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The Hearing

Chapter 1

Next to Lieutenant Abraham Glitsky's bed, the telephone rang with a
muted insistence.

A widower, Glitsky lived in an upper duplex unit with his youngest
son Orel and a housekeeper/nanny named Rita. During his wife's
illness, he'd deadened the phone's ringer so that it wouldn't wake
anyone else in the house when, as often occurred, it rang in the
middle of the night.

He located the source of the noise in the dark and picked up the
receiver, whispering hoarsely. "Glitsky. What?"

Surfacing slowly into consciousness, he didn't really have to ask.
He was the head of San Francisco's homicide detail. When he got
calls in the dead dark, they did not tend to be salespeople
inquiring about his satisfaction with his long-distance service
provider. It was nearly two hours past midnight on Monday, the
first day of February, and the city had produced only two homicides
thus far this year --- a slow month. In spite of that, Glitsky
spent no time, ever, wondering if his job was going to dry

The caller wasn't the police dispatcher but one of his inspectors,
Ridley Banks, on his cell phone directly from the crime scene. It
wasn't standard procedure to call the lieutenant from the street
--- so this homicide must have an unusual element. Though Ridley
spoke concisely with little inflection, even in his groggy state
Glitsky detected urgency.

A downtown patrol car had seen some suspicious movement in Maiden
Lane, a walking street just off Union Square. When the officers had
hit their spotlight, they flushed a man squatting over what looked
like, and turned out to be, a body.

The suspect ran and the officers gave chase. Apparently drunk, the
man staggered into a fire hydrant, fell in a heap and was
apprehended. Cuffed now, in the backseat of the squad car, he had
passed out awaiting his eventual trip to the jail.

"Guy appears to be one of our residentially challenged citizens,"
Ridley said drily. "John Doe as we speak."

"No ID of course." Glitsky was almost awake. The digital clock on
the bed stand read 1:45.

"Not his own. But he did have the wallet."

"The victim had a wallet?" To this point, Glitsky had been
imagining that this homicide was probably another incident in the
continuing tragedy of San Francisco's homeless wars, where an
increasingly violent population of bums had taken to beating and
even killing each other over prime downtown begging turf.
Certainly, the Union Square location fit that profile.

But if the current victim had a wallet worth stealing, it lowered
the odds that the person was a destitute vagrant.

"Taken from her purse, yeah."

"It was a woman?"

"Yeah." A pause. "We know her. Elaine Wager."

"What about her?"

"She's the stiff."

Glitsky felt his head go light. Unaware of the action, he moved his
free hand over his heart and clutched at his breast.

The voice in the telephone might have continued for a moment, but
he didn't hear it. "Abe? You there?"

"Yeah. What?"

"I was just saying maybe you want to be down here. It's going to be
crawling with media jackals by dawn or the first leak, whichever
comes first."

"I'm there," Glitsky said. "Give me fifteen."

But after the connection was broken, he didn't move. His one hand
dug absently into the flesh over his heart. The other gripped the
telephone's receiver. He simply lay there, staring sightlessly into
the darkness around him.

When the phone started beeping loudly in his hand, reminding him
that it was still off the hook, it brought him to. Abruptly now, he
hung up, threw the covers to one side and swung himself up to a
sitting position.

And stopped again.

Elaine Wager.

"Oh God, please no." He didn't know he'd said it aloud, didn't hear
his own voice break.

Elaine Wager was the only daughter of Loretta Wager, the
charismatic African-American senator from California who'd died a
few years before. Elaine --- tonight's victim --- had worked for a
couple of years as an assistant district attorney in the Hall of

No one was supposed to know it, but she was also Glitsky's

Somehow he'd gotten dressed, made it to his car. He was driving,
the streets dark, nearly deserted.

No one knew. As far as Glitsky was aware, not even Elaine

She believed that her biological father was her mother's much-older

band, Dana Wager --- white, rich, crooked and connected. In fact,
when Loretta had found out she was pregnant by Glitsky, she kept
that fact to herself and pressed him to marry her. He didn't
understand the sudden rush, and when he said he needed time to
decide --- he was still in college, after all, with no job and no
money --- Loretta dumped him without a backward glance and made her
move with Wager, the other man courting her, with whom she'd not
yet slept.

