It was nearing election time in Milwaukee. Sheriff Cline was busy in the sheriff's office, getting ready for the elections. He had remembered that exactly twelve years ago he never got around to putting out the sheriff's department's ballot for the last election, so he thought he would get around to doing so this year. He knew they had a new law out when his first deputy, Andrew Jones was murdered but it wasn't official. He put in the ballot in the envelope when he saw the mechanic, Cecil Thomas walk in.
"Hi, Jeremy," Cecil said.
"Hi, Cecil," Sheriff Cline said, licking the envelope.
"Did you hear the elections are around the corner?" Cecil asked.
"I haven't forgotten, Cecil," Sheriff Cline said.
Cecil watched Sheriff Cline write an address on the envelope.
"Who's that for?" Cecil asked.
"It's for the election, Cecil. Would you mind doing something for me?" Sheriff Cline asked.
"What's that?" Cecil asked.
"When you leave, would you mind mailing this for me?" Sheriff Cline asked.
"Sure, Jeremy. What is it?" Cecil asked.
"It's our ballot for the elections," Sheriff Cline said.
"Sure, Jeremy. I'd be glad to. I didn't know you were involved with the elections," Cecil said.
"It's true, Cecil. We are," he said.
That's when both Cecil and Sheriff Cline saw Karen McCarey and Frank Williams walk in.
"Hi, Cecil, Sheriff," Karen said.
"Hi," the two men said.
"How did it go on patrol?" Sheriff Cline asked.
"Fine," Deputy McCarey answered.
"Deputy McCarey wrote up a ticket," Frank Williams said.
"For what?" Sheriff Cline asked.
"Jaywalking," Karen answered.
"That ain't good," Cecil said.
"No, it's not," Sheriff Cline said.
"Did you get our ballot in the mail yet?" Karen asked Sheriff Cline.
"I already have it in the envelope. Cecil's going to mail it for us," Sheriff Cline said.
"How nice of you to do that. We appreciate it," Karen said.
"You're welcome, Karen. My pleasure," Cecil said with a smile on his face.
"I've got to get going. I have some cars to fix. I'll see you guys again later," Cecil said and left the office with the envelope in his hand.
"Do you think we'll do well with the votes on this new law?" Karen asked.
"I don't know. We need this law because of what happened to Andy twelve years ago. I don't want to loose another officer on this force," Sheriff Cline said.
"I can't afford to loose anymore officers," Sheriff Cline added.
"I'm going to take a break," Sheriff Cline told Karen and Frank.
"Okay. Why don't you take a walk around town? It might do you good to get some fresh air," Karen suggested.
"Thanks, Karen. I don't have time for that right now. This is a different kind of break," Sheriff Cline said and got up from his desk and disappeared.
Once he was in the back room, Frank asked, "What kind of break is this?"
"Before you joined the force, Frank, exactly twelve years ago, Sheriff Cline got diagnosed with depression and a sleeping disorder. That's why he's taking a break. When this first happened twelve years ago, a lot of officers had to take turns acting as sheriff when he left on sick leave. You should have seen him twelve years ago when we found out he had depression. He wasn't doing his job right so we had to help him out when he wasn't thinking correctly," Karen said.
"I bet that was hard on him," Frank said.
"It was, including us," Karen said.
The phone began to ring. Frank answered it.
"Sheriff's office," he said.
"He is, but he's on a break right now. Can I have him call you back?" Frank asked.
Frank took the message and put the phone back in its place. Karen saw the name Frank had written down for Sheriff Cline when he was on the phone with the caller. She knew the name was unfamiliar.
"Someone from out of state?" Karen asked.
"Sounds like it since they're nobody we know," he said.
"I thought so. I don't know that person either," she said.
Karen noticed the sheriff had been gone for sometime now.
"I didn't know the break was this long," Frank said.
"It's not," she said.
She knew Sheriff Cline usually was on break for about ten to twenty minutes and he hadn't returned almost forty minutes later. Karen went to the back room where they had seen him head for the last forty minutes ago. She had found him there.
