Gio arrived back at the sheriff’s office just after dawn. Jones was dozing at the desk, his dog Gilbert curled up at his feet. Both hound and master started awake as Gio entered.
“Mornin’,” Jones said gruffly, clearing his throat and checking his pocket watch. “Must’ve dozed. Only thirty minutes, not bad.”
“Mornin, Elijah,” Gio replied, shrugging off his jacket. “All quiet, I assume then?”
“You mean the town or the girl?” Jones stood up and stretched. Gilbert raised his head and yawned. Jones fiddled with the coffee pot and started the kettle.
“Then both were quiet.”
“Then why’d you ask the difference?”
“Well they’re different worries, aren’t’ they?”
“Well…yes.” Gio sat in the chair opposite the one Jones had just vacated across the desk. Gilbert stiffly rose, and dropped his head in the sheriff’s lap with a boof. Gio scratched him on the head. “I picked up some bread and clotted cream from Trenton on my way, it’s in the knapsack.”
Jones undid the string and pulled out a warm loaf with the tin of cream. “Bless you, sheriff, a good man.”
“A hungry man.” Gio pulled out his knife and began slicing off bread. Slathering the piece in clotted cream, he made a mental note to invite Trenton for dinner. Only if Mary was up for the task, of course. That reminded him, and he smiled.
“Awfully sunny this morning, sheriff.” Jones nodded at him, cutting his own bread.
Gio hesitated. He had never asked Mary if they should announce the news. But perhaps until Walt gave an official confirmation, he should swear Jones and Elek to secrecy.
“You haven’t the faintest, Elijah,” Gio leaned toward his friend. “It’s Mary. She’s…in a delicate way.”
Jones laughed aloud. “Gio, you can say pregnant. It’s not a crime. Congratulations! A father!”
“I know. I can’t believe it. I do believe I’m the happiest man alive, Jones. I wanted to tell you, and Elek, but until Mary sees Walter and we announce, keep it hush?”
“My lips are sealed. But between you and me, then, that child will have wonderful parents, I’m happy for you both.”
“Thank you.” Gio raised his bread in the air, as a stand in for a more traditional grain product. Jones bumped his own piece against it, and they happily chewed in silence.
The sun rose over Haven, and though it was early yet, the relatively cool air hinted at another sweltering day. Jones had kept the doors and windows wide open during the night, so as that the office entered daylight they might seal it up for a while to stay cool. They went about closing everything up. They discussed several petitions; townspeople cordially settling disputes in paperwork. These were some property boundary disputes, business applications, financial complaints.
At about 7:00, Jones stood and put on his hat. “Right, time to head off.”
“Tell Alejandra I said hello, as always.” Elijah tipped his hat, promised to tell his wife, and closed the door tightly behind himself and Gilbert.
The sheriff sat there in the morning light, sipping his coffee, smiling to himself. Presently, there was a rustling, and Kelly quietly came down the stairs.
“Mornin’, Miss Kelly,” Gio said. He gestured to the portion of bread and cream left.
“Good Mornin, Sheriff,” she said, her voice still scratching with the last vestiges of sleep. “Thanks much.” She clutched her side, wincing as she sad down. “Wound is right sore.”
“I expect it will be for a while yet.” Gio poured another cup of coffee and pushed it across to her.
“Yes I remember when my husband was shot in the war. It took weeks for him to even walk again. But then, I’ve heard the battlefield nurses were quite…persuasive.” Kelly grimaced.
“Your husband fought in the war?” Gio asked.
“Oh yes, had to prove himself. Loved to play the hero, he did. We were only engaged then, I was 16 and he was 21. It was the last months of the war. He had to be over 21, of course, and his birthday was in October. I think he never forgave the Union for winnin’ surrender that April.” She smiled at Gio’s raised eyebrows. “It was young, I know. But we were at war, and that made people desperate. And I loved him. He managed to receive officer status because he’d been to university, but only as Captain. John did his best, but 30 of his men died from disease. Officially his was the 209th company, but since the colonel called him Johnny Boy, they were known as Johnny Boys. They were surprisin’ly successful. One of the finest companies in the union, the colonel said.”
“Why was that surprisin?”
Kelly smirked as she spread cream on her bread. “My husband’s men followed him well enough, but liked to tease him. He was…well at 16 I was slightly taller than he.”
“Ah,” said the 6’3” sheriff.
“Indeed. In any case, he was shot just after Lee’s surrender, but before Sherman’s. Only in the leg, and thankfully the doctor was decent and he kept it.”
“He is lucky. Many boys in town came home with wooden legs or empty shirtsleeves, or not at all.”
It had only 10 years since the rebels surrendered, but the people of Haven still felt the scars. Many of Gio and Elek’s friends had been too young to fight, but older brothers, fathers, and uncles had gone to fight for the Union. And now, even a decade later, there were still a greater number of young widows and grieving mothers than any men in Haven. Gio officiated few weddings or attended few christenings in the first years of his office. Walter’s first patients were returning soldiers. Haven had taken in passing regiments on their way home from battles with Sherman’s fleeing army. As one such regiment passed, the leader came to the Goose and informed the then owner that her son had been killed only a week previous. The news devastated the mother, and she left the running of her bar to her faithful bartender, Sass. Eentually she sold it to him outright and went to live with her family in Washington DC. Sass renovated and reopened after she left, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The sheriff told all of this to Kelly, as a devoted student of his town’s history and progression. “But before you can see the bar for yourself, and meet Sass, I have some paperwork and filin’s to sort through and categorize. If there’s two of us, it’ll be considerably more efficient.” He extracted a huge folder of paper. “Essentially I need you to sort them by type of complaint, and then we’ll label them.”
“Excellent,” Kelly said, pulling half the stack towards her.
“Don’t you want to know the categories?” Gio grinned.
“Well, considering my late husband was an attorney, I know the terms, and also this top line here says ‘field of complaint.’” She said with a laugh.
Gio raised his hands to the sky. “Praise the lord, another woman more intelligent and clever than I, the trend continues!” Kelly burst out laughing, and began to shuffle through the forms.
The sun crept on, and when their watches read about 11:15, the sheriff and the outlaw walked into the bar.