I'd finished my pie
and was having a second cup of coffee when I saw him. The midnight freight
had come in a few minutes before; and he was peering in one end of the
restaurant window, the end nearer the depot, shading his eyes with his
hand and blinking against the light. He saw me watching him, and his face
faded back into the shadows. But I knew he was still there. I knew he was
waiting. The bums always size me up for an easy mark.
I lit a cigar and slid off my stool. The waitress, a new girl from
Dallas, watched as I buttoned my coat. "Why, you don't even carry a gun!"
she said, as though she was giving me a piece of news.
"No," I smiled. "No gun, no blackjack, nothing like that. Why should
"But you're a cop a deputy sheriff, I mean. What if some crook
should try to shoot you?"
"We don't have many crooks here in Central City, ma'am," I said.
"Anyway, people are people, even when they're a little misguided. You
don't hurt them, they won't hurt you. They'll listen to reason."
She shook her head, wide-eyed with awe, and I strolled up to the
front. The proprietor shoved back my money and laid a couple of cigars on
top of it. He thanked me again for taking his son in hand.
"He's a different boy now, Lou," he said, kind of running his words
together like foreigners do. "Stays in nights; gets along fine in school.
And always he talks about you what a good man is Deputy Lou Ford."
"I didn't do anything," I said. "Just talked to him. Showed him a
little interest. Anyone else could have done as much."
"Only you," he said. "Because you are good, you make others so." He
was all ready to sign off with that, but I wasn't. I leaned an elbow on
the counter, crossed one foot behind the other and took a long slow drag
on my cigar. I liked the guy as much as I like most people, anyway
but he was too good to let go. Polite, intelligent: guys like that
are my meat.
Reprinted with permission
from The Killer Inside Me
Copyright © 1991
by Jim Thompson