Monday (Mini #BookReview ) Madness

This week I read:

This book had a good premise, developed the characters well and created a solid group dynamic. It delivered the creeps and the scares, and if you want to know how, just read the name. I enjoyed the story, but doubt I’ll be reading more in the series.
This book is SO good! It has heart. It has horror. It has carnage. It’s both haunting and about a haunting. 😉 Stellar plot, creative and imaginative, and while it’s an old trope, it felt new. It’s the first book I’ve read in a while where I thought both, “Yay! There’s a sequel!” and, “Must read sequel immediately!” I’ll be very happy if the next book delivers as much as this one did.

I just started:

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Monday (Mini Book Review) Madness

This week I read:

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This one got off to a great start, full of mystery and suspense (which is what it’s categorized under at Amazon). But then it slowed until it dragged. Instead of a crafty plot, there was narrative heavy analysis. The second narrator works in the beginning to add intrigue and keep you reading, but these scenes lose steam until their sole purpose is to fill in (far-fetched) blanks. The ending felt rushed. Instead of a satisfying conclusion, there was the stasis of simply continuing to exist which for some reason is such a popular theme in literary fiction – because that’s what this is. If it had been a mystery, as I expected, I probably would have liked it better.

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If you’re looking for a teenage horror movie in a book, look no further – this is a slasher flick in word form. And I really liked the premise of this one: someone is messing with people in their own houses before killing them. At times, the execution left questions, and the secret haunting the MC is underwhelming when revealed, but this book provided a nice escape from reality. 

I just started:

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Friday’s Flavors: Hacked! Starbuck’s Egg Sous Vide Bites

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

e4I’ve been working on this recipe for a while because:

  1. I think Starbuck’s Bacon and Gruyere egg bites are delicious.
  2. I refuse to buy a sous vide machine just to make them.
  3. It took me a while to figure out the details (cooking temperature, proportions, etc.) to reach both a flavor and degree of simplicity I was happy with.

The result of my labors is a tasty and easy version you can make at home using nothing fancier than a food processor (or blender) and a muffin tin. The best part is, because of the way the proportions turned out, there’s no fussy math needed if you decide you want to make 2 or 12.

Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients:

eggs (half as many as the egg bites you want when finished)

cottage cheese (Yep. Starbuck’s egg bites are more cottage cheese than egg.)

salt

bacon (the precooked, bagged, chopped bacon in the salad dressing section is fine)

cheese of choice (I used an aged gouda)

Preparation:

ePreheat oven to 325 degrees.

This is super easy. You use half as many eggs as the egg bites you want when finished, so if you want 2 egg bites, use 1 egg, if you want 12 egg bites, use 6 eggs.

Break the eggs into a measuring cup. Take note of the amount, then put the eggs in a food processor (or blender). Fill the measuring cup to slightly above the level where the eggs reached with cottage cheese (so if you’re using 1/2 cup eggs, use 1/2 cup plus a heaping spoonful of cottage cheese.) Add the e1cottage cheese to the food processor. Add a pinch of salt and mix together.

Spray oil in the muffin pan cups. Sprinkle bacon at the bottom. Spoon in egg/cottage cheese mixture until about 3/4 full. Top with a generous pinch of the cheese.

My oven runs a bit hot, but my egg bites were perfectly cooked after 17 minutes. I would suggest checking at 15 minutes, and keeping an eye on them until they’re done. Jiggle the muffin pan, and if the egg bites wiggle in the middle, they need more e4time. If you think they’re done, but you’re not sure, a butter knife inserted into the center should come out clean.

(Don’t worry if the tops puff up, they’ll settle as they cool.)

Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then cover with parchment paper and flip. Using a butter knife, trace the edges of any egg bites that don’t come out on their own to free them.

Enjoy immediately, or allow to cool before storing and reheat when ready.

If you try it, please let me know what you think!

Check back next Friday for another recipe!

 

Friday’s Flavors: Conch Fritters With Key Lime Dipping Sauce

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

c5I really like a good conch fritter, but I feel like when you order them at a restaurant, they’re hit or miss. Sometimes they’re just a hard little ball of deep fried dough, other times the conch is hard and chewy, but when they’re done right, they’re tender and flavorful and oh so good – and they’re probably not nearly as hard to make at home as you think!

(The hardest part is getting conch, and while most recipes will tell you to use fresh, I’ve never had a problem using frozen.)

