Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Carlisle Cops Part 2 by Andrew Grey

Fire & Rain #3
Since the death of their mother, Josten Applewhite has done what he’s had to do to take care of his little brother and keep their small family together. But in an instant, a stroke of bad luck tears down what little home he’s managed to build, and Jos and Isaac end up on the streets.

That’s where Officer Kip Rogers finds them, and even though he knows he should let the proper authorities handle things, he cannot find it in his heart to turn them away, going so far as to invite them to stay in his home until they get back on their feet. With the help of Kip and his friends, Jos starts to rebuild his life. But experience has taught him nothing comes for free, and the generosity seems too good to be true—just like everything about Kip.

Kip’s falling hard for Jos, and he likes the way Jos and Isaac make his big house feel like a home. But their arrangement can’t be permanent, not with Jos set on making his own way. Then a distant relative emerges, determined to destroy Jos’s family, and Kip knows Jos needs him—even if he’s not ready to admit it.

I love the cops of Carlisle, they are what we all want our town/city cops to be like: helpful, concerned, trusting but not naive, careful but not pushovers.  Some of us know cops like that, some don't but Andrew Grey's Carlisle Cops series gives us hope that they do exist.  Kip Rogers joins his fellow officers, Red from Fire & Water and Carter from Fire & Ice, in finding on the job that one person or in this case two, who will change their lives forever.  Josten Applewaite's luck has not been on his side and has fallen on hard times all while he is trying to take care of his little brother, Isaac.  When these three meet nothing is ever the same again and not just for the characters in Fire and Rain but the reader too.  We tend to take for granted the everyday necessities that not everyone is fortunate to have and that is what Kip learns upon meeting Jos and Isaac, so the reader just might learn something too, not that Fire and Rain is preachy, it is just old fashioned great storytelling.  Some might think that the relationship between Kip and Jos is too insta-love but sometimes when you meet that special person, the connection truly is immediate.  I loved how the author addressed the insta-love through both Kip and Jos' inner monologues though, so it is not just swept under the rug and accepted.  Definitely one for the re-read shelf.


Fire & Snow #4
Fisher Moreland has been cast out of his family because they can no longer deal with his issues. Fisher is bipolar and living day to day, trying to manage his condition, but he hasn’t always had much control over his life and has self-medicated with whatever he could find.

JD Burnside has been cut off from his family because of a scandal back home. He moved to Carlisle but brought his Southern charm and warmth along with him. When he sees Fisher on a park bench on a winter’s night, he invites Fisher to join him and his friends for a late-night meal.

At first Fisher doesn’t know what to make of JD, but he slowly comes out of his shell. And when Fisher’s job is threatened because of a fire, JD’s support and care is more than Fisher ever thought he could expect. But when people from Fisher’s past turn up in town at the center of a resurgent drug epidemic, Fisher knows they could very well sabotage his budding relationship with JD.

Once again, the cops of Carlisle are the officers of the law that we all want protecting our own town.  They are smart, brave, careful but they also go that extra mile to do their job.  In Fire & Snow, we have JD, a man who was virtually thrown out of his family for being a good man who stayed true to himself, and then we have Fisher, a man who had his life turned on it's head after a car accident but has the determination to keep going forward.  When they meet, Andrew Grey has once again showed us that one person truly can change the lives of many.  Technically, Carlisle Cops is a series of standalone reads since each entry focuses on a different couple but personally, I highly recommend reading them in order because the cops and their partners are often in the next installment, sometimes only as cameos, but they are still mentioned so I find it just flows better to read in order.  A series that has earned it's spot in my series library and one that will also find it's way to my re-read shelf in the future.


Fire & Rain #3
“I CAN’T take this anymore!” Jeffrey shrilled loudly enough to send a jolt up Kip Rogers’s spine like nails on a blackboard.

“Then don’t. It isn’t like you actually live here,” Kip countered. This shit was starting already, and Jeffrey had just gotten in the door an hour ago. “You breeze into town once or twice a month and can’t figure out why I can’t just take off work and spend my time with you.”

“I come here on weekends,” Jeffrey countered as though he were stating the most obvious thing in the world. After all, Jeffrey kept lawyer’s hours; in his world, no one worked weekends. “I know you have to work and all, but it’s a weekend and I gave you notice.”

