2010-12-23: This Town ... Actually Is Big Enough For The Both Of Us



Guest Starring:

Tobias, John, Sheriff Harvey and Petunia

Date: December 23rd, 2010


A few events occur in the yard of the Forresters when the visitors arrive — followed by more visitors.

"This Town … Actually Is Big Enough For The Both Of Us"

Forrester Ranch

Echo, Wyoming

A big, old ranch house awaits them: a two-storey utilitarian-built structure worn down by time, but standing strong through many hard years. Trees and outlying buildings — sheds, a barn — scatter the property. Acres spread out around the ranch — open space buffeted by trees and rocky outcroppings. In the dark, the vague shadows beyond only tend to register to the naked eye as wilderness. The figure of a man drifts about in front of the house with a dog on a leash; its deep, ferocious barks are offered into the silence created by Tobias halting the car in front of the archway.

The moment the vehicle is still, Maggie presses her lips together, opens them as if to say something — a preparatory word, an important foreword to the introductions about to take place. Instead, she only leaves the car. Of course, her immediacy is immediately cut off; she's locked in. This realization has her looking at Laurie — oops — and sitting back, sinking slightly into her seat. Tobias takes his time to plod out, given his skeptical eye on that dog all the while.

"… He was my partner for a long time," Maggie says into this extra wait after all; the small hint of unsureness clinging to the otherwise straight-forward statement is out-of-place. "Forrester."

Laurie manages to garner enough interest to sit up from the seat, peering through bars, car, and front window at the ornamentation, wilderness, and — finally — house. For a long while, the dog and its owner are almost completely ignored. "Yeah," he mentions, half-listening, as he begins to employ the tactic of graceless impatient people everywhere: he yanks on the inner door handle until such time that it opens. It's not wildly annoyed pulling; really, it's rather as absent as the way he looks out, and how he's not quite invested in Maggie, "You said that."

Part of that — she said part of that — Maggie almost corrects; but her long history with her partner from a time past goes untold. She's the first to be let out of the car and into the cold. It's less windy here; a small reprieve. The dog, a yellow Lab, has been convinced into a tentative, growling hush. Maggie is quick to stride toward the man in the yard, but stops to waits for the others — or at least Laurie, Tobias loiters near the driver's side door — as the man comes to greet them halfway, the dog at his side on its decidedly … pink leash.

Tall — older — dark hair, dark eyes like a hawk. Those are the features that stand out about Forrester — a man pushing sixty who hasn't let retirement lessen his solid shape. His face is stern, weathered, lined distinctively; matching what are probably calloused hands. He looks as natural on the ranch as he would on the street — or rough country of Wyoming — as a cop. "Powers," he calls out, still several paces away. Rough, deep, joyless; but then past hard-worn weariness, he smiles. "A sight for sore eyes. I assume that this must be…" Dark eyes track Laurie. "…the partner?"

She insinuated the rest — but since she didn't correct, this isn't articulated. Less threatened by the lesser wind, Laurie's tourist hat is rolled from its semi-squashed place behind him during the ride to his head as he sweeps out of the car at his turn. If Maggie waits, it's for a while; his immediate path is not to the former cop. It's not even immediate at all. He loiters by the car door, spinning around a few times to glance out at the surrounding country, what is and isn't visible in the darkness of the evening.

He winds his way eventually around half of the car, idly kicking a foot out for some piece of road clinging to the police car's wheels. Once it's dislodged, he catches the older man's call — it causes a glance up, brief, and a cheerful, "Oh, we're not partners," before he commences his meandering in another direction, still peering through impossibly shadowed trees.

"We're— …" Maggie doesn't lend time to determining aloud what, exactly, they are; she only shakes her head and says quieter, meant for Forrester, "He's here to help. Or, he's…" She looks off in the direction Laurie is wandering, a path which causes her some concern before she adds, "…here, anyway." Now she smiles at her old partner like a long lost friend, and sympathetic besides. She goes in to wrap her arms about the stoic figure that is Forrester; he does not look like a man prone to hugs, and the image proves true when he is unmoving to the warmth. "I'm going to do everything I can to help you find Alice," she expresses over his shoulder, deeply sincere.

Forrester concedes to a grateful, companionable clap of her shoulder. "I know," he says, "it's why I knew you'd come if it were possible."

The dog starts to bark — they part. The pink-leashed canine goes from barking to tail-wagging calm easily upon Maggie's unafraid scruffing of its neck. She crouches down to its level gives it friendly words. "Who's this! Hey, puppy. Heeey."

"She's Alice's," explains Forrester, who tugs the Labrador away to head toward the new face, Laurie. He lifts a hand in basic hello, holding it out to shake as he approaches. "Any friend of Powers is welcome here," he says in slow voice — gruff but sincere in welcome. "John Forrester." The dog, meanwhile, writhes about anxiously on its leash, trying to jump every which way, suddenly no longer calmed; it gives unsettled, nervous growls.

After taking several steps back from his spot of wandering, Laurie comes to a complete halt when dog and owner are on approach. Eyes flick to the grip John has on the leash, but avoid the dog's aggressive gaze. He stands coolly, relaxed, and to John's hand, he only raises his own near his body, slow, palm out and placating — low on his body where his arm's been hanging. "Laurie," he delivers with a warm smile, "Strictly speaking, she's never called me her friend, either."

The hand floats back to his side just as easily; not just there, though; he brings fingers up past his own head and, brushing a hand by his hair, unsettles the cowboy hat from his head. The rope jumps to his throat, green tourism vanishing from view. Gaze again vaguely finds the dog's place, ears, legs, and tail: all the signs. "… did she take the dog running?"

