Authors: James Patterson
Claire texted our task force:
Bombshell briefing, my office @ 8am.
By eight the next morning, all six of us were crammed into Claire’s office at the morgue. Jacobi and Steinmetz had gotten there first and had taken the chairs. Jacobi tried to give me his seat, but his knees were going, so I thanked him anyway and stood against the wall with Joe, Diano, and Conklin.
Claire was behind her desk, wearing bloody blue scrubs, her hair in a cap. She stripped off her gloves, opened a folder, pulled out two items, and placed them faceup on her desk.
One was a photo enlargement of the bite mark on Carly Myers’s neck that she’d taken at the autopsy. The second was the acetate tracing she’d made of the bite mark, the actual size for her records.
Claire said, “The victim stretched away from the person who was biting her. See how the marks are off center? Even
if we had the subject’s bite impression, unless there was an obvious dental anomaly, like severely crooked teeth, the chances are small that a mold of the attacker’s mouth would match the impressions on the victim’s neck.”
“Therefore …” I said.
“Therefore, Sergeant Girlfriend, I’d write the bite off as inconclusive.”
Jacobi muttered, “Bummer,” but Claire wasn’t done.
“And then there’s this,” she said. “It’s either divine inspiration or maybe Carly whispering over my shoulder, ‘Hey, Doc, take another look.’”
Claire ducked under her desk and reappeared holding a sealed manila envelope she’d taken from the one-cubic-foot square refrigerator she kept in her office.
“Clapper called last night,” she said. “We got DNA from Petrović’s water bottle. Then, when Petrović signed a release for his personal property when he was cut loose from the jail, he placed his sweaty paw down on it to sign his name. Richie, I believe it was you who secured the paper with Petrović’s DNA. Inspector, please take a bow.”
My partner smiled and I fist-bumped his shoulder.
Claire resumed, saying, “The DNA samples from the bottle
the release form are a perfect match to this.”
She opened the sealed manila envelope, reached in, took out a small glassine envelope, and held it up so we could see the evidence sandwiched between two glass microscope slides.
Diano peered over Jacobi’s head. “Is that what I think it is?”
Claire smiled like an angel and showed the glassine
envelope around so that we all could take a look at the sliver of evidence that just might blow the monster up.
Our esteemed medical examiner said, “I recovered this pubic hair from Carly Myers’s vaginal vault. It’s a 100 percent match to Slobodan Petrović and no other.”
I was so proud of Claire.
We had evidence, we had probable cause. We
him. I beamed as we gave her a wholehearted round of applause.
She tucked the evidence back into the cooler, curtsied playfully, and said, “Thanks, everyone. I’ve got to go. I’m in the middle of someone.”
The rest of us cleared out, and Conklin, Joe, and I went to the FBI field office with Steinmetz, where we spent the rest of that Wednesday working out the plan.
First, Steinmetz put in a call to FBI director L. Martin Roberts. He was well regarded, with movie-star looks and some kind of political future. When Roberts was on the speakerphone, Steinmetz introduced us, and Conklin and I itemized the evidence: the hanged women, their wounds from throwing stars, and the photos of Petrović in Djoba in a forested killing field, surrounded by hanged bodies and with a throwing star in his hand.
And we told Roberts about our latest findings: that we’d
rescued two bound-and-gagged victims from a subfloor inside Petrović’s club.
I said, “One of the victims, a schoolteacher name of Susan Jones, made a statement that Petrović had raped her and bragged of killing Carly Myers, and she was the last person to see Adele Saran.”
I finished with Claire’s matching Petrović DNA evidence.
The FBI director said, “How fast can you turn all that into a memo?”
By the time the sun touched the horizon, Roberts had our memo and had reassigned the task force that had been watchdogging Petrović to a transport detail. Steinmetz contacted the CIA, which connected with the powers that be in Bosnia. Green lights all the way. Steinmetz printed out Petrović’s signed deportation order.
I wanted to jump up and hug everyone, but I resisted the impulse.
Steinmetz seemed pretty pleased himself. He looked at all of us and said, “The game’s in play. It’s all over but the shouting.”
It was an old line but a great one. Still, as we all knew, there was much to be done before anyone started shouting.
Petrović didn’t know that he was breathing his last free air, and we didn’t want to risk any ironic accidents, so we had to work fast.
