I do not own Justified or "Fire in the Hole"*. The title comes from a song by Cory Branan.
As the days roll past with no final 'at last' I find there's little that I can't forgive...
Maybe he should just make it his ringtone: Raylan, we've found a body… He sure as hell hears it enough, and the message always comes complete with an invitation down to Harlan to view the deceased. These days, it seems everyone who dies in Harlan County gets a courtesy call from Marshall Givens- everyone with a connection to or on the opposite side of the fence from Boyd Crowder. That's pretty much everyone.
This morning, he's driving into the National Forest on the north side of the county. The road is narrower than the highway and lined tight on either side by trees. There's no question as to his destination- a squad car and a Fish and Games truck are parked by the side of the road about four miles into the park. The sheriff's deputy is firing wasted shots at crows and raccoons trying to creep in on the body. The conservation officer looks on, shifting on his feet, nervous and annoyed.
If they hadn't been there waiting, Raylan could've followed the smell.
"Good morning," he says to the deputy and the Wildlife guy. "How long has it been here, would you guess?"
"Couple of weeks," the Conservation officer replies. "Shallow grave, so he's ate up pretty good."
"Who do we know who's missing?"
"We'd been looking for a girl went missing from Audrey's place over by Cumberland. Ain't no girl though. Male, late twenties or early thirties. Inked up with that skinhead shit. There's a wallet lying on the body, but we haven't touched it. Figured we'd wait for you."
Raylan nods. He lets the deputy lead him to the body. The Fish and Game guy stays back. The body has been mutilated by animals. Raylan can see patterns from tattoos on the neck and chest, but the picking and nibbling have disrupted the flesh to the point where he can't make out the designs.
The deputy nods at the open wallet laid at the body's feet. Raylan finds a stick and lifts the wallet away. It is empty of cash. Whoever buried him robbed him as well, but made no attempt to disguise the identity of the dead man. The ID- an identity document only, the kind usually given out to someone whose driver's license has been revoked for a substantial amount of time- is intact.
"You know him?" The deputy asks.
"I know him," Raylan says. "I never forget a man who threatens to kill on me on the front steps of a church."
Raylan returns to the Marshall's office from a lunch break that had begun at noon the previous day. Tim Gutterson jumps up and away from his desk quick enough to sprain something.
"Didn't get lunch yesterday," he grumbles as he pushes past Raylan. "Damned sure not going to miss it today."
Raylan looks over at Rachel, baffled. Rachel shakes her head, herself mystified that Raylan doesn't get why Tim is so pissed off.
"Art's waiting for you," is all she says.
"Shit," Raylan says. "I was supposed to bring him a sandwich."
"Yesterday, Raylan. I don't think it matters at this point. In fact, I wouldn't bring it up."
She nods to indicate that Art is coming up from behind.
"Well, I'd say that the prodigal son has returned, but that might indicate a closer relationship than I'd prefer to have with you at this point, Raylan," Art says. "Do you know what happens around here when Tim gets hungry? It's not pretty. In fact, it's downright ugly."
"And how would you be able to tell?" Raylan asks.
Art ignores him. "If you were a wise man, I'd expect to see some ass-kissing upon Deputy Gutterson's return."
"I'll be standing ready," Raylan says.
Art shakes his head and motions Raylan toward his office.
"You've come back just in time. There's a young lady in my office would like to speak to you. She says her name is Eden Raney. She's from down by your neck of the woods."
"Raney…why do I know Raneys?"
"Quite a little story there. The recent dearly departed from Boyd's crew- the one you went to view out in the woods last week- was Devlin Raney."
"So, she's his sister?"
Art shakes his head. "Says she's his wife. Says she's been married to the so-called Devil for the better part of a decade, which- from the looks of her- means she married him when she was about fourteen. Did I ever tell you how much your hometown scares me?"
Raylan leans to the side to peer around Art.
