As a Detective, I had always resented the procedures and due process of the practice of law a little. It was often an inconvenience, especially when it kept you from doing what you knew to be right. On the way over to this place with David, however, I was overwhelmed with a sense of outrage for the basic rights of Romeo di Marti. It's funny. Yesterday (Was it just yesterday?) the guy shot me in the face. A couple of hours ago, I'd have ripped his head off with my bare hands. Now, watching him being herded in front of David at the threat of violence if he didn't comply, I found myself wondering where this so-called Sheriff was. Wasn't there anyone in this place to bring some sanity to this situation? Was this the way it worked? Swords and muscles ruled? It was offensive to my basic sense of justice.
Somehow, though, I didn't think David Sayer was in the right frame of mind to discuss human rights. He was still seething. Something about Romeo's story and something about this Joseph African fellow had really gotten to him.
"David," I said as we approached the gate of the hulking stone building to which he had led us, "should we get the Sheriff involved in this?"
"The Sheriff?" he said. "This is Knight business, Al. The Lord will bring the Sheriff in if he feels it's necessary."
"Knight business?" I asked.
"Yes," he answered gruffly. "We are the Knights of the Repair, Al. I can't explain it all now. We serve humanity. We protect. Your father is one of us."
"Oh," I said. "I... uh... and so the Sheriff will be okay with..."
"The Sheriff will be okay with whatever we tell him to be okay with," David said as he nodded in greeting to the guard at the front gate.
"I don't know if I see it that way, David," came a voice from behind us. We turned to see Sheriff Mercury, a raven on his shoulder, standing behind us.
David stared at the Sheriff in silence. The Sheriff returned his stare with an unflinching smile. "I'm sorry, Farrokh," David said. "I didn't mean any offense."
"Well, friend, I'm not offended. I do, however, hope you don't misunderstand my relationship with your Lord," he said. "I have the utmost respect for you Knights and for what you've done, and my refusal to sign up should not be perceived as detracting from that."
"You've got enough to worry about," David said. "We understand that."
"Oh, good," the Sheriff said. "I've never been a real 'join up' type, you understand."
"Frankly I have no idea why these birds chose me for this job," he said, turning his head and cocking back his neck to face the raven on his shoulder. "Why me, bird?" the Sheriff asked. The raven gave no sign of hearing. "They never answer." he sighed in mock disgust, directing his words to me with a wink.
"If you'll excuse us, Sheriff," David said, "we've got important business to attend to inside."
"And how are you, Romeo?" the Sheriff asked. "I don't believe we've met." He walked past David and approached Romeo. "I'm Sheriff Mercury. Feel free to call me Freddie. I tell everyone that and no one ever does it."
"Hello, Sheriff," Romeo said.
"See?" the Sheriff laughed.
"Are you having a good day, Mr. di Marti?" the Sheriff said. "You seem to have injured your neck a bit."
Romeo glanced at David, who was glaring down at him. "I'm fine," he said.
"Well, if you'll pardon my rudeness, I don't believe you." The Sheriff casually put his arm around Romeo's shoulder like they were old buddies and led him a few steps away, out of David's reach. Then he turned so they were both facing David and the guard at the gate.
I couldn't help but like this Sheriff, and I was trying my best to stifle a smile of relief at this point.
By now David's lips were pulled into a snarl. He didn't even try to hide his anger. "Dammit, Sheriff," he growled, "that man is a fucking maggot and we demand the right to question him!"
The Sheriff's smile turned to icy seriousness. "What you do to your own is out of my hands," he said, "but you lads will not start dragging people out of my town into your little castle here." As if to punctuate what was said, the raven cawed loudly. David flinched visibly at the sound.
"This is important, Sheriff," David said, his snarl replaced by a mask of calmness. "The Lord must see him."
As quickly as it went, Sheriff Mercury's smile sprang back to his face. "Of course," he said. "I'm sure you won't mind, then, if I join you. I've not seen the Knight Lord for quite some time. I'd love to catch up."
"No ravens," said the Guard. "This is our right."
The Sheriff said nothing, but the raven leapt from his shoulder with a loud flap of its wings and glided to the top of a nearby lamppost. It landed with another caw, even louder than before, and turned to stare down at the ruffled guard, who peered at the ground under its gaze.
Without saying a word, David knocked at the gate. It opened from the inside and a dour-looking pair of Knights, a man and woman, came out and took places behind the Sheriff.
"Oh look, a parade!" Freddie laughed.
I cannot describe the relief I felt knowing that this funny Sheriff was there behind me as we walked through the gates into the giant edifice before us.