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First pages

Chapter 1

George Willis slipped through a gap in the metal-mesh fence then followed broken pavement up the ridge behind the long shuttered aluminum mill. He passed the crumbling stacks on the smelter and flashed back to the sweat and smoke of long days amidst molten metal and screeching machines. A good living in its day, but it was the solitude of the abandoned grounds that drew him now.

George crested the rise and paused to take in the view. He appeared to be alone on the property, but it wasn’t always so. Teenagers sometimes partied near a derelict ore car, and, less often, couples frolicked amid the cover of scattered brush. George kept a patient eye on these visitors and captured interesting moments using the long-focus lens on his Sony.

He moved on to the slag pile at the end of the road and slouched into a familiar depression. He sipped at a half-pint of Johnny Walker and watched the river beyond the mill flow peacefully south. He recorded a man in a pickup heave trash toward the river, and two young girls lay down their bicycles to help a turtle cross the street. Then, as dusk settled, he drained the bottle and started back.

The factory on his left was still. To the right, a car moved rapidly down Clinton Street from the north. A second vehicle followed. As they rounded the curve for the mill, blue lights strobed on from the trailing vehicle. George stepped off the pavement and picked his way downhill. He crouched beside a weed covered mound and raised his camera.

A small white car stopped under a street light not a hundred yards away. A young woman sat behind the wheel, her window down. A Chilton City police car angled in behind her. The officer took a few seconds, then stepped from his vehicle. George zoomed in.

Chapter 2

Theresa Marshall idly scanned the room as the take-out line at Genova’s inched through air thick with roasted garlic, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. Her gaze held on the woman just ahead. She was perhaps twenty, moderately tall, with loose blonde curls to her shoulders. She complemented her size zero jeans with a cotton rag top resembling one Theresa had worn for physical education in her public school days.

A step forward, then another. The woman ahead reached the counter and gave her name as Martin. She collected two large pizzas, and as she turned to leave Theresa caught her eyes. They were sea-green and hinted at a forlornness Theresa recognized from the mirror. She gave the woman a tight-lipped smile and moved on to the counter. A moment later she walked out the door with her order.

Ms. Martin rolled past in a white Mazda 3, then scuffed loose gravel as she darted left onto the highway. Theresa slid into her Camry and departed more sedately for what had become a Friday night routine: dinner with Dave Caudill after a drive from the Knoxville library where she worked.

Dave was also a public employee—the lone detective on the Chilton City, Tennessee police force. That occupation had initially left Theresa uneasy. Policemen wrote tickets, put people in jail, and performed other duties she found troubling. But Dave was also the only brother of her friend, Shirley Dineen. It was to appease her that Theresa had agreed to meet Dave—and only after assurances he had never shot anyone and did possess a library card.

 Theresa touched the brakes at the sight of flashing lights ahead and approached cautiously. A Chilton City patrol car sat on a dirt pull-off at the edge of an abandoned mill complex. In front of it was Ms. Martin’s Mazda.

The spot was isolated and, with the shuttered buildings, a little eerie in the near dark. Theresa considered stopping—to witness, as her father had sometimes done. But she continued on, believing the woman’s smile, the rapidly cooling pizzas, and a man somewhere waiting would generate sympathy with the officer. Still, Theresa stared at her mirror until the vehicles disappeared.

* * *

Theresa sipped her wine, then carried plates to the candlelit table. “Did you catch the men in the motel robbery?” Dave had been working that investigation the previous weekend. If it had gone well, he would want to tell her.

“They have a man over Pigeon Forge that looks good for it. Monday, I’ve got to . . .” Dave’s phone chimed. He glanced at the display, gave his what-am-I-going-to-do shrug, and answered.

Chapter 3

Dave Caudill swung his aging Crown Victoria behind a marked Chilton City patrol car and climbed out. Three vehicles ahead, a young woman lay across the blood spattered trunk of a white Mazda, her head toward the road, her feet dangling off the back, held from falling by the small spoiler attached to the trunk lid. She wore jeans, a gray T-shirt, and running shoes. Officer Wayne Connors held a pressure bandage on her chest. His expression was grim.

