Everywhere She Goes

By: Janice Kay Johnson

PROLOGUE

NOAH CHANDLER GLOWERED at the file that lay open on his desk. Failure was unacceptable. He still couldn’t figure out how and why the bunch of fossilized, mule-headed, self-serving jackasses that constituted his city council had shot down his candidate for the job of police chief and chosen someone so ill-qualified—compelling him to make the offer.

By God, he was going to choke on it.

Noah had been trying to tamp down his anger since the vote after last night’s meeting. When he had won the election in November and had taken over the mayor’s office, he had known he would have to deal with a council composed primarily of good ol’ boys incapable of objective, forward thinking. So far he’d succeeded in manipulating them into voting his way whatever their original inclination. What he couldn’t figure out was why the rebellion had come now, and over something so critical.

Corruption ran deep in the Angel Butte Police Department, and this town needed someone fully competent to root it out, not a yeehaw cowboy who knew Southern California gangs and hookers but had next to no administrative experience and probably thought small towns were good only as a place to get off the interstate and fill up the gas tank. Had the city council members been thinking at all? Or were they interested only in thwarting him?

A third option had presented itself, and Noah liked it least of all. What if a couple of those fine citizens serving on the council, influential with their peers, had real personal motivations for ensuring the investigation into drug trafficking and illegal payoffs floundered?

Fuming, he picked up his phone and dialed.

Three rings and a brusque male voice answered, “Raynor.”

Noah unclenched his jaw. “Lieutenant Raynor.” His voice came out as a growl. “This is Mayor Noah Chandler in Angel Butte, Oregon. I’m calling to offer you the position of police chief. You were the final choice of our city council.”

There was a moment of silence that lent him hope. The weather had been bitterly cold when Alec Raynor, a homicide lieutenant with the Los Angeles Police Department, had flown into Angel Butte for the interview. A blizzard had shut down the airport, delaying his departure for a day. Maybe in the past week he’d rethought the whole idea of accepting the job here. For all the line of bull he’d fed them during the interview, his motives for wanting the job were still a mystery to Noah.

“What about you?” Raynor asked unexpectedly. “Was I your choice?”

Noah swiveled in his desk chair to stare out the window at a partial view of Angel Butte, one of the small cinder cones that dotted this volcanic country in central Oregon. A nineteenth-century marble statue of an angel, imported all the way from Italy, crowned the crater rim. Back some years ago, before Noah’s arrival in town, the angel had been given a granite pedestal to hoist her higher, maybe so she could keep a better eye on errant townsfolk.

“No,” he said, blunt as always. “I was in favor of a candidate who had significant administrative experience. The job here doesn’t have much in common with what you do down there in L.A. We don’t have a lot of homicide cases to close. Our problems have to do with recruitment, staffing, training, scheduling, budget and morale.” Keeping our probably too-low-paid cops honest, he thought but didn’t say. “Politicking to bring in the money. Do you know how to do any of that, Lieutenant?”

“On a smaller scale, yes.” There was a pause. “Did you have experience in city government when you won the election, Mayor?”

Noah rubbed the heel of his hand over his breastbone to settle the burning coal beneath it. “I’m a businessman. Running a city isn’t all that different from running a business.”

Raynor didn’t have to say, In other words, no.

“This may not be what you want to hear, Mayor, but I accept your offer.” The steel in Alec Raynor’s voice sounded like a challenge to Noah. “As I indicated, I need to give notice here. Is your acting police chief willing to stay on for another month?”

That was the next call Noah had to make: the one to Colin McAllister, to let him know he wasn’t being offered the permanent position. The news would not go over well. McAllister had every reason to think he had it in the bag.

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