Crimes Past(6)

By: Lauren Carr

“That’s not what I’m asking, Faraday. I’m not a rookie. I know you need to question everyone and everyone is a potential witness. Clarissa’s sick.”

Confused by the seemingly offtopic remark, Mac squinted his eyes and cocked his head.

“My wife, Clarissa,” Sanchez explained. “She’s throwing up. Came on out of the blue. I think it’s the emotional trauma. She’s not used to this type of stuff.”

The elevator doors opened.

Sanchez followed Mac into the lobby. “Listen, you know me. Can I take her home and you take our statements in the morning?”

Mac followed his gaze into the banquet room where a petite, exceedingly slender woman sat at a table. When she lifted her face from her hands, Mac could see that her eyes were red and swollen. Based on the strain he saw in her face, she was traumatized.

“Sure.” Mac patted Sanchez on the arm. “Take her home and stay with her. I’ll get your statements in the morning.”

Detective Sanchez hurried across the room to collect his wife.

Mac fought every thought and inclination of emotion. He had to keep it together—stay focused on the case. The best way to do that was to distance himself.

Brie Pratt had started out in homicide as his trainee. His protégé. His friend. He owed it to her father, a retired police captain and—

Her daughter.

He turned around to come face to face with Gina Johansson. Upon learning the news of her mother’s death, the girl had escaped the conference room to find someone, anyone, to tell her that it was all a bad dream. She had only made it as far as the lobby before coming upon Mac Faraday.

Like the Angel of Death, his presence confirmed the gutwrenching truth.

“Uncle Mac,” Gina said in a voice barely above a whisper, “it’s true? She’s gone. Mom is gone.”

Mac looked at the adults behind her. Rod seemed to have aged decades in one hour.

“I’m sorry, Gina.”

The girl threw herself at Mac, taking him into a tight hug, as if the strength of his body could keep her from falling apart. She wailed into his chest. Her body quaked in his arms.

“I’m so sorry, Gina,” he said while holding her. “I am truly sorry. She loved you so much.”

After she had gathered herself together, she peered up at him with her tearfilled eyes. “You’re going to get who did this to my mom, right? Right, Uncle Mac? You’re going to get him. Promise me.”

In his years of being a homicide detective, Mac had learned that it was unwise to make such a promise. So many factors could prevent him from keeping that promise. Still, looking down into her face, he felt compelled to oblige.

“I promise, Gina. No matter what, one day, I am going to find out who killed your mom and they will pay.”

Chapter One

Present Day  Spencer Police Department, Spencer, Maryland

In the resort town of Spencer, the police force consisted of a dozen officers. The department’s offices were housed in a threestory log building that blended into the surrounding woods. With its stone fireplace in the reception area, four speed boats for patrol docked along the lake shore, and fleet of ATV’s and dirt bikes, the police department resembled a sports club.

On that chilly autumn day, a fire was roaring in the fireplace when Police Chief David O’Callaghan arrived bearing a box of donuts and a big bottle of coffee creamer. With the grocery bag in one hand and his valise tucked under his arm, he propped the door open with his shoulder for his canine “partner” Storm, a sable Belgian shepherd, to enter. She made a beeline around the reception desk to greet the desk sergeant.

Storm had been a gift from an investigative journalist. Extremely attached to David, the seventyfivepound dog had become his constant companion. While she was well behaved, she was not a trained law enforcement canine. Upon seeing the large dog with the police chief, most folks immediately fell in line. If they only knew that Storm was more likely to lick their face off than chew on them.

“How’s my sweetheart?” The desk sergeant pushed back her chair to allow Storm to greet her with a tongue bath on her face.

“I’m fine. How are you, Tonya?” David flashed her a wide toothy grin while depositing his valise on the counter. He crossed the reception area and went down the hallway to the break room to set out the donuts and put the cream away.