Anita Louise

Part Ten

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Anita's web site


Chapter Twenty Seven

Alice was standing near the doorway when Sky entered the room, she stepped back as the woman walked past.  "I see Bobie found you."

"Wasn't lost."  Sky stopped and stared at the woman.

"No, I guess you were not.  But your friend Bobie Parker was worried and is very worried for you."

Sky approached the woman, cautiously.  "She tells me you may be able to help.  Is this true?"

Alice turned from gazing at the doorway and replied, "I will do my best to see if there is anything I can do.  I told Bobie I would examine your wounds."

"If you are staring toward the doorway looking for Parker, she will be along.  I think I may have rattled her some."  Alice pointed to the pallet adding, "I can roll this out.  Take your shirt off and lay down, let me examine your wounds."

"No need to do that, I can sit in a chair and you can see my back, do not wish to lie down."

Alice shook her head in befuddlement before she asked, "Are you always this hardheaded?"

Sky thought about her words, grinned and answered, "Sorry.  It has been a long day, I am tired.  If you want me laying down, I'll do it."

"No, sitting is fine.  Come, if what Bobie has told me is happening to you, we must begin as quickly as possible."

Alice watched the woman as she moved.  After Sky had removed her shirt and sat, she approached.  "If I touch you, promise you will not swing around and strike."

"Ouch.  I deserved that.  Sorry about grabbing you, and throwing you over my shoulder back there.  I get carried away sometimes.  I promise, on my honor, I will not strike."

Lustrous red hair fell about the woman's shoulders and onto her back.  Even in the dim light of the room, the woman's hair was eye-catching.  Alice carefully reached out and brushed the hair that was clinging to Sky's back and placed it over her left shoulder.  It was at this time she saw the bite and emitted a horrifying sigh.

"If I wasn't concerned before, I am now.   Haven't looked but I can feel it.   I take it, the bite is no better, "  Sky uttered.

"I did not see it after this happened but you are right, it is not better.  Bobie told me you were bitten by a man named Trenton.  She filled me in on everything.  She just did not prepare me for what I am looking at now."

"You being a Medicine Woman and all, should have seen many things you are not prepared for.  Tell me, is there anything that can be done to stop this?"

"I am not a miracle worker, I cannot make elephants appear and disappear, I can only use herbs, medicines of my people to heal, to help.  I don't know if there is anything that can be done to stop what is happening.   Tell me, this man Trenton, was there anything that stood out, that struck you as different?"

"He was a large man.  I know very little about the people in the area, so I don't know how different he was to many of them.  He is cruel and took pleasure in dealing out pain and fear.   But I'm sorry, I can't tell you anymore.  I was trying to stay alive at the time.  Evil lurking in the air waiting to take my life from me was all consuming at that moment."

Alice's fingers were brushing, palpitating the area as she posed the question, "Not even a thought for Bobie Parker?"

As the woman's fingers lightly examined and stroked her back, Sky groaned, "Bobie?  Of course I was worried for her.  I prayed she would get away from what was happening, far away."

"Yet she did not, she came back for you did she not?"

"Yes.  Are you through?  I am in enough pain as it is."

"Stop and think, the two of you are connected.  Maybe a chance meeting, a meeting that was not to be anything but work.  Can you look at me and say, Bobie Parker has not affected you in ways that cannot be explained?  I am through examining your back."

Sky started to put the shirt back on but instead turned in the chair to stare at the woman. "I don't know if it is any of your business but you are right.  I came here to do a job.    There was no place in my heart or life for anyone at this time.  But Bobie Parker has opened a door, she has been able to reach a part of me hidden for so long.  So in answer to your question, yes, Bobie Parker has affected me.  Now, can we get on with what is to come?"

At this time Bobie came walking into the room, her face reddened from  the cold night. She stopped when she saw Sky.  Blue-green eyes shouted alarm as her face fell.  "Sky,  Alice-"

Sky stood as Alice turned to stare at the woman.  "You got our names right.  Where have you been?  I was getting worried."

