"Shit, that'll take forever. I used to have a date tonight."
Santos's face grew longer than ever.
"I'll do it, Carol."
Starkey glanced toward the Dumpster, where Chen was now picking at something on the ground. She gestured back toward the apartment buildings behind them.
"Look, Beth, I'm not saying do everybody on the goddamned block. Just ask if they saw something. Ask if they're the one who called 911. If they say they didn't see anything, tell'm to think about it and we'll get back to them in the next few days."
Marzik still wasn't happy, but Starkey didn't give a damn.
She went back across the street to the Dumpster, leaving Marzik and Santos with the apartments. Chen was examining the wall behind the Dumpster for bomb fragments. Out in the parking lot, two of the Bomb Squad technicians were adjusting radial metal detectors that they would use when they walked the lawns out front of the surrounding apartment buildings. Two more off-duty bomb techs had arrived, and pretty soon everyone would be standing around with their thumbs up their asses, waiting for her to tell them what to do.
Starkey ignored all of them and went to the crater. It was about three feet across and one foot deep, the black tarmac scorched white by the heat. Starkey wanted to place her hand on the surface, but didn't because the explosive residue might be toxic.
She considered the chalk outline where Riggio's body had fallen, then paced it off. Almost forty paces. The energy to kick him this far must have been incredible.
Starkey impulsively stepped into Riggio's outline, standing exactly where his body had fallen, and gazed back at the crater.
She imagined a slow-motion flash that stretched through three years. She saw her own death as if it had been filmed and later shown to her on instant replay. Her shrink, Dana, had called these "manufactured memories." She had taken the facts as they had later been presented to her, imagined the rest, then saw the events as if she remembered them. Dana believed that this was her mind's way of trying to deal with what had happened, her mind's way of removing her from the actual event by letting her step outside the moment, her mind's way of giving the evil a face so that it could be dealt with.
Starkey sucked deep on the cigarette, then blew smoke angrily at the ground. If this was her mind's way of making peace with what had happened, it was doing a damned shitty job.
She went back across the street to find Marzik.
"Beth? I got another idea. Try to locate the people who own all these shops and see if anyone was threatened, or owed money, or whatever."
Marzik nodded, still squinting at her.
"Carol, what is that?"
"What is what?"
Marzik stepped closer and sniffed.
"Is that Binaca?"
Starkey glared at Marzik, then went back across the street and spent the rest of the evening helping the search team look for pieces of the bomb.
In the dream, she dies.
She opens her eyes on the hard-packed trailer-park earth as the paramedics work over her, their latex hands red with blood. The hum in her ears makes her think of a Mixmaster set to a slow speed. Above her, the thin branches of winter gum trees overlap in a delicate lace still swaying from the pressure wave. A paramedic pushes on her chest, trying to restart her heart. Another inserts a long needle. Cold silver paddles press to her flesh.
A thousand miles beyond the hum, a voice yells, "Clear!" Her body lurches from the jolt of current. Starkey finds the strength to say his name.
She is never certain if she says his name or only thinks that she says it.
Her head lolls, and she sees him. David "Sugar" Boudreaux, a Cajun long out of Louisiana but still with the soft French accent that she finds so sexy. Her sergeant-supervisor. Her secret lover. The man to whom she's given her heart.
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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