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Don liked his privacy. Ironic, since he was the sheriff and his every move was scrutinized. After his fifth divorce, he bought a small waterfront property out in the middle of nowhere to keep that privacy and the select few were invited out there every now and then.
He hasn't talked about it, yet, but we all knew his retirement was approaching. I don't know who hated it more: me or Don. Neither of us were ready for him to leave. He's always said he was born a cop and he's never known what else to be. On my first day on the job, he told me you're a cop because you don't know how not to be one. If you feel that way, you're a cop. If you don't, you're not. You decide.
"Come with me. And grab a couple more beers."
Don led us away from the group. I followed him around the side of the house and into a little wooded path. The farther we walked, the darker and quieter it became. I envied him out here, sometimes, in the middle of nowhere. It was peaceful surrounded by only trees and water and an endless expanse of sky.
I handed him another beer. "I've decided this is going to be my last year as sheriff." He popped the cap off the beer.
I looked away and tried to process this information. "Why?"
"The secret to life is knowing when to leave." He looked up at patches of blue sky through the trees. "I've been doing this job for almost thirty years. I can only do it so long before I become my job and start pushing people away. I don't want to live to an old age and have nothing." He paused. "I put in a recommendation to the Mayor."
"Yeah?" I looked at him. I couldn't wait to hear what douchebag would be his replacement. Just because Don recommended someone didn't necessarily mean the Mayor would follow his advice.
I thought it was a terrible joke and laughed. When I realized he was serious, I stopped walking. "No way." I shook my head and turned to face him. "I c-can't." Not only have I never even considered running for sheriff, I'd be terrible.
"You can." He chuckled. "I've watched you these past ten years. Bear and Hart respect and admire you, hell, I think they might even be a little scared of you." He smiled. "You don't back down against Vaughn. Most importantly, though, you've got kindness in your heart. You're passionate about this job and you care, you give a damn about the people we see everyday. That's not something a lot of people learn to do, care. You find justice for the victims we work with and you help them make peace with their experiences."
"Damn." I didn't know what else to say. I couldn't look at him at first, because I was afraid I'd cry right in front of him and that would be embarrassing. I turned around for a moment and rubbed my face. As I did, I felt his hand on my shoulder. He turned me around and enveloped me in a hug. "All you had to say is I'd be a damn fine sheriff," I said. I sighed into the hug, gripping onto him.
"You'll be a damn fine sheriff." I pulled away from the hug and playfully punched him in the arm. Don smiled an easy, playful and one-sided little smile that always attracted women, hence the five marriages. "I know you're still hesitant," he continued. "But give it some serious thought. But remember, I'm still your boss for now. Don't let this get to your head." He smiled again and tapped me under my chin affectionately.
We make our way back to the group. Don keeps walking to rejoin the others, but I stop by the edge of the woods to watch everyone: Avery, Evie, Wes, and Don. I felt such an overwhelming rush of love for them all. How can I not do what I can to protect the ones I love?
"What are you going to do?" Evie sat across from me, feet propped on my desk. She stopped by to drop off coffee and lunch, courtesy of Wes. "Sheriff Isabelle Harper. Mm, sounds nice. Or... Sheriff Isabelle Devere?" Evie looked at me rather pointedly.
"I'm just saying, you two have been together, for what, five or six years now?" She removed her feet from my desk and leaned in close, lowering her voice. "You're already living together. You're inseparable."
I just smiled. "You should really get out of here before I decide to arrest you for being a nuisance." I stood up and grabbed a file and whacked her on top of her pretty little head.
Mollie, who was inexplicably restless today, got up and followed me around. She wagged her tail as I approached the coffee pot and I reached for her jar of dog treats. "Come on, girl."
She ran ahead to the door. I opened it and stepped outside and sat down on the steps with a handful of cinnamon biscuits. I held out my hand, a biscuit in my palm, while Mollie nibbled away. I looked up and glanced around the street. Across from us was the diner, half full and serving lunch. I looked West. The bus was unloading a fresh batch of tourists and passerby. I watched as they unloaded one by one. A group teenagers, a few old timers, some who looked rough around the edges or tired or relieved.
The last passenger off the bus is in jeans and a light blue cotton shirt. His backpack is slung over one shoulder. The bus leaves and he looks around. A part of me wants to go back inside, but I remain where I am.
He's about to walk in the opposite direction when he looks my way. He catches my eye and smiles, his dark face bright with affection. Anyone can see it who cares, he is hopelessly indiscreet.
I stand up as he approaches. "Jackson."