Fire Within

Part 3

by Anita Louise

(c) copyright 1/02

Chapter Seven

Bobie was sitting at one of the desks in the Sheriff's office.  She had been pouring through several pages of information
obtained on the man Jason Littleton. There was no record of him being in the FBI or any government agency.  But they did
find a  record on him in the missing person's files.

Jason Littleton was a well known and respected banker. He grew up in Ohi a town 200  miles from Springfield. The man had  been missing for three months.  Though flyers had been sent out and news programs interviewed his wife, nothing was  discovered. It was as if the man had vanished.

Leaning back in her chair, she gazed at Mrs. Littleton. She was striking in her own way, and reminded Bobie of the actress, Sherrie  Stone. Her fingers were idly holding the page when she heard the words, "Find anything?"

Turning, she gazed up at Ben Burgess placing his Stetson on a wall hook. The man walked to a chair and sat, then raised a questioning eyebrow.

Realizing she had been holding the page, Bobie let go, clasped her hands and replied, "Interesting files. To answer your question,  I have not found anything, just more questions.  How does a respected business man, disappear, end  up in a small town like ours, acting like he is someone else?  Sure is a puzzle."

Ben nodded. "His wife has been notified. She will be flying in this afternoon.  I hoped you  would meet the plane."

Bobie could see that Meg Bartlett as usual was very interested in what the two were saying. "Why me? You keep telling me not to let Skylar Richmond out of my sight, yet she is and now you are asking me to meet this woman. Don't get me wrong, it is just, she will want to talk to you not me."

He took in a deep breath, pondered her words then asked, "Where is Miss Richmond?"

"Not sure."

Ben Burgess stood and began to pace.  Bobie could feel it coming and wished she hadn't brought Sky's name into the conversation. At the same time Meg was practically falling out of her chair as she leaned over trying to hear better.

"I knew this was coming, just didn't know when."

The Sheriff, turned and stared down at her. "That was a fool thing you and Miss Richmond did at the hotel.  You are supposed to make us look good, not like two children playing catch me if you can!"

"But I . . ."

"No buts. We just received the bill for Miss Richmond's over exuberance. The door, the chandelier.  There is no money in our budget to pay for your antics."

Bobie watched the man's eyes, the vessels on his temple enlarging and as he fumed, she replied,  "Antics?  I was doing my job."

"And your job is to yell, 'catch me?'"

"No. I apologize for . . ."

He slammed a hand on the desk, sending pens scattering as he glared. "For what Deputy Parker!? What are you apologizing for?"

At this time a loud crash occurred and both turned to see Meg on the floor, trying her best to get up, and falling again. The woman looked like a fish out of water flopping around.

Ben Burgess uttered, "Damn!" Then turned and walked to the woman offering her a hand up.  Meg was stuttering and trying to make excuses.  It was then the man began to chuckle.

Bobie reached out and picked up the woman's chair and it was then she too was overcome with laughter.  Meg sat and watched the two come to tears and finally found a whistle which she proceeded to blow loudly.

Ben and Bobie stared down at the woman  in surprise.

"Must have really enjoyed me falling on the floor.  Guess next time you two need a laugh I could do it again."

Ben Burgess, shook his head and said, "Not you.  Well yes you but not really."

Meg was very confused as she gazed up at Bobie.

Ben Burgess was wiping tears from his eyes.  "Haven't laughed this much in a long time. It is I that apologize to both of you ladies. People breathing down my neck, lots going on and I just took it out on you Bobie, for this I'm sorry. And in so far as you Miss Bartlett, well, the laughter had nothing to do with you falling. It is the fact that you fell and that this broke up our conversation, which needed to be stopped."

"Then you are not mad?"

He placed his hands on his hips answering, "No. Mad at myself for letting things carry me away. Why don't you go to lunch, Deputy Parker and I will man the office till you get back."

Meg smiled grabbed her purse and asked, "Want me to bring either of you anything?"

They shook their heads and watched the woman dash from the building.

Ben walked toward the desk and said, "If you can't meet Mrs. Littleton's plane, I will do the best I can to clear my schedule and go.  Sorry for getting all riled up like that."

Bobie had been gazing out the window and had now turned her gaze toward Sheriff Burgess. "It is my fault. I take full responsibility for what happened. And I will make arrangements to pay for the damage's. Can't see a thing wrong with the chandelier though. Now the door or I should say what was once a door . . ."

The man grinned, "Woman has some powerful kick. Last time I saw anything close was when Riley Cooper's mule went stubborn on him and the stall got caught in the crossfire. It seems Skylar Richmond lives up to her reputation."

Bobie sat and stared at the desk. "She is one independent woman for sure."

