The Third Call

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 13

He had watched as Charlotte climbed behind the wheel of her Subaru, and he’d even taken a minute to see she was settled in okay before he leaned in and kissed her, then closed the door, sending her off home to the house she shared with a man she was still married to.

He reminded himself that the ball was in her court, and this could be a one-way ticket to a broken heart—namely, his.

He was making his way up the steps to the sheriff’s office when his cell phone rang, and he pulled it from his pocket, seeing that he had three missed calls, too. His mom’s name was on the screen now. Of course she’d heard, and he knew she’d be worried. He pressed the green answer button.

“Mom, can’t talk right now,” he said as he pulled open the front bank of glass doors to the building. “I’m fine. I’ll call you later, though.” He hoped that would be it.

“Well, that’s fine. I just had to make sure you were okay. Would have expected a call, at least, even just a ‘Hey, Mom, I’m okay!’ Don’t need the entire story, but I did need that much.”

He didn’t miss the sharp reprimand, even though he was a grown-ass man. She hadn’t raised her voice, but she had a way of getting her point across. “Okay, duly noted. Sorry again, but I’ve only just had a chance to shower and change, and I now have to get back to it. I promise I’ll call later.” He started down the hall, seeing the doors to the sheriff’s office and hearing voices inside.

“Well, you can come by instead. Owen’s barbecuing at Ryan and Jenny’s, I have Alison today, and Suzanne and Karen have called half a dozen times. Just got off the phone with Ryan. We’ll say five o’clock. You don’t have to stay long.”

His mom was pulling her kids together, because she’d probably heard he’d had a gun in his face and had been taken hostage, and how close he’d come to being the one in the morgue.

“Can’t promise, but I’ll come when I can,” he said.

“Fine,” was all his mom replied, and he had to smile as he pocketed the phone, knowing anyone else’s mom would likely have been down there already, questioning him until he told her every detail. He saw that both Suzanne and Karen had called as well, but they would have to wait.

He pushed open the door to the sheriff’s office, seeing Lonnie and the kid and Bert, who was standing in the middle of the office, holding a mug of coffee, looking much like a man who’d drunk too much the night before. At least he’d put on a clean shirt, but he still hadn’t shaved.

“Charlotte filled me in on Thomas Marshall, Senior,” Marcus said. “Has anyone contacted him and his wife again to let him know his son is now dead?” He stepped into the bullpen and around Lonnie, not missing the way he eyed him over. Of course, he still wanted to go a few rounds with him and find out what the fuck had been going through his head.

“I did,” said the kid. “I called him. Kind of expected him to let us know what to do with the body after the coroner releases it, but he just said thanks and said to call the military and get them to take care of it.”

He just stared at Colby, who he could see had likely hung up instead of pressing for more. “Did he miss the fact that Tommy’s not in the army anymore? He was dishonorably discharged. The military will do squat. Call him back again. Tell him to get his ass out here…”

Bert took him in and gestured toward him. “I’ll talk to him,” he said. “Get me the number, Colby.”

This was the reasonable Bert, whom he hadn’t seen in a long time.

Bert winced as he looked back at him. “You okay there, Marcus? You get checked out by a medic?”

He took in the sheriff and dragged his gaze over to Lonnie, who had his arms crossed and looked like shit, but at the same time, he seemed to be standing his ground. “I’m fine,” he said. “Just bumps and scratches. So where exactly is Reine Colbert right now? Because I told you already she was a victim there, her and her daughter. I want her released.” He didn’t pull his gaze from Lonnie, who seemed to really settle into his stance.

“She’s been charged, booked, and is settled into a cell at County,” Lonnie said. “There’s no way she’s walking.”

Marcus found himself taking another step until he was right in Lonnie’s face. “And how much did you have to drink before you showed up on the scene?”

Lonnie didn’t say anything for a second. “A couple beers, no more than you’ve ever had before showing up at a crime scene. I was sober and fine.”

“You’ve got a lot more going on than that,” Marcus said. “Your personal life is in the toilet. You split up with your wife and are dating someone else. I’m pretty sure I told you to hold your position and watch the back of the house, but you screwed up. You scared the shit out of her, the way you went all cowboy. You could have gotten everyone killed. When push comes to shove, Lonnie, your reckless behavior is going on the record—”

“Hey, stop this right now!” the sheriff cut in and put his hand on Marcus’s chest to make him step back. He wasn’t a tall man, but he could stand his ground. “No one is doing anything. Marcus, in my office. Now.”

The way he said it made Marcus pull his gaze from Lonnie, who wasn’t about to back down.

“Marcus!” This time, the sheriff barked at him in a way he hadn’t done in years, so he made himself take a step back. “Lonnie, go on home and clean up. Don’t come back until you get some sleep, food, and coffee into you.”

