"The Annual Fear" (16) by Rolly A. Chabot
The Fireside is a place where the crackle of the fire can be found here in Canada. It is a constant this time of year and the faint smell of wood smoke drifts across the room. Welcome again to a place of gathering of many faithful followers, people from all walks of life who stop and say hello and share their experience in comments. It is home for me and so appreciate each of everyone of you.
So the setting has been placed before you, what now you may ask. Well after many emails and questions as to what happened to "The Annual Fear" it is back. For those who have missed out on the ramblings of this Alberta writer I guess you will need to play catch up. They are all listed in my portfolio here on Hub Pages and numbered for easy access.
What might you say is The Annual fear, well a writing that was born in a small isolated cabin along the Clear Water River here in South Central Alberta. A day much like today. It was a winter day and it flowed just like the river that passed outside the door. Swift enough to never freeze and yet cold enough to freeze at its edges. Come along and lets look at chapter sixteen and see what has been happening.
To the reader who has been following I express my apologies, the delay in getting this oit to you rest entirely on my shoulders. It seems life has caught up to me. Enjoy the fire and of course the affections of my ever present assistant Quigley. Please know that you are loved dearly... take a hug and please leave one behind. Hot chocolate is on the menu tonight, so please help yourself. Welcome to the Fireside.
“Sweeping It Clean”
The Feds had stayed in town for 6 days and gone. Their investigation had uncovered all they had wished for and more. This was the conclusion of a massive operation in the drug cartel. The final day Dan had been called and Barns shared with Dan some of the connections. This was but the tip of the iceberg.
With what Ronny and Barns had shared Dan was able to draw a conclusion this was far bigger than he had imagined and Cedar Ridge was the central shipping point for the drug trade and much of the US.
The remnants of the “Green Wiener” sat in a pile of ashes along with the home that Wanda lived in and a portion of the Motel where she had been forced to reside the last month.
The call had come in shortly after 3 am that her house was engulfed in flames. The volunteer fire department had just gotten set up and were knocking the fire down when the second alarm was called in. The Green Wiener was fully engulfed in flames and 45 minutes later the Sleepy Valley Motel was on fire as well. What had started out as a quiet night in the sleepy town had turned into a nightmare. People lined the streets watching the action unfolding.
Dan had called in two other fire departments, the motel was saved but they lost Pete’s house and basically Dan made the call to allow the Green Wiener to burn to the ground, as they did not have the resources to cover all the fires.
Speculations ran high in regards to how they had all started, but it did not take a brain surgeon to figure out the cause. This case was complicated but the connections to location, timing were all just a little too coincidental. Especially considering all the fires had been connected back to the cartel and any affiliation to Wanda and her gang.
Dan had received a call from the FBI and he had been asked to appear before the Grand Jury as a key witness, which would mean a trip to Washington. Ronny and many other law enforcement people had been called in as well. The date had been set for June 21. That would mean he would need to get everything in place and have his town business in good standing. This would be likely a weeklong trip for him, time he did not really need be taken but duty called.
Wes walked into his office at 7:30 in the morning carrying two cups of coffee and some fresh apple fritters from Molly’s Bakery. They were a prize, you had better be there early if you wanted a taste of this delight and all the locals knew it. Miss out and you would be the first in line the next morning. It was like a tradition in these parts. Molly had sold herself through her baking and they came running.
“Morning Chief, I hear you are off to the big city next week.”
Dan was reminded word spreads fast in a small town. The only clue he was leaving had to come from the small travel agency in town as they had called and informed him the FBI had tickets waiting for him. He would need to stop in and remind them confidentiality was essential. Bess the owner was another gossip in town.
“Where did you hear that from Wes, seems as though word spreads faster in these parts than the light of day. Not sure where Molly from the bakery heard it but she mentioned it this morning, small town Dan.”
“I know but I think I need to stop in and chat with Bess and Molly and remind them some things need to stay confidential. Busy bodies are what they are.”
“Dan I was back of the town office this morning and found a pail of gas stashed away behind some trash there. Seems as though someone was about to torch the office as well. I took pictures and collected the gas can for prints if you like, no doubt we have a connection there.”
“Good work, can you get it off to forensics this morning ASAP, tell them I need a report quickly. Maybe we can get the firebug connected as well to all this. Everything went up far to fast for any normal fire.”
“People are not very smart are they Wes," as he took a bite out the fritter and savored the flavor. "Man alive that girl can cook if nothing else, these are to die for. If word gets out we are going to start line ups like the big box stores do when they have these fancy sales. Truly hope that never happens in our town. I need you to step into my role as Sheriff while I slip off to Washington. You have proven yourself invaluable Wes as a Deputy, thank you for all the extra effort you have displayed.”
“Thank you Dan, coming from you that means a great deal to me. It is good to be working at something I love and the Mrs is as happy as a cat in a sardine factory, spending the money as fast as I can bring it in.”
Just then the fax beeped and the usual smiley face came through signed with a “J.”
“Hmmm said Wes as he licked the last of the fritter from his fingers, been finding many of those on the floor in the morning, care to tell me about them.”
