Get your copy now!

Yay! The day has finally come! Cloistered to Death is here! If you didn’t pre-order, you can now get the print and Kindle versions here, PDF/epub/mobi here through Smashwords, and at all of your other favorite ebook sellers.

Enjoy!!Cover 2500x1875.jpg

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Six days until Cloistered to Death!

While you wait, here’s a brief snippet. Jamie is on a writing retreat at a monastery.

I was deep into a primary document written by a Mackenzie chief when I heard voices from the kitchen. A man said, in a very un-monklike tone, “Fuck off, Trent. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Cover 2500x1875.jpgA deeper voice said, “Yes, I do. You think Father Greg allowed Martin to greet the guests as a reward? Hell, no. He was punishing him for letting Lawrence hit him in the face. You know the rule.”

“Yeah, yeah. No marks.”

“Besides, Joe, you’ve got no reason to be jealous of Martin. Unless you want to be music director.”

Joe snorted. “Noooo, thank you. The turnover rate for that job is way too high.”

Nothing else was said.

I sat there for a minute, reflecting on what I’d just heard. No marks? Unless the monastery had a goat named Lawrence, Brother Martin had lied to me. And what did that remark about the turnover rate for music directors mean? Martin had said that his predecessor had died.

It occurred to me that I probably shouldn’t tell Pete about the conversation. At least not until I got home.

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Cloistered to Death is ready to preorder!

Woohoo! You can now preorder Cloistered to Death at both Amazon and Smashwords. Release date is May 28. That’s Memorial Day, so you won’t have to sneak and read at work. 🙂  If you order through Nook, Kobo, iBooks, etc., it should be available in another day or two.

The print version will probably also be released on the 28th, but I can’t set up a preorder through Createspace.

Enjoy!

Jamie Brodie is on deadline. The proposal for his second book is due, and he desperately needs uninterrupted writing time. At the suggestion of patron, friend, and former monk Clinton Kenneally – and over the protests of Pete Ferguson, Jamie’s husband – Jamie schedules a week-long writing retreat at a local monastery. But the monastery is not exactly what Jamie expected…which might explain the flicker of disquiet in Clinton’s eyes.

Meanwhile, Kevin Brodie and Jon Eckhoff are dealing with a dead drug dealer, doggie diarrhea, and a camera crew from the reality TV show Two Days to Solve. The camera loves Jon, and vice versa. Kevin’s just trying to refrain from swearing on TV. But when the victim turns out to be someone from Kevin’s past, the case gets a whole lot more interesting.

And there’s no way it’ll be solved in two days.

Cover 2500x1875.jpg

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A snippet from Cloistered to Death

Just over a month to go until publication… 😀 Enjoy this teaser!!

TWO DAYS TO SOLVE

Los Angeles, California

Monday, April 23, 2018

5:15 am

Voiceover: Homicide. The ultimate crime. When a murder is committed in Los Angeles, the LAPD’s homicide detectives have two days to solve the crime before the trail begins to go cold.

Tonight, a murder was committed. Tonight, we ride with two of LAPD’s finest, the homicide detectives of the West Los Angeles Division, as they hunt a killer.

Detective Brodie (in the passenger seat, speaking to the camera): Our victim is a male, found in front of an empty house that’s for sale. A neighbor was outside with his dog and heard the gunshot. He didn’t see anything but he called it in.

Detective Kevin Brodie has been with the Los Angeles Police Department for sixteen years, ten of them with West LA homicide.

Brodie: We have far fewer homicides in West LA than in most of the other divisions.

Detective Eckhoff (driving): We may not have as many, but the motives aren’t that different.

His partner, Detective Jonathan Eckhoff, has been with LAPD for fourteen years, seven as a homicide detective.

Eckhoff: Drugs and money. There are a lot of drugs in them thar hills. Lots of money, too.

Brodie: We get a fair number of body dumps. Up in the canyons, this side of Mulholland. Someone’s dog discovers a victim and we have no idea where the crime scene is.

Eckhoff: This time, we know.

