From Chapter 1
The security system pinged and Jasper, my Maltese, alerted me I had company as I put the finishing touches on my makeup. Brush in hand, I greeted O’Hare – Michael – at the door. Getting used to calling him “Michael” would take some time.
“Come on in. I just need to take care of Jasper…” I rambled and he put a finger on my lips.
“Relax. You look beautiful.” He removed his finger and replaced it with his lips for a light kiss. “Let’s take care of Jasper and then get some food. I’m starving.”
“You look nice, too.”
At six foot, with brown hair and gray eyes, all muscle, O’Hare, or O’Hunk as my good friend Trina called him, easily turned heads. In the three years or so I’d known him, he’d always looked haggard, in need of a haircut, and always with the same sports coat. Not tonight.
Jasper jumped around and we let him out. While we waited, O’Hare rubbed my shoulders and I shivered. Jasper fed and everything locked up, we left. He’d told me we were eating at an upscale restaurant in Reston, Sutherland’s Gourmet Palate.
In the car, he asked, “How are things at Foster’s Insurance Group? I haven’t been there in a while.”
Foster’s is where I work as an HR specialist. “I guess that’s a good thing, right? It means I haven’t been involved in any murders.”
He laughed. “That is the positive side of it. The downside is I didn’t have any excuse to stop by and drive Rosie crazy.”
Rosie is my admin, an older woman with a bubbly personality and not so much impulse control. She has the hots for O’Hare even though she is much older than him and should know better.
“Yeah, I think she missed your visits as much as I did.” He reached over and squeezed my hand. I asked, “How about you? You’re always busy, aren’t you?” I recalled at one point thinking he must work twelve-hour days.
“Always busy. Not always a murder, sometimes missing persons, burglary… the full range of criminal activities. And, as you are aware, crimes involving the privileged come with extra pressure to make things right faster. Most of the time, I love my job, though. It keeps me on my toes.”
“That’s important. I don’t think I’ve ever asked you – what do you do for fun?”
“When I have time, I like to hike, maybe go fishing or camping, get away from the day-to-day stuff. I like to dance and hang out with friends. You?”
“Dancing, friends, skiing, yoga. Walking and hiking.” I chuckled. “I’m afraid my idea of camping is a hotel or cabin with running water, O’Hare.”
He laughed. “No problem. I know of places in the mountains with fully equipped cabins. We may have to look into that. Uh, Stacie, I picked this restaurant for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a nice place. Also, with it in Reston and not Beckman Springs, I’m less likely to run into people I’ve met on the job. And the food is good. Only I don’t think they have rocky road ice cream or pizza on the menu. What else do you eat?”
This was a standard joke among my friends and I punched his arm. “I eat most foods, though I never got into the fancy sauces and I’m definitely not a great cook. I ate there once on business with Lionel Smythe, Chief Rizzo, and Austin Beasley. No worries.” Lionel, Rizzo and Beasley were on the foundation board to help victims of domestic violence with me and others.
He smiled and I sneered. “Besides, I always have rocky road ice cream at home.”
“Do you eat it with chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and a cherry on top?” He pulled into the parking lot as he asked the question. Parked, he looked to me for an answer.
“Not usually, but that sounds sinful.”
His eyes twinkled at my response.
Inside we were seated and the service was good. Once again, I experienced “sticker shock” at the prices. I ordered one of the less expensive entrees, knowing I wouldn’t finish it all. We had some wine, and ate, continuing our conversation and getting to know each other outside the context of a murder.
“How’s your father doing?”
I smiled. “He seems more mellow since he married Deanna. She keeps him grounded. On the other hand, he must still have access to the police blotter. He calls every time there is a murder in Beckman Springs or anywhere nearby to be sure I’m not involved in it.”
He laughed. “Thankfully, we don’t have that many in the suburbs. If you lived in a big city, that would be a different story. If I remember, you have a brother. Military, right?”
“Good memory. Yes, Vince is career military and deployed right now. Not sure when we’ll see him again. Even when he’s got time off, he usually goes into hiding. It was good he managed to make their wedding last January. What about you?”
“Always wanted to do police work, started out on the streets, and worked my way up. My parents constantly berated me over my obsession with my job. They still live in Maryland along with my two sisters, both younger and married with kids.”
“Do you see them often?”
“Weddings, births, anniversaries, and the occasional funeral. The holidays are iffy due to the job. I usually make Thanksgiving or Christmas and pop in for a brief visit for other special occasions.”
Our conversation halted when a woman screamed.
“Stay here.” O’Hare took off in the direction of the scream. A few minutes later, a shot rang out and chaos ensued. While people ducked under tables or ran for the front doors, I pushed through to find O’Hare.
As I approached the hallway in back, I heard a man yell, “Don’t move or I’ll shoot.”
Excerpt from Keepsakes, Karma & Murder by Christa Nardi Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.