The Emmy-Award Winning creator of the A-Team and 21 Jump Street pulls out all the stops in the latest installment of his New York Times bestselling Shane Scully series.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
St. Martin's Press
January 07, 2004
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Vertical Coffin by Stephen J. Cannell
IT WAS MID-SEPTEMBER, hot and dry, the kind of hot that makes you think of frosty cans of Coors and long swims in the ocean. I was standing in a small, burned-out shack ten miles east of Palmdale in the high desert. There wasn't much left -- a rock chimney and some blackened footings. My shoes were already covered with soot from kicking at scorched rocks and the remnants of charred furniture. It was ten on a Tuesday morning and the lizards had already abandoned their flat rocks to slither into the shady crevices between granite outcroppings.
This had been a Palmdale P.D. crime scene a month ago. Now it was mine. I'd driven out here in a primered Ford Bronco along with Sonny Lopez. The truck was his privately owned vehicle, known in police circles as a POV. Sonny was a sheriff's deputy working L.A. Impact, a multijurisdictional law-enforcement task force located in Los Angeles County, in Lancaster. The TF was a bad pork stew made up of LAPD and state cops, LASD, and a smattering of feds from the FBI, Customs, and ATF. All of them pretending to be a kick-ass unit, while at the same time trying to get past their deep jurisdictional prejudices.
Sonny Lopez was in his mid-thirties, tall, and movie-star handsome. He was working meth labs for L.A. Impact. This one had exploded and burned to the ground. At first it was thought to be a gas leak, but the county fire teams had learned to call the cops if they saw chemistry glassware in the ashes. When they were raking the debris cold, too many test tubes came up in the furrows. Since crystal kitchens tended to explode more frequently than Palestinian suicide bombers, the Palmdale P.D. did tests on the soil and found high quantities of methamphetamine. In fact, the dirt was so laced with amp, the site started to get nightly visits from local crankheads. They hauled away the soil, taking it home to mine it for meth. A dirt lab is what we called it. L.A. Impact did a lot of meth investigations, so they were called in.
I came from a far more depressing direction.
Two kids had starved to death in a house in Fullerton; fourteen-month-old Cindy and her four-month-old brother, Ben. Their mother, Paula Beck, was a crystal addict with half a dozen meth-cooking busts in her package. Paula was currently in the Sybil Brand Institute facing two involuntary manslaughter charges. The D.A. wanted to boot it up to murder two and had asked Special Crimes at LAPD to look for extenuating circumstances. Since my partner, Zack Farrell, was on a temporary leave of absence to be with his ill mother in Florida, and since it was mostly a background check, which required no partner, I got to work on that grizzly little double homicide. The D.A. thought if he could file the bigger charge against Paula he could get her to roll on her ex-boyfriend, Paco Martinez, a high-profile drug dealer. Paula had been banging him until a month ago, when she'd finally gotten so tweaked and crankster-thin he kicked her out.
Once Deputy Lopez determined that this burned out hacienda had been Paula Beck's pad, the sheriff's and LAPD crime computers played "Let's Make a Deal" and that's how we ended up in Palmdale together. Because Paco Martinez was such a major player, I'd been expecting to find a big crystal plant. But now that I was here, I knew I'd wasted the trip. This was just a user lab, a Beavis and Butt-head kitchen where poor, strung-out Paula Beck cooked her own personal bag of crystal, then fried her brains. I wondered if little Cindy had crawled in the dirt out front while Ben lay screaming in soaking diapers watching his mommy shoot the moon. I wondered if she'd gotten so tweaked in Fullerton that she just forgot she had left her two babies locked in their room till they starved to death.