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Officer Kenneth Dietz arrived at the bluff angry. His girlfriend, Linda, had walked
out on him. It had taken him three days to find out where she had gone, and when he found out who she was with, he was fuming. He’d known she’d been dating his partner, Anthony Davis, for some time now, but if she thought he was going to just let her walk out of his life, she could think again. There was no way he was going to let her go, especially to his partner. Not without a fight. She was carrying his child after all and he’d be damned if he’d let her take that away from him. No, it had to end---here and now. If he couldn’t have her, then he’d see to it that no one else could either.
He saw her cabin across the clearing, walked toward it in a huff, pounding the snow with every step he took, listening to the deathly crunch beneath his feet, and imagining that Linda’s neck would make the same noise beneath his squeezing hands. His fist was raised even before he got to the door, and when he knocked, he did it with gusto.
“Linda!” He waited a few moments, and when she didn’t reply, his knocking became more threatening. “I know you’re in there, Linda!” he yelled. “Open the door!” He tried the doorknob but it was locked.
“Go away!” Linda called through the door.
“I just want to talk to you.”
“I don’t want to talk to you,” she said.
“Aw, come on, Linda,” he pleaded with her. “We’re friends, aren’t we? Let me in.” He rattled the door.
“I miss you, Linda. Come back to me.” He paused. “I promise I’ll never hurt you again. Please, Linda, I need you.” The lie had always worked before.
But not this time. “It’s over, Kenneth,” she said with finality.
“Damnit, Linda!” he shouted, really angry now. “That baby belongs to me!” he said, referring to her pregnancy. “I won’t let you take that away from me, Linda! Do you hear me?”
“Please go away!” Linda cried, backing away from the door.
“Why don’t you come out and make me!” Ken yelled, pounding on the door again.
“Go away or I’ll call the police!” she warned.
That made him laugh. “The police?” he said, looking down at his uniform. “I am the police! Now, open the door, Linda, before I break it down!” he threatened, still laughing, then his whole body grew tense and he froze, as he heard the sound of a gun being cocked behind him, followed by a familiar voice.
“Step away from the door, Ken!”
Ken lowered his hands from the door and turned to face his longtime friend, and partner, Anthony Davis. “Partner!” he said in welcome, taking a step toward him, stopping when Davis jerked his gun at him.
“Don’t move!” Davis said. “Raise ‘em high!”
“Hey, partner,” Ken smiled, raising his hands. “What are you doing?”
“Step away from the door,” Davis repeated, waving the gun. “Now!”
“Okay, okay,” Ken said, stepping away from the door. “Stay cool, brother.”
“I’m not your brother.”
Ken nodded, his eyes never leaving Davis’ face. “What are you gonna do now, partner? Shoot me?”
Davis shook his head, but did not lower the gun. “Only if I have to,” he warned. He took one step toward Ken then stopped. “Your gun! Hand it over.” Then as Ken reached down to unstrap the gun, he said, “Slowly, Dietz, slowly.”
Dietz glanced up, offered a smile. “Whatever you say, partner.” He reached down, unstrapped the gun and pulled it from the holster. He held it up by the grip, barrel angled toward the ground. “Where do you want it?” he asked, his other hand still poised above his head.
“Over there!” Davis barked. “Toss it! Now!”
Dietz tossed the gun in the direction his partner indicated, his eyes watching where it landed, just in case, then turned back to Davis, eyebrows raised.
“Place your hands on top of your head.”
Ken lowered one of his hands to his head, smiling across at Davis, testing him.
“Both hands!” Davis shouted, passing the test.
Ken lowered his other hand to the top of his head, laughing. “Very good, Tony.”
“Shut up!” Davis demanded, walking toward Kenneth, stopping within a foot of him. He reached out with his right foot and tapped on the cabin door. “Linda!” he called out, concerned. “You okay?”
“I’m---I’m okay,” Linda acknowledged. She had recognized Tony’s voice immediately, but had not dared to leave the cabin. Instead, she had been listening to their conversation from the safety inside. Now that Tony was here, everything would be all right. He would know how to handle Kenneth. The two men had been friends, practically for life, and partners on the Job from the beginning. Kenneth would never do anything to hurt Tony.
