Author's Notes: I do not own any of the Justified characters, or anything by Elmore Leonard or F/X. It's all just for fun.
This story follows in the timeline of the other stories under this pen name, so it's helpful, but not necessary, to read them first. There are recurring OCs that I'm not ready to give up yet. PM me if you want a rundown on them to save reading the previous stuff.
A word on whiskey vs whisky: I've learned from an article by a New York Times reporter, where he quotes the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary who is a whisky/whiskey connoisseur, that whisky is the spelling of choice in Scotland and Canada, whiskey in the rest of the world, for grain alcohol made from a sour mash.
So, I guess that means Scotch or Rye is generally called whisky; whereas Bourbon or Irish Whiskey is called whiskey. I was concerned about how to spell it in the title, but since our Kentucky Marshals all drink Bourbon, an American drink, I stuck with whiskey with an 'e'. I then went to my cupboard and pulled out the two different brands of Kentucky Bourbon that I happened to have on hand: Labrot & Graham's Woodford Reserve Whiskey and Maker's Mark Whisky. Damn.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – Chapter One
Fingers tingling, he held his gun pointed at the door. Something had woken him. The adrenalin echoed harshly off his skeleton, rattled around his skull. He steadied his breathing, steadied his aim. The phone rang a second time.
"Fuck," he cursed to the dark room and let his arm drop. He set the handgun on the bedside table and picked up his cell.
"What?" he snapped, sinking down onto the bed. Miljana slid over to his side, confiscating his pillow, and snaked an arm up his shirt to rub his back. She was giggling, shaking the bed. He turned to glare at her but the effort was wasted. She couldn't see his face in the dark.
"I need your help, Tim." Raylan didn't waste any time getting to the point.
"Raylan? What the fuck? What time is it?"
"Eleven-thirty. I'll be there in five minutes."
Tim set the phone down and rubbed tiredly at his face. He had gone to bed early trying to catch up on some missed sleep, but apparently the world had other plans for him tonight. He let Miljana pull him back into bed and half drape herself on top of him. She listened to his heart beating too quickly, still in go mode, and reached up to smooth his hair, soothing.
His hands drifted longingly over soft skin and he sighed, "I gotta go."
"Mm-mmm," she mumbled a negative and locked her arm around his waist.
"Uh-huh," he responded and man-handled her off him. He kissed her and got up quickly before she could cast a spell to keep him there, grabbed what he needed and dressed on the way down the stairs.
He unlocked the front door then went to the fridge to grab a snack, drinking orange juice straight out of the container, eyeing his coffee maker wistfully. Raylan let himself in and walked to the kitchen with a cup of take-out.
"Did I wake you?" he asked and handed Tim the cup, noting the dark house, Tim's hair sticking up at funny angles. "You sounded pretty out of it on the phone."
"Thank you," Tim said gratefully accepting the coffee, feeling the question didn't really need answering. "So what's up?"
"It's Loretta, Loretta McCready," Raylan explained. "She's gone missing. Somebody's after the money."
"The money?" Tim repeated, confused. "You sure she's not just out partying?"
"I'll explain in the car. We need to go by the office and get your rifle."
Tim scratched his head then passed Raylan his cup. "I've got one here. Hold on."
He headed into the basement and came up again quickly with a small carry sack over his shoulder and a rifle bag, taking the steps two at a time, catching the urgency in Raylan's voice.
"Okay, let's go." He took back his coffee and followed Raylan out.
Driving through town to the interstate, Raylan reluctantly explained to Tim the mystery of the Bennett money. He felt he owed him that much, dragging him out of bed and down to Harlan. He was reasonably confident that Tim would see the rightness of it and keep the secret, but he paused uneasily when he'd finished the story, waiting for his partner's response. Tim chewed on the information for a bit, then nodded and commented that it was as good a place as any for the ill-gotten funds to land, a kind of life insurance payout for her father's murder.
"Better than going to the government," Tim stated, summing up his feelings on the matter. "That is, as long as Loretta doesn't have ambitions to become the next Mags Bennett. How do you know she's in trouble? She call you?"
"No. It was Limehouse that called," said Raylan. "He and Loretta have an arrangement of sorts."
"So why isn't he looking after this?"
"Limehouse knows better than to try and deal with a hostage situation." Raylan paused. "Funny thing," he added, "he's the one that suggested I call you." He looked curiously over at Tim. "He said it so casual, kind of familiar, like you two've been hanging out, all buddy-buddy."
"Oh yeah, sure. Every Sunday. Early morning distance shooting at the range, then church and brunch," Tim replied sarcastically.
"I can almost picture it," Raylan chuckled then concentrated on his driving. He was going well over the posted speed limit until they hit the interstate. After that he sped up.
"Where are we heading?" Tim asked, already knowing but wanting confirmation or maybe just conversation to keep himself awake.
"Yep," Tim sighed and leaned his head on the window, "I figured. And according to you I get to blame Limehouse for this?"
"I'd've called you anyway, so go ahead and complain to me if you want."
"Why me?" Tim whined.
"Because the Tim model comes with a rifle. And besides, you and I have enough dirt between us to fling around, I knew I could count on your discretion or lack thereof, depending on the need," explained Raylan.
"Uh-huh. Well, I'd've come anyway. She's what? Fifteen now, maybe?"
"Sixteen, I think, just."
Sixteen, thought Tim. Two more years and she'd be an adult. And then what? She'd already been picked up a half dozen times for possession, dealing, but always let off easy. There wasn't a law enforcement officer in Eastern Kentucky who hadn't heard her story, wasn't keeping an eye on her. Usually, she'd just get a stern word. The rare time there was an arrest and her name appeared on their docket, the judges in the Juvenile Court never hesitated to sign off on a diversion agreement. She could probably get away with murder, Tim figured, at least until she turned eighteen.
