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Rathcrog - Meet Chief Francine Hopper

A warrior by training, Francine Hopper is capable of handling a drunk with a knife, or investigating strange and disconcerting happenings in a nearby abandoned mining town. But she also has deep empathy for humanity, especially those pushed to the shoulder of life's road by the powers that be.

These contrasting aspects of her personality mean she keeps her needs and emotions under tight wrap. Particularly when she finds herself requiring help, or grappling with potentially romantic feelings for someone - or both.

I'm sharing two passages from Rathcrog (official release scheduled for November 17!) that I think do a fair job of giving a peek into the mind and heart of Chief Hopper. If I've given the impression that she is pretty near and dear to my heart, you wouldn't be wrong.


Conversation between State Trooper, formerly Army Sergeant, Jim Berger, and Prescott Deputy Holly Willingham about Chief Hopper:

“Willingham, you need to understand something,” he said immediately upon entering the room. When she opened her mouth to reply, he waved her off and went on. “I won’t say I know everything about her, but I know her, you know?” He waited until she nodded in acknowledgement. “I think you know her pretty much too, at this point. What you have to understand is she’s a centurion.”

“What?” Whatever she might have expected him to come out with, that wasn’t even on the list.

…“If the barbarians are at the gate, you wouldn’t want anyone else at your side. She would lock arms with you and face whatever the horde threw at you. Hell, she would be out in front, you know that. And if she was taken down by a spear, she would accept, expect, you to drag her out of harm’s way, same as she would do for you. If you needed someone to lead a platoon over the hill through no-man’s land to take out a gunner’s nest, she would be right in front, doing her damnedest to get everyone through.”

She had snuffed and said, “I know that. Christ, of course I do.” She looked away.

“Yeah, but that’s not this,” he said…

His voice dropped.

“This is peace. And I’m not sure she has ever had that, at least since Afghanistan.”


County Coroner attending the scene of a death

As far as he was aware Hopper didn’t know the dead woman, but there she had stood, looking down at the body, which was covered by the standard issue canvass bag, a pock-marked face visible above the partially closed zipper.

He nodded brusquely to the patrolman that had shared the information and had started toward the body, but the cop grabbed his arm. He began to protest, loudly, when he was rudely and violently whipped around.

“Shut up, now!”

It was said in a stage whisper inches from his face and he felt a drop of spittle land on his ear. He started to protest again, already formulating the complaint he would lodge about treatment, but stopped when he saw the expression on the man’s face.

The officer, ‘Lowell’ according to his name tag, gestured toward Hopper with his chin.

“She isn’t done.”

He looked over and could see Hopper’s mouth moving as she stood over the body but couldn’t make out the words. He pulled his arm away from Lowell, raising his hand to indicate he wouldn’t interrupt. A few steps closer and he was able to hear her.

“…work, broken and smothered for dust in their throats and die empty-hearted, for a little handful of pay on a few Saturday nights.”

From his vantage, he had thought she looked like a descending angel, then she bent down. Hopper had touched Reynolds forehead with two fingers and carefully zipped the bag closed.

She turned and gave him a slight nod of acknowledgement as she walked back to her cruiser.

He looked after her then asked Lowell, “What–”

“It’s her own benediction.” To the surprised look Marshall gave him came a shrug and the reply, “My father was a minister. Anyway,” he looked after the Chief, “She shows up at a lot of these, particularly if the victim is on the young side.” A shake of his head. “I’ve wondered if it has to do with what she saw in Afghanistan but…” another head shake, and he headed in the same direction Hopper had, calling back, “it’s all yours now, Doc.”

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