Chapter 2

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The next morning I woke at my usual six o’clock. Before I lost courage, I called Lt. Hastings and left a voice message: nothing urgent, but would she give me a call? The gray overcast sky and smell of humidity convinced me to run early, before the sun converted all outdoors into a sauna. I still had a month and a half before a planned marathon, which meant three more weeks of hard work before I began tapering off.

My route around the Clifton gaslight district took me past areas of historic late nineteenth-century mansions, turn-of-the-century Victorians like mine, 1920s bungalows, and a scattering of more modern houses. Robins whistled the day in from shade trees and dewed lawns. Running time was thinking time—in this case about Skyler and her fiancé, Samuel Presser.

Why had someone killed him? Skyler had inserted that question under my skin and, like a splinter, it shot a brief twinge up my nerves each time I touched it. Why had I offered to talk to the Cincinnati police? I wasn’t sure of my motives, but the mix certainly included not wanting to disappoint Skyler, innate curiosity, the challenge of figuring out something no one else had—and I wouldn’t mind seeing Lt. Hastings again. If I hadn’t been running already, the thought of her would have increased my heart rate.

The whoop of a police siren startled me into the air.

“Don’t you know you’re supposed to run on the left side of the road?”

Speak of the devil. Even with my back to her, I recognized Lt. Hastings’ voice. I trotted to the passenger side of the unmarked police car. “You scared the bejesus out of me,” I said. “I run on the right because it’s better for my broken foot.”

“Come again?”

Between pants I responded. “Broke my arch playing soccer. Years ago. Killed my pro career in the first year. Never completely healed. It’s more comfortable to run on the right.” Why was I telling her all this stuff?

“You say so. I’ve been following you for several blocks. Even though I know you’re only six foot two, your head was way up in the clouds. You left a message?”

“And you drove all over Clifton to find me?”

“I was heading to Northside and stopped by your house. I happened to see you crossing Ludlow and followed. What’d you want?”

“Long story.” I had no clue how to approach this, so I delayed. “How about I buy you lunch sometime in the next few days?”

“That’s big of you. Why do I sense an ulterior motive?”

“Me? Ulterior motive? My 2007 calendar says in big red letters that it’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Week. I want to do my civic duty.”

“Just a minute while I put my waders on.” A grin crept over her face. “I’ve got a meeting at city hall later this morning. Would ten ‘til noon at the Rock Bottom on Fountain Square do?”

“Sure you don’t want to make it eleven fifty-two to give yourself extra time?”

“What’s this crap? I thought it was cop appreciation week?”

 ◊◊◊ 

My garage door stuck partway up. A hip check rattled it loose. I needed to do something about that track, but no one had ever accused me of being handy. I chose my 1992 Infiniti G-20 and parked in a downtown underground lot.

Fountain Square was busy despite August’s broiling sun. Young male office workers with rolled-up sleeves and opened collars roosted around the fountain like a flock of pigeons. I walked to the upper section and found a shady spot where I could observe the lower level while waiting for Hastings.

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