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The Daughter She Used To Be

The Daughter She Used To Be

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by Rosalind Noonan

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In this emotionally charged and riveting novel from the author of One September Morning and In a Heartbeat, one woman is torn between loyalty to her family's ways and to her most profound convictions. . .

The daughter of a career cop, Bernadette Sullivan grew up with blue uniforms hanging in the laundry room and cops laughing around the dinner table


In this emotionally charged and riveting novel from the author of One September Morning and In a Heartbeat, one woman is torn between loyalty to her family's ways and to her most profound convictions. . .

The daughter of a career cop, Bernadette Sullivan grew up with blue uniforms hanging in the laundry room and cops laughing around the dinner table. Her brother joined New York's finest, her sisters married cops, and Bernie is an assistant District Attorney. Collaring criminals, putting them away—it's what they do. And though lately Bernie feels a growing desire for a family of her own, she's never questioned her choices. Then a shooter targets a local coffee shop, and tragedy strikes the Sullivan family.

Anger follows grief—and Bernie realizes that her father's idea of retribution is very different from her own. All her life, she's inhabited a clear-cut world of right and wrong, of morality and corruption. As Bernie struggles to protect the people she loves, she must also decide what it means to see justice served. And in her darkest hour, she will find out just what it means to be her father's daughter.

Praise for Rosalind Noonan's One September Morning

"Reminiscent of Jodi Picoult's kind of tale. . .it's a keeper!" —Lisa Jackson, New York Times bestselling author

"Written with great insight. . . Noonan delivers a fast-paced, character-driven tale with a touch of mystery." —Publishers Weekly

"Noonan creates a unique thriller. . .a novel that focuses on the toll war takes on returning soldiers and civilians whose loved ones won't be coming home." —Booklist

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Noonan (In a Heartbeat) delivers another earnest drama exploring how lives and family relationships can, in a heartbeat, change utterly. The Sullivans are a family of New York City cops. The father, now retired and running a coffee shop–“Sully’s Cup”—near their local Queens precinct, is a legend in the community. They are the type of family that expresses disappointment when youngest daughter Bernadette, rather than marrying a cop, as did her sister Mary Kate, remains single and goes to work in the DA’s office. But that disappointment pales in comparison to what comes from her decision to volunteer her legal skills to help defend a man who entered Sully’s Cup seeking vengeance and killed several cops, including her brother, the youngest son in the family. The dramatic stakes are high in Noonan’s world (her husband, like Sully, retired from the NYPD), but the Sullivan family’s dialogues on faith, grief, and loyalty are riddled with overwrought clichés, as is her portrayal of the stereotype-perpetuating African-American shooter. Not helping is Noonan’s prose, perfunctory at best, a grammatical quagmire at worst. (Nov.)

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The Daughter She Used to Be



Copyright © 2011 Rosalind Noonan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-4168-9

Chapter One

On a gray Sunday in the end of February Bernie Sullivan leaned into the steam of a large pot in her parents' kitchen and jabbed at a field of potatoes with the masher. Once upon a time Bernie had loved mashed potatoes. The earthy smell, the smooth texture, the heavy burden of butter that was mandatory in the Sullivan household. But love was lost as, over the years, mashing the spuds had become her job; back in the day when her mother had five kids to feed, everyone in the family had become responsible for contributing a dish to dinner. Well, every female. The role of the males was to eat so they'd have the strength to get out and make New York City a safer place.

Tonight Bernie's side dish was behind schedule. The roast was carved and sitting in its own juice on the platter. Buttered carrots and string beans sat under plates to keep them warm, and now the rolls were done, too.

"You shoulda started mashing earlier," her mother said. Peg didn't look up as she moved rolls from the baking tray to a bowl lined with a napkin. "Didn't you hear me calling you?"

"I know, Ma." Bernie had been engrossed in her brother's story of how he'd come upon two children who had suffered abuse. Told over chips and dip, while the little ones were playing in the back room and the respectable women were in the kitchen preparing the meal, the story was unusual because it had transpired over a few weeks, and patrol cops like Brendan rarely dealt with situations that lasted longer than their eight-hour tour.

