Constable Locke had an office at the city jail, but was seldom to be found in it. Most of the time he could be seen wandering around town, "just keeping an eye on things" as he liked to phrase it. Harold eventually ran him to earth outside a warehouse, supervising the unloading of a heavy wagon and chatting with the foreman. At Harold's appearance he nodded and exchanged a final sentence or two with the crew unloading the wagon; as they left the younger man noted that Locke was careful to check the nearby alleys for loiterers.
Harold jerked his head back toward the warehouse. "Anything important?"
"Pretty big shipment. The owner was nervous about it, so I thought I'd stop by. Makes people feel better if they know that I'm around." He smiled benignly, but Harold was not fooled.
"I've learned a few things since we started working together, Constable. I'm pretty sure you're the power behind the scenes in this town."
Locke shrugged. "I like to help people, same as you do. And I care for this town. Grew up here from a boy. George Shinn and I go back a long way – we went to high school together. I didn't marry rich the way he did, and I don't have those politician's skills, but I knew I could work with him and give him a nudge when he needed it. My deputy – Thorne, you've met him – he's a good young fellow, but he doesn't see the long game like I do. You're the only one I've met who does." He fell silent for a few moments. "The times are changing. River City's got to change with them. But not too much. It would break my heart to see River City lose its soul in a grab for success."
"I'd hate to see that too," Harold agreed. He was not sure where the conversation was going, and was genuinely surprised by what the Constable said next:
"Well, Professor, what I'm getting at is I think you could be a real asset to this town. It's early days yet, but I know you're going to be settling down here. I hope you'll keep attending the city council meetings. I can tell you who's who and what's what. I'm not going to be around here forever, and I'd like to think that there's someone around who can keep an eye on River City after I retire."
"Well, I – I – yes. I'd like that." It was not often Harold found himself at a loss for words. He pulled himself together and added, "Anything you think I can do, or that you can teach me, I'd be happy to learn."
Locke smiled and gave a nod of approval. "Good. Now, what is it you came hunting me down for?"
Harold quickly sketched the conversation he had had with Marian. Locke's reaction was predictably low-key. "So that's his game, is it?" he mused. "Pretty clever." Harold found himself mildly irritated for a moment until the Constable's next words showed that he was taking his theory seriously.
"City Hall has a safe deposit box – that's where they keep the money. How d'you reckon he'd get a key?"
"Does the Mayor have one?"
"Yes, he does. But I can tell you George Shinn is shrewd enough not to go leaving his keys lying around."
"You said he'd been spending a lot of time with the Mayor and the Board. Good enough terms with them that he could drop in at City Hall without anyone getting suspicious?"
"Yes. Now you mention it, I keep finding him there. Takes the Mayor to lunch sometimes."
"How nice for him. He's probably figured out the easiest way to break in and where the keys are likely to be. "
"And when do you think he'd be likely to break in, Professor? Got any ideas on that one?"
Harold stared absently across the street. Then his gaze sharpened and he pointed at a banner hung outside River City High School:
River City v. Calamus
Saturday, November 9
Cheer the Gophers to Victory!
"I assume the Mayor's going to be there?"
"Of course. Everyone will." A light dawned on Locke's face. "Well, well. You've done it again, Professor. Looks like we won't be making it to the game."
The next Saturday afternoon found Locke, Harold and Marcellus hidden at various points around City Hall. Locke assigned their spots and gave each man a bright red kerchief. "When you see him, don't make a sound," he cautioned. "Wait till he goes in, then wave this and we'll see it."
Marcellus blew on his hands to warm them. "I could imitate an owl if you want." He gave an experimental whoo-whoo. "What do you think?"
"When was the last time you heard an owl at two in the afternoon?" The Constable gave him a scathing look. "No fancy stuff, now. Just wave that handkerchief."
Marcellus was assigned to watch the front of City Hall – clearly the least likely spot for a break-in. Locke shook his head as he and Harold moved around the side of the building. "That friend of yours. Means well, but don't try to tell me you didn't have to pull him out of jams back in the day, because I wouldn't believe you."
Harold chuckled. "He quit working with me a while back and that's exactly why. But he's the best friend I ever had." At the Constable's instruction he concealed himself by the side door, while Locke took the fire escape.
They waited. The town was almost completely silent, but after a few minutes Harold heard the sound of distant cheers from the football field. The only other noise was the whistle of a train arriving at the depot. The brisk sound of booted steps a few minutes later was loud by comparison. Harold peered around the hedge and saw Higdon standing at the side door manipulating the lock. Less than two minutes later he was inside; as the door swung shut Harold waved the handkerchief and saw Locke emerge almost immediately. Marcellus appeared a few moments later, and the three men converged on the door.
"We need to block his way out," Locke whispered. "Washburn, you stay here by the door. Professor, come with me." Harold tiptoed up the main staircase as quietly as possible, following in the Constable's wake. They listened at the door to the Mayor's office for a few moments, hearing the splinter of wood as Higdon forced the drawer open. Leaving Harold by the door to the office, Locke stepped into the room.
