Heart of the World (Carlotta Carlyle Series #11)by Linda Barnes
When private investigator Carlotta Carlyle is wakened by a late-night phone call, she discovers that her "little sister," Paolina, the child with whom she was paired years ago by a local mentoring program, is missing. Carlotta combs the Boston streets looking for Paolina, torn between anger at the thoughtless teenage runaway and anxiety that something has really
When private investigator Carlotta Carlyle is wakened by a late-night phone call, she discovers that her "little sister," Paolina, the child with whom she was paired years ago by a local mentoring program, is missing. Carlotta combs the Boston streets looking for Paolina, torn between anger at the thoughtless teenage runaway and anxiety that something has really happened to her.
Paolina is more than a sister to Carlotta. She's the daughter she never had, or never owned up to having. She's the one constant in Carlotta's life, more reliable than Sam Gianelli, her mob boss lover, a man whose always unpredictable behavior has become increasingly mysterious.
Heart of the World, Linda Barnes's most intense, personal, and suspenseful Carlotta Carlyle novel yet, follows Carlotta's trail from New England to Miami to Bogotá and beyond as she probes the connection between Paolina's disappearance and the corresponding disappearance of the Colombian drug lord father Paolina has never met.
A breathless and shocking read, Heart of the World is perhaps Barnes's best.
“This mystery has both timeless and contemporary appeal…a winner.” Boston Herald
“An emotionally cliff-hanging ending.” Publishers Weekly
“The breakout book of the series…that will shock and surprise the reader. Essential reading.” Library Journal
“With every novel, Linda Barnes reminds us of two key facts--she was one of the first and she remains one of the best. Heart of the World has everything that Carlotta Carlyle fans have come to expect from this seminal series. Barnes has never been better, and that's saying a lot.” Laura Lippman, author of To the Power of Three
“Linda Barnes has long been one of the most skilled and artful writers of the crime novel. With Heart of the World she proves it and takes it up to a new level. This is her best.” Michael Connelly, author of The Lincoln Lawyer
“Heart of the World illuminates the power of our deepest regrets and the fleeting chances we sometimes get to fill the emptiness in our souls. Writing with sensitivity and grace, Linda Barnes once more demonstrates why ex-cop Carlotta Carlyle has become a treasured mainstay in the field of crime fiction.” Robert Crais, author of The Forgotten Man
Read an Excerpt
Heart of the World
By Linda Barnes
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2006 Linda Appelblatt Barnes
All rights reserved.
It was as bitter a January morning as New England could spew. Gray clouds blocked the weak sun like heavy curtains and I smelled snow that had yet to fall, an unseen edge of white in the icy sky. Numb gloved fingers tugged my scarf so high it touched the tip of my nose. Breath fogged the air. Cold. But the exterior iciness was nothing compared to the chill I felt inside.
The apartment building at 47 Orchard Court Road was wedged tightly between two taller buildings. A dingy street, Orchard Court Road. No orchard, no courtyard, the pretentious name all that remained of some past glory, or more likely, a come-on for the unwary buyer or desperate renter.
I checked my watch, then shoved my hands deep into the pockets of my parka. Six thirty and barely a glimmer of pale sunlight. Sunshine would have been a relief, cutting the edge of the cold. Snow would have been a relief. Anything but the endless gray and the bitter cold, cement parking lots staring at stunted trees, everything shaded in grays and browns, as though all the color had seeped out of the city along with the warmth.
Mission Hill isn't Boston's finest neighborhood. Split by Hunting-ton Avenue with its battered green trolley cars, stretching south to Jamaica Plain and east to Roxbury, it's at best working-class poor, at worst subsistence housing. It's hard to park in Mission Hill. Too many abandoned wrecks, some immobilized by the infamous Denver boot. After circling the area for twenty minutes, I'd found an iffy slot for my battered Rent-A-Wreck across the street from the housing project and trudged uphill. Whether the car would still be there when I returned was a question best to ignore.
I blew out a breath, raising another cloud of steam, and considered when it might have been, that elusive last time I'd been warm. Two nights ago, in bed, when problems had seemed contained and controllable, the usual work dilemmas, a due diligence for a small insurance firm, a store clerk who might or might not have a hand in the till. I'd been debating what kind of car I could buy with considerable urgency and limited means. And arguing with Sam Gianelli, who's been a source of joy and consternation in my life for years.
I'd been in bed, blissfully warm but not asleep, when he'd entered the room with hardly a squeak of the floorboards. He'd removed his shoes at the front door, a thoughtful act, perhaps. Isn't it odd how you can read any motive into any act when there's hostility as well as attraction? Given the hour, I'd read deceit: Sam didn't want me to realize how late he was coming to bed, didn't want me to wake. If he'd been deliberately noisy, I'm pretty sure I'd have found an unkind reason for that as well.
