Sheriff Jetheford Reynolds had known for some time that his declining grasp on sanity would one day lead to his removal from office. He had just hoped it would come a bit later than it did and never thought it would happen the way that it did.
Everyone in Warbash County knew Jetheford as Jeb, and they had since he was a boy. His little sister couldn’t pronounce his full name when she was a toddler. It would always come out, Jeb. And the name stuck.
He went into the academy right out of high school, knowing there were few other options for an injured all-state power-forward. He wasn’t that bright but was good with people and had an eye for detail. His uncle, State Trooper Tom Reynolds, had recommended it and helped him early on in his career.
Jeb never wanted to leave home. He loved Warbash. So, after graduating from the academy, where he had struggled to earn just slightly above average marks, he requested a position with the Warbash Sheriff’s Department, and due to his local celebrity status still lingering from his days at Warbash High, he was welcomed with open arms. It was a great job. For years, his days were spent pulling over teenagers that he had known since birth for going forty in the twenty-five mile an hour zone just beyond Main Street; answering calls about shadows on the back of Mrs. McClustry’s garage that she could never remember were coming from Larry Miller dumping his garbage after dinner; and visiting Warbash Elementary, where, along with talking to the kids about the dangers of drugs and fowl language, he would wink at Ms. Marissa Long, the fourth grade teacher and Jeb’s life-long crush. He loved his life.
He was thirty-six when Sheriff Patrick Windom passed the torch to Jeb, saying he couldn’t think of anyone he would rather see keeping Warbash safe. It was the proudest moment of Jeb’s life, beating out both the game winning shot he made in the State finals his junior year and the day his father took him hunting and he nabbed his first nine-point buck. The entire town celebrated Jeb’s promotion. There was no animosity from other Deputy’s. There was no second-guessing his command. Everyone knew it was the job he was meant to have. Even Doc Prescott, who had met with Jeb only one week prior regarding Jeb’s recently developed night terrors and insomnia, couldn’t have been happier.
There was no surprise to anyone that his first couple years in “The Big Chair” led to slight decline in Jeb’s social calendar. They all assumed he was just busy, working that much harder to protect them now that he was in charge. He was often seen, sitting atop the Sheriff’s Station, on his old lawn chair, just staring out across the town that hosted a population of, at that point, two thousand two hundred and twelve, with thirteen on it’s way. Cheryl and Lee Burrell were expecting their second daughter, and Jeb knew, just as the rest of the Warbash knew, if she was half as much trouble as her older sister, Darlene, the town was in for something.
The first person to express real concern about Jeb was Marissa Long. He had come to the school to talk to the kids about how important school was. He had always been so good with the kids, but on this particular day, he was a bit more severe in his speech, telling two of the kids, he knew for a fact they would end up in his cells one day and telling young Nicole Taylor that her dad had better watch himself. Marissa’s concerns were heightened when, as Jeb was leaving, he burst into hysterical laughter instead of winking at her.
She had known Doc Prescott since the day she first saw light. She didn’t know where else to go, so she went to him. Doc had started to notice similar behavior, but had written off as sleep deprivation and stress of taking over the Sheriff job. Marissa wasn’t so sure.
Jeb was at home, alone, the first time he saw them, the mysterious G-men in thousand dollar suits spying on him from his neighbor’s rooftop, from the top branch of his oak tree, and from the corner of his property line. He burst through the front door, shotgun in tow, screaming something about them leaving him alone. His surviving neighbor’s would later say, he screamed something along the lines of, “I know what you’re here for.”
Over the next few weeks, the figures started to appear in cars behind him on Main Street, at the end of aisles in Breen’s Grocery, and sitting four seats down from him at Eileen’s Diner and Dash. He did his best to ignore them, telling himself he needed more information before he could act. But, when one walked right up to him Weller’s Menswear, he couldn’t hold back. He grabbed the dark-haired Fed from behind, raising his side arm to his temple, screaming, “What do you want from me? Why are you following me?” John Weller jumped behind the counter and called Deputy Tom Stern to get over there right away.
Tom walked in, scared and unsure how to handle the situation. He put his right arm up, the way one might do when approaching a wild dog. “Now, Sheriff, what’s the matter? What’s, ahh, goin’ on here?” Jeb lashed back at him, telling him and John Weller to get out and leave him alone with ‘them,’ that he needed to know what was going on. “Now, Sheriff, I’ll leave you alone, but I want to take Mrs. Harper with me. All right? I need you to let go of Mrs. Harper, Jeb.” His words rang in Jeb’s ear like a gunshot blast. ‘Mrs. Harper? Mrs. Harper?’ What was he talking about?
