CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX point two
When Smitty saw Johnson crumpled on the floor, with Tommy sitting by his side, he realized the secret weapon had worked beyond all expectations. It was too bad Tommy couldn’t pass the police examination, because he had been the most valuable player in the bunch. Ray was still moaning when Smitty picked him up by his good shoulder and made him walk down the stairs. Why bother the paramedics with hauling this guy down the stairs on a gurney? Smitty even smiled when Ray winced on each step. At the bottom of the stairs, Skinner was waiting to escort the prisoner to a car, and make sure he was locked in. Even Skinner managed a smirk as he saw the bad condition Raymond Johnson was in. It was probably wrong to smile at another’s pain, but since his brother and three other people had paid the ultimate price for this man’s greed, it was the right kind of smile. The smile of justice.
Tommy followed the other downstairs, looking over at the bundle in the front room. He recognized his football, and went over to pick it up. As he walked out of the house, Greg Jones looked up and saw the giant man holding the package of money under his arm like a football, and saying, “I’m the quarterback!! I’m ready to throw the ball!!”
Tommy was waving the collection of bills, attempting to get someone to catch. Greg stepped up and signaled for the toss, which Tommy was more than happy to oblige. The “ball” sailed through the air and plopped down solidly in Greg Jones arms.
“Think we can get a shot of my favorite cop and his bundle of money for the station?” Paula asked.
Greg wrapped his arm around her and said quietly, “Only if this is going to be a Paula Rogers exclusive.” She smiled and kissed him lightly. She planned on a very “exclusive” interview.
As Smitty passed by Officer Greg Jones, Greg stopped him to clarify one question. “Harold, now how did you know Ray wouldn’t take a head shot at his friend Tommy?”
Smitty leaned in close and whispered the answer. “I really didn’t know if he would follow the pattern, but the other two officers were shot in the chest. Habit is a hard thing to break, and we figured with the surprise of the big guy showing up, there wouldn’t really be any time for Johnson to think about a bullet-proof vest. A really big bullet-proof vest. Sometimes, you just get lucky. Especially when you have a big friend who is willing to work for candy. Think the district attorney will want to use him as a star witness?”
The three laughed together, trying to picture a judge telling Tommy to sit back down and stop playing with the gavel. Or to give the nice deputy back his bible. But whatever was going to happen to Tommy, they knew the fact he had helped to capture Raymond Johnson would look very good in his file. It would be a first step, if a halting one, to some kind of rehabilitation and a better place for Tommy.
By this time Tommy was running a victory lap, jogging around the house and signaling that his pass had been good for a touchdown. To those who were watching, it seemed like slow jogging, but more like plodding as the runner circled the Parker house once again. One thing was clear to those around Tommy. He knew the joy of the moment, and on his face he also wore a smile.
The doctor told him to stay off the leg for two months, and it had only been one.
Four weeks of waiting to run again was too long, and John Graham decided to try out his recently aerated leg. It was only to be a short run, up and down one of his favorite country roads. He parked the car and stretched out just a bit, fearing if he stretched too much he would damage the muscle again. He could feel the ripped muscles straining already.
Slowly plodding on in his own way, John reviewed the last month. It had been stupid to try to knock Raymond Johnson down with the bundle, and he had been told that by many, many people. He got two holes in his legs for his trouble, but what John didn’t tell the casual observers was that he believed Johnson would have killed him anyway. It may have been the smartest thing he had ever done.
Ranking up with stupidest thoughts ever, many more people had teased him about trying to keep the money, and although Greg Jones had tried to give John credit for helping get the bad guy, most people didn’t really believe John was going to return the money. But the bank didn’t care, because in their eyes, if the money had been in the sheriff’s office, Raymond Johnson might be sunning himself in Mexico at that very moment. Instead, he was recovering from his injuries under guard, and waiting to stand trial for his crimes. He would never see sunlight on a beach again. But the bank insisted on a $10,000 reward for Graham’s quick thinking and careful reasoning, even if everything didn’t look quite right if you examined it closely. The bank got their money, the criminals were behind bars, and all was well with the world.
The occasional sharp pain in his leg was a fit reminder that most decisions have consequences. “We can’t imagine what they are even as we make those decisions,” John thought to himself. “We have the ability to know when a bad decision has been made, but that never seems to stop people from making bad decisions every day.” Plodding through his life, John Graham knew he would make other bad decisions.
Greg Jones had received his moment in the spotlight for his bravery and quick-thinking, with his own Paula Rogers exclusive, which included the announcement of an upcoming marriage. Even Tommy had turned into a celebrity, and several local charities were seeing that this local hero who had helped save the day would now get the kind of guidance and services he truly needed. Tommy loved the attention, and was more than willing to attend ribbon cuttings, make speeches and serve on several special committees. He had found his way.
John Graham noticed a pulling and painful sensation near where the wound had been, and knew that it would be months before that particular sensation would go away. He tried to focus on the good that had happened. The bills were easy to pay this month with the extra money, and some even ended up being saved for the future “rainy” days that seemed to happen several times a year. The money wouldn’t last long, but it was a nice thing to have. It was also nice to be alive. It was great to be plodding along, wondering why life could be so good, and realizing that it only seemed good when compared to the bad we all have to experience. John Graham looked over at the overgrown ditches near the road.
It always amazed him to see the diversity of life, even at the side of a farm road, and he could hear the mice scurrying around in the dried wheat heads and straw. They struggled for their existence just as every other creature does. Life really was good, and John Graham was glad he was around to enjoy it.
A small mouse crept to the side of the road and prepared to cross. It was just ahead of John, and his massive body of John Graham crashing toward it helped the mouse decide to cross before John arrived where the mouse was waiting. John watched the mouse dash across the road to other adventures across the wide black strip of asphalt. John wondered what other adventures awaited him in his future, and decided to just take it one step at a time. As he plodded onward, it was easy to see the expression on his face. It was the plodders’ smile.
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Twenty-six point two