Wednesday, September 21, 2011




One Tough Cop

Her Personal life is a shambles. But no cop does it better than Fey Croaker – as she fights for respect in the L.A.P.D. . . . and for justice in a city on the edge.

Grave Sins

All of Los Angeles is thrust into chaos when a popular NBA athlete is charged with a series of gruesome murders. The evidence against the defendant appears overwhelming, but old evils die hard.

For L.A.P.D. homicide detective Fey Croaker and her appealing crew, the race for the truth will tax each of them to the limit. Under the scorching light of media attention, Fey’s own demons are brought into sharp focus with the life of her wayward brother literally hanging in the balance.

It’s a race to get to the truths hidden beneath layers of lies, secrets, and deadly perversions – and Fey must win while there is still an L.A. left to protect and serve.



Darcy Wyatt spun the wheels of the blue delivery van onto the loose asphalt behind Fratelli Pizza. A lone streetlight illuminated an almost empty parking lot.

Darcy had been gone longer than he'd intended and hoped the boss, Butt Wipe Norman, hadn't noticed. He also hoped no more delivery orders had come in. Darcy was feeling pleasantly buzzed after his exertions. Sucking down a fat dubie of Kenny's bitchin' grass had also helped to soften the edges. Maybe when he and Kenny got off they could do a couple of six-packs and have some more giggles. Kenny was warped, but he was always good for laughs.

The van stank of old pizza and sweat socks. Kenny never cleaned the damn thing out, and the threadbare carpeting in the back was covered in stains and filth. A stack of bondage magazines, a shovel, a basketball, and a raft of empty beer cans bounced around in the back, mingling with fast-food wrappers, dirty workout clothes, and odds and ends of other junk.

Unlike the other Fratelli Pizza restaurants where Darcy worked, Butt Wipe Norman was too cheap to pop for an official Fratellimobile for deliveries. Darcy didn't have a car of his own, so it was a problem whenever he got called to fill in for the regular delivery guy who worked for Norman. However, Kenny also worked for Norman's Fratelli Pizza franchise. Since Kenny and Darcy were buds, he always let Darcy borrow the van for making the delivery rounds while Kenny stayed and cooked up more of the round gut bombs that were making Butt Wipe rich.

Darcy liked hanging with Kenny. Kenny said they were sort of like brothers. They both hated Norman -- they actually hated anybody who ever amounted to anything -- and were always talking about what they were going to do to Norman some day to mess him up.

Darcy jammed the steering wheel gearshift into park and jumped out of the van. Reaching back inside, he used one hand to drag out two insulated pizza delivery packs. With his other hand, Darcy grabbed his motorcycle helmet. It was a full-face helmet, scuffed and scarred. He never left it with his cycle in case somebody ripped it off. It had other uses as well.

Feeling loose, he pushed his way in through the back entrance to the restaurant.

"Hey, hey, buddy," he said when he spotted Kenny in the back hallway. "What's happening?"

"Shut up," Kenny said urgently. He held a finger up to his lips.

Darcy looked a little shocked. He'd never seen Kenny acting anything but cool, but the guy was real agitated now. Darcy dumped the pizza insulators on a counter.

"What's the matter?" he asked.


"Ah, hell!" Darcy glanced around as if he was looking for an escape. "How'd they find out?"

"I don't think they did, man. But you gotta get outta here. They're asking about you."

"What the hell am I gonna do?"

"Take off, man. Just get on your bike and blow. I'll cover for you."

"Cool. Thanks, man."

"Hey, we're brothers, aren't we?" Kenny held out an open palm and Darcy slapped it. "Get going, man."

Darcy pulled his helmet over his head and threw Kenny the keys to the blue van.

Kenny stood watching as Darcy went back out the rear door and headed toward where he's parked his motorcycle. When he heard the motorcycle kick over, he turned and ran into the front of the restaurant. "Mr. Norman! Mr. Norman," he yelled excitedly.

A short, fat man with a thick black mustache turned away from talking with two uniformed police officers.

"What-da-ya want, Kenny?" Norman asked. His voice was an abrasive whine.
"It's Darcy. He just took off on his motorcycle."

The two cops looked at each other and then turned to look through the front window of the restaurant when the noise of Darcy's cycle roared past.
The older of the two cops was suddenly in action, dragging his partner with him out the front door.

Kenny rocked back on his heels with a smug smile. He sure liked the reaction he'd started -- it was almost as good as real giggles. Well, not really, but it was still pretty cool. If things went as planned, the real giggles would come later on tonight.

Darcy wasn't important anyway. Even if the cops caught Darcy -- and Kenny always knew they would -- Darcy didn't know anything that could mess things up. It had been cool manipulating Darcy's kinks -- pervert see, pervert do.
Actually, Kenny figured throwing Darcy to the wolves was a good move. It got Darcy out of the way before he did find something out, and Kenny didn't need the complications of killing him without a good reason.


No rest for the wicked, Fey Croaker thought as she dropped her purse on her desk with a loud thump. The shoulder strap snaked out and bounced off a Styrofoam cup filled with coffee. The hot liquid slopped out of the cup, immediately soaking into reports and paperwork scattered like abandoned confetti across the desk top.

Fey looked at the mess and rolled her eyes. She swore under her breath and tried to shake dark brown droplets off several of the disaster-struck documents. Giving the salvage work up as a lost cause, she threw the papers back on the desk and dropped down into her chair. She swore again. Louder this time.

