Angie (xtremeroswellia) wrote in jake_heather,
Angie
xtremeroswellia
jake_heather

Better Days fic 4: Pledges of Allegiance (1/1)

Better Days Series: Fic four: Pledges of Allegiance (1/1)
Fandom: Jericho
Authors: X_tremeroswellian and Did_It_Once
Rated: R for language, adult content and some violence
Spoilers: Pretty AU from season two. Some spoilers for “Reconstruction.” And the other three fics in this series, obviously.
Pairings: Hints of Jake/Heather, Jake/Emily, and of course, Stanley/Mimi and Eric/Mary
Disclaimer: Totally not ours. Don’t sue.
Word Count: 5399



Pledges of Allegiance


A few hours after they got home from the med center, Jake was not lying down in his room like he had been instructed. Instead, he was walking the length of his room, mind on other things. A low rumble outside pulled him out of his thoughts. Going over to the window, he pulled back the curtains to discover an army vehicle parked outside his house. His eyes darkened as he watched the troops get out. If those men weren't here to watch over Heather, there would be hell to pay on Major Beck's part. He didn't need a babysitter.

"Jake?" Gail knocked softly on the door and didn't wait for a response before pulling it open. "I brought you some--what are you doing out of bed, young man?" she demanded.

He turned slowly. "There's a truck outside."

She set the tray down on the nightstand and moved to the window, surprised by the military vehicle parked outside.

"I'm going down there," he moved past his mother and over to the door.

"Jake." Her voice was weary.

“If he's here to baby-sit me I'm not going to stand for it."

She sighed as he made his way out of the room and down the stairs.

Heather was sitting curled up on the sofa, chewing her thumbnail as she stared out the front window.

Jake appeared at the door within moments, and yanked it open, ignoring the spike of pain it sent through his shoulder.

"Sheriff Green," one of the soldiers greeted him with a nod.

"Why are you here?" His tone was angry.

"Major Beck's orders."

"To what? Make sure I don't slip out to hunt down anymore of the men from New Bern?"

The soldiers exchanged glances but neither responded.

"Jake." Heather stood behind him, hesitant.

"Respond, soldier," he ignored her.

"Jake," she said again, putting a hand on his good shoulder. "I asked Major Beck to have guards watch the house."

He turned. "Why?"

Heather bit her lip and glanced at the men self-consciously. "Can we go back inside?" she whispered.

He let out a breath, then nodded.

She waited until he'd stepped back in and shut the door. Then she swallowed hard, moving across the room. "I'm a danger to you and your family."

"You're not," he shook his head. "Those guards should be here to keep an eye on you, not us."

"They can't do both?"

He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I have a feeling Major Beck didn't send them out for the sole purpose of just watching out for us."

"Maybe that's a good thing," she said very quietly.

“I don't need a babysitter."

Heather looked at the floor. "Jake...I don't wanna be the reason your mother has to bury someone else she loves."

He put his hand on her. "And you won't be."

"You don't know that."

"Yes, I do."

She shut her eyes. "Please, Jake," she whispered. "Just...don't fight about this."

"I'm sorry Heather," he walked past her. "I can't sit by and do nothing."

Her eyes watered. "You think I'm happy that there's a bunch of guys from New Bern running around town trying to find a way to kill me?"

"I know you're not. But you know what? Neither am I. And I'm in charge of protecting everyone in this town," he turned once more to her. "I'm going to find the rest of these men."

"And what happens if they kill you? Who's going to protect this town then?"

"They won't kill me."

A bitter laugh escaped her. "They'll just make you wish they had."

Clenching his jaw, he walked away, not voicing the thought in his head. He already wished they had.

* * *

After making his rounds about town and dealing with minor problems about town, Jake finally came back home. He was a little more calm as he walked back in the door.

The house was still and quiet except for a faint rustling sound. Heather lay asleep on the sofa, her breathing ragged as she tossed and turned beneath the blanket covering her.

