XV: The Magic That You Do

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Hope County
The Spread Eagle, Falls End
About Two Years Ago

The Spread Eagle was thriving. Mary May Fairgrave stood behind the bar, shouts and laughter and booze passed around and the clinking of glasses filled the room. Her blond hair was fixed into a messy ponytail, something she'd said made it easier to keep track of people in her peripheral vision, a skill a bartender had to learn on day one.

Grace Armstrong and Hurk Jr. had a bit of an audience as they were matched up in a battle to drink each other under the table. They lost track of what round it was, and even though Grace appeared to be winning this one, Hurk was putting up a decent fight to best her. Jess and Nick were playing darts causing the pilot to bitch about the fact that she was cheating. She wasn't, she was just that damn good of a shot. Sharky busied himself, searching for the perfect tune to throw onto the jukebox.

"Just pick something already, dammit!" Adelaide shouted from behind the bar, popping a couple of tops to slide down to Jerome and the rest.

Sharky didn't deal well with the pressure of their impatience and slammed his fist down on the numbers. Black Velvet by Alannah Myles started playing on the speakers overhead. Whoops and hollers erupted, and people began to dance at what Sharky claimed to be one of the sexiest songs of our time.

"Hey girl!" Kim waved at her from the door when she walked through.

Deputy Hope Evans had secluded herself at a quiet table at the far end of the bar and waved back, hoping to keep herself tucked away in her private booth. She enjoyed people-watching, studying their actions, their behaviors, and the way these people, from all walks of life, intermingled.

This was Hope County, she mused.

Though she was surrounded by many of these familiar, comforting presences, she somehow felt alone and empty. Perhaps it was the nerves. The fact that she had mountains of files to get through, several papers to study for the role she was supposed to play for tomorrow's visit to the island. Tonight's festivities were held under the cover of darkness, all lights were off out front, and even the music wasn't blaring as loud because they needed to keep this place quiet as not to alert the one they called John Seed. Alcohol had been prohibited in the town, but she managed to smuggle in a few things from her town just outside of county lines.

Whitehorse called it a risk coming into the territory like this, but Eli and Nick insisted. They wanted to give her a proper farewell, as most of them were privy to the fact that she was about to get her first big break in her first case as a Hope County Deputy. However, no one knew how deep that rabbit hole really was. The longer she dwelled on it, the tighter the knot became in the pit of her nearly empty stomach.

"Whiskey?" A voice caught her attention, and when she looked up, she saw Eli Palmer, fresh from a hunt, hair tied back in a pony that rather suited him.

Pulling a long draw from her glass, she swallowed the bitter liquid from it before holding it down on the table in both hands. "Bourbon."

"When's your first day?"

"Supposed to be tomorrow but, I dunno."

"Nervous?"

"Yeah... you could say that."

"Ahh don't sweat it and shake out those cold feet of yers." Eli pointed at the shield on her chest. "I bet your mom and pop would be proud of you anyhow. Just keep your head in the game. Keep it clear. You'll be fine, kiddo."

"Kiddo? Eli, we're the same age." Hope snickered, "But I guess I don't have the wisdom of that fine beard you've got growing, eh?"

Eli laughed when she reached over and ruffled his beard, something she'd done many times as he made the effort to grow it out. "Listen. Earl's been real tightlipped about what's about to go down. I'm sure there's good reason for it, but I just wanna wish you good luck. I got this gut feeling that... well, you're gonna need it."

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