Rachel wasn’t sure she was the right person for this, usually it was Art and Tim in the interrogation rooms while she was running background checks or verifying whatever the suspect said for them. It wasn’t a slight against her, that was just how it shook out after she joined the team and everyone realized that she could get the information faster than them so the verification of a lie didn’t come back after everything was done and dusted, she could tell them things while they were still in the thick of it. Now though. There was nothing to research, no records to find, this was something new and they were throwing everything at the wall trying to see what would stick. Tim had his turn in the room with Givens, now it was her turn.
The slamming of the door didn’t move the man, he was tipped back in his chair with his eyes closed, there was an air of sadness to him now that wasn’t there before. A finality. Something had changed and they hadn’t been the ones to change it. From the way Art shifted next to her she knew he could feel it too, they hadn’t started yet and this was already out of their hands.
“Mr. Givens, if we could have your attention for a few minutes please I would like to go over a few things with you.” Still nothing, not even a quick glance to acknowledge that they were in the room with him. She took the lead like Art had asked but he wasn’t reacting to the change they way they had assumed he would. Something was distracting him and it wasn’t them.
“We have been looking into you and what we’ve found needs to be verified so we know we’re talking to the right man.” Nothing.
“Your mother was Francis Givens nee McKinley, correct?” That got a response, it wasn’t much just a slight frown but it was more than they had before. He probably didn’t like them talking about his mother, from what they had learned she was a sore spot for him and with good reason. According to Ava Crowder no one talked about his mother in front of him, not even his aunt Helen.
“And your father is Arlo Givens, correct.” Art had told her to emphasize the past tense for the mother and the fact that Arlo was still around while Francis wasn’t. Now the chair was on all four legs again, but his eyes still did not open. They were getting to him, but he was fighting it.
“We don’t have much on Francis seeing how she’s been gone for some time now, but Arlo? Well he’s all up in the justice system isn’t he. A person of interest here, a suspect there, but he never seems to really ever get caught for any of his crimes does he? No not Arlo. Not even these days.” The implication being that if he’d wanted to he could have done something about what Arlo had done to his mother by now. He was a grown man and by all accounts a man to be reckoned with so why was Arlo still walking around.
“Then again after looking into Harlan a bit that doesn’t seem that odd down there. Men not paying for what they’ve done.” This had him taking a deep breath, they were getting closer to getting a reaction out of him but still there was something holding him back. They were tiptoeing around his buttons, but they weren’t quite hitting them yet.
“Then again a lot of things seem to stay the same in Harlan don’t they. Things like Nobel’s Holler.” This got a reaction, his eyes were open now and spitting mad. They were obliquely referencing what his father did to his mother now and bringing up Harlan secrets they shouldn’t know and wouldn’t have known without Ava Crowder all but drawing them a map.
The existence of a place like Nobel’s Holler, the need for it, was enough to make her sick when she was read in on it before the interview. To think there were still places where mothers prepared their daughters for marriage by telling them where to run to if the beatings got too frequent or too harsh. That sort of thing should have gone out with the turn of the last century, but here it was alive and well in Kentucky.
According to Ava, Nobel’s was an open secret for not just Harlan but all the places around it where the world stopped. Every Holler knew where their wives were when they disappeared after a fight, apparently that was the main reason Bowman hadn’t come looking for his wayward wife yet, he thought he knew where she was.
Raylan Givens though had a particular hatred for the place, not for the people there no he admired them and was grateful to them for helping his mother as much as they were able back in the day, no he hated the place on principal. No one brought it up around Raylan anymore than they brought up Arlo or Francis. Apparently there were a lot of topics that were off limits when Raylan was in a room and they were giving voice to all of them.
“You’re crossing a line here Marshall, you might want to think real hard about that before you go any farther.” His voice was low and graveled, his vocal chords grating against his rage. He was also looking at Art and not her, she had been the one talking but Art was who he was blaming. Then again that fit with his profile and was an angle they hadn’t considered.
Art had tapped her on the assumption that hearing a woman, even a strong woman, talk about this might get a response faster. That it could call back to his mother and other women he’s known who talked about it in the past. Instead he was seeing through it and blaming the man he saw as pulling her strings. It might still work, but the cost would be higher than they had hoped.
