Tuesday, November 30, 2021


Late yesterday morning, Scott and I got our booster shot of the J&J Covid vaccine. Within about two hours, I started having significant chills with massive nose issues. Scott seemed fine. 

Today, Scott is feeling it a little bit. More than anything, he is tired and a bit sore head to toe.

I am way worse today. While last April I did not do too bad side effect wise, I am feeling it big time. Long story short, it feels like a pretty good case of the flu. Either that or somebody is beating me up and then wiping my memory of the repeated attacks before vanishing and resetting the time line.

I really hope we do not need another booster anytime soon....

The Rap Sheet: Revue of Reviewers for 11/30/2021

 The Rap Sheet: Revue of Reviewers for 11/30/2021



The First Two Pages: “The Brotherhood of Tricks and Treats” by Francelia Belton

 The First Two Pages: “The Brotherhood of Tricks and Treats” by Francelia Belton

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Tuesdays With Ambrea: Manga Humor!

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Tuesdays With Ambrea: Manga Humor!: Reviewed by Ambrea Recently, I’ve been on a kick of reading (and, in some cases, re-reading) Japanese graphic novels – better known as man...

Guest Post: Dietrich Kalteis on Writing, Research, and his new novel, Under An Outlaw Moon

Please welcome Dietrich Kalteis to the blog today. In addition to the guest post on the blog today, Dietrich will be back on the blog this Sunday with an excerpt from his new book. 


Under an Outlaw Moon follows the true story of Bennie and Stella Mae Dickson. He’s reckless and she’s an outsider longing to fit in. When they pull off a bank robbery to celebrate her sixteenth birthday, their lives take a turn that they never could have imagined.


While researching for my novel Under an Outlaw Moon, also set in the 1930s, I came upon the story of Bennie and Stella in an old news story, and I was intrigued. They were newlyweds when they committed their first bank robbery in Elkton, South Dakota, right around Stella Mae’s sixteenth birthday. Once in the bank, they drew guns and were faced with the vault’s time lock, having to wait it out for twenty minutes. Without a shot being fired, they ended up getting away with just over twenty-one hundred dollars, driving across the state border hiding out at Bennie’s family farm in Tyler, Minnesota.


A couple of quiet months and Bennie was thinking about a bigger heist, promising Stella the good life was coming. Walking into the bank in Brookings, South Dakota, only a few miles from the Elkton robbery, they were faced with another time lock, having to wait this one out for an hour and a half before the vault popped open. Refusing to take off empty handed, Bennie posed as a bank inspector, his shotgun and pistol kept out of sight below the counter, compelling the bank staff to deal with the customers as if nothing was wrong, promising nobody would get hurt. Stella stood like a sentry by the door as over fifty customers came and went, doing their banking. The couple walked out of there with over seventeen thousand in cash, plus another sixteen thousand in stocks. Keeping their cool a second time, they pulled it off without a soul being harmed.


The media dubbed them ‘the time lock bandits’. And although they committed just two robberies, and did it without a shot being fired — a far cry from more notorious criminals of the era like Dillinger and the Barrows — the Dicksons ended up at the top of the FBIs most-wanted list. J. Edgar Hoover considered them Bonnie-and-Clyde copycats, and he wanted to stop them from gaining the folk-hero status that other criminals had gained. With considerable influence on the media, he wanted them stopped, putting his agency, resources and manpower behind a coast-to-coast manhunt, wanting the Dicksons brought down dead or alive.


In getting to know the couple, I found two beings clinging to each other, one wounded and one misguided, dealing with something they got caught up in. In spite of his past scrape with the law, there was a sense of fairness about Bennie in the way he dealt with people that crossed his path. And in spite of her naivety, there was a growing depth to Stella that went well beyond her years. She came from an abusive home, her father walking out on the family at an early age. After she met Bennie, she saw her way out of her hometown and her past life, looking to a brighter future.


Through my research, I came to understand how the hard times shaped them and their choices. In spite of having to run from the law, they remained devoted to each other and there were close ties to both their families. How they were depicted in the media was in sharp contrast to who they really were; and how they were hunted down was brutal and unjust. And that’s what inspired me to want to tell their story.


I found out everything I could about the Dicksons, and the way of life during those hard times in the midwest. There were numerous texts, plenty of FBI files from those times, daily newspapers, along with personal accounts and photos. I compiled the details I wanted to include, laying out the sequence of events before I started the first draft. Adding some color and fleshing out the characters, I worked to bring the scenes to life. This was a departure from my usual approach to writing fiction, in which I start with a single idea and grow it into a chapter, researching as I go, and moving on from scene to scene.


