29 - Officer Barnes

Submitted by Ken Watts on Fri, 01/19/2007 - 07:11

Julie was terrified, the poor kid.

Everything seemed to be going wrong at once, and, as far as she could tell, it was mostly her fault. At least she seemed to be in the middle of it all.

No matter how many times she went over the finances, the restaurant was still losing money. She couldn't get accepted at the Art Institute. Somehow she had gotten herself all tangled up with Tim.

And now there was Mr. Smith.

She should have recognized his voice while he was still in the closet. That was where she went wrong. If she'd only paid closer attention.

But she hadn't.

And then her mother—a little overprotective, but you couldn't blame her—had sent her out front, and it wasn't until Officer Barnes drove up with his puppy-dog smile—when she got the excuse she needed to go back in and see what was going on—that she had the chance to actually glimpse him, wrapped in that stupid apron, but still the same old man who had been so kind to her and to Tim the night before.

The problem was, she really owed him for that, at least she owed him not to get him in trouble, which was most likely what her mother was going to try to do, or do by accident, anyway, without trying, and all because she'd been stupid enough not to recognize his voice coming through the door in the first place.

She wanted to stay and say something to him, when he came out of the restroom, but she didn't dare.

Instead she followed her mother outside to where Jim Barnes was getting out of his police car, grinning from sideburn to sideburn.

She had to stop her before she said something stupid to the police—even if it was only Officer Barnes—and got poor Mr. Smith into trouble.

By the time she caught up Jim Barnes was already talking, his cap pushed back on his head.

"I saw Alfred up the road. He says he quit."

He was holding a picture in his hand—a Polaroid photograph.

Julie sidled close enough to see the picture. It was of Tim's uncle and Mr. Smith, at the party last night. And Mr. Smith's face was circled with a felt tip pen.

Her mother scowled. "Yes. The ingrate quit."

At that moment, to Julie's horror, a window slid open behind the policeman, and Mr. Smith's head stuck out. He took one look and ducked back in, slamming the window closed again.

Officer Barnes glanced around in time to see the sill go down.

"Found someone to take his place already?"

Her mother laughed.

"Him? No, he just showed up…"