O’Leary, The Sheriff of Harmony, had been called in before, to settle family disputes in the Rollins household, and a few other disputes in their village. Fortunately, such disturbances were few.
He knew what he would find in the trashy little trailer park overrun with noisy mongrels, skulking cats, but few children other than third generation, when a daughter took a wrong turn and got herself pregnant, and then could neither marry, nor could afford to leave home. Few young men stayed in the village.
If you didn’t work for Cranston, in his mill, or in one of his many other ventures, or lived in his trailer park, there was not much here for you.
If the daughter didn’t get a job, she would leave for Portland or Seattle and try to live on the streets, selling herself; eventually dying of a drug overdose or getting caught up in violence.
At least here, it was quiet and peaceful, and O’Leary looked after his people in this town, even if he didn’t get on with Cranston or that dysfunctional assembly of rich idiots that constantly tried to get rid of him from office.
He sighed heavily. He hated coming here into this trailer park, seeing a blight upon their small community.
Leony Rollins would be in tears, terrified of her husband’s unpredictable moods after he’d been drinking and had beaten her and her young son, after he’d got drunk.
He hadn’t done that for almost three years now.
O’Leary tried to stay out of family disputes, and usually kept his distance, except once, three years earlier, when he had thrashed Rollins soundly for abusing his wife and son, and told him that the beating would be repeated if it ever came to his attention that he’d hurt her or the boy again.
Rollins had blamed that beating on his wife, for calling the Sheriff, but always remembered it, and did not want to have it repeated. He had hurt for a week after that, but had gone to work anyway.
The bills would always be there.
He daren’t accuse the sheriff of having designs on his wife. That would be a step too far, but he knew what he’d sensed in that beating.
That story had begun sixteen years earlier, when that no-good, Rollins boy, the younger brother, Desmond, in that otherwise respectable family—every family had its darker corners—had got a nice little colored girl, Leony Sturgeon, pregnant, after becoming besotted by her at the end of high school.
Rollins had intended it be a brief affaire at the beginning, but he had been caught up by her captivating ways, the way she had given herself to him unreservedly, eagerly, and exciting him as no other of his brief romantic interactions; all unsatisfying, had ever done.
He had lingered longer than he should have done, and the damage had been done before he could escape.
Confusing his youthful feelings of lust, for true love, and knowing what he should do (he had not yet abandoned all that his mother had tried to teach him), he had offered to marry her. Like most women caught in that embarrassing situation, and seeing her future disappearing from her when others learned of her pregnancy and her lapse from morality, Leony had not hesitated to accept his offer. She still believed he loved her, even after he had beaten her up twice by the time they walked down the aisle together.
His parents, and hers too, still held onto those old prejudices, and saw no good coming of a mixed marriage, but their son was pigheaded and had not listened. Despite those judgmental feelings, the Rollins family had accepted Leony graciously, and welcomed her into their family, protecting her from their son, for a while.
Years later, their feelings were still good toward Leony, while deteriorating for their son, and they helped her out often after the baby had come along, but had cut their son off and out of their lives as far as they could. He was a bad apple, but his wife had changed their views on many things. She was a rare woman.
They’d offered to help her leave their son, and to re-locate with her baby, Gregory, but she wouldn’t do that. She was married, for better or for worse, and the church did not countenance divorce. It was maybe her fault that it had turned out for, 'worse'.
The feeling that he had been trapped into marrying her, ate at Desmond, and he resented her looking more attractive as each year went by, as some women did, and becoming more educated and informed than he ever would be—for their son’s sake—while he, Desmond slowly drank himself to death, working in a dead-end job at the Cranston Mill.
This time, it was different. O’Leary was not sure what would face him when he got to the Rollins’s household.
They had told of a shot being fired.
He hoped Leony and her son were alright. He should have dealt differently with Desmond, and kept a closer eye on him, though he knew that Desmond passed over most of his paycheck at the end of each week to Leony. That had been another one of O’Leary’s conditions following that beating. Promising that he would be checking up on him.