Title: THE WATCHMAN
Word Count: 87,000
When off-duty Santa Barbara Police Officer CLAIRE HARTMAN spies an officer in a neighboring jurisdiction battling a combative driver on a traffic encounter, she stops to render aid. But after the officer flees the scene in his undercover car, Claire realizes the real crook isn't the terrified woman in handcuffs.
Even though the case is shelved and her own department forbids her to intervene, Claire vows to find the police impersonator targeting women unlikely to trust police and reluctant to report the attacks.
Claire delves deeper into the impersonator's psyche, uncovering a vigilante's twisted idea of justice and his growing attraction to the woman who's sworn to stop him. When mutilation escalates to murder, Claire races to save the woman she once helped arrest and finds herself the Watchman's newest target.
Claire Hartman faced a dilemma: report to duty and meet the man who waited for her at the Santa Barbara police station, or top off her tank, cash out her accounts, find someone to feed her cat and continue driving north until she hit Vancouver.
Tough Choice. She'd miss her cat.
Each mile along the Ventura coastline brought her closer to the station and she found herself slowing. She tried to imagine the confrontation and realized she had nothing to say to the man. The emotions had fled.
She rolled down the window of her truck. The cold February wind seared her nostrils and raised goose-bumps on her bare forearms. Across the southbound lanes, the sinking sun shimmered against an expanse of water broken only by neoprene-clad surfers awaiting the next swell.
The idea that she could just run away held delicious appeal. For a moment, she let the idea germinate, tease her with options, but ultimately, she knew she would fight the temptation to yield.
She'd spent the afternoon teaching this concept at the police academy in her officer survival class. Officers girded themselves against harm with tactics and training in a profession that measured security in degrees. But survival depended more on mindset. The officer who refused to surrender went home at night. Stories abounded of dead cops who never unholstered, never fought back. She had scanned the faces of her students and wondered who in this class would die.
No. She could not run away.