Prologue | Revenge
A GOOD-LOOKING MAN in his forties sat in the back row of the auditorium at the exclusive Morton Academy of Music. He was wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and a snappy striped tie. His features were good, although not remarkable, but behind the blue tint of his glasses, he had very kind brown eyes.
He had come to the recital alone and had a passing thought about his wife and children at home, but then he refocused his attention on someone else’s child.
Her name was Noelle Smith. She was eleven, a cute little girl and a very talented young violinist who had just performed a Bach gavotte with distinction.
Noelle knew she’d done well. She took a deep bow with a flourish, grinning as two hundred parents in the audience clapped and whistled.
As the applause died down, a gray-haired man in the third row popped up from his seat, buttoned his jacket, stepped out into the aisle, and headed toward the lobby.
That man was Chaz Smith, Noelle’s father.
The man in the blue suit waited several seconds, then followed Smith, staying back a few paces, walking along the cream-tiled corridor, then taking a right past the pint-size water fountain and into the short spur of a hallway that ended at the men’s room.
After entering the men’s room, he looked beneath the stalls and saw Chaz Smith’s Italian loafers under the door at the far right. Otherwise, the room was empty. In a minute or two, the room would fill.
The man in the blue suit moved quickly, picking up the large metal trash can next to the sink and placing it so that it blocked the exit.
Then he called out, “Mr. Smith? I’m sorry to disturb you, but it’s about your car.”
“What? Who is that?”
“Your car, Mr. Smith. You left your lights on.”
The man in the blue suit removed his semiauto .22-caliber Ruger from his jacket pocket, screwed on the suppressor. Then he took out a tan-colored plastic bag, the kind you get at the supermarket, and pulled the bag over his gun.
Smith swore. Then the toilet flushed and Smith opened the door. His gray hair was mussed, white powder rimmed his nostrils, and his face showed fierce indignation.
“You’re sure it’s my car?” he said. “My wife will kill me if I’m not back in my seat for the finale.”
“I’m really sorry to do this to your wife and child. Noelle played beautifully.”
Smith looked puzzled—then he knew. He dropped the vial of coke, and his hand dove under his jacket. Too late.
The man in the blue suit lifted his bag-covered gun, pulled the trigger, and shot Chaz Smith twice between the eyes.
A LONG SECOND bloomed like a white flower in the blue-tiled room.
Smith stared at his killer, his blue eyes wide open, two bullet holes in his forehead weeping blood, a look of disbelief frozen on his face. He was still on his feet, but his heart had stopped.
Chaz Smith was dead and he knew it.
The shooter stared back at Smith, then reached out a hand and pushed him off his feet. The dead man fell into the stall, collapsing onto the seat, his head knocking once against the wall.
It was a perfect setting for the late Chaz Smith. Dead on the toilet, a fitting last pose for this crud.
“You deserved this. You deserved worse, you son of a bitch.”
It had been a good kill, and now he had to get out.
He put the plastic bag containing the shell casings, the GSR, and the gun back into his jacket pocket and closed the stall door.
Then he carried the trash can out of the men’s room and put it down so that it blocked the door from the outside. That would hold people off for a while, make them think that the men’s room was temporarily closed.
The man in the blue suit heard a rush of sound. The auditorium doors had opened for the crowd. He headed back by way of the main hallway, turning left just as people poured into the lobby, chattering and laughing. None of them noticed him, but even if they had, they would never have connected him to the dead man.
There was a fire alarm box on the wall next to a door marked TEACHERS’ LOUNGE.
Using his handkerchief to glove his hand, he opened the door to the box, lifted the hammer, broke the glass, and pulled the lever; the alarm bell shrilled.
Then he walked directly into the thick of the crowd.
Children were already starting to scream and run in circles in the lobby. Parents called out to their kids, took their hands or lifted them into their arms, and moved quickly toward the front doors.
The man went with the crowd, through the glass doors and out onto California Street. He kept going, turned onto a side street, passed Chaz Smith’s Ferrari, and unlocked his scarred SUV parked right behind it.
A moment later, he cruised slowly past the school. All the good people—the kids and their parents—were facing the building, staring up at the roof, watching for smoke and flames.
They didn’t know it, but they were all safer now.
Chaz Smith was only one of his targets. The media had started tracking this shooter’s kills—drug dealers, all of them. One of the papers had given him a nickname and it had stuck.
Now they all called him Revenge.
Fire engines approached from Thirty-Second Avenue, and the man called Revenge stepped on the gas. Not a good time to get stuck in a traffic jam.
He had shopping to do before he went home to his family.
Book One | The House of Heads
YUKI CASTELLANO OPENED her eyes. She was in her lover’s arms, in her mother’s bed. If she was dreaming, it was a pretty funny dream.
She grinned to herself, almost seeing her dead mom sitting in the green slipper chair by the dresser, a look of disapproval on her face—and, as sometimes happened, her mother’s voice got into her head.
Yuki-eh, you want to have hus-band. Not lover.
Mom. Mom, he’s so great.
He so married.
Jackson Brady stirred beside her, pulled her toward him, lifted her hair, and kissed the side of her neck.
She said, “It’s… early… you can sleep for another…”
Yuki sighed as Brady ran his hands over her naked body, started her engine, and revved it up.
Pillows went over the side, blankets bunched up at the footboard, and he fitted himself inside her. She cried out and he said, “I’ve got you.”
He did. He had her good.
Gasping, they bit at each other, moved together in a race that they both won. They finished entangled in bedding and each other, both of them sweating, satisfied, amazed.
