As promised, Luther returned in three hours and began pulling us back to shore. We had a full cooler of fish and an empty cooler of beer! Our day on the lake had been terrific, and just as we had wanted. It was a relaxing time away from work and the daily troubles in Memphis.
Turning out of the boat channel, and motoring toward the shallow dock, I saw a large, fat, ugly man standing on the bank near the bait shop and watching our approach. He had his hands on his hips, and appeared to be waiting on Luther to get us back to the bank. Dressed in light brown pants and shirt, a wide brimmed hat with a tassel and had a badge on his left chest - this man was a police officer; a sheriff I assumed. The midday sun was throwing a bright reflection off his mirrored sunglasses, and judging from his posture, I figured you would find a pair of unhappy eyes behind them. An unlit, half-smoked cigar was tightly clamped in the right corner of his mouth, and his facial features reminded me of Carson the English bulldog – if that was possible!
Luther docked, secured both boats and then helped Jack, Joe and me out onto the bank. Our visitor watched, without speaking and without changing his posture or position until we had unloaded both boats. Finally, he took a step in our direction and I heard a loud gruff voice from behind those glasses and through a mouth that was still full of a cigar.
“Luther, where’s Garrett?” he asked.
“I dunno Mista Cribbs. I ain’t see’d him today. I jest been taking care of these here fishing clients and watchin’ tha’ bait shop. Mista Garrett ain’t been around. Does you need him?”
“I’m the one asking questions,” he snapped, before finally removing his hands from his hips. “Are these ‘fishing clients’ those Private Detectives from Memphis that came up here to snoop around?” He was looking and pointing at Jack, Joe and me.
“Wait a minute,” I said in a loud sharp voice. “We came here to fish and that’s just what we’ve been doing. I don’t know who told you anything different, but they’re mistaken!”
“Luther,” he said turning back to face him and ignoring my comment. “You tell Garrett to come to my office and turn himself in – pronto! If I have to go find him, I’ll throw him ‘under’ the jail, and he’ll never get out. You understand?”
“Hold on,” Jack interrupted taking a step forward. “What is Garrett wanted for? What has he supposedly done?”
“Who the hell are you?” he asked angrily and turning to face Jack.
“I’m an attorney, and I’m really not involved in any of this. But, Garrett is a friend of mine and I’ve represented him in the past. So, if he’s being accused of some crime, then I’d like to know about it,” Jack said frankly.
He finally removed the half-smoked, unlit cigar from his mouth, spit on the ground and then returned the cigar to its original position.
“Since you say you’re not involved in any of this, I suggest you let it stay that way. We don’t like outsiders sticking their noses in our business – somebody might cut it off, and you wouldn’t like that,” he said staring at Jack from behind his mirrored sunglasses.
“Sheriff,” I interrupted in a soft tone, hoping to calm the conversation. “We’re going back to Memphis this afternoon and aren’t interested in any of your problems. We don’t expect to see or talk with Garrett. But if we do, what would you like for us to tell him?”
He thought for a minute, removed the cigar and spit again, then quickly returned it to his mouth. Shaking his head and glancing up at the sun, he finally took off his hat, revealing a full head of auburn hair that seemed to reach in all directions - the sheriff was in serious need of some attention from a barber. He wiped his sweaty brow with his shirtsleeve and returned the hat before speaking.
“Garrett Steel beat up a truck driver last night. He was at Rattler’s and got drunk, as usual. Evidently, he and this truck driver got into some argument, and a fight started – the truck driver got the worst of it. The driver came in this morning and signed a complaint. Now, I’ve got a warrant to bring Garrett down to see the Lake County Judge. You tell Garrett that if he comes in without me having to go get him, it’ll go easier on him. That’s what you can tell him,” he said turning and walking back toward the parking area.
We watched in silence as he removed his hat, got into his sheriff’s cruiser and drove out onto the highway.
Excerpted from "Reelfoot" by Gerald Darnell. Copyright © 2013 by Gerald Darnell. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.