Ingredients:

3/4 to 1 pound conch meat (fresh or defrosted)

1/2 bell pepper

1 large shallot

1-2 ribs celery

6 cloves garlic

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup whole milk

1/2 cup eggs, beaten (2 large eggs will usually do)

1 tablespoon melted butter

1 tablespoon Old Bay

a pinch of baking powder (1/4 to 1/2 tsp)

garlic salt to taste

peanut oil for frying (or oil of choice)

Key Lime Dipping Sauce:

1/2 lime

mayonnaise

(optional) crème of coconut

Preparation:

c6Finely chop the bell pepper, shallot and celery. Peel garlic and get the rest of your ingredients ready to go.

Beat the conch on both sides with the business end of a meat mallet. Dice into 1/4 inch pieces, then chop in a food processor for a few seconds.

cMix flour, milk, beaten eggs and melted butter together. Add baking powder, Old Bay and garlic salt, stirring until well mixed.

Add bell pepper, shallots, celery, crushed garlic and conch. Mix well with a fork, making sure to break up any clumps of conch.

Heat oil over medium high heat to about 350 degrees. If you don’t have a way to measure the temperature, slowly c3increase heat until the oil sizzles but not spits when you add a drop of water.

I like the fritters to take their own shape, kind of like alien sea creatures, so I use a fork to push a small spoonful off the spoon into the oil. Work in small batches, making sure to not overcrowd the fritters. When they turn a nice golden brown, remove with a metal slotted spoon and set on a baking sheet lined with a couple layers of paper towels to dry.

c4To make the dipping sauce, juice half a lime and add mayonnaise a little at a time until it reaches a nice consistency (it doesn’t taste like mayonnaise at all when you’re done). Bonus points for adding a touch of cream of coconut (you can find it in a squeeze bottle and it makes the BEST at home Pina Coladas!)

Serve with lime wedges. Cilantro makes the best garnish if you want to get fancy.

If you try it, please let me know how you like it!

Check back next Friday for more Foodie Flavors!

Friday’s Flavors: Scallops And Pasta In Blue Cheese Cream Sauce

Hi, Foodies! Happy Friday!

sc1This week I was craving seafood pasta in a creamy cheese sauce, but I was feeling lazy – I didn’t feel like making a roux, or stirring constantly – I really just wanted to do minimal effort, tossing some ingredients together, while enjoying maximum flavor. This creamy blue cheese sauce is the solution!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pound scallops (shrimp work well too!)

1 cup crumbled blue cheese (I get 1 cup from a 5oz container)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup dry white wine

2-4 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

green onions to garnish

grated parmesan (optional)

Preparation:

sc2In a large pan combine olive oil with melted butter. Usually I’d say sear the scallops a couple of minutes on each size until they caramelize a nice, crusty brown, but I got a new pan and that didn’t happen this time. 😦

But, cook your scallops (or shrimp) until almost done, then add white wine, crushed garlic, cream, and crumbled blue cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook several minutes to allow to reduce. (The sauce won’t thicken until it cools.)

Toss with your favorite pasta. Garnish with green onions and a handful of fresh parmesan if so desired. Then dig in!

If you make it, please let me know how you liked it!

Check back next Friday for another recipe.

 

Monday (Mini Book Review) Madness

This week I read:

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I picked this one up, then almost set it down after a few pages. I didn’t like the writing and could tell right away that at least one of the characters was going to rub me the wrong way, but I had just seen the title on a list with many books that I had enjoyed, so I kept reading. It never shocked me like the cover blurb promises, but it ended up being decent with a nice twist. 

Mexican Gothic
This was a #BlameItOnLitsy read because this book is getting so much hype right now. While it was definitely creepy with well developed characters, an eerie setting, and plenty of atmosphere, I found that at times the descriptive writing broke up the suspense with all its details. Good, but not as good as I was hoping.

I just started:

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Click the links to friend me on Litsy or Goodreads and unite our bookish communities!

Monday (Mini Book Review) Madness

This week I read:

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This is a novella to accompany Leaving Time which I read several years ago and absolutely loved! While good, it lacked most of what I enjoyed about the novel. There was nothing uplifting, no message of hope, it was informative and well written but ultimately a downer.

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A girl who escapes her real life by becoming lost within the pages of books. Read my ARC review here.                          To be released August 25, 2020

I just started:

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Click the links to friend me on Litsy or Goodreads and unite our bookish communities!

