Ours is but to do or die.
A Kate Hamilton Two-Hour Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Short Reads
Science teacher Kate Hamilton is moving to Washington DC, to be closer to her disabled SEAL husband.
Her marriage is held together by a thread. Her baby is due very soon...too soon.
Kate begins the new semester at William Howard Taft High teaching their new criminal justice classes with her neighbor Detective Dave Murphy.
Her student finds an injured vet. Kate delivers first aid.
An object passed from victim to good Samaritan, a class of teens who don’t like to be told “no”, this all seems too familiar to Kate.
Good intentions don’t always lead to good outcomes.
Join Kate as she tries to stay one step ahead of the killer in this urban cozy mystery.
Release date: January 29, 2020
Print pages: 135
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Listen to a sample
The January air nipped at Kate’s nose as she stood on the gravel drive beside her great aunt’s house. Kate was wrapped in her husband Ryan’s black winter jacket, which hung almost to her knees. She liked to wear it because it smelled like him. Somehow, that was comforting, like he’d wrapped Kate up and was keeping her safe—even if that was all just wishful thinking.
Last June, Kate left their house in Boston to stay with her great aunt, giving Ryan some space and some time to get himself to a safer place following a traumatic brain injury he sustained in theater.
Ryan was okay with his SEAL brothers stepping up and helping him.
But he was hellbent on keeping Kate away from the fray.
Fine, she’d give him some space. While he was up in Boston, Kate was down here in her childhood home town, wishing she weren’t. She spent last summer working on a CSI internship here, then she got a grant to teach CSI sciences at the high school one town over for the fall semester.
September arrived, though, when Kate was sixteen weeks into her pregnancy, and she couldn’t keep it secret any longer.
She knew all along that if Ryan found out she was pregnant; he would do everything he could to keep his son safe. And her.
In Ryan’s great wisdom, he rode his motorcycle down from Boston to get her to sign divorce papers while she was representing him at a fallen SEAL’s funeral in Washington D.C.
Ryan thought he was being a hero, letting her off the hook, giving her a clear runway to take off on a new life with a new man.
That thought made Kate nauseous.
Kate tried very hard not to blame herself for the accident that happened just minutes after she tore up those divorce papers and flung them back in Ryan’s face.
She’d left to head back to her Aunt Emma’s house where she’d been laying low.
Ryan left, presumably to go back to Boston, but a drunk plowed into his Harley, sending Ryan flying through the air.
Into a coma.
A second traumatic brain injury.
And while things had been bad before, at least Ryan hadn’t been in physical pain. He was able to play with his service dog, to exercise, to be with his military brothers. He had some semblance of a life.
He lay there in his bed at the long-term care facility, refusing pain meds because “the hell he’d become an addict.” He lay there with terrible pain that radiated across his head and down his neck.
The experts were trying to figure out the cause; but so far, there were no answers. That wasn’t unusual though. It was almost expected, she’d been told.
When she visited Ryan on the weekends, Ryan would only say, “Please. Please.
Please sign the papers.”
And she would play deaf and dumb.
So today, this coat, wrapping her and her pregnant belly, was a source of comfort at a bleak time.
Kate enfolded her Aunt Emma in her arms. “I’m feeling guilty about leaving you.” She ended the hug by rubbing her hands up and down her aunt’s arms as if to warm her. “There’s room in the house I’m renting. Why don’t you come down and stay with me, at least until after the baby comes?”
“You’re going to miss my blackberry cobbler, are you?”
“I don’t like the thought of you rattling around in this house all by yourself.” Kate gestured back at the Georgian home that had been in Uncle Owen’s family for generations. When Ryan kicked her out, for her own safety, Kate was on her way here to stay for the summer, and just happened to arrive the same day her uncle died. Her great aunt seemed to have shrunk over these last months. Aged. Grown more diaphanous. Kate was worried about her being here alone.
“I couldn’t leave the mountains around Scarborough and be happy. You can understand that. Same with you, hungry to get back to city life and the bustle. You just don’t fit here, never did.”
“I have to go…with the baby, and Ryan, I have to—”
“Be in a job that has insurance. You tell me this every day. You can let that guilt go. Your priorities are lined up right. Your family needs you.”
“You’re family,” Kate whispered.
Aunt Emma patted Kate’s arm as Kate’s friend Tim rounded from behind the Ford Explorer where he’d tucked her suitcases in the back. “Ready?”
“She’s already on a guilt trip. I’d say, the sooner Kate gets herself down the road, the better she’ll feel.”
Tim caught Kate’s eye. “I’ll keep an eye out for your aunt. We already have a plan, right Mrs. Jenkins? As soon as Little Guy comes into the world, I’ll be driving her to Washington so she can give you a hand.”
“And he’s going to come pick me up again when I can’t stand the city for another second.” Aunt Emma poked a finger into Kate’s arm.
Aunt Emma was fine.
This was going to be fine.
“As a member of the police force here in Scarborough, I can’t get rid of you fast enough.” Tim rocked back comfortably onto his heels and sent her a wink. Tim was the town’s detective. The town hadn’t really needed a detective—until Kate arrived last June. Then, murders seemed to come out of the woodwork. “I’d agree to almost anything to get you out of town so our crime rate can drop back to zero,” he punctuated that with a grin.
Tim and Kate had known each other all their lives, dated in high school, and were back to being—well, more than friends, more like family.
