Our next guest on the Crime Cafe podcast will be crime writer Laurie Buchanan.
She’s giving away a signed copy of her novel Impervious. You can read a chapter from the book right here.
Details on how to enter the giveaway are provided below.
“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson
“Get down!” Mick shouts as an explosion rents the air. The blast shakes the ground as a tsunami of air hits the pavilion. The reverberation is felt throughout Pines & Quill.
Shoes pound the pavilion’s wood ﬂoor as people scatter—most of them running away from the sound.
Mick grabs Emma’s shoulders. “Stay here.”
Fear bathes Emma’s ashen face. “Oh, my God, Mick. Please be careful.”
“I’ll come and get you once I know it’s safe.”
Before she can respond, Mick joins his dad, Joe, and Rafferty as they run toward where the blast originated. His uneven gait doesn’t slow him down, even as they pass through smoking debris scattered on the ground.
Mick pats his pockets. My cell phone’s in my suit coat in the pavilion. He glances at Rafferty, who presses a cell phone to his ear. I bet he’s calling ﬁrst responders.
Mick looks over his shoulder to make sure Emma hasn’t followed. One hand is ﬁsted on her chest, the other is holding fast to an agitated Hemingway who’s straining at his collar, his ears pricked forward. He’s watching my every move because he’s worried about me. Mick gives a hand signal for Heming-way to stay with Emma. Just a minute ago, I was the happiest man on earth. And now this. What’s going on?
Tom strides toward him. His trekking poles help him maintain balance on his new prosthetic legs.
A breeze pushes an aggressive cloud of smoke toward Mick, stinging his eyes. Barely discernible, the smell of burnt ﬂesh creeps into his nostrils. Oh, my God! From the black haze comes the wail of car alarms. The concussive shockwaves hit the surrounding vehicles.
The four men—Mick, Connor, Joe, and Rafferty—come to a standstill as another smell reaches them—gasoline.
When the choking cloud begins to clear, they see a ﬁery hulk of metal—the remains of Mick’s Jeep. “We need to get back. I ﬁlled it up yesterday. The gasoline’s fueling the ﬁre.”
The explosion’s force destroyed the windows in most of the surrounding cars. The ones parked closest to the Jeep are blown out; the ones further away, shattered. Side mirrors dangle from several vehicles. A rooftop luggage carrier hangs from the back of a car.
Tom catches up and stands next to the four men. Like the rest of them, he’s shaken to his core. “I was an EOD— explosives ordinance disposal—specialist. I’d know that sound anywhere. It came from a VBIED, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. No one could have survived that blast.”
Connor shakes his head. “That car bomb was meant for you, son. You and Emma were going to drive it to the airportshortly. Didn’t I see you give your keys to the valet just a few minutes ago?”
Mick’s chest constricts. He feels like he’s about to retch. “Yes. Kevin said that the van with the wedding cake couldn’t get through with the way everyone parked. He said the easiest way was to move just one vehicle—mine.”
Mick pinches the bridge of his nose in an attempt to stop the prickling in his eyes. “Oh, my God. What have I done?”
Connor places a hand on his son’s shoulder and squeezes. “You had no way of knowing that this was going to happen. None.”
The sirens coming closer overlay the car alarms. Two police cruisers and a ﬁretruck speed up the lane from the Pines & Quill entrance gate. Newspaper and television vans follow. “The press has caught wind of the explosion,” Mick says.
“Probably from their police band radios.”
The men hear the unmistakable whir of chopper blades and look up at the sky. They see a news helicopter hovering like a fat bumblebee through the dissipating smoke.
Joe says, “I called in a crime unit. They’ll be here soon.” Ofﬁcers Chris Lang and Herb Johnson exit their squad car. “What the hell happened?” Johnson asks.
Before anyone can answer, Lang says, “The last time I was out here, I had to be buzzed in.”
Ofﬁcer Toni Bianco approaches from the second unit. She looks at Mick and then nods down the lane. “You must have engaged ‘party-mode’ on the entrance gate today so that your guests and the wedding vendors could come and go.”
In his peripheral vision, Mick sees Joe clench and unclench his ﬁsts. He’s livid. The four of us know that Bianco’s a dirty cop working for Gambino. But we agreed to keep it to ourselves while we investigate and ﬁnd iron-clad evidence to bust her and any other minions he has planted in the precinct.
Mick pauses before answering. “Yes. Anyone can gainaccess to Pines & Quill this afternoon. Got any ideas who might have done this?”
