Excerpt from California Girl by T Jefferson Parker, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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California Girl

A Novel

by T Jefferson Parker

California Girl
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2004, 352 pages
    Jan 2006, 416 pages

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In this excerpt from California Girl, Nick Becker is a young homicide detective in Southern California working his first murder case.
The victim is beautiful, young Janelle Vonn, who grew up poor not far from the Beckers. Nick knew Janelle as a troubled young girl, a victim of incest at the hands of her criminal brothers, a dethroned beauty queen trying to find her way through the turbulent year of 1968. When her decapitated body is found in an old orange packing house in Tustin, Nick begins an investigation, and a journey, that will change his life and the life of those around him.  This excerpt starts half way through Chapter 11, at page 87 (approximately).

Nick found Lenny Vonn that afternoon. Same house out in Modjeska Canyon. Brother Casey and father Karl were there too, the three of them sitting in the garage drinking beers while Lenny cleaned out the carb on his yellow and orange Panhead. Casey had a Hessians vest on. His hair was almost to his shoulders and matted. Full beard, dark sunglasses even in the cool shade of the garage.
The three of them stopped talking and watched Nick come up the driveway.

"Vonns," he said.

"Beat it, piss face," said Lenny. "Private property."

Casey shifted the cooler he was sitting on so Nick could only see the back of his filthy vest and filthy hair. Under the influence of God knows what, thought Nick. Probably holding. Probably carrying, too.

"'Lo," said Karl. "We already talked to Andy about it."

"I'm sorry," said Nick. "I thought she was a sweet girl."

"Get out of here you fascist pig," said Lenny. "I'm not kidding."

Nick sighed and looked at Karl. "Talk some sense into your stupid son, will you? I'm in charge of it. If anybody's going to get this guy it's going to be me."

"Like that makes you a -- "

"Shuttup, son," said Karl. "Let him talk."

"Just a few questions," said Nick.

For the next half hour Nick held his pen in his right hand and his notebook in the left. Kept them both low so the meat of his right forearm never left the handle of his .45 ACP, snugged against his hip under the tweed sportcoat. Hardly wrote a note. Hardly took his eyes off Casey's back. Casey turned a second and just stared at him, eyes hidden behind the dark glasses.

Nick found out that Janelle had lived in the old Tustin house until she was fifteen, then moved in with "friends." Nobody could come up with a full name for any one "friend", but it might have been a family named Lawson or Langton off of 17th Street. Karl was pretty sure Langton. Nick wondered if it was the Langtons from Tustin high school. Howard a coach and the daughters about Janelle's age.

Nick found out that after he'd arrested Lenny and Casey five years ago on the drugs-and-incest charges, Janelle had started drinking more and taking more pills. When that Tustin Times story came out about the arrests, the names were all changed but some people still figured out who was who. Tustin was small enough for that. Janelle had to give statements and that was hard. She got really sad and withdrawn. When the charges against Lenny and Casey got knocked down to one assault for Casey and possession of illegal substances for Lenny, Janelle got almost suicidal. Then, a local church congregation got her some doctors and gave her a place to live and some money and cleaned her up and got her back in school. Grades went up and one of the Chamber of Commerce guys saw her after class one day when he was picking up his daughter and thought Janelle should enter for Miss Tustin because she was exceptionally beautiful when she was cleaned up and dressed right. And if she was Miss Tustin, she'd get a good college scholarship and some cash and lots of opportunity, and the Vonns weren't exactly rolling in it. He sponsored her.

From California Girl by T Jefferson Parker.  Copyright T Jefferson Parker 2004.  All rights reserved.  This excerpt starts half way through Chapter 11.

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