He frowned and walked over to the sofa, looking down on her restless form, hesitating to wake her.

Before he had a chance, she jerked herself awake with a gasp, a frightened expression on her face.

He put a hand on her quickly. "Heather."

Heather flinched and pulled away, breathing heavily as she tried to figure out where she was.

"Heather, it's Jake. Jake Green. You're okay. You're safe."

t took a moment for the familiar voice to penetrate her mind and she looked at him, her eyes still wild. "Is he here?"

"No one's here but us," he said quietly.

"He had a gun," she whispered.

He walked around the couch and sat down beside her. "He doesn't now. You're safe."

She relaxed a little, leaning back against the couch and shutting her eyes once more.

He gazed at her. "You more awake now?"

It took her a moment to respond. She let out a slow breath, trying to wipe away the images from her mind before she opened her eyes once more. "I think so."

"Good," he murmured, resting his hand gently on her knee.

"You were gone a long time," she whispered.

"Had to take care of some things."

Heather swallowed hard. "Oh."

"A few...not so fair deals happened around here," he explained. "Had to go sort them out."

She nodded a little, her face still pale. "Your mom...went to do some stuff at the med center."

"Better for her to be there," he noticed the almost ashen
color of her skin. "You want to talk about it?"

She quickly shook her head.

"Okay..." He said uncertainly.

“I'm okay. Just a bad dream." She slowly rose to her feet.

"Seems like more than just a bad dream."

Heather shrugged a little, not looking at him. "I guess my mind's still trying to process everything that's happened."

"Sometimes it helps to talk about it," he said quietly.

She tried to smile but couldn't manage it. "Yeah, sometimes it does," she said softly, glancing at him.

"I'm here to listen," he offered.

Heather hesitated. "I know."

He stood slowly, walking into the kitchen. "Want something to eat?"

"I'm not really hungry. But I could fix you something."

He shook his head. "I'm good."

"Maybe you could lie down for awhile? Get that shoulder elevated?" Her voice was hopeful.

He glanced at his shoulder for a moment. "Okay."

A genuine smile touched her lips at his quick agreement.

Walking back into the front room, he lowered himself onto the couch.

She watched him, then moved to his side, carefully tucking a pillow beneath his arm and then covering him with the blanket she'd been using.

"Thanks," he murmured.

"Welcome," she whispered.

"Sit down."

"I've been lazy all day. I should make myself useful and dust the house or something," she said nervously.

He gazed at her wearily. "You're a guest, Heather."

"I know. But I'm living here for free. I wanna do my fair share."

"Just relax. Ten minutes."

She gazed at him for a moment, then finally gave in. "Ten minutes."

He smiled and shifted so she could sit on the edge of the couch.

Heather was a little surprised at the unspoken invitation. She hadn't realized he'd meant sit *right* beside him. Swallowing hard she hesitantly perched on the edge of the sofa.

"I heard a little about New Bern," he said quietly.

She stiffened a little, an involuntary reaction. "What did you hear?"

"Stanley."

Heather relaxed. "Oh."

"I'm sorry I wasn't there," his eyes were sad as he looked at her.

"It's not your fault, Jake."

"I feel like I should've stopped you from going."

She closed her eyes for a moment. "I had my mind made up. There was nothing you could have said that would've changed my decision." It wasn't entirely true, but he didn't need to know that.

"I bet there would have been," he whispered.

Heather shook her head a little. "You underestimate my stubbornness. It's a trait I got from my dad."

"That's something we have in common, then."

"I know it is." A faint smile touched her lips and she turned her head to look at him.

He looked up at her, a slight curve in his lip appeared. "Tell me about you growing up."

A short, surprised chuckle escaped her. "Seriously?"

"Maybe I'll fall asleep," he teased.

"Probably," Heather agreed with an amused smile.

"Come on," he nudged her with his good arm. "Promise I won't interrupt too much."

