“What the hell is that?” asked Sheriff Bear Ellison.
“Well Boss, that is what they call a ‘mine resistant ambush protected assault vehicle’,” answered deputy Kennesaw who was riding shotgun next to the sheriff.
“Why is it parked here?” Ellison asked as he pulled into the garage of the Calumet County Sheriff’s Department.
“It’s ours. It’s a gift from the department of defense.”
“What am I supposed to do with a god damn tank, Kennesaw?”
“Oh, I suppose you could do lots of things, Boss.”
“Well, for one, you could use it for traffic enforcement. I’m sure the out-of-towners would be real impressed with it when we pull them over for speeding,” Kennesaw quipped.
Sheriff Ellison shook his head. “That thing is a monstrosity.”
“Do you want me to get rid of it? Gunnison would probably take it?”
“Why would DoD be giving these things out?”
“They must not need them anymore.”
“Yeah. Or perhaps they’ll be expecting some favors from us.”
“I don’t like the idea of owing them,” said Kennesaw.
“Seriously, look at that thing. It’s obscene.”
“Maybe we could dress it up with bunting and roll it down Main Street for the July 4th parade,” replied Kennesaw.
“Splendid idea. And when we roll that thing down Main Street, do you think we’ll be cultivating a serve-and-protect image?”
“It’ll probably scare the bejesus out of folks. Maybe Frenchie will have an idea of what to do with it.”
“I’m sure he would.”
“Do you want me to call him?”
“Not just yet. Could you have someone move it around to the back so it’s not so conspicuous. It makes us look like we’re going to war or something. I don’t like that image.”
“Will do, Boss.”
“So I’m curious how you we should handle this situation,” asked the sheriff as they pulled into the garage.
“I thought you just told me, Boss.”
“Sorry, I meant this Alco situation.”
“Well Boss, that’s a tough one. It sure looks to me like Turcot executed that Billy Joe.”
“Yes it does.”
“But then again, Billy Joe executed two people himself, and shot two more.”
“If you wanted my personal opinion—”
“I always do.”
“I don’t think Billy Joe Rolfe is going to be missed all that much.”
“No, I don’t suppose he will be,” replied the sheriff.
“He probably would have died, anyway. They said he was shot five times in the back. No head shot and there wouldn’t have been anything to question.”
“This is a tough spot for us.”
“Is it, Boss?”
Ellison shook his head. “We both know he probably can’t be prosecuted, even if he did execute him. He’s going to be a hero.”
“I think you’re right about that, Boss.”
“But let’s go have a little talk with him. It’s our job.”
“Why? To go through the motions?”
“Call it due diligence.”
Sheriff Ellison pushed the button that closed the garage and the two of them went into the station. Kennesaw checked his inbox and Ellison filled a styrofoam cup with coffee along the way to the interview room. They came upon a steel door. Ellison knocked, then looked through the portal window to confirm that Turcot was waiting for them inside. He asked Kennesaw if he was ready. Kennesaw nodded. He turned the handle and they went in.
“So am I under arrest?” Turcot asked before they could even introduce themselves.
“No,” answered Sheriff Ellison. “Not at this time.”
“Can I leave?”
Turcot remained seated, staring at Ellison and then at Kennesaw, waiting for them to say something.
“We need to conduct an interview with you,” Ellison said.
“You mean an interrogation?” Turcot asked.
“Just think of it like a conversation. It’s probably just a formality, really,” Ellison explained further.
“What about? I already told your deputy everything.”
“Yes you did, and we appreciate your cooperation. I just wanted to chat with you myself, though. This whole thing is going to be a big deal around here. I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t ask a few questions when I had the opportunity.”
“I know what you want to know.”
“By all means, lay it on me,” Ellison said.
“You want to know if I finished him off—if I executed the shooter.”
Ellison turned to Kennesaw.
“Why don’t you tell us about you, Monte,” Kennesaw asked.
“What do you want to know?”
“I suppose we’d like to know what makes Monte Turcot tick,” Kennesaw explained.
“Are you a cop or a shrink?”
“Probably a little bit of both sometimes,” Kennesaw said. “Just humor us, Monte. I’ve only run into you once or twice. I can’t say that I know anything about you, really.”
“I’m not very interesting.”
“It says here that you’re a veteran.”
“Thank you for your service,” said Ellison.
Turcot turned to Ellison. “Service to who?”
“To your country,” explained Ellison. “You fought for our freedom.”
