A pretty girl of eighteen walked across the small town of Shoyo Arkansas just before dawn. She was going to see her daddy, the Sheriff of the town at his work place, the jail. Her mamma had sent her to check on the new inmate who had been found beaten in the road by Dr. Soames and his wife as they were driving. She had heard the man was young, maybe not even twenty-one, and she wanted to see him; it wasn't often that there were visitors to the town.

Jasmine's light brown hair lifted from her shoulders in the breeze that blew through Shoyo every once in a while. She walked through the door of the jail to find her father was not at his desk. She figured he must be in the back talking with the stranger. She moseyed on back to where the cells were, hearing nothing but a pencil dancing across paper. When she looked inside, she saw her father standing outside the cell, watching the man who was beaten write on a piece of paper. He must be mute, she said to herself as her father looked towards her. "Mornin' Daddy. Who's this guy?"

"Mornin' Darlin'. This here is Nick Andros. Seems he was robbed last night." Sheriff John Baker turned his attention back to Nick, who had stopped writing to stare at his daughter who came in quite unexpectedly. He pointed at her saying, "this is my daughter, Jasmine." He smiled a bit as Nick nodded and returned to writing. "What are you doing here, Jasmine?"

"Mama told me some guy came in all beat up, and I was curious. The phone ringing woke me up," she explained before her father could ask. She looked at Nick who was looking back at them, apparently finished with his writing. She read what he had written over her daddy's shoulder, seeing that he had been working on Mr. Ellerton's farm, and that the people who beat him up had taken his week's pay. "Man that must be rough." She returned the small smile that Nick gave her. He seemed like a nice guy.

"You sure it was Rich Ellerton you was working for? I can check that you know," Baker said as he tore off the page Nick had written on and folded it small enough to stick in his pocket. He glanced over at Jasmine who was smiling at Nick, and wondered idly what his little girl was thinking about. He looked back at Nick who was nodding. "Did you see his dog?" He watched as the boy nodded his head again. "What kind was it?" He handed Nick the pad as the boy reached out for it. When Nick had written the correct answer, John nodded and walked back into his office, leaving Jasmine and Nick alone.

"So... Hi." Jasmine had had something in mind to say, but as she was talking, she lost it. She waved a bit at Nick as he waved at her. "So, are you mute?"

Nick nodded at the Sheriff's daughter when she asked if he was mute. He put his hands over his ears and shook his head to indicate he was deaf too. He had been staring at the girl, and knew the Sheriff noticed, and hoped that he didn't think less of him, or would keep him locked up.

"Deaf to huh? That must be rough." Jasmine's smile faded a bit, as she gave Nick a small look of pity. But she got the feeling that he wasn't one that much appreciated people's pity seeing as it had always been that way; or at least that was usually the case with deaf-mutes. She tore her attention away from Nick as her daddy came back in. She watched as her father unlocked the cell and slid the door back, letting Nick out.

"Come on in the office. You want some breakfast?" He shrugged as Nick shook his head, no, and watched as he made pouring and drinking motions. "Coffee? Got that you take cream and sugar?" John smiled as Nick shook his head no. "Take it like a man huh? I like that. Come on." He led the other two up the hall way, still speaking.

"Daddy, he can't hear you, he's deaf, remember?" Jasmine reminded her father gently, as she tugged his sleeve like a little girl. She was the only Baker child, and so her parents had spoiled her, though not quite rotten. She giggled as realization dawned on her father's face.

"Don't matter. Not to a young kid like you, anyway." John shrugged his shoulders leading Nick and Jasmine into the outer office. He poured a big mug of coffee from a thermos and handed it to Nick. He then held up another empty mug, shooting a questioning look at his daughter who nodded. He filled that mug up too, before grabbing the cream and sugar knowing she would want them. He pulled his half eaten breakfast plate towards himself. He looked up as Nick tapped him on the shoulder and winked. "You better say it's good. My wife Jane puts it up."

"Mamma makes the best coffee." Jasmine smiled, making sure she was facing Nick full on, so he could read her lips. She continued spooning sugar into her coffee, preferring to put absurd amounts of it in her cup. She was aware that Nick was watching her, and not paying much mind to her Daddy, and that fact almost made her blush.

"You're pretty good. Just like one of those pantomimers. Bet you don't have much trouble making yourself understood, huh?" John was aware that Nick was staring at his daughter, and didn't know how much he approved of it, but from the time being he could let it slide. After all, his daughter was staring back, and she was eighteen so she could stare at whoever she wanted and he couldn't do much in the way of stopping her. "I ain't gonna hold you, but I tell you what. If you stick around, maybe we can get the guys who did this to you. You game?"

Nick found he still held the pad and pencil in his hand, as he nodded, so he wrote; "You think I can get my week's pay back?" He held up the pad so the Sheriff could read it, and he figured Jasmine would figure it out; she couldn't see it, for she was off to the side, out of line of vision.