Art continues: "They haven't been together for about four years, though, since he got sent to Little Sandy. She left him then, but never divorced him, and then she couldn't find him. She's been trying to get him to sign papers for the last couple of years, it seems."
"Why didn't she just take it to a judge? If he failed to appear, she should have had her divorce."
"From the sounds of things, Harlan County decided to use her as bait. They wouldn't sign the order unless he appeared. Wanted him to come down off the mountain to face some other charges."
"I'm sure there were many," Raylan says.
Art nods. "There were a lot. Enough to send him back up on a parole violation or three. Still, it's hardly right of them to keep her tangled up in it."
"Well, did you inform her that the divorce will no longer be necessary?"
"I did. She looks like she's holding it together, but she says she still wants to talk to you."
Raylan shrugs. "Well, there's no need to thank me. I didn't shoot him."
"Be nice. She's a grieving widow."
"I thought you said she was looking to divorce him."
"She was," Art says. "And now she'll never get the satisfaction."
Raylan follows Art into his office. He takes his hat off as he enters and offers his hand to the girl. He guesses that she's older than Art thinks she is, but not much. Whatever the case, she's aged well considering.
Art says, "Ma'am, this is Marshall Givens."
The girl nods and stands up. Raylan looks her over and thinks what the hell to himself. It's not just that she's pretty, but she has a charming and timid look to her. Her make-up isn't overdone and her wavy blonde hair is tousled rather than teased. No visible tattoos. Her nose doesn't appear to have ever been broken. The only recognizable to nod towards Devil and his lifestyle are the black biker boots she's got her jeans tucked into. She's wearing a black and white striped t-shirt that reminds Raylan, for some reason, of mimes.
"I'm sorry for your loss, Mrs. Raney," he says.
"Thank you, sir," she says. "But I lost him a long time ago. All's this means is I can stop looking."
Art tells her, "Marshall Givens grew up in Harlan. He's had some experience with your late-husband."
The girl nods. She looks away at the wall between Raylan and Art. A small, sick smile forms on her lips.
"I know. A friend of mine was up here on some business. Told me she heard Devil's name floating around. Told me to ask for Marshall Givens. Is he here- Devil?"
"No, ma'am. He's down in Cumberland, at the morgue."
"Should I go down to identify him, or collect him or…"
Art tells her, "Mrs. Raney, your husband's remains were found in very poor condition. The extent of his injuries…"
"What happened to him?"
"We believe he was shot."
"By one of those fucking Crowders?" The sudden bite in her voice knocks Art and Raylan off guard. They exchange glances.
Art plays it cool. "We don't know, ma'am. If you'd like, we can put in a call to Harlan County and let them know you'll collect your husband's remains and his effects."
"What was your name again?" Raylan asks. He still can't place her. She's young enough that he wouldn't have known her in high school. Still, it isn't often that he needs to be introduced to someone from his hometown.
"Eden Raney," she says. "Eden Harper. Can I go back to being Eden Harper now? Is that how it works?"
Art says, "I don't really know how that works, ma'am. You have to file for a new social security card, and…ma'am, you really don't have to worry about this now. I'll call down to Cumberland, and if you want to leave your number, we can get a hold of you when they're ready for you to take him."
She nods. She takes the pen and tablet when Art hands it to her. She writes down a cell number, but no address.
"Alright, Ms. Raney. We'll give you a call as soon as we know anything. Do you live here in Lexington?"
"I have been," she says. "I guess I'm headed back down to Cumberland."
Art frowns and exchanges glances with Raylan.
The girl whispers a barely audible 'thank you', stands and walks through the door when Raylan opens it.
Art watches her until she gets as far as the elevators and then says to Raylan, "Follow her. After all the work we've put towards shutting Boyd Crowder down, I'll be really disappointed if she's the one who gets to kill him off."
a/n: In "Fire In The Hole", Devil's last name is Ellis. He never had one on Justified. I'm using Raney in this story because it's a different universe than my story "Moonshine Blind" and because I just like the sound of it.