Detective Josiah Lapso scribbled down a quick note and straightened to post it on the glass board. He crossed his arms and stared at the diagram that he had spent the last three weeks putting together. Notes with times and dates were plastered in a seemingly chaotic manner with strings of red yarn taped between them. Photographs of crime scenes and possible suspects were littered among the hand-written notes, making Lapso dizzy. These crimes were getting too much for him to handle.

There has to be some kind of connection. No forced entry on these three, but the other four had damage on the door, along with broken glass. There has to be some other connection, he thought.

He turned back to his desk where reports were laid out in chronological order, and he picked up the most recent robbery case. He had just started to read through it for the fourth time that evening when a booming voice echoed through the dimly lit precinct.

“Lapso!” a large man bellowed, marching up to him. “Didn’t I tell you to head home two hours ago?”

“You did, sir,” Lapso replied, running a hand through his dusty blonde hair nervously.

“Then why are you still here?” his boss asked, his large muscles rippling through his pale blue uniform shirt as he crossed his arms.

“I just need to check over the facts of my cases one last time,” Detective Lapso tried to explain. “I think that all of these crimes may be connected in some way, but I can’t figure out—”

“Then try again later,” the chief replied. “You’ve put in more hours than any man in this force the last couple months, and you deserve a break.”

“Chief Alinsky—”

“Don’t test me, Lapso. You are a good detective, but this work can wait until morning,” Alinsky said, clapping the young man on the shoulder. “Take your notes home if it makes you feel better,” he added.

“Yes, sir,” Lapso replied. The chief nodded with an approving look and walked back to his office. Lapso turned back to his desk. He retrieved his dark blue coat from the back of his chair and slowly put it on as he continued to study his board of evidence. He glanced toward the chief’s office, noticing that Alinsky was watching him. Lapso gave him a smart nod and quickly grabbed his notebook. He threw it into his leather satchel, which he slung over his shoulder as he left the precinct.

A steady sprinkle of rain showered on Lapso, making him wish he had an umbrella or a bus ticket, but his shallow salary prevented him from getting either. He walked faster, his black shoes splashing in the growing puddles on the dark sidewalk. Thunder boomed and crashed as lightning lit the sky, and the thick black clouds told the detective that it would likely rain all night. Such was winter in the Black Creek Valley.

Lapso was completely soaked by the time he reached his small home that resided only two blocks away from the BCV precinct. He shoved his hand into his pocket, grabbing the key to the front door. As soon as he entered, the patter of small feet echoed toward him.

“Daddy!” a small flaxen-haired boy exclaimed, rushing clumsily toward Lapso. The man dropped his satchel and stopped the boy from hugging him.

“Whoa, sport. You don’t want to get all wet, do you?” Lapso asked a little sharply, and the toddler’s smile fell as the spark in his blue eyes dimmed. He turned away from his father and walked slowly back down the hall. Lapso began to unbutton his dripping shirt and took it off as a young woman appeared. Her lips were pressed in a hard line, and her blonde locks framed her face, where her blue eyes were narrowed in painful disappointment. As soon as he saw her, he sighed.

“Where have you been?”

“At work,” the detective replied shortly, tossing his soaked shirt into the bedroom.

“I thought you were going to be home for dinner tonight.”

“I got busy,” Lapso replied shortly, ignoring the guilt that was creeping into the pit of his stomach.

“Couldn’t you have at least called to tell me?”

The man didn’t answer.


“It’s just dinner.”

The woman stared at him, shocked. The detective immediately regretted his words, but he wasn’t about to admit it.

“It's not about dinner. You need to spend time with your son! He barely sees you anymore. I barely see you. You’re always working another hour and then another,” his wife said, exasperated.

“Lina, we’ve been over this.”

“Don’t ‘Lina’ me. I know work is important, but isn’t your own son worth more than a few extra dollars?”

“Those extra dollars put food on our table,” Detective Lapso snapped, brushing past her to throw his leather satchel onto the bed.

