PROLOGUE


The wind was as bitter as her mother's blackberry pie. Even pulling her coat collar up to hide her neck and jaw was of no use. Ruth was doomed to be cold for eternity, or so it felt.

The young woman paused by a large oak, leaning against it and pulling a pack of Marlboro Lights from inside her coat. She reached in again, pulling out her lighter before lighting one of the fags and slipping it between her lips. Oh, if her mother were alive, what she would have thought!

Never mind her mother. What would Janet or Max think? Inhaling another puff of smoke, Ruth sighed deeply and dropped the cigarette to the ground, stomping on it to put out the ignited end and moving back to the path she had just strayed from.

She had put out a cigarette; she couldn't be expected to refrain from littering, too, could she? She wasn't superwoman.

The young woman hadn't jogged for more than a minute before a familiar vibration spread up her garments. Sighing again, she stopped in her tracks and pulled out her flip phone, checking to see who was calling before answering.

"Hey, Max," she said calmly. "What's up?"

"Your boss called," her husband responded, chuckling deeply. "Said he couldn't reach you on your cellular. Told him you were just in the shower for a spell."

Damn right you couldn't reach me, Ruth thought, recalling the four missed calls that were present on her cellular. "Thanks, honey," she acknowledged indignantly. "Just gonna finish up this jog."

"I still don't understand jogging in this weather," Max replied with a genuine tone of wonder.

"Love you, dear. See you soon," she said, annoyed, before closing her phone and stashing it in her coat again. "Honestly, why can't I just be left alone on the weekends?"

"Maybe you shouldn't have become a criminal investigator," Caroline told her. Ruth could barely make out the breath on the numb skin of her neck.

"Maybe you should go away," Ruth whispered, pulling her coat more tightly around herself before turning on her heels and beginning a slow pace toward home.

"You and I both know how absolutely impossible that is, even if we both want it."