Chapter 10: Friday Night Lights
Elderton was driving down 10th Street with Martha in the passenger seat with her. Martha was shivering, not from cold, but from shock. Elderton put on her hazard lights and pulled over to the side of the road. Right under the lights of the high school football field. She shook her sheriff jacket off both arms and handed it to Martha.
“Here, Martha,” she told her, “Put this on.”
Martha put the jacket on, which proved a little too big for her scrawny arms. She sat there shivering in the jacket, as she zipped it up to the top. She looked like a little kid in her mother’s clothes. “Thanks,” she said. “What’s going on? Why are people doing this to each other?”
“I don’t know, Martha,” Elderton replied, “I just don’t know. I wish I did. I wish I knew how to make it stop. Put an end to it. But for now, we stay smart. We stay in groups as much as possible.” She put her arm around Martha and started to rub her hands up and down the side of her arm.
“What are you doing?” Martha asked.
“Trying to warm you up.” Elderton said. “I don’t need you going into shock or having a panic attack. We don’t know what state the hospital is in right now. I need you to push through, OK?”
“Alright.” Martha said.
Elderton continued to rub an arm against Martha while she reached and turned the heat all the way up in her patrol car. She turned back and continued to rub her arms with both hands. She looked over Martha’s head and noticed a lot of movement and lights in the high school parking lot. That’s when she noticed people in Army fatigues and suits enter the west entrance to the high school.
“There’s something going on at the high school,” Elderton said.
Martha turned around and looked out the window. She could see all the movement and personnel moving around. “Do you think they’ve come to help us?”
“We haven’t even put out any word that I know of,” Elderton said. “And I’d expect National Guard before Army. Plus, that’s a stupid fast response time. Something’s up. I gotta check it out. Stay in the car.”
“No, Kelly, I’m coming with you.”
Elderton looked at Martha and she could tell from her expression she wouldn’t take no for an answer. Besides, it would probably be better for the two to stay together, as she’d already noted. “Alright,” Elderton said, “But we’re probably walking into a mess. Just know that. And let me do the talking.”
Elderton and Martha got out of the patrol car and locked it up. But not before Elderton took her double barrel shotgun from it and a pocket full of shotgun shells. She handed the shells to Martha. “Here,” she said. “Put these in the outside pockets of my jacket. It’s the only pockets I own that can hold them.” She kept two for herself. She loaded the shotgun and checked her pistol. “All right. Come on.”
They climbed the chain-link fence and walked straight out into the lights of the football field. Elderton didn’t want armed officials thinking they were sneaking up on them. And to her amusement, they did her bidding when they reached the fifty-yard line. She saw a group of armed officers come out with a few suits. She couldn’t make out their faces with the bright lights of the field bearing down on her and Martha. She stopped and held her shotgun above her head.
“I’m sheriff of this county!” She shouted to the men at the back of the bleachers. “I’m Sheriff Kelly Elderton! This here with me is a citizen, a victim of violence tonight! We’re coming up to you!” Elderton turned and whispered to Martha, “Let me make the next step.”
She took two steps ahead of Martha and one of the suited men raised his hand. “Stop!” He shouted, and she obliged. “This is a matter of National Security, I can’t let you come up here! I can’t let you anywhere near the high school premises! Go back to the station and wait for me there!”
“I’m sheriff of this county,” Elderton started, “and if it involves the safety of my people, it involves me! We’re coming up!”
“Dammit, Elderton!” Another suited man yelled at her. She recognized it as none other than Mayor Kendell Marsden. He had been a thorn in her side ever since she was elected to sheriff. He was convinced she was unfit for duty. She never could get him to explain how he came to that conclusion. He was always butting in or leaving her out of matters. “This is Mayor Marsden and I’m commanding you to go back to the station!”
Elderton felt hairs tingle on the back of her neck. She was pissed off. “Wendy ain’t answering back at the station! There’s likely trouble, so I can’t go waltzing back with Martha in hand! We’re coming up, dammit!” She overemphasized the dammit in response to his.
She could see that Marsden started to step forward and yell at her again, but the first suit grabbed him and pulled him back. “Come up! And hand over your arms to my men!”
“Hell no!” Martha yelled from behind Elderton. Elderton turned and looked at her with surprise. Martha continued, “If you’d seen what I’ve seen tonight, you’d know why!”
Elderton looked back up to the group of men. There was silence while the condition was considered. Finally, the nameless suit nodded and shouted that it was OK. Elderton leaned over to Martha and whispered to her as they made their ascension up the bleachers. “Well played, Martha.”
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