Bianco shakes her head. “Nope. None.” She takes a deep whiff, then wrinkles her nose. She strolls over to the still-smoking remains of the Jeep. Covering her mouth with her arm, she bends down and peers through the frame. “Looks like we need to call the meat wagon too.”
Joe holds up his hands at the stunned wedding guests making their way en masse toward the devastation that Ofﬁcers Langley and Johnson are cordoning off with yellow crime scene tape. Many of them are crying.
“Let’s all head to the pavilion and have a seat. Unfortu-nately, this is a crime scene now. We need to interview each of you and get your statements.”
Wringing a white bar towel,Dean—one of the two college students Mick hired to do double-duty as parking valet and bartender—asks, “Hey, where’s my buddy, Kevin?”
“What do you mean, ‘interview’ us?’” someone from the gathering crowd interjects.
“You might have seen something that’s helpful,”Joe says. “Don’t hold back. Every detail, even seemingly insigniﬁcant, is important.”
“What happened?” one of the quartet members asks.
The Crime Scene Unit is bagging evidence and snapping photos. Some of them have the emotionally arduous task of recovering human remains. The last thing they need is onlookers. Joe’s attention returns to the question. “I’ll share what little we know once we’re seated in the pavilion.”
Joe turns to the guys. “Let’s divide and conquer. Mick, you take people who aren’t your family—the photographer, the quartet, catering personnel, the ﬂorist, the person driving the bakery van, and the valet.
“Rafferty, if you’d also take people who aren’t your family—the priest, my wife Marci, Mick’s nephew and his ﬁancée, Ian and Fiona, Mick’s sister and brother-in-law, Libby and Niall, and his parents, Maeve and Connor. I’ll take people who aren’t my family—Emma, her parents, Philip and Maureen, her brothers, Eric, Ethan, Ellery, her friend Sally, and Tom. I think that’s everyone. Now let’s go.”
“What about me?” Bianco asks.
Joe lowers his voice so the wedding guests can’t hear. He points at his ex-partner. “Wait here for the Crime Scene Unit, the ME, and the ‘meat wagon’ as you so crudely put it. Make sure that nobody crosses the tape.”
Marci looks across the pavilion to where her husband, Joe, is interviewing his group of people. I’m so glad we didn’t bring the girls with us today. At thirteen and eleven, Carly and Brianna have a broad idea of what their dad does—law enforcement— but they don’t know the extent of how unsafe and ugly it can get.
She turns back to her group. Seated on her left is Father Burke, Ian, and Fiona. On her right are Libby and Niall, and Maeve and Connor.
After ﬁfteen years of being married to a cop, Marci has learned to observe details. She’s come to appreciate how important they are.
She looks at Rafferty facing them from the front of their half-circle. Before he takes a seat, Marci guesses that he’s just over six feet tall. His black pants, peach button-down shirt, and tie complement his ﬁrm-looking build. He wears his age well. He could be anywhere from his late thirties to his mid-forties. But from the dusting of gray at his temples, it’s probably the latter. Either that, or it’s from the stress from his job. His short brown hair is unruly. Behind wire-rimmed glasses are intense, brown eyes. But there’s a sadness in them too.
Rafferty removes his glasses and rubs his eyes. I’ve seen a lot of terrible stuff go down in my time at the bureau, but a car bomb at a wedding beats it all. His head aches. I’m glad I didn’t wear contacts today.
“Father Burke, you had the advantage of standing at the front of the pavilion, giving you the best view of everyone. Did you see anything that struck you as even remotely unusual?” The priest rubs his ears. “Can you please repeat the question? My ears are still ringing from the blast.”
Rafferty’s repeated question sparks a lively conversation between his eight interviewees. He pulls his chair closer, making notes on his cellphone. Every time he hears something that might be a hint of a lead, he follows it with more questions.
Joe sits backward on his chair, facing his group. I’m sick about what’s happened. And on today of all days. He looks at Emma ﬁrst. Hemingway’s lying protectively on the ﬂoor at her feet. They’re in the center of a semicircle of chairs.
On Emma’s left are her friend Sally and her parents, Philip and Maureen. Her brothers, Eric, Ethan, and Ellery, on her right.
Joe’s gaze travels back to Emma. Most brides would be hysterical at what happened today. She reminds me of my Marci. She may fall apart afterward, but she exudes calm and focus when it counts. Mick’s a lucky man.
Joe doesn’t have to ask too many questions before his group begins talking among themselves, comparing what they observed. He absorbs every detail. Unfortunately, nothing seems to have a loose thread he can pull and follow where it leads.
