Badge of Edisto

Badge of Edisto

C. Hope Clark

October 2022 $17.95
ISBN: 978-1-61026-182-1

The Edisto Island Mysteries, Book 9

Our PriceUS$17.95
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Back Cover Copy

A Callie Morgan and Carolina Slade crossover! (A standalone mystery)

Regret has become ex-Police Chief Callie Jean Morgan's constant companion. Her half-assed, "good ol' boy" replacement in the town of Edisto deepens her guilt at having abandoned her citizens, her officers. When her friends Carolina Slade and Wayne Largo arrive unannounced and determined to uncover why the hell Callie gave up her badge, the group is pulled into a mystery they shouldn't have to solve—but no one else seems to care that the Edisto Witch has turned up dead behind the cemetery.

In fact, Callie and posse have caught the new chief in a lie about the death.

She'll have to decide whether to stay safely retired, save Edisto from an unforeseen criminal element, or take that job offer in her hometown…

The dead still speak to Callie Jean Morgan. Whether she's on the job or not.

Author Bio:
C. HOPE CLARK has a fascination with the mystery genre and is author of the Carolina Slade Mystery Series, and the Craven County Mysteries as well as the Edisto Island Mysteries, all set in her home state of South Carolina. In her previous federal life, she performed administrative investigations and married the agent she met on a bribery investigation. She enjoys nothing more than editing her books on the back porch with him, overlooking the lake, with bourbons in hand. She can be found either on the banks of Lake Murray or Edisto Beach with one or two dachshunds in her lap. Hope is also editor of the award-winning


"When a shocking murder leaves more questions than answers, retired police chief Callie Jean Morgan reclaims her true purpose—solving big crimes in a small town. Packed with plot twists, suspicious new characters, and the Edisto Beach community readers have come to love, C. Hope Clark fans will be cheering." —Julie Cantrell,New York TimesandUSA Todaybestselling author ofPerennials

"Characters that linger in your mind long after the last page is turned." —Karen White,New York TimesBestselling Author

Hope Clark’s books have been honored as winners of the: 

Epic Award, Silver Falchion Award, and the Daphne du Maurier Award.

"Packed with plot twists, suspicious new characters, and the Edisto Beach com­munity readers have come to love, C. Hope Clark fans will be cheering.”

—Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today
bestselling author of Perennials on Badge of Edisto

"An addictive page turner.”

—Jan Tangen, Netgalley Reviewer on Edisto Heat

"I am grateful that the mayhem of the Edisto Island Mysteries is restricted to these enjoyable works of fiction, and I am a big fan.”

—Former Mayor Jane Darby, Town of Edisto Beach, SC

"A cannot-put-down mystery.”

—Brenda Burke, Amazon Vine Reviewer on Edisto Heat

Buy Now

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Chapter 1


CALLIE MORGAN stretched her sweater and tucked the ends under the thighs of crossed legs stiffened from a self-imposed vigil by Michael Seabrook’s grave. Seabrook’s wife lay in the next plot, and Callie almost resented her being that close to him. Then she thought of Mark Dupree, bless him, who was every bit as loving and supportive to Callie. Not to mention alive. A man who worried himself silly about her these days... even knowing that her latest habit was to slip away to the cemetery to talk to her former lover.

She wasn’t stupid. Being here was more an attempt to touch base with her former, better self—that seemed well beyond her grasp—than an attempt to hold on to his memory as one of the loves of her life. His memory was all wound up with an earlier time when she’d found herself, rebuilt herself, and become someone she could respect. Become someone the community could respect.

These days, well, she wasn’t sure what to do with the kind of days she had now. Days she’d brought upon herself.

It was October, but Edisto’s jungle shrugged off fall with barely enough hardwood trees for color, with the moderate coolness giving contrast to the long tourist summer. The orange, rust, and gold wreath on the Presbyterian Church door did more to announce the season than the woods surrounding the sanctuary’s ancient graveyard. Breezes tunneled through the paths separating blocks of old family plots... the Seabrooks and the Jenkinses, the Townsends and the Mikells.

