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He'd spent the last four days here. Trying to speak to every bus driver who came through. Several only stopped once every two or three days. Two lines didn't have 'regular' drivers, which meant extra time to insure that he didn't miss speaking to anyone who'd been through the area at the time Mrs. Jackson had been riding that bus. Gary Leigh casually approached the bus driver as he unloaded the baggage compartment. "Gonna be hot today."
He pulled the picture from his pocket. "I was wondering if you'd ever seen this woman before?"
The driver stood upright, pulled his reading glasses from his pocket. This man had federal agent written all over him. No way was he going to refuse to cooperate with a government agent! He didn't need that kind of trouble! "Oh, yeah. Beautiful woman. Sweet. But really sad."
"How far did she ride?"
"She got off in Shiprock," the driver replied. "Don’t think she stayed there, though."
"Because she was walking down the road to Los Noche. I figured she must have relatives there or something."
"Yeah. Or something."
The driver squinted up at him. "She in some kind of trouble?"
"No, no. Not at all." He grinned. He could tell this man the truth, and he'd never believe it. But if he made up a nice, exciting story…it would keep the questions down, and satisfy the curious. "I really shouldn't say anything, but you were straight with me…" he glanced around. Almost laughed out loud when the driver did as well, then stepped closer.
"Model. She's a top model."
"Damned if I didn't know I recognized her from somewhere!" the driver exclaimed.
"She lost a contract to another model, and basically threw a little temper tantrum. She doesn't have her cell phone, and with it her list of phone numbers. She's beautiful, but not always so bright, ya know?" Agent Leigh was certain that someone, somewhere would hold him accountable for this story. But in the meantime, watching the bus driver's face was worth any future punishment he might receive.
"Yeah, I hear that. I didn't think it was so smart walking down a country road at nearly four in the morning!"
"Well, I have to find her, haul her back to New York City. And hope like hell none of the other girls have decided to go on a little unscheduled vacation."
"Hell of a job you got there," the driver agreed.
"Hey, pay is good, and I get to travel!"
The driver laughed, nodded as the man walked back over the rental car. Yep, he thought he'd seen that pretty woman somewhere. Wait until Carol heard about this!
Gary crawled into car. He'd promised Dr. Jackson that he wouldn't approach her. He'd drive into Los Noche, make certain that she was there, and then let her husband know. That would certainly make the doctor happy. He checked the map, located the tiny dot that represented an equally tiny town. Glanced at his watch. Not quite seven a.m. With luck he'd be there by noon.
A A A A A A
"Doctor Jackson, there's a special delivery for you," Jerry's voice said over the phone. "You need to sign for it."
"On my way." He grabbed his keys, jogged to the elevator. Special delivery? He hadn't ordered anything. Didn't think Casey had. Certainly nothing that would require a signature.
The mail carrier handed the clipboard to the blond-haired man, watched him scratch his name on the line. He was fairly certain that Winfield, Hammerstein, and Kottler wasn't an investment firm. Felt a stab of sympathy for the man who was accepting the delivery.
Daniel didn't even look at the envelope until he was back in the apartment. Then wished to hell he hadn't. Felt as if all of the air had been knocked out of his lungs. He went into the office, dropped down into his chair. He knew exactly what was inside that cream-colored law firm stationary envelope. He'd hurt her so deeply that she just couldn't forgive him. Hearing the truth of the matter wouldn't take that pain away, he understood that. Now he realized that he'd never be given the chance to explain, to make up to her for all that she'd suffered. His breath was coming in gasps. Which quickly turned to sobs. He'd held an Angel in his arms. And had lost her.
He wiped at his face. Continued to stare at the envelope. Might as well get it over with. He carefully opened it.
He pulled out the five-page form. Yep. Divorce. Sought by the party of Casey Renee Jackson. From Dr. Daniel Melburn Jackson. Goddamn it! All he wanted…all he needed was just a few minutes to talk to her! He tossed the papers onto the desk. Two slips of paper drifted to the floor. He grabbed the first one.
He crumpled it up and tossed the paper into the trash. His fingers began to shake when he recognized her handwriting. It looked like it had been taken from a motel writing pad. Too bad it didn't have the name or location on it!
