Read Cold Hit Online

Authors: Stephen J. Cannell

Tags: #Police, #Crime, #War & Military, #Veterans, #Homeless men - Crimes against, #Vietnam War; 1961-1975, #Mystery fiction, #Los Angeles, #Large type books, #Undercover operations, #Vietnam War, #Police Procedural, #Police murders, #Homeless men, #California, #Vietnam War; 1961-1975 - Veterans - Crimes against, #Crimes against, #Scully; Shane (Fictitious character), #Thrillers, #Military, #Fiction, #Vietnamese Conflict; 1961-1975, #History, #Los Angeles (Calif.), #Serial murders, #Mystery & Detective, #Police - California - Los Angeles, #General

Cold Hit

BOOK: Cold Hit
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Cold Hit

Stephen J Cannell

Book Cover:

Startling Connections Between A 10-Year-Old Cold Case And A String Of Brutal Killings Lead Detective Shane Scully To A Sinister G
overnment conspiracy in this latest thriller.

Every two weeks, a serial killer beats then shoots Vietnam vets in the back of the head, tossing their bodies in the river. Into this explosive mix comes another killing that Shane believes is a copycat. After FBI agents throw him off the case, Shane and his wife go outside the law and deep undercover to unravel a murderous plot with criminal connections high up the ladder of political power.

Chapter
1

2:30 A
. M
. The phone jack-hammered me up out of a tangled dream.

"Detective Scully?" a woman's voice said. "This i
s
Homicide Dispatch. You just caught a fresh one-eighty seven. The DB is on Forest Lawn Drive one block eas
t
of Barham Boulevard, under the bridge.

"In the L
. A
. River again?" I sat up and grabbed my pants.

"Yes sir. The patrol unit is there with the respondents The blues say it looks like another homeless man so the duty desk at Homicide Special told us to give you the roll out."

"Isn't that in Burbank? Have you notified BPD?"

"According to the site map, it's just inside L
. A
., sc there's no jurisdictional problem. I need to give patrol an ETA."

"It's gonna take me forty-five minutes." I started to hang up, but hesitated, and added, "Have you notified my partner, Detective Farrell?"

"We've been trying," she replied carefully, then paused and said, "He's not picking up."

There was doubt and concern in her tone. Damn, thought. Did even the civilian dispatchers in the Communications Division know Zack Farrell had become a lush?

"Keep trying," I said, and hung up.

I rolled out of bed, trying not to wake my wife, dressed quickly in fresh clothes, and went into the bathroom where I did my speed groom: head in the faucet, towel dry, hair comb with fingers, Lavoris rinse, no shave. I checked myself for flaws. There were plenty. I'm in my late-thirties and look like a club fighter who's stayed in the ring a few years too long.

I snapped off the bathroom light, crossed to the bed, and kissed Alexa. Aside from being my wife, she's also my boss and heads the Detective Services Group at LAPD.

"Wazzzzit?" she mumbled, rolling toward me and squinting up through tousled, black hair.

"We got another one."

Coming up to a sitting position immediately alert, she said, "Son of a bitch is six days early."

Even in the half-light, Alexa took my breath away. Dark-eyed, with glossy hair and the high cheekbones of a model, she could have easily made a living on the covers of fashion magazines. Instead, she was down at Parker Center, in the biggest boys club on earth. Alexa was the only staff rank female officer on the sixth floor of the Glass House. She was an excellent commander, and deft at politics, while managing to avoid becoming a politician.

"The L
. A
. River?" she asked.

"Yeah, another homeless guy dumped in the wash near Barham just inside our jurisdiction. I don't know if the fingertips have been clipped off like the other two
,
but since it's almost a week off his timeline, I'
m
praying it's not our unsub."

Unsub stood for Unknown Subject, what lay enforcement called perpetrators who hadn't beer identified. We used to use words like him or his, bu with more and more female perils, it no longer math sense to use a pronoun that eliminated half the population.

"If the vic's homeless and is dumped in the river, the
n
it's our unsub," she said. "I better get downtown. Did dispatch call Tony?"

Police Chief Tony Filosiani was known affectionately by the troops as the Day-Glo Dago, a term earned because he was a kinetic fireplug from Brooklyn. The chief was a fair, hard-nosed leader who was also a pretty good guy when he wasn't causing havoc by reorganizing your division.

"You better check Tony yourself. I'll let Chooch know." I said.

We'd converted our two-car garage into a bedroom for my son when his girlfriend, Delfina, lost her family and came to live with us last year. I stopped there before leaving the house.

Chooch was asleep with our adopted, marmalade cat Franco curled up at his feet. At six-foot-three-and-ahalf, my son was almost too long to fit his standard-sized bed. When I sat on the edge, he rolled over and squinted up at me.

"I'm heading out," I said.

He was used to these late-night callouts and nodded.

Then his eyes focused as he gained consciousness and his look changed to concern. "What about tonight?"

Chooch was being heavily recruited by three Division-One schools for a football scholarship. Pete Carroll from USC was coming over for a coach's visit at six this evening.

"Don't worry, I'll be here. No way I'll miss that. Gimme a hug." I put my arms around him and squeezed. I felt him return the embrace, pulling me close. A warmth and sense of peace spread through me.

I jumped in my new gray Acura and pulled out, wondering where the hell Zack was. I prayed my partner wasn't drunk, propped against a wall in some after-hours joint with his cell phone off. I owed Zack Farrell a lot. He was my partner for a rough two years when I was still in patrol. I was completely disillusioned and close to ending it back then, tick-tocking along, heading toward a dark future. After work I'd fall into my big recliner in front of the tube, swig Stoli in a house littered with empty bottles and pizza boxes, and stare numbly at my flickering TV. By midnight I'd be nibbling my gun barrel, looking for the courage to do the deed.

