Lester L. Weil
Dixon was patrolling the eastern edge of Watton County, enjoying being out of
the office and driving through the countryside in the department's new
acquisition, a 4X4 diesel pickup. Mason liked the backwoods people of this
pineywood area: resourceful, strong, and independent. And they mostly liked
him, as he was fair and knew what to worry about and what to ignore.
Rounding a bend in the road, Mason saw the rambling
buildings of Sam's Country Store and pulled up in front.
If you wanted a dozen eggs from uncaged chickens or a lamb
chop, Sam had it. If you needed a ¼ x 3 ½ SAE bolt, Sam had it. He also had hay
for your horse, or a new saddle—and even Blue Bonnet ice cream for your sweet
tooth. If you needed it, Sam more than likely had it.
Mason went in and got some coffee from the coffee
machine—Columbian dark roast—and headed to the counter.
out of maple bars, you just have glazed left.”
you old dog.
If I knew there'd be a cop in the neighborhood, I'd made a double order. How's
life? Haven't seen you in a coon's age. This a friendly visit or is someone
around here in trouble.”
always someone around here in trouble. But I'm just out joyriding, trying out
our new truck.”
Sam craned his neck and looked out the window. “Hey, pretty
snazzy. But are you sure you got enough lights on it.”
They both laughed. “Well, we wanted the full package. And
you can't even see the lights on the back from here. They'll blind you.” Mason
sipped his coffee while he and Sam shot the shit for awhile. “Anything going on
around here I should know about?”
Sam knew that Mason was asking if anyone was in trouble and
in need of help, such as a wife getting beat on or a child being abused, or
someone suffering some other misfortune within his purview. “No, I don't think
so. Everything's been pretty quiet lately.”
going to be off. See ya, Sam. Say hi to the missus.”
Mase. See ya next time.”
Mason cranked the big diesel engine and headed west. He
hadn't gone a mile when he heard Dolly, the dispatcher, call over the radio:
“Sheriff, you better get over to the Joe Pedersen place out on 23. Pedersen's
boy Joey is in the barn with his 4-10 shotgun. His dad called the vet to put
down his dog and Joey took the dog and his 4-10 into the barn and says he'll
shoot anyone who tries to kill his dog. Someone called that new kid from the
State Police sub-station and he's on his way over. You're our closest, but
you'd better get a move on.”
Mason flicked on the lights and put his foot down and the
powerful pickup leapt forward. Earl, the new statie didn't have much experience
with the locals. Mason thought he was a little too gung-ho, and was afraid he
might do something stupid.
When Mason pulled up, the State Police SUV cruiser was
sitting in the barnyard with all its lights flashing. It actually had more
lights than the pickup. He pulled in behind the vet's truck and killed his
lights, then walked over to the cruiser and killed those. No sense adding
As he walked toward the barn the young state trooper rushed
everything under control. The perp is in the barn and that's the only door,”
pointing to the big sliding door on the barn. “He has a shotgun, so I put in a
call to SWAT and they're on their way.” Mason thought he seemed real proud of
“get on the horn and cancel them.”
there's an armed perp—with a shotgun.”
one thing, that not a 'perp' in there. He's an eleven year old boy with his
little single shot 4-10 shotgun with #8 shot quail loads, not some hardened
criminal with a 12 gauge riot gun and 00 buckshot. For another, the last thing
we need here is a bunch of guys high on adrenalin, dressed and armed for war,
thinking—and hoping—they've got a war zone.”
someone could get shot.”
summoned his sternest and deadliest tone of voice. “Cancel them. Or by God, you
won't have to worry about the boy. I'll shoot you myself. Do it. NOW!”
Mason turned and walked over to Joe Pedersen. He didn't
know Pedersen all that well, not as well as he knew Joey.
could you tell me what's going on.”
and his dog, Buster.” He went on to tell how Buster, the little fox terrier was
now fifteen years old—deaf, blind in one eye and losing sight in the other, and
in constant pain. They tried pain medicine but that just made him so dopey he
wasn't Buster anymore. Now he couldn't get on his feet by himself. It was just
time to end it and put the poor dog out of his misery. Joey finally agreed and
they called the vet.
when Joey saw
the vet, he took Buster and his 4-10 into the barn and said he'd shoot anyone
who tried to come in. Sally, our other dog who we've had a couple years, went
in with him. Sally is big and looks ferocious, but she's a sweetheart. But she is
protective of Joey, and Buster. I was just going to leave him alone a while to
let him get himself together, but the vet's assistant called 911 and that state
guy showed up. I'm glad you're here.”
