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First pages

CHAPTER ONE

The cold night air penetrated clothing like a knife. There was no moon, and the heavy clouds above the city promised yet another late round of snow despite the mid-April date. Detective Sergeant Marcus Lear sat on the cold concrete steps leading down into the exterior basement door of an office building, his head just visible over the top of the stairwell. He and his temporary partner, Officer Amy McCracken, were staking out one of the stores deemed most likely to be burgled that night. He permitted himself a quick survey of the sky, wondering when the snow would begin falling. His gaze dropped to the alley on his right that ran beside the red brick building where he hid. Twenty feet beyond his hiding place the alley intersected another that ran behind a number of stores and small restaurants in the downtown. Marcus quickly but carefully scanned the alleys, the dumpsters and the red and gray buildings looking for some hint of movement.

He and McCracken had flipped a coin to see who took the front or back of the electronics store. She stood 5’5” tall, bare minimum for a police officer in Columbus, Ohio and requiring a special dispensation. A few rookies had made the mistake of doubting her athleticism. The result had usually been that McCracken had tossed them around the mats in the CPD gym like so many volleyballs. She had recognized early in life that her stature would present certain obstacles to her plans to make a career of law enforcement, and so she had studied the martial arts. By the time she applied to the Police Academy, she held black belts in karate, ju-jitsu and Israeli Krav Maga. Those who took her shoulder-length blonde hair, dimpled face and diminutive stature lightly did so at their own peril. She and Marcus were friends and classmates at the Academy, and he was appreciative of being assigned as her partner when loaned to the Burglary Squad to help investigate a series of electronics store break-ins. McCracken had found a pattern to the stores and warehouses that had been burgled but not to the dates and times. Marcus had worked with her to discover that all the burglaries occurred on nights with no moon and heavy cloud cover.

Marcus slowly looked over the scene again as he rubbed his hands together. Even wearing long underwear, black gloves, a thick black winter jacket with a flak jacket beneath he felt the cold seeping into his skin. Careful to keep his six-foot frame tucked below the top step, only his eyes and the black winter-weight cap with ear flaps perched above them appeared above street level. He thought with envy of McCracken’s hiding place, a darkened foyer of the building across the street. She had reported having a perfect view of the storefront while hunched down in the corner of the unlocked foyer and peering through the glass door, out of the wind. He had not been so lucky, though the stairwell provided some defense against the chill winds that regularly passed down the alley.

Marcus crouched down below the stairwell out of the punishing winds, depending on his ears to alert him to any approaching suspects. Skiffs of snow swirled around the buildings and walkways. After years of stakeouts, he still found it hard to pass the time during these late-night vigils, when the body’s physical and emotional defenses were at a low ebb. It was much easier when he could sit in a darkened vehicle in conversation with a partner. Time passed quickly under those conditions but here, alone, with the temperature falling and all the surroundings in shadows, the hours and minutes plodded slowly.

Suddenly, Marcus snapped alert at the sound of a vehicle approaching slowly from the street end of the alley. He ducked down and waited, his breath forming a cloud of fog. A late model Ford Van, painted black, rolled down the alley to his right and passed his hiding place. When it reached the cross-street alley the van turned right and crept past the electronics store. Marcus relaxed and exhaled as the van passed from sight. He was speaking softly into the microphone on his shoulder when the van approached again, from the same direction but faster. He had risen to his feet to watch it leave down the far alley, but ducked down low as it came around and approached again. He waited ten seconds, then slowly raised his head to see the van had backed up to the loading dock of the store. Two men, appearing to be in their early twenties, or possibly younger, climbed out of the front of the van. They were both of medium height and slender build, with Caucasian features. They said nothing but looked around quickly with nervous movements. Marcus held his position, just barely peeking over the top of the steps. He knew that in the darkness they probably would not see him but, if he ducked down quickly one of the suspects might notice the motion. Both young men came around to the back of the van and vaulted up onto the loading dock. One stood watch, scanning the area, as the other worked on the rear door lock. In less than a minute the door opened and the pair entered the back of the store. Marcus radioed McCracken to join him as he saw flashlight beams now and again playing off the ceiling in the store.

