Authors: Rex Miller
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, scanning or any information storage retrieval system, without explicit permission in writing from the Author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locals or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
© Copyright 1988 by Rex Miller First e-reads publication 1999
Other works by Rex Miller
also available in e-reads editions
This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all; yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
nother tear splashed down on the expensive wood. It was hard, orange-and-black-grained cocobolo with alternate inserts of dense, reddish-tan tulipwood from Brazil. A trickle of tears had caught in the lashes at the corner of her eye and now they spilled over, dripping down her cheek and onto the arm of the love seat in her richly appointed bedroom. The tears beaded up on the arm of a piece of furniture that had cost more than some men bring home in a month. Yet, to her, the elegant surroundings were nothing more than a comfortable prison.
Her name was Tiff. She was fourteen years old. She was crying because she was sad, hurt, angry, frustrated, and frightened. She was a good girl. Why was this happening to
How could her mother have deserted them? How could her father have treated her the way he had? One day everything had been so nice and overnight it all went bad, and what had she done to deserve this? I'm all alone now, she thought, and her shoulders shook with convulsive sobs. Crying her eyes out, as the saying goes . . .
ax was a bitch he could live without. He thought of it as a she, thinking of her as one might think of a lady of the night who appeared sexy, flashy, bright from a distance, but proved to be soiled and unpleasant-smelling up close. Some airports were the essence of their respective cities. Rome and Paris, Dallas and D.C. — but none more than LAX.
Fresh off a contract hit, Frank Spain took in a cautious lungful of L.A.'s airport perfumes and detected traces of a life-supporting pungency. That good ole allotropic, triatomic, Southern California fresh air. He hated L.A. and thought of the airport as nothing but an overpriced hooker who sucked when you came and sparkled when you left. And he'd never been happier to kiss the bitch good-bye than this morning.
She looked rough without her makeup the glitz of the night-lights and the drama of darkness to cloak her in velvet and sparkle. Now she just looked busy and used. He was glad he was leaving. In fact he couldn't wait to get on the TWA flight, but he had stopped and bent to retie a lace that didn't need rety-ing. Something a little out of place. Something tickling his nose a little. At first he mistakenly thought it might be coming from the clot of cops obviously greeting some VIP at a nearby gate. He could sniff out copper the way some animals can smell a hunter. He tied the shoe and walked into a small shop at the edge of the concourse. Lay back a bit, he thought. Just check it out.
Natural to be a little tight. The thing he'd come out for had been problems from square one and he'd had to jump back and put somebody between himself and the target. Ended up jobbing the Greek out to a couple of local kids. Airheads. He told the one on the phone:
"You don't want to make anybody nervous on this," and the kid goes, "Shit. Ain't no nervous about it. Let's rodeo."
"Just don't come up shy," he'd said to the kid. Let's
Jesus. That should have told him right there. And sure enough they just about screwed it every which way but straight up, and Spain wanted nothing but lots of distance between himself and the gig.
Southern Califucking Fornia. Everybody running around getting "deeply into" whatever the latest thing was. Greek dude. Name like popcorn cooking. Something — plop — pop — populous. Heavyweight in one of the multilevel sales things like Herbalife or Amway. Makes lots of dough. Goes into this and that. Gets too big too fast for the banks. Borrows a wad from family people. Winds up busting out. The Greek had been "deeply into jogging." Now he was deeply into the fucking GROUND.
Spain had smelled it when he saw the cops. Knew what it was when he'd taken a big breath of that hydrocarbonous delight that is laughingly called air in Lala Land. Equal parts of sleaze, sludge, smog, smoke, diesel, deals, Perrier, Perignon, mimosa, mass flatulence, and — somewhere in there — ozone. But he'd also sniffed out the unmistakable scent of trouble. Smelled it right then and there. Smelled that sucker coming off the tarmac. And his beak never lied.
He pretended to be absorbed in a rack of paperbacks by the window of the gift shop as he watched them. Two in uniform. A guy in plainclothes shaking hands with a dark-haired guy, also obviously heat. He watched the way the first uniform cop put the one dude's bags in a car backed up to the gate. The way the plainclothes cop glad-handed the dark-haired dude as the other uniform came in and showed something to an airport official and they moved toward a waiting car.
A voice said, "Can we help you?" and he mumbled something to the woman about a birthday card for his daughter, turning as she directed him to the appropriate section so that he didn't see the dark-haired cop say, Wait a minute, and come inside to get a paper.