The unmarked car is waved through a checkpoint and pulls up to the curb in front of a large house. Uniformed police and crime scene personnel swarm the site. There is a For Sale sign at the end of the driveway.

Brodie (to a uniformed officer): Hey, Ben, what’ve we got?

Officer: White male, shot in the chest at close range.

Brodie and Eckhoff approach the the house, where the victim lies just outside the front door in a pool of blood. The victim is wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and is barefoot.

Brodie: You’re not kidding, close range. (He leans in to study the wound.) Shooter must have been less than three feet away.

Eckhoff: Someone he trusted. (He scans the scene.) Oh, shit. His shoes are missing. Is this a copycat?

Brodie: No way. (To the camera) About six months ago, Harbor Division arrested a guy who’d been stabbing homeless people and stealing their shoes. He’s in jail.

Officer: This guy doesn’t look homeless. Or stabbed.

Brodie (glances down the driveway): It’s gotta be coincidence, but we’ll keep it in mind. How did he get here? (to coroner’s investigator) He doesn’t have ID?

Coroner’s Investigator: Not yet. There’s nothing in his pockets. Not even a quarter.

Brodie (still studying the body): He’s got a defensive wound.

Eckhoff (demonstrates to the camera): Someone knows he’s about to get shot, he’s likely to throw up his hands. Doesn’t help, the bullet goes right through, but it’s a reflex reaction.

CI (kneeling by the body): Chest wound isn’t a through and through, so we’ll get the bullet.

Eckhoff (looks up at the house): This is an odd place for a robbery.

Brodie: I don’t think this started off as a robbery.

Crime scene personnel are taking multiple pictures.

Brodie: He looks vaguely familiar, kinda like a guy I played ball with in college.

Eckhoff (in some disbelief): You know him?

 

Pre-order links coming soon!

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New short story: The Rest of the Story

Happy Easter, everyone. In Oceanside this morning, Dave and Claudia are having breakfast together…

The Rest of the Story

Claudia Stratton parked on South Tremont Street, in front of Dave Brodie’s house, and cut the engine. She stepped out of the car and sniffed the air. Bacon. Yum.

She climbed the steps to the porch. Dave’s front door was open, the screened gate across it closed. She called, “Yoo hoo…”

Bacon_(1)

By Renee Comet (Photographer) – English | Français | +/−, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24036670

Dave hollered, “Coming!” She heard something clatter, then he appeared in the entry hall, grinning as he unlocked the gate. “Sorry. I’d just taken the muffins out of the oven.”

“Perfect timing, then.” Claudia kissed him and dropped her purse and tote bag in the living room.

Dave locked the gate behind her. “Hungry?”

“God, yes.”

In the kitchen, the scent of bacon and blueberry muffins was heady. Claudia breathed in deeply. “Mmmm. Anything I can do?”

“Nope. Just pour yourself a cup of coffee.”

Claudia complied, then sat at the table as Dave set a plate of muffins and bacon in front of her. “Thank you. This smells wonderful.”

He passed her the butter. “Dig in. Happy Easter.”

“Happy Easter to you, too. What are Jeff and his crew doing?”

“Jeff’s on call, so they’re staying home. I think they’re transplanting tomatoes today.”

“Ahh. Can’t wait for tomato season.”

“No kidding.”

Claudia almost inhaled her first muffin then crunched a piece of bacon. “Did you take the boys to church when they were little?”

“On Easter and Christmas, yes. The impetus came from my dad, though. I wouldn’t have.”

Claudia considered, then decided the conversation was appropriate for Easter. “Do you believe in God?”

Dave shook his head and sipped his coffee. “No. Vietnam made me an agnostic. That old saying, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes?’ That’s BS. Foxholes create as many atheists as they convert.”

LRPs_directing_artillery

By Icemanwcs – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28018478

“I don’t doubt that.”

“Then Julie’s death finished the job. Convinced me that life is entirely random. I stopped believing that night.”

Claudia hesitated, thinking, Do I really want to ask this? Dave noticed. “Out with it.”

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. But…what happened that night?”

