Read Good to the Last Kiss Online

Authors: Ronald Tierney

Tags: #Mystery Fiction, #Detective and mystery stories, #Murder victims, #Inspector Vincent Gratelli (Fictitious Character), #Police - California - San Francisco

Good to the Last Kiss

BOOK: Good to the Last Kiss
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available from Severn House
GOOD TO THE LAST KISS
Crimes of the Depraved Mind Series
Ronald Tierney
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
  
This first world edition published 2011
in Great Britain and the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright © 2011 by Ronald Tierney.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Tierney, Ronald.
Good to the last kiss. – (Crimes of the depraved mind)
1. Police – California – San Francisco – Fiction. 2. Serial
murder investigation – California – San Francisco –
Fiction. 3. Rape victims – Fiction. 4. Psychic trauma –
Fiction. 5. Detective and mystery stories.
I. Title II. Series
813.5’4-dc22
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-069-2   (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8030-7   (cased)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
To John Fleener
With Appreciation
Though the entire work is fictional and no character, including the inspectors in the book, are based on anyone other than the author’s imagination, James W. Bergstrom and Anthony J. Camilleri Jr., inspectors for the San Francisco Police Department at the time of my research, were instrumental in rendering police activities as realistic as fiction – and a heavy dose of artistic license – allowed.
Thanks also to Kirsten Jones, John Fleener, Karen Watt, David Anderson and brothers Richard, Robbin and Ryan for their reflections (though not necessarily approval) on the following pages. A special thanks to my good friend Mark Stevenson for helping me recreate the area in and around Iowa City.
T
he kid knew it would be tonight. He could feel it taking over, wrestling with his numb soul – a force out of nowhere, taking him to a place he didn’t want to go. Not a whole lot he could do about it. He knew that too. He had tried to fight it before. But this was the feeling. The beginning. He knew it. And it would only get worse.
She had already flipped most of the contents of a childproof bottle of Tylenol into the toilet during the act of getting it open. Before that she discovered the dry cleaners had failed to replace an essential clasp on her black evening dress.
Julia Bateman took a couple of deep breaths and – having convinced herself that she had brought on a period of calm – looked around her studio apartment for a couple of stray aspirins. Nothing. Calm, she went back into the bathroom. Once her feet touched the wet tile, they struck out on their own and her body slapped against the floor. She got up slowly, checking to make sure everything was still working.
Everything worked. ‘See,’ she said with a phony brightness. ‘Every fucking thing is just delightful, isn’t it?’
She couldn’t find her face in the mirror. The old apartment building had no bathroom exhausts. Steam still coated her reflection. When she took off her towel to clean the mirror it snapped the bottle of Chanel No.19, shattering it in the tub, exploding like radiation waves from the detonation of an atom bomb and sending a cloying scent into her bathroom.
She cut a finger trying to pick up the little granules of glass from the porcelain. As soon as she was convinced the visible pieces of glass were retrieved, she ran the water forcefully to draw the rest of the glass and the dregs of Chanel down the drain. Afraid the smell would hang in her small studio, she ran to the windows to open them, again to discover a small movement in the drapery across the alley.
What was it? Had there been someone there?
She decided not to care. She went back to the bathroom, pulled out a tube of Ben Gay and applied it to the bristles of her toothbrush.
Inspector Vincente Gratelli was off duty, shoes off, a glass of Chianti in his hand, watching television.
He was not a pretty sight, even when he wasn’t exhausted. He looked older than his fifty-five years and no one would mistake him for a retired fashion model even if his tie were tied and his shirt buttoned, and his hair combed.
This was the only TV he allowed himself – that and
60 Minutes
. The news. The national news ended. It was the local news now. The stylish mayor was talking about the murders. Gratelli switched off the set, went to the window. Darkness was overtaking the light. There was a pinkness down on the busy street. The color of the sunset, the influence of the neon. He heard a siren. It was beginning. He felt a little guilty. He should be doing something about the murders. When you know it’s going to happen again, it seemed like you ought to just keep working – all day, all night. But there was nothing to go on. Absolutely nothing. So he finally gave up. Finally took a night. He’d eat. Go to bed early. Try to get some sleep. Get some energy so he could pile back in with a fresh mind and at least a mildly cooperating body.
None of them were easy. The homicides. These were particularly nasty. Some strange twists. The girls were young, too. The way they were left – that too was strange and sad and smarmy. Wasn’t messy. Not bloody or anything. It was something more indefinable. Something less visceral, more unsettling in its sickness.
The kid knew it would be tonight. He could feel it taking over, wrestling his numb soul out of nowhere and taking it to a place he didn’t want to be. Not a whole lot he could do about it. He knew that too. This was the feeling. The beginning. He knew it. And it would only get worse.
ONE
J
