By Anita Louise

Part Thirteen

(c) copyright 1/02

Anita's web site

Chapter Thirty Two
The man was cleaning his pistol when the front door opened.  He never even glanced up just kept working.  "Coffee's ready, if you want a cup.  I would like to leave soon."

"Leave?  Sheriff, where are you going so early?"

Glancing in the direction of the voice, he looked at the woman questionably.   "What in blazes are you doing here so early, Meg?"

"Thought I would get the jump on things.  No one in the office.  I didn't think you would mind.  After all the warrants you put out yesterday, I haven't had a minute to catch my breath."

Holding the pistol, he aimed it toward the far wall, twirled the cylinder several times then stood.  "I have some things to do, wanted to get a good start on the day.  Have you heard anything back on the warrants yet?"

"No.  I know you Sheriff, and I can tell something big is up.  Since it seems I will be left to man the phones again, it would be helpful if you told me just what was coming down."

"Many people think I am a doddering old fool this is where they are mistaken.  I have not been idle.  Things are looking up.  I have asked Deputy Carmine to go with me to the reservation."

Meg carefully placed her coat and scarf on the wall rack, then walked toward the coffee maker.  "I am not catching your drift Sheriff Burgess.  What does going to the reservation have to do with things that have been happening around here?"

He walked toward the front door, gazed out then turned to look at the woman.  "Not a word gets out.  I think that I will find Skylar Richmond and Deputy Parker there.  Don't know why I never thought of this before."

Meg was now putting several cubes of sugar in her coffee, stirring and tasting.   "Needs more."   She picked up several more cubes then added,  "This is the early morning bust?   Surely you must know if Bobie Parker is anywhere on the reservation no one is going to tell you."

"I know she has many friends there.  I also know they will follow the law and I have an arrest warrant out for both women.   I am sure Greyhorse will oblige me."

Meg was making her way toward her desk.  Steaming cup of coffee in hand as she sit, took a sip, and replied,  "To this day I still don't understand why you are so all fired up to get Bobie and Miss Richmond.  The two haven't done anything wrong that I know of."

"Worried that's all.  Not like Bobie to just disappear like this.  Richmond or not.  I just want to make sure she is all right and thinking straight.  In so far as Richmond, the sooner I get her on a plane and out of here the better."

"Sheriff I have known Bobie a long time as have you.  The woman is as sane as you or me.  Are you sure it is not the fact Bobie found someone to call friend?  Someone she enjoys being with?  Why would you want to take this away from her?"

The man was now pacing the floor, his eyes darting toward the front door then back toward Meg.  "It is really none of your business Meg.  I do not begrudge Bobie having a friend.  I do however wonder if she is making all of these decisions freely."

Meg stood, walked toward the Sheriff, she placed a comforting hand on his right arm.  "I get it now.  You are afraid Bobie will leave.  That somehow Sklyar Richmond may have convinced her."

He patted the woman's hand guffawed and walked toward the door.  "I see Carmine driving up.   Don't worry bout me, I know what I am doing.   Before this day is through, Bobie Parker will be in this office."

Meg watched the man walk out the door and sighed, then went back to her desk and a cooler cup of coffee.

Belle drove as Jeanne relieved her ankle of the bandage once more.   The trip was taking longer than she thought it would and turned to the woman behind the steering wheel and asked,.  "How much further till we get there?"

"It is up ahead."

"That's what you told me an hour ago.   At least it feels like it has been that long.  Up ahead to me means close."

"These parts, up ahead could be that or up ahead."

"You have some way with word's Belle Gardner.  Sounds like something a parent might tell a child to stop them from complaining."

"Usually works."

Jeanne grinned.  "Difference is, I'm not a child."

Taking a sideways glance Belle quickly turned her attention to the potholes in the road.  As the pickup swerved in and out, missing most of them, Jeanne lost her balance and fell onto the woman's shoulder.  "I've noticed."  Belle Smiled, thoroughly enjoying the woman's loss of balance.

Within seconds Jeanne caught her equilibrium and was upright all the time mumbling to herself.  "Klutz, you're a klutz Randolph."