Dan smiled, “Maybe in time, too early to say one way or the other.”
“What ever is happening it is good to see you smile Dan, really good. Speaking of smiling, we have church again on Sunday, we need the rematch with the boys, they are still talking about the big win.”
“Count me in Wes, thinking I should clean out the old horse shoe pits at home and get some practice in, get some of the rust off the shoes out there.”
“Good plan, well I should run this gas can into forensics, at Grand Rapids, need anything from the city Dan?
“Nope, just drive careful in the city and come back safe as this will be your town next week, I need you alert in case we have some other activity happening.”
Dan spend the rest of the day cleaning up the loose ends he had on his desk, double checking all his notes on the case and typing a full report on his finding. His detail even impressed himself as the investigation was all placed on a full report using several sheets of paper rather than the many he had found on his desk. It was good to get this all cleared away.
Just then the phone rang, he was startled as he was deep in thought. As well the fax beeped, it was a busy office all of a sudden. He answered the phone to a familiar voice “Could I speak with that famous Lawman from small town America.”
“Hi Jennifer, thanks for the smiley face again this morning, they have been causing a stir around here.”
She gave that small laugh he was beginning to really enjoy. “Now! That is a good thing as we are all called to bring a little joy into each others life, I know you have for me,” and she stopped short with that statement. “Ronny asked me to get you on the line, oh yes better check out the fax as it is self explanatory. Here is Ronny and blessings on your day Dan.”
“Dan you old shoe, how are you doing Mr. Famous? “Trust all is well with you, you have caused quite a stir here and now you are plastered all over the news, they are calling you the John Wayne of justice in your parts.”
Dan reached over to the fax and scanned a newspaper article with his picture and all on the front page. The picture was twenty years old but the caption was “He cleaned out his Town.”
“Seems as though you have made the news and are considered to be the ice breaker in this case." Ronny said, "Congratulations as the FBI has credited you with being the man of the hour, which is highly unusual for them to do. Must have left an impression on them Dan.”
“Well basically it is all thanks to the connections I have, a team effort with you and the many other involved. Not sure why I have gotten all the credit?
“Take credit where credit is due Dan, you saw things were not right and started asking the right questions and the end result is you are being hailed a hero.”
Dan was lost for words and the best he could do was say “Just doing the job I have been called to do.”
Dan we get to see each other in Washington as I have been called to testify as well it will be good to see you. I have arranged a room in the same hotel as you for my team, that way we can spend sometime together. I know you will enjoy meeting the team Dan.”
“Good, will see you there, any words of advice for me about testifying?
“Nope just be the man that God has called you to be, open and honest is all and leave the hard stuff to Him, He will give you the words you need, integrity is what He calls from all of us. Oh one other thing bring some dress clothes along, you are in the city now and you never know you may want to look your finest in the evenings, see you.” The line went dead.
Dan lifted his cowboy hat off his head, gave it a scratch wondering what that comment was all about, maybe dinner with some important people or something. He thought of the dusty suit hanging in the closet and the last time he had worn it was at Beth’s funeral.
He would take a day off soon and slip into Cedar Rapids and look for something new. A new suit was overdue anyway. At least he would have something decent to be buried in if he needed it sooner than he thought.
Dan locked up and stepped out onto the deck of the office, looked up to the east and down to the west. His town was safe again and he could hear children playing in all directions.
He walked over to the Travel Office and Bess said “Hello hero as he walked in. What can I do for you Dan, Molly was leaning against the counter as she had just closed as well.
“Well Bess and Molly good to catch the two of you together. I just wanted to stop and remind you that all business matters are to be held in confidence. Business like the FBI plane tickets must be kept within the walls of this office. Hate to be a stick in the mud but this is a police matter and not one for the public.”
“Sorry Dan I was just really proud of you and wanted to share things with Molly, you see you are all over the news on the internet as well. Famous man among us.”
“Appreciate all you both do for the community girls but this is a personal request, do you understand?
“We do and it will not happen again, please forgive us both, sorry for the confusion we may have caused. Small town needs news you know. Sorry it was at your expense?
“Done” as he leaned across the counter and kissed each on the cheek. Love you girls and I knew you both would understand.”
Bess blushed and said, “I better never wash that cheek again. Thank you for all the work you have done here in town. We are just so proud and blessed to have you fill both offices. It is such a pleasure for everyone to be able to walk the streets and the children are playing again and having a wonderful time. Thank you Sheriff.”
At the end of the drive as always Jake was there to meet him. Yes this was where he belonged, not in some big city. He packed a lunch, made a thermos of coffee and headed to the river carrying his fly rod. It was time he got in some practice before Jennifer came.
Jake lay on the bank as he tied on a fly, stripped out some line and made several long false casts before finally allowing the fly to settle on the water. It landed quietly and began to drift down river. Then came the strike and all the cares of the day passed away as the thrill of the fight took him to years past and better times. Yes he was home.
“Thank you Father for the peace I find here at the river. You are a God who loves me and I love you back. Thank you for the peace you bring into my day.”
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