A deep sigh, his gaze fixed somewhere beyond the back door of the house. “I wasn’t worried yet. It was only 10:30. She’d said they’d be home by 11:00. I was feeding Jamie his last bottle before I put him down for the night. Jeff and Kev were already asleep.”

“How old was Jamie?”

“Six months to the day. We’d thrown a little six-months-old party that afternoon, just the family.” He smiled sadly, remembering, then the smile faded. “When the doorbell rang, I couldn’t imagine who it was. When I saw the state troopers, I couldn’t begin to process why they might be there. Then one of them noticed Jamie, and his face changed…and I think I stopped breathing. I don’t even remember exactly what they said.” He winced. “Everything went out of me. Right through my feet and into the floor. I just…folded up. And I dropped Jamie.”

Claudia sucked in a breath. “Oh my God. But he was okay?”

“Yeah. One of the cops caught him. The bottle hit the floor, he squawked, but then settled right down. The other cop caught me and maneuvered me to the sofa. Everything after that is kind of a blur. The cops were asking me questions, but I couldn’t answer any of them. It was as if I was underwater. I couldn’t hear right. I guess the one who was holding Jamie went into the kitchen, saw the list of emergency numbers on the fridge, and called the Arbogasts next door. So they were there, then Charlie Fortner was there. June Arbogast told me later that she put Jamie to bed. Then Jeff woke up and came to the living room. All the grownups there freaked him out, and he started to cry. Then I started to cry.” Dave had been holding his knife; he set it carefully on the edge of his plate. “And I didn’t stop.”

Claudia’s heart was breaking for him. She reached out; he took her hand and squeezed it. “Next thing I knew, my brother Denny was here. Somehow he finagled an overnight cross-country ride in the rear seat of an F-14. Landed at Miramar and borrowed a vice admiral’s driver to bring him here.” He snorted softly. “Your tax dollars at work.”

“It must have been a relief to see him, though.”

“Yeah. He took charge of everything. My dad arrived later the next day, and my oldest brother Doug the day after that.”

“When did you learn what had happened?”

“It was on the news the next morning. I didn’t see it, but Denny did. He told me. I didn’t know until then about the others. That Tracy was dead, too.” Dave drew in a deep breath. “I wanted to see Julie. I got it in my head for a while that it wasn’t true, that I wouldn’t believe it until I saw her. So Doug and Denny went with me to the medical examiner’s office.”

“Oh, Dave. How awful.”

“Doug and Den tried to convince me not to, but I had to.” He swallowed. “It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. She was…she had a cut, here.” He drew a line across the right side of his forehead. “And a few nicks from glass fragments. But otherwise, her face was untouched.” He picked up his knife again and examined it. “They wouldn’t let me see the rest of her. Months later, during the trial, I found out why. The engine from Tracy’s car had ended up in the front seat with her and Julie. They were both crushed. The pictures of the car that they showed at trial…” His voice faded.

Claudia was deeply regretting that she’d started this conversation…but maybe it was good for Dave to talk about it. She hoped so. She said tentatively, “It must have been instantaneous.”

“Oh, yes. The cops and the medical examiner all assured us of that. That was…I was glad to know that.”

“When did your dad come to stay?”

“Doug stayed for two weeks. During that time Dad went home, closed the house and packed his things, and drove his truck back here, cross-country. Once he was here and settled, Doug went back to Germany, and the rest of our lives started.”

“How were the boys?”

“Jeff was a mess. Poor little guy. He was almost three…every morning he’d wake up asking, ‘Is Mommy home yet?’ We had to keep reminding him that she wasn’t coming home. He kept that up for almost a year. I guess he finally got old enough to process it.”

“That must have been terrible for you.”

Dave shook his head. “Ripped my heart right out, every day.”

“What about Kevin?”

“He was confused for a few weeks. He asked where she was a few times. But he was only twenty months. It didn’t take him long to forget.”

“I suppose Jamie wasn’t affected.”

