My father gave Engdahl no more notice and asked the officer what
it was all about.
The officer shrugged. "Two drunks, a wrong word. Like putting a match to gasoline."
"I ain't no drunk." Engdahl sat hunched over on the edge of a long metal bench and stared at the floor as if contemplating the advisability of puking there.
"And he's not old enough to be drinking in a bar, Cleve," my father pointed out.
"I'll be talking to the folks at Rosie's about that," the officer replied. Behind a door in the back wall a toilet flushed.
"Much damage?" my father asked.
"Mostly to Morris. They took it out to the parking lot."
The door in the back wall opened and a man walked out still working at the zipper on his pants.
"Doyle, I was just telling these folks how you came to bring in Engdahl and Gus."
The other man sat down and put his feet on the desk. He wasn't dressed in a uniform but from his look of comfort in that jailhouse I understood he was a policeman too. He said, "Yeah I was off duty at Rosie's. Watched 'em going at it in the bar, mouthing off to each other. When they took it outside, I figured it was time to break up the party."
My father spoke to Officer Blake: "All right if I take Gus home now?"
"Sure. He's in back." The policeman reached into the desk drawer for keys. "Crying shame about the Cole kid. I heard you spent most of yesterday with his folks."
"Yes," my father told him.
"I've got to say I'd much rather have my job than yours."
"You know that whole thing's got me wondering," Doyle, the offduty officer, said. "I've seen that kid on those tracks hundreds of times. He loved trains, I guess. Can't figure how he came to get himself killed by one."
Officer Blake said, "What do you mean?"
"I talked to Jim Gant. He was the first deputy on the scene. Gant said it looked like the kid had just been sitting on the tracks. Didn't move at all when the train came. Real strange, you know? He wasn't deaf."
"Maybe he was retarded like Howdy Doody there," Engdahl said from his cell. "Didn't know enough to get his butt off that rail."
Doyle said, "One more word out of you and I'm coming in there and kick your ass."
Officer Blake found the keys he was searching for and shut the drawer. "Are they pursuing it?"
"Far as I know, nope. Officially an accident. No witnesses to say otherwise."
Officer Blake said, "You boys stay out here. And, Morris, you behave yourself."
My father asked, "Is it okay if my son uses your bathroom, Cleve?"
"Sure," the officer answered. He unlocked the metal door in the back wall and led my father through. I didn't have to use the bathroom. It had simply been a ruse to get inside the jail. I was afraid Doyle might make a point of it, but he didn't seem at all interested. Jake stood staring hard at Engdahl. Staring knives.
"What are you looking at, retard?"
"He's not retarded," I said.
"Yeah and your sister's not a harelip and your old man's not a friggin' pussy." He laid his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.
I asked Doyle, "What did you mean about Bobby?"
He was tall and lean and looked tough as jerky. He wore his hair in a crew cut and his head was shiny with sweat from the heat of the night. He had ears every bit as big as Jake's but he wasn't the kind of guy anybody in their right mind would dare call Howdy Doody. He said, "You know him?"
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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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