[Chapter 1] . . . [Chapter 2] . . . [Chapter 3] . . . [Chapter 4] . . . [Chapter 5] . . . [Chapter 6] . . . [Chapter 7]
Things were bad and the priest meddling about was making them worse. Being ambushed by Father Awesome came as a complete shock yesterday. The priest, without any warning, just showed up and tried to shoehorn himself into Brad's office. The conversation got extremely awkward when Brad shut that down and told Father Tolton that when they caught whoever killed the men in the alley he was going to get the death penalty for them. Then, after Father Tolton left, Brad vented his spleen at Yusif for about forty five minutes because he had supported the priest's proposal without talking to him first.
Consequently, Yusif had ducked the get together his mother-in-law and Maggie set up for Father Tolton. Brad was already annoyed by the mother-in-law who would not move out of his house now deciding to use it as a place for entertaining crowds of people. Yusif's pointed absence added to his foul mood. Brad did his best to stay in the background all night and watched as his father and mother-in-law ushered the guest of honor around Brad's house introducing him to everyone in both families.
The party ended with a prayer which the Father kept vague enough that most just left the party with good feelings. However, there was a part at the end which sounded entirely too much like the priest had decided that he had not yet done enough to fulfill his duty to his Church and his God. Brad heard in that prayer a promise that Father Tolton would be interfering in matters which he should leave alone. Nothing good could come from that.
However, the party had been the least of the night. After the guests left, Maggie found him sitting in the living room and lit into him about not participating in the party and not kissing up to the priest. Maggie sniped at him all the time and she had a quick temper that would flare up constantly. Sometimes he just rode the wave of the scoldings she sent his way, secure in the knowledge that ten minutes later she would move on; often he sniped back at her in a playful way. Last night he exploded. Her anger was based on a social slight that occurred one night and a belief he could do better. His anger was based in the deaths of people he knew most of his life, his inability to do anything about it, and the unnecessary interference he knew was going to come from this priest.
His deep raging fury overwhelmed his wife's choler. He did not know how long he screamed at her, but when enough reason took hold for him to think again he found himself yelling ". . . All this shit started when a fucking priest from your fucking church came down here to interfere and now there's another fucking priest from your fucking church here to interfere more! Well, fuck them all and fuck you too!" As he paused to breathe in, his wife's appearance got through to him. She had retreated to the exit from the living room into the kitchen and she looked scared. The was what broke through. Maggie was scared of him. He stopped, walked to the nearest door and left the house. He left without even getting his coat. He could not stay. The woman he loved was afraid of him and the black rage which caused that fear was still in him; if he stayed it would come out again.
He got in his SUV and drove off. As he backed out of the driveway, Maggie came outside and he heard her calling his name, but he kept going. Nothing good could possibly come from going back; it would just add to the disaster.
After driving around for a couple hours, he headed for the courthouse. He used his key to get in and went up to his office. There was no way he was going home. He knew Maggie; she would be sitting up waiting for him and she would want to talk. She would not want to yell and argue now; she would want to have a deep, meaningful conversation and get this worked out. He could not do anything like that. He needed time alone to get himself back under control and deal with what was going on. Someone messing with him and trying to make him talk out his emotions, even if in the most well intentioned way, would only make it worse and probably end up with him blowing up again. Maggie would never understand that and she would insist on trying to help.
To avoid that he slept in the reclining office chair behind his desk. He got maybe ninety minutes of sleep before he took the spare suit he kept in his office and went down to the bathroom, washed up, and put the suit on. A little after five o'clock, he sat back down at his desk and tried to do some work to get his mind off everything else. His concentration faded quickly and he found himself staring mindlessly at the screen between periods of dozing.
Finally, at about eight, Brad left the office and went down to the local eZee Stop to buy a couple sausage and egg biscuits and some coffee. When he drove back to the courthouse he arrived in the parking lot just as Yusif pulled in. They walked in side by side but neither said anything except to exchange meaningless greetings.