Swinging about on the leash, the dog is incredibly aware of every one of Laurie's movements — her square head tipped up, ears alert, she eyes that hat warily, letting out one loud bark when he moves it from his head. Tentatively stilling when the hat disappears, she settles on a steady growl that isn't quite convinced that Laurie isn't a villain.

"Sit," John commands with enough authority to send a small army onto the ground with their figurative tails between their legs. Not the dog's — her growls escalate at him, instead, but he takes a wise step back and pulls her with. "Yes, she did. Every morning she'd jog up along Crescent Ridge — not far out from where she lives. Two days ago, dog must have found her way back by herself."

Maggie has wandered over, by now — she stands with her arms crossed a few paces behind them, listening. The result is a thoughtful pinch of her brows.

"No need to stand out here in the cold," adds John, distracted; likely because, out in this cold somewhere, is his daughter. "Let's all head inside."

He's barely stopped talking before a rumble sounds in the distance and Tobias — only dubiously included in the former invitation — raises his hand over at the car. "Hey!" he shouts, looking down the drive, where headlights have just appeared at the far, far end. "Company…"

But Laurie is planted, thinking; his hand rubs along the side of his coat idly. "Has she— " Tobias ends up more of an interruption than the invitation, and Laurie rotates half-way to the side, putting himself at an angle to John and dog, so he can cast eyes down the driveway. There's some squinting; his blue eyes digging into the night with some natural strain. After a second, his focus shifts to, "Powers…" and his arm juts out towards her.

The dog starts barking, barking — the normal adamant barks against an intruder as company begins to arrive.

Maggie is planted thinking, but only while delayed from following John's logical offer to head indoors by similarly staring down the drive, trying to make out the details of the incoming vehicle. It's next to impossible; the darkness is thick, the headlights blind. As Laurie says her name, she turns her head quick to him as if in surprise— "Hm?"

A change occurs in the steady background noise of the dog's barking, Laurie's shift of focus bringing about a shift of focus in the animal in a split-second— vehicle to person— distant threat to one more immediate. Laurie, his movement toward Maggie. In a protective, snarling blur of tan fur and teeth, the dog bounds against the leash and lunges at the man, twisting, for an instant, away from John's strong-handed grasp.

The arm, while aimed, is never meant to reach the detective, and retracts instantly as the transformation occurs in the dog. Folding in, fingers curling into a fist, that limb becomes the safe one — a complete non-target. It's Laurie's right leg that's presented most strongly to the animal. Even as the consultant skids sideways on the rugged driveway, the dog is right there.

A first, stronger lunge doesn't quite connect, leaving highly barred teeth full of the muggy, thick coat fabric Laurie's swung in front of him with the hand in his pocket. But the pull back leaves the lab just as content to sink teeth where teeth may go, and a desperate snapping at lunge's end leads to them scraping and whining into denim — fastening down there at the lower leg and — by Laurie's grimace — possibly into flesh.

Whatever the range of the bite, the bitten immediately stops sliding backwards, planting his leg against the dog's natural inclination to shake and tug.

"Oh!" Maggie exclaims with soft, high surprise, backpedaling as if she were the one bitten, although her forward lean afterward attests to her intentions of moving toward Laurie, the bitten. Immediately conscious of her alarm in the presence of the dog, she quiets and, for the moment, stays still, while John hauls upon the protective pet. Leash and collar are both pulled firmly to dissuade tooth and jaw from Laurie. Growling, she tries to hang on, but finding Laurie unshakable, and being dragged off by strong arms, her grip slides on denim until it snaps off, but not without a tear of fabric.

"Backsorry, there, Laurie. Back! I don't know the dog well, but she's not usually this bad." The impromptu dog-sitter alternates between strict commands to the worked up pet and apologies to the man she's bitten — with, probably, the best of intentions… intentions which don't change the fact that she's being hauled off, John excusing himself to grumble at the dog all way inside the house with a tightly coiled leash where she can't bite anyone.

Maggie moves in, the picture of concern as she reaches a hand out toward Laurie's shoulder, though her sights are set downward. "Are you okay? You could've been more careful…"

All of his strength and concentration honed in on freezing his leg in place makes Laurie's attempts to instruct vague, and through gritted teeth. "Hnnn— not the— see the legs— " For naught — and, at least, unneeded — when teeth come away with fabric; though there's another tearing beneath that is less convenient from the tactic. As soon as the dog is hauled back some distance, Laurie eases his weight off the bitten leg to the other, his own teeth relaxing from each other, only to gnaw down on on the edge of his lower lip, instead.

"No, no— don't worry, it's nothing— " comes his chatter of assurances timed with each of John's apologies; a little bit of wincing and grimacing makes the consultant's usual lightheartedness sound a touch more forced, but even that fades as they go — and his sincerity remains intact throughout. An evaluating gauge of the area is distracted by Maggie's approach, to which he glances over.

Slipping just out of the original reach of her hand requires settling his weight onto that same just-bitten limb, but there he does it, flashing smiles to her concern. "Faster, you mean," he chortles self-deprecatingly, "I am getting old— hey, you think our visitors got lost on the driveway already?"

Maggie glances down the driveway, but remains lingering near Laurie, her reaching hand still reaching, hovering in place as if to usher him somewhere undecided. A frowning tug of her lips turns upward, soft in ever-present concern — nothing in her expression is convinced of the bite being quite nothing. "They're not our visitors. Let's go inside."

