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Something is in search of human prey in the gang-ridden communities of Los Angeles . . .

When the member of a notorious street gang is found decapitated and dismembered at the bottom of the LA River, it quickly becomes apparent something is amiss. Detective Daryl Garcia connects it with the murders of six other gang members killed the same way. It looks like the work of a serial killer, but the gang members don't think so. They believe the ...

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Overview

Something is in search of human prey in the gang-ridden communities of Los Angeles . . .

When the member of a notorious street gang is found decapitated and dismembered at the bottom of the LA River, it quickly becomes apparent something is amiss. Detective Daryl Garcia connects it with the murders of six other gang members killed the same way. It looks like the work of a serial killer, but the gang members don't think so. They believe the murders are the work of rival gang members.

Someone has a dark desire of the most depraved fetish . . .

Detective Garcia becomes determined to find the killer at any cost. Together with Rachael Pearce, a journalist he falls in love with, he searches for the killer through the gang underground and the world of prostitution and drugs. And as suspect after suspect is released with no solid evidence to connect them to the crimes, the search for the killer becomes more urgent as the gang infested areas of the city reach a boiling point to the brink of rioting. In a community of gang members-who are killers themselves-how does Detective Garcia find the most monstrous killer he has ever encountered?

Madness wears many faces . . .

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809510627
  • Publisher: Wildside Press
  • Publication date: 8/5/2005
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.77 (d)

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Prologue

August 13, 1982, 10:45 a.m.
Gardena, CA

Alfonso DiMartini was at home washing the breakfast dishes when George Castro knocked on the front door and then let himself in, as was custom at the DiMartini house. Al was blasting an old Kansas album on the stereo, and George crossed the living room to the stereo to turn the volume down. Alfonso turned around in annoyance. "Hey, what're you doing?"

"I gotta talk to you," George said. He entered the kitchen, looking around. "Pam at work?"

"Yeah." Pam was Alfonso's cousin. Al shared a two-bedroom duplex with his older brother, Dominick, and his cousin, Pam. Dominick was a PhD student at UCLA and was one of those esoteric fall-outs from the hippie era. He had dropped so much acid that he could sit in the middle of the room and go into auto-trip just by listening to vintage Pink Floyd or Genesis. Pam, on the other hand, was a working girl. She pulled down a nine-to-five at a local insurance company. Al was bumming it this summer until the fall semester started. Come September, Al and George were freshman at Long Beach State.

"Good," George said. He went to the refrigerator and got himself a beer. He opened the bottle with an opener and took a deep swig. He sat down at the kitchen table, not knowing how to approach this. Alfonso took a break from the dishes and got himself a beer, too.

"Something's troubling you, my friend," Al said. He pulled up a chair opposite George and regarded him. Al was short and wiry, with sharp features and high cheekbones; he had nice, Italian features. His black hair was collar length, brushed back from his forehead. His grin was merry, his eyesgleeful; they seemed to say, today is going to be a good day, my friend, no matter what is troubling you. So lay it on me. That's what friends are for.

"Okay." George took another swig of beer. He had already killed half the bottle of Michelob. "Yesterday afternoon, Stacy Temple and I went over to visit John Burke. And ... well, after we got back to Stacy's place one thing kind of led to another and--"

"Say no more," Alfonso said, grinning. "I know just what's troubling you. You're on the rebound from Sara and you fell back into your thing with Stacy and you're afraid that you're going to lead her on."

"No," George said. "Well, yeah, I guess, but that's not really it." George shook his head, not really knowing where to begin. Al had it half right. Last year George had fallen into a fling with Stacy Temple, one of their classmates with whom they had just graduated from high school. Stacy was a pretty girl with tan skin and long black hair. She was tall and had a body to die for, but you would never know it to look at her. She didn't wear much make-up, she wore her hair long and straight, and she dressed plainly. George had never really known why such an obviously pretty girl would want to downgrade her appearance until yesterday.

