Forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge, who has just returned to Santa Fe after a few months in special training, is handed a cold case from almost ten years earlier. The matter is especially sensitive because it concerns the death of a police officer's wife in a car accident, and Santa Fe's finest have not been cooperative.
Detective Rick Romero has waited patiently for Jemimah's return. She would like to respond to his interest in her, but is held back by emotional scars left over from her conservative Mormon upbringing. Despite their tense personal relationship, they must find a way to work together.
Romero and Jemimah survive separate shooting incidents they suspect are related to the case. Each faces obstacles and distractions. Jemimah is missing key evidence, and Romero is coping with a wounded shoulder, his ex-con brother's screw-ups, and the arrival of a sexy FBI agent. Will they be able to identify the would-be killer in time to save themselves?
About the Author
Marie Romero Cash was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to a family that would eventually number seven children, and has lived there most of her life. After graduating from Santa Fe High School, she took a job as a legal secretary, a field that would provide a lifetime of employment. But then, in her mid-thirties, she discovered the traditional arts of northern New Mexico. After twenty years of creating award-winning art, she began to write about it, but decided she needed a higher education to do so. At fifty she enrolled in college and, five years later, graduated with a degree in Southwest Studies. In 1998, she received the prestigious Javits Fellowship to pursue her education. Since then Marie has written several books about the art and culture of the southwest, including a memoir about growing up in Santa Fe. Marie has written three books in the Jemimah Hodge Mystery Series: Shadows among the Ruins, Deadly Deception, and Treasure among the Shadows. You can find Marie on the Web at MarieRomeroCash.camelpress.com.
Read an Excerpt
In the early months leading up to springtime, the weather in Santa Fe is as unpredictable as San Francisco fog. Gusty winds blow out of nowhere and howl until all hours of the morning. Bright sunshine can be replaced with dark clouds, followed by hail, sleet and snow all the way through May. But once the warm weather takes hold, temperatures can soar into the mid- nineties on any given day.
On Memorial Day in 2009, the season in Santa Fe was leaning toward summer, with unseasonably high temperatures. The weather in Cerrillos was different from Santa Fe's; the elevation of the small community nestled between Santa Fe and Albuquerque was a thousand feet lower, meaning that the air was warmer. Winters were less inclement, but that didn't preclude the occasional snow-dumping blizzard that went off course.
Lieutenant Detective Rick Romero was feeling the heat, not only from the weather but from the public. They were concerned about the recent surge of residential break-ins and vandalism. As Chief Detective, he was the one they looked to for answers.
Romero was lighter skinned than most of the native Hispanos in the area. He was in his early forties, five ten, and well-built, with dark hair and hazel eyes. Easily mistaken for Anglo, he fit into all the echelons of society.
He sat at his desk in the Cerrillos substation of the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office. A few years back, Sheriff Bobby Medrano had won a heavily contested election against incumbent Jerry Purcell. His first task had been to appoint Romero head of the new substation. Medrano was pleased with his overall performance and placed his name at the top of the list. In spite of a tendency to throw caution to the wind, Romero was a dedicated officer. It wasn't unusual for the Sheriff to reprimand him on a regular basis, but despite the many times he was called on the carpet, Romero was well liked and respected.
He reached for the phone on the third ring, dreading yet another complaint from a disgruntled Cerrillos resident about barking dogs, loud music, petty thievery and a slew of other minor occurrences.
"Sheriff's Office, Romero."
"Rick, Jemimah Hodge. How are you?"
He hadn't heard from Jemimah for more than six months. She had been on extended leave from her position as forensic psychologist with the Sheriff's Office to take an FBI forensics course in Washington, DC. She'd been the only person chosen from New Mexico, and one of the few women in attendance.
"Well, I'll be darned. A voice from the past," Romero said. "Finally decided to return home and make contact with your friends?"
"You don't really believe I'd give up my dog, my cat and my horses that easily, do you?"
"That's where I rank? Behind the pets and the horses." He leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk. Damn, he had missed her. Of course he knew he wouldn't be sharing that particular thought.
