behind her, looking down at the dead African-American gang leader as he was flopped over. His face and chest looked like meat salad, shredded and destroyed by the high-powered ordnance that had poured into him at close range.

Stone had been a big man, six-five and over three hundred pounds. He had made a large target and most of the hits were above the waist. The body's surface blood was dried and the limbs flopped lifelessly, indicating that rigor mortis had already come and gone-something that takes at least six hours. Second-generation maggots were nesting on and under the body. A maggot generation was usually around eight hours. Because of these two factors, Shane judged the murder to be between six and sixteen hours old. Despite his size, the vic had been blown right out of his expensive yellow crocs… crocodile shoes were a gang status symbol in the 'hood.

Near the body was a cardboard sign, the message written in large block letters. It was just being bagged by the CSIs.

'Snitches get stitches and end up in ditches,' Shane read the sign softly, and Alexa, who had not heard him come up behind her, turned and saw him.

'Hi,' she said.

'They weren't kidding around, were they?' he said, still looking at the mutilated body. 'Put enough lead in him to open a strip mine.'

'So far, over a hundred rounds counted-that's five banana clips, at least.'

'If you try to shoot at the king, it's imperative you don't miss,' Shane observed, then added, 'You got a buncha 'hood-rats cruising by on Tujunga. I spotted a lotta work cars and a few motherships.'

'Yeah, it's been like that since I got here. If this is Stone, it's a big one. It's gonna change everything in South Central.'

Then one of the lab techs came up and stood beside Alexa. He was a Japanese guy named Daniel Katsumota. Shane had dealt with him a few times over the years-a good scientist.

'We're gonna pull him outta here, Lou, unless your people want to take any last pictures.'

'Check with Ben and Al first, but I think we're finished.

Thanks,' Alexa said, and they started to load the body onto the gurney.

'I can get out of here now,' she said to Shane.

He waited while she went to talk to the two homicide dicks who had caught the squeal and were now the primaries on Stone's murder. Then Shane and Alexa walked back down the row of trees to the makeshift police parking area. Across the street was another mothership-a Lincoln Town Car with at least five guys inside.

'Doesn't look good,' he said.

They got into the Acura and pulled out of the grove heading back to the 210. It would be a long ride, picking their way from freeway to freeway, all the way to Venice Beach.

'That guy sure looked like Stone. He's the right size,' Shane said to break the tension in the car. Alexa seemed worried, and had fallen into a thoughtful silence.

'We can't make a final I. D. until we get his dental records,' she said. 'But his wallet was in his pocket and the CRASH unit had pictures of him from an old arrest… same death's-head ring, same neck jewelry, same tatts. It's Stone.'

'Wonder who got him?'

'Bloods… had to be. But somebody close to him probably set him up. He was too careful to get ambushed. That's why he lasted so long.'

'Right,' Shane said, 'so that means a full gang war between the Crips and the Bloods to control his drug turf.'

'I've got the CRASH unit on a twenty-four, twenty-four,' she said. That was twenty-four hours on, twenty-four hours off. It basically added a third more manpower to the street without increasing personnel, but it burned out the troops, so it was only stopgap at best. 'I'm upping patrol units in the heavy Crip and Blood territories, the Sixties and One Twenty-nine South, where Stone's Front Street Crips hang. I've got the Hoover Street brands covered, but it's such a large area, it's almost hopeless.'


More silence. Then like a beautiful setter coming out of a deep lake, Alexa pulled herself up from her funk, shook the water off, and fixed a smile on her face.

'So how was the rest of the party?'

'Good,' Shane said, keeping his eyes on the road. 'Were Nora and Farrell upset I left early?'

'Uh-oh, gee, I don't think so…'

' 'Gee, you don't think so'?' She was looking at him now, scrutinizing, already smelling a rat.

'What I mean is, they were so busy with their Hollywood friends, it was hard to tell.'

'Shane, what happened? Did you do something?'

'Did I do something? Not much, really, unless you count knocking Michael Douglas into the pool and grabbing Catherine Zeta-Jones, tying her to the pool chair with my belt, and taking my pleasure with her. Everybody seemed to think it was good fun,' he joked.

'Don't dodge. What happened? Something happened.'

How she could do that still mystified him. What on earth had he said that had tipped her? He hadn't even been looking at her. She'd done it off one sentence and some body language. No wonder she'd been such a great detective.

'Well, something sorta happened at the end, while I was getting out of there.'

'What?' She had turned to face him now, staring at him in the driver's seat of the Acura, face lit only by passing freeway signs.

'I want to know. Please, Shane, Nora is very important to me.'

'Well, on my way out, I was going through the pool house and some guests were in there smoking Cohibas.'

'Oh, my God. You didn't bust them for having contraband cigars?'

'Do I look like a drooling idiot?'

'Okay, go on.'

'They didn't know I was there, then some guy asked Farrell if he was getting Nora to sign a prenup. And Farrell said he didn't have to… that he'd had two wives already, and when he got tired of them, they both conveniently died of food poisoning.'

She sat there and looked at him. He didn't have the nerve to return her gaze, so he kept his eyes front and center, carefully navigating the transition onto the 110.

'That's it?' Alexa asked.

'Yep. That's it. Except when he saw me standing in the back of the room, he got all froggy. Told me it was just a joke, not to get my handcuffs out.'

'That's what it was, a joke. He hasn't had any ex-wives. He's never been married before.'

'You sure?'

'That's what Nora said.'

'Well, then we've got nothing to worry about.' 'Honey, it was just a joke.'

'A bad joke. It didn't go over too well, even with his Cohiba-smoking buddies.'

'Shane, don't mess around and start looking into this…'

'Think I got too much spare time on my hands?' She didn't answer, but she was scowling.

'No. Come on… It just hit me kinda funny is all. But I'm going back on duty in two days and I've put in for Special Crimes, so if I get it, I'm gonna be real busy. No time to go digging up bodies in Farrell's backyard.'

'It was just a joke. Say it. Say: Alexa, it was just a joke.'

'I thought it was a murder confession, but I get easily confused… so you're probably right.'

'Say it.'

' `Alexa, it was just a joke.' '

'And you'll forget it?' she asked. 'Promise.'

'Already forgotten,' he answered.

When they got home, Chooch was in his room. He heard the garage door close and came out carrying a sheaf of papers with a pencil between his teeth.

'Geez, I'm glad you guys are back. I gotta get this essay out by Friday. It's a first draft for my college

Вы читаете Hollywood Tough
Добавить отзыв


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

Отметить Добавить цитату