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A young woman goes out for a night on the town and vanishes. There is no evidence pointing to foul play and her disappearance is written off as voluntary. Martin Bainbridge, who has recently graduated from law school, hears about the case in a community law clinic. He asks Sylvia Wilcox to investigate, which leads to the discovery of a sinister side of her city.

Main Tropes

murder mystery, serial killer, women sleuths, private investigator


After a traumatic childhood, a young woman returns to the scene of the crime, hoping to get justice for her twin brother.

Intro To Chapter One

Badges: Chapter One

The day Sylvia Turner graduated from the police academy, her parents were sitting in the audience with thin-lipped smiles on their faces. The incoming class was small, with only nine people—seven men and two women — reaching graduation. That year, Detroit ranked third in the country for the most homicides. The population was declining and policing certain sections of the city was becoming increasingly difficult. Fear filled Sylvia’s throat when the chief called her name. Why had she signed up for the police academy again?

“You have a college degree. Why become a cop?” Her mother had asked. “Are you doing this to hurt us?”

Sylvia didn’t have an answer then, or on the day she graduated—although hurting her parents hadn’t come to mind when she signed up. She still wasn’t sure why she was taking up the badge. It was almost like she was hungry for heartache and pain—a reoccurring theme in her life. Sylvia had spent her high school years at a boarding school in Connecticut. There was no reason to return to Michigan for college, but she’d come back to her hometown of Detroit. She hated every second she’d spent there, but driven by some sadomasochistic urge, she felt she desperately needed to be there. After college, she was offered a job at a research company that would have afforded her a comfortable middle-class lifestyle, but she’d turned it down for the mission. A self-appointed mission that was highly unlikely to be successful. And yet—it was the only reason she got up in the morning.

Sylvia aced the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards testing and was already viewed as a promising recruit, but did she really want to be a police officer? The chief gave a speech while she pondered the question. She missed most of his advice, but tuned in when the chief said he had some advice for the new officers.

“To be successful, there are a few things you need to steer clear of, and both of them are rooted in your heart. Number one, don’t have a relationship with another officer. These are your comrades. Not love interests. Dating another officer will lead to drama. Even if they don’t work at the same precinct as you, you will want to respond to the same calls they do, and you’ll wonder if they’re having an affair with their partner. It’s a quick way to tank your career. So don’t do it. Rule number two, don’t look into any cases that you have a personal connection with. We need you focused on the task at hand. If a crime against a friend or family member motivated you to join DPD, great. But you can’t let those old cases stop you from protecting and serving in the here and now.”

Sylvia tilted my head toward the sky in defiance as the chief spoke. She didn’t care much about the first part of the chief’s warning. After all, she’d successfully avoided dating, or even having a social life throughout college and graduate school. But the second part of his warning about not investigating cases with personal connections was a rule she absolutely would be breaking. She was going to find justice for her brother, no matter what the cost.

“I know you.”

Sylvia turned around to see a large, stocky man with flawless sable colored skin.

“No way!” Sylvia said, taking a moment to stare in amazement before pulling her long-lost friend Charles into a tight embrace.

“Where you been, girl?” Charles asked, swooping her into his arms and squeezing her.

“I’ve been around.”

“When did you get back to Michigan?”

Sylvias hesitated.

“Six years ago.”

Charles loosened his embrace and backed away.

“You’ve been back for six years?”

“Charles, I’m sorry. I should have let you know. But I came back after high school, went to college, graduated, moved out to Ypsi for grad school, and I’ve just been trying to figure out life since then. It’s been so busy and fast. I didn’t have time for much else.”

He sighed and shook his head. “I’m mad about you not getting in touch, but I’m glad to see you. Guess who else is here?”



