P is for Passing through Perfect
Benjamin and Isaac stood, but when Sheriff Haledon sat he motioned for them to take a seat in the chairs facing his desk. “I’m assuming you want to talk to me about this Luke Garrett thing,” he said. “But I’ve already read Deputy Moran’s report, and I don’t see that there’s much more we can do.”
“I ain’t trying to be disrespectful ,” Benjamin said, “but Deputy Moran ain’t saying the whole story.” He told how he’d seen the whitewall tire when the truck passed him on Cross Corner Road, then followed Luke Garrett home and peered through the window to see the bearded man.
“And that’s the God’s honest truth,” Benjamin swore.
“Well, Deputy Moran’s report says Luke Garrett’s truck has four black tires, and the man doesn’t have facial hair of any sort.”
“I gotta believe somebody warned him.”
“Benjamin, I’m hoping you aren’t saying Deputy Moran would do a thing like that. I know he has no love of colored folks, but he’s a sworn officer of the law.”
The sheriff’s words landed with a thud. They had the sound of finality, something impossible to argue against.
“I ain’t blaming Mister Moran,” Benjamin said, “but somebody surely did—”
“Who?” the sheriff replied. “Who else knew? Did you mention this to anyone other than Deputy Moran?”
“Unh-unh.” Benjamin shook his head.
“Then it’s just your word against his.”
“It ain’t just my word,” Benjamin pleaded. “A man what’s got a beard, then don’t got a beard. Somebody’s got to seen—”
The sheriff shook his head. “It’s not gonna happen, Benjamin. Luke Garrett’s trashy as they come, but he’s a white man with friends. He’ll lie, and they’ll swear to it.”
“But if somebody seen—”
“Even if they did,” the sheriff said, “there’s no way to prove when Luke shaved it off. It could have been last week, it could have been a month ago.”
Benjamin just sat there, the muscles of his face hard as cement.
“I seen the man what run us down,” Isaac volunteered.
“I know ,” the sheriff nodded, “but it was dark at night, and your description was only that the truck had a whitewall tire and the driver was bearded. Did you see anything else that might help us?”
Isaac looked down at his feet and shook his head sorrowfully.
For nearly a minute the room was silent; then the sheriff spoke.
“I hope you can see the problem I’ve got here, Benjamin. I’m not saying which is right or wrong , but in the best interest of all concerned I’ve got to accept Deputy Moran’s word. If I was to charge Moran with covering up a crime based on nothing but your word, there’d be an uprising in Bakerstown such as we’ve never seen.”
Benjamin listened, expressionless and stoic.
“But it ain’t right,” Isaac said. “He run down my mama.”
The sheriff gave a sad nod. “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. Unless we can prove something…” He let his voice trail off; the thought was something no one wanted to hear.
Benjamin stood to leave, but Sheriff Haledon rose from his chair and came around the desk. He put his hand on Benjamin’s shoulder. “What’s done is done,” he said. “Nothing you do is gonna bring Delia back. Maybe this isn’t fair, but it’s the way life is. The best thing for you to do now is take care of your boy.”
Still somewhat expressionless, Benjamin turned and looked into the sheriff’s face; the expression he saw was sincere and honest.
“Thank you, sir,” he said, then reached for the door.
Although Benjamin never heard it, Sheriff Haledon said, “I wish you well, Benjamin, God knows I do.”