I have passed the halfway point! It’s halfway through the month and I am halfway through the 50,000 words. I am still on track! Please enjoy, and remember this is a draft.
They went back to Marshall’s apartment, and he put on his good shirt and pants. He broke into the envelope his sister had sent him, and pulled out a few of the bills. Marshall took a moment to shave and to brush his hair so that it did a better job of hiding the scar. After he was taken care of, they made a quick trip to Catrin’s house. Her parent’s house was about a mile east of Marshall’s apartment. It was just one street removed from the beach near the boardwalk. It was a nicely furnished home, and very clean. Nothing seemed out of place until they reached Catrin’s bedroom, which at least looked lived in, although it was still quite neat. While Marshall sat on the bed, Catrin quickly changed from her jeans and t-shirt into a simple floral dress. She applied some makeup and brushed out her hair. “How’s that for ten minutes worth of work,” she said.
Marshall smiled. “You look pretty great,” he said. Catrin smiled.
They went back out to her car and she drove them over to the Hyatt. The party was in their ballroom. Catrin presented their invitation and Marshall paid the money. Even from outside the doors, they could hear the sounds of trumpets, tubas, and an accordion. Once they were inside the ballroom, Marshall almost laughed at what he saw. Along one wall was a long, formal looking buffet. Out of fancy silver dishes and platters, they served Bratkartoffeln, Schnitzel, and a dozen German dishes that Marshal could not identify. There was not a sign of bratwurst though, which made Catrin growl under her breath. There was beer though, a choice of Becks or Miller Light. Catrin got Becks. Marshall declined in favor of picking up a Coke from a set of bottles on ice.
There was a band inexpertly playing polka in the far corner, but no one seemed to be paying them the least bit of attention. Marshall was glad they had taken the time to change clothes and get presentable. Even under those circumstances, he wished he had taken the time for a tie. Marshall was in the process of reminding himself that he had no one to impress when Catrin said, “There are my parents.”
She pointed to a couple across the room. Marshall was slightly relieved to find that they were visibly older than he was. He estimated that they were in their mid-fifties. The mother was blond, like her daughter, although Marshall was pretty sure it was being supplemented with dye. She wore a black dress, and had her hair styled in a loose bun with side-swept bangs. She had a salesman smile that did not reach her eyes. Catrin’s father was a small man with medium brown hair that Marshall suspected was a wig. He had a sharp nose and pale green eyes that gave his face an overall washed-out look in a city filled with tans, he was pale.
Catrin guided Marshall over to meet them. They seemed surprised to see her, and the introductions with Marshall were a bit awkward. Catrin referred to him as her “work friend” which satisfied neither his parents nor Marshall. Her father gave him a too-firm handshake and her mother made no motion to touch him at all. The only good thing about the introductions was that he finally found out their last name was Prichard. Just as they were beginning to talk, they were joined by a very handsome Hispanic man and had to make a second round of introductions. It turned out that this was David Guerrero, the man who was running for Sheriff. Guerrero was dressed in a black suit with a white shirt and a black necktie that used a trinity knot. His hair was jet black, with just the first signs of a receding hairline, and his dark eyes gave him an intense stare that Marshall found slightly unsettling. He clearly knew Catrin parents as well as Catrin.
The stranger thing was that he seemed to know Marshall as well. When Marshall gave him his name, David Guerrero said, “Oh yes, Marshall Cooper. I’ve heard so much about you!” For a moment, Marshall assumed that he was being polite, but he went on. “You’re from the phoenix area, correct?” When Marshall confirmed that he had lived in the area Guerrero went on. “I got my MSW at ASU, way back in the nineties. Phoenix is a great city to be young in, don’t you think?
Marshall wasn’t sure if his experiences with jibed with Guererro’s experiences, but he said, “It certainly has that reputation.”
Guerrero said, “I know you’re new in town, and I’m happy you decided to check me out. “I know you’re had some talks with Dwight Weatherly.”
“Wow,” Marshall said, “Do you keep an eye on every potential voter?”
Guerrero laughed. “This is a pretty small town,” he said, “As of last count there were just 9500 registered voters. It’s an off-cycle year, so at best we’ll get 5000 people to the polls. At worst we’ll get 3000. In that respect, every vote does count. But to be honest, it was Benton who filled me in about you. She thinks highly of you. She tells me that you have a habit of being in the right place at the right time. She called it a rare gift.”
Marshall could think of no way in which he would consider himself to have that particular gift, but he didn’t feel it was prudent to disagree. He made a note in his head though to register to vote. “I am honored that she feels I am of value. I’m still pretty new to this town, and she was kind enough to share some of its history with me.”
“She has definitely been of help to my campaign,” Guerrero said. Marshall took that to mean financially, although he assumed she had dispensed some advice as well. They talked for another minute or two. Guererro gave his elevator pitch about why he should be sheriff. It seemed to boil down to Dwight Weatherly (Guererro never called him Sheriff) being too old, too set in his ways, and too beholden to his own financial interests. He also offered a few things about himself, primarily the fact that he came at law enforcement from a holistic community approach. He believed crime was best dealt with by making sure that the police knew everyone’s name. “In a big city, you can make an argument that this is an impossible task, but Santa Creda is the perfect size for involved and attentive law enforcement.”
Martin had no major disagreement with community policing, but he wasn’t especially convinced that Sheriff Dwight was doing a bad job. To be honest, Marshall had not given any thought to local politics or to law enforcement until he had landed at the sheriff’s house.
Guererro moved on, but the effect of his interest in Marshall seemed to have sold him to Mr. and Mrs. Prichard. Catrin’s mom, especially, seemed more relaxed and for a few minutes they chatted amiably about local restaurants and whether or not the Cubs could finally get back to the World Series, or even win it. Mr. Pritchard (Call me Evan), was a big fan of baseball. Marshall knew enough to fake his way through a conversations, especially about baseball, which was the only sport besides golf that his father had ever watched. Eventually the elder Prichards moved on and Marshall was left alone with Catrin again.
“I didn’t realize you were so close with Benton,” Catrin said.
“Neither did I,” Marshall agreed. “Last week I was an unemployed beach bum, five days ago I was a bartender, now I appear to be a community leader.”
“You do have a habit of being in the right place at the right time,” Catrin said.
“It’s a rare gift.” Marshall said. His ankle was starting to hurt, so they found a table. Catrin went to grab them some food from the buffet. The polka band appeared to have taken a break, or perhaps simply quit due to lack of interest. There was just a low murmur of conversation now. Marshall looked around for Benton Noro, feeling like he wanted the opportunity to observe her. It certainly seemed like she was observing him. He wondered if perhaps the texts had come from her, but it seemed less likely now that he had seen her with her girlfriend. It was less likely, but certainly not impossible. Marshall had the feeling that Benton Noro did pretty much whatever suited Benton Noro. It was a trait that Marshall had to admit he found attractive, if a little unsettling.
Catrin came back with the food and another coke for Marshall. She grumbled again about the lack of bratwurst and Marshall voiced his agreement. “We should have taken that up with the man himself,” Marshall proclaimed.
“No,” Catrin said, “They just went with the wrong caterers. “They probably used the hotel staff, and they felt obliged to fancy things up.”
“What they needed was a good caterer,” Marshall said.
“And better beer,” Catrin said.