ulia Bateman couldn’t help herself. She stole another glance. The object of her curiosity was Thaddeus Maldeaux. He sat across the table from her, down one seat. He was more striking in person than he was in the photographs published by the newspapers and magazines. She was not usually awed by celebrity or overwhelmed by the presence of another human being. It was a feeling that – at the moment – caused her discomfort.
David Seidman sat on her left chatting with matriarch Helen Maldeaux. Helen, most people in San Francisco knew, controlled the family who controlled large chunks of the nation’s banks and investment institutions and media, not to mention a few powerful politicians, many of whom had already passed by the table and engaged her in flattering conversation.
It was impossible not to know about the Maldeaux family. Thaddeus – Teddy to his friends – was son of Helen. Someone less rich and less charming, who behaved as he did, would not have been allowed too near polite society. At thirty-eight, he’d been married four times – each to an innocent, young heiress or social celebrity. His extra-marital affairs were, however, the most tantalizing. The women were media savvy and rarely innocent. You would find Teddy’s name in all the trendy magazines, often in
Vanity Fair
and
Interview
and
Tatler
. Occasionally in
Time
and
Newsweek
. Teddy’s cast off girl friends often ended up as shooting stars themselves – bright and brief luminescences in the night sky – for all of the media mentions.
A few kissed and told.
‘The frightening thing about Thad,’ one said, ‘is that he appears both masculine
and
intelligent.’ She also said that he had perfected the ‘dress-down’ look – the slightly frayed cuffs on his slightly over-sized shirts and the slightly wrinkled fabric of his shirts. One would have easily recognized the names of those who designed his clothing, but these were not off the rack and you wouldn’t see anything just like them on anyone else. ‘He spends a great deal to look like a handsome peasant,’ she told the magazine. ‘A handsome stylish peasant of course.’
Julia already knew that Thaddeus and David Seidman were friends, though Julia had not met him before this evening. Julia sensed that David wanted to protect her from him – perhaps wisely so. David and Thaddeus graduated from Stanford and received law degrees from Harvard in the same years. They were fiercely competitive, though there was no real contest. Teddy outperformed David in sports, spending, womanizing and intellect. David was from a wealthy family as well, though one would never know it. Few knew that the Seidmans possessed even more wealth, perhaps because they wielded their power and influence less publicly and with considerably less flourish.
While neither of them
had
to work, David chose public service whereas Teddy seemed to choose public spectacles.
Julia wasn’t comfortable. She wasn’t comfortable last night at the opera and she wasn’t comfortable here in the grand hotel. Sitting in its heavily chandeliered ballroom, a huge space filled with huge people – San Francisco’s finest, oldest and most unreachable families – she felt as if she were Daisy Mae on a polo pony.
What brought them all together was the 2000 Maldeaux Dinner, a HIV/AIDS benefit. The others joining Julia, David, Thaddeus and Helen, were a famous cosmetic surgeon and his wife, a notorious designer and his friend, a
San Francisco Chronicle
columnist and the columnist’s bored husband. Also at the table were a small intelligent looking man from Zurich and a novelist.
Robin Williams had just made an unsurprising guest-appearance and had gone. Pavarotti had spoken. Eloquently and humorously.
Julia used the passing of speakers to excuse herself. She felt suffocated. The new speaker, another one of the famous San Francisco names, a member of an immensely rich oil family not usually known for generosity, climbed upon the dais to discuss the importance of contributing to an organization trying to create housing for those with HIV and reminding the audience that recent medical advances shouldn’t mislead people into thinking there was nothing left to do.
‘I thought women always traveled in pairs,’ Thaddeus said, intercepting Julia’s journey.
She couldn’t help but stare back at the green eyes. His presence was nearly hypnotic. He moved close. His breath was on hers. ‘David speaks of you often,’ Thaddeus continued, ‘but I’m guessing you give him only a little more than the time of day.’
Even in the dim light, she could see his eyes dance. His words weren’t said to chastise, but meant as a spirited assault designed to both engage Julia and test her spirit.
‘Then he’s gotten a little more than you will,’ Julia said without breaking stride.
The low-growling Camaro with the smoked windows cruised Taylor, Jones, Turk and Eddy streets.
The driver knew he was doing something wrong. Very wrong. If he’d believed his mother – what she’d said during those religion-infused moments between alcoholic binges – he was not just wrong. He was not just bad. He was evil. He was ‘evil’ before he’d done anything. And so maybe she was right. He didn’t think about things that way. But if she was right and she didn’t know the half of it, he was the devil incarnate. And there was absolutely nothing he could do about it now.
The pink lights of the gay strip joint’s marquis and those of the liquor store reflected on the car’s new wax job. The car slowed, pulled to the curb. A girl, who was making her own corridor through a teetering crowd of winos stopped, went to the passenger window of the Camaro. She shook her head ‘no,’ started to back away, but changed her mind and moved again to the window. She giggled. Her casual indecision was an obvious act. She looked in the window one more time, then got in the car.
Brushing him off had little effect on Thaddeus who kept glancing Julia’s way, grinning.
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