I used to love snow. When I was a kid. When school closed for the day and I got to spend a sleepy morning eating pancakes and then bundling up to meet my best friend to play in the snow. Even in high school we had the same ritual – pancakes then snow ball fight, then tomato soup and grilled cheese, then movies and popcorn. Our brothers would join us, his older and mine younger, and we’d be the kids in the charming family holiday movie all snuggled up on the couch. It was good that Ben was so little because that couch, the one that still sits in my parents’ basement behind where I’m standing, wasn’t designed for four.
Then I became a cop and there were no snow days anymore. I spent those days, even the ones where the snow was falling too hard and too fast for anyone to be out, in a car driving up and down the parkway, helping people who hadn’t listened to the reports of blizzard conditions and to ‘stay off the roads’. Helping people was nice, hell, it was why I became a cop, but not as good as those days sitting on the couch with my socked feet up, drinking hot chocolate, and the wet snow gear drip drying in the laundry room. Of course, nothing’s as good as when you were a kid, is it?
I got one last snow day with my best friend when he was home on leave and I had a day off and a low-pressure system met a high-pressure system, fell in love, and made beautiful baby snowflakes. And they were really in love because they didn’t let up until they’d made six inches of snow.
There was no communication between us, we just met up in the field halfway between our houses, my baby brother, suddenly sixteen and six-foot-two and a much better teammate finally, trailed behind me; and Michael’s brother, Seth, watched with wry amusement until I nailed him in the face with a snowball that was more ice than snow and he declared war on me. Sixty minutes later, that felt like five freezing hours, we were sitting around the kitchen table with my mom doting over us like she did all those years ago we were just kids.
It’s hard to believe that was a year ago now. I turned in my gun and badge last summer; Michael is gone, lost to an IED in Afghanistan; my “baby” brother is a senior in high school, headed to MIT in the fall, and Seth . . . who knows where he is.
But today is a snow day for me because I make my own schedule now as an apprentice PI and fat, wet, heavy snowflakes have been falling all night. The sun has officially risen but the light is a muted gray, the heavy precipitation blocking out its light. It’s not a sullen gray but a warm cozy cover overhead as I sip my coffee and watch the flakes continue to fall lazily, draping the trees in deep serenity.
The damp cold makes my broken ribs ache fiercely and the half-caff mix my mom is now allowing can’t speed the ibuprofen into my system as fast as I need, but it’s too beautiful a view to step away from. Today I’ve more patience than I ever expected – the hush that’s fallen over the tree line in the backyard reminds me of the day, fifteen years ago, we built a snow man as a surprise for toddler Ben, Michael and I, and how we almost forgot the world existed, our backs turned to the house a mere ten yards away. The little face pressed against the glass, laughing and grinning made the frigid fingers and stiff toes worth it.
I knock on the glass of the sliding door to get grown Ben’s attention, pointing at the space on my wrist for a watch, if I wore one. Time to come in. He holds his gloved hand up, fingers spread wide. Five more minutes? I shake my head. He grins at me, and all I see is that two-year-old marveling at the snow man his sissy had made for him, then lopes toward the house his long man-boy legs eating up the distance, our new puppy scampering behind him, tripping over her own gangly legs. Her doggy grin almost too big for her puppy face fills me with a joy I hide from Ben so I can still grouse about the extra work a puppy entails, but I know he doesn’t believe me because I’m waiting with a beach towel to wrap her in and I already have a hot shower going to wash the ice balls from between the pads of her paws and warm up her plump belly.
The slider door opening drowns out the murmur of the movie on the tv and out of the corner of my eye I can almost see the four of us jumbled together like that part of the room is in the past. A past I miss, and always will, but I’m not grieving as deeply as I was before the snow began last night and the world was more vast and empty before winter spread her blanket over me.
You can read more about Willa in What Doesn’t Kill You, the first book in the NEW “Willa Pennington, P.I.” mystery series.
A favor for a friend turns into a murder investigation, drawing apprentice PI Willa Pennington into a labyrinth of lies and deception in the shadows of Washington, D.C.
Willa Pennington thought that becoming a PI would be better than being a cop. She thought she’d never have to make another death notification or don a bulletproof vest again. She thought she could move past the pain of losing her best friend. She thought she’d be safe.
But she couldn’t have been more wrong.
Now, agreeing to do a simple favor has brought her to a dead body, a missing person, and a battle of wits with an old friend who has dangerous secrets. If Willa can keep her focus, she could solve the murder, find the missing girl, and figure out if the person she’s trusted with her life is the one trying to end it.
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Meet the author
An inability to pass the sight requirements and a deep aversion to federal prison prevented Aimee from lying on her FBI application so she set her deficient eyes on what most Northern Virginians do for work – the non-law enforcement side of the federal government.
After twenty years as a federal contractor, she retired and turned to fictional murder. She is the author of the Willa Pennington series set in Fairfax County, Virginia. The first book, What Doesn’t Kill You publishes January 8, 2018 from Midnight Ink.
Connect with Aimee at aimeehix.com.
All comments are welcomed.