It was about dinnertime when Sarah got back to her office. She had to search around for more signs of those ugly rag men who had blown the mine. She wished she had tied the unconscious one up when she had the chance. Her nerves had been a little frayed after the explosion and the gunfight. She had allowed her curiosity and Roy Simmons to distract her. It made her mad as Hell. She was mad at the murderer, mad at the men at the mines and mad at Roy Simmons too. Most of all, she was mad at herself for not handling things right.
Of course, she had never dealt with an actual murder mystery before. She had also never seen anybody like those things at the mine before. She had also never seen anything like the carvings at the mine or that type of stone either. It had certainly been a red letter day and Sarah was frustrated and dog-tired as she hung up her hat. She unbuckled her gun belt and hung it up as well. She took out her pistol and carried it over to her desk. It was time to do a little maintenance and cleaning to make sure she was ready for another firefight. To say that another firefight was an unwelcome phrase was a bit of an understatement.
“Sheriff Redcross? Are you here?” A tiny voice asked as the door opened with a jingle of the bell. It was only the fact that her gun was half taken apart that saved Holly Dawson from getting shot. Sarah thought she had locked that door but she realized she was tired and distracted enough to have forgotten.
“Oh! There you are. Sorry for intruding,” Holly said. She glanced at the lamps around the room. Most of them were off. There was a little desert finch on Holly’s shoulder and it looked almost as curious as young Holly.
“Oh sorry, Holly. I haven’t turned the lights on yet. I just got in,” Sarah said. She checked her pocket watch. “Oh, I guess it was already twenty minutes ago. It’s been a long day, Holly.”
“I can imagine, Sheriff. You do so much for Essex,” Holly said. Her voice was soft and if you did not know her, you might think she was shy.
“Can I help you, Holly?” Sarah asked.
“Oh! I was just wondering if you were hungry.” Holly said with a sweet smile. The bird hopped back and forth on her shoulder, strangely silent this whole time. Sarah’s stomach grumbled and she hoped it was not loud enough to hear. Holly was carrying a dish.
“I wouldn’t turn down food kindly given, Holly. You didn’t have to bring that over, though. You know that, right?” Sarah asked with a smile. She pushed her gun forward on her desk so that Holly could set the dish down.
“Oh yes, ma’am but I remember that you used to bring your father dinner from our house,” Holly said as she set the dish down. Holly Dawson’s family had indeed helped feed Sarah and her father not too long ago. They were friends with everybody in town and Holly’s dad ran the general store. Holly herself was a quiet girl with an affinity for birds and she had always been eager to please.
“Angling for a deputy job, Holly?” Sarah asked with a sly smirk on her face. She was teasing, there was little chance of that. This was confirmed by the blush and flustered look on Holly’s face.
“No, of course not, Sheriff. I really just want to cook someplace someday,” Holly said. She was still blushing furiously and the finch was starting to get excited. Sarah decided to give her a break.
“But seriously, Holly, I’d like to thank you and your family for the help you’ve given my family. You’re always welcome here as long as long as I don’t have somebody in lock up.” Sarah said.
“I suppose that’s a deal, Sheriff,” Holly said with a satisfied little smile.
“I won’t even hold you to it. I won’t expect you.” Sarah said. She needed to make that clear.
“Understood, Sheriff. I’ll be here when I can. I need the cooking practice,” Holly said.
“What’s for dinner tonight then?” Sarah asked.
“Rabbit stew,” Holly said.
Sarah dug in and was quiet for a long time while Holly watched her eat. Sarah truly felt at peace after a few moments. She really loved the food but she also made a conscious effort to make little happy noises. Holly was standing right there and it seemed only right. Halfway through she pulled out a bottle of sasparilla. She was done way quicker than she thought she would be.
“That was delicious, Holly. Boy, you are an amazing cook. Best in town but don’t tell your mother. How do you do it?” Sarah asked.
“The proper seasoning is really the key to a good meal. At least, that’s what I think.” Holly explained.
“Wait, did you say ‘key’?” Sarah asked.
“I think so. Did I? Why do you ask, Sheriff?” Holly asked. The little finch on her shoulder cocked its head.
“Nevermind, Holly. One day I’ll tell you the whole thing but for now, I have to play it close to my vest.”
“I understand, Sheriff. I’ll try to keep my curiosity in check.”
“At least you’ve given me the whisper of an idea. If it works out, maybe you’ll earn that tin star yet.” Sarah said and winked at the girl.