The story shifts from her POV to his, then back again. As I have in other novels, I used a lot of dialogue to carry the scenes forward and paint the world around them. That was my favorite part of writing the book, getting to know them and writing their words, letting the characters come to life and do their own talking. At times, I felt like I was just typing their words and following their actions.


I hope anyone who picks up the novel enjoys it as much as I did while writing it.


Dietrich Kalteis ©2021 

Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal winner, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes (silver medal winner, 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best historical fiction), Zero Avenue, Poughkeepsie Shuffle, Call Down the Thunder, Cradle of the Deep, and Under an Outlaw Moon. His novel The Deadbeat Club has been translated to German, entitled Shootout, and 50 of his short stories have also been published internationally. He lives with his family on Canada’s West Coast. More info at https://dietrichkalteis.com/

Monday, November 29, 2021

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths: Kevin Tipple is an author, reviewer, and blogger, and we are always pleased to welcome him to the BPL Bookblog.   Kevin's Corne r is hi...



In Reference To Murder: Media Murder for Monday 11/29/2021

 In Reference To Murder: Media Murder for Monday 11/29/2021

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 87 Calls for Submissions in December 2021 - Paying Markets

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 87 Calls for Submissions in December 2021 - Paying...: This December there are more than seven dozen calls for submissions. All of these are paying markets, and none charge submission fees. As al...

Markets and Jobs for Writers for 11/29/2021

 Markets and Jobs for Writers for 11/29/2021

Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: Under The Cold Bright Lights by Gary Disher

Garry Disher is one of my favorite contemporary authors. He has published over 50 widely translated books in a range of genres: crime thrillers, literary novels, short-story collections, YA/children’s novels, and writers’ handbooks. His awards include the Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018; the Ned Kelly Award for Crime Fiction in 2007, 2010, and 2021; the Crime Novel of the Year, Germany in 2020; and German Crime Fiction Award in 2002 and 2016.

In Under the Cold Bright Lights (Soho Crime, 2019), Alan Auhl is a retired Homicide detective in Melbourne, living in a large three-story house inherited from his parents. His daughter lives there, his estranged wife comes and goes, and he rents rooms to students and women transitioning out of shelters and abusive domestic situations.

The Homicide department has called him back to work in a newly formed Cold Case unit, where his younger colleagues make ageist jokes. He ignores them and plods placidly along, using 30 years of experience to review cases with a fresh eye and closing one here and there. A case thought closed re-opens suddenly with the discovery of a long-dead body who turns out to be the expected perpetrator of a murder. Instead, apparently both Mary Peart and Robert Shirlow were killed at the same time, and his body hidden to make it seem he was Mary’s killer. In the meantime, the daughters of a man whose cause of death was never established make their annual call to Auhl to ask him once again to try to find their father’s killer. His supervisor calls him in to tell him that a doctor who Auhl believed killed his first two wives is now claiming that his third wife is trying to kill him. And at home, his current tenant escaping from domestic abuse is fighting her wealthier husband who wants permanent custody of their daughter.

Tightly plotted and propulsive police procedural with a twist. Auhl takes all four cases to logical if surprising solutions. In at least one of them, a really surprising solution. A stand-alone unfortunately, as Auhl could easily grow on me.

Starred reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.


·         Publisher:  Soho Crime; First Edition, First Printing (July 2, 2019)

·         Language:  English

·         Hardcover:  312 pages

·         ISBN-10:  1641290579

·         ISBN-13:  978-1641290579


Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2021

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

Sunday, November 28, 2021



Murder is Everywhere: What comes next? Handling writer's block by Zoe Sharp

Murder is Everywhere: What comes next? Handling writer's block: ZoĆ« Sharp I wrote a post about writer’s block about seven years ago, but as it’s a condition that does not improve with time—or age, alas—I ...

Beneath the Stains of Time: The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories (2018) edited by Martin Edwards

Beneath the Stains of Time: The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories (2018) ...: The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories (2018) is the third, wintry-themed anthology published in the British Library Crime Classics ser...

SleuthSayers: Using All Your Resources by R. T. Lawton

SleuthSayers: Using All Your Resources: I was in the process of writing this blog article about how writers should use all of their creative resources to get a new story started an...

