Title: Ashes to Ashes
Series: Aubrey Blake Thrillers, Book One
Author: Rachel Ford
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 06/28/2022
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, murder mystery, crime, lesbian, private detective, cleric/priest, guns, violence, anger issues, Action/adventure, bartenders, pets, religion, revenge, slow burn
A private eye and a vigilante priest face off to bring down a corrupt band of evildoers—by the book, or off the books. Her way, or his.
Years ago, Aubrey Blake joined the police force to make a difference. She almost lost everything in the pursuit of justice. Now she’s about to do it again.
Disillusioned with her former career, she makes a living as a private detective. A living, but not a life.
Then the killings start. The police are on it. But Blake can’t let it be. She can’t walk away. She’s not wired that way.
Then again, neither are the killers…
Ashes to Ashes
Rachel Ford © 2022
All Rights Reserved
The old man glanced at his watch. Thirteen minutes after nine. He was behind schedule. He should have been at the halfway mark already. He should have passed it thirteen minutes ago.
He gritted his teeth and pressed onward, pumping his legs as fast as they’d go. Not so fast these days. People might say age was only a number, but those people didn’t understand numbers. Numbers weren’t just innocuous lines on a page or a reflection of self-image. Numbers made the difference between success and failure, on time or too late, life and death.
One hundred and forty-five beats per minute.
Eleven hundred feet per second.
If you dug deep enough, everything was a numbers game. And right now, he was losing. He’d covered just about two miles. That meant he still had over two miles left. And forty-seven minutes to do it in.
Numbers, again. It all came down to numbers. Twenty years ago, those numbers wouldn’t have made a difference. But age understood the numbers game, even if people didn’t. Arthritic knees and old lungs and stiff hips understood the difference twenty years could make.
He puffed as he walked, drawing in one short, quick breath after the next. He hit the two-mile mark about three minutes later.
Forty-four minutes left.
He hit the nine-thirty mark a little closer to schedule. He still had over a mile to go, but he’d been making up lost time. He was close now.
Nine hours. Thirty minutes after the hour.
There’d be meetings and doctor appointments and lawyer appointments and business openings happening all over town right now. But that wasn’t what those numbers meant to the old man.
He was contemplating an entirely different set of figures.
Eleven hundred feet per second.
Tyler Morehouse was already dead. If everything had gone according to plan, he would have been dead about five minutes earlier.
And if it hadn’t? Well, the old man had bigger problems to worry about than his heart rate. And that was certainly higher than one hundred and forty-five beats per minute.
A hundred and forty-five beats per minute was the maximum recommended heart rate for a guy his age, according to something he’d read online a long time ago. American Heart Association, or John Hopkins Medicine, maybe. He didn’t remember at the moment, but he remembered the formula: two hundred and twenty beats per minute, minus your age.
One hundred and forty-five, in his case. Another set of critical numbers. He was feeling the impact of ignoring those numbers.
His breathing had grown more laborious, and his lungs burned. He felt mild tightness in his chest.
That was what he would have rated himself on the pain scale his doctor liked to use: six out of ten. Which, he decided, pun not intended, left him a little breathing room. He still had four out of ten degrees of pain left before he was either immobile or dead.
Four degrees and thirty minutes to go. He’d faced worse. He could tough that out.
And he did. Half an hour and two minutes later, he made the rendezvous. The bench was occupied, as per the arrangement. He took a seat next to the other man and didn’t say anything. He just sat there puffing with exertion and slipped a smartphone out of his pocket.
The other guy didn’t speak either. He took the phone and slid it into his own pocket. They sat there for three minutes, until five after ten.
Then the other guy got up. The old man stayed seated, stayed puffing long breaths of air into old lungs that weren’t used to that kind of exercise.
The other guy said, “It’s done.”
The old man nodded, but he didn’t speak. Not because it was some predetermined code or anything like that. He was still wheezing for breath.
He nodded. “You better go. You’re on a schedule.”
“You sure you’re all right?”
“Just not used to that kind of pace.”
The other guy smiled, the kind of smile that writers would say “didn’t quite reach his eyes.” The old man hadn’t always understood that phrase, but once he’d lived long enough, he did. Age was more than just a number, after all. “Been a long time, hasn’t it?”
He nodded and said again, “You better go.”
And then the other guy did go. The old man sat on his bench alone, no longer counting the minutes as he collected his thoughts and caught his breath.
Tyler Morehouse was dead. It was over.
Meet the Author
Award-winning author Rachel Ford is a software engineer by day, and a writer most of the rest of the time. She is a Trekkie, a video gamer, and a dog parent, owned by a Great Pyrenees named Elim Garak and a mutt of many kinds named Fox (for the inspired reason that he looks like a fox).