…By any public servant, down to the local government level?
D MINUS 87
POTTOWATOMIE COUNTY, OKLAHOMA
After the county coroner and other forensics experts had been on site for a while, Tommy made sure they had what they needed from him, and returned to the office. He watched some of the questioning of Ms. Greeley and the boy not in the hospital, took care of some paperwork, then called it a day.
He pulled into his front yard on the rez after midnight, and was greeted first by his dogs. His wife, Linda, met him at the front door and they spent a few moments showing affection before she led him to the kitchen, where his supper was keeping warm in the oven. The kitchen was old, like the rest of the house, but Linda kept it clean and cozy, in the way only feminine women could.
Tommy and Linda still usually spoke to each other in Shawandasse, to keep in practice.”Where’s Carl?” Tommy asked, sitting, as she set the plate in front of him.
“Out in the garage, tinkering with that dirt bike again,” Linda replied, and sat across from him at the table.
Carl was their youngest, and still lived with them. Gunther and Takoda had been on their own for a while, already.
“How was your day?” Linda asked.
Tommy frowned, not really knowing how to answer that question. What could you say after seeing what he’d seen over in Cynthia Greeley’s basement? He felt bad, because his job put him in an unpleasant mood more often than not, and Linda was the one who had to deal with it. It wasn’t her fault that he had to see that kind of stuff…
Well, in a way, it was.
Y MINUS TWO
ABSENTEE SHAWNEE TRUST LAND, OKLAHOMA
When Tommy returned from Sumatra, he at first considered going into hiding. Maybe assuming a new identity. That’s how scared he was.
He and his brother Vince had been framed for the murder of an Indonesian cop, and had to run from the local police just to escape with their lives. But after all was said and done, Vince hadn’t escaped with his life.
The attempts on their lives over there made it clear they had some powerful enemies who could pull strings just about anywhere. The only reason Tommy could think of was an investigation both he and his brother had been working, which grew to include a domestic terrorist incident, and involved complicity in the highest levels of the Justice Department, implicating involvement even higher up.
So when he returned to the States, Tommy figured his enemies would come at him from some other angle. Certainly his job as a special agent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs would be sabotaged somehow, just for starters. Then what? That murder rap overseas would be the most obvious line of attack.
But against his understandably paranoid judgment, he showed himself publicly, answered (or avoided, depending on who asked) a million questions, and attended Vince’s funeral service.
It was at this very kitchen table, when Tommy was deliberating with himself about what to do, that Linda made her suggestion.
“You know Sheriff Flores is up for reelection, Tommy. He’s not very popular.”
Flores was crooked and most everyone in the county knew it. “So what?” Tommy replied.
“So, you know it doesn’t matter who the Republicans run—they won’t have a chance in this county. Flores is practically running unopposed.”
“I still don’t see your point,” Tommy said.
“You should run for sheriff, Dad,” Carl said, catching on quickly and loving the idea. “As an independent.”
“County sheriffs answer to the people,” Linda reasoned. “You won’t be under the thumb of some federal agency, or the suckups in the Tribal Police, if you go back there. As a sheriff, you’d be able to defend yourself a lot better than as a subordinate of some career slave.”
“I’m not a politician,” Tommy said. “Sheriffs are all political these days. I couldn’t win a popularity contest against Jack the Ripper, and wouldn’t want to try.”
“But you could,” Linda said. “You’re very popular right now. Word’s been getting around about how you rescued Jenny and Susan Pyrch, and the other girls.”
Tommy’s niece Jenny, Susan Pyrch from here on the rez, and some of their college friends had been kidnapped while overseas on vacation. Tommy had led an effort to get them back–and succeeded with the exception of one girl.
“What kind of word is getting around?” Tommy asked, worried. Other men had gone with him, and he owed them more than he could ever pay. If their names got out, they could suffer for their association with him.
“You’re a hero, Dad,” Carl said. “You’re all people are talking about at school.”
“It’s the same with my friends,” Linda said. “I’m married to a living legend.” She gave him a playful nose-honk with one hand. “Just don’t let it go to your head, okay?”
“I don’t know,” Tommy said. “I’m not good at giving speeches or debating.”
“Just be yourself,” Linda said, now rubbing his cheek. “Your capable of charm, or you never would have got a second date with me.”
He had to grin at that one.
“And I think you’re popular enough right now, you wouldn’t even have to say much,” she added. “At least think about it. Unless you have a better idea.”
Tommy didn’t have a better idea, so he thought about it.
He ran for sheriff.
There were no debates. He gave only one speech, a week before the election, and it looked like half of the county, plus everyone on Shawnee Trust Land, came out to hear it.
“If you want a bigger jail, that’s fine,” he said. “I’m not gonna say you need one. And I’m not gonna seek federal or private money. If I’m sheriff, we’ll handle things ourselves with the resources we have. I don’t want Washington pulling strings here, so I won’t invite that by begging for federal cheese. The way I see it, the office of sheriff exists to protect your rights.”
This got a cheer, requiring him to pause before continuing.
“Politicians and bureaucrats get your tax dollars to serve you; not so you have to serve them.”