She drew in a breath, relaxing a little more. "Well, I was born in Lawrence. My family moved to New Bern when I was five. I was an only child. My dad was a minister."

"Your parents ever change that status?"

"No, but I always wanted a sibling."

"Trust me, it's not all it's cracked up to be."

She paused. "I don't know. You guys weren't close when you were younger at all?"

He shook his head. "No, we never were."

"I heard stories about you," she said suddenly. "Before you came back."

He raised an eyebrow. "What kind of stories?"

"From Stanley, mostly." A wry grin tugged at her lips.

He rolled his eyes. "I bet *those* were fun."

Her grin widened. "Oh, you bet."

"What kind of stories did he tell you about me?"

"Oh, about all the trouble the two of you used to get into together. He said you were like the cool brother he never had."

He chuckled softly. "Yeah, we had some pretty good times."

Heather smiled. "Stanley's a great guy."

"He is. Wish he were my brother instead of Eric," his eyes darkened a little as he mentioned his little brother's name.

Her smile faded. "He's not so bad, Jake," she whispered.

"He is right now."

She drew in a breath and let it out slowly. "He just doesn't know how to deal with everything that's happened."

He shook his head. "I don't need to hear excuses for him."

She fell silent, gazing at the floor.

Jake sat up slowly, wincing. "I should go check out Town Hall, make sure everything's okay."

"No. Lie down, Jake. You just got back."

"I have other things I need to do."

"Then I'm gonna come with you."

"No you're not."

"I don't wanna be here myself."

"It's not safe for you to be out in the open."

Heather wrapped her arms around herself and rose to her feet, heading toward the stairs wordlessly.

He bowed his head, guilt now seeping into him. "Okay," he said quietly.

"Forget it. I don't wanna be anymore trouble than I already have been," she said just as quietly.

"Come on. Just stay where I can see you, okay?"

She shut her eyes, pausing on the stairs. "Are you sure?"

He nodded. "Yeah, I am."

Drawing in a breath, she nodded a little and followed him toward the front door, eyeing the guards outside warily.

Jake turned to one. "I'm taking Heather into town with me. Stay here with your guard."

"Yes, Sir, Sheriff Green," he agreed, nodding.

Motioning for Heather to follow, he walked over to his car parked feet away and opened the passenger door for her.

She met his eyes, a little surprised by the gesture. A faint smile touched her lips. "Thanks."

"Welcome," he said.

After she got in, he climbed into the driver's seat and they were off to main street.
* * *

Heather had been wary of walking around Jericho alone since she'd returned. But spending the afternoon with Jake she felt perfectly safe. He never let her out of his sight for more than a minute, and most of the time he stuck to her side like glue, hovering protectively, ever-vigilant of their surroundings.

It was nice to be out and about without fearing for her safety for a change. As he walked beside her toward Bailey's, though, she couldn't help but tense a little. She noticed that he did, as well. "Maybe I should wait outside," she said hesitantly.

"Forget it. I haven't let you out of my sight yet, and I'm not about to leave you now," he said, voice firm but kind.

"Okay," Heather murmured, reluctantly following him into a nearly-empty Bailey's. She noted that Mary was behind the bar, leaning on it with her elbows, smiling at Eric who sat on one of the barstools. Neither of them noticed Jake and Heather come in, they were so caught up in each other. She wondered fleetingly what it would be like to be loved as much as they seemed to love each other.

Jake clenched and relaxed his good hand at the sight of his brother, trying to ignore the residual anger he still felt toward him. He convinced himself that it was possible to be in the same room as him for at least ten minutes without saying anything. Clearing his throat, he looked at Mary. "Hey."

Mary glanced up, surprised. "Jake. Heather. Hey." She flickered her gaze to Eric then quickly straightened. "What can I get ya?"

He moved up to the bar, ignoring his brother completely. "Something that dulls pain, I hope."

"Whiskey it is," she said with a faint smile, moving to pour him a drink.

He smiled. "You're the best."