Marcus drew his Glock 9mm pistol with his right hand and quietly climbed the steps, adrenaline surging through his veins. He worked his way down the alley, keeping an eye on the door and on the van. The back doors of the van had been left open, presumably to receive the stolen merchandise that would soon be carried out the door. Marcus approached the van, looking around for McCracken. He quickly spotted her at the end of the block, gun in hand and quickly working her way up the alley. He had heard her on the muted speaker of his radio calling for backup and reporting the code 10-8 (Burglary in Progress). He listened as he reached the van, but there was no sound from inside. Marcus went around the front of the van and looked in through the windshield but saw no one and no movement. He turned his attention back to the store as he worked his way around to the side of the loading dock. From this position, he would have some cover and be in an advantageous position to arrest the two men when they emerged.

Without warning, the side door of the van popped open and another suspect jumped out. This one was a smaller young man with a gun in his hand. Marcus had dropped his own gun hand to his side while trying to get a look into the doorway. Upon the appearance of the third young man, Marcus pivoted and dropped behind the concrete loading dock. His own surprise at the appearance of the third suspect slowed his reflexes as he brought his pistol up to face the new threat, his heart pounding. “Police! Fr…!”, he shouted as the teen’s gun kicked and the muzzle flash lit up the night. Time slowed in his perception and Marcus wondered if he had been hit. He brought both hands up to steady his gun, and pulled the trigger. Later, he would not recall hearing the sound of either firearm, but saw the boy’s eyes open wide as he realized he had been shot. Marcus’s training had taught him to fire two to three times in rapid succession, but the first round had been enough to end the threat. The boy dropped his gun as he fell back against the van and slowly slid to the ground. Both hands went to the spreading stain of blood on his belly. His mouth opened in pain and terror and the young boy began to scream.

At that moment, the two other suspects ran out of the electronics store’s back door. McCracken had run up behind him and shouted for them to freeze and drop to the floor of the loading dock. Numbed, Marcus held his gun on them as McCracken jumped up onto the loading dock and clapped handcuffs on both. As soon as she nodded that they were restrained, Marcus holstered his gun and ran to the wounded suspect. Dropping to his knees beside the boy, he began applying pressure to the wound, his hands pressing on the handkerchief he had pulled from his own pocket. The teenage suspect was still screaming and Marcus himself shouted to McCracken to get help. She was already on her own shoulder microphone reporting a 10-43 (shooting) and ordering the dispatcher to send the emergency squad. Marcus continued applying pressure to the wound as patrol cars and other emergency vehicles appeared, their blue and red lights illuminating the alleyway. Marcus, his hands bloody from the boy’s wound, took off his jacket and wrapped it around the boy to help him stay warm. His eyes caught the teen’s frightened expression and Marcus began babbling reassurances. He would later have no clear memory of the emergency squad arriving and relieving him of the task of stifling the blood pouring from the wound. Marcus would have climbed into the transport vehicle and gone to the hospital with the boy but a police lieutenant arrived, took charge of the scene, and forbade Marcus to leave until he had provided a full verbal report. He then was required to go back to the substation to file his written report of the incident. Marcus’s eyes kept filling with tears, his mouth dry as he wrote the report. Finally, three hours after the incident, he was told to go home and return in the morning for further debriefing.

Marcus went straight to the hospital, showed his badge, and demanded a report on the suspect’s condition. He was in surgery, the charge nurse told him, but expected to survive. However, it appeared his spinal cord had been involved and they were assessing the damage. Marcus sat in the waiting area and cried.

Several hours later, but in time for the morning news, the CPD public relations representative held a press conference, giving the official version of what had happened. Marcus himself was kept away from the media, away from the glare of cameras and the questions of the reporters. He was debriefed and his written report scrutinized for inaccuracies or inconsistencies. It wasn’t long until leaders in the Latino community held their own press conference and called for change in the CPD’s policies, sensitivity training, and for Marcus to face unspecified charges. Marcus watched the news and heard the crowds baying for his head. Meanwhile, the boy he had shot, Ricky Vasquez, went through three surgeries and his condition was upgraded from critical to fair. Marcus watched the news footage of the boy’s mother hurrying into the hospital, brushing past reporters and Latino community leaders alike.

