“And there were no witnesses,” Betty reminded him. “And Connie’s not going to file charges.”
As they spoke, the door opened and he saw that Declan McCarthy, his senior-ranking night deputy, had arrived. It was time for the shift change.
He shoved his folders into a desk drawer, anxious to leave. “Let’s call it a day, Betty. Declan is here.”
Declan came in cheerfully. He’d started off working as an officer in Detroit. He frequently said that he found Lily, Arizona, to be like a little piece of hot, dry heaven.
Betty went out to report on the day, but there wasn’t much. Sloan closed his computer and went to retrieve Jane Everett.
He knocked on the door before opening it. She was sitting in front of the easel and had just finished a drawing.
Sloan paused, staring at the rendering she’d done. It was only a sketch, but she’d done a remarkable job of capturing life. The woman on the page seemed vibrant—on the verge of speaking. Jane had her hair tucked in a bun, a few tendrils escaping to fall over her forehead. She wore a secretive smile as if she held some tidbit of information that she might be convinced to share with others.
The oddest thing was that he sensed something familiar about her....
“Sheriff? Ready to go?” she asked briskly.
“That’s her?” he asked. “You’re already done?”
She shook her head. “No—well, yes and no. I attached the jaw and did some of the easier work. That’s my preliminary, a bit of a guesstimate. This is what you might call a special science, because it’s a combination of science and art. It’s two-dimensional. You take photographs, feed them into the computer, fill in the tissue-depth approximations for race, age and sex and get a computer mock-up. In the sketch, I worked with images of the skull, using printouts and tracing paper, and this is what I came up with. Tomorrow, I’ll start with the tissue markers—build in the most likely muscle and tissue depths measurements, and begin physically reconstructing. This is just my first imagining.”
“That’s pretty remarkable,” he said. He couldn’t take his eyes off the image she’d created. He gave himself a mental shake. “Yes, I’m ready when you are.”
Jane picked up the coffee cup she’d apparently gotten from the kitchen, collected her bag and moved toward the door. She stopped. He was still in the doorway, he realized, staring at the drawing she’d done, wondering why he felt he knew the woman in the drawing.
He stepped aside. She exited the room ahead of him, and he heard water running as she washed her coffee mug. He was still gazing at her rendering of a woman’s face.
He made himself turn away and leave.
Back in the front office, he introduced Jane to Declan McCarthy, Scotty Carter, the night man on the desk, and Vince Grainger. Now she’d met his entire department.
Once outside, he again opened her car door, before he walked around to his own.
They didn’t speak. He didn’t try to make small talk.
He couldn’t dislodge the mental image he now had of a living, breathing woman.
Except that she was long dead.
And nothing remained of her except her skull.
The Gilded Lily’s bar and restaurant was open for business when Sloan Trent dropped Jane off. The inner doors that had been locked earlier were now wide-open, and the slatted doors invited travelers to enter—just as they had for over a hundred years. Jane walked in, quickly noting there was no one around that she’d already met. She was assuming the actors she’d encountered that morning were getting into costume or makeup or perhaps finishing dinner somewhere else. In any event, she didn’t recognize a single person in the bar.
A waitress in a prairie costume, her hair covered by a bonnet, greeted her as she came in. “Dinner, miss? Or did you just wish to sit at the bar?”
Jane smiled. “Neither. I’m going upstairs. I’m staying here for a few days.”
“Oh!” The young woman smiled. “I’m Liz. You’re the artist. Welcome. If you want to eat, call down to the bar. We can run something up if you want privacy. And if not, well, come on down! I know you’re here to work on a project, but you should take some time to see the place. Desert Diamonds across the street has great books and weird little treasures. The spa is terrific. The Old Jail is a neat place to stay—really scary. I live in town, but I rented a room there once. Oh, and you have to get down to the basement in the Gilded Lily. Henri took me through once.” She paused and laughed. “They wouldn’t need to do anything to set it up as a haunted attraction! They have old wig stands with painted and carved faces that can totally creep you out and a room filled with old film and theater stuff. Mannequins and wooden cutouts. Some of the mannequins were dressmakers’ dummies. Some were theatrical displays and some were movie props. One of the directors in the 1950s had Hollywood connections and started collecting them.”
“Sounds like a museum,” Jane said.
“It could be!” Liz told her. “The theater is a treasure trove of history. And, honestly, the food here is good!”
“Thanks. I can’t wait to see it all—and I’ll be down in a bit.”
Jane headed for the stairs. She needed a few minutes to gather her composure before returning into public again. There were times when federal agents didn’t get along well with the local law and yet, in her experience, everyone just wanted a solution to the crime. She was surprised by the simmering hostility that seemed to lie beneath the sheriff’s not-entirely-cordial exterior. So, he thought they should have packed up the skull and sent it off. Fine. Turned out it wasn’t his call. The mayor had wanted to hang on to it.
On the other hand, she and Trent had Texas in common. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t dealt with a few rugged macho-man cowboy types in Texas, but Sloan Trent personified every aspect of that image. Physically and in his attitude and manner. He was six-three or so, broad-shouldered, with the kind of ruggedly sculpted face that instantly made him larger than life.
He didn’t have to behave as though he’d been burdened with an adolescent.
Add to that the fact that he’d worked with Logan, so surely he knew that the Krewe units were different. That they were called in when it seemed a sixth sense, an awareness of the unusual, was needed. Even within their own branch of the FBI—although they were respected for their record of solving cases—they were often known as ghost-busters.
They could live with it. They knew that many of their fellow agents looked at them with a certain amount of awe, as well.
Maybe that was Sheriff Trent’s problem. Maybe he thought she’d create an image and then insist on a séance or something to put their dead woman to rest.
Actually, the whole situation was annoying. Because, like it or not, she found him extremely attractive—and she worked with a lot of extremely attractive men. She gritted her teeth; she hated the fact that she was drawn to him and that, despite all common sense, she found him compelling on many levels.
Sexual among them.
“I won’t be here that long!” she told herself. She was a federal agent with a good reputation. She wasn’t naive and she wasn’t going to accept unprofessional behavior from anyone, attractive or not.
When she entered her room and closed the door, she said aloud, “So, the sheriff is an ass. I’ve put up with worse.”
She was startled when her hairbrush came flying out of the dressing room and nearly smacked her in the head.