“No. He was a happy baby anyway, and he was getting plenty of extra attention…he was fine.” Dave smiled, remembering. “That state trooper, the one who caught Jamie? His

CHP_Shoulder_Patch

By California Highway Patrol – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29152153

name was Ray Peña. He had a boy the same age, Damon, and three older daughters. Ray lived in Carlsbad, but he stopped by a few times, just to check on me, I think. One time he was off duty and had Damon with him. Damon and Jamie played together and got along well, and Ray and his wife started inviting the boys over to play. Jeff was in a clingy stage and never wanted to go, but Kevin and Jamie would have a grand old time. Damon and Jamie ended up playing youth rugby together. They’re still friends.”

“What a nice man.”

“Yeah. Ray and his wife are fine people. He’s retired now, but if he’s up this way, he still stops by.”

“How long did Jeff’s clingy stage last?”

Dave chuckled. “Until he was about a month into kindergarten. Hoo boy, was that a fight. He did not want to go to school those first few weeks.”

“He was afraid you’d be gone when he came back.”

“Subconsciously, yes. Fortunately, Charlie Fortner’s daughter, Lauren, was in Jeff’s class, and she and Jeff became best buds. The Fortners, Jeff and Lauren’s teacher, and Dad and I all joined forces to help Jeff, and it worked. We knew he was better when he started asking if he could go home with Lauren after school.”

Claudia squeezed Dave’s hand again. “You and your dad did a terrific job. Your sons are a credit to both of you.”

He smiled. “Thank you. Sometimes I wonder how they would have turned out differently, if Julie was here.”

“Do you think it would have changed them significantly?”

“Probably not. They were born with their personalities. But maybe Jeff would have been a bit more confident, growing up. And Jamie wouldn’t have experienced as much pain from Dad’s rejection of him when he came out. Otherwise…not much difference.” He stood and reached for her coffee mug. “Refill?”

“Please.”

He set the full mug in front of her and wrapped his hands around his own. “We need to plan a trip East. My family is eager to meet you.”

“Likewise.” Claudia stirred cream into her coffee. “Can we visit Arlington while we’re there?”

Dave was sipping coffee; his eyes crinkled in a smile over the rim of his mug. “Absolutely.”

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An interview with Kevin and Kristen

No explanation necessary. (Except, I had to use a picture of the UCLA police department because I didn’t have any LAPD photos.)

IMG_1579

The house is gorgeous, a two-story, stucco exterior, with pots of flowers lining the front porch. The Lyft driver drops me at the top of the circular drive. As I climb the porch steps, Kevin Brodie opens the door.

He’s even blonder in person than I’d imagined, and I’m surprised – though I shouldn’t be, at this point – by how much he and Jamie resemble each other. Their coloring is different, but they have the same basic face.

Kevin grins broadly. It’s dazzling. “Hey, Ms. Perry.”

“Hey, Kevin, and I will tell you the same thing I told Jamie. It’s Meg. No argument.”

He laughs. “Meg it is, then. Come on in. Kristen’s not home yet. She and Liz are planning a baby shower.”

“Ah. Anyone I know?”

“Jessie Gaither, now Jessie Narahashi.” He looks at me curiously. “You didn’t know?”

“Nope. It’s like I told Jamie. I don’t know everything that all of you get up to between cases.”

That’s for the best. Something to drink? Water? Beer? Coke?”

“A beer sounds great.”

He extracts two from the fridge, one for me and one for himself. “Come out to the patio.”

The back yard is lovely, about a quarter acre, and completely private. The pool is sparkling. Kevin removes a skimmer that was resting against the arm of a chair. “I was cleaning the pool when you got here.”

“Good man.”

He chuckles. “Thank you for this house, by the way.”

“You’re welcome. I’m so glad you didn’t lose it in the fires back in December.”

“No kidding.”

“Has your voice recovered from the smoke?”

“Yes. It took a couple of weeks, though.” He takes a drink from his bottle then sets it on the table between us. “So. What’s on your mind?”

“Well, since Kristen isn’t home yet…can we talk work?”

He frowned. “My work?”

“In a way. You know I’m from Florida.”

“Right.” He gives me a knowing look. “You want to talk about guns.”

“Yes. You grew up with guns, you carry a gun for your job, you’ve seen the aftereffects of plenty of bullets. In your opinion, what’s it gonna take to stop the shootings?”

