A resourceful runaway alone in the wilds of Los Angeles, twelve-year-old Billy Straight suddenly witnesses a brutal stabbing in Griffith Park. Fleeing into the night, Billy cannot shake the horrific memory of the savage violence, nor the pursuit of a cold-blooded killer. For wherever Billy turns-from Hollywood Boulevard to the boardwalks of Venice-he is haunted by the chuck chuck sound of a knife sinking into flesh. As LAPD homicide detective Petra Connor desperately searches for the murderer, as the media swarms mercilessly around the story, the vicious madman stalks closer to his prey. Only Petra can save Billy. But it will take all her cunning to uncover a child lost in a fierce urban labyrinth-where a killer seems right at home. . . . From the Paperback edition.
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December 31, 1997
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Excerpt from Billy Straight by Jonathan Kellerman
In the park you see things.
But not what I saw tonight.
God, God . . .
I wanted to be dreaming but I was awake, smelling chili meat and onions and the pine trees.
First, the car drove up to the edge of the parking lot. They got out and talked and he grabbed her, like in a hug. I thought maybe they were going to kiss and I'd watch that.
Then all of a sudden, she made a weird sound--surprised, squeaky, like a cat or dog that gets stepped on.
He let go of her and she fell. Then he bent down next to her and his arm started moving up and down really fast. I thought he was punching her, and that was bad enough, and I kept thinking should I do something. But then I heard another sound, fast, wet, like the butcher at Stater Brothers back in Watson chopping meat--chuck chuck chuck.
He kept doing it, moving his arm up and down.
I wasn't breathing. My heart was on fire. My legs were cold. Then they turned hot-wet.
Pissing my pants like a stupid baby!
The chuck chuck stopped. He stood up, big and wide, wiped his hands on his pants. Something was in his hand and he held it far from his body.
He looked all around. Then in my direction.
Could he see me, hear me--smell me?
He kept looking. I wanted to run but knew he'd hear me. But staying here could trap me--how could he see anything behind the rocks? They're like a cave with no roof, just cracks you can look through, which is the reason I picked them as one of my places.
My stomach started to churn around, and I wanted to run so badly my leg muscles were jumping under my skin.
A breeze came through the trees, blowing up pine smell and piss stink.
Would it blow against the chili-burger's wrapping paper and make noise? Would he smell me?
He looked around some more. My stomach hurt so bad.
All of a sudden he jumped ran back to the car, got in, drove away.
I didn't want to see when he passed under the lamp at the corner of the parking lot, didn't want to read the license plate.