Sand slammed into Arnett's face. He couldn't help the involuntary gasp of surprise, filling his mouth and nose with sand. The moment his sleepy eyes opened sand entered them as well.
Arnett recoiled, falling off the cot he was on and hitting the stone floor hard. The steady flow of Sand stopped, and he was left alone.
He flipped onto his hands and knees and began to spit and cough. He rubbed at his eyes but he could feel the grit of the sand rubbing his skin. He gave a hearty cough and cleared his airways.
"Look at you," said a gruff voice over him.
Arnett was busy trying to get the sand out of his eyes when a second bucket of sand was hoisted onto him, the force throwing him to the ground. After more sputtering Arnett rose, cursing.
"I'm up, I'm up."
Arnett's head pounded, and when he could open his eyes the light seared into them and jabbed at his brain. He shook his head, allowing his long hair to shake free some of the sand.
"Fighting, drunkenness," boomed the voice, "Assault? You a common criminal now?"
Arnett shook his head and clothes again, trying to rid them of enough sand to wipe out his eyes. He thought he recognized the voice.
"Dad?" sputtered Arnett, attempting to blink away sand, "What the hell…"
"Haven't seen you in ages and I find you here?" spat the man, he dropped the second bucket behind him, "I ought to beat the sinner right out of you."
Arnett coughed again. A wet mudball hit the stone floor. Arnett tried not to think about it as he tried to clear his eyes.
"You're one to talk," said Arnett, "What the hell are you doing in Astam Junction?"
"Bailing you out of jail, apparently," growled Manfred Arnett, "Or killing you. Haven't made up my mind yet. Can barely recognize you."
"Might be all the sand you dumped on me," said Arnett.
"Or all the sass and disrespect dripping from your lips," said Manfred, "Come on, now. Out of here. Follow me."
Footsteps walked away as Arnett still gasped against a mouth coated with sand. In a moment or two Arnett had worked up enough strength to rise to his feet. He used the bars of the small cell to steady himself and he struggled out into the rest of the jailhouse.
Spying a water bowl not far away, Arnett dunked his face into it, attempting to wash out the sand from his eyes. He felt the strong hand grasp his shirt and pull him out again, tossing him to the ground.
"Not for the likes of you, you're wasting water!" spat his father.
Manfred Arnett continued his sulk down the jail cells and waited by the door to the front offices. Arnett blinked away the last remaining bits of sand and saw clearly for the first time since waking up.
He was in a jail cell. He wasn't familiar with it, but he assumed it was for Astam Junction. he recognized a few of the boys he was drinking with last night sleeping off their hangovers in other similarly small cells.
Arnett cursed again under his breath before he stood and staggered towards his waiting father.
His father led him to a front desk. it was mostly bare except for some paperwork and a quill. As Arnett approached, Manfred grabbed him firmly by the shoulders and roughly moved him and tossed him into a chair. Ignoring Arnett's glare, Manfred made his way around and angrily sat at the other side of the table, angrily stewing over the paperwork.
Arnett cast his eyes aside, eyeing the disgusted looks from two bobbies not far off. They shook their heads steadily and whispered back and forth. One was not wearing his custodial helmet, instead sporting Arnett's own hat.
Arnett pointed at it, and smiled.
"So good of you to keep it safe for me. Someone could've stole it."
The Bobbie puffed out his chest, "I don't know what you are talking about."
Arnett nodded, "Yes you do, that's my hat."
"Why doesn't a low life like you prove it."
"Why don't I get out of here and then I come back and—"
"Joel, enough," spat Manfred, his voice even making the other bobbies jump, "Arnold, that stupid hat belongs to a releasing inmate, not in your uniform. Take it off and put on your helmet!"
The Bobbie's own smile faded quickly as he tossed the hat at Arnett and angrily placed the custodial helmet on his head. Arnett smiled before turning his gaze to his father.
"Releasing inmate. One would think I was charged. I guess that means I'm free to go—"
"You will read and sign these," Manfred spun around the documents he had been inspecting and pushed them to Arnett.
Arnett looked down and gazed over the papers. It was a written apology and confession to accept the blame of the previous nights events. It also promised to refrain from repeating anything in the future or suffer a far harsher sentence then that which is mandated.
Arnett's smile soured, "I'm not signing these."
"Like hell you aren't," Manfred growled.
"I did nothing wrong. I would rather—"
"How dare you speak to me," barked Manfred, slamming his fist on the table, "You fired a counted four rounds in a crowded bar last night. Left an enormous tab and a bunch of damages. Broke a chair over someone's head!"
At that, Arnett let out a quick chuckle. Manfred's face reddened.
"Three women have fingered you for a series of assaults—"
"Those tramps were in on it," said Arnett, "Self defense, that group of thugs weren't going anywhere witho—"
"A banker's son and an off-duty Bobbie?"
