Where were the Sheriffs?
A good question indeed. To answer this simple query we must backtrack a bit. You see after years of peace in their little town the Sheriffs of Schroedingham had become quite bored. They felt like all their hard-earned skills – the lassoing, the sharp-shooting, the boot and badge polishing, the graphic design of the “wanted” posters – were going to waste. Most of their days were spent playing gin rummy in the ever-vacant jail and wearing down the barstools in the Saloon.
They were in a rut. And they stayed in that rut for years until one fateful day. The day the traveling harmonica salesman came to town.
He was a mysterious man. He rode in on a donkey one day in June with a gold briefcase cuffed to his hand. He spoke with an accent that no one could place and if you looked into his eyes, you’d swear you’d met him before. But for all his strangeness, oh the treasures he possessed!
Inside the man’s gold briefcase were the most beautiful instruments anyone had ever seen. Harmonicas of all shapes and sizes. Harmonicas that sounded lower that a toad’s croak and higher than a bird’s chirp. Harmonicas that glistened like the sun off the river and others that were as dark as coal in a furnace. The man had harmonicas from Brazil, Morroco, Florence, Christchurch, Shanghai – from all corners of the world. The whole town was entranced and the briefcase seemed to produce an endless supply of these fantastic instruments. And for each instrument there was a story – a fantastic tale of how this peculiar man had come to posses such glorious instruments.
One of the Sheriffs was particularly taken with the magnificent harmonicas and the stories behind them. The week that mysterious salesman spent in Schroedinham this Sheriff spent glued to his favorite barstool basking in the man’s knowledge and experience, wishing that he too could be worldly and live an adventurous life. Law enforcement was not the thrill ride he’d hoped it to be.
After a week of late nights, libations and music it was time for the salesman to move on. As he was packing up to leave town he gave the Sheriff some parting words, “You know…harmonicas, if used correctly, are a man’s key to the world.”
After that sales pitch, the Sheriff bought as many harmonicas as his sheriff-size paycheck would allow and bid the man farewell. “Farewell,” the salesman answered, “I expect I’ll be seeing you out on road before long.” And he was gone.
It was a calm, sleepy night in the town of Schroedingham. Much like the night before. And the night before that. And the week and month and year before that. In fact the town hadn’t seen so much as a cat up a tree in as long as anyone could remember. Their guard was down and that’s why no one so much as blinked an eye as a strange horse carrying a strange rider trotted into town late one night. Even the dogs lay still on their chains as the black beast and cloaked passenger glided silently through the previously one horse town. The ominous visitors passed the saloon, the bank, the jail and the courthouse, then finally came rolling to a halt at the edge of town – right in front of the gate to the Schroedingham Memorial Cemetery. The rider sat motionless. The horse stamped his hind leg. The gates swung open.
A chill swept through the town. The moon seemed to have gone out and the temperature dropped ten degrees in an instant. The residents of Schroedingham all at once rolled over in their sleep as a sense of unease drifted like a fog through the dreams of the soundly sleeping town.
The horse and his rider marched into the cemetery and were immediately engulfed by shadows. The gates swung shut.
Across the street, his mop of sandy brown hair barely peeking over the neighbors picket fence, crouched a boy named Tom. Tom was twelve, on summer vacation and out of bed searching for adventures as boys in sleepy towns will sometimes do. He had seen the whole bizarre event from start to finish.
Tom’s mind was racing. Something was seriously wrong. He had to tell someone about what he’d seen. His parents? No. They’d never believe him. Their imaginations were dusty and full of cobwebs – unable to process such a supernatural happening. His teacher, Mrs. Wolf? Not her either. She’d just tell him to put as much work into his arithmetic as he did into his tall tales. Then who? Who would help him? Who would believe him?
AHA! Tom had it. THE SHERIFFS! It was their job after all, wasn’t it? To protect the town? They’d have to take him seriously.
Tom raced down Main Street, not daring to look over his shoulder. He screeched to a halt in front of the jail. He turned the doorknob. Locked. He knocked on the door. “Sheriffs? Are you there? Something’s happened! HELLO!?” he cried. No answer. Then he noticed a flyer nailed to the door.
THE SHERIFFS OF SCHROEDINGHAM
LIVE AT THE MADCAT SALOON
ALL NIGHT, EVERY NIGHT
(AND MOST DAYS TOO)
Tom didn’t understand. The Sheriffs were at a Saloon? Weren’t they supposed to be protecting the town? What were they doing at a Saloon?
Suddenly Tom heard a horse’s neigh. He wheeled around and there, towering above him, stood the dark horse and rider. Tom froze, paralyzed with fear, as the rider raised his arm and began to remove his hood. He couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. His mind locked onto one thought, “WHERE ARE THE SHERIFFS?”