I’ve known some folks say they hear God talking right to them but I never have. Not that I didn’t try more than once when I got myself into a situation and thought my time had come. I reckon I’ve seen too much of the bad side of this world. Folks that have seen what I have don’t much expect to hear from the higher power.

     My friend Linder Wertz says I have a dim view of this life and the people in it. He says you spend your time around death and meanness, it will sour you on people but I tell him that law enforcement is about upholding the law so that death and meanness stay where they belong. Where Linder looks to God to know what to do, I look to the law and I’ve told him so more than once when my temper got the best of me. He can make me madder than anyone I know. The law is one thing I can believe in, maybe the only thing. Lately, I’ve had a hard time believing in much else.

     Now, I was raised Catholic and we went to church nearly every week, so I can’t plead ignorance of things religious. My grandfather passed out programs every Sunday morning, and my two aunts volunteered in the church kitchen any time there was a wedding or funeral. I hate to think what they might say if they heard me talking like this, but there it is. I suppose it’s a good thing they’re no longer with us.

     My mother, father and older sister were killed when a trucker fell asleep and crossed the center line. I was eight months old. My aunts, Gert and Mattie, were a good deal older than my mother and never married, so they took me in and raised me as their own. Linder lived right next door. Growing up, he was as close to a brother as I’ll ever know.

     Linder’s good-for-nothing father left before he was born and was never seen again. His mother had to work the swing shift at the Rock, the granite quarry used to build the State Capitol building, so the aunts ended up raising him too. We were a fine pair, I have no doubt. I don’t know how Gert and Mattie managed.

     Linder was always thin and awkward-looking. He tried all the sports, mostly because I played, but he was never good at much of anything. Except, that is, for archery. His slight frame and good eye were perfect for it. He went on to win the state championship for his age three times over. He might have really made a name for himself if he hadn’t happened to go out hunting when he was about sixteen. It was something the men in the community did for fatherless boys.

     True to form, Linder killed a white tail buck out right with his first shot. I believe he only went because he was asked and never gave it much thought until he saw that deer fall. I was standing right next to him and I could see right away he was distraught. Linder always was of the sensitive type, caring for hurt animals and people. He later told me it ruined the sport for him to see a living thing end so quickly at his hand. He put up his bow for good that day. Gert and Mattie did their best to convince him to take up the sport again but he would have none of it. 

     About a week before Gert died – she would never let anyone call her by her given name, Gertrude – Linder and I called on them. She and Mattie had always been in good health considering they were in their eighties and they seemed alright that day, although Gert did mention she couldn’t shake a stomach bug.

     “I just knew I should have thrown out that venison Charlie Timmons brought over. It was well over a week old, but you know how I hate to waste good food. Now that I think back on it, I should’ve just given it to the pigs and let them have the stomach ache.”  She placed a hand over her middle.

     They had some young man living out back and helping them fix up the place. He took care of the pigs and did other chores. The last time I visited, I noticed they had moved him into one of the extra rooms in the house. I was surprised by that but kept it to myself.

     Something else bothered me. Gert was not one to complain. I knew it was likely she was feeling a good bit worse than she let on. But I knew she’d argue if I mentioned it, so I let it go. We got to talking about their days teaching half the kids in the county, most of them old as me by now, and I forgot all about it - until later.

     Not twelve days passed and they were gone, one right after the other. Mattie died a week to the day after Gert. Doc Nowak, their doctor, said it’s not uncommon for people that age to die in a short proximity if they were very close. Gert and Mattie had lived their entire lives together, so that did make some sense. Still, he couldn’t give an exact cause of death. He just said they got a virus and died. They were in their eighties and it happens, he said.

     Now, I was a Ranger for many years and when things don’t add up I have a sense about it. It just nags at me like a rock in my boot and I have to do something. No matter that I’d been away from the law for some while. It’s an old habit and one hard to shake. And, I couldn’t get used to the idea of them passing so fast like that. They were the last of my family. So, I went to see Doc Nowak.