Monthly Archives: March 2018

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.)

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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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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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