“Well, maybe it would help if you would eat that food with us more than twice a week,” she countered, following him into the bedroom.

“Carolina, I’m trying!”

“You could try a little harder!”

He pushed past her to get to the bathroom.

“I can’t do this right now, Carolina. I need a shower, and I have more work to do.”

“More? Are you serious? Josiah—”

“I don’t want to hear it,” he interrupted and walked into the bathroom, slamming the door. He stared at the door, barely comprehending what he had just done. He turned toward the tiny bronze-rimmed mirror and looked coldly at his reflection. He froze, shocked at the enraged frown that scowled back at him. He gripped the sides of the sink, suddenly sick.

What have I done?

He turned away from the sink and turned on the hot water. After his shower, he changed into comfortable clothes. He opened the bathroom door as he continued to towel dry his frazzled blonde hair. He peeked out into the dimly lit bedroom but didn’t see his wife. He tossed his towel onto a drying rack and stepped into his worn slippers when he heard Carolina in the other room.

“Come on, Little Man. Time to go to bed,” she said softly. Josiah stepped into the hall and peered around the doorframe into the living room where Daniel was playing with his blocks on the small area rug. The child was attempting to stack his wooden blocks on top of each other but could only manage to get two stacked before they fell over.

“I have to?” the small boy asked, looking up at his mother, who swept him up into a tight hug. Daniel giggled as Carolina spun him around a couple times.

“Yes, you have to,” she replied with a smile, pressing a kiss to his forehead. Daniel giggled again but then looked at his mother with his head cocked.

“Is Daddy goin’ kiss me night too?” Daniel asked.

“Your daddy’s busy helping people,” Carolina answered carefully.

“Will he hep with bocks soon? I want to bid a tower, but bocks keep falling,” Daniel told Carolina with a sad, defeated look.

“I could help you, Danny,” Carolina offered, but their son gave her a determined look.

“But I want Daddy,” the boy sniffed.

Josiah pressed himself into the door frame, guilt washing over him. He had heard enough. He retreated back into the bedroom before he could hear Carolina’s answer to their son. He grabbed his leather satchel from the bed and sat down at the small desk in the corner of the room. He turned on the extra light and pulled out his notes from the recent robbery cases. As he stared at the notes, his mind wandered. As much as he tried to think about the robberies, his thoughts kept flitting back to how he had treated Carolina. He glanced up at their wedding picture that was sitting on the desk and stared at it blankly. They had been so happy.

What happened?

He forced himself to look away from the picture and read through his notes, finally finding focus. He had been working for close to an hour when the door to the bedroom slowly creaked open. He glanced up as Carolina walked in with a bowl that emitted a savory smell that made the detective’s mouth water. The man had completely forgotten about food. His wife set the bowl of thick soup on the desk, putting her hand on his shoulder as she did so. He slowly reached around to touch her hand, but she retracted it before he could make contact. She silently left the room, and he didn’t call her back. He slowly scanned his notes while sipping the steaming soup.

What connections do these cases have? Are they connected at all?

He pored over the notes for an hour until it struck him. He mentally hit himself. All of the robberies were occurring in the neighborhoods directly around the BCV precinct.

That can’t be a coincidence. There are much richer neighborhoods only a few miles away. Are they circling the department?

Detective Lapso pulled a legal pad from the top drawer of the desk and flipped to a clean page. He drew a rough map of the area and the general locations of the robberies. When he was finished, there was a perfect circle around the precinct that was closing in. The man smiled.

If I can determine this pattern, I might be able to figure out what house they’ll hit next.

He set his notes aside and picked up his empty soup bowl. He glanced at the clock above the desk, a little surprised that Carolina hadn’t come in yet to go to bed. He slowly opened the bedroom door, discovering that all the lights except one lamp in the living room were off. Feeling his way to the kitchen, he put his dirty dishes in the tiny sink and returned to the living room. As he moved toward the couch to turn off the lamp, he spotted his wife. Her small frame was curled on the limited space awkwardly, with a blanket somewhat covering her body. He tiptoed quietly over to her and set the blanket aside. He carefully picked her up, keeping her head still against his shoulder as he carried her to the bedroom. After placing her in the bed and covering her with a blanket, he shut off the light and left the bedroom. He returned to the living room and settled on the couch with a thin quilt. He pulled it around his body and rested his head against the armrest as sleep washed over him.

