Survival Clause - Jenna Bennett Page 0,1

his head. “I had a look. Part of my job, after all.”

Yes, it was. As far as most people in Columbia knew, Rafe was working for the local PD as an investigator, after being fired from his job at the TBI—the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations—in January. Unbeknownst to those people, he still had his job with the TBI, and was on loan to Grimaldi, and the two of them were working on cleaning up the Columbia PD after the previous chief had been hauled off in the back of a squad car. So far, they had mostly cleared one investigator of suspicion, and had taken another away for murder. Tucker was still an unknown. We knew he didn’t like Rafe much, but there were good reasons for that—Rafe had, indeed, not made it easy for Tucker to peel him off Billy Scruggs back then, and then he’d had the audacity to come back to Columbia as a colleague and the new chief’s pet investigator. So it was understandable that Tucker was resentful. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t honest.

Up ahead, we saw a squad car parked at an angle across the street, lights flashing, and a knot of people. Some of them were holding cell phones. I could see the blue of the screens in the gathering dark.

Rafe pulled the Volvo to a stop, and pushed his door open. “Stay here,” he told me, even as he had one foot on the ground. “Don’t get out of the car.”

I shook my head, but he had already slammed the door and was on his way across the blacktop to where Sergeant Tucker did, indeed, have one knee on the back of a prone figure that was face-down on the street, unmoving.

Two officers hovered nearby. They weren’t actively helping Tucker, but they weren’t actively interfering with him, either. They gave off a vibe of hand-wringing, like they didn’t like the situation much but didn’t quite know what to do about it, and about their superior officer. One of them had a hand on his weapon and one eye on the crowd that had gathered, but since no one was threatening to come any closer, he didn’t actually move. The other man had half an eye on Tucker and the other on us. When he saw Rafe get out of the car and come toward him, like the wrath of God descending—if that isn’t too religious an analogy—I could see his shoulders brace. His partner glanced at him, then at Rafe, and squared his own. A couple of the phones in the crowd swung toward my husband, and I understood what—or some of what—Grimaldi had been worried about.

Tucker hadn’t noticed Rafe’s arrival. Not until Rafe grabbed him by the collar of his uniform and lifted him off the offender.

If that gives you the impression that Tucker is small and weightless, I can assure you he’s not. He’s a solid guy with a slight paunch, who probably weighted in at around two hundred.

Rafe, though, is six-three or a little more, and he has big shoulders and the kinds of muscles you usually see in ads for Hanes briefs. Most of those muscles were hidden under a T-shirt right now, but they function well in addition to looking pretty, so he had no problem shifting the generation-older, stocky Tucker. His biceps and triceps flexed and bunched when he plucked Tucker’s form off the skinny body on the ground, and set him down, a little more forcibly than necessary, a few feet away. But other than that, he didn’t evince any particular effort.

Tucker staggered as his feet hit the ground, and Rafe took the opportunity while the sergeant got his bearings to reach down again, and haul the victim to his feet. A buzz spread through the crowd, like from an angry beehive.

The kid turned out to be just that, a kid. Sixteen, maybe seventeen, in an oversized T-shirt and workout pants. Not too dissimilar to what Rafe must have looked like when Tucker hauled him off Billy Scruggs at eighteen, minus the injuries. There didn’t seem to be much wrong with this boy, other than some dirt on the front of his shirt and pants, and a few minor scratches from where he’d hit the pavement. He was clearly happy to be let up, at least until he got a good look at who’d done the letting. Then his eyes widened and he gulped. “I didn’t do nothing!”

Rafe didn’t respond. Or at least not with