When the meeting broke up, Cappy and Chi picked up Marko Vladic at Skin, where he was going over the damage to the stage with a contractor. Despite the fit Vladic threw about his so-called immunity, he was arrested for kidnapping, rape, and accessory to murder. He was brought to the
Hall and slow-walked through booking so that he couldn’t tip off his boss.
Steinmetz, Joe, Conklin, and I blocked out plans A and B to grab Petrović. We diagrammed manpower deployment and made calls.
And then we moved out.
After leaving Steinmetz, our task force plus reinforcements formed a tight surveillance detail around Tony’s Place for Steak.
California Street and surrounding blocks were lined with unmarked vehicles, and two undercover teams were inside the restaurant having a leisurely meal, with mikes and eyes wide open.
Operatives outside Petrović’s house on Fell gave us a heads-up, and not long afterward a taxi pulled up to Tony’s Place. Petrović got out, paid the driver, and entered his restaurant through the front door.
On Joe’s command, Jacobi, Conklin, and I stormed the front entrance. Joe and Diano kicked in the back door and came through the kitchen.
I took a mental snapshot. Three-quarters of the tables were full. Petrović was chatting with a customer near the front when he heard dishes crashing in the back. He turned, saw Joe, turned again toward the front door, and saw me
and Conklin cutting past the maître d’ and bearing down on him.
The dinner crowd reacted; a table flipped, with squealing diners hitting the floor as we advanced on Petrović with guns drawn. The four undercovers were on their feet, badges and weapons in hand.
I saw realization dawn in Petrović’s eyes. He knew he didn’t have a prayer of getting out of his restaurant on his terms. I ordered him to put his hands on his head and drop to his knees.
He did it, saying, “I’m not armed.”
Diano frisked him from chest to ankles and nodded to let us know that in fact Petrović didn’t have a weapon.
Conklin walked up behind him and slapped on the cuffs, while I said, “Mr. Petrović, you’re under arrest for kidnapping, aggravated assault, rape, and murder.”
I read him his rights and asked him if he understood.
He didn’t reply.
“Did you hear me? Do you understand your rights?”
“I heard you.”
Conklin and Diano hoisted Petrović to his feet and moved him toward the front door. He squirmed and resisted, asking, “Where are you taking me?”
I was happy to tell him.
“SFO international airport, Mr. Petrović. Your connecting flight to Sarajevo leaves at nine.”
He struggled as he was marched out the front door and under the awning to the curb, wrenching his body around as he was forced into the CIA’s armored SUV.
He protested, “You can’t deport me. I’ve done
I answered him with my face six inches from his: “We have
but testimony from eyewitnesses and physical evidence that you raped Carly Myers.”
“How many times do I have to say, I don’t know this woman.”
Conklin said, “You were sloppy. Or hasty, Mr. P. You left physical evidence inside your victim. We’ve got you by the short hair.”
We couldn’t just go home after the takedown.
The team that brought down Slobodan Petrović stood out in the darkening street, adrenaline pumping, watching the taillights dwindle as the CIA’s armored Land Rover took the monster away. We were high on success but still unresolved. Until Petrović was off US soil, the shouting would have to wait.
Jacobi said, “I’m starving. Anyone else?”
He led us back into the restaurant and had waiters push three tables together at the middle of the room. The waitstaff looked freaked out, but they complied, and after all of the Feds and cops took seats, they brought menus.
One of the waiters leaned down to talk to me. He was young, in his early twenties, the name Christopher engraved on the tag on his jacket.
Christopher asked, “Is Mr. Branko coming back?”
“No. Probably not.”
“Mr. Vladic didn’t come in today. Is he in trouble, too?”
“I can’t say,” I told the waiter.
“What’s going to happen to the restaurant? To us?”
I told him that I didn’t know.
He said, “They’re going to jail, huh? No loss. They’re both scumbags.”
“They are. But we’re good for the bill,” I told him.
“If not, what am I gonna do? Call the cops?”
He winked, added, “Don’t worry about it,” then attended to Jacobi, who said, “What’s good here?”
We all laughed, ordered steak and wine and side dishes, and before the food came, Jacobi called the mayor. He gave him a breakdown of the events, then set the phone down in the middle of the table so we could hear the mayor in a rare happy moment.
“I’ll hold a press conference tomorrow,” said the mayor. “The city is grateful to every one of you.”
Rich called Cindy and told her to get out to the airport and track down the next outbound flight to Sarajevo. A moment later Joe got an email from the lab.
Joe showed me his phone. Clapper had written that Vladic’s Escalade had paint clinging to the broken headlight socket that matched the Tesla Anna had been driving the day she was abducted.
