Bosch looked through the small square of glass and saw that the man was alone in the tank. He took his gun out of its holster and handed it to the watch sergeant. Standard procedure. The steel door was unlocked and slid open. Immediately the smell of sweat and vomit stung Bosch's nostrils.
"How long's he been in here?"
"About three hours," said the sergeant. "He blew a one-eight, so I don't know what you're going to get."
Bosch stepped into the holding tank and kept his eyes on the prone form on the floor.
"All right, you can close it."
"Let me know."
The door slid closed with a jarring bang and jolt. The man on the floor groaned and moved only slightly. Bosch walked over and sat down on the bench nearest to him. He took the tape recorder out of his jacket pocket and put it down on the bench. Glancing up at the glass window he saw the sergeant's face move away. He used the toe of his shoe to probe the man's side. The man groaned again.
"Wake up, you piece of shit."
The man on the floor of the tank slowly rolled his head and then lifted it. Paint flecked his hair and vomit had caked on the front of his shirt and neck. He opened his eyes and immediately closed them against the harsh over-head lighting of the holding tank. His voice came out in a hoarse whisper.
"Our little dance."
A smile cut across the three-day-old whiskers on the drunk's face. Bosch saw that he was missing a tooth he hadn't been missing last time. He reached down and put his hand on the recorder but did not turn it on yet.
"Get up. It's time to talk."
"Forget it, man. I don't want"
"You're running out of time. Talk to me."
"Leave me the fuck alone."
Bosch looked up at the window. It was clear. He looked back down at the man on the floor.
"Your salvation is in the truth. Now more than ever. I can't help you without the truth."
"What're you, a priest now? You here to take my confession?"
"You here to give it?"
The man on the floor said nothing. After a while Bosch thought he might have fallen back asleep. He pushed the toe of his shoe into the man's side again, into the kidney. The man erupted in movement, flailing his arms and legs.
"Fuck you!" he yelled. "I don't want you. I want a lawyer."
Bosch was silent a moment. He picked up the recorder and slid it back into his pocket. He then leaned forward, elbows on his knees, and clasped his hands together. He looked at the drunk and slowly shook his head.
"Then I guess I can't help you," he said.
He stood up and knocked on the window for the watch sergeant. He left the man lying on the floor.
Terry McCaleb looked at his wife and then followed her eyes down to the winding road below. He could see the golf cart making its way up the steep and winding road to the house. The driver was obscured by the roof of the cart.
They were sitting on the back deck of the house he and Graciela had rented up on La Mesa Avenue. The view ranged from the narrow winding road below the house to the whole of Avalon and its harbor, and then out across the Santa Monica Bay to the haze of smog that marked overtown. The view was the reason they had chosen this house to make their new home on the island. But at the moment his wife spoke, his gaze had been on the baby in his arms, not the view. He could look no farther than his daughter's wide blue and trusting eyes.
McCaleb saw the rental number on the side of the golf cart passing below. It wasn't a local coming. It was somebody who had probably come from overtown on the Catalina Express. Still, he wondered how Graciela knew that the visitor was coming to their house and not any of the others on La Mesa.
Copyright © 2001 Hieronymus, Inc. Excerpt used with permission from Time Warner Bookmark.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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