Three days. “You told me Tuesday, and I can’t get my schedule changed that fast. Besides, you had plenty to keep you busy while I was at work.” Kip was trying to be civil, but even his patience was quickly coming to an end.

“I came here to be with you.” Jeffrey stormed into the bedroom and returned with his roller suitcase behind him, swinging his hips like a 1960s TWA stewardess. All he was missing was the updo and the scarf around his neck.

“No. You came here because you wanted some attention and because you were horny. That’s all, and you’re angry because I can’t spend all my time with you even though I cleared the rest of my weekend schedule and put off going out with friends because you called.” Kip paused, contemplating giving Jeffrey another chance, but he’d had enough. There was only so much stomping a man’s pride could take, and he had reached his limit. He walked to the front door and pulled it open. “Let me help you.”

Jeffrey blinked a few times, and then crocodile tears began filling his ice-blue eyes. “You really want me to leave?” He turned slightly to the side. What the hell was this? Jeffrey had to be on something to flip from anger to seduction in two seconds flat. Kip thought back and realized this was his game, the way he got what he wanted. Anger followed by forgiveness and then sex. He should have seen through this shit before, but he’d been too busy thinking with his dick to look any deeper. Right now his dick was asleep, and from the looks of things, it wasn’t waking up anytime soon—not for Jeffrey.

“Yes,” Kip answered forcefully. “Go back to Mommy and Daddy and all those friends of yours who are in denial. How the hell they don’t know you’re gay, with the way you prance around like a frilled-up peacock, is beyond me. They must be dumb as a box of rocks.” Kip waited while the tears instantly dried and enticement turned to rage.

“I’m not coming back once I go through that door,” Jeffrey warned.

“What are you, six? Go on and get the hell out of here. Oh, and I suggest that you get out of town.”

“Is that a warning, Officer?” Jeffrey asked seductively.

Kip blinked, and then it hit him: Jeffrey thought this was some kind of game. He knew Jeffrey liked playing games—role-playing in bed, head games out of bed. That was his forte.

“No. Your car is parked illegally, and if you’re not gone in two minutes, I’ll call someone to ticket it. I wonder how many outstanding tickets and violations they’re going to find when they run your plates. Maybe you’ll even end up in jail. I can see to it that you get a couple of very large roommates. Maybe guys who have been there a little longer than they should have been.” Kip waved his hand toward the door. “This isn’t a game, Jeffrey. I’ve had more than enough game playing in my life.” He held his gaze steady, as cold as he could possibly make it. “It’s time for you to go and find someone else to play with. I’m through.” God, he was so over all of this.

“You’re shitting me!” Jeffrey screeched. “This is for real?”

“Oh, yeah. Looks like you overplayed your hand.” Kip crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m done. I don’t know what’s one of your damn games and when you’re being serious anymore, and frankly I don’t care. You’re selfish, hurtful, and a pain in the ass all the time, so it doesn’t matter. I’m not a toy.” That felt so good to say.

Jeffrey took a few steps. “Fine,” he said, jutting his nose into the air. He walked past Kip and out onto the porch. “You were just a bit of fun, you know. A pretty good lay and nothing more.”

“You were a selfish lay and managed to be a demanding pain in the ass from the bottom.” As soon as Jeffrey’s suitcase crossed the threshold, Kip closed the door and threw the lock. A clap of thunder rolled over the house, and Mother Nature chose that minute to open the skies. Rain had been threatening all day, though it had held off until now. Kip pulled the curtains aside and watched as Jeffrey hurried to his Porsche. He popped open the hood and dropped his bag inside. By the time he scurried to open his car door, Jeffrey was nearly soaked. Kip thought about taking pity on him but couldn’t bring himself to do it. If he had to listen to Jeffrey screech one more time about his work schedule or how Kip’s house wasn’t as grand as the ones Jeffrey’s other closet-case friends had…. It was time to make a clean break and give his self-respect a little boost.

Why it had taken him so damn long to figure out Jeffrey was only using him for some occasional weekend fun was beyond him. He was a police officer—he should have been able to take a closer look and see what Jeffrey really was: a user and a manipulator. Hell, he had the credit card bills to prove the manipulator part. Every time Jeffrey came to town, they went out to expensive restaurants that Jeffrey made the reservations for, but when the check arrived he’d bat his eyes, and Kip would pay to avoid a scene. He did that same thing in stores. The last weekend Jeffrey had spent nearly $500 on food and drinks alone. This was for the best.

