Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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Officer "Paddy" O'Sheen stopped dead in his tracks in the darkness at the far end of Mangrove Street. His ruddy face darkened and the twirling night-stick stopped in mid air and fell to his side. The explosion of the shotgun against the night came clear and loud from the row of cheap cottages along Fox Creek.
O'Sheen crossed Mangrove at a dog-trot, trying as he ran to determine from where the shot had come.
Lights were flashing on down the street. The bump-bump of Shad Waller's wooden leg sounded sharply against the frost- covered sidewalk.
"Officer O'Sheen! Down here! Quick!"
Shad ran toward the stout cop as fast as his stiff leg would allow.
"It's Richard. He's gone and killed himself."
Paddy was winded. He didn't speak, but followed Shad back toward the little one story, frame cottage in which the two old men had always kept bachelor's haven. As he pounded heavily up the steps, Paddy O'Sheen was doing some furious thinking.
He didn't like it a little bit, he didn't. By the shade of Saint Patrick, Richard Rand had always been a kindly, God-fearing man. Lazy perhaps, but with a love for his dog Pat, and a liking for the out of doors and hunting. By all the Saints, what would such a man be doing shooting himself?
Shad followed him into the tiny, dirty bedroom and stood by the door as Paddy O'Sheen bent over the still body of the man on the floor.
"Heard the shot from the kitchen," Shad said. His jaws were working at high speed and tobacco-juice streaked from between heavy lips. Shad's shoulders were stooped forward as though this problem were too much for them to bear. "I can't for the life of me figure out why he done it.
Paddy O'Sheen's eyes darted over the shotgun, a twelve-gauge that lay on the floor by the blood-covered corpse. There was a bloody, jagged hole in Richard Rand's chest, almost the size of a tea-cup. O'Sheen looked away quickly, a soft Irish curse on his lips. Paddy O'Sheen didn't like violent death. It made him sick and angry inside.
"You run to the drug-store right away, Shad," he said. "Tell the Chief to send the death-wagon over. No use letting Richard lie here longer than need be."
Shad turned toward the outer door, hesitated and turned back again. His face was long and bewildered.
"Richard kinda complained of the distemper," he faltered. "I told him to get under the blankets and warm himself. Paddy, so help me I don't know...."
"Sure, and I understand how you feel, Shad. Don't go worrying about it. Can't do Richard no good now. Run along and I'll take care of things here."
Shad stumped out toward the porch and the rising voices as the door opened told O'Sheen that a crowd had gathered.
HE started a search of the room. There was something missing. Something that Paddy couldn't quite put his thick finger on. The bed was torn up and the whole room was a mess. Not the kind of house his Marta kept, Paddy decided with a little smile.
Richard Rand's guns were on their hooks by the far wall. Richard loved his guns and his dog Pat above all else.
The dog, Pat!
That was it. Pat was missing. O'Sheen hadn't heard him bark, even when the shot was fired. Yet, Pat was dead loyal to Richard. The dog wouldn't go from the house or hunt, even with Shad Waller, not without Richard's permission.
"Glory be!" Paddy O'Sheen's lips moved soundlessly and he studied the rack of rifles and revolvers, fastened neatly against the wall.
Doc Hargreave's death-wagon was coming now. It rounded the corner of Mangrove and Vine with a deep-throated roar. Brakes squealed and it halted outside. The sudden rise of voices again told Paddy that Doc Hargreave would know all about the death of Richard Rand before he entered the house.
It was nearly midnight. Paddy slipped out of the back door and stood in the cold, bright moonlight. The fields beyond the shaft of Fox Creek were dew-covered and silvery under the silent light.
Paddy O'Sheen remembered Richard's love for those fields and a sudden lump gathered in his throat.
The bump-bump of Shad Waller's leg sounded against the frozen ground at the side of the house. The old man passed Paddy O'Sheen without a word, entered the kitchen and settled into his chair by the iron-bellied stove. The front door slammed. Richard Rand would be going on his last ride. Paddy followed Shad into the kitchen and sat down opposite him.