The Sheriff walked toward the coffee machine, poured a cup of coffee and said, "Tell by the leaves changing colors, and the coolness in the air, season is changing.  Now we have another murder on our hands, and we are nowhere near solving the first."

"Shame after all these years for something like this to take the beauty away from our valley."  Bobie decided a cup of coffee would be good and went to join him.

Ben Burgess poured her a cup, then asked, "About Skylar Richmond. Do you know where she is today?"

Bobie took a sip of the coffee, then replied, "Said she wanted to sleep in.  I think she is embarrassed over what happened."

He shook his head and walked toward the desk. "This one does not strike me as the embarrassing type. She is like a chameleon, never know when she is around or what she will change into."

The man's words surprised Bobie, who added a little water to her coffee before walking to the desk and sitting. Both gazed at one another before she said, "Hard not to know when Sky is around, her build, hair, looks kinda give her away."

He grinned, emptied his cup of coffee. "You getting to know this woman pretty well Deputy. You are right, she is a hard person not to notice, that is unless she doesn't want to be.  Charlie Atkins at the garage was telling me yesterday the woman had been around there."

Sitting up, eyes wide open, Bobie leaned forward and asked, "Charlie Atkins told you this?  Sky didn't mention to me she was there?  What was she doing?"

He shook his head. "Don't know but someone had been in the area and from reports sounded a lot like your . . . company."

"Look Sheriff, I am doing what you asked, but Sky is not someone you put on a leash and lead around, she is used to coming and going at will.  But I just can't imagine what she would be doing at Charlie's garage."

"Maybe she was looking to rent a vehicle."

Pursing her lips for a second Bobie muttered, "Has one. She borrowed one from Fletcher's stables. No reason to want another. I just don't think she was there."

"Speaking of the elusive Miss Richmond, perhaps you should drive out and check on her. Sure don't want some woman as famous as she is to end up dead on my watch."

Standing, Bobie looked at the man. "I'll take a drive out now. Anything you want me to tell Skylar?"

He thought for a moment then said, "Ask what she was doing poking around Charlie's garage.  Man is jumpy as all get out and could have put a slug right through the woman. Forget meeting the plane, I'll do it."

Sky nodded and left the room.  Sheriff Burgess watched until she was out of sight, then reached for the phone.

Bobie started to walk to her jeep but changed her mind and headed to the hotel instead.  Once inside she headed straight for the desk clerk.  He was busy on the phone when she approached. The man was tall and thin, his hair was dark and combed back. A pair of glasses perched on his nose as if ready to take flight at any second.

"Pardon me,"  Sky politely interrupted.

He gazed toward her then finished his conversation before hanging up the phone.  Walking toward her, he asked, "What can I do for you Deputy? Last time I saw you in here, it became a madhouse."

Bobie removed the brown leather gloves she had put on for warmth. "Wanted to talk to you about the chandelier."  She pointed upward.

He placed a finger under his chin. "It's a wonder it is still hanging. Your friend gave no hoot as to whether her weight would cause it to fall and break."

Placing the gloves in a pocket of her jacket, Bobie replied, "Looks fine. I don't see any damage at all. Sheriff just told me you have asked for some sort of payment."

He nodded. "Should have asked for compensation for myself, ever since this happened I have had nothing but nightmares."

"Get a grip Walter!  Thing is not the royal treasure. Grief! Enough about your nightmares, you don't even know what nightmares are.  Now, Sheriff  hasn't got the money to pay you, so it is up to me to make arrangements for this."

He hemmed and hawed moved back and forth, rolled his eyes several times then whispered, "Friend paid it."

Bobie wasn't sure what he said so she leaned close and asked, "What did you say?"

"Said, Friend paid it."

"What?  You mean Skylar Richmond was in here today?"

He nodded. "Yes, asking my forgiveness and trying to make the whole thing her fault.  Ask me the woman has a thing for you."

"She is part of my job at the present, so don't go getting any ideas.  We have enough going on around here, don't need you running around yapping about something that isn't true.  Tell me, just how much did Miss Richmond pay you?"

He cleared his throat and muttered, "Bills been paid, nothing more to say."

Bobie shook her head in amazement then said, "It is apparent she paid you way too much.  You know the saying, what goes around comes around.  All right, the door then, I need to make arrangements to pay this."

He smiled and said, "Paid that too, now if you will excuse me I have phone calls to make."

Bobie walked away, mumbling to herself.  Once outside she headed toward her vehicle.

"Bobie!  Bobie Parker!"

Turning, she could see Belle Gardner hurrying her direction. "Hi. What can I do for you Belle?"

The woman was out of breath and it took several moments before she spoke, "Need for you to come to the tavern tonight.  Wasn't able to hold the doings before, count of Littleton's untimely passing.  Sure do need you tonight. Not sure just what may happen."

