The young sheriff’s deputy raised his eyes from the emails he’d been impatiently clearing off his phone. “Hello, Glennis.” He knew the reporter hadn’t just happened across him. They rarely did. He waited.
“I won’t insult you by saying I don’t mean to bother you.”
Sparks eyed her for a few long seconds. It was what the guys at the station called his “coply stare”, and it was making even the jaded newshound a little uneasy. Reporters weren’t in the only profession whose daily encounters caused distrust and made questioning motives a way of life. “Would you care for a cup of coffee? I need a refill.” He stood, pulled out a chair from his table, and waited until she sat. Considering herself at least liberated if not an avowed feminist, she knew Sparks was a true gentleman and would seat her, treating her like a lady whether she acted like one or not. Fleetingly: You know, being pampered a little isn’t all that bad… Thanking him, she took the proffered chair.
“Actually, no. I’m coffee’d out for awhile.”
Refilling his to-go cup, he walked back across the near-empty serving area of Howya Bean, a great little coffee shop he’d always enjoyed visiting when on break.
“What’s on your mind?” The hard-edged, interrogative tone was chilly, causing her to look up at him as he pulled out his chair and sat back down.
The reporter hesitated and took a breath, transmitting to a cop’s eye she was edging into sensitive territory.
“You’re friends with Granger, right?” He let her query lay there limp, like a windsock on a breezy day gone suddenly calm.
“Where is this going? If you know anything about Granger, you know he’s a very private man, personally and professionally. He doesn’t talk, and neither does anyone counting him a friend, or wanting to keep him one.”
“Well, I’m sure he—” Sparks just kept talking, his words popping like the 124-grain Lawman hollowpoints he carried being fired downrange for qualification.
“His ability to actively listen while keeping his mouth shut is one of the things that makes him so unique and effective at what he does. It’s a habit I’m working to acquire; I’m learning it from him.” The brittle echoes of the deputy’s words slapped against Witherspoon’s hardened resolve, momentarily quieting her. “No one he’s ever helped would intentionally compromise their relationship with him. Once more: where is this going?”
Glennis hesitated. Everything she’d heard about Granger seemed not only true, but way understated.
“I . . . I’ve heard things about him from snippets of conversations with those just like you’re talking about – people he’s helped. If he’d be willing, I’d like to interview him and find out his perspectives about what he does and how he does it.”
The wind died down again. Though there were a few other conversations going on inside Howya Bean’s cheery, eclectic interior, it seemed there was a cylinder of dead air like a levitating moat around the table at which the two of them sat.
It was Sparks’s turn to hesitate. “There was a time I’d be rather abrupt. I’m one of the thousands Granger’s helped across his career, and I’m considerate of him and his time. Maybe even slightly jealous. But one of the large things I’ve been learning from Granger is to never speak for someone able to speak for themselves. It’s a fine-edged insult and I don’t have that right. All I can tell you is this: it’s an understatement to say I’m protective of my relationship with this man. He’s easily the most simply complex, unforgettable person God’s ever brought across my path.” Sparks hesitated again for a few seconds.
“I’ve never met anyone like him.” He went quiet and sat, eyes unfocused, replaying . . . something from his past he’d shared with Granger. Then his sharp gaze was just as suddenly back. “I will tell him of your request. That’s all I’ll promise. The rest is up to him.”
The powerfully-built cop stood, scooted his chair back under the colorful table, and nodded almost imperceptibly at Glennis. She’d never admit it, were anyone to ask; but as he headed for the door, she scanned his broad back and thought, “If I didn’t know he’s an amputee, I’d never be able to tell it.” Her face slightly pink and warmish, she sat glancing around at any onlookers out of the corners of her eyes as she thought once again, “How I wish Sparks was a few years older.”
She sat musing over their conversation. Pursing her lips, she frowned slightly, already forming sentences in her mind as she pulled her pad and pen closer. She clicked it twice, then stared at it. Ungh. No wonder. It was a red, bling-quality stylus pen with Century21 stamped on it. Turning the corner of her mouth up in disgust, she twisted the offending utensil until fully open. What if I didn’t have both hands free? Oh, and the writing lights up! How special. Just a pen, people. A plain-John, no-frills clicker pen that writes. That too much ta ask?”
She reasoned that she’d do better with some fresh coffee. After all, it WAS a coffee shop. Seating herself again with a mug of steaming mocha, she began jotting down the basics of her chat with Sparks. She then began crafting three questions she’d ask Granger which might open him up a little. She scribbled out, rewrote and edited until each of the sentences played nice. Well, at least they were cordial. She sat back, fiddling with the offending pen while she drank her coffee and tried to think of anything she needed to add.
Glennis slanted her eyes to her phone, noticing the time. Woah. Time to get back. Gathering her purse and bag, she started to get up–and raked her shin on a table leg. Uh-hunh! Thaaat hurt!
Amused at herself and slightly limping, she wryly spoke through gritted teeth in rhythm with pushing the coffee shop’s door open with a slight smacking sound. “Grits!” Realizing she’d said it audibly, she slanted her eyes around her again as she shook off her mooning and got back to busin—
Her phone sang to her from her jacket pocket. “I will always love you . . .”
“Speak of the—” Hurriedly she silenced it before anybody else could hear the ringtone she’d found for him. She did have a liberated image to uphold, right? As she clicked ‘Talk’, she thought, “Wonder why he’s getting back to me so quickly?”
“Sparks. I spoke with Granger and told him what you want. He’ll call you.”
“Oh, okay–thanks.” She realized she was speaking into a dead phone; he’d already clicked off. “Well, kinda brings a girl back down to Earth, huh?” Bobbing her head left and raising her right shoulder, Glennis made a rueful face as she fished her car key from her purse and mashed the unlock button.
She needed to get back to her desk. She’d left her office number for Granger, and she didn’t want to miss his call.
© D. Dean Boone, November 2018