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Titus Wheeler

I’m going to do a few posts spotlighting minor characters. Tami Smithers had an unpleasant interaction with the neighboring county’s sheriff in “Coming to the End”, but we don’t get to meet the local sheriff until Part 5 of “Butterfly”. This leads up to the climactic scene with Rebecca and Terri.

When Titus Wheeler, the Campbell County Sheriff, heard that campus police were taking in Tami Smithers on charges of indecent exposure, he was flabbergasted. For a year he had been told by that creepy college lawyer that, whenever that crazy naked coed appeared in town, she was to be left alone, she had a Constitutional right to be naked and the County didn’t want a civil rights lawsuit on its hand. It was odd, having to look the other way when a naked girl walked through town, especially when she was such a looker, and it was a constant struggle at first to keep his men on patrol from pulling up slowly to eyeball her, but she caused no trouble and after a while the people in town almost got used to seeing her around. It was weird. She wasn’t a dancer from Teasers or a hooker or anything like that, never got into trouble, actually seemed like a good kid, yet went around without wearing a scrap of clothes even back in January when it was zero degrees out.

And now the college was arresting her for being naked! This threw the sheriff into a panic. Something was going on that he didn’t know about. He hated that. He got on the phone to the college to find out what the hell was going on. He first tried Campus Security. “This is Sheriff Wheeler. Get me Chief Burdick.”

“The chief . . . is out,” the dispatcher said.

“Jesus! . . . You don’t know where he is?”

“No, sir.”

Then he called up Henry Ross’s office.

“I’m sorry,” a deadpan female voice told him. “Mr. Ross no longer is retained by the college.”

“Jesus! When did this happen?”

“He resigned about two weeks ago.”

“Jesus! Well, is there anyone taking his place?”


“Then who do I talk to?”

“Sir, I wish you would not -- ”

“Jesus! This is the county sheriff, dammit, and your campus police are taking in a student to my lockup, a girl who they told ME not to arrest. I want to know what’s going on here. . . I hear the Dean’s resigned. Get me the acting dean.”

“There is no acting dean yet, sir, until the Board of Trustees meets -- ”

“Jesus! Who’s in charge over there??”

“I -- it would be the Board of Trustees, sir, let me patch you through to Mr. Comstock’s phone, he’s the committee chairman -- ” And the sheriff found himself listening to a droning voice. “This is George Comstock. Please leave a message -- ”

The sheriff saw the campus squad car pull up and, with one final “Jesus!”, hung up. He thought fast.

He rushed to receive the naked, handcuffed girl personally as she walked in, a campus security cop on each elbow. The sheriff was thinking: avoid lawsuits, avoid publicity. In an unusual move, he had the campus cops do the paperwork themselves. Then, instead of placing her in one of the open barred cells downstairs, he had her placed upstairs in the “courtesy suite”, used only on rare occasions to put up visitors such as federal agents. He made sure the prisoner was not offered any clothes, or asked to put on any. He told his men not to screen her visitors or search any bags that might come in. And give her bathroom privileges whenever she wants, with the door closed.

In a few short minutes the naked Tami Smithers sat on a blanketless bed in a spare but clean room that had a kitchenette and a couch and a few cushioned chairs, and a couple of double-hung windows. There was an unavoidable institutional air about it, but it was not what one would think of as a jail cell.

She silently rubbed her wrists, looking at the red marks left by those rough handcuffs, then looked out the window. Here I am, naked and alone. Fortunately I have many friends out there, but now I’m in a fine fix.

How can I say now that I want to get back into clothes? It would look like I only did it out of convenience, to get out of being imprisoned. She didn’t know what to think about Mr. Ross. He might see this as proof that my “religion” was a hoax, but then why would he have me arrested? Confused as she was about Mr. Ross, her thoughts focused on her friends, who no doubt were being organized by Jen at this very moment to fight for her freedom and her right to be naked. And I can’t let them down now! --

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