"You don't really mince words, do ya'?"
"No, I guess not."
"I like it. You'll probably be an excellent detective."
"I have to be. I owe someone."
Reggie Harper has lived a hard life.
A deep, personal loss in his childhood sent him down an obsessive, often taxing path to either become the best detective the state of New York ever saw, or die trying. No option for failure. No in-between. His brash tenacity propelled him through childhood, junior high, and high school before landing him at Adelphi University a few months shy of his 18th Birthday.
But raw intensity wears down any soul, no matter how hardened. Eventually, they need anchors to keep them grounded in the real world. They need a reprieve from life's insistence on heartache. They need something they can't pull from within. They need other people. Above all else, people need love, and Reggie Harper is no exception.
Enter Maryanne Hillard - a beautiful, kind-hearted journalism student.
While recruiting for the school paper, Maryanne notices Reggie's eyes and his camera, and curiosity draws the two of them together like a magnet to steel. They quickly become enamored with one another in ways they never imagined possible.
But there's always trouble around the corner...
"Why can't you be sweet like her?"
"That's a facade. She's hellspawn."
"What's that make you then? The devil?"
"To the right person."
At age 14, the murder of Reggie Harper's twin sister Roxy averted the course of his forever. The siblings had a finely-honed sense of justice, and Reggie doubled down on it, in a lifelong pursuit of the kinds of monsters who took his sister, first as an NYPD officer, then as a homicide detective.
Until tragedy once again struck.
At a mere six years old, Elizabeth Harper lived through the brutal murder of her mother. Days prior, her parents sent her to her uncle Albert in Seattle, hoping to keep her out of cross hairs, and as far away from New York City as possible. In the aftermath, Elizabeth dedicated her life to making the world a better place, to keep her mother's light alive.
Traumatic through lines in their lives forced them down different, though not dissimilar paths. Paths that often show them the same destination. Paths that point to justice for life's victims.
Paths that lead to punishment for the wicked.
There's little more important in this world than knowing someone has your back.
In the wake of her mother's murder, Elizabeth Harper fought hard against the pain the world gleefully hurls at those living in it. She fought hard against the darkness, vowing to keep her own light alive so that she may carry on in her mother's footsteps.
"Teenage Female", the dramatic prequel to "Among The Dirt and Bones" (volume two of "the HARPER mysteries"), revolves around Elizabeth's mentoring of a fourteen-year-old girl named Robyn Ackerman.
A young girl who lost everything before she could even understand the concept of loss. A young girl who floated from foster home to foster home until she finally wound up in a group home for wayward girls. A young girl who never had anyone looking after her.
A young girl whose life could easily have been Elizabeth's.
Who could've ever guessed things would turn out this way?
When college freshman and aspiring detective Reggie Harper met Maryanne Hillard - a brilliant, beautiful journalism student - he knew he'd be with her until the end. They immediately became the most important part of one another's lives, and that importance only grew in intensity as their relationship bloomed.
This "HARPER mysteries" side story chronicles some of the best and worst years in their lives. Through good times and bad, the road they traveled was anything but smooth. However, through their shared struggles, Reggie and Maryanne's devotion burned bright and unflappable, no matter the odds, no matter the obstacle, no matter how considerable.