He looked at the bottom of the paper. This was the second note, she'd written another one first, he could see the imprint. He grabbed his pencil, began to cover the bottom of the sheet with light sideways strokes, which left the imprint visible.
He grabbed the envelope. Albuquerque. Something told him that she wasn't necessarily in that city. He was still left not knowing where she was. But at least he knew that she loved him!
Second smiled. "See, he was losing faith, his pain was blinding him to any hope. Now he has hope once again."
First shook her head. "We, ourselves, can only hope that one last effort in his behalf is all that will be required to bring The One and His Beloved together again.
Third smiled. "I don't think that there is any power in existence that can stop that now."
A A A A A A
Agent Leigh did his best to look like a salesman. He sat down at a table near the window. The town was so damned small that if he had blinked he'd have driven through and missed it. The motel was directly across the street from the diner. Probably worked out great if the place ever had guests. The door to one of the rooms opened. Yep, that was her. She walked up the street, toward that run-down looking tavern. She was wearing a tee-shirt that had the tavern name on it. Hmm. The best bet is that she's working there. Okay, she probably wouldn't be leaving in the immediate future. He smiled at the older woman who poured a cup of coffee for him, ordered a hamburger plate. These places always had the best hamburgers you could sink your teeth into. When he'd finished, and left a nice tip, he headed the rental car back toward Albuquerque. He flipped open his cell phone.
In his apartment in Colorado Springs, Daniel raced for the phone when it rang. "Casey?"
"Uh…no, sorry, Doctor Jackson, this is Agent Leigh. But I know where she is," Gary Leigh said.
"Agent Leigh? Where is she?"
"Little hole in the wall place call Los Noche. It's in the northwest corner of the state. I just saw her. She looks sad, but otherwise okay. She's staying in the only motel in town."
He dropped to his knees. Tears ran down his cheeks. "Thank you," he whispered.
"You're welcome. If you could let General Hammond know that I'm returning to D.C., I'd appreciate it."
"Consider it done," Daniel replied. She still loved him, and he knew where she was!
"Good luck, Doctor."
"Thanks." He managed to get the phone back into the cradle. He jumped when the phone rang again. "Hello?"
"Danny, I need you here now. SG-9 just came back, we need a translation done as soon as possible," Jack's voice said.
"Jack, I know where she is!"
"Agent Leigh just called! I know where she is!"
In his office in the mountain, Jack ran his hand over his face. Wouldn't you just know it! "Daniel, as soon as you get this translation done, I'll drive you there myself! But this has to be done, immediately, or we risk alienating an entire race, and they have some honking weapons that they might be interested in sharing. As well as some medical stuff that has Doctor Fraiser drooling. And doohickeys that have Carter drooling. Get here now."
He closed his eyes. Now that he knew where she was, all he wanted to do was jump in the jeep and go get her! It figured that something would come up in the mountain. And Jack wouldn't hesitate to remind him of every clause in his contract. "I'll be there in twenty minutes," he said quietly.
A A A A A A
The regular crowd was in, the familiar faces sitting in their usual places. "Yo, Case, another round here," Pete called out.
She opened six bottles of Budweiser and put them on a tray. She carried it to the table, avoiding Carl and Jessie as they tried to dance. Like they did every night about this time. Somebody should tell them to go home and dance. Then they could get frisky without embarrassing themselves. Or her. Whichever. Seeing the two together always made her think of Daniel. How much she loved him. How wonderful making love with him had been. Which just served to depress her all the more.
On the way back up to the bar, she stopped at the jukebox. She'd avoided it all this time. Tonight it seemed to call out to her. She dug in her pocket for change. D17. Yeah, that pretty much summed it up.
Mariah Carey began to sing about being 'Without You'. Casey didn't notice that most of the conversations died away as the song played, all of the patrons watching her carefully as she washed glasses and put them away.
"That explains a few things, doesn't it?" Mary Browder asked.
"Yeah, it does," Sharon Babcock replied. "Sure as hell explains why a woman who looks like her is tending bar in a dump like this in the middle of freaking nowhere!"
"I'll tell you something else," Mary said. "It makes me like her a hell of a lot more!"