Authors Killing It On Social Media: Twitter Edition

Even though Instagram (find Authors Killing It On Instagram post here) is my favorite social media platform, Twitter is the one I find most entertaining. It’s like everyone downs a few drinks, spins around until they’re dizzy, and then types the first thing that comes to mind before they can think better of it and censor themselves. The result is a steady stream of chronic twitterrhea, and as long as it’s not political, I dig it.

And just like some authors kill it on Instagram, others find their excellence on the twitterverse. So, for those of us writers who need a little direction, or those of us readers who enjoying seeing their favorite authors in their element, I thought I’d share some of the profiles I’ve discovered of authors who I think are killing it. (The names are hyperlinked to their accounts.)

Maureen Johnson: Maureen’s feed makes you think of that one friend we all have (or need) who knows how to get the party started. Her tweets are consistent and entertaining. Not only is she an awesome writer (if you haven’t read the Truly Devious series, you don’t know what you’re missing!) but she seems like she’s a lot of fun. I think most of her 147.2K followers would agree!

Libra Bray: Bray is a frequent tweeter who balances promotion, love for her fellow authors, and the side of silliness you want when you log onto Twitter. Bonus points for using a scene from The Shining as her background pic!

Jen Malone: Jen is fun! Her tweets are more about making you smile than making you buy one of her books – and you’ll smile a lot! How can you argue with that?

Suzanne Young: Suzanne was great fun, then took a hiatus. Then she came back. Then the corona virus made her go into quarantine when she was supposed to have a book launch and now . . . IDK. I’ll be sad if she’s gone, because if you look back in her feed, she was good at the tweeting.

I admit that I am an infrequent tweeter. I’m more of a creeper who lurks in the shadows, watching what everyone else does and liking it. Guess maybe I need to down a few shots first. 🤪 If you want to check out my rather bland feed, you can find it here.

Are you on Twitter? What do you post, and what do you most enjoy seeing in your feed? If you follow an author who you think is killing it, I want to know!!!

 

 

The Heat: Free Short Fiction

Is it a gut feeling, or something more? A young officer’s mettle is put to the test. Read on to see if you can handle “The Heat.”

The Heat first appeared in Tough: Crime Stories in March of 2019

 

The smell of damp earth mingles with the sharp tang of oil, tickling her nose, and for a moment, Police Officer Penelope Holden wonders what she’s doing in the basement of her Grandfather’s old farm house. She rises reluctantly from the memory, pulled by the nagging feeling that there is something important that she’s supposed to be doing. Then, in the blink of an eye, her eye, she’s back in the present, one quick instant of awareness before she moves and a sharp pain knifes through her head, clouding her thoughts and vision.

Holding still, breathing deeply, she looks around, taking in the hard dirt floor beneath her, dark stains of dampness spreading across the soil like hungry vines searching for prey, looping tendrils creeping from the edges of roughly cemented cinderblock. In the dim light she can just make out the exposed beams that cross overhead, the rickety staircase with no railing that leads up to the house above, the huge tank for heating oil hunched in the corner. She might not be under her Grandfather’s farm house, but she is in someone’s basement. Struggling to sit up, she finds her wrists and ankles are zip tied. Duct tape stretches tightly over her mouth, pulling at her skin. Penelope rolls onto her back and rocks her torso up. Her body pulses with pain, an uncomfortably intense pressure threatening her bladder

               It was late afternoon when Penelope knocked on the door. She’d been canvasing the neighborhood all day, one house after another, hoping for any lead that might prove useful in furthering the investigation into the disappearance of Sammy Kohlner, a six-year-old boy who had gone missing from his family’s backyard that morning. The lead investigator thought the boy had probably wandered off and focused his efforts on organizing search teams to explore the nearby woods for any sign of the boy. The boy’s mother, though, had been adamant that he wouldn’t have left the yard by himself, and that he couldn’t possibly had gotten farther than she could see in the time the child was left alone.

               They say that a second is all it takes, and it’s true. In the time it took Sammy’s mother to run inside and answer the phone, her son disappeared. “I wasn’t even gone a minute,” Penelope heard as she watched his mother sob. “I would have been back even sooner, but a motorcycle was driving by, and I couldn’t hear who was on the other end of the line until it passed.” By then it was too late. The boy was gone. And though her superior officer thought the child had wandered off, Penelope was struck by the conviction in the mother’s voice.

               Perhaps someone had taken Sammy, snatching him from the yard the very second his mother went inside, the sounds of the abduction concealed by the din of a passing noisy motor. That tiny seed of what if had been enough to make Penelope volunteer for the door to door inquiry. She had no idea that doing so would lead to this, her bound and gagged, and from the feel of the tender bruises covering her body, tossed down the stairs to end up on the dirt floor of someone’s basement.

