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Mystery Writers of America Presents The Blue Religion
New Stories about Cops, Criminals, and the Chase
Edited by Michael Connelly
Formats and Prices
- ebook $9.99 $12.99 CAD
- Trade Paperback $24.99 $31.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 14, 2008. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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In T. Jefferson Parker’s “Skinhead Central,” an ex-cop and his wife find unexpected menace in the idyllic setting they have chosen for their retirement. In Alafair Burke’s “Winning,” a female officer who is attacked in the line of duty must protect her own husband from his worst impulses. In Michael Connelly’s “Father’s Day”, Harry Bosch faces one of his most emotionally trying cases, investigating a young boy’s death.
These are hard-hitting, thrilling, and utterly unforgettable stories, from some of the best writers in the mystery world.
ALSO BY MICHAEL CONNELLY
The Black Echo
The Black Ice
The Concrete Blonde
The Last Coyote
A Darkness More than Night
City of Bones
Chasing the Dime
The Lincoln Lawyer
ALSO FROM THE MYSTERY WRITERS OF AMERICA
Death Do Us Part
(Edited by Harlan Coben)
By T. Jefferson Parker
So we moved up here to Spirit Lake in Idaho, where a lot of Jim's friends had come to live. After forty years in Laguna Beach, it was a shock to walk outside and see only a few houses here and there, some fog hovering over the pond out front, and the endless trees. The quiet too, that was another surprise. There's always the hiss of wind in the pines, but it's nothing like all the cars and sirens on PCH. I miss the Ruby's and the Nordstrom Rack up the freeway. Miss my friends and my children. We talk all the time by phone and e-mail, but it's not the same as living close by. We have a guest room.
We've had mostly a good life. Our firstborn son died thirteen years ago, and that was the worst thing that's ever happened to us. His name was James Junior, but he went by JJ. He was a cop, like his father, and was killed in the line of duty. After that, Jim drank himself almost to death, then one day just stopped. He never raised a finger or even his voice at me or the kids. Kept on with the Laguna Beach PD. I had Karen and Ricky to take care of, and I took meds for a year and had counseling. The one thing I learned from grief is that you feel better if you do things for other people instead of dwelling on yourself.
We're living Jim's dream of hardly any people but plenty of trees and fish.
There's some skinheads living one lake over, and one of them, Dale, came over the day we moved in last summer and asked if we had work. Big kid, nineteen, tattoos all over his arms and calves, red hair buzzed short, and eyes the color of old ice. Jim said there was no work, but they got to talking woodstoves and if the old Vermont Castings in the living room would need a new vent come fall. Dale took a look and said that unless you want to smoke yourself out, it would. Two days later, Dale helped Jim put one in, and Jim paid him well.
A couple of days later, I went to dig out my little jewelry bag from the moving box where I'd kind of hidden it, but it was gone. I'd labeled each box with the room it went to, but the movers just put the boxes down wherever — anyway, it was marked "bedroom," but they put it right there in the living room, where Dale could get at it when I went into town for sandwiches and Jim went outside for a smoke or to pee in the trees, which is something he did a lot of that first month or two. Jim told me I should have carried the jewelry on my person, and he was right. On my person. You know how cops talk. Said he'd go find Dale over in Hayden Lake the next day — skinhead central — what a way to meet the locals.
But the next morning, this skinny young boy shows up on our front porch, dark bangs almost over his eyes, no shirt, jeans hanging low on his waist and his boxers puffing out. Gigantic sneakers with the laces loose. Twelve or thirteen years old.
"This yours?" he asked.
Jim took the jewelry bag — pretty little blue thing with Chinese embroidery on it and black drawstrings — and angled it to the bright morning sun.
"Hers," he said. "Hon? What's missing?"
I loosened the strings and cupped the bag in my hand and pressed the rings and earrings and bracelets up against one another and the satin. It was mostly costume and semiprecious stones, but I saw the ruby earrings and choker Jim had gotten me one Christmas in Laguna and the string of pearls.
"The expensive things are here," I said.
"You Dale's brother?" asked Jim.
"What's your name?"
"Come on in."
"No reason for that."
"How are you going to explain this to Dale?"
And he loped down off the porch steps, landed with a crunch, and picked up his bike.
"Take care of yourself."
"That's what I do."
"We've got two cords' worth of wood and a decent splitter," said Jim.
Jason sized up Jim the way young teenagers do, by looking not quite at him for not very long. Like everything about Jim could be covered in a glance.
Later I asked Jim why he offered work to Jason when he'd held it back from Dale.
"I don't know. Maybe because Jason didn't ask."