Before she realized what was happening, Belle reached out, her right hand  grasped the seat belt and tightened it.  "There maybe that will hold you more secure, would hate to have you fall and hit your head again."

Jeanne stared at the seatbelt, then at the woman's hand.  "I never hit my head.  Do all your guests go through the ritual of being thrown from that chair?"

"No ritual, you just had the misfortune of being initiated into its ways.  Hope you didn't mind my reaching over and hitching up the belt."

"Feeling a tad flushed at the moment other than that, no.  Guess I did not have it tight enough.  I hate things to restrict me.  I'm mulling over your words, `initiated' into its ways and wonder is there more to Belle Gardner than meets the eye?"   the woman's quick reaction and the way she drove at the same time securing the seatbelt was a sight to see as well as sense.

"Nope.   What you see is just me.  Nothing spectacular, no ghosts in the closet, no secret treasures, just me.  I was funning you about the chair.  Actually you are the second person to say howdy to the floor.  So don't feel bad.  I am sorry though, shouldn't have tossed that at you like I did."

"Very thankful it wasn't a grenade."  Noticing the look on Belle's face she added,  "Now I'm teasing you.  The work I do, I should have had better reaction to that.  This life must be making me soft."

Belle pulled the pickup onto a side road and stopped.  "Maybe your mind was on other objectives and you were sidetracked.  These things happen.  I am sure you are concerned for your friend Skylar Richmond.  Coming here as you have, must have been important.  For me it is like a breath of fresh air"

Jeanne reached down and released the seatbelt, then opened the door.  "Just wanted to visit an old friend, say hello."

"I may be from a small town but I am not naive.  The way you have been searching, gathering information, it is obvious to me, your visit to Skylar Richmond is much more than saying, `hello.'  Regardless, why you are here, it has been my pleasure to help you anyway  I can."

"Nothing gets past you.  The way this town operates knowing everyone else's business, the reason I am here is probably tossed back and forth a lot.  You have been a tremendous assist to me, also I feel a friendship that makes me happy to wake in the morning.  It's not just you that feels a breath of fresh air entering their life."

"I don't know what to say.  Never had a close friend before.  Yet you still haven't answered the question.  What are you really here for?"

Jeanne winked then said,  "Let's take a walk.  My legs are cramped and I need to get the circulation going again."

Belle removed the key from the ignition and followed the woman from the pickup.  Catching up to Jeanne, she asked,  "You always like this?   When questions get asked, try and change the subject?  Can't stay too long if you are still in a hurry to get to the reservation and search for your friend."

Her hands were in the back pockets of her jeans, tossing her head back, she gazed at the tall pine trees.  "They are beautiful, look as if they could go on forever.  You stopped.  I thought maybe you wanted to take a breather that's all."

"Uh huh, and I'm the Pope.  We've been together for a while, I think I know you pretty well.  The places we have been, the things we have done, nothing soft in that.  The only time you find soft is when you lie down and sleep each night.  Thank goodness the bed has not given you backaches.  You're right about the trees, they are magnificent and look as if they could touch the sky."

Jeanne pointed to the fence and the makeshift wooden steps that went up one side and down the other.  "Sky and Bobie will be there whenever we arrive.  They have been missing for sometime, a little while longer won't hurt.  Tell you what, close your eyes, count to twenty, then come find me."

"Wha . . ."    Before she could finish the word, Jeanne had sprinted off.   Belle reached up and scratched her head.  She was in awe, the woman sure knew how to change the subject.  Jeanne Randolf never ceased to amaze her.  Closing her eyes she began counting and for some reason felt she was back in school, playing hide and seek.   A sense of giddiness was taking over.

Belle searched the area, but could not find the woman.  She was feeling the heat from the sun and was just about to give up when Jeanne dropped from a tree and landed in back of her.  "Surprise!"

For a second Belle thought her heart stopped.  "You trying to scare what years I have left out of me?!"  She turned to look into the grinning face of Jeanne Randolph.

"Did I surprise you?   I watched you search.  Very meticulous.  I'm proud of you."

"For what?   I never found you, instead you scared me.  Can we stop this child's game and get back to what we were doing?"

