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In a Big Country


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This is the beginning. a few words. This is a game which uses a modern real world setting. It is set in the Town of Shelly Montana which is my fictional version of the real town in Montana called Shelby. In this game I will be using some fictionalized versions of real people that actually live in Shelby Montana and its surroundings. In most cases i will only use names and professions but sometimes i may draw a little deeper on the real life version. I will also of course be using totally fictional persons who will take the place of various real world persons. Two examples are Sheriff Donna Whitt, who is real and Tribal Police Chief Micah Loan who is made up from whole cloth. 

 If you are curious about Shelly and its environs just google Shelby Montana, it is 98% what Shelly is.


Ok  next part is the following. I am looking at this as a semi open world drama. it will have an overarching story but it will also have other threads. these other threads will be interweaved into the story. I also encourage everyone to take firm control of their and add things to their personal story as we go along. this can be in the main story or even in a separate story thread, solo or with some one else character. in other words be active! don't just wait for me to post to react.


Graphic nature of the subject material. this is a drama/mystery story it will feature crime some of the crime may be triggering for some people. I will not be gratuitous in describing things but there may be some graphic descriptions. same thing with sex. if you are writing a post which features graphic sex or violence give folks a warning.


About the following character intros. I left all but one of them openers to ambiguous time setting. each of these little scenes could take place one or two weeks ago, last night or a hour ago. each one ends with a sort of cliff hanger. I did this so you could decide how and what it means. I expect each of you to think hard and ask me a bunch of questions about these scenes. some of them lead to real mysteries and some might be red herrings. or not. any way take them and make them your own.


now that being said the show will up with breakfast at Bunnee's i have put two of the characters in place the rest of you get there on your own  🙂






Coraline Hess looked out of the large window past the heavy curtains at the swollen creek rushing past the front porch of her cabin. Two weeks ago, when she arrived and was shown the house by its owner, Alex Lee, the creek had been a trickle of water at the bottom of the ridge the house was built on, forty feet away and about fifteen feet lower than it was now, the view had been nice but uninspiring to say the least.


Today that was not the case.


The snows in the distant mountains to the west were melting that coupled with a series of somewhat frightening thunderstorms the last week had produced a raging river only ten yards from the porch, that seemed to threaten pouring over into the yard and maybe even the cabin. With the sun peaking up over the horizon of the flat prairie in the east, the light and shadows cast the whole tableau into an ominous and exciting vision of mother nature.


Cora sighed and looked at the porch as she took a sip of coffee. It was still odd to her the house was backwards. When Lee had driven her out here after picking her up at the train station he had explained as the approached up the hard packed dirt drive that had meandered from the paved road a good half mile away, they had driven up on what was obviously the rear of the rustic looking cabin. Alex Lee had chuckled as they had pulled up to the back of the house, “When we put this one up, we turned it around, so the front was facing the ridge. Give ya a more picturesque view.“ He had chucked as he over-pronounced picturesque. “The cabins, they’re sound but kind a boring too, not much you can do with them layout wise, so anything we can do to make em more attractive. You know.”


Cora gave a little laugh, that Lee was really a character. She set her cup on the counter to look over her shopping list one more time before heading to town. It was a half hour drive into Shelly and she wanted to make sure she had everything on her list that she needed. Shelly was ok it was a lot different than New York, but she still felt a sense of unease when she was in town. As if everyone was staring at her. The moment sh had that thought she caught a hint of movement in her peripheral vision and glanced back toward the window and found herself staring into the large yellow eyes of a wolf.


Cora froze. Lee had told her that there were wild animals that might come close to the cabin or that she could encounter if she went hiking warned her to be careful around coyotes and Moose, but aside from some feral cats she hadn’t seen any till now. The wolf was big much larger than she had imagined one would be. Its fur was dark and wet it stood like it had been in the rain, but it wasn’t raining. It must have come from the swollen creek. Suddenly it dashed off the porch and ran off into the bushes on the left. Cora moved to the window, but it was gone, all she could see were the bushes moving where it had passed.