George had known Stacy since the two of them were in the fourth grade. She had been somewhat popular in grade school, but by the time they reached junior high school she had stopped all the extra-curricular activities; no more after-school volunteer or club stuff. She became a nobody like George and the crowd he hung with. He and Stacy had known each other casually for the better part of their childhood, but when they were both juniors in high school their relationship started off with a bang when she had invited him over to her house one afternoon after school to get stoned.

Funny how drastically things changed from one's junior year of high school to graduation. In January of 1981, when George and Al and Stacy and their friends had been juniors, graduation and the future were the furthest thought from their minds. George's hair was shoulder length. Despite an almost daily ingestion of hemp, George still had managed to maintain a B average without trying. Stacy was the opposite. She was on the honor roll and appeared to live the life of the perfect high school student. So he had been pretty surprised when she invited him to her place to get high one afternoon when they were on their way home from school via the public bus system.

They had gotten off at the corner of Van Ness and Compton Boulevard and made their way to the simple three-bedroom home set off from the semi-busy street. George still remembered that day perfectly. School had let out early due to some faculty meeting, and they arrived at Stacy's around one. Her parents had been at work. By one-fifteen they were lounging in her bedroom, her stereo tuned to the local FM rock station, and she retrieved an impressive looking water bong from her closet. That was the second thing that impressed George.

The third had been her choice in pot. She'd had some prime Thai Stick. They were stoned and giggling like a bunch of fools within minutes.

Eventually one thing led to another, and they were making out. George had never thought of Stacy as particularly attractive before, but once her clothes were off he saw that she had a beautiful body; long legs ending in curvy hips, a flat stomach, full breasts with large, dark aereoles. For the first time, George began to wonder why she downgraded her appearance so much at school. But then he stopped dwelling on this thought as they began making love. The weed only helped to heighten the orgasm. It made every sensation, every touch of skin, every kiss, seem electrified.

He had seen her the next day. Got stoned. Had quickie sex. He was out of the house by four.

And the routine had repeated itself. At least three times a week. Depending on how horny she got, sometimes Monday through Friday.

George had melded into the relationship easily. During school their relationship was the same as it had always been, but once inside the privacy of her bedroom the barriers broke down. They became lovers in a way that George had never imagined they would. She had obviously gained valuable experience in the things she showed him, and it didn't strike George until much later that she had a sort of used look about her. "Remember when I first started seeing Stacy?" he asked Alfonso. "How I felt kind of funny about it?"

"Yeah," Al said. George had confessed to his friends that while he enjoyed having sex with Stacy, he didn't feel right about the relationship. His friends had urged him to dump her. George had stuck with her for another few months.

"I couldn't express the reason why I felt that way about her because I didn't want to sound like an asshole," George said. "But what I felt weird about was that she ... well, she seemed to have been around the block quite a few times, if you know what I mean."

Alfonso shrugged. "So she's a closet slut. Big deal."

"That's not it, though," George said, taking another pull from his beer. One quarter left now.

George had become so immersed in Stacy that the months had flown by. Stacy had guided him from shy, inexperienced lover, to a stallion in just a few short months. Stacy had always been the aggressor and George liked playing the role of the passive, submitting willingly to her advances and letting her have her way with him. That seemed to have been all she wanted, because she never brought up relationship stuff; no, "are you ever going to take me out on a real date?", or "Do you love me?", shit like that. All she really ever said during their sexual interludes was "I want you to fuck me!" He had been only too happy to oblige.

What broke it off for them was a chance encounter with a cheerleader from North High School he'd met at the Del Amo Mall. He had been there to see a movie with Shane Taylor and Peter Suzuki, and George was smitten with her. Apparently she had been equally smitten, and they had exchanged phone numbers. They had gone out on a date a week later, and within a few short days they were an item. George tried to keep the relationship a secret from Stacy, but he knew he would have to tell her something. She continued to call him during the first month of the fall semester of their senior year, and finally he told her that he was seeing somebody else. At the time, she hadn't seemed to mind. In fact, he was positive she hadn't minded. Stacy had said she understood, she would be busy this upcoming school year trying to make the grades to get into a good university. They had remained friends.

