Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Hersh?
Sandra turned, but before she was able to answer, Pelko strode across the tiled floor, pushed open the inner door and stuck most of his upper body out the front door in the direction of the derelict, hairy retard making his way down the street. "Yo, Hershel, got a minute? Mind coming in here? Gotta ask you something." Pelko bellowed.
Hershel's head came up and his eyes focused, apparently shaking off whatever foggy thought was keeping him occupied as he made his awkward way up the street. Slurring and spitting around pinkish-grey gums Hersh spewed "Sure, no problem, got no place special to get to right at the moment".
This latest state of affairs really threw Sandra, ending her feelings of condescending superiority and leaving her feeling more than a little scared and concerned that whatever it was that had chased her not too long ago was being invited in for a possible second chance at her. She snapped her mouth shut, dropped the receiver and stared at the shifting form of the old man as he entered the front door past Pat's extended arm and then waited for him to open the second set of doors before again, passing along the cops blue-glad forearm.
"What the hell is going on and why you bothering me, I've ain't done anything that should concern you, Patrick." the old man said, not in a friendly way but not in a necessarily belligerent one either. He caught sight of Sandra and leaned forward a bit, one side of his face, the one sporting the stripe of burgundy colored beard-stain, stretching upwards in what was close to a lopsided grin. "And who's the tasty morsel you got here Patrick, aint seen her around here before?"
Pelko opened his mouth to say something but stammered for split second. He still wasn't exactly sure how to explain to Hershel that a girl in her prime (he'd say maybe 25 at the most) was accusing a ancient crip of trying to run her down like a dog jacking a deer so he could .. eat her. Again that disturbing image. "Stop it" Pat said to himself with a quick shake of his head.
Before he could even start his explanation, Patrick and Avery as well, realized that the woman had lost it completely. Eyes wide with terror, mouth screwed up into an almost wild snarl of fear, Sandra was backing her way quickly across the floor and was probably going to connect with the fax machine, sending both her and the equipment into a heap on the floor. Avery half ran, half jumped to block her course. She ended up slamming against his body and pushing up against his torso trying to get as much distance between herself and the odd, bandy little man in the front of the office. Her ass was indeed as tight as it looked.
"Oh Hell" Hershel bubbled, realizing he was the cause of all the commotion "forgot ma teeth. Has a habit of scaring the shit outa people when I do. Sorry there Darlin'". Hersh dipped his head, turning it slightly away from his audience. He fished something out of the right breast pocket of his oily-worn wool flannel shirt, using the grimed, blackened, yet beautifully refined fingers of his left hand. With a surprisingly fluid motion, he removed a pair of dentures from the square of fabric on his chest, wiping them against the leg of his grimed and slimed overhauls. He popped both plates at the same time, into his mouth. "See, not a hell of a lot better, but at least I won't scare the crappola atta ya now" Hershel said, while flashing the room his best Monkey-Wards mail-order smile.
"You been out over near the Stairway today Hersh?" Avery asked. He gently but firmly held Sandra by her upper arms, moving her out of the way and almost propping her against a large 4-drawer filing cabinet against the back wall as he started to step closer to Hersh in order to complete his conversation. She made no resistance but tried to move even further away from Hershel Whittimore.
"Nope, was picking up tops for my woodstove after Jameson had them log his 50 acres along Front Hill Road. Getting old, don't fell 'em if I can cut tops for winter. Hell of a lot easier on the old back" Hershel sputter-spewged, his voice contorted and moistened by age, whiskers and the ridiculous set of ill-fitting off-the-rack dentures he was wearing.
"Good enough for me, Hersh. Sorry to have bugged ya." Pelko announced.
Avery interrupted Hershel's attempted departure. "Wait just a minute, Hershel. While I got ya here, can you stay away from the recycle center for a few days? Ruthie at the swap shop said you were there Thursday, dumpster diving again. You know the town doesn't want you out there messing around. They're worried you'll fall into a compactor and knowing you, live through it and sue".
"A-yuh, yuh, a-yuh" the old man mumbled as he turned and bobbed his way out the door, his elbows held out, lower arms swinging as though to help keep him balanced.
Still leaning against the cabinet but feeling a distinct sense of relief Sandra had an errant thought "One of his legs must be a full fucking foot shorter than the other to make him walk that way. Ugh, how nasty". Sandra knew that her contempt for anyone with a deformity was not particularly PC or even nice, but what's a girl to do right? And at least she finally had a coherent thought, one so strong it cut through the fog of fear that had encircled her the minute that creature crossed the threshold and entered the room. At least it was a thought and not the high, humming fear voice that only said, "Run! Run away from him, run, run, run." Maybe it hadn't been him. Maybe he had a kid, perish the thought, that looks like him."
As the second door swung shut after the passing of the odd, crippled old man, Avery turned to the woman. "Yea I can see where you could make a mistake, thinking Hershel was the one who chased you in the woods, especially by his clothes. Up here hunter plaid and work pants are the norm. I guarantee if you hit Jess's Discount Store any Saturday morning, you'll see 10 guys wearing the same outfit. Honestly, whoever was messing with you out in those woods, it sure wasn't Hersh."
But, despite the rural area and the general lack of criminal activity, Pelko was still a cop. One who took his oath seriously. "How about we go back out to those woods, you show me where it happened, I'll look around a bit and see if we can't come to some resolution. Hersh or not, having some wild-eyed logging-neck chasing pretty women just isn't kosher, even here". He said, looking Sandra in the eye and trying to portray honest concern. "Probably one of the Unrue brother's growing dope out in the woods, just trying to scare you off so you won't turn him in or steal his crop. It's worth a look, if you're game?" He nodded in her direction and then the door.
Now Sandra was tired, and scared and pissed, but in all actuality, suburban upbringing or not, she was no coward. "Damn straight I'm going out there. I want to know what's going on and at least keep someone else from going through the same bullshit I've just gone through. Let's go."
She strode to the door as Pelko, eyes rolling in a wordless "what the hell else can I do with the dumb bitch" to Avery followed. "Hold down the fort will ya please?" he sniped at the rapidly grinning younger cop.