Yes there is a cowboy hat, and no I never claim to be original.
\”Isn\’t this crap coffee? I think it\’s crap coffee. Donuts are none too good either, am I right? No Tim Horton\’s.\”
Coddigan was none too pleased with the coffee in Northgate. He spoke slowly and deliberately for he was a man with time on his hands. Forsythe was the one who had to suffer through it. The younger fellow rubbed his eyes methodically, forefinger and thumb punishing his lids. Somehow it was cathartic. It eased the anxiety of being so proximal to this man. Forsythe shook his head disdainfully; some of the less-than-quality donut had placed itself in Coddigan\’s formidable mustache.
\”I hate this hat.\” He took it off only to put it back on, shoving it up and down, unable to locate a comfortable position. \”Do you want this coffee? I\’m not sure I want it.\”
Forsythe shook his head. \”You understand that we\’re like…less than 10 miles south of the border, right? You do know that, don\’t you?\”
\”I\’m really not sure what the point is you\’re trying to make. Obviously I know we\’re near the border.\”
\”My point is that you could\’ve stopped for coffee and donuts on the way in, or waited until we left. Or not gotten coffee and donuts at all. You\’ll have to drop one in a minute and I\’ll bet you a loon that\’s when the action starts. We\’re not meant to be here too long, are we? Sakes, I\’m not meant to be here at all.\”
\”But you have to babysit me.\”
\”I guess I do. Why is that again?\”
Coddigan shrugged and his baseball hat grazed the top of the car. \”Not sure,\” he managed through the chocolate glaze in his teeth.
He was sure. Coddigan was a good marshal, one who played by the rules and got his man in ways the proverbial book would approve of. But his behavior had changed in the last year and if there was a reason for the shift he wasn\’t sharing it. This new found attitude had chosen to reveal itself at exactly the wrong time and with exactly the wrong person.
\”What the hell do you mean I can\’t wear the hat? I\’ve always worn the hat!\” He\’d not even ramped it up gradually; his tone just jumped from 2 to 10 in a sentence.
Acting-and-soon-to-be-official Director Stevens looked at him as she would her three-year-old son who\’d just asked her what water is. She responded as patiently. \”I mean exactly what I say. Mr Coddigan, in this department we catch bad guys, not cattle. You can go and find a rodeo if you want to put that hat back on.\”
When the room cleared she called on Forsythe.
\”If he so much as tries to put that hat on I want to know. You\’re going with him to Northgate next week.\” She walked off as soon as she\’d said it, leaving the poor young marshal to his fate without chance for protest.
They\’d passed at least two Tim Horton\’s on the drive down.
\”There\’s nothing out here, not even a bathroom. So you\’re stuck with me,\” commented the mustachioed elder.
An hour passed. Coddigan talked, Forsythe didn\’t. The younger checked his pistol ten times, the elder stared straight ahead at the target and sipped his terrible coffee. He only lifted his gaze to grab the final donut, one of the sour cream ones that he so coveted. The target wasn\’t much but Coddigan was a pro. A barn and dairy could hide anything, bad guys especially. An hour later Forsythe was nodding off. Coddigan did not wake him. Ten minutes after that and without notice he spoke.
\”Here we go,\” he muttered and opened the car door immediately. Forsythe snored on.
Inside was dark and cold, even for August. It was metal support beams holding up a tin roof for dear life, walls without insulation, and a large, empty space. Footsteps echoed weakly in the dark and were met by a voice.
\”Man you\’ve got some great timing,\” said a tall man in dark clothes.
\”That I do,\” said Coddigan.
The man, upon seeing the marshal, crossed his arms. \”You aren\’t Andrew.\”
\”Andrew got stuck at the border, I hear.\”
A pregnant pause rested between them. Neither moved much, though the man in dark clothes shifted his weight.
\”I guess I\’ll go, then,\” he said.
\”Not just yet,\” said Coddigan. \”There\’s a certain person you\’re helping, a candidate you\’re backing, one Senator Ellsworth? Don\’t worry, you don\’t have to tell me. I already know. You\’re going to stop giving him money.\”
\”No, I\’m not.\”
\”You are and I\’m going to explain why. Senator Ellsworth, should he move on up and become governor, has some strange notions in his mind as concern the border we are so very, very near.\” Coddigan squeezed his thumb and forefinger together. \”His notions might affect security and, worse yet, trade and corporate interest on either side of said border, worsening still should his governorship grant him a launchpad for a presidency bid. This can\’t happen and it won\’t because you\’re going to stop giving him money.\”
\”No, I\’m not.\”
This man was stubborn and Coddigan was impatient. The marshal sighed and pulled a piece of paper from his back pocket. Luckily the other man did not react, lest it come to a draw. It was quiet as Coddigan skimmed the paper, sucking his teeth rhythmically. This lasted for some time.
\”There it is!\” he exclaimed. \”Okay, I\’ve got it. If you don\’t agree or if I find out you\’ve continued funding this candidate you will be extradited to Canadian custody on charges of fraud and money laundering.\” He smiled broadly behind his moustache. \”There. We\’re agreed. Have a nice day.\”
Coddigan spun on his heel, slipping the paper back in his pocket as he bounced his way out of the building and back to the car. The man in dark clothes did not move, perhaps too bewildered to do so.
The slamming car door woke Forsythe with a start.
\”We\’re all set here, young man. Let\’s go home.\”
Forsythe gave the senior marshal a long stare as the car pulled away, but he did not question him. He rubbed his eyes and wondered how many more hours sleep he could manage and whether or not Coddigan would try putting his cowboy hat back on in the unwatched comfort of miles snored away.