For nearly thirty years, the senator had kept her daughter's
paternity secret, even and especially from the girl's true father.
Until, finally, a time came when she thought she could use the fact
as a bargaining chip to get Glitsky to agree that sometimes it was
okay for a senator to commit murder.

That strategy hadn't worked. Abe and Loretta had once been lovers,
true, but now he was a cop in his bones, and three years ago she'd
killed someone in his jurisdiction. The knowledge that their past
union had produced a daughter wasn't going to change what he had to

Which was bring her to justice.

So when Glitsky let her know he was going to expose her, she
decided she wasn't going to endure an arrest, a high-profile trial
and the loss of her national reputation. At the time she was, after
all, one of the most prominent and respected African-American women
in the country. She chose her own way out --- an "accident" with a
gun in her mansion.

After that, Glitsky had never been able to bring himself to reveal
the secret to his daughter. Why would she need the baggage? he
asked himself. What good could it possibly do her to know?

And now suddenly it was --- forever --- too late.

He'd followed her life, of course, the path her career had taken
after she left the D.A.'s office. Plugged into her mother's
political connections, she'd gone into private practice with Rand
& Jackman, one of the city's premier law firms.

Through the grapevine, Glitsky heard that she'd gotten engaged to
some doctor from Tiburon. She'd recently been short-listed for
appointment to a judgeship. She also taught moot court at Hastings
Law School and donated her honorarium back to the scholarship

She was going to be fine. Her life was going to work out on its
own, without any interference from him. He could take pride from a
distance, privately savor her accomplishments.

She hadn't needed him as a father.

Now she was beyond needing anything.

Glitsky had himself tightly wound down. Hands in his pockets, he
walked almost the length of Maiden Lane --- maybe a hundred yards
--- from where he had parked his car on Stockton at the edge of
Union Square. The body lay at the other end, twenty feet or so west
of Grant Avenue. A small gathering of authorities and onlookers had
already appeared and Glitsky used the walk to steel himself.

He saw a couple of black and white cruisers, what he supposed were
some city-issued vehicles, and the coroner's van parked at angles,
on the sidewalk and in the alley itself. He heard his steps echoing
--- the buildings were close on either side of him. Halfway down
the lane, he suddenly stopped, took a deep breath and let it out.
He was surprised to see the vapor come from his mouth --- he
wouldn't have said it was that cold. He wasn't feeling anything

Casting his eyes up for a moment, over the buildings that rose all
around him, he noticed the star-studded sky. Here between the
buildings it was full night. The filigreed streetlights --- four of
them, two on each side --- glowed. The street had that glassy, wet
look favored by cinema-

tographers, although the asphalt itself was dry.

A figure separated itself from the group and began walking toward
him. It was Ridley Banks. After he'd closed to within fifteen feet,
he stopped --- perhaps catching the "keep away" vibe that his
lieutenant projected --- and waited until the two men were side by
side. Glitsky's usual style was all business in any event, and
today it served him particularly well. "What've we got?" he asked

"About as clean as it gets, Abe. We got a body, a shooter, a weapon
and a motive."

"And what's that, the motive?"

They were still standing off a ways from the knot that had formed
around the body. Banks kept his voice low. "Robbery. He took her
purse, the watch, a gold chain ..."

Glitsky was moving forward again. He'd made it down from his duplex
to the scene in only a bit more time than it had taken the techs,
and now, just as he came up to the main knot surrounding the body,
one of the car's searchlights strafed the lane. Reflexively,
Glitsky put a hand up against the light, pressed himself forward,
went down to a knee by the fallen body.

It lay on its right side, stretched out along the pavement in an
attitude of sleep. It struck Glitsky that whoever had shot her had
laid her down gently. He saw no blood at first glance. The face was
unmarked, eyes closed.

He'd come to love that face. There'd been a picture of her in the
Chronicle in the past year and he'd cut it out and stuck it in the
bottom of the junk drawer of his desk. Two or three times, he'd
closed and locked the door to his office, taken it out and just
looked at her.

Seeing her mother in her face. Seeing himself.