"Stopped to look at the lights, and . . ."

Sky's emerald greens filled with softness as she approached the woman, shirt in hand.  "You can't hide it Parker.   Thank you."

"For what."  Bobie glanced toward Alice with a questioning look.

Alice shook her head at the two women before she approached them. "For taking time to pray, to ask for your friend's health."

Bobie's eyes widened as she glanced toward Alice.  "How did you know?"

"It is what I would have done.  I am sure it is what Sky would do if the tables were turned."

"Well?"  Bobie glanced at one woman than the other.  "Can you help Sky?"

The green in Sky's eyes had grown darker as she looked away.  "Don't think there is much that can be done, Park . . . Bobie."

Bobie's face was filled with pain, as she reached out to touch Sky's left arm.  "Don't.   Don't talk like that."  Turning to Alice she added, "Tell her, tell Sky that you can fix this."

The looks, the body language was moving the woman.  Alice pointed to the table and said, "Why don't we all go sit and talk about this."

"Sky?  Tell me."

"All right.   You know.  I know.  Alice just confirmed it.  I am dying and that is that."

"No!  Fight this thing!   Together we can fight this!"

Sky turned to walk toward the table.  "Come sit, let Alice tell you what she thinks."

It was at this time, Bobie caught a glimpse of the woman's back and felt a sickening to her knees.   She was amazed at how quickly the bite had spread.  It was a horrifying sight.   Alice noticed the look on Bobie's face and walked toward her, reaching out just in time to hold her up.  "You must be strong,"  she whispered in her right ear.   She wrapped an arm around Bobie's waist and walked with her to the table.

Once they were all seated, Alice spoke, "There are a few things we can try.  I will make a medicine bag just for you Sky.  I have to leave for a while, gather some things but I will return. The two of you have time to talk, rest.  Make peace with yourselves.  This may be a long journey.  If it makes any difference, I have never seen two people more intent on defeating something like this."

Sky had slipped into her shirt once more, and was pacing the floor.  Bobie was starting a fire in the small hearth.  "Feels good and before long the room will be warmed."  She was on her knees watching the flames take hold.  Her mind was not on the fire, it was on the tall woman that walked the room.   Standing, she gazed toward Sky and said,  "That won't help.   If you think this is a bad idea, I am all for whatever you want to do."

Sky stopped pacing, took a deep breath and said,  "Whatever?   There is no whatever.  There is just now.  You have faith in the woman, Alice.  I am at the end of my fight.   I will take this step, as long as I know you are with me."

Walking toward her, she replied,  "I am with you, in whatever you do.  Had I known you were feeling so badly I would not have brought you on this trip.  It was long and the climb to this place was not easy, I feel like such a heel to have done this."

"Why?  Don't berate yourself like that.  I came on my own free will, there was no gun pointed and no one forced me.  Just you Bobie Parker and that is all it took, I wanted  to  come."

"I didn't realize it had gotten so bad.  The pain has to be unbearable."

"Been taking pain pills, they help some but they are all gone.   I have no idea what is going to come.  Need to tell you something, if I never tell you again . . ."

Bobie reached out and placed several fingers over the woman's mouth.  "No need.  I know.  Alice has a way of going straight to what may be on a person's mind."

Sky reached up and held Bobie's hand.  "She talked to me some about you.  About my feelings.  Woman just doesn't know when to stop it seems."

"I understand.  No one wants to be roped into saying or doing anything.  I apologize if she got out of hand.  Your business is none of her concern."

Sky smiled and brought Bobie's hand to her lips, placing a soft kiss.  "She never roped me into anything, just brought feelings to the forefront.  Feelings I need to face."

Quickly pulling away from the woman, Bobie walked toward the fire.  "When you are better, facing things will be different.  I want more than anything for you to get well.  When you have all your bearings again, then we can talk."

