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London Jones is retired Special Forces. She is 47 and was born in Armadillo, Texas. After leaving the military, she kicked around a bit while visiting her family of three brothers, a mother and step-father but ultimately, she found herself applying for the job of Sheriff of Lincoln County. She had expected to be taken on as a new deputy but to her surprise, she was hired as Sheriff right off. The training had come easily; the politics of the job had taken a lot longer to learn.

London had been new to the job when The Righteous Killer had terrorized her county. The whole affair had been hideous and it had flipped a trigger within the Sheriff she didn’t know was there. As time passed the issue grew and grew, acting like a snowball rolling downhill. She finally went on hiatus to get a handle on the problem. It was while doing this that she came to understand she was dealing with PTSD. Her time with the Special Forces had left a hidden mark and it was slowly killing her.

Now the Righteous Killer is back and London must find the strength within herself to face the darkness once more.

“Are you sure about this?” Depute Ibarra asked of the man behind the wheel.

“No, and hell no. She ain’t been seen but a few times since she took this little leave of hers.” Deputy Angus Panzavecchia, Pan to his friends, wiped his brow and frowned. He was sweating heavy and it was only March. He took the perspiration for what it was; nerves about having to approach the Sheriff about the FBI coming. Worse yet, it was over a case everyone in these here parts had hoped was over. Deputy Panzavecchia had been doing his best to keep the department running smoothly while Sheriff Jones got her shit together. The provisional Sheriff, who only graced the office a couple of hours a week, was an ass in the best of times. When he hears about the Feds coming, Deputy Panzavecchia was sure Sheriff Rackle would be front and center in front of the cameras and end up being no help at all. No, they had to do this even if it meant chancing their hides getting tanned by the true sheriff.

“Think she will be home?” Deputy Ibarra asked. “Have you ever been here? I mean, inside.” He corrected quickly.

“Mind your mouth and your curiosity, and keep an eye out for the damn road.”

Both men looked like they were rubber neckin’ it as they tried to spot the rutted trail that was supposed to pass for Sheriff Jones’ driveway. They drove past it three times before Pan finally spotted tire tracks leading off into the forest. He trailed them back to the road with his eyes and took a chance, and turned down the drive. Deputy Ibarra uttered colorful words that would require a trip to the confessional come Sunday because the road was one big rut and they seemed to hit every one of them. They drove for nearly 20 minutes, the squad car creeping along and Pan doing his best to avoid hitting the larger potholes.

“Next time we drive the SUV.” Ibarra said through gritted teeth. The squad car was usually used only in town, and for the occasional parade and only when the weather was good. When the area was buried in snow, all deputies used the SUV’s. The car pulled to a stop and both men peered at the cabin. The windows were dark. There was a tiny shed off to one side and an elk hanging from a tree while in the process of being prepared for smoking. There was a tub collecting the blood and the hide had been carefully pulled close over the wound to keep the meat fresh. There was little sign of life, or rather civilization. Deputy Panzavecchia knew that was misleading. Sheriff Jones had other means of income that required a bit of technology.

Both men exited the car and slowly walked toward the porch. Ibarra looked wide-eyed at his partner. Apparently the sheriff’s home creeped him out a bit. Pan took a breath, preparing himself to call out when there came a gun shot. Both men ducked but the shot was fired out behind the cabin and a good distance into the woods. The deputies pulled their guns and cautiously made their way toward the back of the cabin. Pan peered around the corner quickly but didn’t see anything. He looked again and this time inched out toward the wood. He was only a dozen steps in when a harsh bark caused him to stop.

“Holy shit.” Ibarra said. “What the fuck is that?”

“It’s a dog, Ibarra.” Both men turned sharply, bringing their weapons up and pointing them at the Sheriff. She stared at them, clearly not uncomfortable with having two guns pointed at her.

“Good Lawd!” Deputy Ibarra spat. “You scare the life right out of me, Sheriff!” He took a deep breath.

“Come here, Carson.” The dog trotted over and sat beside his master. “What are you boys doing here?” It was clear the Sheriff wasn’t happy about the interruption. She didn’t look good either. There were dark circles under her eyes and she appeared thinner then when Panzavecchia had last seen her.

“You need to come in, ma’am.” Deputy Pan said. He took his hat off and rubbed his hands over the brim absently.

“And why is that?” They both watched as Sheriff London Jones lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and blew the smoke out. Pan’s face was neutral but Ibarra’s revealed surprise as in the past the sheriff hadn’t approved of smoking; of any kind. She wiped a bit of tobacco off the tip of her tongue and turned her gaze back to the two deputies.

“Ibarra, go grab the file from the car.” Deputy Panzavecchia ordered. Ibarra nodded and left the two of them alone.

“I am real sorry for interrupting your hiatus, Sheriff but this was important.” Sheriff Jones’ gaze was steely, which was just as Panzavecchia remembered. However, there was something there, in the depths that worried the deputy. “A body was found yesterday.” The sheriff waited. “It looks like the Righteous Killer.” Nothing. There was no reaction whatsoever from the Sheriff. “Ma’am, did you hear me?”

“Leave the file on the porch and get out of here.”

Deputy Panzavecchia looked at his leader, his mentor and felt something break inside of himself. This wasn’t the woman he had worked with for five years; this was a husk of that woman. Whatever the sheriff was going through, whatever her reason for needing this break, was clearly a heavy load to carry.

“Ma’am, they are saying it’s probably a copycat and..”

“Get. Off. My property.” Pan looked at the sheriff and then nodded.

The two deputies left the file on the porch like instructed and then drove away. Neither of them spoke on the ride back. Ibarra had not been on the force for as long as Panzavecchia, nor had as much history with Sheriff London Jones, but both men had pinned their hopes on this case bringing her back to them all.. maybe even back to herself.

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