Rachel is late. Only a little bit, because her favorite coffee place is about three minutes away from the office; but there was a line today, and Rachel will give up a fresh hot caramel latte when it is pried from her cold dead hands. She'll drink office coffee when she's desperate, when a case is running through the night and the words in the files are starting to blur, but when she has a choice between office coffee and being eight and a half minutes late? She'll be eight and a half minutes late, thank you.
Maybe it's being eight and a half minutes late or maybe it's just good luck, but either way the elevator up from parking is empty. Rachel loves an empty elevator, loves the quiet—loves the way she can stand right in the middle, take up all that space like it's hers without anybody looking at her sideways.
She let her coffee sit while she was in the car. She doesn't drink them while she's driving, for reasons that have more to do with the chance of accidentally spilling hard-earned lattes than anything else. But when she sips it in the elevator it's still hot, not quite enough to burn her tongue but enough to make it sting. She closes her eyes and swallows slowly, and doesn't open her eyes again until the elevator dings.
There's nothing like the first sip of a good coffee in an empty elevator, and Rachel's kind of tempted to ride it back down to parking for her second. But she's eight and a half minutes late and she's got work to do. The elevator doors slide open, and Rachel adjusts the lid on her coffee and steps out.
Tim is there already—Rachel scans his face for tight lines, hard angles, the things that mean he's the first one in because he woke up at 2 AM gasping and wanted to be in the office more than he wanted to go back to sleep; and Tim looks up and sees her doing it and lets her, so it must not have been one of the bad nights after all. Rachel feels the tension in her shoulders ease. Maybe he was just on time—she is eight and a half minutes late.
She shouldn't worry about him so much, but she does. Even aside from how they work together and trust each other and all, she just plain likes him too much not to. Tim's earned his nightmares fair and square, she knows that, but she still wishes there were something she could do about it. She figures she wouldn't be a marshal if she didn't take so readily to looking after people, protecting them; and she cares about Tim.
Maybe a little too much, even. But Art's never said anything; and Raylan doesn't exactly have the high ground to call her on it, given that Tim's neither a witness nor a criminal.
"Slept in, Deputy Marshal Brooks?" Tim says, smile quick and bright and crammed up all crooked in one corner of his mouth.
"If I had," Rachel says, "I'd still be there." Rachel gets up at the first shriek of her alarm precisely because she knows better than to trust herself with a snooze button—she'd end up keeping hours like Raylan if she let herself.
She sets her coffee down on her desk and turns on her computer; Tim spins his chair around to follow. "Coffee line, then," he says after a moment, deducing, and when she looks at him he flicks a finger in the direction of her cup. "Don't know how you can stand that stuff. Three-quarters sugar—"
"As opposed to you and the tar," Rachel says—that's what she and Tim call the stuff that comes out of the office machine, when they're out of Art's earshot. It's an old argument, comfortable; Rachel rolls her eyes at Tim and doesn't mean it and it's like putting on a favorite pair of slippers, like drinking iced tea from one of the glasses that used to be your gramma's at the end of a hot day.
"It's a nostalgia thing," Tim says. "Tastes like long nights and paperwork. Should think you'd like it more."
"I do paperwork, I don't eat it," Rachel says, taking another sip of her coffee, and then she sets the cup down again so she can type in her password. "Raylan here yet?"
"I'm going to assume that was rhetorical," Tim says, "unless you're asking because there were bullet holes in the elevator."
"Sometimes he's on time," Rachel says. Which is true; but Rachel doesn't mind the days when he isn't. Raylan has a habit of making things exciting—and Rachel's got no quarrel with exciting, but sometimes there's work that just can't get done except by sitting at a desk. And if Raylan's not here yet, maybe Rachel will actually have time to do some of it.
Tim makes a dubious face and then swivels his chair back around to face his own desk. "By the way," he says, "I stole your pen."
Tim can't hold onto a pen more than two hours at a time. Rachel may or may not keep multiple spare boxes of Bics in her desk. "Somehow I'll manage," Rachel says.
She gets a good couple hours in before Raylan does arrive, sweeping in through the main doors with his hat tipped low like maybe he has a hangover, or possibly something to tell Art that he'd rather not look Art in the eye for. "Morning," he says, when he reaches their desks.
"Morning," Tim says.
"You in trouble?" Rachel says.
Underneath his hat somewhere, she's pretty sure Raylan winces. "Going to be," he says. "But he probably won't shoot me."
"Stand in front of the plate glass," Rachel says. "He won't want to risk it," and that, at last, makes Raylan smile, tiny smartass quirk at the edge of his mouth.
"I'll keep that under advisement," he says, dry as bones, and then tips his hat with a finger and heads for Art's office.
Sure enough, there's some yelling; but not as much as there sometimes is, and when Raylan comes back out he looks sheepish instead of angry. "Could've gone worse," he says to Rachel, philosophical, and then his phone rings.
Rachel glances sideways: Tim's watching Raylan answer his phone with a speculative look. Rachel hides a smile, leaning over an open file drawer and pretending to look for something. It's the last day of the month; if Raylan doesn't shoot someone today, Tim's going to be buying Rachel's coffee for the next week.
She and Tim have a tab that runs back as long as Tim's been in Lexington—before Raylan arrived, they used to bet on Art. In the top left drawer of Rachel's desk, underneath the spare pens, there's a wrinkled piece of printer paper scribbled with at least three different colors of ink and one mechanical pencil. Tim still owes Rachel three lunches, one check-in with a CI of her choice, and two excuses to Art about why she's out of the office for an afternoon; Rachel still owes Tim a sixpack.
