more about cici

Write what you know.

Just about every “How To Write A Novel” book starts with that sentence. It is so iconic it might as well be tattooed across the knuckles of a writer so they can read it as they type. I’m technically a senior citizen. What do I know about twenty-something women cops?

I have met dozens of young women starting their police careers. I’ve worked closely with them, befriended them, counted on them in critical situations. I didn’t really have to know any more than what I’d already observed to get me started. So, I sat down, booted up the laptop and got going.

Name? Cici jumped immediately to mind.

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who is cici

It’s hard enough to be twenty-six and wonder if you go to work every day to do your job, or to invest in a career. It’s quite another to be faced with a dilemma that continues to haunt law enforcement and military alike – when is a lawful order impossible to follow.

Cici is that, and more. Athletic, strong-willed, and an introvert comfortable in her own skin. Her future is far from secure. She’s trying to fit in at a profession that doesn’t exactly bend over backward to respect women. A past relationship poisons her desire to let love find her. She refuses to give up, even under extreme conditions, until she can take no more.

I wanted to create a character who would put principle above her own needs… Up to a point. Does she wait too long, or buckle too soon. It is up to the reader to decide.

why cici

How did I get from Claudia Jean (her real name) to Cici? It took some work. She needed to be unlike the other main characters – different build, temperament. A dark, disturbing past…just not so troubling that she couldn’t pass a police background. Tall, athletic. Self-confident, after a fashion.

The plot got going quickly and, just as quickly, she started to feel two-dimensional. Part of the charm of writing is to let the reader into the head of the character. I had a hard time getting there myself. I needed help.

I’ve learned how to ask. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I knew someone like Cici, someone who wouldn’t mind telling me how she would view a situation? You know, let me pick her brain?

She’s now a Denver officer, but for a while she worked for me. A bike cop. Bright, expressive. Willing to help. And, just like that, Cici became real to me.

I knew.

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   Deputy Claudia Jean (Cici) Onofrio is going into work one beautiful Colorado afternoon believing her biggest problem is deciding whether to stay at the mostly rural Arroyo County Sheriff’s Office, or move to an urban department in the Denver metro area. She’s wrong.

   Cici is built to be a police officer. Tall, strong and athletic, she has a deft touch with citizens and an engaging personality. After five years on the job she is comfortable, appreciated by her boss and well-liked by her peers. Still, approaching twenty-seven, a fundamental question hounds her – have I found a job, or a career?

   Marine Lieutenant Kevin Cross watched his best friend die in Afghanistan. The orders he received, to take over a platoon guarding intelligence assets at Buckley, seem to mean he will see no more combat assignments. When an armed drone crashes, killing the teenage occupants of a pickup truck, he oversees the initial military response. The deputy he meets there will soon turn his tidy, foot-lockered world upside down. He receives new orders, to accompany Cici on a mission to discover who might have brought the drone down.

   Federal officers of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives call for help serving a search warrant at a farm. When Cici and Kevin arrive, there is only silence. And bodies. One of Cici’s coworkers and all the ATF agents are dead. Shooting erupts, automatic weapons fire from the farm house – they are shooting at her. Trapped, they call for assistance, which materializes in the form of a Predator drone. One Hellfire missile from under its wing ends the gun battle. Senior Marine officers order Cici to forget, a directive they enforce through Kevin.

   The President urges stricter gun laws in the aftermath of the murders, enflaming some of Colorado’s rural population. More shootings occur, including an ambush that wounds Cici; she and Kevin barely escape with their lives. After a team of elite FBI agents are killed, martial law is declared in the state’s eastern farmlands. That’s when things go badly wrong.

   Some members of Cici’s department quit, refusing to assist Federal troops arriving to restore order. Others reveal their membership in a fringe group of constitutionalists and openly engage in acts of violence against government forces. Law enforcement as Cici knows it fades, the rule of law on the verge of collapse.

Kevin takes command of a platoon with a very simple task – search door-to-door, and impound privately-owned firearms under an emergency public safety edict. He requests Cici as his liaison to what is left of the Arroyo County Sheriff’s Department. She reminds him that, although he must follow the orders he is given, she can leave whenever she wants to.

Nothing has prepared Cici to handle the decisions she faces. Stay, and she is assisting the US military in dozens, maybe hundreds of searches that, at any other time, would violate the US Constitution. Leave, and she turns her back on the citizens she swore an oath to protect.

It doesn’t help that she is slowly developing feelings for Kevin.

The level of violence increases unabated. A firefight between government forces and insurgents results in the murder of Cici’s good friend by an adept sniper using a unique, person-killing ammunition. In the ensuing chaos government troops kill a family of four. Or so it seems.