Sky followed, standing behind her, she reached out and touched Bobie's shoulder.  "I'm like a bad dream, just don't want to go away.  Afraid you are stuck with me Bobie Parker until the day  you decide to chase me out of your life.  This won't be easy I might add."

Turning to face the woman, Bobie felt her knees weaken again, this time it was a feeling that was sweeping over her, taking her body to euphoric heights of wondrous sensations.   For an instant their eyes met.  An ache came into her throat making it hard to swallow.  Glancing away, Bobie stuttered, "I- I-"

Sky bit at her lower lip and stepped back.  "It's all right.   I apologize.  Didn't mean to cause you any duress or get into your space.  Forgive me?"

Bobie gazed at the woman, she seemed frozen on the spot.  "Forgive you for what?   It is apparent you are running a fever."

"Possibly running a fever but I know what I said.  I also know what has been passing between us.  If it is just friendship, I can accept that."

"No need to apologize.  I am confused, there has never been anyone in my life even close to you Skylar Richmond.  It warms my heart to know you are my friend.  My  best friend.  I have feelings for you too.  Feelings I am not sure of.  At this moment, it is more important to get you well, recovered.  What may come ahead of us, we can face without having this darkness over you."

Sky nodded and walked toward the table, pulled out a chair and sat.  Her fingers subconsciously tapping out a rhythm.  "Nice fire, I am hot never realized it was me and not this place.  Anyone ever tell you that you would have made a great Girl Scout?"

Following the woman, Bobie sat and stared at her.  "Nope.   Never had time to be a Girl Scout.  A scout would have realized just how sick you are and done something about it."

"Not necessarily.   Besides I'd much rather have you tending to me.  You know I hate this don't you?"  Her eyes were melding with Bobie's blue-greens as if wanting to dive into them.

"I feel it.  No one wants to be ill and you would not be if not for me."

Without warning, Sky's fist slammed onto the table.  "Damn it woman!   When will you ever quit blaming yourself!?"

Realizing she went too far, Bobie tried to smile.  "I just did.   Took both of us to go up there, both of us to get into the mess.  Satisfied?"

Nodding, Sky walked toward the door.  "Wonder what is keeping the woman?"

"Sky, you realize once we start this, there is no going back, don't you?"

"I realize it with every fiber of my being.  I came to this land, unwilling.  All I wanted was a vacation, time to relax.   It was the best thing I have ever done, coming here, meeting you, getting to know this wonderful country and its people."

Walking toward the hearth, Bobie raised an eyebrow.   Hating to admit it she said,  "Then we were in the same boat, kinda.   I was not too keen on your coming here either.  I am so very grateful you did, Skylar.  Had you not, I would never have known what a remarkable woman you are.  My life has changed for the good, because of you."

"Your life was fine before me and would be much better had I not.  But, I too am happy I came, met you.  My life has a meaning now, I have a reason to want to wake each day.  If you don't know it yet, you give me happiness, warmth a reason to be.   How or why this happened, I shall always be grateful for the time, however long it is to know you, Bobie."

Footsteps outside the door caused both women to stare.  Before long, Alice walked into the room.  She was carrying several things and had a pack on her back.  "Good, you two are still here."

Both women walked toward her.  "Where else would we be?"  Bobie asked.

Alice shrugged.  "Don't know.  I am glad to see both of you are here.  I brought some supplies."  She walked toward the pallet and placed several blankets near by.  Then set the back pack down.   Turned and stepped toward Sky.  "Have the two of you resolved any unsaid feelings?"

"What has that got to do with getting me well?"  Sky asked, gazing at Bobie.

"Has everything to do with it.  You will be going through a long and sometimes difficult process.  If your body is not in sync with your mind, your spirit will be torn. It is important you go into this knowing."

Bobie walked up to Sky, grasped her right hand and gave it a squeeze.  "We are fine.   The important thing is to rid this demon that is attacking her."