"Five minutes," Tim murmurs, "tops, and he's gone."
"Four hours," Rachel predicts, "and we will be, too." That's about as long as it ever takes for the shit Raylan's unexpected phone calls usually lob to hit the fan.
"Three," Tim says, eyeing Raylan assessingly: he's turned his back to them, moved a few steps away, and he's talking rapidly into the phone. Even the back of his hat looks annoyed.
Rachel considers it.
"Truthful answer to a question?" Rachel offers.
"Choice of at least three questions," Tim counters.
"Done," Rachel says, and opens her drawer to add it to the sheet.
Five minutes later, Raylan has long since left the office doors swinging behind him; and ten minutes after that, Art comes out of his office, glances back and forth, and then says, "Aw, hell, where's he gone now?"
"Didn't say," Tim says, pokerfaced.
"Dammit," Art says, resigned, and then points a finger at Rachel. "All right, you—probably safer all around, anyway."
"Me," Rachel repeats leadingly.
"Got a witness in Winchester," Art says. "Temporary placement, she's only ours 'til they can move her out of state, but we've had to shift her twice already. It's a big case, and there's already guys on her, but she keeps calling in about somebody hanging around on the street. I want you to talk to her, get a better idea whether she's right, 'cause if she is we better move her again."
"Got it," Rachel says.
"Get your things, I'll get you the file," Art says. "And take one of the regular cars. If she's wrong, the last thing she needs is us driving an official marshals service vehicle up to her front door to make her right."
Rachel pages through the file in the elevator, and then gets the keys for one of the basic office cars and sits in it for ten minutes, reading through everything more carefully. If she had Tim along, she'd make him drive, and she'd spend the whole way to Winchester soaking the whole thing in—but what Art wants isn't complicated enough to need Tim; and it isn't complicated enough that she needs to memorize the file, either.
Rachel hates the traffic on Route 60; 1927 may be curvy, but she's driven it before and the road's clear and dry today, nobody but Rachel and the pickup behind her once she gets out of Lexington.
She rolls the window down, turns on the radio—it feels kind of like being in a play, half her brain still conscious that these things could help her not scream "federal marshal" at everybody she passes when she gets to Winchester. But it's a nice day, and the radio's playing something low and sweet and familiar, Billie Holiday or maybe Bessie Smith.
She's about ten minutes outside Lexington when it happens: she comes around one of the less-friendly turns and there's something in the road. Sizable, big enough that Rachel can't get around it except by going into the other lane, and there's a truck coming.
She hits the brakes hard. The pickup behind her was gaining on her, maybe thinking about passing on the next straight section, and Rachel's closed her eyes and braced herself before the truck even hits her bumper.
For a split second the seatbelt turns into iron, knocking the breath clean out of her, and somewhere next to her the file folder on Olivia Porter smacks into the dash with a manila thwap and then falls apart all over the passenger footwell. The impact's not enough to set off the airbag; the worst it's going to be is the bruises on Rachel's chest and knees, and whatever dent the pickup's managed to put in the bumper.
Rachel tries to take a deep breath and fails, ribs clenching up in a little almost-spasm—the bruising, she thinks, making her chest seize up, and she tries again and this time it works. She almost came to a full stop, but not quite, and the impact with the truck rolled her even further; she hits the brakes again and stops the car entirely.
The pickup's stopped behind her, too, and somebody's getting out—if she's lucky it's to see whether she's okay, and if she's unlucky it's to cuss her out for bending their fender. She turns down Billie Holiday and thinks dazedly about getting out her gun—some people round here take their pickup trucks really, really seriously—and then she rolls down her window and looks out at a very startled man and the business end of the rifle he's holding.
Maybe she should have gotten out her gun after all.
"Shit," the guy says, sounding downright surprised. "Aw, shit."
Rachel closes her eyes for a second and then glances out the windshield: the thing in the road is a goddamn sandbag, maybe two, and the truck in the other lane has stopped right next to it. Not a marshal, Rachel thinks, don't be a marshal, because what are the odds she'd just happen to get carjacked on the way to see a witness who's already had to be moved twice? If these shitheads set this up on this road because they hoped they were going to get a certain address in Winchester—
She holds up her hands and starts babbling. "Oh, God—mister, look, I didn't mean to cause you any trouble, I got insurance—"
The guy reaches with his free hand to scratch the back of his neck, looking oddly sheepish. "Yeah, all right, lady—look, I ain't trying to scare you, okay? I—we thought you was somebody else. You just—fuck, lady, you can't call the cops, okay?"
"Oh, for fuck's sake—what'll you do, make her pinky swear? Take her damn keys, you dumb shit!"
It's the guy from the second truck—he yells this out the driver's side window, and then he opens the door and starts to get out.
The first guy looks back and nods, acknowledging. "Right, right, sure—"
"She can fucking walk back to Lexington, she wants to tell the cops so bad," the other guy says, slamming his door shut. "By the time they get out here we'll be long gone."
"Sure, okay," says the first guy, and he tips the rifle back to prop it against his shoulder and starts reaching in with his free hand.
Rachel never finished lowering the window, and they're automatic. She waits until the guy's arm is halfway in, reaching down around the wheel and motioning for her keys, and then she jams her finger in and yanks the window switch up.
