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Text, photographs, and artwork copyright © 2007-2008 by Marta Stephens
Who am I?
I work homicide. Iím thirty-two, single, no kids, no pets, and no choice. I've tried, but lifeís too complicated when a guy's on call 24/7. Itíll take someone special to change that--if sheís out there, Iíll find her. Until then, Iíll nurse my Scotch, tickle the ivories, and let the smooth beat of rhythm and blues calm my soul.
I was born in Litchfield, Massachusetts, a little burg thirty miles west of Chandler on October 19, to Walter and Catherine Harper. A few weeks later, they christened me Sam in the little Methodist church near the center of town. Not Samuel, as my Bible- thumping grandmother demanded, just Sam -- no middle name either. Dad insisted on keeping things simple. He said one day Iíd appreciate the straightforward approach to life. He was right, as usual.
Dad was a twenty-eight year veteran city detective when a bullet to the back forced him into early retirement. My mother taught music at the middle school until six years ago. She was on her way home from work when someone rammed her car off the side of the road. The first question to cross our minds; was it an accident or an act of vengeance? Without a witness or evidence, the trail grew cold. Dad never got over it. None of us have. My younger brother Paul still blames us for not finding her killer.
Paul is a hot shot New York stockbroker. He rarely makes it home any more, even on holidays. I see the pain in Dadís eyes, but for me, itís just as well. Paul and I havenít spoken a civil word to each other since mother's funeral. Heís a classic example of a young guy who got too rich, too soon. Well good luck to him. Donít get me wrong. Iím not jealous; just know how he operates. Someone's always had to bail him out of his messes. As sure as I'm writing this, one of these days life will catch up with him. You can bet Iíll be the one who will have to pick up the pieces. He, of all people, should know things can change in a heart beat.
When we were kids, Paul and I used to wait for the school bus at a stop not far from our house. In good weather, a little blonde girl from my class rode her bike past our stop. Sometimes she'd stop and talk, otherwise, sheíd race past and wave to us. One April morning she smiled and waved as usual. There was nothing out of the ordinary about that day except she never made it to school.
Mr. Finch, who lived on the next farm down the road, found her battered body three days later in a ditch near one of his fields. Her murder was front page news for weeks -- they never caught the guy. Her death stuck in my craw and her face was instantly seared into my thoughts.
I knew then I was meant to follow in my fatherís footsteps. Given the chance, maybe I could crack her 20-year murder and put her memory to rest once and for all. Older cases have been brought to justice. You never know. I just might get lucky.