However, the convergence of events has only begun with introductions in the yard and an angry dog; it is only bound to become more unruly as company rolls in to answer Laurie's question by pointing high-set headlights at him. Tobias, having abandoned his watch of the driveway to jog over to the CPD 'consultants', says, "I knew that dog was bad news." Ground crunching under tires has him turning around to express: "Well how about that. If it isn't everybody's favourite big boss."

The vehicle, pulling to a stop next to the squad car at an angle, happens to be a white police van. The word SHERIFF is emblazoned on the side, and that is indeed who steps out first: a man who lives up to his name, and his state's history — so as to almost have stepped out of an old Western, donned head to toe in the Sheriff Department's dark brown uniform, replete with its standard tall cowboy hat. The star above his breast pocket shines in the yard lights. "Sorry to interrupt your pow-wow…" A thick, long grey moustache shaped like a horseshoe moves when he calls out. A deputy wanders out behind him.

"Sheriff… Harvey," Maggie's attention half stuck to Laurie, half on the county sheriff, surprised to see this particular authority figure.

"Just the lady I was looking for," Sheriff Harvey says, proving her statement about these visitors not being theirs quite wrong. "Wasn't expecting to ever set sights on you again, truth be told, way you took off… don't think anyone did."

"Uh," Maggie starts quietly, delayed in a more articulate answer by glancing to Laurie, still unconvinced of his present wellbeing. "Well, Sheriff," she says frankly, "there's no law against leaving Wyoming."

"She's a good dog," asides Laurie to Tobias, as he blinks under the assault of the headlights turning darkness into bright beams. When he switches to looking in another direction, the spots of light follow and it takes longer for his focus to adjust onto Maggie. So, he doesn't; he turns back into the light to find the badges as they exit. This involves a light pivot around, and he dips slightly on the swaying of his weight back and forth on his legs. An absent hand reaches down to brush idly at the fabric above and then just below his knee, resettling displaced, and torn jeans.

"There were two actually— " he pipes up, raising a hand like a child in a classroom, and letting it fall as fast — a little apologetic, but not for having interrupted, just for his facts: "In the station, at least." There's a glance towards Maggie for— permission? Confirmation?— either way, he moves on, and back to the sheriff, "One more pessimistically, and the other rather vindictively. From what I could see passing by." His hand juts through the air; there it is, just laying it out there; now they may go on.

Maggie agrees with Laurie by giving a small raise of her eyebrows in vaguely disparaging accord — it is what it is. "What can we do for you, Sheriff — has something else happened? The CPD would know about it…"

The Sheriff's reaction to Laurie isn't new: it isn't the first time today that a Wyomingite has stared at Laurie and, not knowing what to do with him, moved on. "No, no," he answers Maggie. "Suppose that's good and bad. No sign of Ms. Forrester from our end either, but no worse developments. Chief Bower told me where you were headed… tell you what there should be a law against. Consultants. I can't have anyone runnin' around the county who don't got any authority."

"They've got me," Tobias pipes up optimistically, only to be waved off. He stands near Maggie and Laurie eyeing the Sheriff and his deputy rather skeptically, while, behind Sheriff Harvey, his deputy wears a matching face.

Despite being liberally passed on, Laurie does actually exist. So, being there, he watches the two opposing lawmen not with the free-for-all skepticism, but a kind of regretful thoughtfulness that bleeds into his speech, "Actually— " it's doubly apologetic to go with the second interruption. His hand now only reaches his shoulder, before he cocks it in mock salute and lets it drop with bashful awkwardness: hi, yes, still here. "It's that you don't want— seeing as how that law doesn't exist. Yet. But, ah…" the hand returns, rubbing along his eyebrow like a nervous tic, dropping his eyes from any sort of confrontation with the sheriff almost the same as when he'd been peripherally eyeing the angry dog. "… what about the killer's?"

"Well the killer's got no authority either, or a right, and hopefully not a chance in hell of gettin' away with all this," declares Sheriff Harvey, acknowledging Laurie with narrowed eyes. His expression begins to match that of the deputy's, though his the younger man behind him has his skepticism set mostly upon the detective.

The detective, who — as she gives in to wrapping her arms about herself in the cold they continue to stand in — regards both Sheriff Harvey, Laurie, and occasionally the deputy with degrees of concern from high to low. Her face becomes hard-set; she restrains against speaking in what looks like it will be a short-lived moment.

Footsteps coming from the ranch house to the assembly near the archway precede the return of the former detective John Forrester, this time without the dog. "Sheriff. Is there a problem here…?"

"Well, that's… just not true…" Laurie mutters away, bagging some of the childish enthusiasm put into previous arguments. Grimness is tugging at the edge of his mouth, playing war with the pleasantness he wants to display. Possibly having to do with keeping weight on a leg that was briefly a labrador's chewtoy.

Sheriff Harvey regards Laurie for a long, discerning moment, coming up with no obvious conclusion. For the time is stretches, everyone else shares in it — watching the sheriff watching the consultant. Maggie breaks away from it to turn her studying regard on Laurie alone.

