Chapter One

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"For in the sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause. There's the respect that makes calamity of so long life." – William Shakespeare

The January morning chilled me to the bone in a way that my Thermos full of hot coffee couldn't help with. There was no snow on the ground, but there was definitely a threat of it in the air – you could never tell how a Missouri day was going to go, and it didn't even matter what time of year it was. We'd had massive ice storms in the past, complete with tornadoes in January while there was still ice on the power lines. To say that Missouri weather was unpredictable was to say that the sky was blue, that water was wet – you get the drift.

Januaries were especially unpredictable, it seemed. Ask any Missourian about the 2007 ice storm from the 12th to the 14th, and I guarantee you they have a story about how the power went out, how it was hard to stay warm. My family had a wood stove that we huddled around for days, for example, but people in bigger cities had the option of going to hotels. Then, a few years later, another ice storm – less severe than the one in '07, but this one came with a freak tornado. That was the joy, I guess, of living in the Midwest. Sometimes life gives you ice storms, sometimes it gives you tornadoes, sometimes all you get is the gentle snow falling on the ground around the body of a man you've just had to shoot in self-defense, and you watch as the snow turns red.

I'm getting ahead of myself here. I don't need to tell you anything about the shooting of Sheriff's Deputy Stacy Richards just yet. Before I can tell you that, you have to hear about the body in the water, about the first murder in Linwood, Missouri, in 15 years, the one that started a string of bodies that took us all over Current County. The waters of the Current River ran red that January.

First things first, though. My name is Jamie St. Clair, short for Gemma, which never felt like it fit as well as Jamie did. I'm a lot of things – I'm a daughter to a wonderful mother, a sister to a less wonderful brother. I've known I was gay since I was fourteen, and the town has known since I graduated high school and thought I was leaving forever. It's a little awkward being back, as you can imagine.

I'm a cop. Or, at least, I was a cop, in Oregon, for six months, before it all came crashing down around me. Now I'm back in good ol' Linwood, trying my best to take care of my mother and keeping my head down. The rumor mills in small towns don't care about the damage they do, and everyone knew what had happened out in Oregon, or at least they thought they did. All they really knew for a fact was that I set out with my hopes high and I came back with them crushed. Six months of academy training down the drain, they all said, all because Jamie St. Clair couldn't keep her shit together long enough in Oregon to keep a job. It was the stress, they said, didn't you hear? All that stress sent poor Jamie to the psychiatric hospital for a month.

They didn't know the truth, they just knew the facts. They didn't know anything about what I went through out in Oregon, they had no idea why I came back to Linwood. And yeah, it was true that I had done a stint in psychiatric treatment, but no one really knew why. Frankly, the answer was complicated, personal, and it was easier to let them think that it was the stress that drove me to it.

Robert Wynn was the sheriff of Current County, and Linwood sat just inside the county lines. He was my first and only hope when it came to working in law enforcement in Missouri. There was no way the bigger departments would touch me even if I could pass a psych eval, even if I was perfectly stable, even if anyone would have lost their mind a little after going through what I went through. Current County Sheriff's Department, though, was looking to hire another deputy and bring their total number of officers up to four. The office was in Linwood, close to my mother's house, and if I could just get my foot in the door, I thought, I could at least be doing what I loved and what I'd worked for, even if it wasn't what I planned.

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