Emma’s heartsick. I didn’t get close enough to see for sure, but it looked like it was Mick’s Jeep that got blown up. “Joe, was it Mick’s Jeep that exploded?”
Joe looks into Emma’s green eyes and nods. “Yes, Emma. Unfortunately, it was.”
Was the bomb meant for me? For Mick? Or for both of us? If it was meant for me, then this is the third time. Jason Hughes would have killed me in El Cañón del Diablo—The Devil’s Canyon—if Mick hadn’t shot him ﬁrst. A sniper tried to shoot me on the whale-watching tour. The only reason he missed is that Mick pushed me onto the deck. And now a car bomb. What is it they’re afraid I know?
Emma’s oldest brother, Eric, leans forward. His face is painted with disbelief at what’s happened at his baby sister’s wedding. “Why on earth would anyone blow up Mick’s car?”
“That’s what we’re going to ﬁnd out,”Joe answers before asking more questions.
Emma feels Hemingway nudge her with his wet nose. Cupping his whiskered face, she looks into his dark-brown, almond-shaped eyes. He whines. Well-versed in “dog,” Emma knows that though the blast scared Hemingway, his fear isn’t so much for himself but for the “pack”—his people. He wants to herd us together to keep track of us and protect us. “We need to stay here right now.” Emma motions for him to lie down. Once he settles, she reaches down and roughs the fur around Hemingway’s neck.
Emma returns her attention to Joe. He’s a good listener. I appreciate the way he respectfully considers everyone’s answers before moving on. He has an ease about him that cuts through even the worst tension. And though he’s good at his job, I’m glad that Mick’s on the case too. Between the three of them— Mick, Joe, and Rafferty—they’ll get to the bottom of this.
Mick takes a seat in front of his group—the wedding vendors and Linda Washington, their wedding photographer.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done on Emma’s and my behalf. I’m so sorry this happened.” He looks into their faces—all except one. A musician in the Jason Parker Quartet is trying to keep it together with his head between his legs. “I’m going to start by asking about the parking. I understand that the last vehicle to arrive was Pure Bliss Desserts.”
The driver nods.“That’s right. When I got here, I couldn’t get through.”
“Why didn’t you park where you were?” Mick asks. “There’s no way I could carry a multitiered cake that far
without losing it. I needed to get closer.” Mick nods his understanding.
“A young man who said he was the valet told me not to worry, that he’d take care of it right away. It wasn’t but a few minutes later that he came back, smiled and gave me a thumbsup, and then got into the Jeep.That’s when it exploded.” He shivers. “I’m glad I’d backed the van up to readjust my angle. Or I’d probably be dead too.”
Dean looks at Mick, horror on his face. “Oh, my God. That’s why I haven’t seen Kevin. He’s—” The young man’s face melts in tears.
Mick lowers his gaze to his hands, giving the young man a moment.
Linda walks over and puts an arm around Dean’s shoul-ders. “Besides you and Kevin, where’s the other valet? I’m sorry, I didn’t get his name.”
Mick’s head snaps up. “What other valet?”
“The young man in the parking area who asked me not to take any photos of him. He said he was camera shy.”
Mick looks at Dean. “Did someone else come with you and Kevin?”
“No, it was just the two of us.”
Mick stands up. A surge of excitement ﬂows through his veins. “Thank you, everyone, that’ll be all for right now. Linda, please stay a moment. I need to speak with you about your cameras.”
“Those?” She points to the two cameras on the seat she’d vacated. “What would you like to know? They’re both Hasselblads. One’s ﬁlm and one’s digital.”
“Did you get any photographs of the young man who asked you not to?”
Mick sees the heat rise in her cheeks. “Yes. I got a few candid shots before he said he was camera shy. But he didn’t know I’d taken them. I didn’t say anything because he seemed so angry. I took them with the digital and was going to delete them tonight.”
“Thank God you didn’t. You may have photographed the person who rigged the car bomb.”
To enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Impervious, follow these steps:
A cross between Dr. Doolittle, Nanny McPhee, and a type-A Buddhist, Laurie Buchanan is an active listener, observer of details, payer of attention, reader and writer of books, kindness enthusiast, and red licorice aficionado.
As a novelist, photographer, and voracious reader, she carries a laptop, camera, and book wherever she goes.
Growing up, she wanted to be a magician, international spy, and mad scientist. There’s still time!
Laurie lives in the Pacific Northwest with her pilot-husband, Len, and Henry, a not-so-standard Standard Poodle, where they enjoy the great outdoors.
“My writing goal is simple: to leave you wanting more.” —Laurie Buchanan