Alice turned her attention to Sky.  "And you Skylar Richmond.  Are you ready to take this journey?"

Sky smiled down, her eyes sparkling as she patted Bobie's hand.  "Ready, bring it on."

"I prepared a medicine bag just for you. It contains items that have special meaning to you.  This is a precious possession and represents your spiritual life, it possesses powers for protection and healing."  She placed it around the woman's neck.

"I definitely need this,"  Sky reached up to touch the leather bag.

"In the pack I have brought some herbs and plants for healing. I will make a poultice of these and put them on your wounds."

"What do you want me to do?"  Sky asked, all the time feeling comfort in Bobie's grasp of her hand.

"Relax.  Remove the shirt again, as well as the pants and boots."

Both of Sky's eyebrows arched as she muttered, "Wha-?"

"Brought special oil.  I need to adorn your entire body with this.  It will keep the evil from spreading.  That is why I brought the blankets.  If you are feeling shy."

"Not shy.   Just surprised me that is all."  Patting Bobie's hand  she said, "You don't have to stay and watch this, if there is something you would rather do."

"Want to be with you.  If my being here makes you uncomfortable, I could turn away."

Alice approached the two women, reached out and grasped both by the hand.  "You two, are something else.   Come with me.  Sky, remove your clothes.  Bobie pick up the oil and begin to rub it on Sky.  Gently."

Both women looked at each other then the woman who in a very authoritative tone had them both dumbfounded.  Sky attempted to smile and said, "Well, deputy, it will not be the first time you have seen me naked."

Crimson had over taken the woman, if she could have melted into a crack in the ground at that moment she would have.   Alice was standing, hands on her hips, her face held the look of someone that knew she was right in what she thought.

"Sky.  How could . . .  I mean you make it sound like we have . . ."

"Have what Bobie?"   Sky was walking toward the pallet and removing her shirt at the same time.

"Have been intimate.  There I've said it."  Turning to stare at Alice she added, "We have not."

Alice approached Bobie, reached out and cupped the woman's chin in her hand.  "Is it such a bad thing to have happened?"

"No.  I mean, I don't know.  It just didn't happen that's all."

"How the two of you come to see one another is no concern of mine.  I am here to try and get your friend well.  If you do not want to do this, I will understand as will Sky, I am sure.   It is good someone started a fire in here, going to be a cold night."  She walked toward her pack and began taking items out of it.

Bobie approached Sky, reached out and took the shirt from her hand.  "Let me lay this down.  I'm sorry.  Don't know what got into me.  I want to do this.  Let me."

Sky was tugging at her left boot and Bobbie reached out and said, "Sit, let me take them off.  It is easier and you don't need to be moving around, making your back worse."

She sit, extending a leg and said, "It is much easier to get off, if you straddle my leg."

Bobie thought for a few minutes, as if trying to picture this in her mind.  "All right, just promise you won't do anything."

Sky grinned as she watched the woman step over the leg and grasp the boot.  As Bobie tugged, at the obstinate boot, she asked, "Do you have your toes curled up?"

"No.  I told you I could do this, Parker."

"Not necessary,"  Bobie grunted as the boot gave and she turned to gaze at the woman.  "If I didn't know better, I would think you were making that hard, Richmond."

"Never."  With those words, Sky held up the other leg.  "Still one to go."

This time, Bobie straddled it, grasped the boot and with several tugs had it off.   "There done.   Perhaps you should think about getting a larger side."

Sky was leaning back on the palms of her hands, looking very innocent as she replied,  "Nope, I know my size.  Sometimes boots become tighter, depending on the wear, the climate.  Feet do swell you know."

"Don't look so upidy Richmond.  So I had a bit of a problem. Give me your hand."