The world stopped for a moment. Derek Wilcox was there? Sylvia was glad she had melanin n her skin. If not for that barrier, Charles surely would have seen the hot blush that crept across her cheeks. Derek had been her childhood crush. Adventurous, brave, and smart, he’d led their group of friends on explorations of the neighborhood. The foursome—Charles, Simon—her twin brother — Sylvia, and Derek, spent their youth riding bikes through the overgrown lots behind their homes and playing hide and seek in the alleys that separated one block from the next. Sylvia had been a tomboy who didn’t care much about what she wore or how her hair looked—until she started to feel very happy when Derek Wilcox smiled at her. Initially, she’d been just one of the guys, racing her bike as fast as she could, always striving, and sometimes succeeding, to beat the boys, but by the time she was eight years old, she was dreaming about marrying Derek Wilcox.

“Derek Wilcox,” she said, remembering how much fun they’d had as kids. It was hard to believe they never left the block.

“How did we get to be so lucky?” Sylvia asked. “Where’s Derek?”

“He usually gets here just in the nick of time. You know how he is. The opposite of you. Always running a little late. Roll call is in ten, so he should definitely be here by then.”

“It’ll be good to see him.”

“He’s gonna flip when he sees you. But right now, you need to prepare yourself for initiation into DPD. Are you ready for this?” Charles asked, slapping Sylvia hard on the back.

“Bring it!” she said, giving Charles a high five. Adrenaline was running through her veins. The two friends had wanted to be cops since they were kids. It was one of the conversations that filled their long days of bike riding and exploring. They’d been keenly aware of how violent the city was when they were growing up. After tragedy struck, the friends had agreed that they all should become cops and save their city.

Charles and Sylvia headed into the hall where the chief was about to brief them. She scanned the room for Derek. He’s running late, she thought. Sylvia tried not to judge, but the military themed prep school she’d attended had pounded the need to be early into her head. She still lived by the maxim that if a person wasn’t fifteen minutes early, they were late.

“Now, I know you have a temper. Just relax and listen. This is a place where you want to ease into things. You’re just on patrol right now so just soak up everything so you’re ready when you’re out on the streets. If you go too hard, too fast, you will burn out.”

Sylvia nodded and sat next to Charles. Roll Call started a minute before Derek walked in, rushing and stumbling to a seat in the back.

“Wilcox, thanks for joining us. I’m glad you could work us into your schedule.” The commander said.

Derek nodded and said, “I’m sorry, Commander Doan. I don’t have any excuse.”

Sylvia kept her gaze straight ahead, watching Derek peripherally. He didn’t notice her for a while, but eventually, she felt him staring at the side of her face. Sylvia felt guilty but she missed all the information given during the first morning briefing of her career. Her mind was fixated on Derek. After the briefing was over, she walked over to Derek.


“Sylvia Turner. Wow. I can’t believe you’re here,” Derek said, his voice flat and unimpressed.

“I know. This is crazy.”

Sylvia considered apologizing for the lack of response to the letters he’d sent, but she didn’t know what to say. There wasn’t a good excuse. She just hadn’t responded.

“Long time no see.”


“So, you finally did it? Me and Charles beat you to it. We’re veterans now. You got a lot to learn, kid,” Derek said.

“Yep,” Sylvia said. She felt silly for not being able to hold an intelligent conversation with an old friend.

“She’s so excited to see you, she can’t talk,” Charles said, coming up behind them, laughing.

“I’m ready to learn the job,” Sylvia said. Hoping to change the subject.

“Your parents ever tell you I stopped by?” Derek asked.

The question caught Sylvia off guard.

“Um, a few years ago?”

“Yeah. Probably two or three years ago, but who knows? Could have been five. Or maybe even six.”

“I think I remember them saying something, but I don’t go over there that much. I’ve been busy and I live far from them now. Derek, I’m so sorry I never looked you up. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to be in touch.”

Sylvia felt terrible. Why had she cut ties with Derek?

“Doesn’t matter. I’m glad to see you now.”

“Are you on the road to detective?”

“Oh yeah. I’ve been ripping and running the streets for years. About time for me to move on and get into the good stuff. I think I’ll be there before the end of the year,” Derek said.