Saturday, November 27, 2021



KRL This Week Update for 11/27/2021

Up in KRL this morning reviews and giveaways of 4 Christmas mysteries for your holiday reading-"It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder": A Catering Hall Mystery by Maria DiRico, "Twisted Tea Christmas": A Teashop Mystery by Laura Childs, "Death at Holly Lodge": A Daisy Thorne Mystery by Louise R. Innes, and "Murder at the Christmas Cookie Bake-Off": A Beacon Bakeshop Mystery by Darci Hannah https://kingsriverlife.com/11/27/christmas-mysteries-for-your-holiday-reading-2/ 

And a review and giveaway of "Best in Snow" by David Rosenfelt https://kingsriverlife.com/11/27/best-in-snow-by-david-rosenfelt/


We also have the latest mystery Coming Attractions from Sunny Frazier along with giveaways of books by Devon Delaney and Bailee Abbott https://kingsriverlife.com/11/27/december-coming-attractions-whats-under-your-tree/


For those who prefer to listen to Mysteryrat's Maze Podcast directly on KRL, here you can find the player for the latest episode which features the mystery short story "The Chicken Pot Pie Fiasco" written by Sandra Murphy and read by local actor Duncan Hoge https://kingsriverlife.com/11/27/new-mysteryrats-maze-podcast-featuring-chicken-pot-pie/


Up during the week, a fun guest post by mystery author Joe Cosentino about the new audiobook release of his book "Drama Fraternity" along with a giveaway of one of the first 3 books in the series on audiobook https://kingsriverlife.com/11/24/the-audiobook-of-drama-fraternity/


And another special midweek guest post, this one by mystery author Cathi Stoler about back stories and her Murder On the Rocks mystery series. The latest book in the series, "Straight Up" just came out this month https://kingsriverlife.com/11/24/every-character-has-a-present-and-a-past/


Up on KRL News and Reviews this week a review and ebook giveaway of "Three's a Clowder" by Gin Jones https://www.krlnews.com/2021/11/threes-clowder-crazy-cat-lady-mystery.html


And a review and ebook giveaway of "Wild Dog Revenge" by VictoriaTait https://www.krlnews.com/2021/11/wild-dog-revenge-kenya-kanga-mystery-by.html

Happy reading

Jungle Red Writers: Edith/Maddie Day is on a roll! A new cozy capers b...

Jungle Red Writers: Edith/Maddie Day is on a roll! A new cozy capers b...:   HALLIE EPHRON: It gives me great pleasure to welcome our own Edith Maxwell into the spotlight as she debuts with yet another book by he...

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: Is Substack for Fiction Writers?

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: Is Substack for Fiction Writers?: Subscription services for writers have had a spotty history. For one thing, these services have previously been based on borrows, rather tha...

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Wallace the Brave, Snug Harbor Stories, and Wicked...

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Wallace the Brave, Snug Harbor Stories, and Wicked...:     Reviewed by Ambrea   Wallace is a young boy with an adventurous spirit and a very active imagination.   Accompanied by his anxious b...

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thanksgiving Day Ten Years Ago

It was the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day ten years ago that the huddle of doctors moved into Sandi's hospital room, surrounded her bed, and dropped the cancer bomb. They knew, without a shred of doubt, that she had cancer and that things did not look good. They just did not know what type. A lot more testing over the next several days soon revealed the fact that she was fighting two different forms of Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. That and the damn evil bastards were literally everywhere in her.

It was just after Thanksgiving four years ago that they started losing pain control for her. She had come home that final time the Friday before Thanksgiving and they thought she had anywhere from a month to three months here with us. Though that initial assessment quickly shortened the way things were with her. Once they lost all pain control, she went through a final screaming hell for several days before she lapsed into unconsciousness. Her breathing gradually was quieter and quieter until she passed on December 1. 

We got two weeks.

So, today was hard as it always is now for both Scott and I. I tried again this year to cook a turkey and it turned out okay. Read a bit and watched a lot of football. Watched neighbors fool with Christmas decorations and thought again how much she loved all of this holiday stuff and how very much I absolutely hate all of it now. 

I only cried three times today over her and that was way better than last year. 

The day also marked the first full week with Scott marked the first full week off his anti seizure med so that was a very good thing. 

You take your wins where you can get them. 

Happy Thanksgiving


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Taking A Break

This is a very tough time of year for me. If I could hibernate and sleep this month and the next two away and get through the holiday hoopla by sleeping through it, I would do it in a heartbeat. Thrown on the stress that began by mail Saturday evening and the last several days have been very rough. Today was utter crap. 