Two weeks later, Marcus testified before the grand jury, and was ordered by his superior officer, Adam Bond, to present himself to the Department psychiatrist for assessment. He recited what happened in answer to the prosecutor’s questions for the grand jury, then again for the psychiatrist. Within a week, the psychiatrist certified him fit for duty. The only problem was that Marcus himself knew that he was not fit for duty despite the psychiatrist’s approval. Marcus knew that the thought of carrying his gun again sickened him. He also knew that he would never be able to work as a police officer again.

CHAPTER TWO

Four weeks later, winter had finally released her icy grasp on Ohio. Mother nature had painted the state with her multihued brush and warmed the earth with her breath. The trees and flowers were blooming. Yet Detective Sergeant Marcus Lear’s despondent mood was in direct contrast to the blue sky and green leaves outside the Homicide Squad windows on the fourth floor of the Columbus, Ohio Police Headquarters. The day was a bright and sunny Tuesday in mid-May, almost a month after he had shot the electronics store suspect. For most of the morning the dark-haired detective had been slumped in his desk chair with feet up, sightlessly staring out the window, waiting. Detective Marvin Taylor sat at the desk that abutted Marcus’s own. The two men had shared many a laugh or moment of frustration since Marcus had joined the detective squad. Taylor raised his eyes to steal a glance at his friend; then they froze as his gaze met Marcus’s for only a moment. He quickly grabbed some papers from a pile to his right and began busily reading through them. Marcus’s gaze swept the squad room in the headquarters of the Columbus Police Department. The room, with its institutional pale-yellow walls and acoustic tile ceiling, was full to bursting with desks butted up against each other. On each desk a pile of file folders, coffee cups, and mug shot books surrounded a computer terminal. Everywhere, men and women held terse telephone conversations. Occasionally a phone was slammed down as the detective muttered profanities concerning lawyers, judges, criminals, forgetful witnesses, and the justice system in general.

The other detectives in the room occasionally shot anxious looks at Marcus. He didn’t resent their concern. They were all worried about him, and sympathized. Some had even been through a similar emotional meat grinder, a private hell that could not be shared.

Marcus turned back to the window, closing his eyes again. He had worked from his earliest school days to train his mind to be a finely-disciplined thinking machine. He was a pool of calm objectivity in situations where others were affected by anger, fear, outrage, panic, confusion and a hundred other emotions that existed at a crime scene. Witnesses, families of the victims and of the perpetrators, even the investigating officers would allow their minds to be overwhelmed with emotions that prevented clear, lucid thinking. Marcus had learned to clamp a lid on his emotions in order to think calmly and rationally. He had made a habit of organizing a systematic investigation along the lines most likely to lead to a solution. Now it was his mind that was burdened with tragedy and overpowered by trauma.

Marcus allowed his mind to wander back to the day he joined the police force. His father’s weathered face wore an unaccustomed smile that could have lit up the whole auditorium on the day of the Columbus Police Academy graduation ceremony. His pride in Marcus’s accomplishment had been palpable when he pinned the silver badge on his son that day, and again only two years later when Marcus had so quickly earned the gold badge of a detective. His internal reverie drifted back to his youth, bringing warm memories of happier, simpler days. Sights and smells from Marcus’s childhood in the ancestral family home faintly caressed his senses like half-formed phantasms. Marcus recalled sitting by the fire in the old rambling house on cold winter nights with a cup of hot chocolate or mulled cider in his hands. The wind threw snow against the thick walls while he and his best friend Jenny listened to her father’s tales of police work in Chicago or perhaps reading True Detective magazine. Swiftly and painfully his mind snapped back to the recent past like a rubber band stretched to its limit and forcefully rebounding. Peripherally, he could feel the eyes of the other detectives in the squad room on him but couldn’t meet their gaze. The laugh and joke they would have once shared would not come. Not that their expressions held any accusations. Instead, their eyes spoke of sympathy and a fear that someday they might be forced to live through what Marcus Lear carried with him today.