He shook his head. “We do not currently have the political will in this country to stop them. If twenty dead six-year-olds don’t force the gun lobby and their toadies in Congress to care, no number of dead teenagers and adults will. Although the Parkland kids…maybe this is a turning point.”

“Let’s hope. As a cop, what would you like to see happen?”

“I would like for the sale of military-grade weapons to civilians to be illegal in this country. There is no reason that any civilian needs to own one. It would save both civilians’ and cops’ lives.”

“What about the self-defense argument?”

He snorts in derision. “Mass shootings are ambushes. Even if you’re carrying a loaded AR-15, you’ll be dead before you can get it unslung from your back. The ‘good guy with a gun’ argument is a total fallacy, perpetuated by the NRA. There was an armed police officer at the Pulse nightclub. It didn’t matter.” He pauses. “If Hunter Mitchell had been carrying an AR-15 at the Hotel Bel Air, then Jamie, Robbie Harrison, and everyone else in that bar would have been dead. Including me.”

“What about the Second Amendment?”

“The men who wrote the Second Amendment never dreamed of automatic or semiautomatic weapons. The Amendment says that we have the right to bear arms. It doesn’t say that we have the right to bear any kind of arms we want.”

“What’s your opinion of the NRA?”

“That they have lost sight of their mission.”

“Are you a member?”

“Hell, no. Neither is my dad.”

“What would you say to those who fear the government coming for their guns?”

He laughs. “I know some of those guys. They have a romantic vision of a standoff with the FBI, like at that wildlife refuge, defending their property and their womenfolk and their right to bear arms. That is not how it would happen. Seriously? If the government comes for your guns, then every single one of your rights is worthless. They’re not gonna dick around and send the FBI or ATF or US Marshals or LAPD SWAT or Homeland Security. There will be no standoff. You’ll be behind your barricades with your hundreds of rounds of ammunition when a U.S. Air Force Predator drone fires a missile through your fucking house. Then they’ll pry your guns from your cold, dead hands.”

“So these citizen militias…”

“Are a joke.” He shakes his head. “Some of those guys are ex-military. They must realize.”

“Maybe they were cooks. Assigned to the motor pool. Something.”

Closing_of_the_Jerome_Relocation_Center,_Denson,_Arkansas._View_in_the_Jerome_motor_pool_showing_tr_._._._-_NARA_-_539700

By Mace, Charles E., photographer, Photographer (NARA record: 8464453) – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17327756

He laughs. “Maybe.”

“Happier topic. How are the social work classes coming along?”

He grins. “I love ‘em. And my instructors love having me in the classes. I’ve been able to refute some of the misconceptions that some of the other students come in with.”

“You’re still planning to work for the D.A.?”

“Sure. At least for a while.” He drains his beer. “My captain and his superiors in the LAPD have approached me with an intriguing offer.”

“Oh?”

“They want me to teach at the academy.”

“No kidding! What subject? You’re qualified for several.”

“Yeah. I told ‘em I wouldn’t do weapons training, but I can teach ethics, how to deal with victims…”

“And you’d still be a cop.”

“Right.”

“So which direction will you go?”

“I don’t know. The academy gig would be part-time. I might be able to do both.”

“Are you still doing paralegal work for Mel?”

“In my spare time, yeah.”

“When do you sleep?

He laughs. “Don’t worry. I’m an efficient sleeper.”

“Uh huh. How are your knees?”

“The one that I had surgery on is fine. The other one bothers me if I run, so I don’t run.”

“Still swimming for exercise?”

“Yup. And hiking.” He cocks his head, listening. “Kristen’s home.”

I haven’t heard anything. “Wow. Outstanding hearing.”

He grins. “Yup.”

Kristen comes through the patio door, dressed for work in a pencil skirt, flats, and a black-and-white striped t-shirt. Kevin and I both stand, almost automatically. Kristen’s persona commands it.

She smiles and shakes my hand. “Hi, Meg. I’m glad to meet you.”

“Likewise. Did you get the baby shower sorted?”