“Stay inside,” Tony told her. “Call 911!” There was no way Tony himself could call for back-up, since he’d had to leave his cruiser parked half-way up the hill. It was winter, and the heavy snowfall of the previous night had made the remainder of the road undriveable. Had it been summer, and the road dry, the bluff would have been more easily accessed. Nor had he thought to bring his hand-held. After all, he had not been expecting any trouble. There had been no warning of anything going on at the cabin. It was his lunch break, and he had intended to share it with Linda. That Kenneth was here was just a fluke. A very bad coincidence. He spoke to Kenneth.
“Turn around. Slowly.”
Kenneth did as he was told.
“Start walking,” Tony instructed, keeping his gun up and trained on his partner’s back.
“Walk?” Ken said, turning to look over his shoulder. “Where?”
“Just walk,” Tony repeated, touching the gun to his shoulder and applying pressure.
“You’re the boss,” Ken said, walking into the clearing, away from the cabin, toward the bluff.
Tony followed, and half-way across the clearing, he said, “Okay. That’s far enough.”
Kenneth paused, hands still on his head, waiting. His eyes scoured the area in front of him without moving his head. No cover or concealment within easy reach. There were trees to his left and right, but making a run for them, he knew, would be a lethal mistake. Tony would take him out before he could even get close. Directly in front of him was nothing but a vast expanse of white, virgin snow, spreading out and ending at the bluff.
“Turn around,” Tony said.
“Make up your mind,” Ken said, turning around.
Both men stood facing each other, less than a foot apart.
“Well, now that you have me here, partner, what are you gonna do with me?” Ken asked, tempting him.
“We’ll just wait here until the other uniforms arrive,” Davis answered.
Ken nodded. “That might be a long wait, Officer.”
“I’m in no hurry.”
Ken tried another approach. “Look, I don’t want to cause any trouble.”
“You already have.”
“I just wanted to talk to Linda,” Ken said, lowering his hands.
“Get ‘em back up!” Tony yelled.
“Come on, buddy.” Ken laughed. “We’re partners.”
“Sure we are,” Ken answered. “We’ve shared our whole lives together. We share our Job. Hell, partner,” he said, looking directly into Tony’s eyes, “we even share the same girl!”
A muscle twitched in Tony’s jaw. “Not anymore,” he seethed. “She doesn’t want anything to do with you.”
“She doesn’t have a choice,” Ken snickered.
“And just what is that supposed to mean?” Tony asked, curious.
“You mean she hasn’t told you?” Ken pretended surprise.
“Told me what?”
“She’s pregnant.” Kenneth laughed at the look on Tony’s face, knowing. “So,” he said, “she hasn’t told you.”
“No,” Tony confessed. He wondered if the baby could be his, but his thoughts were answered by Ken’s next words.
“The baby’s mine, Tony,” Ken told him, smiling.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Why don’t you ask her?” Ken said, nodding in the direction of the cabin.
Tony followed his gaze, turning his head to see Linda standing just outside the door. “Linda! Get back inside!” he called to her, but he had made himself vulnerable by taking his eyes off his subject, and it was all the time Ken needed to make his attack.
Ken rushed his partner, catching him off guard. The impact shoved Tony backwards and off his feet, knocking the gun out of his hand. Both men hit the snow fighting. The altercation carried them across the clearing and dangerously close to the bluff.
“Tony!” Linda cried, running toward the two men.
Hearing her, Tony yelled, “Linda! Stay back!” catching a fist in the gut for his effort.
“No, Linda!” Ken yelled. “Come back! Let’s all die together!” He laughed, taking a glance over the bluff, and reached out for her.
“No!” Tony shouted, slamming his body into Ken’s, knocking him away from Linda.
Linda ran back to the cabin, paused at the door when she heard a siren. Oh, thank God, she breathed, glancing back at the men grappling at the edge of the bluff. She could sense the struggle would lead to a fatal end. Hurry, her mind cried out to the siren in the distance. Oh, please hurry.
Tony and Ken seemed to hear the siren at about the same time. Sharing the same thought, their eyes began searching for the guns lost in the snow. Ken found his first, and as he picked it up, he turned and leveled it in Linda’s direction.
“Say good-bye, Linda!” he yelled, and just as his finger began to squeeze the trigger, Tony hit him from behind. The shot went wild, barely missing Linda’s head, imbedding itself in the wood frame of the door behind her.
Detective Sgt. Quade Randal parked his car half-way up the hill, climbed out and walked around to the cruiser parked in front of him. He leaned down to look inside; empty. Taking off a glove, he pressed a hand to the hood; cold. It had been parked here a while. He glanced around. No other vehicles were to be seen.