A Chilton County ambulance rolled to a stop beside the Mazda. As the crew hustled out, Dave stepped over and examined the scene. He snapped pictures: the woman, the car, a .38 Smith & Wesson lying between vehicles, the patrol car assigned to Mark Ridgeway—now sporting a damaged windshield. And finally, several of Officer Ridgeway.

The EMTs transferred the woman to the ambulance van and departed. Dave finished the camera work, bagged the .38 pistol, three 9mm shell casings, and the woman’s possessions, including a shoulder bag from the car and a phone extracted from her pocket.

He turned to Officer Connors. “What have we got?”

“Susan Martin, twenty, lives in town. Ridgeway stopped her for speeding. She pulled a gun and got off one shot. Ridgeway returned fire hitting her three times.”

“Anything on her?”

“No record here.”

“How’s Ridgeway?”

“Shaken up. Said the bullet missed him by inches. So young, too. Wished he’d never stopped her.”

“You can’t choose what people do,” Dave said. “You can only be prepared.”

“Yeah. I reminded him the next guy she ran into might not have fared so well.”

Dave nodded and moved on to his car. He placed the bagged evidence inside, then glanced toward Ridgeway, who was listening more than chatting to another patrol officer. Dave started toward him but was stopped by Officer Connors’ return.

“That guy with Groggins,” Connors pointed to a tall young man across the road. “Says he’s Bobby Martin, brother of the shooter.”

* * *

“Where’s Susan?” Bobby Martin shot the question as Dave Caudill crossed in front of a slow moving pickup and held out his badge.

“Your sister’s on the way to the hospital. I’m sorry. She’s hurt pretty bad.”

“Her car looks okay. What happened?”

 Dave debated his answer, but there was no stepping around what had occurred. “She was shot. By a police officer. I don’t know the details beyond that.”

Bobby’s face tightened. “What does he say about it?”

“I was just about to speak with the officer, but you might help clear up a few things before I do. I promise it won’t take long. Then you can go on after your sister.”


“Did you see your sister earlier tonight?”

“She lives with me. Our mother is here for the weekend, and Susan went out to pick up dinner. When she didn’t come back or answer her phone, I came looking.”

Dave considered the pizza boxes on the seat. Susan Martin was on her way home from a routine errand. “Was your sister upset about anything? Maybe an argument?”

“She was fine when she left.”

“Does she own a gun?”

Bobby Martin shook his head. “No way. If the cop’s saying different, he’s lying. Susan wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

“She apparently had a handgun. If it’s not hers, do you know where she would have gotten it?”

“No. Don’t those cars have cameras?”

“They do, and we’ll check the video. About the gun?”

“We don’t have a gun in the house. I’ve never seen Susan even touch one, ever.”

“Does your mother own a gun?”

“Look, you’ve got it wrong. We’re not gun thugs. I really need to go. Where are they taking Susan?”

Dave checked and told him it was the UT Medical Center in Knoxville. He collected Bobby’s phone number and said he’d be in touch.

* * *

Dave delayed another minute, pondering what he had. The visible evidence seemed straightforward, but he puzzled over why a young woman returning home with dinner would shoot at a police officer who stopped her for speeding. The only alternative made far less sense. Why would Mark Ridgeway, whom he had known for ten years, shoot a woman for no reason? Either way, the circumstances would draw attention to his investigation, and scrutiny. He would best be careful how he proceeded.

Dave approached Mark Ridgeway, tall, fit, and just now kneading his square chin as he stared at the bullet hole in the windshield of his patrol car. Dave eased him away from the vehicle.

“Tough one. Ready to talk about it?”

“Yeah, I’m all right.”

“Okay, then. Let’s start with where you first saw the Mazda.”

“Over on Thirty-Three. It made a fast turn onto Clinton.”

“Where were you?”

“Northbound Thirty-Three at the Circle K. I made the left and followed. She was moving. I couldn’t get radar through the curves, but crossing the river she hit eighty-six. I got close at the bottom of the grade and put on the lights. She pulled over here.”

