T is for Trespass Page 1

Author: Sue Grafton

Series: Kinsey Millhone #20

Genres: Mystery

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PROLOGUE


I don’t want to think about the predators in this world. I know they exist, but I prefer to focus on the best in human nature: compassion, generosity, a willingness to come to the aid of those in need. The sentiment may seem absurd, given our daily ration of news stories detailing thievery, assault, rape, murder, and other treacheries. To the cynics among us, I must sound like an idiot, but I do hold to the good, working wherever possible to separate the wicked from that which profits them. I know there will always be someone poised to take advantage of the vulnerable: the very young, the very old, and the innocent of any age. I know this from long experience.


Solana Rojas was one…


1 SOLANA


She had a real name, of course-the one she’d been given at birth and had used for much of her life-but now she had a new name. She was Solana Rojas, whose personhood she’d usurped. Gone was her former self, eradicated in the wake of her new identity. This was as easy as breathing for her. She was the youngest of nine children. Her mother, Marie Terese, had borne her first child, a son, when she was seventeen and a second son when she was nineteen. Both were the product of a relationship never sanctified by marriage, and while the two boys had taken their father’s name, they’d never known him. He’d been sent to prison on a drug charge and he’d died there, killed by another inmate in a dispute over a pack of cigarettes.


At the age of twenty-one, Marie Terese had married a man named Panos Agillar. She’d borne him six children in a period of eight years before he left her and ran off with someone else. At the age of thirty, she found herself alone and broke, with eight children ranging in age from thirteen years to three months. She’d married again, this time to a hardworking, responsible man in his fifties. He fathered Solana-his first child, her mother’s last, and their only offspring.


During the years when Solana was growing up, her siblings had laid claim to all the obvious family roles: the athlete, the soldier, the cutup, the achiever, the drama queen, the hustler, the saint, and the jack-of-all-trades. What fell to her lot was to play the ne’er-do-well. Like her mother, she’d gotten pregnant out of wedlock and had given birth to a son when she was barely eighteen. From that time forward, her progress through life had been hapless. Nothing had ever gone right for her. She lived paycheck to paycheck with nothing set aside and no way to get ahead. Or so her siblings assumed. Her sisters counseled and advised her, lectured and cajoled, and finally threw up their hands, knowing she was never going to change. Her brothers expressed exasperation, but usually came up with money to bail her out of a jam. None of them understood how wily she was.


She was a chameleon. Playing the loser was her disguise. She was not like them, not like anyone else, but it had taken her years to fully appreciate her differences. At first she thought her oddity was a function of the family dynamic, but early in elementary school, the truth dawned on her. The emotional connections that bound others to one another were absent in her. She operated as a creature apart, without empathy. She pretended to be like the little girls and boys in her grade, with their bickering and tears, their tattling, their giggles, and their efforts to excel. She observed their behavior and imitated them, blending into their world until she seemed much the same. She chimed in on conversations, but only to feign amusement at a joke, or to echo what had already been said. She didn’t disagree. She didn’t offer an opinion because she had none. She expressed no wishes or wants of her own. She was largely unseen-a mirage or a ghost-watching for little ways to take advantage of them. While her classmates were self-absorbed and oblivious, she was hyperaware. She saw everything and cared for nothing. By the age of ten, she knew it was only a matter of time before she found a use for her talent for camouflage.


By the age of twenty, her disappearing act was so quick and so automatic that she was often unaware she’d absented herself from the room. One second she was there, the next she was gone. She was a perfect companion because she mirrored the person she was with, becoming whatever they were. She was a mime and a mimic. Naturally, people liked and trusted her. She was also the ideal employee-responsible, uncomplaining, tireless, willing to do whatever was asked of her. She came to work early. She stayed late. This made her appear selfless when, in fact, she was utterly indifferent, except when it was a matter of furthering her own aims.


In some ways, the subterfuge had been forced on her. Most of her siblings had managed to put themselves through school, and at this stage in their lives they appeared more successful than she. It made them feel good to help their baby sister, whose prospects were pathetic compared with their own. While she was happy to accept their largesse, she didn’t like being subordinate to them. She’d found a way to make herself their equal, having acquired quite a bit of money that she kept in a secret bank account. It was better they didn’t know how much her lot in life had improved. Her next older brother, the one with the law degree, was the only sibling she had any use for. He didn’t want to work any harder than she did and he didn’t mind bending the rules if the payoff was worthwhile.

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