"Hey! What the fuck," the guy says, yanking his arm back, but he's not quite fast enough. The window motor's not strong enough to sever anything, but the noise he makes when the window closes on the heel of his hand is followed by a string of extremely loud swears, and if nothing in his hand got fractured by that, Rachel will eat Olivia Porter's file.
Rachel lets go of the window control, praying the window will stay where it is, and braces her feet against the door, opening it into the guy and shoving it outward at him with both legs—he stumbles back, but can't go far with his hand trapped in the window, and he shouts with pain a second time at the jerk of it when he tries to fall further than his hand will let him.
She's leaning half out of the car, and she reaches sideways for the window switch again—she lowers it now and he'll fall down, won't care about anything except his hand, and then she can slam the door shut and get the hell out of here, even if she has to drive halfway into the ditch—
Something hits her, sharp pain at the back of her head, and then nothing.
Rachel comes to somewhere dim and stuffy, with her cheek pressed to something pleasantly cool—linoleum, she thinks, or tile. Her hands are chilly; she notices that first, and then realizes it's because of whatever her wrists are tied up with, not exactly cutting off her circulation but making it sluggish. It's scratchy, probably just cheap rope. Either they didn't search her well enough to find her cuffs, or else—
"A marshal? Jesus fuck!"
"But it's okay, Morris, we got her—ow!" The first voice wasn't one Rachel recognized, but this one sounds like the guy who had the rifle. "My hand!" Definitely the guy with the rifle.
"We done like you told us, Morris," and that's the other guy, the smarter one. "Ain't our fault it was the wrong broad in the car."
"It ain't that it's the wrong broad, Pete," says Morris, "it's that it's the wrong goddamn car. I gave you the description, I gave you that bitch's license—"
"And we got it!" says the guy with the rifle—not Pete, Rachel thinks, the other one—and there's a sound like ruffling paper. "We got it—I got it right here where you wrote it down, small gray car, 912—"
"912?" says Morris. "912! That's a seven, asshole! Christ! What the fuck is wrong with you?"
"A seven—there ain't no line in the middle," protests not-Pete. "You write a seven, you ought to put a line in the middle, Morris, everybody knows that—"
"Shut up right now or I swear to God almighty I will shoot you in the face," says Morris, who clearly left the outer limits of his patience in the rearview a few miles back. Rachel hears the sound of boots against a floor not too far away—he's pacing, maybe—and then he lets out a gusty sigh. "So you're telling me Mary Grace is still out there somewhere in our car, with our coke, and meantime you kidnapped a federal goddamn marshal out of her car and she's tied up in the bathroom."
"Yep," Pete admits.
"Jesus fuck," Morris says, in a tone that's muffled by the bathroom door but sounds almost awestruck to Rachel. "Okay—okay. Pete, this is what you got to do."
"You go on back to Lexington," Morris says, "and you tell them we ain't got it back yet. Tell them she got away from you on the road, tell them Jimmy's following her 'til he finds a good spot to set her up—tell them any damn thing you like as long as it gets us a little more time. You got that?"
"What about me?" says probably-Jimmy, hapless.
"What about you!" Morris cries. "You take a long goddamn walk off a short goddamn pier, that's what you do—"
"I don't think they got no piers at the reservoirs, Morris," says probably-Jimmy, uncertain. "There another lake round here?"
Rachel presses her face a little harder against the bathroom tile and tries not to roll her eyes. She's got a concussion for sure, and her head's throbbing; rolling her eyes will only make it worse.
When she shifts back the other way, she can see that she's left a smear on the tile—blood, she thinks, but Jimmy had his hand stuck in the window, it was Pete who hit her, and he hit her in the back of the head, didn't he? She closes her eyes, tries to think it through; there's a knot aching away back there, sure enough, but the blood on her forehead must've come from something else. Maybe she came to on the way to wherever the hell this is and one of them hit her again. She can't remember.
But she does remember the things probably-Jimmy said to her back on the road: we thought you was somebody else. At the time she'd figured maybe he'd bought it—maybe they'd set that trap for a marshal and thought they'd sprung it on the wrong person. But now—Mary Grace? Cocaine? They know she's a marshal, and the last thing they are is happy about it.
Rachel ought to be pissed, maybe, that whatever this is seems to have nothing to do with Olivia Porter. But at least that means she's safe in Winchester—at least that means that maybe there isn't anybody after her, today.
The Stooges are still at it in the other room, Morris hissing something that's probably uncomplimentary and then raising his voice again. "Go check on the goddamn marshal and make sure she ain't dead, because that is a load of shit ain't none of us need right now. I got to make some calls."
"Yes, Morris," probably-Jimmy says.
She listens to his footsteps—there's more of them than she was expecting given how well she could hear Morris and Pete and probably-Jimmy talking, and the footsteps get quieter and then louder again. Must be a hallway between, some kind of corner to go around.
She's not going to jump him when he opens the door. Her hands are tied; she could headbutt him, maybe, if he's not too tall, but her head is already aching fit to split. The last thing this day needs is a cracked skull on top. But she rolls until she's against the side of the bathtub, closes her eyes against a burst of nausea and then levers herself up 'til she's sitting. It's stupid, probably, but all the same she'd rather be upright than lying on the floor when he comes through that door.
The knob turns, and Jimmy really is the guy who had the rifle: there's a hasty bandage wrapped around his hand, holding what looks like a bag of frozen peas to the back and around the side, and when he looks at her with startlement, it's easy to recognize him. "You ain't dead," he says. "Thank God. Morris would've shot me for sure this time if you had been."
