"Out There in the Darkness" Ed Gorman from 1999's THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES" also published in Robert Bloch's PSYCHOS.
Although, to my embarrassment, I am choosing my third story by a male writer, I am disappointed that in this collection , Ed McBain, the editor that year, chose only one story by a woman and that was the ubiquitous Joyce Carol Oates. Twenty years later, women seem to dominate the crime fiction field. I am glad times have changed at least somewhat.
This story by Ed succeeds as both a crime story and a character study. Four men get together weekly to play poker. Of course, they enjoy the conversation, snacks and ribaldry as much as the game. Their small town has been experiencing a series of robberies, some of them quite violent. They have begun a neighborhood watch to keep an eye on things. When the poker players hear noises, they investigate. Somehow they manage to capture one of the burglars. And then begins the debate on what to do with him. The host wants to call the police; others suggest they try to get information from him first. Things get out of hand as they do with men who have been drinking and men who have differing ideas about the right behavior.
The story goes on to have lots of twists and turns. Ed used this title on one of his story collections and it seems to have appeared in several places. So because you might want to read it, I am going to end this review here. You don't hear much about neighborhood watches anymore. I am sure they often turned out to be more trouble than help to the police. This story captures just what that trouble might be very nicely.
I miss Ed so much. And Bill Crider, Randy Johnson, Ron Scheer, Sandra Seamans, and probably others I am forgetting. Certainly Richard Wheeler. Although I have spent time with Bill, the others I knew only online. Yet, they mean as much to me as people I see quite regularly. Many people in my real life are quite amazed and mystified by how this can be. But you guys get it.