"Point is…" Sheriff drags his undecided gaze away from Laurie onto the more familiar faces. "No problem, John," he assures before addressing Maggie specifically. "Now, what made you run off isn't any a' my business. Point is that you came back to lend a hand on this case and it's a matter of law— no, personal principle that you do this right, as an officer. Sheriff's Department is invested in seeing this case through. Whole county's working on this in some way or another. Both of you, how 'bout you come over here and stand in front of me…"

Maggie shuffles the couple of short paces toward where Sheriff Harvey stands under the archway — which stands an out-of-place beacon of Christmas cheer — and gives Laurie an encouraging nod to do the same, her concerned eye naturally drawn to his very recent dog bite. A small pull of her face winces for him apologetically. "Okay, Sheriff, I see what you mean. I hope this won't take too long, though; we are in the middle of something…"

Mother Nature also has matters to attend to; it slowly starts to snow again, soft flakes drifting down in a deceptively tranquil freefall.

Laurie isn't going to slow them up; punctured leg and all, he strides in a way that nearly masks the favoritism his body grasps for — and is generally denied. Coming up alongside Maggie, his attention is drawn upward by the snow; he's happy to see it. But his gaze becomes squinty on noting the arch, and it's probable mistletoe, and then his chin is dropping to find the sheriff, then Maggie there, as they all gather together for this precious moment under a colorful arch.

The forbidden consultant gnaws on his lip momentarily and then sidles shoulders and head towards his companion in the tiniest lean. His stage-whisper is more of a mutter out of the corner of his mouth, "It looks like he's going to pronounce us…" he begins to straighten — then reassumes the pose after a beat, "… although I suppose he doesn't have the authority to do that…"

Drawn from also looking up at the snow while waiting for the Sheriff's procedure to begin, Maggie mostly suppresses what is an amused smile for Laurie's observations. She gives the arrangement a once-over: the two of them standing in front of the authority figure, the other men circled about around them — the deputy, Tobias, and her old partner all waiting, witness. It truly does look as though they've stepped into a ceremony.

The Sheriff warms to their apparent agreement. He cracks a smile not entirely visible under the overhang of his overwhelming moustache. "That's my bloodhound!" He claps Maggie on the shoulder, to which she stiffly leans away, but smiles for an instant. Down to business. "This fella," Sheriff Harvey nods his head, with its rather heavy-looking hat, toward Laurie. "You trust him?"

Maggie stares a long moment; blue eyes move gradually in calm consideration to Laurie and back again, where she hovers in unsure silence, the uncertainty seeming to be placed upon the sheriff himself, questioning things he can't answer. Is this a trick question? Is this a trap— what was that Laurie said about regrets… none of it matters, ultimately. "I d— " Remembering Laurie's pronouncing pronouncement, she glances at him suddenly with transparent realization in her eyes and her answer slows down, "…do…"

"I'll have to take your word for 'im," says the sheriff — obviously holding onto some doubts, but carrying on all the same without hesitation. "I'm going to deputize the both of you. Now go ahead and hold up your right hands."

Eyebrows up in clear bemusement for the nickname, Laurie's caught in that expression when it comes to the question of his trustworthiness. Slowly, the look softens into something blandly unreadable, unclear; he hovers there in her pause, seemingly unmoving. It's when she's just starting to speak when he turns, gaze gliding across his shoulder to her there — her realization. His cool holds — a second; there's a touch of troubled, then a mask of mysticism.

The sheriff contracts all the attention again right after, turning Laurie right around, almost gladly bouncing away from Maggie's eyes. Even as his hand obligingly tugs upwards, he appears doubtful — like he really doesn't want to be there anymore. When he rocks back onto his heels, one is more supportive than the other.

Maggie dutifully holds up her right hand as well, looking straight ahead and the sheriff goes on.

"Repeat after me: I, Maggie Powers— " He looks to Maggie with a nod and then to Laurie, "I, Laurence Miles— " Someone's been speaking to the police chief. Their repetitions gradually come about — Maggie's more immediate and timely — and the rest rattles off, followed by the less than impassioned voices of the deputies in the making: "Do solemnly swear…"

"Do solemnly swear…"

"I will faithfully execute the duties of the Cheyenne Police Department on behalf of the Laramie County Sheriff's Office…"

"I will faithfully execute the duties of the Cheyenne Police Department on behalf of the Laramie County Sheriff's Office…"

"…and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and the Constitution of the State of Wyoming…"

"…and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and the Constitution of the State of Wyoming…"

"So help me God."

"So help me God." Maggie's hand lowers just an increment in preparation of the end of the speech, respectfully hovering raised until silence follows the last line.

"Congratulations," declares Sheriff Harvey, as the snow starts to fall more heavily upon the ranch. "You may kiss the bride." A beat passes. "Nawh, get back to work. You're officially Sheriff's deputies; until you leave the state."

His hand down well before the last breath is out, Laurie lone animated reaction is to glance over at Maggie questionably during that beat. Gauging, pondering — perhaps asking the same of her — well… — but he spins instantly on the command, sorting out a half-mock salute to the sheriff. Work is this way, and that's the one he heads towards with a rigorously upbeat pace past John but easing up near Tobias, as if to take the man along with him. "To have authority," he confides, sighing, to the other man, "is really a terrible thing."

* * *

" … really, it only allows us to make citizen's arrests," Maggie is saying inside the house. Her red coat is hanging on a rack by the door; Tobias does a fair impression of said coat rack by standing very still beside it. In her hand, Maggie turns over the temporary badge gifted to her by the sheriff. It matches the one given to Laurie. Shiny, silver five-pointed stars, they're different than the typical badges of the Sheriff's Office, and resemble an item one would receive from a mail-order or find as a prize in an old-fashioned box of cereal.

