First Impressions

--by Anne


I don’t own any of the characters, I’m not trying to maliciously step on anybody’s copyright, and I’m certainly not making any money from writing this.


Summer, 1988

“Mr. Mayor,” Mabel said, sticking her head into the office, “your eleven-thirty appointment is here.”

       Sam Booth looked up at his secretary in consternation, a frown of confusion marring his cherubic face. “My eleven-thirty appointment?  I don’t recall having an eleven-thirty appointment.”

       Behind her thick, horn-rimmed glasses Mabel rolled her eyes. “The candidate for Sheriff?” she reminded him impatiently. “The one from New York? The one you asked to come up for an interview as soon as possible?”

       Now Sam remembered, and he brightened appreciably. “Ah, yes, of course! How could I forget?” Truth be told, he had been forgetting a lot of things lately. Having the office of the Sheriff of Cabot Cove unoccupied was a vexing problem that caused him no end of stress, and when Sam became stressed, things started to slip through the cracks of his memory. “Send him in, please, Mabel.”

       The Mayor rose to greet his guest, a man with black hair liberally shot through with grey who occupied the nebulous border regions between “stocky” and “solidly built.”  He wore his policeman’s dress uniform well though, and walked with a confident, almost arrogant stride.

       “First Lieutenant Mortimer Metzger, NYPD,” he said in a thick Brooklyn accent as he stuck out his big hand and took Sam’s somewhat softer one in a firm, no-nonsense grip.

       “Pleased to meet you, Lieutenant,” Sam replied, bobbing his head and beaming his most politically correct smile. “Thank you for coming on such short notice.”

       Metzger shrugged. “The wife wanted to get out of the city for the weekend anyway,” he said. “Hotter than hell down there this time of year. Almost made me want to drive through the car wash with the Caddy’s top down.”

       “Uh, yes, yes, I can imagine,” said Sam. “Please, have a seat.”

       Metzger did so, pulling up one of Sam’s leather armchairs and sitting in it casually, his legs stretched out in front of him. As for the Mayor, he resumed his seat somewhat more nervously.

       “Well,” he said, clasping and unclasping his hands on the desk in front of him. “What do you think of our little village by the sea so far?”

       “It looks like a nice enough place,” Metzger said off-handedly. “Typical sleepy New England town where everyone minds their own business.”

       “You might say that, yes,” Sam said, nodding vigorously. “I – ah – I’m sure you saw in the advertisement we placed what we are able to offer for salary …”

       The reason for his tentative broaching of the topic of salary was that it wasn’t much, not when it was compared to what larger towns were paying their sheriffs and chiefs of police. Cabot Cove had two major problems that made the search for Amos Tupper’s successor difficult, and the decidedly modest salary budgeted for the office of Sheriff was one of them.  Sam had gone to battle with the town council on more than one occasion since Amos’s retirement, hoping to wring a little more money out of them to sweeten the pot, but had come away empty-handed each time. As for the other problem … Sam preferred not to think too much about the other problem.

       “I must admit, Mr. Mayor, that you wouldn’t want to try and put your kids through college on that kind of salary,” Metzger said, “but it’s okay; I’ll have my pension from the NYPD to fall back on.”

       “Oh. Well, that’s certainly a relief,” said Sam. “We’re down a cruiser this year – hoping to get that replaced in a few months or so – so you may need to use your personal vehicle for awhile. The town’ll reimburse you for your mileage, of course.”

       “Sounds fair enough.”

       “On the plus side,” Sam continued, eager to move away from the department’s shortcomings, “you do get a house to live in if you accept the job.”

       “Yeah, I remember seeing that in the ad,” Metzger said. “Was it Tupper’s place?”

       “Yes,” said Sam. “He rented it, and the landlord has agreed to hold the lease for his replacement, if they want to occupy it. The monthly rate is very low for an in-town home, and it’s within walking distance of everything – I’m sure you and your wife would like it.”

       “I’m sure we would.”

        Sam wasn’t entirely sure what to do next – he’d never had an applicant for Sheriff get this far in the interview process before, which was a rather sad testament to how difficult it had been to attract qualified law enforcement officers to give Cabot Cove a second look. “So,” he said before the lapse in conversation grew too awkward, “tell me about yourself, Lieutenant.”

       “There’s not much to tell,” said Metzger. “Graduated from the Academy, took a job as a beat cop in the Big Apple, paid my dues and qualified for early retirement.”

