Sheriff Roy drove Arlene’s red SUV into Garage 66. Big Ed Cocke waved him into the bay.
“Afternoon, Sheriff!” the burly hillbilly said with a smile. “Arlene need an oil change?”
“Usual service visit, Big Ed.”
“Very good. May I have the sticker, Sheriff?”
Mud Lick’s top cop peeled the decal off the windshield and handed it to Big Ed.
“Go ahead and pop the hood, Sheriff!” That came from George Cocke, one of two large brothers that fancied themselves professional wrestlers.
Sheriff Roy hit the button that was supposed to pop the hood. It did not.
“Go ahead and pop the hood, Sheriff.” This time the request came from Big Ed. Sheriff Roy tried the hood switch again. Once again the hood did not budge.
Big Ed dropped to his knees and aimed a flashlight at the grill of the red SUV. He pulled out a screwdriver and tried to run it under the hood with no success.
This doesn’t look good, Sheriff Roy thought. He saw Stan Cocke join his brother and father at the front of the vehicle. The three men conferred for a minute before Big Ed came to the driver side window.
“Your hood latch is apparently broken, Sheriff.”
“You don’t say.”
“Do you mind stepping out of the car so I can see the hood latch release switch?”
“Usually I’m the one telling people to step out of their car. Sure, why not.”
Sheriff Roy exited Arlene’s SUV. Big Ed took a flashlight and peered into the interior. He flipped the hood latch release.
“Yup. It’s broken. How many miles are on this? Yeah, at 250,000 when you’ve got plastic on lines like this it’s not an uncommon issue. Look it’s pulled out all the way into the release position.”
On announcing this, Big Ed pulled the hood latch release cord until it was extended past the actual release switch.
“Isn’t that a bit overkill, Ed?”
“Ain’t nothing right now, Sheriff. Anyway usually when this happens we can trip the latch manually with a screwdriver but the way Arlene’s SUV grill is laid out we can’t even get a toothpick in there. This is going to require bodywork.”
Sheriff Roy swore using a word we will not repeat here because this is a family blawg.
“What do you think this will cost me?”
“Hard to say, Sheriff. We don’t do bodywork here.”
Sheriff Roy swore again. “You’re a garage. You do work on all the Department’s vehicles.”
“Service work, Sheriff. We don’t do collision or body repairs.”
“What about that time Deputy Tyrone turned one of our cruisers into a guided missile and shot out the windows when he had a spell of the vapors?”
“Oh that was a project for George. It wasn’t something he got paid to do and I was frankly pissed he did it. You know he’s not the smartest person, Sheriff. He could’ve torn your cruiser right up.”
“So what do you suggest I do to get the damn hood latch fixed?”
“Well, you could go to Kollision King in Dismal Seepage. We refer them business all the time. The head service tech there’s a barely functional stoner but he’s a damn savant with cars. We call him Cheech the Car Champion.”
“I don’t care what you call him. Can this doper fix Arlene’s hood latch or not?”
“Most likely he can, Sheriff.” Big Ed flashed a toothy grin that made Sheriff Roy very uneasy.
“Yessir. Most likely.”
“Well can you do anything for Arlene’s car today?”
“No sir. We’d tear her baby up and that’s nothing I’d feel terribly good about.”
Sheriff Roy swore again. “Fine. Know if there’s an issue between now and when I manage to resolve this it’s going to be all of your asses.”
“Do what now, Sheriff?”
“Easy, Big Ed. Real easy to understand. The last time I brought this car in was to get the oil changed 3000 miles ago. That was the last time the hood was open. I’m of a mind y’all broke the hood latch last time I was here with her car. Now today you can’t do anything about it because you’d tear up her SUV despite y’all having fixed body damage multiple times on Sheriff’s Department cruisers. If Arlene doesn’t have a functioning car and you won’t do a thing to rectify that, then you’ll be looking at some criminal charges.”
“What do you think you’re really going to charge us with, Sheriff?” Again Big Ed flashed that unsettling toothy grin. “We haven’t broken any laws.”
“I’ll think of something. Be assured of that.”
“Well you just let us know when you figure out what you’re charging us with, Sheriff, and make sure the next time you’re back here you come with a warrant. Y’hear now?”
“There’s going to be a lot more than warrants involved if Arlene can’t take Junior to school because of your bullshit, Big Ed.”
Big Ed’s eyes flashed with a bit of a hostile gaze, but his toothy grin never budged.
“That’s fine, Sheriff. Y’all have a good day now. Good luck with Arlene’s hood latch.”
Sheriff Roy drove off that afternoon with a sour taste in his mouth and a certain foreboding feeling that he’d been had by the denizens of Garage 66.
Which was appropriate, if one thinks about it, given that he’d just dealt with three lifelong carnies who worked as mechanics in their day job.
TO BE CONTINUED…