Kip watched Jeffrey pull away and speed off down the street. He wasn’t sure where he was going, but Jeffrey was an adult and needed to take care of himself. Hopefully he’d just head home to Pittsburgh and leave the midstate alone for a while. But more likely, he’d head downtown and wait for the clubs to open so he could try to pick up another guy, another sucker, to sponge off of.

Kip released a sigh of relief, and the tension that had been building for days flowed out of him. God, it was good to be able to relax again. Jeffrey was wound so tight that he always filled Kip with so much anxiety that it took days after he left for him to decompress. With a second sigh, he turned and headed through the entrance hall to the stairs, climbing them slowly and then making his way to the master bedroom. Kip still felt off sometimes using that room. It had been his parents’ bedroom when he was growing up, and after they passed away and left the house to him, he’d moved in because he couldn’t bear to see it empty.

The house was way too big for him alone: massive kitchen, a living room and a dining room, a formal parlor, and four bedrooms upstairs as well as what had once been a maid’s quarters on the third floor. It had been built a century ago and was more solid than anything built today. Friends had advised him to sell it when his father passed away, but once he’d gotten a job in Carlisle, it seemed stupid to sell a house that was paid for and had been in his family. The best homes in town rarely came on the market. They sold privately or stayed in families, and Kip had a great house. Granted, it took a lot of his spare time to keep it up, and as he went into his bedroom to get ready for work, he noticed that the paint in the hallway and bedroom needed refreshing. Another project to add to the list.

Kip shucked his jeans and shirt in favor of one of his police uniforms. He pulled off the plastic wrap from the cleaners and got dressed. He liked the way he looked in his uniform. Jeffrey had told him once that it made his ass look great and that he was very sexy in it. Of course, Kip wasn’t sure if that was real or just another one of Jeffrey’s games.

He left the bedroom and went down to the kitchen. He made himself some food for his meal break. With the second shift rotation he was on, he didn’t know whether to call it lunch or dinner. All he knew was that he was always hungry when the time rolled around. Once he had everything he needed, Kip locked the house and hurried to his car, thankful the rain had let up a little.

Steady rain made for a miserable shift, and that was what Kip knew he was in for as he drove to the station. It was only afternoon, but it felt like much later in the day, the low thick clouds more indicative of late fall than September, along with the chill in the air. Usually this weather held off for a few weeks at least.

Kip parked in the lot and went into the station. “Hey, Red,” he called with a smile, and he got one in return. Red smiled more often now. Kip used to avoid him, but now he liked talking to him. “How’s Terry?”

“Training every chance he gets. He has his heart set on the Olympics, and he’s qualified for the team, so next summer he and I will be going to Rio.” Red’s grin was extraordinary. “He wants to qualify for a number of events, so he’s working hard on different strokes.” Red’s partner, Terry, was a swimmer, and a damn good one, judging by all the success he’d had.

“You know I’ll be cheering him on.” Kip wished he could go someplace exciting like Rio to watch the Olympics. But the closest he was ever likely to get to something like that was his television.

Red nodded. “Are you just coming on shift?”

“Yeah.” Kip continued through with Red, and they both clocked in, then went in for their assignments. Kip had been on the force a few years, but he wasn’t one of the senior guys, so he still got mostly patrol duty. That was fine, and on a night like this, at least he was inside a car as opposed to walking one of the neighborhoods.

“Me too. I hate working second.”

Kip nodded. He hated it mostly because it meant he never saw any of his friends. His schedule was too opposite theirs. Thankfully this was his last week on second shift, and then he’d rotate to first shift for a while. He needed a little normalcy in his life. “When do you rotate off?”

“Got a little more than a week,” Red answered, and they sat down, waiting for the captain to brief them on what was happening and what they should look out for. Mostly it was the usual stuff: reports of dealing, unruly kids, some vandalism. Drugs were making their way back into town, but they’d had a reprieve after Red had helped take down one of the leaders and they’d been able to round up much of the organization.

