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Time has no meaning at Mile Marker Zero. Why, then, Officer Aiden Connolly wondered, why, do the worst calls always come just before end of watch?

***

06:40 hours. Another twenty minutes and it would have been a day shift guy flipping on the lights and siren. Some other cop would be accelerating down the entrance ramp and careening onto the interstate at a hundred miles an hour. Another twenty minutes and Officer Aiden Connolly could have called 10-42, end of watch, and dragged his exhausted ass home to his wife and kids instead of hauling it toward a rollover wreck.

Steam from the radiator and smoke from the engine compartment swirled together into a fog. The grey shroud wrapped a young Latina woman as she backed away, confused and frightened, from the overturned tangle of fiberglass and steel. Trembling arms crossed her chest in a desperate self-embrace; her face contorted in a soundless scream. Officer Connolly followed her horrified gaze to her bleeding, mangled doppelganger.

“Come with me,” he said, wrapping a protective arm around her shoulders.

Another twenty minutes and he would not have been escorting the beautiful Latina to the portal at Mile Marker Zero.

***

06:45 hours. Another fifteen minutes and a day shift officer would have been consoling the mother of the twelve year old boy who hanged himself from the garage rafters because he couldn’t face another day of bullying. Another fifteen minutes and Aiden Connolly could have called 10-42 and been home in time to hug his own twelve year old son before he left for school.

The skinny kid with glasses and a twisted neck stood beside Officer Connolly, watching his sobbing, grieving mother grasp at his lifeless body while the paramedics tried to comfort her. Realizing that his suicide merely transferred his pain to the one person in the world who had always given him unconditional love, the boy wished he could take it back.

“Let’s go, son,” Officer Connolly said, patting the boy’s shoulder. “There’s nothing more we can do for your mother.”

Another fifteen minutes and Aiden Connolly would not have been the officer transporting this young suicide to the portal at Mile Marker Zero.

***

06:50 hours. Another ten minutes and somebody on days would have been rushing to the home where the little girl lay lifeless under the wheels of her father’s SUV. Just ten more minutes and Officer Aiden Connolly could have called 10-42, gone home, kissed his wife, and told her and their kids that he loved them.

The child clutched the leg of his trousers and sucked her thumb. Officer Connolly choked back emotions and stroked the blond curls framing her cherubic face. They watched EMTs work frantically in a futile effort to revive her.

Lifting her and cradling her against his chest, he said, “Baby, it’s time to take you home.”

She pointed her pudgy finger at his badge and said, “Shiny.”

Ten more minutes and somebody else would have had to carry that angel to the portal at Mile Marker Zero.

***

06:55 hours. Another five minutes and some dayshift cop would have been making the traffic stop on the intoxicated driver. It would not have been Officer Aiden Connolly directing the drunk to remain in his vehicle. Some other officer would have been struggling for control of his duty weapon. Somebody else would have felt the impact of the bullet that struck his temple.

Five more minutes and Aiden Connolly could have called 10-42, end of watch.

***

07:00 hours. Somewhere in the distance, bagpipes are playing Amazing Grace. A tearful dispatcher is calling for all units to cease radio traffic.

For a full sixty seconds, no sound disturbs the airwaves. Her voice cracks with grief when she breaks the silence. “This is the final call for Officer Aiden Connolly, DSN 777, who was fatally shot in the line of duty. Officer Connolly served his community with courage, valor, and integrity. We are grateful and proud to have served with him. We shall never forget his ultimate sacrifice. May he rest in peace.

“Officer Aiden Connolly, you are clear to go 10-42, end of watch. Our respect and admiration accompany you to your permanent duty station at Mile Marker Zero.

“Godspeed, sir…godspeed.

“All units may resume radio traffic.”

***

Time is meaningless at Mile Marker Zero.

Why, then…why do the worst calls always come just before end of watch?

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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine #1)Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A friend loaned me this book, announcing that she knew I would enjoy reading it because it’s weird, strange, and wonderful. She was correct on all counts.

As a writer, lover of the macabre, and a collector of old photographs, I was intrigued by the inspiration for the book. The vintage photos that illustrate it also served as catalysts for the intriguing story spun by Ransom Riggs. (This, by the way, is the best author name. Ever.)

Sixteen year-old Jacob is reeling from a terrible shock which, “…like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After.” Convincing his bird-watching father that it would make for a wonderful expedition, the pair travels to a remote island off the coast of Wales. Father may be in search of rare species, but Jacob is looking for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in an attempt to make sense of the cryptic words and images left behind by his late grandfather. Who were these children and what made them peculiar? Was his grandfather one of the peculiars? Is Jacob, himself, among their ranks?

I found this beautifully written book to be so entrancing I was unable to rest until without learning what happened next. This clearly demonstrates Riggs’ talent and expertise as a storyteller. If this debut novel is any indication of what we can expect from him in the future, sign me up as Ransom Riggs’ #1 Fan.

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