Four of the nearest detectives involuntarily jumped when Marcus’s desk phone reverberated with an electronic trill. Each of those in the room shared meaningful glances as the ringing continued. They knew exactly what news he expected today, and what that call must mean. Marcus shrugged himself back to reality and rose from his self-induced stupor. Collecting himself, he turned to the ringing phone. With a great release of pent-up breath, he picked up the receiver. The voice on the line was deep and crisp; it was audible to everyone nearby.

"Detective Lear, I would like to see you in my office, please," the resonant tone informed him.

Marcus dropped the receiver back into its cradle and rose to his feet. He stood a full six feet tall in his socks. That had come in handy with those suspects that had tried to go a few rounds with him in the past. After one final glance out the window, Marcus paced the aisle between desks to the captain's office. Every detective watched as he passed. They are all wishing me well, he thought, but every one of them is fervently glad it's not them making this walk. It no longer matters to me. That’s the odd thing about it.

At the watch commander's office, Marcus rapped on the glass twice with a knuckle and opened the door. Once inside, he shut it quietly and presented himself before Captain Adam Bond. Suddenly he regretted his attire. The jeans, black t-shirt and motorcycle boots didn’t seem right for what he was about to do. Somehow my dress uniform would have been more appropriate, he thought.

Adam Bond was black, about forty-two, with a trim figure and a touch of gray in his close-cropped hair. He had learned long ago that daily exercise helped reduce the effect of job stress on his health. He enjoyed being physically fit but Marcus knew the real reward for Bond was in the clear judgment, emotional health, and strong intellect that it earned his friend. Those qualities got the older man promoted to Watch Commander two years before. As his first partner, Adam had worked tirelessly to teach Marcus the importance of the same regimen. Adam greeted him with a friendly smile. I wish it was a scowl, Marcus thought. It would make it easier to say what I have to say.

"Marcus, I wanted you to know I just got the word. The Franklin County Grand Jury voted not to indict. The Special Prosecutor and the independent investigators agreed. Their official media release will read something like: “Detective Lear acted in self-defense and took the only action possible under the circumstances.” I’m afraid the special interests are still howling for your head, but you know that will calm down as soon as they find something else to moan about."

Adam opened a drawer and withdrew a 9mm semi-automatic Glock pistol. He slid it across to Marcus’s side of the desk. "You're fully re-instated as of this moment. Here's your duty weapon."

Marcus stood silent and unsmiling, contemplating the handgun on Bond's desk and the Grand Jury’s verdict. He hadn’t really expected any other result. Somehow, though, being exonerated made it that much harder to tell Adam of his decision. He taught me well, Marcus thought, and I owe him my career. It wasn’t fair that he now had to tell Bond that he was going to throw away everything they had worked for together. With a sigh, Marcus pushed the weapon back across the desk, shaking his head.

"You keep it, Adam. I won't need it anymore."

The smile vanished from the Captain’s handsome face. "What do you mean by that? You've been cleared. You're a cop. A cop in this country carries a gun. So here you go." Adam started to slide the Glock back across the desk when Marcus stopped him by laying his hand firmly on Adam’s own.

"I said I won't need it, Adam. I won't need it because I'm not a cop anymore. I quit." His breath was coming hard and fast; the strain he was under went far beyond what was apparent in the low tone of his voice.

"You quit? You quit! What do you mean coming in here and telling me you quit?" Adam’s disbelief rapidly turned to anger as he snapped, "I have invested a lot of time in you, Detective Sergeant, and a great deal of my personal experience to turn you into a class "A" police officer! Now, because of one of the tragedies that a cop has to expect in our line of work you want to quit? I don't think so!"

Marcus looked through troubled eyes at the man who had been his closest friend the last few years, despite their age difference. Adam Bond was his first partner and his training officer after graduation from the academy. Marcus had graduated at the top of his class and was hell-bent on being the best and youngest detective ever. He had made it, too, but only because Adam had recognized Marcus’s potential and had honed it, tempered it, with the experience acquired during his own career. Marcus could not blame Adam for being upset. Nor could he change his mind.

"Adam," he began. Hopelessly, Marcus tried to explain. "I hope you'll understand. I can't carry a gun anymore. And I can't be a cop without it. It's that simple."

