Read an Excerpt
NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU
By MAX ALLAN COLLINS MATTHEW CLEMENS
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJohn Christian Harrow sent a narrow-eyed gaze from the Colorado woods toward the rambling, rustic, one-story house nestled on a bluff in a small clearing maybe twenty yards away. It might have been the idyllic home of a Waltons-esque happy family, and not a meth lab filled with dangerous felons.
A light was on in the living room at the front, another toward the back, either a bedroom or the kitchen. Harrow—J.C. to his friends (and the audience of UBC Network's top-rated reality television show, Crime Seen)—had no floor plan, so it was hard to know which.
Crime Seen's resident computer expert, petite blonde Jenny Blake, was ensconced in the show's mobile crime lab down the road, tracking the house's blueprints on the Internet. A tall order, but if anyone could make that happen, it was Jenny.
Right now, however, Harrow's earbud remained silent, and he wondered if for once Jenny might come up empty.
The night was surprisingly warm for early spring in the Rocky Mountains, the sky Coors-commercial clear, the quarter moon a sliver of silver, the stars as bright as they were countless. This felt akin to the Iowa night sky Harrow had grown up with, and far preferable to the smog-filled air over his adopted Los Angeles.
Beside Harrow stood Billy Choi of Crime Seen's forensic all-star team. Son of an Asian father and Caucasian mother, Choi—with his long black hair, chiseled good looks, and taekwondo-sculpted body—was a tool marks expert, firearms examiner, and door-kicking-in ace. His eyes followed his boss's to the house.
Like Harrow, Choi wore a black Crime Seen Windbreaker (Kevlar beneath), camo-chinos, and boots. There was a Batman-and-Robin effect to the two men, as the brown-eyed, rugged, Apachecheek-boned Harrow—his brown hair gone fully white at the temples—towered at six foot two over Choi's five eight. If Harrow's eyes were any darker brown, they'd have been black (the networkmandated blue contacts, demanded for season one of the show, were a thing of the past).
Around them at the edge of the woods, seven or eight Denver County deputies were checking shotguns and other equipment, preparing for an assault.
At the rear, cameraman Maury Hathaway—his heavyset frame covered, typically, by a Grateful Dead T-shirt and bandolier battery belt—waited with his Sony digicam at the ready, like the deputies with their shotguns.
Local sheriff Jens Watson, a flinty-looking string bean in jeans and a cowboy shirt embroidered with a Denver County star, was about Harrow's age—late forties—and seemed to be a good cop. But Watson had wanted nothing to do with having Harrow and Choi along on this raid.
Like Harrow (back when he'd been sheriff of Story County, Iowa), Watson had to run for reelection every four years. This meant making good decisions to keep the voters happy, like accepting twenty thousand dollars worth of new lab equipment from Dennis Byrnes, president of the United Broadcasting Company.
Now, out here in the dark, on the edge of the county, the unreal sense that time had stopped draped them all in frozen tension. The house sat half a mile from its nearest neighbor, surrounded for the most part by woods, except for the long, twisting drive up the hill and the scrubby clearing that formed a modest front yard.
The law enforcement team that Harrow and Choi accompanied had gone past the driveway to park around a bend, just off the road on a firebreak. The posse trudged up the hillside through thick trees and dense undergrowth to this vantage point above the house. They could see all of the front, one side, and into the backyard, though not much of the latter before its slope fell away down a mountainside.
The trek up the steep hill found Harrow sucking air like the two-pack-a-day smoker he'd once been. While he slipped off the wagon occasionally (now that his wife, Ellen, and son David were gone), he wasn't even half the smoker now.
He took only mild pleasure that the other flatlander, Choi—half Harrow's age, a nonsmoker in terrific shape—was sucking air himself.
For their part, the deputies, used to living in the troposphere, breathed as calmly as if the tromp through the woods were a leisurely stroll.
"Not much movin' down there," Sheriff Watson said.
Choi, in thermal-imaging goggles, said, "One for sure in the living room in the front."
"You can't see anyone else?" Watson asked.
Choi turned the goggles toward the back of the house. "Two heat signatures in that room. A person and something smaller."
"Smaller?" Watson asked. "What, a dog?"
"Hard to tell ..."
Harrow offered, "Could be they're cooking up their next batch."
Choi said, "It's a small heat source, but it's getting hotter fast. Think you're right, boss."
Watson turned to his deputies, raising his voice a hair. "Could be hot chemicals in there, fellas—let's stay alert."
The protocol probably dictated protective suits and the bomb squad and a hundred other things that Harrow knew Watson wasn't about to wait for.
Harrow, Choi, and the Denver County contingent were poised at woods' edge on this mountain tonight thanks to a Crime Seen viewer tip.
A comic book dealer, Michael Gold, had become suspicious when he suddenly found himself serving new customers who seemed to have neither knowledge of nor enthusiasm for the collectibles they were buying. They were simply interested in purchasing high-end comics.
