No Time for Hesitation.

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What happened?

When O’Leary drove up, he saw the son, Gregory Rollins, not yet sixteen, sitting on the steps leading up to the trailer, with his head in his hands.

O’Leary saw lace curtains fluttering in other of the trailers, and knew the neighbors were watching, but would not dare come out of their trailers until they knew more, and that it was safe to do so after gunshots, though it had been better that way after O’Leary had become sheriff.

The elder Rollins was a difficult and taciturn man with an explosive temper; characteristic of all weak men, and not at all neighborly—unlike his wife—and he hated any interference in his family, or his life.

O’Leary sat for a moment, then snapped a photograph of Gregory and the trailer, before ever he got out of his car.

“Hi, son. Is your mother okay?”

He spoke gently and quietly, being more of a listener than a talker, and waited to see what the boy would say.

The boy nodded.

“Yes, sir. She is. It’s Pa. He’s dead.”

He looked up at O’Leary with tears in his eyes.

“He was beating up my mother again, so I shot him.”

Simple words that carried a life shattering meaning if this were handled wrong.

O’Leary looked into the boy’s face for a few seconds, as what the boy said, sank in. He sat down by the lad and said nothing for a few moments.

He had seen a reddening mark developing high on the boy’s cheek. He’d been struck too. There were tears in his eyes.

“What did you shoot him with?”

He didn’t know there had been a gun in the house or he would have taken it from Desmond; the father.

Unlike most sheriffs, he rarely carried a gun on himself unless he was called out of town, or to the mill, or to some other difficult area, but it had not always been that way.

He didn’t need one most of the time now.

“I killed him with his own shotgun. I knew where he kept it, hidden in the garden shed, and I vowed that if he beat Mom up one more time, I’d kill him. I told him I would, but he laughed at me and laid me out. But he hid his shotgun out of my way, so he knew I meant it. And this time, I shot him.”

O’Leary sighed heavily and rested his hand on the boy’s shoulder for a second.

“Stay here, don’t move, and don’t come into the house.” He looked back. “And don’t say anything to anyone if the neighbors pluck up courage to come over. Not a word about this.”

“No, Sir.”

O’Leary swore. He should have killed Rollins himself and saved the lad from this, but he couldn’t. It had been complicated.

O’Leary opened the door. He knew there was no danger here for him. The first thing he saw was Rollins sitting in his usual chair, a beer on the low table by him, empty cans close by, and a vacant look in his lifeless, staring eyes. There was an obvious hole in his chest where his heart was, but no powder burns on his shirt that he could see. A small hole for a shotgun. The gun had been pressed into his chest. Good. There wouldn’t have been much noise to alert the neighbors, but they would guess, with him being here.

Rollins hadn’t bled that much once his heart had been destroyed. There was a smell of cordite detectable in the still air of the living room.

Leony Rollins, still an attractive woman, was sitting at the kitchen table, her face drawn, and she was sobbing, now that help of whatever kind had arrived.

The side of her face was beginning to swell where Rollins had hit her.

The shotgun was on the floor near her husband.

O’Leary snapped a photograph, and then another of the body and the gun on the floor, noting the lack of bleeding, and then took a blanket from over the back of the settee, and covered her husband over with it. There was likely to be a larger exit hole in his back, but there was no blood spatter, thanks to the thick piece of wood directly behind the body.

She looked up when he sat down in front of her to shield her from seeing any more of that sight and took her hands into his own.

She did not pull away.

He said nothing at first, just providing her with what little comfort he could, as he thought about what he had seen.

She looked up at him with tears in her eyes. Her voice broke and faltered at what she told him.

“I shot him, Sheriff. I’d been beaten enough over the years, and then, seeing him knock my Greg around as he did when he came to my defense, was the final straw, so I shot him.”

O’Leary never batted an eye, and he didn’t interrupt.

“He went at me once too often, and I snapped.”

She looked at him with pleading in her eyes.

“What will I do now, Sheriff? Who will bring my boy up with me in jail?”

She was pleading with him. She knew O’Leary would keep an eye on her son after she was gone.

“With him gone, I won’t be able to pay the rent that man Scranton will still want.”

She was confused, seeing too many things changing around her, not making much sense about anything.

“It was cheap, only as long as Des, worked for him, and now that he isn’t…?”

O’Leary had seen this kind of thing before, when he’d policed in Portland, fifteen years earlier, but not here.

They’d had to go by the book then, but this was his town.

Here, the ‘book’, was one written by Sheriff Rupert O’Leary.

“You didn’t phone anyone, or talk to anyone after you talked to me on the phone, did you, Leony?”

She shook her head.

