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A Thousand Small Regrets, Ended

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Rachel tried hard not to roll her eyes as her counterpart in Clarksburg repeated for the third time just how very important it was that the U.S. Marshals Service apprehend Michael Bentley as soon as possible.

"I understand. We're doing everything we can," she said again into the phone, and carefully didn't point out that it hadn't been her people who lost Bentley in the first place. She wondered if Jackson had talked to Art this way too, and decided he might have--he seemed like that kind of blowhard.

She caught a flash of movement outside of her office: Tim and he was hovering, which meant he had something important to tell her. More important, anyway, than listening to a fourth reminder about how to do her damn job.

"All of my people have Bentley's description," she said, slipping smoothly into the gap when Jackson paused for breath. "I'll let you know when we have something for you."

Tim was inside just as soon as she hung up the phone, looking like the proverbial cat come to file a report on a missing canary.

"I thought you'd want to see this," he said, handing her a folder. "Got word this morning from a CI that a local gang's looking for outside help in getting rid of a government witness. Then a couple of hours ago, state troopers stopped a car at a routine traffic stop in Richmond and found a whole shitload of guns along with your usual garden variety assortment of illegal substances. They ran the occupants' prints, and it turns out both driver and passenger are suspects in a whole string of murders through Michigan and Ohio. It sounds like no one's ever managed to get enough on them to charge them, but everyone knows that they did it."

Definitely more interesting that talking to Jackson. "We're thinking these two might be the ones picking up the contract to go after our witness?"

"Well, they aren't talking, but it matches up with the intel from the CI. She says the Coakleys--they're the ones running the gang--have a meet with their hired help this evening in Frankfort to discuss matters."

"That seems rather coincidental," Rachel agreed. "What else?"

Tim's smile turned downright predatory. "She also says the Coakleys have never met these particular individuals."

Rachel understood now why Tim looked so pleased. "So we've got the meet time and place, and we know for sure that the actual hitters aren't going to show up."

Tim nodded. "Figured it might be a good chance to get a couple more of the Coakley brothers on conspiracy to commit murder charges."

"Alright. What do our would-be assassins look like?" Rachel asked. "Do we have anyone who can pass? The Coakleys may not have photos, but that doesn't mean they didn't get a description."

"One's your usual non-descript white guy." Tim said, "so we've only got about a dozen guys who can pass for him. The other might be a bit more challenging."

"Why's that?"

"Let's just say you're the only one in the office who could pull it off."

"This is why we encourage diversity in hiring," Rachel said. She flipped through the file Tim had given her, frowning. "Remind me who the Coakley brothers are?"

"Small-time," Tim said, "but apparently with big ambitions. They're mostly focused on the heroin trade, with a bit of prostitution thrown in on the side. There are five of them: Davis, Elijah, Casey, Hollis and Jimmy Paul. They tend to concentrate on western end of the state. Mayfield. Murray. Bowling Green. Louisville's been handling them, insofar as their activities have intersected with our interests."

"And the witness?" Rachel asked.

"Some poor fucker who happened to turn the wrong corner in Owensboro just as the oldest of the Coakley brothers was using a 9mm to solve a little drug payment dispute. The guy's apparently a straight citizen. No record. History professor at WKU. He was on his way to visit a friend, missed a turn, and ended up a few streets over from where he planned to be."

"Wrong place at the wrong time."

"Looks that way," Tim agreed.

"Do we have him in protective custody?"

"Louisville brought him in just as soon as we got word, but apparently, he's asking to be transferred here."

She couldn't remember ever hearing about a witness asking to be transferred to a specific office, unless they were so scared they were aiming for the other side of the country. "Why?"

"Dunno," Tim said, "but Chiarelli said he mentioned your name. Maybe you know him from somewhere?"

"Maybe." Rachel looked down at the file again, flipping until she found the page. She groaned when she saw it. "Oh, hell no."

Tim leaned forward so he could see the page she was looking at. "What? You know him?"