“Mostly. It’s a month away, so we have time.” She sits and crosses her legs. “Liz says hello.”

“Ah. Tell her hello from me. I’ll be visiting her and Jon soon.”

Kevin laughs. “You’re in for a treat.”

“I know. So. You two must have questions for me.”

Kristen says, “I’m intrigued by my own family dynamic. It sounds to me as if I originally fit into my own family better than I do now. Like I’ve left them behind somehow. Is that what you intended?”

“Not originally, no.” I laugh. “You’ll appreciate this, I think. My editor and I sketched out your backstory late at night, under the influence of several pints of brew, in a bar in Scotland. But I’d already presented you as the take no prisoners sort, during the Stacks Strangler case. So how did you get that way? My thinking was what Liz and Claudia said – Los Angeles changed you. Daniel changed you. At some point during your marriage to him, your adult persona began to emerge and assert itself. Once you were free of him, you were free to be whomever you wanted.”

She considers that. “Huh. That’s logical, I guess.”

Kevin says, “And your family, tucked away in Yakima, didn’t keep up.”

I add, “Not that they should. But, sometimes, leaving your family behind is the act that allows you to realize your potential. That gives you the freedom to become who you were meant to be.”

Kristen says, “Sounds as if you speak from experience.”

“Let’s just say there are some parallels.”

She grins. “Fair enough. Jamie says you’re essentially Sheila Meadows. Or vice versa.”

“In terms of backstory and specialty, yes. I haven’t fully developed Sheila’s personality yet. But I will. Sheila will feature in her own story, eventually.”

“Have we seen the last of Stephen Atcheson?”

She asks the question while I’m taking a drink, and I nearly snort beer out my nose. “Hahahaha!! Magic eight ball says, better not tell you now.”

She groans. “Oh, God…”

“Don’t worry. Even if he does show up, you know that you and Liz can handle him.”

“Who was the woman he was trying to impress? That he met at speed dating?”

“A Russian hooker. She told him she was a supermodel.”

Kevin and Kristen both hoot with laughter at that. Kristen says, “I suspect that Stephen is modeled on someone particular in your world. His antics are waaaaaay too detailed to be pure fiction.”

I grin. “No comment.”

Kevin says, “Jeez, enough about Atcheson. Are you two hungry?”

We are. Kevin orders pizza. Kristen asks, “Another question. Why torture poor Kevin twice before finding the right woman?”

Kevin nearly chokes on his beer this time. I say, “Hoo boy. A number of reasons. First, I needed a reason that Kevin and Jamie would be rooming together, when the books started. A divorce seemed the most plausible reason for Kevin to need a roomie. Plus, it followed the family pattern. Dave was married young; Jeff and Val got married right out of college. Kevin might have thought it was the thing to do.”

Kevin says, “Huh. Never thought about it that way.”

Kristen asks him, “How did you think about it?”

He shrugs. “I thought life as a cop would be easier if I was married, and that Jennifer had a good personality for a cop’s wife. And she did. That wasn’t why we split.”

I say, “I know. And I already knew that I wanted to write a book based on the TV show Hoarders. Jennifer was perfect for that.”

Kevin snorts. “Yeah, she was. And I’m glad that you allowed her to overcome that.”

“Sure. She won’t backslide, I promise.”

Kristen said, “Explain Abby.”

I laugh. “Well, Kevin was divorced in 2006. He wouldn’t stay single long, would he? I liked Abby. Initially, I thought she and Kevin would last. But then at some point I realized that Abby was static. I had nowhere for her to go. The inheritance provided the opportunity for me to make the break. And, Kevin, you haven’t seen the last of Sean Nichols.”

He groans. “Why?

“You’ll see.”

“I suppose I’ll see about this damn TV show, too.”

“Yes, you will. It won’t be that bad. I promise.”

“Uh huh. Why the inheritance?”

I reach for another slice of pizza. “The entire plot of Avenged to Death came to me all at once. I couldn’t write it fast enough. Your dad needed that catharsis. As it turned out, so did Jeff. And money creates all sorts of conflict, which is necessary for strong storytelling.”