The comfort of the Forrester home is a warm step away from the winter world brewing outside. The entryway is all open, leading to a large dining room and living room with a roaring fireplace. It looks as much a ranch house inside as outside; wooden logs, wooden beams, country furnishings — the illusion of a happy home is solid enough, but the grim march of John Forrester through the house, carrying with him a heavy contemplative air, works at shattering the illusion. The matriarch responsible for the endless supply of cookies, a tall narrow woman with red curly hair looking as tired as the day is long, waiting in front of the swinging kitchen door to the right, shatters it further.

Almost immediately, Karen is fretting around Laurie. She wipes her hands on her apron, which turns into a nervous wringing gesture. There's a disconnected, distant look in her eye; she forgets to greet anyone. "I feel just terrible about Petunia," she expresses, pained. The coat rack impersonator by the door almost chokes trying to politely suppress laughter at the name of the dog responsible for biting Laurie. "We put her in the basement. I can't have a guest in my house go without getting that taken care of. Alice would be beside herself. Oh, I hope it's not too bad— " She bustles away mid-sentence, anxiously mumbling questions to herself about the location of the first-aid kit.

Quick to stroll towards the inner sanctum of the grand wooden room, Laurie is halted quite efficiently by Karen's bubble of concern. Since he may or may not already have one such star exactly from a cereal box, the honorary deputy one has been finagled into sitting across his unworn hat, and there it stays — leaving his hands free to ward off the woman's worries. One, already so frequently pocketed, swings the heavy set of his coat (he bypassed the rack, it would seem) so that it even almost covers the torn area; his slight lean into the injury helps the coat to fall farther.

"Petunia," mid-name, he flashes Tobias a heavily bemused bewilderment meant to only ignite the man's held-back humor, "has nothing to feel terrible about." His assurances fall sweetly, but trail off somewhat when Karen is making off. He glimpses off to where the matriarch has gone, and then sidles his way in another direction, redirecting his utterances to the room in general, "She was reacting quite honorably from learned behavior after what happened to her owner. I was presenting myself as a threat in the same way— did you know there were two labradors in Malaysia who sniffed out two million worth of pirated DVDs?"

"Huh," Tobias replies with a slightly strangled noise his throat, laughter he clears away with a cough; John has paced into the living room and stands with his arms crossed as stiffly as an iron statue, staring into the hearth; Maggie is distracted from looking up the stairs where Karen disappeared to, giving Laurie a vague raise of her eyebrows. No, she did not know that fun fact either, it's clear.

"So essentially," she summarizes, "… the dog is our only witness." She gives this realization the pause it deserves — not exactly a witness they can question, but perhaps the Labrador retriever has already given them some answers. She strolls through the house toward Laurie at distance, swiveling to gesture with a quick, thoughtful movement at the others. "If she's so protective… if someone attacked, or abducted Alice, how did that person— avoid getting attacked themselves?"

"And why leave the dog to wander home safely," John's rough voice drifts in with input, though his attention otherwise remains fixed on the flickering flames.

"Software pirates reacted by putting out a contract on the dogs' lives," Laurie concludes over the labradors, now leaning back to aim this aside at Tobias, who has been deemed the most interested. "Essentially," he adds to Maggie, moving off his stance to take what is a slightly stiffer step forward. To a couch, where he lets himself lean into the edge of its arm, on his feet, but now dependable on the stable furniture. Glances off of each speaker in turn, Laurie is left angling his eyes off nowhere afterward, wandering more toward the ceiling in an unbiased gaze. "Well," he declares, clapping his hands together with resounding impact. "How would— you prepare to go into a fight to ensure total control?"

Enthusiasm launches Laurie off his post when he's only been there moments. Enlivened by his own thoughts, he pays much less care to the way he walks when he crosses the room. Or when he spins off his left foot to face the scattered gathered, with his hands out, awaiting enlightenment — or participation. Faced with a quiet pondering, he hesitates not to fill in with several fingers: "Back-up," he tics off, glancing at Tobias, then to Maggie, "A weapon," then to John, there, at the fireplace, where Laurie's expressive hands drift to their usual post at the edges of pockets, "And knowledge of your target."

"It's thanks to star witness Petunia," Laurie concludes after the weighted pause for his itemized list to sink in. "That you know you're looking for a team, who familiarized themselves with Alice's routines — meaning they stalked her, took their time, had the patience to both follow her and then plan accordingly. Also, had access to the ketamine — but not just steal it, I don't think; they… had to know the effect it would have on both humans and animals. The dominant one would've gone after Alice — maybe that means the other has the access, the drugs — either way, this one gets the prize. Oh, and he wears a hat."

Here, Laurie, who's stayed generally still throughout, reaches behind him to fumble with his own dragging headpiece; off his, the five-points glimmer in the warmth of the fire's light. "Either for a large amount of time spent in the elements, lending to their extensive knowledge of the wooded areas and ability to live outside of society, or part of approaching the target… though that's generally thought to be the job of the submissive partner, who tends to be both physically smaller, and socially awkward, which projects a sense of non-threatening."

Maggie's hands have fallen to her hips; they rest there just hanging onto the pockets of her sweater, paused. Attentive to every one of Laurie's many words, thought is clear and present in her fixed eyes on the profiler: following his train of thought, following her own, alive with piecing everything together.

John stands with his chin propped in his hand, elbow planted firmly on his crossed arm. His grim consternation is thoughtful on Laurie now instead of the fireplace; subtle commendation somewhere in his dark eyes. He shares none of the same frenetic traits as his wife who seems to be having an awfully hard time locating the first aid kit; he appears calculating, able to separate the conversation from being about his daughter.