"So what is it?" Alfonso asked.

George finished the beer then retrieved another one. He opened it up and took a long swallow. He sighed, fighting back the memories. Even now, thinking back on it, everything had still seemed so innocent. He recalled hugging Stacy after the graduation ceremony shortly after the entire class of 1982 had flung their caps into the air. He remembered catching a glimpse Stacy's father videotaping them. That sure brought things into focus; especially after seeing the video tape yesterday afternoon that Stacy had goaded him into watching. After the graduation ceremony she'd kissed him and said "Call me in a few weeks."

"So I called her yesterday," George said, narrating the events that had followed the graduation. "She had called me a few days before, suggesting we visit John, and I said, yeah, sure. So we did it. I had my mom's station wagon, so I picked her up at her place and we went to John's house and had a great time. We just sat there and bullshitted, had a few beers, that was it. We left a few hours later and Stacy suggested we hang out at her place. I had told Stacy that Sara and I had broken up and ... well, I caught strong vibes coming from her. Know what I mean?"

Alfonso nodded. "Sure. She was horny, and so were you."

"Right. Anyway, an hour later we're at Stacy's house, in bed. And we were really into it when she pushed me off her and ... got on her hands and knees. She kind of ... leered at me, and she ... just looked so different. As if she wasn't the same girl. And she told me to fuck her in the ass. And her voice--"

Alfonso chuckled. "Is that all you're riled up about? Some girl wants you to do it in her backdoor and you got cold feet? Shit, George, that's nothing to be all freaked out over."

"That's not it. It wasn't the act per se. It was the way she demanded it. It was like she became an entirely different person. She wanted me to ... dominate her, hurt her. Even her voice changed. It got ... deeper. That's the only way I can describe it. Her whole facial expression changed. It was like I was looking at a different person."

Al shrugged. "Maybe she's into some weird role playing shit, and figured you would get into it with her."

"Will you let me finish?" George was getting irritated at Alfonso interrupting him.

"All right, sorry. Continue kimosabe."

"Okay. So, I refused to, you know, fuck her that way, and she ... got this look in her face. It was weird. She got up and grabbed me, threw me on the bed. She said she was going to rape me. She was still talking in that weird voice and she sort of wrestled me down. She was holding me down and she started reaching for something on her dresser, and I saw that it was a pair of handcuffs. I don't know how I did it, because she was so fucking strong, but I got out of her grip and pushed her off me. She sort of fell on the floor and I was up, starting to pull my clothes back on when she ... well, she lost it." He swallowed some more beer. "She said 'what do you know about making love, you fucking asshole! You never cared about me in the first place'."

"Whoa," Alfonso said, spellbound by the story.

"Then she seemed to snap out of it," George said, taking another swig of beer. "She started crying, and I mean hard. It was as if something inside her had died, or as if some deep buried sense of rage and despair was being let loose. I didn't know what to do, I was just so stunned. Finally I went to her and tried to hold her, comfort her. She fought me off at first, crying even harder, but after awhile I had her calmed down. Finally her crying trickled down and I asked her what was wrong. It was then that she basically ... showed me ... what was wrong ... and what had been wrong with her for a long time."

