One Good Deed - Chapter 4 books and stories free download online pdf in English

One Good Deed - Chapter 4

IT WAS FIVE MINUTES before nine in the morning. The sun was scaling the sky, which was a dazzling blue without a single cloud marring its surface. As Archer stood there on the pavement, looking up, he had started to doubt that
cumulus was even allowed here.

Then he lowered his gaze and turned it to the Poca City Courts and
Municipality Building. Done in the rococo style and also decidedly on the
cheap, the structure was easily big enough for the unwieldy name chiseled
across its imitation stone front that was bracketed by false spindle turrets
and its middle filled in with even more curious architectural elements. It
looked to Archer like it had been dropped from a fairy tale into their midst.
A castle without a king or queen; he wondered what they had done with the

Archer spat on his hand and wiped it through his hair before replacing his
hat there. He had sink-washed his shirt, undershorts, and socks the night
before, letting the breeze dry them fine. His worn and dusty Oxfords had
been spit-polished. He’d even found an iron at the hotel, and for a nickel’s
worth of rental time had done the best he could on his suit and shirt; he’d
even given his slender tie a few passes. He’d stopped by a barbershop and
splurged for a shave overseen by a tiny, wrinkled black man with no teeth,
who wielded his strap and razor like a musketeer. His jaw and chin had
never been this smooth since he’d dropped from the womb.

He was as smart-looking as he was ever likely to be, he figured.

The lobby had marble floor tiles in swirls of emerald green and fat
columns holding up a ceiling with murals depicting things close to the
musical infants stuck in the fountain, just with more color and poorer taste.
He quickly found the proper department, emblazoned as it was on a blackbacked directory, in a lobby that was full of strays looking for direction, as
he was.

The elevator was a grill-door operation, which Archer still did not cotton
to. So he walked two floors up and headed down the hall counting office
numbers as he went. He neared the sheriff’s haunts and also that of the tax
revenue bureau. A uniformed man in his fifties came out of the former’s
door as he passed by and gave Archer the once-over. He had on a big
Stetson hat, a Colt long-barreled revolver in a waist holster, and sported a
gut that one would see coming around the corner before one did its owner.
Pinned to his broad chest was a shiny pointed star.

“Where you headed, son?”

“Parole Office,” said Archer.

The man’s eyes gleamed with condescension. “Carderock?”

Archer nodded, fingering his hat.

“Ernestine Crabtree’s the parole officer,” said the man.

“That’s what my paper says.”

“She’s a damn fine-looking woman.” The man tongued his lips and his
eyes tightened and his nostrils flared. “Damn fine.”

“Okay,” said Archer.

“But she don’t mess with your kind, son.”

“I’m not looking to mess with anyone, least of all my parole officer.”

“She likes men with badges,” he said, pointing to his own. “You tell her
Deputy Sheriff Willie Free says hello.”

“Will do, Sheriff Free.”

Archer watched the man saunter down the hall before he turned and
walked on.

The door was half-frosted glass above, transom over that, stained and
scraped pine down below.

Engraved across the glass was: PAROLE OFFICE: ERNESTINE J. CRABTREE.

Archer drew a calming breath and wondered what the next few minutes
would hold for him. He gripped the knob and pushed the door open.

The room inside was small. Varnished parquetry floor, walls painted
white, whirly fan going above, the smell of cigarette smoke enticingly
lingered as did a trail of its vapor in the air. Well, this place had the bus beat
by a mile just on the tobacco issue, he thought. There was a hat tree in the
corner from which dangled a woman’s trim, green pillbox hat.

He closed the door behind him, glanced down at the floor, and saw the
piece of folded paper that apparently had been slipped under the door. He
bent down and picked it up.

He read the words on the page. They were crude and mostly misspelled.
And they were all of a sexual and violent nature directed at Ernestine

Archer’s mouth curled in disgust as he scrunched up the paper and put it
in his pocket.

A plain wooden desk sat in the middle of the room, a straight back chair
not built for comfort was lined up behind it and perched in the kneehole,
and a weighty and ponderous, dull gray Royal typewriter dominated the top
of the desk, with a preprinted form wound into it. A pulled-out leaf was on
the left side of the desk and had several files on it. A blue fountain pen lay
in its cradle, its brass nib sparkling from the overhead light.

Archer ducked down to take a look at the page in progress. It looked
official, and the typed comments on another poor parolee soul held phrases
like, “unacceptable attitude,” “overly aggressive,” and “devious.” He
looked for the name of the person she was reporting about, but it must have
been on another page.

A fat black phone sat to the right of the typewriter, its cord snaking into
the kneehole. Next to the phone was a speckled glass ashtray, with a spent,
unfiltered butt lingering, and a chrome lighter parallel to it.

