Authors: Robert - Elvis Cole 08 Crais
"This has got to be about your buddy, right? I mean, you're not just calling to flirt?"
"I'm out of that, remember? I'm off the Task Force, I don't know what Krantz is doing, and I don't care. Hey, from what I heard, Pike sounds good for it."
"I know that Branford has a case against him, but I'm telling you that Pike didn't do this."
"Oh, puh-lease. You weren't there, were you? You didn't see it."
"I know him, is all. Pike wouldn't go into Dersh's house in the middle of the night and shoot him like that. It isn't Pike's style."
"What style murder would he use, you know him so well?"
"The kind that can't be seen. Pike could do it and you would never know and would never even think that it might be him. They would disappear, one day here, the next day gone, and you'd be left wondering what happened, Dolan. That's the way Pike would do it, and, believe me, you would never find the body. Pike is the most dangerous man I know, and I've known more than a few. He is without peer."
Dolan didn't say anything.
"Dolan? You still there?"
"Something tells me you could be pretty dangerous, too."
I didn't answer. Let her think what she wanted.
Dolan sighed. "Okay, World's Greatest. What do you want?"
"Whoever killed Dersh might be connected to Joe through Karen Garcia, and that goes back to the days Joe rode a black-and-white. Joe's partner was a guy named Abel Wozniak."
"Sure. The cop Pike killed."
"You don't have to say it like that, Dolan."
"There's only one way to say it."
"I want to find out who was around back then who might hate Pike enough to kill Dersh and frame Pike for it. I'm going to need files and records, and I can't get them without help."
She didn't answer again.
"You got a fucking set on you, you know that? The trouble I'm in."
She hung up.
I called her back, but she had the phone off the hook. Busy. I called every five minutes for the next half hour. Busy.
Twenty minutes later I was sitting at the dining-room table and thinking about calling Dolan again when Lucy let herself in. She took off her suit coat and shoes, and went to the fridge without looking at me.
I said, "I guess you heard about Joe."
"I followed the story at work. We had people at the arraignment."
She hadn't come out to give me a kiss, and she hadn't yet looked at me.
"Can I get you something to eat?"
She shook her head.
"Want a glass of wine?"
"Maybe in a minute."
She was staring into the box.
She stopped staring and closed the door.
"I never knew these things about Joe."
The day's tension crept back into my shoulders with a dense tightness.
"I saw a tape of Branford arguing against bail. He talked about all the shootings Joe's been involved in, and the men he's killed."
The tension turned into a stabbing ache.
"I thought of Joe as this strong, quiet man who was your friend, but now it feels like I never knew him. I don't like knowing these things. I don't like knowing a man who would do things like this."
"You know he treats you well and with respect. You know he's good with Ben, and that he's my best friend."
Something confused and fearful worked in her eyes. "Branford said that he's killed fourteen men, for God's sake."
I shrugged. "If you can make it in L.A., you can make it anywhere."
"This isn't funny to me."
I tried to do something with the ache but there was nothing to be done. I wanted to call Dolan again, but I didn't. "The men he's killed were trying to kill him, or me, or someone that Joe wanted to protect. He is not a hit man. He has never committed murder for hire, or killed someone simply to kill them. If he's killed, it's because he's put himself in situations that have required it. Just as I have. Maybe there's something wrong with both of us. Is that what you're getting at?"
Lucy came to the door but did not cross through. "No, that isn't what I'm saying. There's just so much to assimilate here. I'm sorry. I don't mean to be like this." She put on a smile, but it was strained. "I haven't seen you all day and I miss you, and all of this about Joe made me miss you more. I just don't know what to think. I read the documents that Branford submitted to the court, and what was there scared me."
"They were supposed to scare you, Lucy. That's why Bran-, ford used them to argue against bail. You know that."
I wanted more than anything else to get up and go to her but I couldn't. I thought she might want me to, or that she wanted to come to me, but something was stopping her, too.
"Did Joe kill that man?"
"Are you sure of that?"
"Yes. Yes, I'm sure."
She nodded, but then her voice came small and from far away.
"I don't think I am. I think that he could've. Maybe I even think that he did."
We stood without speaking for a time, and then I went into the living room and put on the radio. I did not return to the kitchen.
I sat on the couch, staring out at the darkening sky, and realized that where Joe Pike sat this night, he could only see walls.
I wondered what the killer could see.
The hot breeze carries the stink of the public rest room to where the killer hides in a stand of red oleander. Mac Arthur Park is quiet this time of night, a perfect time for hunting.
The killer is flush with excitement at how well things are going. The Task Force still has not connected the five homicides, Hollywood Division detectives have begun turning evidence in Edward Deege's murder, and killing Dersh has proven to be inspired.
Joe Pike is in jail, and will stay there for the rest of his life, until some rat-house lifer pushes a shank between his ribs.
And won't that be fitting.
The killer smiles, just thinking about it. The killer doesn't smile often, learning that trait from Pike, from having studied Pike for so long now, Pike, whom he hates more than any other. But this is a special time, and there is plenty of hate to go around.
