The “x Ryland” part of the title has been off-screen long enough. So I’ll start to fix that here. Any cop comes to understand human nature pretty damned fast as a part of their job and Allen’s father is no different. Sure, it’s possible for broken people to turn around their lives, but most do not.
I had finished the original 6000 words of this short story several days ago. Thinking a little too much about this past Saturday… and hello to an additional 1800 words! This is now definitely headed into “novella” territory and one again I conclude that creative writing is a mental illness.
Saturdays, unless something happened over Friday night, meant dropping into the office from nine to noon. Only rarely accompanying his wife to Mass allowed him to spell several of his deputies on Sundays, who appreciated the time off. So, it was one of the few times Alan Rupert allowed himself to sleep in…
The roar of the old tractor had him instantly awake, looking first at the wan light out the bedroom window before checking the time on the clock over his head. Just after seven? What the hell? Looking out the window showed only his car and Allen’s motorbike and none of the remote sensors arrayed around their property had indicated any trespass.
“What’s that noise?” Robbi asked sleepily.
“I’m guessing it’s our son,” he rumbled, unhappy at this early wake-up. “I’m going to see.”
Pulling a robe on, Alan went to the ground floor and slid into some work boots before walking directly to the barn used as equipment storage. Covering half of the fifty yards, the engine noise stopped but was immediately followed by what sounded like a wrench on bolts. With the large, main door slid completely open – it was only closed during bad weather –his son illuminated by two work lights just removing a panel on the side of the tractor. Allen wore dirty and patched overalls with no undershirt and boots similar to what his father had just slid on.
“Early start?” the older man asked a little sarcastically. “I did say noon.”
“Sleeping in in the navy means oh-six-hundred,” his son replied without looking up, using a flashlight in his left hand to peer into the engine. “Oh. Good morning, Father.”
“A morning about an hour before I wanted,” Alan countered but walking over. “Found anything yet?”
“This engine is nearly a hundred years old, as you know,” the young man reached in with a wrench. “I had to look up what a ‘carburetor’ was, as those seem to be the biggest problems on these old models.”
“That’s right,” his father recalled. “You were trained in engine maintenance after Basic, right? Is that what you were doing on the ship?”
“That’s my normal assignment, yes, Father.” He paused a moment while moving his arm blind, loosening bolts. “My battle station is ASW.”
“That’s why you were there, topside, when that problem with the torpedo happened?” Alan asked, recalling the story from dinner.
As that seemed to be that, with his son focused on his work, the older man turned about and went back into his house, figuring getting into the office an hour early wouldn’t hurt anyone.
Besides three of the usual complement of a dozen drunks in a holding cell, sleeping it off, his deputy told him not much had happened overnight. Alan Rupert thanked him and sent him on his way an hour early. The man was happy to go and it also saved a little on payroll.
Seeing the barely sober drunks off with his usual harangue at close to eleven, he paused at a chime from his phone. The chime assigned to his wife.
No emergency, he read. They were both trained to lead with that. But, the sooner you can get home the better.
Now, what in the world did that mean? he thought.
The never-ending paperwork kept him distracted until his relief was there at eleven forty. Alan made his way out just as the man was walking in, telling him all was well. Home to their farm just north of Bryan a mere fifteen minutes later, he saw what may have been the source of his wife’s message: a white, two-door car, one of the newer fitted to burn CNG. The license plate on the back informed him it was registered in Travis County, where the capitol city of Austin was located.
But it’s not an official plate, so let’s hope a Ranger isn’t here to arrest my son. Again.
Perhaps hearing his car, he saw his wife come out the front door, pausing on the deck which wrapped around the house. Alan was up the steps and leaned close to her.
“Problems?” he asked softly.
“We… we’ve a guest,” she replied. He was surprised to see her flustered. “An unexpected one. Allen’s so-called girlfriend.”