Mary just smiled at him and set the drink in front of him.

"Heard you got shot," Eric said without looking at him.

Jake took the drink and downed it. "Yep."

"You all right?"

"Fine."

"Good. I'd hate to see my only brother die protecting the town traitor." His voice was distant.

He wheeled around, facing Eric. "Stop it."

Eric shrugged slightly.

Jake took a step toward him. "I mean it Eric. This has to stop. Now."

"Jake." Heather reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't."

"No Heather. I'm not going to stand for this. You are *not* a traitor, and you don't deserve this kind of treatment," Jake's eyes flashed with anger as he continued to focus his attention on Eric.

Eric rose to his feet and turned to face Jake. "How do you know she's not?"

"If she were a traitor, why the hell would she try to keep your sorry ass happy in New Bern?"

"Wow, nothing like tooting your own horn, is there?" Eric's gaze moved to Heather.

"Eric. Stop it," Mary said quietly, uncomfortable with the quickly-rising tension level.

He stepped in front of Heather. "You don't get to talk to her."

"You're really that blind, aren't you?" He shook his head and looked at Jake. "Tell me...if it was *anyone* else would you really have this blind faith in them? Or are you thinking with the wrong brain, Jake?"

In a flash, Jake had tackled Eric to the ground. "You son of a bitch."

"Stop it!" Mary moved around the bar quickly, and together she and Heather managed to tug Jake away from Eric.

"You think you're so tough Eric? Think you know what's right?" Jake pulled at the grip the women had him in, ignoring the sharp pains in his shoulder. "Then why did you leave your pregnant wife when she needed you the most? You're probably the reason she's dead now."

Moving past the girls, Eric slammed his fist into Jake's jaw. "You shut up, you don't know what the hell you're talking about!"

Heather quickly positioned herself in front of Jake, her face pale.

"That was below the belt, Jake," Mary murmured.

Jake recovered quickly from the blow and stepped in front of Heather once more. "And what Eric's been saying isn't? He's the *real* traitor here," he growled.

"Tell me you don't honestly find the whole situation the slightest bit strange!" Eric challenged.

"No, I don't. Heather saved our lives."

"Or maybe she was just trying to reposition herself in town to kick us when we least expect it!"

"Eric, stop it. Listen to yourself!" Mary turned to look at him, shaking her head.

Jake snorted. "God Eric, I used to think you were smart, strong even. Guess I was wrong. You're a coward. That's all you've ever been."

"Stop it, both of you." Heather looked between them, her expression one of defeated wariness. Then she turned her attention to Eric. "I get that you're grieving. You've lost a lot. But you're not the only one and I'm not your enemy, Eric."

"Listen to her Eric," Jake resisted stepping in front of Heather again.

"I would never do anything to endanger someone in this town. This is my home," Heather said quietly, shaking her head.

Eric shook his head. "New Bern's been your home longer. I know where your allegiances lie."

"Do you? Do you really think my allegiance lies with Constantino?" she asked.

"Yeah, I do."

A bitter smile touched her lips and she nodded slightly before sliding her shirt up to reveal a red, angry, still-healing wound in her side. It was about two inches long and already scarring.

"Oh my God," Mary whispered, lifting a hand to her mouth.

Jake's eyes widened. "Jesus."

Eric looked on, speechless.

"When Constantino caught and separated us, he ordered one of his deputies to take me out of town and execute me, but not before giving me this parting gift."

"He did?" Eric's voice was shaking.

Heather's eyes were watery. "So if you really think I'm on Constantino's side, you'd better think again because he wasn't any kinder to me than he was to you."

He bit his lip. "I'm so sorry."

She tugged her shirt down once more and turned to head for the door without another word.

Jake gave his brother one more glare and followed Heather out the door.

Heather forced herself to take a deep breath as she walked out of Bailey's, shuddering involuntarily.

He put his arms around her. "Come here," he whispered.

She shut her eyes tightly as he hugged her.