Stepping back, her eyes surveyed the woman. "Belle Gardner, I have known you for sometime and it seems to be you are not telling me everything.  There is no one around that can handle a crowd better than you and your bouncers. So why is it so important to have me there?"

"Just is.  Don't disappoint me Deputy, I am counting on you."

"If I can get Skylar Richmond to agree, I will be there but not alone."

The woman shrugged and replied, "More the merrier, see you tonight."

Smiling at the woman's words, she watched Belle hurrying toward her tavern.  It didn't take long to locate her vehicle and was very  happy to be in it and heading for home. At the same time, not too sure what she would find there.  Skylar Richmond sure had her on her toes, so many things had been written about the woman, yet she seemed to be surrounded by a cloud of mystery.

A great deal was occupying her mind. The two deaths, Skylar Richmond coming into her life, Sheriff Burgess jumping on her as he did, Belle's sudden doings at the tavern.  Without warning a deer jumped from the trees onto the roadway in front of her.  Quickly slamming the brakes, she veered the vehicle to the right and felt the thud as the jeep made impact  with the deer. Feeling sick to her stomach at the thought she hit an animal was just the beginning.  Getting her bearings, it was evident she had  landed near a crop of trees. Trying to get her racing heart to slow down, she sit for several minutes, hands on the steering wheel before she opened the door and stepped out.

The step was a long one, for the jeep was resting on a large boulder and the step down was more of a fall down.  Hitting the ground with a thud, she sat and stared at the joining of her vehicle and the boulder. Looked like the underside got it bad, and it was at this time she hoped her insurance was paid up.  Getting to her feet, she walked around the accident cursing herself with each step.

The area was well known for having wildlife spring out at any time. Kicking at the dirt, she walked back around the jeep and climbed inside.  She was getting ready to call for help when the phone rang.  It was a voice she did not expect to hear but a voice that sent a warm feeling throughout.

"Bobie, where are you?"

There was silence as she held the phone, finally saying, "I'm here."  Then realizing how stupid that must have sounded she added, "You would never guess in a million years."

Sky's warm voice came back, "Sitting on a rock somewhere wasting the day?"

"Uh  . . .  How  . . . ?"

"Wait a minute, I was just kidding, don't tell me you are out somewhere picnicking, gazing at the beauty of this area and you are doing this without your sidekick, I'm hurt."

Finding her voice Bobie groaned, "Nope, had a small problem."

"Where are you?  Will you be home soon?"

"Only if you come and get me."

Sky was definitely interested, and it was obvious by her manner. "I will be happy to come get you.  But first Officer Parker I need to know just where 'get me' is?"

Bobie smiled and gave the woman the directions. When she finished, Sky was mumbling to herself and to Bobie.  The last thing she said to the woman was,  "Don't go anywhere, I'll be right there."

'Go anywhere,' like where would she go, it was too far to walk, and she just did not feel like hoofing it. Deciding to sit back, she tried to figure out just what happened while she waited for Skylar Richmond to arrive. A much better solution than calling the Sheriff and having him get all upset again. There would be time for that later, much later.

It was Sky's pounding on the window that woke her. "You all right? I am worried sick."

Realizing she must have fallen asleep, Bobie attempted to smile and nodded. Sky opened the door holding out a hand to help her down.  She easily assisted the woman from the jeep and once Bobie was on solid ground, still held her.  Bobie felt a bit shaky and was happy for the assistance. Looking up she murmured, "Thanks."

Sky smiled, "Glad to help. Sorry to see this happen to you.  Where is the deer you hit?"

Bobie pointed to the area. "Over there, poor thing. I feel so bad."

Sky bit at her lower lip before she said, "I looked all around the area, no sign of a deer, no sign one has even been around."

"There is a deer, I hit it, take a look at the front of my jeep."

"What is deer and what is rock?  Hard to tell, there is no sign of blood. Sorry Deputy, but your deer must have been a Sprit Deer."

Pulling away from the woman, Bobie growled, "It was a deer. I know what I saw, I know what I hit.  What do you think, I was drinking and imagined all of this?"

"No. Something happened. If you say you hit a deer, then you did, must have gotten up and run away."

Bobie frowned at the woman. "Trying to appease me now are you Skylar Richmond, well you follow me and I will show you exactly where I hit it and where it is."

The woman followed Bobie across the road way, up the roadway, into the bush, no sign of any animal.  Finally she said, "You have a nasty bump on your head, I am sure you are shook up, so let me get you home, give a call to the Sheriff."

"No!"  Bobie interrupted the woman.

"All right, then I will call a tow truck to come pick it up.  I'll give a call to Charlie Atkins Garage."

It was at this time Bobie turned to say, "We have to talk about Atkins . . ."

