"Hey, it's not that I blame her for wanting to blow the squirrel's brains out," Marino gives me his commentary. "But that's where your training's got to come in. Don't matter if it's your aunt or your kid involved, you got to do what you're trained to do, and she didn't. She sure as hell didn't. What she did was go ape-shit."
"I've seen you go ape-shit a few times in your life," I remind him.
"Well, it's my personal opinion they never should have thrown her into that undercover work down there in Miami." Lucy is assigned to the Miami field office and is here for the holidays, among other reasons. "Sometimes people get too close to the bad guys and start identifying with them. Lucy's in a kill mode. She's gotten trigger-happy, Doc."
"That's not fair." I realize I have packed too many pairs of shoes. "Tell me what you would have done if you'd gotten to my house first instead of her." I stop what I am doing and look at him.
"At least take a nanosecond to assess the situation before I went in there and put a gun to the asshole's head. Shit. The guy was so fucked up he couldn't even see what he was doing. He's screaming bloody murder because he's got this chemical shit you threw in his eyes. He wasn't armed by this point. He wasn't going to be hurting nobody. That was obvious right away. And it was obvious you was hurt, too. So if it had been me, I'd called for an ambulance, and Lucy didn't think to even do that. She's a wild card, Doc. And no, I didn't want her in the house with all this going on. That's why we interviewed her down at the station, got her statements in a neutral place to get her calmed down."
"I don't consider an interrogation room a neutral place," I reply.
"Well, being inside the house where your Aunt Kay almost got whacked ain't exactly neutral, either."
I don't disagree with him, but sarcasm is poisoning his tone. I begin to resent it.
"All the same, I got to tell you I've got a really bad feeling about her being alone in a hotel right now," he adds, rubbing his face again, and no matter what he says to the contrary, he thinks the world of my niece and would do anything for her. He has known her since she was ten, and he introduced her to trucks and big engines and guns and all sorts of so-called manly interests that he now criticizes her for having in her life. "I might just check on the little shit after I drop you off at Anna's. Not that anybody seems to care about my bad feelings," he jumps back several thoughts. "Like Jay Talley. Of course, it ain't my business. The self-centered bastard."
"He waited with me the entire time at the hospital," I defend Jay yet one more time, deflecting Marino's naked jealousy. Jay is ATF's Interpol liaison. I don't know him very well but slept with him in Paris four days ago. "And I was there thirteen or fourteen hours," I go on as Marino practically rolls his eyes. "I don't call that self-centered."
"Jesus!" Marino exclaims. "Where'd you hear that fairy tale?" His eyes burn with resentment. He despises Jay and did the first time he ever laid eyes on him in France. "I can't believe it. He lets you think he was at the hospital all that time? He didn't wait for you! That's total bullshit. He took you there on his fucking white horse and came right back here. Then he called to see when you was going to be ready to check out and slithered back to the hospital and picked you up."
"Which makes good sense." I don't show my dismay. "No point in sitting and doing nothing. And he never said he was there the entire time. I just assumed it."
"Yeah, why? Because he let you assume it. He lets you think something that isn't true, and you ain't bothered by that? In my book, that's known as a character flaw. It's called lying. . . . What?" He abruptly changes his tone. Someone is in my doorway.
Reprinted The Last Precinct By Patricia Cornwell By Permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, A Member Of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (C) 2000 Patricia Cornwell. All Rights Reserved. This Excerpt, Or Any Parts Thereof, May Not Be Reproduced in Any Form Without Permission.
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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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