read through the report. Unable to contain himself, one of the other men sitting at the table broke the silence with the question they’d all been wanting to ask.
“So, where do we go from here, sir? Is this the end? ”
Desoto looked up from his report and frowned.
“Officially, this part of the investigation is closed. Unofficially, Dawson, I’d like you to book me on a redeye to Winnipeg tonight. Oh, and by the way, you and Reese will be accompanying me.” Unspoken was the message that Reese had messed up so he was going to help clean up. The fact that he hated flying was of no interest to Agent Desoto.
And with that, the meeting was over. Desoto rose and left the room. As he walked the hall back to his office he was haunted by the picture in the newspaper clipping he’d found on their contact’s body the night of the hit and run . Though the hair was different, the woman in the clipping matched the woman who had entered their contact’s room moments before their contact was murdered.
And then there was the peculiar name to consider. Butterscotch Jones.
“Dawson,” he said as his subordinate passed in the hall.
“Tell me what you found on McIntyre’s Gulch.”
“Well, sir, very little actually,” Dawson lowered his voice. “The main thing about this place seems to be that everyone is either a McIntyre or a Jones.”
This wasn’t the best news, Desoto reflected, but with the woman’s red hair —
“And everyone has red hair.”
“Yes. That’s what our Canadian contacts report. All Jones es , McIntyres , and redheads.”
“Jesus! How inbred is this place?”
“Apparently very. Oh, and they have a bear problem. There have been several fatalities. ”
Desoto grunted, but he was undeterred by talk o f bears and Bigfoot. A wheel had come off Agent Desoto’s investigation because that stink bomb, Marcus Reese, had been trusted to watch the suspect and blew it. Now their reluctant witness was dead, and almost everyone up top wanted to give up on investigating this lead, but not Desoto. There was a reason they called him t he Pitbull.
Desoto also knew something that Dawson didn’t. Further digging with classified sources had paid off. It turned out that all kinds of interested parties had been soft-footing it around the little town in Canada for the last few months, some waving maple leaves, some stars and stripes. It was even possible that not everyone holding a flag was who they were pretending to be. To go in officially was to invite all kinds of bad attention, but an unofficial visit was another matter.
He had vacation coming. Desoto figured that if anyone asked he’d tell them that it was time he learned how to fish the great lakes of Canada . He just wouldn’t say for what.
Though exhausted , I was sleeping in a strange place, with strange noises, and with Chuck — which was nice, but different. In spite of wishing for a few hours of deep and dreamless, I was hovering in the twilight and therefor e heard the snap of something I took to be a lock.
Exc ept, I wasn’t really sure what his lock sounded like. And I had already woken Chuck when the ice maker dropped a load of cubes in the plastic tray and when the neighbor in an electric wheelchair bumped the front door. I figured three false alarms might be too many for even Chuck to forgive. I figured that our relationship had a short enough shelf life without these added aggravations.
If only Max was there. He’d tell me if someone was inside. He’d have told me if someone was outside.
I closed my eyes, but after a couple of minutes lying still and imagining that I heard muffled footsteps and the stealthy sliding of desk drawers, I decided that I just had to get up and check on things.
Moving slowly, I pushed back the covers and crept from the room. I tripped once over Chuck’s shoes and froze, but he kept on with the deep breathing and I sighed with relief. It was dumb , but I