“Anything seem off when you approached the car?”

“She gave me her license when I asked. I didn’t smell alcohol or smoke, but the way she was acting, I’d bet she was high on something.”

“What’d she do?”

“I stepped back to the unit—to run her tags and write the ticket. She got out and paced, like she was nervous what I’d turn up, then worked her way over to the weeds, maybe fixin’ to toss something. I put the light on her and told her to get back in her car. She made a hand gesture and called me a jackboot. What kid talks like that? I said I’d arrest her if she didn’t get back in.”

“Did she?”

“No. I stepped out to get her. She climbed up on the trunk, pulled a gun, and asked me whether I’d rather write a ticket or go home to my family. Then she said I didn’t really have a choice because if she were to let me walk away, I’d come after her, and she wasn’t going to jail. She meant to kill me. Between you and me, I was scared.”

“Where was the gun?”

Ridgeway shook his head. “Behind. Back pocket, maybe waistband. I never saw it ’til she had it pointed at me.”

“What happened next?”

“She flicked the safety. I ducked right and drew my gun. She fired and missed. I let off three rounds. She fell back, dropped the gun. I checked her for more weapons then called it in. After that, I got out my first aid kit. Compress didn’t stop the bleeding.”

“So you waited for the ambulance?”

“Me and Connors. He was here in about a minute. The ambulance was returning from a run. You got here before they did.”

“You talk to Connors?”

“A few words. He said to step back, and he’d handle the scene.”

Dave nodded. “Have you ever met the woman, know any reason she might want to take a shot at you?”

“No. But if she’s local, I might have seen her around town.”

“Mark, be straight with me. If you’ve crossed paths, it’d be better to know it up front than to see it on the news.”

“I come across lots of people. She could’ve been cleaning tables down at Katie’s or be kin to someone I arrested, but I swear I don’t know her.”

“I’ll check her out. But if you think of anything, call me. Meanwhile, finish the paperwork and go on home.”

Ridgeway glanced at his patrol car.

“Groggins’ll give you a ride. I’ll clear things with Parsons, and we’ll talk again in the morning. Chief’s office, eight sharp.”

Ridgeway acknowledged with a nod.

“And I’ll need your weapon.”

Dave bagged the gun, and Ridgeway shuffled to Officer Groggin’s patrol car. As Groggins U-turned north, Dave slid into Ridgeway’s vehicle and set to work on its camera.

* * *

Dave Caudill sat on the corner of an unused desk and brought Sergeant Clay Parsons up to speed on the shooting.

“How’d Ridgeway look?” Parsons asked.

“Like a man who’s done what he’s supposed to and doesn’t like the result.”

Parsons rubbed his chin. “I’ll stop by his house. See if he wants to talk.”

“I told him to be here in the morning. You can remind him. We all should be.” Dave hoisted a canvas evidence bag. “I need to secure this and follow up on the woman.”

Dave trotted downstairs and unlocked the steel door to the storage room. He logged the evidence and boxed it for transport to the state crime lab. Then he locked up and waved at Parsons on the way out. Climbing into his car, he thought about Theresa and let out a long breath. She was still at his house, but he had a police shooting on his hands and needed to get to the hospital in Knoxville. He called her as he sped north.

* * *

Dave stepped through sliding glass doors into the brightly lit emergency entrance of the University of Tennessee Medical Center. He spotted Bobby Martin, turned sideways in a padded armchair, talking quietly with a slim and attractive woman. If she was Bobby’s visiting mother, Dave figured her for a true child bride.

Bobby stood as Dave approached and introduced his mother, Lenora.

“Ma’am.” Dave nodded and turned to Bobby. “Any word on your sister?”

“We only just got here. They said a doctor would let us know.”

“Perhaps you wouldn’t mind telling me what happened,” Lenora said. “Bobby says it was one of your officers who shot Susan.”

“We’re still putting together the pieces. What I have so far is that your daughter was stopped for excessive speed. She refused to follow the officer’s directions, then became hostile and pulled a gun. She fired it once.”