“There have been reports of dealing after dark in Thornwald Park, so if you’re on patrol in that area, be sure to pass through. Not that there’s likely to be activity on a night like this, but if the rain lets up, there will be. Are there any questions?”

Kip raised his hand. “At the corner of the alley behind Ridge, there’s a brush pile that’s acting as a dead drop. One of my neighbors told me what he saw this morning.”

“That’s pretty bold,” the captain said. He looked out over the assemblage. “Good, let’s get going.” He stepped down, and Kip retrieved the keys to his patrol car and began his shift, signing on to his computer and letting dispatch know he was on the job.

Kip was relieved he hadn’t been put on traffic duty. He hated spending an entire shift sitting in one place waiting for drivers to speed by just a little too fast. Yes, it was done in the interest of public safety, but it was boring as all get-out.

He’d been assigned the north side of town, so he began his patrol, making a police presence visible. He answered calls and helped a couple whose car had broken down. He also broke up a domestic dispute. He wished the woman had been willing to press charges. Domestic disputes were the worst, because Kip knew another officer would end up paying them a visit again, but until charges were filed there was little he could do. It was one of the most frustrating parts of the job, knowing someone was being hurt, and would be again, but not being able to help. Kip stopped back at the station on his break and ate his late dinner before heading out again.

With the continuing bad weather, traffic was light and there were few people out on the sidewalks, even in the busier areas of town like outside the theater and restaurants. Darkness came early with the cloud cover, and Kip resumed his patrol. He took the back streets, watching for trouble. The streetlights came on, and Kip was thankful everyone was indoors. He wasn’t looking forward to traipsing around in the rain.

“A report of someone sleeping in the doorway of Hansen’s Mens Wear” came through his radio from Dispatch.

“I’ll take it,” Kip said, answering the call and making the turn back toward the main street of town. With the weather like this and the fact that the store was one of those old-fashioned ones with the deep display windows, someone was bound to try to take shelter there. Kip made his final turn and came up on the store. He passed by but didn’t see anything, so he went around the block and pulled to a stop. The trees that lined the street cast shadows over the windows. Kip groaned as he pulled on his hat and raincoat before getting out of the car and tugging them tight around him. The cold and wet went right through the coat as the swirling wind blew water in all directions.

He took it slow and placed his hand on his gun as he approached the front of the store. Sure enough, a dark figure lay pressed back against the door of the closed business. It was covered in a dark blanket. As Kip got closer, he heard something he didn’t expect: singing. It barely reached his ears over the noise of the rain and water dripping off eaves and tumbling through drainpipes, but it was there. A lullaby, most definitely.

“I’m sorry. You need to move on,” Kip said as gently as he could. He didn’t want to frighten them. He pulled out his flashlight, shining it around. The blanket lowered, revealing a pair of haunted blue eyes. Kip was careful not to shine the light in his face, but he needed to see the man. “This is private property and you can’t stay here. There’s the Salvation Army a few blocks down. They have a shelter.”

“They’re already full,” the man said, though he sounded like a kid. “We got turned away from there a few hours ago.”

Kip’s suspicion rose. We? What exactly was going on under that blanket? Kip waited, and the man lowered the blanket farther until a small blond head made an appearance. The man—though now that Kip could see him better, he really wasn’t much older than a kid, maybe nineteen or twenty—held the young boy closer.

A pair of eyes that closely matched the older kid’s looked up at him, and then the boy darted back down, hiding under the blanket. Kip stopped the gasp that rose in his throat. That was quickly followed by anger. “The Salvation Army turned you away?” He wondered if they’d seen that he had a child.

Fire & Snow #4
Chapter 1
“HEADING OUT on patrol?” Red asked as JD Burnside stopped to grab his coat and hat before going outside. Red looked him over and shook his head. “Here. You’re going to need these gloves, and put on an extra pair of socks.”

“It’s only November…,” JD said, getting a little worried.

“Maybe, but the wind will go right through you, and they have you on foot patrol in the square. That cold concrete is going to leach the heat right out through your shoes unless you have something extra on.”

JD sighed and sat back down in the locker room, going through his things until he came up with a second pair of socks. He slipped off his boots and pulled them on. Instantly his feet began to sweat, but he ignored it and pulled on his now-tight boots. “Is there anything else I should know?”