"Get out of the wrong side of the bed this morning?" Monk Lawson asked as he entered the squad room from the back stairway. It was three in the morning, and except for Fey and Monk, the squad room was deserted.

Fey scowled darkly at the young black detective. "Where did you come up with this morning stuff?" she asked. "It's still the middle of the damn night."
Monk laughed. "Yeah, I know how you feel. I hate these call-outs. I'd only just turned off the lights and headed for dreamland when my beeper went off."

"At least you got to sleep," Fey said.

"Oh," Monk said. "Out doing the town, were we?"

Fey gave a weary shake of her head. "Not really." Her tone of voice suggested trouble.

"Problems on the relationship front?" Monk asked gently. For a while he'd sensed there was something not going right for Fey outside of the job.

Fey shook her head to dismiss the subject of her personal life. "This too shall pass," she said with a deep sigh, and then forced a smile.

At forty-something, creeping ever closer to fiftyish, Fey had been the Homicide Unit supervisor at the LAPD's West Los Angeles Area for almost four years. She wasn't the department's only female homicide detective, but she was the only female supervising a major divisional Homicide Unit.

On several occasions she'd paid the price for being a woman in the position, but there was no way in hell she was ever going to give it up without a fight. She'd come too far, both professionally and personally to roll over and play dead when the going got a little rough.

Some of her co-workers believed she'd only been given the position due to the department's affirmative action movement. Fey, however, didn't much care if that was true or not. The fact was that she was in the position and she was damn good at it. She'd made her bones several times over, and she'd match her unit's clearance rates against any other division in the city in a heartbeat.

West LA's detective squad room was located on the top floor of the two-story building. The front desk, the Watch Commander's office, records, administrative offices, and a small jail were located on the ground floor. The station's huge roll call room, male and female locker rooms, and the officers' workout room were situated in the basement.

Two stairways led from the ground floor to the detective division. The front stairway was for civilians and led to a small lobby. Behind the lobby was a hallway housing interrogation rooms, a victim's interview room, the Homicide Unit's incident room, and an area designated for the area CAD (computer statistics) team. The back stairway led from the center of the ground floor to a second hallway and the back entrance to the squad room. Along the second hallway, the area vice unit had a small office appropriately located across from the bathrooms. Another small office in the same hallway was occupied by a bureau narcotics unit.

One quarter of the squad room was walled off for a section of the department's Bunco-Forgery Division. The remaining expanse of open floor was used as the detective division's work space. Various groups of desks were butted against each other like giant dominos. Each grouping represented a different fragment of the overall investigative case load -- Burglary, Auto Theft, Juvenile, Robbery, MAC (Major Assault Crimes), Sex Crimes, and Homicide.

Due to recent organizational imperatives, Fey, as the Homicide Unit supervisor, had been given additional jurisdiction over the MAC and sex crimes investigations as well as her unit's traditional homicide tasks. This meant far more paperwork and a half-dozen extra detectives to supervise. Somehow this translated into a hell of a lot more personnel problems, and far more call-outs, such as the one she and Monk were currently working.

Fey had been in mid-shriek when the noise of her beeper had exploded across the angry, emotional battlefield that her relationship with Jake Travers had become.

"Damn it!" Fey had cursed. She'd slid naked out of bed and began rooting around in her purse to retrieve the offending pager. What had started out as a lovemaking session with Jake had rapidly deteriorated into a slanging match even before the preliminaries were over. He'd pushed her buttons and she'd responded by pushing his. Passion had changed from lust to hurt, and hurt to anger, in seconds. Dripping with emotional blood, the spiked and dangerous rocks on which their relationship was floundering were as naked as their bodies.

When she had looked at the number on the pager's digital display, Fey could sense the call meant more trouble. The ongoing argument with Jake would have to wait. It wouldn't go away, not until they had finished tearing each other apart, but it would wait.

For some months Jake had been pressing Fey for more of a commitment than she was willing to give. With three marriages already behind her, Fey knew it was a position she was never going to place herself in again.

While Jake had not had the political strength to win election as the District Attorney during the past year, he was still considered a fast-rising star in the District Attorney's office. Political clout was again amassing behind him, but there was much maneuvering ahead if he was to assure his future. Jake and Fey had been lovers for several years, but he now needed the respectability of marriage for the sake of political correctness. Fey didn't think that was a good enough reason to place herself back into indenture. There was no doubt that Jake loved her -- as she loved him -- but Fey knew that love wasn't enough.

Marriage had much more in common with a willingness to constantly compromise than it did with love. And there lay the rub. Fey was no longer willing to compromise. She had achieved her own autonomy and didn't need Jake, or anyone else, to make her complete. Conversely, she had no desire to be simply another part in someone else's life puzzle.

While Fey had called the station Watch Commander, Jake picked his clothes up from the floor of Fey's bedroom, climbed into his pants, and left without another word. Fey had kept her naked back turned while she talked on the phone and purposely kept the conversation going until Jake was gone.
When she heard the slam of her front door, Fey told the Watch Commander, Terry Gillette, that she was on her way in. That done, she hung up the phone and breathed a sigh of relief. To her mind, even getting called out to work, when normal people were tucked up tight in their beds, was preferable to living through the hell of a long term relationship crumbling around your shoulders.

Twenty minutes later, she was on her way to the West Los Angeles Area station.

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