The next morning came quickly, and the detective was up and out the door before either Daniel or Carolina woke. He was eager to track down the leads that he had come up with before going to bed.

As Detective Lapso entered the office, one of the secretaries routinely handed him a large cup of coffee. He thanked her in passing, not stopping till he reached his desk. He set down his satchel and pulled out his papers to start his investigations again. Taking a quick sip of the steaming coffee, he began to gather maps of the area and details on the recent robberies. His desk phone rang twice, but he ignored the calls. Only when Chief Alinsky spoke did the detective look up.

“Mornin’, Lapso. Did you have a good evening?”

“Well enough, sir,” the young man answered. The chief gave him a knowing look.

“You barely spent time with her.”


“You have a son, right?”

“Yes, he’s almost two.”

“And how much time have you spent with him and Carolina lately?”

Detective Lapso stared at him blankly. His phone rang again, and they both ignored it.

“Sir, I—”

“You’re a good detective, Lapso, and maybe I’m a little harder on you than the other guys. But as your uncle, I can’t allow you to sweep your family off to the side,” the chief told him plainly. Detective Lapso shifted his gaze to the floor, looking everywhere except the chief’s eyes. The large man noticed and rested a heavy hand on Josiah’s shoulder with a sigh. “Okay. What’ve you got?”

The young detective looked up and gave him a brief smile.

“I’ve been charting the sites of the robberies. There’s a pattern, sir.”

“What sort of pattern?”

“Each case has happened within two miles of the BCV precinct. As the robberies progress, they become even more destructive. The first case was a clean break with minimal damage to the property and occurred five blocks away,” he started to explain, mapping the details on a legal pad. “One of our middle cases happened only three blocks away, and a window in a door was smashed.”

“I think I follow,” the chief said, raising an eyebrow at the cases.

“According to these patterns, the next robbery is likely to happen only two blocks away in this general vicinity,” the detective explained, circling an area on the map between them. The phone on the desk rang again just as the chief looked at Lapso seriously.

“Son, your home is—”

“LAPSO! Answer the phone,” an officer at a nearby desk called. “All that ringing is giving me a headache.”

The detective sighed, picking up the phone. As soon as he put it up to his ear, his face paled.

“Josiah! There’s someone in the house. I need—ah!”

The line went dead.

Detective Lapso shared an urgent look with the chief, who started yelling for backup. Josiah, however, wasn’t about to wait. He made sure his gun was secure before running out the front door of the precinct. He sprinted down the sidewalk as sirens began to wail. With the first block behind him, he pushed himself to run even faster. His tiny house came into view, and there was an old van parked along the road. Josiah pulled out his gun and kept a careful watch on the area. Just as the detective was running up to the house, the front door flew open, and a man dressed in black rocketed out. He had a bundle tucked under his arm that slowed him down a little but not much. He rammed into the detective, catching him off guard. Josiah fell back into the bushes, the gun flying out of his hand as the other man bolted for the van.

The cry of a woman sobbing slammed Josiah’s senses as Carolina appeared in the doorway. She was clutching her side in pain, tears streaming down her face.

“HE HAS DANNY!” she wailed. Josiah jumped to his feet, adrenaline coursing through his veins. He ran after the criminal, who had thrown the bundle he had been carrying into the back of the van. The doors were slamming shut as the detective ran across the street. The kidnapper tried opening the driver’s side door, but Josiah slammed a hand into it, closing it again. He nailed a punch to the villain’s jaw and was met by a blow to the stomach. The detective inhaled sharply as he was forced to the ground by another punch, but he managed to pull the man down with him. They rolled across the hot pavement exchanging sickening punches. Josiah lay pinned on the street at the mercy of the villain just as four police cars drove up. Two other officers ran to the scene and ripped the man off of Josiah.