In recent months, he'd told himself it was possible that if they
came to know about each other, it wouldn't be baggage after all,
but a source of something else --- connection, maybe. He didn't
know --- he wasn't good at that stuff. But the feeling had been
building and he'd come close to deciding that he would tell her,
see where it took them.

The body was clad in an elegant overcoat, still buttoned to the
neck. Blue or black in color, it looked expensive with its
fur-trimmed collar, red satin lining. One black pump had come off
her left foot and lay on its side, pathetically, in the

She was wearing black hosiery --- and again, there was no sign that
it had snarled or that the nylon had run when she'd gone down.
Under the overcoat, Glitsky saw a couple of inches of what appeared
to be a blue or black skirt with white pinstripes.

The lack of blood nagged. Glitsky stood, moved around to her back
side, studying the pavement. Ridley was a step behind him and
anticipated his question. He handed the lieutenant a Ziploc bag
which held an almost impossibly small handgun. "One shot at the
hairline in back, close contact, up into the brain. No exit

Glitsky opened the bag and looked inside, put his nose against the
opening and smelled the cordite. He recognized the weapon as a
North American Arms five-shot revolver, perhaps the smallest
commercially made weapon in America. It was most commonly worn as a
belt buckle, out in the open, so small it did not seem possible
that it could be a real gun. It weighed less than ten ounces and
fit easily in the palm of his hand. Ridley was going on with his
descriptions and theories and Glitsky ached to tell him to shut

But he wasn't going to give anything away and he didn't trust
himself to utter a word. Instead, he left it to his body language.
Zipping up the plastic that held the gun, he gave it to Banks
without comment, and moved off, hands in his pockets. The message
was clear --- Glitsky was concentrating, thinking, memorizing the
scene. Disturb him at your peril.

Ridley hung back with the body. After a minute, he started giving
directions to the techs.

Twenty minutes later, they had triangulated the body in high beams
and the alley had taken on an unnatural brilliance. The crime scene
people had set up a cordon of yellow tape, uniformed officers,
black and white police cars, all of them conspiring to block
unauthorized access to Maiden Lane, although due to the hour that
wasn't yet much of an issue. Still, half a dozen police radios
crackled. The first news team had arrived --- a van and its crew
from a local television station --- and the negotiations over
access to the scene between the perky, aggressive newscaster and
the supervising sergeant tempted Glitsky to take out his gun and
shoot somebody.

Instead, he accompanied Ridley Banks to the squad car and the
officers who had discovered the body and apprehended the suspect.
Two uniformed men exited the vehicle from both front doors at the
same time, introducing themselves as Medrano and Petrie.

"That the shooter?" Glitsky asked, pointing to the backseat where
the suspect sat propped against the side door, slumped over. "I
think I'll talk to him."

The two officers exchanged a glance and a shrug. The older officer,
Medrano, replied. "You can try, sir. But he hasn't moved in an


"At least that and plenty of it." The other uniform, Petrie,
hesitated for an instant, then continued. "Also appears to be
mainlining something. Tracks up his arms. He's gonna need some
detox time."

Glitsky received this not entirely surprising news in silence. Then
he nodded and walked around to the other side of the squad car,
where the suspect leaned heavily against the door, and pulled it
open quickly. With his hands cuffed behind him, the man fell
sideways out onto the pavement. His feet stayed up in the car while
his head hit the asphalt with a thick, hollow sound. The man moaned
once and rolled over onto his back.

"Sounds like he's coming around," Glitsky said.

Ridley Banks pulled a toot sweet around the front of the car and
got himself standing between his lieutenant and the lights at the
head of the alley. There'd been so many accusations of police
brutality lately that the media were watching for it at every
opportunity. And now his lieutenant was giving them something.
Ridley motioned with his head, a warning, then spoke in a whisper.
"Cameras, Abe. Heads up."

Glitsky was all innocence. "What? The poor guy fell." The suspect
lay unmoving at his feet. He hadn't moved after the first rollover.
The lieutenant looked over the hood of the squad car to Medrano and
Petrie. "Take this garbage to the detail until he wakes up."

