The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 37
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape Of Anne's Grief chapter 37 Sheriff John Pinbacker (IV)
When Deputy Dana woke Sheriff John Pinbacker from his nap, a sound he’d grown infinitely familiar with since moving to Frostwood greeted him. Freezing rain. To Pinbacker it reminded him of Christmas wrapping paper. The shiny kind. It always made a crinkling sound when you balled it up. Freezing rain on the window made that same crinkling noise.
Pinbacker rubbed his arms. They tingled from sleeping on them to long. “What’s going on?”
“Sorry to wake you sir.” Dana said. She seemed flustered.
“It’s fine. You tired?” He stretched. Feeling his old bones complain. His eyes went to the wall clock. It was in military time. He preferred going by military time since getting out of the service. It made telling time so much easier for him. When he saw the time, he was shocked. “I was out four and a half hours?”
“I’m fine.” She actually looked it too. If she was tired, she wasn’t showing it. “I didn’t want to wake you.” She said, adjusting her rumpled shirt.
Pinbacker could tell by Dana’s restlessness that something was bugging her. “So, what’s bothering you?”
“It’s Deputy Olson. He hasn’t reported back. It’s been sometime since he last radioed in.”
“Where was he last?” He stood.
“He radioed in from the Marsten place. He thought there was nobody there, was going to look around anyway. Then nothing. Tried radioing him, nothing. Not a peep. Nobodies seen him. Plus we’ve had the fire, two car accidents and a few tress down. We’re stretched pretty damn thin sir.”
“I’ll go. Check out Marsten’s. See if I can turn the kid up. Probably asleep in his car.” Wouldn’t be the first time either. Olson had fallen asleep this past summer when he was supposed to be catching speeders. Some kids found him parked in a vacant lot. Called it in thinking he was dead.
“I can go.”
“No you stay here.”
Dana frowned. “Because I’m a woman?”
Pinbacker shook his head and smiled. “No. Because it’s obvious to me you’ve been running things just fine here the whole time I was napping. I need you here, keeping things going.”
Dana beamed. Obviously flattered. “Thank you sir.”
“No need. You do a hell of a job around here. Keep it up and you’ll be taking over here sooner then later.”
“I would never want to replace you sir.”
“Gotta happen sometime.” He picked up his hat. “I’ll be in touch.”
“Be careful sir. Roads are treacherous.”
He nodded. “Hold the fort down.”
“Good hunting sir.”
Dana wasn’t lying about the roads. Even with four-wheel drive Pinbacker had a hard time keeping the cruiser from sliding all over hell. There was a few idiots like him on the road, for the most part though it was pretty dead out. Most everything was closed today. Of course he still had a job to do. He wanted to be able to chew Harold out when he found him. Find him sleeping. Not hurt or dead somewhere in his cracked up cruiser.
He listened to the whine of the windshield wipers going back and forth. Broken up occasionally by voices on the radio. Calling in with reports to dispatch. No Deputy Olson though. C’mon kid. Wake up and radio in. I won’t chew you too big of a new asshole for this.
He left town. Headed out on route 49 toward Old State road. Now he truly felt alone out here. Hell, he hardly ever needed to come out to these parts. The people that lived here kept to themselves and didn’t like people prying into their lives.
“Sheriff.” The radio came to life. It was Dana.
“Go ahead.” He took the receiver. Never letting his eyes leave the dangerous road.
“Got a sighting of Deputy Olson. His car anyway. Timothy Trevor thinks he saw one in a ditch out on Progress road.”
Shit. Not what he wanted to hear.
“I can send Jenkins out to check.”
“No.” Pinbacker said. “I’m closer, it’s not too far from where I’m headed.”
“Understood. Good luck.”
With a little skill and some luck he made a u-turn. Taking a little side road over to Progress road. He could still get to the Marsten place from here. He’d just have to take another side road to get there.
A nagging thought was eating at his gut. He was about to lose a deputy. And it was due to his decision. If he was hurt of dead it was he who’d sent him. Pinbacker had to remind himself that it might very well not be his deputy there at all. And if it was Olson, he could still be okay. Perhaps only unconscious. Pinbacker knew from experience the world was rarely that kind.
Afternoon had settled in when he reached what was indeed Deputy Olson’s car. Embedded half in a deep ditch on the right side of the road. The way it was facing, Olson had been headed back towards town. A light covering of snow hid some of the vehicle from sight. Pulling up alongside the ditch, Pinbacker hopped out. Half walking, half sliding over to the side of the ditch. The driver’s side was hidden under the snow, forcing him to descend into the ditch. The rocky sides covered in a layer of icy snow. If he managed not to break his neck in the process, it would be a miracle.
Towards the bottom his booted feet slipped, sending him sliding down the rest of the way on his ass. Picking himself up, Pinbacker brushed off the snow covered passenger side window. Inside he was surprised to find the cab empty. The door was frozen shut from the freezing rain. After a little prying, Pinbacker got it open. Slipping into the passenger side seat, Pinbacker scanned the interior. Letting his instincts take over. He’d thought maybe Olson had picked up Anne Marsten and there’d been some kind of struggle. Forcing the car into a ditch. The only sign of anything suspicious was a few traces of smeared blood on the steering wheel and inside of the driver’s side door. Not enough to have come from any violence in the vehicle. The blood had been transported into the cruiser by the driver from somewhere else.
