Cole and Rusty stood on top of of Roxy’s trailer and watched as Capt. Rick Roundtree of the Sitwell Fire Department cut into the steel with an ultra-sharp circular saw. Sparks flew everywhere and the Captain had to take periodic breaks every time the blade got too hot.
The Captain flipped open his soldering mask. “What the hell happen here? Buncha drunk kids tip this thing over?”
“Beats me,” Cole replied. “Manager just called saying he heard a big fuss and when he came out, Old Roxy’s place was like this.”
“Weird,” the Captain said as he flipped his mask down. “Because it’s not like its hurricane season so I doubt the damn thing didn’t just blow over.”
Captain Roundtree continued to cut.
Rusty nudged Cole in the ribs. “Hey Cole. Maybe this trailer was a-rockin’ when someone came a-knockin.’”
Cole stood there in silence.
“Get it?” Rusty asked.
Cole did not respond.
“Because, you know, Roxy’s been known to dabble in the world’s oldest profession,” Rusty said.
Still, no response from Cole.
“Roxy’s a hooker!” Rusty said. “You get it?”
“Oh yeah,” Cole said. “I got it but first, if you have to explain it, then it’s not funny and second, there’s a woman’s life at stake here. Does everything have to be a joke with you?”
“I wouldn’t say, ‘everything,’” Rusty said. “But I like to think if the situation were reversed and I was trapped in a knocked over trailer I wouldn’t mind if someone had a few laughs at my expense.”
“Grow up,” Cole said.
“People gotta laugh, Cole,” Rusty said. “People gotta find happiness in this twisted world wherever they can find it.”
The Captain switched off his saw and set it aside. He and a few other firemen then removed a large, square section of steel. Captain Roundtree took a flashlight off of his belt and shined it down into the darkness of the turned over trailer.
“Hello!” Captain Roundtree. “Fire department! Anyone down there?”
A few seconds past before a very weak sounding Paul answered. “Hello?”
The Captain searched around the trailer with his light until he landed the beam on Paul’s face. Paul was slathered with a thick coat of blood, water, and a brown substance which could have only been…
“Shit!” the Captain said as he looked up at Cole. “You gotta see this.”
Cole joined the Captain. He took out his flashlight, squatted down over the square hole and peered down at Paul. “You alright?”
“Are we talking physically or emotionally?” Paul asked.
“Physical’s my main concern at the moment,” Cole answered as he leaned down and shoved his hand into the square hole. “Take my hand, son.”
Paul reached for Cole’s hand but it was no use. He stood up on his tippy toes. He tried jumping for it. The kid was just too short.
“Damn it,” Cole said. “Someone will have to go down there.”
Cole waited for someone to step up, but all the firemen looked away, avoiding eye contact.
“Don’t everyone volunteer at once now,” Cole said.
All the firemen began whistling jaunty tunes, pretending they couldn’t hear the police chief.
“Fine,” Cole said. “I’ll do it myself.”
“No,” Rusty said. “I’ll do it.”
Cole was surprised. “You will?”
“Damn right I will,” Rusty said. “Cole, I never told you this but every once in awhile, old Chief Haskell and I get together and have a few beers and get down on ourselves for not following you into Wade Randolph’s shack that night. Hell, I hate to play the ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda’ game but it’s been hard for the old chief and I to not think about the possibility that maybe, just maybe, had all three of us worked together, we could have taken down that vicious dog no sweat.”
“I have no doubt that all three of could shot that dog dead instantly,” Cole said.
Rusty stared off at the moon, lost in thought. “I know whenever I think about that day, I say to myself, ‘If I’d only manned up, would Cole still have his leg?”
“Yes,” Cole said. “I most certainly would.”
“Would Cole’s wife never have run out on him?” Rusty asked.
“She would not have,” Cole replied.
“Would Cole be a happier man today?”
“A thousand times happier,” Cole said. “Without question.”
Rusty snapped out of his philosophical trance and looked down the hole. “I’m not gonna fail you twice, buddy.”