Liska came back then, wearing her cop face. "We think this guy's a two-fer, Lou. He was maybe in on Nixon and Truman. I guess the Nation wants to start calling the Bloods the Dead Presidents."
Kovac laughed at that--a cross between a bark and a snort. "Like these dickheads would know a president if he pissed on them."
Liska looked up at him. "Elwood's got him in the guest room. Let's go before he uses the L word."
Leonard stepped back, frowning. He had no lips, and ears that stuck out perpendicular to his head like a chimpanzee's. Kovac had nicknamed him the Brass Monkey. He was looking as if solving a murder would ruin his day.
"Don't worry," Kovac said. "There's more assaults where that one came from." He turned away before Leonard could react, and headed for the interview room with Liska.
"So this guy was in on Nixon too?"
"Beats me. Leonard liked it."
"Brass asshole," Kovac grumbled. "Someone should take him out and show him the fucking sign on the door. It still says 'Homicide,' doesn't it?"
"Last I looked."
"All he wants is to clear assaults."
"Assaults are the homicides of tomorrow."
"Yeah, that'd make a great tattoo. I know just where he can put it."
"But you'd need a miner's hat to read it. I'll get you one for Christmas. Give you something to hope for."
Liska opened the door and Kovac preceded her into the room, which was about the size of a spacious coat closet. The architect would have described it as "intimate." In keeping with the latest theories on how to interview scumbags, the table was small and round. No dominant side. Everybody equal. Pals. Confidants.
No one was sitting at it.
Elwood Knutson stood in the near corner, looking like a Disney cartoon bear in a black felt bowler. Jamal Jackson had the opposite corner, near the totally useless and empty built-in bookcase, and beneath the wall-mounted video camera, which was required by Minnesota law to prove they weren't beating confessions out of suspects.
Jackson's attitude hung on him as badly as his clothes. Jeans that would have fit Elwood were slipping off his skinny ass. A huge down coat in Nation black and red colors puffed up around his upper body. He had a lower lip as thick as a garden hose, and he stuck it out at Kovac.
"Man, this is bogus. I din' off no-body."
Kovac lifted his brows. "No? Gee, there must be some mistake." He turned to Elwood and spread his hands. "I thought you said he was the guy, Elwood. He says he's not the guy."
"I must have been mistaken," Elwood said. "My profuse apologies, Mr. Jackson."
"We'll have a radio car take you back home," Kovac said. "Maybe have them announce over the bullhorn to your 'hood that we didn't mean to bring you in. That it was all a big mistake."
Jackson stared at him, the lip moving up and down.
"We can have them announce specifically that we know you weren't really involved in the murder of Deon Truman. Just so there's no mistake what we had you in for. We don't want a lot of bad rumors going around about you on account of us."
"Fuck you, man!" Jackson shouted, his voice jumping an octave. "You trying to get me killed?"
Kovac laughed. "Hey. You said you didn't do it. Fine. I'll send you home."
"An' the brothers think I talk to you. Next thing, my ass is horizontal. Fuck that!" Jackson paced a little, pulling at the short braids that stuck up in all directions on his head. His hands were cuffed together in front of him. He gave Kovac the eye.
Excerpted from Dust to Dust by Tami Hoag Copyright© 2000 by Tami Hoag. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, 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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