"I do." She looked down at the too-familiar picture, almost reaching out to touch it before she remembered and stilled her hand. "Their witness is my ex-husband."

*****

The downside of being chief deputy, Rachel mused, was that while it might give her more power in general, it also placed a hell of a lot of limitations on her own activities. For instance, it wasn't considered particularly advisable for the chief deputy to go undercover as an assassin-for-hire in order to track down the people who were aiming to kill a government witness, even when--perhaps particularly when--that government witness was her ex-husband. Which was why Deputy U.S. Marshal Hailey Brown was on her way down from the Indianapolis office, and Rachel was sitting behind her desk reviewing paperwork for the Westland case. Or at least trying to review paperwork, when she could tear her mind away from the man who was currently on his way in from Louisville.

There was a tap on her door and Rachel looked up, grateful for the distraction. Tim stepped inside, already dressed for his part in the operation, which had mostly meant taking off his tie and adding a battered leather jacket.

"Hailey Brown got caught in the tail-end of a pile-up on the I-75," he said. "She's okay, but she says there's no way she'll be here in time for the meet. She sends her apologies."

Rachel drew in a deep breath, trying to push back against the sudden spike of adrenaline surging through her. Hailey had been the only substitute for the second hitter they could find within a reasonable distance. If she couldn't make it, there was no one else they could bring in in time.

Tim echoed her thoughts. "I guess you're up after all." He didn't sound too broken up about it, and Rachel couldn't blame him. A marshal was a marshal, sisters- and brothers-in-arms every one of them, but undercover always worked better with someone you knew.

"Guess I'd better get ready, then," Rachel said, calm tone belying the buzz of excitement building in her belly. It was like releasing a breath she hadn't realized she was holding, finding out that she didn't have to sit this one out.

Tim flashed her a grin that suggested he wasn't fooled by her act at all, then his expression reshaped itself into something more serious. "One more thing. Your ex just got in. He wants to talk to you."

"Of course he does."

They'd stuck Sam in the smallest boardroom with a cup of coffee for company. Rachel paused outside, watching him as she steeled herself for their first conversation in four years. The years had been good to him. He'd shaved his head, but otherwise he looked much the same: still slim, still attractive in a bookish sort of way, and apparently still endlessly restless, judging by the way he was pacing the room. Rachel remembered sitting on their couch, watching as he paced their living room while trying to work out some problem or academic question. Later, when the problem had been them, he'd sat down to face her, but he'd still kept tapping his fingers or jiggling one leg and occasionally leaping to his feet, as if both brain and mouth were powered by the movement of the rest of his body.

She'd been expecting some sort of reaction to seeing him again. The same overwhelming anger that had marked their separation, or sorrow over the life lost to her or even a resurgence of the love that had led to that impulsive marriage in the first place. Instead, all she felt was a kind of wistful nostalgia coupled with mild regret.

Maybe this wouldn't be as bad as she'd thought.

She knocked on the door and opened it without waiting for a reply.

"Sam," she said, leaning against the doorjamb with her best inscrutable expression firmly in place.

He stopped and spun at the sound of her voice. He looked startled, like he hadn't really believed she'd come, and then his face shifted into a slow-blooming, hesitant smile--the same smile he'd worn the first time he'd asked her out. The smile that had slipped through her defenses and won her heart, once upon a time. Funny how a smile that used to warm her through could have absolutely no effect now.

He shoved his hands in his pockets. "Hey," he said softly, uncertainly.

"I heard you wanted to see me."

"Yeah, I just…" He stopped and swallowed, then tried again. "You look good, Rachel."

"You wanted to see me so you could judge how well I've held up?" She arched an eyebrow, letting him know exactly what she thinks of that comment.

"No, of course not," he said immediately. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean...I wanted to say thank you for help. And I also wanted to congratulate you. I heard you were promoted to chief deputy."

"Thank you," Rachel said, and then, because she really was curious, "Why did you want to come to this office?" She'd thought Sam would do just about anything to avoid facing her again. She certainly had expected him to willingly place himself in her path.

