Detective Katie McBride threw back a shot of bourbon, enjoying the burn as it went, before lowering the glass to the bar. She didn’t slam it down, which was her first impulse; she wasn’t that drunk—yet. Squinting at the bottles of spirits lined up on a shelf, she thought maybe she was close though.
Closing her eyes was a good test. If she saw nothing but the inside of her eyelids, she’d nearly reached the bliss of oblivion, but if she saw Jessie lying lifeless at her feet in a pool of blood, then she needed more bourbon. “Another,” she rasped, determined to drink the visions away.
She felt someone take the seat to her left. Turning, she tried to get a glare going as she recognized the man.
“Come on, Katie, you know this isn’t helping.”
“Go away, E.J.” Katie didn’t raise her voice, just said the words softly, as her brother had always told her to. “Katie girl, you have to control that temper of yours, because as soon as you start yelling, you’ve lost the argument.”
“Jake.” Katie whispered her big brother’s name. She wanted him so badly her body shook with longing. But she wouldn’t go home now, not until she was the Katie her family could respect. Not this pathetic wimp who drowned herself in booze every day to numb the pain.
“Katie, this shit only works for so long, you know that, right?”
Sergeant Elijah Johns, aka E.J. Big, bald, with a sweet round face that hid the heart of a warrior. The man had more stamina than any person Katie had ever met. Steel under fire, he was respected by many, and to Katie, was a mentor. Once, she would have done anything to get his approval; now she just didn’t have the energy.
“It’s only been three weeks, E.J.; surely I can take another one?” Katie waved her hand at the bartender, who gave her superior a look, then walked to the other end of the bar.
“You can take six, Katie, that’s not the problem here. The problem is that you are binge drinking and not washing, there is no rehab or counseling, and that concerns me.”
“I wash!” Katie looked down at her creased, stained clothes, then burrowed her nose into the neck of her t-shirt and sniffed. “Sometimes,” she added, screwing up her nose at the stench.
“You are one of my most promising detectives, Katie McBride. The one I had pegged to go all the way, and I have to say this shit you’re doing is disappointing me.”
Katie watched E.J. shake his head and felt the weight of his words settle on her shoulders. She was ruining everything she’d worked six years to get. Arriving in LA, excited about what the future held, happy to leave behind her good-girl image, Katie had believed she knew what she wanted. To be the best cop she could, and to finally gain the respect of her friends and family. She had decided to work as hard as needed to make it to the top. It hadn’t been easy, but she’d been getting there. All that changed when she and her colleagues had entered a warehouse where they’d been tipped off that a shipment of drugs was being housed. Katie was the only one who walked out of there without serious injury. Three died, and two more were in the hospital with gunshot wounds. Katie had only suffered sprained tendons in her wrist.
“Give me another week, E.J.; I promise that I’ll see the shrink then.”
Katie felt his eyes on her face before he got to his feet. She knew he was disappointed in her. Disappointed that she was behaving like this when people had died and others were in hospital. Hell, she’d let herself down, but couldn’t pull herself out of the self-pitying funk she’d sunk into.
“You need to rehab that wrist as soon as the brace is off, then I want you to think about going home for a break before starting back to work.”
“Okay, sure, that sounds like a good idea,” Katie lied. No way in hell was she going back to Oregon in this state. It would only reinforce everyone’s belief in her hometown of Lake Howling, that she didn’t have the stamina or substance to be a cop.
“I need to get back to work now, but I have eyes in this place, so I’ll know how long you’re in here, McBride.”
“I’ll leave soon, E.J., I promise.” Katie managed to throw him a smile, then decided to go back to