Nicole brushed her hair out of her sun glasses growling bitterly as she eyed the sheriff sititng on her front porch. Parking in her normal spot she rubbed her temples before climbing out of the car and unloading Quinn and the groceries.
“Want some help Cole?” Sheriff Lawson asked.
“Since your here may as well make use of you,” she shrugged handing him the bags of groceries.
“This is not a social visit is it?” she asked as she let him in the house heading for the kitchen.
“Cant a small town Sheriff come check in on a friend?” He smiled ruffling Quinns hair after setting the bags down.
“Coffee?” She asked with a smile.
“Sure.” He smiled back examining how she was acting. “Something bothering you?” He asked as she dropped the measuring spoon for the coffee grounds for the 3rd time.
“You came here to talk about those people who where here last night didnt you.” She met his eyes, fear flashing through the green depths.
“Yes I did.” At least he was being honest, she though bitterly.
“Did you know them?”
“No.” She said quickly.
To harsh, to practiced, Lawson considered the options. He could push her, force a crack and find out why she never contacted people who apparently cared enough to check out the most random leads into small back waters towns in the south to find her, or let her keep lying and never find out what she was keeping.
“I can protect you.” The comment came out of the blue, he had though it many times over as he had seen her through out the past 2 years. Tear stained cheeks and even faded bruises around her wrists after the jack ass had ripped through her life again. She had become a daughter to him, at least in the loosest sense of the word.
She smiled placing her hand over his and squeezing gently.“ You dont even know what you would need to protect me from.” She slid the coffee cup across the chipped wooden table and released his hand. “Quinn lets get you down for your nap.” She looked back at the man now sitting listlessly in her kitchen. “Sheriff we can talk once i come back down ok?”
“Sounds good.” He smiled waving at Quinn who was leaning against his mother shoulder. Pulling out his cell phone he dialed the number Ryan had left that morning.
“Ryan Mcpherson? Its Sheriff Lawson.”
“Sheriff, what can I help you with?” the mans voice softened a little on the other end of the line.
“I would like to meet with you, all of you again.” He stated, hoping they had not left town already.
“What time would work best?” Ryan asked crisply, papers shuffling in the back ground, he was guessing to find a place to jot down information.
“7 pm, at the ‘Golden Rose’.”
“Roger that. See you then.” Ryan confirmed clipping the phone shut. Glancing around the hotel room he yanked the manilla folder out from under a pile of pictures and news paper clippings. It was 4:30 pm, Chris had said he was going to drop something off at Nic’s and would be back, Sarah and Jonathan where sending in their work from the hotels office center, Brandon and Kayla had driven to the tattoo parlor to see if the artist had the original design, Matthew had taken Heather to the beach to relax because she was almost out of her skin. Joshua was responsible for the mess on the table old file folders of info he had gathered when he had been home trying to track her down.
Something about this whole situation was wrong, he though bitterly. There was no way she didnt remember them, what could be keeping her here? Sitting down on the couch he closed his eyes nothing wrong with a nap its not like flipping through tv channels would be any more productive.
“Yes i did this work.” The older man smiled examining the photo copy from the police file. “About 2 or so years ago, great gal, no problems with the 6 hour procedure.” He smiled pulling out 2 pieces of paper, one turned out to be an 8x10 of the finished tattoo, the designs much clearer and Kayla could make out the initals under each design.
“You said she came in and got this on sept.18th? Just showed up with the design?” Brandon asked his hand instinctivly wrapping around Kaylas waist thumb running small circles on her spine.
“ She called about a week before, said she had seen some of my work and wanted to know if i would be willing to do it and cost.” He showed them the other peice of paper, “This was her original sketch, rather peiciy but i worked it into something she adored,” he handed Brandon the white paper, the very basics of each design and a small description of what she wanted in the corner. “You guys her family?”
“Yes.” Kayal wimphered. “Did the police ever come ask you anything about it?”
“They sent down a deputy right after the accident,” he shook his head, “But all he asked for was a confirmation on her name and the date and time. Said her boyfriend had corroberated the rest.” He folded his arms over the leather vest, “seemed odd tho.”
“What?” Brandon asked still examining that tattoo, she really had wanted to remember them forever, what irony.