Another cheer. Given the voting record of the electorate on the rez, he had expected heckling when he got to this part—or blank stares at best.
“Because most politicians see it the other way around, and usually get away with it, doesn’t make it right. I’m glad you all are so enthusiastic about your rights. But your rights end where somebody else’s begins. When rights get violated, that’s when the police should get involved.”
He spotted his family in the crowd, all toward the front. Takoda and Carl’s hair was just beginning to grow back from their Mohawks. They and Gunther were typically blank-faced, but now with chests pushed out perhaps more than normal. Jenny was smiling broadly and Linda looked so excited she might faint.
“If I was sheriff, criminals would be put in jail,” he continued, inspiring applause. “My deputies wouldn’t be spending their time harassing people who aren’t criminals. They wouldn’t be engaging in random roadside checkpoints, or issuing tickets for tinted windows or seatbelt violations. If you respect the rights of your neighbor, then the law should be on your side. And it would be, if I was sheriff.”
Tommy wasn’t ready for the ovation he got for that short, unpolished speech. Linda threw herself at him and said, “Take me home, now, and ravage me!”
He laughed and shook his head.
“I’m serious,” she said. “Have Carl spend the night with Gunther. I want you.”
“I just pissed off every ‘law and order’ type in the county,” he said. “People don’t want what’s right. They want…”
He was interrupted by some well-wishers who complimented him on his speech.
When he was done with this bout of glad-handing, Linda wrapped herself around his arm and said, “There aren’t many ‘law and order’ types after Flores, Tommy. He converted them.”
Tommy tried to smile, not so sure.
“Tommy, you could run for president after a speech like that, and even your sister-in-law would vote for you!”
Reporters crowded in to ask him questions, but Tommy ignored them. He ran the gauntlet of hand-shakers and eventually made it to his Blazer.
The election came and Tommy won, surprising him more than anyone.
His first order of business was to scrutinize his deputies. He fired all but seven of them, then sat the survivors down in the briefing room and gave them a longer speech than the one he delivered on the campaign stump.
“You men have heard the expression ‘there’s a new sheriff in town’?” Tommy asked, then just watched the deputies reactions as the thought sunk in.
“The reason you are the only ones here is because I let everyone else go. The first thing I want you to understand is that for every one of you still here, there’s ten unemployed wannabes waiting in line, who paid to put themselves through the police academy. It will be much easier for me to teach them good habits than to correct any bad ones you might have. If you’ve been learning the wrong way to conduct this job before I came along, then you’d better un-learn it before I find out.”
He opened the cardboard box on the desk, pulled out a handful of small booklets, and tossed one to each deputy.
“Each one of you took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, and the laws of Oklahoma,” Tommy said. “The Academy does an okay job teaching you the most common Oklahoma statutes you can use to trick, bully, and charge citizens. It does a disgraceful job teaching you about the Bill of Rights. These little books are copies of the Constitution, with the Bill of Rights and the later amendments, plus the Declaration of Independence and some other stuff. When you report to work tomorrow morning I expect you to have read the Bill of Rights. If you have any questions about it, ask me. I’m giving you one week to read the entire Constitution. You swore to uphold it, so as long as I’m sheriff, you’re gonna know what’s in it.”
None of the deputies had worked with him before. Nobody grumbled—possibly only because they weren’t sure how crazy a boss he would turn out to be.
“Until then,” Tommy said, “here’s some items for you to remember: if you ask for or accept any kind of bribe, you’ll be fired. If you steal something, I’ll put you in this jail myself. There will be no more checkpoints. No more speed traps. No more arresting people, then figuring out what to charge them with after they’re brought in. No unwarranted searches; no warrants without probable cause—and probable cause does not include skin color, camouflage clothing or gun racks.”
Tommy studied faces again. Some of the deputies blushed. He took note of them.
“You will not take one of the unmarked cars from the motor pool without authorization directly from me. We are not going to use unmarked cars for speeding tickets. If our objective is truly to make drivers slow down, then we want them to see that we are out there on the road with them.
“I don’t want citations for seatbelt violations coming across my desk. Citizens are not our property. If they aren’t endangering someone else, leave them alone. There’s more than enough yahoos on the road out there driving drunk, tailgating, changing lanes without signaling, cutting people off, running stop signs, and all kinds of other idiotic stunts, for you to concentrate on. Citizens don’t pay our bills to be harassed, or for you to make up excuses to cite them. You aren’t revenue men anymore, so make that mental adjustment right now. From now on you are public servants, and your job is to protect and serve.”
Kevin raised his hand tentatively.
“Save your questions until I’m done,” Tommy said, and Kevin lowered his hand.
“If you find yourself in a situation that requires backup, then call for it. And if you need to use force–up to and including deadly force–then don’t hesitate. If you’re doing your job right, I’ll have your back. But understand this: that badge doesn’t give you the right to violate anyone’s rights. If you hurt or kill somebody without good reason, then I will be your enemy. And if a suspect is truly resisting arrest, and the situation justifies a call for backup, your job is not to converge on the scene to get your sick jollies beating and tazing the suspect. You get them restrained and back here for booking as quickly, efficiently, and painlessly as possible. Is that understood?”