"But you've been cleared!" Bond argued. "Everybody agrees you had no choice in the matter. It was self-defense, no question about it. And on top of that, the boy lived!"

"Yeah, he’ll live,” admitted Marcus. “But because I shot him he’ll live as a paraplegic. He’ll never walk again, Adam. His family was already poverty-stricken. What has a boy like that got to look forward to now?’

“That’s up to him, Marcus. I’m not saying he doesn’t have a lot of obstacles in his way, and being a paraplegic adds one more. But he made that choice, not you. When he aimed that gun at you and pulled the trigger, he was making the decision to be shot. You didn’t walk into that alley to shoot him.”

“Intellectually I know that, Adam. That's not the problem," Marcus’s eyes locked with his mentor’s own, as he calmly explained, "The problem is that I could never do it again. I can never injure another human being like that again."

The Captain had no argument for that. Adam could not guarantee that the same situation, or one like it, would never occur again. He could not promise that Marcus would never have to use his gun in defense of his own life, that of his partner or a citizen. Marcus could see the frustration in Adam’s eyes and knew what he was thinking.

For the last month, he’s encouraged me, calmed me down, and reassured me, Marcus thought. He even referred me to the CPD psychologist, whose rubber-stamp to return to work had been too easily granted. Now he can’t stand to let me turn my back so completely on something he feels I’m cut out to do.

"All right," Adam finally sighed heavily and came around the desk to lay a fatherly hand on Marcus’s shoulder. "If you can't do it, then you can't do it. But don't quit yet. Take a vacation, or even a leave of absence. I'll get it approved. You’ve been through a very rough time. Go somewhere and get yourself centered, as they say. Take a few weeks or even the whole summer. Try to get a better perspective on things. And then when you're ready, your job will be waiting for you."

Marcus smiled ruefully. "Adam, you're reading my mind. I am going somewhere like that. Where I can get myself centered and get things back in perspective."

"And where's that?" he asked. Adam was terribly disappointed that the department psychologist had apparently not made any headway with Marcus and hoped some time away might really help his protégé to see things properly. Somewhere in the tone of the answer, however, he heard finality and he knew Marcus Lear would never be back. "Where are you going?" he asked again quietly.

"Home." Marcus spoke the word simply, softly, almost reverently.

"Home?" Bond was puzzled. "But how will that help? Your place is only a few..." Then he understood.

"You mean the island? That home?"

Marcus nodded and firmly gripped the hand of his mentor. The handshake dissolved into a warm hug between very good friends. When words would not come Marcus just nodded once or twice, and left.

Bond turned back to face his desk. He was tired and disappointed that things had gone so badly. His gaze fell onto the Glock on the desk. In a rare fit of anger, Bond swept the weapon in one motion from the desk into the wastebasket. Then, with a look at the retreating figure, he reached for the phone. He got a telephone number from long-distance information, and then opted to be transferred directly. After three rings a young male voice answered, “Perrys Island Police Department.”

“I want to talk to Chief Gibbons. This is Captain Adam Bond of the Columbus PD.” “Yes, sir!”, the voice on the other end responded with a salute in his tone. Adam heard mumbling in the background and guessed the young cop was holding his hand over the receiver. A few moments later a more mature, deeper, but jovial voice with a slower rhythm came on the line.

“Captain Bond, this is a surprise. What can I do for you, sir?”

“Chief, I need to talk to you,” replied Adam. “It’s about Marcus.”

Gibbon’s voice held fear as he quietly asked, “What’s happened?”

“He’s not been hurt, Chief, not physically anyway; but neither is he all right. Have you heard anything about the incident he was involved in about a month ago?”

“No, nothing. I don’t understand.”

Bond told him the whole story: the investigation, the arrest gone horribly wrong, the special interest groups grabbing sound bites on the local news, the official inquiry, the Grand Jury ruling, and the scene in his office just minutes before. “He’s in pain, Chief. He’ll need people who care for him, even if he doesn’t realize that yet.”

“I appreciate your calling, Captain. I’m sorry to hear about all this; but you can be sure we’ll do all we can to help him.”

“I knew you would, Chief. He told me you were like a second father to him.”