"Sure.  Thought a break would do us both good.  Since I arrived, there has not been much time for levity.  Moments to ourselves.  No Skylar Richmond, no Bobie Parker, no one else.  Guess I wanted to know if I still had it."

Belle nodded then said,  "Oh you have it all right.  Never doubted it for a minute.  But anyone can hide if the other has their eyes closed and is counting."

Jeanne looked deep in thought before she replied,  "Kay, then you hide and I'll count."

Belle glanced around, so far no one else had pulled off the roadway.  She was thirsty, tired, hungry and wanted to sit under a shade tree more than hiding.  "Suppose if I say no, then you will think of me as a quitter.  So guess I will give it a try.  Now mind you, I am just a tavern owner, no covert operations in my background.  Last time I played at hide and seek, I was a child in school.  So it should be easy to find me, Miss. F.B. I."

"Ouch, that hurt.  I'll give you a ten minute start.  Then I will come after you.  And Belle?"

She raised her eyebrows and asked,  "What?"

"This is one Miss F. B. I., that always gets her man uh her woman."

Belle suddenly felt a new spark and was not tired anymore as she beamed,   "Want to tell me just what you do when you get your woman?"

"Ah better for you to think about what I will do.  Better get, cause I'm coming after you in ten."

Belle called back,  "Close your eyes no peeking."  At the same time she could not believe she was in the forest, playing games with this amazing woman.

Jeanne was like a bloodhound on the trail, her eyes never missed a broken twig, a patch of wild grass heading south.  Stopping to pick up a broken twig, she realized by the break it was new.  Stretching she gazed around the area, her eyes taking in a rocky hillside, pine trees near and water past this.  "Not bad Belle, for a tavern owner, you are doing a good job of evading me.  Must tell you though, no one has ever evaded me for long.  Ready or not, I'm coming for you."   The woman's face glowed, as she carefully made her way toward the hillside.

Belle removed her shoes, tying the laces together she carried them over one shoulder.  Finding a downed branch she began to brush the path she made until it was gone.  The acerate leafs on the branch worked like a brush.  Walking on her heels, she made her way toward the rocky hillside.  If anyone had ever mentioned she would be doing something like this, the woman would have laughed in their face. Yet, there she was, doing the best she could to give Jeanne Randolph a run for her money.

Slowly Jeanne crept upon a pile of brush.  There had been some movement and felt positive this was where Belle was hiding.  Crouched, each step bringing her closer to her prey, Jeanne let out a victory yell, hurrying toward the brush.  To her surprise it was not Belle Gardner whose eyes stared into hers it was a very frightened skunk.  "Oh my God!"  Jeanne cried out, backing away in such a hurry she lost her balance and fell.

At this time the Skunk filled the air with its own brand of perfume.  The woman's feet propelled her back with amazing speed.  Quickly making it to her feet she sought the water, immediately jumping in.  Threading and sputtering, Jeanne yelled,  "Shoo!   Go away!   I'm sorry for interrupting."

Riotous laugher echoed the area as Belle Gardner appeared as if out of nowhere.  She was doubled over, laughing so hard, standing was a chore.

Jeanne looked past the woman before she asked,  "What is so funny Gardner?"

Belle was trying to catch her breath, the woman's eyes were tearing, her face was scarlet as she gasped,   "Y--ou.   A little ol skunk got the best of you."

Jeanne tipped her head to the right, as she replied,  "Very funny.  You and Mr. Le Pew, in cahoots?"

The skunk had long disappeared as Belle walked toward the water's edge.  "Have to admit I knew it was there.  But I never thought you would dive in and scare the thing to death."

Jeanne made her way to the water's edge.  "Very funny.  I'm soaking wet, smell horrible.   EWWWH . . .  Never get rid of this smell.  I did find you though."

Belle crouched, reached out to lend the woman a hand up.  "Nope, I found you and in dire distrait too."

Taking the woman's hand, Jeanne was soon back on land.   "I thought you were there, that's all.  Pretty smart of you.  I seem to forget you know the area and I don't.  If things were in the city, might have had a different outcome."

Belle reached up and pinched her own nose, turned saying,  "Let's get out of here, the smell is making me sick."