Turcot laughed. “I fought for KBR’s bottom line. Your freedom didn’t have anything to do with it.”
Ellison looked perplexed. “Do you want to talk about that?” asked Ellison, “your experience over there?”
“No. I don’t.”
“So why did you tell us that, then?” asked Ellison.
“Because you wanted to know about me.”
“What was it like?” asked Ellison. “How long were you there?”
Turcot leaned back and popped his knuckles. “Seriously? If I’m not under arrest then I need to get going.”
“I’d like to know,” asked Ellison.
“How are you different, now?” Ellison asked.
“I’m conditioned,” Turcot answered.
“Can you explain that?” asked Kennesaw.
“What is this, a tag team?” asked Turcot.
“We’re just having a conversation. That’s all,” Ellison said. “What does that mean…conditioned?”
“Becoming a professional, modern, combat soldier involves an extensive re-engineering of the mind.”
“Interesting,” said Ellison.
Turcot pointed to his head. “We unlearn how to think. Thinking introduces delay…indecision. That can be fatal.”
“So you react?” Ellison asked.
“No. We act. We learn how to take action.”
“Did you think about what you were doing in the Alco?”
“What were your actions based on?” asked Ellison.
“The sound of gunfire.”
“Of course,” replied Ellison. “So you heard gunfire and you returned fire?”
“How many times did you shoot Billy Joe?” asked Kennesaw. “Do you remember?”
“Who’s Billy Joe?”
“Billy Joe was the shooter,” answered Kennesaw.
“I don’t remember.”
“You shot him in the back,” Kennesaw suggested.
“But then once in the head?”
Turcot didn’t answer.
“Was he threatening you?” asked Kennesaw. “He had two pistols.”
“I thought he might fire.”
“So…” Kennesaw continued, “Billy Joe had a pistol and you shot him in the head?”
“Did you feel as if you didn’t have any choice?” Kennesaw asked.
Sheriff Ellison turned to Kennesaw after he asked it.
“That’s right. I acted. I ended the threat.”
Kennesaw turned to Ellison. The sheriff nodded towards the door.
“We’re going to step outside for a moment, Monte,” said Ellison.”Do you mind? Do you need anything while you wait?”
“How long are you going to be?”
“Just a couple minutes.”
Ellison and Kennesaw left Monte Turcot in the interview room and went down the hall a bit, out of earshot. Ellison leaned his brawny frame against the wall and sipped his coffee. He pulled his sleeve up and looked at his wristwatch.
“What’s your watch telling you, Boss?” Kennesaw asked.
Ellison crossed his arms. “It’s telling me that you did a fine job of leading him along.”
“I thought that’s what you wanted, Boss.”
Ellison gave him a sour look. “I guess we need to decide how far to take this,” he said.
“Even if we did think he finished Billy Joe off, you think any jury around here would convict him?”
“That would be the DA’s call.”
“If Chalmers takes it on. But if he did, he can be a real pain in the ass. He won’t like our process much, either.”
Yeah, he’s got a lot on his plate. I doubt he’ll take this on. It’s a sure loser.” Ellison pondered for a moment. “What do we know about Billy Joe Rolfe? I don’t know his family.”
“They don’t have anything. His folks rent a place on the south side, a couple miles south of the prison. I think Billy Joe’s dad works there.”
“Have they had any trouble, any run-ins?”
“DUI, I think. Domestic a couple years back.”
“They ever lawyer up on any of that?”
“Not that I remember. They plea bargained out.”
“Any union connections? Any connections to the commissioner or the state? Any rich uncles or other benefactors?”
“I don’t think so, Boss. But I’ll have to go check it out.”
“All right. Well let’s go back in and talk to Turcot.”
The two went back down the hall, knocked twice on the steel door and went in. Turcot was right where they left him.
“Well, Monte,” explained the sheriff. “It doesn’t look like we have anything else for you at this time.”
“So does that mean I’m free to go?”
“Yes,” answered Ellison. “Kennesaw can give you a ride back if you need it. Thanks for coming down.”
“Are you dealing with all this okay, Monte?” Kennesaw asked. “You’ve been through a lot today.”
“You can either run around and tamp out fires all your life or pick up the torch yourself.”
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean by that, Monte, but will you do me one small favor?” asked Ellison.
“What’s that?” Turcot answered.
“Would you stick around town for a couple weeks, or at least let us know where you’re going if you leave, just in case there are any follow up questions we need to ask you.”