“Scott what happened to you? Why are you out here?” asked Sheriff Payne. He stepped closer to Scot to get a better look at him.
“You know him, Sheriff?” asked the man with the rifle.
“Yes. We’re practically family,” said the Sheriff.
Scott glanced at the sheriff but said nothing. The less he had to say, the less he might have to allow for a bad taste in his mouth.
“Did you see what killed the bear?” asked another man as he walked closer.
The bear horn was presented, and Scott shrugged. “Are you guys the militia? I was told that I needed to find a way to join if I wanted to wander the streets.”
“It’s way too dangerous for that,” said the sheriff.
“I’m not exactly concerned about that,” said Scott. “There are a few people I want to look for, and a few more that I should look to find.”
“It would be best for you, if you just went home,” said the sheriff.
Scott looked him in the eyes. “I just killed two monsters that could have ripped your entire posse apart, sheriff. Don’t you think your militia needs someone like me?”
“We can use all of the good men that we can get, but you don’t want to join for any reason other than to look for people you know,” said the sheriff.
“Heh. Don’t trust me?” asked Scott.
“It’s not that, son,” said the sheriff. “It would just be best for you not to try to get involved with the militia.”
“Why is that?” asked Scott, though from his body language and inflection it was obvious that he had a good idea as to the reason.
The sheriff stepped closer and lowered his voice a bit. “Look. I don’t know how you managed to do this, but the militia is only taking people with military and law enforcement experience…”
“You sayin’ a guy who can take out two monsters like this on his own isn’t welcome?” asked Scott in an equally low voice.
Sheriff Payne sighed quietly then reached out and put his hand on Scott’s gore splattered shoulder. “No. I’m saying they have to verify that service…”
Scott snorted and then gently remove the sheriff’s hand. “I won’t pass a background check. Is that it?”
The sheriff did not answer. He did not need to answer.
“It’s like that?” asked Scott.
“I don’t run the militia. The mayor appointed someone to run it like a government task force,” said the sheriff. “I just have to oversee it. For stuff like this I need to bring a few deputies then join in to end the problem. Otherwise, the sheriff’s department is mostly on the look-out for looters and people in trouble.”
Scott drew back a little. “Are you serious?”
“I’m afraid so,” replied the sheriff. “If we’re being technical, I should legally be in charge of those efforts. There was so much going on that I needed to respond to at the time that the mayor chose to authorize someone else.”
The guy with the rifle snorted. “That’s the excuse the mayor gave anyway.”
Scott wanted to argue with the man, but he sensed no hint of corruption about him. At least, nothing that stank worse than the worm. Even the guy with the rifle seemed clean to his senses. The sheriff truly did not think he should get involved in the militia.
“Neither of you seem happy about the militia being run by someone else,” said Scott.
Sheriff Payne did not answer his question, instead he adjusted his hat then nodded to him before he changed the subject. “You’ve changed a bit… I almost didn’t recognize you.”
“If anyone ever needed to change his life, it’s me,” said Scott.
Nothing else was said for a while. The sheriff looked into the eyes of the boy he once knew and saw something else there entirely. The change in color not-withstanding, there was a confidence that he had never seen reflected in those bright red orbs.
The sheriff looked at him for a moment, truly looked at him. He was taller, broader, and more muscular than he could ever remember seeing him be before. There was something odd about his ears and there was a strangeness around his forehead though his hair obscured it. That hair itself was a mystery as it fell to his mid back.
“I’m not sure what happened to you, but thank you for doing what you did here,” said Sheriff Payne.
“Sometimes there are things that have to be done,” said Scott without any hint of emotion.
Sheriff Payne drew back slightly as he realized what the blood-soaked man really meant, then nodded. “Yes. That is true.”
“Scott. Are you taking care of yourself?” he asked suddenly.
Earnest brown eyes searched Scott’s face. Scott could not deny feeling touched by his concern. It was so rare for someone to express concern for him, or at least it had been rare.
“Yes. Things… are better now,” said Scott.
Sheriff Payne looked as though he wanted to reach out to him again but drew his hand back and nodded. “That’s good. That’s real good.”
“If I can’t join the militia what am I supposed to do?” asked Scott. “I refuse to sit back and do nothing.”
“I…” said the Sheriff.
The rifle guy spoke up, “Couldn’t you deputize him or something? You know, like you did a few of us who didn’t want to join that militia?”
Sheriff Payne looked at the man for a moment then turned back to Scott. “It would let you walk around town, but we’d need you to work with us.”
“As long as I can help out and find my people, sure,” said Scott.
“You have people, now?” asked the sheriff. His eyes widened slightly but were soon overshadowed by the slowly spreading smile on his lips.
“Things are better now,” said Scott once more.
The sheriff’s smile only grew wider. It was good to see this change in the boy; no, the young man who stood before him. “I guess we can make that happen. Deputizing you, I mean.”
“Do I get a cool hat?” asked Scott.
The sheriff barked out a laugh then nodded. “Yeah. Sure, but…”
Scott offered him a wry smile. “I don’t need you to give me a gun, sheriff.”
Sheriff Payne looked to the dead worm behind Scott then back to the gore encrusted boy who had grown up before he knew it. “I can see that.”