"That's how the other victims managed to be attacked out in open spaces," Maggie declares, mostly thinking out loud; she moves on quickly. "I thought it was one of the two; it's both. Curtis and Langston — at least they fit the profiles — if they have a connection somewhere. Curtis has a violent history, he's a hunter — neither of which are exactly uncommon markers around here, but I've had him in the back of my patrol car before, I've heard the way he talks… and at least back then, he got work at a ranch — of course he'd wear a hat." Eyes land on Laurie's with a very, very short-lived smirk; Petunia obviously doesn't know the difference between a tourist's play hat and a working cowboy's. "Langston… he was a suspect early on because his purchases at a hunting supply store matched the type of buckshot used to kill the other victims, but … before, he never had any violence in his background, it was hard to make a solid connection. He had a restraining order against him — just not by any of the victims or for a reason of violence. If he has any of the same habits as he did years ago, maybe I can track him down faster than his parole officer. He always drank alone. But if either of them are living off the grid, it's going to be a lot harder for us."

Her gaze wastes no time in swinging across to the oldest of her two old partners and then to Tobias. "Do we know if the CPD tracked down the source of the ketamine?"

"Oh, uh — a vet clinic, a medical clinic and the city hospital carry it," Tobias pipes up; his enthusiasm wanes, "but none of them reported any missing and none of them know who the hell Curtis or Langston are. Chief had detectives snoop around when you asked him to pull the files on the phone."

"I don't know of anywhere else that would carry it unless it's further out of town," Maggie says, "and neither of those men have a medical education."

A low thoughtful hum sounds across the way: John. "A wildlife rehabilitation center opened up here in Echo last year." It's a thought that his him moving with a gradually increasing purpose afterward, turning away from the gathered.

"Cornering them should be done carefully," offers Laurie to the reinvigorated movement in the room that's no longer his, "The sheriff was wrong; they have complete authority in their hunting grounds — intimate knowledge, and confidence — not to mention extreme territorial urges. They use shotguns, which forces them close within a certain range, and buckshot, which scatters and allows for a greater margin of error in accuracy. This is something you use to ensure a fast, brutal hit," amidst almost detached delivery, his eyes flicker to John at the prospect of imagining the women's death — how Alice's death could be — but he does not pity, and he does not hesitate, "… Like fireworks after a long, successful hunt. It's the hunt. The chase. If you catch them in their territory, they will not give up easily — and if Alice isn't with them, they will never surrender their hideouts. It's pride in their craft, just as much as self-defense."

Even so, he bounces with transparent impatience from one foot to the other, eyes canvassing the floor for answers that are in his head. He reaches backwards — both metaphorically, and with the hand that delivers a thumb nail to be gnawed at. "Unless the former locations correspond to demands or seasons related to any jobs held. Tourism, other hunters, rangers…" chin lifts; he sorts out Maggie in the room, "But you said Langston was just paroled."

Addressed, Maggie, her expression increasingly grim to match her agreeing image Laurie is painting of the hunt, lifts a hand from her hip to gesture in acknowledgement. The shiny badge, still clasped in it, goes along for the ride — then hits against her jeans as she confirms, "In September. Meaning he was in jail almost the entire length of time between the last series of crimes and now. Vehicular manslaughter — drunk driving. Curtis skipped town while I was investigating the cold case. That would have been…" She glances away to think, dates from years ago not immediately recallable — but they're there, and she pulls them out. "…before… Langston was incarcerated."

She glances the way John left; silent to the conversation, he steps into a room with dark furnishings, a den or office. As the door shuts behind him, Maggie sighs, the breath of air inaudible, but it leaves a mark on her face: the weight of reality. "Even… if the former locations correspond to something, the country out there is— there is a huge range of areas they could be taking these women and so far their pattern has been all over the place. There's woods out there are just… there is no one around for miles and miles. Their hideout… or hideouts… could be anywhere."

Creaks on the stairs mark the return of Karen, coming along step by slow step. She seems empty-handed until she pulls a white plastic case with a distinctive red cross on the front out of her apron. Her head seems permanently angled down, chin glued to chest. She doesn't look at anyone. "You might not find her out there."

"Don't be modest for our sakes," lightheartedly responds Laurie, downshifting from the stream of conscious profiling that'd had him hopping in his spot. His air of relaxation becomes the lone bubble of chill in a house tensed by distinctive loss. "I may have an enormous ego," his fingers align along his chest as he indicts himself with a touch; then the hand drops, "But mostly I'm told it's endearing. Except by Powers, of course," a nod towards her, "Because she keeps me in check. But this Tobias," the accusing hand finds the officer, wagging and nagging, "I don't know about him. I think he's just here for your cookies."

"I am," Tobias confirms simply, a touch awkward as he smiles at the haunted woman by the stairs, "I am here for the cookies. They're very good cookies, Mrs. Forrester."

But for Maggie, the instant reaction is guilt, knowing Karen must have been upstairs listening. It washes over her strong and unmasked, at least to Laurie and Tobias whom she faces. Toned down by a balance of sympathy, she turns toward the woman and heads to her to wrap an arm around her and usher her away from the stairs. "We're going to do everything we can." It's not the first time a line such as that has been delivered by the detective, but she still says it with absolute sincere determination.

"They're in the kitchen … the cookies." Karen looks at Maggie for, really, the first time today. The result is undecided; skeptical. She looks down, fidgets with the first aid kit and shuffles along to hand it out to Laurie.