Returning to his car, he opened the door, and leaned in to grab the mic. His fingers touched the mic, and he jumped as a gunshot exploded in the distance. “What the . . .?” he said, looking around. No one had said anything about guns.
Grabbing up the mic, he radioed it in, calling for back-up. “Shots have been fired!” he shouted into the mic. “I repeat: Shots have been fired. Use extreme caution.” He replaced the mic, grabbed his walkie-talkie, and shut the door. Turning, he raised his head to look up the hill, straining to see anything, but he couldn’t. Taking his gun from the shoulder holster he wore under his jacket, he trudged up the hill, unsure of what would meet him there.
He knew very little, aside from what the radio had said: Woman in distress. And that the woman was pregnant. No names, no motive, but it sounded a lot more serious than that to him, and the closer he got to the bluff, the worse it sounded. Randal knew that if he didn’t get up there quick, no one would be safe.
It didn’t take him long to scale the hill, as he was in excellent physical shape, and as he came abreast of the cabin, he could see two men---both uniforms---in an altercation at the edge of the bluff. He couldn’t tell, from his position, which of them possessed the gun, or if both of them did. The woman was nowhere to be seen.
Quade ducked down behind the crest of the hill, raising the walkie-talkie to his mouth and keying the mic. “This is Randal. I have arrived at the scene.”
“Ten-four, Randal. Can you advise?”
“There is an altercation involving two uniforms.”
Quade smiled, but repeated. “Two policemen. They’re fighting on the edge of the bluff.”
“Ten-four. Be advised back-up is on the way, Sgt.”
“Roger that. I’m going up.” Quade ended the transmission, and scrambled up over the hill. He entered the clearing unseen, and approached the men, his gun at low carry, but prepared. He stopped half-way across the clearing and introduced himself by saying, “Police! What’s the problem here?”
The two men separated at the sound of his voice, and Kenneth whirled around, bringing his gun to bear on Quade.
Quade, caught totally by surprise, barely had time to raise his gun, aim and fire, paying the consequence, as the bullet ripped into his right shoulder. But the other man wasn’t so lucky, taking his in the abdomen.
Lowering his gun, the man inspected his stomach. “You shot me!” he said in mild disbelief. He looked across at Quade, who stood rigid, arms outstretched, gun still aimed in his direction. “I’m one of you! How could you shoot one of your own?!”
Quade paid no attention to his own injury, although it hurt like hell to continue the stance. He refused to acknowledge the pain, for fear it might cause his undoing. “Drop the gun, Officer!” he yelled across the clearing, wondering when his back-up would arrive. “Drop it now!” Quade spare a thought for the woman, hoping she was uninjured, and wondering where she was---probably in the cabin, but he dared not look.
Ken started to laugh, softly at first, then with more volume. “You know an Officer never gives up his gun!” he shouted, beginning to raise his arm.
“Then take it with you,” Quade whispered under his breath, and he pulled the trigger again. This time the slug tore into Ken’s gun arm, and already weakened, he began to stagger, teetering on the edge of the bluff. Tony, suddenly not wanting to let his friend die, reached out to try to pull him back to safety.
It was at that critical moment that Linda chose to emerge from the cabin. Looking toward the bluff, she saw Tony make a desperate lunge for Ken, and the bottom fell out of her heart. “Tony---no!” she screamed, running toward them.
Ken saw her, smiled, then reached out and latched onto Tony’s gunbelt. “Time to die, Tony.”
“Kenny---what?---no!” Tony screamed, but his words were lost as both men tumbled over the side of the bluff and into the snow bed ninety feet below.
There were only two things Quade Randal hated in his life---November and January---or to be more specific, the memories of them. November was when it had started; the “hello” of their relationship. January was, believe it or not, when it had ended---the “good-bye” of their relationship. January---the brutal month. So, why was he thinking about January in the middle of November? For that matter, why was he thinking about January at all?
It was simply because November made him think about January. The two were connected. How? By death. And death was something he didn’t want to think about, which was strange in itself, because it was his job. Quade was a homicide detective; had been for the past nine years, which is why he’d had anything to do with the events that November in the first place. Because he’d been there---on Copper’s Bluff.
