“Could you advise me on where I might buy some clothes?” she asked, nodding at the woman to indicate she wanted something similar to what she wore—something sensible.
“You have the look of someone who is starting over,” the woman said. “You need a department store. Macy’s should do it.” She pulled a pen and pad of paper out of her purse and drew a map. When she handed it over, Fila grasped her hand and thanked her profusely.
“Do you have the money you need?” The woman looked at her sharply.
“Yes, I have money.”
“And somewhere to go?”
“Yes. I have that, too.”
“Then you’ll be fine.” The woman patted her hand, drew her purse over her shoulder and said her good-byes.
There were angels everywhere, Fila thought.
“You know those al-Qaeda folks would love to get their hands on our land,” Kevin Coulter said, waving a hash brown for emphasis.
Cab bent over his scrambled eggs and bit back a sigh. Seven o’clock in the morning and already Kevin was hot on another conspiracy theory. Linda’s diner was full of cowboys, ranchers, truck drivers and other working folks eating a hearty breakfast before another long day’s work. He liked to come here several times a week and linger over his coffee, soaking up the chatter that went on around him. It helped him keep abreast of the gossip and any trouble that might be brewing. Stephanie Lakins, who owned the diner and kept everything going from her perch behind the cash register, and Tracey Richards, one of the waitresses, filled him in on anything they’d overheard that they thought he should know.
“He’s really on a rant today,” Tracey said, nodding at the old man as she bent over the table to refill Cab’s coffee mug.
“Anything new or noteworthy?” Cab asked, more out of habit than because he thought there would be.
“Not unless you think al-Qaeda operatives are planning to set up a sleeper cell in Chance Creek.” Her blond ponytail swung as she dabbed at a spot on the table with a cloth.
Cab pretended to consider the notion. “Nah, can’t see it.”
“Me, neither. Can I get you anything else?”
“Just the bill.”
Still shaking his head over Kevin’s latest batch of crazy talk, Cab headed to his truck ready to check in at the station and get to work. It was a shame about Kevin, really. A rancher all his life, he’d been sidelined at sixty-eight when a horse backed him up against a corral fence and broke his hip. Now he couldn’t do any heavy work and his son and grandsons ran the ranch. Too much idle time on his hands had gotten to his brain. Al-Qaeda. Sheesh. Al Qaeda operatives would have a hard time hiding in Chance Creek. That was the curse of small town life in Montana; everyone was pretty much the same. Strangers stuck out like sore thumbs.
His thoughts drifted to the unexpectedly pleasant evening he’d spent with Rose last night and he gave thanks to Carl for buying one damn cushy couch. Poor Rose didn’t stand a chance with him sitting next to her. She weighed barely more than a grasshopper and he’d been delighted to discover a shift here and there got her sliding in close. She hadn’t protested, either, when he snuggled her to his side and clamped an arm around her. He had to exercise a lot of self-restraint not to take things any further, but Rose was worth some self-restraint. They’d get to the good stuff soon enough if things went his way.
Wouldn’t the rest of the gang crow when they found out, though? Ethan, Rob and Jamie had given him grief for years for not dating all that much. They alternated between questioning his manhood and offering to set him up with someone. They used to urge him to ask out Bella Chatham, until she went on that television show, beat the billionaire, and then married him for good measure. Lately it seemed like they might give him up as a lost cause.
He’d had moments of doubt himself. All the rest of them already found their women. First Ethan met and married Autumn, then Jamie and Claire got hitched, and then even Rob—who’d sworn he’d never, ever marry—tied the knot with Morgan. Maybe that’s why he was stepping up and testing the waters with Rose now. It was his turn, wasn’t it? Plus, her reaction to the ring he picked really fired up his curiosity. Rob was always a pain in the ass, but sometimes he was an effective pain in the ass. He’d still be sitting on the sidelines, bemoaning a fate that left Jason engaged to Rose and him out in the cold, if Rob hadn’t stuck his ring on Rose’s finger. Not that he’d ever mention that to Rob. That cowboy was dangerous enough already.
Was it right to take action, though, he wondered as he drove to the station. He hadn’t thought so previously. That’s why he hadn’t made a move before. Rose’s reaction changed that. If she wasn’t really in love with Jason, then the right thing to do was to break them up.
Jason probably wouldn’t see it that way, though.
Well, he’d deal with Jason if it came to that, he thought as he pulled into the parking lot. Time to focus on the day ahead. At twenty-eight, he was young to be county sheriff, but he’d been appointed to the job a few years back when his father hurt his back and had to resign suddenly after thirty years of service. By the time the next election rolled around, Chance Creek’s voters had gotten used to him, and he ran unopposed. Family counted for a lot in this small town. Most people knew his father, and knew him, too. Even those who didn’t like him preferred the evil they knew to the evil they didn’t.
As sheriff, Cab oversaw thirty-eight deputies in a variety of departments, from the patrol division to the detective division, to the officers who ran the county jail. Every day brought something new, and since he headed the pack of them, he got to pick and choose which activities he wanted to take part in. At least some of the time.
Today he had some business at the jail later on, but after the morning’s briefing session, he planned to spend an hour or two on patrol. He liked to keep his visibility high—both among the citizens of Chance Creek and among his own deputies. Underlings were less likely to get up to trouble when the boss made his presence known.
An hour later he was driving the streets of Chance Creek before heading out on some of the long, winding county roads that surrounded it. He had a few planned stops to make, but mostly he was keeping an eye on the sleepy little town he loved so much. Chance Creek had always been his home and he always meant it to be. With the latest reminder that very bad people could lurk anywhere, he’d rededicated himself to patrolling the streets.