Bobie had lost her balance as Sky reached out and caught the woman. "Anyone ever tell you after a head injury you need to stay awake." It was more of a reprimand than a question.

Bobie strained to keep her eyes open as she gazed into Skylar's eyes. "Appreciate the catch, but you can let me down now. I am a grown woman you know and there is no need carrying me."

Smiling, Sky winked down, "Happy to oblige. 'A grown woman,' yes. I do  have eyes and I also know you are in need of some rest.  So hush and let me do my thing."

Bobie started to object but thought better of it. She mumbled, "Whatever you say, to tired to argue . . . later."

Smiling down at the woman who had nestled comfortably, Sky walked to the truck. "You keep me guessing Deputy Parker. Let's get you home.  Later sounds good to me."

Chapter Eight

Dressed and feeling refreshed after her shower, Bobie just walked into the living room asking,  "Have you seen my boots?"

Sky  was  going over notes she had taken, and turned to greet the woman.  "You look better, hope you feel better.  Yes, I took them off when we got here. They are by the door."

"Thanks. I see them."

Sky watched the woman take each step, it was apparent she was attempting to hide a few aches.

When Bobie returned and sat beside the woman she said, "Have to call a tow truck.  Also have to call the office and report this."

Sky shook her head, then said, "Done.  I called a truck. Before you go off on me again, not from Atkins Garage. Then I called the office for you and talked to a woman named Della."

Bobie grinned as she tugged on a boot. "Bet she chewed your ears off?"

Sky leaned back, her arms outstretched and resting on the top of the Divan. "She seemed to be real interested in what we had been doing.  Asked a lot of questions. Not too sure she even remembered why I called."

Bobie turned to gaze at her, never releasing the boot she had been trying to pull on. "She gets carried away sometime.  Woman is a big fan of yours."

Standing, Sky reached down and grasped the boot, within seconds Bobie's foot was comfortably inside.

"Do you always just up and do things?"

Sky smiled, "Thought you could use some help. Besides, I enjoyed doing it."

When Skylar Richmond smiled, it lit up the entire area. She had that way about her.  Bobie was thinking as she watched the woman walk into the kitchen area.

"Could fix you a sandwich, are you hungry?"  Sky nonchalantly called back.

"Leaning back against the softness of the divan, Bobie felt herself sigh, before she replied, "Not hungry. Sides, we have that thing at Belle's tonight, there will be food there."

Sky nodded and said, "You are right, hadn't forgotten.  Just don't want you collapsing."

"Oh. About that --"

Sky turned, and walked toward Bobie, her red hair bouncing back an forth as she said, "Don't!"  Sitting beside her, she added, "I am happy I was there to assist.  Would do it again.  Now, if you are up to it, we need to get moving."

"Just wanted to say thanks. So don't take my head off."

Reaching out Sky touched Bobie's right hand, "No need.  Not often I get the chance to carry someone in my arms."

Bobie stood and walked toward the door. "We should be going. I have to fill out an accident report, talk to the Sheriff and . . ."

"And nothing else.  After you make out the report, we will go to Belle's, put in an appearance then I want to get you home, to bed."

Grasping the door knob, Bobie called back, "Coming?"  It was cool out and because of the warmth Bobie Parker was experiencing, felt good.

Belle's was dimly lit when the two women approached. Bobie turned to Sky and said, "Maybe she called it off, looks closed."

Sky walked past her and said, "Let's see. "

Bobie followed, and walked into a darkened room.  Feeling upset with herself, she called out, "Sky? Where are you?"

Suddenly the lights came on, and people filled the room, all singing, "Happy Birthday, to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Bobie, happy birthday to you."

She was amazed, and seemed frozen to the spot. It was Sky that stepped forward grasped her left hand, whispered, "Happy birthday Deputy."  And led her closer to the beautiful cake that set in the center of the room.

Bobie was still in a daze as she gazed at everyone. The cake, the candles, the presents.  It was too much.  Belle took this opportunity to light the candles and said, "All right Bobie, give it all you got.  Make a wish and blow."

She closed her eyes, then smiled, and said,  "Give it my best shot."

Sky glanced around the room, then back, ginning as she watched Bobie hunt down each candle.  It was a vision to remember.

Bobie cut the first piece of cake, then said,  "Thank you all, I am overwhelmed by this. If you will excuse me, I need to sit."

Sky joined her at a table, cake in hand, when she sat, she asked, "How are you feeling?  Didn't look too good back there.  I hope this wasn't too much for you.  Della thought it would be nice."

Sitting back in her chair, fork in hand, Bobie played with the cake on the plate in front of her.  "It is nice, just a certain someone should have told me what was happening."

Beaming, Sky took a bite of her cake and said, "Cake is good. Quit picking and eat. You're not sick are you?"

