In the night the Mexican prisoner and the white boy had taken a keen dislike to each other. Dodds was in the cell with the Mex kid trying to get him to talk about what had happened.
    “I rolled over, and I fell out of bed,” the Mex kid said. He looked over at the white boy and grinned.
    The white boy had a narrow, feral face. He wore jail denims. He badly needed a shave but wouldn’t accept the razor Dodds had several times tried to give him. He had eyes that were a mirror of all the things that had been done to him by others before he could defend himself, and all the things he wanted to do to people now that he was big and strong and dangerous. Once in a while Dodds felt sorry for kids like this but then he always reminded himself what a luxury such pity was. It had cost more than one lawman his life.
    Dodds wanted the Mex to talk, but there he was intruding on the most sacred pact you found behind bars-no matter how much prisoners might hate each other, they hated a lawman more.
    “I’d like to get this sonofabitch,” Dodds said. “First because he snuck himself a knife into my jail. And second because he committed a felony while in my custody. That’s the kind of thing that can really piss a man off.”
    “I don’t know nothing about it. Nothing.”
    “What happens tonight?”
    “Sure. When he gets another crack at you. Maybe you won’t be so lucky tonight.”
    The white boy sat in the corner of his own cell, glaring first at Dodds then at the Mex kid.
    For the first time, the Mex looked as if he just might believe what Dodds was saying.
    The Mex raised his head and stared over at the white boy. “You s’posed to protect me while I’m in here.”
    “What the hell you think I’m trying to do?”
    The Mex looked at the white boy again. “Let me think it over, okay?”
    “Okay. But I wouldn’t think about it much past sundown.” Dodds grinned over at the white boy. “Not if you want to keep that punk off your back. He managed to stab you through the bars. That means he’s got a good chance of killing you next time whether you’re in separate cells or not.”
    “Sheriff,” the deputy said through the barred door leading to the front office. “You got a visitor.”
    “Thanks,” Dodds said, standing up. “If I ain’t here, you give your statement to Eulo out there, okay?”
    The Mex nodded.
    The white boy grinned. Obviously he figured he had the Mex scared away.
    Dodds hoped the Mex would surprise everybody and turn the white boy in. Assault with intent to commit great bodily injury would land the white boy in prison, where he belonged. All the white boy was doing time for was drunk and disorderly, but you could see that if somebody didn’t stop him, he was the kind of kid who’d kill somebody for sure.
    He started to make an obscene gesture behind Dodds’s back at the sheriff headed for the front door.
    Dodds turned around just in time to see what was about to happen. He grinned at the kid. That was one thing about punks. Mentally they never got much beyond second grade.


    Dodds had always like Mae Kittredge. To some she was too religious, to others too strange, but she bore her disappointment over her lost child with a gentle dignity that touched Dodds. He remembered how Mae had helped the victims of the factory layoff, going door-to-door every few days to make sure that everyone had sufficient supplies of food and medicine, and sufficient supplies of tenderness for each other. Dodds had always joked to her that she’d make a fine sheriff; she could settle down riled-up husbands faster than any lawman he’d ever seen.
    Now Mae sat in his office, her clothes damp from the rain. Her hands were folded in her lap, her eyes shaded by the bill of her bonnet. The way her lips moved softly, it was easy to tell she was praying.
    Dodds came in and sat across from the desk and said, “Nice to see you, Mae.”
    As he said this, he realized he was going to be seeing a lot of the woman in the coming weeks. Her husband was, after all, implicated in a killing and a bank robbery.
    “Nice to see you, Sheriff,” she replied.
    “How can I help you?”
    “I just wanted to check up on that special deputy. After he left, I got suspicious.”
    “What deputy you talkin’ about Mae?”
    “The one who came out to the house. The one who works for the governor. The one who’s helping you.”
    “My deputy’s in back, Mae. He didn’t go out to see you.”
    In her somber gray eyes came the realization that she’d been tricked.
    “He asked about Dennis,” she said.
    “What about Dennis?”
    “He wanted to know where he could find him.”
    “He say why?”
    “He said Dennis had witnessed a jewelry robbery and he thought Dennis could testify against the robber.”
    “I see.”
    “It was a trick, wasn’t it?’
    He wanted to keep her calm. No reason to excite her. She’d had enough grief in recent years.
    “I’m sure everything is fine, Mae,” Dodds said, taking his pipe from his drawer. He stuck it between his teeth and inhaled it. He could taste the sweet and satisfying vapors of tobacco burned days ago. “He ask you where he could find Dennis?”
    “He did.”
    “You tell him?”
    “I did.” Pause. “I shouldn’t have, should I?”
    He sucked a little more on his pipe. He tried to remain as composed as possible. The hell of it was he felt a little tic troubling the corner of his eye. He always got it when he got scared and he was scared now. Ryan was a crazy sonofabitch. Just in case he forgot how crazy, all he had to do was read the letter Ryan had written and left in his carpetbag. “Where’d you tell him he’d find Dennis, Mae?”
    “Out on Lambert Creek. Up near Grovers Pass.”
    “Fishing, huh?”
    This was the part he had to make sound really relaxed and nonchalant. “Why don’t you let me do you a little favor, Mae?”
    “A little favor?”
    “Why don’t you let me ride on out there and just see if I can find this fella. Ask him if there hasn’t been some kind of mix-up or something.”
    She sighed. “I’d sure appreciate that, Sheriff.”
    “By the way, Mae, you haven’t told me what this fella looks like exactly.”
    “Oh, he’s a nice-looking man. You can tell he’s successful and you can tell he’s educated. He doesn’t look like a criminal or anything.”
    “Could you be a little more specific, Mae? How tall he is and what color his hair is and what kind of clothes he’s wearing.”
    She shrugged her narrow shoulders. “Sure, Sheriff. If you want me to.”
    The man she then proceeded to describe was, or course, Septemus Ryan.
Jack Dwyer #07 - What the Dead Men Say
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