Face it, the past month or so the only place Sam and I have been comfortable with each other has been in bed. That's always been our strong suit, the meshing of bodies, the pulsing rhythm of stimulation and release. Chemistry. Who knows what sparks that thing between men and women that brings them together in the night?
The phone call had interrupted a long-standing yet oddly silent argument. At least it was a silent argument on my part; maybe Sam never thought about it at all. I mean, how can you tell? It bothered me all the time what he did for a living, if you can call working for the Mob a living. Once he'd talked to me openly about getting out. Once, he'd tried to make a clean break. But when his father got sick, he knuckled under and went back to being Daddy's bright-eyed boy. Maybe that's what he would always be, never my companion, always his father's son, and I didn't think I could live with that. And I wasn't sure I wanted to live without it. So, really what could I say?
If he were a teenager, I'd have said, "Where've you been?"
If he were a teenager, he'd have said, "Out."
Lawyer friends always tell me not to ask the question if I don't want to hear the answer. I guess that's why instead of arguing about the big thing, the great white whale of our on-again, off-again relationship, we wind up arguing so viciously about the small things, and maybe that's what we'd keep doing until the small things drove us apart. Again.
Monday night, the phone interrupted us and I was momentarily grateful for it, despite the lateness of the hour.
I recognized the voice straight off, but it spoke such rapid-fire angry Spanish that I had to tell Marta to slow down twice before I could follow the flow. It's not that she doesn't speak English, it's that she won't. Not to me.
"Lemme me talk to her, right now." Her voice was slurred and rough and I thought she'd been drinking again. Sam raised his eyebrows and muttered something under his breath.
"¿Sabes que hora es, Marta?"
"I don't need you telling me anything, not what time it is, and certainly not how to take care of a daughter." She muttered something under her breath, too, and of course I heard it, and it was distinctly unflattering, something about the red-headed bitch, which is what she often calls me.
"Why don't you call back when you sober up?" My hand was moving the receiver away from my ear when I heard an increase in volume along with a change of tone.
"Por favor, I must talk with her. I need her to — She promised me."
"Marta, Paolina isn't here. It's Monday night. Look in her room."
The woman's called me before when she's forgotten where her daughter is. Once she'd scared the hell out of me when Paolina was sleeping over at a girlfriend's and Marta'd forgotten all about it.
"She's not here."
"Did she leave a note on the refrigerator?"
"What you think? I'm too drunk to know where my daughter is? Always, always, she says she'll be with you when she isn't here."
The conversation slid downhill from there, down a steep and ugly slope.
I'd slept that night convinced that Paolina was visiting Aurelia or Heather or Vanessa or any one of a number of girls I'd heard about or met, a classmate at the local high school, certain I'd have been informed as usual if my "little sister" had skipped school. Tuesday morning, before seven, I'd made fruitless calls to the girlfriends. Then I'd gone to the high school and found that the man charged with tracking down AWOL students was himself AWOL, and Paolina hadn't turned up for classes Monday at all.
Now it was Wednesday, Wednesday, for chrissake, and I was jumping every time my cell phone rang, nervous as a cat. All my paying jobs had been put on hold, my argument with Sam was simmering, and I was out in the cold at 6:30 A.M., determined to strike before my elusive target could leave for work.
Josefina Parte was the name I was looking for, and I found it, a battered tag, J. Parte, under a mailbox that read 4C and showed the scars of a recent crowbar assault. I rang the bell and waited in a pocket-sized vestibule maybe ten degrees warmer than the frigid outdoors. No response. I rang again.
Through the pebbled half-glass of the interior door, the stairway was narrow and steep. I could see it if I shaded my eyes and slanted my glance sideways. A direct stare brought only my own reflection, a pale oval of a face, wide-apart hazel-green eyes, slightly crooked nose. It was the eyes, I thought, that showed it most, the effect of two sleepless nights. The glass grayed my face, leaching the color from my skin and hair, and I had a sudden vision of myself grown old.
If I lived on Orchard Court Road and someone rang my bell, I might not answer it either. Not if I wasn't expecting a friend or relative to drop by. Good news probably didn't climb to the fourth floor often, and Josefina Parte might have long since stopped expecting it.
Josefina was the aunt or possibly the great-aunt of one Diego Martinez, and it had taken me a while to trace him, because juveniles who aren't registered in the system, who live with people who have different last names than their own, who go to a high school in an area they have no business going to, can be hard to find. I wasn't planning to bust Diego for lying to the Cambridge school system. He wasn't a crook or a bail jumper. I wasn't going to get paid for finding him. He was the current boyfriend of my little sister, Paolina, and she'd been gone for three days, possibly five. Two nights and a day had passed since Marta had needed the girl to babysit for her younger brothers and so noticed that she was inconveniently missing.