Jeanne followed, sloshing with every step.  Nearing the wooden steps, Belle turned to stare at the woman.  "You are a sight."   The woman snickered, catching herself as she continued,  "Knew you weren't far behind, the sloshing gave you away."

"When you have had enough making fun, we need to get out of here."

Belle grinned as she made it to the other side of the fence, then stood waiting for a wet and dripping Jeanne Randolph to find her way over and down.

Nearing the pickup, Belle reached into her pocket, pulled out the keys then said,   "Have to admit that surely got my blood pumping.  Good thing I packed a small suitcase.  You definitely need to dry off, change clothes."

Jeanne leaned against the right fender of the pickup.  "Just a sec, need to take these off.  My feet are thinking they are webbed."

Stepping forward, Belle reached out grasped the boot from the woman's hands.  "Just hold on, brace yourself, I'll get these off."   It didn't take her long to remove the boots, hold them upside down and watch the water cascade.  "Best get those clothes off, I'll find a towel, get you a change of clothes."

"Out here?  I mean, anyone can see me?"   Jeanne was glancing around, hoping no one was in sight.

"Yup.  Hold on, there is a blanket in the back if you stand in front of the door I'll hold it in front of you, while you change."

Jeanne began to unbutton the shirt.  "It is not the warmest out here and let me say, being wet makes it even colder.  You sure I can do this while you hold the blanket?"

"Might be a tight fit but you are ambidextrous, I am sure you can."   Didn't take the woman long to get the towel and the blanket.

Removing her shirt and setting it on the hood of the pickup, the woman shivered as she reached for the snaps on her jeans.  "Some types of being wet are marvelous but this is definitely not one of them."

Belle handed her a towel.  "Best dry off. "

The woman was hopping and struggling to remove the jeans.  "Teach me to put on a pair that fit snugly. "

"Look really good in them.  That is, before you went and got all wet.  I'll put the clothes in a plastic bag, the shoes may dry some in the back as we travel.  Still can't get over it, a grown woman running from a little critter like that."

"That little critter could stifle a person with its all powerful smell.  As it is, I may never get the smell off.  There, all done.  You can take the blanket down now."

"Jeanne took a whiff of  Belle's shirt and replied, "You don't smell all that good either."

"I'm fine, the smell will go away after awhile.  I was nowhere near Mr. Le Pew like you."

Jeanne glanced at her bare feet before she replied,  "Just luck.  I think I will have my window open the rest of the way, maybe the breeze will clear out the smell."

After putting the blanket up, clothes in a plastic bag and the boots in the back of the truck, the two women climbed into the cab.  The pickup started right up as Belle handed Jeanne a pair of socks then asked,  "Anything else you want to do here?"

Turning to gaze at the woman, Jeanne scrunched up her face.  "No.  Think I have done enough for one day."

Belle waited for several cars to pass before pulling onto the roadway.  "Not quite."

Jeanne looked skeptically and asked,  "What do you mean, not quite?   I've had enough excitement."

"Not that, have to stop at a convenience store get some tomato juice."

"Don't  tell me you have a sudden craving for tomatoes?"

"Neither one of us smells very good.  Thought a bath might help."

Jeanne chuckled as she looked out the side window.  "No way am I getting tomato juice dumped on me."

"No dumping, but bathing might be a good thing."

"Been wet, have no desire to get wet again.  My skin feels all wrinkly now.  Besides, I don't smell anything."

"Maybe you can't but others will.  Won't hurt to at least try this."

The woman grumbled, fidgeted several seconds before she said,  "I will if you will.  And don't get that look of, why me?   Maybe you weren't as close but you do have the fantastic skunk odor."

"Oh thanks.  This is your fault you know.  I was planning on a drive to the reservation, looking up your friend Skylar and Bobie then taking it from there.  No where in my agenda was a game of hide and seek.  Though I must admit it was exhilarating."

Reaching over, Jeanne poked the woman lightly in the side.  "For me too.  Even if it did not go as I wanted."

"Tell me, what would you have done if it had been me in the bushes?"

Grinning the woman replied,  "You'll never know now.  There is a convenience store up ahead and I mean up ahead.   Might pull in by the pumps and I'll put some gas in while you go buy the tomato juice."

