Here is what’s likely to be my last teaser for THIRTEEN and it’s one of those sections that’s all about breaking with the received wisdom of writing. Show, don’t tell is the mantra, but the truth is: sometimes telling works better. Or at least it has its advantages. The narrator of this scene is the county sheriff, who provides a slightly different perspective on Kellen, and whose interpretation of events are just as important as the events. The sheriff represents the perspective of “the community” which is pretty darn hard to show to any effect. You’ll let me know if I’m wrong, though, won’t you?
I’ve known Junior Barfoot his whole life. I never expected him to grow up to be much, because both his parents were as worthless as they could be, but he wasn’t much more trouble than most boys his age. He did some joyriding and some motorcycle racing, but nothing too bad.
I thought he might turn things around when he went into high school. His freshman year he joined the football team and it turned out he had some skill at that. Even at that age, he was the size of a house, but he could hustle when he needed to, bust through the line of scrimmage and flatten the quarterback before the ball could get into play. The third game into the season he carried the ball for a touchdown. He plowed the opposing team’s receiver under and just by chance managed to intercept the ball at the same time. I don’t think he expected that to happen. As big as he was he probably could’ve walked the ball down without getting tackled, but Junior ran it. Forty yards at a dead sprint. The teams we played that year, those boys got shaky in the knees when he walked on the field.
It could have been one of those inspirational sports stories, if it hadn’t fallen apart after homecoming. We got our usual call out to the Barfoots. Domestic disturbance. I figured it would be what it always was, Barfoot beating on his wife and the two kids left at home, Junior and his sister, who was a couple years older but retarded. We did it often enough, we had it down to a routine. Break it up, arrest Barfoot, throw him in a cell until he sobered up and promised he’d never do it again. Which usually lasted a few weeks, maybe a few months if we were lucky.
That night, when we got to the house, I could see that was how it had started. Mrs. Barfoot was in the kitchen crying, with her housedress half torn off and her nose bloody. The daughter was standing with her, looking scared. In the living room, I expected to find Barfoot going at Junior, but it was the other way around. Junior was pounding on him and screaming, “I’m gonna fucking kill you!” He did his best. It took me, two deputies and a volunteer fireman to pry Junior off his father, cuff him and haul him out to the squad car.
I thought that might finally make Mrs. Barfoot leave that vicious SOB, but when he got out of the hospital, she took him back. They sent Junior to stay with her family in Oklahoma. That’s when he started going by Kellen.
He came back two years later and almost immediately got into trouble, and kept getting into trouble for a number of years. I never saw someone who could tear up a bar the way he could. When you got called out, you could tell if he’d been involved in the fight. Furniture would be broken and people would be bleeding and crying, looking like they’d been hit by a train.
I knew Junior did some work for Ewan Quinn, but it seemed to me he’d settled down. He’d finished sowing his wild oats, and he hadn’t killed anybody, raped anybody, or burned anything down, which put him a few steps ahead of some other people in town. A few steps ahead of the rest of his family. He had the one brother in prison in Iowa, doing twenty to life for an armed robbery that went south. The other brother dead in a drunk driving accident. The sister, well, she turned up pregnant when she was sixteen, nobody knew who the father was. I don’t know for a fact that it was her father or one of her brothers, but you have to wonder. I don’t believe it was Junior, though. He never struck me as that kind. A blessing that baby was stillborn, but when Mrs. Barfoot died, they had to put the daughter in a state home.
When Junior went in partners with Dan Cutcheon, I was relieved. If Cutcheon would take him on, I figured I could stop worrying about him. Maybe he’d be a law-abiding citizen after all.
So that day, when Delbert brought Junior into the station in cuffs, I thought, “What in Hell now?”
That’s what I said, too: “Damn it, Junior, I haven’t had you down here in four years. What in Hell happened?”
“It’s the Quinn girl,” Delbert said. Junior didn’t say a word.