Authors: J.J. Hensley
Copyright © 2013 by J.J. Hensley
All rights reserved. No part of this publication, or parts thereof, may be reproduced in any form, except for the inclusion of brief quotes in a review, without the written permission of the publisher.
For information, address:
The Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Road
Sag Harbor, NY 11963
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hensley, J. J.—
Resolve / J. J. Hensley.
eISBN 10: 1-57962-345-X
eISBN 13: 978-1-57962-345-6
1. Ex-police officers—Fiction. 2. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 3. Marathon running—Fiction. 4. Pittsburgh (Pa.)—Fiction. 5. Mystery fiction. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
For Kasia and Cassie
The truest of treasures
hen I decided to take on the challenge of writing a novel, I envisioned a process that—like running—can be a very solitary endeavor. What I quickly discovered is how much personal and professional support one needs to finish such a project. I am blessed to know so many wonderful, intelligent people who were willing to assist me in this undertaking and believed in me throughout the journey. It is doubtless I will fail to mention everyone who I am indebted to, so I apologize in advance for any omissions.
Thanks to literary agent, Felice Gums and Idaliz Seymour at the About Words Agency, for believing in a first-time novelist when many others did not. Felice stuck it out with me until we were fortunate enough to discover Martin and Judith Shepard at The Permanent Press, who honor me every day by calling me one of “their” authors. I am also very grateful to Lon Kirschner who designed the book cover and assisted me with promotional materials. Additionally, Joslyn Pine’s thorough copyediting corrected many of my grammatical and typographical errors.
When I was in the third grade, chance (and alphabetical order) led to me having what will be a lifelong friendship with Jeff Hartz. He and his wonderful wife, Gretchen, provided me with many suggestions, corrections, Web site assistance, as well as medical and educational insights that greatly improved this book. Truth be told, their young daughter, Abby, may have chimed in as well. Using the family name for a character in the novel is the least I could do to repay their hard work.
During the early portion of my life, I was surrounded by many caring people who dedicated themselves to educating the children of the Westmoreland community in Huntington, West Virginia. I would like to thank all the teachers I encountered in the Wayne County, West Virginia school system who always did the best they could with the resources available. Special thanks go out to Gary Norris, who helped teach me that persistence and dedication can trump natural ability and whose hatred of concrete basketball courts gave me the idea for the opening line of this book.
Throughout my career in law enforcement and the Federal government, I have run across too many remarkable people to possibly name them all here. The men and women I worked with in the Chesterfield County, Virginia Police Department will always be close to my heart. To this day, I am very thankful to have met people like Dave and Gina Shand who are incredible human beings. I was equally blessed to work with many great people during my time with the U.S. Secret Service. People like Brian Lambert and Treva Lawrence were just two of the many good friends I left behind when I transitioned out of law enforcement. My coworkers with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management—Federal Investigative Services inspire me every day. I am proud to work with people who rarely get the recognition they deserve. It is a particular honor to work with the staff of the agency’s National Training Center.
Several people in the Pittsburgh community helped me out in writing this book. Thanks go out to William Stuart and Jim Vogel who helped me ensure some of the technical details regarding the Pittsburgh Police Department were correct. Any details that are incorrect are either intentional for purposes of the story, or are inadvertent mistakes on my part. I also need to mention the inspiration and assistance I have gained from the Pittsburgh running community, specifically Jenn Wohlgamuth and the staff at MoJo Running in Seven Fields, Pennsylvania.
Several people helped to proofread this novel. In addition to those mentioned above, Rick Kelly and Heather Brown spent countless hours reminding me my writing was far from perfect. Usually, they did it in a nice way. My wife and chief editor—Kasia—and my mother—Kitty—tore through manuscripts and made invaluable suggestions. They were not always nice about it, but they love me.
Overall, the family support I have received throughout my life has been incredible. My brother—Brian Hensley—can be both my mirror image and my polar opposite. He and his wife—Julie—are wonderful people who I admire greatly. I will never be able to repay my parents, Jim and Kitty Hensley, for the support they have given me through the years. Not once in my life did either of them suggest I could not accomplish anything in life, and they always did everything in their power to help me along. They are tremendous parents and always have been. My grandmother, Dortha Hensley, has always been there for the family and never fails to give us her honest opinion on any topic, at any time, in any place, at any volume. We love you Dortha. I would also like to thank my relatives in Poland, my in-laws Jadwiga and Waclaw Lach. Thank you for being so kind to me and for raising an incredible daughter. Although I doubt they will ever read this novel, I should probably thank my dogs—Shockoe and Shiloh. They provided inspiration for the dog mentioned in the story.
I am most thankful to my wife, Kasia. For over a decade, she has been my best friend, confidant, and the love of my life. Her devotion, encouragement, and patience during this process have been indescribable. It was she who convinced me I should write a book, and who dared me to dream it could be published. While waiting for this book to be published, Kasia and I welcomed a little girl into the world. A tiny shout-out to Cassie, who can make a bad day vanish by showing me that heartwarming smile. Kasia and Cassie are my heart and my soul.
oncrete is harder than asphalt. Most people don’t realize that.