Once parked, Belle stepped from the pickup.  "Be right back.  You sure you know how to pump gas?"

Jeanne jumped down, stretched and replied,  "Can't be all that hard.  Go, I'll get it done."

Before she entered the store, Belle turned to gaze at the woman.  She was running her right hand through her long hair, intently reading the directions on the pump.  Smiling she turned and entered the small store.  There was no doubt Jeanne would get the gas pumped.  Making her way up to the counter, she stood behind several women waiting to check out.  Didn't take them long to turn and gaze her way.  The look on their faces said it all, the smell was stronger than she thought.  Stepping back, she muttered,  "Had a run in with a skunk.  Looking for your tomato juice."

The man behind the counter pointed toward the back of the store.  "Near the other juices."   He picked up an air freshier and began to spray.  "Sorry bout that folks, sometimes these things happen."

By the time Belle made her way back to the front of the store the women were gone and she found herself and the cashier the only ones left.  "All you have are some small cans.  I need like a gallon or so."

The man glanced out the window and asked,  "That pickup at the pump yours?"

"Yes, why?"

"Your friend get sprayed too?"

Belle nodded and asked,  "You mean you can smell her clean in here?  Bout the juice, do you have it or not?"

He looked at her replying,  "Cars have stopped but none have stayed, was wondering why, now I know.  Don't have any juice like that, you're not far from the reservation, they have several stores there, and probably the amount you are looking for.   That will be fifteen dollars for the gas."

Belle paid the man then left the store.  Immediately making it to the truck and the woman that was leaning up against the back of it.  "All paid up, let's go."

Standing Jeanne approached the woman, walked around her then asked,  "Where's the tomato juice?"

"Didn't have what I wanted.  We'll stop at the reservation, get some."

Stepping forward and grasping the door handle, Jeanne went to open it, then stepped back, putting her hands in the back pockets of her jeans she walked to the passenger side.  Once they were on the road again, she whispered,  "Thought it was the least I could do since you had the nerve to go in the store."

"Ha, ha, very funny.  It was embarrassing."

"I take it the customers weren't fond of your new fragrance.  Wonder if there is something wrong with the gas?   Lots of cars stopped, drivers got out and then got back in and drove away."

"Not the gas, you.  Guess they didn't like the smell.  That is their loss, not yours.  Believe it or not, the reservation is just around the next two corners."

Leaning back, her head resting on the seat, Jeanne murmured,  "Wake me when we get around the corners."

Sky was gazing toward the corral her eyes never leaving Bobie Parker.  The woman was making sure the horses were fed and watered.  The ride down had been pleasant.  There was no illness, no foreboding of death just the two of them.  This time she viewed things so differently, the trees, the foliage, the canyons, the chipmunks, the squirrels, even the deer that were oblivious to the two women on horseback.

"You look much better."

She turned to gaze into the strong face of Redfeather.  "Thank you.  I feel better.  The horses have been a blessing.  Bobie hasn't said but I think she misses things."

"She has been worried for you.  Now that you are feeling better, things will be good.  Horses have always been a love of hers.  Before you, law and  work seemed to fill her days and nights."

Sky walked to a wooden bench and sat.  "It's so peaceful here.  I can see why she spent so much time when younger.  Have you heard anything more about Don Antone's father?  What happened exactly?  How the family is coping?"

The man smiled as he walked to the bench and sat.  "They are just friends."

"I know.  Just curious."

"Curiosity is said to kill the cat but in your case all you need to know is what they had was over a long time ago.  The family is back together.  As much as I hate to admit it, the woman loves him in her own way.  Just not someone I would have picked for him."

"I feel a change in the weather, is this some sort of omen?   Don't have to ask who you would have picked.  I know you are wondering why I'm still here."

"No.   The case, the deaths.  There is not one person that hasn't heard of Skylar Richmond.  Either on the news, on television specials, magazines.  Everyone in some way or other knows your name.  Tell me, how are you doing on the kiva case?"

"I can't talk about the case but I will say things are heating up.  Have been waiting to hear from a colleague of mine."

He glanced toward the corral.  This colleague have a name like Jeanne Randolph?"