THE WAY JJ died was that he and Jim were both working for Laguna PD — unusual for a father and son to work the same department — but everyone was cool with it, and they made the papers a few times because of the human interest. "Father and Son Crime Busters Work Laguna Beat."
If you don't know Laguna, it's in Orange County, California. It's known as an artist colony and a tourist town, a place prone to disasters such as floods, earth slides, and wildfires. There had been only one LBPD officer killed in the line of duty before JJ. That was back in the early fifties. His name was Gordon French.
Anyway, Jim was watch commander the night it happened to JJ, and when the "officer down" call came to dispatch, Jim stayed at his post until he knew who it was.
When Jim got there, JJ's cruiser was still parked up on the shoulder of PCH, with the lights flashing. It was a routine traffic stop, and the shooter was out of the car and firing before JJ could draw his gun. JJ's partner had stayed with him but also called in the plates. They got JJ to South Coast Medical Center but not in time. One of the reasons they built South Coast Medical Center forty-seven years ago was because Gordon French was shot and died for lack of medical care in Laguna. Then they build one, and it's still too late. Life is full of things like that, things that are true but badly shaped. JJ was twenty-five — would be thirty-eight today if he hadn't seen that Corolla weaving down the southbound lanes. They caught the shooter and gave him death. He's in San Quentin. His appeals will take at least six more years. Jim wants to go if they execute him. Me too, and I won't blink.
THE NEXT TIME we saw Jason was at the hardware store two days later. I saw his bike leaned against the wall by the door, and I spotted him at the counter as I walked through the screen door that Jim held open for me. He had on a knit beanie and a long-sleeve black T-shirt with some kind of skull pattern, and his pants were still just about sliding off his waist, though you couldn't see any boxers.
"Try some ice," the clerk said cheerfully.
Jason turned with a bag of something and started past us, his lips fat and black. His cheeks were swelled up behind the sunglasses.
Jim wheeled and followed Jason out. Through the screen door, I could hear them.
"Dale do that?"
Silence then. I saw Jason looking down. And Jim with his fists on his hips and this balanced posture he gets when he's mad.
"Then what happened?"
"Nothing. Get away from me, man."
"I can have a word with your brother."
Jason swung his leg over his bike and rolled down the gravel parking lot.
The next evening, Dale came up our driveway in a black Ram Charger pickup. It was "wine thirty," as Jim calls it, about six o'clock, which is when we would open a bottle, sit, and watch the osprey try to catch one of the big trout rising in our pond out front.
The truck pulled up close to the porch, all the way to the logs Jim had staked out to mark the end of the parking pad. Dale was leaning forward in the seat like he was ready to get out, but he didn't. The window went down, and Dale stared at us, face flushed red, which with his short red hair made him look ready to burst into flames.
"Dad told me to get over here to apologize for the jewelry, so that's what I'm doing."
"You beat up your brother because he brought it back?"
"He deserved every bit he got."
"A twelve-year-old doesn't deserve a beating like that," said Jim.
"You can't miss the point much further," said Jim.
Dale gunned the truck engine, and I watched the red dust jump away from the ground below the pipe. He was still leaning away from the seat like you would back home in July when your car's been in the sun and all you've got on is a halter or your swimsuit top. But this was Idaho in June at evening time, and it probably wasn't more than seventy degrees.
"Get out and show me your back," said Jim.
"What about it?"
"You know what it's about."
"You don't know shit," said Dale, pressing his back against the seat. "I deal with things."
Then the truck revved and lurched backward. I could see Dale leaning forward in the seat again and his eyes raised to the rearview. He kept a good watch on the driveway behind him as the truck backed out. Most young guys in trucks, they'd have swung an arm out and turned to look directly where they were driving. Maybe braced the arm on the seat. JJ always did that. I liked watching JJ learn to drive because his attention was so pure and undistractible. Dale headed down the road, and the dust rose like it was chasing him.
"Someone whipped his back," I said.
"You made some calls."
Jim nodded. Cops are curious people. Just because they retire doesn't mean they stop nosing into things. Jim has a network of friends that stretches all the way across the country, though most of them are in the West. Mostly retired but a few still active. And they grouse and gossip and yap and yaw like you wouldn't believe, swap information and stories and contacts and just about anything you can imagine that relates to cops. You want to know something about a guy, someone will know someone who can help. Mostly by Internet but by phone too. Jim calls it the Geezer Enforcement Network.