Of course, it hadn’t been called Copper’s Bluff then. It hadn’t been called anything at all. It was just a bluff, a precarious perch sitting ninety feet or so above the Skykomish River near Index, Washington. What had happened there that day had given it its name. And Quade, himself had been there to witness its birth, or to be more historically correct, his very actions had been the sole reason for its being named Copper’s Bluff.
Quade had cursed himself many times over for ever being there, and often found himself wishing he’d never been there at all, but the past could not be changed. The only reason he’d been there was because he’d been in the area. He remembered it all so clearly, and yet, at the same time, wished he could forget it.
Quade had been out on Mount Index late that afternoon, investigating a previous homicide, when he heard the call go over the radio. Woman in distress. Some kind of domestic dispute, the call that even the best of cops hated to get. And Quade was up there with the best, which meant he hated domestic calls. He never knew what to expect, except unpredictability. His stomach was a knot of anxiety as he pondered his decision. No one had been too clear on the details; they hadn’t been able to keep the caller on the line. Somewhere on the bluff, they’d said. So Quade had taken the call, despite his feelings of dread.
“This is Sgt. Randal, dispatch,” he responded. “I’m in the area. I’ll check it out.”
“Ten-four, Randal,” dispatch replied. “Please advise upon arrival.”
Quade replaced the mic and climbed into the Blazer---the St. Bernard of four-wheelers, and headed off in the direction of the bluff. He was through here anyway.
It was a steep climb, almost straight up, so he knew that even in this dog he might not make it to the top. If he remembered rightly, there was a cabin up there, though why anyone would want to live on the edge of a bluff was beyond him. He much preferred flatland himself. He wasn’t sure who the cabin belonged to, or why anyone would be up there in this kind of weather.
“You meet all types,” he said to the interior of the Blazer, then slowed as he saw a vehicle hidden in some bushes near the bottom of the turnoff. Dusk had begun to move in, so instead of getting out to investigate, he turned on his spotlight and aimed it in the direction of the bushes. From within the beam, he could make out the familiar shape of a light bar. Now, why would a cruiser be parked in the bushes? It was obvious to him that someone had gone to great lengths to conceal the vehicle, but why? It appeared to be empty, and Quade wondered where the driver was.
Switching off the spotlight, he swung the Blazer onto the access road, and began his ascent to the bluff, experiencing trouble almost immediately. Even with the chains, he couldn’t get enough traction. Halfway up the hill, he quit; partly because of the snow; partly because there was a vehicle blocking the road. It, too, was a cruiser, but this one wasn’t concealed, as if it was supposed to be there.
“What’s going on around here?” Quade wondered aloud, as he climbed out of the Blazer. Walking toward the cruiser, he bent down to peer inside; it, too, was empty. Where was everybody? he remembered thinking. He tried the door. It was unlocked. He reached in and picked up the logbook lying on the front seat, at the same time, noticing that the hand-held was still in the vehicle. Whoever left it there, left it in a hurry.
A name was stenciled on the cover of the logbook. “Officer Anthony Davis,” Quade read aloud. “Davis.” He thought for a moment. “Don’t think I know him,” he said, tossing the book back onto the seat and closing the door, taking care not to lock it. He wanted to leave everything just as he had found it.
Walking back to the Blazer, he opened the door, leaned in, grabbed up the mic and radioed the information. “I have two cruisers, one unsecured,” he told dispatch. “One at the base of the hill, concealed, the other parked halfway up the hill, blocking the road. The unsecured belongs to an Officer Davis, unknown precinct.”
As he finished speaking, something exploded in the distance, somewhere behind him, on the bluff, and knowing what it was, Quade tensed, squeezing the mic.
“Shit!” he breathed, pulling himself out of the car and looking toward the bluff. “What the---?” He turned back to the mic as another gunshot rang out. “Shots have been fired, dispatch!” he yelled into the mic. “I repeat: Shots have been fired! Extreme caution is advised!”
He replaced the mic, picked up the hand-held and shut the door, locking it. Then he turned and would have sprinted up the hill, had the snow not hindered his efforts. As it was, he fast-walked.
Upon reaching the crest of the hill, he paused, keeping low soas not to be seen. From where he crouched, he could see the cabin, but dusk was settling quickly, so he would have to work fast. Looking to his left, toward the bluff, he could see two men---policemen---fighting. They were very close to the edge of the bluff and he couldn’t tell which of them possessed the gun, or if either of them did. He did not see the woman.