"And the weaselly one," chimed Arnett.
"The banker's son."
"Oh, I meant the fat one," said Arnett, "Three of them."
"Joel, you know full well that isn't what this—"
"Yeah, they started it!" Arnett raised his voice, finally locking angry eyes with his father, "I was ganged up on and they—"
"You call the constables and get assistance, there was a room full of—"
"One of them was a damned 'Tin Man'," yelled Arnett, "I don't need those—"
"Damnit, Joel!" shouted Manfred, standing with the effort, "You aren't the only one mourning her, you ungrateful little wash-up!"
Arnett's eyes shot to the floor, but he said nothing. Manfred huffed there, looking like he wanted to say more, but also looking as if he wanted to punch something.
The two Bobbies rose and walked away. Trying very hard not to look at either of them, they left the area quickly.
"Couldn't even make the funeral," said Manfred, his voice showing the slightest signs of cracking at the word, "You think you got it rough? Save the act, boy. I had to bury her."
"It's not like I could've flown back," snarled Arnett.
"No, can't fault you for that," said Manfred, "Still, glad you made it down when you did to see the grave."
He let the statement hang in the air. Arnett felt his face sear with heat. They both knew he hadn't been to the grave. That had to be the only reason he had said it.
"What would she think, Joel?—"
"How dare you use her as a weapon. If she has to be gone, at least leave her in peace."
"I'm not using her as a weap—"
"You always have, dad.
What would your mother think? You know she worries? How could you—"
"For the sake of the Gods, Joel, you're beat up in a drunk tank," said Manfred, "How could she even look at you!"
"Well, she can't, dad. She can't ever again," said Arnett, "Sorry I can't bring her back."
"Don't put that on me, boy," said Manfred, "I have half a mind to charge you with attempted murder and send you off to trial. I'd rather visit you in a cell then in your grave."
"Not much difference from one to another," said Arnett, "So how about it? Which half of your brain you going with?"
Manfred and Arnett shared a stare for a little while. Nothing passed between them until Manfred looked away, letting out a long sigh.
"Sign," he said.
Arnett rolled his eyes, but he leaned over and slashed a quick "X" through the paper. Manfred scowled again.
"You don't sign as an 'X'."
"Your word against mine," said Arnett, "and you saw me sign it."
Manfred grumbled to himself, but he swiped up the paper and put it in a small bin on the desk. Arnett smiled.
"I guess that means we're done here."
Arnett placed the hat on his head and tipped it at his father. He turned and walked out of the desk area towards the front desk. Confidently he rang the bell twice, getting the attention of one of the Bobbies.
"Arnold," said Arnett, "Checkout please. My things."
The Bobbie let out an audible sigh before appearing and grabbing a box from below the front desk. He threw down a coin purse and a few personal affects that Arnett hungrily snapped up before replacing the box and fishing for his keys. He walked over to a locked metal case against the wall and retrieved a double-holster with a pair of revolvers inside.
Arnett gestured for them when he came over, but the Bobbie ignored his outstretched hand and placed it on the desk anyway.
"Sign here that that's all your crap," said the Bobbie.
Arnett hungrily grabbed the quill and gave his real signature on the papers. Before he had finished, Manfred stepped around him and scooped up the revolvers. Arnett winced in annoyance, but finished his signature and turned to his father.
"Mon," was all Manfred said as he stomped past and barged out of the door.
Arnett scowled, shooting a glance at the perplexed Bobbie. He turned around and followed his father out into the blazing, hot sun of Astam Junction.
Arnett's head throbbed, to say the least, and he staggered as the sun raked at his eyes. With a few wobbly steps, he walked off the small porch of the jail house and followed his father into the busy street of Astam Junction.
In the distance, several train whistles blared away, their pitches different but not mixing well harmonically. Shouts, general chatter, and orders being barked could also be heard all around. Down the street they marched; Chanka drawn carriages rattling by, women scolding children, a Bobbie shouts an order at a man in a merchant cart.
Manfred Arnett continued down the street, never looking behind him.
"Where on Orr are we going?" asked Arnett, "Those are my firearms!"
"Not if I can help it," said Manfred.
"So what's your big plan?" asked Arnett, "You are going to steel my guns and put them on a high shelf until I learn a lesson?"
"I'm going to get you some real work," said Manfred, "No more of that Landship nonsense."
"Nonsense!" Exclaimed Arnett, "I'm offended."
They broke through the crowd and Manfred began walking up to a small group of Bobbies. In the center of them stood a man with a large ten-gallon hat with a wide brim. He stood straight with his hands resting on dual pistol holsters housing matching revolvers. His hair was white, but it wasn't as noticeable in the large, walrus mustache he had.
The man turned, nodding to Manfred but smiling as he spotted Arnett.