So, I am taking a break from the world. I will be around and online from time to time, but there will not be much new content or links here the next several days. Take care of yourselves....and make sure you let the people you know how much you love them.

It is living lonely hell when they are gone. 



The Rap Sheet: A Legal Fiction Prize’s Future in Doubt

 The Rap Sheet: A Legal Fiction Prize’s Future in Doubt

A THANKSGIVING First Two Pages: “Last Bite” by Rhoda Berlin

 A THANKSGIVING First Two Pages: “Last Bite” by Rhoda Berlin

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 3 Distinctive Writing Conferences in December 2021

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 3 Distinctive Writing Conferences in December 2021: Because of the holidays, writing conferences are sparse in December. That doesn't mean there are none worth attending. The New York Pitc...

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Murder with a View by Diane Kelly (A House Flipper Mystery)

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Murder with a View by Diane Kelly (A House Flipper...:   Reviewed by Jeanne Carpenter Whitney Whitaker and her cousin, Buck, are “flippers” who buy rundown properties and rehabilitate them to...

Guest Post: BACK TO LIVE CONFERENCES by Nina Wachsman

Please welcome back author Nina Wachsman back to the blog today as she shares her recent experience at New England Crime Bake. After you read her guest post below, make sure to check out her post from earlier in the month regarding an excerpt from her short story, “Laundry After Midnight”, published in the anthology, Justice for All: Murder New York Style.




It was the last day of the conference and we were looking at bodies. Dead bodies. Murdered bodies. On a big screen at the front of the room, from a presentation by the medical examiner of the state of Connecticut. It was ghastly, but it was great. 

For the first time in more than a year, I got to sit next to real live people, to whom I could whisper, groan, or giggle with. Not a Zoom connection with an artfully organized background, but schmoozing while clinking wine glasses or coffee cups, going on and on about ourselves, our past year, and great ways to murder someone in our stories. Where else can you do all that?

Not that I haven’t appreciated all the great Zoom conferences I’ve attended in the past year. To name a few favorites: Historical Novel Society Annual Conference (my favorite), Summer Festival of Writing (Jericho Writers out of the UK run it), several sessions from Manuscript Academy and InkersCon, and of course, Tri-State Sisters in Crime monthly meetings. I still was able to meet and connect with people on those online conferences, including agents, but it was still great to get out and engage with real people.

In March 18, 2020, I contracted the corona virus, after going into my office at WeWork, and so we moved out and have been working from home ever since. This means that for more than an entire year I almost never had to wear heels, put on a dress, or wear makeup. Many days, I never had to leave my apartment, or even wear shoes.

Going to Boston and New England Crime Bake was the opportunity to put on all those nice clothes I ordered but never wore, and get all gussied up. The bonus was meeting new authors and buying great new books to read. Now, settled back into my cozy leggings and my overheated apartment, I can get back to writing.

Nina Wachsman ©2021 

Nina Wachsman is the author of “Laundry After Midnight”, published in the anthology, Justice for All: Murder New York Style, and a novel of historical suspense, The Gallery of Beauties, to be released in 2022 by Level Best Books. She lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Monday, November 22, 2021

THE STILETTO GANG: The Red Penguin Collection by Paula Gail Benson

THE STILETTO GANG: The Red Penguin Collection: by Paula Gail Benson Red Penguin Books , a small publishing company based in New York and headed by Stephanie Larkin, began an imprint to sh...



Dru's Book Musings: December 2021 Releases

 Dru's Book Musings: December 2021 Releases

In Reference To Murder: Media Murder for Monday for 11/22/2021

 In Reference To Murder: Media Murder for Monday for 11/22/2021

Markets and Jobs for Writers for 11/22/2021

 Markets and Jobs for Writers for 11/22/2021

Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: The Gray Man by Mark Greaney

Mark Greaney co-wrote the last three Jack Ryan books that Tom Clancy authored and then he continued the series by writing four more titles. He created the Gray Man thrillers about a former CIA operative turned international hit man, which so far has 10 books. Netflix has optioned the character for a feature film with Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, and Billy Bob Thornton, scheduled for release in 2022.

The Gray Man (Berkley, 2009) introduces Courtland Gentry, whose skill at taking out his assignment and then disappearing is so pronounced he’s considered nearly invisible. After a falling out with the CIA, he left their employ and became a skilled assassin for hire, working through an English security services firm that ostensibly provides bodyguards for high placed executives and consults on organizational security issues. The firm’s less savory services are advertised via word of mouth.