“That what the camera shows?” Bobby asked.

“Partly. The patrol car wasn’t angled to pick up the shooting. Our tech will go over the audio in the morning.”

“So, you’re just accepting what the man who shot Susan said.”

“We have his statement and, so far, no other witnesses. The lab will examine the physical evidence. If there’s something wrong, they’ll tell us.”

“Yeah, right.”

“I get that you’re angry,” Dave said. “But no one’s sweeping anything under the rug. We want answers as much as you do. That’s why I’m here.”

“To talk with us or Susan?”

“Both if I can. Would you mind if I had a few words with your mother?”

Bobby glared at Dave, then stepped across the room. Dave sat and faced Lenora.

“I’d like to ask a few questions, ma’am, if you don’t mind.”

Lenora sighed her approval.

“You’re here visiting your children?”

“I drove down this afternoon from Lexington.”

“Kentucky? Is that where Bobby and Susan are from?”


“How long have they been here?”

“Susan about three years. Bobby a bit longer.”

“Has Susan ever had trouble with the law?”

“Never,” Lenora said.

“Did she talk to you about any problems—with boyfriends, school, work?”

Lenora shook her head. “Susan’s quiet. No drama. She gets along with everyone.”

“Did anything happen before she went out? Something that upset her?”

“No. Susan was fine. And she didn’t have a gun. She hates guns.”

“Did you bring one along, for protection on the trip?”

“No. And I think Bobby told you all this. Don’t you believe him?”

“Ma’am. I’m sorry the questions seem repetitive. I’m just trying to understand what happened.”

“I don’t know what went on out there, but I do know that Susan didn’t shoot at anyone. She’ll tell you herself when she’s able.”

“Mrs. Martin, I’d like nothing better than to hear her version as soon as possible.”

Dave thanked Lenora and moved on to the check-in counter. He showed his ID to the receptionist and asked about Susan Martin. The woman stepped through a door behind her station and returned in under a minute.

“Dr. Saylor will speak with you shortly,” she said.

Dave took a seat by the door to the treatment rooms. Fifteen minutes later, the doctor stepped through. Dave showed his badge and asked, “What’s the status on Susan Martin?”

Dr. Saylor shook her head. “Three bullet wounds to the chest. Non-responsive when she arrived. We couldn’t restart her heart.”

“Any other injuries, bruising, medical conditions?”

“There’s nothing obvious I can add. You’ll have to get the rest from the medical examiner. Now please excuse me. I need to speak with her family.”

Dave watched Lenora receive the news and burst into tears. Bobby pulled her to him and spoke softly as he held her. Dave started for the door, not inclined to disturb them. Then he changed his mind and crossed to Lenora. She separated from Bobby and stared up at Dave.

“Why did they have to shoot her? Susan was a good girl; she never hurt anyone in her whole life.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Dave said. “I’ll do everything I can to get that answer. I’ll stop by in the morning, and hopefully, you can help sort it all out.”

On his way home, Dave left a message for Chief Metcalf, outlining what he knew and informing him that he and Mark Ridgeway would be in at 8:00 a.m. It was after one when he pulled into his driveway. The house was dark but for the porch light. Theresa’s car was still there.

Dave entered through the kitchen. He poured a short bourbon and sampled the leftovers.

“How did it go?” Theresa’s voice drifted in from the living room.

He stepped through, sat on the small piece of the couch Theresa wasn’t occupying, and rubbed her back. “A woman was killed. I see trouble over this one.”

“For you?”

“Not yet, but I’m guessing there’ll be plenty to go around.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Nothing I can do tonight.” Dave stood, helped Theresa to her feet, and walked her to the bedroom.

* * *

The alarm buzzed at seven and Dave rolled out of bed.

“It’s Saturday,” Theresa said.

“The shooting last night. I have to go in and see Metcalf.”

Theresa understood a Saturday meeting with the police chief meant a serious problem. Dave didn’t elaborate. He never did, and she wondered if more time together would really change that.