“I’m trusting you to watch out for Aunt Emma.” Kate sniffed back her tears. She turned to plant a kiss on her aunt’s papery cheek.
“Will do,” Tim said, as Kate turned her belly out of the way to give him a hug good-bye. “You’re going to be fine, Katydid. I have every faith in you.” He dropped a brotherly kiss onto her head.
Kate tucked her chin and made her way to the driver’s side door, forestalling the sob that crawled up her throat. Stupid pregnancy hormones.
Tim held up a hand to wave as Kate slid her ungainly belly behind the wheel.
Thirty-one weeks along, now, Little Guy was due at the end of February.
She needed more time. “It’s okay, sweet boy. We’ll figure it out,” she said softly, shutting her door, and fastening her safety belt low across her hips.
“Call when you’re there and safe.” Aunt Emma took a step to stand closer to Tim, and he wrapped her in a protective arm.
Kate gave two toots to the horn as she backed out of the gravel drive. Tomorrow would be her first day at her new job, she hoped things would start turning around for her in Washington.
But wherever Kate went, bad things seemed to trail along behind her.
Monday afternoon, Kate waddled across the parking lot at William Howard Taft High. Dressed in her CSI-styled maternity khakis, a navy-blue collared shirt, and wrapped in Ryan’s winter coat, she paused to wait when she saw Dave pull into a parking spot.
Detective Dave Murphy was going to be co-teaching this class with her. While this special-invitation class met every afternoon, last class of the day, Dave would only be joining her two or three times a week to add his expertise.
“Hey there.” She raised her free hand. “Good timing.”
Dave held up a finger while he stalled beside his car to answer a call.
Setting her bag by her feet, Kate tucked her hands into her pockets to wait. Kate was pretty sure that Dave was the reason she had her position with the Washington D.C. Police. She didn’t know what favors he pulled. It wasn’t easy to get a new job when you would be needing maternity leave a couple months into the contract period.
In her new position, during the weekdays, Kate would rotate between various public middle schools doing special presentations for classes. Mostly, this meant that science teachers could get her to step in and teach a class, hand them ready-to-go teacher plans, and follow up assignments. Kate had developed most of her curriculum during her last semester teaching CSI in Boonestown, Virginia. There, she’d gotten a feel for what worked and what fell flat, at least for rural students.
Whether teaching in the lower grades or coming here to the high school for the intensive CSI course, through all her student interactions, Kate was an ambassador for the Washington D.C. Police Department. She was supposed to make them look cool. That was a stretch, making the police look cool while she looked and felt like a sack of potatoes.
She’d give it her best shot, though.
The most important aspect of her job, as she was told by her employer, was to develop a high school curriculum as a recruiting tool.
Okay, that’s not quite how they put it.
There was an initiative, that was funding her employment, with several worthy goals. The DCPD wanted to address the need for a diverse police force. They wanted to bring students through the pipeline who had lived in the areas where there was statistically more crime. The thinking was that those who knew the area culture, and had relationships with the citizens, would know best what worked and what didn’t work in bringing safety to the streets.
The police also wanted to focus positively on at-risk youth who hadn’t yet given in to the streets, helping them with skills, mentorship, and with the successful completion of this class, the opportunity for scholarship money to study in the criminal justice field.
Dave slid his phone in his pocket and made his way over to her.
“I got my roster of students this morning.” Kate pulled her hand across her long brown hair as the wind swept it across her face. “All males. Not a single female was identified as a possible future police officer?” She stooped to grab the handles of her bag.
“All guys?” Dave asked.
“I thought the goal was diversity. Were they only talking about skin color?”
“Languages, religions, LGBTQA…there was a spectrum. Gender was one of the demographics on the list.” He reached for Kate’s bookbag to carry for her. “What the heck you got in here, bricks?”
“Gonna bribe them from the beginning, so you’re their favorite? Didn’t even give me a heads up so I could bring them some doughnuts or something?”
“Doughnuts!” She swung her hand out to catch his arm. “Dave, that would have been a genius first day surprise.”
“Too bad it’s too late.” He slowed his pace, so she didn’t have to struggle to keep up. “Only guys. That’s a problem. It was the school resource officer and the guidance counselor that sent the invitations last semester. I wasn’t involved in all that. It could be that the invitations went out and only the males took us up on this honor.” Dave stood about five foot ten, balding, a little paunchy, a little unkept, also incredibly smart and invested in his job from everything Kate had gathered.
“If that were the case, the females should have been brought in and the chance at scholarship monies and your other perks should have been made clearer. Now, if it’s the case that no females were invited, and neither the SRO nor the guidance counselor noticed, that’s a problem that might have ramifications for the girls across their school experience.”
“Egg shells, Kate. We’re here as an experiment and a resource.”
“I hear you. You sure you want to get bent out of shape before we go in there?” At least he didn’t say it in a placating/mansplaining voice. This was more about pragmatism.
“No. I’m not.” She took a few paces, trying to stuff her outrage. “All males, Dave,” she grumbled under her breath. This was the exact opposite issue than what she’d had last semester when they filled her classroom with girls thinking that CSI studies was science light.
“I’ll follow up.” He pushed the bar on the door and went in to hold it wide for her. “Remember, we’re guests in this school. Our goal, our whole reason for being here, is to make sure we set the stage for future crime solvers.”
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