A Sheriff Joanna Brady Mystery
Name of Detective
My name is Joanna Brady. Joanna Lee Lathrop Brady.
Cochise County, in southeastern Arizona, is 80 miles wide by 80 miles long. That means that my department is responsible for 6 thousand square miles of territory filled with cattle ranches, mines, ghost-towns, hordes of undocumented aliens, and even a genuine city-- Sierra Vista. My department is spread far too thinly to have any permanent kinds of arrangements. Sometimes I'm thrown in with one or the other of my two chief deputies-- Richard Voland or Frank Montoya. Occasionally I'm out of line with one of my homicide detectives, Ernie Carpenter or Jaime Carbajal. Chasing crooks with those guys is as new for me as having a female boss is for them, but to give credit where it's due, we're all making it happen.
Since I spend most of my work hours in the world of men, I find myself looking to the women in my life to provide balance. My best friend is also my pastor at Canyon United Methodist Church. No matter what's going on in her own life, Marianne Maculyea, has always been there for me, and I try to do the same for her. I've also come to appreciate one of my newer and more unlikely friends, Angie Kellogg. Angie is an ex L.A. hooker who ended up in Bisbee while trying to escape the clutches of a former boyfriend who turned out to be my husband's killer. I helped Angie and she helped me. We've been friends ever since. Another valued personal resource is Eva Lou Brady. Officially, Eva is my former mother-in-law. Unofficially, she's more a real mother to me than my own mother is. She's someone I can go to any time of the day or night with any kind of problem. I wish I could say the same for Eleanor Lathrop Winfield.
I was born and raised in Bisbee and have never lived anywhere else. High Lonesome Ranch, the place where my daughter and I live, is a few miles outside the Bisbee city limits and has been in the Brady family for three generations.
Two years ago I was elected sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona.
First mystery solved
I'm a widow who never expected or wanted to be drawn into law enforcement. I was working for an insurance company and trying to be a good wife and mother when Andy, my husband and a deputy sheriff, was killed by a drug dealer. Originally, Andy's death was mislabeled as a suicide. First I had to convince the authorities that it was really a homicide. After I managed to apprehend the killer almost single-handedly, I was asked to run for sheriff myself.
Other than my mother, I can't really think of any. I always thought I understood Eleanor Lathrop-- thought I knew her like a book. Unfortunately, in the last few years, she's proved me wrong time and again. First my long-lost brother showed up, and it turns out he was so long lost that I didn't even know he existed. He was born before my parents tied the knot and was adopted out as an infant. Neither of my parents ever mentioned him to me, and that's something I'm having a tough time forgiving. Then, as if that weren't enough, after years of being a widow, my mother recently dived back into the sea of holy matrimony-- without bothering to give me a single word of advance warning. Is it any wonder Eleanor's my pet peeve?
If I had to have a single role model in my life, my father would be it. D.H. Lathrop died when I was in high school. Dad started out as a lowly minor in Bisbee's copper mines. Later he went into law enforcement and eventually was elected sheriff. That's what he was doing when he was killed in a tragic Sunday afternoon drunk-driving accident. When D.H. was alive, I guess I always favored him over my mother-- he was a lot easier to get along with. And that's still true today. Dad didn't live long enough to drive me crazy the way Mom does. Maybe it's easier to gloss over his faults since I don't have to look at them everyday. What is it they say about distance making the heart grow fonder? Or does it have more to do with familiarity breeding contempt? I don't know which is more applicable.
Don't ask me about hobbies. I don't have any. Between working full time and raising my daughter (Jenny's 10 going on twenty-one!) I don't have time. Of course, Jenny has hobbies-- a pair of dogs named Tigger and Sadie, as well as a horse named Kiddo. Jenny expects to take Kiddo off on the barrel racing circuit one of these days. Inevitably, looking after this menagerie has become as much a hobby of mine as it is Jenny's. Still, I'm not complaining. I'm glad we're able to live in the country where owning horses and dogs-- even porcupine-chasing dogs-- isn't as much of a problem as it would be in town. I'm a reasonably good cook. I'm a capable if under-motivated housekeeper. (If you had spent your childhood and adolescence living in my mother's obsessively clean house, maybe you'd have much the same attitude.)
As I mentioned before, I'm a widow-- something people my age (early thirties) are not. Andy and I married young, but I expected to be married all my life. I didn't intend to me thrown back into the so-called dating game. And I haven't been dating-- not exactly and not so far. It's just that this wild and crazy guy named Butch Dixon seems to have set his sights on me. I met Butch when I was in Peoria, Arizona, attending a law enforcement training academy. I keep telling him that I need more time to sort myself out before I become involved in any long-term relationship. The problem is, Butch doesn't seem inclined to take no for an answer.
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