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A ticket to Homicide. That was the first thing disgruntled narcotics detective Ken Goode thought when he found the body of a beautiful murdered woman. But his transfer became the last thing on his mind when more victims turned up—all linked to the same beauty school his sister attends. With time running out, a killer on the loose, and the danger hitting too close to home, Goode has to stop this murderer while fighting his own growing obsession with one of the very women he's ...
A ticket to Homicide. That was the first thing disgruntled narcotics detective Ken Goode thought when he found the body of a beautiful murdered woman. But his transfer became the last thing on his mind when more victims turned up—all linked to the same beauty school his sister attends. With time running out, a killer on the loose, and the danger hitting too close to home, Goode has to stop this murderer while fighting his own growing obsession with one of the very women he's trying to save.
It was one of those hot September days when flies flock to the sweet scent of coconut-oiled skin and the rotting smell of death.
Santa Ana winds were spreading their evil dust and waves of heat were oozing from exhaust pipes, casting a blur over the gridlock of cars ahead of Detective Ken Goode. Santa Anas always made him feel a little off.
Sweat dripped into his tired eyes as he sat in his Volkswagen van, waiting for the light to change on Mission Boulevard in Pacific Beach. He'd stayed up too late the night before reading Camus' An Absurd Reasoning, pausing intermittently to deconstruct the state of his life. He needed a mind-bending career change. He felt it coming, any day in fact, just around the corner. But patience wasn't one of his strongest traits. He wanted out of undercover narcotics and into a permanent gig working homicides. Not just as a relief detective, as he'd been for the past three years, but the real thing. The only questions were how and when.
Goode always took stock at this time of year and he was rarely satisfied. After getting the green light, he drove a few blocks to a flower shop he'd passed a hundred times. He was constantly on the lookout for florists because he didn't want to go to the same one twice. He chose to keep his annual ritual to himself, even more private than the rest of his rather solitary existence.
Goode parked near the door and glanced at himself in the rearview mirror, running his fingers through his sun-bleached brown hair and wiping moisture from his forehead with a beach towel. His green eyes had been red around the edges since the Santa Ana kicked up and he hadn't been sleeping much either, although that wasn't unusual lately.
The cool air inside the shop chilled his overheated skin, making the hairs on his arms stand up. Inside the refrigerated case nearest the door, a few dozen long-stemmed red roses poked their heads out of a white bucket of water. He slid open the door and bent his tall, lean frame over to inspect them more closely. He wanted the most perfect one he could find, just starting to bloom. He selected one from the middle, sliding it carefully out of the bunch.
"How would you like a pretty bud vase for that?" the sales girl chirped. She was a teenager. Bright-eyed. Hopeful.
"No, thank you," Goode told her. He knew she meant well, but she had no idea. "That won't be necessary."
She looked a little disappointed. "Then how 'bout you let me wrap it up with some baby's breath?"
"Sure," he said, smiling weakly and nodding. He didn't want to have to tell her that wouldn't be necessary either. "That would be nice."
The cellophane crinkled as he walked back to the van and gingerly laid the rose on the passenger seat. He turned right on Grand Avenue and headed south on Interstate 5 toward Coronado.
He still remembered how green and sparkly the bay had looked that day thirty years ago. He'd just turned six. He, his mother, father and baby sister had finished a lunch of tuna sandwiches together at their small, rented house in La Jolla-all two high school teachers could afford-when his mother announced she was going for a drive. His father, Ken Sr., said he'd planned to take a nap while the baby took hers and asked if she'd take Kenny Jr. with her. She looked a little irritated and a little sad, so Kenny thought she didn't want him to come along. When she looked over at him and saw she'd upset him, she gave him that forced melancholy smile she'd been wearing of late and tousled his hair.
"Okay, then," she said quietly. "Let's go."
The two of them piled into the family's Honda Accord and she stopped at Baskin Robbins to buy him a Pralines-and-Cream cone and a strawberry shake for herself. She took a prescription vial of pink pills out of her purse and popped one of them into her mouth, chasing it with a long draw on her shake. She announced that she wanted to drive over the new bridge to Coronado.