Unfortunately the Gray Man’s latest assignment in the Middle East, successfully executed of course, has caused a ripple in certain circles and pressure is brought to bear on his handlers to give him up. When the team sent to extract him from Iraq turns on him, the Gray Man does not know why but he evades their attempt to restrain him and goes on the run. Then his handler’s family becomes the focus of pressure and Gentry has to decide whether to give himself up or call the kidnappers’ bluff.

The relentless motion ranges from the Middle East to England to France. It reminded me a good deal of The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth (Viking, 1971). Gentry is just as cold-blooded as the Jackal, but where the Jackal took his victims out one at a time, Gentry is far more efficient, killing three or four or five at once. Gentry’s ability to fight wounded defies credibility and the plot is nothing out of the ordinary, but it’s a great piece of nonstop action with some carefully choreographed fight scenes. It will be interesting to see how the story transfers to screen. Fans of Orphan X and similar thrillers are especially among the target audience for these books. Definitely a binge-worthy series.

·         Publisher:  Berkley; Original edition (September 29, 2009)

·         Language:  English

·         Paperback:  464 pages

·         ISBN-10:  051514701X

·         ISBN-13:  978-0515147018 


Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2021

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Much Appreciated




Murder Books: The Bat Computer by Isabella Maldonado

 Murder Books: The Bat Computer by Isabella Maldonado

Beneath the Stains of Time: The Murder of Nora Winters (2016) by Robert Trainor

Beneath the Stains of Time: The Murder of Nora Winters (2016) by Robert Trainor: Robert Trainor's The Murder of Nora Winters (2016), the subject of today's review, was recommended by "JJ," of The Invisi...

Sample Sunday: Excerpt: Dirty Little Town (River City Book 7) by Frank Zafiro

Please welcome author Frank Zafiro to the blog today with an excerpt from his new book, Dirty Little Town. This is the seventh book in a really good series that should be read in order. 


In Frank Zafiro’s Dirty Little Town (River City #7), times are tough for the police. They’re understaffed, facing a collapsing budget and layoffs, an upset public, and a tyrant for a new chief. Worse yet, a killer stalks the streets, targeting vulnerable women. Katie MacLeod is assigned to stop him. Somehow, she must put aside the distractions and focus on her job – to serve and to protect.






Monday, August 25, 2003

0716 hrs

Day Shift


“You’re being detailed.”

“What?” Officer Katie MacLeod stared at Sergeant O’Sullivan from her driver’s seat. The two of them were parked car-side on the fringe of the River City Arena parking lot. A small cluster of cars near the Park and Ride were the only other vehicles to be seen.

“You’re being re-assigned to the Investigative Division,” Sully told her. “You’ll be assisting Detective Browning on his case.”

Katie blinked. “He’s working the serial.”

Sully nodded.

“I thought they were putting together a task force for that.”

“Apparently not.”

“Why aren’t they?”

“Politics, I guess. I don’t know.” Sully shifted in his seat and tugged at his bullet-resistant vest. “Or maybe you’re the task force.”

“Very funny.”  She considered for a moment, then another thought struck her. “Why me? I’m not a detective.”

“That’s the other thing,” Sully said. “You’re getting a provisional promotion.”

A slew of emotions washed through Katie at once. Exhilaration at the promotion. Guilt for leaving patrol when the division was so short-handed. And confusion at the unfamiliar term.

Confusion won out. “I’ve been here for over twelve years and I’ve never heard of a provisional promotion.”

“Neither had I,” Sully told her. “I had to pull out the contract and look it up.”

“And? What’s it mean?”

“It means a few things. For one, you’re promoted to the vacant detective position but not necessarily reassigned.”

“I’ve seen that before. Officers get promoted but don’t move right away. They get the stripe and the pay bump but keep working patrol until the rookie that’s taking their place gets through training. But—”

“But this is the opposite. You’re not staying in patrol. You’re being detailed to Major Crimes. And…”

She stared at him. “And what?”

“And you’re not getting the pay bump yet.”

Katie shook her head. “You’re sure that’s in the contract? It sounds shady.”

“It’s there. I mean, technically we’ve been working without a contract for the last year-and-a-half, but the terms of the expired contract continue during the negotiation period for the following one.”

“That sounds like something you learned for the sergeant’s exam.”

“It probably was. Imagine that – something on a civil service exam actually being useful in the real world. ‘Tis an odd t’ing, isn’t it?” Sully lapsed into his signature faux Irish brogue.