Maggie, smiling warmly at the woman, though respectfully subdued, gets a hand on it instead. "Oh, he probably won't use it. If you just give it to him."

Laurie's first inclination of moving puts him turning sideways as the women come on approach, but a glance to Karen — creased not with relaxation — leads to one to Maggie — recognizable as a challenge. "You know what," With a darting hand, he snatches the first aid up for himself, pulling it almost protectively close to his side. "Thank you, Karen. Petunia loves Alice very much."

Then is he off his mark, leaving the two women on their lonesome. The consultant's aim is to hop-skip up the living room floor to where Tobias waits, a tidily important look in his eye for — where else — this mystical land of the kitchen where the cookies dwell. A conspiratorial nod suggests Tobias follow him there. "I'm going with pudding," he informs the officer importantly, "And a hint of nuts."

Looking away from Karen, Maggie's own raising eyebrows direct a similar challenge, rife with skepticism for Laurie's claiming of the kit. Is that so. She's unconvinced. No argument, however, as she keeps a close, serious, concerned eye on Karen.

Tobias, meanwhile, needs no more encouraging toward the kitchen; in fact, he turns himself that way hurries ahead, keeping his voice down. "How do you even know if you haven't even eaten one of 'em? If you can profile cookies, I don't think we're done with this alien conversation."

"Help— yourselves," Karen offers belatedly; no less sincere, only distracted. Unfocused eyes flicker to the men. "I do use pudding … and pecans," she reveals disjointedly before, head down, wringing her hands in that apron, she moves off toward the room John resides in.

Snapping his fingers and pointing at Laurie accusingly — he knew it! — Tobias pauses in the midst of pushing the swinging door in. Beyond, a feast for the eyes, nose, and mouth, is a spacious kitchen full not only of cookies but of muffins, breads, gingerbread: a compulsive amount of baked goods spread out over the kitchen counters and stove.

Laurie's jumping eyebrows could mean anything — could even mean he's an alien — and offer only encouragement to Tobias' conspiracies. First aid kit banging absently against his leg, indeed the one it's meant to fix, as he follows happily past the swing of wood into — ahh. Stopping at the threshold, the consultant takes a second just to pause, eyes fluttering as he breathes deeply in of the heavily used kitchen turned bakery overflow.

"Because this," he confides, a touch quieter, more wistful, "is the best office a man can ask for." With a clunk of heavy aluminum, the first aid kit is snuck onto some odd spare space of the counter, where it has no veritably no chance of fulfilling its purpose. Yet, Laurie's second point of interest is the sink, where he busies himself in turning on the water — slightly warm — and tugging off a section of paper towel. "What would you say," he quizzes Tobias in a friendly manner, "if I told you that I not only know the cookie but, through it— Karen, and, to make it fun— John, too." The cookie is the one, chocolate chip, he draws from his own pocket — wagging it on Tobias before he sets it away to free his hands. Back to the sink, braced for support, he hefts his right foot up along his left thigh, dabbing with vague attentiveness at the open and tattered wound.

Tobias picks up a cookie there, a muffin here, tossing it from one hand to the other. "Colour me— " Intrigued? As he notices Laurie's task with a bit too much detail than he cared to glance at, he switches to, " — revolted." He reconsiders his cookie. "If I want to be a detective, do I have to get used to eating around blood and gore?"

"I try not to," a female voice replies — Maggie, appearing with a swing of the door after being left to her own devices alone in the living room. She wanders to the same counter that holds the sink and leans one hip against it some distance away from Laurie's vague ministrations at his wound. "How is it?" A pointed look accompanies her calm follow-up request: "Objectively."

"She tries not to," replies Laurie only a beat after Maggie's, delivered as plainly to Tobias as if it were his own. As the dampened towel clears up the last of the drying blood around the distinctively shaped breaks, he curls the cleaning tool into his fist and shuffles the leg back to the floor. "You said it yourself— " he says to Maggie without looking, tossing the balled up paper towel several feet away into a trash can half-full of expended ingredient bags. "I haven't even eaten one."

Shrugging, Tobias roams the kitchen, eventually getting over his disgust by browsing the slew of baked goods like items in a shopping centre. And everything's on sale.

"That's not what I meant," Maggie says with a small roll of her eyes for having to say out loud what she assumes Laurie to already realize — but it all calms to a patient regard afterward. "If you don't clean that wound better, it could get— " She cuts her rather motherly reminder off with a little ironing out of her mouth, considering, perhaps, how pointless it may be. She simply eases away from the counter to find and claim the first aid kit instead. Held firmly between two hands like a gift, she presents in front of her, and then — a few steps later — in front of Laurie.

"Dog bites," Laurie announces cheerfully into the break created by Maggie's rise to common sense, "inoculate bacteria deep into tissue, and while not as aggressive as cat bites, the majority of dog bites do get infected. Common bacteria involved in such infections include," he sings out the more complicated names, "Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and— Pasteurella! I checked for signs." Presented with first aid, Laurie lifts his hands to accept it without hesitation, his face not reliably serious, though disturbingly sincere considering, "Oh, thank you. I used to have one just like this."

"I imagine it was woefully unused, since your idea of first aid is taping paper towels to yourself." Maggie doesn't offer the kit into Laurie's hands; instead, she wraps one forearm about it, holding it against her while unlatching it with her other hand. She opens it toward him, revealing the little neatly arranged display of basic supplies. "Will you let me do it? If you won't let me do it, at least use some soap on it to make me and Karen feel better."