"Well, hello there, 'Lieutenant'," said the Sheriff, "I should've known from that frown on your dad's face."
"Hiya, Sheriff," said Arnett, "Dad just wanted witnesses when he gave me back my pistols."
"I just dug him out of the drunk tank," said Manfred without any information, handing over the full holsters to the Sheriff, "I would figure we'd discuss openings with our department. Perhaps going on tour will set Joel on the right path."
"What?" said the Sheriff and Arnett together.
"Carl, surely we have room for someone who thinks they are good with a shooter," said Manfred.
"Surely I don't remember discussing this," Arnett scoffed.
"Manfred, perhaps we need to have a talk," said the Sheriff, "I think now isn't the time for such a talk. We have to move now and I would appreciate your help."
"What's the situation?" asked Arnett in a lower voice, earning a halfhearted backhand to the shoulder from his dad.
"We need to move on Lorenstein now," said the Sheriff, "If we miss him now, he could disappear."
"What's the plan?" answered Manfred.
"I need you to follow me," said the Sheriff, turning to walk through the crowd, "Now, Lorenstein is packing for his train at a known whore den down in-"
The Sheriff was cut off by a group of men forming a wall in front of them. The Sheriff stopped cold, his Bobbies and Manfred forming their own line. Confused faces looked to each other. The opposite line of men were Bobbies as well, only with black respirators over their mouths and rifles slung over their shoulders.
In the middle of them, their leader, was an older gentlemen in a black suit. He wore a saturno hat, a hat with a wide brim and a rounded crown. Despite this, he still had on a pair of smoked glasses. His hand rested roughly on a shining, silver pistol while he held some rolls of paper in his other hand.
"Sheriff Carl Puckette?" Announced the man, his voice loud and demanding.
The crowd of the street dispersed, either willingly or unconsciously. The man took two steps forward and the Sheriff mirrored him.
"That would be me, sir," said the Sheriff, "And to whom do I owe the pleasure?"
"Allow me to introduce myself," said the man, removing his glasses and squinting at the Sheriff, "I am the Honorable Judge Sandoval."
Sandoval stood slightly taller than average. He was an older male, but with a strong build. His skin was not as tanned or leathered as the Sheriff's, but he showed the browning of a typical Antiford citizen who had lived under the blaze of Demetrious for many decades. His eyes weren't beady, but they seemed small compared to his furrowed brow. His dark eyebrows seemed to accentuate the lines of his face.
The Sheriff allowed himself a smile, "Judge Sandoval? Your reputation proceeds you. I am a fan of your justice, sir."
"I am thrilled you are," said Judge Sandoval, a small smirk coming across his face, "It'll make what comes next easier."
Judge Sandoval selected one of the rolls of paper and presented it to the Sheriff, who took it and opened it swiftly. As the Sheriff began to read, the Judge continued.
"I'm afraid that as of now you are no longer the Department Chief of the Sorditudo Police Department and the lands they oversee," said Sandoval, "You are to step down and transfer all your duties to me, immediately. I am now Chief Sandoval of the Sorditudo Police Department and the lands they oversee."
Arnett gasped, and Manfred took steps forward to read over the Sheriff's shoulders. The Sheriff frowned, but passed the paperwork to Manfred who quickly read it over.
"How interesting, Chief Sandoval," said the Sheriff, "All seems to be in order. May I ask what the reason for my removal from office?"
"Certainty, Mr. Puckette," said Sandoval, producing a separate document, "Mr. Carl Puckette, you are under arrest for suspicion of corruption including coercion, bribery, cronyism, and intention to ignore crimes."
Two of the masked Bobbies stepped forward. This set off a few of the Sheriff's Bobbies, including Manfred, reaching for their sidearms. Reacting, rifles were slipped off soldiers and quickly raised. One Bobbie had pulled his pistol, cocking back the hammer.
"STOP!" demanded the Sheriff, who spat the words quickly, looking around at the men, "What the sam-hell are you boys thinking? Is it your first day?"
The Bobbies stood awkwardly. At a glare from Sandoval, the masked Bobbies lowered their rifles and the two approaching Bobbies took a step back. The Sheriff glared at the Bobbie with the pistol drawn, causing him to slowly put away the pistol.
"What? Were you boys going to fire on fellow officers?" asked the Sheriff, "You going to shoot Sandoval in the street?"
The Sheriff opened the document and read it. The color drained from his face. With a large sigh, he passed that document to Manfred as well, who read it quickly.
"It's an official warrant for my arrest," announced the Sheriff, "I am to be taken into custody. You boys are now under the command of Chief Sandoval. I am now removing my weapons and surrendering them to an officer."
Tensions were high as the Sheriff reached down and undid his gun belt. Expertly he wrapped it up in itself, and held it out to the closest, masked Bobbie, who stepped forward and took them from him. He then removed his large, copper Sheriff's badge and piled it atop the gun belt.
