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Authors: Rachel Howzell Hall

Tags: #Detective and Mystery Fiction

Skies of Ash

BOOK: Skies of Ash
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Contents

Cover

Praise for the Elouise Norton Novels

Also by Rachel Howzell Hall

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Epigraph

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Also Available from Titan Books

PRAISE FOR THE ELOUISE NORTON NOVELS

“Readers have met with gimlet-eyed gumshoes, dead-eyed tough guys and doe-eyed femme fatales. But they’ve never met anybody quite like Hall.”

The Times

“Lou Norton is a black female cop worthy of following in Philip Marlowe’s footsteps down the mean streets of LA.”

The Telegraph

“A racially explosive Los Angeles provides the backdrop for this exceptional crime novel… Dead-on dialogue and atmospheric details.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“A riveting exploration of crime and its repercussions in the poor neighborhoods of Los Angeles…
Land of Shadows
proves that Hall is a star at weaving fast-paced, layered, and gripping stories.”

Huffington Post

“Lou is a good cop and fun to watch—great instincts, a no-nonsense interviewing style, and uncompromising in her efforts to catch the bad guy. She’s a well-rounded character who can keep her sense of humor even when her work hits painfully close to home.”

Booklist

“The story shines… a welcome addition for collections seeking more diverse characters in the mystery genre.”

Library Journal

“Explosive debut thriller… it will blow your socks off! Racks up the tension right from the off and simply doesn’t slow down.”

Books Monthly

“A fresh voice in crime fiction. Fast, funny, heartbreaking and wise… Elouise Norton is the best new character you’ll meet this year.”

Lee Child,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Spellbinding. Gritty. Original, complex, profound, and riveting. This is a voice you have never heard—and will be unable to forget. Prepare to be blown away.”

Hank Phillippi Ryan,
Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author

“Intense, gritty and absolutely riveting, Land of Shadows took my breath away. A phenomenal book I’m recommending far and wide.”

Hilary Davidson,
Anthony Award-winning author

“A hardhitting tale of a modern, complex Los Angeles. Well-written and deftly paced.”

Gary Phillips, author of
Warlord of Willow Ridge

“Hall has written a first class police procedural which has the potential to shoot up the bestseller lists.”

Crime Fiction Lover

“[Hall] writes with skill and flair. Her first novel exhibits a keen sense of pace and place, and an equally keen sense of what makes her wide and varied cast of characters tick.”

Mystery Scene Magazine

“It’s the most addictive book I’ve read this year, and I’m already viewing it as a likely contender for my best books of the year, it’s simply that good… an amazing novel.”

Life of Crime

ALSO AVAILABLE FROM RACHEL HOWZELL HALL AND TITAN BOOKS

Land of Shadows

Trail of Echoes
(May 2016)

SKIES OF ASH
Print edition ISBN: 9781783292745
E-book edition ISBN: 9781783292752

Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP

First edition: May 2015
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Copyright © 2015 by Rachel Howzell Hall. All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

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BOOKS.COM

For Maya, my blue-sky girl

I’m all done with hating you. It’s all washed out of me. I hate people hard, but I don’t hate them very long.

RAYMOND CHANDLER
,
The Lady in the Lake

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11
1

I TOOK GREG BACK THE FIRST TIME BECAUSE HE SAID HE LOVED ME.

I took Greg back the second time because my heart still ring-a-dinged every time he touched me.

I took Greg back the last time because my sister’s bones had been discovered after twenty-five years and my heart and head had become tangled messes and I needed him to fix me.

And so, on this Tuesday morning, with my blood racing and my heart pounding, I was ready to take him back in
every
way.

Maybe I shouldn’t have pulled out that rubber.

Copper-colored sunlight crawled across our bed as my beloved of eleven years gawked at me. His pecan-colored eyes, the color of that copper sunlight in happy times, now darkened into skies of tornado and flash-flood warnings. He went stiff with my touch (and not the good stiff) and gaped at the silver-foil square between my fingers. “It’s been six months, Lou. You
still
don’t…?” His voice softened like the rest of him.