"Because I value my life," he said, "and I know you're the best there is."

So apparently the one thing that would overcome Sam's fear of her--of facing the consequences of his actions--was fear of death. But at least he'd never lacked respect for her skills. "You'll be fine," she said. "We've got this."

He hesitated again, then added, "I also heard you're going out. Undercover."

"Did you?" That annoyed her and she wondered who'd told him. Not Tim, certainly. Maybe one of the new additions? She'd have to look into that later. Maybe have a talk about discretion.

"Be careful."

Familiar words. She gave him the familiar response. "I always am."

*****

"How long has it been since you saw him?" Tim asked on the drive to Frankfort.

"Not since the divorce was finalized," Rachel said. Long enough that it mostly seemed like a bad dream now. When she thought about it at all.

Tim was watching her, curiosity clear on his face. "You must have only been married for--"

"Six months," Rachel said. Art had been the only one from the office that she'd invited to the ceremony. She'd thought about asking a couple of others, but asking some meant asking everyone or dealing with drama later, and the wedding had necessarily been small, given that they'd planned the whole thing in under a month. Anyway, she hadn't been all that keen on mixing her private and professional lives. "We dated for six months and then we were married for six months." Only a year of her life in total, but disproportionate in its effect. She glanced away from the road long enough to give Tim a wry smile that acknowledged the irony of the situation. Cautious, by-the-book Rachel Brooks, so swept off her feet that she'd thrown caution to the wind and married a man she'd only known a few months. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Tim leaned his head against the window, turned a little so he could see her. "So did he step out on your, or did he raise his hand to you?"

"Those the only reasons you can think of to end a marriage?"

"Those are the only reasons I can think of for you to file for divorce six months after you married a man," Tim said.

She sometimes forgot how well Tim knew her. Being promoted to chief deputy had been the fulfillment of some longstanding ambitions, but it had also imposed a barrier between her and the deputies she worked with--subtle, but very definitely there. She sometimes missed just being one of them, instead of the boss.

"He cheated," she said. "Even before we were married, as I found out later." There had been a few other rough spots that had emerged over the short months of their marriage, but that had been the one that had ended all hope of reconciliation. Or maybe there'd never been hope; she still wasn't sure. "I ran a background check on him when we first started going out, but some things don't show up on those reports."

"Be easier if they did," Tim said. "Or if people would just announce that they're assholes before we get tangled up with them."

"Is that personal experience talking?" Rachel asked, half curious--Tim was probably the only person in the office more reticent about his personal life than she was--and half eager to seize any excuse get away from discussion of her failed marriage.

"Not like that," Tim said. "It turned out we had different ideas about what our relationship meant and where it was going. If I'd known, I might have made some different choices."

She couldn't tell if it had really been as casual as his tone suggested or if that was his way of steering clear of personal discussion, but she suspected it was all she was going to get unless she pushed harder than she had any right to, so she let it go. "Some people don't know a good thing when they see it."

"No, they do not," he agreed.

"Let's go over the background again," Rachel said.

Tim lifted his head from the window and flipped open the folder in his lap. "Our hitters are Marlene Jones and Greg Abernathy, both apparently Michigan natives. We don't have a lot of background on them, but I don't imagine they go around discussing their childhoods with their clients anyway."

"I hope not," Rachel said. "I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I can pull off a Michigan accent."

"I guess we'll just have to hope they never spoke on the phone then," Tim said. He looked down at the file again. "By all accounts, they aren't all that sophisticated. They're mostly your standard shoot 'em down types with just enough sense to wear gloves and masks and take a look around for witnesses before they start firing. Oh, and apparently they always get paid in cash, which is also probably for the best given their chosen profession."

"Then let's just hope the Coakleys brought the money with them," Rachel said.

