I’m happy to welcome civil engineer and author TG Wolff to the Power of 10 series. Today, TG and Detective Jesus De La Cruz, the protagonist of Exacting Justice, share their love of coffee.
Thank you, Joanne for hosting me Detective Jesus De La Cruz today. We’re both happy to be stopping by to share our love of coffee with your readers and a taste of our upcoming book, Exacting Justice.
For myself, I never drank coffee…until I had children. Now it’s one of my basic food groups. I don’t consider myself a coffee snob but insist that it takes good. Little coffee shops, the eclectic ones that sell jewelry, soaps, and what-not are my favorites. My drink of choice: large Americano with a splash of whole milk.
The hero of my thriller is Cleveland police homicide detective Jesus De La Cruz. Cruz worked under cover narcotics for 10 years until a bust gone bad changed his story. He came out with a new face, a new career in homicide, and the realization that he was an alcoholic. On the road to recovery, Cruz developed a taste for coffee. He is unapologetic about the gallon he drinks each day and they way he likes it dressed—light and sweet.
Top Ten Places Det. Jesus De La Cruz Likes to Drink Coffee
10. Mornings, His kitchen. After leaving the Cleveland, Ohio hospital, Cruz lived with his sister, Marianna, and her family for a year before he bought his first house. The Cape Cod was in as bad a shape as he was at the start. He tackled remodeling the kitchen first, small as it was. Now each morning, he leans against the counter his own hands installed, reading the thoughts and meditation of other recovering alcoholics, savoring the calm before the storm of each day.
9. Nighttown. Nighttown is a restaurant and music venue just up the hill in Cleveland Heights. It is the preferred Sunday evening dining choice of Cruz’s AA Sponsor Dr. Oscar Bollier. Good food, good music, good company make for a well-rounded life. One that’s even better with topped off with dessert and coffee. (nighttowncleveland.club)
8. His desk. Being a homicide detective isn’t the sexy, fast-paced life of the movies. Somedays it feels like he’s paid to drudge through the worst side of human existence one inch at a time. It sickens him what people can do to another person and he gets really tired of the lies and excuses. A coffee mug sits on his desk with his nieces’ laughing faces shining out. Filled with sixteen ounces of light and sweet, it’s the perfect counterweight to reality.
7. Lagoon at the Cleveland Museum of Art Museum. CMA is remarkable at every turn, and doubly so because admission is free. When Cruz was healing from his injuries, he would bring his two nieces here to enjoy a few rooms, a tasty treat, and a romp around the park-like lagoon. He found solace here, the beast among the beauty. Now recovered, he still likes to sneak away, with his favorite cuppa, and become part of something grander.
6. Cleveland’s West Side Market. Once upon a time, Cleveland was a community of immigrants. That heritage is deliciously alive at the West Side Market. Stall after stall presents shoppers with fresh produce, delicious bakery, ethnic specialties, and the real treat—community. With seeing so much of Cleveland’s underside, Cruz likes to buy a cuppa here and be reminded why he got into copping in the first place.
5. AA Meeting. The coffee is bad, the chairs uncomfortable but this church meeting room is where Cruz can be found every Monday night. Beating addiction isn’t something you do once but over and over again. Then, if you’re lucky, you look back one day and realize you’ve done it for a year. Then two. A round of applause to everyone who has the courage to knock addiction back, whether it’s alcohol, narcotics, food or others.
4. His car. There are times when the rhythm and noise of Cleveland police are the pulse of the job. There are other times when Cruz considers committing a homicide to get a little piece and quiet. Those are the times he fills his go-cup and takes it to his office away from the office, his car.
3. Presti’s Bakery, Cleveland’s Little Italy. Some places stay the same no matter how much they change. Here, the coffee can be made as strong as in the old country, served with sweet treats to satisfy the kid in all of us. Looking out over Mayfield Road as it climbs into the Heights, Presti’s has the comforts of home…without your mother telling you to clear the dishes.
2. Lake Erie shore. Cleveland sits on one great lake. Erie. Standing on her shores, looking out to the horizon, everything seems possible. Sometimes after a long day, Cruz will park on the East 9th Street Pier and walk down to the edge. There is always a wind. There is always something new to discover.
The number one place Cruz likes to drink his coffee is…
His sister’s house. In Mariana Moreno’s home, laughter, chatter and noise are the soundtrack of life. When Cruz felt like he belonged nowhere, fit in nowhere, including his own life, there was a place for him here. It is one thing when people can relate to your situation and invite you in. It’s a whole other level when they can’t possibly understand and still refuse to let you leave. In his sister’s house, Cruz learned the lessons of love.
An unknown killer is waging a war on drugs. The murders are horrendous but with a silver lining—now stop signs are the only objects lingering on corners in the city’s toughest neighborhoods. Half the city calls for the police to end the killer’s reign. The other half cheers the killer on, denouncing the tactics but celebrating the progress police haven’t been able to achieve.
The gritty details of Cleveland’s drug underworld are nothing new to Homicide Detective Jesus De La Cruz. Two years earlier, Cruz worked undercover narcotics and was poised for a promotion that would have placed him in a coveted position within the drug organization. The deal went bad. Now he has a new face, a new job, and a new case.
The killer moves through the streets with impunity, identity still unknown. Demands for progress from his superiors, accumulated grief of the victim’s relatives, growing pressure from the public, and elevated stress from his family quietly pull Cruz apart. With no out, the detective moves all in, putting his own head on the line to bait a killer.
Monday, November 6
Dressed for the day, Cruz leaned against the kitchen counter he’d installed himself, sipping coffee and reading the daily meditation. Weak sunlight poked through the blinds, striping the page until it was unreadable. He set the book aside. A moment later, his phone rang.
His day started with a caravan of city-issued cars parked on the northbound shoulder of I-71. The knot of concrete ribbons was the nexus of I-71, I-480, and the spurs to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Going through at sixty-five miles an hour, he had read the “Cleveland Corp Limit” sign hundreds of times but never noticed this triangle patch. The sign rose up behind the concrete barricade and between its legs was a post. The post wasn’t interesting. It was what was on it.
“Just a head?” Cruz shouted to be heard over the white noise of traffic above, below and next to him. He swung a leg over the barricade and carefully lowered his weight to the ground. The land dropped sharply down to I-480. This wasn’t a place made for walking.
“So far, Detective.” One of the patrolmen on the scene, a big man named Buettner, answered him. Three others fought the wind to secure a tent screening the crime scene from the morning commute. “Had nearly a half dozen accidents with people looking at this.”
“It would get my attention, even without coffee.” Because he was watching his footing, he began with the ground. The post was one of the thousands sold for myriad household uses. Heavy enough gauge to be able to take some weight, small enough to be portable. The ground wasn’t frozen, but it would take a mallet to drive it in deep enough to support a head. Crime scene would dust for prints. Overgrown scrub around the post was matted down but showed no footprints of the person who had stood here and planted the nightmare.
His latest customer died hard. The head was battered, scraped as though it had been bounced off pavement a few times. Something was familiar…
“Shit. Why wasn’t I told his ID?”
“We don’t have it yet, Detective. Can’t take prints,” Buettner said.
Cruz paced away. This wasn’t coincidence or serendipity or even cosmic justice. This was just messed up.
TG Wolff writes thrillers and mysteries that play within the gray area between good and bad, right and wrong. Cause and effect drive the stories, drawing from over 20 years’ experience in Civil Engineering, where “cause” is more often a symptom of a bigger, more challenging problem. Diverse characters mirror the complexities of real life and real people, balanced with a healthy dose of entertainment. TG Wolff holds a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering and is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
Where to find TG Wolff…