Desert Heat (Joanna Brady Series #1)by J. A. Jance
A cop lies dying beneath the blistering Arizona sun—a local lawman who may well have become the next sheriff of Cochise County.?The police brass claim that Andy Brady was dirty, and that his shooting was a suicide attempt. Joanna Brady, his devoted wife and mother of their nine-year-old daughter, knows a cover-up when she hears one . . . and murder when she… See more details below
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A cop lies dying beneath the blistering Arizona sun—a local lawman who may well have become the next sheriff of Cochise County.?The police brass claim that Andy Brady was dirty, and that his shooting was a suicide attempt. Joanna Brady, his devoted wife and mother of their nine-year-old daughter, knows a cover-up when she hears one . . . and murder when she sees it. But her determined efforts to hunt down an assassin and clear her husband's name are placing Joanna and her surviving family in harm's way—because in the desert, the one thing more lethal than a rattler's bite . . . is the truth.
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Joanna Brady stepped to the doorway of the screened back porch and stared out into the night. The moonlit sky was a pale gray above the jagged black contours of the Mule Mountains ten miles away. September's daytime heat had peeled away from the high Sonoran Desert of southeastern Arizona, and Joanna shivered as she stood still, listening to yipping coyotes and watching for traffic on the highway a mile and a half away. Beside her, Sadie, Joanna's gangly blue-tick hound, listened as well, her tail thumping happily on the worn, wooden floor of the porch.
"Where is he, girl?" Joanna asked. "Where's Andy?" Happy to have someone speaking to her, the dog once more thumped her long tail.
Up on the highway, a pair of headlights rounded the long curve and emerged from the mountain pass. Speeding tires keened down the blacktop, passing the Double Adobe turnoff without even slowing down. That one wasn't him, either. Disappointed, Joanna sighed and went back inside, taking the dog with her.
In the living room she could hear the drone of her mother's favorite television game show while Jennifer, her daughter, was eating dinner in the kitchen.
"Is Daddy coming now?" Jennifer asked.
Joanna shook her head. "Not yet," she answered, trying to conceal the hurt and anger in her voice. She kicked off her heels, poured herself another cup of coffee, and settled into the breakfast nook opposite her blonde, blue-eyed daughter. At nine, Jenny was a female mirror image of her father.
Despite Joanna's soothing words to thecontrary, Jennifer assessed her mother's mood with uncanny accuracy. "Are you mad at him?" she asked.
"A little," Joanna admitted reluctantly. A lot was more like it, she thought. It was a hell of a thing to be stood up like this on your own damn wedding anniversary, especially when Andy himself had insisted on the date and had madeall the arrangements. He was the one who had first suggested, and then insisted, that they get a room at the hotel and spend the night, reliving their comic opera wedding night from ten years before.
At the time Andy had suggested it, Joanna had asked him if he was sure. For one thing, staying in the hotel would cost a chunk of money, an added expense they could ill afford. For another, there was time. Not only was Andy a full-time deputy for the Cochise County Sheriff's department, he was also running for sheriff against his longtime boss, Walter McFadden.
The election was now less than six weeks away. Joanna had been through enough campaigns with her father to know that conserving both energy and focus was vital that close to election day. In the meantime, Joanna had her own job to worry about. Milo Davis, the owner of the insuranceagency where she worked as office manager, had offered her a partnership. To that end he had started sending her out on more and more sales calls, letting her earn commission over and above her office-duty pay. But it meant that she, too, was essentially holding down two full-time jobs.
Joanna was the first to admit that between the two of them, she and Andy had precious little time to spend together, but staying in the hotel overnight seemed to be overdoing it. Andy, however, had laughed aside all Joanna's objections and told her to be ready at six when he'd come by to pick her up.
Well, six had long since come and gone and he still wasn't home. Eleanor Lathrop, Joanna's mother, had been at the house watching television since five-thirty. Since six sharp, Joanna's small packed suitcase had sat forlornly by the back door, joined now by her discarded shoes, but at seven forty-five, Andrew Roy Brady was still nowhere to be found.
"Maybe he had car trouble," Jennifer suggested, snagging a piece of green chili from her plate and stuffing it back inside her grilled cheese sandwich from which she had carefully removed all the crusts. Joanna bit back the urge to tell Jenny to stop being silly, to shape up and eat her discarded bread crusts, and to stop casting herself in the role of family peacemaker, but Joanna Brady had embarked on a conscious struggle to be less like her own mother. She let it pass. After all, there was no sense in turning Jennifer into any more of a family Ping-Pong ball than she already was.
"You're right," Joanna agreed finally. "That's probably what happened. He'll be here any minute."
"Are you going to tell Grandma to go on home?" Jenny asked.
Joanna shook her head. "Not yet. We'll wait a little longer."
Jenny finished her sandwich, pushed her plate aside, and started in on the dish of sliced peaches. Eva Lou Brady, Joanna's mother-in-law, had canned them herself with fruit from the carefully nurtured freestone peach trees planted just outside the kitchen door. Joanna got up and dished out a helping of peaches of her own. Two hours past their usual dinner hour, it was a long time since lunch, and she was starving.
"Was I premature?" Jennifer asked suddenly.
The jolting question came from clear out in left field. A slice of peach slid down sideways and caught momentarily in Joanna's throat. She coughed desperately to dislodge it.
"Premature?" Joanna choked weakly when she was finally able to speak.
Joanna Brady had always known that eventually she'd have to face up to the discrepancy between the timing of her wedding anniversary and Jenny's birthday six short months later. But she had expected the question to come much later, when Jennifer was thirteen or fourteen. Not now when she was nine, not when Joanna hadn't had time to prepare a suitable answer.
"What makes you ask that?" she asked, stalling...Desert Heat. Copyright © by J. Jance. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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