Asphalt, blacktop, cinders—they are all more forgiving than concrete. You don’t notice it much over short distances, but after a while the distinction will become as obvious to you as a mosquito bite when compared to a gunshot wound. So the rough, blackened, crater-pocked street that I’m on today may not be very appealing to most people, but this morning I’m overjoyed to see it.
This is my second favorite part of the entire journey.
My breath becomes visible for just a moment this early in the morning before the condensation dissipates into the breeze, and the bright colors draped over nervously bouncing bodies come back into focus. The anticipation of nearly 20,000 people standing shoulder to shoulder, front to back, back to front—all facing the same direction—is something to behold. About 4,500 of the runners will individually attempt the full 26.2 miles. The rest will compete in either the half-marathon or on relay teams.
The whole picture is surreal when you really think about it. It’s like some LSD-laced zombie movie where thousands of vibrating forms wear ridiculously bright and skimpy outfits, stare at their wrists and prepare to press buttons that will start their watches, and then measure how long it takes to devour the city’s unsuspecting population. Then there is a piercing gunshot. Instead of scrambling back toward their sewer grates and manhole covers—like any respectable members of the undead—the demon spawn march in methodical unison, as if directed by some all-knowing evil entity. Everybody here, including me, should seek professional help.
What other large-scale athletic event has more participants than spectators? Where else do people huddle like emperor penguins at the starting point, spread out as the miles tick off, and then regroup to gulp down doughnuts and bananas at the end? Some of the day’s onlookers will have had no idea what they were going to witness. They are accidental audience members who happened to step out their front doors and notice that Nike appears to have staged a breakout from an insane asylum. In urban races like this one, even the city’s buildings seem to lord over the runners and look on in amazement as they congregate in one cramped and congested area. They seem to lean and sway to block out the rising sun as if to say, “Hurry, you ibuprofen-loaded ghouls! We can’t protect you much longer.”
The first time I ran this race, the distraction of the scenery carried me though the hours that I usually spend laboring to ignore the pain. People think I’m a little odd because of what I call
. The phrase
would draw snickers from most people. A few years ago, before I moved to the area, I would have rolled my eyes dismissively too. But it turns out that the dirty, industrial image the city acquired really should have drifted away with the black soot and smoke over a decade ago. The brightly colored yellow bridges, blindingly reflective skyline, and unique neighborhoods are more interesting to me than any mountain, lake or beach. I think it’s because the city shows progress. Maybe that’s not the word.
. Pittsburgh is
. It’s the opposite reaction to the action of the previous century’s industrialization. The balancing of the equation.
For the last two years, on the first Sunday in May, I’ve slinked my body out of bed at four o’clock in the morning and listened to my wife mumble something about me being insane while she drifted back into a peaceful slumber. Then, I have always grabbed my meticulously prepared running gear, eaten my bowl of warm oatmeal with one carefully measured teaspoon of sugar added, and headed downtown from our suburban home.
Each of those times I had already picked up my race bib the day before, checked and double-checked that I had my timing strip that would be wrapped around my shoe laces, and studied the course like a general surveying a battlefield. You know . . . in case the thousands of other people in the marathon don’t know where they are going. I guess I
accidentally follow the half-marathon crowd if I were illiterate or blind and couldn’t read the twenty large poster board signs hanging on light posts, buildings, and scaffolding at the point of divergence. The ten volunteers screaming at the top of their lungs, “Half to the left! Full to the right!” is a bit of a clue as well. So, getting lost on the course has never happened to me. Obviously because I study the course. I’m pretty smart like that.
The first time I ran the race, I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 43 minutes and 21 seconds. Last year, I really pushed it and knocked off a full 13 minutes, despite the terrible rain and humidity. Those times may not sound like much, but when the expedition to the finish is 26.2 miles away,
time is pretty good in my opinion.
People like me try to use a form of black humor to minimize the task at hand. We say unbelievably clever things like, “It’s not the first 26 miles—it’s the .2 that gets you.” But the harsh, pavement-pounding reality of it is that 26.2 miles is a long freak’n way and there’s no faking it if you want to finish. You can get lucky and run an impressive sprint. You can have an aberration of a 5K race. However, the brutal attrition of a long distance race is the best kind of truth serum there is.
After several miles, the ground beneath you seems to strike back. It punches into your feet with precise, focused blows and the impact that was initially being absorbed by your shoes migrates to the soles of your feet. From there the smoke signals of pain travel through your shins and into your knees. Your knees then convert the subtle puffs into high-speed internet signals that shoot up your spinal cord to produce pop-up ads in your brain that tell you that you’re doing something unnatural and Darwin would not approve.
If you weren’t completely honest with yourself in the months of training before a race, then you had better understand that the deception you allowed into your life is going to come back and kick you in the ass. No exceptions. That’s how this sport is. I suppose that’s how most things are.