A bright, shining dawn was quickly replacing the dark, shawdowy night as the law enforcement parade made it’s way back towards Pinhill.
During the ride to the music store, Dectective Eagleton told Sergeant Rawls how he had first come to entertain doubts about Joe’s guilt. From there, it didn’t take much thought to make the reasonable guess at the actual events of the previous evening.
“Yeah, I suppose it makes a good deal of sense the way you tell it,” Rawls said, then asked, “But, what do you think the boy’s got at the shop to prove it?”
“Don’t know. The message he left with the dispatcher just said ‘conclusive evidence of his innocence’. I suppose we’ll find out shortly,” Eagleton replied as they pulled up in front of the store.
In the confusion of the previous night, Joe had left the front door unlocked. So, the detective and his sergeant sauntered right on in. They found Joe sitting on a speaker cabinet next to a massive mixing board.
Immediately, he said, “Don’t come any closer! Don’t handcuff me! Just give a chance to explain!”
Eagleton replied, “We ain’t gonna do nothin’ yet. You’ve got time, just calm down, boy. What do you got fer us?”
Rawls said, “Damn boy, you look like you had a helluva night.”
Joe replied, “Understatement of the year.”
“So, what do you got fer us?” Eagleton asked again.
But before Joe could reply, the front door opened admitting Sheriff Smallwood and three of his deputies. Eagleton had expressed his doubts to the sheriff, however, the sheriff had not yet passed those thought along to his deputies. They were still under the working assumption that they were on the trail of an escaped killer. They immediately drew their weapons and trained them on the blood-streaked, grime-stained, shirtless, wild-eyed jail-breaker with shouts of “Freeze! I got you covered!”, “Don’t make a move, boy!” and “Hands above yer head where I can see ‘em!”.
Joe fell off the speaker backwards and landed on the floor with a thump. Eagleton and the sheriff yelled at their men to “Calm down, ya’ll!” and “Take ‘er easy, boys!”, all to no avail. The deputies rushed Joe from both sides of the speaker cabinet and quickly had him pinned to the floor, face down, and handcuffed. One of the deputies started to inform him, “You got the right to remain silent . . .”
Eagleton blew up, “Git the sam-hell off the boy! Gawd-dammit, Dave, what did you tell yer boys?!”
“Doubts or no doubts, detective, the man’s a jailbreaker,” the sheriff replied defensively.
“Listen, here now, this is my town and I call the shots!”
“Well, that may be rightly so. But, it’s my county, Eagleton.”
They launched into a jurisdictional debate. Two of the deputies continued to hold Joe pinned to the floor, the third continued to read him his rights and only Sergeant Rawls noticed a new arrival to the scene walk in the front door.
Mr. Withers had argued his way through the Pinhill officers stationed outside the store and entered with aggrivated bravado demanding to know, “Just what the hell’s goin’ on here in my shop?!”
Rawls took him by the shoulders and tried to move him back towards the front door, “We got us a dangerous situation, Mr. Withers. It’d be best fer you to wait outside where it’s safe.”
“What’re you talkin’ about, Rawls? A dangerous situation in my shop? Did you apprehend a thievin’ prowler? Is anything missin’?”
Rawls tried to briefly explain the situation to Mr. Withers, the detective and the sheriff were still hotly contesting the heirarchy of law enforcement in rural areas and having read Joe his rights the deputies were now repremanding him for his flagrant disrespect of the law, commenting on how incompetent the Pinhill police force was and how obviously superior the county sheriff’s department was in comparision.
Finally, Joe still handcuffed and restrained on the floor couldn’t take it any longer and started screaming, “Just turn on the damn tape player! I’ve got the tape set to play! Please, just turn the damn thing on and listen!”
This effectively silenced everyone present. After the momentary pause, the sheriff told his men to at least let Joe up off the floor. Eagleton walked over to the tape player and pushed the play button. Everyone stood silently and listened to Jimmy Hollowy threaten Joe, Joe claim his innocence, Jimmy attacking and working Joe over and at the end Joe defending himself from Jimmy’s final attack.
“You see?! You see?! Just like I told you guys from the beginning! It was self-defence! I never bothered his girlfriend, but he didn’t believe me. She set me up and he came looking for me! Then, the asshole attacked me and I was only defending myself!”
This last piece of evidence was enough to convince Eagleton that Joe had been telling the truth the whole time. The sheriff finally realized that the detective’s doubts about Joe’s guilt were confirmed and ordered his reluctant deputies to free him. Both Eagleton and Smallwood expressed their apologies for the ‘misunderstanding’.
When Mr. Withers finally got the whole crazy story straight in his mind, he looked at his normally quiet, low-key, undramatic employee and said, “I find it hard to believe everyone had you mistaken fer Romeo.”