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Linking to us
by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Little, Brown, 2005
Click here for ordering information.
IT WAS JUST BEFORE 4:00 a.m. on a weekday. My mind was racing even before Jacobi nosed our car up in front of the Lorenzo, a grungy rent-by-the-hour tourist hotel on a block in San Franciscos Tenderloin District thats so forbidding even the sun wont cross the street.
Three black-and-whites were at the curb, and Conklin, the first officer at the scene, was taping off the area. So was another officer, Les Arou.
What have we got? I asked Conklin and Arou.
White male, Lieutenant. Late teens, bug-eyed and done to a turn, Conklin told me. Room twenty-one. No signs of forced entry. Vics in the bathtub, just like the last one.
The stink of piss and vomit washed over us as Jacobi and I entered the hotel. No bellhops in this place. No elevators or room service, either. Night people faded back into the shadows, except for one gray-skinned young prostitute who pulled Jacobi aside.
Give me twenty dollars, I heard her say. I got a license plate.
Jacobi peeled off a ten in exchange for a slip of paper, then turned to the desk clerk and asked him about the victim: Did he have a roommate, a credit card, a habit?
I stepped around a junkie in the stairwell and climbed to the second floor. The door to room 21 was open, and a rookie was standing guard at the doorway.
Evening, Lieutenant Boxer.
Its morning, Keresty.
Yes, maam, he said, logging me in, turning his clipboard to collect my signature.
It was darker inside the twelve-by-twelve-foot room than it was in the hallway. The fuse had blown, and thin curtains hung like wraiths in front of the streetlit windows. I was working the puzzle, trying to figure out what was evidence, what was not, trying not to step on anything. There was too damned much of everything and too little light.
I flicked my flashlight beam over the crack vials on the floor, the mattress stained with old blood, the rank piles of garbage and clothing everywhere. There was a kitchenette of sorts in the corner, the hot plate still warm, drug paraphernalia in the sink.
The air in the bathroom was thick, almost soupy. I swept my light along the extension cord that snaked from the socket by the sink, past the clogged toilet bowl to the bathtub.
My guts clenched as I caught the dead boy in my beam. He was naked, a skinny blond with a hairless chest, half sitting up in the tub, eyes bulging, foam at his lips and nostrils. The electric cord ended at an old-fashioned two-slice toaster that glinted up through the bathwater.
Shit, I said as Jacobi entered the bathroom. Here we go again.
Hes toast, all right, said Jacobi.
As commanding officer of the Homicide detail, I wasnt supposed to do hands-on detective work anymore. But at times like this, I just couldnt stay away.
Another kid had been electrocuted, but why? Was he a random victim of violence or was it personal? In my minds eye, I saw the boy flailing in pain as the juice shot through him and shut his heart down.
The standing water on the cracked tile floor was creeping up the legs of my trousers. I lifted a foot and toed the bathroom door closed, knowing full well what I was going to see. The door whined with the nasal squeal of hinges that had probably never been oiled.
Two words were spray-painted on the door. For the second time in a couple of weeks, I wondered what the hell they meant.