Outside, the wind picked up. Pelting the exterior of the cruiser with a mixture of snow and freezing rain. Pinbacker toggled on the radio.
“Vicky. Pinbacker here. Over.”
There was a crackle of noise then a voice. “Copy sir.”
“I found Olson’s cruiser. It’s empty. Tell Burt to get out here and tow it out of the ditch. Tell him to be careful.”
“Copy. Sir?” Vicky’s voice trailed off…then. “Do you think he’s okay?”
“Can’t say. Going to look around here, best I can then head on to the Marsten. Keep your fingers crossed.”
Toggling the radio off, Pinbacker climbed out. Looking up at the ditch, a dark figure stood at it’s top looking down at him.
“The Big Money Afternoon Movie: The Manster will be back after this short commercial break.” Sam sat on the couch. Watching TV to pass the time. Fed up with waiting she picked up the phone. Dialing Anne’s number again. She let it ring twelve times before hanging up. Just like the last time. She been trying for nearly an hour to reach her friend. The wind rattled the window behind her. Wailing like a baleful spirit. She wasn’t trilled by the thought of driving in the mess outside, didn’t really have a choice though. Her feelings told her something was wrong. Sitting here didn’t do her or Anne any good.
A loud yawn from Lucy broke her concentration.
“Boy, it’s shitty out.” Lucy said. “What’s wrong?”
“Um, nothing really.”
“That look on your mug says otherwise.” She said. “You worrying about your girlfriend?”
“Don’t kid a kidder sister.”
She was right of course. Sam stood. She couldn’t fuck around anymore. Grabbing her leather jacket and helmet. Stopping before leaving to grab a wrench from the toolbox in the closet.
Lucy laughs. “You going to fix her pipes?”
Sam left. Not wanting to give Lucy any satisfaction. She stuffed the wrench into the back her jeans. Outside the weather was getting worse. Taking her bike was risky to downright insane. Doing something insane was nothing new for her.
Stopping to clean her visor off several times, Till finally she left it up. The cold stinging her face. She took Progress road. Not wanting to get stuck behind a plow on the main drag. She felt the wind pushing her towards the side of the road. It took all her strength to keep the bike from giving in to the wind. Unless the onslaught let up soon, Sam didn’t expect to make it much further.
Along the side of the road ahead she made out a car. As Sam got closer it appeared to be a police cruiser. Another one sticking out of the ditch nearby. Both looked abandoned. Must have been an accident. She couldn’t do anything to help. She’d have all she could do to get to Anne’s house.
“Sorry.” Sam said. As she passed by. Like that helped.
She didn’t get very far before the weight of her conscience made her turn around.
Sam had to know if there was somebody there that needed help. Pulling up to the cruiser. She got off. Lowering the visor again. The cold making her eyes tear and then freezing the tears on her cheeks. She stood at the edge of the ditch. Seeing a glimpse of movement in the ditch Sam called out. Her words swallowed up by screaming winds.
Pinbacker looked up at the figure. Dressed in a black leather jacket and jeans. Their face covered by a biker helmet. By their posture and body they were female, or an effeminate man. They appeared to be saying something, the wind louder then their voice. Where they in trouble?
Pinbacker went to the side of the ditch. Hollering up to them. “Hello?”
They took their helmet off, underneath was a young woman with short, spiked black hair.
“Are you okay?” She manged to get out over the wind.
He looked around him. Unsure if he could make it back up out of the ditch.
“That depends.” He started up the side only to slide down again. “Can you help me up?”
“No sweat!” She shielded her face from the wind with her gloved hands. “What can I do?”
“I need you to haul me out of here.”
Pinbacker directed her to the back of his cruiser. He kept some a couple chains there. He’d needed them a few times for towing a car out of some mud or ice. After she attached it to his bumper. She dropped the other end down to him. Even with the chain to hold onto it was a pain in the ass climbing up.
“Thanks.” Pinbacker dusted the snow off his pants. “What are you doing out in this?”
“Going to see a friend.” The girl hesitated. “She lives out here.” Her eyes looked off into the distance. “I’m worried about her in this weather.”
Pinbacker saw her bike. She’d rode out here on that, the girl was brave or crazy.
“Are you okay?”
“Not sure. Looking for my deputy. Haven’t seen one wandering around here have you?”
“Listen, I owe you for the help. Let me give you a ride to your friend’s.”
“Thanks.” The girl bit her lip. “But I can’t leave my bike.”
“Don’t worry. I got a guy coming for my deputy’s car. I’ll have him take your bike too.”
She thought about it. Then thrust out her gloved hand, offering it for a handshake.
“Since your offering. I’m Sam.”
He shook her hand. “Nice to meet you Sam. So where you headed?”
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