               The door opened like the others before it. Penelope smiled at the woman, and though something inside her whispered danger as she took in the weathered face framed by grey hair, the stout, matronly body squeezed into a pair of too tight jeans, she kept her guard down, suspecting nothing. Her instincts cried wolf all the time, after all. When she went out on a rainy night to pick up some take out, or when the good-looking guy with the great smile standing behind her in line at the grocery store made eye contact. But, even as a police officer, Penelope had encountered little real danger in her life.

               Perhaps, if she had considered how a less prepared driver may have responded when her wheels hydroplaned on the slick road, of if had she ever gotten the cute guy’s name and ran his record, discovered that he had a long history of domestic abuse, she would have realized that it was her instinct that kept her safe. Maybe she would have trusted her gut when it spoke to her, sweat pooling on her upper lip, beading at her temples as the red door swung open, revealing the husky woman.

               Penelope introduced herself to the woman who opened the door. “Good afternoon, ma’am, I’m Officer Holden with the Waverly Police Department. I’m sorry to bother you today, but a little boy went missing down the street, and I’m checking with all of the neighbors, seeing if anyone saw anything, maybe a child walking alone, something that struck you as suspicious, anything out of the ordinary at all.”

               Noticing a piece of mail that had fallen across the threshold onto the toe of her boot, dislodged from the mail slot when the door opened, Penelope bent to pick it up. Handing the letter over, her eyes darted from the name printed on the envelope, Dr. Lee Chin, to the picture of the Asian family on the hall table, finally meeting the gaze of the late middle-aged white woman standing before her. The woman tracked the path Penelope’s eyes had taken. Turning to look at the photograph behind her, a smile spread across her face as she turned back towards Penelope.

               “I’m the nanny,” she said. “One of the children is actually in the bath right now, so . . .” she gestured with her head over her shoulder.

               “Oh, of course, I’m sorry. I can stop back later,” Penelope said, taking a step back, unable to shake the feeling of unease that had settled over her shoulders like a heavy coat.

               “No, I wouldn’t want you to have to do that. No reason to go through all that trouble. Please, come in. I just need to keep an ear open. I can do that and talk at the same time.”

               She stepped back, making a sweeping motion with her arm, indicating that Penelope should enter. Penelope snuck another glance at the photo as she passed, anxiety building with each step that carried her further into the house, worrying that she was wasting too much time, that each moment that passed allowed the missing boy to slip further from her grasp, but also something else, a worry whose source she couldn’t quite pinpoint

               Leaving the foyer, walking down the hall, it struck her, not like lightning, but as a subtle thought that slowly rose up, breaching the surface of her consciousness like a bubble. Both of the kids in that picture looked like teenagers. Why would they need a nanny? Or a bath?

               The synapsis in her brain fired, making connections, sorting through the jumble swirling inside her head, the daily juggle of what needed to be done that day, whether she had turned the coffee pot off, hope that the little boy would be found quickly and safely, wondering when would be the right time to approach her superior officer about entering the detective program and taking the exam, the discomfort of her pants’ button digging deeply into the soft flesh of her belly from the weight she’d recently gained. Reaching the living room, one thought broke through, and she had a single, glorious moment of clarity. Then a wave of pain crashed against her head, bringing with it a dark blanket that dropped, blocking from her vision the motorcycle parked incongruously on the living room rug and the little boy sitting in front of the TV.

A bead of sweat traces its way down Penelope’s cheek. Raising a shoulder to wipe at her face, she thinks she smells something burning. She draws a deep breath. She does smells smoke.

Penelope tilts her head to look up at the door. It looks hazy at the top of the stairs, but that could be from the lack of lighting. Is it her imagination, or is that a finger of smoke reaching out from beneath the door, beckoning to her like a waving hand?

A smoke alarm sounds from the house above, the high-pitched beeping echoing off the walls around her. Penelope tugs at her bonds, knowing that struggling against the zip ties is futile. Bending in half, she brings her wrists to her ankles, tugging her right shoelace out of the eyelets of her boot. When it’s half free, she pulls the lace through the zip tie between her wrists and puts the end in her mouth. Gripping the aglet firmly between her teeth, she saws the zip tie against the lace, the hard plastic biting deeply into the flesh of her wrists, her skin raw and burning. She pauses, inspecting the tiny trench eroded into her plastic bonds, then resumes her efforts, drawing her wrists up and down, back and forth, until the tie breaks, her arms flying wide with freedom.