"Well," Jem laughed. "I see you haven't changed much. Thought you'd mellow out in six months, maybe become a little less self-centered."
"Not when the gal I'm crazy about leaves without saying goodbye," he countered. "Oh, that's right. You did leave a Post-it note on my office door. Let me see. What did it say? Oh, I remember. 'Bye. See you in six months.'"
"Rick, that's not fair. You know the opportunity came out of nowhere. I barely had time to pack my bags and arrange for the care of my animals."
"I know, I know. But you rubbed salt in an open wound, leaving like that. Didn't even get a chance to celebrate our success in solving the murders at San Lazaro Pueblo," he said. "Received the commendations all by myself. That sucked."
"Well, if it helps any, I am sorry. I hope it won't affect our working relationship."
He could hear the exasperation in her voice and knew he was pushing too hard, but he couldn't help himself. "I'm not sure about that. Particularly now that you have another title to add after your name," he pushed on, the hint of a pout in his voice.
"No title. Just another framed certificate to hang on my wall. So listen, as much as I'd like to sit around and chitchat down memory lane with you, I do need to set up an appointment to go over a few things."
"Sure, my schedule's pretty flexible."
"Sheriff Medrano handed me a cold case from 2001 and I'd like to discuss it with you."
So she was choosing to change the subject. Okay, he could go along with that. "What's it about, if I may ask?"
"In a capsule, a State Policeman's wife died in an accident about eight years ago. Coroner said her injuries were consistent with her head hitting the windshield. The family doesn't buy it, never bought it, and they keep exerting pressure on law enforcement to take another look. The EMT who first responded knew the woman and appears to have had his doubts as well."
Romero's tone of voice changed. "Oh, yeah. I remember something about it. Your friend Jeff Whitney was already a veteran state policeman at the time. He was the investigating officer. Maybe it's him you should invite to lunch."
There was a silence. Was that a sigh he heard? He could almost hear Jemimah counting to ten. Finally she said, "The problem with that idea is that this is the same cold case Whitney was supposed to review last year. He was the one who was told to turn in a full report to the Police Commission, who in turn would determine if it was worth reopening or not. Surely it hasn't slipped your mind that Whitney — "
"No, it hasn't slipped my mind, and you don't need to go into it anymore."
"Obviously, I do. You don't know everything, Romero. Whit and I met to discuss it last spring. Two months later he pulled back. I was in Colorado investigating the psycho girlfriend in the San Lazaro case. Whit never gave a reason for not filing a report — just called and said it wasn't worth pursuing."
"If memory serves, you two had an intimate luncheon at Los Angelos over margaritas and jalapeÃ±o poppers. So why's it coming round the pike again?" He almost gagged on his last swallow of coffee and spit it all over his desk. "Oops, sorry, down the wrong pipe."
"Hey, you need me to rush over and slap you with a Heineken maneuver?"
"Never mind. Nonetheless, your friend the State Police chief is being pressured by a State Senator — "
"Where does that leave pretty-boy Whitney?" Romero couldn't help himself. Whitney had thrown a monkey wrench in the works right about the time he became serious about dating Jemimah, and that wasn't a slight he intended to overlook.
Another pause. "Look, Rick," Jemimah said, her voice more clipped than ever. "This is official business. If you don't want to help, I'll ask the Chief to find me someone who won't pull this petty crap. Do you keep notes on every damned thing that goes wrong in your life?"
Romero felt the burn coming through the phone. He could kick himself. "Okay, okay. I get it. I'm sorry. It's been a long week. Monday at eleven. My office or yours?"
"Mine. I can't drag confidential files all over the place. Chief Suazo doesn't want anyone at State Police headquarters knowing the case is being considered for review."
"What do you mean?" Romero thought he'd better feign interest.
"Well, supposedly there was a cover-up and the Department is still trying to live it down. Credibility plays a big part. All they need right now is to have it splashed all over the media and put everybody involved on alert."
"All right, I'll see you then." He held on to the phone a little longer.
