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Authors: Jodi Compton

Tags: #Mystery, #Detective, #Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths, #Minneapolis (Minn.), #Police, #Mystery & Detective, #Healers, #Fiction - Mystery, #Mystery & Detective - General, #Minneapolis, #Fiction, #Problem families, #Policewomen, #Suspense, #Women Sleuths, #Missing persons, #General, #Minnesota, #Dysfunctional families

Sympathy between humans

BOOK: Sympathy between humans
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Sympathy Between Humans
Jodi Compton
Delacorte Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was late afternoon on Spain’s Atlantic coast,
the sun turning golden in the lower layers of atmosphere over the water. At the ocean’s edge ran a seawall, not a barrier of rocks but a solid stone wall that broke the gentle surf. A section had been cut away to let water feed into a bathing pool, a dark-watered rectangle about half the size of a swimming pool, submerged stone benches cut all around the sides.

 

 

It was like something an ancient Roman city builder might have created, both simple and decadent. Egalitarian, as well. There were no fences, and locals seemed as welcome to come here as the well-heeled vacationers. Sunbathers came in to cool off, and children swam, darting across and back from one bench to another, like birds changing roosts in an aviary.

 

 

Genevieve Brown had brought me here, Gen who’d once been my partner in the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department. On the job she’d been measured and cautious, and I’d expected the same from her here. But she’d taken the lead, stepping down onto a bench and immediately from there into the center of the pool, tucking her knees to let the water cradle her cupped body as her dark, shoulder-length hair made a cloud around her head.

 

 

Now Genevieve sat next to me on one of the benches, her face tipped up into the sun. Her skin seemed already to be turning a warm, creamy brown. Genevieve was of southern European extraction, and while she’d never been a sun worshipper, her skin would tan in the weakest early-spring rays.

 

 

“This is nice,â€

 

 

The three brothers were Croatian.
They’d been in America about eight days, living with their parents in the crowded home of their assimilated aunt, uncle, and cousins, who’d been in Minneapolis over a year. The boys still weren’t totally on Central Time, and they often woke when their father and uncle got up at four to go to their jobs at a snack-foods plant.

 

 

The brothers were also enamored of their cousins’ bicycles, which they had just learned to ride. That morning, awake and adventurous as kids of that age often are, they went out for a ride after their father went to work, even though they’d been forbidden to take the bikes out without supervision.

 

 

It was the boy perched on the handlebars that had gone over the railing when his brother lost his balance and let the bike wobble. That same brother, the oldest, had jumped into the water after him. He’d survived the rescue attempt; it was the younger brother, small and thin, who’d been sucked down to die.

 

 

The parents had insisted on coming downtown the day after the accident to thank me. They were accompanied by their relatives, who spoke fractured but passable English; I was accompanied by our department spokeswoman, who seemed as uncomfortable as I was. It was an encounter that was linguistically awkward and terribly sad, and I wished they hadn’t bothered.

 

 

I hadn’t been back at my desk long when my lieutenant stopped by, on his way out.

 

 

“Detective Pribek,â€

 

 

A small storm moved across Hennepin County
that night, toward Wisconsin. I slept through the thunder, yet woke abruptly before daylight. A brief moment of disorientation—
Where’s Shiloh?
— and then things came together in my mind, and I realized that the telephone was ringing.

 

 

“Hello,â€

 

 

Lust may never sleep,
but Sunday night is a slow night in the sex trade, too slow to waste a detective on a prostitution-decoy sting. It left me free to pursue “Cisco.â€

 

 

The deputy in Georgia
who’d taken the missing-persons report on Aidan had a slight smoker’s rasp riding over his thick, interrogative accent. “You have some information about Aidan Hennessy for me?â€

 

 

Two days later,
the pain in my ear was worse, but I kept it in abeyance with aspirin. The cold had passed, I told myself, so this would pass too. I tried to ignore the fact that Cisco had suggested otherwise, warning that I might need an antibiotic prescription.

 

 

Stop worrying about his goddamned advice,
I thought.
This will go away on its own, most things do. Doctors can’t admit that, because if they did, they’d be out of a job.

 

 

But the day after that, my ear was refusing to be ignored. The aspirin I’d taken had worn off in the night, and when I woke, my eardrum pulsed like a second, painful heartbeat. I lifted myself to a sitting position very slowly. I didn’t want to cause even the smallest rise in blood pressure that might make the throbbing worse.

 

 

When I was ready, I went to the bathroom. My face was a study in contrast, pale with spots of high, febrile color. I swallowed the last three aspirin and pitched the bottle into the trash.
Come on, this is probably the worst of it. One more day and you’ll turn a corner,
I told myself.

 

 

I took a fifteen-minute shower with the door and window tightly closed, inhaling steam. After that, and a cup of tea and two slices of toast, the aspirin started to kick in. I felt marginally better, good enough to get dressed and go out.

 

 

I suppose
some people would think it strange that someone with a blistering earache and a fever wouldn’t call in sick, but in fact, I went in early. I didn’t want to sit around the house with nothing to think about but how much my ear hurt and how long it might take to heal if I kept refusing to see a doctor. I wanted the distraction of work, and if my shift was still hours away, then Hugh Hennessy could easily fill those hours.

 

 

“Sarah.â€
BOOK: Sympathy between humans
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