Pike, in perfect control.
Pike, in absolute command.
Pike, who took everything from him, and then gave him purpose.
Payback is a motherfucker.
The only possible fly in the ointment is this girl Trudy. The killer did what he could to protect himself from someone like her: He staked out Pike's home, making sure Pike was alone, waiting until the lights went out, then waiting longer still to be sure Pike was asleep before setting off to kill Dersh. The killer suspects that there is no Trudy, and that Pike is making it up, but he can't be sure, and thinks that he may have to find Trudy himself. He could run her name on the NCIC computers, and on VICAP through the FBI. And if someone beats him to her, well, he'll know as quickly as anyone. And deal with her then.
Still, the heavy lifting is done, and now all that remains is killing the rest of them, and ensuring with absolute certainty that Pike is convicted.
That means preparing for Pike's partner, Elvis Cole.
What a stupid name.
The killer is considering how he might deal with Cole when he hears Jesus Lorenzo approaching, and grips the .22 caliber pistol that he's taped into a plastic Clorox bottle. There is no mistaking Lorenzo. He is five feet ten, wearing red pumps with four-inch heels, a red satin micro-sheath, and a platinum wig. The killer has watched him cruise MacArthur Park on six separate nights at this time, waiting for this moment.
When Jesus Lorenzo disappears into the men's room, the killer steps out from the oleander and follows. No one else is around, no one is in the men's room. The killer knows this because he's been here for almost two hours.
The plan continues.
Payback, you motherfucker.
Lucy and I started the next day with a careful hesitancy that left me uncomfortable. Something new had been introduced to our relationship that neither of us knew how to approach. We had slept together, but we had not made love. Though she appeared to sleep, I think it was feigned. I wanted to speak with her about Joe. I wanted her to be all right with him, but didn't know if that was possible. By the time I decided to plunge in, she had to leave for work.
As she was walking out, she said, "Are you going to see Joe today?"
"Yes. Probably later."
"Would you give him my best?"
"Sure. You could come with me, see him yourself."
"I have to get to work."
"Okay. 1 know."
She looked at me.
"Whatever Joe is, that's what I am, too."
She probably didn't want to hear that.
"I guess what bothers me is that you're not disturbed by these things. You accept them as ordinary, and things like this aren't ordinary."
I didn't know what to say that wouldn't sound self-serving, so I didn't say anything.
Lucy pulled the door closed and went to work.
Another fine day in the City of Angels.
I wanted to call Charlie Bauman's secretary to tell her what I had already done, but she probably wasn't yet in the office. Charlie would tell her, but I wanted to tell her, too. I also wanted to contact both the FBI and the California State Sheriffs to access the data bank they keep on missing and runaway children. I wanted to see if I could get any hits on the first names, Trudy and Matt, and I also wanted to run the stolen vehicle reports for a black Dodge minivan. I decided to call Dolan first, and got Williams.
"Hey, Williams. Is Dolan there?"
"What's it to you?"
"I want to talk to her."
"Haven't seen her. You wanna know what I heard Krantz say?"
"I'm not going to like this, am I?"
"Krantz says you were probably in on it with that bastard, Pike. He says if he can tie you into it, maybe you and Pike can do the IV tango together." Williams chuckled when he said it.
"You're the whitest black man I ever met."
"Fuck you, Cole."
"You, too, Williams."
I hung up, thinking that if the day got any better my cat would die.
I was on my way upstairs to take a shower when the doorbell rang. It was Samantha Dolan, looking hungover.
"I just called you."
"Was I there?"
"You know what, Dolan? Today isn't a good day for humor."
She walked in past me, again without being invited, and peeked into the kitchen. She was wearing a navy blazer over a plain white tee shirt and jeans, and oval Italian sunglasses. The shirt looked very white beneath the dark blazer. "Yeah, well, I have days like that, too. You never fixed the tiles."
"I don't want to be rude, but what are you doing here?"
"You worried the little woman's going to get jealous?"
"Do me a favor and don't call her the little woman. It's pissing me off."
"Whatever. You think I could have some juice or water? I'm a little dry."
I brought her into the kitchen and poured two glasses of mango juice. When I handed the glass to her, she took off her sunglasses. Her eyes were bloodshot, and I caught a whiff of tequila. "Jesus, it's eight in the morning, Dolan. You hit it this early?"
The bloodshot eyes flashed angrily. "Is it any of your business when I 'hit it'?"
I raised my hands.
Dolan put the sunglasses back on.
"I was thinking about what you said last night. That maybe the killer is connected to Pike through Garcia. Maybe you've got something there, but I sure as hell couldn't call you from the office to talk about it."
"That mean you'll help?"
"It means I want to talk about it."
The cat nosed through his cat door. He got halfway inside, and stopped, staring at her.
Dolan scowled at him. "What in hell are you looking at?"
The cat cocked his head, still staring.
"What's wrong with this cat?"
"I think he's confused. The only other person in the world he likes is Joe Pike. Maybe it's the glasses."