Sky reached up,  grasped Bobie's hand and was soon standing.  "It was a pleasant detour from what is happening.  You can take my boots off anytime deputy."  She lightly squeezed Bobie's left hand and held it tight.  "About the oil, if this makes you uncomfortable, I am sure Alice will understand.  I do.  It is hard in this world to let a person's feeling show, even a little. I know under all that self-esteem, one day you and I will make it to the other side."

Sky went to loosen the top button of her pants and found Bobie's hand already there.  "I will do it, I just want you to relax."

"Can still do this.  No need for you to feel you have to,"  Sky mumbled.

"I don't.  Just want you to know I am not always bumbling."

"Nothing bumbling about you Bobie Parker. Now if you will go sit, I will . . ."

 At this time Bobie's fingers had deftly loosened each button, and begin to carefully slide the pants downward carefully.  "What's that you say, Sky?"  Bobie asked dropping to her knees, her hand reaching up and gently pulling the bikini panties toward the fallen pants.

Groaning in silence, Sky felt every touch, every movement and felt she was going to die right on the spot.  Not from pain, from the sheer euphoria she was sensing from Bobie Parker's touch.  "Say?"  Sky mumbled adding,  "Woman, do you know what you are doing to me at this minute?"

Grinning Bobie replied,  "Yes, removing your clothes.  Now step up and out of these pants."

"Aye aye captain,"  Sky replied.  After stepping out, she reached down and placed a hand on Bobie's head.  "One day you will know just what you are doing to me woman.  And I do not mean tending wounds."

Standing, Bobie reached for Sky's hand.  "Come stand, let me put the oil on your front and when finished I will get your  back side.  I promise to be careful and  stay away from your wounds."

After Sky had laid on her stomach, arms over her head she whispered, "You have to marry me now Parker."

Bobie was carefully placing oil strategically, her hands caressing as they  brushed and painted, then returned to rub, each area with diligence.  She stopped for a moment to lean down and ask, "Why?"

Sighing, Sky uttered, "Because that is the only person I would ever let touch me in places only reserved for them."

"Then I am honored, Skylar Richmond to know you are not going to haul off and send me flying.  Sometimes it is hard to really know if  what you are saying is on the level or a tease. Now be still and let me finish."

"Hard to be still when you are stroking me like that.  I am  sick, not dead."

When Bobie finished, she gazed toward Alice who was sitting watching the two intently.  "All right, she is all oiled up, what now?"

Alice walked toward the two women. "Now it is my turn.  I have mixed the poultice and ready to apply it.  You can take a seat over here."

Bobie caressed Sky's arms with oil before she stood.  "Done.  I pray this works."

Alice kneeled and began to apply the poultice methodically.  When she was finished, she said,  "You can't move.   This must stay on."    She reached for a blanket and placed it over the woman, asking,  "Is there anything I can get for you?"

"Is Bobie still here?"

"She is by the fire.  Has not taken her eyes off of you.  I need for the oil and poultice to take effect, once this begins you will need her close."

"Why?  What will happen?  I should have asked you this before you began."

"You are heavily medicated and this will begin a  fight to overcome the sickness.  There will be much more important things happening."

Sky mumbled,  "I will behave if that is what may be worrying you.  I want more than anything to be well again.  For many reasons.  In so far as Bobie Parker, she is at the top of my reasons."

Alice leaned over and whispered in Sky's ear,  "Things may not turn out the way you wish."

"I'll take my chances.  Let's get on with this."

Alice stood and walked toward Bobie.  When she neared, the woman  stood and asked,  "Is she all right?"

"She is alive and that is good.  Sky has a lot of fight.  She needs all the help she can get.  I have prayers to say and have brought some people, they are outside.  During the night, they will dance and chant for your friend's health."

"Is this necessary?"

"I am sure you know, Sky is very ill, she may not live to see many  more days.  It is necessary.  At the same time it is necessary you be with her.  She needs all the strength she can gather.  I will be outside."

"How long will this take?"

