Jonathan Kellerman

Time Bomb

The fifth book in the Alex Delaware series, 1990

To my sister, Hindy Tolwin, with much love

Special thanks to Barbara Biggs and to all those writers who were there with counsel and/or kind words. To wit:

Paul Bishop, Lawrence Block, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Michael Dorris, James Ellroy, Brian Garfield, Sue Grafton, Joe Gores, Andrew Greeley, Tony Hillerman, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Elmore Leonard, the late Richard Levinson, William Link, Dick Lochte, Arthur Lyons, David Morrell, Gerald Petievich, Erich Segal, Joseph Wambaugh.

And, of course, Faye, whose strength, wisdom, and love could never be concocted in the wildest writer’s fantasy.

Egad! What a talented bunch!

“And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.”



Back to school.

It evokes memories of the tests we’ve passed, or the ones we’ve failed.

Monday. Milo ’s call punctuated a hard, gray November day that had finally erupted into rain.

He said, “Turn on your TV.”

I glanced at my desk clock. Just after two-forty P.M.- talk show time. The cathode freak display. “What? Nuns who murder, or pets with ESP?”

“Just turn it on, Alex.” His voice was hard.

“What channel?”

“Take your pick.”

I flicked the remote. The sound came on before the picture. Sobs and whimpers. Then faces. Small faces, lots of them. Eyes wide with bafflement and terror. Fragile bodies blanketed and huddled together on the floor of a large room. Gleaming hardwood floors and chalk-white goal lines. A gym.

The camera moved in on a little black-haired girl in a puff-sleeved white dress as she accepted a plastic cup of something red. Her hands shook; the beverage sloshed; a false bloodstain spread on white cotton. The camera lingered, feasting on the image. The little girl burst into tears.

A chubby boy, five or six, cried. The boy next to him was older, maybe eight. Staring straight ahead and biting his lip, straining for macho.

More faces, a sea of faces.

I became aware of a mellow-voiced commentary- calculated sound bites alternating with strategic pauses. Sucked into the visuals, I let the words pass right through me.

Camera-shift to rain-slick asphalt, acres of it. Squat flesh-colored buildings spattered calomine-pink where the rain had penetrated the stucco. The voice-over droned on and the camera got manic- a flurry of visual slices, so brief they bordered on the subliminal: flak-jacketed, baseball-batted SWAT cops crouched on rooftops, poised in doorways, and muttering into hand-held radios. Yellow crime-scene tape. Assault rifles; the glint of telescopic scopes; bullhorns. A cluster of grim men in dark suits conferring behind a barrier of squad cars. Police vans. Pulling away. Policemen packing and leaving. Then a sudden wide pan to something in a black zip-bag being carted away through the rain.

The owner of the mellow voice came on screen. Sandy-haired, GQ type in a Burberry trenchcoat and electric-blue crunch-knotted tie. The coat was soaked but his hair spray was holding up. He said, “Information is still trickling in, but as far as we can tell, only one suspect was involved and that individual has been killed. Here we see the body being taken away, but no identity has been released…”

Zoom in on black bag, wet and glossy as sealskin. Stoic morgue techs who might have been taking out the garbage. The bag was hoisted up and into one of the vans. Slam of door. Close-up of the reporter squinting into the downpour, playing intrepid war correspondent.

“… Recapping then, Nathan Hale Elementary School in the West Side community of Ocean Heights was the scene of a sniping that took place approximately forty minutes ago. No deaths or injuries are reported, except for that of the sniper, who is reported dead and remains unidentified. The exact circumstances of the death are still unknown. Previous rumors of a hostage situation have turned out to be false. However, the fact that State Assemblyman Samuel Massengil and City Councilman Gordon Latch were at the school at the time of the shooting has fueled reports that an assassination attempt may have been involved. Latch and Massengil have been on opposite sides of a controversy concerning the busing of inner-city children to underpopulated schools on the West Side and had planned a televised debate, though at present there is no indication if the shooting was related to-”

“Okay,” said Milo. “You’ve got the picture.”

As he spoke I spotted him standing behind the open door of one of the squad cars, one hand over his ear, the radio speaker pressed to his mouth. A background figure, too far away to make out his features. But his bulky figure and the plaid sport coat were giveaways.

“Alex?” he said, and I watched him scratch his head on screen. A weird juxtaposition- phone-a-vision. It faded as the camera swung back to the wet, empty schoolyard. A second of blank screen, station identification, a promise of resumption of “our regular programming” followed by a commercial for weight-loss surgery.

I switched off the TV.

“Alex? You still there?”

“Still here.”

“All these kids- it’s a real mess. We could use you. I’ll give you directions. Use my name with the uniform at the command post. Ocean Heights isn’t far from your neck of the woods. You should be able to make it in, what? fifteen, twenty minutes?”

“Something like that.”

“Okay, then? All these kids- if anything’s got your name on it, this one does.”


I hung up and went to get my umbrella.

Вы читаете Time Bomb
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату