Ash Levine, the top detective in the LAPD's elite Felony Special Squad, is called out to solve the murder of two young black men found shot to death in a Venice alley. The case is a high priority because one of the victims is the son of City Councilman Isaac Pinkney, a frequent critic of the LAPD. Searching for the killer throws Levine into the world of Los Angeles's Russian Mafia, Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, and Middle Eastern archeologists. Ash's history as a child of a Holocaust survivor gives him a unique perspective on murder, redemption, and justice. His background as a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces, and his relentless, single-minded focus on his investigations make him a thoroughly absorbing character. As Ash closes in on the killer, the investigation becomes increasingly complex - and personal. Ash soon discovers that he is not just an investigator, but a target.
About the Author
A native of Los Angeles, Miles Corwin is former crime reporter at the Los Angeles Times. Corwin is a best-selling author whose previous books include The Killing Season, And Still We Rise, and Homicide Special.
Read an Excerpt
An Ash Levine Novel
By Miles Corwin
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2012 Miles Corwin
All rights reserved.
The sun was fading toward the horizon, and the breeze sputtered to dead calm when I swiveled around and paddled toward the point. My board split a seam in the still, clear water, and spoons of light reflected off the edges. I could see tiny, brightly colored fish scattering ahead of me. This has always been my favorite time to surf. The evening glass off.
A few hundred feet beyond the point, I pushed myself up, straddled the board, and waited for the last wave of the day. I was used to the overcrowded, polluted beaches down south; catching waves at Rincon, a dozen miles from Santa Barbara, on a Friday in winter, was a rare treat. If I'd driven up the coast alone, I would have surfed until dark. But Robin was waiting for me on the sand, and I figured she was getting impatient.
While I waited for the next set, I looked out at sea. I could make out the craggy silhouette of Santa Cruz Island and a fishing trawler chugging north. On shore, the low tide exposed a sweep of smooth, slate-gray rocks that shimmered in the weak December sunlight. A mound of crumbling cliffs loomed above the Pacific Coast Highway, snaking down the coast.
I spotted a swell of pale green, quickly building in size and speed, rising from the anvil-flat horizon. This set, I figured, would be overhead, at a minimum. The teenagers on toothpicks yelped with excitement, whipped their boards around and furiously windmilled out to sea, hoping to reach the calm water beyond the break line before the first wave crashed. I was grateful that I had a longer board with thicker rails. I didn't mind sacrificing some maneuverability for enough buoyancy so I could knee paddle. I passed a half dozen kids on their stomachs who were racing toward the swell, but looked like they might be caught inside.
The first wave burst into a sleek wall of water about a hundred yards away, and I didn't think I'd make it. I paddled until my shoulders burned, dipped into the lip of the swell, and was blasted into the air, suspended a few feet above the water, gripping the rails of my board, until it landed with a flat smack just beyond the crashing wave. I had only a moment to catch my breath before the next wave curled off the point. Now I was far enough out to catch it. I waited until I could see the swell rise, then took a few strokes toward shore.
As the wave propelled me forward, I jumped to my feet and flew down the steep face, feeling out of control, like I'd just jumped off a cliff, my heart dropping to my gut. At the bottom I carved a sharp turn, just ahead of the billowing whitewater, and then climbed and skimmed along the face, feeling weightless, like I was flying. For a moment, I was in command, not simply reacting to the vagaries of the wave, but mastering it. I crouched slightly, swiveled on my back foot, scaled the wave, and then swung my hips and plunged back down, sculpting clean, graceful swirls.
As I neared shore and began to lose speed, I inched up to the board's nose, my feet parallel, my back arched, then slid back down the board, and kicked out with a flourish. On the beach, a skinny kid in a wetsuit with long, sun-bleached hair, who looked about ten or eleven, nodded as I hopped off my board.
"Killer ride," the kid called out, eyes shining with admiration.
I smiled and nodded, feeling flattered and a little silly.
"For an old guy," he added with a smirk.