"Dale's father has a nice jacket because he's a nice guy," said Jim. "Aggravated assault in a local bar, pled down to disturbing the peace. Probation for assault on his wife. Ten months in county for another assault — a Vietnamese kid, student at Boise — broke his jaw with his fist. There was a child-abuse inquiry raised by the school when Dale showed up for first grade with bruises. Dale got homeschooled after that. Dad's been clean since '93. The wife sticks by her man — won't file, won't do squat. Tory and Teri Badger. Christ, what a name."
I thought about that for a second while the osprey launched himself from a tree.
"Is Tory an Aryan Brother?"
"Nobody said that."
"Clean for thirteen years," I said. "Since Jason was born. So, you could say he's trying."
Jim nodded. I did the math in my mind and knew that Jim was doing it too. Clean since 1993. That was the year JJ died. We can't even think of that year without remembering him. I'm not sure exactly what goes through Jim's mind, but I know that just the mention of the year takes him right back to that watch commander's desk on August 20, 1993. I'll bet he hears the "officer down" call with perfect clarity, every syllable and beat. Me, I think of JJ when he was seven years old, running down the sidewalk to the bus stop with his friends. Or the way he used to comb his hair straight down onto his forehead when he was a boy. To tell you the truth, sometimes I think about him for hours, all twenty-five years of him, whether somebody says "1993" or not.
That Saturday Jason came back over and split the wood. I watched him off and on from inside as he lined up the logs in the splitter and stood back as the wood cracked and fell into smaller and smaller halves. Twice he stopped and pulled a small blue notebook from the back pocket of his slipping-down jeans and scribbled something with a pen from another pocket. The three of us ate lunch on the porch even though it was getting cold. Jason didn't say much, and I could tell the lemonade stung his lips. The swelling around his eyes was down, but one was black. He was going to be a freshman come September.
"Can your dad protect you from your brother?" Jim asked out of nowhere.
"Dale's stronger now. But mostly, yeah."
Jim didn't say anything to that. After nearly forty years of being married to him, I can tell you his silences mean he doesn't believe you. And of course there were the broken lips and black eye making his case.
"If you need a place, you come stay here a night or two," he said. "Anytime."
"You'd be welcome," I said.
"Okay," he said, looking down at his sandwich.
I wanted to ask him what he wrote in the notebook, but I didn't. I have a place where I put things for safekeeping too, though it's not a physical place.
Later that night, we went to a party at Ed and Ann Logan's house on the other side of Spirit Lake. It was mostly retired SoCal cops, the old faces from Orange County and some Long Beach people Jim fell in with whom I never really got to know. I've come to like cops in general. I guess that would figure. And their wives too — we pretty much get along. There's a closedness about most cops that used to put me off until JJ died and I realized that you can't explain everything to everybody. You have to have that place inside where something can be safe. Even if it's only a thought or a memory. It's the opposite of the real world, where people die as easily as leaves fall off a tree. And the old cliché about cops believing it's them and us, well, it's absolutely true that that's what they think. Most people think that way — it's just the "thems" and the "usses" are different.
A man was stacking firewood on the Logans' deck when we got there. He was short and thick, gave us a level-eyed nod, and that was all. Later Jim and I went outside for some fresh air. The breeze was strong and cool. The guy was just finishing up the wood. He walked toward us, slapping his leather work gloves together.
"I apologize for Dale," he said. "I'm his dad. He ain't the trustworthiest kid around."
"No apology needed," said Jim. "But he's no kid."
"He swore there was nothin' missing from that bag."
"It was all there," I said.
Badger jammed the gloves down into a pocket. "Jason says you're good people. But I would appreciate it if you didn't offer him no more work. And if he comes by, if you would just send him back home."
"To get beat up?" said Jim.
"That's not an everyday occurrence," said Badger. "We keep the family business in the family."
"There's the law."
"You aren't it."
Badger had the same old-ice eyes as Dale. There was sawdust on his shirt and bits of wood stuck to his bootlaces, and he smelled like a cord of fresh-cut pine. "Stay away from my sons. Maybe you should move back to California. I'm sure they got plenty a'need for bleedin' heart know-it-alls like you."
WE LEFT THE party early. When we were almost home, Jim saw a truck parked off in the trees just before our driveway. He caught the shine of the grill in his headlights when we made the turn. I don't know how he saw that thing, but he still has twenty-fifteen vision for distance, so he's always seeing things that I miss. A wind had come up, so maybe it parted the trees at just the right second.
He cut the lights and stopped well away from our house. The outdoor security lights were on, and I could see the glimmer of the pond and the branches swaying. Jim reached across and drew his .380 automatic from its holster under the seat.
"We can go down the road and call the sheriff," I said.
"This is our home, Sally. I'm leaving the keys in."
"Be careful, Jim. We didn't retire up here for this."