“Be sure to keep your citation book handy. Fallfest is just winding down, and everyone should be going home, but that also means the heavy-duty revelers will take it into the bars, so be on the lookout for people weaving and bobbing. We don’t want them driving home.”

“Is that why I’m supposed to be outside in god-awful weather like this instead of tucked in a nice warm patrol car like a regular person?” At least the patrol car would have heat. JD had not gotten used to the weather up in Central Pennsylvania, and he was beginning to realize that his first winter here was going to be hard as hell to get through.

“We always have someone visible to deter drunk driving. I did it two years ago, and Carter had the glorious honor last year. It’s only for a day, and all you need to do is keep yourself warm and your eyes open. Everyone will empty out in three or four hours, and then you can come on back and grab a patrol car. These are always interesting evenings.”

“Yeah?” JD inquired as he got to his feet.

Red grinned. “A few years ago, they had this cow parade thing where artists decorated fiberglass cows and they put them around the area. There were four of them in town, and one was on the square. That year we had someone decide it was a bull and that he was going to ride it… buck naked in the middle of town.” Red began to laugh. “By the time we got to him, he’d turned half-blue and all his friends were getting ready to take their turn. We stopped them before the entire crowd turned into a streak-fest.”

“What happened to the naked guy?”

“We hauled him away for indecent exposure, and he got a fine. The thing is, this may be a small town, but we have some crazies when they drink. So keep an eye out and call if you see anything. I’ll be around and will stop by to check on you.”

JD thanked Red for his help and the story, which had brightened his mood a little. He made sure he had everything and slammed his locker closed before leaving the station and heading out through town toward the square.

He was a block away from the square. When he arrived, he glanced up at the clock tower on the old courthouse to check the time.

“Assault in progress, courthouse common” came through his radio.

JD responded and raced forward, heart pounding. He rounded the courthouse and saw a group of three college students crowded around one of the benches.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, old man?” one of the boys was yelling, the sound carrying through the square. The others yelled as well.

“What’s going on?” JD projected in his best police voice. The students backed away, hands exposed, which JD liked. At least they didn’t seem to be a threat to him.

“This old guy was about to take a leak on the veterans’ memorial,” said the kid who’d been doing the yelling. “We sat him down and were trying to talk to him, but he tried to hit Hooper here.” He took a further step back and gave JD room. A man in his late sixties, if JD had to guess, sat on the bench, shaking like a leaf. The front of his pants was wet, and he smelled. When JD touched him, the man felt cold, and he continued to shiver. JD tried more than once to get the man to look at him, and when he finally did, his eyes were vacant and half-lidded.

“I need an ambulance on High Street next to the old courthouse,” JD called in. The man continued to shiver and shake. This wasn’t just from the cold. The scent of alcohol permeated even the mess he’d made of himself. The man needed help.

“Is he going to be all right?” Hooper asked. “We didn’t hurt him or anything. He was going to take a leak right there on the memorial, and we tried to stop him and help him sit down, but he swung at me and nearly fell.” The kid seemed upset. His eyes were as big as saucers.

“Did he hit you?” JD asked.

“No. He was too slow. But David here, the big idiot, started yelling, and that must have been what you heard.”

“How much have you had to drink?” JD asked David.

“Enough to know I won’t be driving,” David answered with blinky eyes.

“None of you had better,” JD advised.

“I’m their ride,” Hooper said. “I hate the taste of the stuff, so they buy me food and Cokes, and I drive the idiots home.” One of Hooper’s friends bumped him on the shoulder.

JD turned back to the old man, who was rocking slightly from side to side. JD tried to get his name, but he was becoming more and more unresponsive. JD got the students’ information and sent them on their way. He could check with them if he needed to, but what they’d said rang true.

There must have been plenty of calls already, but an ambulance finally arrived and they got the man settled into it. He didn’t have any identification on him. JD made sure to get the information he could, and then the EMTs took the man to the hospital.

At least during that excitement he hadn’t had a chance to be cold. Once the ambulance pulled away, the square turned quiet. Dry leaves rustled in the trees, and wisps flashed in the lights that lit the side of the old courthouse. JD shivered when he realized those wisps were snow. God, he was going to freeze to death here.

JD pushed that thought aside and walked around the square, then along the side streets, watching for trouble. He passed a few people still huddled on the benches, but he figured they’d soon give up and head on home.

