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Authors: Linda Castillo

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural

After the Storm (27 page)

BOOK: After the Storm
7.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“I’m here for you,” he says in a low voice. “You finished here?”

“I think so.”

He motions toward the door. “I’ll follow you home.”

*   *   *

It takes us an hour to drive from Coshocton to Wooster. It’s dark by the time we reach the farm. I called Glock on the way, and he informed me that while he was able to obtain the warrant, they’ve not been able to locate Nick Kester. They spoke to his wife, who claimed they’d had an argument and Nick went to the Mosquito Lake for some pike fishing. Since the Mosquito Lake State Park is out of our jurisdiction, I asked Glock to contact the state park officer on duty try to locate Kester at the park.

Considering the seriousness of the situation, I should be at the station. If it wasn’t for Tomasetti, I would be, despite my aching body and throbbing head. But I know he’s upset, and this is one of those times when my personal life must take precedence over my job. I don’t know what to expect from him. The one thing I do know is that I want to fix it. If only I knew how.

I hear Tomasetti’s car door slam as I let myself into the house through the back door. Flipping on the overhead light, I’m welcomed by my tidy farmhouse kitchen, the smells of vanilla and lemon-scented furniture polish, and a table that’s somehow developed a thin layer of dust. I remove my .38 and set it on the tabletop. My equipment belt comes next. The .22 mini Magnum and the ankle holster. I drape all of it over the back of a chair. I try to shake off the apprehension creeping over me as I cross to the sink to wash my hands.

When Tomasetti comes in, I grab the towel off the hook and dry my hands. “Are you hungry?” I ask. “I didn’t get lunch and I’m—”

“We need to talk about what happened,” he cuts in.

Taking my time, I nod. “All right.”

“Kate, this is the second time someone’s tried to kill you. You don’t know who it is or why they did it. You don’t know how determined they are or if they’re going to try again.”

“I understand all of that,” I tell him. “There are multiple police agencies working on it, including BCI. They were able to lift tire tread marks. Glock and Skid are going to pull in Nick Kester for—”

“You don’t know that it was Kester.”

“I don’t know that it wasn’t. He’s a person of interest.”

“The point, Kate, is that you’re pregnant.”

“Don’t you dare throw that in my face,” I say, surprised by the unintended attitude in my voice.

It isn’t well received. I see anger overtake him—the way his mouth goes tight, his eyes go flat and cold—and I realize my mistake too late.

“You were out there alone,” he snaps. “In some barn out in the middle of fuck-all. Where the hell was Glock?”

“He was doing his job.” I pull the towel off my shoulder and sling it onto the counter. “I know you asked him to keep an eye on me. Tomasetti, I’m his boss. I’m as capable as he is. It was inappropriate for you to do that.”

Tomasetti doesn’t even flinch at the accusation. “I don’t care. Putting yourself in that situation was incredibly irresponsible.” He gestures in the general direction of my abdomen. “It’s not just you anymore, Kate. It’s not even just about us.”

I’ve seen Tomasetti angry many times over the years. Usually that anger is calculated. Conjured from that place where he keeps his emotions locked down tight until he needs it to make a point or he uses it as a tool to accomplish some goal. There’s nothing calculated about this; it’s raw and nasty, and I’ve never seen him skitter this close to losing control.

“I have a job to do,” I snap. “People rely on me. I can’t run away and hide until this is over. For God’s sake, Tomasetti, I’m a cop.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t be.”

Incredulity rises inside me, a flash flood churning and bursting its banks. “You have no right to ask me that. You can’t do that.”

“Don’t preach to me about my rights or what I should feel. I didn’t ask for this to happen. But it has, and now we have to deal with it.”

“Tomasetti, Painters Mill is a small town. Crime is usually negligible here. It’s a safe place to be a cop. What happened today is an anomaly.”

“Tell the shooter that, Kate! Tell the guy who had you in his sights and pulled the goddamn trigger! All it takes is one bullet and one lucky shot!”

“It’s part of the job! You know that. You have to accept that, or this isn’t going to work.”

“That’s the problem! It’s not working, Kate!”

“You’re being unreasonable,” I say, but my voice has gone breathless.

