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Brave Mayor Takes on the Criminal Element
Part 1 of a four-part short story
By: Columnist Carl Langley
posted November 19, 2007
GUEST COLUMN – The sun was an hour away
from filtering through the large stand of pines along the side of the
street as the mayor wheeled his ramshackle Vega around the curve
leading to his home. The Vega, a piece of junk bought during the midst
of a divorce, wheezed and gasped at every stroke of a piston.
As the mayor, who was returning from a football game in Jacksonville,
Fla., rounded the curve he saw up ahead, in the dim light of his front
yard, a glow like that of a lantern running low on fuel. He assumed it
was the reflection from a street light glancing off the back window of
The minute he drove into the yard he realized the mistake. The glow
came from the dying embers of a blaze that had consumed his previously
owned Cadillac. It was a smoking hulk, with only the chrome bumper,
later salvaged and sold for $60 dollars, escaping the wrath of flames
hot enough to melt the car’s alternator.
“Those no good rotten skunks,” the mayor screamed as he leaped from the
Vega. True to form the Vega kept running for several minutes after the
ignition key was removed. It finally died out five minutes later but
the mayor didn’t notice. His dream car was gone.
The embattled mayor unlocked the back door of his house, ran to the
telephone, dialed 911 and reported the crime. Fortunately, his night
policeman, or night watchman as you have it, was awake at the time and
sitting at city hall. He was waiting for daylight so he could go home
and take his usual breakfast of biscuits and gravy.
“Get me a crime unit here,” the mayor shouted to the policeman, who, it
later turned out had failed to patrol the neighborhood in which the
mayor resided. He explained that he was so occupied with paperwork
(presumably reading a fishing magazine and the morning newspapers) he
was unable to complete a full patrol in the hours before dawn.
Two hours after the mayor pleaded for help the sheriff’s department
dispatched a man who supposedly was an arson investigator and general
forensics expert rolled into one. The investigator got out of his car
and swaggered into the yard.
While the mayor and his night watchman stood by in the yard a few feet
from the smoking Cadillac the investigator strolled around the car
several times. The investigator kept bobbing his head up and down and
saying “aha, aha” over and over.
“This car was deliberately set on fire,” the investigator remarked to
the policeman, who nodded his head in agreement. He operated on the
same intelligence level as the investigator. “Get him out of here
before I kill him,” the mayor shouted to his policeman. The
investigator fled to his car, yelling out as he drove away that a
report would be filed about the outrage to the mayor’s car. That was
just what the mayor needed, a promise of more paperwork.
The mayor’s night watchman suddenly remembered that he had to check on
the local grade school, leaped in his car and drove away. Unknown to
the mayor, the policeman had been using the patrol car to ferry his two
kids and their friends to school each morning. He also used the patrol
car to take his wife to the hairdresser and shopping. In short, he had
turned the town police car into his second personal car.
As the policeman drove away, the mayor stormed back into the house,
pulled open the door to a pantry below his sink, dragged out a bottle
of Jim Beam and took a deep swig. He took another swig, then another
swig. Between swigs he cursed, gazed into the ceiling and vowed
revenge, even if it meant tracking to the ends of the earth the ones
who had burned his car.
The burning of the car on the night of the Gator Bowl football game in
1980 was just the beginning of a local nightmare that was going
national. The day after the car burning the incident made the local
newspapers, then went out on the national wire service. Soon radio talk
show hosts were calling the mayor, asking what was going on and what he
intended to do about it.
“I intend to kill them all,” the mayor remarked at one point during the
first day of the calls. He was talking to a radio talk show host in
Tulsa, Okla., who really could care less about the mayor’s car but was
glad to chat it up. Then the mayor got smart. He decided it was more
prudent to clam up, while charting out a course of action and plotting
his revenge. He refused to talk to the media and took refuge in his
Several weeks after the mayor’s car was burned the chief executive was
driving down Main Street in his wheezing clunker one morning when he
spotted a juvenile delinquent loitering at a street corner. The mayor
pulled over, flashed a big smile and offered the lad a ride.
The wary, jittery juvenile declined the offer, realizing that it could
be the last ride he ever took. The refusal prompted the mayor to pull
over to the curb, get out of the Vega and approach the little skunk.
The mayor had a message to deliver and he delivered it in the
vernacular of the street. “You little bastard, you and your buddies
burned my car,” the mayor said. “I am going to kill you, and then I am
going to kill your buddies, one by one.”
The juvenile, with the mayor’s threats ringing in his ears, fled up the
street and turned into a yard. He disappeared in some brush behind a
house. The mayor got back in his car and drove to city hall. It was
going to be a busy day because he had to complete his application for
federal funding he needed to build a new town hall.
His request for $465,000 in federal aid was destined to be approved,
but some slippery county school board members would steal most of that
from him. The $330,000 they lifted right out of the mayor’s purse was
supposed to go for improvements at the town’s elementary school but
ended up at a high school at the county seat. The mayor later observed
that some school board members make the Mafia look like choir boys.
