Note: This is the fourth of several installments from my latest work-in-progress, The Circle. If I knew how to make the copyright symbol on a MacBook keyboard, this is where you would find it. Don't steal my shit, man.
Deputy Barb Berry’s trip home to her day off took her past American Legion Post No. 8315. It was noon, and her dad’s truck was already in the parking lot. Some retired cops fished; Don Berry drank like a fish. She decided to stop and check on him.
Barb opened the door and blasted the brown-paneled barroom with sunlight. It smelled like an ashtray full of old Lucky Strike butts and wasn’t much cleaner. Old veterans aren’t terribly fussy about cleanliness as long as the beer is cold.
“Is that my Barbara Elizabeth?” Don called out. “Hey Betty, get my little girl a Coors Light.”
The old gal ashed her Virginia Slim and turned around to the cooler. Barb went up and gave her dad a hug, then took the stool next to him at the bar.
“Hey, Dad, kinda early, isn’t it?” Barb said as meekly as she could.
“Don’t, Barb, don’t,” Don replied softly. “I heard that shit from your mom for 22 years and I don’t need it from you.
“How is she, by the way?”
Barb let him change the subject. “She’s fine, Barb said. She’s going back to Arizona next weekend. Her and Bill just bought a condo.”
Don chuckled a bit. “So did that Bill come into some money, or did your mom use my pension to buy it?”
“I don’t know, Dad. Why don’t you call and ask her?” Barb countered.
Don backed off. “Okay, okay, it’s her money as much as its mine,” he said. “I’ll give it a rest. So how’s The Job?”
“Fucked up,” Barb said as she exhaled her first drag off her Marlboro. “Nettie calls me this morning to check on her neighbor, who turned out to be as dead as a doornail, and Hennessey shows up and kicks me out of the house.”
“Hennessey? What the Hell was he doin’ there? Detectives don’t work weekends,” Don said.
Barb let out a much-needed chuckle. “Yeah, that’s what I said and he got all pissed; no, it turned out it was his aunt…”
“Mendenhall? Does she live by Net?” Don asked quizzically. “She’s the stiff?”
“Yeah, I didn’t even know she was related to Hennessey,” Barb answered. “He hustled me back out of the house and made the M.E.’s guys wait while he grabbed some stuff out of the house.”
Don shook his head and rubbed his eyes with his right thumb and forefinger. He sighed and shook his head again.
Barb was anxious, to say the least. “What? What is it?” she asked. “Is this about his aunt, or her son?”
“Are you doing the paperwork, or is Ed?” he asked. “If he wants the investigation, then stay away. Just forget about it and don’t say anything.”
Barbs curiosity was off the charts by then. She looked at him plaintively, begging with her eyes to be let in on the Big Secret. Don paused for a moment, the way a father does when he isn’t sure about what he wants his child to know. Resignation slowly took over his face as he was forced to acknowledge that his little girl was now a veteran police officer.
“Okay, this is between me an you and doesn’t go any further, right?” Don said.
Barb nodded eagerly, excited to be her father’s peer for a change.
“Okay, so did Ed tell ya about Tommy, the son?” Don asked.
Barb shook her head. “No, all I know is that Bobby and Nettie said he was kind of a fuck-up, ya know, living off his mom. Before Ed chased me out, I saw that somebody emptied her purse onto the table. There was a little blood on the table cloth and the back of her head, too, like she slipped or...”
“Was pushed?” Don interjected. “That fuckin’ kid, I’ll tell ya what -- if it wasn’t for his mother begging Hennessey all the time to keep him outta jail, then he’d been up at the state farm years ago.
“A real tough guy,” Don continued. He’d go out and sell pot or pills or rip somebody off. Every time he got locked up, he’d try telling everybody he was some kinda killer or something, you know, to scare them off. Of course, he’d get his ass kicked before his mom or Ed could spring him. Other guys on the department quit busting him after a while, because we all knew he was a Hennessey. Between Ed and all the money the Hennesseys have, we all knew that punk was bulletproof.”
Barb kept nodding and listening intently. Her dad’s story reminded her of a call she responded to several months before. Some hillbilly punched his girlfriend in the parking lot of the Stingray. They went out to his car to smoke a joint. When they got outside, he told her he needed money to go buy the weed. She told him she was broke, but he didn’t believe her and slugged her jaw. The girl -- a dancer there -- called the cops. By the time Barb arrived, the dancer insisted that everything was okay, despite the swelling on the left side of her face. The man identified himself as Tommy Mendenhall. Barb knew that if the girl changed her story so soon, the prosecutors office wouldn’t bother with pressing a case. She offered the girl a ride, but was rebuffed. Disgusted, she took off.
“Oh Hell, I know that guy,” Barb blurted out, back in the moment with her dad. “He’s kinda tall and pudgy, right? With a dyed-black mullet?”
“Yeah, sounds just like him,” Don sighed. “The best thing that family coulda have done was to let his ass sit in jail for a year or two; but its too late now.”
Don leaned over and looked his daughter in the eye. “But sweetie, the best thing for you is to let Ed handle it from here. If that kid did kill his mom, I can’t believe Ed would let him off the hook -- family or no family.”
Barb nodded again. “Yeah, maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.”
Don grinned slightly, noting how hard she nodded her head to convince him she was taking his advice. “But you’re not gonna, are you?”
Barb replied with a slight grin of her own.