For a long time neither of them spoke. Paddy heard the death- wagon grind into low gear and draw away from the house. The lamp flickered and black smoke flickered up, sooting the chimney.
A faint bark sounded far away across the fields. Shad came forward in his chair, white hands with heavy blue veins showing as they clutched the chair arms.
"Sounds like Pat's coming home," Paddy O'Sheen said softly.
Shad grinned, and his teeth were brown with tobacco stain.
"Darned dog's been gone since morning," he said. "'Bout time he found his way home."
PADDY O'SHEEN came forward in his chair with visible effort, waiting. Minutes passed and the sullen expression on Shad Waller's face remained unchanged. The quick pad-pad of heavy paws sounded against the rough boards of the porch. Pat, the English setter, was whining and scratching at the door. With the toe of his foot, Paddy O'Sheen reached out and kicked the door open.
The dog bounced into the room with a happy bark, then stopped still, teeth bared at Shad Waller.
"Down!" Paddy said sharply.
Pat circled Shad slowly, and settled at Paddy's feet. He seemed to recognize Paddy O'Sheen's voice of authority. The dog was wet, and a short length of rope hung from his neck. He started to whine softly, and his brown eyes were filled with tears.
Paddy loosened his service pistol from his holster and drew it out. He balanced it carefully on one knee.
"Sorry, Shad!" he said. "I've been waiting for Pat. If he hadn't come back by himself, I'd have had to find him. As it is, things are a little easier."
Shad Waller sat very still, eyes narrowed. His eyes never wavered from the drawn gun.
"I don't know what you're aiming at," he said hoarsely. "You'd think I...."
"I'm aiming straight at your heart," Paddy answered coldly. "You killed Richard, Shad. If you move out of that chair I'll fill you with lead so quick that Saint Patrick will roll over and cheer for the Irish all over again."
Shad was motionless, jaws tight set.
"Prove it," he challenged. "They ain't many as know Richard and me didn't get along. I didn't have no reason to do away with him. You gotta say a lot more than that to put a scare into me."
O'SHEEN'S neck turned violent red. His trigger finger jumped with the nerves.
"You planned to kill Pat first," his voice was like ice. "You asked Richard if you could hunt Pat because that was the only way you could get him out of the house. Maybe you should have shot the dog after all."
Paddy went on. "You tied Pat in the woods and came back here to face Richard alone. You shot him in the chest at six feet and he never had a chance to fight back."
"You ain't talking sense," Shad growled.
"Did you ever try to hold a shotgun with the end of the barrel in your chest and the trigger where you could fire it?"
"Nope," Shad Waller grinned crookedly. "I ain't as big a fool as Richard was."
"You're a bigger one," O'Sheen said evenly. "It's possible to hold a shotgun that way, by pressing the barrel tight against you. The shot would leave a small hole the size of the end of the barrel. Shad, you blew a hole the size of a small dish. He couldn't have shot himself that way."
Shad staggered to his feet suddenly realizing the terrible manner in which he had betrayed himself. His eyes darted toward the still open door. Pat was up, hair stiff and fangs bared.
"Go on, Shad," O'Sheen said. "Run for it. I'll shoot you down before you take three steps."
Shad hesitated and sank back into his chair. His breath was coming out jerkily.
"I ain't running," he watched the dog as it stood there, waiting to spring.
"I shot Richard, but if it wasn't for the dang bullet hole...."
Paddy O'Sheen chuckled.
"It's true, it is, that when I saw that wound I knew it couldn't be suicide. I couldn't be sure you did it, Shad, until I remembered that Richard keeps Pat in the house during hunting season, and that no one ever hunts Pat except Richard and you. I guess Pat himself had a little to do with catching you, after all. You tied him somewhere while you killed Richard, then you went back and set him loose."
O'Sheen stood up, the big gun loose in his right hand. With his left, he stroked the fur around Pat's heavy neck.
"That's where he made his mistake, eh, Pat?