A day in the life of Veranda Cruz

Renowned blogger and reviewer DruAnn of Dru’s Book Musings asked me to share how Homicide detective Veranda Cruz would spend an average day. Here it is, in Veranda’s own words:

I dip my head, narrowly avoiding the size 12 foot lashing out at my jaw. Spinning around, I manage to land my responding roundhouse kick directly into a densely muscled torso. Then I prepare for a beat-down as Jake pins me with an icy glare that promises retribution.

Sore but wired, I leave the gym an hour later after a shower. Jake paid me back with interest, delivering a series of rapid blows that had me against the ropes for a full minute before he relented. A former MMA competitor, my kickboxing instructor likes to mess with my mind during our sparring matches. In the process, he’s taught me more about myself than any shrink ever could. But don’t tell him that. He’ll demand extra pay and my cop’s salary is stretched to the breaking point as it is.

My mother’s restaurant is in south Phoenix only a few blocks from the gym. Mamá runs the Casa Cruz Cocina as if it had a Michelin star. Of course, no one in the foodie world would likely set foot in south Phoenix, but if they did, they’d find some of the best Mexican cuisine north of the border.

I push through the swinging glass front door to the tantalizing aroma of cumin, cilantro, and onion. My mouth waters in anticipation of my mother’s carne asada street tacos. Marinated for hours in her secret sauce, they’re a local favorite. Following my nose to the kitchen, I see my mother standing next to my tío Rico chopping peppers on a thick wooden block. Tío Rico offers up a smile, but my mother raises an annoyed brow. Word must have reached her about my recent breakup. Another potential husband kicked to the curb by her eldest daughter. The length and depth of her sigh is all I need to confirm that she’s worried I’ll never give her the grandbabies she desperately wants. She blames my obsession with my job.

Smoothing her apron and affecting an air of unconcern, she asks me about my supervisor, Homicide Lieutenant Richard Diaz. Mamá is playing dirty. Now that I’m officially unattached again, she’s reverting to her default setting. Her dearest wish is for me to marry Diaz, build a casita on the family property, and have muchos niños. The fact that I can’t stand the man has no bearing on the matter. Once my mother makes up her mind, nothing gets in her way.

As I explain for the five hundredth time that police department policy prohibits me from dating my supervisor—even if I wanted to, which I definitely don’t—the buzzing of my cell phone interrupts me. I slide it from my pocket and check the screen. My pulse kicks into high gear. It’s the crime lab.

An hour later, I climb the stairs to the second floor of the Phoenix Police headquarters building on Washington Street. Requisite rot-gut coffee in one hand and file folder in the other, I shoulder open the Violent Crimes Bureau conference room door to join my Homicide squad and our unit supervisor, Lieutenant Diaz. Glancing up from his seat at the head of the standard-government-issue Formica conference table, Diaz’s dark stare bores into me until a scald creeps up the back of my neck. I’ve been assigned as lead detective on yesterday’s murder investigation and, as usual, I’m a few clicks outside of protocol. I should have notified my lieutenant that I’d be late to the afternoon briefing. Best to short-circuit Diaz before he starts his launch sequence, which will inevitably begin with him raising his voice and end with me saying something I’ll regret.

I lay the manila folder on the table. Diaz continues to regard me in silence, heavy brows furrowing in question. I explain that I’m late because I picked up the file from across the street on my way in. Not only do my words stop him before he can work up a rant about my tardiness, they bring all movement in the room to a halt.

Everyone knows the crime lab is across the street. Everyone knows I’ve been waiting for preliminary forensic results from yesterday’s murder scene. Everyone is now focused on me with the intensity of a coyote on a jackrabbit.

I let the moment stretch before delivering the news. Trace evidence found on the victim’s clothing matches two earlier cases. A serial killer is stalking Phoenix.

Isabella Maldonado

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