“What in the hell is that?” asked Sheriff Ellison, staring out the cruiser window in awe as he and Deputy Kennesaw turned into the Calumet County Sheriff’s Department.
“That, Boss,” answered Kennesaw, “is an International MaxxPro Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected tactical vehicle, more commonly referred to as an MRAP or a MaxxPro for short.”
“It looks like a damn tank to me. Why is it parked in my lot?” Ellison asked as they pulled into the garage.
“Apparently, it’s ours. A little gift from the Department of Defense.”
“And what,” sighed the sheriff, “am I supposed to do with it, Ken?”
“I suppose you could do lots of things, Boss.”
“Well, for one, I suppose you could use it for traffic enforcement,” suggested Kennesaw. “I’m sure it would make quite the impression on speeders. We could park it up near the junction and pull them over with it as they speed down off the mountain.”
Ellison shook his head. “It’s obnoxious.”
“Do you want me to get rid of it? Gunnison would probably take it.”
“Why would DoD give these things away?”
“My understanding is that it’s a surplus unit. Maybe their new models have arrived.”
“Maybe. Or perhaps they’re expecting something in return as well.”
“You don’t like the idea of owing them, Boss?” Kennesaw asked sarcastically.
“I don’t like owing anyone for things I didn’t ask for,” grumbled Ellison. “Just look at it. Is that a turret on top? Fifty cal? And it came today, of all days.”
“Maybe we could deck it out and roll it down Main Street for the Founder’s Day parade.”
“Do we even have anyone in the department who can drive it?”
“Yeah, I can drive it, Boss,” answered Kennesaw. “It’s just a big, heavy rig. I drove something like it in the Reserve.”
“So when you drive that thing down Main Street, what sort of public image will we be cultivating?”
“How about this: ‘You better be good, because the sheriff’s department has tanks,’” quipped Kennesaw.
Ellison shook his head.
“Maybe Frenchie will have an idea of what to do with it,” Kennesaw suggested.
“I’m sure he would. He’s full of ideas.”
“Should I call him?”
“If you want to. When you get a chance, could you move it around to the back and put a tarp over it or something so it’s not so conspicuous? It looks like we’re preparing for an invasion.”
“Sure thing, Boss.”
The garage closed behind them, and Ellison shut off the engine. The two men sat in silence for a few moments before the sheriff spoke again.
“I’m curious, Ken,” he began. “How do you think we should handle this situation?”
“I thought you just told me.”
“I meant the Alco shootings.”
“That could get complicated,” answered Kennesaw. “To me, it looks the shooter got himself executed.”
Ellison nodded. “That it does.”
“But Rolfe executed two people himself, and shot two more.”
“Yes he did.”
Kennesaw frowned. “Do you want my personal or professional opinion?”
“I don’t think Joe Amos 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. Inspector said he was shot three times in the back. If Turcot hadn’t finished him off, he would have bled out and the case would be closed.”
“This is a difficult spot for us.”
Ellison shook his head and pondered before yanking the keys out of the ignition. “And we both know that Mr. Turcot probably won’t be prosecuted, even if he did execute Rolfe. The DA isn’t going to take on a case he can’t win. He likes certain victories.”
“I think you’re right. Turcot’s going to end up a folk hero around here.”
“Well, let’s go have a little talk with him.”
“For real? Or are we just going through the motions?”
Ellison didn’t answer. The two men got out of the cruiser and walked into the station. Kennesaw stopped to check his inbox while Ellison filled a Styrofoam cup with coffee. They made their way to the interview room, coming upon a steel door coated with wood laminate. Ellison knocked, then looked through the portal to confirm that Monte Turcot was still waiting for them inside.
“You ready?” he asked.
Kennesaw nodded. The sheriff turned the handle and stepped into the room. Turcot looked up as the two men entered. Before they could even introduce themselves, he spoke.
“Am I under arrest?”
“No,” answered Ellison, slightly taken aback by the question.
“Am I free to go?”
“Yes, but it might raise some suspicions if you go right now.”
Turcot remained seated, staring at Ellison and Kennesaw.
“You’re not leaving,” observed the sheriff.
“But I can leave any time?”
“So what am I here for?”
“Three people died today, one by your hand,” Ellison explained. “We need to conduct an interview and get your side of the story.”
“I already told your other deputy everything. What else do you want to know?”
“Yes you did, and we appreciate your cooperation, but I wanted to chat with you myself. This mass shooting is going to be a big deal around this county for a long time. I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t ask a few questions when I had the opportunity.”
“I think I know what you want to know,” Turcot said.
“Then by all means, lay it on me.”
Turcot remained silent. Ellison hesitated, then turned to Kennesaw.
“Why don’t you take a moment and tell us a little about yourself, Monte,” Kennesaw asked.
“What do you want to know?”
“We’d just like to get to know you.”
“Are you a cop or a shrink?” Turcot asked.
“Probably a little bit of both some days,” the deputy answered, “but humor us, Monte. I’ve only run into you once or twice over the years. I can’t recall us ever having a real conversation. I don’t know anything about you.”
“I’m not very interesting.”
“It says here that you’re a veteran,” Kennesaw remarked, glancing down at his notes.
