Excerpt of Valley of Bones by Michael Gruber
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The cop happened to look up at just the right instant or he
would have missed it, not the actual impalement, but the fall itself. It took
him a disorienting second to realize what he was seeing, the swelling black mass
against the white stone and glass of the hotel facade, and then it was finished,
with a sound that he knew he would carry to his grave.
After that, he took a minute or so to sit on the bumper of his
car with his head down low, so as not to pollute the crime scene with his own
vomit, and then reported the event on his radio. He called it in as a 31, which
was the Miami PD code for a homicide, although it could have been an accident or
a jumper. But it felt like a homicide, for reasons the cop could not
then explain. While he waited for the sirens, he looked up at the row of
balconies that made up the face of the Trianon Hotel. The thought briefly
crossed his mind that he ought to go and check the guy out to make sure that he
was actually dead, that perhaps the wrought iron fleur-de-lis spearheads
protruding from the man's neck, chest, and groin had missed all the vital organs
in their paths.
He was a dutiful officer, but this was his first fresh corpse,
and he decided not to investigate more closely than a couple of yards, telling
himself that it was better not to contaminate the crime scene. The corpse had
been a good-looking guy, he thought, leather-dark skin but aquiline features:
hooked nose, thin lips, a little spade beard. There was something foreign about
the face, although the officer could not have said what it was.
Turning away from it with some relief, he inspected the facade
of the hotel, noting that there were three vertical columns of balconies
adorning the twelve floors of the building, which was capped by a copper roof
styled after a French château. That was the theme of the Trianon Hotel, as much
French as would fit: besides the roof, there were gilt cornices, coats of arms,
New Orleans-style wrought iron on the balconies, and, of course, fleurs-de-lis
on the iron fence that surrounded the south face of the property. People were
coming out of the hotel now, frightened men in the hotel's white livery, a few
guests from the lobby. A woman's shriek recalled the cop to his duty, and he
herded them all back into the cool interior.
A broad man in a double-breasted cream suit accosted him at this
point and announced himself as the manager. He knew who it was, a guest, 10 D,
and gave a name. The cop wrote it down in his notebook. The manager departed,
dabbing at his mouth with a handkerchief, and the cop resumed his study of the
facade, although his eye kept drifting over to the victim. The flies arrived and
got to their buzzing tasks, and shortly after that an ambulance pulled up. The
paramedics emerged, took in the scene, declared the man officially dead, made
wiseass paramedic remarks, and went back to their bus to wait in the cool of the
AC. The crime scene van arrived, and the CSUs started to assemble their various
implements of investigation and their cameras, while making some of the same
cracks (that's what I call piercings; sorry, he can't come to the phone right
now) that the paramedics had made, and after a little while an unmarked white
Chevy pulled up, and out of it came a neatly built, caramel colored man, in a
beautifully cut gray-green silk and linen suit. The cop sighed. Of course it had
to be him.
"Morales?" asked the man. The cop nodded, and the man
held out his hand to be shaken, saying, "Paz."
"Uh-huh," said Morales. He knew who Jimmy Paz was, as
did everyone on the Miami PD, as did everyone in Metropolitan Dade County who
owned a television. Morales had not, however, met him professionally until now.
Both men were first-generation Cuban immigrant stock, but the patrolman
considered himself white, like 98 percent of the Cuban migration to America, and
Paz was not white, yet also undeniably Cuban. It was disconcerting, even without
the tug of racism, which Morales was conscious of trying to resist.
From Valley of Bones by Michael Gruber. Copyright
Michael Gruber 2005. Published by HarperCollins. Used by permission.