The mayor’s municipal construction plans included building a jail,
where he could keep the misfits close at hand and observe their
actions. The jail also could be used to house stray dogs, who at the
time were being caught by the dozens in a trapping program started by
A councilman with an IQ slightly higher than that of a cabbage wanted
to put all the dogs in a small block building, then use the exhaust
from a town truck to send them over the Rainbow Bridge. Declining the
councilman’s recommendation, the mayor told the deranged one, “That’s
all we need, gassing dogs and getting pet lovers in an uproar. We got
people in this town who will shoot you for mistreating pets before they
get riled up over mistreatment of their children or spouses.”
With the juvenile in deep hiding and an uneasy quiet settling over the
town, the mayor went about his usual routine, which consisted mainly of
trying to figure out where his on-duty police officer was hanging out
in the afternoon and signing some paper work demanded by state and
federal bureaucrats. He also had to answer the usual run of complaints
you hear in a small town.
One complaint came from a resident whose house (a mobile home) was
missed by the garbage collectors. The sanitation technicians, as
bureaucrats call them, should have taken away the whole house, the
mayor remarked. The mobile home later was taken away by the man’s wife
while he was at work. Her boyfriend hitched it to a heavy-duty pickup
truck and they headed north. Another protest came from a woman
complaining about a barking dog. The mayor told the town clerk the dog
should have filed a complaint about her. To his regret, the woman
remained in town and became more belligerent about barking dogs.
Several days after the mayor’s run-in with the juvenile, a call came
into city hall from the sheriff’s department. On the other end of the
line was a detective (he had been working as a termite control
inspector before the sheriff pronounced him as the coming of Sherlock
Holmes). The detective wanted to speak to the mayor. The mayor took the
telephone from the town clerk and announced himself. A voice on the
other end of the line asked the mayor, in an officious, demanding tone,
if he had uttered a threat against a young man named Tim. More
specifically, the officer wanted to know if the mayor had threatened to
“I sure did threaten to kill him, and that’s what I intend to do,” the
mayor blared into the phone as veins bulged in his neck. “What’s more,
I am going to kill his worthless buddies.” The mayor then told the
detective (who by now probably wished he had never made the call), “I
will kill you, too, if you make any attempt to screw around with my own
personal investigation.” The phone went silent at the sheriff‘s
As it turned out, justice was a little slow in getting into town but a
few days later it arrived. Another investigator called to inform the
mayor that a young man named Tim had confessed to burning the mayor’s
car and was going to plead guilty in the next session of criminal
court. The mayor’s threat to terminate Tim had turned the trick.
While the mayor stayed busy planning his strategy to get the federal
and state funds for the new city hall and plotting his revenge against
Tim and his pals, the wheels of justice in the car burning case creaked
along, moving like molasses on a freezing day at the county courthouse.
But on a Monday morning six months later, he got word through the
street network that Tim had gone before a judge with a tearful
admission of his guilt but had refused to implicate his associates.
The judge, who was a former House member, bail hearing lawyer and
full-time political hack who associates say was not potty trained until
the age of 12, was pulled out of the judicial grab bag to take Tim’s
guilty plea. After hearing accounts of how Tim and his worthless
friends had packed the mayor’s car with newspapers and straw, then set
it ablaze, the judge acted.
The robed Mongoloid proving daily that this state’s legislature rewards
incompetence with regularity, gave Tim three years. But instead of a
lengthy stay in the state penitentiary he ordered the little weasel to
go past jail and spend two years on probation. He also ordered Tim to
pay the mayor $1,800 for his car, with the payment to be made monthly
at $50 a whack.
Needless to say, the mayor, who knew Tim never worked and never
possessed $50 unless he stole it from someone else, was enraged. The
mayor had deliberately stayed away from the courthouse for fear of
losing control, leaping over the railing separating spectators from
trial participants, grabbing Tim by the throat and choking the life out
of the little bastard. The mayor gets high marks for his prudence, but
the mayor gave the judge low marks for his stupidity.
With the judge’s “non-sentence” confirmed, the mayor rushed to city
hall, called the city clerk away from more pressing duties (reading a
gardening catalog and filling out a Sears order blank for some pillow
cases and sheets) and told her to “take a letter.” A copy of the letter
has long disappeared down whatever black hole government documents go,
but it was a rousing chastisement, denunciation and denial of the judge.
“Look you idiot,” the mayor began, “he didn’t burn my damned car in
installments, and I want full payment for my car, all at one whack.” It
was the opening sentence after the customary salutation, in which the
mayor forgot to address the judge as The Honorable, certainly an
oversight in the haste of its preparation.
As expected, the mayor’s letter to the judge went unanswered. The
clerk, in a mood that swung between full-blown panic and high anxiety,
had grown to like the mayor and feared he would be jailed for contempt
but nothing ever happened. The judge apparently didn’t want to call up
the mayor and have his incompetence and stupidity laid bare before the
world. The mayor had closed his letter to the judge by warning the
robed one of the pitfalls of impertinence. The mayor’s failure to get
justice in his case was a cruel harbinger of darker days to come - and
there would be a lot of them before he was able to tame the town and
bring its rowdies to justice.
(To be continued)
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