When other dealers started showing up at comic conventions with those same books—sold to them at a loss by Gold's clients—the comics dealer grew suspicious. Who bought pricey comic books they weren't interested in, and then turned right around and sold them at a loss?
Only somebody very stupid ...
... or somebody very smart.
Gold knew damn well he was dealing with smart criminals laundering money.
The team tracked Gold's Crime Seen line tip to this house, leading to this moment—a televised raid on a meth lab (albeit one taped and edited for next Friday's show).
Finally, in his earbud, came Jenny's small, almost timid voice: "Sorry to take so long, boss. There've been additions to the original home. Room you're talking about, behind the living room, is a bedroom. Kitchen is on the other side of the house."
"Thanks, Jenny," Harrow said into a lavalier mic, clipped to his shirt. A bedroom converted to a meth lab.
"You're welcome," came Jenny's voice, as if they'd just transacted a sale over a counter. "Uh, J.C.?"
"If they're using meth, not just making it? They may be excitable."
He smiled. "Thanks, Jen. Keep it in mind."
Unbidden, Warren Zevon's song "Excitable Boy" began to play in his mind.
Harrow passed the new information along to Sheriff Watson. "The comic book 'collectors' in there are frying up a new batch of crank."
Watson turned. "Jenkins—you, Siegel, and Hartley get around back, and be goddamn careful. We don't want to blow that house, and us, to hell and gone ... and take Mr. Choi with you."
Choi looked at Harrow. "I should be out front."
"Neither one of you," Watson growled, "oughta be anywhere around here."
Calmly Harrow said, "A Crime Seen tip brought us here. It's our bust as much as yours."
"Don't see it that way," Watson said. "No chance either of you civilians goes in with my team."
Harrow knew when to back off. "No problem. You want Choi around back, that's where he's going—right, Billy?"
His voice friendly and his eyes cold, Choi said, "Right."
But before Choi could fall in with the three deputies, somebody saw headlights at the bottom of the hill.
"Truck," the deputy said.
They ducked when headlights swept the hill, then clicked off, as a white Cadillac Escalade crept up the drive and came to a smooth stop next to the house.
The driver climbed out—a good six feet, scruffy beard, jeans, and a black-and-red plaid flannel shirt. At the open rider's side window of his vehicle, he was handed a weapon—looked to Harrow like an AK-47.
"Oh shit," Sheriff Watson muttered.
No one disagreed with this sentiment.
Though the vehicle mostly blocked their view, Harrow could see both doors on the passenger side.
Two more men got out.
The doors of the SUV were closed carefully, quietly. The no-headlights approach confirmed something wasn't right here....
Watson said, "Great—more guests at the party."
"Not welcome guests," Harrow said.
"Those aren't reinforcements."
The three men eased away from the Escalade and moved silently toward the house. Each carried an automatic weapon.
Acid burned in Harrow's stomach—he knew what they were about to witness.
So did Choi: "It's a hit."
And took off through the woods in the direction of the house.
"It's a what?" Watson asked, not sure he'd heard Choi correctly.
"A hit," Harrow threw back, falling in behind Choi.
Too late for Harrow to advise Choi this wasn't their battle. Choi had a cop's instincts.
Loping down the hillside, Harrow could make out the driver cutting around back while the other two crept up to the front door.
He glanced back at the sheriff and the deputies trailing them—confusion on their faces plain even in the dark.
Cameraman Hathaway was behind Denver County's finest, having the good sense to hang back.
Thrashing through the undergrowth behind Choi, Harrow was just waiting for the gunmen to turn those AK's in their direction and chop them down, unless an exposed root in this darkness beat them to it, to send Harrow tumbling, breaking his goddamn neck.
Neither Harrow nor Choi had a weapon, the older man wondering if that had even dawned on the younger one. Harrow wasn't sure which scared him more, being unarmed out here or Choi not caring as they charged unarmed toward three men with automatic weapons.
Choi circled the house, so that he—Harrow tailing him—could close the distance with the lone gunman, heading for the rear.
Glancing back, Harrow saw Watson and most of the deputies peel off to try to take the two out front. Up ahead Choi was keeping low, making rapid progress toward his target.
If our Escalade interloper will just stay focused on his own prey for another few seconds ...
Gunfire erupted out front—the distinctive bark of an AK-47!
The interloper's head snapped around, and he caught movement in the brush nearby. His gun came up, and he dropped into a shooter's crouch and squeezed the trigger just as Choi broke through the undergrowth, kicking the barrel of the gun, sending its rounds flying harmlessly into the mountain air.
As the interloper brought the weapon around, Choi elbowed the guy in the chest, grabbed the gun by its barrel, and the two men tumbled to the ground, wrestling over the damn thing.
Harrow narrowed the distance quickly, ready to give Choi a hand ...
... then the back door of the house slapped open and two T-shirted occupants came bursting out. The pair took off across the yard and, judging from the sounds of a firefight out front, Harrow had no choice.