"You can see forever up there," she said. "It feels like you can just fly off into the clouds. Don't you think?"
Kenny nodded happily, feeling privileged to have some one-on-one time with his mother. She'd been acting so down since Maureen was born. She hardly ever wanted to play with him. It felt nice when she talked to him like that.
They were about halfway across the bridge, where the two lanes turned into three, when she pulled over to the side and told him to wait. He watched her get out of the car in her black dress, the one with the bright red roses and green leaves all over it. She stepped out of her red pumps and reached through the driver's-side window to set them on the seat next to him, giving him that same droopy smile again. The skin around her eyes wrinkled softly, reflecting a sense of tragedy that made her seem older than her thirty-six years.
"It's dangerous out here, so stay buckled up, okay, pumpkin?" she said.
He'd watched her put on some red lipstick before they left the house, and he thought again how it set off the whiteness of her very straight teeth. She was so much more beautiful than any of his friends' mothers. It made him proud.
Kenny took her words as the law, never questioning why she'd parked where there was no shoulder. With his seat belt fastened as instructed, he watched the cars whizzing by and wondered where she'd gone. Strapped in and helpless, he couldn't see into the rearview mirror without undoing his belt. Surely she wouldn't be gone for long. Finally, he undid the buckle and twisted the mirror so he could see behind the car. There she was, gazing intently out into the distance. He carefully refastened the seat belt, feeling guilty as it clicked home.
Minutes later, he still couldn't shake the feeling of apprehension, so he looked into the mirror again. This time he saw her throw one leg over the railing, and then the other. What was she doing? Then, in one quick movement, she dropped herself over the edge.
For a while there, he was sure she'd climb right back over the top of the railing. When she didn't reappear, the ice cream began to curdle in his stomach and his heart began to pound.
It seemed like hours that he sat there, waiting for her, when a police cruiser pulled up behind the car. A young officer slowly approached, his hand on his gun, and stuck his head through the open window.
"Where are your parents, son?" he asked.
But all Kenny could do was stare straight ahead, his fists clenched so tightly his nails bit into his palms. He knew he would start crying if he met the officer's questioning gaze. He figured what the man really wanted to know was why he hadn't tried to stop his mother from jumping into the nothingness.
The officer went back to his cruiser for a minute to talk into his radio; then he got in the car with Kenny while they waited for a tow truck to arrive. He put his arm around the boy's shoulders and made Kenny feel safe enough to convey the bare facts of what had happened and to obediently recite his home address. The officer patiently walked Kenny back to the police cruiser and took him home to what was left of his family.
From that day on, Ken Goode knew he wanted to be a policeman.
Goode drove a little more than halfway over the bridge before he reached the spot where his mother had jumped. He pulled to the side, turned on his hazard lights and unwound the rubber band holding the cellophane together, easing the stem out of its casing. He brought the bud to his nose and breathed in its sweet fullness. He felt a stab of the old pain and his eyes teared up. He was feeling really tired and vulnerable for some reason. But that was okay. He'd allow himself that, for a few minutes at least. Maybe it was just the hot wind blowing the hair into his eyes.
He stood at the railing facing north. To his left was the small island city of Coronado and to his right were the blue steel towers of the bridge, curving around to the San Diego marina and downtown skyscape. He tried to push the hair out of his face so he could take in the view, but it was useless. He could only look down.
Goode began his ritual of tearing off the rose petals, one at a time, and watching them catch the breeze. It always amazed him what a long way down it was to the bay. He looked it up on the Internet once and learned it was a two-hundred-foot drop. Sometimes he'd start to wonder how much the fall would hurt from this height, but he'd immediately push the thought from his brain. He wouldn't go there. Couldn't go there.
"How are you, Mom?" he said into the wind. "Are you happy?"
A seagull swooped out of the sky, settled on the railing a few feet away, and looked right at him. Part of the bird's upper beak was chipped off. He found its proximity a little unnerving and he wondered for a second whether that could possibly be his mother. He wasn't a religious man, but he did get spiritual from time to time. It couldn't be, he thought. That's ridiculous. He turned away and watched the sun reflect off the ripples in the San Diego Bay.