He twirled his hat and waited, until the clock on the wall overhead hit
nine a.m.

The door he’d come through opened and there stood, apparently, Miss
Ernestine J. Crabtree.

His first thought was she looked nothing like her name. His second
impression was the name did her justice just fine.

She was around his age more or less and tall for a woman, about fiveeight barefoot, he estimated. She wore a black skirt that stopped below the
knee and was flared out by a petticoat underneath that widened her hips,
and a white blouse with ruffles down the front and a schoolmarm Peter Pan

Despite the fullness of the skirt, he could gauge her figure, which was
shapely, perhaps more than that now that he thought about it. She had on
flesh-colored stockings – and no doubt the seams would be lined up
perfectly in back – and grim, low-heeled pumps. Her blond hair was done
up in so tight a bun that it pulled at her face. Her chin was sharply defined,
the cheeks nicely formed and riding high, the lips full, with not a trace of
lipstick, which he’d already figured on because there had been none on the
cigarette end. Behind black shell glasses, her eyes were blue and wide, the
irises plump, with the overall effect being what he thought some might call
vivacious. At least they held the potential if she let her hair down, in more
ways than one. All in all, quite a looker, he concluded. And then he thought
about the sick note residing in his pocket and he stopped thinking about the
woman in that way.

Her countenance did fit her name, he concluded. It was a slab of granite
with nothing behind it. The baby blue eyes, now that he studied them again,
seemed bound to the surface of the fleshy sockets only. It was a cold and
untrusting face peering back at him.

“You are Mr. Archer?” she said, coming forward after shutting the door.

“Yes, ma’am, I am.”

“I am Ernestine Crabtree.”

“I figured, from the name on the door.” He put out his hand. “Been here a
couple of minutes.”

She did not return the gesture. “Then you’re two minutes early.”

“I guess my watch has the runs.”

The granite only deepened a notch at his poor joke.

“Let’s get down to it then,” she said sharply.

She motioned to a chair set against the wall. “Pull that up across from the
desk,” she commanded as she sat down in front of the typewriter, her back straight as a two-by-four.

She spun out the page in there and rolled in a fresh sheet with a few firm
cranks of the wheel as he sat down across from her, his legs splayed wide,
his hat dangling in one hand.

“Full name?”

“Aloysius Archer.”

“Middle name?”

“Never had one.”

“Really?” she said incredulously.

“I think they believed one name was good enough, and certainly
Aloysius might, under some circumstances, be quite as good as two

She stared at him for a long moment with what he thought were lips
fighting to become a smile. In the end, the granite won out.

She asked for more personal information, which he readily gave, and that
Crabtree promptly typed on the form.

“You have your parole papers?”

He presented the pages and she dutifully looked over them.

“I trust you have studied your list of dos and don’ts?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And you have adhered to these instructions since leaving prison?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“No drinking, no carousing?”

“And no women, loose or otherwise.”

She looked up from the papers. “I think you’re taking this matter far too
frivolously, Mr. Archer. This is a serious business.”

“I can guarantee you that I’m giving it a lot of weight, ma’am. I don’t
want to go back to prison. That life is not for me. It was worse than fighting
in the war, and that’s saying something.”

The granite receded a bit, as she seemed pleased by his candid admission.
“That’s the proper attitude.” She used a rubber stamp to imprint the seal of
her office across the top of the first page and placed her initials and the date
on a line provided by the stamp and passed the pages back to him.

“A fellow I met in the hall asked me to say hello to you,” he said.

She glanced up at him. “What fellow?”

“Willie Free. He’s with the law.”

Archer watched closely for her reaction. She did not smile; instead the
woman grimaced. That told him a lot, maybe that he had already suspected
from the way Free had looked and talked about her.

She cleared her throat. “I have some job interviews for you to go on.
Gainful employment is absolutely vital to achieving your goal of never
returning to prison.”

“Thing is, I already have a job.”

Her fingers paused over the drawer she was about to open.
“Excuse me?”

“I had an interview with a gent last night. He hired me.”

“To do what, exactly?”

“Man’s in the business of loaning money. He hired me to collect a debt
he’s owed.”

“This is highly irregular. I’m not sure –”

He pulled the two twenties from his pocket and held the bills up. “He
already gave me an advance.”

She eyed the cash, her eyes widening a bit. “That’s a lot of money just for
an advance. What do you get when you complete the job?”

“Another sixty dollars.”

A moment of silence passed as Archer slowly put the money away. When
he looked up, the woman seemed to be appraising him in a different light.

“All right, but if that position does not work out, you will be required to
go on three job interviews in the next week. And have gainful employment
by that time. There’s plenty of work here if you apply yourself.”