Kevin shakes his head. “You’re not kidding. The inheritance was the catalyst for Dad and Barb busting up, and Abby and me.”

Kristen says, “Jeff and Val had issues, too.”

I say, “Yes. As did Jamie and Pete. And then there’s Josh Marcus.”

Kevin makes a “pfft” sound. “Josh Marcus. Good God.”

“Right? But you all rekindled friendship with Marie Crabtree and Drew Jemison. That’s a positive, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” Kevin smiles. “Kristen and I are going to the Carolinas this summer for a couple of weeks, and we’re going to visit Marie.” He looked pensive. “The sole survivor.”

We’re quiet for a moment, then I say, “Jamie told me that Drew is buying the townhouse next to his.”

“Yup. He and his girlfriend…Holly something. I think they’re moving at the end of April.”

Kristen notes our empty bottles. “Another beer?”

Kevin and I say in stereo, “Sure.”

She laughs and retrieves refills for all three of us. Once we’re happily quaffing again, Kristen asks, “So, what’s ahead for us?”

“You know I can’t tell you that. I will tell you that, for the two of you, it’s blue skies all around.”

Kevin says, “But not for Jamie.”

“Jamie will be presented with a few…issues. But he’ll be fine.”

Kristen asks, “Are any of those issues related to the library?”

“No comment.”

Kevin says, “One or two of those issues must originate with Pete.”

“No comment.”

Kristen laughs. I ask Kevin, “You know them both so well. What’s your take on their relationship?”

“Oh, they’ll be together forever.” Kevin contemplates for a moment. “They’re almost entirely compatible. The variable is the core of their personalities.”

“How so?”

Bytte_betongsokler_til_Kloppensøyle-14

By Øyvind (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“Think of them both as concrete pillars.” Kevin demonstrates with two bottles, one empty and one nearly full. “As long as the ground is solid beneath their feet, you can’t tell the difference.” He gently jiggles the table on which the bottles are sitting. The empty one tips over; the full one sloshes but remains upright. “Pete’s pillar is built on sand. Jamie’s is anchored into bedrock and reinforced with rebar. It’s partly due to the difference in our families, in how we were raised, and their childhood environments. The rest is just innate personality.”

I say, “But Pete’s good in emergencies.”

“Sure.” Kevin rearranges the bottles. “Think of it as windstorm vs. earthquake. Windstorms are produced from external factors. Pete stands firm in those. But when the stress comes from below, from the foundation itself…”

Kristen says, “Family problems.”

Kevin says, “Yup.”

I scrape at the label of my beer bottle. “Jamie has lost a few chunks of concrete along the way. Ethan, his experience with PTSD…”

Kevin agrees. “Indeed. But he’s still standing, isn’t he?”

I grin. “Yes, he is.”

Kristen adds, “Long may he wave.”

That sets us to laughing.

We spend the rest of the evening swapping library stories. An hour or so later, I say, “I should get out of your hair. I’m driving out to Lancaster tomorrow.”

Kristen scrunches her nose. “Why?”

“It’s where Pete spent his teenage years. I want to see it.”

Kevin chuckles. “It won’t take you long. I’ll drive you to your hotel.”

I don’t argue.

It’s a short drive to my hotel in Westwood. We chat about UCLA on the way. At the hotel entrance I say, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Thanks for coming tonight.” He grins. “We’ve wondered about you.”

I laugh. “I bet you have. Be careful out there.”

He groans at the cliché. “Yes, ma’am.”

I wave as he drives away.

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Follow me on Pinterest!

Are you on Pinterest? If so, follow me here!  https://www.pinterest.com/jamiebrodiemysteries/

I’ve created several sections: for characters (Family, Friends, Cops, Librarians, Exes), one for places, one for covers, one for Coming Attractions (to give you and me ideas about forthcoming books), one for writing spaces that inspire me, and several others.

If you want to see how I envision Jamie and his family, friends, etc., check it out! Here’s a tidbit, from the Coming Attractions page for the next book, Cloistered to Death.

Mandeville Canyon Rd. Looking North from Westridge Rd.

Mandeville Canyon Road. By Toglenn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40666217

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