If there wasn't a back to the bench, Sky would have fallen off.   She was taken aback by the man's words.   "J . . .  Randolph?!  How?"

He stood and walked to a water pump.  Reached out grasped the handle and began to pump until the liquid began to flow.   His hand still on the pump he bend down, letting the water cascade over his head before he stood, shook his head then reached up and brushed wet hair back into place.  "Drums.  It is in the drums."

This time Skylar stood, approached the man and looked at him quizzically.  "Drums?  That's in the movies.  Haven't seen any smoke signals, no sound of drums."

The man's eyes sparkled as a lively grin formed on his face.  "Have to admit it sounded good."

Chuckling, Jeanne nodded.  "If I was new to the area, a tourist, your drums would have captivated me.  Tell me though, how do you know about Jeanne?"

"She and a woman from Springfield are staying at the Wigwam hotel.  They have sent feelers out."

Looking deep in thought, Sky kicked at the ground with the toe of her right boot.  "Woman?  Hotel?  This gets more interesting as the day goes.  Suppose you tell me just what is going on?"

"All I know is the two women checked into the hotel.  Jeanne Randolph is looking for you and says it is important."

Sky walked away, her arms folded across her chest.  "I need to talk to her.  Nothing for you to worry about, this is personal.   Do you think you could keep Bobie company for a little while?"

He nodded then replied,  "Don't you think you should tell Bobie what is going on?"

"I will, just don't want to disturb her.  She is happy with the horses and I have caused enough trouble.  No sense in her having to wait around while I do this.  I won't be long, tell her I . . .  Tell her not to worry."

Watching the woman walk away, he called out,  "How you going to get down to Tupac?"

Sky stopped, turned and stared at the man.  "Tupac?  I wasn't thinking."

Stepping up to the woman, Redfeather touched her shoulder.  "From the look on your face, the way you are acting, I would think this has rattled you some."

"Not rattled, just keep forgetting about the distance.  Do you have a car, something I could borrow?  I will pay of course."

He bit at his lower lip before answering,  "Yes, you can take my pickup, but first you must tell Bobie."

Throwing her hands in the air, she gazed upwards in exasperation.  "All right, I wanted to save her this.  I'll be right back."  She walked toward the corral and to the woman who was talking and singing to the horses.

Nearing, Sky smiled placed her hands on the corral fence and asked,  "Miss Dynamite?"

Bobie turned and waved.  "Hi.  Sorry I have taken so long.  Just wanted to make sure the horses were taken care of.  Save Redfeather from doing it."

"The horses are enjoying your attention.  Need to talk to you."

"Sure.  I'm finished here."  Before long she was standing beside Sky, looking back at the very contended animals.  "They are fine.  Tell me what's up?"

"Redfeather just informed me that my friend with the FBI is in Tupac."

"What!  Why are you standing there?  Let's go!"

"That is what I want to talk to you about.  I can go there, talk to her, find out what she is doing here and then come back."

The excitement vanished from Bobie's face, replaced by a look of disbelief.   "Thought we were a team?  Is it because you don't want me to meet your friend?"

"We are a team.  I just wanted to spare you the trip, you've already done so much for me.  If you want to go, it's fine with me.  Redfeather is a smart man."

Scratching her head, Bobie looked perplexed.  "Redfeather?  What are you talking about?"

"Nothing, he said a few things to me that's all.  Come on, if we are going, we should start now."

Redfeather watched the jeep until it was out of sight, then walked toward the corral.  His mind on the two women and what they might be heading into.

The trip was smooth, and much easier than they remembered.  Bobie tried pumping Skylar the entire way.   Her mind racing a mile a minute.  "Sky, you told me Jeanne Randolph was there with another woman, do you know who or why?"

"Only what I have said.  I have no idea why Jeanne is here. What I asked her to do for me would not have taken her from her life to . . ."


Jeanne feigned a smile as she replied,  "Yes, guess that is what I was going to say.  You have no reason to get green-eyed."

Pressing on the accelerator, she guffawed,  "Green-eyed?  Very funny Richmond.  Just curious that's all."

Sky reached over, pressed her left hand on the woman's shoulder.  "We are friends, that's all."

"Would you tell me if I asked how you know her?"

