Christmas at Sinners-Part 1 By Rolynn Anderson
Looking for an UNSUB, an unknown suspect, in a surprise snowstorm, was a challenge for L.A. native, Sable Chisholm. She was a Law Enforcement Ranger at Mt. Rainier National Park, a newly assigned L.E., and her first job in terrible weather was to find a guy who’d robbed the tourist center. A masked man waved a gun at two terrified clerks, took money, but didn’t fire his pistol. Might have taken off in a gray Camry. No license number. Where the hell did he go?
Since it was eight o’clock on Christmas Eve, only a few rangers were on duty. Chief Randle had sent Sable and four other L.E’s out before the storm hit, singly in their Tahoe trucks, each assigned different towns in search of the gray sedan. Local cops were on the hunt, too, but they were understaffed this holiday season. Now stuck in traffic in Ashford, Sable got orders via her car radio: “Stand down. 10-13. Wait out the storm. Report your location.”
Sable was not an agent who liked to wait, and she wasn’t afraid to skid down slick roads looking for a criminal. In fact, if her boss hadn’t ordered her to desist, she would have continued her pursuit, because an on-duty brain injury made her a relentless ranger. She’d been poisoned a year ago by carbon monoxide seeping into a motel room where she and her partner ran a stakeout. Billy had died; Sable’s amygdala, the part of the brain controlling fear and flight/fight responses, was damaged. Weeks of acting out, absent fear, had ruined her reputation in L.A. Months of work with a therapist got her back to active duty and assigned to Mt. Rainier.
The chief’s orders were firm and since a layer of ice under the snow-pack was yanking her car all over the road, she gave in. She might be alarmless, but she’d learned how to check recklessness. “If I’m stopping; let’s hope the perp will do the same.” Sable turned right, sliding through the parking lot to a slot in front of the motel. Other cars, swathed with snow so they looked like moguls on a ski slope, rested in silence on her right and left. Was one of the autos a Camry belonging to the robber? No way to tell.
She pulled on boots and plowed through two feet of snow. Even though she kicked piled-up snow away from the door, opening it took all her strength. As she shook flakes off her ranger hat and brushed off her shoulders, she was surprised to be standing in a dark vestibule, walls painted black, the room lit with a giant pink neon sign: ‘SINNERS.’
“Oops,” she said at the same time a burly guy emerged, his shiny baldhead colored peach by the neon.
“Ranger,” he said in a not-happy-to-see-her tone. “What’s up?”
“Law Enforcement Ranger Chisholm. You are?”
“Spike. Taylor. Partner of Sinners.”
She winced. “I thought there might be room in the ‘inn,’ until I read the whole title of your establishment. I suspect this is more than a motel, or…perhaps, less?”
“No vacancies at Sinners.”
She peeked behind the entry wall. A smoky bar, full of men. The smell of French fries tinged with beer and Pine Sol wafted her way, reminding her she’d skipped dinner. Her stomach growled and Spike’s eyebrow went up at the sound.
“Where are the women?” Sable asked.
Spike’s expression tightened. “Asleep? Watching The Christmas Story in their rooms?”
“We’ve got a criminal on the loose, with a gun,” she said. “Nobody can drive these roads, not even a desperate man. Which guys came in recently?”
“These men are here for the same reason you are. All but a couple regulars showed up in the last hour.”
She surveyed the foyer and considered the lounge she’d seen behind the wall. “You retrofitted the motel caretaker’s house into a bar, motel rooms attached.”
“Full service on Highway 706.”
“Right now I don’t care what’s going on in your motel rooms unless my guy’s in one of them. He robbed the park visitors’ center, armed.”
He stared at her.
Sable was quiet for a moment, considering her options. She couldn’t leave the premises because of the crappy weather and neither could the criminal if he was hanging out in the bar or in one of the rooms. Her cop feelers hinted her UNSUB was here, but how was she going to find him?
A small Christmas tree artfully designed out of coat hangers, stood on the counter, its tiny lights blinking green, urging a soft strategy. She stuffed her hat on a shelf under the tree. Next came her Kevlar vest and equipment belt. Once she’d tucked her gun into her sock, she said, “Don’t touch my belt.”
“Wait,” Spike said, eyes rounding when she began to unbutton her ranger-issue shirt.
Sable threw the shirt in the shelf and straightened her t-shirt. “You keep your mouth shut about who I am or I close your business for months. Today, I don’t want you, I want my gun-toting UNSUB.”
Spike nodded slowly, open-mouthed.
She swept up her shoulder-length hair and crunched it into a hair clip. “I’m going in there. Story is: My car’s stuck in a snow bank and I need a tow.”
He nodded again. “I won’t say who you are, but I’m not going to save your ass in there.”
“No problem.” A smile, then: “Let’s see what songs a room full of trapped drunk men will sing.”
Spike flipped a hand at her. “Have at it, ranger.”
Thanks for reading Part 1 of my Christmas story. Part 2 comes tomorrow...stay tuned!