"Now just try and calm down, Sara," Andy said into the phone. The sheriff was sitting on the corner of his desk trying to get some sense out of the towns' operator. "If you can, just take a deep breath and start over," Andy reassured. Barney, his deputy walked over from the cells and propped on the broom he was carrying.
"What's got Sara so rattled?" he asked as soon as the sheriff hung up the phone. The look on Andy's face worried him, but it was the reply that clenched his stomach with an icy hand.
"Go get your extra bullets," Andy said seriously as he stepped over to the gun rack, "there's been a murder."
Barney tried to form words, but the sounds just wouldn't come out. To Barney, murders happened in Raleigh; they happened sometimes in Mt. Pilot, they happened all the time somewhere else, never in Mayberry.
"You gonna stand there and gulp air like a fish, or are you gonna go get your bullets?" Andy asked. With a shotgun resting on his shoulder, he turned to leave. His trance of disbelief suddenly broken, Barney scrambled as quickly as he could for the back room. Grabbing the whole box of thirty eights, he made it out to the squad car just as Andy was pulling it into drive.
Barney's bowels were going liquid and sweat was poring from his body as Andy guided them away from the town square and onto a dirt road. Although he was familiar with the area, it felt like the longest trip Barney had ever taken in the towns' only police car. The questions that tried to surface in his mind; who, what, where, were all continuously derailed by the reoccurring thought, not Mayberry. Andy, silently driving, just stared through the windshield as they moved along the tree lined road.
"We're here," Andy announced to his deputy after pulling into Wally's filling station. Although they were parked broadside to the garage, the bay door stood open like a gaping mouth in Barney's peripheral vision. He couldn't bring himself to turn and look at it lest it swallow him into a voracious new reality. Not Mayberry.
"Come on, Barn," Andy said suddenly, making Barney squeak a little in surprise, "I've got to have you with me at the scene." Opening the door for him, Andy helped Barney out of the car, and nudged him toward the garage as Wally walked out to meet them.
To Barney this wasn't Wally. Not the Wally he had bought a pack of nabs from yesterday, this was another Wally, disaster Wally. He didn't look the same. It couldn't be the same person. This Wally was a little too pale with wide, worried eyes and wringing hands. This Wally scared Barney.
"Andy! What's going to happen?" Wally asked shuffling sideways beside the sheriff. "Who could have done this, sheriff? Who?" Andy stopped walking and turned towards Wally.
"I know its terrible Wally, but you have to calm down so I can take your statement. That's the best I can do right now," Andy said evenly to Wally. His voice obviously having a calming effect on the station owner, Wally began to talk.
"Well Andy," he began, "I came out here early today because the last couple of weeks, Goober has been a little late opening up." He stopped, clenching his mouth a little. "I came out this morning to…," he continued slowly, "to fire him," he finished with a muffled sob.
"What did you find this morning?" Andy prompted after letting Wally compose himself.
"Goober's dead," he blurted, "he's in there and he's just dead." Wally, looking at the ground was pointing towards the garage.
"Why don't you sit down over there and compose yourself while me and Barney go look at the scene."
During the last couple of minutes, Barney had stood rigid while Andy questioned Wally, barely seeming to breathe as he heard of Goobers' fate. Now, he seemed to be floating slowly towards the open garage door. He couldn't feel his legs moving. As his eyes adjusted to the dark in the bay, it took him yet another minute to assimilate what he was seeing.
There lying at the back of the garage was Goober's body wearing clothes that are somewhat disheveled and dirty. Goobs' shoulders, butted up against one of the rails of the car lift, were stained red. A dark sticky arrow on the floor was pointing to the remains of Goobers' head still stuck under the rail of the lift.
It was then that it all went dark for Barney. When he came to, he was no longer in the garage but leaning against the outside wall, looking at the ground. As his eyes focused, all he could see was a puddle of vomit between his feet. Andy was there, talking to him.
"Barn!" he said with a voice a little harsh with worry, "Are you OK Barn?!"
Barney grabbed Andy's arm to steady himself and took the offered handkerchief. Wiping his mouth, he managed to straighten up and catch his breath.
"I think I'm OK now Ange," he said shakily looking up at the sheriff. "It's just that it's Goob in there Ange, its Goob."
"I tell you what Barn," Andy started, "Why don't you get the crime scene tape out of the trunk and rope off the area. After that, go ahead and take Wally there back to the courthouse."
"You don't think he did it do you?" asked Barney in shock.
"I can't be too certain, but were not gonna arrest him right now, just him calm down enough to give us a good statement." Andy handed his deputy the keys to the patrol car and said, "Go by the diner and pick him up a lunch special. Getting him away from the scene and giving him a warm meal should be good for him."
"Well, what are you gonna do Andy?" Barney asked, "Don't you need me here?"
"All I have to do now is wait for the coroner to show up, and then remove the body. So you go on, and I'll call you or get a ride back later."