CH. 33: I'd Never Say Anything Bad Behind Your Back To Your Face

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Ray Selfridge. Telepathic communicator. Sheriff of Sunshine Beach. Second born son of Otis Selfridge. Right hand man to his brother, Brandon. Father of seven boys and girls, now grown into the men and women of his fierce private deputy force, The Selfridge Seven. And, at fifty seven, still capable of a massive throbbing hard-on. The man had a lot of reasons to swing that dick like the prize bull he was. Only problem was, as he stood on the stoop outside his terrific bastard of a father's shack, the midday sun beating down on his Stetson, he couldn't think of a single one.

"Uhm..." Ray said, but the words wouldn't form beyond jibber jabber. His father could drive you insane with a twitch of his eyebrow. How do you tell him a potential plague of pill addiction is about to hit his beloved Sunshine Beach? At seventeen, Ray'd knocked up Ginger Bennett, now Ginger Selfridge and mother of the aforementioned Selfridge Seven. When he brought home this townie girl with a penchant for wearing roller shakes all year round, Otis had flipped his wig on the fledgling parents.

"I'm sorry!" Ray had screamed as he and teenaged squeeze writhed on the hard wood floor of what was then Otis Selfridge's farm house.

Otis's eyebrow twitched and his particular brand of psychic power racked the young couple. "You were supposed to wed Louise Latimer. It was to bring peace between our families. You're sorry."

Ray had screamed but the sound had been drowned out by Ginger's own.

"Sorry?" Otis had said to Ray then turned his hateful glare on Ginger. "Oh, but for the baby inside you, Girl."

"No, Dad!"

Otis Selfridge, who was old even when Ray was young, had sucked at his false teeth and let out a mournful sigh. Ray hadn't dared to hope for a reprieve during the long, frozen thirty seconds that followed. Hadn't bothered to breathe.

"I'm not gonna kill your baby, Son. Young Lady, you have a Selfridge growing inside of you so that means you're part of this family now. The two of you will marry before the week is out right here on the family farm. How does that suit you?"

"T-Thank you, Mr. Selfridge," Ginger had said, trying on a placating smile as Otis abated her pain.

"Nonsense to that, Girl. You go on and call me Papa Otis from now on. And you Ray, get up off the floor."

"Thank you, Dad," Ray had said, crawling from his knees to his feet. "And really, I am sorry."

"It's not me you need to say sorry to, Ray. You need to apologize to your brother, Brandon. He'll have to marry the Latimer girl now. I'm sure he had other plans."

But, Ray hadn't cared about that. Only Ginger and the baby. He'd do whatever it took to keep them safe no matter the cost. And now, some forty years later, with what he's got to tell Otis Selfridge, it might just be time to pony up.

The little plastic baggie of red pills in his left hip pocket felt like a lit matchbook. It was only a matter of time before Otis found out about the pills working their way through the veins of Sunshine Beach and once he did, Ray's time as sheriff would be done. Yeah, he though, if that's where it ends, count yourself lucky. He patted the baggie of pills and tried once again to think of a way to tell his father something that didn't sound like some pussy ass excuse. 'There are magic drugs in Sunshine Beach, but I didn't know until now.' Nope. 'There's a shadow cartel in town dealing to summer people, but that's OK because I'm going to stop them.' That ain't gonna fly either. "Pop, I've been on to them since the beginning but I've been waiting for the right moment to strike.' Oh, God. That was bad even for TV. Maybe just don't tell him? Maybe get back in your car and figure it out and come back to your father with a victory in your pocket instead of these horrible pills.

"Great Uncle Ray?"

Ray turned on his heels and almost tripped off of the porch. At the bottom of the two steps leading up to Otis's shack stood little Duane Selfridge, Gregg's oldest. He had his hands in the pockets of his overalls and was gauging Ray like he couldn't make heads or tails of him.

"Jesus, boy. Scared the shit outta me."

Duane took a step back and nodded. "Mom doesn't like it when people swear around us. Says it sends a bad message."

God, his nephew's wife. That woman was way too many miles of bad road for a man like Ray. How Gregg didn't shit himself on a nightly basis was beyond comprehension.

"Where is your mom, Boy?"

"Dunno," Duane shrugged. "Didn't come home last night. My dad neither."

"Is that a fact?" Ray said and it didn't take his cop's instincts to dislike the sound of that. "That why you're sneaking around like you are?"

"I wasn't sneaking, Sir," Duane said. "My dad was supposed to give me a lesson this morning. Him and Grandpa. My telekinesis. I couldn't find either of them so I went out walking, figured maybe they came out this way and, so, here I am."

Ray took off his Stetson, wiped his forehead on the sleeve of his Sunshine Beach PD uniform and refitted the hat. "Your daddy never told you to stay away from this shack? Never told you what could happen?"

"Just to stay away. That this was my great granddad's house and he doesn't like people coming around. That he could get angry."

Ray nodded, unconsciously patting the baggie of pills in his pocket. "That's right, boy. You don't come see your great grandad without a really good reason and at least three Selfridges to back you up."

"But, you're here alone," Duane said without challenge. "You must have a really, really good reason."

Ray patted his pocket again without realizing it. Man, he was sweating. The midday sun. The impending visit with his father. And now, this conversation right here. He couldn't put his finger in why, but all of a sudden, Ray wanted this kid gone in the worst way.

"I do, Duane. A very, very good-"

"What's your pocket, Great Uncle Ray?"

"My what?" Ray said, stopping a series of pats he had no notion of starting.

"Your pocket," Duane said. "You keep touching it. Is that why you wanna see Great Granddad?"

"Duane, maybe it's time you run alo-"

The door to Otis Selfridge's shack gave a looooong, rusty screech and opened with nary a soul behind it. Ray turned to the noise, forgetting Duane completely.

From inside, Ray heard his father's cracked and broken voice say, "Come on in and tell me what you have to tell me, Ray. You're letting in the cold air out."

Ray took off his Stetson again and wiped his forehead on his other sleeve. Before he put his hat back on, he remembered that his great-nephew was standing behind him.

He turned and said, "Duane, go in back to the ho..."

But, Duane was gone. And once Ray took a second to think about it, it was clear the boy had never been there in the first place. The old man. Just as he'd done to Ray and Ginger on the night they'd confessed Ginger's pregnancy, when he'd made them think they were covered with poisonous, biting snakes, Otis simply implanted the illusion in Ray's head. And in so doing, he'd sussed out a big chunk of why Ray had appeared on his doorstep.

"Come on in, Son. Let's talk about what you have in your pocket and how it got there in the first place."

"Ye-Yessir," Ray said, forgetting about being sheriff and having seven strong kids and being his brother's right hand man and having a big dick and all that shit. No, as he walked into his father's shack, Ray Selfridge was too busy racking his brain for anything that would explain to his tyrannical father how he'd let a magic drug cartel infect the sands of Otis Selfridge's beloved Sunshine Beach.

When the door slapped back and closed off the exit behind him, Ray found he couldn't think of a Goddamn thing.

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