In spite of everything – the strange news, how tired she was, all the turmoil going on around the police department – the rare appearance of the O’Sullivan lilt made her smile a little. It reminded her of their days together on graveyard patrol. She missed Sully since his transfer to Special Police Problems last year. He seemed happier, though, so that was good. And it wasn’t like she never saw him. With all of the staffing shortages, he’d worked day shift patrol three times this month to fill in.

“Point is,” Sully was saying, “it’s legal. They can do it.”

“But why?

“I’m sure it all comes down to budget. Or contract negotiations, somehow.” He shrugged. “It’s not all bad. The alternative is not to make the promotion at all. Then the promotional list eventually expires and you’re back to square one. This way, at least you’re locked into the position. It’s just a matter of time until it gets finalized.”

She squinted, thinking. “Do you think Captain Saylor had anything to do with this?”

“Maybe. The mayor hasn’t given command a whole lot of leash from what I heard, though. Saylor and Reott are just steering the ship until we get a new chief.” He stroked his chin. Katie could see the slightest bit of stubble there. “Though that does sound like something he’d try to do, doesn’t it? Take care of his people, I mean.”

It sounded like it to her, too. But she wished the captain had thought to ask her about it. Abandoning patrol in the middle of a staffing shortage didn’t sit well with her.

“So, no extra pay, no stripe and I get reassigned?” Katie shook her head. “I don’t like it, Sully. Especially not when we’re so short out here. Even on day shift, we’re getting hammered.”

“I know.”

Katie punched up the calls waiting on her Mobile Data Terminal (MDT). “Eleven calls holding right now.” She hit another key. “And no other units clear.”

“Believe me, I know. But apparently, Investigations is even skinnier. That whole retirement protest stunt gutted them.”

Katie nodded grimly. Less than a month ago, a large swath of RCPD officers at all ranks retired en masse. The move was rumored to have been engineered by the police union to put pressure on the city during contract negotiations. She didn’t know how successful that ploy had been. The city was already hinting at laying off cops to balance the budget. And she didn’t see how the retirement protest helped them with a public that was already more than a little pissed off at the department, either.

Part of that is my fault, she thought, but pushed the idea aside. Now was not the time.

Regardless of the politics of it or its strength as a negotiating strategy, the immediate result that she experienced first-hand from the retirements was an already overtaxed patrol division suddenly thrust into a staffing crisis. Mandatory overtime and vacation cancellations were only the beginning, as sergeants scrambled to keep patrol shifts above the minimum staffing level. Concerns were initially about maintaining the same level of service delivery but reality quickly set in. The situation devolved into simply having enough cops on duty to answer the highest priority calls and for those working to be safe.

And now they want me to leave my platoon in the lurch?

“Do I have a say?”  she asked.

“I suppose you could turn down the promotion.”

Katie hesitated. Maybe she should.

“No,” Sully said. “You’re not doing that.”


“No,” he repeated. “You’ve earned this promotion, MacLeod. And it’s not your responsibility to clean up this mess. It’s up to the people that created it.”

“Who’s that, exactly? The mayor?”

“Yeah. And the last chief. City council. The citizens of River City. The union. Whoever. But not you.”

Katie took a deep breath and drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. “This is not how I imagined getting promoted to detective.”

“You were thinking there’d be a cake and punch ceremony?”

“No, that’s for retirements. But… I didn’t think it’d be like this.”

“I hear you. But this comes down from on high. So saddle up, MacLeod. You report to Lieutenant Crawford tomorrow morning at zero-seven. Congratulations.”

“Thanks, Sarge.”

“Good luck in the world of soft clothes,” Sully said. “Don’t get too fat for your uniform.”

“Look who’s talking. SPP is doing a number on you, chubs.”

Sully grinned at her. “Ouch, lass,” he said, affecting the Irish brogue again. “Ye go straight fer the heart, now, don’t ye?”

Katie rolled her eyes. Some things never changed. She took some small comfort in that.

Sully’s voice lowered slightly. “Seriously, though, watch yourself in Major Crimes. The dix office is already an old boys’ club. And Major Crimes is the circle within the circle. You’ll be the only woman.”

“So? It’s 2003, Sully. And I’ve been here twelve years.”

He gave her a knowing look. “Just saying. You haven’t been a rookie for a long time, and now you’re going to be playing in a league that thinks it’s the highest one that exists. There’s bound to be egos.”