I laughed to myself as I trudged away. When I reached the sandy beach on the other side of the point, I dropped my board and appreciated the view: a crescent of fine white sand, framed by cliffs studded with sage and eucalyptus trees. This was one of my favorite spots in Southern California: an island on the land, cut off from the highway by the cliffs, separated from the crowded surfing beach by the rocky point, a placid place where the only sound was the crash of the surf. The vast stretch of beach was almost empty. There was only a young woman running along the damp sand with her dog, and Robin, wearing jeans and a sweater, reading on a canvas chair. From a distance, she looked like a little girl: small and slender, knees against her chest, arms wrapped around her shins. She clutched her novel, absorbed.
I recalled when my brother Marty, an attorney who worked for the same corporate law firm as Robin, introduced us. When I first spotted her I thought she resembled those girls from the shtetl pictures I'd seen of prewar Europe — pale, dark-haired, and exotically pretty, with wide intelligent eyes that reflected a premonition of the anguish to come.
I snuck up behind her and flicked my wet finger at her neck.
"Hey!" she yelled, scrambling to her feet.
I leaned over and kissed her.
"Mmm," she said. "I love the taste of salt on a surfer's lips."
As I peeled off my wetsuit, Robin threw me two towels. I wrapped one around my waist and stripped off my trunks. Shivering, I dried off and slipped on jeans and a sweatshirt.
"I was getting damn cold," she said. "December's not exactly beach weather."
"Sorry I was out there so long," I said, combing my hair with my nails.
"It's so beautiful, I didn't mind. How was it?"
"Great. Especially my last ride." I smiled. "Some kid said I was pretty good — for an old guy."
She tilted her chin back and laughed. I'd missed so many things about her, but her laugh was one of the things I'd missed most, that uninhibited, trilling laugh that sounded like wind chimes in a breeze.
"Did that bother you?"
"Naw. I just never thought of myself as an old guy."
"You're not," she said, squeezing my biceps theatrically. "But, I guess, for you that might be hard to take."
"What do you mean, for you."
"You're years past the boy wonder stage."
"Yeah?" I said, motioning for her to continue.
"You were the first cop in your academy class to make detective. You were the youngest cop to make Felony Special. So all I'm saying is that it's probably hard to see yourself, like that kid saw you: as an old guy."
"That's the last time this weekend we mention the LAPD," I said. "I want this to be a perfect weekend."
"Okay. No more LAPD talk."
"You didn't mind stopping here on the way to Santa Barbara, did you?"
She shook her head. "By the time we get to our hotel, I'll be totally relaxed." A hint of worry flashed across her face. "You did make the reservation, didn't you?"
"And you made the dinner reservation for tonight?"
"I took care of everything. This is going to be a great weekend. Like the ones we used to have."
I eased into the beach chair and pulled her onto my lap. She snuggled against my chest as I crossed my arms over her shoulders. We watched the waves break on shore, the spume feathering in the air.
"Being together again today is —" I halted in mid-sentence.
"I feel that way, too," she said softly.
"You know, we've been apart now almost longer than we were together."
"Hardly. Five years together. Two years apart."
"It just seems like that," I said. "I'm glad you're a procrastinator."
"Because if you hadn't put off filing those final judgment forms, and all those other documents you had me sign, we'd already be divorced now."
We watched the water churn for a few minutes. I felt content for the first time in a long while. The squad room squabbles, the anxiety over the impending divorce, the pressure of my cases, all seemed to recede now.
We'd talked very little since our separation. Robin had made it clear that the marriage was over, even though she'd been dilatory in finalizing the divorce. She appraised the house, took out a second mortgage, cut me a check for half the amount, and bought me out. I used the money to buy my downtown loft and tried, unsuccessfully, with the help of an LAPD psychologist, to move on. A few months ago, I was stunned when Robin called to say hello. We chatted for about twenty minutes. The next night I called her and we talked for three hours. We'd met for a few long lunches. I called her a few days ago, and when she agreed to spend the weekend in Santa Barbara with me, I was astonished.