When he looked up to see the eyes of that same cop staring at him through the glass, it was a surprise and he had to work not to show it in his face as he slowly let his own eyes travel back to the card he was appearing to study. He had no way of knowing he was looking into the eyes of serial murder detective Jack Eichord, only that he was looking at heat, and Eichord saw the man glance back at a card, appearing to be totally absorbed in a caricature of the "see-no-evil" monkey.
But Jack had seen something else. Eichord had a habit of looking hard at everything. Cop habit. He'd come back in to buy a newspaper and seen a guy look up and make him for a cop. It was something cops and wise guys could do. A cop could spot the read. The flicker of recognition in wise-guy eyes that you didn't get off a straight Joe. You didn't have to be up close. State rods could catch it sometimes clear across a four-lane interstate. Eichord moved away but watched the man a bit longer from behind a magazine kiosk. He appeared to hear his plane announced, paid for the card, and quickly moved toward the boarding gate. It was probably nothing. Jack stored the scene away in his mind and dismissed it.
But as he went back to the waiting car, he had that tug that he had learned to listen to or give in to. A firm pull at the sleeve that said. Hey, Jack. Get with it. It's the copper's version of that little shot you get when you suddenly realize you're about to lock your keys in the car.
Jack Eichord was no genius cop. He'd solved the "Doctor Demented" thing, and the so-called "Lonely Hearts" killings in Chicago, and it had given him an international rep that bore scant relation to reality. He'd found himself to be the unwitting beneficiary of the imputation of super-sleuth, a rep his fellow detectives knew was ridiculous. Because of some luck, and a giant media spoon-fed by the Chicago brass, his involvement in the high-profile sex murders and mutilation killings had shot him into the hot limelight.
The press loves to pick up on ascriptions like "serial-murder expert," however imprecise they might be, and Jack Eichord had found himself to be so elected by the media mavens. They talked about his genius for crime solving and his Sherlockian brain, and like his colleagues who knew better, he laughed at the bullshit. He was lucky. He had a gift. Something. He got hunches. Whatever. The thing he had now. He thought of it as his shit detector. It was purring away and he didn't know why.
The one called Frank Spain had the same kind of instinct or intuition, only in reverse. Like two ships passing in the night, each shrugged off the cold feeling inside, but Spain had more difficulty getting the smell of trouble out of his nose. It dogged him as he left the concourse and climbed the stairs to find his seat in first class.
It was the troubling smell of a whore. Just professional paranoia, he thought, and the tired, heavy-lidded man with the LA/ST L ticket under the name Frank Spain closed his eyes and snuggled down as best he could into the seat.
He deplaned at Lambert Field at 12:21, and he had not adjusted his wrist-watch to Coast time because he hated the way the long trip out was only a couple of hours long if you did, and then it just added to the jet lag when you came home. His car was still there in the lot. That was something, anyway. The feeling hadn't left him. It was building. Like he'd forgotten something. A little detail left to come and kick his butt later. In his business that was not good. The paranoia was mounting.
Early afternoon he was on the top of the hill next to their home in Ladue, and he could see Buddy Blackburn's car in their drive, but he didn't think anything about it. Pat was always calling or writing the insurance companies about something or other. He tried to show her how it was all a big humbug, but she insisted that they have insurance out the kazoo, and mostly for Tiff's sake he let her do her thing.
He'd stopped at the top of the hill to rearrange some things in the attache case on the seat next to him and he saw the door of the house open and Buddy Blackburn come out. Just for a second, tired as he was from the trip, he thought he'd seen Buddy kiss Pat goodbye, which made no fucking sense at all. He shook it off and rubbed his eyes. Christ, he thought. Pat didn't even kiss him good-bye. Much less Buddy. Much less their insurance man, whom she could barely stand to talk to and . . . Oh oh, that's when he had the little zing and it dawned on him that he was back a day earlier than he'd told her.
Buddy was only three or four years younger than Spain but he wore his hair like a guitarist in a rock band, and Spain knew he had at least a couple of semi-platonic, flirting relationships with the younger married women among his clientele — but Pat? No fucking way.
He waited until the red sports car was out of sight and he shot down off the hill and into the drive, sprinting out of the car and into the house, fully intending to confront his wife in the bedroom, but there was no need. She was standing at the sink in the kitchen, looking out the window at nothing, standing there in high heels and a very sexy teddy he'd never seen before and wearing nothing else, her back to him, turning slowly as he burst in the door catching her in her fuck clothes in the early afternoon.