Today's Reading

"You said, 'Are you not Sheriff Beck?'" I'm still examining her, making mental notes, certain she knows I'm contemplating where our wedding should take place. She's in a tan leather jacket that stops at her waist, too light for this weather—so she is definitely from out of state. Gray scarf draped around her long neck that falls nicely onto her white T-shirt, beneath which I can see the product of a lot of core training and hot yoga. She's several inches shorter than me, about five foot eight and maybe all of a hundred and twenty-five pounds with her clothes on. Zero body fat, a BMI built for a BMW. Right off a New York runway if she were so inclined. Yes, the results are in, she's a good match for me.

The lady ignores the question and pulls out her ID, her badge bright and shiny just like she is, sticking it in my face. "Sana Locke, FBI. How do you do?"

Sana. The name falls like a little steel ball through my mental pachinko machine. Arabic, meaning mountaintop, splendid, brilliant. Yes, I agree. Her mountaintop is truly splendid and brilliant. I detect a trace of East Coast upper crust in her voice, maybe Brown University, possibly Wellesley. "Good meeting you, Sana. I was kind of expecting someone from the Bureau yesterday. Did you walk up here from Vegas?"

When she responds with only a muscle twitch in her jaw, I feel compelled to restart the conversation minus any snide editorials. "Uh, I was just reviewing some of the crime scene photos."

She nods. "I'd like to see it, please." 

"The photos?"

Her eyes close, her exhalation controlled, like she is just finishing a meditation session and has pushed every thought of backwater law enforcement types out of her serene mind. "The crime scene, Sheriff. The crime scene."

I start to wonder if I am losing my touch. My contacts with the fairer sex are somewhat limited out here, like Robinson Crusoe if I'm being bitterly honest, and I don't get a lot of practice. Oh well, namaste anyway. "Sure," I say, retrieving my Glock .40 from the desk drawer. "It's a bit of a drive, I'm afraid."

She is already turning toward the door. "Isn't everything here?"

Seriously, I am Robinson Crusoe. Like the famous castaway, I left home against the wishes of my father, had a tumultuous journey—the military in my case—and ultimately wrecked my ship on the shores of the Moscow River.

I follow the alluring Special Agent Sana Locke out of my office. At least the outer office is teeming with activity, as this always impresses visitors. There are a handful people doing various things in a facility I imagine might be a tenth the size of the lunch room at FBI headquarters.

"Busy day, Sheriff?" asks Agent Locke as I grab my ultra-warm Duluth jacket and we exit the building.

"Yep, somebody reported a kitten stuck in a tree, so we've got the full task force working it." I flash her the smile my mom left me and am happy to see it seems to take her breath. Or is that the cold?

The early morning sun reflects off the patches of snow on the surrounding hillsides as well as the parking lot, making the world appear almost black and white. I drop my aviator sunglasses over my eyes real subtle like and motion her to my black-and-white police pickup at the far end of the lot.

When we get to the truck, Agent Locke looks up, scanning the perimeter. "What's with the razor wire?"

She climbs in and I start the engine, mistakenly cranking the air conditioner. Sometimes I get confused over the blue and red on the temperature control. "Well, you know we're just due east of Area 51 here."

She rubs her upper arms vigorously, trying to shake the cold. "And?"

"Little known fact," I say, stepping on the gas, "aliens hate razor wire."

She isn't quite sure what to make of that, or me for that matter. "You mean illegal aliens."

I pull onto the highway that stretches more than three hundred miles through landscapes that look the same today as they must have to the Shoshone when they first found it, much of it still pristine wilderness. "Nope, and we call them undocumented persons out here, Agent Locke. I mean the aliens from space."

Her eyebrows suddenly knit together, her head cocking slightly. "Oh," she says, and I'm sure she's wondering how many cards shy of a full deck I am.

I let the awkward silence play out until she peeks over at me like a hitchhiker in a horror movie. "The razor wire surrounds our detention facility. We house more than a hundred prisoners at any one time, mostly from Clark County and North Vegas."

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