Sara's Past

By: Ernie Lindsey

(The Sara Winthrop Thriller Series Book 2)

Chapter 1

Detective Emerson Barker was not happy.

He marched across the playground, enduring yet another sprinkling, foggy afternoon in Portland, Oregon. You’d think the gods would allow the weekends to be nice, if nothing else, but at least the changing leaves gave some color to the drab, dreary gray.

As he approached the squealing children, he thought about his former partner, a memory that would never fade.

Detective Jonathan Johnson, DJ, JonJon, had taken a bullet trying to protect the woman that Barker now trudged toward. It had been honorable of DJ, trading his life for this small family, but damn, one life lost was one too many.

Barker thought, It’s been what, well over a year already? Time don’t wait for the dead to come back, but we still miss you, cowboy.

He stepped in a puddle, splashing sandy, dirty water onto his slacks, making his left shoe soggy and cold. “Son of a—” He caught the last word, wrenched it back, realizing he was within earshot of Sara Winthrop and her children. The twins, Lacey and Callie, and Jacob, her son, who was unfortunate enough to have not one, but two older sisters to torment him.

Over the past year, Barker had occasionally checked in on the Winthrops, making sure they were mentally sound and had gotten their lives nudged in the right direction again. Surviving the kidnapping, beating that crazy girl, Shelley Sergeant, at her own game—it’d been rougher on Sara than the kids.

Although, since he’d last checked maybe two months ago, she seemed to be settling into something that could resemble normality. Finally.

Which is exactly why he was so red-faced pissed regarding his current assignment. But, as they say, bullshit rolls downhill, and he was left with the task of asking Sara Winthrop to come out of retirement, so to speak. As he approached Sara but before he greeted her, his last thought was of Donald Timms, the pristine jerk from the FBI, and how he wished he’d told the self-righteous dickwad where he could shove it back in the captain’s office that morning.

* * *

Sara moved from child to child to child, pushing them on the swings, laughing and avoiding the shoe-scuffed, rain-filled crevices below each one. “Watch your feet,” she said. “The sharks might nibble on your toes.”

The mist had evolved into a drizzle, and Barker angled his umbrella against the wind, blocking the cool shards of precipitation prickling his cheeks. He said, “You do know it’s raining, right?”

Sara jumped, yelped, and covered her mouth. She said, “Barker. Jesus, you scared the sh—you scared the crap out of me.”

Still jumpy, Barker thought. That’ll probably never go away. Not completely.

“Sorry about that. I know better.”

Sara forced an awkward smile and nodded. “You should.”

“Went by your house. Miss Willow said I could find you down here.” The wind kicked up and brought with it heavier, fatter drops of rain. Barker shuddered and turned his back to the onslaught. “Never stops, does it? Can we go over to that shelter? I’d like to talk to you about something.”

“Sure. Kids? Come on, it’s raining too much, let’s follow Mr. Bloodhound over to the shelter, okay?” Like most Portland children who were used to it, the rain was just another aspect of typical northwestern weather to ignore, and they protested. Sara insisted and off they went, running, with the twins in the lead and Jacob quickly catching up.

Barker took a longer, steadier look at Sara. A few more streaks of gray in her hair—brought on by stress, most likely—and the darkness under her eyes had deepened a shade or two. “You sleeping much?” He held his umbrella over her head as they walked.

“Yeah. A little here and there. Why?”

“Just checking.” Of course he wasn’t going to say anything about her appearance. It’d only taken him three ex-wives to learn that lesson.

Sara crossed her arms, tucked her hands into the warmth of her armpits, and leaned further into him under the umbrella. “I look like hell, don’t I?”

Barker smirked. “Objection, Your Honor. Leading the witness.”

Sara chuckled. It was good to hear that laugh. He wondered how much of that had gone on around the Winthrop household lately. A wild guess said not much on Sara’s part.

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