They pulled up to the diner identified by the CI just as the sun was setting. Dunlop and Peterson pulled in behind them and clambered out, already scanning the scene with professional assurance. Four deputy marshals against a small-time gang had been overkill in Tim's estimation, but Rachel wanted to be sure. Forty minutes was a long time to wait for backup in a gunfight.

A quick discussion sent Dunlop and Peterson around to the back to locate the exits while Rachel and Tim headed inside.

The interior was marked by red vinyl and white tiles and menus that looked like they hadn't changed--or been wiped down--in a decade. Rachel found herself wiping her hands on her pants just looking at them. It was empty apart from a couple of white-haired men at the counter nursing their coffees, and a single waitress who barely glanced up from her magazine as they walked through. It struck Rachel as almost a parody of the type of place where these kinds of deals were supposed to go down.

"Maybe the Coakleys have a sense of humor," Tim suggested when she said as much to him.

"Or they watch a lot of old movies."

"Well, at least we won't have too many bystanders to worry about."

They had none, as it turned out, apart from the inattentive waitress. The two coffee drinkers cleared out an hour before the scheduled meet, and although a few pedestrians peered through the windows, none of them went inside.

"It's almost like they know," Dunlop said as yet another person paused in front of the diner, then kept walking.

"Know they're liable to get food poisoning if they go in there, you mean," Tim replied.

"I thought you army guys ate anything," Peterson said.

"We did," Tim said. "That's how I know what to avoid."

Half an hour before the scheduled meet, Dunlop and Peterson went inside to claim a booth, and Rachel and Tim drove a couple of blocks down the street to avoid spooking their targets. They didn't have to wait long--Dunlop texted soon after to tell them that the Coakleys had arrived.

Rachel and Tim gave them a few minutes to settle in, then returned to the diner join them.

The brothers had taken up position in a booth near the door, well away from Dunlop and Peterson. Three of them had come out for this, Rachel noted with satisfaction, which meant that with luck, there'd only be one left to worry about after tonight.

She and Tim headed straight for their table, each of them taking a different side of the booth so as to impede a quick exit. Three sets of blue eyes turned their way with identical expressions of suspicion. Rachel folded her arms and waited, meeting their gaze impassively. Across the table, Tim just looked amused, but Rachel noticed he had his hands folded in his lap.

It was Casey who finally spoke, twisting sideways so that he could face Tim. "You people from Detroit?"

"That's right," Rachel said evenly. She didn't really care whether they talked to Tim or her--being underestimated by these types was background irritation--but even pushing them slightly off-balance could be useful.

Casey shifted gears quickly, switching over to her. "You don't sound like you're from Detroit."

"Never said we were born there," she replied. "That's just where we work."

Hollis glanced over at Tim from beside Rachel. "Do you always let her talk for you?"

"Do you always act like an asshole?" Tim asked affably. His hands, Rachel noted, were still below the table. So were Hollis's and Casey's.

The third brother, Elijah, directed a warm smile toward Rachel. "I'm sure the lady knows what's what." His hands, she noticed, were clearly visible. She mentally tagged him the brains of the operation. A replacement for the jailed eldest Davis, or was Elijah the one who generally ran things?

She decided it was time to direct them to a new topic. "The lady would like to know why she was called all the way down here from Detroit."

"You already know why you're here," Casey said impatiently. "People only call you for one reason, don't they?"

"We like to confirm the details in person," Tim said. "Helps to avoid misunderstandings."

"I can imagine it does," Elijah said. "Shall we get down to business, then?"

"Let's," Rachel said.

"The first thing you should know," Elijah said, "is that we've run into a bit of a problem."

"What kind of problem?" Rachel asked.

"The individual of...interest, shall we say, is missing."

"Missing?" That was quick work, if the Coakleys had already figured that out, and she upped her estimation of their operation. They'd only brought Sam in earlier that day.

"Vanished from his home this very day," Elijah replied.

"Maybe he just went out drinking after work," Tim said. "I hear some people like to do that. Sometimes they even stay out late."

