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Authors: Rachel Howzell Hall

Land of Shadows

BOOK: Land of Shadows
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.

 

For Maya Grace

 

Acknowledgments

Jill Marsal, thanks for being a superagent and being “on it” so often that I never have time to fully commit to my role as impatient, neurotic author.

Kristin Sevick, my editor, you're so funny and you're so smart. Thanks for loving Lou and helping to make her shine. And big thanks to the folks at Forge, including Bess, Seth, and Julie. Oh, the places we'll go!

Thanks to my friends (a.k.a. my victims). You know I'm paying close attention to everything you do—and yet, you still do it, knowing that it will eventually make it into print. I love you, man!

Thanks to Terry, Gretchen, and Jason for being perfect siblings and great friends. I appreciate your advice and glimpses into other worlds. Terry: all things law. Gretchen: Ransom Unique. Jason: Visine and unattended cocktails. There are so many “Really? Are you kidding me?” nuggets of crazy that you drop to help create the world found in these pages. And thanks for having great kids who now serve as my ambassadors to “The Youths.” Now tell them to get off my lawn and turn down that music!

To my parents, Nate and Jackie, thank you for nurturing my need to surround myself with books—even when that meant schlepping crates of them up and down the coast for four years. More than that, thank you for not forcing me to be “normal”—as though that's even possible in our family.

David, my first reader and toughest critic, thanks for encouraging me to go further and farther. And! Thanks for buying me video games to play when I'm tired of thinking and just want to wander a pixilated world in search of treasure chests. And also, thanks for never rolling your eyes when I ask, “When is the next
Fable
coming out?” which is all the time.

And thank you, Maya Grace, for being my sweet girl. Thank you for watching
The Golden Girls
with me every single night, for always filling my water bottle, and for asking permission before using my fancy pencils. You are my greatest creation and my favorite heroine. I look forward to witnessing every chapter of your extraordinary life.

 

Contents

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Epigraph

Wednesday, June 19

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Thursday, June 20

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Friday, June 21

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Saturday, June 22

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Sunday, June 23

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Monday, June 24

Chapter 61

About the Author

Copyright

 

Twenty-four hours a day somebody is running, somebody else is trying to catch him.

—
RAYMOND CHANDLER
,
The Long Goodbye

 

Wednesday, June 19

 

1

Two hundred and six bones make up the adult human skeleton.

And on a Wednesday night in June, I was perfecting my hammer fist, an efficient strike that could break at least four of those bones.

Fifteen minutes into my Krav Maga class, the bell tower rang—a ring tone chosen for Lieutenant Zak Rodriguez. And even though I was hammer fisting; even though, a yard away, my friend Lena was flirting with Avarim as he taught her how to break from a choke hold; even though I was off duty and needed this workout and was observing the tradition known as “having a personal life”—duty called.

For whom the bell tolled.

Elouise Norton, LAPD Homicide Detective, Southwest Division.

I excused myself from my trainer, Seth, and padded over to the mirrored wall. I scrutinized my abs, a part of my body that rarely saw the sun and was always hidden beneath silk shirts and six pounds of Kevlar. Not to brag, but my belly looked awesome in this light.

I grabbed my iPhone and towel from the floor and glanced at the phone's picture of a middle-aged Latino with smoke-colored eyes and a Clark Gable mustache.

And the bell tolled again.

I took a deep breath, then said, “Lou here.”

“You're not answering your radio,” Lieutenant Rodriguez shouted. Sirens blared in the background.

“Because it's in the car.”

“And why aren't you in the car?”

“Because I'm on the Westside, getting in some exercise.”

Lena, also getting in some “exercise,” was now sticking her ass into Avarim's crotch and cooing, “Like this? Like this?” Newly divorced, Lena was tiny and dazzling. More than that, she could filet men like a hungry grizzly could filet salmon.

I swiped the towel across my sweaty forehead. “What's up, LT?”

“A Jane Doe hanging in a closet.”

Unimpressed, I lifted my left knee to my chest and held it for two seconds. “Oh, yeah?”

In this city, Jane Does were always found hanging around. In closets, off bridges, in shower stalls …

“Yeah. A security guard found her in one of those condos over on Santa Rosalia near the Jungle, the ones still under construction. You know 'em, right?”

I had started to lift my right knee but froze. My grip tightened around the phone because yeah, I knew Santa Rosalia, and yeah, I knew the Jungle. From age three and on to my eighteenth birthday, I had lived in that part of black Los Angeles. Worse, my big sister, Victoria, had been snatched off those streets, never to be seen again. I hated the Jungle, and yet I had never left.