I swallowed the bitter taste in my mouth. I was running out of places to look for my sister. I didn't know what I'd do, where I'd go if Diego wasn't there, if she wasn't there with him.
The inner door of the Orchard Court building had a lock that wouldn't have taken more than a minute to pick, but I punched other doorbells first, to see whether some foolish tenant would buzz me in sight unseen. There's usually somebody, a kid home alone, an elderly woman eager for conversation. The vestibule didn't have the usual intercom, so no one could inquire who was there. No one bothered to look, but the buzzer sounded. I pushed my way inside. The door was heavy.
The stairwell — you couldn't call it a lobby — smelled of grease and disinfectant and rotting rubber mats. The wallpaper was peeling at the joins and defaced with gang grafitti.
A door opened above and a low voice yelled, "Somebody there?"
"Forgot my key," I answered. "Thanks a lot."
The door slammed shut in response to my reassuringly female voice and I began climbing the steep stairs. I started hearing voices at the second floor. They grew louder at the third and crescendoed outside 4C. Someone was very much at home or else the TV had been turned up to entertain the house plants and keep away the burglars. I raised my hand, about to knock.
Either they were listening to Spanish language TV or they were arguing. I let my hand drop to my side and made no bones about eavesdropping.
It takes a moment for Spanish to land in my head as distinct words and sentences. At first I hear it as a rush of sound, but then something clicks and I'm back in Mexico City where I spent childhood days with my mother's cousins, time stolen from Detroit winters, coinciding not with school vacations but with periods my mother and father didn't get along. I forgot my Spanish when I returned to the States, then relearned it as a cop, specializing in what we called "perp Spanish." Paolina helped me regain some fluency and I needed it. These people weren't speaking slowly. I could distinguish two arguing voices, one male, one female. "Diego," I heard, several times, and swearing, too. I'm fluent in that.
I knocked firmly.
Sometimes I miss the days when I could follow up that authoritative knock with the word "police." "Police" opened doors. It gave people a reason to answer when I asked questions.
I knocked again. A silence had started with the first knock so I knew they'd heard me.
"Senora Parte," I said clearly, "please open the door. I just want to talk." I spoke in Spanish. Why not?
The door opened slowly and a young woman peered out through a narrow crack. She had dark hair pulled back into a tight knot and an anxious expression on a sweet earnest face. I got the toe of my boot past the sill but didn't force my way in.
"What do you want?" she said. "I'm busy here."
I took a business card from my wallet. It said CARLOTTA CARLYLE, PRIVATE INVESTIGATIONS. She studied it for a long moment with her tongue fixed firmly between her small teeth and then passed it behind her.
"¿Polída?" It was the man's deep voice. "So sorry if we bother any of the old bitches in the apartment downstairs."
"Senor," I said, raising my voice, "there are no complaints about you."
The door opened to display both of them. He was a thin wiry man with badly pocked skin.
He said, "Then what you want? Collect for the church? They can find their own money, sell their gold candlesticks for all I care."
"Senora, your nephew, Diego, I need to speak to him."
The man glanced automatically down the hallway to his right. "What about?"
"He's in no trouble from me. But he hasn't been in school the past three days."
"You're from the school?" "No."
"What you care then? The boy's sick. When he's better, he go to the school. Nosy goddamn busybodies. Time I'm his age, I work full time." "I need to talk to him about a girl in his class." "Hah, he do something to a girl?"
"Senora," I said to the silent woman. "Let me talk to him." She looked stricken, like a deer in the headlights, her mouth half open.
"He's not here." The man gave the door a push, but my foot held it ajar and I wedged myself through.
"A girl in his class is missing and he may know where she is. His room's down here?"
The single front room was sparsely furnished, ashtrays overflowing on the stained coffee table. A narrow archway led to a corridor.
"Diego? You here?" I moved quickly.
"I already told you —" The man moved quickly, too, edging between me and the hallway.
"Look," I said, "if he's not here, it's because he's run off with my sister, Paolina Fuentes. You know that name? If he's not here, I'm going to get in your business big time, so it's better for you if you let me see him." I raised my voice, hoping Diego would hear.
Behind the wiry man, in the corridor, I heard a door creak.
"Hey." The voice was low and sullen.
"Don't you come out of that room!" the man thundered.
Josefina finally moved, putting a restraining hand on the man's shoulder. I walked past him to the half-open door on the right-hand side of the hallway.
"Hey," the kid said. "What's the deal?"