Turcot rubbed his neck. “Yes. Barmal District.”
“How long were you there?”
“If I’m not under arrest, then I need to get going.”
“I’m just curious,” said Kennesaw. “But we don’t need to go there.” He watched Turcot, waiting for him to get up to leave, but he remained in his chair, staring at the deputy.
“I was there four years,” Turcot finally answered.
“Are things different for you now?”
“What do you mean?” Turcot looked at Ellison for further clarification, but the sheriff shrugged.
“Do you feel like you’ve changed?” Kennesaw asked.
“Of course, but the rest of the world has changed, too.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked the deputy.
“What is this?” asked Turcot, appearing as if he had finally had enough and was ready to push up from his seat.
The sheriff stepped forward. “We’re just trying to have a conversation.”
Turcot relaxed, then pointed to his head. “I learned how thinking too much can cause indecision. How indecision causes delay, and delay can be fatal.”
“That’s how you’ve changed?” asked the sheriff.
“In one sense.”
“So, you learned how to react in certain situations…extraordinary situations?”
“No, not react. I act. Professionals seize the initiative.”
“What were your actions at the Alco based on?” asked Ellison.
“The sound of gunfire. What do you think?”
“Of course,” replied Ellison, waving his hands apologetically. “Stupid question. So, you heard gunfire and you returned fire?”
“I had to acquire the target first.”
“Then you returned fire?”
“I fired. He wasn’t shooting at me at that time.”
“How many times did you shoot Joe Amos Rolfe?” asked Kennesaw. “Do you remember?”
Turcot looked perplexed. “Who’s Joe Amos Rolfe?”
“I’m sorry. Joe Amos Rolfe was the shooter.”
“I don’t remember. Three or four times.”
“You shot him from behind, in the back,” Kennesaw said.
“But then once in the face, at close range.”
Turcot didn’t answer.
“Was he threatening you?”
“I was operating under the assumption that he was a threat. He shot a young girl and an old man in a wheelchair and a couple others, didn’t he?”
“But you thought he was a threat?” Kennesaw asked again.
“So Rolfe had two pistols, and you shot him in the back three times and then once in the face because he was still a threat.”
Ellison shot an annoyed glare at Kennesaw.
“That’s right,” Turcot continued. “I didn’t think about it. I acted. I ended the threat. Who knows how many more people would be dead if I didn’t take him out.”
Kennesaw turned to Ellison, who gestured towards the door.
“We’re going to step outside for a moment, Monte,” said the sheriff. “Do you mind? Do you need anything while you wait?”
“I’ll be fine.”
Ellison and Kennesaw left Turcot in the interview room and walked down the hall a bit, until they were well out of earshot. The sheriff leaned his brawny frame against the wall and sipped his coffee, then pulled his sleeve back and looked at his wristwatch.
“What’s your watch telling you, Boss?” Kennesaw asked.
Ellison crossed his arms and concealed it. “It’s telling me that you did a fine job of leading him along.”
“I’m sorry. I thought that’s what you wanted.”
“I guess we need to decide how far to proceed with this,” the sheriff continued. “What do you have on the victims?”
Kennesaw flipped through his notes. “A Mr. William Forte of Granite. Widower. World War II veteran. Guadalcanal. Purple Heart. Then there’s Brianna Copeland. High school freshman from Calumet City. Fifteen years old. Mother says she was planning to attend the Homecoming Dance later this evening. Heard about an hour ago that the game and the dance have been canceled. The wounded include a Mrs.–”
“Even if he did execute Rolfe,” Ellison interrupted, “do you really think any jury around here would convict him, or even indict him, for that matter?”
“Isn’t that the DA’s call?” Kennesaw asked. “Chalmers won’t touch this.”
“He does have a lot on his plate with all the DEA action lately.”
“And it’s a sure loser for him,” remarked the deputy.
Ellison pondered for a moment. “What do we know about Joe Amos Rolfe? What about his family?”
“They don’t have anything, Boss. His folks are divorced. His mother lives in Santa Fe. His father rents a trailer on the south side, a couple miles down from the prison. He works there.”
“Have they had any legal troubles?”
“Pop had a DUI and a domestic a few years back,” said Kennesaw.
“Did they ever lawyer up on anything?”
“Not that I recall. They don’t have any financial means.”
“Are there any union connections? Any ties to the commissioner or the state? Senators or congressmen? Any rich uncles or famous relatives or lawyer cousins?”
“I don’t think so, Boss. But I’ll check it more thoroughly just to be sure.”
“Get that done today. Let’s go back in and finish things up with Monte.”
When the two men returned to the interview room, Turcot was still sitting in the chair, right where they had left him.
“Monte,” the sheriff addressed him. “It doesn’t look like we have anything else for you at this time.”
“So we’re done?”
“For now,” answered Ellison. “Kennesaw can give you a ride back if you need it. Thank you for your cooperation.”
“Are you dealing with all of this okay, Monte?” Kennesaw asked. “You’ve been through a lot today.”
“I only regret that I didn’t act sooner.”
“But you saved several lives.”
Turcot gazed down at the floor and rubbed his neck, again. “I didn’t save that girl.”