"I had thought that might be the case," Elijah said, "but when I met you, I realized there was a more likely explanation."

"And what's that?" Rachel asked. Casey and Hollis, she noticed, were exchanging confused looks across the table. Whatever Elijah was plotting, he apparently hadn't shared it with his brothers.

"It's possible," Elijah said, "that someone--the U.S. Marshals Service, for example--may have gotten the mistaken idea that someone intended to do harm to this gentleman, and thus spirited him into protective custody. Though of course, you would know more about that than I."

"What the hell are you talking about, Elijah?" Hollis asked.

"I'm talking about the fact that our two companions are almost certainly not our friends from Detroit, and therefore must presumably be some flavour of law enforcement, since I can't imagine why anyone else would show up here."

"They're cops?" Casey said, outrage giving force to his voice. His hand fell to his gun. Rachel reached for her own in response, adrenaline surging, but before she pulled it, Elijah laid his hand over his brother's.

"Relax," Elijah said. "We're just having a conversation here. Aren't we, officers? Or perhaps I should say deputies?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Rachel said, but without real conviction. It was pretty clear that one way or another, their cover had been blown.

"Oh, I think you do," Elijah said. "I'm quite sure of it." He stood up and his brothers scrambled to follow. "I think we're done here."

Rachel exchanged a sour look with Tim as they reluctantly stood and stepped out of the booth. "I guess we are," she said. Across the diner, Dunlop and Peterson were standing up too, clearly confused. She caught Dunlop's eye and shook her head. Elijah followed her gaze back, nodded, and headed out the door.

"What the hell happened?" Dunlop asked, coming over to join them.

"We were blown," Tim said. "I don't know what we did, but--"

"Maybe it wasn't us," Rachel said.

"What do you mean?"

"You said the assassins only get paid in cash," she said. "Notice what those boys weren't carrying?"

"Any sort of bag that might be used to transport a large amount of money," Tim said, catching on.

"Could be it's in the car," Peterson said. "Or maybe they were planning on finalizing things later."

"Sam--the witness--is scheduled to testify in two days," Rachel said. "They don't have a lot of time for finalizing things. So yeah, it could have been in their car, or it could have been that Elijah knew coming in that we weren't the hitters from Detroit."

"You think the stateys slipped up and let someone have a phone call?" Tim asked.

"Or our CI is playing both sides or the Coakleys have someone else on their payroll," Rachel said. "It doesn't matter right now. What does matter is finding another way to keep Sam safe and take down the Coakleys." She glanced over at the waitress, who had shifted from her magazine to her cell phone. "Let's get out of here. We can talk back at the office."

*****

"They're going to have to try again." Rachel circled her office, trying to ignore the roiling in her stomach that had been building the entire drive back. "If they went to all the trouble of hiring help from Detroit, they're not going to give up now."

"We'll keep him safe," Tim said, spinning his chair to keep her in sight. "Like you said, he testifies in two days. We can stick him in a safe house until then."

"Which will be fine unless we really do have a leak somewhere," Rachel said.

"I thought you meant a leak state-side," Tim said. "Do you really think someone in our office is working for the Coakleys?"

"I hope not," Rachel said, "but no group is completely immune. Besides, it's not just deputies here."

"Alright. We can set a trap. Make sure word leaks and see who comes running." He must have caught something in her expression, because he added, "Or we can send him back to Louisville. He's really their problem anyway."

Rachel forced herself to sit down. "No," she said. "This is on us. Let's set the trap."

"I'll set it up," Tim said, standing.

She went in herself to tell Sam about the safe house--echoes of the days when she'd made a point of waking him when she got home late, so that he would know she'd made it through the day unscathed, though she was no longer concerned about alleviating his concern.

"So I just sit tight and wait for two days," Sam said. "Surrounded by armed deputy marshals."

"You'll be fine," Rachel said, trying to keep the conversation short and professional. "You're a civilian, so after you testify, they won't have any reason to come after you." She sincerely hoped that was true.

She didn't tell him about the trap element.