"No. I am fine.  Just not used to this. So much going on and these people chose to give me a party, I am speechless."

"No need to be, they are your friends, neighbors, members of the community that wanted to do this. Let them enjoy this night, will give them something to think about except death and what might befall them next."

Mulling over the woman's words, Bobie chewed at her lower lip and said, "You are right. Sorry, just not used to being singled out."

Standing, Sky said, "Better get used to it Deputy, looks like two handsome guys heading your way now. Going to get a drink, want something?"

Bobie shook her head as she replied, "Not coming here to see me, it is you, Skylar Richmond they want to see.  Yes, a beer would be good."

Sky smiled and walked away, giving the men a brief, "hello," as she past them.  Bobby Yates and Clem Taylor watched the woman amble up to the bar then turned to smile down at Bobie.

Clem spoke first, "Music will begin soon and I wondered if you would give me the first dance?"

Bobby smiled at the man, then Bobie. "I would love it if you would put me down for a dance or dances."

Setting the fork on her plate, Bobie gazed up at the two men. "Join me?"

They almost fell over themselves reaching for chairs and finally sitting.

Sky was sipping a very cold beer as she watched the two men.  It was evident they liked Bobie Parker and not as a Deputy Sheriff at this moment.  One was tall, almost six feet, he had light brown hair, with eyes to match. He struck her as a gangling teenager, though it was evident he was much more than that.  The other man, was a nice looking blond haired, blue-eyed boy next door type.  Of the two, she felt this one would be a match for Deputy Parker.

"Looks like Bobie has her night full.  How about you Miss Richmond?"

Turning, she could see Della smiling her way. "I did what you asked, I made sure Deputy Parker made it here. After I finish this drink, I am going."

Della walked up to the woman, shook her head and said, "Wouldn't look rightly, you being her friend and all, leaving her here. Is it us? We are not the type of people you usually socialize with? Besides the least you could do is tell the woman.  You know the way you look at her, a person might get other ideas."

Sky finished the beer, then said, "My wanting to go has nothing to do with you or the people here. Get me another beer, I'll take it to Deputy Parker.  In so far as the way I look at her, does anyone in this town mind their own business. Woman was in a bad car accident today, I am concerned that is all."

Della handed her the beer then said, "Sorry, didn't know."

Mumbling to herself, Sky stroke across the floor toward Bobbie and her two companions.  When she reached the table, she handed the beer to the woman and said, "There you go.  Cold beer, just as you asked."

Taking the beer, Bobie said, "Thought you got lost, took you so long. Thanks."

As Sky sat, she said, "I really need to be going, you look to be in good hands here."

Bobie reached out, placed a hand over Sky's and mumbled, "You helped set this up, no way am I letting you amble out of here, if I have to stay so do you. And by the way, this is Clem and Bobby, they are friends of mine."

Sky shook hands and said, "It is wonderful Deputy Parker has so many friends here. I am happy to meet you. Tell me boys what do you do in this town?"  Sky watched the two exchange glances and wondered just what was passing between them.

Clem the gangly one finally said, "Kinda have our own business, we guide folks."

Sky raised an eyebrow, looked at Bobie and asked, "'Guide folks?'  As in?"

"If people want to camp out, fish, hunt, we offer services for this.  Anyplace a person might want to go or see, we are available
to take them."

"Sounds interesting.  Tell me, anyone rent out your services recently, say one Mr. Littleton by any chance?"

Before Clem could answer, Bobby stood and said, "Music is starting, may I have this dance Bobie?"

She nodded, stood and said, "While we are on the dance floor, don't go getting into anything you two."

Both smiled and watched the two walk away.  Then Clem said, "To answer your question, no.  Never saw the man before. I would love to have this dance."

Sky grinned, stood and replied, "Not sure I am up to it but I will give it a go."

The evening was filled with dance, laugher, music and pleasant conversation. Sky stayed away from business for the rest of the evening.

It was toward midnight when Max Fletcher entered the room, he glanced around and seeing Sky he walked toward them.

"Good evening, hope you are having a wonderful birthday Bobie."

She nodded and replied, "It has been marvelous. I am overwhelmed by the gifts, the party."

He glanced at Sky then said, "You still have one gift."

Bobie glanced toward the opened presents and said, "No, I have opened them all. "

He reached into his jacket  took out an envelope and handed it to her. "You still have this one."

People were mulling around, anxiously waiting to see just what was in the envelope.  She fumbled with it before her finger finally got it open, taking out the papers, she stared.  "I . . ."

Bell walked up and asked, "What is it?"

Stepping forward Bobie hugged the man, "Thank you!  I never would have thought this could ever happen."

He grinned, "I take it you like."

"I love it."  Turning to Sky, Bobie beamed, "Dynamite, he gave me Dynamite!"

