Read L a Requiem (1999) Online

Authors: Robert - Elvis Cole 08 Crais

L a Requiem (1999) (5 page)

BOOK: L a Requiem (1999)
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She felt herself flush. "Is it that obvious? "

"Mm-hm. Maria, let me help with that, honey." Joshua bent to tend to one of the children whose shoe had come untied. It was almost time for the van from the day care, so they needed to start back across the park.

Karen couldn't help but look back at the young officer. She liked the way he carried himself, and her stomach did a little flip when he'd stood next to her. She had called the police with serious concerns, but when he arrived it had been tough to keep her mind on what she wanted to say. He was older, but he couldn't have been any more than in his late twenties. She wondered if he thought she was a child. She'd said she was in college, hadn't she? The thoughts swirled in her head, and she smiled even wider.

Joshua rolled his eyes. "Karen, please, not in front of the children!"

She laughed and shoved Joshua.

Watching Officer Pike slide into his car, she was suddenly overwhelmed with a fierce urge to see what was behind his dark glasses. She had tried to see his eyes and could not, but now she had to have a look.

Karen's pulse hammered all the harder as she fought the urge to do something she had never done before. In a moment the two officers would drive away and she would never see him again. The next thing she knew, she was walking hard toward their car, taking long crazy steps as if some secret creature had taken possession of her. The two officers within were watching her approach. Pike's window came down and he looked out other. "Yes, ma'am ? "

Karen Garcia leaned forward with her hands on the window. "I have a request."

He stared at her, and her mouth went dry. She absolutely knew that she was making a fool of herself. "Would you take off your glasses, please? I'd like to see your eyes."

The older officer made a face like he wanted to spit; irritated, as if she had interrupted something. "Oh, for Christ's sake."

Officer Pike took off his dark glasses, and looked at her.

She felt her breath catch. His eyes were the most liquid blue, the blue of the sky over the high deserts of Sonora, the blue of the ocean where it has no bottom and is infinitely clean. But it wasn't the blue that stopped her breath. For just a moment when the glasses were first pulled away, she could have sworn that those eyes were filled with the most terrible and long-endured pain. Then the pain was gone and there was only the blue.

Karen Garcia said, "Would you like to go to a movie with me this Friday night? "

Pike stared at her for so many heartbeats that she wondered if she'd really spoken the words aloud. But then, slowly, he fitted the dark glasses over the incredible eyes again and put out his hand for her to take. "My name is Joe. May I have your phone number? "

When he touched her, she quivered.

Chapter 4

Pretty soon the entire apartment building knew, and word spread through the block. I wanted to ask Pike how he felt, but not in front of these other men.

"How did she die, Holstein?"

"I don't know."

"Was she murdered?"

"I don't know, Cole. I get a call out telling me to come here and secure the vic's apartment until the leads show up. That's what I'm doing."

"You must know something. You got a fast ID."

"Whoever found the body pulled an ID off her before they called it in. Looks like she's been there since yesterday."

Pike said, "Has her father been notified?"

Holstein glanced at Pike's shoulder tats, then his face. "Sonofabitch. You're Joe Pike."

When Pike left the job it hadn't gone well. A lot of cops didn't like him. More than a few hated him.

"Has her father been notified?" Voice softer now.

I went over, stepping in front of Joe. "Her father hired us to find her, and now that's done. We should let him know."

Holstein went to the couch and dropped his weight on it. The leather sighed. "We're gonna wait here for the leads. They're going to want to know what you know."

Pike touched my shoulder. "They can ask us later. Let's go."

Holstein reached under his jacket. "I don't think so."

"What're you going to do, Holstein? Shoot it out? C'mon, does Lou Poitras have the table today?"

"Yeah." Lou Poitras has been one of my closest friends for 35 years, and had recently moved from North Hollywood Division to the Hollywood Homicide table.

"Then call him. Poitras and I are tight. The leads can catch up to us at the father's. They're going to want to see him anyway."

We were still arguing about it when the phone rang. Holstein answered, trying to make his voice anonymous. He listened, then held the phone toward me, looking impressed. "For you, hotshot. I don't know how you rate, but it's the watch commander."

I took the phone and identified myself. A man whose voice I didn't recognize said, "Hold on."

Another man, this one with a slight Spanish accent, came on. He identified himself as Frank's lawyer, Abbot Montoya. "Mr. Cole, I'm here with the Hollywood Division watch commander at Mr. Garcia's request, along with a representative of City Councilman Maldenado's office. You're aware that Mr. Garcia and Councilman Maldenado are personally close, aren't you?"

"No." He wasn't saying it for me. He was saying it for the people in the room with him at Hollywood Division.

"Frank would like you and Mr. Pike to visit the murder site. He wants you to witness his daughter's situation." Situation. There's a word for you. "After, Frank would like you to go to his home and describe Karen's ... this is awkward for me, too, Mr. Cole. I'm Karen's godfather."

"I understand."

"He would like you to tell him whatever you've found out about what happened. I know you're not being compensated, but we'll take care of that."

"There's nothing to take care of."

"Yes, well, we'll discuss that later. You and Mr. Pike will do this?"

"Yes, sir. If the police let us."

"They'll let you. And after, you'll see Mr. Garcia?"

"Yes."

"The watch commander would like to speak with Detective Holstein now, please."

Holstein listened for another minute, then said, "Yes, sir," and hung up. When he put down the phone, his eyes were thoughtful.

Without a word he went to the door, held it open, and said, "She's on the west side of the reservoir. They're sealing the lake, but Lieutenant Poitras will be expecting you."

We left, and Holstein slammed the door.

