BITTERSWEET

Detective Wyler figured Maine was just about picture-postcard perfect.

The rustic state boasted oodles of scenic wonders. Wicked-cute fishing villages. A rocky coastline where bald eagles nested. Acres upon acres of virgin forest. Quaint antique colonials lining country lanes like white poker chips in a row.

Moose. Too many goddamned moose to count.

Maine's unspoiled beauty choked him up, nearly brought a tear to his jaded eye.

He was that fucking homesick for the gritty back streets of Boston.

Then again, tourist stuff, like hitting the beach or taking advantage of photo ops, meant dick to him. Cameron -- Cam to his friends -- wasn't up here on vacation. And even if he were doing the recreating thang, this place would be the last place he'd ever want to park his ass for two weeks.

He'd be getting down in Bermuda, where his lightly creamed coffee complexion would blend in a little better with the locals.

His mama, now she was a darkly beautiful woman from Africa's shores. His daddy was black. Irish, that is. Their five kids ran the spectrum, everything from white to well...him. Winter or summer, he didn't need tanning lights to keep the brown glowing. His tan was all-over natural.

So, no, he hadn't driven all the way up here to the boonies to catch any rays. He was here -- under protest -- strictly to recuperate from a work-related injury. Namely, a bullet he took in the hip and head trauma. In other words, he had a boo-boo on his leg and a major headache. No biggie, not as far as he was concerned. Wounded or no, he could still pull his weight in the department.

The brass down at headquarters thought different.

When his physical and psych eval slid across their bureaucratic desktops, it was like, "Cam, you need to go someplace nice and quiet for a while, someplace peaceful where you can rest up and avoid stress."

Balls. He ate stress. Had it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Topped it off with equal parts boredom and danger, and gobbled it down with a slice of anger mismanagement for dessert. Ask his bleeding ulcer how well he thrived on stress.

But, the thing was -- he didn't want to become a liability to his fellow detectives, because, hey, every so often, say every hour or so, he did feel a little woozy. Moderately disoriented. A lot paranoid. And apart from all the emotional crap and the concussion-induced junk, he was still dragging his bum leg. He sure didn't want anyone to have to cover his ass while working a case.

So, cool. He'd suffer through some stress-free R&R. No place on earth less stressful than the Pine Tree State. And if by some extreme fluke of coincidence, the woman he needed to locate was also holing up in Maine, well, hell, the top dogs at headquarters didn't need to know nuthin' about that, now did they?

The screen door to Nelley's Bar and Grille slapped open, allowing the noxious fumes of the Saturday Night's Fry and Die Special to escape, and Cam craned his neck at the exiting patron.

Maybe this time, he'd make the right connection...

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