I said to Joe, “If Vladic is indicted for kidnapping, he’ll be deported, right? I swear, if he confesses to killing Denny Lopez, I’ll throw him a farewell party with champagne and a live DJ.”
Joe pulled me close and we grinned at each other. He said, “Not getting ahead of ourselves, are we, Blondie?”
“I can wish, can’t I?”
Meanwhile, in real time, a dozen toasts were made with Tony’s wine: to Claire, to the cops who’d located the Jag and the Escalade, and to the fire and rescue workers who’d saved Anna and Susan. Glasses were raised to Joe and Diano, Conklin and me, for leading the charge and bringing it all home.
No one was left out.
Steinmetz clinked his glass with a spoon and announced that working with the SFPD had been an honor and a pleasure. Jacobi returned the favor.
Conklin’s phone rang, and after he kissed it, he told us the good news.
“Cindy watched Petrović board the plane under guard. She says she kept her eyes on it until it broke the sound barrier.”
Cindy was indomitable.
And after Rich made the announcement, the shouting commenced.
From all that we knew about his recent past and his wartime history, it was a dead cert that Petrović’s sentence would be reinstated and that he’d spend the rest of his life in a cement box of a cell inside a maximum-security prison.
We whooped and yelled and hugged people sitting next to us, even those we hadn’t known before tonight. I texted Yuki and Claire, and they both arrived at Tony’s in time for coffee and chocolate pie.
It was a wonderful, unforgettable finale to our hard and dangerous work.
We’d done it. Case closed.
We couldn’t have known it then, but five years later, when we seldom thought about him at all, Slobodan Petrović would appeal his sentence at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
He’d worked a deal once before.
It would be unbearable, unjust, if he did it again.
Joe and I stood with Anna outside the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the building’s granite walls shielding us from the slashing rain.
Three years before, Anna had moved to Spokane to get away from the searing memories of her time in San Francisco. Although we’d been in touch, we hadn’t seen her since.
Anna looked older now and more vulnerable. She was wearing a hooded raincoat, but the hood couldn’t hide the tears in her eyes. When we hugged, I felt her shivering.
I was afraid for her. Soon she would be testifying to the tribunal, telling them about Petrović’s crimes against her and her family in Djoba. She couldn’t tell them about San Francisco, but I knew full well how much she’d suffered when Petrović brutalized her yet again.
I couldn’t imagine how she’d gathered the courage to confront Petrović now.
Joe gripped her shoulders and said, “We’re with you, Anna.”
“I know. I’m glad.”
The doors to the courthouse slid open, and the crowd of reporters and survivors and onlookers rushed through the entrance into the main hall like a pack of wet dogs.
Ushers directed us, sending witnesses to the main courtroom, and spectators and the press to the gallery, an elevated viewing room separated from the courtroom by a wall of bulletproof glass. When we entered the observation room, I saw rows of theater-style seats rising toward the rear of the room, giving a high-bleachers view down on the court proceedings.
Joe and I sat in the fifth tier, where we had a full view of the courtroom. It was the size of a college lecture hall, high ceilinged and austere. The judges’ wood-paneled benches were centered on the wall opposite the glass barrier. Similar paneled benches, one for the defense, the other for the prosecution, were at right angles to the judges’ benches.
As we watched, Anna and her attorneys entered the main chamber. Anna had shed her coat. She was wearing a subtle plaid suit with a white blouse, and her chestnut hair was cut to shoulder length again. There was no sign of the tears or the tremors I’d seen just a few minutes before. As I watched, she pulled her hair back behind her ears, plainly showing the burn scar on her face.
I clapped on my headphones and listened to the court officer’s speech regarding the proceedings and the rules of decorum. He spoke in English, but his speech was translated into any of six official languages at the touch of a switch.
He called the court to order, and we were asked to rise.
A hundred people in the gallery and another fifty in the courtroom got to their feet as the judges arrived through a
side door. Nine men and women, wearing dark-blue robes with royal-blue trim and stiff white jabots at their throats, took their seats at the benches.
The principal judge, Alain Bouchard, took the elevated seat at the center of the back row. He had black skin and white hair and looked to be in his late fifties. I’d read about him: he was a criminal court judge in his home country of Belgium, with a background in criminal defense.
Bouchard exchanged a few whispered words with his colleagues, then spoke to the bailiff, saying, “Please bring in the prisoner.”