Chapter Five

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"Did you know the victim, what was his name? Jessie Forrester?" asked Robin. Three and a half hours of standing in the sun hadn't deflated her appearance. She still looked like she had when she'd walked into Elle's office earlier that morning. Crisp and professional.

Elle shrugged. "Turlough's a small place." Shadows from the hanging canopy danced up the hood of the cruiser and over the windshield as she meandered, slow and deliberate, through the back roads.

"Is that a yes?" While Robin's appearance might have looked neat on the outside, her insides were anything but. She'd spent her morning fantasizing about chaining Elle to a tree. In the middle of the desert. In another, she'd dragged her out to a set of tracks surrounded by scrub grass and tumble weeds, and lassoed her to the rail. Only once had she let it get out of hand. She wasn't sure why she was forming her revenge in western motif, but it was working for her.

Every time she'd managed to get Elle's attention she'd wave her off as if she were dismissing an annoying fly buzzing around her head. Robin hated to admit how much that had gotten under her skin. She wasn't used to being ignored.

"We went to the same high school. He was a year ahead."

Robin shifted in her seat to face Elle straight on. "Are you being vague on purpose?" The seatbelt strained against her breasts. "I've spent the better part of my day chained up like a punished dog. I'm exhausted, pissed off, and sweaty." She brushed her bangs off her face, but it did nothing to make her look more disheveled. "I don't appreciate vague."

"Can you stop talking for one minute, please?" Most of Elle's hair had escaped its bun in the last few hours, choosing instead to blow free in the wind like flames licking at her face. "I need to think what to say to Jessie's parents." Her hands tightened on the wheel as she said his name.

Robin turned back around, arms folded, lip jutting out. She felt like a pouting child, but she couldn't help it. Elle was turning out to be nothing like she'd expected. When she arrived, she expected to be in and out. Complete the assignment and leave almost as soon as she'd arrived.

Robin hadn't spent much of her life outside of the city and she preferred it that way. She could navigate in the city. She knew what people expected of her and she of them. Things were simpler. Here, nothing made sense. She'd expected the local law to be a pushover. To give her what she wanted so she could get the hell out of there. She'd also expected the local law to be the female version of Barney Fife. But Sheriff Ashley was proving a different beast.

She turned her attention to the passing sights hoping to calm down before she lost her temper and ruined any chance of completing this job. They passed a shack squeezed between two giant trees. A child ran out. The screen door smacked the frame with a loud crack. She couldn't believe people actually lived there. The yard housed several cars in sundry forms of decay. From the mirror, Robin watched the child chase the cruiser down the road. A big grin on his face, and part of his lunch smeared along one cheek.

In big cities, urban poverty looked different than rural. What was it about giving humans space that allowed them to fill it up with junk? Was this a North American thing or a universally human trait. If she travelled to Germany would she find the transportation history of a family displayed on their front lawn the same way the rich hung expensive pieces of art around their homes?

Was everyone in Turlough this poor or just the unlucky few? Did Elle have vehicle carcasses ornamenting her front yard? Or did she live in a small apartment above the sheriff's office? Then Robin remembered Elle's brother and wondered if she still lived at home.

She didn't ask any of these questions. Instead, she sank lower in her seat trying to get a feel for this town and its people. If she was going to make any progress, she would need to.

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