The Chief’s voice filled with emotion. “He’s always been like a son to me, too. I don’t understand why he didn’t call when all this happened.”

“He’s trying to carry it all inside himself. If he doesn’t let it out it will destroy him,” Bond said. “Do you think that you, or someone else there, might be able to draw him out?”Gibbons thought for a moment, and then answered slowly, “Yes. There’s one person that might be able to draw him out. We’ll see what we can do together.”

Bond remembered some of the long conversations he had shared with Marcus while they were partners. “Jenny? She’s there?”

“He told you about her, huh? I’m not surprised. She got back a few months ago,” the Chief informed him. “If anybody can reach him, she can.”

“That’s fine, Chief. Please let me know how he’s doing.”

Gibbons agreed and they hung up. In Columbus, Adam Bond sat and pondered things for a few moments before turning his mind to the pile of paperwork on his desk.

One hundred miles north of Columbus, Chief Carl Gibbons stood at the window and looked out on the town he was sworn to protect, seeing only images from the past. He was more than a little hurt that Marcus had not called him for support during this crisis but pushed that aside to consider how to help him.

“Tommy! Find my daughter!”

 

Later that day, Gibbons heard the spring on his office’s screen door groan as it was opened before the door itself banged loudly closed. “Hi, Dad!” Jenny greeted him. “I heard you wanted to see me?”

Chief Gibbons raised his eyes from his battered pine desk to see his daughter’s smiling face and deep blue eyes as she towered over the counter. Jennifer Gibbons was tall, as in just over six feet two inches, and very fit. She wore the green and tan summer uniform of an Ohio Wildlife Officer. Her long, dark brown hair was curled into a bun and hidden under the ‘Smokey Bear’ hat that was part of the uniform. The short sleeves and knee-length trousers displayed long, tanned, well-muscled limbs. “Hi, Sweetheart!” Gibbons rose and hurried around his desk to wrap his daughter in one of his trademark bear hugs. Jenny’s figure loomed four inches taller than Gibbons’ own five-foot-ten. “How are things going?”

“Fine, Dad, but your message said you needed to see me. If I had known you just wanted to chat I would have phoned. We’re short-handed today and I have to get back.”

Gibbons’ eyes met his daughter’s. “Fair enough. It’s just that I thought you ought to know: Marcus is coming home.”

Jenny’s happy smile faded. “When?”

“I’m not sure. Soon. Maybe today.” Gibbons regarded his daughter from between narrowed eyes. “I know you aren’t as close as you once were. Have you spoken lately?”

“Not for about three years. We never seemed to be home at the same time, and I guess we both just gradually stopped writing.” There was more to it, but Jenny Gibbons had never shared with her father what had happened between she and Marcus. “Why?”

“He’s had something awful happen, Jenny. I’ve been told in confidence; but I think it would be better if he shared it with you himself. He’s okay physically; but he’s traumatized. Badly. He’s holding it all in and it’s eating him alive.”

“So why is he coming here instead of seeing a psychologist?”

“Because the island is like a safety net to him, and he’s escaping this…this nightmare. Perrys Island has been a safe haven for him all his life. Not surprising that he’d want to come back here when he’s hurting. He’ll need us to draw him out, help him to talk about it and work through it, but he’ll resist it. He will probably even be angry at us for trying to make him talk about it.”

Jennifer dropped her gaze to the worn linoleum floor of her father’s office. “Dad, I don’t know if he’ll want to talk to me. We didn’t just lose touch. We had a falling out, and … kind of stopped talking. He doesn’t even know I’m here.”

“Is this ‘falling out’ why you spent the last three years out west?”

Jenny nodded. “This would happen just when I’m settling in back here.”

“Doesn’t matter, Jen. He needs us. Especially you. I don’t know what happened between you two and I won’t pry; but I want you to try to help him. We’re family. Besides, you had to know that sooner or later you would run into each other when you came back.”

Her father was right, she thought. She had rehearsed the scene in her mind a hundred times, imagining the day she would see Marcus again. Yet she still had no idea what she would say to him. She raised her eyes to meet her father’s again. “It won’t be that easy, Dad. I’ll do what I can; but he might refuse to even see me.”