For two years Callie hadn’t been able to make herself visit the Seabrook family congregation of graves, but once she’d done so, a visceral need to confess kept her coming back. She just hadn’t said it aloud yet. She wasn’t leaving this time until she did... though she said that every time.

But a woman had arrived fifteen minutes after Callie, and Callie’s thoughts were too raw to confess with any chance to be overheard. If the woman didn’t leave in the next fifteen minutes, Callie might leave and come back another time.

The woman had parked herself beside one of the few cradle graves in the cemetery, remaining far enough away not to be a bother but close enough to remove any sense of privacy. Grandmotherly in age, could be in her fifties or as old as seventy, the lady’s caramel skin was smooth and cared for. She kneeled, hands covered in dirt from methodically culling dried remnants of flowers. Beside her rested a new flat of blooms Callie couldn’t identify. Snapdragons, maybe? A dish towel draped across the lap of her skirt, catching stray soil while giving her a place to wipe her hands. It was an old grave, as in almost two centuries, and for a second Callie pondered the need to tend it, but only for a second.

The grave before Callie deserved more of her attention.

She stared at Seabrook’s headstone, then slid her gaze to the grass, familiar enough to almost recite the number of blades spouting from the St. Augustine cover. She whispered, "I screwed up, Mike.”

She’d finally said it.

Nothing happened. She swallowed and said it again. "I really screwed up.”

Voicing the words launched a tumbling, avalanche of feelings. Bow­ing, she laid her forehead on the cool, damp sod and whispered, "I’m so sorry. To you, to Stan, to Jeb... to everyone.” Hands drawn up beside her temples, she breathed into the sod. "I’m so lost, Mike. You trusted the chief of police job to me, and I ruined it.” She sighed a shaky sigh then surprisingly had no more words.

She waited for redemption, forgiveness, a better sense about herself. All she got was hot silent tears. Professing into the dirt hadn’t done her a damn bit of good.

Bottom line, she’d been the guard at the Edisto gate, left her post, and allowed the enemy to overrun the castle. Since she’d handed in her resignation as police chief, she’d been unable to look at herself in the mirror, much less at friends and neighbors of Edisto Beach.

Death had been no stranger during her tenure, a couple of men dying by her hand, not that she regretted those. One tried to kill her son. The other killed the man buried before her. Those she could live with, regardless of how any religion labeled her, but it had damn sure taken a toll.

In her last case, however, the arsons dredged up her fire phobia and knocked her off her game. She solved the case, but if she’d done so bet­ter, faster, cleaner, she might’ve salvaged three lives... and the careers of two officers who gave up and moved on. Way too high a cost.

She didn’t even care that her physical house had burned down. Right now the smoking ashes of her metaphorical house were what she re­gretted most.

At her last "impromptu” town council meeting as chief, something had clicked in her. The vague idea of quitting became an instant reality as she chose not to endure Brice LeGrand and the town council in their never-ending public assassination of her as police chief. I quit came out at the time like the words were measured and meant to be.

How goddamn naïve of her to think that walking away matteredonly to her. Like Officer Thomas Gage, her youngest yet favorite officer, had said, she chose herself over the citizenry, deceiving them by be­com­ing a police chief they trusted before tossing the role aside, which gave some fool-to-be-named-later the incentive to take control.

Brice had pushed her until she caved, relieving him of the fight he might not have won.

She believed the changing of the guard since her resignation had been a clandestine takeover by Brice LeGrand and his crony. Croniescounting the two deputies that came in tow with Lamar Greer when he assumed the role within two weeks of Callie leaving. To Edisto, Greer initially seemed a timely dream come true. Callie, however, figured he’d been waiting in the wings all along, awaiting Brice’s beckon. She should’ve known that her resignation had not been Brice’s endgame.