"Not a chance." Sheriff Baker wasn't gonna lie to the boy, that would be just unfair and mean; the sheriff was not a mean or unfair man. "I'm just a hick Sheriff, boy. For something like that, you'd be wantin' Oral Roberts." He looked up at his daughter, rubbing his arm after she hit. "What was that for?"

"You are NOT a 'hick sheriff', Daddy." Jasmine didn't like when her daddy referred to himself that way. He may not have authority out of the town, but he was still important, and was a real law man. She sipped her coffee, both her hands on the warm mug even though outside it was slowly growing hotter.

Nick shrugged and made motions with his hands like a bird flying away. He had seen what Jasmine said to her father, and agreed with her; the sheriff seemed like a good man, especially since Nick was now one hundred percent sure that he had seen him observing his 'little girl'.

John didn't respond to his daughter's comment, but did respond to Nick. "Yeah, like that. How many were there?" He watched as Nick held up four fingers, shrugged, and held up five. "Think you could identify any of them?" He watched as Nick wrote in the air his expression shifting from concern to anger.

"Daddy... do you think it was...?" Jasmine hoped it wasn't her Uncle Ray. She knew he had violent tendencies, but he was still family, and no one liked to think ill of their family.

"Oh Jesus Christ. This here's a full commode slopping over for sure. You sure?" John watched as Nick nodded, seemingly reluctantly. "Anything else, you see anything else?" He watched as Nick gave confirmation of his and Jasmine's fears.

"Uncle Ray." Jasmine, sat on her daddy's desk, her back to him, but facing Nick. She looked down at her feet, feeling sick to her stomach. She couldn't believe Uncle Ray would do something like that to a stranger.

"That's Ray Booth. My brother-in-law. Thanks, kid. Five in the morning and my day's wrecked already." He looked over at Jasmine who seemed upset. "And Jasmine's too, I see." He knew that Jasmine wasn't overly fond of her uncle, but family was family. "Well alright. He's a bad actor. Janey knows it. He beat her up enough times when they was kids together. Still they're brother 'n sister and I guess I can forget my lovin' for this week." John sighed, not too pleased for multiple reasons. He shook Nick's shoulder so the boy could see him talk. "It probably won't do any good anyway. Ray 'n his jerk-off buddies'll just swear each other up. Your word against theirs. Did you get any licks in?"

Nick turned his attention to the pad and began writing. "Kicked this Ray in the guts. Got another one in the nose. Might have broken it." He tore off the page, handing it to the sheriff. He wished he hadn't lost his week's pay, that was just bad luck.

"Ray chums around with Vince Hogan, Billy Warner, and Mike Childress, mostly," John looked up at the ceiling in thought. "I might be able to get Vince alone and break him down. He's got all the spine of a dyin' jellyfish. If I could get him I could go after Mike and Billy. Ray got that ring in a fraternity at LSU. He flunked out his sophomore year." John tapped his fingers on the edge of his used breakfast plate in thought. "I guess we could give it a go, kid, if you wanted to. But I'll warn you in advance, we probably won't get them. They're as vicious and cowardly as a dogpack, but they're town boys and you're just a deaf-mute drifter. And if they got off, they'd come after you." John was never one to sugar coat things.

Jasmine kept her focus on the ground, wishing her uncle wasn't such a bad guy, and not just because he was family, but also because Nick was such a good guy. The sickness in her stomach was slowly subsiding, and would probably get even better when she got something to eat. Like her father, she suffered from insomnia, and usually only got a few hours of sleep each night. She got the feeling she'd get even less sleep that night, for she was very prone to nightmares.

Nick thought about the Sheriff's offer for a while, an image in his mind of what had been done to him. So he finally moved the pencil to the paper and wrote; "Let's try." He didn't much care about the repercussions if he failed, because they'd be nothing like losing his pay, and having no way to survive in the world.

John nodded. "Okay. Vince Hogan works down to the sawmill... well that ain't just true. What he does mostly is fucks off down to the sawmill, pardon my language darlin'." He looked to his daughter briefly as he swore. "We'll take a ride down there about nine if that's fine with you. Maybe we can get him scared enough to spill the beans." He smiled as the deaf-mute nodded. "How's your mouth? Doc. Soames left some pills. He said it would probably be a misery to you." After Nick nodded, John stood up. "I'll get 'em. It..." John broke off into several sneezes, earning a worried glance from Jasmine. "That's another thing. I'm comin down with a real good cold. Jesus Christ, ain't life grand? Welcome to Arkansas boy." He didn't even think as he turned away from Nick that the boy wouldn't hear. He got the pills, and a glass of water, handing them to Nick. He then proceeded to rub his throat which was beginning to swell painfully. Oh yes, life was grand indeed.