Out With the Old Sheriff

a story
2021-01-30 09:18:53,
2021-02-16 16:27:06
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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.