"No one knows, every person is different, as is each illness.  I need you to promise to keep your friend still.  No sudden movements.  She must stay like that."

"I will do my best."

"No child, you will do it."   Alice turned and left the room.  Bobie could hear the chanting going on outside and prayed Sky would get better.  She walked toward the woman and sit beside her.

Sky was in and out of consciousness but she was aware of Bobie.  "You came back."

Bobie whispered,  "Never left.  Close your eyes, let the medicine work."

Sky was incoherent, her words were slurred but the smile on her face said it all.

Chapter Twenty Eight

Ben Burgess walked into the Sheriff's office, and headed straight for the coffee machine.  "Meg, what happened to the doughnuts?"  He was stirring his coffee and turned to see why the woman had not answered.  She seemed to be deeply engrossed in something.  Picking up the coffee cup, he started toward her.

Meg was intently working on a crossword puzzle.  She looked up startled when Ben reached out and grasped the puzzle book.  "Sheriff!   I didn't hear you come in.   Is there something I can do for you?"

He set the book on the woman's desk and replied,  "Asked what happened to the morning doughnuts?"

"Oh.  I haven't gone to get them yet.  Didn't realize you would be in so early.  Has something happened?"

He took a sip of coffee and gazed around the office.  "I wanted to get a jump on things.  Have you heard from Bobie Parker?  Wondered if she had even bothered calling in."

Meg set the pencil on the desk, replying,  "She did."

He grinned, pulled up a chair and sat.  "Say when she would be in?"

"Uh . . .  Nope."

Sitting his coffee cup on the desk, he leaned forward, eyes locking with hers and asked,  "Sounds to me like you are holding back.  Tell me, is Bobie coming in or not?"

"No.  Sorry   Sheriff, she said she was busy.  Said to tell you, you will see her when you see her."

His eyes grew cold for an instant.  "Woman is under some spell.  She never acted like this until Skylar Richmond made her presence known.  Wish I had gone with my first thought and declined her coming.  Not that it would have done any good if Bengal was going to send her anyway.  But I sure could have kept the two of them apart!"  Realizing he had lost his temper, the man took several deep breaths.  "Sorry bout that.  It just gets me how she now has such little concern for the law. "

Meg had been glancing toward the door and squirming in her chair.  When he noticed the woman seemed to have her mind somewhere else, he picked up the coffee cup, leaned back in his chair and asked,  "What?  You seem to be distracted."

Turning her attention to the man, Meg replied, "It's just . . .  How can you put out an A.P.B. on a woman that has given so much to the law?"

Ben Burgess had just taken a sip of coffee and almost choked on it as he coughed and gaged several times.  Before he stopped, Meg had made it to where he sat and began slapping the man on the back.  Once he caught his breath, he growled, "What do you think you are doing!  Bad enough I swallow the coffee wrong and now you are beating me to death!"

She stepped back, not sure of what was coming next.  "Sorry, Sheriff, just trying to help."

He reached for a Kleenex and began to wipe his mouth, and shirt where some of the coffee had found its way.  "I will have to go change now.  It's all right Meg, I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.  I know you were trying to help.  Try to forgive an old man."

She walked back to her desk, head held low, looking like a child that had been reprimanded.  Once she was seated, she stared at the man.  "This case has you jumping over barrels doesn't it Sheriff?  Are you any closer to finding out who did the two killings?"

He shook his head.  "Nope.  Lot of strange things happening but so far nothing that has given me clue to what killed Pete or Littleton.  And in all the mix, are Trenton and his group, Skylar Richmond and Bernie Herbella tossed in.  There has to be a clue somewhere in all of this but none of my people have been able to come up with anything."

"Bobie did ask about the gun?"

"She would, since she is the one that brought it in here.  Couldn't even stay and talk to me about this.  What did you tell her?"

Meg shrugged.  "Nothing.   Told her she needed to come in and talk to you."

