Authors: Linda Reid,Deborah Shlian
Also by Deborah Shlian and Linda Reid
Also by Deborah Shlian
Rabbit in the Moon
Nursery (Re-released as Double Illusion)
Also by Linda Reid
Where Angels Fear to Tread (aka Yolanda Pascal)
LONGBOAT KEY, FLORIDA
Copyright © 2011 by Deborah Shlian and Linda Reid
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, events, businesses,
locales, organizations, places, or incidents either are the products of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Los Angeles Is Burning
Words and Music by Brett Gurewitz and
Greg Graffin © 2004 EMI BLACKWOOD MUSIC INC., SICK MUSE SONGS and POLYPTERUS MUSIC All Rights for SICK MUSE SONGS. Controlled and Administered by EMI BLACKWOOD MUSIC INC. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured. Used by Permission.
Reprinted by permission of Hal Leonard Corporation
Words and Music by Bob Welch © 1979 GLENWOOD MUSIC CORP. and CIGAR MUSIC. All Rights Controlled and
Administered by GLENWOOD MUSIC CORP. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured. Used by Permission.
Reprinted by permission of Hal Leonard Corporation
Published in the United States of America by Oceanview Publishing,
Longboat Key, Florida
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
printed in the united states of america
To our husbands,
Joel Shlian and Anastasios Chassiakos,
with love and thanks
Many thanks to the following people without whom we couldn’t have written Devil Wind.
Professor Anastasios Chassiakos for his engineering expertise that ensured the resonator resonated.
Detective Steve Teplitsky for his valued consultations on California police procedures—and his gentle reminder that detectives ride in “plain wraps” and not “patrol cars.”
Experienced pilot, Bob Woodhams for explaining how the Santa Anas would affect Prescott’s Gulfstream on its way to L.A.
Dr. Warren Strauss for his cardiology reviews.
Dr. Joel Shlian for serving as a contributing medical editor—and the inspiration for Dr. Wyndham.
Avid thriller readers Steve Manton, Sharon Hanley, Joan Cochran, and E. G. Stassinopoulos for their generosity in reviewing and critiquing multiple drafts of our manuscript.
Bob and Pat Gussin, Susan Greger, Frank Troncale, Maryglenn McCombs, and Susan Hayes from Oceanview for their help in bringing the second of the Sammy Greene thriller series to life.
George Foster for another gorgeous cover.
Finally, thanks go to our spouses for their unfailing love and support.
Deborah Shlian and Linda Reid
Well hello little girl, welcome to this big town
I’ve been patiently waiting, let me show you around
Did you bring lots of money, do you have nerves of steel
And are you ready to gamble, put your heart on the wheel
Oh oh, the devil wind
Big town claims another win
Is this how it all begins
How the innocents have changed . . .
After the devil wind stops blowin´
Wake up and find your heart´s been broken
—“Devil Wind” lyrics by Bob Welch
When the hills of Los Angeles are burning
Palm trees are candles in the murder wind
So many lives are on the breeze
Even the stars are ill at ease
And Los Angeles is burning
—“Los Angeles Is Burning,” Bad Religion, 2002
Operation Desert Storm
Northeast Saudi Arabia
50 kilometers from the Iraqi border
February 16, 1991
The young man’s screams resonated through the mobile army surgical unit, drowning out the piercing wails of the brutal winter sandstorm. The desert winds rocked the trailer in rhythm with the corporal’s cries.
“Can’t medivac him out til morning,” whispered an aide to the senior medic. Both knew it was too risky for the flight from Germany to land before the winds died down. “Should I get the chaplain?”
“Bishop,” the medic responded. “Get Bishop.”
The trailer door blew open, flapping against the aluminum siding. A tall, muscled man with grizzled hair strode in, “I’m here,” his only greeting as he rushed to the young man’s side. Despite the storm, his uniform was pressed and immaculate. Dr. Franklin Bishop was an officer’s officer.
He laid a gentle hand on the soldier’s writhing abdomen, noting the absence of legs below both knees. Lifting the sheet, the doctor saw that the amputations had not been surgical. The burned skin on the corporal’s thighs was black, the fever of infection would no doubt kill him by morning. “Ten mg of morphine stat,” Bishop ordered. The opiate would make his last hours more comfortable.
As the pain medicine gradually dulled the young man’s agony, his screams became words. Whispered words that only Bishop, leaning his head close to the soldier’s lips, could hear.
“Many children. Dead. Innocents. Stop the resonator. Stop the murder.” The soldier’s next words dissolved into gibberish as he fell into a deep sleep.
Bishop stood erect, shaking his head. Resonator? Murder?
The soldier’s body shook and shivered, his breathing grew more labored. Bishop clasped his hand and gave it a firm squeeze. In the morning, he would call Miller. See what the Company man could spill. For now, Colonel Bishop’s duty was to stand by this brave young man’s bedside so that he would not die alone.
The trailer was eerily quiet except for the howling winds. Cocking an ear, Bishop was certain he heard the winds echo the soldier’s words: resonator . . . murder. . .
