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The Business Of Strangers
By Kylie Brant
SilhouetteCopyright © 2005 Kylie Brant
All right reserved.
Six Years Later
Sheriff Kingsley motioned for attention from the deputies and raised a hand to begin the signal. On the count of three, the deputy in front used the entry device to blast the door twice, then stood aside as the sheriff raised a booted foot to send it crashing against the opposite wall. The four people inside were already scrambling.
Kingsley went into the farmhouse, followed by Deputies Cook and Ralston. The scene inside was chaotic, the shouted orders mingling with the cries of the suspects. One went for his weapon and the sheriff brought up a rifle, sighted and shot with one fluid movement. The man slumped against the wall, hand clamped to his wounded shoulder. Another was attempting to flee through an open window, and Kingsley let him go. Deputies were stationed all around the house. He wouldn't get far.
"Hands in the air. In the air! Don't make a move toward that weapon!" Three other officers raced by to secure the rest of the house. Kingsley kept the rifle trained on the drug dealers they'd surprised, as Deputies Simpson, Cook and Ralston cuffed them. Only then was the weapon lowered and handed to another deputy.
"Need some help there, Ralston?" Kingsley asked.
The hulking man the deputy was attempting to pat down was huge, over six and a half feet tall, and even in restraints he wasn't proving cooperative. It had taken two officers to put cuffs on him, and he was still actively resisting. Kingsley started forward to assist.
"I got him." Ralston's sullen, barely civil tone was familiar, as it was the one he'd used to address the newly appointed sheriff for the last six weeks.
Because it appeared that the deputy had subdued the man, Kingsley drew on some latex gloves and approached the coffee table. Amid piles of bills was a clear bag containing what looked like shards of glass. Picking it up, the sheriff gave a low whistle. "This just might turn out to be a major bust."
Simpson craned his neck to look. "What is it? Coke?"
"Looks like crystal meth to me." Kingsley dropped it into the evidence bag another deputy produced, while the wounded suspect snarled, "It ain't ours. You planted it. We'll all testify to that." He looked around at his companions, as if for support.
"Better hope none of your prints is on it then, genius." To the deputies, Kingsley said, "Get them in the cars. Simpson, once the medic has your prisoner stabilized, take him to the ER."
One by one the officers led each cuffed man outside. But when Ralston passed by the sheriff with his prisoner, the deputy seemed to stumble a little, loosening his hold. The suspect used the opportunity to pull away, lowering his head and then swinging it hard, connecting with Kingsley's face.
Two deputies leaped to assist, but it wasn't necessary. Kingsley grabbed the man's shirt, using his forward motion to flip him to the floor, and placed a foot on the back of his neck to keep him there. It usually wasn't all that difficult to ignore Ralston's attitude, but the smirk on the deputy's face, coupled with the pain from the blow the suspect had landed, had the sheriff calling, "Meyer. Backstrom. Take over for Ralston here."
The order brought a familiar glower to the deputy's face. "That's not necessary, Sheriff. I've got him under control."
"No, Deputy, I've got him under control. Back away." Reluctantly, Ralston stepped aside to allow the other two officers to accompany the suspect to the car. Only after all the cuffed men had been taken outside did Kingsley turn to the deputy.
A hand on his arm stopped Ralston as he started to shove by. "No harm done this time, but making mistakes like that with suspects can get other officers injured or killed. Don't let it happen again."
The deputy wheeled around, his thin face flushed and his eyes narrowed. "Is that what you big city hotshots call a mistake? Reading your press, I figured a cocky dyke like you could take this whole crew single-handedly."
Kingsley nodded. "If I had taken them on, one of the first things I would have done with a large struggling opponent would be to incapacitate him completely. Sort of like this." A stiff-fingered jab to a neural pressure point at the base of Ralston's throat had the man sinking to his knees, both hands clasped to his neck, his breathing strangled.
Sheriff Rianna Kingsley stepped around him. "I wonder which will bother you the most now, Ralston. That you're working for a dyke sheriff or that she just kicked your ass?"
It was hours before the arrest and booking procedures were completed. There were reports to be filed, evidence to be labeled and bagged and phone calls to dodge. All of those calls had come from Eldon Croat, local county commissioner and primary reason Ria had been appointed to fill out the prior sheriff's term. She was in no mood to listen to the commissioner's jubilant crowing at this latest bust, or about his own brilliance -- even when that "brilliance" had to do with his hiring of her.
Her cheek throbbed where the suspect had nailed her, and the ongoing hostility from Ralston hadn't improved her mood. The man had been a major pain since she'd taken the job six weeks ago, and ignoring him hadn't helped. She doubted she'd improved matters any by embarrassing him in front of some of the others, but it had been completely satisfying for her, so that was something.
She glanced at the clock. It was after six. Saving the report she was typing at the computer, she stood and hung up the navy SHERIFF windbreaker she'd discarded earlier, along with the body armor. Grabbing her purse, she headed out. What she needed right now was a thick steak, two fingers of Scotch and the privacy to enjoy both. That meant traveling beyond the confines of Tripolo, Alabama. And probably even outside Fenton County.
Marlyss, the big blond secretary/dispatcher, looked up from her paperwork as Rianna walked by. "Leaving for the night, Sheriff?"
"Going out for a bite. Where's the best steak to be found around here?" She'd already learned that Marlyss considered herself a culinary connoisseur. From her talk on Mondays it appeared she and her husband's primary socializing on the weekends centered around discovering new restaurants. Her girth was testament to the success of her search.
"Shakers is about ten minutes from here, and they do a decent fillet. Things can get pretty rowdy there on the weekends, though."
Ria recalled the name. She'd sent a couple deputies on a call there last weekend. "What about outside the county?"
Marlyss reached forward and opened a side drawer on her desk. "If you want to drive on over to Phenix City or even Columbus, Georgia, I've got a few menus from places we've enjoyed. You're welcome to take them with you and decide. Bring them back when you're done though, won't you?"
Recognizing the gesture for what it was, Ria took the menus. She wasn't about to turn aside one of the few offers of genuine friendliness she'd encountered since coming here. "I'll do that, Marlyss. Thanks."
Excerpted from The Business Of Strangers by Kylie Brant Copyright © 2005 by Kylie Brant. Excerpted by permission.
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