"That's enough, Higdon." The Constable did not raise his voice, but held his nightstick with an air of authority. "You're coming with us. Hill, put the cuffs on him." Higdon spun around, staring at the other two men.
"There's been a mistake," he stammered. "The Mayor has something of mine here –"
"You're wrong! I'm a highly respected engineer!"
"From a company you haven't told us anything about," Harold commented as he restrained the man. "And one other thing, Mr. Higdon. That vulcanization process you talked about? It doesn't work on roads."
Higdon stared at him through narrowed eyes. "I've seen you around town. Mayor Shinn pointed you out, said you tried to form a band or some such."
"I am the bandleader, yes. Part time."
"Harold Hill, he called you. I've heard of you, you're a swindler!" He appealed to Locke. "Why're you arresting me? You want a crook, you've got one standing right in front of you!"
"That's enough out of you," the Constable answered sternly. "This young fellow is worth a dozen of you. Yes, I know what he's done. But I also know he's done his best to change his ways and help this town."
"Gone legit." Higdon sounded as if he were ready to spit on the carpet. "You've sold me out, and I kept my mouth shut for you, Hill! Brotherhood of the road! Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
Harold was infuriated by Higdon's words. "Keep quiet and let you steal this town's tax revenues? Absolutely not. River City deserves better than that!"
"Enough, Hill." Locke put a hand on his shoulder. "Walk with me. We're going to get him locked up and then your work's done for today."
The two men escorted Higdon downstairs and out the door, where they were met by Marcellus. No words were spoken as they headed to the jail, but noise from the football game could still be heard in the distance. Locke uncuffed the prisoner, pointed him into the jail cell and turned the key then walked Harold and Marcellus back to the front of the building.
"You did good work today, both of you." Unlike Marcellus, who was beside himself with excitement, Harold was silent. Locke gave him a closer look.
"You okay, Professor?"
Harold forced himself to smile. "Fine, I'm fine. Thank you, Constable."
"You asking yourself if you did the right thing?"
"I know I did the right thing. But what that fellow said wasn't wrong. I'm still a crook."
Locke waved Marcellus out the door. "Give me a minute to talk to the Professor, would you?" Once alone, he turned back to the younger man. "There's more to you than I thought there was, Hill. You've stuck around, took on a tough job, did your best to live up to what you promised the people here. The Paroo family depends on you and you haven't let them down. It's going to take you a long time to live down your past, we both know that. But you can do it if you want to. And I meant what I said before, you could be a real asset to this town."
Harold met the Constable's steady gaze. For the first time that he could remember, he felt no uneasiness. No guilt, no trying to remember the most recent lies he'd told a mark. He was just himself.
"Thank you, sir. That means a lot to me."
The Constable shook his hand. "Now get out there and go see your young lady."
A few days later Harold was leaving the school auditorium after the final rehearsal for the upcoming band concert. Across the street Constable Locke waved to catch his attention; the Mayor was standing next to him.
"Hill! Ah, John Locke told me what fine work you'd done apprehending the Higdon fellow. Appreciate it." The Mayor looked extremely uncomfortable.
"Why, thank you, Mr. Mayor. I'm glad I was able to help. And I want to thank the Constable for asking me to assist him." Harold smiled at Locke, who was watching Shinn's discomfort with a look of mild amusement.
"Yes, well. We've got some news for you." The Mayor waved toward Locke, who stepped forward.
"Professor, once we got Higdon locked up I telegraphed a friend of mine in Des Moines. He tells me this fellow has quite a record of theft and there's a reward out for him. One thousand dollars, to be exact. So I had a little chat with Mayor Shinn and we both agree that you deserve this reward for your help. Don't we, George?" The Constable gave Shinn a meaningful look.
"Absolutely, absolutely. Your penurious efforts really made a difference here." Seeing Locke's raised eyebrow, the Mayor stammered for a moment. "Ah, what I mean to say is…"
Locke chuckled and clapped his old friend on the back. "What he means is that we owe you, Professor. You look a bit surprised there."
Surprised was an understatement; Harold was stunned. "One thousand dollars?" he repeated. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Higdon caused a lot of trouble for a lot of communities, and you stopped him. And what with you and Miss Paroo planning to get married and all, well, I couldn't think of a finer use for that money."
The Constable's reference to Marian snapped Harold out of his dream. "Wait till I tell her! We didn't know how long it would be before we could – oh, this is unbelievable! Thank you, Constable! Mr. Mayor!" He shook both men's hands and darted down the street so quickly that he had to clap his hand to his head to keep from losing his hat.
As they watched him go, George Shinn turned to the Constable. "You had to give him all the money?"
"He needs it more than I do, George. Besides, now he knows that sometimes it pays to be on the straight and narrow. Think of it as an investment. River City will benefit from young Mr. Hill sticking around."
"I wouldn't be surprised if he wound up being mayor someday," Shinn growled.
"Neither would I, George. But you don't need to worry, I'm tutoring him. He has a ways to go yet but he's coming along pretty well. Miss Paroo's going to keep him toeing the line too, and between the two of us he'll be fine."
"If you say so, John." Shinn shrugged. "Anything else?"
"Well now, about that power plant, George. You really should think it over…"
The Mayor groaned.