Paul checked the hunting rifle one more time. It had been a gift from his father, for his seventeenth birthday. It had been a long time since he had pulled it out of the case, so he had made sure he had cleaned it in a very thorough manner.
-Never point a gun, unless you intend to use it -had said his father, during one of the times Paul had accompanied him in his job.
Les had been a deputy for the local police department. While it sounded like a pretty important job, the reality of it was that he spent almost all his days hanging around the roads that lead to and away from the town, making sure that people drived in a safe manner.
It had been a hot afternoon in the middle of the summer. Paul was eleven years old, and was trying to read his Batman comic-book for the third time.
Les was reclined on the driver seat of the police car, his eyes closed behind the dark-tinted sunglasses. Even though he tried to be as relaxed as he could, he kept himself alert enough to listen to the radio chatter.
The car was just behind big sign next to the road, parked in a nice spot to be in the cool shade of it.
Just as Paul had finished the comic-book, and was trying to read the letters section, a blue car passed right in front of them, its engine roaring in a savage manner, like an animal of steel trying to catch a prey.
-Paul, put on your seatbelt -ordered his father, while he turned on the patrol car's engine.
The kid did as instructed. Les went after the car, switching on the turret lights.
-Dispatch, here's car 04. I'm currently of pursuit of a blue Camaro, for a speed limit violation -reported Les through the radio.
-Yeah! -Paul yelled with excitement. They were in pursuit of a criminal, just like he had seen in the movies and tv. Most probably an escaped convict, big like a mountain and his arms covered in tattoos.
He had been accompanying his dad since he was ten years old, and this was the first time that anything interesting had happened. Most of the time they just stayed inside the car, waiting for the end of Les's shift.
After a short pursuit, the Camaro pulled over the side of the road. They were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by vast grazing fields, delimited by wooden fences with barbed wire.
-Stay here, and don't get out, no matter what -said Les with a stern voice.
Paul nodded, and saw his father get out of the patrol car. Les walked towards the Camaro with a slow and careful pace.
He got right next to the driver's side, and Paul was surprised to see that the heinous criminal they had pursued was a young blonde woman, wearing sunglasses so large they covered half her face.
The woman took of her sunglasses, and smiled at Les.
-Hello officer, what seems to be the problem? -she asked, with an innocent and playful tone in her voice.
-License and registration, please ma'am -said Les, his face a stern mask.
The young woman complied, and Les checked the documents in a very careful manner.
-Ma'am, you were over fifteen miles the speed limit in this part of the road -Les informed her.
-Well, I'm sorry, I've must missed the speed limit sign -said the young woman, still smiling.
-I'm gonna have to write you a ticket for that -Les added, while reaching for the notepad and pen.
-Can't you just, like, let me go with a warning? -she mentioned. -I'd be very grateful.
Les stopped writing the ticket. He looked at the young woman. She was probably in her early twenties, with a pretty face and what must been a nice, fit body beneath her half-buttoned shirt.
-Is that so? -Les asked, while taking off his sunglasses.
-Yes -answered the young woman, her smile becoming a little more seductive.
Les finished writing the ticket, and handed it to her.
-Then be grateful that I'm just giving you the ticket, and not taking you in for attempted bribery -the officer said, handing the paper note to the woman.
Even from inside the patrol car, Paul saw how the woman's expression changed in the most radical way. The smile turned into a frown, and she took the ticket away with barely contained disgust.
-Please drive more carefully, ma'am -Les warned her, but the woman had already started the car's engine again.
The blue Camaro returned to the road, but this time at a more sensible speed. Les just stood there for a moment more, seeing how the car got lost in the distance.
It wouldn't be until a couple of years later that his father told him the complete story.
-But why didn't you accept her offer? -Paul had asked, while the two of them were sitting in the ugly orange couch.
-Because rules exist for a reason, son. They are a shield that protect us from all the bad people out there -explained Les, then he took another sip from his bottle of beer. -I like to think that, by giving her that ticket, I made sure she didn't end up crashing against a cow, or worse, running over a kid like you.
Paul remembered that moment as the one where he started to respect his father, not like a son does, but as a man. That was a feeling that would endure for the rest of his life.
It was almost closing time, when Paul approached Henry. As usual, he was busy cleaning up one of the counters, making sure there was no dust over the glass display.
-Henry, I'm gonna need next weekend off -blurted Paul out.
His boss stopped rubbing the rag, and turned towards him, with an expression of mild annoyance on his face.
-Well, first Nick and now you, too -the fat man said. -I don't care much about him, but you're my best employee.
-You only have two employees, Henry -Paul answered back, half-jokingly.
-Yeah, and now I won't have any for next weekend -Henry complained. -What gives?
-I've thought it over, and have decided to go with the guys, over to Arizona -said Paul, feeling a bit anxious about Henry's reaction to the news.
-Oh. Oh!- Henry reacted, then a big smile appeared on his rotund face. -Now that's some good news.
Paul felt relieved. He didn't know what he would've done if Henry had reacted otherwise. Maybe risk being fired for not going to work during the weekend, even given his situation.
-I only wish I could go with you, too. But I'm too old to camp in the middle of goddamn nowhere, and I gotta keep an eye on the store -Henry commented, with a bit of sadness in his voice.
-Well, Rich is going -Paul added.
-That guy couldn't find his ass if you told him to use both hands and that it was next to his wallet -Henry said, snorting with contempt. -At least he won't go easy on those damn mexicans.
-Thought there were people from those countries down under, too -Paul mentioned.
He had learned a lot since meeting the guys, over two years ago. Back when no one had offered answers to his troubles, just the same tired simpathy and useless platitudes.
-Potato, Potayto. They come from Mexico, then to me they're all mexicans -Henry said, rolling his eyeswith a bit of impatience.
-Hey, doesn't make any difference to me, either. They want to get in here illegaly, they are all the same to me -Paul explained.
-Criminals, Paul. If they're breaking the law, then they're just criminals, don't ever forget that -Henry insisted, his voice becoming a low growl at the last part. -Your dad surely knew a thing or two about that, that's for sure.
Paul nodded in agreement. While he was growing up, he sometimes had heard people complain about other police officers in the town. Too lazy, they said of Jackie Smith; or corrupted, like Mike Smith turned out to be. That one had been a real shock to everyone in the county.
But the only word that ever came out of people's mouths when talking about Les Jackson was that he was fair. Harsh, but fair in the end. Just like the laws that he was supposed to uphold, doing a much better job than most officers in the force.
-Yes, you're right, boss. In any case, I doubt we even will come across a single one of them out there -Paul said, while shifting his weight from his bad leg to the other one. -It's a big border, after all.
-At least I will rest a bit easier this weekend knowing you guys are out there, keeping an eye for us good folk -Henry commented, then he grab the rag again and went back to cleaning the glass counter. -Do me a favor, and see if we have enough boxes of .22 ammo, will ya?
-Sure thing, boss -Paul then went back to the warehouse, with his usual slow pace.
Henry's mention of his father had stirred the feelings in his heart. Paul hoped that he could see that, even if it was in a small way, his son was also trying to make the world a better place, his country a little safer.
Paul tried to concentrate in the task at hand. There was still some stuff he had to do for the upcoming trip, and less than a week to get it done.