Kate Flora, here, sharing something I wrote earlier this spring for the charming Dru Ann Love’s blog, Dru’s Book Musings, when I was on my book promotion blog tour. I was asked to write about a day in my character’s life. It was an interesting challenge to take Det. Joe Burgess out of the context of a particular story, and just imagine him, briefly, in a scene in the middle of his day. So here is what emerged. Perhaps it’s a taste of what Joe B. may be up to in the next book, tentatively titled: And Grant You Peace.
A Day in the life of Detective Sergeant Joe Burgess, Portland (ME) P.D.:
“Okay. Here’s how it is,” Burgess said, trying to find a position in the chair that would accommodate his bad knee and his sore back, “there is no typical day in the life of a personal crimes detective. How the day goes depends on what the bad guys have been up to. And here’s another thing—day doesn’t really describe it, because sometimes it’s a night, sometimes it’s a day and a night. Sometimes it’s a day and a night and another day. Sometimes you wear your clothes so long you want to burn them. Like now.”
He glanced a little ruefully at his rumpled shirt, at the stained knees on his pants. Caught the girl’s nervous shift. “No blood or guts,” he said. “It was wet at the crime scene. This is just mud.” Seeing that her eyes were lingering on a reddish stain on his shirt, he shrugged. It was mud, blood, garbage, and who even wanted to know what else. He could have changed if this girl wasn’t taking up his time.
The phone was ringing and he ignored it. He wasn’t the only detective on the planet, and he was trying to be polite to a curious civilian. Orders from Captain Cote. Cooperate with the nice college girl majoring in criminal justice who wanted to write for her school paper. He had fifteen minutes before he had to head out to the autopsy, and about two days worth of work to do. But she perched before him on the edge of her chair, all eager and attentive. How would she react, he wondered, if she knew his assessment of her? That under all that fresh and perky, she had the tired skin and under eye smudges of someone who hadn’t quite slept it off. And beneath the flowery shower gel, her skin still gave off the faint reek of alcohol.
He forced a tired smile. “All that stuff about cops and coffee and donuts? Sometimes you’re gulping too much coffee because you need to stay awake, grabbing a donut for the sugar lift, or eating at the Golden Arches because it’s on the way, it’s sorta fast, and you don’t know when you may get a chance to eat again. Cop rule.”
He gave up trying to get comfortable and stood. The college girl jumped. “Cop rule,” he repeated, bracing himself on his desk with his arms, trying to get a stretch in his lower back. “Eat when you can.”
She smiled nervously, scribbled on her pad, and asked about the crime. Her youthful energy made him feel a hundred years old.
“Devone Phillips, 22. Black male. Shot at least four times. We’ll know better when the ME is done. Found yesterday afternoon around 4 in a dumpster in the West End. I got the call just as I was about to head home for my girlfriend’s birthday. Been working it ever since.”
“You didn’t get home to celebrate your girlfriend’s birthday?”
Sometimes he wondered what they taught in these criminal justice programs, or whether these kids got their ideas about the life from TV. “Gotta give the dead their due,” he said. He was lying a little. For an hour, he’d left Kyle in charge, slipped home, and given Chris her presents—an armload of roses and a small black velvet box with a ring. A cop tried for normal, even when the path was strewn with bodies.