"Is Gus in t-t-trouble?" Jake asked.
"Some but not serious," my father replied.
"He didn't bust up anything?"
"Not this time. He got into a fight with another fellow."
"He does that a lot."
"Only when he's drunk," I said from the backseat. Making excuses for Gus was usually a responsibility that fell to my father but he was noticeably silent.
"He's drunk a lot then," Jake said.
"Enough." My father held up a hand and we shut up.
We drove Tyler Street and turned onto Main. The town was dark and full of delicious possibility. I knew New Bremen as well as I knew my own face but at night things were different. The town wore another face. The city jail sat on the town square. It was the second oldest building in New Bremen after the First Evangelical Lutheran Church. Both were built of the same granite quarried just outside town. My father parked diagonally in front of the jail.
"You two stay here," he said.
"I have to go to the bathroom."
He shot me a killing look.
"Sorry. I can't hold it."
He gave in so easily I knew he must have been dead tired. "Come on, then. You too, Jake."
I'd never been inside the jail but it was a place that had always appealed greatly to my imagination. What I found was a small drab room lit by fluorescent tubes and not much different in most respects from my grandfather's real estate office. There were a couple of desks and a file cabinet and a bulletin board with posters. But there was also along the east wall a holding cell with bars and the cell held a prisoner.
"Thanks for coming, Mr. Drum," the officer said.
They shook hands. Dad introduced us. Officer Cleve Blake appeared to be younger than my father and wore gold wire-rim glasses and behind them were blue eyes that had an unsettling frankness. Even though it was the middle of a night humid as hell he looked clean and neat in his uniform.
"A little late for you boys to be out, isn't it?"
"Couldn't sleep," I said to the officer. "Too hot."
Jake said nothing which was his usual strategy when he was concerned that he might stutter in public. I recognized the guy in the cell. Morris Engdahl. A bad sort. Black hair slicked in a ducktail and fond of black leather jackets. He was a year older than my sister who'd just graduated from high school. Engdahl didn't finish school. The story I'd heard was that he was kicked out for crapping in the locker of a girl who'd turned him down for a date. He drove the coolest set of wheels I'd ever seen. A black 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe with suicide doors and a shiny chrome grille and big whitewall tires and flames painted along its sides so that fire ran the length of the car.
"Well, if it ain't Frankfarter and Howdy D-D-D-Doody," he said. He had a shiner and when he talked his words came out slurred through a fat lip. From behind the bars he settled his mean eyes on Jake. "How's it g-g-going, retard?"
Jake had been called all sorts of things because of his stutter. I figured it had to get to him but usually all he did was clam up and stare.
"Jake's not retarded, Mr. Engdahl," my father said quietly. "He simply stutters."
I was surprised Dad knew Morris Engdahl. They didn't exactly run in the same circles.
"No sh-sh-sh-shit," Engdahl said.
"That's enough, Morris," Officer Blake said.
Excerpted from Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Copyright © 2013 by William Kent Krueger. Excerpted by permission of Atria Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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