I didn't know a person could get in and out of a truck so quietly. He walked down the driveway with the gun in his right hand and a flashlight in the other. He had that balanced walk, the one that meant he was ready for things. Jim's not a big guy, six feet, though, and still pretty solid.
Then I saw Dale backing around from the direction of the front porch, hunched over with a green gas can in one hand. Jim yelled, and Dale turned and saw him, then he dropped the can and got something out of his pocket, and a wall of flames huffed up along the house. Dale lit out around the house and disappeared.
I climbed over the console and drove the truck fast down the driveway and almost skidded on the gravel into the fire. Had to back it up, rocks flying everywhere. I got the extinguisher off its clip behind the seat and walked along the base of the house, blasting the white powder down where the gas was. A bird's nest up under an eave had caught fire, so I gave that a shot too. Could hear the chicks cheeping. I couldn't tell the sound of the extinguisher from the roaring in my ears.
After that I walked around, stamping out little hot spots on the ground and on the wall of the house. The wind was cold and damp, and it helped. My heart was pounding and my breath was caught up high in my throat and I'm not sure I could have said one word to anyone, not even Jim.
An hour later Jim came back, alone and panting. He signaled me back into our truck without a word. He put the flashlight and automatic in the console, then backed out of the driveway fast, his breath making fog on the rear window. There was sweat running down his face, and he smelled like trees and exertion.
"He'll come for his truck," Jim said.
Then he straightened onto the road and made his way to the turnoff where Dale's truck waited in the trees. We parked away from the Ram Charger, in a place where we wouldn't be too obvious.
WE SAT THERE until sunrise, then until seven. There were a couple of blankets and some water back in the king cab, and I'm glad we had all that. A little after seven, Dale came into view through the windshield, slogging through the forest with his arms around himself, shivering.
Jim waited until Dale saw us, then he flung himself from the truck, drawing down with his .380 and hollering, "Police officer," and for Dale to stop. Dale did stop, then he turned and disappeared back into a thick stand of cottonwoods. Jim crashed in after him.
It took half an hour for him to come back. He had Dale out in front of him with his hands on his head, marching him like a POW. Their clothes were dirty and torn up. But Jim's gun was in his belt, so he must not have thought Dale was going to run for it again.
"You drive," Jim said to me. "Dale, you get in the backseat."
I looked at Jim with a question, but all he said was "Coeur d'Alene."
Nobody said a word to Coeur d'Alene. It wasn't far. Jim got on his cell when we reached the city and got the address for army recruitment.
We parked outside.
"Tell Sally what you decided to do about all this," said Jim.
"I can join the army or get arrested by your husband," said Dale. "I'm joining up."
"That's a good thing, Dale," I said.
"Name me one good thing about it."
"It'll get you out of trouble for a few years, for starters," I said.
We walked him into the recruitment office. There were flags and posters and a sergeant with a tight shirt and the best creased pants I've ever seen in my life. He was baffled by us at first, then Jim explained that we were friends of the family, and Dale had decided to join up but his mom and dad weren't able to be here for it. Which didn't explain why Dale's and Jim's clothes were dirty and more than a little torn up. The sergeant nodded. He'd seen this scene before.
"How old are you?" he asked.
"Then we've got no problems. Notta one."
There were lots of forms and questions. Dale made it clear that he was ready right then, he was ready to be signed up and go over to Iraq, try his luck on some ragheads. He tried a joke about not having to cut his hair off, and the sergeant laughed falsely.
Then the sergeant said they'd have to do a routine background check before the physical, would take about half an hour, we could come back if we wanted or sit right where we were.
So we went outside. The wind was back down and the day was warming up. Across the street was a breakfast place. The sun reflected off the window in a big orange rectangle, and you could smell the bacon and toast.
"I'm starved," said Dale.
"Me too," said Jim. "Sal? Breakfast?"
We ate. Nothing about Dale reminded me of JJ, but everything did. I hoped he'd find something over in that blood-soaked desert that he hadn't found here.
And I hoped that he'd be back to tell us what it was.
Sack o' Woe
By John Harvey
The street was dark and narrow, a smear of frost along the roof of the occasional parked car. Two of a possible six overhead lights had been smashed several weeks before. Recycling bins — blue, green, and gray — shared the pavement with abandoned supermarket trolleys and the detritus from a score of fast-food takeaways. Number thirty-four was toward the terrace end, the short street emptying onto a scrub of wasteland ridged with stiffened mud, puddles of brackish water covered by a thin film of ice.
Tom Whitemore knocked with his gloved fist on the door of thirty-four. Paint that was flaking away, a bell that had long since ceased to work.
