Maynard had the look of a black man who’d had enough of white men to last a lifetime. Couldn’t say as I’d blame him, I’d had enough of them, too. Hell I was white and Sheriff of Tifton County. Two points against me already in this sorry ass world. On this sorry ass night of nights, standing here in the piss yellow rain in muck up to my ankles telling a boy’s dad he’d been shot to death for no good reason at all. Stupidity? Random act of violence? Drug deal gone bad? Some things in this world just didn’t have reasons. This was one of them. Fate? Destiny? If you believed in such things, maybe; but, I wasn’t a believer in such things. Men were born, they died. What happened in-between had nothing to do with karma or any other pre-existent garbage one might have brought with one into the world. No. This was a one way trip, and the road you took on it was all your own. Yet, one was always meeting up with others who didn’t share your beliefs, and some of them were down right angry denizens who would kill you for looking at them crossways . What a life.
Maynard’s deep brown eyes were impervious to reason as they were to anything I might say. He stood there sullenly with a log the size of my upper thighs in his right hand, and a bottle of shine in the other. Not a man to mess with under most circumstances, and these were definitely circumstances beyond any telling. Maynard’s wife, Halley was whimpering on the porch, his younger boy, Tolin, hugging her nightgown. Night bugs were twisting and turning round the one lone yellow light bulb. Maynard’s lower lip was vibrating, and his left eye was twitching. If I’d of been smart I’d just hightail it out of here and come back in the morning, but I had a job to do and as bad as it was I had to reason with a man who no longer gave a shit about reason or men like me.
“My boy’s dead, Sheriff,” he croaked, half choking the words out. “What the hell you goin’ do about it?”
What could I do? We’d found the young high-school star quarterback face down in the muddy river below Shawtaw Bridge, his face half blown off, his body black & blue as if he’d been beaten to death rather than shot with a sawed-off shotgun with deer shot. No, it wasn’t a pretty sight. Not at all. And I’d been tasked with telling his folks about it. Never easy.
“I’m going to find the son-of-bitch who did it, Maynard.” I spoke slow and full, intently.
Maynard lifted both the log and the bottle to the night sky as if in anger at something without a name: “Gawd dammit, Sheriff, he was my boy,” then he collapsed to his knees. Hawley let go the boy and ran to him, and they both fell in a heap, weeping.
The starless sky above seemed to press down on us all like the cold lid of a coffin. I’d find the sucker that’d done this to his son come hell or high water. But I couldn’t do it standing here, and Maynard didn’t need to hear me blathering on about the details either. I pulled out a kerchief and wiped the sweat off my brow. I knew there wasn’t anything left to say tonight. So I backed up and returned to my vehicle, swung it toward the night and the river flowing below the heaviness of trees and the meanness of this late sweltering August.