“The guy said the boyfriends name, it wasn’t included in her ink.” He leaned forward in his chair. “Michale somthing, unless she had a seperate design for him,” he shrugged ceasing his ramble. “Just seemed odd. So did you guys come to take her home? I heard she was living just a little bit from here.”
“Yes we are.” Kayla stood up straight and held out a hand to the man. “Thank you so much, are you alright if we keep these?”
“Sure meant to give it to her after she came back and added those little baby booties but as soon as the gun was away from her skin she bolted.” He shrugged “Seemed pretty important.”
Christopher turned off the enginition, staring at the 2 story cottage. She had been here for over 2 years, he thought bitterly, she had a baby all by herself and none of them had even known. He rubbed his temples, closing his eyes he remebered the last night before they all flew out.
“Come on one more!” Nicole laughed clapping her legs up across Ryans lap.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Joshua rolled his eyes dropping the last of the suite cases by the door. 5 military issue duffels bags 4 large rolling bags in different shades of blue and 9 back packs cluttered the small front hallway of the old victorian house. “Still with the trivia?”
“You guys have to remember you are all going to be gone for the next 6 month,” Nicole winked.“Who else will i have to play trivia with during that time?”
“You will have work to keep you distracted!” Sarah chidded, “Plus you can always come visit us when you get a good grouping of days off. ”
“I will definatly have to do that.” Nicole smiled kicking Heathers ponytail. “And Mrs. Finishing my nursing major in a diffrent state will just have to keep my sane via telephone.”
“I’ll have it pinned to my side anyways.” Heather smiled brushing the long brown hair back into its pony-tail holder. Leaning against her husband she grinned wide. “I dont know how often I’ll get to talk to my husband.”
“5 boot camps at once.” Brandon wrapped his arms around Kaylas waist, “This is going to be hell.”
“No shit sherlock!” Kayla laughed her short brown and pink hair framing her smile as she jabbed his chest with her finger. “You know your going to miss the pink hair.”
“Of course.” He smiked pushing up his glasses onto his nose, leaning down he gave her a long kiss ignoring the teasing comments from the peanut gallery.
“I cant believe how quickly this is all happening.” Christopher sighed kicking his feet up on the rickety chairs arm rest. “This is going to be the first time we have all really been apart.”
“Since we were what 13?” Sarah asked looking at the framed needle work on the wall. “Yea 13.”
“Rather funny.” Joshua laughed, “At least now those of you civis who have your phones will have a very valid exscuse to be obsessive compulsive about keeping them on you.”
“Pardon me!” Heather snapped throwing a pillow at Joshua “we are not obsessive about keeping them on us before this fact!”
“Right....” Brandon smirked sneaking Kaylas phone from her pocket. “Where is your phone Kayla?”
Kayla scrambled to search the pockets of her sweats , then she glared grabbing it out of his hand. “Pompus ass.”
“You love me,” he smirked pulling her back down into his chest.
Christopher shook clear the fog of the memory. The next morning had been so packed with getting everyone into the cars, making sure once they reached the airport they had their tickets paperwork, uniforms, school books, adress books and photo books.
Ryan and Kaylas plane had left first, then Joshua and Matthews, Sarah and Jonathan grabbed a connecting flight with Heather, Christophers plane was last. Then Brandon and Nicole went back to the house, brandon packed his bags into his audi and started towards school. Christopher stared at the stack of letters on the seat next to him. All the letters he had written from basic through his deployments to his missing sister. Ryans was the second most in the mass, then Kayla, Matthews, and Jonathans. Most just little enevelopes that had been written near the beginning finding there way back to the little post office that kept them near their old home, only Ryans and his own continued in hopes she would return and read them all. He had been picked them up about a week and a half ago when the post office had called to close the post office box.
Stepping out of the vehical he started towards the door, debating wether or not to just leave them or try and talk to her. He went to knock on the screen door,
“Hello.” a small voice commented form the lower part of the door.
“Hey there.” Christopher knelt down so he was at eye level through the screen with Quinn. Damn he looked alot like her. “Is it ok if i come in buddy?”
Quinn met his eyes and shook his head.
“Good boy” Christopher smirked, somthing else was familier about this kid, he was not Michales, that he could see. “I am going to leave these,” he held up the stack of envelopes “right here, tell your mommy there here ok?”
Quinn smiled “Yes Uncle Cwistapher.” he nodded and ran down the hallway “MOMMY!!” he yelled gleefully.