Mason shook his head sadly. “I'll go talk to him.”
As Mason walked toward the barn he passed the vet, who
looked like he was going to leave. “Hey, Everett, could you stick around for a
little. I think you might be needed.”
Whatever you want,” a little embarrassed that his new assistant had caused this
Mason moved to the barn door and called out, “Heyya, Joey.
It's Sheriff Dixon. You remember me from little league when you broke your arm,
and me taking you to the hospital. Remember I said you can call me Mase, like
my friends do. I'm going to open the door and come in and talk a bit. Don't
shoot me now. I promised my wife I'd not get shot again this year, and she can
get powerful angry at me if I do something I said I wouldn't. Here I come.”
Mason opened the door slowly. Joey was sitting on one end
of a bale of hay by the horse stall and Buster was seemingly asleep beside him.
Sally was sitting by Joey's feet, but stood when the door opened.
ok. Good girl,” Joey said quietly, touching her head.
Mason could see that Joey had been crying, but now sat
quietly stroking Buster softly. His 4-10 leaned against the stall. As Mason
approached he saw a milkstool and used it to sit, facing the unhappy boy at a
distance of six feet. They sat in silence and Mason could hear the soft panting
of Buster in the barn quiet. Sally finally lay down, partly on Joey's foot, and
finally said. “I didn't mean to cause trouble. I just…” his voice trailed off.
know. It's hard
to lose a dog. You know, it's also hard for a dog to lose a human. I remember
when old Orrin Schmidt died. Kally, his dog, just laid on his grave and would
hardly eat when we took food by. I finally took her and introduced her to a
family with a bunch of kids, but she kept coming back to the grave. I had my
deputies get her every time they drove by the cemetery and take her back.
Finally after about a month, she finally adopted those kids. She seems happy
enough now but… I wonder if she still misses old Orrin. Old Orrin wasn't much
for people, but he surely loved Kally.” Mason kept talking in a quiet
conversational voice about dogs and people. Joey cried quietly and softly
After fifteen minutes of talking, Mason said, “Do you think
you're ready to do this? I think Buster is.”
Joey nodded and sniffed.
go get the
vet and you can stay here with Buster.” Mason left the barn and told the vet to
get ready. After giving Joey another couple minutes, he and the vet entered.
Mason knelt and gently blew into the face of the deaf dog to wake him. Mason
didn't want him to be startled out of his sleep. After the vet gave Buster the
tranquilizer and then the fatal shot they left Joey alone with him.
Mason stood with Joe Pedersen and his wife Martha as they
waited, giving Joey a little more time. Martha held a blue blanket to wrap
Buster in and Joe had already dug the grave under the big oak on the little
knoll above the farm house. Before entering the barn, Joe turned to Mason.
is older than Joey. He's been there for Joey's whole life. Joey has spent more
time with Buster than he has with either of us.”
Mason watched them enter the barn, turned and walked over
to Earl. “What's going into your report?”
it yet,” said Earl.
Mason looked him in the eye. “It had better read 'false
alarm', because if you write this up as a stand-off with a shotgun, you will
ruin that kid's life.”
can I write it
up false alarm? I called in SWAT. I'll look foolish.”
you look a
little foolish than having that on the kid's record the rest of his life. You
need to do what's right, Earl.” Mason started past him toward his truck, then
paused and turned. “And if you don't, and I see Joey's name anywhere, you are
going to have a very short unhappy childhood.”
Sheriff Dixon continued walking, got in and cranked the big
diesel to life and headed toward the station. He'd had enough for one day.
Lester L Weil is an ex-professional
ex-custom furniture builder, ex-house builder. He is retired in Arizona near
the Mexico border. He has fifty-odd stories published in various magazines and
anthologies, both online and print. A previous story about Sheriff Dixon was
published by Dark City Mystery Magazine.