Katie stared at him. “Is this what they taught you at sergeant school? How to deliver good news?”

“How’s this, then?” Sully grinned slightly as he put his car in gear. “Enjoy your last day on patrol,” he said. Then he goosed the accelerator and swept away.

Katie watched his unmarked patrol car zip through the lot and pull out onto Boone Avenue.

“Last day,” she mused quietly. “Last day in paradise.”

Then she turned to the MDT. It was time to start carving into the calls that were stacking up like cord wood.


0730 hrs


What an effete snob.

Captain Robert Saylor wasn’t impressed with Richard Sammael. The rail-thin man sat next to the mayor with his legs crossed in an attempt to appear urbane but only succeeded in coming across as arrogant. Despite the slight hunching of his shoulders, the way he cocked his head back ever so slightly gave the appearance that he was quite literally looking down his nose at them.

It was the man’s eyes, however, that told Saylor everything he needed to know. They brimmed with contrived sincerity, but he could see the cunning lurking behind that false front. It didn’t help that Sammael’s resting expression was a barely perceptible sneer.

“As I was saying,” the mayor continued. He’d been droning for the past several minutes, meandering through what Saylor could have said in two pithy sentences.

Thanks for minding the store, boys.

Now meet the new boss.

But the mayor was a politician. Any chance to talk meant a chance to talk a lot. So, Saylor sat and feigned an acceptable level of attention, waiting to see if either the mayor or Sammael himself had any bombs to drop in the midst of all this rhetoric.

He could feel Sammael’s eyes on him while the mayor spoke. More than that, he sensed the judgment, the appraisal, that came with that stare. It rankled him. Who was Sammael to judge him, or Reott, for that matter? The two of them had put in more than twenty years of service at RCPD. Sammael wasn’t even in uniform yet, opting instead for an expensive suit that Saylor highly doubted came off the rack. He didn’t deserve to pass judgment.

Saylor realized his face had tightened while the mayor spoke. He forced himself to relax. Deserve had nothing to do with it. Deserve was for poets and historians. He was a cop. He had to deal with what was. It was that simple. It is what it is, as the saying went.

What it was, though, was a jumbled mess.

Saylor glanced over at Sammael. The new Chief of Police had turned to watch the mayor blather. Saylor wondered if he’d only imagined the man’s stare a few moments before.

It is what it is, he groused inwardly. What a trite, useless phrase.  Saylor wouldn’t call himself an intellectual, but another sentiment came to mind that was far more appropriate to the situation.

How quickly the tide turns.

Less than eighteen months ago, he’d met with the chief of staff for the then-mayor. Over lunch, the chief of staff laid out a simple plan to Saylor. The chief at the time, a retired military officer who had just managed to make it to his four-year anniversary in that position, had bungled his last crisis. The mayor planned to fire him, insert Saylor as acting chief, and bring in an outsider to set things aright. Their preferred candidate was a woman who was a deputy chief in Houston.

Saylor knew that any chief was a roll of the dice, and doubly so an outside chief. He had never heard of her before that day. But his subsequent research left him optimistic.

He realized he was staring at Sammael while these thoughts went through his head. He glanced down at his watch before turning his gaze back to the mayor, who, to no one’s surprise, was still talking.

Another saying tickled the back of his mind.

Man plans and God laughs.

All of the then-mayor’s plans hinged on the belief that re-election was a foregone conclusion. Fire the chief, get re-elected, hire a new chief from Houston to heal the department. Instead, all that mayor managed to accomplish was the first step before either the tide turned or God laughed.

Saylor did his part, stepping in to steward the department through the brief interregnum that was supposed to last less than ninety days. Instead, the mayor’s upstart opponent capitalized on the growing dissatisfaction within the community toward the police, highlighted those failed crises, and pounded the drum so hard that the mayor actually lost the election.

The man who accomplished that feat finally stopped talking now to give Saylor and Reott a contrived, meaningful look. “I want to thank both of you for shepherding this department through the last fifteen months or so. I know I kept an active hand in things, but I was always confident in your ability to handle the day-to-day operations.”

Saylor almost laughed at that. The mayor had been a micro-manager from day one. He mistakenly thought he knew how to run a police department because he’d run a business, failing to see where the two did not overlap. Saylor had been tempted to flat out ask him if he’d been elected to mayor or chief of police but knew that would have done nothing but strip himself of any influence he might have with the man. When the mayor announced his long search for a new chief was narrowing, Saylor had been relieved. That was, until the mayor’s choice was announced.

