Seaton: Sheriff Roy Goes To Prison

[Ed. Note: See here for Part I and here for Part II.]

If one called Belle Reeve Penitentiary in Louisiana a “shithole,” one would do no favors for shitholes. A better description of Belle Reeve might be “if a shithole and a third world country run by a tyrannical despot had a baby.” Often spoken of by guards as a black site where the most dangerous criminals were held by the federal government for participation in a top secret series of near-suicidal missions because handlers said so, Belle Reeve was an intimidating structure of concrete and black metal in the south of the state.

The whole “black site” thing was a bullshit tale spun by guards with overactive imaginations and too many hours spent reading comic books. Fantasy met reality with Belle Reeve when one considered the number of dangerous criminals secured behind its walls. If a depraved act could lock a man behind bars for the rest of his life, the residents of Belle Reeve did that act several times, got a T-shirt celebrating their misdeeds, and then tried to have sex with the T-shirt.

Many said simply crossing the threshold of Belle Reeve was enough to blacken a man’s soul, so it was interesting one day to see two first responders from Mud Lick, Alabama in a visiting area at Belle Reeve. Those two paragons of virtue would happen to be none other than Sheriff Roy Templeton, Mud Lick’s top cop, and Fire Chief Barney Thomas.

The two men sat quietly at a visiting table when Fire Chief Thomas decided to break the silence.

“Been a long time since you’ve done this, Roy.”

“I know, Barney. That’s by design.”

“You look good.”

“You look as full of shit as ever, Barney.”

“You know his health isn’t that good, right?”

“Aunt Cindy said as much at Brauner’s.”

“You realize this might not be as awkward if you’d just bite the bullet and come out here a little more often?”

“Barney, I have a great deal of respect for you. So listen carefully to me. When I tell you to shut the fuck up it’s not a polite suggestion. I will literally carve out your eyes with a sharpened spoon if you say one more word. So Barney: shut the fuck up.”

This quieted the Fire Chief for several moments. That ended when Chief Thomas asked the Sheriff “Do you think maybe he ended up in here as a sort of cosmic plot device rendered on our world by a mildly benevolent storyteller who wants to make this more interesting for audiences?”

“No, Barney. He’s a criminal. Criminals go to jail for a long time if the world’s working right.”

Sheriff Roy and Fire Chief Thomas were quieted by doors opening from one side of the room. Two guards led a hulking brute of a man to their table.

The man was built like a brick shithouse and didn’t look anywhere near close to seventy save for the gray and white hair on his head. A pair of piercing blue eyes seemed to look straight through Sheriff Roy and Fire Chief Thomas. The brute’s mouth twisted into a sneer at the sight of the two men.

“Been a while since I seen your two miserable asses. Goddamn lawmen don’t deserve no time around me. They might immolate from being in proximity to a master criminal.”

Ray “The Bruiser” Walsh, a convicted bank robber, leg breaker for the Dixie Mafia, and alleged murderer (emphasis on the “alleged” according to Walsh), glowered with contempt at the two men as he sat at the table.

“Hello Dad. Been a minute,” Sheriff Roy replied.

“The Bruiser” smiled at Sheriff Roy. “Was that so hard to say to your old man? I know you decided to abandon our family along with your no account brother almost a decade ago, but it’s nice to hear you acknowledge the man who made you.”

“You never made me, Dad,” Sheriff Roy told his father. “I made myself when I realized I didn’t want to repeat the cycle of stupid most of our family took with you. Luckily Barney here decided to see the light and come with me.”

Fire Chief Thomas piped up. “Dad, it was a really hard decision to make and one I think about daily, but I know it was best for Roy and his family. No matter how much I think I might have done the wrong thing, I know I can sleep better at night.”

This remark sent Ray Walsh into fits of laughter. “Didn’t you change your name to Thomas, boy?”

“Yessir.”

Now “The Bruiser” uncharacteristically guffawed loudly. “Oh goddamn, that’s rich, boy! You’re a doubting Thomas!”

Sheriff Roy snickered at this too. He had said the same thing over the last few years observing his brother when no one else watched, but his father making the joke just seemed funnier.

“So what can I do for you boys? Especially since your old man is locked so far behind walls he sees daylight two hours a day?”

“Nothing I care to ask for,” Sheriff Roy said as he rose. “Barney, let’s skedaddle.”

“Now wait, Roy,” Barney said. “You should at least talk to the old man.”

“Yes,” Ray Walsh sneered. “Talk to your old man, Roy. Nicely.”

“Okay,” Roy said to his father. Affecting an almost child like tone to his voice, the Sheriff asked “Daddy do you remember when you challenged me to break out of police issue handcuffs and I figured out how to do it with an improvised shim in ten seconds? Do you remember how proud you were of me?”

Recounting this memory seemed to brighten “The Bruiser’s” spirits. “Yeah! I do remember that!”

“You were as big of a piece of shit for handcuffing a ten year old then and you’re still a piece of shit now.”

Ray stood up to his son’s provocations, but found himself crashing to the floor quickly. He was an older man, after all, and not as well balanced as in his youth.

Coughing on the floor and clutching his ribs, Ray Walsh attempted to avoid his eldest son’s gaze.

“Look at you,” Sheriff Roy said. “All the leg-breaking and pension stealing the Dixie Mafia threw your way couldn’t save you from becoming a miserable old husk of a man who wishes he could still throw a ball with his boys outside of prison walls.”

“I did what I could to provide for you and the rest of the family, Roy.”

“And I’d have been happier if we were poor and I didn’t have a dad who felt more comfortable behind bars than at home with us!”

Sheriff Roy realized at that remark he’d raised his voice a little too much. He composed himself after seeing several stares in the visiting area and sat back down.

“Dad, I came here to give you one last chance to bury the hatchet with Barney and I. Now I came here because I wanted to do right by Aunt Cindy and see about you, but it’s clear that you never had any intention of mending fences.”

“Hold on, son,” Ray said. With a thoughtful gleam in his eye, he told his sons about a quest the two of them could undertake if they wanted to mend fences with their old man. Just one road trip to Vegas and the boys would never have to hear from their father ever again about visitation.

Sheriff Roy and Fire Chief Thomas responded by walking out of Belle Reeve and never returning.

The two men learned something from this trip they would never forget.

First was that if you have a father who’s a master criminal, you can safely cut them out of your life because odds are they’ll never change. Even if he’s old and near the end of his life.

Second was that their decision to go into law enforcement was the best decision they could’ve made for their respective families.

And Sheriff Roy would rag his younger brother for months after the visit over the “doubting Thomas” line their father had sprung on them.

Even if Daddy was a lawless criminal, that line was still funny.

5 thoughts on “Seaton: Sheriff Roy Goes To Prison

  1. Mike V.

    The Dixie mafia out of Memphis controlled crime and politics in much of the South for a long, long time. World War 2 Veterans fought a pitched battle after an election to kick them out of Athens, TN

    You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your relatives (unless you are adopting). And the Doubting Thomas crack IS funny.

    1. CLS

      This will come as zero surprise to anyone who knows me, but I came up with that joke many moons ago when the world of Mud Lick was really taking off and I’ve waited for the right time to spring it on y’all.

      1. Mike V.

        It IS a good one.

        I worked with a cop in Florida whose father had killed a state trooper and was doing life in prison, so your fictional story has real life parallels.

  2. L. Phillips

    I’d wondered where the fire in Sheriff Roy’s belly to do what it right came from. My father had it. He got it from his father who died of “consumption” a couple of weeks after an early release from prison serving a manslaughter conviction.

    Art imitating life. Nicely done.

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