"I'll get Constantino," he vowed to her.

Heather pulled away from him. "Why do you think I didn't tell you, Jake?"

"I don't care. I'm going after him."

"And when you get killed, Constantino won't have anyone standing between him and Jericho when he decides to try and do a hostile takeover again." Her voice was harsh, bitter. She turned and headed away.

Jake closed his eyes, heart heavy. It seemed like it didn't matter what he said to her, he was just making things worse.

"I shouldn't have come back here," she whispered.

"That's not true."

"Yes, it is." Heather turned to face him once more, tears streaking her face. She hated the fact that she was crying, that he was seeing it, and that she couldn't seem to stop saying all the horrible things she'd spent the last several days thinking. "You and Eric hate each other because of me, Constantino keeps sending men to kill me and killing other people instead. If I could've just blown up that damn factory maybe your dad would still be alive." She shook her head. "It should've been me."

He walked up to her. "Look, I know you're not going to listen to a damn word I'm about to tell you, but I'm going to say it anyway. Constantino would have come after Jericho even if you had managed to blow up the factory. My father--" His voice cut out and he swallowed.

"As much as I hate to say it, we would have lost him anyway because Constantino would have wanted to take out the driving influence of Jericho. And Eric and I have never had a good relationship. Ever. We've been like this for a very long time. And you know what? None if it is your fault. You *saved* Jericho, Heather. I just can't understand why you won't accept that."

She shut her eyes, her body shuddering as she tried to unsuccessfully swallow back a sob.

"And God Heather, I'm so sorry that you went through all that. I wish I could have prevented it. All of it. I wish I could have stopped you from going, but I didn't. And I regret that every day," he looked away. "I understand if you don't want to stay at my house. I'll talk to Major Beck and get you a secure house to stay at."

"Jake." Her voice broke. "Being at your house is the first time I've felt safe since the bombs," she whispered.

"Then how come it doesn't feel like it?" His voice was barely audible.

"Because I don't wanna cause you any problems." Her eyes were sad as she opened them to look at him. "You and your mother have been nothing but kind to me and I don't wanna--"

"You're not. I've been trying to tell you that. You're not trouble. My mom has someone she can talk to now. You've really helped her."

Heather drew in a shuddering breath in an attempt to get control over her emotions. "Okay."

"I'll get someone to take you back to the house, okay?"

"Come back with me," she whispered.

He took a breath. "I can't just yet."

She swallowed hard, dropping her gaze. "All right."

"I promise I'll be home soon."

This time she simply nodded.

* * *

Later that afternoon, Jake and Stanley sat side-by-side at Bailey's. "Eric finally backed off Heather."

"How'd that happen?" Stanley took a drink of the beer that was sitting in front of him.

Jake downed his own shot. "Well, it started with exchanging blows."

"So it was a typical day between the Green siblings," he surmised.

"Basically. But then Heather stepped between us..."

Stanley winced. "Bad move."

"Actually...not this time."

"Good to know one of you didn't hit her accidentally," he said wryly.

"Yeah," Jake nodded somberly. "What she showed him was much worse though."

Stanley's eyebrows furrowed. "What do you mean?"

"She has this...two inch still-healing scar on her side."

He set his drink down, looking at Jake. "Scar? What kind of scar?"

"Like a knife wound."

"Jesus. Who--"

"Constantino," he said darkly.

"Son of a bitch," he whispered.

Jake took another drink. "He's a dead son of a bitch."

"I hope I'm there to see it."

"I bet you will be."

"She all right?" Stanley asked quietly, taking a drink.

He shrugged. "Not really."

He let out a breath and stared down at his beer mug. "When did that happen?"

"When she went missing."

He paused, frowning.

Jake raised an eyebrow. "What?"

"It's just...she wasn't acting like herself while we were there."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, she was upbeat and everything but...I don't know. Maybe I was just imagining it," he muttered.

"Stanley, don't go vague on me."