It was early afternoon by the time we once more wound our way up Lake Hollywood Drive. Uniformed officers were still clearing the park. We passed runners and walkers on their way out, but pretty soon we came to half a dozen radio cars parked in the middle of the road with four unmarked sedans. An Asian-American man was fishing a large tackle box out of the rear of a white station wagon with L.A. COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER stenciled on the side. He would be the coroner investigator. As he went through the gate and down along the trail to the water, a cop who looked like a miniature King Kong came up to stand just off the road, waiting for us with his arms crossed. He was so big from a lifetime of pumping weights that his jacket fit him like a sausage skin about to split.

I said, "Hey, Lou."

Lou Poitras put out his hand and we shook. He didn't offer to shake with Pike. "Understand you were trying to find her."

"That's right. You got a suspect yet?"

"Take it easy. I've been here less than an hour." Poitras glanced at Pike. "I hear you knew the girl. I'm sorry."

Pike nodded.

"You sure you want to go down there, Pike? You could stay up here at the car."

Pike walked past him and through the gate.

Poitras grunted. "Same old talkative Pike."

We followed a narrow, winding trail through the trees. The leaf canopy above us rustled from the wind, but down on the floor the air was still. Ash from the fires to the north filtered through the canopy, floating in the still air. Poitras swatted at it as if the ash was insects he could drive away.

I said, "What about the cause of death?"

"Coroner investigator just went down."

"We saw him. What's your take?"

Poitras tipped his head toward Pike, clearly uncomfortable, and slowed his pace to let Pike pull ahead. "Unofficial, it's one shot to the head. Looks like a .22, but it could've been a .25. She was popped up here on the trail, then fell down into a little ravine. No sign of assault or a sexual attack, but that's just my eyeball. They'll have to take smears back at the coroner's." Smears. Looking for semen.

"Any wits?"

"I've got people making a house-to-house up along the ridge trying to get names, but you know how it is."

The trail ran along a ledge about fifteen feet up from the water, sometimes in dense trees, sometimes not. When we reached a barrier of yellow crime scene tape, we followed a freshly broken path down to the lake, then traced the shoreline around a small finger. That's where we found the crime scene.

"The vie is right over here."

Pike took two steps up the slope and stopped.

Karen Garcia lay head down at the bottom of a narrow ravine, wild purple sage obscuring her body. Her right arm was twisted behind her, her left extended straight from her torso. Her left leg was bent at the knee, left foot under her right leg. What I could see of her face was discolored with lividity, and the ugly smell of decay gases hung at the water-line like a pall. Giant black bottle flies and yellow jackets swarmed around the body. The CI swatted at them with his clipboard, as a Hispanic detective said, "Fuckin' meat eaters."

If Pike felt anything I could not tell.

The CI, now wearing latex gloves, leaned over her to look at something that the Hispanic detective was pointing out. Her exposed hand had already been taped into a plastic bag to preserve evidence that might be under her fingernails. They would check later when she was at the morgue.

"Who discovered the body?"

"Couple of hikers. They found her down here, and called it in up at their car. You guys know Kurt Asana?"

The CI made a little wave. Asana.

Pike said, "How'd you get an ID so fast?"

"Doofs who found her. She had her driver's license in her shorts." Officers arriving on the scene wouldn't touch the body. No one was allowed to touch the victim before the coroner investigator had his shot. That way, when a suspect was brought to trial, the defense attorney couldn't argue that ham-handed cops had contaminated the evidence. If the hikers hadn't done their search, the police would still be wondering who she was until Asana emptied her pockets.

Poitras said, "Hey, Kurt. Can you give me a ballpark on the time?"

Asana tried to bend her shoulder joint, and found it stiff, but yielding. "Rigor's starting to let go. I'd say about twenty-four hours."

"She came up here to run between nine-thirty and ten in the morning."

"Well, I'm just guessing right now, but that fits. When I get the BT, I'll be able to calc it out pretty close."

Asana took a scalpel and a long metal thermometer from the box and moved back into the weeds. Pike and I both turned away. Asana would be going for a liver temperature. When he had the liver temp he would chart it against the outside air temperature and be able to tell how long the body had been cooling.

We were waiting for Asana to finish when three men in good-looking suits came around the finger like they owned the lake. Lou Poitras stepped forward to block the trail. "Can I help you?"

Behind me, Joe Pike said, "Krantz."

The one called Krantz held up a gold detective's shield about two inches from Poitras's nose. He was a tall, leathery man with a high forehead and lantern jaw. He looked like the kind of guy who liked to jut the jaw at people to show them he meant business. He jutted it now.

"Harvey Krantz, Robbery-Homicide. Detective Stan Watts. Detective Jerome Williams." Watts was an older white guy with beefy shoulders and a round head. Williams was black, and younger. "Are you Lieutenant Poitras?"

"That's right."

"Hollywood Division is off this case as of now. RHD is taking over." Robbery-Homicide Division is LAPD's elite homicide division. Based out of Parker Center downtown, they could and did handle high-profile homicides all over the city.

Poitras didn't move. "You're kidding."

This was probably the biggest case Poitras had on his table, and he wouldn't like giving it up.

"Pull your men off, Lieutenant. We have the scene." Krantz tucked his badge away and jutted his jaw some more. I made him for his mid-forties, but he could've been older.

"Just like that?"

"Like that."

Poitras opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, then took a single step back and turned toward the crime scene. His face was as flat as an empty plate. "Two Gun. Chick. We're off."

The Hispanic detective with Asana looked over. "Say what?"

"We're off. Robbery-Homicide has the scene."

The Hispanic detective and another detective who'd been poking around in the weeds stepped away as Watts and Williams went over. Neither of the RHD guys seemed to mind the flies.

BOOK: L a Requiem (1999)
7.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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