Standing, Sheriff Burgess smiled.  "Good.  The sooner she comes in the better.  If anyone wants me, I will be home.  Need to change my shirt.  Has Carmine come in yet?"

She shook her head.  "I think he was going to go over to San Pedro this morning.  Did you need him?  If so, I could radio and give him the message."

"Never mind, he won't be there all day."

Meg was opening a new stick of chewing gum and had just picked up the crossword book when the front door opened.  The Sun was at a level that almost obliterated the doorway.  The woman that was standing in the midst of this was surrounded by the luminous light.  She was tall, and held herself in a stately way.  She was svelte, and had shoulder-length hair.

The Sheriff and Meg squinted trying to see just who it was.  Finally Ben Burgess stepped forward.  At the same time, Meg followed and when the man stopped, she bumped into him.  He turned to scowl at her as Meg stuttered and stammered.

The woman seemed to be enjoying the show.  "Is this the way you always conduct your office Sheriff Burgess?"  Her voice was low and held a sensual tone to it.

He was trying to hold Meg up at the same time scolding her for being so nosey.  When he heard the woman's voice, he released his grip on Meg and ran a hand through his hair.  "Sorry bout that, Miss  . . . ?"

She entered the room, shutting the door behind her.  Meg Bartlett and Sheriff Burgess stood as though hypnotized, eyes wider than usual, mouths, agape.  The woman was dressed in a comfortable tan safari shirt. She wore tan slacks,  black hiking boots and small diamond earings.  The closer she got to them the more they  backed away.  "You are Sheriff Ben Burgess, aren't you?"

He nodded, still seeming to be under some influence.  His eyes traveled the woman's body taking in every curve, every feature.   The woman was  stunningly attractive an effect heightened by her dark hair and the most amazing azure eyes.  She was a beauty,  it was evident the woman was not from around there.

"I thought perhaps you could help me."

She had barely finished the sentence when he reached out and grasped her right hand.  "At your service, Miss?"

She feigned a smile then pulled her hand away.  "I am looking for Skylar Richmond, hoped someone here could tell me where I might find her?'

His color changed as did his facial expression.  Squaring his shoulders he emitted a low grumble and replied,  "Do we look like Fortune Tellers, lady?  You ask the sixty five-thousand dollar question."

The woman had a questioning look about her as her gaze went from one to the other.  Reaching up, she tucked several loose strands of hair behind her ear, her mind on many things.  One being, how in the world could someone like Skylar end up in a town with such bumpkins in charge?

"What do you want with Skylar Richmond anyway?"

The Sheriff's voice brought her out of her musing and she replied,  "I thought she was working on the death at a place called, Devil's Mesa?"

"She was.  The woman should never have come here."

A look of trepidation traveled the woman's eyes.  "She is all right, isn't she?"

"Don't know, woman has vanished."

The stranger took two steps toward him her eyes looking like sheer- ice, before he could move, she asked,  "Where?  What do you mean vanished?  I thought she was working closely  with a Deputy Parker."

"They both seem to have vanished.  Come into my office. I will tell you what I can, that is after you tell me just who you are and why you are looking for Miss Richmond?"

Her eyes surveyed the room then found their way back to the man.  "No need to do that, just tell me where I can begin to look for them?"

By this time, Sheriff Burgess was very curious who this woman was and why she was looking for Sky.  "You wouldn't be holding information for her by any chance would you?   If that's the case, you can leave it with me and I will see she gets this."

She noticed he had been staring at the brown attache case she was carrying.  "What I am doing here is not really any of your business Sheriff.  I do need to speak to Skylar Richmond though."

"Mighty hoity-toity aren't you?   Just who are you?  I am the Sheriff and I have a right to know who comes into my town.  How long they are staying and why."

My name is Jeanne Randolph.  I am here on business and looking for Skylar Richmond.  I don't know how long I will be here.  I would guess until I find her, finish my business and leave.  Never been called `hoity-toity' before.  They actually use that word?"   She smiled.

