Occupation: Police Officer, Broken Rope, Missouri.
Home is where the heart is, that’s what they say. And, I admit, for me home, Broken Rope, Missouri, is exactly where I left my heart. I was lucky to find it again when I went back.
I’m beginning to think that a typical day around Broken Rope isn’t all that typical. There’s something strange going on here, and ten years away, along with my new career, gives me a different perspective. At least I think that’s it.
I hadn’t meant to become a police officer, particularly in Broken Rope. I also hadn’t meant for my first marriage to end so badly. But it was the job offer and the divorce that took me back home, back to the small Ozark town where cowboys and fake gunfights still entertain tourists every summer.
And, of course, there was Betts. Betts Winston. My high school sweetheart. It had been her idea that we “take a break” while we went to college and worked on becoming the things we thought we wanted to become. Our lives became separate, as can happen when you leave each other as kids and turn into adults as you’re both going in different directions. Law school was her thing until it wasn’t. And architecture was my thing until I ruined it along with that first marriage. Betts doesn’t know all those details, and I’ll probably never tell her. She doesn’t need to know, because, I suspect she’s got plenty of other things on her plate.
She works with her grandmother, Missouri, at the cooking school on the edge of town. It’s housed in an old church building and it’s next to a cemetery that’s the final resting place of many of our more infamous historical criminals and colorful characters.
I’m glad Betts and I are back together; more than glad, I’m to the moon and filled with a sense of peace I didn’t know existed. But I sure wish I understood what was holding her back. She’s committed to me, but not all the way. I’d take it personally if I didn’t think her lack of commitment was a breakdown in every part of her life. She’s only partway committed to everything right now, a slice of her attention angled toward something I can’t see.
My days – typical for me, but, again, probably not all that typical – are filled with the small crimes that come with a big tourist community and a few bigger heinous crimes that can be expected too. There’s always been murder in Broken Rope. Gunfights and hangings used to be the norm. But there’s something else going in this town. I’m pretty sure Betts knows what it is. Probably her grandmother does too, but I think Betts lets herself be distracted by it more. It’s something I can feel, sense maybe, catch at the edge of my vision. I don’t understand it, but the more I know it’s there the more I think it’s something I might never be able to completely accept.
I’m on the job though. Sometimes I think I want to figure it out, but sometimes I’m sure I don’t. I hope that whatever it is, it’s something I can fix, something normal. I’m not sure if I’m ready for anything more than that, even though I expect I might have to be.
See you in Broken Rope.
You can read more about Cliff in If Onions Could Spring Leeks, the fifth book in the “Country Cooking School” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is If Fried Chicken Could Fly.
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About the author
Paige Shelton recently moved to Arizona where she’s trying to balance all the cool stuff (the scenery, the people, the pools) with the not-so-cool stuff (the summer temperatures.) For more information, check out her website: www.paigeshelton.com