Ackley Heron, Montana Game Warden for District FG412, pulled his truck off the dirt track and let his gaze linger on the torn-up fence and the gently rolling grassland surrounding him. He had gotten the rather angry phone call at a little after midnight from Horace Barker, a sheep rancher with deep pockets and political connections, seems one of his hired hands was coming home from some get together in Kevin when he came across a bunch of sheep on the road. Horace and his boys spent the better part of the night rounding up the herd and had found the torn-up fence and called Ackley.


Ackley stepped down out of the truck and walked over to the fence, sure enough there were moose tracks all over the place. He walked onto the rancher’s land following the tracks to a feed pen and then a little way west toward a small runoff creek then back to the torn-up fence and the tracks meanders across the road and toward the north.


This was very unusual. Moose as a rule don’t bother with fenced in areas. They are not like bears or wolves who will do all sorts of things to get over under or around a fence. A moose that comes up to a fence will usually stop look at it and turn around and go another way. Ackley had never heard of one tearing up a fence before. But all evidence said one did, and moose being game animal meant the torn up fence was his responsibility. With a sigh he walked back to his truck and started pulling tools and wire out. At least the fence post had been pulled up and not broken so he wouldn’t have to dig any new hole.

He took his jacket off and went to work.




The wrench slipped and Shay slammed her hand against the edge of the alternator mount.




The string of curses that followed would have singed ears in a World War II battleships boiler room, Shay stepped back off the step ladder she had to use to get into the engine compartment and looked at her stinging bleeding knuckles.


“Oww, that looks bad.”


The voice from behind startled Shay who spun and glared. Two people she didn’t recognize a man and a woman, both in their early thirties and wearing suits. The woman was attractive with pale blonde short hair wearing an off-white jacket and pants with a light blue shirt opened enough to reveal a generous cleavage. The man was slim, also attractive in a Hollywood way, was wearing a darker suit, blue with a tie and a white shirt. The suit was expensive and traditional. Both wore dark glasses. It was the man who had spoken.


“Can I help you?” Shay was always wary when strangers showed up on her doorstep.


The man’s eyes had dropped to Shay’s chest, something she was used to. He stood there speechless ogling. Shaking her head, the woman spoke as she removed her glasses and gave Shay an appreciative smile. “My name is Nora Kale This is Bob Drake. Are you Shay Cassidy?”




“I’ll take that as a yes. We’re lawyers,” Nora stepped forward and produced a business card which she handed to Shay. “I know you are aware that there has been a lot of litigation over the cause of the tragic fire that took the lives of your family. Which I am very sorry for the loss you and your sister suffered. What you are not aware of is that there has been a settlement.”


“You never replied to any of the letters you were sent.” Bob had collected himself and was looking at her face now. “That is why we are here.”


Nora glanced at Bob who shrugged. She smiled at Shay when she looked back at her. “We represent the corporation that bought out the oil field company that was found responsible for the fire.” Nora took the handkerchief from her jacket pocket and took Shay’s bleeding hand and dabbed at the blood. “You and your sister are entitled to part of that settlement, which is substantial, but that isn’t the only reason we came all the way out her. Our client would like to make an offer on your land.”




The kids were off to school, the wife had already left for her shift at the medical center, and Andrew Carmody, the sheriff of Toole County was enjoying one last cup of coffee before heading to his station.


Andrew had been sheriff since the beginning of the year. It had been a couple of tumultuous months of change. The previous sheriff had served for over 20 years and while Andrew was her handpicked successor and had won the sheriffs race handedly there was still some who doubted his ability to run the department. Couple that with the state nearly doubling the size of the Toole County jurisdiction due to cutbacks and the fact that several of the departments’ deputies had moved on to greener pastures, had made the transition a bit stressful. His undersheriffs slot was empty, he was down to only ten of the sixteen deputies allotted by the Public Safety commission, and the department was facing discrimination charges leveled by a very vocal local media. But at least crime was down.


Andrew settled into the drivers seat and started the truck up. He let it warm a little before putting it in reverse and starting out of the drive when the radio crackled.


“AJ, you headin in?” the voice belonged to Brenda Nanini the head dispatcher and chief office assistant.


He grabbed the mic from the dashboard and keyed it. “Yep. What you got Bren?”


“Jail called they are holding someone who says he needs to talk to the sheriff. That would be you.”


“Who is it?”


“They didn’t say and Bill took the call and didn’t write any names down and he’s already gone. I figured you might want to stop there before coming in instead of having to drive back over later.”


