This chapter is dedicated to Linda Fanfiction. RIP, my friend.
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You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive
Raylan leaned back in the battered vinyl booth, stretching his arm over the cracked top as he met JJ's eyes. Nodding, he said evenly, "There are leads, then there're leads, Jenny. We gotta find the son of a bitch first 'fore we tap that vein for the mother lode."
Leaning forward to rest her elbows on the table, JJ pressed her lips together tightly for a moment before she said, "You didn't used to be so blasted intent on bursting my bubbles, Raylan."
Dave rubbed his hand steadily over JJ's tense back. "Honey, I don't think Marshal Givens was trying to dissuade you. You ought to be used to Reid poking holes in every theory by now, right?"
Meeting the other man's dark gaze, Raylan grinned widely. "Not exactly expecting a Yankee to come to my defense."
"I'm not your average Yankee and I'm not on anybody's side but JJ's," Dave countered evenly, dropping his hand to capture JJ's again. Rubbing his thumb against her cold hand, he added, "And she knows that."
"What I know is that we've got to get to the staff here to trust us enough to talk to us and find out what they know before this day gets away from us," JJ retorted, turning to equally glare at both of her companions. Exhaling a heavy breath, she looked around. The waitress, Betsy, was filling catsup bottles at the bar and Tucker was currently leaning against the stove, staring off into space as was his habit. "I think Boyd's gonna be more help than anybody, but you never know who might actually have something useful to contribute."
"Divide and conquer?" Dave asked, raising an eyebrow at her.
Nodding, I think that would be easiest. Here' comes Betsy with our food," she murmured, smiling as the woman shuffled over to their table with a tray piled with food. "Betsy, right?" she smiled up at the frazzled looking woman as she shifted plates onto their table.
"Yes, ma'am," she nodded, passing the last plate to Raylan, the aroma of chicken and dumplins heavy in the air. "Can I get ya'll anything else right now? Refills on your tea, maybe?" She smiled to the Marshal.
Raylan winked flirtatiously, pulling a blush from the pretty woman. "I'm good for now."
"Actually, I was wondering if you had a minute to talk outside. Miss Fiona said it was alright as long as I made it quick," JJ assured the waitress. "And I'm happy to pay extra for your time," she offered.
"I've gotta break comin' to me anyway a'fore the miners get here on lunch break. You don't need to pay me. Y'er Callie's big sister, right?"
"Yes, I am," JJ answered, nodding eagerly.
"Lemmee just turn my tray in and I'll meet you outside in just a second," the waitress agreed, turning on her heel and hurrying toward the counter.
"Well, that was easy," JJ whispered to the two men, scooting out of the booth. Frowning as Dave moved to follow her, she shook her head. "Where are you going?"
"With you," Dave stated evenly.
"Why? Dave, these folks don't know you. They aren't comfortable with you. Chances are, she won't tell me as much as she normally would if you're looming over both of us. Stay here and eat your lunch. I'll just be outside the door. You'll be able to see me the whole time."
Reluctantly sliding back into his seat, Dave growled, "Are you sure about this? You just got done telling me half an hour ago that this was a dangerous neck of the woods we were wandering into, Jen. Now, you wanna go off by yourself?"
"Dangerous to outsiders," Raylan interjected between bites. "You're an outsider," he said, pointing his fork at Dave. "She's not," he said, jerking his head toward JJ. "Besides, she's on Miss Fiona's property. There's seldom trouble here, especially in the middle of the day."
Nodding, JJ hurried toward the diner's door, the little bell over her head ringing as she stepped outside into the sunshine. She only had to wait a few seconds before the door opened again and Betsy appeared, wrapped in a lightweight jacket over her uniform and a pack of cigarettes in her hand.
"You don't mind if I have a quick smoke, do you?" she asked balefully.
"Of course not," JJ returned pleasantly as Betsy withdrew a cigarette with nervous fingers. It took her two tries to light the end with her shaking fingers. "Betsy, are you okay?" JJ frowned.
Smiling tightly, Betsy nodded. "Right as rain. You wanted to ask about Callie?"
"Yes," JJ replied with a nod. "You knew her, right?"
"Oh, yeah. We was real good friends. I trained her when she started on here at the diner. She was such a sweet young thing."
"You mentioned to my aunt that Callie had changed," JJ prompted, watching as Betsy drew on the cigarette.
"Yes, she did. I didn't want to overshare with your aunt, ma'am…"
"JJ, please," JJ prompted.
Nodding, Betsy continued. "JJ," the waitress said, dropping her voice to a whisper, "your sister fell in with some nasty people….people that got her hooked her into their world."
"Their world? The drug world?" JJ asked anxiously.
"Yes, ma'am," Betsy informed her, her voice filled with regret. "I'm sorry, JJ. I tried to talk to her, but by the time I realized how serious it was they had their hooks into her good. She was usin' somethin' fierce. I caught her snortin' it in the bathroom here at work several times. Oxy, I think. I tried to get 'er to get some help, but she just kept braggin' that her new man was gonna set her up something pretty."
"Who, Betsy?" JJ asked urgently.
"She never did say," Betsy denied.
"So you don't think it was the man Miss Fiona mentioned…the one that tried to drag her out of the diner?" JJ questioned.
"The one Boyd nearly killed? Nah. It wasn't him," Betsy replied with a shake of her head. "She did say that was one of her man's boys, though. The way she told it, the guy she hooked up with was some drug cartel bigshot. She wouldn't hear sense, JJ. I tried to tell her that he was only using her for what he could get, but she wouldn't listen."
"It wasn't you fault and I appreciate you not telling my aunt all of this.," JJ managed, her own heart sinking as she realized just how deep a hole her sister may have fallen inside.
"I tried to only tell her enough to worry 'er enough to call you," Betsy assured JJ worriedly. "I didn't think she could handle knowing everything."
Nodding her agreement, JJ asked, "The night she disappeared…did she say anything out of the ordinary? Did Callie say or do anything worth noting?"
"Not really. She was in a good mood that night. She didn't seem to be high, and she waved and smiled when she left. I saw a blue pickup stop outside here," she nodded to the parking lot, "and she got inside. That was the last I saw her. I'm real sorry, JJ."
"You did what you could, Betsy," JJ forced herself to smile. "I'll find her."
Pitching her cigarette to the pavement, Betsy crushed it with her shoe. "I sure hope so. If I think of anything else…"
"You call me," JJ said softly, pressing her card and a twenty dollar bill into the woman's hand.
"No," Betsy protested when she saw the money.
Covering her hand, JJ squeezed gently. "I haven't been gone so long that I've forgotten how hard it is around here. I'm grateful to you, Betsy. Without you, I wouldn't be here now trying to find Callie now. I owe you more than I can repay."
"Well, then, you've been gone too long, JJ." Betsy smiled sadly. "You done gone and forgotten that up in these hills, we're all family."
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