“I don’t get it,” Russell said. “Why us?”
Tall, dark, and handsome, Russell could have served as a poster boy for the modern FBI. He was smart too. And personable. Though he didn’t waste much of that personability on Adam.
“Murder on federal property,” Adam replied. Most of his attention was on the road ahead. It was starting to snow. Not hard, though it was sticking, and he wasn’t used to driving in these conditions. A born and bred California boy, he preferred sailing to skiing. He knew enough to know he didn’t have winter tires, and all the training in the world didn’t help when the other people on the road were idiots.
Not that there were a lot of other people on the road. Right there was probably an indication.
They’d arrived in Medford that afternoon, rented a car, and were now on their way to Nearby. The curator of a small museum at the edge of the national forest had been found dumped in a Native American exhibit with her throat cut. Sheriff McLellan had invited the FBI—and Adam personally—into the investigation.
It was hard to know what was bothering Russell more: that the Bureau had been dragged in, or that Adam had been requested. He asked again, “Why you? Why ask for you specifically?”
“I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out.” He was glad though. Grateful. It stung that his SAC had no hesitation in releasing him from the Ripper taskforce, but frankly it was a relief to get off morgue patrol. It wasn’t that he didn’t think they were doing useful work helping to compile the database of the Ripper’s victims for eventual possible federal prosecution. It was work a probationary agent could handle. Just about tolerable when he’d been partnered with Jonnie. He and J.J. Russell had been at odds from the moment they shook hands. Russell resented morgue patrol even more than Adam did, and Russell nearly was probationary. First office agent. Bu-ease for an agent who didn’t know enough to realize how little he knew.
Maybe what really bugged him about Russell was he reminded Adam too much of himself. Or at least the self he’d used to be.
“If they’re a substation then they’re too small to handle a homicide investigation, and they need to hand it off to the state police. Or to a larger sheriff department in the county,” Russell said.
Which was perfectly true.
“There’s nothing about this that justifies bringing in the Bureau.”
“Murder on federal property,” repeated Adam.
“We’re from Los Angeles. This is Portland’s case, if it’s anybody’s.”
“They asked for us. They requested our help. Portland signed off on it.”
“Because Portland doesn’t think it’s worth their time or manpower.”
Russell was probably right about that too. Adam said neutrally, “Maybe we should wait to draw any conclusions.”
Russell’s silence was stony.
So that was the drive from the airport. It took about an hour. Then another two minutes after they reached Nearby to locate the sheriff’s office tucked between the library and the optimistically named Tourist Center.
Over the past months Adam had been inside so many of these small town police departments and sheriff stations, he could have described the interior without ever opening the door. It was always the same setup: from the female deputy frustrated with being the one stuck manning the phones, to the bulletin board papered with the crimes and tragedies of distant metropolises. Be on the lookout for…other people’s problems. Because nothing bad ever happened in these small towns.
Until it did.
This time the deputy was tall and boyishly thin, with dark hair tied back in a tight ponytail that would be a liability in a street fight. Since she would probably spend most of her career doing paperwork and answering phones, her hair style was likely not a concern. Her eyes widened at the sight of Adam and Russell.
“Frankie!” she called without glancing at the identification Russell proffered.
From an office on the other side of the long wood-paneled building, Sheriff McLellan called back, “Yep?”
Russell put his identification back. Sheriff McLellan bustled out of her office to meet them. She was shorter, stouter, and redder than Adam remembered. “Thanks for coming on such short notice, Agent Darling.”
It was always short notice. Nobody planned for a murder or a kidnapping or a bank robbery. Adam shook hands and said, “Of course, Sheriff. This is Agent Russell.”
McLellan nodded a curt hello to Russell. She looked haggard. Like she hadn’t slept in forty-eight hours. Which was probably accurate. There were bags beneath her eyes and lines carved around her mouth. She pointed to the front desk deputy. “That’s Aggie. Deputy Hawkins. You know the rest of the team. Zeke is out interviewing residents of the homes nearest the museum. Unfortunately, we’ve got a number of vacation properties out that way with nobody home this time of year. Rob and I have been going over the crime scene photos.”
Adam didn’t like the way his pulse gave a kick at the mention of Deputy Haskell’s name. That was the last thing he needed. He’d enjoyed their previous encounter, but it had been a one off. It had to be.
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