Tim sat next to Rachel in their government issued sedan and tried to figure out how this all went so damn pear shaped. This was supposed to be an easy assignment. They would sit in on an initial interview of a potential state’s witness and at the end they would offer WITSEC. That was it, the end, be quiet for a few hours while looking stern then pull out the new life brochures. Now they were on their way to arrest a man none of them had ever heard of before. A man they had no real record of, not that they had been given much time to check, with no clear charges in mind. He supposed he and Rachel were supposed to workshop that part on the drive down and that just wasn’t the kind of police work he’d signed up for after he left the Rangers.
“So run this down for me again Tim.” Rachel was having just as much trouble with it as he was. He’d already run it for her twice now and she was still confused. Then again so was he and he’d been there for every step leading up to this asinine idea.
“Oh well, it’s simple Rachel. The AUSA got word from one person that this other person we’re driving out to the back end of nowhere to find without so much as a picture for reference might be involved in criminal-like behavior. I don’t know how I can make it any clearer than that. Now you might be saying to yourself, sure but how will we find this guy in a county ranging nearly five hundred square miles without any sort of lead on his habits or an address to start at. I would be if I were you and I know you’re nearly as smart as I am. Well for that particular question I do have an answer for you because I asked our dear AUSA just that same thing before we set out and I can now pass on his words of wisdom from me to you. Just find him. That’s it, it’s just that simple you see we’ve been doing this hunting people down business all wrong since the beginning apparently rather than using leg work, research, and gut instinct we should have just closed our eyes and wished really hard.” He knew he was taking some of his frustrations out on her but he also knew that she understood and wouldn’t hold it against him. Oh she would bust his balls sure enough, but there would never be any malice in it. Not between them.
“Wow Tim, tell me how you really feel.” She was laughing at his outburst but he could see just how much this entire assignment unsettled her. Not the least of it being that the people of Harlan weren’t exactly known for their hospitality towards either of them. For varying reasons.
“This is bullshit, you know it, I know it, hell even Art knows it. But since it came down from on high you and I got to put our butts on the line and pray for the best.” He wasn’t sure exactly what the best would be in this situation, whether they found this guy or not wasn’t really the point. The point was they had no business looking for him in the first place. Half of him wanted to just pull a u-turn and head back to Lexington to give a report of failure. Sorry sir we looked, he was nowhere to be found. But knowing this prick he’d say they hadn’t looked hard enough and just send them back out after an ass chewing.
“Alright, ain’t like we’ve never done it like that before. So we do this same as always, you got my back and I got yours. Any clues about where to start?”
Yeah, he liked the idea of that, just the two of them getting it done. Same as always.
“One.” You wanna find a man still living in the town he grew up in, you start with their relatives. Vasquez might want this to go quick and quiet but unless he magically found out where the guy was there would be no quiet way about it. By the time they were done talking with his Aunt Helen Raylan Givens was gonna know they were there and coming for him. The only question after that would be what he would do about it. Cooperate or fight.
“Just one? This witness didn’t have any more leads to offer?” Tim nearly stomped on the brakes; he was hit so hard with an idea that might actually end with a happy ending for everyone. Everyone on their side of the law anyway.
Pulling out his phone he dialed his boss’s number. Art would help them, he knew he would.
Art knew procedure up, down, and sideways always had and always would. So he knew that nothing Ava Crowder said would be admissible without the AUSA and the court reporter present to record it all and verify things. With those two both busy in other parts of the building it allowed him to slip in to see her without having anyone else around to glare at him for tipping their hand.
She was done with her lunch and looked bored as hell, but he honestly couldn’t have cared less for her comfort at that moment. All he cared about was his people out in the field flying blind when they didn’t have to be.
“My name is Art Mullen and I am the Chief Deputy of the Lexington field office of the US Marshals service. We didn’t really get the chance to be introduced before and I’m sorry for that and unfortunately this conversation is going to have to be a quick one. I need you to tell me the most likely place my deputies can find Raylan Givens alone in Harlan. You are going to tell me where and you are going to tell me when, you will even draw me a map if I need one.” At the mention of Raylan every muscle in her body locked up. She really hadn’t thought any of this through and that was just too bad. For all of them.
“Raylan? Why would you be looking for Raylan?” Why indeed.