"What's it like where you are?" he asked. "Do you have friends?"
A few moments later, a second seagull touched down on the railing, right next to the first. Goode really didn't believe in the whole New Age thing, but this seemed a little weird, even to him. He broke the stamen from the rose and tossed it over, watching it float down.
"Okay, if this is real," he said into the wind, "then show me one more sign."
One of the cars whipping past honked. He felt the wind pick up and blow his hair out of his eyes. It was a little cooler, there by the ocean. He closed his eyes and let the breeze kiss his face. But then, abruptly, it ... just ... stopped ... blowing. The high-pitched traffic noise dulled and he felt a strange calm. Soon, beads of sweat began to form on his upper lip. He started feeling woozy.
He heard the crunch of tires on asphalt and turned to see a police cruiser park behind his van. Just like the first time. A young officer in his midtwenties approached with his hand on his gun. It could have been the son of the officer who'd stopped there thirty years ago.
Goode shivered. "No shit," he whispered. He smiled and shook his head.
"Everything okay here? You know you can't park your van on the bridge," the officer said, sticking his chest out with more than enough bravado. Bulletproof vests always made cops seem more macho than they really were.
Strangely enough, Goode hadn't had to deal with Coronado police much during his yearly ceremony, usually because he did it in the middle of the night when traffic was light to nonexistent. He figured he'd tell his fellow officer the truth.
Goode extended his hand to shake the officer's. "Ken Goode, San Diego PD," he said, retrieving his badge from his shorts pocket. "Just checking in with my mother. She jumped here thirty years ago today."
The officer gave him a firm shake, but his eyes softened and he relaxed into a less aggressive stance. "Joe Johnston, Coronado PD," he said. "Wow. That's rough." Johnston paused and shook his head as if he didn't know what else to say. "Well, I guess I'll ... hang out here in my cruiser for a few minutes to make sure no one bothers you. Take your time."
Goode thanked him. He wasn't sure what it all meant, but he felt as if his mother was okay, wherever she was. Maybe she was a teacher there, too. Or maybe she'd become a painter like she'd always dreamed. He threw the rose stem over the side and watched it swing idly down to the water, coming to rest on the surface and bob along with the current. He wiped a tear from his cheek with his sleeve.
"See you next time," he whispered.
Goode waved thanks to the officer and drove the rest of the bridge to Coronado so he could make a U-turn and head back to a quiet surfing spot he liked in Bird Rock, the neighborhood between La Jolla proper and Pacific Beach. He longed to get out of his head and into the glassy tube of a six-footer, his surfboard cutting through the water as if he were Moses. He'd been so busy he hadn't been able to paddle out for the past week. Surfing was his primary stress outlet and going without it for long made him feel like he was coming out of his skin. A lack of positive ions or something.
He'd been ordered by the brass to do some weekend catch-up work at the station, but he liked typing up reports about as much as scrubbing the bathtub. His talent for procrastination had been fully engaged that morning, most of which he'd spent at an outdoor café, enjoying the slow creep of heightened awareness that came with two café lattes and the Sunday New York Times. He felt twice as smart when he finished, although he knew enough to credit the fickle embrace of caffeine. He figured he'd do his personal business, get some surf time, and then run down to headquarters later in the afternoon. But first things first. He was feeling a little rundown. The Narcotics-Homicide double duty he'd been doing over the past few years was taking its toll. It was worth it, though, and a necessary step toward making the move. He really felt he belonged in Homicide; he had a calling for it. He'd paid his dues and he was ready, right on the brink. He could feel it.
Mission Boulevard was still gridlocked. To his right, a twenty-something brunette with long legs sauntered along the sidewalk, holding up her hair to cool her neck. The white nape beckoned to him. She recognized him, then smiled and waved, as if she had nothing but time to get to a destination unknown-with him, if he wanted. Goode grinned and waved back. They'd met at José's Cantina in La Jolla a few weeks back. Jennie was her name. She'd told him he was smart and sexy. Why didn't he have a girlfriend? He told her he liked being alone. He'd tried marriage and it didn't work out. He also recalled thinking he could really use some human contact. It had been too long, so long that he almost couldn't remember what it felt like to have a soft, warm body like hers curled around him in the middle of the night. But he'd resisted. This time, he almost gave in to the impulse, opened his door and asked if she wanted to join him for a beer.