“Am I? Tell me you don’t think about something happening every time you make a stop. When you’re out on some back road in the middle of the fucking night and you have no idea who or what you’re walking up on. Does he have a warrant? Does he have a weapon in the waistband of his pants? A shotgun on the floor? A knife on the passenger seat? Is he willing to use it to stay out of jail? Tell me you don’t keep your hand over your .38. Can you tell me that? Honestly?”

“Of course I think about it. Every cop does if he’s smart. It’s called caution and training, and those are the things that keep us alive.”

He stalks toward me. “Yeah, Painters Mill is a small town. It’s safe. It’s a regular fucking lovefest. But let me tell you something: It’s the rural cops in towns like Painters Mill that don’t have backup when they need it. Even if you can
to your radio, how fast can someone get there to help you if you get into a jam?”

“I’m aware—”

“You could have been killed today, goddammit!”

I don’t even realize I’ve taken a step back. I’m not afraid of him. I trust him with my life. But he’s formidable when he’s angry. “I wasn’t.”

“Is that all you have to say about it? ‘I wasn’t’?”

“You’re out of line,” I tell him.

“You’re goddamn right I’m out of line,” he says. “I’m worried about you.” He taps his finger against his temple, snarling. “How can you not get that?”

Neither of us speaks for the span of several heartbeats. I absorb everything that’s been said, and I struggle to settle my emotions and put my thoughts in order. “Okay, Tomasetti, everything you’ve said is true. I know sometimes things go bad. But it’s a worst-case scenario. Chances are—”

“I don’t want to take those kinds of chances!”

“This isn’t just about me and my being pregnant. It’s about you and your past and what happened to you. What happened to your family. You’re letting that get in the way, and it’s not fair.”

His laugh is cold. “Don’t bring them into this.”

“You’re overreacting—”

“I’m overreacting because I love you!” he shouts.

The tension snaps like a steel cable. The words deflate the anger that had been building in my chest. I look at him, loving him, wanting desperately for things to be right between us. But I don’t reach out. This isn’t going to be settled easily. Maybe not at all.

“Female police officers get pregnant and have babies all the time,” I tell him. “It’s not an ideal situation, but they don’t quit their jobs or give up on their careers.”

“You can compromise. Take light duty. Cut out the late-night patrols.”

“You can’t ask me to do that.”

He says nothing, and the floor seems to crumble beneath my feet. I stare at him, flummoxed—and more upset than I’ve been in a very long time. “Tomasetti, don’t do this to me. Don’t make me choose.”

“We’ve both been thinking about it, Kate. All I did was open the box and let it out.”

I look down at my keys lying on the table. “I have to go,” I say as I snatch them up.

Spinning, I yank open the door. Then I’m down the steps in a single bound. Running toward the Crown Vic. Aware that I left my equipment belt and weapons. The interior light comes on as I hit the remote to unlock the doors.

I hear the door slam behind me. The pound of Tomasetti’s feet. “Kate.

I reach the car, yank open the door. Out of the corner of my eye I see him coming around the rear, gaze steady and latched on to me. Sliding into the car, I jab the key into the ignition, turn it.

“Don’t go,” he says.

I try to close the door, but he’s standing in the way so I can’t. Gently, he sets his hand on my arm and bends to me. “Please,” he says. “I’m sorry. Don’t go.”

“Tomasetti, what the hell are we doing?”

“I think the official term is ‘fighting.’”

I choke out a laugh. “Don’t make me laugh, damn it. This is serious.”

“I know.”

I don’t turn off the engine. “I don’t know what to do.”

Letting his hand slide down my arm, he takes my hand and steps back. “For starters, you can come here.”

I turn the key and get out of the vehicle. He closes the door and then eases me backward until I’m leaning against it, and he falls against me.

“I was out of line,” he tells me. “I’m sorry.”

When I look away, he raises his hand and cups my chin, forcing my gaze back to his. “This scares me,” he says. “I’m not very good at being scared.”

“Neither am I.” I stare at him, trying to untangle the emotions thrumming inside me and the words sticking to my tongue. “You’re not having second thoughts, are you?”

“You mean about us?”

“I mean if you need some space, I’ll give it to you.”

“I don’t need any goddamn space. I need you.”

“Tomasetti, there’s no easy solution to this.”

“I know.” He leans closer and kisses me, his mouth lingering on mine. “We’ll figure something out.”