"No reason to worry him unnecessarily," she told Tim.

"I thought he might object," Tim said. "Not being allowed to go home and all."

Rachel shook her head. "Sam was never big on false bravado. If we tell him to stay somewhere, he'll stay." It had been one of the things she'd liked about him--how different he was from the men she worked with, not one of whom would have stood by and let other people protect him, no matter how much good sense dictated they should. She'd taken it for admirable pragmatism at the time. Later, she'd come to wonder if it wasn't reflective of a certain degree of physical cowardice, mirroring the emotional and moral cowardice that had led him to wander rather talk about their problems. She hadn't known then how much she'd come to despite him for that--not the avoidance of physical danger, but the avoidance of difficult conversations.

She'd planned to head over in the morning and check in, but other cases and a couple of emergencies kept her at the office until late in the evening.

The house was mostly dark when she got there. She followed the single light to the kitchen, where Tim was sitting at the table, reading. Rachel set down the coffee she'd brought and handed him a cup.

"Where are Dunlop and Peterson?" she asked, taking the chair across from him.

"Making the rounds," he said. "They'll be back soon."

"Everything quiet?"

"So far."

"Hopefully things will get a little more exciting soon," she said.

"That's alright," Tim said. "I've been making good progress on my book." He held up a thick, red paperback with what Rachel thought was a dragon on the cover.

"I'm glad you're using the time productively," she said, curling her fingers around her coffee. Lacking a book of her own, she studied the kitchen. It was surprisingly pleasant, with terra cotta walls and pale cupboards. Homey, even. Not entirely dissimilar from the kitchen in the house she'd shared with Sam.

"Do you ever think about getting married?" she asked.

"First I'd have to find someone willing to stick around for more than one night," Tim said dryly.

"Well, if they all leave after one night, maybe you're doing something wrong," Rachel said.

"Raylan once said something similar."

Rachel laughed. "That's probably not who you want to take your dating advice from. Though I guess I'm not one to talk. At least Raylan managed to get his marriage to last for, what? Eight years?"

"And then convinced her to try again," Tim said.

"I wonder if that ever works," Rachel said. "Getting back together after you break up."

"Far as I know, it's still working for them." Tim took a sip from his coffee, watching her over the edge of the cup. "Why? Are you thinking of trying again with Sam?"

"No," Rachel said firmly. "There are certain types of betrayals you just don't forgive." She paused, listening to a passing gust of wind. "I get why Winona did it, though. It's amazing how easy it is to forget the bad stuff and remember the good after you've been separated for a while." And there had been a lot of good. Laughter and dates and flowers and the warm comfort of coming home to an inhabited house.

"Do you still love about him?"

"No," Rachel said. She wasn't sure she could have said that before seeing him again. Love and anger had been so intertwined for a time that she'd been convinced they were both permanent, but it turned out that time and space had taken care of both. "But I sure loved him then. For a while I told myself it was all an illusion. That he figured out what I wanted to hear and spun into a fantasy and he never really cared at all. But it wasn't. It didn't live up to the dream, but the good stuff--that was real. It just wasn't enough."

"I've never made it that far," Tim said. "It always seemed easier to keep the dream a dream. Less chance of disappointment that way."

She'd wondered about that sometimes--why Tim, who seemed perfectly eligible apart from a tendency toward drink that wasn't terribly uncommon in these parts, had seemingly remained single the entire time she'd known him. Or if he hadn't, he'd never once talked about it. She sometimes wondered if he was hiding his relationships, or hiding something else.

"Honestly," she said, "I'm not sure it would have worked out even if he hadn't been a lying, cheating bastard. But at least that made it easy."

"You know, I wouldn't have pegged him for that, looking at him," Tim said.

"Neither did I," said Rachel. "I think that's why it took me so long to catch on." She could still remember the moment she'd realized--the undeniable evidence in the form of lingerie that most definitely did not belong to her, and the profound feelings of betrayal. Though at least he'd had the honesty to admit it when she confronted him. "Maybe the whole thing was just massive one act of self-deception."

