Milk and Honey
The flutter of movement was so slight that had Decker not been a pro, he would have missed it. He yanked the wheel to the left and braked. The brown unmarked screeched, bucked, then rebelliously reversed directions in the middle of the empty intersection. Decker began to cruise down the vacant street, hoping for a second look at what had attracted his attention.
The Plymouth's alignment was off again, this time pulling to the right. If he had a spare minute, he'd check it out himself, haul her onto the lifts and probe her belly. The department mechanics were a joke. Overworked and underpaid, they'd fix one problem, cause another. The guys in the division were always laying odds on what would bust first when the vehicles were returned from service-six-to-one on a leaky radiator, four-to-one on a choked carburetor, three-to-one on the broken air-conditioning system, the odds improving to two-to-one if it was summertime.
Decker ran his fingers through thick ginger hair. The neighborhood was dead. Whatever he'd seen had probably been nothing significant. At one in the morning, the eyes played tricks. In the dark, parked cars looked like giant tortoises, spindly tree boughs became hanging skeletons. Even a well-populated housing development like this one seemed like a ghost town. Rows of tan-colored stucco homes had gelled into a lump of oatmeal, illuminated by moonbeams and blue-white spotlights from corner street lamps.
He slowed the Plymouth to a crawl and threw the headlights on high beam. Perhaps he'd seen nothing more than a cat, the light a reflection in the feline's eyes. But the radiancy had been lessconcentrated and more random, a ripple of flashes like silver fingernails running up a piano keyboard. Yet as he peered out the window, he saw nothing unusual.
The planned community was spanking new, the streets still smelling of recent blacktop, the curbside trees nothing more than saplings. It had been one of those compromises between the conservationists and the developers, the construction agreed upon by both parties while satisfying neither. The two groups had been at each other's throats since the Northeast Valley had been gerrymandered. This project had been hastily erected to smooth ruffled feathers, but the war between the factions was far from over. Too much open land left to fight over.
Decker cranked open the window and repositioned his backside in the seat, trying to stretch. Someday the city would order an unmarked able to accommodate a person of his size, but for now it was knees-to-the-wheel time. The night was mild, the fog had yet to settle in. Visibility was still good.
What the hell had he seen?
If he had to work tomorrow, he would have quit and headed home. But nothing awaited him on his day off except a lunch date with a ghost. His stomach churned at the thought, and he tried to forget about it -- him. Better to deal with the past in the light of day.
One more time around the block for good measure. If nothing popped up, he'd go home.
He was a tenacious son of a bitch, part of what made him a good cop. Anyway, he wasn't tired. He'd taken a catnap earlier in the evening, right before his weekly Bible session with Rabbi Schulman. The old man was in his seventies, yet had more energy than men half his age. The two of them had learned together for three hours straight. At midnight, when the rabbi still showed no signs of tiring, Decker announced he couldn't take any more.
The old man had smiled and closed his volume of the Talmud. They were studying civil laws of lost and found. After the lesson, they talked a bit, smoked some cigarettes -- the first nicotine fix Decker'd had all day. Thirty minutes later, he departed with an armful of papers to study for next week.
But he was too hyped up to go home and sleep. His favorite method of coping with insomnia was to take long drives into the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains -- breathe in the beauty of unspoiled lands, knolls of wildflowers and scrub grass, gnarled oaks and honey-colored maples. The peace and solitude nestled him like a warm blanket, and within a short period of time he usually became relaxed enough to sleep. He'd been on his way home when he noticed the flash of light. Though he tried to convince himself it was nothing, something in his gut told him to keep going.
He circled the block, then reluctantly pulled over to the curb and killed the engine. He sat for a moment, smoothing his mustache, then slapped the steering wheel and opened the car door.
What the hell, the walk would do him good. Stretch out his legs. No one was awaiting his arrival at the ranch, anyway. The home fires had been put out a long time ago. Decker thought of his phone conversation with Rina earlier in the evening. She'd sounded really lonely, hinted about coming back to Los Angeles for a visit -- just her and not the boys. Man, had he sounded eager -- overeager. He'd been so damned excited, she'd probably seen his horns over the telephone wires. Decker wondered if he'd scared her off, and made a mental note to call her in the morning.
He hooked his hand-radio onto his belt, locked the car, and opened the trunk. The trunk light was busted, but he could see enough to rummage through the items -- first-aid kit, packet of surgical gloves, evidence bags, rope, blanket, fire extinguisher -- where had he put the flashlight? He picked up the blanket. Success! And miracle of miracles, the batteries still had juice in them ... Milk and Honey
. Copyright © by Faye Kellerman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.