Amber L. Younger was nobody's fool. He'd been around. Thirty-seven states and fourteen foreign lands including Germany, Japan, England, and the Canal Zone. When a man spends thirty years in the United States Army, he doesn't come out of it a hick, no sir. He comes out of it knowing what's what.
Younger had had some sort of title in front of his name for almost as long as he could remember. At twenty, a green frightened dumb kid from the hick town of Sagamore, in Nebraska, he'd become Private Abner L. Younger, USA. That was the time of the Great Depression; there was no work for Abner's father anywhere to be found, and if there was no work for the father there was sure as hell no work for the son. If he wanted three meals every day and a bed indoors every night, the only thing in the world for Abner to do was join the Army.
Promotion came slow both sides of the ocean in those days, and when the Second World War came along in 1941 Younger had advanced only one small step, up to Pfc. But with the war came promotions for everybody, and soft jobs for those who'd been smart enough to be in the Army, already when the war started. Younger spent his wartime service at a basic training camp, and wound up a buck sergeant when the war was over.
He had twenty years of duty behind him a few years later, and could have retired then, but he'd just got another promotion, and knew he had a good chance to make master sergeant by the time thirty years was up, which would mean a hell of a lot more pension, so he decided to stick it out the extra ten.
He made master sergeant. Almost anybody can, if he stays in the Army long enough. Then his thirty years were done, and while he was going through the discharge red tape a clerk asked him what his civilian address was going to be.
And he didn't know. Neither of his parents were still alive, and he'd been out of touch with any other relatives for decades. He finally told the clerk General Delivery, Sagamore, Nebraska, as a temporary address, because he couldn't think of anything else. He'd forward a permanent address when he had one.
That was the only reason he went back to Sagamore, to pick up his pension checks. But once there, there was no reason to leave, nowhere else to go, no one anywhere in the world that he wanted to see or that wanted to see him. So he stayed on. He joined the local American Legion Post, and through that got to know some of the better elements in town, and settled down to enjoy his retirement.
But he was only fifty. He'd had something to do all his life, donning a uniform every day and going to a specific place and having specific things to do. Time hung heavy, now he was retired. He had no hobbies, and his pension wasn't lavish. He found he was lying around the house late in the mornings, and going too often to the movies, and spending too much time in front of the television set either at home or down at the bar in the cellar of the American Legion Post. He was drinking too much beer, eating badly, getting too little exercise. He was putting on weight, and his digestion was going bad.
Then the police job came along. He heard talk about it down at the American Legion, about old Captain Greene retiring and wonder who'll take over, there's no men with good leadership qualities on the force at all. The pay's too low to attract first-rate men, somebody said, and that led straight into the old argument about property taxes, but Younger had heard enough.
So now he had the highest rank of all. Not Private Younger anymore, not Pfc. Younger, not even Master Sergeant Younger. Captain Younger. Yes, and it could just as well be General Younger, because he was the highest-ranking man on the force. Seventeen men, and he was their captain.
At first he wore the uniform all the time, dark blue with modified riding pants, and boots and a garrison cap. But the weight he'd put on never came off again, and he had to admit he didn't look good in the uniform. Besides, R.H.I.P. Rank Has Its Privileges. As captain, he could wear civvies if he wanted. As captain, he was the only man on the force who could wear civvies. So he started wearing civvies.
But that made a problem. In the uniform, he was declaring his rank for the whole world to see, but in civvies what was he but just another stocky civilian? He thought about it and thought about it, and finally settled on the cowboy hat. A good ten-gallon hat would set him apart, announce to the world that here was a man who held some rank, that was for sure. A cowboy hat and a good suit, the combination would show he was something special. Besides, he thought he looked good dressed that way.
At fifty-one, he'd reached the peak. Captain of the Police Department, a respected citizen, secretary of the American Legion Post; he was content, he had everything he wanted.
And then he was shown the possibility of wanting a lot more.
—Richard Stark, The Jugger, 1965, Pocket Books