That's when his rational mind took over. Even though she seemed like an innocent waif, he knew only too well that his picker was broken and that before long, she was sure to turn into another roller coaster ride. Then, as if to close the matter, he felt that queasy feeling come back and a stab of the old pain-the other old pain, that is.
"You've been doing so well," he said to himself in the rearview mirror, trying not to move his lips so people wouldn't see him talking to himself. "Don't blow it now."
Even after his divorce, he still seemed to attract the women with the most baggage: the neurotic and the narcissistic, the closet alcoholics and the prescription-drug abusers. He began dating to distract himself from the hurt he felt when his wife, Miranda, left him. Again. But one distraction led to another and his life became a bad game of dominos. So he developed the discipline he needed to stay celibate. At least it kept one part of his life simple. It kept his mind clear, which freed him up to focus on his career.
He'd had it with the traffic and was honking at the lowrider in front of him when he saw an opening. He cranked the wheel, hit the gas, and cut into an alley parallel to the beach, his tires squealing. It felt good to catch a little speed and the cool air that came with it.
He glanced at his watch to see how much time he could spare before he could expect a second call from his sergeant in Narcotics, telling him to get his lazy ass in gear on the paperwork. When he looked up again, something small and brown had come out of nowhere. His van was almost on top of it before he could tell what it was-one of those damned rat-dogs. He swerved to avoid it and practically put his foot through the floorboard trying to stop.
"Stupid dog," Goode yelled as his van careened toward a row of black trash bins and a young guy who was crouched down, examining something between the cans. Goode's brakes screeched as his van came to a halt just a few feet short of him. He was a stocky guy in his early twenties, a little heavyset and not all that tall, with short dark hair and big dark eyes, wearing a baseball cap backwards. Goode guessed he was probably of Italian or Greek origin. The kid's face conveyed a whole spectrum of emotions, only one of which was relief that he hadn't been flattened by a VW van.
Excerpted from Naked Addiction by Caitlin Rother Copyright © 2007 by Caitlin Rother. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted June 12, 2008
¿Naked Addiction¿ by Caitlin Rother is one of the most well-constructed murder mysteries that I have ever read in 40 years of reading that genre. Rother¿s years as an investigative reporter put her on the front line of crime and she has used that experience to construct real and authentic characters and scenarios that are so factual that you feel you could be reading a newspaper account of a crime. The plot of ¿Naked Addiction¿ is so complex and elaborate that you never suspect who the murderer is until Rother decides to let you know¿. at the end of the book. Caitlin Rother¿s debut into the fiction genre is impressive and has a long life ahead of it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
San Diego police detective Ken Goode wants more than anything to be transferred to the homicide division so when he ultimately stumbles over the body of a dead woman he thinks she is his ticket to getting what he desires. His attitude changes when he comes to ¿know ¿the victim Tania Marcus who attracted men in droves, some of them walking on the wrong side of the law. He learns that she attended Head Forward School of Hair Design and that she planed to open an ¿escort¿ service that will cater to men and women. ---- A couple of days later Sharona, a girl who attends the same school is found dead in the same manner. Through good old fashioned police work Goode finds a connection between the two women and how the Pumphouse, a bar where drugs are sold house works and two men Seth and Keith who are suspected drug dealers and knew the two women. When Keith is murdered Goode knows all three murders are connected and he believes they were all killed by the same person. However, finding the link and the killer isn¿t easy as different suspects have diverse motives for killing only one of the victims with no one having reasons for three homicides. ---- Caitlin Rother¿s first novel is an excellent police procedural that will appeal to fans of Nancy Taylor Rosenberg and Christine McGuire. The investigation contains red herrings, wrong paths taken and misdirection and that makes the reader feel they are accompanying the protagonist. Goode is an honest police officer whose motive for solving the case changes from wanting a transfer to solving the crimes as he gets to know the victims. ---- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.