“Are we still on for Gatlinburg?” she asked.

“I’ll see how it goes. Probably have time to ride down, but I wouldn’t count on the hike.”

Dave finished dressing, gave her a kiss, then padded down the hall. A few minutes later she heard the kitchen door close and his car start. She rolled over and went back to sleep.

She woke two hours later to the chime of her phone and checked the incoming text. Dave: More interviews. Back by 1.

Chapter 4

Bobby Martin held the door and waved Dave inside. His eyes were red, his hair unkempt. He wore the same clothes from the night before.

“Why is that cop still on the street?” Bobby asked.

“He’s not. He’s on leave until we complete the investigation.”

“Paid vacation more like it. It was on the news he’s not being charged. How does that work?”

“The statement said no charges have been filed. It doesn’t mean they won’t be, later, when we have all the facts.”

Dave scanned the living room and adjacent kitchen. “Is your mother here? I’d like to speak with her, too.”

“She’s in the bedroom making calls.”

Dave nodded. “We’ll leave her to it, then, and you and I can go over a few things.”

Bobby settled onto the living room couch. Dave pulled up a wooden chair opposite.

“You said last night that your sister lived here with you. How long had that been?”

“Three years. She thought it would be better than in Lexington. It worked out for both of us.”

“Better how?”

“Just better. Teenage girls. You know.”

“Did she have problems with your mother?”

“It wasn’t that. Susan was just looking for a change.”

“She was seventeen?”

“Our parents approved. They signed the papers for her to leave school.”

“Did Susan have a job?”

“Off and on. It’s been a few months since the last one.”

“Can you give me a list?”

“Sure, the ones I remember. Okay to e-mail it?”

Dave handed him a card. “Did anything happen yesterday that would have upset her?”


“Would you mind walking me through the day?”

“I went to work for seven and got home at three-thirty. Susan was reading. My mother arrived at four. We got her settled, talked a bit, then ordered take-out from Genova’s. Susan went for it.”

“Susan didn’t have words with your mother, a disagreement maybe, before she left?”

“I told you; everything was fine. We ordered. Susan left to pick it up. Nothing more’n that. She was on her way home.”

“Why did your sister go?”

“She offered.”

“Was the Mazda hers?”

“Yeah. It is.”

“The car looks new. How’d she manage that?”

“An insurance settlement. A truck rear-ended her at a stop light. Totaled her car and messed her up some. She was lucky to get out as good as she did.”

“Her driving record’s clean, but she was stopped for speeding last night. Did Susan sometimes drive a little fast?”

“She could lean a little heavy on the accelerator, but as you said, she didn’t get tickets, and her only wreck she was hit at a red light.”

“How about a boyfriend? Was there anyone she was with regularly?”

“She wasn’t seeing anyone I know of.”

“Do you think she might have known Mark Ridgeway? Maybe met him somewhere?”

“The one who shot her? She never mentioned him to me. If he’d stopped her before, you’d have records, right?”

Dave nodded. “Have you thought any more about where Susan might have gotten a gun?”

“We went over that last night. She doesn’t have one. Never did. She’s afraid of guns.”

“Okay. I get that. But there was one at the scene, and I need to know where it came from.”

“The cop, most likely. Don’t you all carry throwdowns?”

“Maybe in New York. But we’ll check that, too. Do you own a gun?”

“I have one, but Susan wouldn’t stay if I kept it here.”

“What kind of gun?”

“My gun’s got nothing to do with this. And like I said, it’s not here.”

“I’d still like to know.”

“So what does your man say happened?”

Dave let out a breath. “The officer says your sister shot at him. The state crime lab is examining the evidence. By Monday we’ll know who fired the guns. In the meantime, I’m gathering background. So, about your gun?”

“I have a .22 long barrel. It’s in Lexington.”

“Have you ever owned a .38 or had one in the apartment?”

“I keep telling you, we don’t have guns here.”

“I understand you don’t, now. My question was, did you ever have a .38?”