"Mind if I ask where I am?" Rachel says. Bit of a gamble; but what's Jimmy going to do if he doesn't like the question? Give her another concussion?
Jimmy shakes his head at her, holding up a chiding finger, but he doesn't look angry. He's like a golden retriever, Rachel thinks. A golden retriever somebody gave a rifle to. "Nice try—don't think I'm supposed to tell you that," he says. "I was going to put you in the basement, but Morris says there's windows down there, and we can't let you get away. Not 'til we find Mary Grace and that coke."
It doesn't seem to occur to him that she doesn't know who Mary Grace is or what coke she has, never mind that he probably shouldn't say anything about either one to her in the first place. "And then what?" Rachel says.
Jimmy shrugs. "Don't think Morris much wants to kill you," he says, "but then again the bosses like things clean. Loose ends ain't their style." He looks at her a moment longer and then closes the door behind him, and crouches down 'til their eyes are just about level. "You really did a number on my hand with that fucking window," he says, and Rachel would tense up, thinking he's about to smash her head into the bathtub for it, except he sounds more admiring than anything.
"Nothing personal," Rachel says.
"'Course not," Jimmy says, genial. "Some stranger comes up to your car window with a gun, you hurt them any way you can think of. My sister's ever in a car like that, I hope she does the same damn thing. I'm going to tell her what you done next time I see her. Bet she'd like you," he adds. "You seem real smart."
"I try," Rachel says.
Jimmy looks at her thoughtfully. "I never been real smart," he says. "But seems to me you wake up tied in somebody's bathroom—somebody angry, you understand, somebody you ain't nothing but a danger to—you ought to sit quiet and not cause any trouble."
"Is that so," Rachel says, even.
Jimmy shrugs again. "Like I said, I never been real smart like you. But you seem like a nice lady, Miss Marshal, and Morris don't want to shoot you but that don't mean he won't."
"I'll keep that in mind," Rachel says.
"You hungry? Thirsty?" Jimmy says. "The tap water ain't real good, but I think we got some shine somewhere."
Rachel shakes her head.
"Okay then," Jimmy says, and leaves her alone in the bathroom with a nod.
Morris doesn't want to shoot her, that part seems true enough; but Rachel's pretty sure that's more because he still wants this whole fuckup to just kind of go away than because not shooting her is going to do him any good.
In the short term, she's probably safe until they find this Mary Grace and her car full of coke—if they kill Rachel and dump her and her body gets found too soon, that'll add up to a lot more heat than they want on them while they're still looking. But once they've got it, they'll have all the time in the world to blast a hole in her and find a place to leave her.
She presses her bound hands against the bathtub behind her until they stop shaking.
So she's got to get out of here before that happens. She's got to get away, and if she can just do it before they find what they're looking for, she might still be alive to buy Tim that sixpack she owes him.
First things first: her hands. She can't untie them herself, not like this; and basements have screws and nails and old valve-handles, but bathrooms mostly don't. She looks around just in case, but everything she can see is porcelain, plastic, or downright impossible to get to—there might be a rough edge somewhere in the plumbing for the sink, but damned if Rachel can figure out how to get her bound hands that far into the cabinet.
She tests the rope. It's not real loose, but it might be good enough.
Rachel's smaller than most people think she is. Mostly she tries to make sure that mistake gets made: she walks as tall as she can, takes up all the space she can get, doesn't let anybody push her around. But the truth is, she's small. The pull on the rope makes her wrists itch and burn, and her back starts to scream halfway through from the strain on her shoulders. But her hips aren't so wide that she can't work her hands around her ass even tied like they are, and once she's got them under her knees it's a piece of cake to get her feet through.
Standing up almost makes her sick—goddamn concussion. She closes her eyes and waits through it, sitting on the edge of the bathtub, and then she tries again and this time it's not so bad. She can see herself in the bathroom mirror when she stands, and somebody definitely hit her more than once—there's blood drying all over her forehead. No wonder she feels like shit.
The knots in the rope are pretty well placed, as it turns out, nowhere she can reach easily even now that she can see them. She could try to find something to cut the rope with, but that'll take time, and time isn't something Rachel's got a whole lot of.
It's quiet outside the bathroom; a TV's on somewhere, Rachel thinks, but Morris isn't yelling at anybody, and if Pete already left for Lexington then there's only Morris and Jimmy left. There's never going to be a good time for this—but right now isn't a bad one.
Rachel takes a deep, steadying breath, and tests the handle on the door. The one thing bathrooms do have over basements: they lock from the inside. Jimmy didn't even bother to set the lock when he left, and the door swings open like it was just waiting on her to ask.
Rachel was kind of figuring it was a mistake, them deciding to put her in the bathroom with the door like it was, but it turns out that whether they'd been able to lock it from the outside or not, it wouldn't have mattered much. The bathroom's off to one side of the house, and there's only one hallway that leads away, only one door at the end—only one way out.
She takes off her shoes before she leaves the bathroom; with her head like it is, she doesn't trust her balance well enough to want to try to walk quietly with them on, and she doesn't need shoeheels against the floor letting Morris and Jimmy know she's walking around. The hallway is more shitty linoleum, the kind that fakes looking like a wood floor, and it's sticky with heat, her bare feet making funny soft noises every time she peels them up.
