A short while later the Sheriff left his house and headed over to Hank’s place and gently knocked on the door. He didn’t enter as he normally would have, but waited, knowing that he was no longer welcome in the man’s home after what he had done earlier in the day.
Hank frowned when he answered the door and he spoke in a gruff tone. “What do you want. Lance? I got nothing to say to you. Caroline convinced me to stay here in town, but that doesn’t mean I want to socialize with you, or Peter anymore.”
Lance nodded and shuffled uncomfortably. “I know. You got every right to be angry, but I just wanted to let you know that I set things straight. I panicked this morning. I know that’s no excuse to where I expect you to forgive me, but I just want you to know that I know I screwed up. Big time. I screwed up today, and I screwed up five years ago in not reporting those boys missing. But that was my screw up, not anyone else, and I don’t want this town or my brother suffering for it. Maybe we all were responsible in some part… negligent, but it mainly fell on my shoulders to do the right thing, and I failed those boys in doing so. So, it’s only right that I take the full blame for what happened.”
Hank looked at Lance confused. “What do you mean, take the full blame? The authorities believed your story. So what blame is there to take at this point?” Lance sighed. “I called the FBI and told them the truth, or mostly. I told them that I lied today. I told them everything, including the fact that I burned down the cabin in order to hide the fact that the boys had been there, and then concocted a story to explain how they had gotten into Lloyd’s hands. I told them that I panicked, because the boys had run away from home five years ago, or so we thought at the time and that we couldn’t find them and that I did nothing about it. I told them that I threatened the town members to tell the story they told in order to hide my negligence, some at gunpoint, including you, Doc, Aberly, and Buford when you all threatened to tell the truth.
I was the one who had convinced the town folk that social services had found the boys and fostered them out. I just didn’t see that everyone else needs to suffer for my mistake, and that is pretty much how it happened. Maybe it was easy for everyone to believe that the boys were in safe hands to where they didn’t ask any questions, but it wasn’t really their responsibility to verify if it was true or not, and I knew Floyd was just relieved he wasn’t being charged with anything to ask or question it. I never meant those boys any harm, and I never really meant you, Aberly, Doc or Buford any harm either.”
Hank held the Sheriff’s eye. “Would you have shot me?” Lance looked down and shuffled a bit again and murmured. “In my current state of mind… Yes, I think I would have. In the foot. I wouldn’t have gone so far as to kill you, and I honestly can’t say what I would have done after locking you up. I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I wasn’t thinking at all. I’m sorry, Hank. Anyway. I’ve been ordered to hand in my badge and gun to you. The agents are coming in the morning to question me further and most likely press charges.”
Lance removed his gun from his holster and handed it to Hank along with his badge. “You’ve got the seniority. So, they’re wanting to make you Sheriff over Buford. If you’ll have the job. Please take it. I know you don’t think much of the people in this town after today, but they need a good Sheriff to watch over them. To keep them on the straight and narrow. I failed in that task. Maybe you will do better. Actually, I’m sure you’ll do better. You have integrity and a strong sense of right and wrong that I’m lacking. I let my own needs override my duty.”
Hank took the proffered items and looked at the badge in his hand, then up at Lance and nodded. “Alright. I’ll take the position if it’s okay with Buford. I kind of feel I might be stepping on his toes in taking it outright, because he was deputy here before me, and he’s a good man. I don’t think he’d do any worse than me in the position. I honestly have to say I’m surprised, Lance. I didn’t think you had it in you to own up to your mistake and take responsibility after what you did this morning. I think you did the right thing though in doing so, and I hope they go easy on you.”
Lance shrugged. “Peter will do what he can to help mitigate some of that I’m sure and Montavier. I’ve already called him and asked him to find a good lawyer for me. I haven’t told Peter yet. He’s going to throw an outright fit. I couldn’t go to him first though. He would have stopped me. I know this is the right thing to do though, and I’m prepared to pay the penalty. Even if it means some prison time. I’m hoping not, but I’ve done some serious things… assault with a deadly weapon is no joking matter, and those boys suffered terribly because of my negligence. They’re all in bad shape. Mike crippled probably for life. Luke might lose his leg and little Wade can’t even speak, and that’s my fault because I didn’t do my job. Hell, if I had done my job, to begin with, that social worker would never have had to come here, but I turned a blind eye to Floyd’s abuse. I still think the boys would be best off here with family, but someone’s going to have to keep a close eye on Floyd. He’s a drunk and meaner than the day is long, but of course, you already know that.”
Hank nodded. “We’ll figure something out if they let those boys return here. They may not, but if they do I’ll keep an eye on them if I take the Sheriff position; even if not.” Lance nodded again. “Buford’s at the boarding house. He’s moved out. We had a falling out. I think we worked things out, but he feels it is time for him to live under his own roof. I haven’t told him yet what I’ve done. Only that I was going to set things right. I’ll wait until morning, I think. Going to just try to get a good night’s rest. I have the feeling I won’t be sleeping too well after the FBI come for me. At least tonight my conscience is a little clearer. Good night, Hank.”
Hank nodded and watched Lance leave before quietly shutting his door.