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Chloe has finished her masters degree and taken a job as a forensic scientist back in her home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico, only the press will not leave her alone. They follow her to crime scenes and report on her every move, eager to show that her marriage to Hollywood A-lister, Jason Vanderholt, is on the brink of collapse. Millions of fans who dream of their own celebrity romance with him want this more than anything. This scrutiny comes at a particularly bad time as Chloe's first case is a crime against a child roughly the same age that Chloe was when she survived a homicide attempt.
Now that she sees the case from an adult's perspective, she realizes it's much harder than she ever dreamed. It's even worse for Jason, who is two steps removed from the crime. He must watch and try to support his wife as she battles with past demons and tries to keep up with a nameless suspect who evades identification and capture. Never has Jason been more frustrated with his job, its frivolities, and its lack of connection to the real world. When he storms off the set of his latest movie, the press goes wild with conjecture. Perhaps he never was anything more than a pretty face after all.
Together, Chloe and Jason must find their way past all the popping flashbulbs and through the dark maze of the criminal investigation to discover whether they can balance their professional goals with the demands of a celebrity marriage. The odds are entirely against them.
The first thing I heard when I walked into the lab was the police dispatcher’s voice coming from a police scanner set up on the counter.
“Okay… We’ve had a call in to 911 that someone heard popping noises at a house. Hernandez? Wolfson? Can you guys get over to a house in Volcano Cliffs?”
“That might have been gunshots. It’s all I’ve got. Can you go check?”
“Not right now. We’ve got someone stalled out in the middle of Coors and then pretty sure we got a DWI. And two people just ran a stoplight.”
“Well, when you get a chance, here’s the address.”
The lab was in a basement and had enough fluorescent light banks in the ceiling to make anyone look like a walking corpse. The place was still empty; I was the second person to arrive today.
The first to arrive, a man, straightened up when he saw me. He’d been leaning against a worktable at the back of the room and had his dark hair buzzed short. His gray green eyes looked me over and his mouth turned down at the corners. “Chloe Vanderholt?”
“Yeah, hi.” I debated holding out my hand for a handshake, but since he didn’t, I didn’t.
“Right… so…” He looked me up and down, in an appraising rather than lecherous way, and said, “Come back to my desk. We should probably talk. I’m the new supervisor here.”
“Yeah, that’s me.” He turned to lead the way. The lab was one large room with desks at the back, shelves of books in the corner, and equipment arrayed on counters and worktables throughout.
From his aloof manner, I got the distinct impression that this wasn’t a friendly, welcome-to-the-team kind of chat. Once at his desk, he hooked a chair from a nearby desk for me and sank down into his seat. “I’ve never met you before, which is kind of strange since I’ve been interviewing new applicants since before I got promoted to supervisor.”
“I was interviewed by the previous supervisor and the Police Chief-”
“I know. That’s not normal.”
Because this lab was under the jurisdiction of the police department, the Chief of Police was its director, so her conducting an interview was something she had the power to do, even if it wasn’t the sort of thing she ever, actually did. I wondered now if this new supervisor was going to terminate me on the spot just to get back at her. That idea did have a certain appeal.
“You went to a good school and got good references and all that,” he said. “I’m sure you can be a good crim.” “Crim” was short for criminalist, and was what most forensic scientists called themselves. “But, we haven’t had any job openings lately. Our budget is real tight. I mean, how did you even apply?”
It was all I could do not to squirm on the rock hard cushion of the office chair. “I was just offered an interview a few months ago.” Not my usual style at all. Jason and I had discussed it at length, since it was obviously a courtesy extended to the Vanderholt name. In the end I’d chosen to believe that it was just the APD’s way of keeping the whole thing under wraps. No one else in the lab would find out unless the Chief decided to hire me.
“So you’re saying you didn’t even apply?”
“No. The pay they offered was extremely low. They told me about the tight budget.” I also liked to think this meant the whole deal wasn’t corrupt.
He looked me over again.
“The pay’s kind of a non-issue for me,” I said.
His mouth quirked up at the corners.
“This is the field I want to work in. This is a city I know. Two years ago I was just another undergrad at UNM working my way towards a job like this. Now I’ve got a famous last name, but I’m the same person.”
No one ever believed me when I said that, other than the Vanderholts, at least.
“Listen,” I said, “if this is a problem, I can leave. I won’t ever breathe a word to anyone about it-”
“No. If Madame Chief says you have a job, you have a job. Let’s get you set up in your desk, get your phone line, stuff like that. The other guys, when they come in, they’re all going to know something’s fishy, though.”
And he made no offer to smooth ruffled feathers.
E.M. Tippetts grew up in New Mexico and now lives in London, where she raises two boisterous toddlers, designs jewelry, and writes novels. A former attorney, she used to specialize in real estate and estate planning, specifically literary estate planning. She currently has five novels out, Time & Eternity, Paint Me True, Someone Else's Fairytale, Castles on the Sand, and Nobody's Damsel (Fairytale 2).
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