"What are you doing?" Karen asked Sheriff Cline.
She found him lying on the cot.
"Just a little depressed," Sheriff Cline answered.
"What about? The elections?" Karen asked.
"Yes,'' he said.
"Don't worry about it, Jeremy. It'll be over before you know it," Karen said.
"What if it's not? Cecil might not even remember to put our ballot in the mail like he promised. You know how he is," Sheriff Cline said.
"We'll remind him, Jeremy. Don't worry," Karen said.
"Do you want to go home?" Karen asked.
"If you're worried, Frank or I would be happy to drive you home right now," Karen offered.
"Thank you, but no. I'm old enough to drive myself home," he said.
"I know that, Jeremy. I remember when you were first diagnosed with depression twelve years ago, you got into a car accident so we officers had to drive the squad car until you could drive right again," Karen said.
"Don't remind me on that accident, Karen. Terry's mentioned the accident a few times," Sheriff Cline said, thinking of his wife.
"Okay. You can stay here until we close up for the day if you want," Karen said.
"No. I want to work," he said, getting up to stretch.
It was finally five – thirty. Before leaving the office, Sheriff Cline sent Frank and Karen to feed the prisoners supper while he stayed at his desk. While he waited for their return, he got up from the desk and got out the medications the prisoners needed and headed for the cells. Karen and Frank returned with plates full of food in their hands. They both noticed Sheriff Cline was gone.
"Where did he go now?" Frank asked.
"I don't know," Karen said as they saw him reenter the room.
"We wondered where you were," Karen said.
Both she and Frank saw the containers in his hands.
"I was giving the prisoners their medicines," Sheriff Cline said.
"Oh," Frank said.
"We thought you were somewhere else," Karen said.
"Nope," he said.
The three of them fed the prisoners and then drove home for the night.
"I'm home!" Sheriff Cline said once he was in the living room.
His wife, Terry Cline, was in the kitchen, putting dinner on the table. Since nobody greeted him, he went into the kitchen.
"Didn't anybody hear me?" Sheriff Cline asked once he entered the kitchen.
"I'm sorry, Jeremy. I was busy with dinner. Tony and Sara are spending the night at a friend's house tonight. You know it's Friday," Terry reminded him.
"I've forgotten what day it is. I've been busy with the upcoming elections that I've forgotten what day it is," Sheriff Cline said.
"That's right! I forgot about the elections!" Terry said, slapping her side.
"What kind of elections is this again? I know it's not for president," Terry said.
"State elections," he reminded her.
"I forgot about those. What are we voting on this time?" Terry asked as they sat at the table.
"A new law. It's for my department," Sheriff Cline told her.
"I didn't know you were involved in the elections," she said.
"Well, I am. It has something to do with Andy's murder. I can't afford to loose another officer, Terry. If we loose this election, I don't know what will happen," he said.
Terry didn't reply. She could tell in her husband's voice he did sound a bit depressed but she didn't want to mention it like Karen did.
"Did you mail in your ballot?" Terry asked.
"Cecil came into the office and he offered to mail it for us. I hope he remembers to mail it in time for the elections," Sheriff Cline said.
"I hope he will," Terry said.
The next week arrived. Sheriff Cline and Karen were in town, doing patrol that Tuesday and saw Cecil in town that morning.
"Hi, Jeremy, Karen," Cecil said.
"Morning, Cecil," Sheriff Cline said.
"Mind if I ask you something?" Sheriff Cline asked Cecil.
"What's that?" Cecil asked.
"I was wondering if you mailed in our ballot for the elections," Sheriff Cline said.
"Not yet, I haven't, Jeremy. I will, don't worry," Cecil said.
"You said that yesterday. I wanted to make sure you kept that promise," Sheriff Cline said.
"I do promise, Sheriff. You'll see you'll have that ballot in the mail," Cecil said.