"I'm a collector," Laurie's hands drop to the edges of the sink beside him when it's clear his gift is not for him, "They're worth more unopened." Confronted while still leaning, he's nestled a bit against the sink, and shifts his weight to the side — sidling off from Maggie pressing in. After a second, he even takes the escape, slipping away to the right where he can prevent stepping around her. "Fine," easygoing enough announcement, "for Karen, I use soap." Injected with no sense of immediacy, when combined with his move.

When Maggie's suddenly there, he adapts; pushing hands off from the counter, he dips forward to go that way, instead. He gets maybe a step that way, only to be met, again, by Maggie's frame — now, stepping into him almost as he steps into her. He sways backwards immediately, mouth tugging at the corners with insolence and question.

What immediacy Laurie lacks, Maggie fills in. As she continues to get in his would-be paths, blocking his way, like he blocked hers earlier in the day — a taste of his own medicine — she only keeps her gaze on him, where he moves. Though determined and pointed, it is not overbearingly serious even while her blockading presence may be just that; she conveys an well-meaning innocent little smile at him and jostles the first-aid kit up and down. "They even come with soap these days."

Tobias is more concerned with seeing how many muffins he can fit in one wide hand than the dance of medicine over there. Interrupted in his phone going off, he faces his own personal dilemma — a dance of sorts — trying to find the hands to reach it. The mouth to answer it is stuffed with a cookie. He sorts out his juggling act with some sacrifices. "Hey!" Cookie is pulled from mouth. "Uhhh, yeah we're in Echo… figuring out the— uh, sure they are," Tobias glances the way of Maggie and Laurie and gives a thumbs-up. "Yyyyeah, it was coming down…" The tag-a-long officer backs out the kitchen door. "Let me look out the window…"

Laurie's eyes don't leave Maggie — not for the kit, not for the cookies, phone-call, or even the obvious reference to the snow he probably would like to be romping in. He stares down her silly little smile with a hard-nosed, almost parental stubbornness over her innocence… okay, so — actually, the snow, and this window, are both tempting enough articles that he glances out of the corner of his eyes to longingly consider the possibilities. Back to Maggie. "… so, remember when you agreed to suddenly nap whenever I said…"

As the kitchen door swings shut, and Tobias's voice can be heard in murmur out in the living room to be joined by the lower tone of John, Maggie says simply — almost cheerfully: "Uh huh!" A smile finagles itself into a sterner line as she nods her head at Laurie.

"You provoked that dog on purpose," she says, her statement not exactly, scolding but certainly very firm toward her purpose. "You made a point but now the Forresters feel awful. And— " She shoves the kit at him, and by doing so, she shoves at him a little, the plastic case a mild battering ram. " — it could still get infected. So, if you… soap, I'll… sleep."

A flash of responsibility flavors his look on her, not quite deepening into guilt, but on its similar path; on such, he allows himself to be propelled backwards by the kit's momentum. His hands, first flying out to either side in physical protests of innocence — also, conveniently getting his arms out of reach for the second that Maggie's movements are up in the air — then they drop to accept the burden being pushed against his chest. "Alright, hey, fine. I got it; I said I would."

"… Okay," Maggie accepts definitively after a moment's pause to be convinced. She lets the kit transfer to Laurie and lets him have his space again, stepping back and wrapping her sweater about herself with a cozy cross of her arms that makes her appear to fend off cold. She watches him still — a little expectant — though it is interrupted with a look halfway over her shoulder, through an attempt to listen to the talk in the living room.

Given his space by the sink, Laurie twists his body around to it until he's facing the faucet even with his hips turned out; a twist of another kind sends rushing, busy water into the still damp basin. Balancing the kit on the separator between the plain side and the disposal side, he glances along his turned shoulder at her standing there. He mouth pulls wry; "Does this mean I'll be watching you sleep, too?" Not enthused or teasing; it's more to point out her own silliness — and he soon becomes attentive on digging into the first aid for his needed accessory.

"Nooo…" Maggie delivers simple as that in response. She's prompted to wander from her spot; her presence becomes less watching of Laurie and more simply here because she isn't out there. She picks up where Tobias left of on browsing the obsessive spread of baking, choosing what appears to be a blueberry muffin, plucking at it to add to her supper of one cookie. "If I know Forrester and Karen and the weather in Echo, we're not going anywhere else until tomorrow — if the storm clears."

As if on cue, the door opens; Forrester steps in halfway. "I sent Officer Tobias home for the night so he could get home before the roads get worse; you two, you can stay here at the ranch. You're welcome to as long as you're here. There's lots of room, and you can use the truck to get around. I gave the wildlife rehabilitation center a call. Now they claim not to know either suspect, but I got the impression from the woman on the phone that she knew more than she let on." He disappears the second he's done speaking; that's all he came to say.

Sudsy, just as promised, the process slows some when Laurie looks to John's entrance. The end of the message bodes unhappily in Laurie's forehead and he spends the rest of his re-cleaning time ironing out those thought lines. When it's come to patting down his jeans, he's already halfway off the sink; it takes him several paces to remember to turn around and shut the water off. The completed spin puts him about-face — towards destination. "Get some rest," he orders Maggie offhandedly to the beat of his exit.

Shifting from her lean against the counter, and from watching the door with creased lines of thought that haven't gone away, to marking Laurie's move to his destination, Maggie speaks up before he makes it. Quiet — almost sounding doubtful — but far less offhand, she says, "You should, too…"

"Goodnight, detective." But the hand that could've been raised as wave to her is just the palm prepared to smack against the wooden doors, that swing to let him out.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License