They called me to view the body on a wet spring morning when darkness webbed my
house. Some nights are like that; more now than before. Picture the World's
Greatest Detective, reluctant subject of sidebar articles in the Los Angeles
Times and Los Angeles magazine, stretched on his couch in a redwood
A-frame overlooking the city, not really sleeping at 3:58 A.M. when the phone
rang. I thought it was a reporter, but answered anyway.
"This is Detective Kelly Diaz with LAPD. I apologize about the time, but I'm trying to reach Elvis Cole."
Her voice was coarse, reflecting the early hour. I pushed into a sitting position and cleared my throat. Police who call before sunrise have nothing to offer but bad news.
"How'd you get my number?"
I had changed my home number when the news stories broke, but reporters and cranks still called.
"One of the criminalists had it or got it, I'm not sure. Either way, I'm sorry for calling like this, but we have a homicide. We have reason to believe you know the deceased."
Something sharp stabbed behind my eyes, and I swung my feet to the floor.
"Who is it?"
"We'd like you to come down here, see for yourself. We're downtown near Twelfth and Hill Street. I can send a radio car if that would help."
The house was dark. Sliding glass doors opened to a deck that jutted like a diving platform over the canyon behind my house. The lights on the opposite ridge were murky with the low clouds and mist. I cleared my throat again.
"Is it Joe Pike?"
"Pike's your partner, right? The ex-cop with the sunglasses?"
"Yes. He has arrows tattooed on the outside of his delts. They're red."
She covered the phone, but I heard muffled voices. She was asking. My chest filled with a growing pressure, and I didn't like that she had to ask because asking meant maybe it was.
"Is it Pike?"
"No, this isn't Pike. This man has tattoos, but not like that. I'm sorry if I scared you that way. Listen, we can send a car."
I closed my eyes, letting the pressure fade.
"I don't know anything about it. What makes you think I know?"
"The victim said some things before he died. Come down and take a look. I'll send a car."
"Am I a suspect?"
"Nothing like that. We just want to see if you can help with the ID."
"What was your name?"
"Okay, Diazit's four in the morning, I haven't slept in two months, and I'm not in the mood. If you think I know this guy, then you think I'm a suspect. Everyone who knows a homicide victim is a suspect until they're cleared, so just tell me who you got and ask whatever it is you want to ask."
"What it is, we have a deceased Anglo male we believe to be the victim of a robbery. They got his wallet, so I can't give you a name. We're hoping you can help with that part. Here, listen"
"Why do you think I know him?"
She plowed on with the description as if I hadn't spoken.
"Anglo male, dyed black hair thin on top, brown eyes, approximately seventy years but he could be older, I guess, and he has crucifix tattoos on both palms."
"Why do you think I know him?"
"He has more tats of a religious nature on his armsJesus, the Virgin, things like that. None of this sounds familiar?"
"I don't have any idea who you're talking about."
"What we have is a deceased male as I've described, one gunshot to the chest. By his appearance and location, he appears indigent, but we're working on that. I'm the officer who found him. He was still conscious at that time and said things that suggested you would recognize his description."
Excerpted from The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais Copyright © 2005 by Robert Crais. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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