closely, looking for a cut that would explain the blood.
“You hurt yourself, Junior?” Dan asked.
“Don’t know what you mean,” Junior replied.
“You’re a mess,” Dan said, looking Junior over more thoroughly.
Dan was still panting hard. It was hot out and a morning run was definitely something he did not need. Dan always managed to stay fit but running was never his cup of tea.
“I didn’t do nothin’.”
“No one said you did.”
Dan touched Junior’s shirt. It was soaked through to the skin with blood. Dan wiped his face with the back of his hand where Junior struck him to see if there was blood, but looking at his hand, Dan could see none that would account for what was on Junior’s shirt. Dan was puzzled as he reached down to help Junior up.
“Where have you been?” Dan asked.
Junior struggled with Dan. “You can’t pin it on me. I didn’t do it.”
“That isn’t what I asked.” Dan paused as he looked at Junior’s shirt again. “You got a lot of blood on that shirt of yours. Want to tell me what happened?”
“It wasn’t right,” Junior said.
Junior quickly head-butted Dan, catching him off guard. He attempted to run, but Dan recovered too fast and tripped Junior, causing him to fall into the thick underbrush scratching his face and neck.
Dan always felt sorry for Junior. He was a year older than Kelly, so he was able to watch him grow up through the years. Other kids picked on him because he was slow and seemed to tower over the other kids his age. From a young age on, one could tell Junior was a few cards short of a full deck. But he was harmless. No matter how much the other kids teased him, he never lost his temper. But it always concerned Dan that when he got older maybe the boy would come to realize he was the butt of many jokes and finally would stand up to the bullies.
Dan guided Junior down the ditch back to where the squad was parked. Junior tripped a few times, but Dan caught him and steadied his footing.
“You got some explaining to do.”
“I didn’t do it! Honest, Sheriff, you got to believe me.”
Dan took a deep breath. “Would you just shut up?”
Dan spun Junior around so they were face-to-face. “You got blood on your shirt.” Dan pointed to Junior’s chest. Junior looked down as if not knowing what Dan was talking about.
“What do you mean,” he said with a puzzled look on his face.
Dan grabbed Junior’s shirt and yanked his shirt up so Junior could see what he was talking about. They stood there along the side of the road next to the squad as cars sped by.