December 23, 1999
Each winter, hot dry winds sweep from the deserts across the L.A. basin, and for a few days, blow away the hazy smog, exposing the glittery beauty of the City of Angels. Newcomers delight in the unexpected clarity, the ability to see snow-capped Santa Monica Mountains and azure Pacific Ocean emerge against a lavender sky. But those who stay a while soon learn why some call these Santa Anas devil’s breath, others, murder winds, and not just because they can whip parched chaparral into explosive fuel feeding deadly wildfires. No, it’s something about the winds’ effect on the inhabitants of the city’s hills and canyons, making senses sharper, on edge. As Raymond Chandler once wrote, while these winds blast, anything can happen. Anything.
Neil Prescott’s Gulfstream G650 shuddered and rolled, slammed by gusty Santa Anas thundering over the Sierras. The gray-haired congressman considered the luxury plane a fitting thirtieth anniversary gift from his oil heiress wife. Enjoying the wild ride, he took a dramatic swig of his martini before leaning over to clap his distressed guest on the shoulder.
“Didn’t know you could get so pale under that Saudi suntan.” Prescott’s ample midriff shook as he chuckled.
Fahim al-Harbi, stroked the neatly trimmed salt-and-pepper mustache and beard that covered much of his olive complexion, then, jaw still clenched, calmly put down his Glenlivet and rocks and brushed the arm of his Armani suit. “I should prefer my death to be in the company of the female gender,” he said in cultured Oxford English.
“Aren’t you people supposed to get seventy-two virgins in heaven?” Prescott watched the last drops of his martini splash onto his shirt with the Gulfstream yawing and bucking in the turbulence. “I’d sign up for that,” he added, remembering to remove his wedding ring and slip it into his jacket pocket.
“Good news. Captain says we’ll land in L.A. twenty minutes early.” Prescott’s second guest, no stranger to most of the “players” on Capitol Hill, stumbled down the aisle from the cockpit when the jet jolted yet again. Slim and ferret-faced, Albert Miller was ID’d by true insiders as a senior CIA operative. Had his sense of irony inspired him to wear that gray flannel suit? Gazing out the window, he muttered, “Five seasons.”
“Beg your pardon?” Fahim asked.
“Miller’s referring to the California seasons: earthquakes, floods, mudslides, riots, and fires,” Prescott explained. “Santa Ana winds, with a little help from the firebugs, set the mountains aflame each year. Burns all the slopes. Then, as soon as you get spring rain, the mudslides.” The politician swooped his free hand downward to demonstrate the lava-like flow.
“Bite your tongue, Neil,” Miller snapped, settling down next to them and opening his Macbook. “I have a bungalow in Laguna Hills.”
“For now.” Prescott turned to Fahim, “Hope you’re up for a great party in Bel Air tonight, pal. There’ll be a little thank-you gift for making all the, um, arrangements.”
Fahim’s brown eyes narrowed. “I shall still expect full payment when the ‘items’ are delivered next week.” He leaned forward, gripping his leather armrests, “And tell your Madam Kaye, no Arab girls this time.”
“Santa Ana winds are bringing record high temperatures and stoking blazes in the San Gabriels and Simi Valley,” interrupted Miller who was scanning CNN from his 2-bit LAN connection. “Fire officials expect a severe fire season ahead due to lush growth left behind by last year’s El Niño.”
Prescott anticipated Fahim’s question. “El Niño’s a weather pattern that turns the climate upside-down. A lot of rain, then a lot of drought. Accident waiting to happen.” He shook his head. “Like Y2K.”
“Your country seems to be hysterical about the end of the millennium,” Fahim observed.
“You heard the Deputy Secretary in D.C. this morning. Y2K is the electronic equivalent of El Niño. Our control of computer systems, aviation, weapons, power supply—everything could go up in smoke.”
Prescott turned his gaze to Miller’s laptop. The computer screen now displayed a picture of the charismatic president stumping for his charm-challenged VP to win the Democratic nomination in next year’s race. He nodded at the monitor where the crowd was chanting the president’s name. “They still adore him. Look at them. A bunch of fat and happy sheep.” He sneered. “Time we restored some dignity to the office, dammit. We can’t let these bastards have another four years in the White House.” Prescott slammed his fist on the cedar table just as the jet lurched upward.
“You honestly think you can persuade the American people to vote for change?” Fahim asked after a moment of strained silence.
Miller glanced up from his computer. “Our researchers have been studying fear since the Cold War. An effective tool that unites people against a common enemy.” The expression in Miller’s blue eyes grew cold. “Let the sheep enjoy this holiday season for a few more days. With your help, before the sun rises on the new millennium, this entire country will wake up certain there’s an enemy out there intent on ending America as we know it. Believe me,” he declared, “first, they’ll be terrified, and then they’ll be begging for change.”
The madam picked up the call on her personal line after the first ring. ID displayed private caller.Though he didn’t give his name, she recognized Miller’s gravel voice.
“You’re back in L.A.” The demure tone belied her irritation at the fact.
“Blew in on these damn winds,” he said. “Listen, Kaye, I need a short order for a party tonight in Bel Air. Blonde. No implants.” He didn’t bother to say hot, sexy, or beautiful. Those adjectives were implied. “Someone who’s comfortable with—the exotic.”
“Who’s the client?” the madam demanded, her suspicions aroused by his hesitation.
“Our Saudi friend.”
“Govno!” she cursed silently in her native Russian. The Arab had roughed up one of her girls a year ago. She’d told Miller then that he was on her blacklist.
“You there?” he asked when she hadn’t answered.
“I’m not comfortable with this.”
“Twelve thousand for a couple of hours. How uncomfortable can you be?”