“My God,” responded James. “You look like a Navy SEAL in that getup.”
“She’s supposed to, Sheriff. If it makes you feel better,” Jon went on, pausing for a few seconds, “she’s going along as my conscience.”
“To make sure I don’t kill them all,” Jon replied bluntly. “I can’t promise I won’t kill anyone, because my mission is to keep the hostages and the two of you safe—so if one of Hapke’s men jeopardizes that, then trust that I will act accordingly.”
“But she looks like . . .” James searched for the words.
“I know,” responded Jon before the sheriff could finish. “But right now, stealth is our biggest advantage, and with all the bells and whistles that come with a law enforcement uniform, what can I say? She has the natural skill to move through the forest silently. With a little training, we’ll make that a tool she can use while working for you.”
“Okay,” James surrendered, at last. “I can live with that—as long as you can justify whatever you do.”
Jon smiled, but his tone was serious. “And how do you justify the taking of hostages to free a man who betrayed his country for money? Throw in the fact that a good number of those hostages are my family, and the rules of engagement get a little fuzzy.”
James thought about that for a few seconds. “I can see your point and appreciate your restraint.”
The men looked at each other for a few moments before Jon turned away and started to get ready to leave.
“Sheriff, we’ll leave a rifle and pistol within reach. You shouldn’t need it, but just in case. You have plenty of water on the off chance we’re gone for a while. We’ll holler in before we enter so you don’t shoot us.”
James laughed but understood Jon’s meaning. Abby placed the weapons and spare ammunition next to where James was lying. As she started back to grab a couple of milk jugs filled with water, James grabbed her arm and looked up into her painted face. “What do they call that stuff he put on your face?”
“War paint!” Jon said from the other side of the chamber, both his expression and tone perfectly serious.
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