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This story is still under construction, but I’m curious about what you think.

Around his waist he wrapped a one and a half inch black leather belt emblazoned with a single word “Butch” in florid script hammered into the six inch span that centered nicely between his hips along his broad back. Weathered from years of use but still serviceable and strong, he never left home without it. Seated at the desk behind the door which read Chief of Police, Butch reached for the station phone on his desk to call his wife when the County Sheriff called out “tell her to be ready for dinner at six thirty.”

Hesitantly dialing his home telephone number he taped his fingers on the desk blotter as he waited, counting out the rings on the other end. One. Two. Three.

“Hello?” Kathleen answered, slightly puzzled and a little concerned. The phone never rang during the day, only at night and the calls were never for her, always for Butch, so she rarely bothered to pick up the phone. Early in their marriage she had been eager to interact over the phone, but she quickly learned that some nights Butch’s calls were from other women, and occasionally she could recognize their voices. Soon she stopped answering altogether preferring not to know any details about his work or his interactions outside their home.

“Cancel dinner, we’re going out tonight with the sheriff and his wife. I’ll be home at six. Be ready to go.”, he returned the phone to its cradle without a second thought, or any of the pleasantries like hello or goodbye normally shared between husband and wife.

Kathleen even more puzzled than before looked at the baby blue receiver in her hand and thought, “Did I just imagine that?” She wanted to call back. She wanted to question him. She wanted to know why after all this time that her husband Butch, the Chief of Police in Billings, Montana, was going to dinner with the County Sheriff and his wife. He’d never even mentioned them before; she didn’t even know their names.

Ready at six as instructed, she had dressed carefully. Trying to find the perfect balance between too dressy, she didn’t want to show up the Sheriffs wife, and not dressy enough. She had to play the part of a lady on Butch’s arm and he demanded that she always look her best in public. Settling on a sapphire blue dress that was long enough to be classy and short enough to be suggestively sexy, she looked at herself in the full length mirror feeling satisfied that she had chosen correctly. The dress matched the color of her eyes, and once anyone noticed her eyes, she could have been wearing a flower sack for all the attention her clothing would attract.

Butch charged through the front door, calling “are you ready yet? We have to go, can’t keep em waiting. I just have to run back to the station for a minute. We’re meeting Doug there. ”

“Butch, who is Doug? And why are we meeting him at the station? You were just there.”

“Doug is the Sheriff, silly. I want to check on a new prisoner, make sure he gets settled in for the night and Doug said he’d meet us there so that they could drive with us to the restaurant. ”

“Oh.”

The stop at the station was brief and uneventful. Kathleen sat in the car chatting with Doug’s wife, while the men went inside. She really wasn’t paying attention to the time. If Kathleen were to guess she’d say it was no more than a ten minute delay, and they were on their way to the restaurant.

Dinner was, by their meager standards, an expensive affair; two full courses with drinks, and an after dinner dessert and black coffee chaser. Conversation was lively and animated, with the upcoming presidential election the women found it easy to steer their husbands away from talking shop and into more interesting topics like party politics and who would win, Nixon or that other guy what’s his name.

After dinner Butch tugged at his waistband indicating that he was full, and asked the table at large, “hey, would it be ok if we stopped for a few minutes at the station on the way home? I want to check on that new prisoner again, he didn’t look too good when we left him earlier.” Everyone at the table happily agreed, the evening was still relatively young and they all felt warm and fuzzy from their drinks.

The ride from the restaurant took no time at all, and the summer sun had just peeked below the horizon when they arrived back at the police station. Leaving the women to talk in the car, the two law men walked casually inside still discussing politics and swearing loyalties to the Republican Party nominee.

Within the building, the city always eager to save money had built three small adjoining holding cells. Anchored into the concrete underfoot were a series of vertical steel bars wrapping overhead and plunging downward into the concrete on the far side forming three square boxes roughly eight feet square. Horizontal supports were welded into place in intervals of three feet to prevent any bowing or weakness in the metal structure, two horizontal bars along each wall and two overhead. Each cell had a small door, a bunk, and a dim light bulb overhead which could be turned off from the offices outside. The lights were always turned off at nine; after that time there was generally no reason to enter the holding area unless a diligent officer picked up someone for DUI, or the occasional dirt-bag passing through who decided to catch a little sleep under the overpasses. A simple flip of the switch and the on duty officer could remain at his desk until morning unmolested.

‘What the…wake up you clod! And come help me! ” Butch yelled at the officer on duty.
“Get in here and help me get him down. This poor scrawny bastard’s hung himself from the support bars with his own belt.”

Accusations and questions were fired like shock and awe missiles at the man on duty; no sooner had one question registered than another took its place leaving the poor man stunned and confused as to which of Butch’s questions to answer first.

“When did you check on him last?”
“Why didn’t you check on him like I told you to?”
“Call the coroner and get him out here right now.”
“I wasn’t here tonight. You’re doing the paperwork on this!”
“I’m saying good night to my guests, and taking my wife home.”

With this last statement Butch turned and stormed out of the station visually disgusted and angry. The two men collected their wives, and drove home in silence. No words of inquiry were tolerated, no words of explanation were necessary.

On a morning several days later, Butch searching for his pants, asked Kathleen, “Honey, where’s my belt?”

“I don’t know “ she said, but she thought “ I don’t want to know.”

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