"I'm surprised that none of you noticed her finger," Tank said, when he put fresh beers in front of them. "It's obvious she wore a ring until quite recently."
The women had the decency to blush.
A A A A A A
He carried the cup of coffee back to his lab, still studying the images that SG-9 had managed to get of the 'Stones of the Lawgivers'. There were twenty stone tablets, all covered with cuneiform. It was going to take at least two days to translate all of this! He wanted to get to Los Noche, and he was stuck in the damned mountain!
One thing that he'd taken the time to do; he'd sent the divorce papers back, unsigned, with a sealed envelope that contained a letter for Casey, and a post-it note on the outside requesting that Mr. Kottler get it to his client as soon as possible. He'd sent it Fed Ex, he wanted it there as soon as possible. So that she'd know. So that she'd have time to think about what he'd written to her. So that she'd still be there when he managed to get out of here.
"Any luck?" Jack asked thirty minutes later, walking into Daniel's office.
"It's not a difficult language per se, but the number of tablets is large. So it's going to take me a couple of days," Daniel replied.
"You're going to have to work faster than that, Danny," Jack said quietly. "General Hammond just received a message from those people. They want to meet with our representatives tomorrow afternoon our time."
Daniel shook his head. "I can't do it that fast! There is no way! And Major Farnsworth is going to need to know everything on every one of those tablets!'
"Is there anyone who can help you?" Jack asked, a frown on his face. He didn't want Daniel pulling another all-nighter, he hadn't been sleeping, and now that he knew where Casey was, he'd hoped that the young archaeologist would finally get some rest.
"Not unless you know someone who can read a bastardized version of Phoenician."
"I don't even know anyone who can read the legitimate version of Fishians. Well, other than you."
He ducked his head to hide his grin. Jack loved to play stupid, did so very well. "Well, then, I guess I'd better get busy, hadn't I?"
"I suppose so," Jack agreed. "I'll see to it that food and coffee are brought to you."
"Any time, Danny."
With a sigh, he settled down at the desk, began to write furiously. If Casey were here, she could type these up for him as quickly as he could get them written. He willed his heart to stop racing. She loved him. She was in Los Noche. And she'd be home in just a couple of days. He forced his attention back on his work, and Daniel lost himself in the job of translating twenty stone tablets.
A A A A A A
It was nearly five p.m. when the Fed Ex driver delivered the envelope. Brian Kottler took one look at the return address and tossed the letter onto his desk. He was only making a lousy fifty bucks on this case. It could wait until tomorrow.
"I'm out of here, Bernice," he called.
"Have a nice evening, Mr. Kottler," the woman replied.
First frowned. It was important that Casey read the words that The One had written. He'd poured his love into every word. But to do this would mean that they would be helpless to come to his aid if he should need it later.
"He already knows that she loves him, and that not signing those papers will be his way of letting her know that he doesn't want the divorce," Third said softly. "He knows where she is, there will be no stopping him from arriving in six days. The only thing that we can do at this point is make certain that she is willing to see him, speak with him."
First smiled. Her companion so often helped her to accept the conclusions she'd already reached on her own, confirming her thoughts. "You are correct." She turned around, touched the attorney on the forehead.
Darn it, forgot those tickets. He walked back into his office. The letter seemed to jump off the desk at him. What was so important about simple divorce papers that they had to be sent by courier? He dropped down onto his chair, opened the letter. The forms were unsigned. There was a letter-sized envelope. And a note attached to it.
"Bernice! Call Matt Hume. Tell him I have a job for him. ASAP!" He picked up the phone, dialed the number that Casey Jackson had left with him.
"Shady Dan's," Tank said, answering the phone on the fourth ring. "Sure, hang on a second." He turned to the blonde who was busy inventorying his booze. "Case, it's for you. Mister Kottler."
She took the phone into shaking hands. "Mr. Kottler?"
"Mrs. Jackson, I just need for you to be aware that I am sending a courier to you tonight. Doctor Jackson Fed Ex-ed the divorce papers back, and enclosed was a letter for you."
The shaking increased. "Mr. Kottler, were…they…are they signed?"
"No, Mrs. Jackson, I'm afraid not."
