Sheriff Hobbs was sitting at a booth drinking coffee, reading his morning paper as he did every day. He was sitting in a quiet little coffee shop in the heart of the small town. It was just another day in Elklodge.
A man came in sat down at the Sheriff’s booth, grabbed a handful of fries and asked,
“How the hell are you today Sheriff?” Frank said.
Hobbs didn’t even take his eyes off the paper. He took a sip of his coffee and replied, “good morning Frank. It’s pretty quiet day today. I’d like to keep it that way if you don’t mind.
“Oh sure, sure,” Frank said. “Say there sheriff, did you hear about that squirrel that was terrorizing miss Petunia yesterday afternoon?”
“I heard.” Hobbs said eyes locked on the newspaper.
Miss Petunia was the church organ player. Aside from being a community-wide motherly figure she was the only non-white woman in the whole town. Miss Petunia was from Tennessee and she was what they called down there African-American. Here they just called her Miss Petunia.
“Hey Josh can you turn that up a bit?” a man hollered from across the cafe.
The cook walked over to the television set sitting on the counter and turned the volume up.
“Remember folks a big snow storm is blowing into the area this weekend.” the weatherman said. “Be sure to get your survival kits ready because it’s going to be pretty cold. We’re talking at least six feet of snow. Tom, Britney back to you.”
Frank was an old retired cowboy, lived all his life as a rancher down south and moved up to the mountains a few years ago when his wife passed away and was getting settled into life in Elklodge.
Life wasn’t too exciting. Except for the squirrels. The vermin were over populated due to some environmentalist group who declared their habitat endangered.
“So Sheriff who ya got in the game today?” Josh asked.
There was no reply.
“I think the Jazz are gonna take them California fruitcakes myself,” JOsh said as he wiped some grease onto his apron.
“I don’t know the Lakers got a new rookie that’s been tearing up the court.” said Frank.
The sheriff chuckled lightly to himself and went right about his business. He never engaged in discussion about the games with Frank or Josh because the two were notorious gamblers and since it was his sworn duty to uphold the law, he figured it best not to get mixed up on that.
The front door opened to let a customer in. Being a small town less than 400 people when a man stranger came into the cafe everyone took notice. All eyes went to the shaggy beastly man who strolled in covered in snow. He plopped down at the bar all eyes fixed in his direction. He slapped his hand on the countertop and uttered one word. “soup.” he said.
It was the same story, the reason this little backwoods town even existed; everyone here was either hiding or running from something. To that end it was pretty much understood not to ask too many questions. Yet old Frank was a chatter box who didn’t like it when people came to town and didn’t make conversation with him.
“Good morning stranger,” Frank said to the man as he sat down next to him. The man didn’t flinch, his gaze fixated at the countertop.
“Say there buddy you new to town?” Frank asked.
“Frank, leave ’em alone,” Hobbs called across the room.
Frank sat back down at the sheriff’s booth. He lowered his voice.
“What’s the story on that guy over there?” Frank asked.
The Sheriff didn’t even bother to turn his head and look for he knew who it was Frank was referring to.
“Mind your business Frank” Hobbs said.
The man quietly ate his soup with all eyes looked upon him. Then he slammed a handful of crumpled bills onto the countertop, turned and left the café.
Now that the man was gone and out of ear shot Frank turned back to his buddy and asked again.
“Really Sheriff what is the deal with that fellow?” Frank asked. “I know every stranger that wanders their way through town, that guy gives me the creeps.”
The sheriff folded his newspaper, placed it on the table, took one final sip of his coffee before he spoke.
“Listen Frank, you know much as I do some folks come up here to be left alone.”
The waitress cleared the table.
Come now sheriff you know I ain’t one to gossip. I’s just curious is all,” Frank said. “Who is he, what’s he do, I don’t give to rat shits what he did or does or where he comes from, just want to know something, anything.”
Hobbs took another long drink of his coffee and against his better judgment he decided to give in and appease his friend.
“All I know is that his sister-in-law was brutally killed and his brother is a famous football star. That’s all you’re going to get out of me okay Frank?” Hobbs said.
“Football player you said? Which one?” Frank asked.
He looked Frank deep in the eyes and squinted.
“There’s some secrets you don’t tell Frank. That man has as much a right to privacy as you and I got it?” Hobbs said.
A voice rang over the dinner. “Daryl Thompson,” the voice said.
“No shit!” Frank said. “Hell of a ball player!”
“The man was famous for being a running back during two championship runs,” the man said. “Then out of the blue he up and retired no warning. Hasn’t been heard from ever since.”
Frank stood up and walked towards the door to see if he could catch a glimpse of the man whom they were now openly discussing. It was no use; the guy was already long gone.
“So, what’s this you say about his sister being killed?” Frank asked. “Is that a story you got guts to share sheriff?”
The Sheriff asked for his check then walked out the front door.