Cici struggles with her orders, the tasks she must perform and her increasingly out-of-control heart. Ultimately, it proves too much. Kevin is wounded, evacuated by helicopter. Her sense of impending loss bursts as a floodgate torn asunder. Nothing anyone says makes her feel confident that the next body to be zipped into a plastic bag won’t be her new boyfriend’s.

Cici flees to Crested Butte, a place where she has always gone to renew herself and recapture the zest in life she is lacking. There, on the world-class ski slopes, she rides her board, listens to tunes and discovers… She’d rather be hurt by loss than have nothing to lose.

She returns to her sheriff’s department and her place next to Kevin. The impending battle is meant to end the crisis once and for all. Instead, she fights for her life as a member of a contact team, military observers looking on impotently over a drone pilot’s shoulder. The vicious gun battle nearly overwhelms Cici, lives ending all around her. She escapes, only to be confronted by the sniper who has killed so many. When it seems he will add her to his tally an unlikely rescuer appears.

short stories

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Cici 2 (Untitled manuscript)

The waitress walked Cici and Kevin along the right side of the restaurant. Booths surrounded an open area of table. The décor was totally Mexico, with bright colors, carved palms and birds of paradise in the wood chairs. Their booth was at the end of the row – she took the bench seat where she could see the door.

Beside them sat eight men, drinking margaritas and talking…all at once. They seemed extremely fit, with unlined faces and active, expressive eyes. None had enough hair to comb over, save one who had perhaps a half inch in a sort of expanded Mohawk. They wore jeans and t-shirts, none of which bore distinguishable logos. All of them seemed to be wearing the same kind of shoes – Solomon trail runners. One man, older than the others, give the impression aloofness, in a way brooding. Wary.

“I’m supposed to fly to DC this week,” Kevin said, surveying the menu. “Meet with a colonel who wants me on his task force.”

“Doing what?” Cici looked up from her menu. Kevin’s eyes were so blue, his blond hair just long enough to part. God, her man was adorable.

“I’m not sure. Apparently, our little partnership during martial law attracted attention. I’m going to participate in a round table discussion about how law enforcement and the military can work together.”

“While fucking each other’s brains out on nights off?’

“Jesus, honey.” Kevin’s face turned a bright crimson. “Seriously, that’s classified. Dating you back then was totally against the rules.”

“Who was dating? Nobody noticed we could hardly stop staring at each other? Or, that we arrived in the same car every morning?”

“Which is different than… Anyway, I should be home before your Friday.”

“Perfect. Hey… Any guesses?”

“About what?”

She glanced toward the table of men next to them.

“Oh,” Kevin said. “Cops?”

“Maybe. None of them have knives, though.”

Knives in the pockets of officers had become ubiquitous. No self-respecting street cop went anywhere without some sort of folding knife – often referred to as a lock-back – clipped into a pocket.


“Tier One?”

“I dunno.”

“We have the customer to worry about,” one of them, a Hispanic guy of about twenty-eight. “Let’s keep track of what they wanted.”

“Salesmen?” Kevin asked.

“Oh, sure. Salesmen who all look like they spend the better part of their day in the gym. The big guy in the middle, with the maroon polo shirt? Definitely a SAW guy.”

“I guess. So, you aren’t pissed I’m going back east for a couple of days?”

“What are the chances we’ll end up out there?”

“Probably not. This is a visit, a meeting so a general can polish up a PowerPoint presentation.”

“Seriously? What a waste, of your time, of their money. You have some serious game. They should recognize that.”

The men at the table gathered light jackets and stood. One kept glancing behind them, the group moving as one. They nodded to the greeter, snagged a few plastic-wrapped red and white mints from a bowl and disappeared into the parking lot.

The moment was now. She left through the interior door. There was one exit to the south, and one to the north. She chose the one opposite of the men, and pressed her cell phone to her ear.

“I know, mom,” she said. Her gaze never left her targets, now walking north along the sidewalk. Except-

“Can we help you?’

The man was standing behind her, maybe ten yards away. His hands were buried in his pockets, a soft expression supporting unrelenting eye contact. A tiny smile seemed in the offing, maybe acknowledgment that his trickery had trumped hers. It was their rear guard.

“I’m sorry, mom,” she said. “I’ll call you back.”

“Nice.” The man laughed out loud. He was the older of the group, easily six feet and a trim two hundred pounds. “We attracted your attention, didn’t we?”

“Why wouldn’t handsome guys catch my eye?”


“I can’t play an innocent game of ‘Who’s the cop?’”

“What did you conclude?”

“Still collecting data.”

“Fair enough.” The fellow gave her an informal, almost casual salute. “Stay safe, Cici.”

“How do you know my name?” A chill ran down her spine.

“Your boyfriend called you that.” A huge smile and he began to follow after his friends.

“And, you are?”

“A guy.”

Kevin hadn’t called her Cici the whole time they’d been at the table.