Staying low, he keyed the mic. “Randal here. I have arrived at the scene.”
“Ten-four, Randal. Can you advise?”
“Can do,” Randal replied. “I have two uniforms fighting on the edge of the bluff.”
“Correct. Do I have back-up?”
“Ten-four,” dispatch informed him. “Back-up is on the way.”
“Roger that,” he said. “I’m going up.” Quade ended the transmission, and crawled up over the edge of the hill. He stepped into the clearing, unseen by either man. Halfway across the clearing, he confronted them. “Police!” he shouted. “What’s the problem here?”
All Quade remembered was that one of the officers turned toward him, leveling a gun in his direction. He remembered raising his own gun and pulling the trigger, both of them firing at about the same time. And Quade remembered what it felt like when the bullet ripped into his shoulder. It had nearly knocked him off his feet! Even today, the memory hurt, and so did the shoulder, once in a while. It was later discovered that the weapon had been a .357 Magnum revolver; it had just about tore off his arm at the shoulder. The slug had passed right through him, and was never recovered. What followed next had happened so fast, Quade wondered if it had happened at all.
Quade’s bullet had struck the officer center mass, apparently missing any vital organs, because he raised his gun to shoot again, causing Quade to return fire. Again the officer was hit, this time in his gun arm, and he lost his balance, teetering on the edge of the bluff. As he started to go over, he reached out and grabbed the other officer. Then both men had tumbled over the bluff.
That was when he had first seen her---Linda---as she came running toward the bluff, screaming. He remembered reaching out to grab her, to keep her from going over the bluff, too. She had responded by beating him with her tiny fists, screaming, cursing him, calling him a murderer. He had discovered, after the fact, that she was pregnant, and that one of the officers---Davis---had been her fiancé. The other officer was her ex-boyfriend and the father of her baby. And now, thanks to him, both men were dead.
Quade remembered holding her as she cried, even in his own pain. Fighting to stay conscious; despite his own loss of blood, he offered her strength, a strength, he, himself, barely had enough of. But he refused to let her go, and that is how the other uniforms found them when they arrived a short time later.
What followed was a whirlwind romance, which ended in marriage one year later, six months after the baby was born. Their union had been blissful, to say the least, and he had not regretted a moment of it. Meeting Linda was the best thing that had ever happened to him, and inevitably, the worst, because three years later, she, too, would be dead, a victim of murder by an unknown assassin.
Quade had been the first to arrive at that scene, too, and to this day, refused to remember any of the details.
There had been one detail too horrible to forget, though. Linda had been seven months pregnant at the time of her death. The fetus had been ripped out, almost as if by the murderer’s own hands. The fetus was never found. Quade had never been able to forget that particular detail.
After her death, Quade had shut down, resisting almost all contact with women, except as pertaining to his job. He seemed to lose all interest in women, afraid to give his heart to another woman, for fear that, she, too, would leave him. He simply had no desire to love another woman, believing that his love would forever belong to Linda.
Besides, he had a daughter to think about. Cassi had just turned six, and had started kindergarten in September. She had been barely three years old when her mother died, and was the only eyewitness to the crime, although because of her age and the trauma she had endured, she had been unable to provide any information. Due to what she had witnessed, Cassi had suffered unending torture through ongoing nightmares about the event. The nightmares had faded somewhat, but not completely. Her therapist was optimistic, and had recently assured Quade that if all things went well, Cassi’s nightmares may disappear altogether. He prayed she was right.
If anyone deserved a break, it was Cassi. The poor girl had been through so much, but he also knew that children possessed a great resilience, a substance Cassi had in abundance. He deeply admired his daughter, oftentimes wondering if she hadn’t handled the situation better than he. True, he had held her through many nights of bad dreams, offering her a comfort even he felt he didn’t have. He had never told her before, but those were the times he was most afraid---the times when he was holding her. He would watch the raw fear race across her face; see the terror in her eyes, only imagining the horror she was seeing; winch as her body convulsed and contorted; felt as the ice cold sweat of her panic ran down her small body. He wanted to help her; felt he couldn’t. He didn’t know how.
God, Linda, why did you have to die?
No one goes to Copper’s Bluff anymore, but several years ago, it was the talk of the county. Snohomish County, Washington, that is. Local tourists flocked to it in record numbers, hoping to get a glimpse of recent history. Some came to weep; others came to gloat. In its newness, Copper’s Bluff was the place to be. From reporters, to newsmen and women, to citizens of the local towns; everyone came to see the place where history had been made; where two of Washington’s finest had taken their final fall.