George told Alfonso the rest. Stacy had motioned for him to follow her into the den. He had hardly set foot in this part of the house when they'd been seeing each other, and the few times he had travelled back there he had marveled at the array of grown-up toys her parents had. A large screen television flanked one wall, the projection beam holding a VCR. A high-tech stereo system sat on a black oak entertainment center that took up the space of another wall, and the rest of the room was decorated with various plaques and awards from Stacy and her folks' various achievements. Dad's plaque honoring him for something he had accomplished as a Sr. Technician at ITT. Mom's bowling trophy from JC. Stacy's plaque honoring her as Student Body President, sixth grade. Middle-of-the-road normalcy at its finest. Inserted among the mementos were videotapes with labels denoting feature films and the requisite family stuff. "Sequoia National Park--Summer, 1977". Another section contained albums and cassette tapes of everything from Beethoven's Seventh performed by the London Philharmonic to 70's bands like Fleetwood Mac's Rumors. Popular best selling novels sat binding to binding with literary classics. Maybe they were well rounded.

Stacy had told him to sit down. George had plopped his bare white ass obligingly on the red velvet sofa as she opened a cabinet door set in the entertainment center and began rummaging around inside. It was filled to the brim with more video cassette tapes.

She had extracted a tape and turned on the TV projector. Fuzz filled the screen as she plopped the videocassette in. She told him to watch.

She had sat down beside him as the screen went blank and the footage on the tape commenced.

The den they were seated in came into view on the screen in a wobbly image. It was filled with people milling around talking. There were children in the video. George initially thought it was a family get-together. He had shifted in his seat as Stacy took his hand and squeezed it.

As the tape unwound, George noticed the footage was off kilter. Something about the gathering just wasn't right. George shifted in his seat as a bolt of unease ran through his body. The people in the video, mainly couples, began to slowly kiss and stroke each other. Some of them began to do the same with the children. George's jaw had dropped.

"Watch." Stacy's voice had been thick, trembling. The people on the screen began disrobing, then disrobing the children.

And in the midst of the frolicking figures engaged in sexual acts, a face stood out. Young. Pig-tailed. Pretty, with the eagerness and sweetness of a child.

"When I saw a man on that videotape, a man old enough to be Stacy's grandfather, begin..." his voice trembled with the memory of it. Alfonso was listening, his features showing disgust and horror. "Begin ... you know ... I ... I literally got sick. I shot off that couch and stumbled into the living room and dry heaved. Stacy came after me, crying now. She said her parents had made her do it, that they had been making her do stuff like that for as long as she could remember."

Alfsonso said nothing as George stopped and drained the rest of his beer. He got up to get another one. Alfonso asked for another one, too. It was obvious that the story had gotten to him.

George continued after taking a deep drink. "Her parents had been sexually abusing her this way since she was born. They used to bring in other people, pedophiles of both sexes, to abuse her. They continued doing this to her, even up till the time we were seeing each other. She said her parents might seem like upstanding middle-class citizens, but they never gave a shit about her. They used her for their own sick fantasies. She said that she wasn't the first child they did this to; they had been doing this to children for years before she came along, and that the only reason they had her was to use her and to sell her to other people like themselves." George paused, looking at Alfonso, who listened as silence. "She told me that I was the first person she had been intimate with that she really loved. I didn't think about that till later. I was so sickened, so frightened by the vibes I felt from being in that house, where they had done those things to her, that all I was thinking about was getting out of that house. I was getting dressed as she was telling me this, crying her heart out as she went on. She went to bed with me because it was her choice, not her parents. She wanted to share the experience of being close to someone the way she knew she was meant to experience it. And I ... just didn't want to hear it."

"You were scared," Alfonso said, softly.

"Yeah," George said, running a hand through his hair. "Scared and sickened. I just wanted to be out of there. Stacy kept begging me to hold her, and I had to practically fight her to get out of that house. I feel so ashamed of myself for reacting that way, but.... I was so scared!"

They were silent for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts. They drank silently. Finally, Alfonso said, "So what are you going to do?"

"I don't know," George said. He wasn't even feeling the affects of the alcohol, despite the fact that he had just downed two beers in less than ten minutes. "I ... I've thought of calling the police, but ... I don't know ... I'm just so fucking confused!"

"I think you should," Alfonso said. He took a drink. "But I think the first thing you need to do is contact Stacy. She needs to know that she has a friend in all of this."