Belle looked at Sky and offered, "Horse, it's a horse."

Sky smiled and said, "Thank goodness."  She took the papers, gazed at them for a few moments, then handed them back to Bobie who was now beaming and said,  "Wonderful. I'm happy for you."

Clem and Bobby were enjoying Bobbie's excitement as she showed them the papers.  Max approached Sky and whispered, "You were right. She loves the horse.  Should tell her."

Shaking her head, Sky said, "Nope, would refuse it if she knew it was from me.  I am happy to give her something she will love and enjoy."

He sighed then headed toward Belle.

Sky walked toward Bobie and the two men. "Looks like they are getting ready to call the last dance of the night."

Both men began to clamor for the last dance and it was at this time Sky reached out and stepped between them. "Sorry boys, this one is mine."  Without  hesitation, she swept Bobie onto the dance floor leaving the two wondering just what happened.

Chapter Nine

Sky just walked in from outside and into the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee when the phone rang.  Within moments she held the receiver to her ear. "Hello, Sky Richmond here."

"Sky, Bernie, felt we needed to talk."

Sky was glancing at the cup of coffee she left on the counter as she said, "Bern, this had better be good.  I hate to be disturbed before I have my first cup of coffee."

He was silent for a moment then replied, "Go get the coffee, I'll wait."

It didn't take long for her to get the lonely cup of coffee and make it back to the phone. "Thanks.  I needed this."

"Are you sitting?"

"No. Why? What's up?"

"I know we have talked about this, but I really need you to come back."

He didn't get another word out before Sky cut him off,  "We talked and I told you I don't leave things unsettled.  No one is going to step in here.  I have been doing  a lot of work and will not just toss it away."

"No need to toss it away, give it to Larry,  let him get on with this.  You come back and take this case, I'll give you the vacation I promised with an added bonus."

Sky waited until the man finished his last words then said, "You know me Bern, and I don't walk away from a job.  Now tell me what has you so determined to get me to leave this one?"

The man was silent for a few minutes and this gave Sky the opportunity to down the cool coffee she had retrieved earlier. When he came back on line he answered, "Let's just say I have received calls, and it seems you are not needed there."

"Oh, the hotel incident.  Taken care of no need to fret."

"Seriously, Sky, it is a small town, nothing to your liking, if you recall I had to talk you into going. So coming back should be a piece of cake. What say I send the plane to pick you up this afternoon."

With a set look on her face she answered, "What say you go back to bed and forget this call?"

"Take it, you are going to be stubborn. All right, if you don't come back and take the job I have waiting for you, then you are on your own.  No more help from the agency, hate to play hardball with you Sky but this is important."

"Play with anything you want Bern, not coming back until this case is solved.  Chow."

Bobie had just entered the room, when Sky slammed the receiver down, and remarked, "Poor phone."

Sky stood, walked into the kitchen and said, "Want some coffee? Made it myself."

"Sure."  She followed the woman and took the cup of coffee that Sky offered, then asked,  "Want to tell me what just happened?"

"Not important. Come let's sit."  She walked to the table, pulled out a chair and sat.

Bobie followed, and once seated, she looked at the woman and said, "Someone made you upset, it might help to talk about it."

Sky had been drumming the table with her fingers as she turned her attention to the woman. "It was Bernie Herbella, he is my boss or he thinks he is. Wants me to go back, and will send someone else to take my place here."

Bobie's face fell, her eyes lost their sparkle as she stammered, "What time do you leave?"

"Not going, that is what I told him and hung up."

"Why does he want you to go back now?  You are really getting into this, I see all the notes you have, the things you have been gathering, the people you have contacted, why would he want you to give all this up and go back?"

Sky shrugged,  "Who knows maybe Bern thinks it is too dangerous. Wonder where he was in Africa? Danger, there was a lot of danger there.  I am beginning to think someone from this area has been after him to have me sent back.  Afraid I might find out something or that we might find out something."

Bobie nodded, "Sounds like this is a possibility but why would someone from here do that?"

Sky went to get a refill as she answered, "Maybe we are closer than we think. I know Bern and for him to want to pull me off a story just is not feasible, unless he was getting a lot of pressure from someone."

"For what it's worth, I'm glad you're not going back."

Sky was sitting again, holding the coffee cup and gazing into the steaming liquid. "Glad to hear you say that, since Bern also took my stipend away.  What you see is a woman without means."

Bobie was leaning forward, her eyes wide open as she took in the woman's words.  Finally she smiled, "Almost had me on that one. You, the great Skylar Richmond 'without means.'  Never.  But if you need a handout, I would be happy to oblige, can't have you standing on the street corners with a cup in hand."