* * * *
Jemimah flipped her cell phone closed. "Still an asshole," she muttered. The black and white Border collie reclining on the couch perked up its ears.CHAPTER 2
Jemimah Hodge lived at Peach Springs Ranch, a five-acre spread a few miles north of Cerrillos, New Mexico, at the base of the Ortiz Mountains. The rustic '70's era ranch house had been remodeled to fit her needs. Although favoring Dallas because of her thriving psychology practice, she'd longed for a place where life didn't move at such a rapid pace. The Santa Fe area had been her first choice. Less than a month after settling in, she scored a job with the County.
Jemimah's duties as a forensic profiler for the Sheriff's Office had changed considerably over the past year. She was now the Chief Forensic Psychologist, a position created with her in mind and accompanied by a substantial raise in pay. She reported to both the County Sheriff and the State Police Chief. She respected them both, but Sheriff Medrano was responsible for bringing her into law enforcement and she held him in the highest esteem.
On Monday Jemimah awoke early. She hadn't seen Detective Romero for six months and, based on their recent conversation, it was obvious his feelings for her hadn't changed. She still sensed an underlying tension between them and wasn't sure how she felt. On the surface she wished he hadn't been so open about his desire to start a relationship. Just thinking about it stirred turmoil within her. She was content to keep him at arm's length but knew she couldn't do that much longer. Besides, he was attached at the hip to Sheriff Medrano. Whether she liked it or not, they were going to be thrown together regularly.
Jemimah exhaled deeply as she stepped into the shower, where she planned to luxuriate for as long as it took to mellow out. Nothing was going to spoil this beautiful day. She toweled herself off and stood inside the walk- in closet. She would have preferred to throw on some jeans and a t-shirt, but pulled out a pair of dark slacks and a long-sleeved white blouse instead — the standard uniform for Department employees. Her five-foot- seven-inch frame was proportionately muscular, indicative of the many facets of ranch life. Her straight blond hair cascaded just beneath her shoulders. Her blue eyes sparkled when she laughed and turned cold as steel when interrogating a suspect.
Driving north on Highway 14, she cranked up the volume on the radio. Steely Dan belted out "Home Again." She sang along, tapping her fingers on the steering wheel. In less than thirty minutes, she arrived at her office in the Sheriff's complex across from the State corrections facility.
A few minutes after eleven, Jemimah stuck her head out the office door, waiting for Detective Romero to show up. She spotted him in the hallway next to the Sheriff's office engrossed in conversation with a flashy brunette. The woman flirted and edged closer, as if she was going to do him right there under the water cooler. Disgusted, Jemimah returned to her desk, rearranged the note pad and stapler, fumbled through her daybook and wound her watch. As she reached for the phone to reconfirm the time, she knocked the coffee cup over and felt a stinging sensation on her leg. Hot liquid continued to roll off the table before she could grab a paper towel to wipe it up. She was bent over, cleaning up the mess, when the knock on the doorjamb startled her.
"Hey, Jem. How's tricks?" Romero was smiling broadly. She realized he'd been checking out the view of her derriere.
"Fine," she said. Her voice was flat. It didn't escape her that he was in a good mood, his testosterone level probably elevated from dallying with the woman in the hallway.
"Am I interrupting something?" he asked.
"Not anymore," she said abruptly.
"What's that supposed to mean? I thought we had a meeting scheduled, and here I am, right on time."
Jemimah remained silent. Oh crap. How am I going to dig myself out of this one? Last thing she wanted was for him to think she was capable of feeling a smidgen of jealousy.
"I'm sorry, Rick. I spilled my coffee. Can we start over?" She tossed the soaked paper towels into the trash, wiped her hands on a new one and reached out to shake his hand as he leaned forward to embrace her.
"Sure, if you insist." He threw his arms up in mock indignation. He sat across from her and stared for a long minute while she gathered her papers into a stack. She wished she'd bothered to put on some makeup; however, the way he was looking at her, he was definitely not finding fault with her appearance.
She nodded and smiled, touched her fingertips to her hair and said only, "I insist." She could see that simple statement surging through him, creating a false hope that things might eventually turn out all right after all. Not in forty moons.