Jeb’s eyes sank into his head when he looked down and focused on what was no longer a dark-haired federal agent sent to spy on him, but was Mrs. Abilene Harper, the principal of Warbash Elementary. He dropped his gun out of fear of what he had just done and fell to his knees. “What’s wrong with me?”
Tom took him right over to the Doc’s office and sat him down in the waiting room while he went in and told the Doc the whole story. Doc gave Jeb a strong sedative, knocking him out for nearly thirteen hours, and when Jeb woke up for twenty-three minutes, all he could say was “I’m sorry.” Then, he was back to sleep. He slept for another nine hours. Doc guessed Jeb probably hadn’t slept in a few weeks, and that the pressure of the job combined with his poor diagnosis when Jeb came in last, had led to a severe case of insomnia. He prescribed a good sleeping pill and told Jeb he had to take one every night, making sure this didn’t happen again. Jeb nodded and apologized and went home, concerned for his actions and relieved there was a reasonable explanation.
Marissa stopped by the next morning with a basket of muffins and fresh coffee. She sat down with Jeb, who had been told to take four weeks off of work, and talked to him about everything. She was more relieved than anyone that Jeb’s behavior was just a symptom of sleep deprivation, because she had finally built up the courage to tell Jeb how she felt about him. It was exactly what he needed to hear. The realization of Marissa’s love dissolved all of his fears and concerns.
Their wedding was to be one year later, to the day. It was the happiest year of Marissa’s life. Jeb had apologized to Abilene Harper, and she had long since forgiven him. He was visiting Doc Prescott regularly and was making, what Doc perceived to be, good progress. But, that was only because Jeb was lying. He was lying to everyone. Weeks after his day of sleep and Marissa’s long over-due profession, the G-men returned. They were everywhere. Jeb did his best to keep his suspicions and paranoia at bay. On some level, he knew they weren’t real. He suppressed every urge he had to attack them, to question them, to find out what was going on. Mostly, it was the fear of losing Marissa kept him in line.
The morning of the wedding, Jeb and Tom Stern stood in his top floor bedroom, making sure the other’s tux fit just right. John Weller had provided Jeb with the best Tuxedo’s he had in stock. And perhaps it was exactly that that set Jeb off. The kind-hearted Deputy was trying to ease Jeb’s possible pre-wedding nerves by making small talk, “Boy, John sure has taken care of us today. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a suit this nice.” Jeb nodded and his eyes sank into his head as though he had just realized something horrible. He tore the coat off his back and reached for his gun that was lying in the top drawer of his dresser. Tom barely had time to react before Jeb fired.
The crowd of guests that had gathered in Jeb’s yard jumped at the blast. Doc and Jeb’s second Deputy, Mark Ryan, ran into the classic house, screaming for Jeb and Tom to answer. Jeb slowly walked down the stairs; gun in hand, blank expression on his face. Doc tried to say something, but Jeb raised his gun and Doc ran. Mark pulled his side arm and yelled at Jeb to put the gun down. Jeb fired and hit Mark in the shoulder. Then, he continued outside.
Five people, in total, were shot. Two were killed – Tom Stern and Joley Miller. Jeb was caught and placed in one of the cells he had, over the years, cleaned a thousand times. He mumbled to himself incoherently and occasionally burst out in a moment of absolute fear. Doc Prescott was heartbroken. Jeb’s condition was beyond his expertise, and he was forced to turn Jeb over the state mental specialist, who, for the safety of everyone involved, had to recommend Jeb be placed in The Wilshire Mental Health Facility, where he would be given the daily care he required. Doc never forgave himself. He always felt he should’ve seen something, should’ve noticed, should’ve done more.
Marissa was, of course, crushed. She had waited nearly twenty-five years to tell Jeb she had loved him since their sophomore year of high school. Doc did his best to comfort her, but after a month of sad faces and pity phone calls, Marissa left Warbash County. And she never came back.
Jeb lived out the rest of his days in The Wilshire Mental Health Facility. Doc visited him as often as he could, but Jeb barely recognized him. His mind had broken. He would have the occasional moment of clarity, in which he would always express remorse and love for his town, his job, and for Marissa. But they were short-lived. There was nothing that could’ve been done. Doctor’s speculated over the cause, some saying it was the change in job, some saying it was possibly hereditary, and others saying it was just one of those cases.
Sheriff Jetherford “Jeb” Reynolds had known for some time that his declining grasp on sanity would one day lead to his removal from office. He had just hoped it would come a bit later than it did and never thought it would happen the way that it did.