The Last Town #2:Preparing for the Dead(9)

By: Stephen Knight

“I want these boys arrested!” Aguilar snapped as soon as Hailey stepped out of the SUV.

“On what charge, sir?” he asked.

“Theft!” Aguilar held up several magazines in his hand. “They were walking out of the store with these!”

Hailey sighed and took the magazines from Aguilar. Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler, one issue each. He looked at the three boys, the oldest of which was maybe thirteen. None of them would meet his eye. Hailey had to fight not to smile.

“Still no Internet at the reservation, boys?” he asked, good-naturedly.

“This is not funny,” Aguilar barked. “They were on their way out of the store with goods they hadn’t paid for, not to mention they were in possession of age-restricted items!”

“Boys? Is this true?” Hailey asked.

The three boys looked at each other, and the eldest made a noncommittal noise that could have been affirmation, denial, or something in between. Hailey fought not to smile once again.

“Well?” Aguilar said. “Aren’t you going to read them their rights, or something?”

Hailey handed the magazines back to the drugstore owner. “You really want me to arrest these kids, Mister Aguilar?”

“Absolutely!” Aguilar almost shouted. “Theft is a serious crime!”

“We were still in the store,” the oldest boy said softly.

“What was that?” Hailey asked.

The oldest boy looked up. “We were still in the store,” he said again. “We hadn’t left yet.”

“Oh, really?” Hailey looked at Aguilar. “Sir, did these boys leave the premises with your property?”

“They were headed for the door when I stopped them,” Aguilar said, as if talking to an idiot.

“Sir, were they still in the store when you stopped them?” Hailey asked again.

“What difference does that make? Intent is intent!”

“Yeah, okay,” Hailey said. He motioned the boys toward the Excursion. “I’ll take it from here.”

“Don’t you want to take my report?” Aguilar asked.

“I’ve got what I need,” Hailey said, “and you have your merchandise. Right?”

“Yes, but—”

“I’ve got it, sir. The department will be in touch.” Hailey turned and led the boys to the SUV, then pulled open the rear door. “Climb in, guys,” he said.

“I want them prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!” Aguilar said. “To the fullest! Do you understand me?”

“That’s up to the Inyo County prosecutor, but I’ll pass that on,” Hailey said. “I’ll copy you on the paperwork, Mister Aguilar. Don’t worry about that.”

“I’ll be following up with your chief,” Aguilar said, a menacing tone in his voice. “Just to let you know.”

“And I’m good with that,” Hailey said as he motioned the three youths into the back of the vehicle. “Just to let you know.”

Aguilar started walking toward him, his brows knitting. “Now just one second—”

The door leading into the pharmacy flew open behind him, and a heavy Hispanic woman in her late forties practically exploded out of the opening.

“I had to call nine-one-one!” she shouted.

“What?” Aguilar turned back, and his tone of voice indicated he was even more annoyed, now that a good rant had been derailed. “Ernesta, what are you talking about?”

“Mister Whittaker collapsed! I think he had a heart attack!” the woman said, her eyes bright with panic as her ample bosom heaved beneath her white lab coat. “Lou is giving him CPR right now!” She looked past Aguilar and saw Hailey standing by the police SUV, still holding the door open for the three Indian youths. The boys stood fixed in place, looking from Hailey to Ernesta and Aguilar and back again.

“Officer, can you help?” she asked him.

“Guys, you get out of here,” Hailey told the boys as he slammed the door closed and reached for the radio transceiver on his shoulder. They looked at him for a moment, uncertain of what to do, then took off down the street.

“Hey!” Aguilar shouted.

Hailey ignored him as he headed for the door while speaking into his radio. “Three to central—you have a call for medical at the pharmacy? Over.”

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