to home.

As she listened to the first officer at the scene describe how he had secured the area, Laura assessed Buddy Holland. He had the cop look: hair clipped short, razored whitewalls, mustache. He also had a grim jaw and watchful eyes. Wary.

He didn’t say much. Just kind of sat back and waited. Figuring out with those small narrow eyes which way to jump?

Officer Billings, the responding officer, paused in his dissertation. Looking at her for approval.

“You’ve made my job a lot easier,” she told him. He deserved praise. By her standards, a lot of street cops weren’t careful enough at crime scenes, mostly because they weren’t trained well. Officer Billings had probably trained himself.

“I plan to be a homicide detective someday. That’s my goal.”

Buddy Holland smirked.

Twenty minutes later, Victor breezed in, trailing expensive cologne behind him. “I guess you’re wondering why I called you all here today,” he said, crisp white shirtsleeves already rolled up. He walked up to Detective Holland and held out his hand. “Victor Celaya.”

The Bisbee PD detective straightened up from the tree trunk on which he had been leaning, his face instantly animated. “Buddy Holland.”

They shook hands like long-lost brothers. Victor had an unerring sense for which person in a crowd needed to be won over. Now he paused and shot a glance at Laura, just to be sure she was still charmed by him. Impossible not to be.

It was decided that Laura, Detective Holland, and Officer Billings would walk the crime scene, and Victor would interview the two female witnesses detained in a conference room at the Copper Queen Hotel. Victor usually did the interviews. He was the best interviewer/interrogator in the unit.

Laura glanced up the street lined by two-story brick buildings: Brewery Gulch. From their vantage point on OK Street, news photographers aimed their telephotos down the hill at the park. OK Street marked the eastern boundary of Bisbee; after that, there was no place to go but straight up. This odd topography had the effect of making the corner of Brewery Gulch and Main Street both the city center and the edge of town.

They walked up the Gulch, Officer Duffy leading the way. The narrow canyon seemed to telescope until Laura’s gaze was trained solely on the blue uniform of Duffy ahead of her, twenty pounds of duty belt, service weapon, flashlight, and handcuffs shifting from side to side on her compact girl-body. Duffy seemed sure of herself, as if she knew exactly where she was going. Laura got the impression it wasn’t just Bisbee the officer was sure of, but her future as well. Laura envied the girl’s certainty. Her own future seemed to disappear somewhere up ahead in the mist; she’d suffered too many body blows to take anything for granted in her personal life. Or maybe her personal life and her professional life were one and the same. The only thing she seemed to be good at was this job.

Ahead, yellow crime scene tape blocked the road, leaving space for people to turn their cars around. Their little group passed the open door to a bar. The beer smell billowed out, enveloping Laura in a dank, underworldly current.

The closer she got, the greater the dread she felt. The game of push-and-pull went on full force inside her: the urgency to see the scene, the equally strong desire to turn away. Whatever Jessica Parris had been thinking, feeling, or doing—stuff as simple as hanging out with a friend or planning what to do for the weekend—all of it had been cut short like a snipped thread.

At least nothing could hurt the girl anymore. Her family was another matter. In the aftermath of the tornado that took their daughter’s life, their entire world would be blown apart, shattered into tiny pieces. Laura knew from experience that you could pick up the pieces, but you could never put them back together. She was here to get Jessica’s family the only thing left that had any meaning: justice.

A knot of people had gathered at the edge of the tape. A uniform held them back, unassailable as a block of granite. She saw he had been assigned to keep the crime log.

Laura took photographs of the people crowded near the tape, making sure to get every face. You never knew who would be there, thinking they were invisible.

A hot wind spiraled up the canyon, bringing with it the smell of impending rain.

She let the camera hang down from the ribbon around her neck.

Her stomach tightened.

Time to begin.


When she was in grade school, Laura’s parents took her to the Tucson Metro Ice Rink for ice-skating lessons. She remembered walking gingerly on her blades across the black rubber apron to the edge of the rink. The delineation between rubber and ice was inviolate, a law of nature. First you were clumping, and then you were gliding.

Like an ice rink, a crime scene was something apart. City Park had been transformed forever from what it had once been. The evil that had visited here would linger in the hearts and the minds of the people who frequented it, long after the body was carted away and the crime scene tape taken down. Legends would grow up around it. The crime scene was hallowed ground.

Laura was about to step across the threshold into a new world with new rules, and she saw what she did there as a sacred duty. Mistakes could never be recalled, so she had to take her time and do it right. She ducked under the tape, followed by Holland and Billings. Officer Duffy followed suit.

“Officer Duffy,” Laura said firmly, “it will be just the three of us.”

Duffy blushed furiously and stepped back. Laura didn’t bother to explain something the officer should already know: The fewer people inside a crime scene, the better. Cops were the worst offenders when it came to trampling evidence, drinking from water fountains, or flushing toilets at a crime scene.

Now they were standing at the entrance to City Park, which was actually one story above them and accessed

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