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Holder’s ears ring from the report, enough that for a minute he can’t even hear the shit coming out of his mouth, though it’s mostly a litany of no no no, God, no while he considers whether he might puke, or cry, or tackle her to the ground, too late.

“Jesus fuck, Linden, what are you doing?” he says but it’s already done. The fucking verb tenses are all wrong and he’s too late.

Linden doesn’t look at him, just walks over to the car, steps around Skinner leaking brains onto the rutted driveway like he’s a parking boot shackled to the tire. She makes sure Holder can see her hands, her gestures broad and theatrical, as she ejects the clip from her weapon and sets both on the lid of the trunk. She does the same with the second gun, Skinner’s. Then her badge, glinting in its leather case. Then the cuffs. Those, she holds up for a longer beat, pointed, before setting them beside the rest, a jangle and metallic scrape on the car’s dark paint.

She walks over to the edge of the clearing, then, and, her back to him, sinks to her knees in the sodden grass. Folds down slow like she had at the end of the pier after Pastor Mike, a string-cut marionette…and then she laces her fingers on top of her head. Holder’s gasping for breath, words snagging in his chest like sobs.

“I’m not gonna fucking arrest you, Sarah!” He half-screams it, bent double at the waist so he can shout right into her blank pale profile, the shell-curve of her ear. Mist beads on her hair, flyaway wisps escaping her ponytail, colorless in the night woods. Linden tilts her head, just enough to meet his eyes.

“But you should,” she says. Her voice is low and certain, the gentlest admonishment before she turns away again and stares off into the dark.

Holder shoves his weapon into the holster and drops beside her, just sits his ass down in the mud, hip to hip, and folds his arms to keep from reaching for her. Over the roaring in his head, and the wet mutter of rain, he thinks he can hear sirens, getting closer. The cavalry’s coming. When they get here, he thinks, they’ll do whatever has to be done.