Then, doing her best to get a grip on herself, Carol Starkey drove across town to a place exactly like the one where she had died.
Helicopters marked ground zero the way vultures circle roadkill, orbiting over the crime scene in layers like a cake. Starkey saw them just as the traffic locked down, half a mile from the incident site. She used her bubble flasher to edge into an Amaco station, left her car, and walked the remaining eight blocks.
A dozen radio units were on the scene, along with two Bomb Squad Suburbans and a growing army of media people. Kelso was standing near the forward Suburban with the Bomb Squad commander, Dick Leyton, and three of the day-shift bomb techs. Kelso was a short man with a droopy mustache, in a black-checked sport coat. Kelso noticed Starkey, and waved to catch her eye, but Starkey pretended she didn't see him.
Riggio's body lay in a heap in the parking lot, midway between the forward Suburban and the building. A coroner investigator was leaning against his van, watching an LAPD criminalist named John Chen work the body. Starkey didn't know the CI because she had never before worked a case where someone had died, but she knew Chen.
Starkey badged her way past the uniforms at the mouth of the parking lot. One of the uniforms, a younger guy she didn't know, said, "Man, that dude got the shit blown out of himself. I wouldn't go over there, I was you."
"Not if I had a choice."
Smoking at a crime scene was against LAPD policy, but Starkey fired up before crossing the parking lot to confront Charlie Riggio's body. Starkey had known him from her days on the squad, so she expected this to be hard. It was.
Riggio's helmet and chest protector had been stripped off by the paramedics who had worked to revive him. Shrapnel had cut through the suit, leaving bloody puckers across his chest and stomach that looked blue in the bright afternoon sun. A single hole had been punched in his face, just beneath the left eye. Starkey glanced over at the helmet and saw that the Lexan faceplate was shattered. They said that the Lexan could stop a bullet from a deer rifle. Then she looked back at his body and saw that his hands were missing.
Starkey ate a Tagamet, then turned away so that she wouldn't have to see the body.
"Hey, John. What do we have here?"
"Hey, Starkey. You got the lead on this one?"
"Yeah. Kelso said that Buck Daggett was out, but I don't see him."
"They sent him to the hospital. He's okay, but he's pretty shook. Leyton wanted him checked."
"Okay. So what did he say? You got anything I can use?"
Chen glanced back at the body, then pointed out the Dumpster.
"The device was over by that Dumpster. Buck says Riggio was over it with the Real Time when it went off."
Starkey followed his nod to a large piece of the Real Time portable X-ray that had been blown out into the street. She considered the Dumpster again, and guessed that the Real Time had been kicked more than forty yards. Riggio himself lay almost thirty yards from the Dumpster.
"Did Daggett or the medics pull him over here?"
Anytime there was an explosion, bomb techs were trained to expect a secondary device. She figured that Daggett would have pulled Riggio away from the Dumpster for that reason.
"You'd have to ask Daggett. I think this is where he fell."
"Jesus. We gotta be, what, thirty yards from the detonation point?"
"Buck said it was a helluva blast."
She guesstimated the distance again, then toed the body armor to examine the blast pattern. The suit looked as if twenty shotguns had been fired into it point-blank. She'd seen similar suit damage when "dirty" bombs had gone off with a lot of fire and shrapnel, but this bomb had pushed the shrap through twelve layers of armor and had thrown a man thirty yards. The energy released must have been enormous.
Copyright Robert Crais, 2000. All rights reserved. Published by the permission of the publisher, Doubleday. No part of this book may be reproduced without permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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