The Sheriff grabbed the warrant he held in his hand and handed it to Sandoval," We need to move on Lorenstein, now. If you don't move on him soon, we'll lose him. Send me back with one of your guys. Take these men and get him, quickly."
Sandoval opened the document and read it over. He looked at the Sheriff and nodded. Carl Puckette nodded to the Bobbie with his weapons and began walking towards the jailhouse. The bobbie followed him away.
Sandoval walked up to Manfred, who was still going over the documents.
"Deputy Arnett, I presume?" announced the Judge as he approached.
"Mmmm," answered Manfred, before he looked up and realized he was talking to Sandoval, "I am, Mr... Sandoval?"
"Adrian Sandoval," he answered, "Pleasure. So I'll need you to take charge of these men and lead the way to this guy."
"You are Manfred Arnett, correct?" asked Sandoval, "Deputy of the Sorditudo branch of the Antiford Police force?"
"Yes sir," said Manfred.
"Then, unless you are unable to continue your duties, I am requiring you to fulfill the needs of your position," said Sandoval, "As the new Department Chief I am calling on your services."
Manfred shook his head, his eyes coming back into focus. Arnett watched him take a breath in, stand up straighter, and hand the documents back to Sandoval. He nodded at him.
"Of course Mr- Uh," Manfred paused a moment, "What will your title be? Chief? Sheriff?"
Sandoval thought a moment, "I am unsure. It seems irrelevant for now. Deputy Arnett, for now please refer to me as Judge Sandoval for the time being. It is still a valid title and I find it easier in the short term."
Sandoval returned the warrant of Lorenstein to Manfred, who opened it and confirmed its contents. While he was doing that, Sandoval looked to Arnett and smiled.
"And who are you? Not in uniform."
"I don't wear a uniform, I'm not a Bobbie," said Arnett, "I was just leaving."
"Sorry, Judge Sandoval," said Manfred, "This is my son, Joel."
Sandoval's face went stone for a moment. Then a small smile spread and his eyes fixed to Arnett. Arnett noticed the change, and he took a small step back.
"Joel," Sandoval said under his breath before clearing his throat and speaking much louder, "Am I correct to be addressing the one known as 'Lieutenant' Joel Arnett?"
Arnett didn't feel right, but it felt good to watch Manfred look from Sandoval to Arnett in disbelief.
"Someone gets it," said Arnett to his dad, before nodding at Sandoval, "You have the one and the same."
"Interesting," said Sandoval, smiling bigger, "The Scorpios II, was it? The machination on legs?"
Arnett lost whatever small pride had built up before, "Hey, I don't... owe you money or anything. Or... Oh crap, a daughter?"
Sandoval's smile was unchanged, "No, just tales of ships filter through society. Newspapers. Investigations."
Leaning forward, Sandoval squinted at Arnett, "You by any chance weren't in White Haven in 1894?"
Arnett cocked an eyebrow, "I'm in White Haven a decent amount. I'm all over Antiford. In my line of work you need to move around or risk not being paid for one reason or another."
Sandoval nodded, "Interesting. I bet you see many incredible things on your travels. Do you feel landship travel is safer then the rails?"
Arnett blinked a few times and stammered his answer, "I... feel it depends."
"It does depend," said Sandoval, "I'm sure a big, strong landship like the Scorpios II is quite a bit safer then, say, a passenger train. However, I wonder how the ship would fair against a train built for such an engagement."
Sandoval took a step or two closer to Arnett before leaning in close, "You wouldn't be familiar with, say, the Cannonball, would you?"
Arnett's face seemed to tense. His heart felt like it began to beat at the speed of light and stop at the same time. Sandoval's eyes widened only slightly, but he refused to say anything.
"That's the big train, right?" said Arnett, "Government train."
"Military Train," corrected Sandoval, "It was in all the papers."
"I'm afraid I've never had the pleasure," said Arnett, regaining his composure.
"Shame," said Sandoval, "You would, I assume, have the registration for the Landship Scorpios II?"
Arnett nodded, saying nothing.
"Brilliant," said Sandoval, "As you heard, I'm a little busy right now. However, I do hope you'll see fit to visit me at the local offices and bring that registration along. You could provide insight into the state of the Istoki Desert."
"Sir, I-" started Manfred.
"Deputy Arnett, I believe we have a criminal to catch," said Sandoval, "Time is wasting. Mr. Joel Arnett, I look forward to our future conversations."
With that, Judge Sandoval turned to Manfred, and made a gesture. Manfred looked to Arnett, before turning and heading through the crowds, the Bobbies falling in behind him.
Sandoval gave a single glance back at Arnett before returning his smoked glasses back over his eyes and turning into the crowd.
Arnett turned and began marching our of Astam Junction. He had no intention of making that dinner date with that creep.