She rips the tape from her mouth and undoes the lace the rest of the way from her boot, threading the cord between the zip tie and her ankles, grabbing the ends in each fist. A crash upstairs makes her flinch. Faintly, above the pounding of her heart, she thinks she can hear the crackling of fire. Her eyes water and burn. Sawing through the last of her bonds, Penelope rolls onto her knees and pushes herself to her feet, eying the door at the top of the stairs. Amber shadows flicker against the wall, like candlelight from a jack-o-lantern.

An engine thunders to life, the noise pitching to a roar then quickly fading. Late afternoon light seeps in around the edges of a bulkhead. The promise of fresh air propels Penelope forward. She moves unsteadily towards the bulkhead, her limbs stiff, back sore. Standing on the bottom step, she pushes against the heavy pressed-wood doors. They give a foot but do not open. Penelope peers through the gap, eyes studying the thick chain that prevents the doors from opening completely. Crouching, she climbs higher on the stairs until she is curled under the doors. Raising only one side up, she contorts she herself, pushing her head through the gap. Squirming, she fights to get her shoulders through, her legs bracing hard against the wall, her torso squeezed and scraped, breath forced from her lungs as she slowly inches her way through the narrow space until she flops clumsily onto the ground, completely birthed from the basement.

She lies flat on her back, panting, inhaling greedily. Staring up at the sky, squinting against the still visible sun, Penelope realizes not much time has passed since she had knocked on the front door. She must not have been unconscious long.

Pushing into a sitting position, her vision clouds, each beat of her heart throbbing through her skull. She pauses, letting the pain subside. As the grey haze recedes to the edges of her sight, her eyes focus on the tire tracks etched into the soft soil of the yard beside her. She studies the ruts which lead across the yard, to the house, then back over the yard through the back gate, unable to determine which set was made when the bike arrived, and which went it left. Does it matter? She feels like it does.

Penelope struggles to her feet, stumbles, wary eyes watching the roils of black smoke swarming angrily behind the windows of the house. She needs to call this in. She needs to report the fire. Yet she finds herself drawn to the tire tracks, approaching the design that repeats back and forth across the yard, a pattern not unlike like a set of fingerprints. The deep, pristine impression of a freshly inked finger, the first finger pressed against the FD-258 card when she books a perp at the station, then a lighter imprint, like when she presses the entire hand all at once without re-inking. Only the difference in these markings aren’t due to ink transfer. The tracks were made by a motorcycle’s tires. They were formed by the weight pressing the bike down against the earth.

Penelope’s head snaps towards the house, adrenalin flushing hot beneath her skin. There’d been less weight on the back of the bike when one set of the tracks were made. The kidnapped boy was brought to the house on the bike. If his weight wasn’t on the bike when it left, then that meant . . .

Running to the house, Penelope peers through the window, but the dark smoke, like low hanging storm clouds, blocks her view. She tries the handle on the back door, the knob twisting under her grasp. Shoving the door open, she’s smacked in the face by a wall of acrid smoke. Penelope drops to her hands and knees, eyes stinging, lungs burning as she coughs. “Sammy?” she chokes out, crawling forward into the inferno-like heat of the house. Her sweat-drenched skin prickles. The low growl of flames rustles in her ears, the noise grower louder as she continues forward, blinking rapidly against the heat and smoke, struggling for each breath. She feels herself weakening.

Panic wells inside her, every instinct in her body shouting for her to retreat. She can barely think above the noise – crackling flames, rasping gasps, gnashing teeth, frenzied thoughts. When she rounds the couch, and sees the shoe, she thinks she’s hallucinating. She is too late, has pressed too far, has sealed the fate for both herself and the boy by making the wrong decision. She should have called for help.

Sprawling on her belly across the carpet, she musters a small burst of energy and reaches for the tiny tennis shoe, an image of scuffed, dirty white leather with a red cartoon car across the side filling her brain as her eyes close. It must have been part of the description she had taken from the mother. Funny how your brain fills in details like that. Her fingers stretch to wrap around the phantom image. Penelope expects a fistful of air. When her hand clenches around something solid, she forces her eyes open, lids peeling back from the dried orbs with the resistance of Velcro. She squeezes. The shoe weakly tries to pull from her grasp.

