For most authors, the final draft of a mystery novel is markedly different than the first. In fact, the first chapter of 43 MISSING was rewritten a dozen times. Nothing really clicked until the book was done. Then I went back and wrote it with a hint of premonition.
43 MISSING picks up a few weeks after the end of PACIFIC REAPER, but of course, you can read each Detective Emilia Cruz as a standalone novel.
Related: The true crime behind 43 MISSING
Here’s the very beginning. Click on the link at the bottom to read the whole first chapter right on this website.
Ready, Emilia Cruz Encinos told herself. Absolutely ready.
Her fingers beat a nervous tattoo on the steering wheel as she waited for the heavy steel gate to roll aside. With a final groan of metal-on-metal, it locked into the open position. Emilia took her foot off the brake and the heavy Suburban lumbered past the high concrete wall surrounding the police station in central Acapulco.
The uniform assigned to the guard shack trotted to the driver’s window, forcing Emilia to stop and roll down her window. “Hey, Detective Cruz,” he said. “Haven’t seen you around lately. Been on vacation?”
“Sure,” Emilia lied. “What’s new?”
“Lieutenant Silvio’s kicking ass and taking names,” the uniform said, eyeing her with interest.
“Like nobody expected that,” Emilia heard herself say. His face was familiar but she didn’t know him well.
The uniformed officer gave an awkward laugh, slapped the Suburban’s white paint, and went back to his post.
It was very early and the parking lot behind the squat stucco building was mostly empty. Emilia tucked the Suburban into a space, killed the engine, and gulped air. Her heart was racing, which was ridiculous. She was a detective who knew how to do hard things, going back to work.
In more than 12 years, she’d only taken two breaks, both after being injured in the line of duty.
The first time she’d been shot.
This time was . . . worse.
Her eyes flicked to the rearview mirror. The uniform was watching her from the guard shack. With exaggerated gestures for his benefit, Emilia remade her ponytail, as if her hair was responsible for the delay in getting out of the car. Giving her hands something to do helped focus her breathing.
Emilia finally grabbed her shoulder bag from the passenger seat, and got out of the vehicle. In black jeans, loafers, denim jacket buttoned over her empty shoulder holster, and her detective badge on its lanyard around her neck, she could pretend it was just another day.
Because she was ready.
Emilia forced a tough strut into her walk as she crossed the parking lot and yanked open the rear door into the station.
Puentes, a young uniformed officer, was behind the holding cell desk. He gave a start when he saw her.
She shot him with her thumb and forefinger, the same as always.
“Detective Cruz,” Puentes said haltingly.
I’m not going to shoot you. Emilia smiled, although her face felt brittle and her heart still thumped uncomfortably fast. “How are you doing?” she asked.
“Good, good.” Puentes took a step away from the counter, putting more distance between them. “You?”
“Glad to be back.” Emilia felt his eyes follow her down the hall to the detectives squadroom. Puentes had seen her pull a gun on another cop. Emilia had been a fool to react to the garbage coming out of Detective Gomez’s mouth, but the fear on that pendejo’s face had been worth the mess that followed.
She pushed open the door and relaxed a fraction when she saw that the squadroom was empty.
The big space had been updated by the previous chief of detectives, Lieutenant Baez, but it looked even better than Emilia remembered. More organized. The walls were plastered with pictures and evidence cards from current investigations, but everything was aligned instead of the usual jumble of tacks and scribbles. The dozen metal desks each boasted two monitors. In the far corner, chairs upholstered in gray tweed ringed a sleek conference table. On the other side of the room, near the copier, a matching dark wood hutch held the coffee maker, a tray of clean mugs, and a built-in mini refrigerator.
Madre de Dios. New computers? A refrigerator?
“Cruz.” Her former partner, Franco Silvio, filled the doorway to the lieutenant’s office. “Grab a cup of coffee. We can talk before the rest of the crew reports in.”
“Morning meeting still at 9:00 am?” Emilia asked breezily, like it was an ordinary Monday.
“Same as before,” Silvio said.
Emilia dropped her shoulder bag on her desk and got herself a cup of fresh coffee. Silvio must have just made it, knowing she was coming in early.
A good sign. [Read the rest of 43 MISSING Chapter 1 here]
P.S. Love audio?
Don’t forget that the first four Detective Emilia Cruz novels are audiobooks, narrated by the amazing Johanna Parker! Click the image or find them on Audible here.