The two women laughed and were still laughing when someone knocked at the door.  Bobie went to see who it was and was surprised to see Sheriff Burgess standing fiddling with his Stetson in hand.

"Sheriff, something else happen?"

He glanced past her then answered, "Nothing new.  Just wanted to get some information on the accident yesterday."

"Come in, but you didn't need to come all the way out here, I will be in town sometime today and would gladly stop by the office and talk to you."

As he stepped into the room, he replied, "Had to come out this way and wanted to save you the trip. I know it is your day off and after last night, thought you might like to rest."

Sky stood and greeted the man, offering him a cup of coffee then said, "I'll be outside if you need me."

The man walked to the divan and sat, then looked at the two women before he said, "Stay. It will save me going out to get you when I need to talk to you too.  You are the one that picked up Deputy Parker aren't you?"

"Yes."  She turned around and walked back toward the living area. Finding a chair she pulled it up and sat. Sky looked at the Sheriff,  then Bobie. It was apparent by the look on her face, Bobie was very surprised to see the man  and seemed to be uncomfortable that he was there.

Bobie sat back, looked at the man and asked, "I thought Meg had the information on the accident?   I did stop by yesterday afternoon, late and was surprised to see the office was closed."

He nodded and gazed at Sky. "That's right, seems Miss Richmond made the call.  Any reason you didn't?  About the office, Meg had a doctor's appointment and I went to meet Mrs. Littleton's plane."

"I was sort of shaken up, not feeling very well at the time, it was nice of Skylar to do this for me. I am glad to know Meg did take the information down at the time.  What time did Mrs. Littleton's plane arrive?"

"Funny thing, she didn't show. I later got word something else had come up."  He looked at Sky and asked, "Want to tell me how you found the Deputy?"  His eyes were locked with Sky's emerald greens at that moment.

"Sure, I was trying to call the Deputy and she was trying to call me, just one of those things.  When I found out she had an accident, I went to get her."

"Neither of you think to call the police at that time?"

The two women glanced at one another before they both answered, "Too much happening."

He reached up absentmindedly scratched at his head then smiled. "From all I have read, Deputy Parker is lucky she was not injured more severely."  He was now looking at the bump on Bobie's forehead.

Reaching for her cold cup of coffee, Bobie stood and said, "Sheriff, is there anything I can do or say to help?"

He stood, shook his head replying, "Think I have all I need. Your jeep is at Fullerton Motors, it is totaled.  I talked to the appraiser and he said, would cost more to repair than get a replacement. So a new jeep should be in day after tomorrow."

Sky was now standing, and walked with the man to the door. "Sheriff, have you by any chance heard from Bernie Herbella lately?"

He stopped and gazed at her. "No. Should I have?"

Shaking her head, she answered., "Just curious that's all."

"Bobie, you have a good day you hear."

Bobie was sure there was an underlying element in the Sheriff's visit, but she could not figure it out, that is until the man said, "By the way, need for you to stop by the hospital, they need to take a few tests."

"Tests?  What for Sheriff, I'm fine."

His eyes roamed the room before settling on Sky.  "Make sure she gets to the hospital will you. Don't want anything happening to my Deputy."

She nodded and said, "I'll make sure she comes in.  Have a good day Sheriff."

When the man was in his pickup and speeding down the road, she turned to Bobie. "Sheriff is quite concerned about you."

"I don't want any tests, I am sore enough today."

"Dancing probably didn't help any."

"Look who is talking, I recall many times seeing you line dancing."

"Guess so, we were in the same line. It was fun. The people here, love to gather, it was apparent."

"Yes they do."

"I was worried about you Deputy, didn't know if all that moving might cause you problems so soon after your mishap."

"Polite way to put it. There was no need to worry. I was fine. I am fine. After what the Sheriff just said, guess my jeep isn't though."

"Is that the way they do it here? I mean, seems he made the arrangements for a new vehicle."

"I wasn't available and he knows what he is doing. Takes a lot off of me. Can hardly wait for my wheels."

Sky took a deep breath and asked, "Did I look out of place last night?"


She was now stooping over, rifling through her pack. Amidst the clanging and moving of objects, Sky laughed, "Like a missile if it hit the middle of the room you mean."

"Well . . . You outshone anyone else in the room. The Levi's, boots, belt, buckle, western shirt, no citified woman wore those. Definitely fit right in.  Do a lot of dancing?"

Finally giving up and sitting on the floor, Sky had materials scattered about the area. "Have done my fair share of dancing, but not much like last night. So thanks for the compliment, I think. Never realized these dances were so technical. Fast lanes, slow lanes, line and swing dancing in the middle.  Whatever happened to just plain dancing."

Bobie had now joined the woman and was sitting near by. "We do  have chairs you know."

