Sheriff Roy Templeton instinctively reached for his sidearm when the power went out at the Mud Lick Sheriff’s Department. Stuff like this wasn’t supposed to happen when you had two running recursive generators for instances when Old Man Cocke tried to pick a fight with a transformer.
Someone did this on purpose, the Sheriff thought. Assuming a standing defensive position, the Sheriff began checking each room in the station for potential intruders. He’d made it to the front desk when power returned to the building.
“SHERIFF ROY TO YOUR OFFICE,” a loud voice boomed over the intercom in the station.
“You know you can just speak normally into those handsets?” the Sheriff quizzed the mystery voice. “It’s not like you’re at a damn drive-thru.”
“Sorry,” the voice said in a less ominous tone. “But we do need to have a talk, Sheriff. If you’d come to your office we can discuss pressing matters further.”
The Sheriff made his way back to his office, gun ready, until he reached the open door.
“Please lower your weapon, Sheriff.” the old man sitting at Sheriff Roy’s desk said in a gravelly voice. “As you can see, I’m unarmed. And I just want to talk.”
The man was in his late fifties or early sixties. White, with steel grey hair adorning his temples, he was clad in a black suit and tie with a white shirt. It was a dress code the Sheriff knew all too well.
“Which Feds are you with, mister?” Sheriff Roy asked.
“Have you ever felt the sweet release heroin gives your bowels, Sheriff Roy?”
“Do what now?” Sheriff Roy lowered his gun in disbelief at the question.
“I do. Regularly,” the man replied. “Sometimes one of my favorite activities is to pay for Vice President Harris’s Secret Service detail to stand outside a dilapidated motel room in Northern Virginia while I mainline some exquisite China White. I then lay on the bed and feel my bowels unclench. I enjoy the release over the bedsheets while I watch German men nail their scrotums to step-stools on Pay TV. Then I make the Agents clean up my ‘mess.’”
“In short, I am a high functioning heroin addict, and I am so far up the food chain in Government security clearances neither I nor the organization I represent have names. You may refer to me as ‘Agent Graves’ for the time being.”
“Alrighty then, Agent Graves, I’m Sheriff around here. Nice to meet you. Now why all the theatrics and can I please have my seat back?”
“Surely.” The man calling himself “Agent Graves” took a seat across from Sheriff Roy’s desk.
“I needed you to understand the seriousness of the matter with which I am tasking you, Sheriff. I needed you to know I’m not fucking around here. This is a matter of national security I’m asking your help with. That’s why I made this little entrance of mine.”
“Absolutely. And to impress on you the magnitude of the journey you’re about to undertake at the direction of your United States Government. You’re going to retrieve a document so sacred to this nation’s founding principles that it might as well be a hidden copy of the Constitution no one but the founding fathers have seen.”
“And what’s that?”
“You will find and deliver to me the last known copy of ‘Playboy’ Magazine with nudity in it.”
One would have needed an industrial strength fork lift to extricate Sheriff Roy’s jaw from the office floor at that line. Minutes passed before the Sheriff comprehended the request enough to process it.
“You want me to find you a nudie mag? Can’t you get that filth on the Internet for free now?”
“And that’s the problem!” Agent Graves moaned as he slumped into his chair. “Don’t you feel like something fundamental is missing from American life? That we’re losing our way?”
“Okay,” the Sheriff murmured nervously.
“We have data scientists who figured out exactly when that problem began. March 2016. That’s when Playboy Magazine announced it would cease putting nudity in their pages.”
“Look what happened after that! Donald Trump became President! We had an insurrection at the Capitol on January sixth of this year! IF PLAYBOY STILL SHOWED BIG, BARE TITTIES, WE WOULDN’T HAVE COVID!!”
Agent Graves’ rant was interrupted by a gunshot. About a half inch to the right of Graves’ head, where a thick wooden wall separated the Sheriff’s office from the rest of the bullpen, lay a smoking bullet hole.
“Get out and don’t come back to Mud Lick, ‘Agent Graves.’ That was your warning shot.”
Graves was red faced at this order. “You little ingrate! You wouldn’t have this job if it weren’t for the sacrifices people like me make in the dead of night! Your job and the laws you enforce wouldn’t be around if…”
A second gunshot rang out. Now a bullet hole was half an inch to Agent Graves’ left temple.
“That’s strike two. Get out.”
Both men rose, fury seething in their eyes. Sheriff Roy’s, however, was the gaze of a man who was officially Tired Of Your Shit.
“You Feds come in here all the time demanding someone kiss your ass and do things like get you coffee and skin mags. I’ve heard that line about so many sacrifices made in the dead of night by better men than you so often that hearing you utter it makes me want to puke.”
“Take this message back to your Fed bosses: Leave us country folks alone. And if you’re that hard up, Agent Graves, go shoot up and see what wonders you can find on the Internet. Personally, if you get a hot shot in the process, I’ll put an extra ten percent in the basket at church Sunday.”
Agent Graves was never seen in Mud Lick again.
Sheriff Roy’s credit score took a 200 point hit overnight. Two savings bonds he’d purchased in high school were deemed no longer valid by the bank. And Nana Wentzel’s nurses had to get a special talking to when her husband’s military insurance benefits were suddenly denied.
None of it mattered to Sheriff Roy, who cared about precisely four things above all else in life: God, Family, the Law, and Alabama Crimson Tide Football.