Excerpt from Idyll Threats

SATURDAY, AUGUST 9, 1997
2230 HOURS

I didn’t make small talk, didn’t ask about anyone’s evening plans or even say goodnight. I snuck out the station’s rear exit; the metal door squeaky with humidity, got into my cruiser, and drove to a secluded road. I parked and sat, watching the darkness grow, swallowing one tree at a time. I’d driven to the woods to think. Or not to think. To be alone. I did a lot of that.

An insect symphony played, all percussions. I didn’t like so many
bugs so near. I was city-bred, used to roaches and the occasional mosquito.
Something pinged against my windshield. My hand went to my
gun. Reflex. The action recalled last year’s report on gun deaths that
I’d read earlier today. In 1996, only 55 cops in the U.S. died on the job
from gun-related incidents. I bit my lower lip. In a year less likely to end
in a police funeral, my partner, Rick, had beaten the odds. Been shot
dead by a dealer. I could hear Rick in my head. “What can I say, buddy?
I’m exceptional.

A bug adhered itself to the passenger window, its fat body vibrating
against the glass. To hell with this. I turned the key in the ignition.
Time to go home.

He sped past my cruiser, his convertible’s top down. Doing 55
miles per hour, at least. I flipped on my lights and siren and cut a
U-turn. The car fishtailed before the tires bit down. The frame shuddered
as I lowered my foot. The driver slowed, then stopped his car. He
stared ahead at the pocked road, hands on the wheel.

I approached slowly. You never know whether the guy you’ve
stopped is an upright father of four or an anxious kidnapper. If he was
the former, I didn’t want to scare him.

The crescent moon turned his gray hair silver. He turned toward
me when I reached his door. Blue eyes. I’ve always been a sucker for
blue eyes. “Sir?”

He started when I spoke. Not unusual. I’m a big guy with a deep
voice.

“License and registration, please.”

He handed over both. His watch was a TAG Heuer. A real one.
I’d seen the fakes sold on Canal Street. His name was Leo Wilton. Age
forty-nine. Address in Ashford, CT. Thirty minutes east of here.

I considered running his plates. Screw it. Too much to hope he was
a serial killer.

I returned his papers. “The speed limit on this road is 35 miles per
hour.”

“That right?”

“Lot of wildlife out here. Deer. They do nasty things to cars.” Or so
I’d heard. I’d been here seven months and not seen one. I suspected the
locals invented things.

“Sure. Sorry ‘bout that.” He looked directly at me. Straight men
don’t stare into each other’s eyes, unless they’re about to fight. This guy
wasn’t angry. My body responded. My brain fought back. I was within
town limits. I could be spotted. But it had been a long time since I’d
scratched this itch. Five and a half months: a long winter, a stone cold
spring, and a summer with no skin in it. I craved contact.

“You see a lot of action out here?” He waved his hand at the trees,
their needles pointier, ominous at night.