Today's Reading

(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores November 2019.)


CHAPTER ONE

Krista. Dead.

Krista Landingham, my training officer when I was a rookie, a boot, on the Santa Barbara Police Department seventeen years ago. The woman who taught me how to be a cop. How to walk the edge and not fall off.

I slumped back in my bed, stunned. The message on my voicemail was from her younger sister, Leah. She stammered when she said Krista's name. Her voice laden with emotion. She gave no explanation of how Krista died, just that the funeral was tomorrow at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara at three p.m. Had she died on the job? An accident? From a longstanding illness? I didn't know because I hadn't talked to Krista in thirteen years.

I had thought about Krista every so often, but never tried to contact her. She was in the past. She was Santa Barbara, and I didn't want to go back there in my body or my mind. Ever. I wanted to find out how she died, but didn't want to call her sister. She'd sounded crushed on the voicemail message. I didn't want to make her relive today what she'd have to relive tomorrow at the funeral. And forever.

The short window until the funeral didn't give me much time to think things over. The drive from San Diego to Santa Barbara took about three and a half hours, plus or minus depending upon the traffic and what time I left. I had a process server gig the next morning. If I got it done by 10:00 a.m. I could make the funeral with time to spare.

If I decided to go.

Midnight, my black Lab, shifted his position at the foot of the bed to catch my attention. He still hadn't gotten used to my new routine. Or lack thereof. I had. Too easily. I got out of bed and Midnight snapped to attention, then pranced in place. Breakfast, finally.

I put on the same pair of shorts I'd worn yesterday, then grabbed my last clean t-shirt from the dresser. Midnight had already dashed from my bedroom and clattered down the staircase. I grabbed my phone and thumped down after him.

I fed Midnight and let him outside, then sat down at my kitchen table and Googled Krista Landingham on my phone. A four-day-old article in the Santa Barbara Independent. Krista had been killed in a hit and run car accident on State Street, the main drag in downtown Santa Barbara. The driver and the car hadn't been identified. She'd been alone when she was killed at 2:17 a.m. on Monday morning. Santa Barbara Police Department would not release the name of the lone witness to the accident.

Two-seventeen on a Monday morning on State Street on the first day of April. Odd time to be out alone. My recollection of the bars downtown was that the latest closed at 2:00 a.m. Earlier on a Sunday night in early spring. I'm sure the SBPD detectives were all over it. Krista was one of their own. They'd solve this case, no matter how long it took. The investigation of a cop's death never went cold.

Krista had just turned forty-six on Saturday. Too young for someone I remembered as being so vital. Her mom, dad, brother and sister, Leah, were listed as surviving family. Along with Tom Weaver, her ex-husband. Ex? I wondered when they got divorced. She'd been married, unhappily, when I knew her.

Krista had been on the job for twenty-five years and died with the rank of sergeant while working in the Major Investigation Unit. According to the paper, the unit, also known as MIU, investigated all high-profile cases. Krista's death was just that.

Killed crossing the street. Alone. Nothing heroic or romantic about that. Just sad. We'd been family once. The brother and sisterhood of blue. Closer than family, really. I should be there when she was put into the ground. But I'd have to walk the gauntlet of accusing eyes from the cops I once worked with and called friends. I was forever the cop who tainted the badge and the department's good name.

The cop who got away with murdering his wife.

My brothers in blue hadn't believed I was innocent back then. Why would they now?

Krista had been family, but we hadn't talked or had any connection in thirteen years. The familial tie broke soon after my connection with SBPD did.

Still. Krista was once a big part of my life. Going to her funeral would be the right thing to do. I'd spent every day of my life since my wife died trying to do the right thing. At least, my version of it. Not always the law's. Things sometimes turned out wrong. People died on my watch while I thought I was doing the right thing.

I didn't know what was right anymore.

I'd stay away from Santa Barbara and the pent-up scorn of people who once had my back. Let those gathered mourn in peace and not have my presence force them to battle rage and hatred through their grief. Maybe that was the right thing to do. Be a coward and let Krista's body return to the earth without paying my respects.

To the woman I slept with the night my wife was murdered.
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