“From what the first officer told me,” Lieutenant Rodriguez was saying, “she's pretty ripe, more than five hours old, and … Hey, you there?”

I stifled a sigh. “Yep. I'm … good.” But his words must have spooked me—Lena had abandoned sexy Avarim to come stand beside me. Big brown eyes wide with worry, she touched my wrist and whispered, “You okay?”

I nodded, even though, no, I wasn't okay, not entirely. “I don't understand,” I said to my boss. “Why am I catching this? Last time I scanned the board, there were blank spaces by Guerrero's and Dolby's names.”

“First,” he said, “you know the people in that area better than Guerrero and Dolby, so it won't take thirty years for you to figure out your ass from your elbow. Second: Guerrero and Dolby are on everybody's shit list for screwing up that Sizzler robbery, and this Jane Doe in a closet could be something, and I really don't wanna read in the
Times
that two Southwest Division dicks forgot to fingerprint the scene. I swear those two are SOS.”

He paused, then added, “I know you have two cases simmering right now, but
you
know and
I
know that our clearance rate is shit right now. I need the A-Team on this.”

“One more question,” I said. “May I ask why you're heading out to a suicide? Not that I don't enjoy your company.”

“Again: she's on Napoleon Crase's property. That worries me.”

Yeah. That worried me, too.

“I just want everything done right,” he said. “I already called Taggert and he's en route to the scene. He's an ass, but he's now
your
ass, so be nice to him, all right?”

“I'm always nice,” I said with a smirk.

He chuckled. “Oh, yeah. You're a black Marie Osmond. Meet you over there.”

 

2

Lena had returned to grappling or … whatever she had been doing with Avarim.

“I caught a case,” I told her. “A suicide. So I gotta bail.”

Eyes on her trainer, Lena puckered her lips. “Lovely. Go protect and serve. Be a hero. Join the Navy.” Then, she shooed me away—she was now able to flirt with Avarim without worry or judgment from her personal Jiminy Cricket.

Four minutes later, I strode from the locker room to the exit, wearing the blue pinstriped pantsuit and white silk shirt I had just ditched twenty minutes before but had Febreze'd after Lieutenant Rodriguez's call.

In the space of ten miles, buildings along Olympic Boulevard transformed from glass and marble towers named after powerful lawyers and bankers to burned-out medical offices and bail bond joints, storefront churches and liquor stores, lots of liquor stores. The billboards changed, too—from Nicole Kidman selling Chanel N
°
5 to people-less Rémy Martin and “Have you been tested for HIV?” ads.

I sped past it all in my silver Porsche Cayenne SUV, a beast of a car even at thirty-five miles per hour. Behind the wheel of my Porsche, I became That Asshole, ducking and dodging, revving and tailgating—so different from the Other Lou who used to drive a Jeep Cherokee before she caught her husband banging an E3 booth babe while he was
supposed
to be attending a seminar on next-gen video games for tween girls and so, as penance, had to buy his wife a $90,000 sports car.

Tonight, I had a reason to be That Asshole. The ripe Jane Doe hanging in a closet wasn't gonna cut herself down, was she?

The condo site over on Santa Rosalia Drive sat at the base of Baldwin Hills and on a plot of land that had been vacant just a year ago. When I was a kid, pick-up-snake churches, speak-in-tongue churches, and go-to-church-every-day-of-the-week churches had pitched large white tents there for revivals. At the end of the week, the portable organ played “Take Me to the Water” as sinners and their mothers trudged to the altar for redemption and a dunk in the rollaway baptismal pool. My family attended a few of those week-long extravaganzas, but after Dad abandoned us and after Tori had disappeared, Mom stopped talking to God. For the two remaining members of the Starr family, “churches” became Church's, the fast-food joint that sold fried chicken and hush puppies.

The revival tents disappeared completely after April 1992, when twelve angry white people acquitted three LAPD officers of using excessive force. Black and brown folks, pissed off at that verdict, burned down the city. And then, two years later, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake finished the demolition, knocking down the charred remains, including much of the Santa Barbara Plaza off Santa Rosalia. No more shops and nightclubs, gas stations and burger stands. There had been talk of rebuilding the plaza and some initial efforts had succeeded—Earvin “Magic” Johnson opened a movie theater that prohibited men from wearing baseball caps, and across the way, Walmart bought space in the irrelevant shopping mall. But none of this brought the sexy back, and blacks with money, the ones who lived in the surrounding hills, found fancier parts of Los Angeles to shop and dine.

BOOK: Land of Shadows
2.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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