“Fine, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

“You’ll need to report in once a week for the next two months. If your
progress is satisfactory, the visits can fall back to once a month, though I
can perform spot checks on you at my discretion.”

“I’m in Room 610 at the Derby Hotel. You’re welcome anytime.”

Her frown deepened. “I’m readily aware that you’re staying at the Derby
Hotel as that is where all parolees go initially. But I will not be visiting you
in your room there. This is a professional relationship. I’m sure you can
appreciate that.”

“Sorry, ma’am. No offense. And I do appreciate that.”

“When you do change your place of residence you are required to
immediately notify me of same, do you understand?”

“You’ll be the first to know.”

“I need you to sign this form evidencing that you were here today. I’ll
place it in your file and communicate the fact of your attendance to the
proper authorities. And I’ll see you in a week’s time.” She held up the pen.

“Right.” He stood, came around to her side of the desk, took the pen, and
signed the document. He took a moment to breathe in her scent, which,
frankly, intrigued him far more than Jackie’s had the prior night. Then he
thought of the misspelled note and the repulsive comments, and the
cocksure manner of Deputy Sheriff Willie Free, and he quickly straightened
and laid down the pen.

“Um, you can’t spare a smoke, can you?” he asked.

She glanced at the ashtray and appeared to bristle a bit.

“No, I can’t. It’s against the rules for me to provide that sort of thing to
parolees under my jurisdiction. It could be viewed as improper.”

“That’s okay. Someone told me they were bad for you anyway.”

She gave him a condescending look. “Really, Mr. Archer, I highly doubt
that if cigarettes were really bad for you the companies making them would
continue to do so.”

“Well, I guess that’s the difference in our thinking.”

She looked startled again by his words. “How do you mean?”

“My way of looking at the world is that some folks do what they want,
and they don’t care what happens to others, so long as it’s good for them.”

“I try to be more optimistic.”

He twirled his hat between his fingers. “See you in a week, Miss

She returned to her typing and started clacking away. He walked to the
door and looked back in time to see her watching him.

“Hope you’re saying good things about me.”

“Good-bye, Mr. Archer.”

She immediately went back to her typing.

As Archer was coming down the front steps of the Courts and
Municipality Building, he saw on the street someone he recognized. Archer
would have kept walking, but the man saw him, too.

“Archer, by God, tell me it ain’t you and I still won’t believe it. What a
damn sight for sore eyes. So, you’re out then?”

The speaker was short and reedy with a neck too long for his body, and
an Adam’s apple the size of a ripe peach. He was in his late forties, and his
hair was graying rapidly and thinning even faster. His sideburns were long and curled inward at the bottom. Physically unimposing, he still seemed to
take up more space on earth than his stature warranted.

“Dickie Dill,” said Archer, reluctantly coming over to him. “Never
expected to see your mug again.”

Dill put out a thin hand with fingers like little scythe blades. Archer had
seen those same hands wrap around the neck of a fellow inmate who was
three times Dill’s size and come close to strangling the life out of him. It
took four guards to pull the little man off the far larger one. After that,
prisoners and guards at Carderock Prison let Dickie Dill be.

Archer had thankfully never had a beef with the man, but there was
something about Dill that just struck him as peculiar enough to be avoided
if possible.

The men shook hands.

“Hellfire, boy, I think we all come through Poca. Been here three months
now. Ain’t too bad.”

“Yeah, wondered what happened to you.”

“Got me out and I’ll be staying out this time. Third time’s the charm,
they say. I’ll kill a man to keep from going back if I have to.” He cracked
his knuckles and gave Archer a look that made him conclude that Dickie
Dill ever not being behind bars was not a good thing for the rest of

He wore faded dungarees and what looked to be a homespun shirt tucked
in with dusty brogans on his feet. His belt was a length of braided rope, and
his old porkpie hat was creased, worn, and stained. The few teeth he had
were displayed in a perpetual snarl.

“You checking in with Miss Crabtree, were you?” asked Dill, eyeing the
building behind them. “I was in there not mor’n half hour ago. She’s a
looker all right, but a cold fish. Gal needs a man to warm her up.”

Archer briefly wondered if Dill was the subject of the comments on the
page in the typewriter. He could see all of them fairly applying. He put his
hand in his pocket and felt the balled-up note. And was Dill also the author
of that? Archer could see that being the case, too, particularly given the
violence and misspellings.

“Just finished up. A woman as a parole officer? What’s her story

“Ain’t you never heard of Carson Crabtree?”

“Doesn’t ring any bells. Guess he’s related?”

“Her daddy.”

“Okay, everybody’s got a daddy.”