I flinched and opened my mouth to say, “Hell no, I don’t trust you. You just ended your fling with what’s-her-face six months ago, so are you
kidding
me with that question?”

But I didn’t say that. Instead, I waggled the condom as playfully as a woman could waggle a condom at her husband. “Yes or no?” Then, I kissed his lips. “Yes?”

His jaw clenched.

So… not a yes.

The telephone rang from the nightstand. Caller ID droned, “Rodriguez, Zak Rodriguez.” Another man was calling me.

“Lou,” Greg barked, “ignore it.”

“Can’t,” I choked. “I’m back on call.”

Greg rolled away from me and clenched his body into a tight bronze ball.

I sat up in bed. “We spent all Sunday and yesterday together. No dead bodies. No zombies. Nobody but us for two days. That’s a record, right?”

No response from him—which
was
a response.

The phone rang.

And Greg pouted.

And whatever murder my boss had chosen for me kept going unsolved.

I slung the condom toward the bathroom, then grabbed the receiver. “Morning, L.T.”

Greg climbed out of bed with his wide shoulders hunched high and his bare ass tight as a clam. He muttered, “Fuck this,” then stomped to the bathroom and slammed the door.

“Am I interrupting anything?” Lieutenant Rodriguez cracked.

I tugged at my earlobe. “Same as it ever was.”

“So,” he said, “there’s been a house fire in Baldwin Hills.”

“Been a lot of house fires in Baldwin Hills.”

“This one has bodies.”

“Oh dear.”

“Strange circumstances surrounding those bodies,” he added. “In the 911 call, a female occupant’s heard saying, ‘
Something, something
kill me.’ And then, there’s a cough. And then, there’s nothin’.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “Kill me? You win. Strange circumstances. Hence your call to me on this beautiful Tuesday morning.”

“And with all the fires in the neighborhood lately,” he said, “and budget cuts, Arson is happy to throw us a bone.”

Just moments ago, I’d had a bone in my possession but had gambled it away because of my silly fear of herpes.

As soon as I hung up with my boss, the phone rang again.

Caller ID said, “Taggert, Colin Taggert.”

Another
man calling.

“So you startin’ fires just to see me again?” Colin said.

“Yep. I’m hoping a beam drops on your head. Maybe then I’ll get a good partner.”

“Brought you coffee,” he said, “but you need to bust your ass.”

I threw off the comforter and hopped out of bed. “Getting dressed now.”

As my partner talked about a woman he had picked up in the coffee shop, I pushed aside the gauzy window curtain and peeked out.

The wet asphalt twinkled with sunlight. The silver collar on the beagle in the yard across the street twinkled with sunlight. The chrome on the neighbor’s VW Bug twinkled with sunlight. Everything and its mother twinkled with sunlight except for the crap in my frigid bedroom.

Maybe I shouldn’t have pulled out that rubber.

The bathroom door opened.

Greg stepped out wearing black boxer briefs. Even in his midthirties, he still rocked hard abs, that firm ass, and those eyes—how I loved those eyes.

“…thinks possible murder, with the arson to cover it up,” Colin was saying. “You’re not talking. Mr. Norton hoverin’ and glarin’ at me through the phone?”

“Yeah,” I said. “See you over there.” I tossed the phone on the bed.

Greg, arms crossed, leaned against the dresser. “That Colin?”

I found my nightshirt in the sheets and slipped it over my head.

Greg plucked the rubber from the carpet. “This is crazy, Lou. But I get it. I messed up. Again. And I can’t apologize enough for that.” He forced himself to meet my eyes. “If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll go to the doctor and have myself checked out.” He dropped the condom on the dresser. “No problem. It’s all good.”

A kiss, a hug, and ten minutes later I was dressed in heavy work boots, a blue long-sleeved department T-shirt and jeans. And from the closet shelf, I retrieved my Glock from its gun case.

BOOK: Skies of Ash
10.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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