He was definitely shaken, this woman had him fumbling and groping for words.  Finding his composure Ben said,  "This is a quiet town, not real fond of outsiders.  If you find Miss Richmond, do us both a favor and take her with you."

"I thought she had been asked to assist in this case.  I know Skylar Richmond and she never leaves a job unfinished.  When I find her, I will pass along your concern Sheriff."

"No need, Miss Richmond knows how I feel.  Even Bengal has sent Bernie Herbella here to take the woman back."

Jeanne's right eyebrow arched and a look covered her face as if she knew a great secret.  "Bern is here?   Interesting.  Sounds to me like perhaps Sky has dug up information that may be causing someone to want her out of here.  By the way bout Bern, has he given you his full agenda?"

"We have talked.  And he also had a short talk with my deputy, Parker.  The man is beside himself with worry."

She ran her tongue along the inside of her left cheek before asking, "Or he is worried about all the money he is loosing while being here.  Just where might I find him?"

"He is staying at Tuckers.  I think he was going to drive over to San Pedro today.  Tell me Miss Richmond, how long have you known Bernie Herbella?  You call him Bern, I would take a guess at quite awhile and not just friendship either."

Jeanne gazed around the room.  "Do you always make such snap decisions on everyone that pays a visit to your town Sheriff Burgess?"

"Just people that are looking to stick their nose into something that is none of their concern."

"If I didn't know better, Sheriff I might think you had something to do with Skylar Richmond's disappearance."

"Had nothing to do with the woman's vanishing act.  More than likely she and Parker are off gallivanting."

"I feel you are keeping something from me.  I take it by your words and actions Skylar and deputy Parker have become close."

Chosing to ignore her, he pointed to the attache she carried and asked,  "What do you have there?"

"My business."  She glanced past him to the woman that was taking everything in.  "Maybe you can help me?  Can you recommend a good place to stay in this town?"

Meg glanced toward the Sheriff before she replied,  "Tucker Hotel."

"Thanks."  She turned to walk away at the same time, Sheriff Burgess reached out and grasped the hand that was holding the attache case.  The woman glared and warned,  "Don't touch what is not yours Sheriff, not if you want to keep your hand."

"I think it is time you tell me just who you are and what is so all fired important in that case?"

"I told you my name, now I would like to go, it has been a long trying day."

"The case, what is in it?"

She raised an eyebrow and glanced toward Meg.  "Is he always like this?"

Meg looked at her with awe and shrugged.

"You are in my town.  I could lock you up for . . ."

"Make it good Sheriff, what you are talking about is illegal."

His eyes grew cold.  "No one talks to me like that.  I have a right.   Meg!  Call dispatch, tell them I have a perp., in the office giving me trouble. I want this to be legal, back up right here when I read you your rights and take that case you are so attached to Miss Randolph."

"No need of that Sheriff."  With those words, Jeanne Randolph, did a quick turn, sending the Sheriff to the floor.  He reached for his holstered gun at the same time, her right foot struck out sending it to the far side of the room.  The gun skidded and came to a stop against the wall.

He lay looking up at the woman, surprise on his face and called to Meg.  "Top drawer, throw me the gun!"

Meg's hand was on the drawer when she realized the woman had somersaulted and was standing beside her.  She pushed her chair back and raised her hands in the air.  "No problem, I see nothing, I know nothing."

Ben was back on his feet and looking for some sort of weapon.  "I'll make sure you never see the light of day again.  You will spend so much time in jail, it will become home.  This is the Sheriff's office not some Karate Studio."

The woman approached him, it was obvious he was completely unnerved.  "Sheriff Burgess, we got off on a bad start.  I don't want any trouble.  I apologize for that, but you really gave me little choice.  I told you my name is Jeanne Randolph, what I didn't tell you was, I work for the F.B.I."

Continued in Chapter Twenty Nine

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