When Paula got to the office at eight thirty she told Brad that there several messages from his wife asking him to call home. She looked at him curiously as she handed him the messages, but he took them from her without comment and she retreated to her desk.
Shortly after nine, a call came in from Charles Poplin, the chief of police in the Town of Yared. Including himself, Chief Poplin had six officers on his payroll and most of them made Barney Fife look competent. The two other towns in Bartlette County, Mount View and Saint Minas, had small offices that tried hard. There was a gap between their work and the work done by the Sheriff's Department or State Police, but that was mainly because the Sheriff and the Virginia State Police had more money and resources. In fact, Brad had a lot of sympathy for the chiefs in Saint Minas and Mount View because he knew the towns could only afford to pay their officers so much and almost every time one of the towns found a really good officer, trained him up, and sent him to the academy that officer would get hired away by a sheriff's department that could pay him more. However, Brad had no sympathy in his heart for Yared. The town was basically owned and run by the Poplins. Mayor Mark Poplin and his cronies controlled everything that happened in the town and had for thirty years. Charles Poplin had been made chief of police a couple decades back so the Mayor could use the police department to keep his fiefdom under his control. As best Brad could tell, whether you broke the law in Yared had little to do with whether you were charged with a crime. If the Poplins disliked you, you would eventually get a criminal charge.
Chief Poplin was mad because a charge against a member of the Hope family had been dismissed by the judge. The Hopes had backed the other side in the last town election and failed to depose the Poplins. Ever since, if a Hope even jaywalked he got arrested and usually charged with obstruction of justice. There was more than one Hope who showed up at the jail with a lot of bruises because "he resisted arrest." The regional jail now routinely took pictures of anyone who was arrested in Yared so that no one could claim the injuries happened in the jail. Not that Brad thought the Hopes were anything less than a rough crowd themselves. They opposed the Poplins in the last election not out of any great sense of morality, but because they thought they could snatch the power for themselves. As well, no officer went to the Ritz Road area - more generally known as "Hope Hollow" - by himself. Every house back there was full of Hopes and a single officer who went in might not make it back out. Still, the sheer number of overcharged and wrongly charged Hopes who came before the judges in the last couple years had made it almost impossible to convince a judge that any Hope charged with a crime by any Yared officer should be convicted.
Mikey Hope stood accused of keying the car of a girlfriend of one of the Yared police officers. Mikey was definitely a bad guy. However, the entirety of the evidence at the preliminary hearing consisted of the girlfriend seeing him leave the Yared Food Time store as she went in and her car being keyed. The magistrate somehow allowed the officer to swear out a misdemeanor destruction of property charge based on those facts. Judge Fleming, on the other hand, had thrown it out of his court as quickly as he could and told the officer, in no uncertain terms, not to bring any more cases like this.
Today, Chief Poplin wanted a perjury charge placed on Mikey Hope because Mikey had stood in general district court and dared to say that he did not do it. The man's tunnel vision was incredible. He only cared about one thing - putting Mikey Hope in jail one way or another. Brad explained to him three times - rather sharply the third time - that a man could not be charged with perjury just because you thought he lied under oath. You had to have proof. The conversation ended badly with Brad telling the Chief to get a sense of perspective and the Chief telling him to do his job.
The rest of the morning dragged on slowly. As lunch approached, he knew he had to get out of the courthouse before noon. Maggie brought him lunch every day at noon and if he was not stuck in court they ate together. That was not going to happen today. At eleven thirty, he got up and told Paula he was leaving for lunch.
As he was walking down the stairs, he ran into Yusif. He had some story about a guy wanting to talk with him and not Brad. Pausing for a couple seconds, he told Yusif that if his instincts told him something was wrong he should tell Jeff Sanger, the chief investigator for the Sheriff's Department and let him track it down. Then he turned, walked down the stairs and left the courthouse.