Now that the streets were no longer blocked off for the festival, traffic continued flowing through the main intersection, as it usually did. JD returned to the intersection, crossed High Street and then Hanover, then continued around to the narrow side street that ran next to one of the churches on the square. He hated that street. It wasn’t well lit and there were plenty of shadows.

He peered down to check for movement and was preparing to move on when Red pulled up in a patrol car. JD opened the passenger door and got inside.

“I saw you heading this way and thought we could take a ride for a while,” Red said.

JD was eternally grateful as he soaked up the heat inside the car. “I hate that street.”

“We all do. The chief is going to demand a streetlight. The church has been fighting it because they say it will mess up the light coming in from the stained-glass windows or something. But lately it’s become a real hazard.” Red put the car in gear and made the turn, slowly rolling down the street.

At the slight bend, two figures raced out of a corner and took off down the street toward the church’s back parking lot. Red flipped on his lights while JD jumped out and took off on foot. Red raced past him to try to head the men off.

JD was fast. He had run track in high school and college, and no street punk was going to outrun him. He pounded the pavement, feet racing. One of the men dodged and got away once, but when he tried it again, JD was ready and grabbed the back of his coat, yanking the man to a stop.

He fell to the ground and rolled. JD stayed on his feet, and when the man stopped rolling, JD knelt and placed his knee on his back.

“I wasn’t doing nothing,” the man protested.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” JD said as Red pulled up.

“The other one got away,” Red said angrily.

“This one was throwing things out of his pocket as he ran,” JD said, pointing back the way they’d come.

“Oh man. You going to try to pin shit on me now?” the man asked as he shifted on the ground.

JD cuffed him and made sure he was secure. “Nope. I’m going to make sure you get what you’ve got coming to you.” JD watched as Red carefully photographed and tagged what had been thrown aside. The law had been the family profession for generations, so JD had decided to become a police officer. But once he’d started down the path, he’d discovered a love of fair play, protecting others, and enforcing the law. Maybe it was genetic? He wasn’t sure.

Other sirens sounded, and soon two more cars joined them, bathing JD and the suspect in headlights.

“What have we here?” Aaron Cloud, one of the detectives, asked as he got out of his car.

“Cocaine, by the looks of it,” Red answered. “Enough of it that he’s going to be doing some long, hard time.”

“That ain’t mine,” the suspect said.

JD shook his head. “I saw him throwing it out of his pockets, with his bare hands, as I chased him. It was his. His prints will be on the bags.” The guy must be an idiot.

“Go ahead and read him his rights. We’ll take him down to the station.”

“There was another man with him,” Red said. “JD here jumped out of the car when we saw him, took off like a shot, and got this guy. I followed the other man, but he ran between the houses over there and disappeared across High Street.”

“We’ll find out who he was,” Aaron said, looking down at the suspect. “Won’t we?” The menacing tone Aaron used had the guy shaking a little. JD knew it was an act. Detective Cloud was a “by the book” kind of guy, but if he hadn’t been a police officer, he could have had a career in Hollywood.

Aaron took custody of the suspect, and JD helped Red confirm they had found everything that had been thrown by their suspect before driving to the station.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful for a drug bust in my life,” JD said as they rode, the wipers swishing back and forth to wipe the falling snow from the windshield.

They passed the square slowly. JD turned when he saw movement. A man stood up from one of the benches and slowly walked away. “Are there always people on those benches? They have to be freezing in this weather.”

“Yeah. People sit there all day long. They have their favorite spots, and heaven help anyone who tries to take it. Mostly people just pass them by and don’t really notice them.” Red made the turn and continued to the station. JD pulled his mind away from the bench sitters back to the report he was going to have to help write.

At least the station was warm. JD went to his desk and got to work putting together his statement of events.

“You did good,” Red told him as he passed. “Though I don’t recommend jumping out of moving cars every day.”

“Did we get any information out of him?” JD asked.

“Aaron is leaning on him pretty hard. He’ll probably lawyer up pretty soon, but he says the other guy was just a customer,” Red explained, which was what JD had figured. At least they got the dealer this time. Usually it was the other way around. “Did you send in your statement?”