Mark and her old, retired Boston PD boss Stan had said a cadre of residents wanted her back, but nobody had time to blink before Greer assumed the badge. Out of courtesy, she attended the new swearing in, but she couldn’t have been greeted with more chill than if she’d spit on the uniform and peed on the badge she turned in, because that’s what it felt like she’d done as soon as Greer started instigating change. Change which happened to coincide with a rise in crime, blamed on Callie’s leaving more so than Greer’s arrival. More thefts, burglary, and van­dalism for the most part. Vehicle break-ins. The changes allowed more criminal activity, everyone murmured, some murmuring rather openly. She had been tough. Greer was not, they said. Callie wasn’t convinced they were wrong.

But on the other hand, Greer had clamped down on weed. Beaches like Edisto were laid back. People visited to forget the madness of their day-to-day. That often came with recreational users, something Callie hadn’t bothered policing as long as they didn’t drive. But the new zero-tolerance policy hadn’t been contested, at least not yet, for fear of the contesters being labeled as users.

Edisto Beach’s aura was changing, as her yoga friend Sophie would say, and not in a good way.

Callie stayed home mostly, so Mark brought her groceries and the Mexican cuisine from his establishment El Marko’s so she didn’t have to appear in the grocery store. Stan checked on her for other needs. Sophie rocked with her on the porch swing several times a week, urging her to come to yoga.

Callie hadn’t seen her son since she’d resigned, unable to put into words why she did what she did. Lucky for her, their burned home and content loss seemed the only concern at the time. The tragedy meant a total loss of her things, his things, except what she had in a couple suitcases and what he had in his college dorm. But she wouldn’t hear of him missing a semester, so she sent him enough funds to replenish whatever he needed, promising him she’d be fine.

Last time she’d lost face in his eyes, he postponed those education plans. That wasn’t happening again.

They phoned periodically, though, texting every other day, her telling him she was good and that she should have left the job all along. He didn’t relish her being in law enforcement anyway.

One look into her eyes now, and Jeb would recognize the fresh lie and old ways, which were part of the reason she didn’t often let Sophie into her home, either. Part of why some days she didn’t answer the door.

Part of why she left her phone charging in another room most of the time, or like now, in the car.

She drank strategically. The gin came from Charleston, not local, and she only imbibed once per day, when whoever checked on her was gone for the night. The nights she spent with Mark were the best... and the worst since she hadn’t admitted to him she’d slipped.

What she hadn’t wrapped her head around was how she had screwed up beyond correction and why she couldn’t put her finger on the reason she’d so easily walked. Sure, the pressure of public opinion weighed heavy with so much loss of life and property, but in hindsight, she had thought she was stronger than that.

People assumed she would move. Why not? With no job, no house, and her only child in college, she’d tossed any and all reins holding her to Edisto Beach. People started over all the time.

So why was she stuck here? The coward paying penance? The lost soul preferring gin to facing an interview having to explain why she’d quit?

Or was it Mark?

The hand on her back sent her own hand to her hip for a weapon she no longer carried. The older woman didn’t fret at the reaction, even when Callie leaped to her feet. Cheeks reddening, Callie reached out to her. "I’m terribly sorry if I startled you.”

The woman smiled understandingly. "I’m afraid it was I who startled you, dear.” Then after a pause, added, "Are you all right?” and returned a light touch to Callie’s shoulder.

Callie started to answer yes, but somehow felt the woman would read the lie. "I appreciate you asking.”

"You were the police chief, right?”

The shock passed quickly. More people knew of Callie’s plight than she cared to admit since rumors traveled like mosquitoes on this island. "Yes, ma’am. But you have me at a disadvantage, and my apologies if I should recognize you.”

She’d forgotten how pleasant a normal conversation could be without the nuance of a stink-eye look or pitying stare.

"Lumen Townsend,” the woman said.

"Oh,” Callie replied, registering this was the so-called Witch of Edisto, whom Callie knew of only through gossip and Sophie’s stories. But while Sophie was outgoing and spiritual through her yoga, sage smudging, and obscure communications with the dead, Lumen was more akin to a folktale. Independent and self-sustaining, she existed off her own resources by curing with herbs and offering advice from her home somewhere along Blue House Creek. The distance was walkable from the church if one was fit enough to do a mile, which she appeared to be.

A fragrance of herbs Callie couldn’t name softly reached her.

