Scratchgravel RoadA Day in the Life is a tough request for Josie Gray, Chief of Police in Artemis, Texas. Her first thought: who wants to know and why do they care? She’d rather ask the questions than answer them. At her core she is a loner; small talk is a chore that she avoids like an unpleasant relative. When the occasional media interview is required for a high profile case, the interaction is brief and focused. With that said, she’ll have to trust me to share the personal details of her life.

Josie is an early morning riser, quiet and introspective. On the days of the week when her significant other is staying at his own house, she has the kitchen to herself in the morning, and she wakes early enough to sit with coffee and watch the sunrise scatter light over the pasture behind her home. At thirty-something, with no husband or kids, she relishes her independence. She’s been accused of ‘commitment issues,’ although her current lover accepts her, issues and all.

At just after seven in the morning she makes the dusty drive down her gravel road and turns left onto River Road, parallel to the Rio Grande. It is remote West Texas, a place where isolationists have come to stake their claim in the desert. It is also the first place Josie has ever felt completely at home in the world. She will protect her small town of 2,500 people with everything she has, a job made increasingly difficult by the cartel violence just across the border.

Josie parks in front of the police department thirty minutes before her eight o’clock shift. She says hello to the bleary eyed night dispatcher and walks upstairs to the three-person office located across the street from the county courthouse. By the time fellow officer, Otto Podowski, arrives at eight the coffee is ready and she’s logged on to her computer to respond to email and answer phone calls that require a quick response. Otto brings her a cinnamon pastry, prepared that morning by his wife Delores, who is convinced Josie doesn’t eat enough. Otto worries that Josie spends too much time focused on work, and not enough time stoking the embers of her love life. He is one of Josie’s closest friends, and she has no problem telling to him to kindly mind his own business. Josie splits the pastry with Otto who promises to forgo his Coke at lunch, a promise Josie knows is in word only.

Josie pulls up a document she’s been working on for several days: a news briefing for area border town police departments about cartel activity centered in the area the locals refer to as, the territory. Five different border town police departments take turns compiling research briefings on Mexican cartel activity along the Texas border. It’s Josie’s month, and she is looking at a packet containing photographs of missing children. The faces blur into a continuum of anonymous children, their innocence stolen, a dangerous knowledge now burrowed deep behind their smiling school photographs. She sets the packet aside to answer her phone. Sheriff Roy Martinez asks her to take a call that his overburdened department doesn’t have the time or resources to handle that morning.

She fills in the daytime dispatcher, Louise Hagerty, and Josie drives her 4 wheel drive retired military jeep around the courthouse square, flips the switch for lights and sirens, and drives out River Road toward the mudflats. A domestic dispute between a rancher and the cowhand he found his wife entangled with late the night before ended with punches thrown. Josie settles the dispute, avoiding charges being filed for a family in crisis, glad that the couple she’s known for years will resolve their issues without the interference of the law. The rest of the day is spent interviewing three local shop owners and following up on leads for a rash of store burglaries around the courthouse square.

When Josie arrives home, she finds Dillon Reese standing at her stove, swirling what he says is a balsamic vinegar reduction in a sauce pan, a dishtowel flung over his shoulder. He turns and smiles, catching her eye, examining her expression for a quick assessment of her day. She steps behind him, places her hand on his lower back and reaches up on tiptoe to kiss him hello, mid-swirl. Dillon nods toward the radio on the counter and she turns down the NPR news broadcast blaring from the speaker. Two glasses of merlot are already waiting on the table. Dillon pours the sauce over pork medallions already partially cooked on a grill pan, and slips them into the over. He picks up his glass and tips it toward her. “How about a proper welcome home kiss,” he says. She smiles, content, wishing every day could be so perfect.


You can read more about Josie in Scratchgravel Road, the second book in the “Josie Gray” mystery series.

Meet the author
Tricia Fields lives in a log cabin on a small farm with her husband and two daughters. She was born in Hawaii but has spent most of her life in small town Indiana, where her husband is an investigator with the state police. A lifelong love of Mexico and the desert southwest lead to her first book, The Territory, which won the Tony Hillerman Award for Best Mystery. SCRATCHGRAVEL ROAD will be released March 5, 2013. She is currently working on the fourth book in the series, Fire Break, featuring border town Chief of Police, Josie Gray. Visit Tricia at www.triciafields.com.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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