Sky stopped  what she was doing, turned sideways and smiled.  "Bet you never thought the day would come when you might find yourself sitting on your kitchen floor.  Yes, I know you have chairs. Just can't seem to find . . ."  Her voice trailed off as she reached out, picking up a photograph.

"Can't find what?" Bobie asked the woman.

"This."  Sky held out a  picture.

"Looks like you found it. From the mess all over the floor, something must be mighty important about that photo."

Sky handed it to her and replied, "What do you think?"

Bobie gazed at the picture, she held it up, down, and sideways before saying, "Nice, what is it?"

"It's a petroglyph.  I took the picture the other day when you were in town."

Bobie shook her head in disbelief. "I know it's a petroglyph, just not sure what makes it so important."  Her eyes looked at the disarray on the kitchen floor. "Thought I asked you not to go out there again, unless I or someone else was with you."

"You were busy and I remembered seeing this at one time so I wanted to capture it on film as well as a few other things."

Bobie handed the photograph to the woman. "There are a lot of petroglyphs in the area, this is close to the reservation you know. Sacred Hallowed Ground."

Sky was now resting both hands on the floor as she leaned back. "Sounds like a place I would like to visit. Take me there?"

"You know Skylar Richmond, for a woman of the world sometimes you remind me of a child on an Easter egg hunt. And yes, I'll take you to the reservation."

Sky was now on her knees crawling as she gathered up the elusive articles and placed them back into the bag. All that is except for the photograph.  Standing she reached down, "Give me your hand, I'll help you up."

Bobie did and soon was standing beside the woman. Walking to the table, she pulled out a chair and sat. "Come join me. I want to hear all about your photo."

Sky was soon sitting, the picture was now leaning against a salt shaker as she asked, "Ever hear of the Dark Angel?"

"No, can't say that I have, there was a televison show something like that."

"Not television, real life."

"With all that has been going on here, now you tell me about some Dark Angel in real life. Look, my arms have goose bumps."

Sky reached out and touched Bobie's arm, her fingers gently caressed before she said, "Goose bumps all right. Didn't mean to scare you."

"Not scared, just the body reaction that's all" She stood, walked to the coffee machine, poured two cups of coffee. Handing one to Sky, she then sat and said, "Have always heard of a White Knight coming to save the damsel in distress, but black always has a threatening power to it.  So give, what does this mean, if you know?"

"The Dark Angel is a God, sent to protect the people. It will do all in its power to see no harm comes to those that believe and will deal out justice to those that deceive."

Bobie took a sip from her cup, looked at the picture again, then said, "This is the Dark Angel?"

Sky nodded. "Yes, he has other names but they all mean the same thing. Anyone or anything that threatens the people causing harm of any kind to them will be met by this God and his powers."

Reaching for the photograph, Bobie looked more closely. "Where exactly did you find this petropglyph?"

"Not too far from the entrance to the Kiva. I took a rope, and this time I went down, down.  Did a little exploring, don't even know if the people at the dig know this particular area is there."

Bobie was now up and pacing back and forth. "Do I have to put a leash on you Skylar Richmond!?"

Taken aback at the woman's  words, Sky arched her right eyebrow.  "A leash? Come now Deputy, I'm not a pet."

Fuming, Bobie's blue-green eyes seemed to send out sparks as she muttered, "The place is dangerous, It is a murder scene, no one is supposed to go in and out without the proper authority.  Besides, you could have had misfortune meet you and no one would have any idea where you were."

"Sky grinned.  "Anyone ever tell you when you get upset your eyes fire up?   I didn't touch anything, didn't contaminate the scene, just looked and snapped pictures. Come on Deputy, you must admit this is a find."

"Yes it 'is a find.'  This could have so many meanings. Injun Pete, the cross, the way he died"

"Perhaps or maybe someone knows about this and is using it to do something else, to take people away from what is really going on."

"Like what?"

Sky was standing, as she reached out placing her hand on Bobie's shoulders and said, "You are the Deputy, I am just a mere cog in the wheel."

"The great all-knowing Skylar Richmond a cog in a wheel, don't think so.  You found this, and I think it is a good start, the best one I've seen so far."

Sky smiled, removed her hands and said, "Then what say we enjoy the day doing anything you want, before we delve into the mystery of  the Dark Angel?"

"I can't figure you out woman, just when I think I am getting close, you surprise me. I was given this beautiful horse last night, I know you ride, how about picking up a lunch, going to Fletcher's stables and taking a ride?"

Sky picked up the picture, put it in the bag then said, "I'm all  yours Deputy, lead the way, I will follow.  Thought you were sore."

"Well I am, but this just may help me."

Sky laughed, "Or may not."

As the pickup drove away heading up the road, a lone figure crept from the trees, heading toward the cabin.

Continued in chapter ten


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