Chapter 14. Peachbode, Washington

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"Alright," I said. "It's a good place to start."

We headed down to the Sheriff's office, keeping our fingers crossed there would be someone there to meet us. The building was a drab, brick box, standing out somewhat between the folksier wooden establishments on Main Street. 

"Hang on," Sam said, lightly grabbing my shoulder on our way over. "What should we say our names are?" 

"Just say the name of a Cheers character or something," I suggested. Our investigation relied heavily on no one questioning what the hell we were doing, sticking our noses places they did not belong. I knew we were being naive, but there wasn't much else to do. 

We walked up the creaking steps to the Sheriff's Department, hesitant to figure out our next move. Were we supposed to knock, or walk right in? Would they turn us away when they saw we were just two kids, or politely tell us off after we stated our business? Every thinkable scenario ran through my head as we stood on the weaved welcome mat by the door. 

This is so dumb, I complained to myself, why didn't we plan ahead? It would've taken five minutes at most. 

Sam peeked through the dusty window on the side, probably sharing my next thought: was anyone even here?  We'd soon be startled by the first human we'd come to meet in Peachbode. 

A man in a cowboy hat barged out of the front door, whistling a folksy tune. He looked up, showing off an awfully freckled face to go with his fiery, red hair. The sun hit the shining gold star on his brown suede jacket, blinding the both of us.

"Well, hello there. Can't say I've seen you two before," he greeted with a smile, revealing his yellow, crooked teeth. "Are you folks new in town?"

"We're just visiting," I smiled back, preparing my Cheers name of choice before looking over at Sam. "I'm Diane, and this is my friend, uh-"

"Sam," Sam answered.

I felt forced to discretely stomp on Sam's foot while keeping my eye-contact with the man in front of me.

"And you must be the Sheriff," I presumed, nodding at the star on his chest. 

"Sheriff Walter Mondale, head of the Peachbode Sheriff's Department," He introduced, stepping out into the sun. "What can I do for you on this fine, October morning? 

"Uhm... it's five in the afternoon," I corrected, feeling obligated to point it out. Why did I do that?

"I don't keep track of time," Sheriff Mondale said. "Why should I? Crime never sleeps."

I suppose I couldn't argue with that school of thought. Was this what it was like, talking to small-town people? I wouldn't know. 

"Say, Diane, Sam. what are you visiting Peachbode for?" Mondale proceeded to ask.

As usual, Sam let me do the heavy lifting. Why did he always have to freeze in these situations? 

"Well, we just came in from Portland, and-"

"Say no more," he interrupted, turning around to holler at someone inside. "Agent Barnett! Go put on the nice tablecloth, we've got big city folks joining us!" 

Sam and I shared a look, and - it seemed, the same thought: acquiring audience at the Sheriff's office was surprisingly easy.

We followed the Sheriff inside into a room built out of the same, inescapable wood panel walls every late 20th-century interior made sure to include. There was a small jail cell in the bottom right corner, and one other room sticking out to the left, where I assumed Mondale's company was searching for the nice tablecloth. 

The detail sure to steal anyone's attention was the wall with the 'Employee of the month' -sign hanging over two dozen copies of the same, black & white photo of a smiling Sheriff Mondale. It made me wonder: 

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