Provincetowns newest, and only, deputy sheriff pulled her cruiser to a stop in the parking lot overlooking Herring Cove. It was 6 a.m. on a clear, crisp morning in May. Other than a Winnebago parked at the far end of the lot, she was alone. To her right stretched the curve of sand leading to Race Point, and in the distance she could make out the figures of a few early morning walkers. Seagulls swayed low over the water, searching for their breakfast, their shrill calls echoing on the wind. The water reflected the color of the nearly cloudless sky, iridescent blues and greens slashed through by the frothy white of the churning waves. The air carried the damp mist that hovered over the dunes, chilling her skin. Despite the chill, she rolled the windows down, allowing the scent and sounds of the sea to rustle through the vehicle. A coffee cup sat on the dash, tendrils of steam drifting off on the breeze. Unconsciously she shifted her equipment belt, settling the revolver more comfortably against her right hip.
She reached for her coffee, her gaze idly following a trawler far out on the bay. Her mind held no clear thoughts, only the impressions of the timeless forces of nature that surrounded her. She felt totally insignificant and yet completely at peace. She felt more at home than she ever had. That fact should have been surprising, considering that she had only called this tiny town on the curving finger of land thrust arrogantly out into the Atlantic home for a few weeks. She had moved across the country to a place she had never even visited before, leaving behind a life that had shaped her since she was a child. Nevertheless it felt right to be here, and she accepted it with equanimity, as she had been trained to face all the circumstances life presented her.
Her attention was caught by a flash of color closer to shore. A red kayak with a bright yellow racing stripe streaked into view, the powerful rhythmic strokes of the kayaker propelling the craft swiftly through the water. Rather than disrupting the quietude, the image of churning arms and slicing paddle seemed to blend with the motion of the waves, joining in the harmony of swirling tides. She watched until the craft was just a dot on the horizon before she started her engine and pulled slowly away from the waters edge.
Sheriff Nelson Parker glanced up as the door to the station opened, admitting a gust of wind that rustled the papers on his desk. The Sheriffs department was one large room with several desks that was separated from the waiting area by a low railing and a latched gate that squeaked when opened. In an adjoining room, at the rear of the building, were two holding cells that rarely saw any use. His deputy entered with the last of the breeze, and he was surprised once again by the slight disquiet he felt whenever he saw her. Maybe it was her height, she was damn near as tall as he was, or maybe it was the way she carried herself, ramrod straight even at parade rest. She had slightly broader shoulders and narrower hips than most women did, and she was in better physical shape than any of his men. The trim fit of her khaki uniform reminded him once again that he needed to work off those extra twenty pounds that seemed to have settled all too solidly around his waist. Maybe it was only that she seemed totally unaware of how imposingly good looking she was in that androgynous way that so many of the Provincetown women had. He thought ruefully that he might be just a little jealous.
"Morning, Chief!" she said, as she headed for the coffee machine. A frown creased the sculpted features of her angular face as she tilted the pot to survey the two inches of dark liquid in the bottom. "Last nights?"
"Fraid so, Reese," he answered apologetically. "I just nuked mine and chewed it."
"Jesus," she muttered, dumping the remains in the sink. "That looks worse than barracks coffee. And I wouldnt even drink that unless I was half dead." She started a fresh pot and settled behind the other desk. There were a few reports from the night shift stacked in the bin, and she picked them up to review.
"Anything I should know?" she asked.
"Nothing out of the ordinary. A few traffic stops for speeding, one DUI, and a couple of bar brawls down at the General Bradford. Not much happening until this weekend, I expect."
She glanced at the calendar displayed in one corner of the bulletin board. It was two days before Memorial Day Weekend. She had not yet experienced the transformation that befell the tiny fishing village with the onset of the summer season. Beginning in the end of May until after Labor Day, a flood of tourists would swell the normal population of several thousand to many times that number. The townspeople depended on the influx of visitors to support their economy, despite the constant complaints by the year-rounders of the hectic crowds and unmanageable traffic.
