He didn't ask about thisshe'd had premonitions before. He just waited and soon after the golf cart disappeared from sight, there was a knock at the front door. Graciela went to answer it and soon came back to the deck with a woman McCaleb had not seen in three years.
Sheriff's detective Jaye Winston smiled when she saw the child in his arms. It was genuine, but at the same time it was the distracted smile of someone who wasn't there to admire a new baby. McCaleb knew the thick green binder she carried in one hand and the videocassette in the other meant Winston was there on business. Death business.
"Terry, howya been?" she asked.
"Couldn't be better. You remember Graciela?"
"Of course. And who is this?"
"This is CiCi."
McCaleb never used the baby's formal name around others. He only liked to call her Cielo when he was alone with her.
"CiCi," Winston said, and hesitated as if waiting for an explanation of the name. When none came, she said,
"Almost four months. She's big."
"Wow, yeah, I can see...And the boy...where's he?"
"Raymond," Graciela said. "He's with some friends today. Terry had a charter and so he went with friends to the park to play softball."
The conversation was halting and strange. Winston either wasn't really interested or was unused to such banal talk.
"Would you like something to drink?" McCaleb offered as he passed the baby to Graciela.
"No, I'm fine. I had a Coke on the boat."
As if on cue, or perhaps indignant about being passed from one set of hands to another, the baby started to fuss and Graciela said she would take her inside. She left them standing on the porch. McCaleb pointed to the round table and chairs where they ate most nights while the baby slept.
"Let's sit down."
He pointed Winston to the chair that would give her the best view of the harbor. She put the green binder, which McCaleb recognized as a murder book, on the table and the video on top of it.
"Beautiful," she said.
"Yeah, she's amazing. I could watch her all"
He stopped and smiled when he realized she was talking about the view, not his child. Winston smiled, too.
"She's beautiful, Terry. She really is. You look good, too, so tanned and all."
"I've been going out on the boat."
"And your health is good?"
"Can't complain about anything other than all the meds they make me take. But I'm three years in now and no problems. I think I'm in the clear, Jaye. I just have to keep taking the damn pills and it should stay that way."
He smiled and he did appear to be the picture of health. As the sun had turned his skin dark, it had worked to the opposite effect on his hair. Close cropped and neat, it was almost blond now. Working on the boat had also defined the muscles of his arms and shoulders. The only giveaway was hidden under his shirt, the ten-inch scar left by transplantation surgery.
"That's great," Winston said. "It looks like you have a wonderful setup here. New family, new home...away from everything."
She was silent a moment, turning her head as if to take in all of the view and the island and McCaleb's life at once. McCaleb had always thought Jaye Winston was attractive in a tomboyish way. She had loose sandy-blond hair that she kept shoulder length. She had never worn makeup back when he worked with her. But she had sharp, knowing eyes and an easy and somewhat sad smile, as if she saw the humor and tragedy in everything at once. She wore black jeans and a white T-shirt beneath a black blazer. She looked cool and tough and McCaleb knew from experience that she was. She had a habit of hooking her hair behind her ear frequently as she spoke. He found that endearing for some unknown reason. He had always thought that if he had not connected with Graciela he might have tried to know Jaye Winston better. He also sensed that Winston intuitively knew that.
Copyright © 2001 Hieronymus, Inc. Excerpt used with permission from Time Warner Bookmark.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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