Niles called upstairs to Jessica’s office.
“Jessica, this is Chief Quinn.”
“Hey, Chief, how are you today?” Jessica said.
“I’m doing well, thank you,” Nile said. “How ‘bout you?”
“I’m really liking my job,” Jessica said.
“That’s good to hear,” Niles said. “Is it true you practice every Saturday morning at the gun club?”
“I get out there about eight, before anybody else shows up,” Jessica said. “It’s usually just me and Willie Thurmond. He just sits in the clubhouse, drinks coffee and smokes cigarettes.”
“I haven’t fired my service weapon in a while,” Niles said. “How ‘bout if we meet at eight and squeeze off a couple rounds together.”
“That sounds like a lot of fun,” Jessica said, “me with a man’s weapon and you with a pea shooter.”
“How many do you normally fire off?” “Niles said.
“Two boxes of twenty,” Jessica said. “I buy a box a week and the club buys me a box. I’m kind of a celebrity out there.”
“Tell you what,” Niles said. “It’s all on me this week. How does that sound?”
“Can’t argue with a guy who is willing to buy my ammo,” Jessica said.
“I’ll meet you there at eight,” Niles said.
“Do you mind if I take a few shots with your pea shooter?” Jessica said.
“Not at all,” Niles said, “how ‘bout if I take a couple shots with your man’s weapon?”
“Are you sure you can handle a man’s weapon,” Jessica joked.
Saturday morning the weather settled cold and damp. Willie had the clubhouse warm and full of the aroma of coffee and cigarette smoke. Niles drove up to the club at quarter till eight. He made sure with Willie fresh bags of sand stood behind each target.
Jessica walked into the club at eight dressed in Carhartts.
Niles looked at his jeans and wool jacket. “You make me feel like a city slicker trying to look like a Mainer.”
“You are a city slicker,” Jessica said, “and no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be a Mainer; you had too late of a start.”
“Hey, Willie,” Jessica said, “get me my gun.”
Willie unlocked the gun cabinet behind the counter, pulled out a rifle, and handed it to Jessica.
“You keep your rife here?” Niles said.
“My dad don’t allow no guns in the house,” Jessica said. “My dad was raised a Quaker. Although he can cuss up a storm he still wouldn’t shoot anybody and he wants no guns around just in case somebody might push him beyond cussing.”
“So you can only practice when somebody’s here?” Niles said.
“Nah,” Jessica said, “because I’m such a big-time celebrity they give me a key to the place.” She turned to Willie. “Hey, Willie, besides you who else has a key to this place?”
“Well,” Willie said reflectively, “There’s me and you and the board members; Lute, Steve, and Brooks.”
“Who’s Brooks?” Niles said. “I don’t think I’ve met a Brooks.”
“Brooks Prater,” Willie said, “the postmaster.”
“Oh, right,” Niles said. “I have met him.”
“Yeah,” Willie said, “to meet him is to forget him. Unfriendliest man in town. I’d sure like to know what his problem is.”
“Not me,” Jessica said, “it’s just fine if he keeps it all to himself. I don’t want no part of it.”
Niles and Jessica fired about sixty rounds each. Amid the cold and dampness, they had a good time. Indeed, her shooting was all it was reported to be.
Before they left, Niles found out the club would only be open until 2:00 PM.
Niles returned near sundown and dug out several slugs from the sandbags behind Jessica’s target.