Six am and Alexa wakens me with the Beatles Greatest Hits. I shower, tie my hair back in a ponytail, and throw on the running gear. I need new shoes - next month perhaps. I pack my detectives shield and gun in my backpack, grab an OJ from the fridge and head for the door.
Stop. Back up. I’ve forgotten the bones. My daily ritual.
Back in the minuscule kitchen, in my minuscule apartment, I lift the small wooden box and admire the engravings as I always do. So intricate. The Sun and the Moon both shining on a fox. My full given name ‘Sun and Moon Greyfox’. I go by Sammy.
I open the box and remove the bones. There are four. Some of our people believe they represent elements of Earth, Wind, Rain and Fire. But my papa told me they are Man, Woman and the spirits of Good and Evil. I roll them onto the worn kitchen worktop. The bones tell me it’s going to be a stormy day. I expect rain and wind. I’m wrong. The stones are right.
Twenty minutes later, I park my clapped-out dusty chevy in the usual spot at the rear of the Sheriff’s Office and carefully lock it. It may be clapped-out garbage, but it’s my clapped-out garbage, and it’s all I can afford. When I’m in a better mood, I call her my trusty steed. Today, she’s garbage. I haven’t had my run yet.
It’s still early so the sun’s up, but the heat hasn’t yet started to burn. The summer in Florida is a bitch. They forecast today to be a hundred-five. Shade's at a premium.
Strapping my backpack firmly in place, I set off across Goodlette-Frank heading towards the coast. I’m running smoothly today. Not working on anything specific, just exercising. It takes fifteen minutes to hit Gulf Shore and head South, five more to get to 5th and head back East. I’ve created half a dozen different routes I can run depending on what I want to achieve. Today, I’m running an easy loop and within ten minutes I’m back across Goodlette-Frank and pulling up outside EJ’s Bayfront cafe.
Although I’ve been running easy, I’m bent over, leaning on my knees when I notice the car. It’s nothing special. Just an SUV with dark tinted glass like half the cars in the carpark. But it’s not parked. At least it’s not parked properly. It’s sitting across two other cars and idling, waiting. I assume someone is inside collecting food to go.
At that moment a woman exits EJ’s with a handbag slewed across one shoulder, a coffee in one hand and a croissant in the other. She’s dressed casually in Nike trainers, blue denim shorts and a plain white T-shirt. There’s a gap revealing a flat stomach. She works out. I think this is who the car is waiting for, but it isn’t. She turns the wrong way, in fact she doesn’t even see the car. I do. I’m standing up now and paying attention. Something’s wrong.
She walks towards me and starts crossing the car park. The SUV moves. Slow at first, as if eyeing its prey, then suddenly it speeds up just as the woman is in the middle of the pedestrian crossway.
I move fast and hit the woman above the waist with all of my one hundred five pounds, knock her off her feet and to the side of the SUV which screeches past, clipping her ankle and spinning her out of my reach.
Seconds later, I’m on my feet looking for the registration, but the SUV is already round the corner and out of sight. I can still hear the engine disappearing up Goodlette-Frank and grin at the irony that right about then it would be passing the Sheriff’s office.
Turning my attention to the woman, she’s already sitting up but holding her ankle and obviously in pain. I unclip my cell and dial 911.
As we wait for the ambulance, I gather up the spilled contents of her handbag and return everything to her, before asking her if she knows why anyone would deliberately try to run her down. She looks shocked when I suggest it was a deliberate attack, but says no-one that she can think of. She's in too much pain to talk, so rather than ask further questions, I just sit down beside her and keep her company.
By now several people have gathered round and I take my shield and notebook out of my backpack and note all of their details. I'll speak to them in more detail later. Or at least, someone will. It will have to be someone else. After all, why would a homicide detective be interested in a hit-and-run? Just shows how wrong I can be, I guess.
I ask her if there's anyone I can call for her, and the answer surprises me. I've met the man she names once before. He helped me solve a tricky case where one cop shot another and almost got away with it. His name is Tommy Hawk, and yes, I thought it ridiculous when I first heard it, but that’s his name. A Native American, as is this young woman. She tells me her name is Ayita Long, and she works for Tommy Hawk.
Around this time, the paramedics arrive and take over. I stand back and leave them to it, placing the call to Tommy Hawk.
It’s a receptionist who answers, and I give my name and tell her who I want to speak with.
When he comes on the line, I quickly update him with what has happened and that Ayita Long would be heading to the Emergency unit at NCH Baker downtown hospital only a few minutes from where I'm standing. He thanks me for the call and says he would head down there in person as soon as he hung up. But before doing that, he asks if I would please visit with him sometime - when I have a little spare time. ‘Unofficial’ is the word he uses. He said he had been almost at the point of calling me, anyway. Intrigued, I tell him I'll think about it and end the call.
Two minutes later, a patrol SUV pulls up beside me. I update them with what has happened and give them the details I have listed in my notebook, then leave them to handle the follow-up interviews.
I jog at a relaxed pace the couple of blocks North to the Sheriff’s office. I shower for a second time and change into faded blue jeans and a red light-weight cotton short-sleeved blouse. I hand-dry my hair and comb it out, leaving it to dry naturally. One advantage of long straight hair. I clip the shield and Glock 19 onto my belt and head upstairs.
Rather than go straight to my desk, I check in at the front desk and fill out an incident report, again passing on all the details of the people who also saw what had happened. Thinking that was me finished, I head upstairs realizing that in all the excitement at EJ’s, I’d forgotten my coffee.
Someone already had a Folger’s brew going, so I didn’t have long to wait. This Folgers coffee thing may seem like a small deal to some people, but to those of us who suffered the previous blend, it was a major victory, and hard-fought against long-standing traditionalists. I like to think I was leading the charge, but when I’m more honest with myself, I was one of many who hated the previous crap and were almost ready to walk out over it. It was my boss, the Sergeant who really swung the vote, and that’s where I head now, coffee in hand.
‘Morning Dan,’ I smile. ‘What fun have you lined up for us today?’
‘Sounds like you’ve already had a busy morning, Sammy?’
‘Wow! News travels fast around here.’
‘Are you okay?’
‘I’m fine, Dan. It was a definite attempt to run the girl down, though.’
‘Any idea why?’
‘Not a clue, and she didn’t have either. At least that’s what she said.’
‘You really think it was deliberate?’
‘Dan. I watched the whole thing.’
‘How about you keep the case? See it through?’
‘Sure, why not? We’re light just now. Most cases are in control, and this looks like it was a premeditated attempted-homicide. Right up your street. Keep me in touch.’
With that, it all starts. One simple little decision that day. Talk about sliding doors!