"I met them back in November," Brendan had said. "I remember telling Sarah about it. Two little girls alone in an apartment in the projects by the seven train. Both of them had those enormous waif eyes." He made two circles with his fingers and peered through them. "They looked up at me like I was God or something. The older one, she must have been schooled by someone because she trusted me and she was very polite. Called me officer. 'You got to help us, officer.'" Brendan stared down at his can of beer as if he could read the future there. "That's the kind of thing that breaks your heart."

Staring into the pot as she mashed, Bernie could see the two little girls peering up at Brendan in his dark blue uniform, twenty pounds of gun and flashlight and equipment hanging from his belt. The Superman Suit, Dad used to call it. It was a wonder the little girls weren't intimidated. God bless them.

"The job came in as a noise complaint, and we found these two kids alone. We called family services, but while we were waiting for the social worker the older girl started opening up to us. Destiny, that's her name. Nine years old and she starts dropping her pants. I started to leave, but Indigo takes a look and she sees burn marks on the girl's butt. Turns out the father burned her. Scars, too. She said she'd been putting up with it, but that night was the first time he went after the younger sister. That's when Destiny put up a fight, and the screaming got one of the neighbors to call nine-one-one."

"Oh, man." Bernie pressed a hand to her chest, indignant on the little girls' behalf. The dead air in the rest of the room wasn't unusual; cops did not shock easily.

On the other side of the chip bowl, her father and oldest brother, James, barely seemed fazed. They'd both been street cops for years, seen it all. James was now a sergeant at the Police Academy, and Sully had retired six years ago.

"Said she could have put up with the father hitting her, but was worried he'd kill her little sister. Destiny is already deaf in one ear, they think from the old man beating on her. A nine-year-old."

"That's a crying shame." James shook his head. "A lot of sick bastards out there."

"And the mother's into the wind?" Sully asked.

"They say she's an addict. The girls haven't seen her for more than two years." Brendan explained that he and his partner, Indigo, had testified in a hearing that week at Family Court on Jamaica Avenue. "And we won, but it's frustrating. Makes you wonder."

"You did good, son," Sully said with a heavy nod.

"Yeah, but it's a bittersweet victory, Dad. The judge removed the kids from their father's custody, but it's no picnic. What are they going to get in foster care? A bed and a couple of meals at somebody else's house. I'm not sure we're doing these kids any favors."

Sully nodded, a glimmer of regret in the blue eyes Bernie always wished she had inherited. "That's a tough one."

"Still ... it's better than what they had." James rose from the easy chair and craned his neck to the side, trying to address the chronic back pain that always made him seem distant to Bernie.

"It is better," Bernie agreed, catching Brendan's eye. "You may have saved their lives, Bren."

He shook his head. "It's a sad alternative. Sad-ass, sorry foster care."

"Dinner!" Peg called through the house. "Let's go."

"You can't let it get to you, son." Sully stood up. His six-foot-plus frame was softer now, as if the muscles and taut strength had been passed on to his sons, along with the hair. Her father's gray hair grew mostly around the sides now, and he kept it clipped so short that his bald head now shone on the top. "It'll eat you away if you let it."

"Everything's done but the potatoes." Peg's voice prickled with irritation. "Bernadette ..."

Bernie had snapped to attention at the firm tone. Twenty-seven years old, and her mother's voice still had that power over her.

"Are you mashing these potatoes, or are we having them boiled?"

"Coming ..."

Chapter Two

On a bus rocketing through the night, Peyton Curtis sank into the darkness that had closed in hours ago. He was really lost now.

Going nowhere. That was what his prison counselor had said. Jeff, the new Angel. "You need a plan for when you get out of prison, Peyton. A place to live. A job. That's the only way you'll stay off drugs and out of trouble."

But Peyton never did any drugs. Didn't drink, either. And that just proved to him that Jeff didn't even look at that fat file they had on Peyton. Jeff was in it for a paycheck. Jeff didn't give a rat's ass about Peyton or any of the other inmates he logged time with.

Jeff had just laughed when Peyton said he didn't want to leave Lakeview Shock, that he wanted to stay and keep working in the library there. Steady meals and a warm, dry place to sleep and nobody beating up on him. Five years of Lakeview Shock, and he knew how to do it now. No reason to give that up for the darkness ahead.