"Maybe all relationships involve a certain degree of self-deception."

"Maybe they do," Rachel said. Something tugged at the edge of perception...a sound that shouldn't be there. She straightened up, hand falling to her gun, ears straining. "Did you hear that?"

Tim was already on his feet, gun drawn. "You go left, I'll head right?"

"Let's do it."

They made it as far as the front hall before the door crashed inward. Rachel counted two masked men coming in, which meant there were probably two more floating around somewhere else. Unless they'd decided two were enough.

"Well, they ain't going for subtle," Tim said, taking cover around the corner as the intruders started shooting. In the back of the house, there was the sound of breaking glass. Rachel spun so that she back-to-back with Tim, confident in both their skills, and waited for the second wave of the attack.

"Go," he said, leaning around the corner to fire at the gunmen. "I've got this."

She moved, quick and careful, down the hall toward the bedrooms. She caught sight of a beam of light from one of them, and ducked to the side of the door before peering in quickly. Two dark figures were in there, one at the empty bed and one at the equally empty closet. Neither was looking toward the door.

Drawing in a deep breath, Rachel stepped into the doorway. "U.S. Marshals Service," she said clearly. "Drop your weapons."

The figure by the bed turned, gun raised, and Rachel fired twice. He dropped silently. The one by the closet screamed and Rachel turned in his direction.

"Unless you want to join your brother," she said, "put that gun down."

Slowly, the second man lowered his gun.

"On your belly with your hands behind your head," she said, still aiming carefully. When he hesitated, she added, "The sooner I get you secure, the sooner I can look at your brother's injuries." She didn't have much hope that he'd still be alive, but the logic seemed to work. The man lay down.

"Everything all right?" Tim said from the doorway.

"Yeah," Rachel said, cuffing the one who'd surrounded. She pulled his mask off: Casey. "But we're going to need an ambulance."

"Already called one for the guys up front," Tim said.

"They alive?"

"Elijah is," Tim said. "Jimmy Paul's gone." He looked down at figure on the floor--Hollis, presumably--and then knelt down to check his injuries. "I guess they decided to handle things themselves this time."

"Looks that way," Rachel said, kneeling down to help Tim apply pressure to injuries that would probably kill Hollis before he reached the hospital. In the distance, she could hear the sirens, and then noise in the hall. Probably Dunlop and Peterson.

"I talked to Wainwright and he says it's all quiet on their end," Tim said, "but if you want to go see for yourself--"

Not an offer he would have made if it had been just any witness, and one she would have taken for anyone else. She shook her head. "That can wait."

*****

She was on leave while under investigation for the shooting, so she couldn't officially drive Sam to the courthouse herself, but she did make a point of being there when he arrived. He was her responsibility, after all, and so she ought to see for herself that he was okay. Even if he had been tucked safely in a safe house a mile away from the one the Coakleys had hit.

He smiled when he saw her. "Everything okay?" he asked, stepping away from the two Louisville office deputy marshals who were escorting him.

"Fine," she said. "I just wanted to make sure you got here in one piece."

"It was a completely unremarkable two days," he said. "I got a lot of grading done. I heard you arrested the rest of the gang?"

Rachel nodded. "They're all joining their brother in lock-up." The living ones, anyway.

"That's good," he said. He shifted his weight, clearly uncomfortable, then glanced back at his escort, both waiting patiently, scanning the courthouse for threats. "I should--"

"Yeah," Rachel said, stepping back. "Good luck."

"Thanks," he said. He started to turn, then stopped, and added, "You know, if you ever want to get a cup of coffee--"

Not words she'd ever expected to hear from him, the man who eager to escape consequences that he'd pretty much given her everything she wanted in the divorce.

"I don't think so," Rachel said, "but thanks."

He nodded. "Alright," he said, and fell into step with the deputies, heading toward the courtroom.

She turned away before he was out of sight.