Lumen smiled, and there was nothing wicked-witchy about it. "Seems we recognize each other after all. Seriously, can I help?”

Callie shook her head. "No, ma’am.”

Lumen didn’t ask for details. "We all pay for our choices.” She spoke without the first hint of sanctimony, delivering one of those rare gazes that warmed with reassurance.

Anyone could look at Callie and spot unease, but Lumen’s words sounded deeper and more aware than that, prompting Callie to say, "What’s done is done.”

"No.” Lumen shook her head, her salted black hair curled, coiled, and shifting across her shoulders with the motion. "You left what you loved.” She winked, soft and positive. "You miss your errands of mystery.”

"And she quotes Virginia Woolf,” Callie said, her grin feeling for­eign yet warm.

"You have a keen ear, Ms. Morgan.”

Callie wasn’t sure how to respond with the quote, only one of a couple she recalled from college lit class, but she was hungry for dialogue not tainted in judgement. "Is the grave a relative? It’s rather old, I’d say.”

"I assume I’m related to her,” Lumen replied, glancing over to where she’d been working. "The tradition is almost gone to tend a cradle grave, but I like to think the family looks down and approves. It’s an old white man’s practice, but I’m still a Townsend, which means lots of white in my veins. That one is a child. The other two are grown, but the small one receives most my attention.” She led them to the small plot. "J.R.R. Tolkien and his wife have cradle graves. We’re called tapho­philes, you know.” When Callie clearly didn’t grasp the meaning, Lumen added, "Cemetery enthusiasts.”

Seemed they both enjoyed nonjudgmental chat.

Callie tipped her head. "May I help you finish?”

Not much was left to do, but Callie aided in the last of the planting and then the cleaning up and caught herself humming along with the woman when she recognized the hymn. All too soon, Lumen Townsend rose to her feet and announced it time to go.

"When do you usually come out?” Callie asked. "I’d like to help with....” She read the grave closely. "With Caroline’s resting place.”

"Saturdays mostly, so she and the others look good for Sunday services. This time of year doesn’t amount to much work once the roots take hold. These like the coolness. But I come about this time of day.”

Her tools gathered in a woven vegetable basket, the flat of plants empty and held by a corner, Lumen readied to leave. "Thank you for the help.”

She walked off, only not toward the parking lot, and it was then that Callie noted no car. "May I give you a ride?”

The woman declined. "I need the exercise. You’re welcome to weed whenever you come talk to Mr. Seabrook, though.”

She released that knowing smile, turned, and navigated the cemetery. There was no clear path, and like smoke, Lumen Townsend disappeared into the woods behind the Julia Legare mausoleum and was gone to the point Callie wondered if the witch rumors were true.

Her gut felt better. Her mind wasn’t such a fog. She hadn’t climbed completely out of her misery, but meeting Lumen made for a better day. Callie’d confessed to Seabrook and met a friend. Baby steps.

She almost wanted to go tell Mark, then changed her mind. Hey, I told Seabrook I screwed up, and then I met a witch. I feel so much better. Here was Mark tending to her daily, and yet she felt better confessing to a dead man and a stranger. The realization immediately sucked away some of the joy.

She trod up the main path to where she parked just as an Edisto Beach patrol car sped by heading toward the beach, then put on brakes. Darting between headstones toward the church, she flattened against its wall.

Stupid. Stupid. She could’ve just waved. He was one of the new o­fficers and might’ve stopped and spoken, but that could’ve been awkward. He turned his vehicle around, yet she still held her breath he wouldn’t spot her, feeling even more foolish. The officer returned from whence he came. He must still be learning the lay of the land, she guessed.

Once he was out of sight, she went to her car and checked her phone on the seat. Sophie had tried to call several times, but Sophie did that. Not checking voice mail, Callie left the phone and pulled onto Highway 174 south to the beach.

It was almost three. Too late for lunch and too early for dinner, so she opted for the seclusion of home, or rather, what she deemed home for the time being. Seabrook’s parents graciously rented his beach house to her these days since hers was an ashy footprint on a now-bare lot.

