In the wake of that, Portola put the word out--this kind of admitting mistake wasn't going to happen again. Lipinski knew beyond a doubt that once today's victim was minimally stabilized, Portola would pack him back up in an ambulance and have him taken to County, where they had to admit everybody, even and especially the uninsured. Lipinski wasn't sure that the victim here would survive that second trip and even if he did, the ICU at County was a disaster area, with no beds for half the people who needed them, with gurneys lining the halls.
But there was still time before he had to make that decision. The paramedics were trying to get his patient on a backboard, and the police had several officers knocking on doors and talking to people in the crowd that had gathered to see if anyone could identify the victim. Even rich people, snug in their castles, unknown to their neighbors, might recognize the neighborhood bum.
Because the body was so broken, it took longer than he'd originally estimated, but eventually they got the victim hooked up and into the back. In the meantime, Lipinski had decided that he was going directly to County. Portola would just screw around too much with this guy, and Lipinski didn't think he'd survive it. He'd just shifted into gear and was preparing to pull out when he noticed a couple of cops running up with a distraught woman in tow.
He knew what this was. Shifting back into park, he left the motor running, opened his door, and stepped out into the street. As the cops got to him, he was ready at the back door, pulling it open. Half walking, half running, the woman was a few steps behind them. She stepped up inside and Lipinski saw her body stiffen, her hands come up to cover her mouth. "Oh God," he heard. "Oh God."
He couldn't wait any longer. Slamming the door shut behind her, he ran back and hopped into his seat. They had their identification. And he was going to Portola.
In the days long ago before he'd hit the big four-oh, Dismas Hardy used to jog regularly. His course ran from his house on Thirty-fourth Avenue out to the beach, then south on the hard sand to Lincoln Way, where he'd turn east and pound the sidewalk until he got to Ninth and the bar he co-owned, the Little Shamrock. If it was a weekend or early evening, he'd often stop here to drink a beer before age wised him up and slowed him down. Later on, the beverage tended to be a glass of water. He'd finish his drink and conclude the four-mile circuit through Golden Gate Park and back up to his house.
The last time he'd gotten committed to an exercise program, maybe three years ago, he'd made it the first week and then about halfway through the second before he gave up, telling himself that two miles wasn't bad for a forty-seven-year-old. He'd put on a mere eight pounds this past decade, much less than many of his colleagues. He wasn't going to punish himself about his body, the shape he was in.
But then last year, his best friend Abe Glitsky had a heart attack that turned out to be a very near thing. Glitsky was the elder of the two men by a couple of years, but still, until it happened, Hardy had never considered either he or Abe anywhere near old enough to have heart trouble. The two men had been best friends since they'd walked a beat together as cops just after Hardy's return from Vietnam.
Now Glitsky was the chief of San Francisco's homicide detail. Half-black and half-Jewish, Glitsky was a former college tight end. No one among his colleagues would ever have thought of describing the lieutenant as anything but a hard-ass. His looks contributed to the rep as well--a thick scar coursed his lips top to bottom under a hatchet nose; he cultivated a fiercely unpleasant gaze. A buzz-cut fringe of gray bounded a wide, intelligent forehead. Glitsky didn't drink, smoke, or use profanity. He would only break out his smile to terrify staff (or small children for fun). Six months ago, when he'd married Treya Ghent, the administrative assistant to the new district attorney, several of his inspectors had bet that the new lifestyle would mellow him out considerably. They were still paying the installments.
Reprinted from The Oath by John Lescroart by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2002, John Lescroart. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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