The detective sat up slowly, rubbing his jaw. His head was spinning as he tried to stand. He stumbled to his feet and fell forward toward the back of the van. A couple officers tried to stop him, but he pushed past them. The detective threw open the doors, inhaling deeply as he tried to get his breath back. A small bundle lay in a heap in the middle of the van, and the detective climbed in, crawling toward it. It was making a small whimpering noise that broke Josiah’s heart. He gently touched the child, who had his arms bound in front of him. Detective Lapso grabbed the closest sharp object and cut the ropes, gathering his son in his arms protectively.

“Danny, it’s me. It’s Daddy,” the man whispered, holding his son close. The child latched onto the man’s shirt, burying his face in his father’s chest. Josiah climbed out of the van painfully and was met by Carolina, who had run across the street. Josiah pulled her toward him and hugged her, relief washing over him.

“It’s about time you got here,” Carolina told him breathlessly.

“What happened?” Chief Alinsky asked, walking briskly toward them.

“I was in bed when he came into the bedroom,” Carolina started, shaking visibly. Josiah used his arm to steady her. “He was going through my jewelry case. Danny walked in after him. I thought he was going to hurt Danny, so I jumped on him. His mask fell off, and I saw his face. He shoved me back, but I hit him with something. I don’t remember what I grabbed,” she said, clutching the front of Josiah’s shirt. “I tried to call a couple times, but he caught me when Josiah answered. He grabbed Danny from me, but I held onto his shirt. He hit me again,” she stopped, unable to finish.

“I’ve got you,” he told her, holding his family close. He looked up at the chief, who nodded to him knowingly.

“Get in, son. You and your family,” he said, pointing to his car. “You all need medical attention.”

“Yes, sir,” Detective Lapso agreed.


Two weeks later, Josiah walked up to the front door of his tiny home with a wide smile. He opened the door and called inside.

“Lina, I’m home!” he said, slipping off his overcoat. The patter of tiny footsteps made his smile grow as Danny came running toward him.

“Daddy!” Danny said, breathless from his long run from the kitchen. Josiah tossed his satchel aside and swept Danny up into a hug. He tossed the child up in the air a couple times, making him giggle. Carolina appeared, wearing an apron. Still holding Danny, Josiah paused. The couple silently looked at each other, and Danny wiggled out of Josiah’s arms. The man let his son go, and Danny waddled toward the living room.

“You’re home early,” she observed. “Why?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking.”


Josiah rubbed the back of his neck as he averted his gaze from her eyes. “I’m sorry, Carolina. When I think about what could have happened to you and Daniel, I—” he stopped, unable to finish. He stood awkwardly in the hallway, keeping his eyes to the floor. The silence that followed made his heart drop into his stomach. Just as he was about to retreat to the bedroom, Carolina walked toward him. He lifted his gaze as she stopped inches away from him. He had to force himself to keep from touching her, but she gently took his hand. “Lina—”

“Tower! Tower! Daddy, tower!” Danny exclaimed, rushing back into the hallway. He grabbed his father’s hand, tugging him toward the living room. The detective gave his wife an apologetic smile and let Danny lead him to where the wooden blocks were scattered.

He got on the floor with his son as Carolina returned to the kitchen to finish preparing dinner.

Josiah kept his son in his lap as they gathered up the blocks and started to stack them. After several tries of building and rebuilding, Danny successfully stacked a tower four blocks high. He stared at the tower with glee and whipped around to look at his father.

“Daddy! I did it!”

“Good job, Danny,” Josiah praised. Danny threw his arms around the detective’s neck. Josiah held him close and glanced up at Carolina, who poked her head around the door frame. She gave him a ghost of a smile that he returned. Perhaps in time he would be able to rebuild her trust in him. But for now, he was content and looked forward to spending quality time with his son.