Andrew looked at the clock in the dash then into the rearview mirror at the reflection of his eyes. “Yeah, I’ll stop there first. Thanks Bren. Oh, talk to Bill, good notes are important.”


“Will do AJ.” The double click followed and was Brenda’s trademark signing off.


Sheriff Carmody entered the jails main office and spoke with the jailer on duty. “We picked him up about 1:30 walking out on the highway. He was obviously drunk, so we brought him in to sleep it off.” The jailer handed the sign in sheet. “No id, had six bucks and some change, some Indian jewelry. When he woke up, we went in to let him out and he said he was here to talk to the sheriff.”


Andrew looked at the CCTV screen showing the cell, “You get a name?”


“Says his name is Joe Spotted Owl.”


“He ever been in here before?”


The jailer shrugged, “I don’t know I didn’t recognize him, and the name didn’t come up in a search, But I have only been on the job for about six months.”


Andrew nodded, “Let me go see what he wants.”


Andrew came up to the holding cell while the jailer stayed in the outer room, the door remained open in case Andrew needed him. Joe Spotted Owl was sitting up straight on the bunk, arms resting on his thighs, head tilted slightly back, straight black hair hanging down to just below the man’s broad shoulders. His eyes were closed and he was breathing slow and evenly. Andrew wasn’t sure if he was awake or not, the Indian didn’t respond in any way to his presence.


“Mr Spotted Owl, you wanted to see me?”


The Indian opened one eye which was startling blue and looked at the sheriff, “You are not sheriff Donna.” His voice was deep and unaccented his words clear even though he spoke softly.


“No I’m not, Sheriff Whitt retired, my names Carmody, I’m the new Sheriff.”


Joe opened his other eye and looked more directly at the sheriff. He was quite for several long seconds. “Okay.” He fell quite again he looked to Andrew like he was thinking real hard.


Andrew took an impatient breath, “You told the officer you needed to see me.”


“Yeah, I guess so.” Joes’ forehead creased and he shook his head slightly. “Usually I talk to sheriff Donna, but I guess if you are the sheriff now, I should talk to you. The spirits just said to come talk to the sheriff. Did you bring breakfast, sheriff Donna usually brings breakfast from Bunee’s. I like those filled crescent rolls Bunee makes they are very good.”




Lili Archer came out of the home she grew up in, angry, sad, frustrated. The house was too small not at all like she remembered it. Her dad was sick, possibly dying. Her mother was in denial, her dad was in denial, and she hadn’t seen her uncle since she got back. For the last two weeks she did what she could to convince her father to go to the medical center in Shelly, but he just kept telling her not to worry the tribal doctors were taking care of him.


Her dad had been a big man not tall but hefty weighing over two hundred pounds. Now he was just over one forty, his skin hung on his frame like and old house coat. And the coughing. It wasn’t covid at least that’s what he claimed.


She heard a car and looked up. A dusty tribal police cruiser was pulling up on the side of the road. It sat there idling for a minute, then the engine shut down and the driver door opened.


The man that stepped out of the car was probably the most American Indian looking man Lili had ever known.. Medium height, lean weathered with long black hair now showing a lot more gray than the last time she had seen him. Chief of Police Micah Loan (pronounce Low – Ann) has been a tribal policeman his whole adult life and chief of police for at least the last ten years. Lili, in her wild rebellious youth had been hauled home drunk on more than one occasion.


Loan sauntered up to the porch and gave Lili an appraising look with made her feel guilty of something. She noticed he was holding a folder in his left hand while his right was hitched in his gun belt.


“I heard you were home. You staying here?” he indicated the house with a nod and a flickering movement of his lips. A gesture that screamed Indian.


“No,” Lili shook her head, “Staying in Shelly at the OYO. Mom is using my old room as storage. Too much trouble to clean out.”


“The OYO, humph.”


“What can I do for you chief?”


“Okay, I hear you been playing detective down south. I figured if your going to be back here now I’d offer you a job. You come to work at the BLE on probation, I can get you in the academy next term no tuition.”


“A cop on the reservation?” Lili laughed, shook her head.


“Yeah, I didn’t think so, but you should think about it. In the meantime,” he hands her the folder, “why don’t you take a look at that while you are sitting at the OYO watching cable.” Without another word Chief Loan turned and walked away.



