Excerpt from The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Night Gardener

By George Pelecanos

The Night Gardener
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2006,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2007,
    364 pages.

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ONE

THE CRIME SCENE was in the low 30s around E, on the edge of Fort Dupont Park, in a neighborhood known as Greenway, in the 6th District section of Southeast D.C. A girl of fourteen lay in the grass on the side of a community vegetable garden that was blind to the residents whose yards backed up to the nearby woods. There were colorful beads in her braided hair. She appeared to have died from a single gunshot wound to the head. A middle-aged homicide police was down on one knee beside her, staring at her as if he were waiting for her to awake. His name was T. C. Cook. He was a sergeant with twenty-four years on the force, and he was thinking.

His thoughts were not optimistic. There was no visible blood on or around the girl, with the exception of the entrance and exit wounds, now congealed. No blood at all on her shirt, jeans, or sneakers, all of which looked to be brand-new. Cook surmised that she had been undressed and re-dressed after her murder, and her body had been moved and dumped here. He had a sick feeling in his gut and also, he realized with some degree of guilt, a quickening in his pulse that suggested, if not excitement, then engagement. An ID on the body would con- firm it, but Cook suspected that this one was like the others. She was one of them.

The Mobile Crime Lab had arrived.The techs were going through the motions, but there was a kind of listlessness in their movements and a general air of defeat.The transportation of a body away from the murder site meant that there would be few forensic clues.Also, it had rained.When this happened, it was said by some techs that the killer was laughing.

On the edge of the crime scene were a meat wagon and several patrol cars and uniformed officers who had responded to the call for assistance. There were a couple dozen spectators as well. Yellow tape had been strung, and the uniforms were now charged with keeping the spectators and the media back and away from the homicide cops and lab techs doing their jobs. Superintendent of Detectives Michael Messina and Homicide Captain Arnold Bellows had ducked the tape and were talking to each other, leaving Sergeant Cook alone. The public-relations officer, a moley Italian American who appeared frequently on TV, fed the usual to a reporter from Channel 4, a man with suspicious hair whose gimmick was a clipped delivery and dramatic pauses between sentences.

Two of the uniformed officers stood by their cruiser. Their names were Gus Ramone and Dan Holiday. Ramone was of medium height and build. Holiday was taller and blade thin. Both were college dropouts, single, in their early twenties, and white. Both were in their second year on the force, past their rookie status but not seasoned. They had already acquired a distrust of officers above the rank of sergeant but were not yet cynical about the job.

"Look at 'em," said Holiday, nodding his sharp chin in the direction of Superintendent Messina and Captain Bellows. "They're not even talking to T.C."

"They're just letting him do his thing," said Ramone. "The white shirts are afraid of him, is what it is."

T. C. Cook was an average-sized black man in a tan raincoat with a zip-in lining, worn over a houndstooth sport jacket. His dress Stetson, light brown with a chocolate band holding a small multicolored feather, was cocked just so, covering a bald head sided by clown patches of black hair flecked with gray. He had a bulbous nose and a thick brown mustache. His mouth rarely turned up in a smile, but his eyes sometimes shone brightly with amusement.

"The Mission Man," said Holiday. "The brass don't like him, but they sure don't fuck with him. Guy's got a ninety percent closure rate; he can do what he wants."

Copyright © 2006 by George P. Pelecanos

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