West (Chapter Eight, page 1 of 2)

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Seated at his desk, Taylor listened to the storm beating doors, windows and loose planks of wood against the building. He gazed at the ceiling, thoughts burdened by the news he'd learned recently. Fighting Badger had come to him and Running Bear about Josie's visit, but this was not his greatest concern.

His greatest concern sat in front of his desk, newly arrived during the daytime storms and rescued from his steaming crater, the same way Taylor had plucked Josie out of hers.

"I'm retired not dead, Lance," he said at last. "Why did they think you needed to be here?"

"Ripple effect. They're seeing changes that shouldn't be taking place and tracked it to here and now. Lots of activity for such a sleepy little place," Lance replied. With a sharp blue gaze and inability to sit still that reminded Taylor of an undisciplined recruit, the man before him was athletic and wary.

"I got it handled," Taylor said.

"They don't think you do. Besides, you are retired. This isn't for you to handle."

Taylor was quiet, aware that whatever he said had to be voiced diplomatically. Pissing off an aggressive man like Lance would only make it harder for him to assess what needed to be done. Lance would shoot first and leave without asking questions. It was the opposite of Taylor's style in handling time travelers like Josie. "I know the place and people. Why not work with me?"

It was Lance's turn to grow pensive.

"I have to live here when you're done. I chose this place for my retirement," Taylor pointed out. "I'd rather not make a mess like you're known for."

Lance flashed a smile. "I'm effective."

"You're sloppy."

"I get the job done. I protect history." Lance shrugged. "Does it matter if it's messy or pretty, if I'm taking care of my business?"

"It matters to me," Taylor said firmly.

"All right, Sheriff." Lance snorted. "We'll work together, unless you get soft and can't pull the trigger."

"Violence isn't the only answer."

"Whatever. What are we dealing with?" Lance shifted forward and rested his elbows on the desktop.

I really hate new agents. Every crop of new time agents was a little more arrogant, a little less respectful of the worlds, times and people they were charged with protecting. "Carter."

Lance's smile faded.

"As usual, there's no way to tell what he wants. He sent back someone too clueless to interrogate."

"The traveler has to know something."

"Carter's smart, Lance. There's a reason he's our number one most wanted." Taylor tapped one of the posters on his wall in emphasis. "The traveler knows only what he told her, like every other traveler he's sent back to different eras. I've interviewed hundreds of them, all with the same story about Carter."

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