"You're getting your freedom back, man." Jeff had puffed up real big, the way Curtis saw the rats grow bigger when their body hair stood on end. Trying to look big and bad, laughing at him. Peyton was used to that. The snickers and laughs. It didn't bother him. "You'll be on parole, but you're free to get a job," Jeff said. "See your family. Hang with your friends—as long as they're not using."

Jeff had one of those patches of hair on his chin, shaped like a triangle. Made him look like the devil.

Or maybe he thought of that because Jeff was the opposite of Angel. If she was still his counselor, she would have listened. Angel would have helped him stay.

But the devil man, he wanted Peyton gone. One less prisoner to talk to, write all his doctor's notes about. One less case to handle. And not long after Jeff took over, Lakeview, the home Curtis had come to know over the best five years of his life, turned cold on him. They gave him a suit of clothes, told him to get a job and see his parole officer once a week.

And now he was on that bus, trying to ignore his stomach growling over the smell of pizza some woman got at a rest stop and the other inmate, a rangy white man in the back of the bus, who kept mouthing off about how canned peaches were the secret to his good health.

Strange people in a stranger world. Peyton gripped the handle of his walking stick, letting his thumb stroke the dark grooves cut into the carving. "Faux scrimshaw," Angel had called it. Scrimshaw was the carvings sailors made in whale bones and teeth, but faux meant it wasn't real. Probably just plastic, but that was even better. What was the sense of killing a whale to get a walking stick? Peyton was fine with faux.

The animal carved on the handle had the face of a mouse, the elongated body of a rat, and the back end of a horse. "The man at the thrift shop said it was a running horse," Angel had told him, but they'd spent a few minutes talking about how the sculptor had screwed up. In his own head, Peyton decided it was a deformed rat, and it gave him comfort to stroke the worn surface.

He kept his face turned toward the window so people didn't see him twitching, but with the lights on inside, the dark glass was like a mirror. Mirrors everywhere on this bus showing a whole lot of ugly nobody wanted to see.

What was the sense of it when they lock you up for five years and you doing time and when they finally let you out you get dumped in the armpit of New York City in the middle of the night. What was the sense in that?

No parole officer going to see you at night, and your family, if they goin' to let you in, don't want you to come knocking at two in the morning. What was the sense in that?

But Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility didn't care where you going and what time you got there. Just as long as you got on the bus and got the hell out of their facility, they happy.

At least the bus had headlights. He could see out there when he stood up, lights burning air, turning part of the highway to day. Good thing the driver had lights to see by, 'cause Peyton himself couldn't see ahead. He pulled the lid on his numb eye shut, hunched toward the window on his right, and gnawed on his worries, like a rat working a dry bone. How was he going to see the parole man when he was getting to the city at two or three in the morning? And where would he go? His mama wouldn't be quick to unlock her door in the middle of the night, even for her own son.

He could see his mother, peering through the crack of the triple-chained door. "What kind of person comes knocking at a door at three in the morning when he ain't been around for more than five years? Go on back to prison, Peyton. Get on out of here, before you wake up half the neighborhood."

But Mama, it's me. It's your son, Peyton, he would call out.

And the door would slam in his face.

And then he'd be stuck out in Queens. He'd be a black man moving through Asian Invasion Flushing, a place where black men weren't so invisible as they were in other parts of the city.

He rocked in his seat, thinking about the skells that'd be messing with him in the city this time of night. They'd be pulling into the Port Authority any minute, and some smelly lump would scurry up to him, try to steal his walking stick, or beg some change. He would have to get out of there. Get to someplace warm. Maybe the subway, if he could hop a turnstile.

"What you want to go and do that for?" Darnell would say. "You just a few hours out of prison and you gonna throw the dice on something that easy? You're just as stupid as I remember."

He could see the flame of hatred in his brother's eyes, the flare of his nostrils. Darnell was always spitting mad about something.

Peyton had once seen a male rat come along to a pack of newborn rats. Pups. And damned if that full-grown rat didn't kill the weakest baby, drag it off, and eat it. Wasn't even his baby to kill, but he took it.

That rat was Darnell.

I just might bust through the subway gate, Peyton thought. And bust up Darnell's face.

Chapter Three

As she spooned the creamy potatoes into a deep casserole dish, Bernie wondered what would become of the two little girls Brendan and his partner had come upon ... Destiny and her little sister. In cases like that, other family members were usually called on to take the children in, but Brendan had mentioned foster care.