The hope was to get him to react violently so they would have an actual reason to hold him and maybe slip out of this mess that the AUSA had forced them all into. Givens was meant to be a hot head, a throwback to the old spaghetti western types. Getting him to lose it should be easy, but he knew the game and he was fighting back the only way he could. By being still and silent. His eyes were spitting mad and his fists were clenched but so was his jaw. They would get nothing from him today, but later was a different story. He had an itch now and they could all see it. This wasn’t going to be over when they said it was, it wouldn’t be over until he said it was.
“I might just do that Mr. Givens. We’ll give you some time to think about your current situation shall we.” Getting up they both left with sweat dripping down their backs. This was getting heated. Nothing was working the way they thought it would.
Tim was a man of action, but right now there was nothing to do and it made his hands twitch. If this had been any other day, any other case, he would have taken a break and gone down to the firing range to get some energy out but they were all ordered to stand in place until this was done. Vasquez was paranoid about Crowder finding and in through one of them so he’d grounded them like wayward children. It was ridiculous but then again everything that man did seemed to be more ridiculous than the last thing he’d just done that had everyone rolling their eyes.
“Gutterson!” Speak of the devil.
“Sir.” Technically as an AUSA Vasquez wasn’t in his direct chain of command but his position when occupied by anyone else was one to respect, so he would show him that respect for now.
“Can I talk to you for a moment.” He was gesturing towards an empty room and looking around like he thought someone was going to jump out of the shadows and grab them both. This could not be good. The twitchier the man got the dumber his choices became and they were all being dragged along for the ride.
“Yes sir.” Stepping inside he tried to hide the exasperation he was feeling. This man had no reason to come directly to him for anything, he should be going to Art for whatever this was and they both knew it. They also both knew that every time Vasquez went to Art with anything it devolved into a screaming match.
“You were a sniper in the military weren’t you?” This was never a good conversation opener. It only ever led to three conversations. Either one a litany of dumbass question after dumbass question about things seen in movies or thought up in a fever dream. Two, a request for a service not taught in the rangers since to some people training was training and there was no difference between the branches of the military. Or three requests to kill someone that’s played off as a joke when they realize you are not willing or amused.
“Yes sir, I was.” He was looking around even in this empty room, the furtive look one usually only sees in a hyperactive squirrel trying to cross an open field.
“So you have training in surveillance and spotting lies?” Option two it was. Snipers could track a target through a scope, wait in the wind for hours or even days to flush a target out of a hiding spot, anything from a distance really but this spy games shit was not his thing. He did not have the temperament for it beyond what he was taught as an officer of the US government.
Time to play along until he could get out of this go report to Art about this latest lame brain scheme by the esteemed AUSA Vasquez.
“I have reason to believe that Crowder has already infiltrated this taskforce and I need someone on the inside who can be trusted to keep an eye on things while I’m gone.” The squirrel had lost his nut entirely now. Fan-fucking-tastic.
“Gone sir?” Where was he going? He was all gung-ho to question Ava Crowder again as soon as possible and now he was leaving before they could get in the room with her. Something wasn’t right here, but he wasn’t so sure it was Crowder pulling these strings. From the looks of it the only thing messing this opportunity up was the fear of Crowder finding out, not the man himself. So far at least.
“I’ve been called back to my office to give a report on our progress. Can you keep an eye on things while I’m gone and call me if anything suspicious jumps out at you?”
“Of course sir.” He needed to find Art.
Winona was starting to seriously consider leaving her job. Most people have that thought from time to time, the urge to just pack up and run off to somewhere far away from this place and try her luck in a different life. Trying to make it somewhere up north where things were so different the stories about it almost sounded like a fairytale. Now though she didn’t even care if she stayed in Kentucky as long as she got away from Lexington and away from the mess being made at her current job. She had been a part of witness depositions and interviews in the past but never one like Ava Crowder, all the secrecy was starting to seem less like a spy novel and more like a comedy. Everyone was keeping things from everyone else and no one seemed to know what was going on.
Opening the door to her home, left to her by her mama, she started to mentally update her resume.
“Good evening Ms. Hawkins.” The voice coming from the dark made her start so hard she dropped her bag to the floor with a loud clatter. The light in her living room clicked on and sitting in her favorite chair was Boyd Crowder.