A chorus of sober “yes sirs” sounded in reply. This was not a happy crew.
“I’ll take questions, now,” Tommy said.
“Is it just us, now?” Kevin asked. “Are you going to replace the deputies you fired?”
“We’re gonna work it like this for now,” Tommy said. “I’ll see how it goes. I might bring in a couple rookies if it turns out we truly are short-handed. But the workload will be going down now that we’re out of the harassment business. This will probably be enough manpower, right here, to do the job we’re getting paid to do.”
Sheriff Flores had bloated the office with a small army of deputies, and ballooned the budget every fiscal year. Paying for all that excess made it necessary to generate revenue by “proactive” policing that made the locals despise and distrust law enforcement.
“Question,” Jeff said. “If we’re only concerned with people who violate the rights of others, how do we deal with drunk drivers?”
“Drunk drivers put other people’s lives at risk,” Tommy replied. “That’s a violation of somebody’s most basic civil liberties: the right to life—weaving all over the road and other drunk behavior will kill somebody; the right to liberty—a wheelchair is a definite infringement on their freedom; and property–the other vehicle or whatever else the drunk is going to crash into.
“Men, I spent some time in the Middle East. That region has the absolute worst drivers in the world. I wouldn’t trust them at 20 miles an hour on an empty four-lane road. But they drive at 110 on two-lane, half-paved roads, with crossing livestock and blind corners. And yet they have only a fraction of the accidents as we have in the States, driver-for-driver. Why? Because they don’t drive drunk. Period. They just don’t do it.”
Another deputy—Walker was his name—raised a hand. “You just told us to use deadly force without hesitation if we need to. Then you said you’ll be our enemy if we hurt or kill somebody. That seems like a contradiction.”
“Two problems, Walker,” Tommy said. “First off, you didn’t listen carefully to my instructions. Poor attention to detail. Secondly, it seems to me that you question your own ability to judge when force is necessary and when it’s not. That’s a fatal flaw in any peace officer.”
“I think his concern,” Harris said, “is the same as mine and everyone else’s: I mean, it’s our first day with you in charge and it’s like you’re taking the side of the civilians over us already.”
Tommy shook his head and ground his teeth for a moment. “Let me make something real clear to all of you right now: you are civilians. You are not soldiers; you are not in an army; and we are not at war with the taxpayers.” He pointed at the booklet Harris absently played with in one hand. “I don’t just expect you to read that, men. I expect you to know it; accept it; and conduct yourselves as if you believe it, for as long as you work for me.”
Within the first four months, three more deputies were gone. Harris tampered with his car camera; Walker coerced sexual favors from a prostitute in Norman. The third quit.
Tommy deputized some academy graduates to replace them. One of them was Janet Bailey, who covered for the dispatcher during her shift, and also updated the website. The image of the county sheriff’s office turned around, between her efforts at communication and the reformed conduct of the deputies.
Looking back on that first year, Tommy was surprised more deputies hadn’t quit. What surprised him even more was that, after a few months, the Feds seemed to lose interest in the bogus murder rap. He was questioned a few times; Gunther and Jenny were questioned; then the Feds backed off. Maybe, by some miracle, an honest person was calling the shots despite the Attorney General. And the fact that Tommy had been too busy with his new duties to keep sniffing around at the Justice Department probably helped.
D MINUS 87
Tommy set his coffee down, took Linda’s hand and kissed it. “It’s good to be home, baby.”
Linda’s dark brown eyes turned sympathetic. “You want to talk about it?”
“You remember that thing you told me about the other day—some link Jenny posted on Facebook about cults?”
Linda made a face. “Oh, yeah. Sick stuff.”
“Can you forward the link to me?”
Linda nodded, then her jaw dropped. “Did you find something like that?”
Neither of them ever turned on the television, unless it was to watch a movie together; so it was no surprise she hadn’t seen the news.
“Yeah,” he said. “I still don’t know how to process what I saw, yet.”
“I’ll send you that link,” Linda said, then moved around behind him to massage his shoulders.
“You still think me running for sheriff was a good idea?” he asked, grunting with pleasure as she kneaded the stress knots out of him.
“I do,” she said, stooping to kiss his neck.
“You’re the greatest,” he moaned, as she continued kneading. “Sorry if I’m more grumpy than normal. I don’t mean to take it out on you.”
“You owe me about 40,000 date nights, Sheriff Scarred Wolf,” she said.
“I know,” he said. “Let’s have one Tuesday night. I found this place I think you’ll like.”
Later, Tommy read the article his niece had posted a link to. It reported occultic rituals all over the country with very similar characteristics to what he found in Cynthia Greeley’s basement. He spent a few hours digging out what information he could on M.O.s, and the belief system which led people to commit these bizarre, disturbing crimes. He jotted down some specific questions to ask the woman and the two teenage boys during interrogation. So far nobody had stepped forward to post bail, and his deputies had little luck getting the boys’ parents to come in.
The link to False Flag is also on the upper right sidebar.