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"We need to talk to you," he said.

I ignored him and kept right on.

Sparks, the pedal steel player, was eating the whole scene up with a spoon. That's 'cause he's only five-feet-two with his boots on. He has an authority problem. Sometimes short men are like that. Sugar Bear, on rhythm guitar, was about to pass out. He figured the cops were after him and the ounce of pot he had stashed in his guitar case. Harmonica Jack was tracking a cutie at twenty paces and never even stopped blowing his harp to acknowledge the law's presence.

Cheryl, the waitress with the fewest brain cells and the largest cup size, actually wandered up to the cops and asked if she could take their order. When they said no, she got all miffed and said, "Well, there's a two drink minimum, ya know!"

I was laughing, but couldn't nobody tell. I'd turned my back and dropped my head down like Tammy Wynette used to do right before she'd turn back around with a tear rolling down her cheek. It's all in the timing. In the world of country music, not a teardrop falls without it bein' planned for maximum effect.

I held the last note until the audience started hooting and whooping. That's when the two cops rushed the stage.

"Ms. Reid?" the older one said, as if he didn't already know.

"In the flesh," I answered.

"We need you to come down to the police station with us." He sounded just like a TV show. Who knew they really talked like that?

"Well, am I under arrest?" I asked, and the small crowd of Nosy Parkers standing at the foot of the stage began to snicker. That made the young cop's trigger finger get itchy again. Somebody should've told him early on that being a police officer isn't a popularity contest.

"No, you're not under arrest. You got trouble at your house, and the detectives wanted us to come get you."

Now I had something to worry about.

"What is it? Did someone break in?" The cops stood there, like big park statues, all stony and grim.

"Tell me!" I demanded. "I got a right to know what's wrong before I just go busting out of here."

The younger guy couldn't contain himself. "Not in a murder case you don't," he said.

I thought the older cop was going to take him outside and whip him. He started turning red in the face and his gray flattop started to glow white against his skin.

"They'll explain it all once we're downtown," he said, trying to act like there wasn't nothing out of the ordinary going on.

"Wait a minute," I said, a tiny pilot light of fear suddenly cutting on in my heart. "I got a sixteen-year-old daughter. She lives with her daddy, but she's got a key. She wasn't… I mean… she's not…"

Flattop caught on. "No, nothing like that."

"Yeah, this one's male," his partner said.

"Shut up, Dave!" Flattop yelled. "Jeeze!"

"Cuff her?" Dave asked hopefully.

"For pity's sake, no."

At the mention of handcuffs, the crowd-my fans-turned ugly. They moved in close and there was a hostile smell to the air.

"Aw, now," I said, lifting my hands out in front of me, "he just don't wanna risk me running out on him." I laughed and winked at the crowd. "See, ain't every day a cute redhead rides in a big old squad car!"

The young cop colored, more of a purple than his partner's ruby. "Shucks'" I said, stepping forward and linking my arms through the officers'. "Two boys cute as y'all? Why I'd be honored to go riding!"

I pushed them forward, toward the front door. The young one started to resist.

"Listen, big man," I hissed under my breath, "there's two of y'all and a houseful of them. A wise man knows when to shut up and run low."

I looked back over my shoulder at the uncertain mob. If I'd raised my finger, or so much as whistled, they'd have come running.

"Toodaloo, boys," I said with a laugh. "Looks like I got a few fish to fry. See y'all tomorrow night!" I hope, I breathed to myself. I had the feeling I was headed for big trouble. As usual, I was right.

Chapter Four

Police departments are set up to intimidate the guilty, and Greensboro's was no exception. Someone had hung a rubber chicken on the doorknob to the interrogation room where I sat waiting. The symbolism was not lost on me. I was beginning to feel like the sacrificial bird at a Sunday supper.

I sat in a hard plastic chair, considering my options. The right thing to do was to walk. But since I'd been personally escorted to the station, I'd be walking out in the middle of the night, hoping to catch a taxi. Greensboro is not New York City The cab drivers here go home at a decent hour.

Someone was dead in my home. Who? It had to be someone I knew. Otherwise, they wouldn't have made such a big deal about bringing me downtown. A chill ran over me. They were gonna make me look at the body! No! They couldn't do that. I couldn't look at someone I knew, maybe even loved or cared about, dead.

In an attempt to distract myself, I stared up at the two-way mirror that took up most of the wall across from me. Was that a tiny flicker of movement? I stood up and walked around the battered metal table, standing right in front of the mirror. This time I was sure I saw movement.

"You know, I'm thinking if you're man enough to stare at me from behind the safety of a two-way mirror, you're man enough to walk in and look me in the eye." I was guessing, of course, but a woman wouldn't skulk around like that. At least I wouldn't. "Why don't you come in here and tell me what's going on?"

The movement stopped. I slowly returned to my chair and started dunking again. Who was dead in my house? Why didn't the police take me there to identify the body? Was it someone I knew? An intruder, or someone I cared about?

Behind me, the door swung open. I jumped, startled as it banged into the wall, and turned around.

"Well, it's about damned…" The words faded on my lips. Standing in front of me was the blue-eyed cowboy from the Golden Stallion, just as I remembered.

"It's you," I said, kicking myself for pointing out the obvious. To make matters worse, I stood up, knocking my bag off my lap and onto the floor, the contents scattering everywhere.

"Let me help you," he said, his voice a deep, silky baritone.

We both knelt down, with me trying to grab up every little embarrassing item that women carry in their pocketbooks. He handed me my lipstick, his fingers briefly brushing mine. A shock ran up my arm. We were only inches apart.

"I'm Marshall Weathers," he said, a smile creeping out from underneath his mustache.

"Maggie Reid."

"Oh, I remember."

My heart was pounding in my ears. I focused on my purse, punching the flap closed and trying to calm down. Then I noticed the gun and the badge.

"You're a cop?"


We both stood at the same moment. I came almost up to his shoulder. "Then you know what's going on." He nodded. "Then why am I here? Who's dead?"

"Why don't you have a seat, Maggie," he said. He stepped past me, taking the chair across from mine.

I stood, gripping the back of the chair with one hand and slowly putting my purse down on the table with the other. "Who was it?" I asked slowly.

"His license says James Spivey. Do you know him?"

"Jimmy!" I cried. My legs weakened and I sank down into the chair. "Oh, no!" The tears came, tightening my throat. Not Jimmy!

Marshall Weathers sat there quietly, waiting for the initial shock to pass, I guess. Then he reached into his pocket, pulled out a clean, white handkerchief, and passed it to me.

"I'm sorry," he said softly.

"What happened?"

"We got an anonymous nine-one-one call from a public phone booth, saying there had been shots fired in your house and that someone was hurt. When the patrol officers responded, with the ambulance and EMS. people, it was…" His voice trailed off and our eyes met.