Her hands began to shake, her whole body really, but all she could think about was how many steps it took to get to the door. One step. Two. Three. Two more and she could rush out to her car before he made it across the room. He just sat there watching her with those dark eyes until her back met a warm body behind her instead of the cold wood of the door. She was trapped.
“Please take a seat ma’am. I mean you no harm.” The implication that the peace was both temporary and contingent upon her cooperation was loud in the silence. This was about Ava Crowder, somehow he knew about her and now he was here instead of in Harlan.
“Do you know who I am?” She couldn’t talk, her voice was trapped in her burning throat so she just nodded the tears welling up. “I know you must have heard some things about me from the people you work with. I can see the fear in you and I understand it, a woman comes home to a man not her husband in her house. It’s a scary thing. But I want you to know that I am not a man of senseless violence, I mean you no great harm, and tonight does not have to take an ugly turn.” He sounded so sincere, so calm, that it finally loosened the stranglehold of her tears and she croaked out a few words almost in self defense.
“What do you want?” She could have tried to play dumb and acted like she didn’t know him, that he had the wrong house or the wrong woman, but everything she had heard about him said it would just annoy him and this was not a man to annoy. She would play it straight, answer every question, perform every task and pray that come morning she was still breathing because if she was she was leaving Lexington and never coming back.
“I want to know who you’ve been speaking to about me. I want to know everything you know about the case against me. Most of all though I want to know what is being done to Raylan Givens. Can you help me with that?” His voice was so gentle it would fool anyone who couldn’t see his eyes, but the fire there told his truth loud and clear. He wasn’t really asking.
“Yes.” It crossed her mind for a moment that she might be putting people in danger by talking, but she knew herself well enough to know that she was not a foolish woman and defying Boyd Crowder would have been foolish to the extreme. She would talk, she would be honest, and she would feel no guilt about any of it.
“Good girl, why don’t you have a seat and we’ll get started.” Taking a deep breath she tried to calm herself down, she knew if she tried to go anywhere but to the chair she’d been directed towards the man behind her would change her direction so she sat at the edge of the cushion and waited.
“So tell me who is in that room with you? The one that looks at you so spitefully.” Oh god, he knew about the things she’d said about Ava. She’d always thought that Vasquez was being paranoid when he said that Crowder had people everywhere, but he was right.
“Ava Crowder.” She sent up a small prayer for forgiveness but she was not going to die for the likes of Ava Crowder.
The name seemed to set the man back a step, he looked stunned and if it was anyone else sitting across from her she would have said he looked hurt.
“How did Ava come to make your acquaintance?” His voice was deeper now, graveled and tight. He was angry. His family had turned on him and now he knew it. Her fingers started to twist together again and again, anything to distract herself from the fact that people tended to shoot the bearer of bad news.
“My boss got a call saying that one of your family was ready to talk. She had been in the hospital after a pretty heavy handed beating from her husband and was mad enough to burn the world down. I was sent over to make sure everything stayed legal.”
“And has it?”
“In that room it has.”
“But not elsewhere?”
“I’ve only heard rumors, nothing concrete. I’m only a court stenographer.” She tried to keep away from gossip if she could, her job meant she was supposed to stay focused, but the particular job came with long stretches of down time while everyone regrouped. The whole system was in a buzz about what Vasquez was doing and no one was being quiet about what they thought of it all.
“Oh, I know exactly who and what you are, Ms. Hawkins. Please continue.”
“Well the word is that after Mrs. Crowder mentioned Raylan Givens by name the AUSA jumped the gun and sent the Marshalls out to get him and now they’re scrambling cause he’s not under arrest but they hauled him in like he was.” Words like kidnapping and hostage were bandied about but what she remembered most was Ava’s reaction to the news. She put her head down on the table and cried. She hadn’t cried through this entire mess, not for anything, but this had broken her harder than her husband seemed to.
“Not under arrest?”
“No, they have no charges to stick to him, but they haven’t let him leave either. Last I heard they were trying their last hail mary pass to fix this mess. If they can rile him up enough to assault an officer they can use it as leverage enough to get their own necks off the chopping block.”
“Ain’t that interesting.” She thought his dark soul searching stare was horrifying, but his smile was what monsters were made of.