Stanley drew in a breath and glanced at him. "I've known Heather since she moved here three years ago. We've been pretty good friends. She's always had this...I don't know, this light in her eyes. It wasn't there in New Bern."

Jake shut his eyes and put his head on the counter. "God everything is so messed up."

"Tell me about it."

Sighing, he stood from the barstool, cradling his arm close to him. "I'm gonna head back to the house."

"Mind if I tag along?"

"Nope. You can come."

Stanley nodded, set some money on the bar and followed him out the door. Maybe between the two of them they could get Heather to open up.

* * *

Stanley followed Jake into the Green's house, glancing to the sofa where Heather lay curled up, blanket covering her. Her eyes were closed, her breathing steady and even.

"I'm gonna go lay down for a few," Jake murmured.

"Yeah. I guess I'll head home." He kept his gaze on Heather.

He nodded. "Okay. Have a good one."

"You too." Stanley watched him head up the stairs, then he walked back to the front door, opened the door a little, shut it and stood perfectly still.

She let out a breath and opened her eyes, sitting up slowly.

Stanley leaned against the wall and folded his arms. "Gotcha."

Heather grimaced and looked over at him. "Since when are you sneaky?"

"Always have been," he grinned.

She gave him a look.

He shrugged. "I knew you weren't asleep."

"How?"

"Years of watching Bonnie fake it."

Heather sighed softly. "So you caught me."

"Yeah...we established that..."

"Obviously you were trying," she said, rising to her feet. "What I don't know is why."

He took a breath, "Because we need to talk."

She bit her lip. "I'm guessing Jake filled you in."

"More or less."

Sighing, she nodded a little. "All right."

"You changed in New Bern."

"Everyone changed in New Bern," she said, averting her gaze.

"Yeah, but you lost your spark," he said quietly.

"Stanley...half the people there were starving to death. Kids, infants. It was a nightmare."

"I know."

"I wasn't prepared for it," she whispered, turning away.

Walking over to the couch, he took a seat beside her. "I don't think any of us were."

Heather was quiet for a moment. Then she glanced at him sideways. "How are Bonnie and Mimi?"

"They're good."

"Good," she whispered.

"How are you? And don't say fine because I know that's not true."

A trace of a smile flickered over her face and she looked at him again. "Honestly? Angry with myself for giving Jake more reason to want Constantino dead."

He took a breath. "I'm gonna be honest here...I want him dead too."

She rubbed her hands over her face wearily. "He's got enough sins to answer for til the end of time," she murmured.

"No kidding," he murmured.

You don't know the half of it, she thought tiredly. "But that doesn't mean I wanna watch you and Jake get yourselves killed trying to make him pay, either," she whispered.

"We won't, Heather."

"You can't promise that, Stanley. And what'll happen to Bonnie and Mimi if something does happen to you? And to Mrs. Green?" She shook her head.

"We're not going to go after him half-cocked," he gave her a pointed look. "I won't let Jake do that."

Heather shut her eyes, resisting the urge to tell him that any plan they came up with would be half-cocked. "You know he still has a large, loyal following."

"Yeah, I know."

"I'm guessing there's nothing I can say or do to talk you out of it."

He shook his head. "Not really, no."

"All right."

"Sorry."

"You have to do what you have to do," Heather said quietly. And so do I, she added silently.

* * *

--Next Day--

Jake pressed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger, trying to fight off the headache he felt coming as he paced Major Beck's office. "He'll be here in twenty four hours. That can't be right, we're not ready."

"I'm aware of that," Beck agreed, looking almost as unsettled as Jake felt.

"We still have at least four shooters from New Bern AWOL, and who the hell knows what Constantino will have planned for when the President gets here."

"I don't think even Phil Constantino's dumb enough to try anything with the president in town."

"You don't know him," Jake turned to Beck. "He'll try something."

Beck was silent for a moment. "I'll call in an extra team."

"Don't know if that's going to help."