He took off at a dead run after the meth cookers. The shorter, squatter one was catchable, even if his lankier partner wasn't.
In Harrow's earpiece, Jenny's small, breathless voice was saying, "Boss, we heard gunfire! Everything all right? Boss?"
"Get back to you," Harrow said breathlessly.
Sucking wind but closing fast, Harrow could hear his prey's heaving breath over his own. Just short of the woods, Harrow threw a flying tackle, driving the guy down.
The two rolled, meth cooker squealing like a pig, trying to kick free of Harrow's arms. As the kicks thumped painfully into his chest and arms, Harrow finally released his grip and bounced up, getting to his feet ahead of the meth cooker.
When the pudgy kid finally rose, Harrow was already in a combat stance.
"You're caught—give it up!"
The kid threw a wild, looping right, which Harrow sidestepped easily.
Harrow said, "Don't make me—"
The meth cooker interrupted with a lashing kick that Harrow easily avoided. The man's momentum took him up in the air and landed him on the lawn with a hard whomp, air gushing.
Kneeling and grabbing the kid by his T-shirt, Harrow advised, "Stay down, son—you're caught."
Blinking furiously, sweat pouring off him, the meth cooker looked up at his captor, with a goofy smile. "Hey—you're that guy on TV! J.C. Harrow!"
Harrow no longer heard gunfire from around the house. Choi ambled up, gunman in tow, hands behind his head, the firearms expert holding the AK nonchalantly in the bad guy's general direction.
"On your knees, dickweed," Choi said.
The gunman spat two angry words at Choi.
Who said, "Isn't one ass-kicking enough tonight?"
Though still glaring, the gunman relented and knelt next to Harrow's captive.
Choi looked around. "Where's the other meth cooker?"
"In the wind."
"You let him go?"
A gentle dig.
"Bird in the hand." Harrow grinned at his young colleague. "My guy recognized me. Did yours?"
Choi's hurt frown was answer enough.
In Harrow's ear, Jenny was saying, "Boss, what's happening? Please report!"
"Easy, Jen," Harrow said fondly. "We're okay."
Sheriff Watson and his deputies came through the backdoor of the house and approached the Crime Seen pair and their prisoners.
"You two okay?" Watson asked.
Choi's cocky grin was back. "Better than these buttwipes."
"Better than the two out front, too," Watson said, his voice a little shaky.
"Your men all right?" Harrow asked.
Watson pushed his hat back. "Sure as hell not what they're used to ... but they did fine. One bad guy dead, other wounded. We'll get forensics support out here and I hope to send my men home to their families before too damn long."
"I hear that," Harrow said.
"Judging from what we found inside," Watson said, "your tipster hit it on the button. All the ingredients for meth, boxes of vintage comic books—Superman, Batman, Captain America—and a big old pile of cash money."
"Look, uh, Mr. Harrow—we appreciate the backup. If I didn't make you feel welcome, I surely do apologize."
"I'm a former sheriff myself. I know what it's like to have your turf invaded."
The two men traded respectful nods.
As it turned out, Maury Hathaway had snagged great footage of both Choi and Harrow's take-downs, plus the sheriff's firefight with the would-be thieves.
Once the crime scene unit cleared it, Harrow did an on-camera wraparound from inside the house, showing off the comics, the drug paraphernalia, and, of course, the impressive stacks of money.
As they loaded out, Harrow could just hear network president Dennis Byrnes laughing like a gleeful kid. Taking down a meth lab, stopping four felons, pleasing UBC's president—all that should have given Harrow a nice Colorado high.
Instead, with the second season of his hit show winding down, Harrow felt tired beyond his years.
Not long ago, he and his team had tracked down the maniac who had slaughtered his family—which had been the sole motivation behind accepting the Crime Seen job, and allowing himself to become a public figure. A TV star, for Christ's sake.
But now he'd accomplished everything he set out to, and more. Standing here in the cool spring mountain air, watching bad guys get carted away, he felt no real satisfaction.
When one of the sheriff's vehicles had trouble gaining traction on the dirt road, he grinned without humor into the night.
Me, too, he thought. Spinning my wheels ...
Chapter TwoBarely over the LAPD minimum height requirement of five feet, Lieutenant Anna Amari had to let her work as a lead investigator at the LAPD Sex Crimes Division walk tall for her.
She keep her makeup to a minimum and her dress low-key professional, like the dark gray blazer, light gray silk blouse, and darker gray slacks she wore on this cool May morning.
Still, she was a strikingly attractive woman of forty-two, with a naturally busty, narrow-waisted figure, deep olive complexion, and brown razorcut hair brushing her shoulders. Brown almondshaped eyes missed little, and—despite the bleak nature of her work—her smile came easily and often.
Excerpted from NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU by MAX ALLAN COLLINS MATTHEW CLEMENS Copyright © 2011 by Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens. Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. 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.