Their meeting went from bad to worse, until Jemimah fabricated a headache. It was going to be an uphill battle for them to rekindle their working relationship.
He couldn't stop looking at her and she couldn't look him in the eyes.
"I'm sorry, Rick. I guess I don't have my ducks in a row on this one. Let me get in touch with you when I have more time to review the file," she lied.
"Sure, sweetness, whatever you say," he said on his way to the door.
"I'm not your sweetness," she muttered under her breath, slamming the desk drawer shut. Jemimah covered her eyes with her hands. "What's wrong with me? I can't stop thinking about him and yet the minute he comes near me, I turn into Attila the Hun. Whether I like it or not, I'm going to have to sit down with Dr. Cade and figure this one out."
* * *
Romero sat in his cruiser before taking off. He was thinking about Sandra Gorman, the woman in the hallway, an FBI agent assigned to work with the department. He had limited experience with the FBI, although Sheriff Medrano had related a few horror stories. Medrano trusted no one outside his department except Chief Suazo.
His last run-in with the FBI involved the kidnapping of a District Judge. Medrano had a history with the kidnapper and had been working toward negotiating the release of the victim when the FBI pulled the case out from under him. The head agent cited jurisdictional differences when the media leaked the news that the kidnapper was holed up two miles from the Santa Fe County border. This transferred the jurisdiction to the State Police, who immediately called in the FBI, much to Medrano's chagrin. Medrano's efforts to stall the agent in charge from storming the area while he negotiated with the kidnapper were fruitless, and the judge and the kidnapper were both killed in crossfire.
Earlier that day, he'd cautioned Romero about watching his step when dealing with FBI agents. Even the pretty ones.CHAPTER 3
It was difficult to compare Sandra Gorman to other female Detectives. Brilliant and self-assured, she hadn't become an FBI Special Agent by standing on the sidelines. She had enviable instincts and a cunning nature, which allowed her to wheedle out vital information during interrogation. The regional office had assigned her to work with Romero on a case involving a local pharmacist murdered while attempting to protect a rape victim. In addition to Romero, she would be meeting with other department heads to develop and implement communication procedures between the FBI and local authorities. She was thirty years old with a Kewpie doll face — doe eyes and pouty lips she played up with cherry red lipstick. Mesmerized by her eyes and lips, most people didn't notice her weak chin, partly because of the perfectly bobbed hair designed to frame her face just so. And of course the body, displayed to maximum effect with clothes that skimmed every exaggerated curve.
Always aware of the impact of her stunning looks, she found that a short intro to Detective Romero in the hallway at the County offices served to whet her appetite. She sensed the need to know more about this handsome specimen of local origin.
A few days later, on the pretext of reviewing her case notes, she stopped by Romero's office. His vehicle wasn't in the parking lot, and she wasn't inclined to wait for him to show up. She had plans to sit by the pool at a Santa Fe hotel where she was staying while the local FBI office arranged for permanent housing during her month's stay. Maybe she'd hit the bar first. Who knew what delicacy she might find hanging around there.
* * *
Romero's assistant, Clarissa, sat at a desk eating a glazed chocolate doughnut as she gave Sandra the once-over. Casually dressed as Sandra was, even a secretary with a mediocre wardrobe could see that her clothing had designer labels. Obviously, she was used to a lot of attention.
Sandra handed Clarissa her card. "I'm here to see Detective Romero, is he available?" she said.
"Sorry, he's at a meeting. I don't expect him to return to the office for at least a couple of hours," said Clarissa, pretending to have a heavy workload as she rearranged the files on her desk.
"Thought I'd take a chance anyway and familiarize myself with the area. We're going to be spending a lot of time together on this case, you know. Never realized we'd be working way out here in the boondocks, though. Isn't there at least a Starbucks close by where one can get a decent cup of java? There's one on every corner in San Francisco."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Deadly Deception"
Copyright © 2013 Marie Romero Cash.
Excerpted by permission of Coffeetown Enterprises, Inc.
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