container to squint and turn a shoulder toward shore. Boldt wore his hair trimmed short, which didn’t quite fit with his otherwise professorial look—the wrinkled khakis and favorite tweed jacket worn threadbare at the elbows and sleeves. His tight jaw and erect posture belonged to a man who meant business. Few people interrupted him when he was locked in thought, eyes distant and yet strangely focused. He deservedly owned the respect of all who worked with him, due to his attention to detail and dedication to procedure that many in law enforcement preached, but few practiced. He occasionally spoke at law enforcement seminars and conferences and at graduate criminology courses on the role of homicide victims as witnesses. ‘‘The Victim Speaks,’’ his talk on the subject, had been transcribed and posted on the Internet.

Boldt grumbled to LaMoia about how long it was taking the Coast Guard to recover the container. The cries and screams continued. Patience was running thin.

LaMoia had stood at Boldt’s side for the last seven years, working in his shadow, studying his every movement, then rising in rank to take not only the man’s stripes but even his desk and office cubicle.

LaMoia wore his jeans pressed, his shirts crisp, his hair perfect and his cowboy boots gleaming. He was focused less on Boldt and more on his boots—brand new boots that had cost him a month’s salary. This salt spray was beginning to really piss him off. He kept rising on tiptoe to pull his boots out of the puddled water.

‘‘Piano sounded great tonight,’’ LaMoia said.

‘‘Are you kissing my butt?’’ Boldt asked. ‘‘What are you after, John?’’

‘‘I want to keep these new boots dry,’’ LaMoia confessed.

‘‘So get out of here. I’ll cover.’’ As a lieutenant, Boldt was expected to have no active field responsibilities. Technically, the case was LaMoia’s, he was lead detective, though under Boldt’s direct supervision. Both men understood this. Boldt resented it. Despite his two decades of experience he was expected in the conference room, not the street. Under a different captain, he might have been given more latitude, but Sheila Hill paid attention to rank and procedure. A ladder-climber and well connected in the department, Hill was not someone to cross. ‘‘Make it quick,’’ Boldt said. ‘‘They’re going to get this thing up and open any minute now.’’ LaMoia was famous within the department for his casual attitude and his willingness to stop and chat with any and every woman he encountered.

‘‘Okay, Sarge.’’ LaMoia still referred to Boldt by his former rank. He jogged back toward his fire-engine red 1968 Camaro and the police line established to hold back the press from where television news crews were already shooting.

The detective left. Briefly the field belonged to Boldt.

 ‘‘Polly’s broken down in traffic. She’s not going to make it. We need you.’’

‘‘Slow down, Jimmy,’’ Stevie McNeal said into the phone.

Jimmy Corwin was among the station’s best producers, but he worked in a constant state of high anxiety. Stevie found his energy infectious, even over the phone. He was proposing she take a live segment for Polly. As an anchorwoman, Stevie picked her reporting

work carefully.

‘‘What are we looking at?’’ she asked.

‘‘We’ve got a shipping container found by the Coast Guard. Human cries coming from inside. Channel Seven is already on-air. We need you on-camera in the next ten minutes.’’

‘‘You’ll post it up on the feed.’’

‘‘Sure we will.’’

‘‘I need a promise on that, Jimmy.’’ The national feed could bring offers from the larger market.

‘‘When we see the piece, we’ll determine—’’

‘‘Now! You commit now or I—’’

‘‘Okay. Agreed.’’

‘‘And it’s my follow-up, my story,’’ Stevie negotiated.

‘‘It’s going to mean original segments for us, not just the five o’clock leftovers.’’

The phone crackled and the window flashed blue with the light of an approaching thunder cell. She said, ‘‘Tell the crew I’m on my way.’’

The Coast Guard crew had attached inflatables to stabilize the container while it was being towed to shore. Those same inflatables currently kept the steel box afloat.

As the cries from inside continued, swimmers climbed up and connected the cables to all four corners. A supervisor signaled the all clear and the crane’s mighty diesel growled loudly. The cable lurched and snugged tight as the slack was removed, and a pillar of slate gray exhaust rose from the crane’s rusted stack. The container’s sunken end lifted from the black water that spilled from every crack, and the cries grew sharper, splitting the air and running chills down Boldt’s spine. A cheer rang out from the workmen as the container cleared the water altogether, suspended and dangling as the crane moved it to dry land. Boldt was not among those cheering, his nose working overtime. He pulled out his notebook and marked the time. Dead body, he wrote alongside the numbers.

A man stepped through the police line, the officers clearing the way as he displayed his ID. Broad- shouldered, he exuded a confidence that advertised the sports he’d played in college, while the inexpensive suit clearly said ‘‘federal agent.’’ Brian Coughlie introduced himself as the INS investigator in charge. Shaking his hand was like taking hold of a stick.

Boldt didn’t know many agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and said so. He added, ‘‘Glad to have your help on this one.’’

‘‘What you’re going to find in there, once they get the doors open, is anywhere from fifteen to seventy illegals. More than likely, all of the adults are Asian women in their teens and twenties: better for the sweatshops and whorehouses, which is where they all would have ended up. These container shipments have been a thorn in our side for over a year now. Glad to finally have one with something inside.’’

‘‘Part of that something is dead,’’ said Boldt, who was a little put off by Coughlie’s arrogance. Boldt touched his own nose, answering Coughlie’s quizzical expression.

‘‘You think?’’ Coughlie asked. ‘‘These things arrive pretty damn ripe, I’ll tell you what.’’

‘‘Dead,’’ Boldt ventured. ‘‘And that makes the others in there witnesses.’’

‘‘You already jockeying for position, Lieutenant?’’ Coughlie asked calmly. ‘‘A reminder, lest you forget: These are illegal immigrants, so my boss is calling this ours. I pick ’em up and I deliver them to federal detention. You want to visit our house and have a chat with them, we got no problem with that. But your boss will have to clear it with my boss. Okay? Meantime, these visitors—the live ones, anyway—take a trip on federal tires, not the local variety.’’

‘‘And the dead ones?’’

‘‘Yours to keep,’’ Coughlie said. ‘‘That okay with you?’’

‘‘So long as you keep them apart from your general population. I don’t want them hearing stories, getting coached.’’

‘‘We’ll clean ’em up, shave ’em, and give ’em their own custom chain-link cage,’’ Coughlie agreed. ‘‘No problemo. Barracks K. Our detention facility is part of what used to be Fort Nolan. You know Fo-


‘‘I know of it.’’

‘‘You golf?’’

‘‘No,’’ Boldt answered.

‘‘Too bad. They’ve got a great eighteen out there. Maintained courtesy of the taxpayer. You and me—we’d a been smarter to be military. Can’t beat that retirement package.’’

LaMoia approached at a run. Boldt made the introductions. LaMoia shook hands with Coughlie but on his face was the expression of someone who’d picked up a sticky bottle of honey by mistake.

‘‘We’ve got the turf problems all worked out,’’ Boldt said, easing LaMoia’s concerns.

‘‘Somebody’s dead,’’ LaMoia remarked.

‘‘Ahead of you on that,’’ Boldt said.

LaMoia reached into his coat pocket and brought out a pair of plastic gloves and a tube of Vicks VaporRub.

Boldt accepted the tube after LaMoia had smeared a line under his nose. He passed it to Coughlie, who did the same. Some things a person couldn’t live without.

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