Breakfast at Bunnee's

Shelly Montana, 7:15 AM Thursday Morning


Bunnee's burgers was the place to hang out in Shelly morning, noon, and night, It was an old fashioned Drive in diner that had originally been called Pat's Diner in the 1950s. When a young man came into town in 1989 and bought the old rundown diner, He renamed it Bunnee's and had it renovated and modernized. Lewis 'Bunnee' Richards was eccentric to say least and even after thirty-four years little was known about him other than he got his nickname of Bunnee due to his uncanny resemblance to the former drummer of the rock band Cheap Trick, Bun E Carlos. Some people believe that they are in fact the same person. Bunnee isn't saying. But one thing is for sure he is a master at making burgers. Bunnee pioneered the gourmet burger craze in northern Montana and has over 2 dozen different burger variations on the menu all which he makes from scratch with fresh locally raised beef and produce. Truly a remarkable restaurant and local hang out. And Bunnee isn’t a bad drummer either.


Lili parked as close to the door at Bunnee’s as she could it wasn’t even 7:30 but the place was busy, just as it had been everyday when she was teenager. She glanced at the folder sitting on the passenger seat where she had dropped it after Chief Loan had given it to her last night. She hadn’t even looked at it. Yet.


She got out of her car leaving the folder right where it was. She was hungry and the smell of hot food was too enticing to worry about whatever it was. She started to close the door but hesitated, with a sigh she bent over into the car and retrieved the mysterious folder. Couldn’t hurt to look at it.


As Lili closed her car door a late model sedan pulled in next to her and a woman got out of it. Lili was surprised. The woman was three things, Tall, very attractive, and black, none of which you saw in Shelly Montana very often much less all three in the same person.



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Once Ackley had managed to get the thick gloves on, and grabbed the barbed wire for the fence. He made his way back to the truck and pulled out a good sized sledgehammer. When that was done he got to work on the fence. After the time consuming work of putting up part of a fence, Ackley looked down at his completed work and sighed. "Stupid Moose. Ruined the start of a perfectly good day. Oh, well. May as well get some good breakfast once I let Mr. Barker know the fence is done."  Ack-ack put all the gear away, climbed back into his beat up official truck and took out a brand new satellite phone. Since coverage could be somewhat spotty with cellular phones, the Department would allow Game Wardens to use satellite phones they owned previously. He placed a call to Mr Barker and left a message simply stating, "The fence is repaired. Looks like a moose got into the area and wandered around your property. It's gone now though." Once the call was done, he started up the truck and headed in to town to grab some breakfast. 




Arriving at Bunnee's, Ackley stepped down from the truck and closed the door. Once down, he walked across the parking lot from his spot to the entrance. On his way, he noted Lili and Coraline. He tapped the rim of his hat as he passed the two ladies and made his way in to the restaurant. Once inside he took off his hat, tucked it under his left arm and watched the hustle and bustle for a second. 

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Shay chewed on an underlip to hold in a hiss as Nora dabbed at her bloody knuckles. To disguise her own interested glance at the pleasant view Nora was unintentional providing her - there were slim pickings for her in Shelly - Shay gave the business card a look. Crisp, understated, embossed with golden ink. Garrety, Hoffmann & Foog. They sounded expensive.

She'd had enough to deal with over the years, dealing with her family's death and raising her sister. She had to sell some land to make ends meet, and hated it. What she'd taken to be even more bills she'd tossed in the garbage to see if they would go away or get more serious. All the advice she'd gotten suggested proving someone at fault would be nearly fruitless and would take lots of time and lots of money with no guarantee of a pay out.

It was funny. Once, she had wanted nothing more than to get out of Shelly. Truth be told, she still did, really. But with the only Cassidys left in Shelly being her and her sister Laurelai, she was more than merely reluctant to relinquish any more land than she had to. Cassidys had worked on the railways before Shelly had been incorporated, and settled down in the area when the railroad station was established there at the junction of the Great Northern Railway and the Great Falls & Canada Railway. Cassidys had always lived in Shelly, been part of Shelly. Just because there were only two of them left didn't end that. Shay wouldn't let it end that way.

