Chapter 3

“Who’s the girl?” hissed Scott Miller, hitching a thumb back in the direction of the open door once they’d reached the end of the hallway.

“Your replacement,” Eric Brenner replied.

His companion frowned with concern.

“Relax, S’miller. I’m joking,” Eric assured his gap-toothed friend, plopping into one of the chairs in the deserted waiting area of the police station. “She must be new.”

S’miller, as thickset and jovial, nineteen-year-old Scott was affectionately known around campus, appeared relieved then, once the information processed, concerned again. “They hired a girl to be a C.S.O.?”

“What’s wrong with that?” Eric chuckled.

“Nuthin’. I guess,” muttered S’miller, still not entirely swayed from his bias. Taking a seat opposite, he ventured to add, “I just never imagined a girl doing Booty Duty.”

“They’ll probably pair her up with one of us,” Eric suggested.

S’miller’s puppy dog face brightened. “Like me. Then we’ll see what ‘pops out’ in the dark,” he crudely joked, breaking into a hardy laugh, punctuated by intermittent hiccups.

Eric rolled his eyes then began filling out his timesheet, which needed to be completed at the beginning of each week if one wanted to get paid.

Some did it for the money. Others, like Scott, joined for the prestige, believing it to be an elite corps on campus that afforded them status. Not Eric. He had chosen to be a C.S.O. for one reason only: the work experience. He wanted to be a cop, or, more precisely, a detective. A sophomore, he intended to enlist in the Police Academy immediately after graduation, in another two years. Or three. Regrettably, he’d had difficulty deciding on a major, changing three times since being admitted to SDU, which had set him back on qualifying. However, if there was one thing nineteen-year-old Eric was committed to it was his career choice. When he’d heard about the C.S.O. program his freshman year, he had pursued a position at the University Police Department with unstoppable fervor.

Occupying fourteen hundred acres and containing some 600 buildings, with approximately 7,500 full-time residents among its 28,000 total population, San Diego University amounted to a small city, and possessed its own, independently-run law enforcement unit to maintain order. The UPD employed thirty sworn police officers. Armed and possessing the same authority as their municipal counterparts, the squad acted as the primary agency for reporting and investigating criminal activity occurring on campus. Patrol, the largest division in the department, provided protection and safety services to the community-at-large, and, when necessary, made arrests, while the smaller detective bureau was responsible for conducting follow-up investigations.

In addition to the full-time officers, the department employed twenty-five student Campus Safety Officers to patrol parking lots, conduct building lock-up, assist in special security detail, and provide evening escort services, which entailed walking students (mainly women) home or to their cars late at night. “Booty Duty,” as this latter function had been branded, was Eric’s chief responsibility, and he performed the function four nights a week on the UP beat. Perhaps due to his passion for his intended profession, he had emerged as the team’s unofficial leader, explaining why, the more he thought about it, he was mildly irked no one had informed him they were hiring a new recruit.

The sound of the main door opening made both boys look up. Alarm spread over S’miller’s face as a dark, hulking figure entered. Neck craned forward, bent at the waist, cannonball shoulders swinging from side-to-side, he strode in like a predator pursuing his prey. Nearly six feet tall, with an over-developed upper body, his skin was the color and luster of vanilla extract. Adding to the air of intimidation were his distinct features: tar-black, almond-shaped eyes, a prominent, eagle beak nose and a wide mouth that rested in a frown.

“Vince,” Eric greeted the newcomer with a toss of the head.

Vince Walker nodded back and proceeded down the hall, presumably to the clerk’s office to retrieve a blank time sheet.

Once he’d gone, S’miller confessed, “That guy gives me the spooks.”


“You mean, other than the fact that he’s huge?” sputtered S’miller. “He never says anything.”

“Ever think maybe he’s just quiet?”

”Shh. Here he comes,” warned S’miller, snapping up his pencil and pretending to be absorbed in his paperwork. He threw out a casual “How’s it goin’?” as Vince passed, appearing relieved when he took a seat at the far end of the waiting area.

Eric’s thoughts returned again to the girl he’d seen in the conference room with Officer Sparks, and he grew curious as to whether another one of his co-workers knew something about her. “Hey, Vince.”

The solidly built figure looked up from his perch in the corner and blinked his black eyes at Eric in acknowledgement.

“You hear anything about the department hiring a new C.S.O.? A girl?”

Vince fixed his mouth and shook his head then continued filling out his timesheet.

Eric sighed. S’miller was right: Vince Walker was a man of few, or no, words.

Monitoring the exchange, S’miller shot Eric a look that said, I told you so.

Eric made a face back then tried to focus on his timesheet. But he just couldn’t let it go. Who was she? He figured it was only a matter of time until he found out.

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