His throat constricted. It was worse than he expected. In the pictures, Jody was sprawled in the front seat of a department plainwrap.

The details were graphic: the puckered blood-drained lips, the huge hole blasting away half of the back of his head, the green flies feasting on heavy arterial ooze. Shane could see Jody's gun, the big Israeli Desert Eagle he'd been using at the end. The.44 magnum automatic was light in weight but 30 percent bigger than the old army.45. It dangled in death, at the end of Jody's broken finger, like a child's forgotten toy. The recoil had obviously snapped his index finger, and as a result, the gun hadn't flown from his hand as was normal in most suicides.

Shane went through the autopsy and crime-scene pictures carefully, forcing himself to study them: Jody slumped in the front seat leaking fluid fatally; Jody on the coroner's table. The clinical labeling screamed from the bottom of each photo: anterior angle, medial angle, proximal and midline photos; right side, left side, overhead. Jody, naked on a steel autopsy tray, bathed in sterile lighting and antiseptic brutality.

Finally Shane went to the autopsy report itself. The ME's phrases jumping up, posting themselves forever on his memory: 'massive trauma,' 'self-inflicted gunshot wound,' 'destroyed distal portion of the cerebellum.' Then the death terms: 'cadaveric spasm,' 'adipocere,' and 'acute cyanosis.'

Shane read it all, finally closing the folder.

He looked up at Commander Mark Shephard, who had turned his attention to the mail on his desk but now felt the gaze and lifted his friendly blue eyes to meet Shane's. 'Well?' the Good Shepherd said. 'What do you think?'

'I must have been wrong,' Shane answered softly.

Chapter 7


THE PHONE SCREAMED in his ear. He clambered up out of a restless sleep. Where's the damned clock? What the fuck…? What time is it? Focusing now on the lit dial, trying to read it: a few minutes after two in the middle of the night. You gotta be kidding. He grabbed the phone, fumbling it out of the cradle.

'Yeah?' his voice raspberried.

'How they hangin', bro?' Jody's voice was grinning, having fun with this back-from-the-grave moment.

Shane bolted upright in bed, his heart immediately slamming with adrenaline, banging unevenly, a four-barrel engine with a bad cam. He was gripping the receiver hard, his knuckles turning white, his palm instantly slick on the instrument. 'Jody? Is this Jody?'

'Back from the Great Department in the Sky. Thought you and I needed a little night music,' his term for the late-night talks they had during sleepovers as kids.

Shane was wide awake in less than thirty seconds; sleep was quickly broomed away like corner cobwebs. He swung his feet off the bed. Got them down onto the floor for stability.

'Why?… Why?… Why did you do it? Why did you make us think you were dead? I cried, man. It really fucked me up.'

'Hey, it's just police work, Salsa. I'm doin' a job.' Jody had nicknames for everyone; nicknames were a 'Jody' thing. He'd called Shane 'Salsa' or 'Hot Sauce' almost from the beginning, because in the old days when they were children, Shane had a short fuse and often couldn't control his temper.

'You're still on the job?' Shane said, trying to pin down that fact. 'With the department?'

'Yeah, but you didn't hear it here. I'm working UC.'

'You're undercover?' Astounded, still trying to find the edges of it. In his heart he had known that Jody was alive from that first moment he saw him on the freeway last Friday, but hearing his voice was different-spooky, surreal.

'It's a big laydown, so a few of my old road dogs and me been bustin' moves and doin' doors on some serious assholes.' 'Doin' doors'

was an old term referring to cops stealing from drug houses but more recently had come to mean any activity where cops cheated to get busts. Shane took a deep breath to settle down. It was unbelievable… Jody on the phone, in the middle of the night, talking trash, sounding wired. 'We found out there are a few moles in the Clerical Division who would've given us away if we got regular paychecks. This is a big hustle, Salsa. Lots of chips on the table. We needed to work the bust from the inside.'

'What bust?'

'Hey, come on… You know better than to ask that.'

'Jody… I… Look, Jody, I have to see you.'

'Ain't gonna happen. Can't happen. Reason I called is, I know you'll pull on this thread till you unravel the whole sweater, and that could fuck me up. You gotta chill, brother. You gotta leave this behind. Forget you saw me. Don't 'plex up on me, Salsa.'

'Plex up'-a prison term meaning to get complex. Why is he using con lingo?

'Does Lauren know?' Shane asked.

'No, I cut a deal with my CO… Told 'em she wasn't solid… She'd give us up. I needed to get out of that. It took a while, and I had to pull some juice downtown, but in the end, the department went along. She thinks I'm dead.' But he said all of this slowly, as if considering it a word at a time. Shane figured it could mean anything.

'She's not doing well, Jody. She's gained weight. She's become an afternoon drinker.'

'Hey, Salsa, shit happens. I made a mistake with her. I thought it was love, but it was just my dick. She's okay. She's got my police pension. I got a medical pass on the suicide. They said it was caused by psychiatric stress, so it protects my death benefits. 'At's the best I can do. After this job, I'm gating out… Gonna get small, shake off the drag line.'

More prison lingo. 'Gating out' was release from custody. 'Drag lines' were prisoner restraints, linking cons together.

'So, Shane… I called 'cause I didn't want you to mess me up. A lot of people could get fucked unless you keep this to yourself. I hadda eat some shit to get my people to stay frosty. A few guys wanted to send you some GBH.' More prison talk: 'grievous bodily harm.'

'Jody, is this sanctioned?' he heard himself ask. But he knew it didn't matter how Jody answered. He knew he couldn't trust anything he said.

'I'm not working off my badge, Hot Sauce. I'm just working off the books. Do yourself a favor and forget you saw me. Forget we were both on the 405. It didn't happen. Do that, and everything stays right side up.'

'And if I don't?'

'Don't even suggest it, man. I Jodyized this deal! Make me a hero with my troops. I told 'em you'd see it my way-our way. I told 'em you were good people. And, Salsa, don't tell anybody about this call. With your current problems, those squints in the Glass House are gonna black-flag what's left of your career.'

'Where's Carl Medwick?' Shane asked suddenly.

'How the fuck should I know. Home in bed, I guess.'

'He disappeared the day before I saw you.'

'Now you're acting like a complete asshole. If you keep this up, it won't come out good.'

'So you're threatening me now?' Shane said, his voice turning cold with anger and betrayal.

'I'm just passing along information. Use it, or don't.'

Then there was a long, tension-filled pause. Shane could hear Jody breathing. Both of them were waiting to see what would happen next. Finally, it was Jody who broke the silence.

'So, that's all I wanted to tell you. Miss you, man. Sorry we can't lay in together.'

'Lay in'-prison lingo for a meeting.

'I'll see ya, Salsa. You're still my catcher, like always. Dig this pitch outta the dirt for me. Go Pirates!' And then he was gone.

Shane sat on the corner of his bed for a long time, stunned. The receiver finally started beeping in his hand. He dropped the handset back in the cradle, got up, walked out, and sat in one of the white metal chairs in the backyard. He felt the cool ocean breeze drying the sweat on his face. He stared at the moonlit canals, trying to sort

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