Friday, October 1, 2010
Welcome to Guest Blogger John Lindermuth
Being Someone Else, fourth in the Sticks Hetrick mystery series, is set in a fictional rural village near Harrisburg PA. Hetrick is a retired police chief who has been called back to service as consultant to his less experienced successor.
Blurb: When an out-of-state reporter is found murdered in the restroom of a disreputable bar the tendency to violence spirals and the investigative trail keeps bringing Hetrick and his team back to the family of a wealthy doctor who has come back to his hometown in retirement.
But, in keeping with the theme of this blog, I’d like to focus on Flora Vastine, one of Hetrick’s protégés. She warranted only a few paragraphs in Something in Common, the first of the series.
She wasn’t a police officer then and had a minor role in that novel. In fact, I didn’t even see her as a recurring character at the time. In Cruel Cuts I had need of both another protégé for Hetrick and a love interest for Corporal Harry Minnich. Flora, who had expressed interest in a police career in the first novel, fit the requirements.
Hetrick was still mourning the loss of his wife Sarah and I didn’t anticipate his falling in love with some one else at that point (though he almost did succumb to the charms of old friend Melissa Kline). Still I thought a little romance was necessary to broaden interest in what I now envisioned as an ongoing series. Even in the darkest of crime novels characters need to have interest in a little more than just catching the villain in order to be fully developed. Flora and Harry were the obvious choices for my purpose.
Since then Flora has become a major player. In fact, she warrants nearly as much space in Corruption’s Child and Being Someone Else as does Hetrick. Flora is young and energetic. She has enthusiasm and genuinely cares about other people. Occasionally she makes mistakes and gets in trouble. All of which make her very human.
The best thing about a double shift was that it eventually ended. Tired as she was, Flora Vastine found solace in that thought. She loved her job but this had been a tough week and Flora was grateful, realizing tomorrow she would be off duty. She’d been on cruiser patrol Friday night and now, well into Saturday morning, Flora was ready to head home and get to bed. Fortunately her night had been boringly uneventful. Earlier she’d been a bit jealous the call for the DOA at Vinnie’s Bar had gone to Fred and not her. Now the thought that her fellow officer might still be at the crime site while she was at the end of her shift was cause for something akin to pleasure.
Flora stifled a yawn and rolled down the cruiser window. Though there were still a few gray patches of snow in the field opposite, the air wafting in through the opening felt warm, even muggy. She recalled seeing a robin yesterday morning while on her run and remembered there was a misty green haze of buds about to pop on the trees. Spring was definitely in the air.
Tomorrow she and Harry would spend time together for the first time in weeks. He’d promised a surprise. Flora had a suspicion. Her birthday was approaching and Harry and her father had been closeted in secret conversations several times in recent weeks. Were they planning a party? She hoped not. That was for kids. But a surprise gift would be…
The whine of a motor interrupted her thoughts. Motorcycle. Not loud enough for a Harley. Maybe a Yamaha or Suzuki. Her brother Ed used to have a Suzuki. It made that same pinging sound as it accelerated. She saw it then. The driver hunched low over the bars, veered off the street, cut diagonally across the field behind her and disappeared into a stand of trees. There was a trail back there; narrow but wide enough for a bike. She hoped he knew where he was going. Bad to take a spill in those woods late like this when few people would be available to help if you were hurt.
Flora switched on the ignition and put her vehicle in gear.
Headlamps flashed through the trees and she heard the approach of another vehicle. Fast, too. Too fast, even if it was late and no other traffic on the road. There were some dangerous curves on this stretch.
The vehicle flew past, tires whomping in ruts, kicking up a cloud of dust and flinging stones. Flora pulled out in pursuit. She turned on her overheads and hit the siren once in warning. High-speed chases were against department policy. Flora hoped the driver would heed her warning.
And he did.
Squealing its brakes and throwing up another veil of dust, the car fish-tailed to a halt at the bottom of the grade. The driver revved the engine but didn’t move again as she pulled in behind him. The moon was bright enough overhead she could clearly make out a red Mazda Miata convertible. Late model. Maybe a 2006. Nice ride. Fast on the take off and plenty of speed. What did the ads say? Zoom, zoom. Right. Maybe it was a good thing the driver pulled over. She wasn’t sure her cruiser had the stuff to catch it if he hadn’t.
Flora took her Mag-lite and got out, approaching the driver’s side cautiously. She could see the driver watching her in the side mirror. He turned his face up and smiled as Flora stepped up beside him. “What’s the trouble, sweet-thing?”
Flora felt her face go hot with the remark. Some people just didn’t respect the uniform. “License and registration, sir,” she snapped.
“Sure. What’s the problem?”
“You were speeding, sir.”
He grinned as Flora shone the light in his face and across the interior. Mid to late-thirties, tanned—at this time of year—blond, tousled hair a bit on the long side. His green eyes sparkled in the light. “Yeah. Guess I was going a bit fast. But there’s nobody else out and I know this road like the back of my hand.”
“I’ll need to see your license and…”
“Sure, sure.” He reached a hand to the glove box and pulled out the documents.
Flora took them to the rear of the vehicle, held the light up and scanned them. Philip Donahue, Turkey Hollow Road. She didn’t know the driver but the road wasn’t far from here.
“Everything okay, sweetie?” Donahue called.
Burning, Flora stalked up to his side. “Sir, have you been drinking?”
“Okay. I confess. I had a couple beers. Can I go now if I promise to take it slower. I just want to get home to bed.”
“Would you step out of the car, please.”
With a sibilant sigh, Donahue opened the door and slid out. He was taller than her, athletic looking. “You wanna do the Breathalyzer?”
She was half inclined to put him through the whole routine. Instead, she said, “Let’s just see if you can walk a straight line.”
He gave her a smile and took off, walking fast, one foot in front of the other. He turned and came back again. “Shall I touch my nose with my forefinger now?” he asked.
Flora was forced to grin. “I see you’ve been through this before.”
“A few times.”
“You realize I’m gonna have to give you a speeding ticket.” She could have went for a DUI but she was tired and that inclined her to leniency.
He shrugged. “Write away, my dear. Only don’t take too long, okay? I just want to get this tired ol’ body home to bed.”
She wrote out the ticket, gave him his copy and documents. “Go on home, sir, but take it a little more cautiously.”
Donahue glanced at the ticket, gave her a salute and started to get back in the Mazda. Then he swiveled round to face her. “Does Officer Vastine have a first name?”
Flora scowled. “Just go home, Mr. Donahue.”
He nodded and got in the car. “Okay, pretty Officer Vastine. See you around.” He put the Mazda in gear and pulled out, spraying dirt and pebbles which clattered against Flora’s cruiser.
Thank you so much, John for sharing with us. I am sure your book will be very successful. More about John and his books can be found at www.whiskeycreekpress.com