“Since when have you taken no for an answer?” Gibbons prodded. “Jenny, you were once the closest person to him. If you can’t draw him out, nobody can. And somebody has to. Okay? Just don’t give him the chance to say no.”

Jenny looked at the floor for a few seconds before again meeting her father’s gaze. There were tears in her eyes. “All right, Dad. If he’ll talk to me, I’ll try.” She hugged Gibbons and headed quickly for the door. “Gotta get back. I’ve got a tour to lead. Bye!”

CHAPTER THREE

The silver-gray Honda Goldwing motorcycle hummed with power as it carried Marcus Lear homeward. He wound his way up Ohio’s State Route 2 and rolled over the Sandusky Bay Bridge. It had been less than twenty-four hours since he had submitted his resignation. Every mile closer to the island strengthened his conviction that he had done the right thing. The waters of Lake Erie on each side of the bridge teemed with life. The beginnings of a smile played at his lips as he spied recreational boaters, skiers and fishermen all zipping across the water in their Evinrude-, Mercury-, Johnson-, or Honda-powered boats, leaving white-capped waves trailing in their wake. At Route 53, he pointed the bike north, then east onto State Route 163. This part of the trip had always seemed the longest, perhaps because it was the last long straight stretch before his destination. With growing anticipation, he watched the road signs pass by: Catawba Island, East Harbor, and all the billboards assuring each tourist that the most awe-inspiring sight of their lives, and its attendant gift shop, lay just a few miles in this or that direction.

On the right Marcus passed one of his old favorites; Train-O-Rama was a fascinating display of model railroads. Children and adults alike would gaze with awe at the various scenes displayed, with long toy trains chugging through each miniature world. The tour guide would stroll along the winding aisles and describe how many thousands of tiny lights and miles of wire and track had gone into the exhibit's construction. He was tempted to turn back and walk through the exhibit again, but shook his head. First things first. He had to get home. Then, when he was ready, he could return. As if to add an exclamation point to the decision, he twisted the throttle a little more and rode on past the gated community of Lakeside. Grinning broadly, Marcus wound his way through narrow streets into the little village of Marblehead.

His pulse quickened as Marcus’s destination drew nearer. The temptation to blast through the winding roads and small towns was difficult to resist. Yet he rode steadily onward under the bright summer sun until on the left a driveway appeared with a sign overhead. In bold proud letters, it announced: "Gordon Ferry Lines." He turned the bike to the left and rolled to a stop. From his position at the top of the hill, one could smell the breezes blowing in off Lake Erie. The glorious panorama of the lake and the nearest islands lay before him. The driveway fell down the hill and rolled out to the slip. Here the ferries docked to take on passengers bound for Perrys Island, South Bass and Kelleys Island. To the right were the offices of the Gordon Line, which included a shelter for waiting passengers and a snack bar. Directly ahead of him was the ticket booth and beyond that was the staging area for those vehicles waiting to make the crossing. Stretching from the shoreline on either side to the farthest horizon were the gray-green waters of Lake Erie.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

James Kevin Earp has lived in West Virginia and Ohio and now resides in Dewey, AZ with his wife of 30 years, Pam, and their dog, Max. He is a graduate of the Ohio State Fisher College of Business and worked in various computer technology roles before attending Ohio Northern Pettit College of Law. He has practiced law for the past eleven years and is currently an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Arizona. Kevin enjoys exploring the southwest U.S. with his wife and son.

Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
When I was seventeen, I was griping about not having anything in the house to read. My mother, perhaps in exasperation, said, "Well, why don't you write something?" That started a lifelong hobby writing mysteries and science fiction. Recently, I decided to share my stories with the public.
Q. What books have influenced your life the most?
A.
The book that has influenced my life most, is, of course, The Holy Bible. Other books include classic mysteries by Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur Conan Doyle and countless others. I also enjoy modern mysteries and science fiction. They all taught me to write.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
The Marcus Lear Mysteries are built around a character who grew up on an island in Lake Erie, lived his dream of becoming a police detective, only to have that dream taken from him by tragedy. The stories follow his struggle to build a new life different than anything he ever anticipated.

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