“That’s great. You deserve it.”

“How would you know? You have no clue who I am now.”

Sylvia felt her face get hot. She fought off the emotions that welled in her throat.

“Gotcha!” Derek said, laughing and smacking her on the back. “You’re still a little uptight. Must be all that crazy military school stuff. Hey, before you go, I’ve got two things I need to tell you.”

“I’m all ears.”.

“First, don’t go down the rabbit hole. Second, dinner. Tonight. The three of us. Just like old times.”

“What’s the rabbit hole?”

“You know what I’m talking about,” Derek said, laughing. “Same ole Sylvia. Always asking too many questions, but we both know what the rabbit hole is. Seriously, Sylvia. Don’t do it.”

Sylvia smiled and nodded.

“Dinner? Are you coming or not?” Charles asked.

“I might be able to squeeze you in.”

“Oh, I’m sure your social card is full. You’ve always been the life of the party. Charles will figure out how to reach you. I’ve gotta go. Hopefully, you won’t sell us out like you’ve been doing for the past ten years or so,” Derek said, winking and walking away.

“Feels like middle school all over again. Still got that crush, huh?” Charles said, laughing and bumping his elbow against hers.

“I never had any crush. I gotta find my partner.” Sylvia said after jotting down her number on a gum wrapper and shoving it at Charles.

Derek had been there on the dead-end street with Sylvia and Charles when Simon disappeared. That was the day life as she knew it ended. Their friendships and the fun stopped that summer, and a dark and dismal connection formed. They were witnesses to Simon’s disappearance, but they didn’t have any information about what happened. Life went on. Derek went to high school a few months after the disappearance. Sylvia became obsessed with finding Simon, and Charles joined every sports team at school. Sylvia hadn’t seen Derek since she was 13—the summer between 8th and 9th grade. The last time they’d spoken was still a vivid memory.

Sylvia became a problem after Simon vanished. She wanted her brother. Her parents were broken, and she was angry. Over time, the three of them fell apart. When an opportunity to attend a military academy in Connecticut arose, Sylvia jumped at the chance. Derek and Charles had ridden to the bus station when her parents dropped her off. She remembered sitting in-between the two boys, nervous about the trip and sad to be leaving her friends. Derek knocked his knee against Sylvia’s and said, “Two things. First, don’t start liking the Patriots. You better remain a Lions fan no matter what. Second, we’ll write, and it’ll be like you never left.”

Sylvia giggled. She clearly remembered the sweet syrupy feeling she got that day when Derek draped his arm around her shoulder. The scent of his father’s aftershave was intoxicating. She stared into his eyes, hypnotized by infatuation. Back then, she thought she’d never feel that kind of joy again. She recalled how complete she felt when she shook her head at his assertion that she could ever be a Patriots fan, smiled, and slugged Derek in the arm. Emotions welled in her throat, but she remained quiet. Back then, she was still afraid to cry in front of anyone, especially the boy that had her heart.

At the station, her parents, Charles, and Derek waited until she boarded the bus. Sylvia’s parents wanted to drop her off at school, but she’d asked to take the bus.

“It’ll be nice to have the time to think,” she’d told them, in a cold, aloof voice.

They’d nodded and agreed to let Sylvia head out on her own. She’d spent the entire ride alone and quiet, at the back of a Greyhound bus.

Her time at Landon Academy was lonely and hard. Derek wrote, but she never responded. Sylvia looked forward to reading them and still had each letter, carefully placed back in the envelope in which they’d arrived. She didn’t know what to write. She felt painfully shy about how much she missed Derek, but she didn’t know how to properly express that sentiment. She’d been a quiet, awkward girl who’d lost her brother and was trying to navigate being away from home for the first time. Isolated, away from everyone she knew, and lacking the social skills to make friends, she’d became more introverted and less conscious of her feelings.

Copyright 2023, Braylee Parkinson

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