“Because Mrs. Crowder, you told the AUSA that Raylan Givens is basically the key to making his whole case against the Crowder clan stick and put them all behind bars for life. After you did that, after you brought him into this, Vasquez ordered my men out to Harlan to find him and bring him in for questioning. Now my men are searching blind and that is a good way for a lawman to end up on the wrong side of a bullet and I won’t let that happen if I can avoid it. So I am going to ask you one more time and I need you to table whatever moment of conscience you seem to be having here and answer me honestly so we can all come out the other side of this still breathing. Where is Raylan Givens?”
He watched her wrestle with herself and decided to give her this moment to finally think things out. Lord knew she hadn’t been given much of a moment to even breath since she first started talking in the hospital and while that was good for a suspect it was a hell of a way to treat a witness. This way leads not only to madness but directly to a recant. If they never let her think then when she started to down the line she would mostly be thinking about how they treated her and not the part that really mattered. So he stood back and watched as her eyes clouded then cleared again. She had finally made a real choice; he just hoped it went his way.
“There’s a cabin…”
Raylan was sitting inside of one of Boyd’s hunting cabins out in Brogie Holler. He said one because it had become something of an obsession of his to own every inch of the place and he was probably up to nearly a dozen by now. Boyd wanted seclusion with no chance of nosy neighbors and every legal right to shoot trespassers no matter who they might be.
Boyd was going to come out tonight so they could start their long weekend together but he had a few things to tie up at the bar first. Marching orders to give and money to count, he didn’t begrudge him his management woes in the slightest. Raylan knew if they couldn’t get the occasional weekend away from it all the business would swallow them both up and he was having no part of that. This was their compromise, away but still reachable if something really went down that needed their personal attention.
He was just putting away the last of the food he brought with him when he heard the crunch of tire wheels from out front. It was too early to be Boyd, hell he wouldn’t have even gotten through half his opening speech yet let alone closed everything down. It might be Dewey, Lord knows that boy is dumber than a sack of bricks and it wouldn’t be the first time he’d come by the cabin looking for Boyd during their weekend away. Apparently that boy thought knowing where to find him with standing orders not to call meant that he should just stop on by with whatever bullshit he usually dragged along with him. Grabbing his SIG Sauer P226 he clicked off the safety but kept it pointed towards the ground just in case. It wasn’t likely that whatever this was was any kind of good news but better safe than really sorry. Inching back the curtain he checked out the window and saw two federal agents in matching windbreakers carefully coming up towards the door.
He hadn’t done anything lately that would get the Feds of any variety on his tail and even if he had there was no way that any of them would have been able to find him out here without help. They timed it too damn well. They had a rat.
He couldn’t shoot them that would just make things worse, but that didn’t mean he had to be overly friendly either. They hadn’t identified themselves yet and they were trespassing on private property. Not his property but it was all the same around here.
Ripping the door open in one swift move he scowled at them both making sure they could see the gun in his hand even though it was still pointed at the ground. Both of them froze hands on their hips but their own weapons were still holstered, it looked like neither side wanted to escalate things unnecessarily. That was good at least. Nothing more dangerous than a lawman with a bone to pick.
“Can I help you?” If they had a warrant he would have heard about it by now and if it was a recent thing they would have come up with more bluster and swagger. No, this smelled of a hail mary and their strained smiles proved it.
“Are you Raylan Givens?” The little woman was trying for stern but her quick glances all around like she expected an ambush or a lynch mob at any second kind of ruined the effect.
“I am.” He had nothing else to say to them, question asked and answered. Boyd would be disappointed in him if he made it easy on them. Especially when they were already doing a spectacular job of making it harder than it needed to be on their own.
“Mr. Givens we are Deputy Marshals Brooks and Gutterson and we are here to take you into Lexington for a little talk.” Well that much was fucking obvious. Marshal’s huh, no wonder he didn’t recognize them. He and Boyd didn’t run across them in their day to day business dealings, no real reason to.
“On what charges? Last I checked I ain’t even seen a fugitive round these parts let alone aided one.” Their hesitation to answer almost made him laugh, hail mary indeed. They wanted to talk to him and instead of being civil about things they decided to do it like this. Typical.
“We are not at liberty to disclose that at the current moment. Everything will be explained to you once we get where we’re going.”
Horseshit! The little lady was trying to make this whole mess seem normal when they all knew it was anything but. If they both weren’t so damn jumpy he would have called them out on it too. As it stood he didn’t want to give either of them any wiggle room where they could claim his shooting was justified. Deciding surrender was his best way out here he clicked the safety back on his gun and put it on the little table by the door before grabbing his jacket glancing back towards the bedroom he mourned the loss of his hat but he really didn’t think these two would be alright with him ducking back into the house and out of sight to retrieve it.