Bernie appreciated her brother's desire to help them. She and Brendan were the soft hearts of the family. Brendan was a helper, and she had the curse of seeing injustice all around her and feeling personally obliged to right it.

In second grade she reported the teacher for picking on Juan Arechiga every blessed day until he cried. At Cardoza High School she founded the Multicultural Club to encourage tolerance and celebrate diversity. She once got in the grill of an irate vendor at a subway newspaper kiosk when the guy yelled at two veiled women that he didn't do business with "Ay-rabs." When she graduated from law school nearly three years ago, Bernie joined the Manhattan District Attorney's office to do her part in maintaining justice. Bernie wanted to "get the bad guys," just as her father and brothers had done for decades. She'd once toyed with the notion of joining the NYPD herself, but in her heart she knew that would have been a bad move. Bernie lacked muscle, and she knew she was a wimp. Some nights she was afraid to peek behind the closed shower curtain before bed.

But wimp or not, she couldn't resist a good cop story, and on Sunday nights in the Sullivan house, the air was thick with it.

Heavy dish in hand, she tromped into the dining room, the space hot and noisy and crowded with extra chairs squeezed in to accommodate eleven people. Well, ten plus the empty spot for Mary Kate's husband, Tony, who showed up late when he bothered to show up at all. Food was being dished out, but no one would dare begin eating before grace was said.

"Potatoes!" Brendan growled heartily. "Send them down my way." He tucked the bowl in the crook of his elbow, pretending they were all for him, which made his daughters, Grace and Maisey, giggle.

"Share, Daddy," Grace said, wise for her nine years.

As Bernie headed to the empty seat at the back of the dining room, she caught her own image in the china cabinet mirror. The tawny hair that she tied back for work was wild from the humidity in the kitchen, the ends curled, the top frizzy. The reflection was cloudy, but there was no missing her smaller version of the Sullivan pug nose and her mucky brown eyes. Her eyeglasses were smart, but glasses nonetheless. They masked the big, soulful eyes that made her look like a teenaged runaway. "Jailbait" her friend Keesh called her back in law school.

She took a seat next to her father, who always sat at the head of the table in the patriarch's seat. The opposite end was up for grabs, as Mom always sat near the kitchen so she could hop up and heat the gravy, get more bread, or spoon out more potatoes from the pot.

Across from Bernie, James Jr. passed the roast to his wife, Deb. Now that their two kids were older—Keaton studying at Cornell, Kelly a forensics expert in San Francisco—the two of them never missed a Sunday dinner in Bayside. James and Deb were empty-nesters, while Bernie didn't even have a nest of her own yet. She'd even noticed a little gray in the front of James's hair, but Deb didn't seem to mind. Late forties and they still seemed to like each other. That was sweet.

"Who wants to say grace?" Sully asked. He smiled with pride, lording over the family table. "Grace?" He nodded at his nine-year-old granddaughter.

"Grace will say grace. That has a nice ring to it." Brendan grinned at his daughter, who giggled as if she hadn't heard the joke a million times.

The smiles and laughter gave way to bowed heads as Grace began. "Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts ..."

After a chorus of amens, conversation tapered off as everyone dug in. Sully asked how Keaton and Kelly were doing, and Deb responded with anecdotes about the price of a college education and the dearth of affordable housing in San Francisco. Peg inquired about Mary Kate's middle boy, Conner, who dropped out of SUNY Buffalo and was back at home, attending community college.

"Why doesn't he come to Sunday dinner?" Peg's cajoling didn't cover her disappointment. "Did he forget where we live?"

"He's got friends, Ma." Mary Kate chewed rapidly, reminding Bernie of a rabbit. "There's school papers and he works at the cinema now. Conner has a lot of things to do."

"We've all got friends and plenty of things to do." Peg put a dollop of potatoes into her mouth, then paused. "Mmm. There's lumps in the potatoes. Did you heat the milk?"

"Some people like a little texture," Bernie said. Was it too much to hope that her mother would take the task away from her because she'd failed?


Excerpted from The Daughter She Used to Be by ROSALIND NOONAN Copyright © 2011 by Rosalind Noonan. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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