"Pretty card," Shay said, flashing Nora a grin. "Who's your client?"

Nora finished her ministrations by tying the handkerchief around Shay's hand and took a step back. Her eyes glittered, the corners of her mouth turning fractionally up. "Our client is Norman Travis."

"Uh-huh." The name didn't mean a thing to her.

Shay held the business card between two fingers, tapping her thigh with it. The land still held fire damage after all this time, dead trees, remnants of the old, rambling farmhouse. It would take work to even make the majority of the land suitable for farming again, farming for anymore more than hay anyway. She had a gentleman's agreement with her neighbor's to harvest the hay for their use. She wasn't sure who would want the land, other than her neighbors to expand their steads. She hadn't heard about anyone buying up land around Shelly. Admittedly, she'd hadn't been particularly listening for any scuttlebutt about it.

"And why does Mr. Travis want the land?"

"Our client didn't disclose the reason to us."

"Riiiight," Shay drawled. "I'll need some time to think it over." She didn't. She had no intention to sell. "How can I contact you?"

Nora's faint smile widened, as though she new what Shay was thinking as she pointed at the card between her fingers. "We're staying at the Best Western. We'll be in town for the next few days. The number you can reach us at is on the back of the card."

Shay flipped over the card, arching a dark brow. There were two numbers. A business one, and a personal one. "Hmm. Okay. And there was something about a settlement, you said?"

"Of course," Bob said, stepping forward to hand Shay a thick envelop. "You really should read you mail," he told her breasts. By the time he found her face again, he missed her rolling her eyes. "It's in your best interest."

"I'm sure it is," she replied wryly, looking pass him at Nora. "I'll call in a few days with an answer about if this will go anyway or end right here."

"I'll be waiting," Nora said, her eyes almost laughing as she and Bob turned around and started back towards the rental parked up the drive.


Shay sat at a high top at the back of Bunnee's, near the employee entrance where she had a view of part of the kitchen, and could chat with Bunnee and the servers and cooks she was friendly with. Sunlight streamed in through the tall windows, picking out the red in her mahogany hair piled up in a messy bun as she nursed a coffee and picked at a breakfast she hadn't made herself. She'd driven Laurie to school for an early volleyball practice, then stopped by Bunnee's for breakfast and to go over settlement Nora Kale (and Bob whoever) had left her.

The table was scattered with paper. Shay couldn't help but stare agape as she kept reading, and rereading the notes. They hadn't been kidding about the settlement. She kept looking for a catch, some sort of fine print that would screw her in the definitely not fun way. But so far, it looked completely legit. Which didn't mean she still wasn't going to get a lawyer to look it over too, even if she would begrudge even dollar it would cost.

This was a big year. Laurie would be graduating soon. Shay hadn't had much time or opportunity to save up for college for her sister. Her own college fund had been meager - she'd been planning on going to Berkeley on scholarship - and she'd spent that in the aftermath of the fire. She had enough for Laurie's first year at UM, and was still figuring out the rest. 

And Laurie had been begging for her own car since she was sixteen. Shay had managed one and was going to gift to Laurie as a graduation present. It wasn't new. It wasn't high end. But it was in good condition - she'd fixed it up herself - and it had enough space for Laurie's ungodly long legs.

The settlement would solve so many problems. It was for just over three-fucking-million dollars. And all it cost, as far as she could tell, was waiving any further litigation. Since she had thought there were no chance of winning any sort of suit in the first place, that seemed more than fair. The suit on behalf of the survivors and other damaged parties had been brought, and won - somehow - by the Deem Corporation.

Thinking back, throughout it all, she'd never heard of the Deem Corporation. Shay finished her coffee, letting the mug hit the table with the thump as she continued to stare at the paperwork before her.

"Refill?" Bunnee drawled.

What Shay really wanted something way stronger to drink, but it was still too early, even for her. "Sure, Bunnee."

Shay held up her mug towards the coffee pot Bunnee had claimed from behind the bar. Shay stretched and twisted, her worn 'The Dead South' band shirt under a knotted flannel straining from the bountiful contents as she worked some kinks out of her back, and looked over the busy diner. Outside, she caught a partial view of woman, tall, black, athletic. She couldn't quite catch a look at her face, but there wasn't anyone else like that in Shelly, so it had to be Ms. Coraline Hess. Attractive woman. There was another woman out there, but Shay could see even less of her. Dark hair, dusky skin, Indian, but that was hardly rare in Shelly. 

