Authors: Stephen - Scully 07 Cannell
"He's a good mechanic, okay? The McLaren was having trouble with the suspension and Mike what's-his-face was taking a look at it for us. I guess he's gotta test drive it to fix it, okay?"
I stood looking at him, smiling my big empty smile, trying to look like any minute I might snap and turn him into pavement paste.
"Can I go?" He seemed less sure now.
"Whatta you do when you're not almost killing people with your dad's car?" I asked. "Whatta I do?"
"That was the question."
"I've got a summer job at Cartco. My uncle owns it. It's a big factory operation in Burbank. They make cartons to ship stuff in. I'm working part-time in their Legal Affairs Department while I'm studying for the California Bar. I just graduated from Harvard Law. Ever heard of it?"
"Yeah, I've heard of Harvard. Smart kids with bad manners. In Boston, right?"
"Boy, listen to the man. Really got it dialed in, don't ya?"
"With your attitude, I think you're gonna make a great lawyer." Still smiling. Still holding his license and registration.
"Can I go now?"
"You keep it down, Mr. Wyatt. The speed limit on these streets is twenty-five. I could write you for reckless driving, but since we hit it off so well, I'm gonna let you go with just a warning."
He took his license and registration and started the engine. The Ferrari sounded tight and he revved it up to high RPMs, goosing it twice for effect before squealing away from the curb. The million-dollar sports car was so overpowered it left an inch of rubber beside my right foot. I watched the taillights swing left at the end of the street. I heard that distinct Ferrari whine as it roared up Sunset Boulevard, taking Wade A. Wyatt to wherever it was he needed to be in such a hurry.
WHEN I GOT HOME ALEXA WAS ON THE PHONE TO CHOOCH. SHE had tears in her eyes and was wiping at them with her hand as I walked into our bedroom.
"Gotta go, honey," she said into the receiver. "I'll tell your dad." She hung up.
"Couldn't you let me talk to him?" I said, disappointed.
"He was supposed to be in his room by ten. I kept him on the phone for almost an hour. The coaches were starting to circle." She walked into the bathroom and closed the door. "Make me a drink. Scotch. I'll meet you out back," she called.
I knew she was in there doing a repair job on her face. She didn't like to have anybody see her crying.
I poured her a scotch and water and made one for myself and walked out to the backyard. Franco was sitting at the foot of the garden, dividing his attention between me and a family of ducks who had piqued his predatory interest by swimming perilously close to his position. Finally, Alexa came out, gave me a perfunctory kiss, and sat in her chair beside me facing the canal. She was barefoot, wearing jeans and a heavy peacoat.
"For June, this is really nippy," she observed.
"Yep. But a high pressure front is moving in. It'll be back to normal soon."
It seemed we were down to discussing the weather on our short list of safe subjects. Alexa sipped her drink.
"How's Chooch?" I asked.
"He's good. Practice is going great. He thinks he's third on the depth chart."
"Hey, that's pretty good for a sophomore."
"Red shirt freshman," she reminded me. Then she sighed. "I'm afraid I spilled over a little on him." She sipped her scotch again. The ice cubes rattled pleasantly in her glass as she returned it to her lap.
"Maybe it's not such a good idea, putting our problems on him," I said. "Besides, holding your hand is supposed to be my job."
"I know ... I know," she said wistfully. "I started talking and before I knew it, I was just letting it rip. Telling him how I can't remember a damn thing, and how I don't feel right inside my body--like everything got connected back up wrong."
I reached over and took her hand. She smiled at me wanly. "Thank God I have you."
"And always will," I told her. My response sounded forced.
We sat in silence for a while, watching Franco watch the ducks.
Then Alexa mused, "Must be nice to have a life where people put your basic needs in a bowl for you each morning, and all you have to do is chase after things you don't need."
I was only half-listening, trying to figure out a way to bring up the subject of the meds I'd found and had analyzed at the police lab. Any way I tried to get into it would sound like I was spying on her, going through her things. The thought that she was having seizures and that one of them might have caused the ca
rash, which she still hadn't told me about, frightened me. I'd worked out a way to approach the subject, but sitting here I lost my nerve because I knew it would get ugly, so I settled for chitchat.
We talked about Chooch and about Delfina starting summer school classes at USC. I'm not very good at hiding things from my wife and because I didn't want to deal with her seizures yet, I found myself telling her about the Hickman case. About Secada Llevar bringing the I
. file to me after Captain Sasso had shut the investigation down. I ran through the problems with Brian Devine's original investigation. I recounted my day, telling her about my trip to Corcoran State Prison and how I thought Tru Hickman had somehow been misclassified and how he was being raped and beaten on a daily basis in prison.
One of Alexa's many talents is that she is a great listener. She sat quietly, asking me a few pertinent questions, until I finished by telling her about the strange arrival of Wade and Aubrey Wyatt to the case after finding the McLaren in the Valley and pulling Wade over in his father's million-dollar Enzo Ferrari. When I was done she sat there thinking. Even though she was the victim of a traumatic brain injury or an acquired one, depending on who you talked to, she still knew how to see into the heart of a situation, and this was no exception.
"Jane Sasso is your main problem," she observed. "She's gonna go after you."
"Yeah, I agree. That's why we're sorta working it off the books."
"There's no such thing as off the books," she said. "There's authorized and unauthorized."
"Well, you know . . ."
"No, I don't. Jane wants the case closed, but you and Secada Llevar are working it behind her and Deputy Chief Townsend'
acks. That's a career wrecker, Shane. You both need to drop it."