The mayor turned to Sammael. “You can rely on these two captains, Chief. They’re good soldiers.”

Sammael’s lip twitched upward. “I’m certain.”

“All right,” the mayor said, “I’ve probably talked enough. Let’s get down to brass tacks.” He motioned toward Sammael. “Chief Sammael’s appointment is effective as of this morning. I’ll let him tell you what he expects from each of you, and this department.”

The mayor leaned back and folded his hands in front of his chest, looking pointedly at Sammael. The admiration on his face was plain.

“Thank you, Mr. Mayor.” Sammael spoke in velvety tones. He fixed his eyes on Saylor and Reott and affected a stern expression. “Captains, let’s be clear about a few things, right from the get. There are two kinds of chiefs in the policing world. There are healing chiefs, brought in to mend a department that’s been through hell. And there are wrecking ball chiefs, brought in to a disaster department to smash apart and then rebuild it.”

His lip twitched upward again.

“Make no mistake. I am the latter.”

Saylor’s jaw tightened.

Sammael noticed the reaction. “You don’t like that characterization, Captain Saylor?”

“Frankly, no.”

“Why not?”

“Because RCPD is a good department with good people.”

“Are you sure that’s why? Or is there another reason? Maybe something to do with your inability to turn things around during your time as acting chief?”

Saylor narrowed his eyes. “I was only acting for a few weeks. After the election, the mayor changed that. He took a more active role. Mike and I carried out the mission.”

“And yet, here we are, with a broken police department.”

“We’re not broken,” Saylor growled.

Sammael arched an eyebrow. “No? That’s not how it appears to the outside world.” He uncrossed his legs and re-crossed them with the other leg on top. “Let me tell you what the outside world sees. They see a police department full of cops who won’t sign a fair contract, who want more money despite doing a poor job over the past several years. They see a police department that shot two kids not very long ago, one completely on accident and one that could have been stopped through other means. They see a department that is failing to meet a community’s basic expectations for police service. Do you want me to go on? Because that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

“That’s completely unfair.” Saylor looked at Captain Michael Reott, who sat next to him, for support. Reott stared straight ahead, remaining silent.

“Who ever said life was fair?” Sammael shook his head in disappointment. “What matters is results. Outcomes. And here in River City, those have been pretty poor over the past several years. Longer, if you want the truth.”

Saylor knew he should cut bait. He’d spoken up with the last chief frequently and it resulted in a long, hard ride. Sammael seemed even worse. But he couldn’t remain silent. To him, leadership meant speaking up. When people didn’t speak, greater problems evolved than his own uncomfortable daily existence on mahogany row.

“As for meeting community expectations,” he said, “we are grossly understaffed at the moment. We’re struggling to respond to emergency calls during peak hours. Officers are being drafted on their days off to meet minimum staffing requirements for safety. We need to hire more police officers, but the budget—”

“Don’t swap cause and effect, Captain,” Sammael interrupted briskly. “The budget is what it is because of the poor job this department has done. Nobody wants to continue to pay for substandard service. And the staffing shortage is a direct result of that little retirement temper tantrum that the union orchestrated as a bargaining ploy.”

The chief wasn’t wrong but Saylor wanted to point out that the mayor was still considering layoffs, too. He bit his tongue and didn’t reply.

“There is one thing that this police department has done well over the past several years, however,” Sammael continued. “You’ve become very adept at making excuses. Every time something happens, every time you fail somehow, there’s always an excuse to trot out. Well, guess what, Captain? The public doesn’t care about your puny, pathetic excuses. The public cares about results. And so that is what I care about.”

He leaned forward, his teeth bared slightly in a hard sneer.

“Play time is over, gentlemen. The men and women of this department will perform in their assigned roles or suffer the consequences. No more free passes. No more excuses.” He leveled a finger at them but his eyes were on Saylor. “Starting with you.”

Saylor looked over at the mayor. “You can’t possibly agree with all of this, do you?”

The mayor only studied him in response.

“Don’t look to mommy for safety, Captain.” Sammael’s sneer melted into a thin, humorless smile. “Daddy’s here now.” 


Frank Zafiro ©2021

Frank Zafiro writes gritty crime fiction from both sides of the badge. He was a police officer from 1993 to 2013, retiring as a captain. He’s the author of over thirty crime novels. Frank hosts the podcast Wrong Place, Write Crime. He’s an avid hockey fan and a tortured guitarist.