“Sammy.” She feels the name leave her lips but can’t hear the sound. She strengthens her grip on the tiny foot, pushing herself forward with every ounce of strength she has. The panel on the bottom of the couch brushes across her cheek, rough material that smells like feet and dust. Penelope squeezes her face into the space under the couch, her lungs greedily drinking in the cooler, cleaner air. Her thoughts clear. Giving the small shoe clenched in her hand another squeeze, she’s shocked to feel a hot, damp hand wrap around her fingers. Releasing the foot, she takes the hand in hers. Drawing one last breath from under the couch, she reenters hell, smoke swirling, flames spitting, licking at the fabric of an armchair only feet away.

Her gaze settles on Sammy’s soot stained face, sweat and tears streaking paths through the grime. She draws him towards her, pulling him under her, guiding him towards safety. Penelope feels like she’s being boiled alive as they slowly inch toward the door, Sammy crawling under her with his hands and feet bound. Something grazes her back and she yelps, fire searing through her uniform, the flame dying against her flesh. The skin on her back scalds and tingles, itching as it flares into blisters. She wants to give in, to collapse, but she can’t. They’re so close; she can smell the drafts of fresh air mingling with the smoke, feeding the fire.

Wrapping one arm under Sammy’s stomach, she crawls forward on three limbs until she feels the soft forgiveness of earth under her knees. She presses on, getting Sammy as far from the burning house as she can before flopping onto her back, letting the heat from her skin leech into the cool soil beneath her.

A weeping sound tunnels through the darkness, into Penelope’s head. The world beneath her jolts and she panicks, tries to throw her arms out for balance, but she can’t. They are bound to her sides. Forcing the heavy drapery of her eyelids apart, she struggles to focus her vision.

“Ssh, Officer Holden, it’s alright.”

Following the sound of the voice, she finds herself looking into a pair of concerned blue eyes above her. “You have some second degree burns on your back, and we’re treating you for smoke inhalation. We’re going to take you to the hospital for further treatment.”

Eyes flying wide, Penelope searches the crowd of officials and curious neighbors gathered on the streets around her. “The boy?” Muffled words bounce off the oxygen mask strapped to her face.

“He’s just fine. In fact,” the eyes disappear from view and she feels the brake on the stretcher beneath her click down.

The back of Sammy’s head appears. He and his mother cling to each other. His mother holds an oxygen mask to his face with one hand, cradling him against her with the other. Penelope smiles towards the mother’s grateful face but is unable to take her eyes off Sammy. His arms wrapped tightly around his mother’s neck, his little black Nikes tucked snuggly against her hips.

“His shoes,” Penelope croaks.

Sammy’s mom stops gushing gratitude at Penelope and glances down at her son’s feet.

“I thought they were white. With red cars.”

“I must have described the wrong shoes earlier,” she says, her head tilting to the side. “I’m sorry. I forgot he had these on. I forgot he even owned them I was so panicked, but you found him, Officer Holden, and I’m so truly grateful for everything you’ve done. Thank you.” Her voice breaks. The woman buries her face into her son’s neck, muffling a sob.

Stepping forward, the paramedic releases the break on the stretcher and loads Penelope onto the ambulance. No one hears her say, “But I saw the shoes you described.”

The ambulance door slams shut and a familiar face looms into view. Detective Shaw takes a seat next to the gurney and gives Penelope a smile. “That was some good work today, Officer Holden.”

Penelope opens her mouth to speak, then stops herself. Had she really seen Sammy’s shoe in that burning house, or had she imagined it? Had she even found him? Or had he found her? Could she allow herself to take credit where it wasn’t due?

“Sir, I . . .” her voice trails off, not knowing how to describe what may or may not have happened inside the burning house.

Detective Shaw glances at the paramedic, busy inserting an IV into her arm. Lowering his head closer to Penelope’s, his voice low, Shaw asks, “Did something happen back there, in the fire? Something you can’t explain?”

Penelope blinks. Her eyes feel like they’re tearing up but are still beyond dry. She whispers, “Yes, sir.”

Leaning back, Detective Shaw clears his throat and says, “You’re a good cop, Holden. But what happened back there, whatever it was? That’s what’s going to make you a great cop. There’s no way to explain it. You’ve just got to go with it. That innate instinct, that gut feeling? Never doubt it.”

               Thinking back over the events of the day, Penelope knows he is right. She nods, a small smile curving the edges of her chapped lips. Detective Shaw’s words don’t just allay her fears; they infuse her with an inner calm she’s never felt before. A feeling that comes from knowing that she’s on the right path. This is what she is meant to do. Officer Holden is who she is meant to be.

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