       “According to your record and resume, you certainly seem qualified for the position,” Sam said, glancing at the papers in front of him through his half-glasses. “If anything, you seem overqualified.” He looked up at Metzger. “May I ask why you decided to apply for the job here?”

       “Well, it’s like this, Mr. Mayor – I’ve been with the NYPD going on twenty years now, and let me tell you, it hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park the whole time, if you know what I mean. I grew up in the city, but New York’s a tough place to be a cop. After awhile you just get tired of busting street punks and drug dealers. That’s why I jumped at the early retirement option when they offered it to me. But I’m not quite ready to hang ‘em up – and that’s why this job is perfect.”

       “Perfect?” Sam repeated. “How so?”

       “It’ll be so easy,Mort said, a big smile on his face. “I mean, when was the last time you had a major crime here? Two decades ago?”

       Sam wisely held his tongue and didn’t answer. A previous applicant had asked a similar question, back when they first started interviewing, and upon hearing Sam’s blunt answer of “Three weeks ago Tuesday,” had done some checking, left town, and had not been heard from since.

       “Please, continue,” he said.

       “The way I figure it, the worst things that happen in little Maine towns like this one are petty theft, O.U.I’s, and the occasional bar fight. Piece of cake.” He snapped his fingers to emphasize his point. “I can handle all that, and still be home for dinner. What could be better?”

       Sam smiled inwardly. If this was Metzger’s impression on Cabot Cove, he wasn’t going to say anything to disavow him of it. Too many members of the law enforcement community knew otherwise, and that knowledge made them avoid his little coastal village like the plague.  True, Mort Metzger was not his vision of the perfect replacement for Amos Tupper: he was From Away, and that arrogant swagger of his would not sit well with many of the citizenry. Well, Metzger would probably lose his idyllic vision of Cabot Cove as a peaceful backwater soon enough. In the meantime, Sam needed someone to run the Sheriff’s Department, and the more experience that person had, the better.

       “Well, Lieutenant,” he said, removing his half-glasses and pocketing them, “I’m certainly satisfied with your credentials. The position is yours, if you want it.”

       Metzger beamed. “Terrific!” he said. “When do I start?”

       “Immediately,” Sam said. He paused, then added, “Well, as soon as you can, I mean.”

“Sure,” Metzger said. “It won’t take Adele and me long to get settled in – just give us a week to get our stuff out of the city.” The two men rose and shook hands, sealing the deal. “This is gonna work out great for both of us, Mr. Mayor. You’ll see.”


Three Weeks Later

       In the course of walking his bulldog Winston, Sam came upon Cabot Cove’s new Sheriff just as he was loading a bag of golf clubs into the back seat of his vintage red Cadillac convertible. Metzger had been on the job for about two weeks now, and seemed to be settling in well enough so far.

       “Hi, Sheriff!” Sam called to him.

       “Oh, hi, Mr. Mayor!  Hiya, Winston,” Mort replied cheerfully.

       “Mighty fine set of golf clubs you've got there,” Sam observed.

       “Oh!  Thanks!  Brimley just fixed them up with a new set of grips. Thought I'd squeeze in eighteen holes up at Wawenock tomorrow morning.”

       “Oh?” said Sam, frowning slightly.  "Tomorrow'd be a work day."

       “Yeah.  My deputy'll be on the job,” Mort told him, obviously feeling no guilt.  “But if we should be hit with a crime wave, Mr. Mayor, I'll be wearing my beeper.”  Seeing the dismayed look on Sam's face he added, “Oh, c'mon!  Lighten up, Mr. Mayor!  Sleepy little town like this, what can happen?  See ya!”  He started the Caddy with a roar and drove off.

       Sam sighed.  Those were famous last words, he thought. Ah, well – there were other things to think about, such as finding a suitable birthday gift for Morris Penroy. Mr. Penroy’s landlords, Helen and Lillian Appletree, were planning a celebratory party for their tenant the next day – an event that Sam, who was on the guest list, wouldn’t miss for the world. The Appletree sisters always put out a good spread.

The thought of Helen Appletree’s homemade cider and Lillian’s angelfood cake brightened the Mayor’s spirits considerably, pushing aside any worries he had harbored about the new Sheriff’s attitude toward his job.

“Come, Winston,” he said, and he and his dog ambled off just as the bus from Boston pulled in.