On that fateful day, seven years ago, two police officers experienced a premature death thanks to the actions of one Quade Randal, then Homicide Detective for the county; now, Sheriff of a little known town by the name of Hodges Creek, a post he acquired three years ago, after the death of his wife, Linda.
To this day, Copper’s Bluff haunts Quade. He hasn’t been able to get it out of his mind, and although he received a medal for his actions that day, it’s not something he’s proud of, nor is it something he talks about often. Killing two of your fellow officers isn’t something to be proud of, no matter how corrupt they are. Taking a round in the shoulder probably helped his case. If he hadn’t’ve shed blood, he might never have received that medal. It’s a medal he never displays, and the only time he ever wore it was the day he received it.
The only good to come from that day was his meeting Linda, the citizen he’d gone to the bluff to protect. She’d been the one to call the police. He’d been the one to respond, but looking back, he wished he’d never responded. No one told him what to expect, or what might happen when he got there. All he knew was that there was a domestic disturbance on the bluff, and that it involved a woman. He was in the area, investigating a recent homicide, and decided to take the call---a call that was to change the course of his life forever.
He arrived at the bluff totally unprepared. How could you be prepared to draw a weapon against your fellow officer, let alone kill him? It was difficult enough having to shoot a citizen. Quade never imagined he would ever have to shoot one of his “brothers”. And he certainly hadn’t expected to have to kill one; he’d killed two, and now that he had, he regretted it.
He had become an officer to protect life, not take it away, although sometimes, that became necessary; to prevent crime, not aggravate it; to be respected for his bravery in the face of danger, and for his loyalty to his fellow officers. To be willing to die for your fellow officers---now, that’s something to be proud of, but to kill one of your own? It was almost like killing yourself. There had been many days since then that Quade wished he’d died on the bluff, too. And he almost had.
He could remember it so clearly, as if it had happened yesterday. Had it really been seven years ago? And would he ever be able to forget it? And then Linda was gone. Talk about hitting a man when he’s down. All he could remember was how happy they’d been together. How quickly she’d laughed; how often he’d smiled. He had been living the high life ever since he’d met her. He was in love, and it hadn’t taken him long to get there. They took a liking to each other rather quickly, after the events on the bluff that day. Because of what happened, he felt a deep sense of responsibility towards her, for she had been pregnant at the time, and due to his actions, the father of her baby was dead.
She had been somewhat hesitant in the beginning, but after her anger wore off, she became more receptive. Within a few weeks, they were inseparable; within a year, they were married. Cassi, her daughter, was only six months old at the time, and Quade was allowed to adopt her, becoming her legal father, a role he took on with vigor.
It was a good life that didn’t last long, for three years later, Linda was taken from him by the hands of an unknown killer. She was seven months pregnant, and the fetus had been stolen from her womb. Stolen, because there was a big, gaping hole where the baby should’ve been, and even after a thorough search of the crime scene, the fetus had not been found. It was believed that the killer had taken it with him. To this day, the crime remains unsolved.
It was a constant source of confusion for Quade because as far as he knew, Linda had no enemies. No one was able to figure out why anyone would want to kill her, and to kill her in front of her own daughter, at that. Being a policeman, Quade knew that only the most hardened criminals would have the guts to do that. And then, to perform a radical C-section, and steal the fetus? What could the killer possibly want with a dead fetus? It didn’t make any sense to him, but then, a lot of the things criminals did, made no sense to him.
Quade never got over Linda’s death. It had ravaged him, more than he cared to admit, for, in his own way, he had grown to love her very much, and he knew Linda loved him, not to mention her daughter. There was nothing Linda wouldn’t have done for Cassi.
Poor Cassi. Quade couldn’t begin to imagine what her young eyes had witnessed, for she’d been too distraught to tell them. To think, in all his years as a homicide detective; all the grisly murders he’d seen, after the fact; he’d never actually witnessed someone killing another person, in the sense that his daughter had. And until that day on Copper’s Bluff, he’d never killed anyone. In all his years on the Job, he’d never had to draw his weapon, and the one time he’d had to, was to fire on a fellow officer! But for a child to have to witness such brutality! It was unimaginable.