"Most of my life, one way or the other she has been a good friend."

"Thanks.  This makes me feel so much better."

To Sky it was obvious this was not going to be a pleasant meeting for anyone.  Bobie was taking this way too personally.   "Haven't you ever had a good friend?  Someone that was always there if you needed them?"

Glancing toward the woman for a second then back at the road, Bobie replied,  "No. You are lucky to have had and have someone like that in your life."

"You do too, now, me."

"Won't be long and we will be there, you did say the Wigwam Hotel?"

"Yes.  Once we stop, I'll go find out where they are."

"I'll go with you."

Sky leaned over, placed a soft kiss on the woman's cheek.  "Wouldn't have it any other way.  Just promise not to belt Jeanne before she has a chance to tell us what is going on?"

Grinning, Bobie slowed the Jeep.  "There it is.  Hope this friend of yours is ready for company."

"I'm sure she is.  Might as well find out what is going on.  Hope I didn't offend you by the kiss."

"Nope, surprised me.  You know I have seen movies where a person is kissed on the cheek and soon ends up on the bottom of the ocean."

"That is movies.   Besides it is a kiss on both cheeks.   That my dear was my heart speaking to yours.  What say we get this over with so we can get back to doing what we do best, work."

Bobie smiled.  "I think we do other things equally as well.  Case I haven't said it, I am so happy you are well."

"Me too.  I look at life a lot differently.  Once this case is over, I want to take time to enjoy life, smell the roses as they say."

"No roses here, guess that means you will be heading back to L.A."

"Hadn't thought that far ahead.  All I want is to spend time away from the job.  Free my mind, take time to meditate, enjoy life."

"One day maybe I will understand what makes you tick, Skylar Richmond.  Till then, looks like the Wigwam just ahead.  Fasten your seatbelts this might be a bumpy ride."


Laughing, Bobie responded,  "Nothing, just something I heard or saw in a movie once."

Jeanne Randolph was standing by the bathroom door, lightly tapping she called out,  "Need any help in there?"

Belle chuckled as she replied,  "Nope, doing fine.  I'll be out in a few.  Do we have anything to drink in that refrigerator?"

"I'll check.  I was just kidding, take your time.  I know I smell a lot better, your tomato juice idea works."

Jeanne was on her knees, checking out the small frig when someone knocked.  Getting to her feet, she walked to the door.   The second she opened it to see Skylar Richmond standing there, the woman instinctively reached out and hugged her.  "Sky, you devil you!   Woman you are a sight for these very tired eyes!"

Sky greeted the woman with a bear hug.  "Been a while Randolph."

Bobie reached out tapping Sky on the shoulder.  "Why don't we go in, don't need everyone to see you two carry on like this?"  She walked past the two.

Jeanne eyed the woman then gazed at Sky.  "Who's your friend?  Doesn't seem to keen on our hellos."

Sky reached up and caressed Jeanne's face.  "City life agrees with you.  We have a lot of catching up to do.  Let's go in, sit and talk.  Heard you were here with another woman, business or pleasure?"

Jeanne smiled and shut the door, then followed the woman to the small wooden table.  Sky had sat in one of the wooden chairs.  "Leave it to you Richmond.  It's nothing like you may be thinking.  This is business."

Sky's eyebrows arched and she got this look that was between, I know what you are doing and you have to pay for it, on her face.  "Business?"

Jeanne walked to the refrigerator and said,  "Not that kind of business.  After all this time I still don't know when you are teasing.  I think there is a bottle of water in the frig, would either of you like a drink?"

Bobie had been standing watching the two, her arms across her chest.  She stepped forward and replied.  "I don't want any water but thanks for the offer.  Bobie Parker."  She held out a hand.

Jeanne smiled, reached out and shook hands.  "Jeanne Randolph, a friend of Skylars."

"Noticed.  The two of you must be really close friends."

Sky interrupted their conversation by saying,   "About that drink, I'm fine.  Come sit, the two of you, there are many things we need to talk about."

Bobie walked toward the table, once she was seated, she leaned back in the chair and gazed at the two women.  "How long have you two been good friends?"

