SEVENTY, 2.0

Jackson suddenly hated his job. Serving this town as long as he had been, nothing could’ve prepared him for the sight in front of him.

All these kids, lives lost, at the hands of one brutal man.

He glared down at the body of the man, the Crazy Man whose face had been posted across the state for days. No one spotted him, no one thought to look hard enough. He’d escaped a prison, and been thought dead.

Jackson himself had shot him four times, and on top of the knife in the man’s back, this should be enough. The man lay dead on the sidewalk, blood pooling beneath him. Jackson held his gun on the crazy man, then walked over and shot the dead man in the head.

Deputy Skaggs ran over as the ambulance pulled up to the scene. “What the hell, Dave?!” Skaggs was a good Deputy, and a nice man, but nice wouldn’t take him very far today. He’d vomited twice when they arrived, and was useless with a gun. Jackson had to take out Crazy all by himself, and that was no picnic.

“Just tell the EMT’s to look in on Mary and her sister.” He would have to answer for that head shot, but didn’t care. He’d throw his badge at the judge if he had to, he felt justified.

He turned to watch the EMTs enter his ex-wife’s house — they had easier access than he ever did — and each of them turned pale at the sight. Four bodies in the front yard, one hanging by the neck off the roof, the gutter impacted and bent, ready to give at any moment. Inside, there were more bodies.

When Jackson had arrived, Mary was curled up protecting her little sister, both of them bleeding from gut wounds. A knife had recently been plunged into Mary’s foot, keeping her stuck to the floor. Jackson had been prying it loose when Crazy attacked him, but the man was weak — likely from a night of killing — so Jackson had taken him down with ease, drilling the knife into the man’s back until he couldn’t pull it out.

He thought that he’d killed Crazy with that stab — but he’d thought wrong.

“Sheriff Jackson, over here!” Mrs. Roberts shouted from her yard. She’d been the one to call them in, originally about a noise disturbance, but she couldn’t tell a scream of terror from a howling drunk teenager. Good and bad this time around. “What’s happened? Are they all drunk?”

Poor Mrs. Roberts, eyes flooded with disease and age, Jackson could see a white milky film advancing over her left pupil. “Go on inside until we’ve investigated.”

“I never trusted them. Mary in particular, she’s always –”

“Inside!” Jackson pointed back to her house, and his eyes, he felt the fire himself, forcing Mrs. Roberts against her will. He’d probably get a complaint from her later, but who could give a shit? There were bigger fish to fry at the moment.

Jackson didn’t sleep for three days after, the face of the Crazy Man haunting his visions every time he closed his eyes. Gary Newton Billings, aged 52, striking resemblance to John Wayne. That’s all anyone talked about, was his looks, how handsome he was. No one really spoke about the murders he’d been imprisoned for, his time at the psych ward, his escape. Only the recent tragedy by a mentally ill killer who had a handsome face and “some problems”.

“We all have problems,” Jackson spouted out the third night, to anyone who would listen. Unfortunately, Skaggs was the only person left at the station to hear, and he immediately left to get more coffee. “All got ’em.”

Jackson looked at the bottle of scotch, empty. He removed his gun belt, and grabbed the keys. In the basement was the morgue. He wanted one last look at the Crazy Man. Just how handsome could the bastard be?

When he entered the morgue, the sight caught him off guard. Eight bodies, most of them half the size of the biggest one in the corner — the killer himself. The fact that they all shared this room, all of these corpses, disturbed him more than anything else. He was  thankful that Mary and her sister were not among the dead.

That would’ve been too much to bear. They were the shining stars of the town, a fact that he was proud of, but he hated their mother for traveling so much, for still not showing up after three days. When he called her, she said she was busy, then started crying on the phone. She promised to come to town the next day, but he hadn’t heard from her since. There’d been a convention, somewhere upstate, and she was the keynote speaker. When he tried the hotel the next day, she had already checked out.

Maybe she was on her way, got tied up. Or maybe she was still a selfish bitch.

Jackson would have to take care of the girls himself, in his one-bedroom apartment, from now on. Never let them out of his sight.

He reached the Crazy Man’s gurney, lifted the sheet. The news was right, the man did bear a resemblance to John Wayne. Jackson climbed up on the counter, unzipped, and pissed all over the man’s face. He felt better.

Upstairs, he tossed his badge on his desk next to his gun belt, and walked out of the station. He was done with this job, hated it anyway.

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