'I'm just telling you what I saw.'

'I'm gonna set up a meeting for you with Commander Shephard.'

'Why are you gonna do that?' Shane asked, instantly wary.

'I want him to show you Jody's autopsy report and crime-scene pictures. He could get those for you. He heads the Detective Services Group. They supervise SIS. Jody was in Special Investigations when he died, so Commander Shephard can pull all that stuff from the custodian of department records at the Personnel Division. He can get it for you without turning it into a three-act play. You've gotta get this off your mind.'

Shane sat there, chewing on the grass stalk, turning it between his teeth, feeling it tickling his tongue. 'Good idea,' he finally said. 'Thanks. I'd really like to see all that.'

'How soon do you want to go see him?' she asked.

'How 'bout tomorrow,' he answered softly.

Chapter 6


AFTER YOU GET used to it, it's not so bad here,' Jody said. 'It's not heaven, but it's not hell. You'd like it, Shane. We got everything we need.' Jody was talking to Shane, but he was lying in his casket. The back of his head was missing and he had on his old Pirate's Little League uniform. It was stretched tight over his adult body, his pitcher's mitt laid ceremoniously across his chest.

'Everything you need?' Shane asked. He was wearing his old catcher's gear but was having trouble keeping the mask on straight. It kept sliding around on his head, blocking his view.

'Everything we need, 'cept one thing…'

'What's that?'

'Coca-Cola. Can you beat it? No Cokes here, and me with my sugar jones raging all the time.'

'No Coca-Cola?' Shane asked, dumbfounded. 'I never thought about the hereafter not having Cokes. You'd think they'd have 'em if you asked.'

Then Jody sat up, leaving his brains behind. 'Dammit,' he said, looking down at the bloody mess on the white satin pillow. 'That keeps happening.'

Suddenly Shane woke up. He lay in his bed, staring up at the ceiling. It took him two hours to get back to sleep.

Mark Shephard's office was on the sixth floor of Parker Center-the administrative floor.

Shane and Alexa got off onto the seafoam-green carpet, then walked down the corridor, past the blond- paneled doors, where the four deputy chiefs and the super chief had their offices.

The Detective Services Group, which Shephard commanded, was in the Office of Operations and supervised five detective divisions: Bunko-Forgery, Burglary-Auto Theft, Detective Headquarters, Robbery-Homicide, and the Detective Support Division, which included the controversial Special Investigations Section (SIS), where Jody had been assigned when he took his life.

SIS had come under a lot of fire in the press recently because it was a super-secret section, with a very unusual operating technique. Their critics claimed they would target predicate felons, usually parolees just out of some Level 4 institution. All of their targets had long, violent criminal histories. It was alleged that they would set up surveillance on the scumbag, often lying back and just watching while the ex-con bought illegal street artillery at some gun drop (a fresh felony and parole violation) or hung out making criminal plans with some other 'yoked' and 'sleeved' ex-cell soldier (also a parole violation). They wouldn't bust the target for these violations but would wait until he and his ex-con buddies finally pulled some major Class A felony: a holdup, armed robbery, kidnapping-you name it. The members of SIS would follow the targets away from the crime and exercise their patented car- jamming maneuver. This consisted of speeding up in two or three department plain-wraps, then jamming the target vehicle to the curb… Whereupon six or seven adrenalized, heavily armed cops would do high-risk takedown. As a result, SIS had bought a large percentage of these assholes seats on the ark. Because of the high body count, and growing number of incidents where civilians were accidentally injured or almost killed by stray gunfire, city activists were constantly gunning for the unit, and SIS was always in the pot, on slow boil.

Jody had been in SIS for almost a year before he ate his gun in the division parking lot. A lot of people said it was the pressure of the unit that brought him to suicide, but Shane knew that Jody relished the work there. He said he loved the rush, the adrenalized risk taking. But most of all he loved 'capping assholes.'

They had discussed SIS a month before Jody died. It had turned into one of their few really bad arguments. Shane hated the unit and everything it stood for. SIS was holding court in the street and, to his way of thinking, was little more than a death squad. Shane had left Jody's house moments before the argument got violent.

Alexa's office was down the hall, on seven. She was the XO of the Detective Services Group and the only sergeant officed there. She'd been given a small room, with no window and a shared secretary. As Shane and Alexa waited in her office, they heard Mark Shephard come in and get his coffee. They were told by his secretary that he would see Shane after he went through his mail.

'What'd you tell him about why I wanted to see the file?' Shane asked while they waited.

'I told him the truth, that you saw somebody who looked like Jody on the freeway and that you wanted to set your mind at ease.'

'Jesus, Alexa, I'm in the middle of a ding-a-ling review. That's all I need right now.'

'What else can we tell him?'

'I was gonna say Lauren asked me to look at the file. That she needed some information for his life insurance or something and couldn't bear to see that stuff again.'

'He's not a moron, Shane. He wouldn't go for that. Besides, we can trust him. He's a friend.'

'He's your friend. I barely know him.'

'They don't call him the 'Good Shepherd' for nothing,' she smiled. 'He's good people; he won't blow you in.'

A uniformed lieutenant in her late twenties appeared in the doorway. 'The commander is ready now.'

Mark Shephard was a climber in the department, but he was an unusual mix-a uniform-friendly commander who also had Glass House suck and deft political skills. He reminded Shane a lot of his first Boy Scout leader: tall and good-looking, with a tan complexion and blond hair. Mark Shephard's blue eyes crinkled with what seemed like ever friendly amusement.

'Sorry to keep you waiting, Sergeant,' Shephard said. He wore his blue-steel revolver on his belt in a Yaqui Slide holster, the flap snapped down over a black checkered grip. A lot of Glass House politicians, who had done the minimum amount of street work, packed chrome-plated, custom-gripped artillery- but not the Good Shepherd. This was a no-nonsense piece. He had his coat off, and Shane could see that he stayed fit.

'Thanks for seeing me,' Shane said.

'Any friend of Alexa's… I'm really proud about the ceremony, her getting the MOV. As her commander, I'm honored to be reading the citation this Sunday, before Tony gives her the award.' Tony was the new chief of police- Tony Filosiani-a street cop from New York who had applied for the job of top cop in L. A. after Chief Brewer was arrested. He had been chosen over other candidates because of his record of turning around morale in troubled departments. Los Angeles had had a string of police crises, from Rodney King to the Rampart Division scandal to the Naval Yard disaster.

Chief Filosiani was short and round and talked out of the side of his mouth in New York Brooklynese. As a result of this and his penchant for large pinky rings, he had been dubbed the Day-Glo Dago.

'I guess the best thing is to just take a look at Sergeant Dean's death package,' Shephard said, interrupting his train of thought.

Shane nodded.

Commander Shephard pushed the folders over. Shane sat down in the chair opposite the desk and opened them.

Shane had never seen Jody in death. He'd pictured it in his mind, of course, but his subconscious had neatly sanitized it. His imagination was nothing like the photographs. As he opened the folder, his stomach lurched.

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