Enjoying Scrivener. Scrivener doesn’t have the split-view feature of Emacs, but it has something almost as good — the ability to flip quickly between scenes using a left-side menu. It also lets me easily insert or re-arrange scenes. It lets me easily go back and insert things needed for the plot, or re-write single scenes. This one didn’t exist in the first draft, but is needed to hook up to things that happen later.
Sheriff Anson got back with Jessica Sullivan the next day.
He met her at Bob Wilson’s place this time, and put a folder on the table there. It was a pretty slim folder. It was still an open case, officially, so it wasn’t a public record. It wouldn’t have mattered if it was. The folder was a big nothing-burger.
Jessica looked through the folder, looking disgusted. “No DNA testing in case a body was found. No search. No nothing.” The slim girl in front of him looked annoyed. Sheriff Anson wondered why, then remembered what one of the people he’d talked to, the sheriff in Wisconsin, had said.
“She deserved justice, and she got a big shrug,” Sheriff Anson said. Jessica looked up at Sheriff Anson, a question in her eyes. “Yes, I talked to them,” he said.
“Then you know,” the young woman said said, putting the folder down and leaning back in her chair.
“That Denver PD one was the most interesting. I didn’t expect her to be the one that was your friend. She said you’re the most dangerous person she’s ever encountered, and that includes the drug lord who tried to have her killed.”
The young woman shrugged. “If someone intends to hurt me, I won’t be a victim this time.”
Sheriff Anson nodded. “That. Apparently you came back… changed.”
“Jessica Sullivan died,” the young woman said, staring into Sheriff Anson’s eyes with her cold gray eyes.
“Then who’s sitting here in front of me?” Sheriff Anson asked.
“I wish I knew,” the young woman said softly, eyes now not seeing anything in that room. It sent a shiver down Sheriff Anson’s spine. That young woman in her work boots and jeans and t-shirt was… spooky. And dangerous. Maybe broken in ways that some of the returning soldiers from the oil wars were broken, ways that were good for combat zones but not for civilian life. Perhaps that’s why she ended up in combat zones of her own making, Sheriff Anson thought in one of those brief moments of clarity that came all too seldom to him. Because the law enforcement people he had talked to… all mentioned things like that.
The girl had killed a knife-wielding robber with a ball point pen. When she was fourteen.
And she wasn’t fourteen anymore.
The woman spoke. “Seventeen years. Too late for DNA samples. Unless… Bob, do you still have anything left of Jodie’s and Loralei’s? Like their hair brushes?”
Bob Wilson thought. “Jodie’s room is still intact. Loralei’s stuff… I gave it away after she’d been gone a year. After… after I knew she had to be dead.” He stared at the cracked blue linoleum flooring, eyes looking watery.
“Then we’ll send Jodie’s hairbrush to be DNA tested, and I’ll round up some equipment for checking out mines. Loralei’s closest relative is her brother? We’ll get a sample from him. It should be enough to identify her if we find remains.”
Sheriff Anson stared at Jessica. “Who’s this we?”
“Chain of custody,” Jessica said, looking Sheriff Anson in the eye. “It’s evidence. It has to go through you. If you don’t have the money in your budget, I can pay for the DNA testing, but it has to go through you. It’s only fair, don’t you think, given how the Sheriff’s department screwed up in the first place?”
Bob Wilson was staring at Sheriff Anson too now. Sheriff Anson was feeling uncomfortable. Yes, the Sheriff’s department had screwed up. They’d done basically nothing. But DNA testing wasn’t cheap. Especially for a cold case where the chances of catching the perp were none to zero. On the other hand…
“Where does your money come from?” Sheriff Anson demanded of Jessica Sullivan again.
“My mother and father are dead,” the young woman said, steely-eyed, daring him to say something about it.
“Life insurance,” Sheriff Anson said.
The young woman slowly nodded.
“And you weren’t anywhere around when they died.”
The young woman nodded again. “Lots of witnesses, including a law enforcement trainer and law enforcement officers.”
“The man who kidnapped you? He killed them?”
That woke Bob up. Bob was looking between Sheriff Anson and the young woman.
“My mother committed suicide,” Jessica Sullivan said. “She wanted her girl back. The girl who came back… wasn’t her girl.” Jessica looked down at the table.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Bob Wilson said.
“I know.” She didn’t look any happier with that knowledge.
Sheriff Anson tapped on the table, thinking. “Your father?”
“Associates of the person. They walked up as he was locking up his shop and just killed him. Right there in broad daylight. Just pulled the trigger.”
“Murdered,” Sheriff Anson said. “They were caught, I hope?”
Jessica Sullivan shrugged. “I know who sent them. That and a bunch of one dollar bills will get you a bad cup of coffee at Starbucks. He’ll go down, eventually. He’s on the police department’s radar. Whether his soldiers go down… well, they have short life spans, they’re probably dead by now.”
“You didn’t kill him.” Sheriff Anson nodded to himself. “So you’re not a vigilante killer, you’re willing to do things by the book.”
Jessica Sullivan looked uncertain. “I… I don’t know what would happen if I came across him in a dark alley. So I make sure I don’t.”
Sheriff Anson made a decision then. “You’ll do,” he said. Thinking about paperwork. And giving this young woman some cover. Trying to decide how to do it.
The young woman stared quizzically at him. Asking him, without asking him, why he’d said that. Something she saw seemed to satisfy her, though, because she nodded, and turned back to the subject of the search, and what some of the local mines were that could have been used to hide the bodies. Sheriff Anson promised to loan her some of the toys that he’d gotten with Homeland Security dollars. He couldn’t legally do that, actually, unless she was an employee of the Sheriff’s Department. He was going to make a few calls about that…
They also gathered the hairbrush for DNA sampling. Sheriff Anson and the young lady countersigned the evidence bag about where the hairbrush came from — the young girl’s dresser — and he put the case number on it. So it was official. The department was now working a cold case that was seventeen years old.
Later, as he was about to leave, he pulled Bob aside. “You know that this isn’t likely to go far,” Sheriff Anson said. “It’s been seventeen years.”
Bob Wilson shrugged. “What do I have to lose?”
Nothing at all, Sheriff Anson thought at the time. Later, of course, he knew better.