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My uncle had many sayings, but ever since Jackson's return two have resonated with me: the first, as a cop, the number of your antagonists will far outweigh your companions. The second, always remain vigilant. It's when everything is calm that you need to be most alert.
I kept reading Vaughn's file. It made my skin crawl to see Jackson working with him, for him. Trust me, he said. I was still working on that request.
When he was a mere fourteen years old, William Vaughn was arrested and charged with larceny. By nineteen, he was charged with assault, forgery and vagrancy. After his release, he joined the U.S. Air Force, where his character continued to show. He spent some time in military prison for assault and was later arrested by Air Force police for going absent without leave. Nevertheless, he received an honorable discharge in 1990 and blessed Groveton with his presence.
Reading about and observing Vaughn was starting to become my new pastime.
I looked up from Vaughn's file to see Don hot-footing it past my desk. I paused, page in my hand. "Where are you off to?"
"Talk to Vaughn."
"I'm coming with you."
I closed his file and gathered my things. Don turned around to face me, about to argue, and then seemed to think better of it. "Fine," he sighed.
One Vaughn's many, but most lucrative enterprises, was his gentlemen's club: The Camelot. I suppose he figured himself a King Arthur, or even a Robin Hood— he was charismatic, I'll admit, and he wanted to better the town, but he used illegal means to achieve his goals.
"Is Mr. Vaughn here?"
June, a blonde, leggy stripper nodded. "I'll let him know you're here, Sheriff."
As we walked away, she checked out both of us. Don led the way past the main stage and toward the back, to the changing rooms and Vaughn's office. I arched a brow at Don as I followed behind him. "You seem awfully familiar with this place."
Don knocked on Vaughn's office door and opened it without waiting for an answer. He was alone and on the phone. When he saw us, Vaughn gestured for us to come in and give him another moment on the phone. Don took a seat while I stood in the corner, arms crossed.
He concluded business with a few short words in Russian and then asked: "To what do I owe this pleasure, Sheriff? Oh, would you like a drink?"
"No, thank you. The Fit-"
"Deputy, a drink?"
I shook my head.
"The Fitzpatrick work for you," Don stated.
Vaughn stared at him for a moment. "Oh, I'm sorry, was there a question in there somewhere? Yes, they did," he continued.
"In what capacity?"
"They were delivery boys, mostly."
"Not a job you associate with roughing up businessmen."
"No, it's not. As I told you before, I have no idea what they do in their free time. Besides, I had to let them go. After that unfortunate incident with your friend, I just couldn't keep them around. I would never have authorized them to use such..." he paused, tried to find the right words. "Such incompetent savagery." His gaze slid toward where I stood in the corner.
"So, the last time you saw them would have been...?"
"Hm." Again, here he paused. "Two months ago, I would say. Why do you ask?"
"Ryan and Colby have gone missing."
Vaughn shrugged. "I'm sorry to hear that, but I am afraid I can't help you." He glanced at me, again. "You know, Sheriff, I can't help but sense a little hostility from your deputy."
"I'm fine," I replied, perhaps too tersely.
"You've been a big help, as always."
Don got up to leave and I started to follow him. "Deputy Harper, a moment?" Vaughn gestured to the chair Don had previously occupied.
"I'll wait for you out by the car." Don nodded and left me alone with Vaughn.
I turned back to Vaughn. "I'll stand."
"You don't like me, I understand. But I quite like you. Do you know why?" I remained silent. "Because you're not afraid of me like everyone else. You and your husband, sorry, your ex-husband, have that in common. I haven't given up on you just yet, however."
I chuckled. "I haven't given up on you, either."
He pointed his finger at me, amused. "There it is. 'Though she be but little, she is fierce.'"
I clenched my jaw. "Where is Jackson?"
"Not here. Don't worry."
"Whatever it is you want, you're not going to get it from him, or me."
"All I want to do is help." He held up his hands, feigned innocence.
"Mm, like last time?"
"No, not like last time. I am sorry about last time. It was never my intention for Jackson to go to prison."
"See, I think you're full of shit." I placed my hands on the back of the chair and leaned forward. "You legitimately believe yourself to be a good guy, a white knight protecting this town, but you're not. You're just hiding behind everyone for your own self-interest." I looked him over. "Stay away from my friends."
His words echoed in my head as I left.
"Iz!" The leggy blonde hailed me down. She adjusted the bikini top underneath her fishnet shirt and said, "If you're looking for Jack, he's working at the animal shelter."