I hope you’ve been enjoying the excerpts of my new book I’ve been posting. This one introduces Sarah’s new partner, Angel.
God, it feels good to be back. Sarah thrust her hands deep in the pockets of her jeans and surveyed the large room housing the Crimes Against Person’s division. It was an ugly, old place supported with cinder-block exterior walls that were only slightly drabber than the gray interior walls. Early-Salvation Army desks and chairs did little to brighten the place up but, hey, it was home. The jangle of phones and the buzz of voices were as comforting as long-ago memories of family picnics. Back when she had a family.
Grabbing a cup of coffee, she descended the few steps into the Homicide area, relieved that her fellow officers held to tradition. No one made a big deal out of her return, and no one mentioned John’s name. His desk, cleared of all papers and personal effects, stood in sharp contrast to the clutter on nearby desks. Seeing it brought an ache to Sarah’s heart she didn’t want to feel.
Walking past the desk, Sarah pushed the pain away and headed toward the briefing room. She opened the door and glanced around, finally spotting an empty seat at a table halfway into the room. She pulled out a chair and sat down, nodding to the woman in a smart, tailored suit across the aisle from her.
Must be fresh out of the uniform, Sarah thought, remembering her first week in civvies six years ago. The professional image had seemed important then, but quickly bowed to practicality. Socks lasted longer than nylons. Reeboks were easier to run in than heels. And there wasn’t a perp alive who cared diddly about whether you wore jeans or a skirt.
The woman turned to give Sarah the briefest of nods, and she recognized the mass of tight curls haloing a creamy mocha complexion as belonging to a former patrol officer. Angel?
Couldn’t recall her last name, but the woman had been at a couple of crime scenes with Sarah. Other than being a little too eager to prove herself, Sarah remembered her as more than capable. It wasn’t surprising that she’d made detective.
Sarah’s attention was drawn to the front of the room as Sergeant Murphy hitched his belt over his ample stomach and started outlining the on-going cases. “Simms and Burtweiler, you’re still on the Highland Park B&E case.” Murphy pulled another paper from the podium. “Frankfurt and Aikins, you pulled a cush one. Crime-watch meeting over at SMU”
“Can I go, too, Sarge?” Another officer called out. “My date book’s getting a little thin.”
A wave of laughter swept the room, and Murphy waited it out without even breaking a smile. When the last chuckle subsided, he continued, “Kingsly and Johnson, you’ve got the big one today. Homicide over at Northwood Mall. Call just came in from patrol.”
Sarah turned sharply to look at Angel, and the elusive last name clicked. Something else clicked, too. An attitude that Angel wielded like a sword, heralding the proclamation, “Don’t think that the only reason I’m here is because I’m a woman and I’m black.”
Sarah hated attitudes, especially ones that might be honed to a new sharpness by recent events. She held the other woman’s gaze, trying to get a read. It wasn’t friendly. She expected judgments from people like the Reverend Billie Norton and the crowds he managed to assemble for public outcry. He didn’t have a clue what it was like on the streets. But Angel knew. Everyone who ever wore a badge knew. So where were her loyalties going to fall?
Murphy’s voice cut into her thoughts. “You two might want to hustle your butts over to the crime scene before the corpse decomposes.”
Sarah stood and led the way to the door as another thought fell into place. It probably wasn’t a coincidence that she was partnered with a black woman. The longer she considered it, the more she was convinced. She stopped halfway down the hall.
“Go out and grab us a car,” she said to Angel. “I’ve got something to take care of.”
Without giving the other woman time to respond, Sarah strode in the opposite direction. She pushed through the door to McGregor’s office with so much force it rattled the window. She leaned against the front of his desk. “Since when did you start listening to Price?”
McGregor pushed his chair back and made a steeple with his fingers. He rested his chin on the tips and regarded her with a level gaze.
“Come on! This new partnership reeks of good press.”
“You know me better than that.”
“I thought I did.”
McGregor sighed. “Nothing changed while you were gone. I still make decisions for the same reasons I did before.”
“Oh, really? And the public outcry over a poor, innocent, black child being shot by a big, bad, white police officer didn’t enter into it at all?”
“I don’t give a good goddam what the public says.”
“That’s not the way—”
“We’re not having a debate here.” McGregor cut in. “You’ve got a job to do. Either you’re ready for it, or you take a permanent leave.”
“How the hell can I do my job when you’ve set us up to be hounded by the press?”
“I’m going to pretend there was no insubordination happening here.” McGregor’s voice was soft, but his deep brown eyes flashed a harsh warning.
Sarah reined in her anger, turned and walked stiffly out of the room.