“Alright, who’s driving?”
Boyd was getting ready to head out towards the cabin all the boys had been given their marching orders and the last of the discussion had been had. He had one last swallow of beer to finish before he was officially on vacation. He and Raylan hadn’t had near enough time together lately since he started butting heads with Mags and her boys. Too much bad blood between them and Raylan for anything to go smoothly when they were all in the mix.
Before he could push himself up out of his chair that gibbering fool Red came crashing in like an excited puppy.
Red used to work for Hunter Mosley before Boyd showed him the error of his ways. Mosley had only gotten into the crime business because the Cuban’s offered him the head of Boyd’s Uncle. Now Boyd harbored the man no ill will for this, his uncle had it coming to him and if they had been able to lay hands on the man first they would have offered his life to Mosely just as easily. Right was right after all. Though all things being fair they would have offered him to the poor child’s daddy first before Mosely but done was done. No, his problems with Sheriff Mosely was that the man was bad for business. Sure he made sure his new Cuban benefactors go their way trafficking their drugs through Harlan without any problems but that was where his sense of business obligation hit a bit of a wall. The man had a stranglehold on every other industry until everyone from the pot farmers to the meth cookers and everyone in between agreed the man had to go. All it took was the right words in the right ears for that particular problem to disappear down an old mine shaft covered in lye.
Unfortunately the loss of Mosely meant that someone had to take on Red and since Boyd had been the one with the most extensive industry it was decided he would do the least amount of damage in his care. He was mostly used like a carrier pigeon taking messages back and forth rarely knowing even what those messages really pertained to. He was harmless but annoying, always trying to prove himself and failing miserably. If he heard that boy pontificate one more time about his plans to become a hit man when he was so damn twitchy he couldn’t even shoot straight half the time he was going to blow his brains out himself.
“Yes?” After the first time Red interrupted a meeting and started spouting off things better left unsaid in mixed company he was taught the very painful lesson of only speaking when spoken to.
“The cops took Raylan!”
“What?” Boyd sat forward, the look on his face making everyone else pull back but of course Red didn’t notice he just kept talking. Saying impossible things.
“That fella you know down in Lexington that works over at the courthouse called the house looking for you. He said that someone done flipped on us, he couldn’t find out who it was but whoever it was they told the cops all about Raylan and where to find him too. So they sent two Marshal’s down to pick him up at the cabin and so I came this way to get you and just as I was pulling up Dewey Crowe called me he was on his way to the cabin to deliver something and he saw this car pull out with Raylan cuffed in the backseat. They snatched him up and are taking him back to Lexington.” The boy was grinning like a fool and had no idea just how close he was to getting all his fool teeth knocked out of his head.
“Why exactly did they come for Raylan? Did my contact have a theory about that?” He didn’t want to name the man and now more than ever he was glad that only he and Raylan knew everything about the business. Everyone else was kept in their own lane only really knowing what they needed to know to get the job of the moment done.
“Way he heard it today was the first time they’d ever even heard about Raylan, he said getting his name was like releasing a cat among pigeons or some shit. The plan was to get to Raylan before you got wind of it and high tailed him out of Harlan or hid him out in the hills. Far as he knows they ain’t got a real plan yet, they wanted to get him first then figure it out. Pretty stupid huh? I mean who in their right mind would ever think Raylan would turn on you Boyd?”
Pretty stupid indeed. He wasn’t worried about Raylan in so far as the business was concerned, his boy would never dream of turning on him; their bond was too strong for any games the Feds might play to even come close to breaking it. No, he was worried about Raylan in a broader sense. He knew the kinds of mind games the federal government and her duly appointed thugs tended to play and as much as he loved the man Raylan had more than a few soft spots for them to poke at.
When someone flipped or tried to go outside the family and to the law the response was clear and even handed he would rain down hellfire from on high and make the snitch wish they had never even heard of the lawmen they went running to. Now though, they had involved Raylan, gotten his boy carted off in handcuffs, and that deserved its own special kind of response.
“Your orders haven’t changed, you know what I expect from you while I’m away, only now it seems I’ll be spending at least part of my time away in Lexington. I’ll be seeing you boys.” Before he left he made eye contact with Johnny, his cousin would keep an eye on things and keep him informed. Where there was one snitch there were usually more he’d let him know if anyone started acting twitchy about things.