Quade had been angry in the beginning, and his anger nearly consumed him. The anger gave way to despair; the despair to depression, until the only thing he wanted was to join his wife. He felt robbed; cheated out of a life that could have been his. He had expected to welcome in his golden years with Linda; to share the ongoing joys of parenthood together; to lean on her while she leaned on him; to weather life together, be it good or bad. But now, that would never happen, and the realization made him angry all over again.
Linda’s death forced him into single fatherhood, a demanding role that required a lot of his time; time he didn’t have. His job was also demanding, taking him away from the house more and more often. Thank God for Edna, Linda’s mother. After Linda died, Quade invited her to move in with him and Cassi. It was one of the wisest decisions he’d ever made. Edna proved to be indispensable, and Cassi had come to rely on her presence. Because of Edna’s caring and generosity, Cassi recovered quickly from the trauma of her mother’s death, as quickly as could be expected anyway. Not that she was totally over it. The doctors informed him that his daughter would probably never get over it, but with love and support, she would be able to accept it, and get on with her own life.
As for Quade, he would never forget, and he was finding it even harder to forgive. For several months after Linda’s funeral, Quade could think of nothing else but revenge. He wanted to avenge her death, and he’d spent hours upon hours scheming. What kind of monster could commit such a macabre crime, and in front of a three year old girl? And with such vengeance?
It had been more a crime of passion than anything else, in light of the bodily mutilation. In the crime world, and in the world of law enforcement, he knew that crimes of passion were usually committed by someone who was close to the victim, and when a spouse is murdered, usually the remaining spouse becomes the number one suspect. It was no different in Quade’s case.
As there had been no other leads, and no other witnesses besides his own daughter, the department had no choice but to suspect him, and suspect him they did. He didn’t blame them; their hands were tied. There was nothing else they could do. An upstanding member of their pristine community had been viciously murdered, and the people were screaming for justice. The department did the only thing they could do under the circumstances; they placed Quade on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an investigation.
The investigation never really took place. It was a simple move to make the department look better. They didn’t really want to investigate Quade; no one really suspected him, but Quade wasn’t stupid. He knew there were some who thought he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He didn’t know who they were, maybe IAD, but he knew they existed. Like the men in black, they were out there, you just never saw them.
After he’d been on leave for about six weeks, the department decided to reinstate him, but since hard feelings existed on both sides, Quade requested a transfer. They promised him any post he wanted. The post in Hodges Creek was open, so Quade opted for that. He needed a change of scenery anyway, and a calmer pace. He’d been on the Job for almost twenty years. He’d seen his share of murder and mayhem, his wife’s murder being the straw that broke the camel’s back. He was through with that aspect of the Job. Now, he just wanted to sit behind a desk and break pencils all day. Take a stroll down Main Street every now and then, breathe the fresh air. It was time to think about retiring. Being the Sheriff of a small hick town sounded good to him. Just what he needed, and it would be good for Cassi as well.
So he jumped at the chance, pulled up his roots, Edna and Cassi, and moved into the prettiest house in Hodges Creek, a house that laid claim to almost twenty acres on the North end of town, where the creek formed the backyard border. He and Cassi had already logged quite a few hours down by the creek. Linda would have loved it here; without her, life seemed so empty.
He had taken to Hodges Creek rather quickly, and it had taken to him. He proved to be an exceptional Sheriff; personable and friendly; the people liked him. They respected him, and he returned their respect. That was his idea of community policing. He knew his authority, but never abused it. He did his job and he did it well, but still there were times when he was pensive, and though he tried hard to disguise it, the sadness always showed itself.
The townspeople knew what had happened, and why he had come to Hodges Creek---to hang up his gun. They respected his privacy, most of the time, but at other times he felt like he was being followed by the Paparazzi. He knew they only wanted to help him, and to comfort him in his sadness, but they were only wasting their time. There was no comfort for him anymore. But that didn’t stop the townspeople from trying.
They knew he was lonesome, so some of the folk took it upon themselves to play matchmaker. It was all in good fun, at first, and he took it good naturedly. He knew their intentions were good, but after awhile, their meddlesome ways began to get on his nerves. He tried to be nice about it, but eventually, he ended up bruising some toes. Yes, he missed his wife, terribly; yes, he was lonely, painfully so; yes, Cassi needed a mother, desperately, but all the same, he just wasn’t interested. That is, he wasn’t until he experienced another fateful day on Copper’s Bluff.