The sound of the TV gets louder as she goes, and when she gets to the end of the hallway, she peers as carefully as she can around the corner. The room it leads to is big, a living room, and it's where the TV is; there's a sofa, the color sofas get when nobody ever cleans them, and Jimmy's sitting back on it with a bowl of potato chips, iced hand propped up beside him on a couple pillows.
The first thing Rachel notices is the windows—judging by the light outside, it's got to be late afternoon at best, which means she's been in that bathroom longer than she'd realized.
The second thing Rachel notices is the coffee table, where her badge, her gun, and her cuffs are sitting in a pile.
The coffee table's maybe a foot closer to Rachel than it is to Jimmy, pushed out of the way so Jimmy can slouch down and let his knees splay wide; and if she crouches down to the floor and crawls, then the arm of the sofa will be between her and Jimmy for at least half the way. Rachel ducks back around the corner, leans against the wall in the hallway, and tries to think. God, her head hurts.
She can't get to any of the windows or doors, not more easily than she can get to her gun—she wasn't planning to Raylan her way out of here, but if she can just get her gun then maybe, just maybe, she can get past Jimmy somehow.
Rachel gets down on her knees in the hallway, twists her bound hands around until she can lean her weight on her knuckles. The rope stings—when she finally gets herself untied, she thinks, her wrists are going to look like she took sandpaper to them.
She inches into the living room behind the shelter of the sofa arm, and doesn't think about anything—not her head, not her wrists, not how goddamn stupid she must look. She creeps along a knee at a time until she's at the corner of the sofa, and the coffee table's not quite within arm's reach but it's not far past it.
Rachel sneaks a glance at Jimmy. The hand she broke is nearest her, and his other hand's deep in the potato chips; whatever it is that's exploding on the TV seems to have his full attention. If she's just quiet enough, quiet enough and slow enough—
The first fifteen seconds go great: awkward as it is to reach around the sofa with both hands, she keeps it slow and steady, and her fingertips are maybe six inches from her gun when it happens.
Jimmy sighs and yawns and shifts, rolling out his neck, and Rachel yanks her hands back without thinking, sheer stupid reflex, and catches a glimpse over the sofa arm of the jerk of his head, the widening of his eyes.
At least she's low to the ground—she can lunge without losing her balance. She grabs at the coffee table, catches one ring of her cuffs on a finger by accident and then scrabbles past them for the gun. Jimmy lurches to his feet, but he's further away than she is and slow with surprise. She comes up with the gun and stumbles up off her knees—and then has to lean against the sofa arm so she doesn't fall down. God, Rachel hates concussions.
It only takes a few seconds for her to steady again, but she doesn't manage to keep the gun pointed at Jimmy through it, and he takes that as his cue to try and rush her. She can't afford to shoot him—a gunshot, Morris would definitely hear from the kitchen, and that's the last thing she needs right now. But she's hardly a foot from the coffee table.
She hooks an ankle around one of the legs of the coffee table and yanks it sideways, and Jimmy hits it with both shins, letting out a yelp and toppling like a tree. He tries to catch himself with both hands, but only one will hold him, and he comes down hard against the table on his shoulder, a second before it cracks apart underneath him.
Rachel's moving the moment he goes down, lurching clumsily forward—she thought it was just the concussion, but having her hands tied together doesn't seem to be helping any, either. But even if she is clumsy, she's not slow, and before Jimmy can even start trying to roll clear of the wreckage of the coffee table, Rachel's got her gun pressed to the crown of his head.
Jimmy freezes on his pile of coffee table, and for a moment there's silence.
Morris, from somewhere off to the side—through the righthand door, Rachel thinks, of the two that she can see from here. "Tell him you fell," Rachel whispers. "Tell him you knocked something over."
Jimmy pushes himself up with his good hand and ends up looking Rachel's gun right in the eye; he swallows twice, fast, and then says, voice raised, "Yeah, Morris—sorry, Morris. I—I was getting up and I tripped on the table—"
"Jesus, Jimmy," Morris shouts. "Sometimes I ask myself how the fuck you lived this long, and I ain't never gotten a good answer out of me."
"Yeah, Morris," Jimmy says. "Sorry, Morris."
Footsteps, the sound of a refrigerator door, a murmur like conversation—whatever Morris was doing in the kitchen, he's doing it again. "Get up," Rachel murmurs, resisting the urge to motion with the gun so she can keep it trained on Jimmy. "Get up, come on," and, reluctant, Jimmy does.
She makes Jimmy take the door that'll lead them away from Morris, picking her barefooted way over the wreckage of the coffee table without taking her eyes off him.
"Where's the front door?" she says, once they're out of the living room, far enough that Morris won't hear them.
"Round through the kitchen," Jimmy says, which takes the easy option off the table.
For a split second, she considers taking Jimmy hostage, trying something crazy—but the way Morris was talking earlier, there's a good chance he wouldn't mind shooting Jimmy, and Rachel would rather not risk it.
But she's got to find somewhere to put Jimmy, if she's not going to make him tag along while she tries to figure out how to get the fuck out of here—somewhere to put him, and some way to make sure he doesn't come after her right away. She raises her eyebrows at Jimmy, tilts her head toward the rest of the house, and Jimmy raises his hands defensively and leads her on through.
There's no second floor, just more rooms; at least one of them is a bedroom, and in that one there's a big old trunk at the foot of the bed. "Where's the key, Jimmy?"