He was wearing blue jeans, a T-shirt and sweater, a scuffed leather jacket — the first clothes he had grabbed when the call had come through less than half an hour before.
January 27, 3:17 a.m.
Taking one step back, he raised his right leg and kicked against the door close by the lock; a second kick, wood splintered and the door sprang back.
Inside was your basic two-up, two-down house, a kitchen extension leading into the small yard at the back, bathroom above that. A strip of worn carpet in the narrow hallway, bare boards on the stairs. Bare wires that hung down, no bulb attached, from the ceiling overhead. He had been here before.
"Darren? Darren, you here?"
No answer when he called the name.
A smell that could be from a backed-up foul-water pipe or a blocked drain.
The front room was empty, odd curtains at the window, a TV set in one corner, two chairs and a sagging two-seater settee. Dust. A bundle of clothes. In the back room there were a small table and two more chairs, one with a broken back; a pile of old newspapers; the remnants of an unfinished oven-ready meal; a child's shoe.
The first stair creaked a little beneath his weight.
In the front bedroom, a double mattress rested directly on the floor; several blankets, a quilt without a cover, no sheets. Half the drawers in the corner chest had been pulled open and left that way, miscellaneous items of clothing hanging down.
Before opening the door to the rear bedroom, Whitemore held his breath.
A pair of bunk beds leaned against one wall, a pumped-up Lilo mattress close by. Two tea chests, one spilling over with children's clothes, the other with toys. A plastic bowl in which cereal had hardened and congealed. A baby's bottle, rancid with yellowing milk. A used nappy, half in, half out of a pink plastic sack. A tube of sweets. A paper hat. Red and yellow building bricks. Soft toys. A plastic car. A teddy bear with a waistcoat and a bright bow tie, still new enough to have been a recent Christmas gift.
Blood in fine tapering lines across the floor, faint splashes on the wall. Tom Whitemore pressed one hand to his forehead and closed his eyes.
HE HAD BEEN a member of the Public Protection Team for nearly four years: responsible, together with other police officers, probation officers, and representatives of other agencies — social services, community psychiatric care — for the supervision of violent and high-risk-of-harm sex offenders who had been released back into the community. Their task — through maintaining a close watch; pooling information; getting offenders, where applicable, into accredited programs; and assisting them in finding jobs — was to do anything and everything possible to prevent reoffending. It was often thankless and frequently frustrating — What was that Springsteen song? Two steps up and three steps back? — but unlike a lot of police work, it had focus, clear aims, methods, ambitions. It was possible — sometimes — to see positive results. Potentially dangerous men — they were mostly men — were neutralized, kept in check. If nothing else, there was that.
And yet his wife hated it. Hated it for the people it brought him into contact with, day after day — rapists, child abusers — the scum of the earth in her eyes, the lowest of the low. She hated it for the way it forced him to confront over and over what these people had done, what people were capable of, as if the enormities of their crimes were somehow contaminating him. Creeping into his dreams. Coming back with him into their home, like smoke caught in his hair or clinging to the fibers of his clothes. Contaminating them all.
"How much longer, Tom?" she would ask. "How much longer are you going to do this hateful bloody job?"
"Not long," he would say. "Not so much longer now."
Get out before you burn out, that was the word on the Force. Transfer to general duties, Traffic, Fraud. Yet he could never bring himself to leave, to make the move, and each morning he would set off back into that world, and each evening when he returned, no matter how late, he would go and stand in the twins' bedroom and watch them sleeping, his and Marianne's twin boys, five years old, safe and sound.
That summer they had gone to Filey as usual, two weeks of holiday, the same dubious weather, the same small hotel, the perfect curve of beach. The twins had run and splashed and fooled around on half-size body boards on the edges of the waves; they had eaten chips and ice cream, and when they were tired of playing with the big colored ball that bounced forever down toward the sea, Tom had helped them build sandcastles with an elaborate array of turrets and tunnels, while Marianne alternately read her book or dozed.
It was perfect: even the weather was forgiving, no more than a scattering of showers, a few darkening clouds, the wind from the south.
On the last evening, the twins upstairs asleep, they had sat on the small terrace overlooking the promenade and the black strip of sea. "When we get back, Tom," Marianne had said, "you've got to ask for a transfer. They'll understand. No one can do a job like that forever, not even you."
She reached for his hand, and as he turned toward her, she brought her face to his. "Tom?" Her breath on his face was warm and slightly sweet, and he felt a lurch of love run through him like a wave.
"All right," he said.
- On Sale
- Apr 14, 2008
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- Little, Brown and Company