Sheriff Rose led Penny into her office. An antique tea pot and matching cups sat on one side of the desk, next to the portoboiler. Two photos of a little girl dominated the opposite corner, though Penny couldn’t tell if it was two different girls or if it was the same girl at two different times of her life. Opposite that sat a stack of visitor ID badges.
On the shelves behind her desk the Sheriff had a few framed photographs. A group shot of her with her constabulary, her graduation picture from the academy, and what Penny guessed were some favourite holiday snaps. A thin layer of dust topped the photo frames.
Penny smirked and cast a teasing smile the Sheriff’s way. “Did your maid blow a fuse?”
Sheriff Rose made herself comfortable behind the big oak desk. “I never let it in here. Damn thing keeps moving stuff on me, I can never find anything once it’s done.”
Penny let her smirk become a smile and sat herself down in a chair.
“Tea?” Sheriff Rose asked.
“Much obliged.” Penny replied.
Sheriff Rose took a couple of pinches of loose leaf and threw it into the pot.
“So these two mysterious strangers of yours.” Penny began “Where they by chance an Asian couple?”
“Oh they weren’t a couple.” Sheriff Rose said as she filled the cups with boiling water. “I asked. She’s he’s Kung Fu teacher and he’s her assistant.”
Penny looked around the room. “Do you mind if I access your network?”
“Sure.” Sheriff Rose nodded. Penny’s personal network shook hands with the the Sheriff’s wireless and they synchronised.
Penny summoned a few pictures of Sifu she had in her system, including the picture from the speeder raid. “Were any of these her?”
Sheriff Rose’s demeanour cooled as she looked at the photos. She pointed to the speeder raid picture. “Where was this one taken?”
“Xing Shi.” Penny replied. “During a recent kidnapping.”
Sheriff Rose sighed and banished the photos. “So you’re saying she’s a Society girl?”
Penny blinked. “If by that you mean this society likes to wear black masks, then yes.”
“Damn it, I liked them.” The Sheriff sighed again. “I’ve got half of Mad Mac McCarty’s gang in my lock up right now because of them. They’ve been a thorn in my side for months.”
“They like to see themselves as modern day Robin Hoods, so amongst all the kidnapping, destruction of federal property and waging guerrilla wars against garrison troops they occasionally do some good.”
Sheriff Rose nodded. “I’m sure.”
“Do you know where they are now?”
“Once the doc was finished with the handsome one they tipped their hats to us and bade us all a fond farewell. No-one’s seen a peep out of them since.”
Penny propped up her chin with her fist, adopting the classic ‘thinking man’ pose.
After a moment she asked. “Do you mind if I put my feet up on your desk?”
Sheriff Rose looked taken aback by this. “Only because I seen how shiny you keep them boots Ranger. But don’t you let my constables see you do it, they’ll all want a turn.”
Penny leaned back in her chair and put her feet up. “It’s a brilliant plan.” She said after a while. “They arrive on planet and just start walking. Spend a night here a night there and keep moving. Even on a sparsely populated orb like this tracking them down while they’re off the grid would be your classic needle in a haystack.”
Sheriff Rose smirked, then she stopped and looked away, like an invisible person was talking to her.
Penny recognised the body language of someone getting a message over their nanoputer.
“This day just keeps getting busier. The father of the boy your friends rescued has come to pay us a visit. The hell’s he doing?”
Penny raised an eyebrow at her. “He not normally the social type?”
Sheriff Rose got out of her seat. “Not at all.” She said. “Lin’s more your right pain in the behind. He treats even a casual visit by one of my constables as an invasion of privacy, but when he actually needs us for something he’s hootin an’ hollerin’ about how we ain’t there fast enough.”
Penny got up and followed her out to the lobby. The robot receptionist raised its hand and waved at them as they came out. “Good day Sheriff Rose.”
Sheriff Rose gave a half-hearted return wave. “Yes, thank you.”
In through the doors strode a tall Asian man in a severe black business suit. The silk shirt underneath was a deep sapphire blue. Lin himself looked like he’d been handsome in his youth, but the permanent scowl on his face gave him some extra years. He held his hands together in front of him. They fidgeted constantly.
When he caught sight of Penny and the Sheriff he swallowed nervously and approached.
“Sheriff.” He said as if a charmer with a flute had to coax the word out of him.
“Lin Hui Tan.” Sheriff Rose acknowledged the greeting with a curt nod. “How may the Carsontown Constabulary serve you today?” Only the faintest hint of sarcasm slipped into her words.
Lin’s hands moved a little faster. “I have something I wish to speak to you about, in private.”
“Absolutely sir.” Sheriff Rose replied. “First I’d like to introduce you to Ranger Dreadful. I believe she would like to speak to you regarding the incident with your son yesterday.”
Penny stepped forward and shook Mr Lin’s hand. “It’s a shame we had to meet this way sir.”
Mr Lin’s eyes flew open for a moment. He quickly composed himself and cleared his throat. “Thank you for you assistance in this matter Ranger Dreadful.”
Sheriff Rose gestured towards the door. “Let’s step into my office.”
“I believe the two people who saved my son’s life are members of the Black Mask Society.”
Lin whispered it, like he was afraid of the words themselves. He wouldn’t look up at either of them anymore. Sheriff Rose cast a knowing look Penny’s way.
“They are.” Penny said. “That’s why I’m here Mr Lin. Do you know where they could be?”
Mr Lin forced himself to keep his hands still. “I am letting them stay at my compound. After they saved Jie’s life I thought it was the least I could do. But when I realised who they were I began to worry about the influence they have on my son.” Mr Lin’s fingers began to fiddle with each other.
“They’re heroes to Jie. I’m worried that he might want to be like them.”
“Don’t you worry sir.” Penny gave Mr Lin a warm smile and put a reassuring hand on his own. “With your assistance, and the Garrison’s manpower, I’m confident I can have those two terrorists out of your home and safely away from your son without letting anyone get hurt. I can even guarantee compensation from the Federated Government should you incur any damages during the raid.”
Mr Lin composed himself and looked up at Penny. “Thank you. Thank you Ranger Dreadful.”
“No. Thank you Mr Lin.” Penny said. “It was very brave of you to come to the authorities like this.”
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