"Hell if I know!" Jimmy says. "I'm downright disappointed in you, Miss Marshal, if you don't mind my saying so. I was kind of thinking we had ourselves a—an understanding, like—"
"Oh, I think I understand you, Jimmy," Rachel says, scanning the room. If the trunk doesn't normally stay locked up, maybe the key's inside? Maybe it doesn't even have a key. "You don't think you understand me?"
"I don't think I understand what you want a goddamn empty trunk for!" Jimmy says, and then his eyes go wide. "Oh—oh, no, Miss Marshal, please, please don't do it, I don't want to die in no trunk—"
Rachel eyes the trunk. "Somehow I don't think you need to worry about that thing being airtight," she says, "but if it would help lay your fears to rest, I'll be glad to shoot a hole in it. Open it up, please."
Jimmy looks at the trunk and then at Rachel's gun, and reaches for the trunk.
Rachel gets lucky: the key is in the trunk, big rusty old thing, along with a few folded blankets and a handful of cracked wooden mothballs. Jimmy fits in the trunk just fine with his knees folded up, and Rachel shoves one of the blankets into the space that's left so he can cushion the hand she broke. Never let it be said that she is not a considerate and thoughtful woman.
"If Morris don't kill you, you better remember to tell somebody you put me in here, Miss Marshal," Jimmy says mournfully.
"Oh, I will," Rachel says. "I'll give you my word on that one."
She keeps the gun on Jimmy and closes the lid over him with her knee, and then climbs on top before picking up the key, locking the trunk with an awkward twist of her bound wrists. He might be able to break the lock, if he tries hard enough—or the side of the trunk, for that matter—but it should take him some time, especially with that hand like it is. Rachel pockets the key and then picks up her gun again, flexing her fingers around the grip and taking a deep breath.
If Morris is still in the kitchen, she can head back to the bathroom and get her shoes before she tries to go out a window—she doesn't know how much time she has left, whether Morris's calls have given him a lead on the elusive Mary Grace and her coke, and she'd rather not waste any of that time limping because she stepped the wrong way and ended up with a rusty nail in her foot. The kitchen's far enough away that it won't matter if she clomps a little in the hallway; for all she knows, he'll still be on the phone, and he won't hear a damn thing.
Yeah. Right. Since the rest of today has gone so well, maybe there'll be a police car two minutes down the road and a sealed bottle of aspirin in the ditch, too.
She walks back down the hall toward the living room with her brain three steps ahead of her: check to make sure Morris won't see her from the kitchen, cross the living room—careful of the coffee table—and down the hall again, bathroom, shoes—
It's a good minute or two until she actually thinks to herself in words that Morris must have been waiting for her—maybe he heard something, maybe he just went looking for Jimmy and saw the table, the open bathroom door. In the moment, there's no time to think anything: she starts to peer around the corner to check the living room, arms raised, and after that it's impressions like snapshots, an impact to her arms—pain on one side from what hit them and on the other a split second later when they slam into the doorframe—one pressed-glass instant where she feels her gun tumble out of her hands, feels the warm mottled pattern of the grip sliding away with the tips of her fingers—and then the gun's gone, drops away, clatters against something, and Morris is smashing her across the face, grabbing her and turning them, hurling her to the floor.
Landing knocks the breath out of her, but she doesn't hit her head again, and she twists even as Morris comes down, kicks at him so he ends up grabbing for her knees instead of getting hold of her torso or her arms. Her mouth is on fire where he hit her, blood sliding over her tongue; she swallows it away and reaches. She's close, she's close, she's got to be close: she strains out in what has to be the right direction with her bound hands, and when she feels something against her fingers, she grabs it and jackknifes back at Morris.
What she's got turns out to be one leg off the smashed-up coffee table; and she brings it down on Morris as hard as she can, one two three, so hard her fingers ache. He yelps at the first blow and tries to cover his head, and then lets go of her and rolls away. She scrambles up with the help of an elbow against the arm of the sofa, and by the time Morris is done cursing over the shoulder and collarbone she hit, she's standing and she's got the leg of the coffee table over her shoulder like a baseball bat.
The gun—she takes her eyes off Morris for a second, flicks a searching glance over the side of the room where it must have fallen when she dropped it. There: it hit the side table next to the TV and fell down the back. She looks back at Morris, tightens her hands around the coffee table leg and takes a sideways step nearer to the table. She can't get to the gun, that's for damn sure—she can't hold more than one thing at a time in her bound hands, and she's not going to throw the table leg away just so she can dive for it. But Morris can't get to it either, not without getting down on his hands and knees in front of her, and from the way he's eyeing her, eyeing the coffee table leg, he's not real inclined to try that.
"Je-sus," he says, shaking his head, one hand still on his shoulder. "They teach you marshals how to do that shit?"
"They give us the guns as backup," Rachel says, dry, "but we get more points if we use furniture."
"I figured it was worth it to hang onto you for a little while," Morris says, and now he's started backing away—one slow step, two, puts him well out of range. "Maybe the bosses could find a use to put you to, you know? But now I'm thinking maybe it ain't so much worth it after all."
A third slow step away is one more than he needs, but Rachel hasn't done much more than narrow her eyes before Morris ducks whip-quick and grabs the bowl of chips Jimmy abandoned on the couch.
He hurls it at her head—it goes a little wide, because he's already turning for the kitchen when it leaves his hand, but Rachel ducks anyway, drops the coffee table leg and listens to the crunch-clatter of bowl and chips against the wall as she lunges toward her gun.