"There's not much else we can do, Jake."

"I know."

"Well, if it eases your mind any, Heather will be completely safe during the president's visit."

"Where is she going to be?"

"With me."

Jake blinked. "With only you?"

"At a secure location," he confirmed.

"That's not a good enough answer for me."

"I'll take care of her, Jake. You have my word."

"Major Beck, with all due respect, I'd feel a lot better if she were with me."

"I'm sure you would. But Jericho's going to need its sheriff on full alert."

"And I will be, if Heather's with me."

He leaned forward. "How are you going to be focused on the town if you're worried about protecting Miss Lisinski?"

Jake leaned forward as well. "If she's out of my sight, I'll be worrying about her more."

Beck considered that for a moment. "I hear what you're saying. But if you're out in the wide open in town and she's with you..."

"I can keep her safe."

"I'm staying with Jake."

Beck's gaze flickered to the door and he raised his eyebrows when he saw Heather standing there, arms folded across her chest.

Jake turned to her. "Heather."

She met his gaze for a brief moment, then looked at the older man. "I trust him to keep me safe," she said without hesitation.

"Thank you."

Major Beck looked between them. "It's your decision," he said with a slight nod.

She nodded as well.

"She's staying with me."

"All right." Beck gazed at Heather for a moment.

"One last question."

"Go ahead."

"What building is the president expected to stop at?"

"You mean you haven't heard?" He looked truly surprised.

Jake frowned. "No."

"He's going to be at the Richmond Ranch."

"Does Stanley know about this?"

"I talked to him a couple hours ago."

"And what preparations need to be made?"

"Apparently President Tomarchino has a group of supporters who will arrive early in the morning to take care of all the preparations. We just need the extra security."

"That you want me to get together," he finished.

Beck nodded slightly.

"Right," he let out a breath. "I'll get on it."

"You'll do fine, Jake." Beck turned away.

"Yes sir," he mock saluted him behind Beck's back and walked out of the room.

Heather followed him slowly, looking worried.

"Okay, we need volunteers," Jake ran a hand through his hair.

"I don't like this," she murmured.

"I can't *not* listen to him."

"Not that." She glanced at him. "Why would President Tomarchino want to stop at Stanley's house and not here at Town Hall?"

"More isolated?" He guessed.

Heather looked at him uneasily. "Exactly."

"You don't think...he's working with Constantino somehow."

"No, I really doubt that," she murmured. "Not even Constantino has that much influence outside of New Bern."

"Then what the hell is he planning?" He shook his head.

"I don't know. But whatever it is, it can't be good."

"Okay...ah...one problem at a time," he murmured. "We need to go to Bailey's."

Heather drew in a breath and let it out slowly. "Then let's go."


* * *

Bailey's was fuller than Jake had seen it in a while, which he supposed was a good thing. More volunteers.

"What do you want me to do?" Heather asked quietly, sticking close to his side.

"Get the word around that we need volunteers," he scanned the crowd. "I'm gonna go find Eric."

"Okay." She watched as he stepped through the crowd and she slowly headed in the opposite direction.

It didn't take long to find Eric, since he was in his usual spot at the bar. Sliding into the seat next to him, Jake rested his elbows on the counter. "I need your help."

Immediately Eric looked guilty. "Sure. Name it."

"I need to round up extra security. The president's coming tomorrow."

His eyes widened. "The president's coming to Jericho?"

He nodded grimly. "But I don't want the security to be looking out for him."

"Wait, what do you mean?" Eric turned to face him.

Jake ducked his head. "Something's not right with the president coming. I need our extra security looking out for our people."

It took a moment for his brother's words to sink in. "I'll see who I can round up."

"Thanks," he said, and he meant it.

"Don't mention it," Eric said quietly, sliding off his stool and heading into the crowd.

Turning in his stool, Jake watched as Heather and Eric made their way through the crowd, picking out the people that they knew were trustworthy to help defend Jericho from yet another threat.

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