I shoved the door, my eyes flicking from the unmade bed to the narrow chest of drawers. No one else inside the small room. No closet. No place to hide.
"Where is she, Diego?" I addressed the back of his lanky frame, his dirty white T-shirt and long dark hair. "Diego?"
He turned to face me, an eruption of acne on his left cheek, but that wasn't what I noticed first. His nose was pushed to one side of his face and his left eye was puffy and swollen. Dried blood decorated the front of his shirt.
"Jesus, Diego, was she with you when it happened? Where is she?" "What is this shit?"
"You were at a party Friday night, with Paolina Fuentes."
"Paolina? For a while, yeah. Then she left." He sounded angry and puzzled. The way he stood in the doorway was stiff and unnatural, like he had bruises under his thin T-shirt, maybe broken ribs.
"She left alone?"
"That's what I'm saying."
"You two break up?" "What if we did?"
"Did she go with a new guy? Is he the one who hit you?" He shook his head. Maybe it hurt to move his mouth. His lips were swollen.
"He fell down the stairs," the man said loudly. "That's all."
Josefina Parte made a noise.
"Boy's clumsy like an ox," the man said.
I studied Diego's eye. The injury was recent, more recent than Friday night. The man's reluctance to let me near the boy suddenly made sense. My right hand clenched, but I kept my eyes focused on Diego. "She say anything about running away?"
He shook his head again, more slowly. "That's dumb, man, running away."
"Was she happy, sad, excited? Different?"
"Yeah, man, she was different, okay. She was hard, ya know? She was like way into herself, and I don't put up with that kinda shit, ya know? Not from a girl."
"That's right." The man's voice again, grating like metal on glass. "You don't take no shit from girls. You don't answer no more questions either."
Frustration simmered behind my eyebrows. All the time I'd wasted tracking him, for nothing. All the certainty that Paolina's disappearance was linked to his, unfounded. The boy shifted his weight in an attempt to get more comfortable. I could smell the sweat on his body. I looked at the silent scared woman, the wiry lying man, telltale damage on his knuckles, and anger kindled like a flame.
"You want to leave here, Diego?" I said softly. "You want to see a doctor about that nose?"
I could sense the man behind me stiffen, feel the tension rise.
"If you want to leave, I'll take you out." I wasn't carrying, but it was no idle boast. I was furious. I wanted to hit somebody, I had the height advantage, and I'd learned to fight dirty at an early age.
"I'll stay with my aunt," Diego said.
"You get outta here now, bitch." The wiry man's brown eyes had an edge of yellow. He looked defiant, almost proud of himself for what he'd done to the boy, and I considered a shot to the nose or a punch in the gut.
Excerpted from Heart of the World by Linda Barnes. Copyright © 2006 Linda Appelblatt Barnes. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Linda Barnes is the author of ten previous Carlotta Carlyle mysteries, a winner of the Anthony and American Mystery awards, and a finalist for the Edgar and Shamus awards. Born and raised in Detroit, she lives in the Boston area with her husband and son.
Linda Barnes is winner of the Anthony and American Mystery Awards, an Edgar Award finalist, and the author of the Carlotta Carlyle mysteries, including Heart of the World and Lie Down with the Devil. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and son.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Thank you, thank you, thank you for a wonderfully engaging story from beginning to end - I can always count on Linda Barnes for a wonderfully intriguing storyline and I await each new installment in the 'Carlotta Carlyle' novels with baited breath.
Boston Private Investigator Carlotta Carlyle is worried about her teenage friend Paolina Fuentes, who apparently vanished without a word of warning. Carlotta loves Paolina as if the youngster was her offspring so she visits the mother, who barely notices her child is gone. Instead the selfish distracted woman has a new boyfriend that requires special care from her.----------- Carlotta begins to wonder if perhaps Paolina¿s biological father Colombian drug lord Roldon might have abducted his daughter, leaving her potentially in danger from some of his meanest rivals and even associates. However finding the criminal is almost impossible as everyone believes he is dead. Still Carlotta travels initially to Miami, which leads to her flying to Bogotá where she hopes to pick up the trail of an alleged dead man who apparently came back from the grave to snatch Paolina. ------------------- The eleventh entry in the Carlotta Carlyle investigative series is a fantastic novel as the near panicking sleuth searches for a teen she loves like a daughter who she believes is in trouble. The story line captures Carlotta¿s fears and other deep feelings as the case takes her to South America. Also moving forward is her relationship with Sam, but to see where that goes means (hopefully) reading the next novel. Fans of the series will appreciate Linda Barne¿s strong entry.--------- Harriet Klausner
I love the Carlotta Carlyle series. Heart of the World is the best of the best!