Thank God for the shitty linoleum: she slides the last few inches she needs to reach it. As soon as she's got a grip, she reverses and starts to scramble up—judging by the things he and Jimmy have said, he's got a gun of his own, and if that's what he went into the kitchen for, she doesn't want to find out about it because he comes back in here and shoots her in the face.
Morris's heel is only just rounding the corner into the kitchen—quick strides, one two three four, and Rachel rounds it herself. There is a gun, sitting quiet on the counter, and Morris has his hand on it when Rachel takes a deep breath, lines up, and fires.
She aims for center mass automatically, but her hands are tied and her head is pounding and Morris moves besides, already swinging around so he can fire back at her—her bullet grazes his arm and he shouts. He's still turning, fumbling the gun into his off hand, blood soaking into his sleeve, as she crosses the kitchen; and then he freezes when she touches the shot-warm mouth of her gun to the back of his neck.
"Jesus fuck," he sighs.
"Put the gun down, Mr. Morris," Rachel says, in her very best marshal's voice, crisp as she can get it with her lip swelling up like it is.
"I knew this day was going to be shit," Morris says. "I knew it. When Pete called to say Jimmy had a car, I thought to myself, 'Goddamn, this might just go clean'—fucking figures."
"The gun, Mr. Morris," Rachel says.
"Nothing about this damn deal has gone clean," Morris says, "not one goddamn thing—first Mary Grace and that fucking car, and now the coke, and now some bitch in my goddamn kitchen shooting me in the arm—"
"Mr. Morris," Rachel says, real pleasant, and presses her gun just that little bit harder into his nape. "I do not have all day."
"Should've told Jimmy to run you the fuck over," Morris sighs, and sets his gun down on the kitchen counter with a thunk.
There's not a trunk in the kitchen, and Rachel doesn't think she's likely to find one; so, gun to his head, she makes Morris go get her cuffs from the living room, and then makes him crawl into the double cabinet under the sink. She can't trust him to cuff himself, and she's not setting the gun down so she can do it—she closes the cabinet doors on him and then sets the gun down, loops the cuffs through the cabinet handles and cuffs them to each other. He hurls his hands against the cabinet doors just as the cuff is clicking shut—almost catches her fingers, but the cuffs are just about taut, and the doors don't move more than a quarter inch.
"Jesus fuck," the sink says.
Rachel sits down on the floor, leans her back against the cabinets, and breathes.
There are plenty of sharp things in the kitchen. Rachel goes through the drawers until she finds a knife, and it only takes a couple minutes of incredibly awkward sawing to free her hands. Her fingers are still cold, she thinks, as though that's anything to complain about, and then she has to put her head down against the counter to keep from laughing out loud.
It's not a bad idea. The cool counter feels good against her head, against her mouth where Morris hit her. All that tussling on the floor opened up her forehead, and it's bleeding again; when she stands up again, she has to go through the drawers a second time for a rag to wipe the blood off the counter. Maybe she ought to preserve it, crime scene and all, not touch anything—but her resting her head on the counter for a minute doesn't have anything to do with the rest of it, anyway.
The front door is through the kitchen, just past it, and Rachel picks up the gun again and has her hand on the knob before she remembers: her shoes. It seems stupid to go all the way back to the bathroom now, when she's so close, but it's not like she wants to leave without them—and she ought to get the phone, too, the one in the kitchen that Morris was using, call in—
The knock on the door makes her jump out of sheer surprise. Pete, she thinks. Pete's made it back from Lexington; she almost wants to laugh again except she doesn't really.
She risks a peek through one of the tall narrow windows that flank the door, and sure enough, it's Pete, standing awkwardly on the porch with one hand shading his face. "Hey, Morris," he shouts. "Come on, let me in."
Rachel steadies her gun in one hand and reaches out with the other for the doorknob. She draws in a breath, lets it out, and then yanks the door open and levels her gun with Pete's face.
"Holy shit!" he cries, and ducks down, and because he's ducked she can see past him to where Art and Raylan and Tim are standing: behind him, at the base of the porch steps, in a semicircle, with their guns pointed at his back.
All three of them look at her with raised eyebrows, expressions vaguely intrigued, and she looks back at them and actually does want to laugh this time: they're here, they're all three here for her, she's not going to end up in a ditch or in pieces. She can feel every inch of today on her, from the swelling in her lip and cheek all the way to the scrape she got yanking the coffee table sideways with her bare ankle, and at the same moment she doesn't give a shit about any of it—the sun is going down somewhere to the side, the light all gold and red and burnt orange, and she's not going to die today.
Rachel lowers her gun. "You've mostly missed the fun part," she says.
"I am getting that impression," Raylan says after a moment, mild, and then holsters his gun. "Looks like you enjoyed yourself, though."
Art cuffs Pete and takes him back to one of the cars parked just around the bend in the driveway; Raylan and Tim sit Rachel down on the porch steps and tell her what happened.
"It was a complicated and intriguing scheme," Raylan says, in that almost theatrical way he gets when a case is almost closed, "involving a temperamental car: having experienced unspecified engine trouble of one kind or another, a young lady by the name of Miss Mary Grace Hyde was to visit an auto-repair establishment several states away, at which point her car's doors were to be stuffed full of powdered cocaine."
"Which is what happened," Tim says.
"She was then intended to drive to Lexington, and upon arrival to experience another bout of difficulties, which would require her to visit a second auto-repair establishment capable of removing all that coke from her car."
"Which didn't happen," Tim says.