The call from Dr. Alan Johnson comes as I walk through the door of my office at just before 9:00
Setting my laptop case on the floor, my coffee on the blotter, I catch the line on the third ring.

“We finally received our archived records for Leroy Nolt,” the doctor begins.

“Do the serial numbers match?” I ask.

“Yes, they do. That plate is the same one my father used to repair Leroy Nolt’s broken arm.”

I’d known that would be the case; there were too many coincidences for the remains not to belong to Nolt. Still, this makes it official. Now all I need is the cause and manner of death from the coroner.

“Thank you for checking on that for me, Doctor Johnson.”

“Of course.”

“I’d appreciate it if you’d keep this information confidential until I can notify the family.”

“Certainly, Chief Burkholder. Good luck with the case.”

I’m still on my first cup of coffee, thinking about Sue and Vern Nolt, when Glock calls me on my cell.

“Any luck with Kester?” I ask him.

“I hooked up with Trumbull County and a state park officer. We spent the night out at Mosquito Lake State Park, but Kester never showed.”

“You search his place?”

“He and his wife are staying with his father-in-law, Chief. I got the warrant and Skid and I went out there. But Kester took his stuff and left. Wife’s gone, too.”

“Shit.” I think about that a moment. “He own a .22 rifle?”

“We didn’t find anything. No gun. No ammo. His father-in-law said he doesn’t own a weapon, but you know how that goes.”

“We have to assume he’s armed and dangerous.” I sigh. “I’m going to put out a BOLO on Kester.”

“Probably a good idea at this point.”

“Get some sleep,” I tell him.

“Yes, ma’am.”

*   *   *

I’ve just finished putting out the BOLO on Nick and Paula Kester, when T.J. peeks his head into my office. “You got a minute?” he asks.

“Sure. Have a seat.” I motion to the visitor’s chair adjacent my desk.

Taking the chair, he raises the papers in his hand. “I know you’re dealing with the Kester thing, Chief, but I was looking over some of these old police reports from around the time Leroy Nolt went missing.” He flicks the paper with his index finger. “I think I hit gold.”

I take the paper and read. It’s a poor copy of a handwritten incident report for an “unknown disturbance” from the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Department dated August 29, 1985. Deputy Mack Pelletier wrote:

Responded to disturbance call in the 3500 block of County Road 600 south of Charm. Concerned neighbor reported “screams and yelling” coming from the farm next door. Child witness reported an unknown individual falling into livestock pen with possible serious injury. Child’s mother, SuAnne Ferman, heard nothing but stated child witnessed the accident at Kaufman farm next door and was frightened. Responding deputy arrived on scene and spoke with property owner, Reuben Kaufman, who stated the child sneaked onto property and became upset after witnessing the butchering of hogs. No citation issued. No further action required. End.

interesting.” I look at T.J. “Do you have an address for SuAnne Ferman?”

“I checked. Ferman passed away a few years back.”

“Well, shit.”

He grins. “Daughter’s around, though.”

“The kid who saw it?”

“Yep.” He looks down at the paper in his hand. “Sally Burris lives in Berlin. She’s owns a shop called Homespun.”

I smile back at him. “How old was she when this happened?”

He checks the paper in his hand. “Nine, according to the report.”

“Old enough to remember.”

*   *   *

Homespun is located in the front half of a small cottage-style home just off of Main Street in Berlin. The bell jangles when I open the beveled-glass door. I’m welcomed by the warm aromas of sandalwood, bergamot, and patchouli, and find myself surrounded by old-fashioned wooden shelves jammed with handmade candles of every shape and size and scent. Mason jars, martini glasses, hurricanes—even seashells. The wall to my left is plastered with dozens of cuckoo clocks, some in the shape of the iconic red-and-white barn, others in the form of an Amish buggy. At the rear, a plump red-haired woman wearing a purple cardigan is ringing up a sale for a customer.

I browse salt and pepper shakers, hot pads, and homemade dog biscuit kits while the two women chat about the tornado. I find an amber-scented candle in a sea-glass hurricane I like. When the customer leaves, I approach the counter and set it next to the antique cash register. “You have some beautiful things,” I begin.

The woman behind the counter beams a smile and picks up the candle. “Oh, I just love the sea glass. It’s one of my favorite pieces in the whole store. And the scent is to die for.”

BOOK: After the Storm
7.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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