“No, Sir.”

“No neighbors came over to find out about the ruckus?”

He had to ask. Same response. “No, Sir.”

They’d been scared of Rollins too, and wouldn’t know he was dead.

“Good. Then later, we’ll talk about what will happen to you and your son, and to this place.”

He’d seen all he needed to see and knew all he needed to know.

“I want you to go through, down there”—he pointed to the bedrooms at the far end of the trailer— “and pack a couple of cases, whatever, for you and Gregory. Everything you’ll need for a few days, or longer, away from here. I don’t want you to talk to anyone but me about this from this point forward. Do you understand?”

She looked at him with tears filling her eyes and nodded. He knew how she was feeling and the worries that filled her mind, and all of them to do with her son.

“Don’t worry about this.”

How could she not worry?

His heart went out to her, but he would need to be firm and put his own feelings aside for a few moments until he’d done what needed to be done.

He was both angry and sad, as well as thinking so very, very clearly; regretting not doing something more than he had about Rollins before now… but with his own feelings….

Others might have wondered.

It had been taken out of his hands now, in a way, and put back into them in another.

“You won’t be coming back here again, and you don’t need to worry about this, or your son.”

Despite the sheriff’s words, she was worried crazy, but she knew that he’d be fair with her and her son.

“How long, Sheriff? How long am I likely to go to jail?” She answered her own question.

“Murder. That’s a life sentence isn’t it?”

“Sometimes. Sometimes not. Depends on the circumstances. Let me worry about that. You just go and pack.”

If he had his way, and he would; the word ‘murder’ would never come into it. Nor even any pleading of ‘self defense’.

“Remember. Say nothing to anyone.” He emphasized those words.

She walked slowly and unsteadily away to pack their cases. She knew she’d go to jail for sure, and she would willingly go to protect her boy, just as her son would willingly protect her.

That’s what they were doing; protecting each other.

That, was love.

He’d have done the same.

While she was gone, he took a towel from by the sink in one corner of the trailer and carefully wrapped up the shotgun in it as his mind went over what he was seeing and learning.

They’d waited for him to come after calling him, each with their own thoughts as they decided what to do and say, and neither of them daring to admit what they were thinking, to the other.

O’Leary’s mind was moving along a different track altogether.

There was no suicide note of course, but Rollins would never have thought to write one, so its absence wasn’t a problem. It could be argued that Rollins must have known the Sheriff would visit him again after this most recent lapse, and that was just another straw to push him the wrong way and over the edge.

O’Leary saw it clearly now.

He carefully wiped off the gun and then picked up Rollins left hand and wrapped it around the end of the barrel, and did it several times as though Rollins had been rehearsing it, as he’d been pulling the gun into his chest, and then he used Rollins thumb of his right hand to touch up against the trigger, with his other fingers pulling at the gun just behind the hammer.

He knew what had happened, but he needed incontrovertible evidence for his files, and for what he would say to the doc. What he would say, could now be proved, if it needed to be. O’Leary knew how he would tell it.

Rollins had some minor scrapes on his knuckles, leading up to this. He’d vented his frustration on his family again, and on anything else within reach; a cupboard; a door; and had thrown chairs around as a blusterer always did, and there were the marks on Leony and Gregory too.

Leony should have walked out of the door when he started that, but he may not have let her. There had been finger marks on her arm where her husband had grabbed her.

After the last time Des had roughed her up like that….

Rollins remembered that time, and he didn’t want to leave marks that might survive for more than an hour or two, but he’d got carried away this time when Gregory came to his mother’s defense, and then even more, when she’d tried to protect her son.

Leony came back, dragging two heavy cases.

He helped her, opened the door and put them outside. “You’ll need your toiletry from the bathroom. Toothbrushes toothpastes, Shampoos.”

Those details had slipped her mind.

“You know what I mean, and a few towels and… things. I’ll come back later and see to everything here for you.”

She thanked him with her eyes and went to pack another bag. He heard her being sick, running the taps, and then flushing the toilet.

She was pale when she returned.

She was still worried sick.

He took that bag from her too, and put that outside.

“Now where are your house keys?”

She pointed.

He passed her his keys for the cruiser.

“Get Gregory to put your cases in the trunk, leave it open with the keys in it, and then you and Gregory sit in the back of the car and wait for me.”

He put his hand on her shoulder, and looked into her eyes.

“Remember, say nothing.”

“Yes, Sir.”

She’d seen this happen before in the trailer park, being taken off in the sheriffs cruiser, but only to others, and always for minor offenses: being drunk and disorderly; noisy... until now, and her heart was in the pit of her stomach with worry.

She would soon have no need to worry.

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