"I know." George felt like shit for the way he had reacted.

"Are you sure you can prove all this?" Alfonso asked. "I mean, think before you call the police. I think you should call them because shit like what you saw has got to be illegal. But you've got to be sure that this isn't going to come back and bite you on the ass."

"If they're still molesting kids I can't let that happen," George said. He took another swig of beer.

"Then call them. But first, call Stacy. Try to see her if you can. Tell her you love her, that you're her friend, and that you're standing beside her. She needs you now."

George sighed and nodded. Talking to Al about this made him feel better. "Yeah, I'll do that. I'll call her today."

"Good man."

George took another swig of beer. "Then I'll see what she thinks about me calling the police."

Alfonso shook his head. "No, you don't want to do that. Don't even tell her you're calling the cops. That might make her defensive. She might either deny anything happened, or she'll tip off her parents and they'll hide all that shit. Then you'll be fucked. Don't tell her. Just call the cops."

"Yeah, you're right." George said, nodding. Al was usually right about things like this.

Except in this case.

George called Stacy four hours later. He was still at Alfonso's, and he was completely fucked up now. Getting drunk was the only way he could summon the courage to make the call. Alfonso was sitting beside him in the living room, the windows open to let in the August summer afternoon. Al was well on his way to being sloshed, too.

Alfonso nodded encouragingly at George as he picked up the phone and dialed.

The phone was picked up on the fourth ring by Stacy's father. George asked for Stacy. "You just missed her," Mr. Temple said, no hint of any sinister quality to his voice at all. "She left this morning for college."

"College?" George felt all the hope and enthusiasm deflating. He didn't know what to say. She hadn't said anything about leaving when they were together yesterday.

"I imagine she'll call us to let us know she arrived safely," Stacy's father said. "It was such a split-second decision. Her mother and I knew she was contemplating several colleges, but--"

"You mean she's gone? She just picked up and left?" George still couldn't believe what was happening.

Mr. Temple suddenly sounded suspicious. "You a friend of hers?"

"Uh ... yeah," George said, trying to think of what to say. This had really thrown him for a loop. "Um..."

"You might want to try back later," Mr. Temple said, his voice strong and stern. "I'm sure she'll call. Is there a message I can leave for her?"

"N-no," George stammered. "Thanks." He hung up.

Alfonso was waiting with bated breath. His eyes were wide with excitement. "What happened?"

George told him. The two friends talked about it. Alfonso produced a bag of Thai Stick and tapped it into the bowl of a clay pipe. The two friends smoked, trading the pipe back and forth until they were both good and stoned. Alfonso put Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell album on the turntable. They contemplated what had happened in stoned silence. Finally, George broke the silence. "I don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do."

"You still thinking of calling the cops?" Alfonso said.

George turned to him. "I don't know."

George never did call the police. And he never heard from, or saw, Stacy Temple ever again. He would talk to John Burke in the weeks ahead, and John would later tell him that Stacy had told him the molestation story, too. John had believed her as well. Had John seen the tape? George would ask. John would nod that, yes, he had. And as the months went by and they started embarking upon their lives in that late fall of 1982 and the spring of 1983, attending college, working jobs, George would think about Stacy and the dark secrets she harbored. And whenever he was alone his thoughts would turn to her and he would beat himself up for not standing up and offering her the love and support she needed when she told him that her parents had used her as a sex toy. And as the months turned to years, other women came into George's life. And as the years went on, some of those women became faded memories.

But Stacy Temple would always remain in his mind.

He always wished he had been man enough to take her in his arms that day and tell her he loved her.

He never forgot her.

And whenever he thought about her, he thought about that day when she had shown him her secret.

And the one thing that George never forgot, the one thing that still stood out in his mind, was the way her voice had changed when she had tried to rape him. How deep it got.

And the expression on her face ... her body language.

As if she were a different person.

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