"You didn't see this guy," I said. "Tru Hickman's walking wounded, scared out of his skull with stitches in his asshole. Devine blew the investigation. Morales pled it out for the state and this Vanowen Street Loco, Mike Church, was never even looked at. Everything tells me he's the doer and now Wade and Aubrey Wyatt pop up out of nowhere. There's something going on here. This case is a lot bigger than it looks."
She silently considered this for a minute, then got up and said, "Be right back."
She went inside the house. I turned and saw her through the plate glass, fixing a second drink. She looked beautiful, illuminated in the window. Like a photograph in Sunset magazine. The striking young wife makes a drink in her classic canal house. If I didn't know what she was going through, I would have never guessed the stress raging inside her. She finally turned away from the window, came back outside, and walked across the lawn, then settled into her chair.
"Okay, so drop the other shoe," she said.
"What other shoe?"
"Shane. Please. You've already got a course of action planned. What is it?"
"I want to go talk to the D
., Tito Morales. But the minute I do, this thing is going to become a shit sandwich. I need your help."
"To protect you from Jane Sasso."
"She's a captain. I'm a lieutenant."
"You're acting head of the Detective Bureau. You picked her for that job and organizationally, you're on the same level."
"I'm still just a lieutenant. I report to Deputy Chief Townsend in Operations. Sasso's a captain. She reports directly to the Chie
f Police, who I might remind you, is the very same guy who is evaluating my whole damn career right now."
"I know. The timing on this sucks."
can't duke it out with Jane Sasso. When you're involved, my motive is always suspect." She was looking tight around the eyes again. Her movements became jerky and abrupt.
"I'm just saying, throw a block for us. Buy us a week. In a week I think we can unravel this."
"Shane, you're in Homicide Special. This is an I
. case. Detective Llevar only came to you because of me. You can't be this gullible."
"She admits that. It's just, we both feel this isn't right."
"I can't take much more of this. I'm shaking apart."
"For once, stop being Robin Hood, or Zorro, or Don Quixote--whatever mythic figure you are this week. You can't right all the wrongs in the world, babe. Some bad stuff is just gonna get past you."
"I'm only trying to right this one bad case. Just this one."
She sat watching Franco for a long moment. He had gone into killer mode, hunkering low on his paws, creeping on his belly toward the edge of the canal, lying in wait. A hunter stalking prey.
"You know how much trouble I'm in with Chief Townsend already," Alexa said. "If he was in the meeting where Detective Llevar was told to drop this, then my boss has already spoken. Don't do this to me. I'm trying to save what's left of this mess I still call my career."
I can't protect you, Shane. I wish I could, but I can't. I can't even protect myself anymore."
She stood and walked into the house. I was watching her through the windows as she crossed the living room. Suddenly, she slipped and fell. I was on my feet and running in one motion. I thought she had tripped on the rug, but when I reached her side I saw that she was rigid--convulsing. I dropped to my knees and grabbed hold of her.
"No, no, no!" I pried her mouth open, then pulled her tongue forward and wedged my wallet between her teeth so she wouldn't bite her tongue. I'd dealt with epileptic seizures when I was in Patrol and knew they generally didn't last long, but seeing Alexa spasm on our living room rug was more than I could bear.
I don't know how long it lasted, but shortly the convulsions began to diminish and then she lay exhausted in my arms.
"I'm calling Luther," I said. Luther was her neurosurgeon.
"No. Please no," she pleaded. "Just take me into the bedroom."
I picked her up and carried her down the hall into our bedroom, then laid her on the bed and put a cover over her to keep her warm.
"I've been having convulsions," she finally admitted, her voice a weak whisper. "This is the fifth one."
"I know. I found your pills."
"You can't. . . you can't tell anyone."
"Honey, you need help."
"This will go away. It's part of the TBI. I've been researching it on the Internet. Convulsions usually pass after a year or so. I'm not running it through the department or using insurance because if I have seizures on my record, I could get retired on a medical disability. I got a doctor friend to treat it. She gave me some medicine."
"You can't tell. I'm begging you, Shane. All I ever wanted to be was a cop. They'll take it from me. Promise me. You've got to promise."
"I promise," I finally said.
I held her hand until she fell asleep. Then I lay down beside her and cradled her. She felt frail and small, her bones closer to the surface. As I held her I was so sad, I almost cried.
ALEXA WAS OUT OF BED BY SIX, OUT OF THE HOUSE BY six-thirty. I tried to stop her, but she was on a mission. She timed it so I was still in my boxers in the bathroom when her police department driver showed up. I heard the car door slam and heard the car pull away. I couldn't very well chase her down the street in my underwear.
After she was gone I sat at the kitchen table and wondered what my next move was. As I thought about it, a wave of desolation flooded over me. I had problems everywhere, both personal and professional. I had not been lonely like this since before I met Alexa and Chooch. For the last five years we'd been such a team, all the darkness had been pushed out of my life. As a family, we were always there for each other. But that had changed. Chooch and Delfina were now in college and busy with their own lives. That left just the two of us. But with Alexa's TBI causing such a loss of intimacy, we had experienced a shift in our marital dynamics. We had become two people sharing a space; two friends who didn't talk, and when we did, we often said the wrong things. As I sat at the kitchen table trying to down a bowl of dried cereal, I felt more isolated than
had since I was an orphan in the Huntington House Group Home as a boy.
I shook it off and walked into the bathroom to get ready for my day. I soon found myself staring into the mirror. The guy who was looking back at me was the same angular, rugged thug who greeted me each morning. He had the same lean body, unruly hair, and scar tissue over his eyes, but now he seemed like a stranger. I didn't know what he wanted anymore. I wasn't even sure if I trusted him. Last year I had a magical life with a magical woman and a great son, but that reality was drifting further and further away; close enough to see, but not to touch.