"Well," she said, standing up and brushing the sand off her jeans, "let's get to our room. I want to take a long, hot bath."
I slid my arm around her waist and said, "Maybe I'll join you."
We climbed the wooden steps along the face of the cliffs, panting when we reached the parking lot on the crest. I stuffed the board in the rear of my battered Saturn station wagon.
"You should have let me drive my Mercedes," she said. "I could have put some racks on top."
"Why? You embarrassed to be seen in this old beater?"
"I'm thinking of comfort, not class."
The light was draining from the sky — a mosaic of gold, orange, and pink — and the sun was melting into the sea, leaving a brushstroke of red on the still water. The woodsy smell of chaparral floated up from the cliffs. I reached out for her hand. "This is nice."
"Yeah. Kind of reminds me of the old days when we use to —" she paused and froze, a fox smelling danger. "What the hell is that?"
"I sure as hell hope that isn't what I think it is," Robin said.
I flipped open the back of the station wagon and fished my buzzing cell phone out of a duffel bag. After checking Caller ID, I muttered, "It's Lieutenant Duffy."
"You promised me you weren't on call this weekend," Robin said in pleading tone.
"Can't you just shut off your cell and pretend you never got the message?"
"You know I can't. I've got to at least check in."
She walked off and stood beneath a eucalyptus, arms crossed, body rigid.
I sighed and punched in a number on my cell.
"I thought I was off call this weekend."
"You were — until a few minutes ago."
"Listen LT., I'm on my way to Santa Barbara. I've made plans."
"You taking someone on a romantic weekend?"
"Who is he?"
"Very funny. I'm with Robin."
"I thought that bitch dumped you a few years ago."
"I'm trying to make it work," I said, a tinge of desperation in my voice.
"I wish I could spare you, but I'm dealing with a shitstorm here. This is December. Half the unit's out of state, visiting family for the holidays or getting ready for Christmas. At least I know you can't use that excuse."
"Look, there's got to be someone besides me."
"Ash, I'm not lyin', you're the last man on my on-call list," he said, his voice softening. "I tried to keep you free. But I'm stuck. I've got to call you in. How soon can you get here?"
"Just tell me what's going on," I said, choking out the words.
"Two rappers ambushed this afternoon in North Hollywood. Then we caught another case in Thai Town."
I glanced over at Robin. She was leaning against the guardrail, shaking her head.
"This is fucked up," I said.
"It always is. But I've got to deal with two other vics. Blacks, early twenties. They're tits up in a Venice alley. In Oakwood, that little ghetto there."
"Why can't the Pacific Division guys handle a gangster walk-up? Why's it going to Felony Special?"
"Because one of the vics is the son of Isaac Pinkney."
"The city councilman who's always ragging on the LAPD?"
"One and the same."
"This weekend is important to me."
"Can't do it, Asher, my boy. Wish I could. But I can give you a choice. You can head out to the rapper shooting. Or you can run with the Venice double."
"Is it a real clusterfuck at North Hollywood?" I asked.
"My partner's on vacation until after the holidays."
"I'll team you up with Graupmann. His partner's out of town, too."
"I don't want to work with that knuckle-dragger. I'll take the Venice double — if I can work it alone until my partner gets back."
"You're an antisocial motherfucker. But whatever it takes to get your ass to Venice."
Robin walked over and said, in an irritated tone, "Listen Ash, you have to tell Duffy to —" I held up a palm, quieting her for a moment.
"What's going on there?" Duffy asked.
"An angry surfer."
"Watch your back," Duffy said. He gave me the location in Venice where the two bodies were found. I clicked off the phone as Robin climbed into the station wagon and slammed the door.
