The Maverick

By: Diana Palmer



“Their father was an FBI agent in San Antonio, before he drank himself to death after the murders. Blackhawk still is,” Cash replied thoughtfully. “Could have been a case any one of the three men worked, a perp getting even.”

“It could,” she agreed. “It must haunt the brothers. The guilt would be bad enough, but they wouldn’t want to risk it happening again, to someone else they got involved with. They avoid women. Especially Kilraven.”

“He wouldn’t want to go through it again,” Cash said.

“This Sinclair woman, how does she feel about Kilraven?”

Cash gave her a friendly smile. “I am not a gossip.”

“Bull.”

He laughed. “She’s crazy about him. But she’s very young.”

“Age doesn’t matter, in the long run,” Alice said with a faraway look in her eyes. “At least, sometimes.” She opened the door. “See you around, Grier.”

“You, too, Jones.”

She walked into the hardware store. There at the counter was Harley, pale and out of sorts. He glared at her.

She held up both hands. “I wasn’t even graphic,” she said defensively. “And God only knows how you manage to help with branding, with that stomach.”

“I ate something that didn’t agree with me,” he said icily.

“In that case, you must not have a lot of friends….”

The clerk doubled over laughing.

“I do not eat people!” Harley muttered.

“I should hope not,” she replied. “I mean, being a cannibal is much worse than being a gardener.”

“I am not a gardener!”

Alice gave the clerk a sweet smile. “Do you have chalk and colored string?” she asked. “I also need double-A batteries for my digital camera and some antibacterial hand cleaner.”

The clerk looked blank.

Harley grinned. He knew this clerk very well. Sadly, Alice didn’t. “Hey, John, this is a real, honest-to-goodness crime scene investigator,” he told the young man. “She works out of the medical examiner’s office in San Antonio!”

Alice felt her stomach drop as she noted the bright fascination in the clerk’s eyes. The clerk’s whole face became animated. “You do, really? Hey, I watch all those CSI shows,” he exclaimed. “I know about DNA profiles. I even know how to tell how long a body’s been dead just by identifying the insects on it…!”

“You have a great day, Ms. Jones,” Harley told Alice, over the clerk’s exuberant monologue.

She glared at him. “Oh, thanks very much.”

He tipped his bibbed cap at her. “See you, John,” he told the clerk. Harley picked up his purchases, smiling with pure delight, and headed right out the front door.

The clerk waved an absent hand in his general direction, never taking his eyes off Alice. “Anyway, about those insects,” he began enthusiastically.

Alice followed him around the store for her supplies, groaning inwardly as he kept talking. She never ran out of people who could tell her how to do her job these days, thanks to the proliferation of television shows on forensics. She tried to explain that most labs were understaffed, under-budgeted, and that lab results didn’t come back in an hour, even for a department like hers, on the University of Texas campus, which had a national reputation for excellence. But the bug expert here was on a roll and he wasn’t listening. She resigned herself to the lecture and forced a smile. Wouldn’t do to make enemies here, not when she might be doing more business with him later. She was going to get even with that smug cowboy the next time she saw him, though.

The riverbank was spitting out law enforcement people. Alice groaned as she bent to the poor body and began to take measurements. She’d already had an accommodating young officer from the Jacobsville Police Department run yellow police tape all around the crime scene. That didn’t stop people from stepping over it, however.

“You stop that,” Alice muttered at two men wearing deputy sheriff uniforms. They both stopped with one foot in the air at the tone of her voice. “No tramping around on my crime scene! That yellow tape is to keep people out.”

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