Lenora flung open the bedroom door and drilled Dave with sharp green eyes. “You think Susan shot at a policeman over a speeding ticket? That’s nonsense. You might try to pass that off, but I’m not going to let you smear Susan with vicious lies.”

Dave stood. “Mrs. Martin, I can appreciate your anger, and I’m sorry to be intruding. But I need to understand what happened last night. I think we all do. If you know things about Susan that will shed light on all this, then you need to tell me.”

Lenora stared at Dave a full minute before answering. “Perhaps you do need to know.” Lenora nodded to Bobby, and he shifted on the couch. She crossed the room and sat beside him.

“Susan was quiet, looked after herself, never bothered people. She always did what I asked. She got good grades at school most of the time. Better than Bobby. She didn’t have many close friends, but she wasn’t caught up with feuding and jealousy and all that, either. I think she tried hard to make people like her.

“She and Shannon Taylor were best friends since forever. Four years ago, Shannon was killed— shot in her own house. Susan found her, and it hit her hard. She obsessed about getting all the guns out of our house. My husband wouldn’t go along, but Frank did lock them up. Susan came down here not long after.”

Lenora wiped at her tears. “If you had known Susan ten minutes, you’d know what you’re thinking couldn’t be true.”

“Your daughter sounds like a sensitive and caring woman.” Dave paused. “Did the police find who killed Shannon?”

“No. They never did.”

“Is there a way to reach your husband? I will need to speak with him and get a list of the guns you mentioned.”

Lenora gave him the number.

“One last thing.” Dave turned to Bobby. “Would you mind if I had a look in Susan’s room?”


“Might be something in there that says she knew the officer.”

“There isn’t,” Bobby said. “And you can check her phone and all that from your end.”

“I just thought you might want to help.”

Chapter 5

Dave slowed and made the turn for Gatlinburg.

“How did it go this morning?” Theresa asked.

“The chief was okay with things, so far. The dead woman’s family is another story. They were a touch on the hostile side, but they cooperated once we got going.”

“You do have a way of getting people to open up. I’ve seen it. But shouldn’t you be using those skills talking with the suspects? I would understand if you needed to do that.”

“We know who killed her. It’s the whys that matter now. I’m waiting on gun records, forensics, and information from phones and social media.”

“There weren’t witnesses?”

“Just two people and one of them is dead.”

Theresa sliced an apple and fed it to Dave, taking an occasional bite herself.

“I think you’ve had experience with this,” he said. “Hand feeding is a lost art.”

“It was on the final exam in finishing school. They insisted I practice until I had it right.”

Dave gave Theresa a puzzled glance, unsure if she was joking. “I never knew any Tennessee gals that went to finishing school. Was that up North?”

“It was, actually.”

“I kinda wondered, the way you speak, where that came from.”

Theresa took on an offended air. “I am seventh generation Tennessee, born and raised. I do not speak like some Northerner, as anyone up there would happily inform you.”

“Whoa now, didn’t mean to start a ruckus. It’s just you don’t talk like anyone I grew up with.”

“Possibly not. But my mama will tell you I possessed these same verbal attributes long before they sent me off to school.”

Dave eased through downtown traffic and parked off River Road. Then he and Theresa strolled through town before making their way to the Park Grill for dinner.

“We came here most every summer when I was young,” Theresa said, settling in at the table. “It’s changed some, but nothing like Dollywood and all that out by Pigeon Forge.”

“I was raised just up the road, but we seldom stopped by. Tourists knew the place better than we did.”

“Probably so, but I considered myself more a summer resident. My father would rent a place for the season. I’d stay here with my mother while he flew back and forth to Nashville. When he was gone, we would walk and talk and practice our shopping skills.”

“Must have been fun at that age with just your mother.”

“Better than when my father was here. He didn’t like me going anywhere alone. Once, when we came without him, they let me bring Star. We spent a month covering every trail for a hundred miles, most of which we were not supposed to be on. I guess at twelve I was not very responsible.”

“Star was your dog?”

“No, I’m sorry, Alzey’s Morning Star. My horse. He might not have been the best on trails, but he could jump any fence people put up.”