“Yeah, but Carson Crabtree done killed three people down in Texas, oh,
been more than a dozen years gone by now.”

Archer processed this. “Three people. What for?”

“Man was just mean. They ’lectrocuted his ass.”

“Being mean doesn’t sound like enough reason to murder three people.”

Dill thumped his thumb against his temple. “Touched in the head, more
like. You know, crazy, I ’spose. To kill a man you got to be, or else he done
you a wrong and you’re just settlin’ matters. Not a damn thing wrong with
that and I got experience that way.”

“Not sure the law would agree with that, Dickie.”

“That’s your goddamn problem, Archer, you think rules is all there is.”
“More or less what the Army taught me.”

“Hellfire, boy, you ain’t in uniform no more. Live life and kick you some
ass now and then.”

Archer looked thoughtful as he glanced back at the steps he’d just come
down. “Maybe Miss Crabtree is overcompensating then.” He said this more
to himself than Dill.

“Come again?” said Dill, eyes twitching and his sideburns doing the
same. “What’s that mean?”

“Her father was a criminal, so now she’s working to help other criminals
turn away from their bad ways.”

“Oh, right, I see. Hey, I’m thinking ’bout maybe having a go at her. Like
I said, gal needs a man to tell her what’s what.”

Archer emphatically shook his head. “You do not want to do that, Dickie,
trust me.”

“Why not? I think she might cotton to me after a while.”

“You do anything, touch one hair on her head, say one word out of line,
and they’ll send your butt right back to Carderock, and you won’t be getting
out ever.”

Dill eyed him funny, but there was alarm in the man’s eyes, too.
“You sure ’bout that?”

“Damn sure, Dickie. Don’t try it. Promise me now. I’m looking out for

“Oh, all right then. I promise. Thanks for the advice, Archer.”
“You working?”

“Yeah, got me a job at the slaughterhouse. Would be there already ’cept I
had my talk with Miss Crabtree and then lined my belly over at a diner.
Truck’s gonna take me out now.”

“What’s it you do there?”

Dill grinned ferociously. “Kill the dang hogs.”

“How do you do that?”

“Smack ’em in the head with a sledgehammer.” He pointed to a spot on
his own skull. “Right about here. They don’t feel no pain. Less I don’t kill
’em with the first pop. I try to, though. Hell, man, you know how much
pork this here country eats?”

“Never gave it a minute’s thought.”

“A lot. Bacon and sausage and something called cutlets. Me, I can’t
stomach it. I’m up to my ass in blood and hog brains all day long. Gets to
you after a while. But it pays good. Got dollars in my pocket. Got three
other ex-cons from Carderock working there.”

“Miss Crabtree’s suggestion?”

“Yep. Got the job same day. They need skull crushers. I don’t mind it. I
mean, somebody’s got to do it, if you want your bacon, right?”

“Where are you living?”

“Little room over the mercantile on the west side of town, bath and
shower down the hall. Dollar a day. You?”

“The Derby. But I’ll be moving, I ’spect.”

“Yeah, I started out there, too. Guess we all do, but then I moved on.
Can’t afford the damn Derby. You working yet?”

Archer hesitated. “Looking around. You know a man name of Hank

“Pittleman? Yeah, heard ’a him. He’s some big wheel around town.”

“Saw him coming out of a place called the Cat’s Meow last night and we
struck up a conversation.”

Dill’s face scrunched up like a frost-bit flower. “You listen up, Archer.
Don’t you go near that place.”

“Well, I know we’re not supposed to.”

“No, what I mean is they check for our kind there, boy.”
“Come again?”

“They got, what you call, plants in there. They look for ex-cons breaking
parole there. It’s a temptation, like. Send your ass right back to prison in a heartbeat, same as you just now told me if I messed with Ernestine

Archer’s features remained inscrutable. “Is that right? Well, thanks for
the warning. Won’t catch me in there.” Yet Archer wondered if he already
had been caught. But then wouldn’t Crabtree have mentioned it?

“Sure thing. Hey, maybe we ought to get together some time.”

Archer shook his head. “No can do, Dickie.”

“Huh, why’s that?”

“Rule Number 2.”

“Come again?”

“Rule Number 2 on our parole list. You can’t be hanging around with
other ex-cons. Didn’t you read the papers?”

Dill looked chagrined. “Well, reading ain’t never been my strong suit,

“They had a book depository at Carderock.”

“Book depository, what’s that then?”

“Like a library.”

“Ain’t nobody told me about that. But then again, I don’t much like

Archer nodded. “Well, good luck,” he said, without any enthusiasm.

He left Dill there and walked off into the sunshine with forty dollars in
his pocket and the rest of the day to figure out.