Tanner Burk had spent months looking for Sierra's killer and had found only one sure detail. It had been a red car that had forced her off the road! He sat at his desk and slid the files over and went over them one more time. Somewhere in here is the answer, his instincts told him.
There were three cases he had been working on: John Lund, whom he'd sent to prison for book-making. Then a personal issue of his own investigating the chief of police. And also John Thomas, a thief and con-artist who was also residing in a prison.
Burned out and restless, he grabbed the files, locked his office door, got in his car and headed north to see his friend and former college buddy, Reed Conners. Finally, away from the busy turmoll of the big city and into the country of cattle and grain farms.
The traffic had thinned and his thoughts went back to the time when he had decided he needed a secretary to sort out his messy office. Sierra Ames had answered his ad and exclaimed, "I've just finished my business course, and this will be my first job using my secretarial skills, and I can see you need me!" Now she had been gone for nearly a year, but at times he swore he could still smell her perfume in his bed. As Reed's ranch came into view, Tanner stretched his cramped and tired body and looked forward to a cold beer with his friend.
The fading sun sent long shadows over the roof of the brick ranch-style house, and the closed blinds promised coolness inside. Reed had given up his office in downtown Willeston, several years ago, and only took special cases at his home office, but now it was surprisingly quiet. Too quiet!
How long had it been since they had talked? Months, Tanner guessed. The last time he had been here to the ranch, the place had been alive with cattle in the pastures, ranch hands working the fences and the cook in the kitchen creating wonderful aromas of Spanish dishes. Now the brown and white Herefords were gone and the grass had grown tall in the pastures.
As a criminal attorney, had Reed run into trouble?
Tanner walked back to his car, then stood for a minute and looked around at the quiet lonely place, then began to drive, his thoughts in shambles.They had talked about getting together and going fishing in Wisconsin that last time they had talked about Sierra's death, but he remembered now, that was a long time ago.
The small town Tanner had grown up in lay just ahead of him as he anxiously barreled down the highway hours later, and desparately needing to see family, he checked into the Dew Drop Inn, tossed his bags on the bed and went out again on the one and only street to the Rex Cafe.
Home Cooked Meals, a blackboard proclaimed, and he stood for a moment in the entry and gazed about. Slelves laden with crafts created by the locals, another sign said; knit afghans, quilts, flower arrangements and small trinkets tumbled from tables. He walked quietly up to a familiar figure and whirled the woman around in a dance step.
"Hello Aunt Julia," he whispered in her ear. The lady's aged face crinkled in a smile as she fell into step with one of her favorite nephews. Tanner smiled at this woman who had been like a mother to him after his parents had died suddenly when he was a young boy.
That night however, he slept fitfully on the hard mattress in his motel room, and finally at the first hint of dawn, gave up all thoughts of resting and went outside hoping to catch an early morning breeze.
But it was hot and still!