Shay turned back to Bunnee. "Y'know a lawyer? I need someone too look over some paperwork."

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AJ sighed.   "Alright, I'll get you out of here, and get you breakfast, and then we can talk."

He went to the jailer, "Is he being charged with anything?"   

He shook his head seeming almost bored.  "No sir, he seemed to be under the influence, but not so much as we'd charge him with anything."  

"Alright, let's get him released, and I'll take him back home,  since there's been no trouble. "  Perhaps not fully protocol, but it wasn't worth any sort of issues with the reservation, and since he'd commit no crime, there really wasn't an issue.

Quickly the arrangements needed for Joe Spotted Owl's discharge and release were made, and soon enough he was walking out with Andrew to his cruiser.   "Have you had many meetings with Sheriff Whitt in the past?"  ANdrew asked quietly as the two rode from the Jail to Bunnee's.   

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As Lili closed her car door a late model sedan pulled in next to her and a woman got out of it. Lili was surprised. The woman was three things, Tall, very attractive, and black, none of which you saw in Shelly Montana very often much less all three in the same person.


Lily gave the woman a nod and a little smile. Passer-by, she figured. Someone on the interstate stopping for a meal, maybe a place to stay for the night. The on/off ramps were lousy with shitty motels. Maybe she'd even seen Bunnee's on Yelp or something, wanted to give it a try. It had a kind of cult following even out of state.


She went into the restaurant, and even gallantly let the other woman in ahead of her; holding the door open with an impish glint in her eye. By the time she went in, Lily was already opening the folder. She took the closest empty booth and promptly turned the pages of the file until the waitress got around to her.


"Oh, hey. Uh...you guys still doing the BunBun Double special?" Lily asked. The waitress smiled and asked what she'd like her side to be. "Uh, just one of those little salads in the tub," was Lily's answer. "Oh, and like...diet pop."


As the waitress retreated, Lily saw deeper into the restaurant...and spotted a very distinctive head of hair. Well shit...was that Shay? Was she still hanging around Shelly?


She looked back into the file folder. Maybe Shay wouldn't recognize her. That was a little broken fragment of her life she'd deal with...later.

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Lili's greeting snapped Coraline out of her introspective mood, having spent most of the winding drive to town in her head humming fragments of showtunes. What passed for civilization in Shelly wasn't all that impressive in her eyes, but maybe, just maybe, it might have what she needed to get her groove back. The alternative, this being just another bad 3 AM idea that she'd succumbed over the course of the last year, another bead on the necklace of poor judgements she'd crafted since getting that phone call from her parents 11 months ago, wasn't something she wanted to think about. The very small rational part of her brain that wasn't blighted by grief still stung at the sheer cost of setting up this Bohemian exile, her finances far from flush enough to absorb that kind of hit without her blood money inheritance.


She'd have paid it all back tenfold if she lived in a world where that could have helped.


But she didn't so she couldn't and she ended up watching him wither away, waiting on Sundays for phone calls from her parents for word on the latest treatment, the latest outrageous bill, the latest diagnosis from sympathetic and utterly unhelpful doctors. Helpless and dancing between the stages of grief. Food and drink like ashes in her mouth. Words from friends that grated like mosquitoes. Works aborted 9/10ths of the way through after her muse turned to anger. Being taken aside by her self-defense instructor more than once when adrenaline turned 'I'm fine I'm fine I'm fine.' into a lie as spars turned way too intense. It couldn't continue, especially with him dead and finally no-longer hurting, his last words to her in that damned hospital room urging her to live and love and laugh.


So here she was, a Hess out of New York City, a world away from the light-drowned night skies she was used to, about to continue her wiki walk through the Bunnee menu, seeing if it measured up to the friendly neighborhood bodegas of home. The statuesque painter closed the door of her car with a sigh, did a quick check of her essential items, and walked toward the main entrance. Despite the hair-on-the-back-of-neck raising sense of being watched, she forced herself to outwardly relax. People her complexion may have been thin on the ground in the area, but that was no reason to treat the town like Long Wood at 2 am. 


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