"I want it mailed in early," Sheriff Cline said strictly and firmly.
Cecil didn't say anything and he left so he could fix a car that needed to be fixed. Sheriff Cline and Karen hung around town for a while longer but didn't see anything suspicious, so they headed back to the office.
"What did your wife think of the elections coming up?" Karen asked.
"She forgot they were coming around the corner," Sheriff Cline told Karen when they walked into the office.
"I'm sure a lot of people are going to vote for this new law," Karen said.
"I'm sure they will," Sheriff Cline agreed.
"How many more days till election day?" Karen asked.
"About a week," Sheriff Cline said.
She didn't say anything. The next day, Sheriff Cline saw Cecil on his way into the office that morning.
"Good morning, Jeremy," Cecil said.
"Morning," Sheriff Cline said to Cecil.
"Did you mail in the ballot yet?" Sheriff Cline asked.
"I'm sorry. I haven't had the time yet. I've been so busy with these cars I just haven't found the time to mail the ballot," Cecil said.
"I want it by lunchtime today. You got it? Election time is only a week away," Sheriff Cline told him as he got back into the car.
Lunchtime arrived quickly that day. Sheriff Cline didn't want to go out that day and deal with Cecil. He was getting sick and tired of hearing the excuses Cecil was giving him.
"We're going out to lunch. Do you want to join us?" Karen asked Sheriff Cline.
"Thanks, Karen. I'm fine here. You and Frank go on without me," Sheriff Cline told her.
"Okay," she said, following Frank Williams to the squad car.
She and Frank ran into Cecil at Subway.
"Hi, Karen and Frank," Cecil said.
"Hi, Cecil," she said.
"Where's Jeremy?" Cecil said.
He noticed Sheriff Cline wasn't there with them.
"He decided to stay at the courthouse," Karen said.
"Are you going to give him a sandwich or do you want me to do it?" Cecil asked.
"That's okay, but thank you for offering. We've got it under control," Karen told Cecil.
"I thought Jeremy usually comes with you at lunch," Cecil said.
"He does but I guess he didn't feel like coming this time," Karen said.
"I see. I get the feeling sometimes. Tell Jeremy I mailed the ballot in," Cecil said.
"I will," Karen said as Frank finished ordering his sandwich.
"I've got to run," Cecil said and said good – bye on his out of Subway.
Karen ordered her sandwich and as well Sheriff Cline's sandwich. As they walked out of Subway and into the squad car, Karen offered to carry the lunch and drinks in her lunch.
"Okay. I wouldn't min driving this time," Frank said as they put their seatbelts on.
They finally made it back to the office. Frank opened the door for Karen since she had her hands full with lunch. They found the sheriff at his desk on the computer.
"We have lunch ready," Karen said.
"I'm not hungry," Sheriff Cline said in the same depressed voice.
"You have to eat something. When was the last time you ate something?" Karen asked.
"Last night," he answered.
"You didn't eat breakfast?" Karen asked.
"You can never work on an empty stomach, Sheriff. Try eating something. Cecil said to tell you he mailed our ballot," Karen said.
"Good. I don't have time to mess around with him anymore," Sheriff Cline said depressed.
Karen and Frank began eating their sandwiches.
"Tell us what's wrong, Sheriff," Karen said.
"Don't worry about me. I can worry about myself," he said.
"Is it depression?" Karen asked.
"I said I don't want to talk about it," Sheriff Cline said.
"You have to tell us, Sheriff. It's our job to worry," Karen said as Frank nodded in agreement.
"I don't like complaining," Sheriff said.
"I know you don't, but if it's depression, you have to tell us," Karen said as Frank nodded a second time.
"If you don't mind, I'd like to go home for the day. This subject is closed. Either one of you can act sheriff," Sheriff Cline said.
"I'll take you home," Karen offered.
She had guessed right it was the sheriff's depression that had striked out. While in the squad car, Karen took the wheel. While waiting for the engine to start, Karen felt the sheriff's forehead. She could feel something going on.
