Nebraska Center for Writers

by Jim Thompson

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 I?"
"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

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The Rock

Nebraska Center for Writers