You just don't come out unscathed from the experiences she'd had in her short life. Tim was oddly grateful for his less than ideal childhood, some bad times, but nothing like that, no horrors until later, when he was an adult and supposedly better able to cope. Aloud he commented to Raylan, "All that money and she can't even buy herself some peace."
"Worst part is, someone's always going to be after her for it, thinking it'll solve all their problems," Raylan replied and stepped a little harder on the gas. "People never learn."
"If the money's such a secret, how did whoever's got her find out about it?"
"Dickie Bennett, more than likely. That idiot can't keep his mouth shut," Raylan snarled.
"You want me to take care of that problem for you? I could do it when he's in the exercise yard," Tim mused, planning it out in his head. "Set myself up a mile or so out. I could be gone before anyone realized that someone didn't just stick him with a shiv. Pick a good day and it'd be pretty easy shot actually. And no one would look too hard into it, seeing how he's such a scumbag."
Tim spun his proposal and Raylan found himself leaning into it. He shook himself mentally and looked over at Tim to see if he was serious. Tim was watching him with a half grin, a funny look in his eye. Raylan chuckled dryly.
"Don't tempt me," he said through his teeth. "There are just too many reasons why I'd like to see him dead."
"Yeah, well, you couldn't afford to hire me," Tim joked.
Or was he joking, Raylan wondered briefly. He found Tim hard to read sometimes, the graveyard humor occasionally cutting a little too close to the line. "You wouldn't do it for free?" he tossed out casually.
"Not even for me?"
"Especially not for you," Tim replied. "I'm going to grab some sleep. Wake me when we're there."
He wormed his way over the seats and stretched out in the back.
"I need you alert, Tim."
"I'll be fine."
They made good time down to Harlan. Traffic was light at that hour. Raylan called back to Tim when he pulled off the main road onto a dirt lane that snaked up into a small holler. He watched in the rearview mirror as Tim sat bolt upright, looking around blearily then opened his pack and pulled out a protein bar and some water, offering some to Raylan.
"No thanks," he declined.
A mile up the road Raylan stopped the car, killed the engine and checked his phone. No reception. No surprise. He turned to Tim and said, "Looks like we're on our own," and tossed the cell on the dash.
Tim just nodded, unzipped the rifle case and started putting his weapon together.
Raylan turned around in his seat and eyed the rifle, noting the camouflage pattern, not the standard USMS black. "Is that yours?" he asked.
"Long story, but yeah," Tim answered, stuffing an extra magazine and some loose rounds into his pocket. "What's the plan?"
"We wait for one of Limehouse's men to meet us," Raylan explained. "He'll take us to the house where they have her."
"Do you trust Limehouse? How do you know this isn't a set up?"
"I don't. But why would Limehouse suggest I bring you if it was?"
"I dunno," Tim shrugged. "Maybe he and Doyle were Bridge partners and now he hasn't won a game in a year. He's so pissed at me for shooting him, he's willing to take out two Marshals to get revenge."
"Maybe he's annoyed that you haven't been back down for some barbeque in a while," suggested Raylan. "You probably helped his diner break even for the year with that one meal you had."
Tim grinned. "Maybe he's open late and I can make it up to him right now. I'm hungry. Do you think he'd deliver?"
He opened the door and stepped out onto the road to stretch. Raylan followed and grabbed a vest out of the trunk. He handed one to Tim and double-checked his sidearm. Tim set his rifle down on the back seat, slipped into his vest and checked his Glock as well. He then picked up his rifle and snapped in a magazine. Satisfied, they closed up the car, leaned against the hood and waited.
It was Limehouse himself who appeared down the road and waved to them. They walked up to meet him.
"Sorry to drag you out at this hour, Marshal, Deputy Gutterson," Limehouse said when they approached. "My information came too late to stop this before it started."
"It's okay. We're all doing this for Loretta," Raylan replied. "How did you find out she was in trouble?"
"I told her if anyone ever threatened her to tell them that I still handle the money. That way they have to call me," he explained. "She's a good girl. She does what she's told."
"I don't know about good, but she's definitely smart," Raylan commented. "Is she okay?"
"She'll be fine till tomorrow at noon. That's when I'm supposed to hand over the funds. Meantime, she and her friend are the guests of some old associates of the Bennetts', from down Tennessee way. I don't think they'll do them any harm," Limehouse predicted, "yet. But men'll do crazy things for that kind of money, as you already know."
"How many of them are there?" asked Tim.
"Four of your bullets ought to do it," Limehouse summed up, smiling at the younger Marshal. "Is your trigger finger itchin'?"
Tim raised an eyebrow. "I'm itching to get back to bed," he replied blandly. "I'm more of a morning person."
Limehouse chuckled softly, "Well, these fellows shouldn't be too much trouble for you Marshals. The only tricky part is those two girls mixed up together with them."
"Who's the other girl?" asked Raylan.
"Old school friend of Loretta's. Her foster family brings her to Harlan to visit her once a month. I'm guessing someone knew the schedule 'cause the men picked them up wandering around this evening. The girls were eyeing up some mischief, I reckon."
"I doubt this is what they had in mind," Raylan commented.
Limehouse pointed down the road. "There's only one house on this lane. You can't miss it. My men'll be watching both ends, making sure no one gets out but you."
Raylan nodded. "Send someone to call the locals, but wait an hour. It'll give me time to chat with Loretta."
"I'll do that. Good luck to you." Limehouse turned and walked back the way he came.
"Raylan, why don't we have a team in here?" Tim demanded.
"The fewer people who know about the money, the safer it is for Loretta," Raylan answered. "You and I can handle this."