"And not after that?"
"I know this isn't exactly your terrain, Boxer," Jacobi said. He broke into a grin. "But generally people don't see the bride and groom for a while after the party."
I smiled thinly, stood up, looked back across the large, lavish suite. "So surprise me, Jacobi. Who springs for a room like this?"
"The groom's father is some Wall Street big shot from back east. He and his wife are down in a room on the twelfth floor. I was told it was quite a shindig downstairs. Up here, too. Look at all these goddamn roses."
I went back over to the groom and spotted what looked like a gift box of champagne on a marble console near the door. There was a spray of blood all over it.
"Assistant manager noticed it," Jacobi said. "My guess is, whoever did this brought it in with him."
"They see anyone around?"
"Yeah, a lot of people in tuxes. It was a wedding, right?"
I read the champagne bottle label. "Krug. Clos du Mesnil, 1989."
"That tell you something?" Jacobi asked.
"Only that the killer has good taste."
I looked at the blood-smeared tuxedo jacket. There was a single slash mark on the side where the fatal knife wound had gone through.
"I figure the killer must've stripped it off after he stabbed him." Jacobi shrugged.
"Why the hell would he do that?" I muttered out loud.
"Dunno. We'll have to ask him."
Charlie Clapper was eyeing me from the hallway to see if it was okay to get started. I nodded him in. Then I went back to the bride.
I had a bad, bad feeling about this one. If it's not about money...then...sex.
I lifted the fancy tulle lining of her skirt. The coldest, bitterest confirmation sliced through me.
The bride's panties had been pulled down and were dangling off one foot.
A fierce anger rose in my chest. I looked into the bride's eyes. Everything had been ahead of her, every hope and dream. Now she was a slaughtered corpse, defiled, possibly raped on her wedding night.
As I stood there, blinking as I stared down at her face, I suddenly realized that I was crying.
"Warren," I said to Jacobi, "I want you to speak with the groom's parents," I said, sucking in a breath. "I want everyone who was on this floor last night interviewed. If they've checked out, I want them traced. And a list of all hotel staff on duty last night."
I knew if I didn't get out now, I couldn't hold back the tide any longer. "Now, Warren. Please ...now."
I avoided his eyes as I skirted past him out of the suite.
"What the hell's wrong with Boxer?" Charlie Clapper asked.
"You know women," I heard Jacobi reply. "They always cry at weddings."
PHILLIP CAMPBELL was walking along Powell Street toward Union Square and the Hyatt. The police had actually blockaded the street, and the crowd outside the hotel was growing quickly. The howling screams of police and emergency vehicles filled the air. This was so unlike civilized and respectable San Francisco. He loved it!
Campbell almost couldn't believe he was headed back to the crime scene. He just couldn't help himself. Being here again helped him to relive the night before. As he walked closer and closer on Powell, his adrenaline surged, his heart pounded, almost out of control.
He edged through the mob that populated the final block outside the Hyatt. He heard the rumors swirling through the crowd, mostly well-dressed businesspeople, their faces creased with anguish and pain. There were rumors of a fire at the hotel, a jumper, a homicide, a suicide, but nothing came close to the horror of the actual event.
Finally, he got close enough so that he could watch the San Francisco police at work. A couple of them were surveying the crowd, looking for him. He wasn't worried about being discovered, not at all. It just wasn't going to happen. He was too unlikely, probably in the bottom 5 percent of the people the police might suspect. That comforted him, thrilled him, actually.
Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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