JD nodded and stood up. It was time for him to go back out on patrol. At least this time of night he’d have a vehicle. “I’ll head out with you.” Red walked him to the parking lot, and they got in their respective cars. “Stay safe.”

“You too.” JD started the engine, then pulled out of the lot. He drove through town and turned into the same side street he and Red had gone down earlier. It was empty this time, and he continued on.

The snow was getting heavier, and he drove carefully as visibility got worse and the streets more slippery. Toward the end of his shift, he made one last tour of town. He passed the square and saw a single figure on one of the benches in the courthouse square. JD knew there was nothing wrong with sitting on the bench, but it was after eleven and cold as hell. He pulled to the side of the street and got out, then walked up to the man.

He was hunched and curled into his coat, arms wrapped around himself, chin to his chest.

“Sir, are you all right?”

The man looked up and then lowered his gaze once again, saying nothing.

“Sir, is something wrong? It’s way too late and too cold to be out here. You should head on home.”

“I’m fine. Doesn’t matter, anyway. No one cares.” He lowered his gaze once again and continued sitting where he was.

“You’ll be a lot warmer and safer if you go home.” JD was becoming concerned. “I can help if you like? Can you tell me where you live?”

“Of course I can. But it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.” He got to his feet. He seemed steady enough. “People are crap, you know that? Everyone takes advantage of everyone else, and no one gives a crap about it.” He took a few steps, weaving slightly, and then he straightened up and headed off toward the courthouse. “No one cares about anything or anyone.”

“Do you need some help?” JD asked.

“No. There’s nothing you can do.” He walked off and JD watched him go. Something wasn’t right, but he was cold and the guy seemed harmless enough. JD went back to his car and slowly drove down the road. He saw where the man turned, and then watched as he went inside one of the apartment buildings in the first block of Pomfret.

His phone rang, so JD pulled to a stop before answering it. “You heading back to the station?” Red asked.

“Yeah.” He checked the time.

“Terry is going to meet me at Applebee’s. They’re still open, and we can get something to eat.” Red had been nice enough to befriend him when he’d joined the force six months earlier.

“Sounds good. Let me get back and finish up. I’ll meet you there.”

JD drove back to the station, checked in, and then left. The snow barely covered the ground, but it was enough to make him itchier about driving. He knew people here didn’t think too much about a little snow, but he’d rarely driven in it back home. As he clutched the wheel, he tried to remember the last time he’d actually driven in snow. It must have been four or five years ago.

JD approached Hanover Street and saw a hunched figure walking back toward the square. JD knew he was off duty, but he turned left instead of right anyway. He watched as the man went back to the same bench and sat down. There was something very wrong.

JD pulled off the road, then got out and jogged across the street to where the man sat. “I thought you’d gone home,” JD said gently.

“This is my bench. I like it here.”

“Dude, it’s really cold, and you’re going to get sick.” JD helped him to his feet. “It’s also really late. You need to get home where it’s safe and warm.” He hoped the guy wasn’t sick, but he couldn’t leave him out in this weather. “When was the last time you ate?”

The man shrugged. JD looked at his arm, checking for a medical bracelet. He’d had a friend who acted like this sometimes, a little loopy and strange. He’d been diabetic, and when his blood sugar got wacky, he’d act really out of it. “Why don’t you come with me, and I’ll see about getting you something to eat.”

“Okay,” the man agreed, and JD helped him walk across the street. He got him into the car, wondering what Red was going to think when he showed up with a stranger. The guy sat quietly, lightly fidgeting with his hands as JD drove to the edge of town and pulled into the restaurant parking lot.

“Let’s get you something to eat, and then maybe you’ll feel better.” JD had committed himself now. He’d crossed a line between officer and public a long time ago—and if this turned out badly, he could be in a hell of a lot of trouble—but something told him the guy wasn’t dangerous, just a little confused.

He parked and they got out, the man following docilely.

Red met him at the restaurant door, staring quizzically. “Who’s this?”

“He’s….” Shit, how was he going to explain this? “A guy who needs some help.”

Red turned slightly, looking at JD like he’d truly lost his mind. “Is that some Southern thing?” Red asked.

“It’s a human thing,” JD answered.

Author Bio:
Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and now writes full time.

Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing)  He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.


Fire and Rain #3

Fire & Snow #4

Fire & Water #1

Fire & Ice #2

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