"You don't feel so hot, Sheriff. I'm driving you home," Karen said.
They drove in silence to Sheriff Cline's house. Karen did see the clock in the car. It read 1:05 in the afternoon.
"Is your wife home?" Karen asked.
"She should be," Sheriff Cline said.
She parked the squad car in the driveway. In the house, Terry Cline was in the living room, watching TV when she heard a car park in the driveway. She got up to investigate. She went to the nearest window and peeked through. She saw Karen McCarey with her husband. She wondered why the unexpected had come at one o'clock this Wednesday afternoon. She opened the door.
"Jeremy, aren't you supposed to be at the office?" Terry asked.
She started to become worried something had come up. She wondered if it was depression or what. Sheriff Cline didn't answer his wife. He walked right past her and headed upstairs to their bedroom.
"What's wrong with Jeremy?" Terry asked Karen.
"Depression. He's got a fever going on. I'd suggest you keep him home for a while. Maybe until the elections are over," Karen suggested.
"Okay. Thank you for bringing him home," Terry said to Karen.
"You're welcome," Karen said and drove the squad car back to the sheriff's office.
A week had gone by and Sheriff Cline still had not returned. Karen had the feeling his depression had gotten worse. She had another officer from Madison take over to act sheriff for Sheriff Cline while he was out. That Friday afternoon that week, it was election time. Everyone put their answers on the ballots. When it was Cecil's turn, he saw the ballots for the sheriff's department. He couldn't tell which one he should vote for. He did remember the murder of Andrew Jones twelve years ago. He knew Andrew Jones was the best officer Milwaukee ever had. He saw the ballots read: VOTE YES IF YOU WANT TO KEEP YOUR TOWN SAFE and VOTE NO – LEAVE EVERYTHING AS IT HAS BEEN.
Cecil had a difficult time choosing what to vote for – YES or NO. He knew it was a tough choice, but he went ahead and put his answer in and circled it under NO. The next day, after the elections, everyone in town had heard someone had voted in the elections for the sheriff's office for the new law under the NO ballot. They couldn't figure out who could have done such a thing like that. Cecil knew it was him who did so he just kept quiet until somebody did figure out it was him.
Sheriff Cline had returned to work that Monday morning, feeling a little bit better. He did hear the latest word that somebody had voted on the NO ballot. He could guess it was Cecil but didn't admit it out loud to the entire town. That morning, Cecil walked into the sheriff's office.
"Come here," Sheriff Cline said, not very happy.
"What? What did I do?" Cecil asked, remembering the NO ballot.
"We're glad to have you back on your feet," Cecil told Sheriff Cline.
"I don't want to hear about that, Cecil. While I was in bed, I heard about the election. I heard somebody voted on the NO ballot. I could guess that somebody was you," Sheriff Cline said.
"Yeah, it was me," Cecil said.
"Why would you vote NO for?" Sheriff Cline asked.
"The answer sounded right to me, Sheriff. I had to put no for the ballot. I had to do it," Cecil said.
"I can't afford to loose another officer like I did with Andy, Cecil. That's why this new law is here now. Don't you understand?" Sheriff Cline asked.
"I understand, but the ballot made a lot of sense," Cecil said.
"We would like it to go back in time, Cecil, but it won't," Sheriff Cline said.
"I know, but if we only had a time machine, it could work," Cecil said.
"That would be nice, won't it? We can never turn the clock back to these things, Cecil. They're all in the past," he said.
"I know," Cecil said.
"Next time we have an election, please pay more attention and vote on the correct ballot," Sheriff Cline said.
"I will. I promise," Cecil said.
"I understand how much you like Milwaukee, and so do I. After what happened twelve years ago, the murder changed the entire town. We can't change that, can we?" Sheriff Cline asked.
"No," Cecil said.
"Just remember what I told you about the next election," Sheriff Cline said.
"Vote on the correct answer," Cecil said.
"Bingo," Sheriff Cline said.