photo Jonnie Jacobs
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[cover]From Chapter 1

It started with my father's death and nearly ended with my own, though both these events were peripheral to the murders that rocked the town of Silver Creek early last summer.

It was my father's funeral that brought me home in the first place. When I'd left Silver Creek twelve earlier to attend college, I'd vowed to put as much distance between the town and myself as possible. And while I ultimately ended up less than four hours away in driving time, my life in San Francisco was light years away in other respects. I was a senior associate in one of the city's small, but notable, law firms; I owned my own architecturally significant (albeit heavily mortgaged) house in the Berkeley hills; and I was in the early stages of what I hoped might become a fairly serious relationship with the firm's star litigator, Ken Levitt. If you had asked me, I'd have said that I'd finally brushed the last of Silver Creek's dust from my shoes. Which goes to show just how wrong a person can be.

During her stay in Silver Creek, Kali is invited to a barbecue at the home of Jannine and Eddie Marrero, old friends from high school.

Jannine greeted me at the door with an expansive hug. "Shoot, Kali, you don't look a day older than you did when you left home."

From across the yard, Eddie turned and gave me one of his prize smiles. It hit me in the stomach just the way it had in high school. He had been handsome then, the stuff girl's dreams are made of, and if anything, he'd grown better looking over the years. Curly black hair, dark eyes and straight white teeth. Even the slightly thicker middle looked good on him. "Hey kiddo, long time no see."

I gave a self-conscious laugh. "Well, here I am."

"She looks terrific, doesn't she, Eddie?"

He slapped Jannine playfully on the fanny. "Damn sight better than you, sweetheart, that's for sure."

"Jannine looks wonderful," I protested, but she'd already given him a solid jab in the ribs with her elbow. This was apparently an old argument.

"I'd like to see what you'd look like after four babies and two miscarriages."

Eddie raised his arms to fend off an imaginary blow. "Jesus, don't go pulling that woman stuff on me again." He reached into the ice chest and dug out a beer. "Want a drink?"

"Sure." I took the can, then looked at Jannine.

"Nah, she doesn't want any," Eddie said, with a laugh. He draped an arm loosely around Jannine's shoulder. "It addles her brain. Doesn't it, sweetheart?"

Jannine laughed too, though not quite so heartily. "My brain's always addled."

"How's life in the big city?" Eddie asked, turning his attention back my way, "You rich and famous yet?"

"A long way from both." I'd gone into law initially with the intention of righting wrongs, of tipping the scales of justice in the direction of fairness and decency, but I'd discovered that people with sizable student loans couldn't afford such lofty principles. Although my five years at Goldman & Latham hadn't done much for the general good of humanity, it had made a fair dent in the size of my indebtedness. Still, I wasn't rich and I wasn't famous. Sometimes I wondered if I was even happy.

Eddie took a long slug of beer. "I'm working on my MBA now," he said. "Did Jannine tell you?"

"She hasn't had a chance to tell me much of anything yet."

"I've got plans. Someday I'm going to be a hotshot myself, just like you."

"Eddie Marrero," I told him, in a tone which was only half playful, "you've always been a hotshot. It was you they had in mind when they coined the phrase."

Later that evening, I was sitting on the back steps nursing my third can of beer when Eddie dropped down beside me, sloshing his own beer in the process. He'd clearly had many more than three.

"You look like an ad for some high class perfume or something, sitting over here in the moonlight like that." He winked. "Course you always were a classy looking gal."

I humphed and inched to the left. I can spot a line a mile away, and this one was so blatant it practically blinked in neon.

Eddie, though, seemed to think he was onto something. He leaned toward me so that our shoulders bumped. "God we had us some good times back in the old days, didn't we?"

We'd had, in fact, only one real "time," and I would hardly have called it good, even then. I seriously doubted that Eddie had found it very satisfying either.

"Real good," Eddie added, listing further in my direction.

I let my eyes meet his. "So good you dropped me like a hot potato right after that night in the shed."

I could see him take a moment to reassemble the past. He poked at the can with his thumb. "Shucks, Kali, a girl like you, it scared me. Shook me up to think I was falling for you."

I laughed. Even at sixteen I hadn't been so much heartbroken as humiliated, although at that age the pain is about equal. "Hang it up, Eddie. I'm not interested."

He looked hurt for a moment, then grinned. "You always were a hard sell."

"You couldn't have done better than Jannine in any case," I told him. "She's one in a million."

He glanced in her direction and a shadow crossed his face. "Yeah," he said soberly, "I know." Eddie finished his beer, crushed the can with one hand, then turned and asked, "You going to be around town for awhile?"

"Till the end of the week. Why?"

"Maybe we could talk sometime."

My expression must have given me away because he was quick to explain. "No, not like that. I mean professionally. Like, you know, as a lawyer."

"You've got lawyers here in town."

"Yeah, but Silver Creek's a small place. I think I'd feel better with someone who's not in the thick of it." He had an odd, uncertain look in his eyes I'd never seen before.

"You in trouble, Eddie?"

"Me?" He laughed. "I try to stay away from trouble." He stood unsteadily. "I'm serious, Kali, I could use your help. I'll give you a call the first of the week, okay?"

As Eddie wandered off, I consoled myself with the thought that he would probably never call. Given the glassy-eyed look of him, I'd have given odds he wouldn't even remember the conversation.

Monday morning I picked up the newspaper on the way in from my walk and tossed it on the kitchen table while I made myself a cup of coffee. Pulling the chair around so that the morning sun hit my back, I took a sip from my mug and opened the paper.

Eddie's face smiled up at me from the center of the front page, right under the bold print headline—POPULAR COACH SLAIN.


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