Friday, October 18, 2002
As he sat in his office completing the paperwork on a jewelry store robbery case, Detective Winston Radhauser looked up and found his wife, Gracie, in the doorway, a carry-on suitcase at her side.
She wore a pair of creased jeans, cowboy boots and a blue plaid western shirt, tucked in tight at the waist. Gracie’s mahogany hair was loose, the way he liked it best. Her visits to the Ashland Police Department were rare. Their almost three-year-old son, Jonathan, was balanced on her right hip. The expression on her face was one he’d seen before—the night she told him about her cancer.
Jonathan squirmed to get down. “Daddy,” the boy squealed. He wore a pair of denim bib overalls, a red-and-white striped shirt, and red canvas sneakers that once belonged to his sister. The dark curls they couldn’t bear to cut dangled over his collar.
“What’s wrong? You didn’t have a doctor’s appointment today, did you?” He wiped his clammy hands on his pant legs.
“This isn’t about me.” When Gracie set Jonathan on the floor, he raced toward Radhauser, clambered onto his lap and reached into his breast pocket for his badge.
Relieved, Radhauser ruffled Jonathan’s hair. Every time he looked at this boy, something caught fire inside his chest and soared. After Lucas died, he’d never expected to feel this fierce love again.
“This is a sweet surprise.” His gaze landed on the carry-on again, then lifted to her face. His concern ratcheted up a notch. “You running away from home? Is that what this is about?”
“No, but I’m afraid you are.” She gave him a sad smile that indented the dimples on her cheeks he could never resist, but didn’t light her dark eyes. “Aunt Sarah called. Uncle Roger is under hospice care now, and he wants you there.”
“It’s only been a few months since they were here for Lizzie’s birthday,” Radhauser’s chest tightened. He’d thought they’d get more time. Had the cancer moved that rapidly?
Gracie tilted her head. “I know, honey, but with metastatic cancer, a lot can change in four months.” His wife—always the nurse—always so clear on what was the right thing to do.
“It’s not a great time for me to be away. I’ve got three open cases and a trial next week.” It wasn’t the real reason he didn’t want to go. He’d already lost his parents, his first wife and their son. Uncle Roger was the only father Radhauser had ever known. He’d already said too many sad goodbyes.
Gracie cocked one eyebrow and looked him straight in the eyes. “Is there ever a good time to die?”
He swallowed. “Maybe if I wait a few days, I can clean up some paperwork for the DA on that assault case, you know the one that put a guy in the ICU. I need to make sure McBride is up to speed to testify in my place.”
Gracie’s gaze skittered away, and she stared at the whiteboard behind his desk. “The way Aunt Sarah talked, your uncle Roger won’t be around in a few days. She told me he has something very important to tell you.”
“She wouldn’t say. You know how ethical she’s always been. She wants you to hear it first. You’re the son he never had. He wants you there, holding his hand when he…” Her gaze found his again and held. “I know you, Wind, and if you don’t go I’m afraid you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”