After a month tied up in insurance claims and the arson investigation, she received the go-ahead to clear the debris. She culled a list of contractors down to one. Bureaucratic finalities kept her from signing a contract just yet.

Or so she told herself.

Truth was she’d become rather comfortable at Seabrook’s place. The habit of turning onto Jungle Road toward Chelsea Morning had dissipated, a fresh habit of taking Palmetto Boulevard to Windswept in its place.

Autumn sun had an angle making it the brightest of the year, despite what tourists thought, and she donned sunglasses to avoid the glare discoing through the oaks. Back at the beach house, she parked un­derneath the bottom floor and took the two flights of exterior stairs. In­side, she hung keys on a hook in the kitchen, wondering if the breeze was too cool to fix shrimp and eat outside on the porch swing.

Did she dare have a drink this early? No, eat first. A handful of boiled shrimp later, she stooped to her knees and pushed pans aside, laying her hands on the Blue Sapphire bottle behind a pressure cooker as if she’d earned the reward.

Bang. Bang. Bang. "Callie?”

She nearly came out of her skin at the frenzied repetition of knuckles on glass. Like a teen caught in the act, she released the bottle, hopped back, losing her balance to land butt first on the linoleum tile.

"Callie? It’s me.”

Damn it. She knew who it was. Nobody else was that spastic in announcing herself.

Callie clamored upright and peered around the archway to see Sophie’s cheek smashed against the etched glass. "Let me in,” came the muffled voice. Distorted shadows behind her said she wasn’t alone.

Opening the door, Callie found herself glaring at someone else, Sophie having stepped aside. "Um, what are you doing here?” she stammered.

"Lovely seeing you, too, honey.”

This unexpected woman hated the ocean, so the only reason she was here had to be she’d been beckoned. "Sophie,” Callie said in warning, "you need to learn to keep your mouth shut.”

But Sophie pushed past them all, giving Carolina Slade clearance to waltz in, too. Wayne Largo, Slade’s fiancé and federal agent cohort, in his slower-moving, six-foot, bearded self, shook his head. "Sorry for not calling.” Yet he entered as well, cowboy boots clomping the floor, leaving Callie in her own open doorway which she wasn’t sure she wanted to close just yet.

If this wasn’t an intervention, nothing was, and her temper started to simmer.

"They’ve been waiting at my house for, what”—Sophie looked at Slade—"two hours? Where have you been?”

Slade walked through the living room, taking in the layout. "Not quite. What is this?” She spread her arms out, emphasizing the need for explanation.

"It’s my home for now,” Callie said, tight jawed.

Slade spun and strode past the federal-blue linen sofa and back up to Callie. "Not what I meant and you know it. Why did I have to hear from Sophie that you lost your home and threw away your badge?”

Sophie’s nose rose, owning the accusation. Slade scowled. Wayne moved to the window to give them space, but even his expression expected a reply.

Slade and Wayne handled federal investigations under Agriculture’s umbrella and lived in Columbia. They’d clashed then bonded with Callie over two prior investigations in the Lowcountry. One Slade’s and one Callie’s, each having played Robin to the other’s Batman.

"Wish you’d have told us, Callie,” Wayne said.

Callie had reduced her world to a precious few people, and some days even those were too many. "I’m dealing with stuff.”

"We’ve all dealt with stuff,” Slade said. "Hurts like hell you didn’t call.”

"Hurts like hell to do just about anything right now,” Callie murmured, and Sophie raised a pointed, scrutinizing, well-sculpted eyebrow.

"Drop the drama, Soph.”

"Bite me for caring.”

Still standing in the doorway, the blue flash in the corner of her eye spun Callie around, her instinct still intact. An Edisto Beach patrol car approached from five houses away. Just as Officer Thomas Gage pulled parallel to the street, Callie covered the stairs to the front yard to meet him.

She fought the urge to order Thomas to report... like she ever had to. Through habit and respect, however, he did so, as if she’d never left the job. "Report is that Lumen Townsend was just found dead in the woods behind the Presbyterian Church, Chief.”

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