"Yep," the sheriff continued, "expect a lot of traffic - vehicular and foot, more accidents, more nightlife, and more drunk and disorderlies. Six months of nonstop pandemonium, and then six months of deadly quiet."
Reese filed the reports silently, envisioning the weeks of work ahead of her.
"Think youll be able to stand the winters?" Parker asked. "By December youll be able to see the length of Commercial Street without a car blocking your view. Youll walk down the street and the only footprints in the snow will be yours."
Reese looked up in surprise, her blue eyes questioning. "Why wouldnt I?"
He shrugged, curiosity warring with his sense of diplomacy. Shed been working for him for almost two months and he didnt know word one about her personal life. She never mentioned her past, or talked of any family. He found it hard to believe that someone who looked like her wasnt attached someway. Still, she never left any room for those kinds of questions, and he often found himself fishing for some clue as to who she was. "Its probably not the kind of life youve been used to."
Reese fiercely guarded her privacy. It was not only instinctual, it was learned. She fought the urge to leave his unspoken question unanswered. This man was not only her boss, but the person she was likely to spend most of her time with in the coming months. In his own way he was trying to be friendly. She reminded herself she had nothing to hide. "The life I was used to was military life, Sheriff. It can be very boring in its own way. It hasnt changed much in two hundred years."
"Youre way over qualified for this job," he continued. "I knew that when I hired you. I just couldnt not hire you, not with your military police experience and a law degree thrown in."
She contemplated how much she wanted to share. Her social interactions were molded by a lifetime in the military, a rigid hierarchical world where relationships were defined and shaped by rank and politics. There were rules determining where you ate, where you slept, and whom you could and could not sleep with. There were ways around those rules if you were careful, and so inclined. Reese had never found the need to challenge them, but she was far from naive about the consequences. Revealing ones thoughts, and certainly ones feelings, could be dangerous and in some instances, deadly. As a young recruit she had been taught there were only three acceptable answers to any question or request put to her by a superior - "Yes sir", "No sir," and "No excuse sir".
She took a breath. "After fifteen years I found I was getting a little cramped in the military. I had to make a decision to stay for the rest of my life or make a move. I didnt like military law, but I still wanted to work the law, just differently. This job gives me the chance to do that." She didnt even try to explain the unrelenting restlessness she had felt the last few years; she didn't understand it herself. She had looked at her life and couldnt fault it, yet still she had left. She was here; she was happy with her decision; and she looked forward to her new life.
He looked at his deputy, wondering what she wasnt saying. She returned his look impassively, and he knew he had all the answers he was going to get.
"Well, Im glad to have you," he said gruffly. "And for Christs sake, call me Nelson."
She brushed the lock of jet-black hair from her face with one long fingered hand, a tiny smile deepening a single dimple to the right of her mouth. Her clear blue eyes were laser-like in their focus.
"Sure thing, Chief," she responded, suppressing the grin. "You want to take the first circuit through town or you want me to?"
He shook his head, trying not to laugh. "You go ahead. Im waiting for a call about next year's budget from the County Office. God, I hate the paperwork. I should never have run for Sheriff. I was much happier as the Deputy Sheriff."
"Too late now," Reese rejoined. "The jobs taken." She settled her hat over her thick, trim hair, snapping the brim to secure it over her deep-set eyes. For a second Nelson had the urge to salute her. Grabbing her keys, she headed happily for the door. She loved to be out on patrol, simply observing the day to day activities of the community she had made her own.
She had nearly completed her slow tour through the still sleeping village when the Sheriff radioed her.
"Here," she answered, thumbing on her mike.
"They need you out at the clinic on Holland Road. A break-in."
She wheeled her cruiser up one of the narrow side streets that criss-crossed the main part of town, flipping her lights on with one hand.
"Two minutes," she replied tersely. "Is there a suspect on the scene?"
"Negative. But keep an eye out on your way. The doc just got there, so we dont know how long the suspects been gone. And Reese - the doctor is inside the building."