The kid stood a few feet back, saying nothing, as Lonnie stepped past him to the door and started out, but not before smacking the cabinet beside him. The noise jolted everyone. Okay, so he was pissed, too.

The sheriff only shook his head and then leveled that serious look back on Marcus. He gestured to his office, and Marcus had to force himself to follow him in and close the door behind him.

“Look, Bert, Lonnie completely fucked up,” he started.

The sheriff just held up his hand calmly and gestured to a wooden chair as he walked around the big old desk and sat down. He gestured again until Marcus finally decided to sit.

“I hear you, and I agree,” Bert said, “but I’ve been doing this a long time, Marcus…”

“Bert,” he tried to cut in, but the sheriff lifted his hand again.

“Hey, let me finish. Calm yourself. You’ve been through a tough night, with a gun in your face, a bad situation, getting caught in the crosshairs and cuffed to a chair. Regarding Tommy, you don’t get a say in the matter. The law is the law. You can’t be pulling a gun on a cop—end of story. No one there could have known in the heat of the moment whether it was loaded. You know that. It’s tragic, but that boy had a death wish, and there was nothing you could do. No one is at fault except that boy. Look, I’ve talked to Frank and Lonnie. I know what went down, but let me ask you this before you finish your report. When you were taken hostage, did Reine Colbert try to intervene, try to help you in any way?”

What could he say to that? It wasn’t that cut and dried. There was more to it.

“Did he have a gun to her head?” Bert said. “Was he holding her hostage there?”

No, but at the same time, he’d had a gun to Eva. Tommy had panicked, he knew that now, but still.

“She was scared, terrified,” Marcus said. “He was just providing her with shelter, a place for her and the kid. I suspect he had some psychological issues, PTSD. It scared her and started this whole thing, from what she said. She was just trying to survive with her kid.”

“Well, she’ll get her day in court, and remember, the DA will have final say. Last I heard, she’s up on a number of charges. She’ll get a lawyer to plead her down, but she’s going to do some time. You know that. I know that. You’re also talking about hanging one of our own out to dry.”

When Marcus took a breath to speak, Bert shook his head again and lifted his hand. “Let me finish, Marcus. You’re a good man. I know you’ve been covering everything here for me for a long time, and you’ll always have my gratitude for that, but at the same time, you know there’s one thing that can get a cop fired, and that is insubordination. Frank told you to stand down, and now I’m telling you the same thing. Let it go with Lonnie and leave it with the courts. Ms. Colbert will do her time, and her kid is somewhere safe, being looked after.” Bert swiveled in his chair and faced the window as the sun poured in.

Marcus wondered how he could say all that. “You really think social services is doing the best thing for that kid? Safe, really?”

The sheriff swung back around to him. “She’ll get a roof and three square meals,” he said. “Marcus, I’ve got plans for you. I’m stepping down as sheriff and want to throw your hat in the ring.”

For a second, Marcus wasn’t sure he’d heard right. The sheriff leaned forward in his bulky frame and rested his arms on his desk.

“You want me to be sheriff?” Marcus said.

The old man took a second to consider something. “I do,” he finally said. “That’s why I’m telling you to drop it, let it go. There’s a bigger picture, Marcus, and whether you want to admit it or not, Ms. Colbert had some responsibility in what happened. I want you to take over as interim sheriff. I’ll cite health problems. It’ll be fine with the council, and I’ll grease them up and say all the right things, and then you can run in the next election. But remember, folks don’t like scandals, especially in their police department. You’re the hero right now, so take a word of advice. Don’t make Lonnie look like the bad guy, or you will lose.” Bert gestured to Marcus, and he knew then that he wasn’t going to be able to convince him to set the record straight. “So go on, finish up that report, and get it over to the DA for the woman’s arraignment this afternoon. Then take a few days off and get your head together.”

That was all the sheriff said.

As Marcus walked out of the office, he saw the kid still standing at the file cabinet, pretending he hadn’t heard everything. Then he pulled out his phone and dialed Karen.

“Are you okay?” she said when she answered.

Marcus stepped around Colby to his desk in the corner. “Yeah, I’m fine, but there’s someone who isn’t.”

“Oh, and who is that?”

“You know the woman who was arrested at the scene, Reine Colbert?”

“Just from what Ryan told me.”

“Well, she needs a lawyer, a good one. I need you to go over to County and be that for her.”

Karen groaned on the other end and sighed. “This isn’t going to be an easy case, is it?”

Marcus looked over his shoulder to Colby, who was now standing in the open office door, talking with Bert. Good, at least he wasn’t listening. “No, but I need you to do what you can. Nothing about this is what it seems. Can you do that for me?”

He thought he heard tapping in the background, and he was pretty sure she’d dropped an f-bomb under her breath.

“Fine, but I swear, Marcus, you are really going to owe me big time for this.”

“Thank you, Karen,” he said, then hung up and took in his desk and the report he still needed to finish. He considered carefully the details he would need to include.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.