Damn. Why did I have to get called out this weekend. I'd looked forward to this weekend and had such great hopes. Who knows if I'd get an- other chance at a weekend away with Robin? I felt like flinging my cell phone into the ocean and heading up to Santa Barbara anyway. But I knew I had no choice. I paced beside the car, trying to figure out how to placate her. When we were married, we'd been through this drill countless times: homicide call outs ruining weekends away, vacations, birthday dinners, romantic evenings. During that last year, the marriage was brittle enough. All those cancelled plans hadn't helped.
Sitting beside Robin in the station wagon, I struggled for something to say, for words that might break the tension, but I couldn't think of anything that I hadn't said to her dozens of times before. I finally muttered, "Duffy gave me no choice," and braced for a dressing-down.
She cleared her throat and, in a surprisingly good Marlon Brando Godfather impersonation, she said in a gravelly voice, "That is the nature of the profession you have chosen for yourself." Then she turned toward me and laughed. She lightly slapped my cheek and said, "Capiche?"
"Look, Robin, I'm really sorry about —"
"Don't apologize. I agreed to spend a weekend with a homicide detective. I knew the risks."
I was so surprised at her equanimity that I didn't know how to respond. Finally, I sputtered, "You used to get so irate."
She stared out the window, watching the western horizon, now a glaring scarlet. "We both made a lot of mistakes back then."
"I know I did."
"I'm not letting you off the hook. When you finish off this case, you better deliver on that weekend in Santa Barbara that you owe me."
"I'll deliver. That's a promise."
"So what's this case about?"
"Councilman Isaac Pinkney's son and another kid found shot in an Oakwood alley."
She whistled softly. "This should be interesting. Isn't Pinkney always going on and on about how the LAPD is a racist, fascist, paramilitary organization whose sole purpose is to keep the black man down?"
"You better be careful on this one, Ash." She reached for my hand, ran her fingers across the palm, and said, "I see a civil suit in your future."
"Just what I need."
"Everything you do, document. Put it on paper."
"I keep a pretty good chrono on my cases."
"Make sure you detail everything. I don't know anything about homicide investigations, as you used to remind me, but I do know some- thing about civil lawsuits. So if you run into anything that you think might be a problem down the line, give me a call. I'll reduce my usual three-hundred-dollar-an-hour fee to a weekend in Santa Barbara."
This was the Robin with whom I'd fallen in love, the woman who was wisecracking and funny and smart, who grasped the demands of my job. Years later, when our marriage soured and we were fighting all the time, I knew she had changed. But I'd changed too, something I came to understand too late.
Leaning over, I framed her face with my palms, kissed her softly, and said, "Thank you." I started the car and dropped onto the Pacific Coast Highway, past a giant set crashing near the shore, creating a fine mist that hovered over the road, speckling my windshield. Robin pulled out her BlackBerry and tapped in a number.
After a brief conversation she said, "My friend Amy lives in Malibu. You can drop me at the pier, and she'll pick me up. I'll spend the night with her, and she'll drive me home tomorrow. I know you need to get to the crime scene. This should save you some time."
Excerpted from Midnight Alley by Miles Corwin. Copyright © 2012 Miles Corwin. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
this is a good book, not great,but worth reading. well written.
Review:Midnight Alley by Miles Corwin 4 STARS This is a police detective story with lots of twists and turns in it. Police detective Ash Levine is on his way out of town with his almost ex-wife for a romantic weekend when he is called back into work. Two Black young men shot and one of them is son of city councilman who distrusts police vocally. After investigating for a short time realizes that the reason for the murder is the other blackman Teshay Winfield. He realizes that Teshay smuggled something home from Iraq. Ash is Jewish and served it Jewish army. He does not listen to others telling him what to do. Instead of working the case he is called in to meet with councilman and milatary officers. He has a lot of suspects and follows the different trails. Their are more deaths and Ash gets into trouble on many fronts. I did not see the twists coming and guessed wrong who the guilty party was. It kept my attention in the story. Would not mind reading more books with Ash in them. I was given this ebook to read in exchange of honest review from Netgalley. 04/16/2012 PUB Oceanview Publishing