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The Force is with the Iron Crowbar; Investigations continue.

June smiled. "Yeah. God bless her, but she does."

* * * *

The GPS navigation device took them along several rural roads which would have matched the worst over-driven downtown streets in terms of potholes and uneven surface. The sedan rocked back and forth, suspension creaking, even though Riaz tried his best to navigate the roads as if driving a slalom. Eventually, a hundred yards past the point along a country road at which the GPS announced they had arrived at their destination, Riaz turned the car into a driveway beneath a weathered cast iron arch decorated with a classic cross.

"Richards Farm," June said as she read a small wooden sign hammered into the ground. "Guess this is it."

Riaz gave a noncommittal grunt as he drove along the gravel driveway. Lush green grass flanked either side to a distance of a few hundred feet. There were some shade trees here and there, a small pond with a gazebo nearby, and about five hundred yards in, a large, sprawling, single-story house that appeared to have begun life as a single-wide trailer. A pair of aging trucks were parked at angles out front, as well as a late-model sports car.
"Wow. Hickville, USA," June remarked. "Not where I would think our boy came from."

"People can surprise you," Riaz said as he parked near one of the trucks. He cut the engine, propped open the door, and stepped out. June did the same.

The front door of the house opened, revealing a slender woman in late middle age. She gave a somber look to the two detectives as they approached.

"Yer the cops, right?" she called, her country accent adding a lilt to everything she said.

Riaz nodded, setting foot on the short set of wooden steps leading up to the door. "Thank you for seeing us."

The woman looked back, blank-faced. "Got some fresh-brewed iced tea and finger sandwiches," she said. "Come on in."

Riaz gave an acquiescing smile. "I appreciate the gesture, Mrs. Richards, but that probably won't be necessary."

She stared hard, aged grey eyes stabbing into him. "This ain't gonna be no short conversation," she said ominously. "Not if yer here 'bout Talon and Thorne. Least I can do is offer some simple comforts."

Riaz nodded, smiling courteously as he stepped up before the woman. "Well, again, thank you for seeing us."

She shot him a dark look. "Don't you go thanking me yet."

* * * *

At some point in the distant past, the original single-wide trailer had been expanded to become the foundation for what proved to be an impressive, if simply built, house. The living room was larger than Riaz's own apartment, with a stone hearth fireplace occupying one wall and broad floor-to-ceiling windows along another. Every bit of remaining wall space was positively covered with various framed photographs, revealing men, women and children at various stages in life.

Riaz and June sat upon an aging brown leather couch, facing Mrs. Richards across a glass-topped coffee table upon which had been laden a pitcher of iced tea and several glasses, as well as a tray of various sandwiches composed of thinly-sliced bread. The ghostly, gospel sounds of Johnny Cash filtered from a nearly antique stereo system.

"So, you came asking 'bout the boys," the woman prompted.

Riaz nodded. "Yes, Mrs. Richards. Anything you could--"

She stopped him with a raised hand. "Now, hold on there," she said with a tired smile. "I done brought you in my house, offered you homemade iced tea and food. Least you can do is call me Patty."

The detective smiled in admonishment. "Of course. Thank you, Patty, for your hospitality."

She beamed. "Now that's proper," she said. "Go on. What they done?"

Riaz cocked his head. "You don't seem to be surprised that we're here."

"That's 'cause I ain't," Patty said simply. "I always knew them boys would do something ungracious someday."

"Well, I suppose you knew them best."

Patty scoffed. "Only one who knows those boys is the Devil himself. Me, I just kept 'em out of trouble long as I could."

"They could use that now," June muttered.

Patty shook her head.

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