The group woke surprisingly early, considering everything they had been through the last few days. It did not take long for the group to pack up, and when they were done, Ethan noticed Riley looking towards the ditch with sad eyes.
“They are not there anymore, Riley. Thanks in large part to you,” he stepped close and said softly.
“I know,” she said, wiping away a few tears. The two started making their way towards the house when they noticed a cop car pulling up. “Ethan?” Riley said with concern.
“Do not worry,” he said softly. “Hello, Officer Lopez.” Ethan nodded to the officer.
“Hello, Mr. Hill.” The two shook hands. “And glad to see you back in the world of the living.” She nodded to Riley, holding out her hand to her.
“Riley. And I am sorry, but I don’t shake hands,” she answered.
“Right,” Officer Lopez said, dropping it.
“I assume you have news?” Ethan asked.
The rest of the team had heard the car pull up and quickly filed outside when they saw who it was.
“Yes, the oldest boy confessed. We have his two buddies in custody right now. One looks like he is going to attempt to hold out, but it won’t matter.” She smiled sadly. She was glad that it was solved, but hated that it had to be solved in the first place and how young the killers were.
“It is a small comfort, even if the circumstances are horrid,” Ethan offered.
“Yes, the family feels a little better knowing. The mayor is in town waiting for you. I could take you alone if the rest of the team needs to pack up.”
“No, we are ready to move on. We do not deal with living criminals well. You will, of course, know how to contact us should it be needed, but we try to leave quickly and quietly when we are done, allow the people to move on,” Ethan answered.
“Fair enough. You can drop by the mayor’s office on your way out of town. He just wants a brief overview of your report, and to make sure you are paid in full.”
“Is there somewhere to eat close to the mayor’s office so we will not have to put our hosts out for another meal?”
“Yes, sir, there are a few places in that part of town.”
“Then we will be ready to leave shortly. I did have another question, if you do not mind?” Ethan waved the group away. They all wanted to protest but, after the talk last night, decided against it. “My team was considering getting the family flowers,” Ethan said when he and the officer were alone.
“I don’t think that would be a problem, they might appreciate it, in fact. It’s a small town, so people either know or will know soon that you helped us with the arrest. There is a flower shop in the same area as the mayor’s office; they will be able to help you.”
“Thank you, I just wanted to feel out your opinion. I believe it might help someone on the team, but I do not want to cause the family unnecessary pain.”
“I appreciate that. Thank you again for all your help,” the officer said, once again shaking Ethan’s hand.
“Babying me?” Riley asked when he got closer to the house.
“Yes, your turn.”
“A bit. I do believe it will help you recover, and the sooner that happens, the better.”
Riley just hummed in response and went back into the house. Ethan was left with a disconcerting feeling, as though she knew that wasn’t the full story. He shook the feeling and helped the team to finish up. They quickly helped the hosts with cleaning up the rooms and made sure everything was packed up. They said their goodbyes to their hosts then loaded up.
Gabrielle joined the boys while Miller got into the front seat of the van with Emily, Riley, and Ethan. Emily was glaring at the back of Miller’s head, but switched focus when she felt Riley shift. Her head was laying on the window, and her face was collapsing back into sadness.
“You okay?” Emily asked.
“Better, but there is this longing that I can’t explain,” Riley answered.
“It will pass, and leaving will help. Right now, you want that connection back, so you do not want to leave, but once there is distance, you will start to recover more,” Ethan explained.
The group arrived at the mayor’s office, and Ethan pointed out a cafe for the group. They walked over and got a large table while waiting for Ethan to join them. Everyone chatted and enjoyed some coffee, other than Miller, who was on her phone, and Riley, who allowed herself to be absorbed in a book. She still wasn’t feeling right, and the group recognized that she needed time and space to herself.
Riley got so lost in her book that she didn’t notice when Ethan joined them until he leaned over and said, “Great book, I helped write it.”
Riley jumped in her seat and let out a squeak. The group chuckled, and Ethan apologized quickly. The meal was nice, although locals seemed to be watching them. Riley had gotten used to how her small town reacted to strangers, and imagined that this must be a regular occurrence for the team. When they finished, Ethan tossed the keys to Emily and motioned for Riley to follow him. She was confused at first until she noticed the flower shop.
“Emily mostly suggested it for you, and regardless they do not need the whole group in their shop.”
“Fair, we can be rowdy.”
“Understatement,” Ethan practically growled, causing Riley to laugh. When they arrived, Ethan quickly told the man what they were in for.
“If you’d like, you can instead you could donate to help pay for the funeral flowers,” the man suggested.
“That sounds good, one hundred dollars.”
The man handed over a card for them to sign, and Ethan slid it to Riley while he finished paying.
“What do I say?”
“Whatever you want.”
“I don’t know what I want.”
Ethan looked at her. “Just breath for a moment and write whatever comes to you. It does not need to be a masterpiece.”
Riley nodded and thought.
We are sorry for your loss. Your beautiful children will surely be missed, but their impact on those around them will never be forgotten. -Everyone from PIRI
“Good,” Ethan said, handing the card over. “To the next stop.”
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