"Apparently Miss Hyde came to feel that her cut of the profit expected was not proportional to her share of the time and effort involved," Raylan clarifies. "Especially once she acquired a clearer understanding of the precise degree of profit expected."
"I see," Rachel says.
"And then they got the wrong car," Tim says, "which is the part you're going to get to tell us about."
"Fortunately, Miss Hyde came to the courthouse to find relief from the injustices done to her," Raylan says, "and—correct me, Tim, if I misquote—'get somebody to take a piece out of those sons-of-bitches tried to screw her over'. Over the course of the day, we have located one such; I assume the remainder are still in that house?"
"Two of them," Rachel says. "There's one cuffed under the kitchen sink, and the other one's locked in a trunk."
She's got the key to the trunk in her pocket, she remembers suddenly, and she hooks it with a finger and then holds it out for Raylan.
Raylan blinks down at her, and takes it. "You did enjoy yourself," he says, accusing, and then tosses the trunk key sideways—and Art, back from putting Pete in one of the cars, catches it. "Well, come on, Art," Raylan says over his shoulder, heading up the stairs. "Seems Deputy Marshal Brooks wrapped us some presents."
"I feel like you should call me sir," Art says, ruminative, flipping the key over in his hand. "Have we had this conversation before? Because if we have, it obviously didn't stick."
They leave Rachel on the stairs with Tim, who lets her look up at the sky in silence for a moment, studying his own boot-toes carefully, and then bumps her in the knee with an elbow.
"They didn't pick up the file," Tim says. "Left it in the car after they moved it to the side of the road. Don't think they figured out you were a marshal 'til they got you back here. Art says there aren't even any pages missing." He meets her eyes then—smiling, just a little, but his gaze is sober, gentle. "Olivia Porter's just fine."
Rachel lets out a breath that feels like she's breathing out everything: the pain in her face and her head and her chest, the worry, the fear, every single minute she spent in that house. "Thank you," she says.
Tim reaches for Rachel's forehead, for the part that hurts, but Rachel doesn't flinch. Tim's touch is always light, steady. Sniper's hands; long quiet wait for the shot, and then only enough pressure to pull the trigger, never more.
"I owe you some coffees," Tim says.
"Raylan didn't shoot one single person all day," Tim says. "Although it was a close thing for a little while there." He touches Rachel's head gently, just feeling, and his eyes narrow sympathetically before he lifts his hand away; there's blood on his fingers when he does, but not too much. "They knock you out?"
"At least twice," Rachel admits.
"Concussion," Tim says—real light and casual, but his gaze is fixed on the side of her head so hard it's like he's trying to set her ear on fire. "Going to the hospital?"
Rachel probably ought to, but honest to God the last thing she wants to do with the rest of today is go to a hospital just to get told things she already knows. "Maybe tomorrow," she concedes. "Just to make Art happy."
Tim huffs, not quite a laugh. "Ought to be somebody to stay with you, then," he says, "wake you up every couple hours."
"You offering?" Rachel says, gently teasing, and realizes a moment too late that he was.
Tim looks at her silently, face wide open, and for a second it's like she can see what he's thinking—can look right down the row of long hard hours he spent today not knowing where she was, not sure whether he'd see her again or what would have happened to her by the time he did.
She's so startled by it, so warmed and almost pleased, and feeling guilty for it at the same time, that she takes too long to say yes; Tim looks down, away, shrugs a shoulder like it doesn't matter and says, "Or—"
"I'd like that," Rachel says, before he can get any further.
He looks up at her—not so much startled, she thinks, as disbelieving. Like he offered just because he wanted to so bad he couldn't not, even though he never thought for a moment she'd actually say yes; and the idea of that, Tim feeling like that, makes Rachel's chest clench up fierce.
"You sure?" Tim says, a beat late.
She's left it tacit for such a long time—figured it was better that way, not to upset their friendship or how well they work together with something as messy as how much she wants to buy Tim those beers and then help him drink them, how much she's looking forward to those three lunches he still owes her. She'd felt like it was plastered all over her face every time she looked at him, anyway, and Tim had to be able to see it, had to, except he agreed with her about the messiness, knew that it was best to let it go. So many things go unspoken with Tim, so easily, that it's hard to remember that some of them probably shouldn't.
Because Tim's not looking at her like someone who thinks they have a tacit agreement of any kind whatsoever. He's looking at her like he thinks she's bound to take it back just because it's him, and Rachel's pretty sure she understands why: he's kind of fucked up and he knows it, and he knows that she knows it; and he doesn't think there's any way she can know it and still want him.
But she's kind of fucked up, too, after all. Everybody's kind of fucked up. Rachel looks at him sitting there with her blood on those sniper's hands, with his face all uncertain—uncertain and letting her see that he is—and she thinks maybe they're going to make it work anyway.
"Truthful answer to at least one question," Rachel says, even though that bet went off the rails the second she hit the brakes ten minutes out of Lexington.
"I'm supposed to give you three," Tim says—and his tone is light, but his gaze is fixed to her face like somebody nailed it down.
"I already know which one I want to answer," Rachel says. "Yes." She smiles at him; and, slow and warm as caramel, he looks at her and starts to smile back.
"Can start off tomorrow right," he says, almost shy, "with that first cup of coffee I owe you."
"Damn right," Rachel says.
Nothing's going to happen, she thinks, not tonight—not with sniper-patient Tim-uncertain Tim, not when Rachel still has her own blood all over her face. But she doesn't mind having the chance to find out what it's like to wake up in the same room as Tim. She thinks she's going to like it.