outers like John lived in boxes, Alices, or doorways on the Row.

'I'm gonna take you home with me,' I finally admitted. 'You get one night in my garage, then we'll figure out what to do with you in the morning.'

'I ain't sleepin' in no garage,' he complained, pulling at his shirt. 'This here look like a Texaco uniform?'

'It's okay. I'll put a cardboard box in there so you'll be more comfortable.'

'You run a man down, don't say shit, or I'm sorry. Then you insults me and makes me sleep in some cold-ass garage 'stead a one a them sweet SROs.'

I took him home, thinking this may be the dumbest move in my entire police career. As we pulled into the driveway in front of my Venice Canal house I immediately saw that Alexa's car wasn't there. It was now almost nine-thirty. I wondered if maybe she had gone to the market and had left me a note inside.

As we got out of the car, Jonathan Bodine looked around despairingly. 'I spent a month down here once. It sucks. Got rats by this canal big as fuckin' meat loafs.'

I let it go, went to the front door, unlocked it, and walked into the entry hall. There was no note from Alexa on the floor by the door where we always left them. All the lights were out. I started flipping switches.

Jonathan Bodine wandered in behind me. 'Man, talk about four walls and a chair.'

Here was this guy who lived in a cardboard box, standing in my living room, dissing my classic canal house. I swallowed my irritation and said, 'There's a shower in my son's room. Come on.' I led him through the summer heat of the house and turned on the central air. I could already smell him and didn't want that stink to get caught in the curtains.

I turned on the lights in Chooch's bedroom. It was empty because my son was beginning his freshman year at USC on a football scholarship. His girlfriend, Delfina, who had come to live with us after her cousin died, was visiting relatives in Mexico and wasn't due back till the end of the summer. The house felt empty. Jonathan Bodine moved up and stood in the doorway behind me.

'You'll sleep in here,' Ltold him.

'Thought you said it was a garage.'

'It was. We converted it into a room for my son. The shower's in there. Take off those clothes. I'll wash them and send that coat to the cleaners.'

'Now you finally talkin',' he grinned.

He peeled off the coat and started to unbutton his shirt, kicked off his soiled boots, then dropped his trousers and stood there in his skivvies. Without his clothes, he seemed even skinnier than before. He had light coffee- colored skin peeking out from under a layer of street grime. Some kind of African tribal tattoo wrapped his small bicep. He walked toward the bathroom wearing only his boxers, which were yellowed with age, or urine. God knows what.

'Kick the boxers out through the door. There's shampoo and soap in the shower.'

He nodded and started inside.

'And Bodine… if you think you're gonna steal anything out of this house, remember I'm a cop and I make my living shooting people.'

'Already run me down. Might as well shoot me, too.'

He slammed the door. A minute later I heard the shower running.

I turned around and saw Franco, our adopted marmalade cat, standing behind me sniffing the air like somebody had farted. His yellow eyes were packed with distrust and his ears were back, giving me attitude. His look said, 'Why on earth did you bring that home?' Good question.

I went through Chooch's dresser and found a red Harvard-Westlake sweatshirt, jeans, a belt, some clean underwear, and socks. I put them on the floor outside the bathroom door, picked up Bodine's dirty clothes, and carried them out to the laundry porch. I loaded the washer and turned it on, all the while wondering where the hell Alexa was.

I tried calling her cell, but again it went straight to voice mail. I gave Franco fresh water and filled his dish with dried food.

Then the phone in the living room rang.

Chapter 4

'It's Tommy Sepulveda,' a voice crackled through the telephone.

'What's up, Tom?' I said.

Tommy Sepulveda and Raphael Figueroa were a detective team that worked with me at Homicide Special. Since Sepulveda Boulevard and Figueroa Street are two main drags in Los Angeles, it was inevitable that some wise guy in personnel would find a way to put them together. Sepulveda was Italian; Figueroa, a second-generation Mexican-American. They were good dicks and had a cubicle two over from me and Sally Quinn, my incoming partner. I remembered seeing that Sepulveda and Figueroa were next up on the roll-out board when I had left the office for the jail at ten this morning.

'Listen, Shane, you need to get up to the top of Mulholland Drive right now,' Tommy said.

'I'm not back in rotation yet. I'm breaking in a new partner next week.'

'We just got an APE case. You need to get up here now!' He sounded tense and all of my alarms started flashing. An APE case was sixth-floor speak for Acute Political Emergency.

'What's going on?'

'I'm calling you on a radio hook-up. My cell doesn't work up here. I don't want this out on an open channel. Just move it.'

'On my way.' I hung up and wondered what the hell to do with Jonathan Bodine. If I left him here alone, there wouldn't be anything left in the house when I got back. The shower had stopped running in Chooch's bathroom, so I went looking for him. He was in the kitchen foraging in my refrigerator, his hair still wet, wearing a towel wrapped around his skinny hips. He was holding a leg of lamb in his right hand, gnawing it right off the bone. In his left hand he had an open bottle of table wine.

'We gotta go.'

'I'm having dinner.'

'No, you're not.'

I rushed into Chooch's room and grabbed the clothes I'd laid out for him, snatched his grimy boots off the floor, and hurried back into the kitchen, throwing the bundle on the dinette table.

'Put 'em on. We're leaving.' My stomach was balled up in a knot. There was only one reason I could come up with why Sepulveda would call me out on an APE case. It had something to do with my missing wife.

'Let's go!' I yelled, and grabbed him. The towel came off his hips and fell to the floor. He dropped the bottle of wine and it rolled under a chair and started emptying on the floor. I threw a pair of Chooch's undies at him, still holding his skinny arm.

'Leggo a me!'

'Bodine, I can take you out of here naked in cuffs if that's the way you want it. You got six seconds or less to get dressed.'

'I got rights, asshole. I got a broken wrist courtesy a your shitty driving.'

I pulled out my Beretta and aimed it at him in an elaborate bluff. 'How 'bout I just drop you and throw you in the canal?'

'Okay, okay. Calm down,' he shrieked. Then he put down the leg of lamb and started jumping on one leg, trying to poke his left foot into the shorts. His plaster cast made it difficult to grasp the undies, but he finally made it. Then he put on the sweatshirt and shimmied into the jeans, which were two times too big because Chooch is six-five, two-thirty, and Bodine was a runt. Five-foot-nothing and a hundred and fifteen. There was room for two of him in there, but we weren't going to a fashion show, so I could care less. I handed him his boots and a belt, grabbed him by the collar of the sweatshirt and yanked him out of the kitchen.

He made a grab for the leg of lamb but missed, and the bone skidded across the floor and stopped under the table. I left it there, a few feet away from the emptying bottle of wine.

I have a Kojak light in my glove box and a siren under the hood. You can't go Code 3 in L. A. without

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