“Mr. Maxwell, you’ve been more helpful than you know.” CJ told the collector, then stood up and offered his hand for a shake. Maxwell reciprocated with healthy skepticism painted across his face, but CJ was already making for the door.
“I take it you have a suspicion then?” Maxwell called as he followed CJ back to the foyer.
“At this point, there’s only one explanation that makes sense,” the PI said as he put on his coat, “and it breaks my heart to admit it. I had sort of hoped it was you or someone associated with you.”
Maxwell gratified this with a laugh, sporting the most genuine smile that he had all day. His hardlined features softened only a bit, and CJ got his first look at the earnest man beneath all of the careful nicety. “I’m sorry to disappoint - but at the very least you’ve gotten your lead for who may yet take my place as the guilty party.” CJ paused as Maxwell opened the door for him. The PI was halfway off the porch before he stopped and turned back. “Thanks Brian.”
“See you next time, Sheriff.” Maxwell responded cooly, his eyebrow arched and his eyes thoughtful as he closed the door behind CJ.
The PI hurried to his vehicle, his mind whirring as he started up the engine. He needed to talk to Glenn, he needed to talk to the dig site staff … but before any of that, as his hands curled tight around the steering wheel, he realized he needed to get the Sheriff’s support. The leather on the wheel creaked as CJ’s knuckles went white. With a soft curse under his breath, the PI turned on the road back into town.
It wasn’t the first time CJ had been into the Sheriff’s Office since … well, since Banks took over, but this was the first time he’d had reason to rally the deputies. Up until this point, the Tabasin PD had handled anything criminal CJ had turned up in his cases - but this time, it was well outside their jurisdiction, and therefore well within CJ’s previous jurisdiction.
CJ’s heart sped up as he made his way through the little town’s crossroads, and the old brick building came into view. The interior had been redone multiple times, but for some reason the county had always found a way to justify keeping the office red brick and mortar. CJ stepped out of his truck and made his way to the big set of double doors at the front of the building, and for a moment it did indeed feel a little like coming home.
Then he got inside, and the looks started. Almost every person in that building recognized the PI, and he couldn’t decide what was worse: the awkward aversion of gazes and shuffling of feet, or the pity-filled, patronizing mentions of “Hey, Sheriff…” followed by an inevitable lapse into uncomfortable silence.
“Where’s Banks?” He asked a deputy stiffly.
“His office. He should be ready to speak with you.”
CJ’s eyes narrowed. “He’s expecting me?”
The deputy shrugged. “He’s sort of been expecting you all day. Something about how ‘it wouldn’t be long before Stewart brings something in for us.’”
CJ nodded his thanks, before straightening up his back and marching into the Sheriff’s office.
Banks was there, checking over something on his computer. The placard on the desk declaring his station had been polished to a bronzy sheen, and the office as a whole was immaculate. Sports trophies lined a case on the back wall, and law-enforcement accolades hung on either side. Banks gave CJ a broad grin - the Sheriff was a sturdily built man with a youthful face and jetblack hair, and his eyes glinted with something sharp and dangerous as CJ entered the room.
“So. Are you victoriously parading someone in, or are you digging for further leads?” Banks said with a smirk as he leaned back in his chair.
“I wouldn’t call this a victory.” CJ scowled back as he refused the seat Banks gestured toward. “I’m going to need a few deputies. I know who ransacked the dig.”
Banks gave a faux-gasp, then spread his hands wide. “Do tell! Do tell.”
CJ’s eyes narrowed again, and he took a long moment to scrutinize the big man’s bombast.
“Heck, if it’s a good enough story, I’ll come with you myself, Sheriff.” Banks said with wide-eyed earnesty - eyes that only glimmered when CJ’s hands clenched and the PI growled “That’s enough.” The Sheriff put up his hands placatingly with a little huff.
“Okay, okay.” Banks said, and once more pushed the chair opposite his desk out with his foot. “Sit down, Stewart. We can be civil about this, I promise.” “I’m not still standing because I’m worried about your civilities, Banks.” CJ was gritting his teeth. “Those are a lost cause.
I’m still standing because time is short and I need you to help me take action here.”
“I’m not sending my deputies to take any action just on your say so.” Banks rolled his eyes. “You’re not in charge here. You don’t get to order us around anymore.”
The Sheriff gestured once again to the chair, and made a show of pulling out a pad of paper and a pen. “So sit down, and write me out a statement. Spare no detail, and I’ll look it over and if I deem both that a crime has been committed within reasonable doubt and that it took place within my jurisdiction, I’ll send someone out.”
CJ could feel the seconds ticking away. He took a deep breath to steady himself and …
A. Concede. Sit down, write the statement - take the lawful route, at risk of giving the culprit time to get away, get the artifacts and make an escape.
B. Compromise. Sit, be reasonable, but insist that time is of the essence.
C. Storm out. Take matters into your own hands.