“Oh my God.” Yuki sighed. “That was… just… okay.”
Brady laughed. “You’re too much.”
He kissed her again, put his fingers in the thick black curtain of her hair, watched as the strands fell through his fingers.
“I have to go,” he said softly.
“Not without coffee.”
He gave her bottom a smack and got out of bed. Yuki turned on her side and watched Brady walking away from her. She took in his perfect body, his pale hair hanging almost to his shoulders, the simple Celtic cross tattooed on his back.
When the bathroom door closed, Yuki got out of bed and put on a silk robe the color of watermelon, a gift from Brady.
She stepped over the clothes they’d dropped on the floor last night, took one of his clean shirts out of a drawer, put it on the green chair. She listened to the shower and thought about Brady being in it.
Tsutta sakana ni esa wa yaranai, said Keiko Castellano. A man won’t feed the fish he caught.
Shut up, Mom. I love him.
In the kitchen, Yuki opened the cupboard, got out the coffee beans, filled the coffeemaker with water. She put bread in the toaster.
It wasn’t even 6:00 a.m. She didn’t have to be at her desk in the DA’s office until nine. But she didn’t mind getting up with Brady. She wanted to do it, because, jeez, she loved him. It was almost embarrassing how much, but God, she was happy. Maybe for the first time in her adult life.
Nah, no maybe about it. This was definitely the happiest she’d been in twenty years.
Brady came into the kitchen. His tie was knotted, shoulder holster buckled over his blue shirt, and he was shrugging into his jacket. He looked worried, and she knew he was already working on the case that had been tearing at his guts.
She poured coffee, put buttered toast on a plate.
He stirred a lot of sugar into the coffee mug, took a sip. He took another, then put the cup down.
“I can’t eat, sweetie. I have to—Christ, I have a meeting in fifteen minutes. You okay? I’ll call you later.”
He might not call her later.
It didn’t matter. They were good.
She kissed him good-bye at the door and told him she hoped that he’d be safe. That she’d see him soon, whole and well.
She hugged him a little bit hard, a little too long. He tousled her hair and said good-bye.
THE SUN WAS still in bed when I parked my Explorer across the street from the Hall of Justice, home to the DA’s office, the criminal court, and the southern division of the SFPD.
I badged security, went through the metal detector, and headed across the empty garnet-colored-marble lobby to the staircase and from there to the Homicide squad room on the fourth floor.
Lieutenant Jackson Brady had called us together for an early meeting but hadn’t said why. I’d been working for Brady for ten months and it still felt wrong.
Brady was a good cop. I’d seen him perform acts of bravery and maybe even heroism—but I didn’t like his management style. He was rigid. He isolated himself. And when I’d been lieutenant, I’d done the job a different way.
My partner, Rich Conklin, looked up from his computer as I came through the gate. I loved Richie—he was like a little brother who looked out for me. He was not just a fine cop but a sterling person, and we’d had a great couple of years working Homicide together. What I appreciated about Conklin was how, in times of high stress, he always kept a steady hand on the wheel.
Our desks were pushed together at the front of the squad room so that we worked face-to-face. I hung my jacket over the back of my chair said, “What’s going on?”
All he said was “I’ll tell you when everyone is here.”
I showed my childishness by making a lot of noise banging my chair against the desk. It took me about a minute to get it out of my system. Conklin watched me patiently.
“I haven’t had coffee,” I said.
Conklin offered me his. Then he threw paper clips at me until I calmed down.
At 6:30 a.m. the Homicide squad was present, all eight of us, sitting at our desks under the fluorescent lights that made us look embalmed.
Brady came out of his hundred square feet of glass-walled office and went directly to the whiteboard at the front of the room. He yanked down a screen, revealing 8 x 10s of three high-ranking bad-news drug dealers, all of them dead.
Then he stuck up photos of a fourth dead man—both his mug shot and morgue shot.
It was Chaz Smith. And his death was news.
Smith was a notorious scumbag who lived his upscale life in Noe Valley, passing as a retired businessman. He made a good living brokering the sales of millions of dollars in high-grade cocaine, delivering it to other dealers who sold on the street.
Smith had avoided capture for years because he was stealthy and smart and no one had ever caught him stopped next to another car on the shoulder of some highway transacting business through the window of his Ferrari.
Judging from the two bullet holes in his head, I figured it was safe to say he’d made his last deal.
Brady said, “Smith was at his little girl’s music recital yesterday afternoon. He went to the men’s room to have a snort, then took two shots through his frontal lobe. He was armed. He never got his gun into his hand.”
Smith’s death meant one less heinous dirtbag preying on the weak, and he’d been taken out without any taxpayer expense. I would have thought Narcotics would be dealing with this, not Homicide, but something was different about this murder. Something that had gotten to our lieutenant.
Brady took his job seriously. He didn’t waste words. And yet right now he seemed to be skirting the reason he’d brought us onto the case.
I said, “Why us, Lieutenant?”
“Narcotics has requested our help,” he said. “I know. We’ve got more than enough active cases, but here’s the thing—Chaz Smith was taken out by a twenty-two that was stolen from our evidence room, one of six twenty-twos that have disappeared in the last few months. The shooter had access to SFPD floors. And the evidence log was deleted.”
There was some gasping and shuffling in the room. Brady went on.
“There were no witnesses to Smith’s murder, no evidence was left behind, and the fire alarm was pulled to create confusion.
“It was a professional hit, the fourth in a string of slick hits on dealers. It points to something—ah, shit,” Brady said. “I’m not going to finesse it for you.
“I think the shooter is a cop.”
Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson