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Tony nodded to Z. "Show her."
Z pulled his hand out from behind his back and handed her a bouquet of pink and blue cotton candy.
"I thought they didn't have cotton candy," she said. "Where'd you get this?"
Z smiled proudly. "We bribed it off a vendor who had some in the back."
She smiled. "You're a tricky one, aren't you?"
Z nodded very seriously. Then he slid into his seat and turned to her. "Since I was so tricky, you gonna share it with me, right?"
Jamie laughed out loud. "Maybe a little," she said, winking.
"Half," Z said.
"Thirds," Tony cut in, leaning in with his hand out.
Jamie ripped it open and they all tore at it, shoving big strands of blue and pink fluff into their mouths. This was one of the good things, she thought.
She met Tony's gaze over Z's head and he winked, the gums around his front teeth blue. He nodded as though he understood.
Maybe he did. Maybe better than anyone, Tony understood.
She thought she did-better now than ever before.
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ONE CLEAN SHOT.
The Rookie Club.
One Clean Shot.
The Rookie Club.
by Danielle Girard.
Hailey Wyatt had never had a case that haunted her, until now. Her husband had been dead for eleven months when Hailey Wyatt and her partner, Hal, got a court order allowing them to move forward on the case that had been at a standstill for the past fourteen months. A wealthy San Francisco couple had been found dead in the wife's minivan-defense wounds on her, lacerations on him that were consistent with a letter opener she kept in the car. COD on her was strangulation, exsanguination for him. Crime Scene Unit, CSU, had ruled out other blood types, but the vehicle had contained no fewer than thirty unidentifiable prints and a dozen hair samples that didn't belong to the victims or their kids.
Hailey had ruled it double-homicide, "murder by spouse" as the department dubbed it when husband and wife both ended up dead, no clear suicide between them. It was the right call, based on practical assumptions and it was all supposed to come out right. But it hadn't. Abby and Hank Dennig had no more killed each other than John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
A week after the case was closed, a sheriff up near Sacramento linked a suspected-suicide to the Dennigs murders via a partial fingerprint on a small, round anti-N.R.A. button. The partial would have been sufficient evidence for a warrant except that the print matched a man named Nicholas Fredricks and Fredricks had the best alibi there was-he'd been dead for three years.
Hailey was exhausted. Though the court approval to disinter the body of Nicholas Fredricks was good news in the double-homicide, it had come on the Monday after a weekend consumed by the nastiest domestic homicide the department had seen since before her rookie days. Hailey had yet to spend more than an hour at home since Friday morning. Worse, her mother-in-law was taking Hailey's two daughters to Cirque de Soleil that night so she couldn't even be with her girls.
Outside her in-laws' house, Hailey took two long off her Albuterol inhaler and mounted the steps to the front door. Her father-in-law was seated in the kitchen, eating a sandwich on a paper plate, drinking Cabernet Sauvignon from a crystal glass. A senator, Jim looked as awkward eating off a paper plate as Hailey usually felt with china and crystal. He caught her look and smiled. "I know. Quite a combination, isn't it?"
Hailey sniffed the air. "Tuna?"
He nodded. "A terrible waste of a good vintage, but I was starving."
"You want me to make something?"
"No. This is fine. There's more in the fridge if you want some."
"Thanks." Hailey made herself a sandwich while Jim finished his.
"Wine?" he asked when Hailey had set the plate down.
"I think I'll pass."
"There's beer in there. The kind you guys like," he added and Hailey felt the room shrink at the mention of her dead husband.
When the doorbell rang, it felt like a welcome distraction. She crossed to the refrigerator for a beer and reached the table just as her phone rang. "Wyatt."
"There's two ways to look at getting called in again," her partner said in his slow, deep voice.
"I'm listening," Hailey said.
"One, we've worked our asses off all weekend and we're being called in again before I've even finished one beer and the game is still in the first quarter."
Hailey imagined Hal reclined in the worn navy leather chair that had been his father's, a Bud propped on his hip, and his hand on the remote. "And the other way to look at it?"
"This call is saving you from dinner at the senator's. You are there, aren't you?"
"Yes, indeed. I like the half-full. Nice touch."
Hal gave her the address and they agreed to meet at the scene in twenty minutes. Hailey looked at the untouched beer and opened the refrigerator to put it back. As the door swung closed, she heard something ping in the front hall. The sound, though soft, was distinct and she was moving as the second bullet was fired, another ping, followed in an instant by the crash of shattering glass.
Gun drawn, Hailey crept to the edge of the kitchen, pressed her back to the thin slice of wall beside the refrigerator. Waited to hear the sounds of someone coming, but the house was silent except for the rhythmic ticking of the big grandfather clock in the hallway and the purring of the refrigerator on her back. She rounded the corner into the hall slowly, barrel first, crouched low. "Jim!"
No answer as she turned into the dining room, cleared it and continued along the hall. The window beside the front door was broken, glass scattered across the dark wood floor, confirming that the shots had come from outside. "Jim!"
The front door was cracked open and Hailey had no idea if the suspect was inside or out. At the threshold to the front door, Hailey paused a beat, drew air until her lungs were full and kicked the door open. No shots fired and Hailey ducked low and stepped onto the porch. Empty. She scanned the front hallway again, still clear, and crossed to the top of the stairs, scanning the street from the level of the banister. Silence penetrated the dark where the scent of rotting leaves filled the wet air, empty of the sounds of tires. Whoever he was, he was on foot.
"Jim!" Still no response.
Hailey returned to the house and halted at the entrance to the living room. If her shooter was inside, this is where he was. Pausing in the doorway, Hailey counted to three and hooked around the doorjamb, flipped the light switch and dropped behind one of Liz's Windsor chairs. What if the girls had been here?
Blinking hard, she caught sight of a viscous trail of dark spots on Liz's white Persian rug. Behind the coffee table, Jim lay flat on his back. Just as she reached him, he groaned and lifted a hand to cup his ear and blood wept between his fingers. Beside her father-in-law lay a thin, white FedEx envelope and pinned to the clear plastic on the outside of it was a round, white button.
Hailey didn't need to read its anti-weapon message. She already had two others just like it.
One Clean Shot.
The Rookie Club.
by Danielle Girard.
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As one of four children, Danielle Girard grew up in a house where the person with the best story got heard, and it's probably no surprise that fast-paced suspense stories have always been her favorite. Girard's books have won the Barry Award and been selected for the RT Reviewers Choice Award. Two of her novels have been optioned for movies. Visit her website at www.daniellegirard.com.