Petrie looked at his partner again. Neither of them had ever met
Glitsky before and he was making an impression --- he wasn't one of
your touchy-feely modern law enforcement community facilitators.
The younger officer cleared his throat and Glitsky glared.

Petrie swallowed, finally got it out. "The detail, sir?"

"What about it?"

Medrano took over. "The guy looks good for medical eval,
Lieutenant. We were thinking we'd show him to the

Glitsky knew that this meant the suspect would probably wind up
going to the hospital, where there were secure rooms for jail
inmates who needed medical care. This prospect didn't much appeal
to him. "What for?"

Medrano shrugged. It wasn't that he cared personally, but the
lieutenant's suggestion ran counter to the protocol. He wanted to
cover himself. "Get him cleared before we take him anywhere, maybe
start detox before he goes into withdrawal."

Glitsky had a deep and ancient scar that ran across his mouth, and
now with his lips pursed it burned as a whitish gash under the hawk
nose, the jutting chin. Glitsky's mother had been African-American,
his father Jewish --- his visage was dark, intense, hooded. "How do
we know he needs medical care?"

Medrano risked a glance to where the suspect slumped against the
door in the backseat. He was at best semiconscious, filthy, still
bleeding from where his head had hit the pavement. "We don't, sir.
But the paramedics are here. To be safe --- "

Glitsky cut Medrano off. "He's just drunk. I want him in homicide.
You bring him up. That's the end of this discussion."

Petrie and Medrano looked at one another and said nothing. They
were too intimidated to do anything but nod, get the man back into
the car and start the drive down to the Hall of Justice.

Ridley Banks bit his tongue. Glitsky was putting out the word that
he intended to let this suspect get all the way into withdrawal
before he would acknowledge any problem. This would ensure that the
man endured at least a little of what was purportedly the worst
known hell on earth, and the orders struck Ridley as gratuitously
cruel. More, they weren't smart. Neither was the earlier
door-opening incident. He knew that if the suspect was in
withdrawal from heroin, the paramedics and people at County could
set him up in short order. Then the agony of withdrawal could be
mitigated. They'd get a better statement from a set-up suspect at
San Francisco General Hospital than they ever could from a sick,
sweating junkie in withdrawal at the Hall of Justice. If he was
merely drunk, he could be in a cell at the jail by midmorning.
Either way, they would have a clean interrogation within a
reasonable period of time. Glitsky's orders wouldn't accomplish
anything good.

As he watched the squad car backing out of Maiden Lane, Ridley
wondered what else might be going on. He and Abe had both known
Elaine Wager, worked with her, when she'd been a high-profile
rising young star with the district attorney's office. Ridley,
himself, had found his guts more than ordinarily roiling at the
scene when he realized the woman's identity. She was one of their
own, part not only of the law enforcement but also of the
African-American community. Even to Ridley, whose job was homicide,
on some level it hurt.

Abe's reaction, though, seemed a long march beyond hurt. Ridley had
come to know most of his lieutenant's moods, which generally ran
the gamut from grumpy to glum, but he'd never before seen him as he
was tonight --- in a clear and quiet unreasonable rage, breaking
his own sacred rules about prisoners and regulations.

Walking back to where the body lay, the knot of people bunched in
the mouth of the alley, Ridley decided to risk a question. "You all
right, Abe?"

The lieutenant abruptly stopped walking. His nostrils flared under
piercing eyes --- Ridley thought of a panicked horse. Abe let out a
long breath, took in another one, looked down toward the body.
"Yeah, sure," he said. "Why not?" A pause. "Fucking peachy."

Abe made it a point to avoid vulgarity. He'd even lectured his
inspectors, decrying their casual use of profanity. His troops had
been known to make fun of him for it behind his back. So Ridley was
surprised, and his face must have shown it. The lieutenant's eyes
narrowed. "You got a problem, Ridley?"

"No, sir," he replied. Whatever it was, it was serious. "No problem
at all."

Excerpted from THE HEARING © Copyright 2005 by John T.
Lescroart. Reprinted with permission by E.P. Dutton. All rights

The Hearing
by by John Lescroart

  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Signet
  • ISBN-10: 0451204891
  • ISBN-13: 9780451204899