Tears fell onto her cheeks. He didn't want a divorce! For whatever reason, he didn't want it! Maybe…she pushed the thoughts, the excitement back down. She'd been disappointed too many times in her life to jump to conclusions. She'd wait and see what Daniel had to say in the letter. "I'll be here at Shady Dan's until your courier arrives, no matter what time it is," she said quietly.
"I'll tell Matt. Good evening, Mrs. Jackson."
"Good evening, Mr. Kottler."
It was just after ten when a dusty black SUV stopped in front of the tavern. Brian had told him that Mrs. Jackson would be waiting. He glanced around, saw two women at a table. Took note that the bartender was nodding toward the woman shooting pool. He caught his breath when he saw her leaning over the pool table, approached slowly so that he'd time to take in the curve of her hip. "Mrs. Jackson?"
"I'm Matt Hume. Mr. Kottler asked me to deliver this." He handed her the sealed envelope.
"Thank you," she said softly, accepting it with trembling fingers.
He looked around again. Nope, nothing to eat here. He'd drive back down to the diner that he'd noticed was open a couple of towns back. He nodded at the woman, then hurried back to his waiting vehicle. No sense sticking around when the folks were all looking at him as if he were the enemy!
Casey dropped down onto the nearest chair. She stared at the envelope.
"Aren't you going to read it?" Tank asked softly.
She looked up at him. "I don't know. What if…what if he really does want the divorce, but he's going to fight me about something? The house! Oh, god, I forgot about it! I signed the papers while he was gone! Jack was going to…oh, god, he wants to sell it, and can't without my signature!"
"Somehow, I don't think that he'd have sent unsigned divorced papers, with a private letter enclosed, by Fed Ex, if that was all he was after. He'd have had his attorney contact Kottler if that was the case," Tank said calmly.
She thought about it, then nodded. That did make more sense. Her fingers were shaking so badly she was afraid of ripping the pages inside.
"Here," Tank said. He opened the letter for her. "Take your time," he said gently. He walked back to the bar, turned to watch her. She still hadn't pulled the letter out yet.
She managed to get her shaking fingers to cooperate long enough to get the letter out of the envelope. There were two sheets of paper covered with his familiar handwriting. She closed her eyes for one brief moment, forced the tears back.
She smiled. Mr. Kottler had tried to convince her that it was a bad idea to enclose a personal note with the forms. She'd insisted, even though she worried that he wouldn't abide by her wishes. If she were a betting woman, she'd bet that it was Bernice who made sure the note was in the envelope with the other pages.
She folded the letter, put it back in the envelope. She wiped the tears from her face, stood and walked over to the bar.
He didn't need her to tell him what was in the letter. It was in the bright light that filled those big green eyes. "I take it that it was good news?"
She smiled. "The best news. I should have known…" she shook her head. "It's hard for me to accept that Daniel loves me as much as he does. I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I think, though, that going through this will make it a little easier for me to…grasp…just how much he does love me; how much he does care."
Tank nodded "Good. Let's close up early tonight."
She glanced around, noted that the place was empty. Which was usually the way it happened. Everyone arrived all at once, and they left the same way. She hadn't even heard the normal chorus of goodbye's.
Twenty minutes later he turned out the lights, locked the door. "Come on, I'll drive you to the motel. So is he coming to get you?"
"Yes. It'll be a couple of days. Something…important came up. I know that he'll be here just as soon as he can be." She climbed into the cab of the pickup, the letter clutched tightly in her fingers.
"You should call him."
"No, he's not at home, he's…working. And I don't want to disturb him. Just trust me when I say that it's literally life and death," she said softly.
"You could leave a message, tell him where to find you," Tank pointed out. "Give him a number to reach you if he wants to call."
"He...he knows where I am," she smiled. Casey cocked her head to one side. "No, when we talk for the first time, it needs to be face to face," she replied.
He stopped in front of the motel. "I'm happy for you, Case."
"Thank you." She climbed out of the pickup, closed the door quietly. "Goodnight."
"'Night." He watched until she closed the room door behind her. Wondered just what it would be like to have the love of a woman like Casey. A woman who gave her heart to one man, and one man only. He heaved a sigh. With two ex-wives to his credit, he didn't think he was going to be finding out any time soon.
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