In the morning my crotch was usually wet with spilled booze, my gun poking a hole in my ass somewhere beneath me. I'd dig it out, stumble to my car, and stagger back to work for another bloodshot tour. I was disheartened and circling the drain.

After two years working X-cars in the West Valle
y t
ogether, Zack left patrol and we hadn't seen much o each other in the years that followed. When Chooch and Alexa entered my orbit they gave new meaning to my life. But the reason the lights were still on whey they arrived, was because Zack Farrell had watched my back and carried my water for those depressing twc years. He refused to let our bosses take me down. All ] had back then was the job, and if I had lost that, I know one night I would have found the strength to end it. It was a debt I'd never be able to square.

I pulled my life together after that and was now a Detective III assigned to Homicide Special on the fourth floor of Parker Center. This was Mecca for the Detective Division because all unusual or high-profile murders picked up on the street were turned over to this elite squad of handpicked detectives.

When I was assigned there, I found to my surprise, that Zack was also in the division. He told me he didn't have a partner at the time so we went to the captain and asked to team up again.

But I hadn't paid enough attention to some troubling clues. I didn't ask why Zack's last two partners had demanded reassignments, or why he'd been in two near-fatal car accidents in six months. I hadn't wondered why he only made it to Detective II, one grade below me, despite two years of job seniority. I looked past these very obvious warning signs, as well as his red eyes and the burst capillaries in his cheeks. I never asked him why he'd gained seventy pounds and couldn't take even one flight of stairs without wheezin
g l
ike a busted windbag. I soon came to realize that I didn't really know him at all.

Two weeks ago I looked up one of his recent partners, an African American named Antoine Jewel. After almost twenty minutes of trying to duck me, Jewel finally leaned forward.

"The man is a ticking bomb," he said. "Stressed out and completely unreliable. Been so drunk since his wife threw him out, he actually backed over his own dog in the driveway. Killed him."

I certainly knew about his messy divorce, but Zack hadn't told me about the dog, which surprised me. Although by then, most of his behavior was hard to explain.

I made a detour so I could shoot up Brand Boulevard through Glendale to the apartment Zack moved into after his wife, Fran, threw him out.

Like so many buildings in Los Angeles, the Californian Apartments were ersatz Mexican. Two stories of tan stucco with arched windows and a red-tiled roof--Ole. I could see Zack's maroon department-issued Crown Victoria in the garage, but his personal car, a white, windowless Econoline van, was drunk-parked, blocking most of the driveway, which would make it impossible for his neighbors to leave in the morning.

I walked toward his downstairs unit and found the front door ajar, stepped inside and called his name loudly, afraid he would come out of an alcoholic stupor, pull the oversized square-barreled cannon he recentl
y s
tarted packing, and park a hollow point in my hollow head.

"Zack? Hold your fire. It's Shane."

Nothing.

The place had the odor of neglect. A musty mildew stench tinged with the acrid smell of vomit. The room were littered with empty bottles and fast-food wrap pers. Faded snapshot memories of my old life flickered on a screen in the back of my head.

I found him in the kitchen, out cold, sprawled on the floor. Zack was almost six-three and well over three hundred pounds, with a round Irish face and huge gelatinous forearms shaped like oversized bowlin pins.

He was face down on the linoleum. It looked as ii he'd been sitting at the dinette table, knocked down one too many scotch shooters, passed out, then hit the table tipping it as he rolled.

How did I deduce this? Crime scenes are my thing and this was definitely a crime. There were condiment scattered on the floor and blood under Zack's right cheek, courtesy of a dead-drunk bounce when he hit.

"Hey, Zack." I removed his gun and rolled him over His nose was broken, laying half-against his right cheek. Blood dripped from both nostrils. I got a dish towel, went to the sink, wet it, then knelt down am started mopping his face, trying to clean him up, brink him out of it.

"Fuck you doing here?" he said, opening his eyes. "We got a fresh one. Vic's in the L
. A
. wash just lik
e t
he other three. Dispatch couldn't raise you."

I helped him sit up. He put both catcher's mitt--sized hands up to his face and started polishing his eye sockets. "Let's go," I said.

"Isn't our guy. Too early."

Our unsub was on a two-week clock and this was only day eight. But sometimes a serial killer will go through a period of high stress and that pressure will cause them to change the timetable.

Zack winced in pain as he discovered his nose was bent sideways and in the wrong place. "Who broke my goddamn nose?"

"You did."

He touched it gingerly and winced again.

"You want me to straighten it? I've done mine four times."

"Okay, I guess." He turned toward me and I studied it. Then I put a hand on each side of his busted beak, and without warning, pushed it sharply to the left toward the center of his face.

I heard cartilage snap and he let out a gasp. I leaned closer to check it.

"Perfect. Gonna hafta send you a bill for my standard rhinoplasty, but at least you qualify for the partner's discount." I helped him up. "Now let's go. We gotta make tracks."

"It's fuckin' killin' me," he whined, then started with half a dozen other complaints. "I ain't all together yet. My eyes are watering. Can't see. Gotta get another coat. This one's got puke on it." He looked around th
e k
itchen like he was seeing it for the first time. "How' I get here? You bring me home?"

"Stop asking dumb-ass questions," I snapped. "W gotta go. The press is gonna be all over this. I'm twenty minutes late already." Okay, I was pissed.

While he changed his coat and tried to stem his nose bleed, I moved his van. Ten minutes later he was in the front seat of my Acura leaning against the passenger door. He had twisted some Kleenex and stuffed a plug up each nostril. The dangling ends were turning pink with fresh blood.

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