Sky winked at her then asked,  "Jeanne, who is the other woman?   Another F. B. I. agent or?"

It was at this time, Belle Gardner walked into the room, wearing only a towel.  The room became so silent a person would have heard a pin drop.  She became flustered, and began stuttering,  "N  . . .    N . . .  N  . . .  Not what you . . . think."

Jeanne stood, held a chair out and said,  "Come sit.  We are all women in here.  You look smashing.  And smell much better too."

She shook her head and backed into the bathroom, closing the door.  "Toss me my clothes.  I'm not coming out until you do!"

Jeanne grinned.  "If you ladies will excuse me for a sec."   She walked to the bed, picked up the clothes. Quickly taking them to the bathroom and knocking on the door, the clothes were passed to the waiting woman inside.  Once finished she was back to the table.  Sitting on the chair, she looked at the two women and said,  "What?  Haven't you ever seen a woman out of a bath before?"

Bobie looked like the cat that ate the canary as she replied,  "Never seen Belle Gardner that way.  Didn't realize we had been gone for so long.  Last time I saw Belle she was at the tavern."

"The woman has been helping me.  Your boss, Sheriff Burgess is not help at all.  I have found Belle Gardner to be a good friend.  You seem surprised."

"He was my boss, but doubt he will want anything to do with me now.  The surprise is, I never realized Belle could be so free."

"Hope you mean free as in comfortable.  She is a lovely woman.  We had a problem with a skunk down the road and both needed to freshen up.  That's all there is to it."

Jeanne leaned on the table, her hands tapping out some sort of tune.  "Lot has been happening.   Bobie is just surprised to see Belle here, that's all."

Bobie stood, then turned and walked toward the refrigerator.  "I can speak for myself you know.   It's been a long day, I'm tired, can we get this meeting over?"

At this time Belle Gardner stepped into the room, this time fully dressed.  "Sorry bout that folks.  Didn't realize we had company."

Jeanne introduced the woman to Sky.  It was after the greetings she looked at Bobie and asked,  "Do you think the two of you, could go get something to drink and snack on?"

Belle smiled, jumped up and said,  "Sure, there is a small store not far from here. What is your preference?"

Sky replied,  "Anything, I'm sure whatever you bring will be wonderful."

Belle reached out and patted Jeanne on the arm.  "Get my purse and be ready in a second, Bobie."

Bobie didn't move but her face had the appearance of the calm before the storm.  "Business?  The two of you have business you don't want us privy to it seems.  Don't want to be anywhere I am not wanted.  Come on Belle, let's go."

Sky stood and walked toward the woman.  "Bobie, don't be like this."

"It's all right, I know where I stand.  You two have a good visit."

After the two women left, Jeanne turned to Sky.  "What's that all about?  She acted like we were going to do more than talk."

"She's been through a lot.  We both have been through a lot.  Nerves are on edge, stressed and tired.  Bobie is not like that.  Once you get to know her, you will like."

Jeanne walked to the bed and sat.  "Not sure your friend will give me the opportunity to get to know her.  The two of you more than just friends?"

Sky glanced toward the door than to the woman she hadn't seen in a long time. :We are friends.  If I had my way, it would be much more than that."

"Better watch it woman, she is a law officer you know."

"I love her, Jeanne.  And I know she has feelings for me.  What happened just now proves it.  For some reason she thinks there is something going on between us, or something has gone on.  Since you are here, I take it you have something to report?"

"Yes.  I thought I would stop in, give you the information, say hello then leave.  Never planned on you being gone as well as the many things I have discovered with the assistance of Belle Gardner.  She is amazing.  For the first time in years, I feel happy."

"Are the two of you?"

Jeanne smiled and shook her head.  "Just good friends.  Like the two of us.  The woman has been indispensable.  Especially after my run in with the town sheriff who told me to get out of town.  The man doesn't like women."

"He is protective of Bobie.  And I have found the man to be very harsh in his judgement.  You are an outsider, my friend which is two marks against you already.   Tell me what has been happening?   I want to hear everything."

Jeanne walked to the table, pulled out a chair and sat.  "Come sit, I have quite a tale to tell."

Continued in part fourteen

original fiction index | xena homepage | what's new |