“You must have been popular with the neighbors.”

“You can get away with quite a lot when you’re a little girl.”

“A few of my friends had horses, but they didn’t take them on vacations. Then most folks I knew didn’t travel. My father took two weeks off a year and used it mostly to work around the house.”

“It must have been a nice place.”

Dave laughed. “More like on the brink of dilapidation.”

On the walk back to his truck, Dave thought he still had a lot to learn about Theresa—five months of Friday nights and Saturdays had left him just scratching the surface. He was fine with a slow peeling of the onion; it kept things interesting. What mattered most was that they were comfortable with their positions in life and with each other. He was in no hurry to change anything.

* * *

Theresa heard Dave shower off his morning run, gave him fifteen minutes, then threw back the covers, slipped into one of his shirts, and followed her nose to the kitchen.

“You’re just a bit early,” he said, tending pancakes on one burner and warming maple syrup on another.

Theresa leaned in for a kiss, then poured coffee. She brought it to the table and picked up the Sunday paper. A below the fold article caught her attention.

“It says a twenty-year-old woman died Friday night after being shot by a Chilton City police officer. Is that the case you were working?”

Dave nodded as he placed a plate of pancakes in front of her and sat opposite with another.

“You didn’t mention a police officer had killed the woman. That must have been eating at you all day. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to bring my troubles home.” He sampled the pancakes and swallowed. “And I didn’t want to speculate. No point in ruining the weekend.”

Theresa heard the first part as closing her out and the second as a rationalization.

“You are allowed to tell me your problems. I’m a good listener. I might even be able to help, and I’m certainly not going to talk to reporters.”

Dave worked his mouth as though the right words were in there if he could only find them. Theresa watched and waited—not angry, just hurt by the lack of trust. She considered she had possibly overreacted, but her comments didn’t leave him much wiggle room. Instead of opening up, though, he put the fork to his mouth.

Theresa pushed away her plate and flipped open the paper. On page three her gaze held on a picture of Susan Martin. “I saw this woman, Friday. At Genova’s and again on the way here.”

“Where, exactly, did you see her?”

“On Clinton Street, near the closed mill. Your officer had her pulled over.”

“Were either of them out of their vehicles?”

“No. They had just stopped. I wasn’t a minute behind her.”

“Did you see how she was driving?”

“I wasn’t that close. Now, what happened?”

Dave exhaled slowly. “The officer said the woman became agitated when he told her she’d be getting a ticket. She refused to stay in her vehicle or follow other directions. At some point, she pulled a gun and fired a shot at him. He returned fire.”

Theresa put aside the newspaper. “A woman taking dinner to people she cares about does not stop to shoot a policeman. Trust me on that. It doesn’t happen.”

“How did you know she had people waiting?”

“Two large pizzas and she didn’t weigh a hundred pounds. She couldn’t exactly have hidden a gun in those jeans, either. They were so tight you could read the date on a quarter in her pocket.”

“No telling where she kept the gun—in her purse or the car most likely”

Theresa rolled her eyes. “You don’t really believe that guy’s story, do you?”

“I’m not sure, but I can’t accuse an officer of misconduct without evidence. What we have so far says he did his job. Maybe not the way I would have handled it, but by the book and within the law.”

“What are you going to do?”


About me

D.L. Barnhart lives in Kentucky and writes of (mostly) strong women struggling with life and death choices. Their solutions aren't always conventional, nor do they always come away clean. But they never quit.

Q. Why do you write?
I enjoy dropping resourceful characters into difficult situations, watching them struggle to find solutions, then come to grip with the responsibilities for their choices—often with consequences well beyond what the characters had ever imagined.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
Mysteries allow me to place characters into lethal situations, forcing them to question their beliefs on right, wrong, and the law, as well as their conflicting duties to society, family, and friends. I want readers to imagine what they would have done in the same situations.
Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A Small Price emerged over many years from a mix of stories that filtered in from eastern Kentucky. It grew into a novel when Theresa, once a minor character, defied my intentions and tied it together.

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