'Why not?'

'When I talked to him yesterday, I got the impression that Tru couldn't premeditate a decent bowel movement. He's in a perennial daze. A loser with a capital L.'

I finished my pizza, pushed the plate away. 'Why are we talking about this? It doesn't concern me.'

'Yesterday, I take my doubts to Captain Sasso. I tell her I think there's enough here to put a new homicide number on it and reopen the case.'

'Good. Way to go.' I took out my wallet. 'I gotta get back. Let's dutch the bill.'

'Sasso took the case away from me. Told me it was closed.'

I shrugged. 'She's a captain.'

'What does that mean?'

'Captains get to tell detectives what to do,' Secada dead-panned me. 'Don't take my word on that. If you don't believe me, look it up in your manual.'

She gave that a frustrated shake of her head, then plunged on. 'I had already filed a request for a duplicate photo of the bloody shoe print to get the lab work done. I went to pick it up, just to add it to the IO file before I sent it down to records. Then, at end of watch last night, I get called into Captain Sasso's office. It's a regular sixth-floor ambush. There's a commander named Summers, in there along with Deputy Chief Frank Townsend, from operations. They found out I'd been down to pick up the photo after Sasso told me to drop the case. All three of them start bitching me out. 'Why didn't I do what I was told to?' 'Don't I know how to take a direct order?' I try and explain that I was just gathering up loose ends, but they won't listen. They start threatening my career. 'Keep this up and you'll be back on traffic detail.' That kinda thing.'

'So now, in a gesture of friendship, you want to give this glowing red ball to me, is that it?'

'Shane… can I call you Shane?'


'This is a bad investigation. Shit is missing from the file. The right moves weren't made. When I start looking into this, which is my fucking job, I get hijacked by sixth-floor brass and told to drop it immediately or my career goes in the bag. A slight overreaction if you ask me, which makes me wonder what the hell is really going on here.'

'I'm not taking this case!'

'This kid is scared out of his skull. How the hell CDC qualified him for Level Four is a mystery. Somebody's got it in for him. They have him housed with hardened gang killers, for God's sake. I was going to drive up there tomorrow, but after that meeting in Sasso's office I don't think that's a good plan anymore.'

'Are you through eating? I really need to get back.'

'Listen, Scully. Listen to me.'


'This is wrong, okay? It's wrong. I've read about you. I've heard the stories, how you make your own way around here. You aren't afraid of these sixth-floor guys. You've got cajones, homes.'

'Aaawwww, come on. Stop it.'

'Look, I'll work it with you. On the sly. Okay? After hours. This has my Latina blood boiling. I'll risk it if you will. You're the only one who can help me.'

'Yeah? Why's that? And no bullshit about my cajones this time.'

She took a moment and then leaned forward and lowered her voice. 'Your wife is the head of the Detective Bureau. She's tough and smart. If she can cover us, I know we can find out what's really going on. With Sasso on the warpath, we're gonna need her help if we want to survive.'

Chapter 3

What kind of dumb-ass reputation did I have around

here anyway? Was I just the guy you bring your shit flambe to? The guy everybody knows is willing to run headlong into a thrashing machine? I'm supposed to be this dumb-as-dirt kamikaze who'll ignore a direct order from Captain Jane Sasso, the bitch queen of Internal Affairs? Not to mention Keith Summers and Deputy Chief Townsend. I'm supposed to go sailing straight into that trifecta of perfect assholes without any regard for my career or pension? What do these people take me for?

That being the case, what the hell was I doing riding up in the Parker Center elevator with this damn Hickman file under my arm? Why did I agree to take it from Scout Llevar in the PAB garage? What the hell was I thinking?

What I was thinking, I guess, was that Lt. Brian Devine had some serious Scully payback coming. I owed him from fifteen years ago when I was working Valley Patrol, riding in an X-car with Zack Farrell. Back then, Brian Devine was assigned to the Special Investigation Service. SIS had a reputation on the job, and in the press, as being little more than an assassination squad. Their beat was predicate felons-criminals who were unredeemable repeaters.

The unit employed a murderous methodology. They would wait for some hard case to get out of prison and then follow him around while he bought a new gun, or hooked up with his old ex-con buddies. All crimes worthy of a parole violation. But SIS wouldn't P. V. the guy on any of that low-weight stuff. Instead, they'd wait until he and his crew held up a bank or a liquor store. Then they'd swarm in and initiate a shootout, killing everybody. The operative theory being that a dead asshole can't beat the system on a technicality. SIS got a lot of bad press, but also took out a lot of bad guys. Subsequently, the unit was reorganized.

In those days, before Alexa and my son, Chooch, came into my life and gave me a reason to live, I was drunk on the job most of the time, depressed and cynical. My partner, Zack Farrell, had mother-henned me through each watch, keeping me out of the clutches of Internal Affairs.

One Saturday night in November, we happened to stumble into one of those SIS takedowns. It was a mini- mart robbery that turned into the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Three innocent civilians were wounded. Fortunately, none of them died. But when it was over, the incident morphed into a big media stink because witnesses stated that SIS could have affected an arrest without killing the three hold-up men and wounding innocent bystanders. I. A. filed charges and Zack and I were called to testify against Brian Devine and his crew of razorbacks at an Internal Affairs hearing.

Two weeks before the Board of Rights, Devine and his squad rolled up on us one night at three a. M. while Zack and I were cooping behind a liquor store. They pinned us in at the curb and threatened both of our lives, as well as Zack's family.

Back then, Brian Devine was a Policeman II, and there was a definite craziness about him. An unhinged feeling. Uncontrolled violence buzzed dangerously behind his eyes. He was a known gun-fighter. The kind of cop we used to say had Wyatt Earp Syndrome.

He'd rather shoot a suspect, than hook him up. A killer with a badge.

Zack and I decided to hedge our statements at the B. O. R., rather than risk confrontation with a murderous cowboy like Brian Devine. We reasoned that nobody but three hard-case killers had died. Let somebody else step up and put the hat on him. Zack didn't want his wife and young son at risk. I had no family then, but was barely functioning. I was afraid my alcohol abuse would be brought out at the hearing by Devine's defense rep in an attempt to impeach my testimony and ruin my career. So I went along and kept quiet. It was a bad choice, even cowardly. Devine and his crew got off, and to this day, I've never felt right about it.

Back at my desk in Homicide Special, I opened the Hickman file and read through it to kill time. Secada had included copies of Lt. Devine's initial police reports as well as copies of crime scene photos showing the bloody shoe print and Olivia Hickman's body. All of this stuff was third generation, and the pictures were hard to see clearly. She had probably photocopied them hastily before turning the file over to Captain Sasso. I stared at the material, unsure of what to do. It was a file full of leaking nitro. I knew if I messed with this, it would explode in my face.

I had been thinking of trying to get a couple of days away with Alexa. We needed some private time together. Why had I even agreed to read this damn thing? It was nuts. I left it on my desk, got up, and walked into Captain Jeb Calloway's office.

Cal runs Homicide Special. His family came here originally from Haiti. He has a shaved bullet head and is

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