Dolan scowled deeper. "How nice for me. Mistaken for a two-hundred-pound bruiser with a butch cut and no tits."
Dolan took off the glasses and bugged her eyes at him.
The cat cocked his head the other way.
"Why does he hold his head that way?"
"Someone shot him."
Dolan squatted and held out her hand.
I said, "Don't do that, Dolan. He bites."
The cat sniffed. He eased toward her and sniffed again.
"He doesn't seem so mean to me."
She scratched his head, then finished her juice.
"He's just a damned cat."
I stared at him, then her. I had seen that cat claw a hundred people over the years, and I had never seen him let anyone other than me and Joe touch him.
I shook nay head again. "Nothing."
She took a hard pack of Marlboros from her pocket. "You mind if I smoke?"
"Yeah, I do. If you gotta have one, we can go out on the deck."
We went out. Yesterday's gray haze still hung in the air, but it had thinned. Dolan went to the rail and peered down into the canyon. "This is nice. You got your chairs out here. You got your Weber."
She fired up a Marlboro and blew a great fog of smoke to add to the haze. Inviting.
I said, "So what were you thinking last night?"
"I wasn't on the job when that happened with Wozniak and Pike, but Stan Watts was. I asked him about it. Do you know what happened?"
A little girl named Ramona Ann Escobar had been seen leaving a park with a man the police believed to be a known pedophile and child pornographer named Leonard DeVille. Pike and Wozniak learned that DeVille had been sighted entering the Islander Palms Motel, and had driven there to investigate. When they entered the room, Ramona was not present. Pike had never spoken to me of these things, but I recalled from the newspaper coverage that Wozniak, the father of a young daughter, had apparently been fearful that DeVille had harmed the girl. He drew his weapon, and struck DeVille. Pike, feeling that Wozniak might endanger the suspect, intervened. A struggle followed, during which Wozniak's weapon discharged, killing Wozniak. Internal Affairs conducted an investigation, but brought no charges against Pike. What the articles I'd read didn't say is that even though IAG didn't bring charges, damn near every officer on the job at that time blamed Pike for Wozniak's death, hating him all the more because Pike had killed Wozniak defending an asshole like Leonard DeVille. A child molester.
Dolan said, "So if you're looking for people with a grudge, you're gonna have to start with a couple of thousand cops."
"I don't believe that."
"I'm talking hate, buddy. They got cops still around who hate Pike for what happened to Wozniak."
"Think about what you're saying, Dolan. You believe some random cop has been carrying a grudge so big he's willing to kill an innocent man like Dersh just to set up Pike?"
"You say innocent, and this is your theory, not mine. If one of these cowboys thinks Dersh is a serial killer, maybe he figures it's a no-brainer sacrifice. And if it isn't a cop, you're probably talking about one of the two or three hundred assholes that Pike arrested. That's still a pretty big suspect pool."
I spread my hands. "I can't go there, Dolan. There are so many variables here that if I try to deal with all of them I'll just sit home and wait for Krantz to crack the case."
"Guess that wouldn't work for you."
"Does it work for you?"
She smiled. "No. Christ, that sun is hot."
Dolan took off the blazer and draped it over one of the deck chairs. Her Sig was in a clip holster on the right hip of her jeans, and her tanned arms looked strong. The white shirt was so bright it made me squint.
I said, "I've got to stay with what's in front of me, and that's Wozniak and Karen Garcia, and how they all came to meet. I need to find out everything I can about Wozniak and DeVille, and what happened in that room. I want the shooting team report, the incident report, and whatever Internal Affairs had."
She was shaking her head before I finished. "I can tell you right now you can forget the IAG documents. They're under seal. You'd need a court order."
"I need Wozniak's personnel file and DeVille's case file. I'm going to talk to Joe and see what he says."
"Man, you don't want too much, do you?"
"What else can I do?"
She took another deep pull on the cigarette. "Nothing, I guess. I'll make some calls for you. It might take a while."
"I appreciate your doing this for me, Samantha."
She rested her elbows on the rail, looking out at the canyon. "I've got nothing better to do. You know what Bishop has me doing? Due-diligence calls on last year's robbery cases. You know what that is?"
"We gotta go through unsolved cases every three months just to keep the cases alive. You call the detective of record, ask if he's learned anything new, he says no, and you log it. A rucking clerk could do it. And every time I see Bishop, he shakes his head and walks away."
I didn't know what to say.
She finished the cigarette and dropped it in the juice glass.
"I'm sorry, Samantha."
She looked at me. "You've got nothing to be sorry about."
"I jammed you into coming across about the Task Force, just like I'm jamming you now. I apologize for doing that. I wouldn't've told Krantz that I knew about it, or that we'd had that conversation in your car that morning."
"Everything always comes out, buddy. I'm on thin ice now, but if I'd lied that day and they'd found out, I'd be underwater for sure. Like I said, maybe if I kiss enough ass, Bishop will let me stick around."
She glanced over. "I feel like a damned lush."
"Because you had a couple this morning?"