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Chapter Thirty

governor Mike Feuer had been on the car phone for the past fifteen minutes, and this was fortunate for Jed, who had made five wrong turns and sped through an alleyway, losing both unmarked Caprices, before finding Cherry Street and driving past Hollywood Cemetery and ending up at Oregon Hill Park, where he had turned around and gone the wrong way on Spring Street, ending up on Pine Street at Mamma'Zu, reputed to be the best Italian restaurant this side of Washington, D.C.

'Jed?' The governor's voice sounded over the intercom. 'Isn't that Mamma'Zu?'

'I believe so, sir.'

'I thought you said it closed down.'

'No, sir. I think I said it was closed when you wanted to take your wife there for her birthday,' Jed fibbed, for it was his modus operandi to say a business had closed or moved or gone under if the governor wanted to go there and Jed did not know how to find it.

'Well, make a note of it,' the governor's voice came back. 'Ginny will be thrilled.'

'Will do, sir.'

Ginny was the first lady, and Jed was scared of her. She knew Richmond streets far better than Jed was comfortable with, and he feared her reaction if she learned that Mamma'Zu had not closed or moved or changed its name. Ginny Feuer was a Yale graduate. She was fluent in eight languages, although Jed wasn't certain if that included English or was in addition to English.

The first lady had quizzed Jed repeatedly about his creative, time-killing routes. She was on to him and could get him reassigned, demoted, kicked off the EPU or even fired from the state police with a gesture, a word, a question in pretty much any language.

'Jed, shouldn't we be there by now?' the governor's voice sounded again.

Jed eyed his boss in the rearview mirror. Governor Feuer was looking out the windows. He was looking at his watch.

'In about two minutes, sir,' Jed replied as his chest got tight.

He picked up speed, following Pine the wrong way. He took a hard right on Oregon Hill Parkway which ran him into Cherry Street where the ivy-draped cemetery fence on the left embraced and welcomed him like the Statue of Liberty.

Jed followed the fence, passing the hole in it and the Victory Rug Cleaning sign. He drove through the cemetery's massive wrought-iron front gates that Lelia Ehrhart had made sure would be unlocked for them. He passed the caretaker's house and business office, following Hollywood Avenue. Jed would have rolled up on the statue in a matter of moments had he not turned onto Confederate Avenue instead of Eastvale.

It was clear to Brazil why the media, the unimaginative, the insensitive, the resentful, and those citizens not indigenous to Richmond often trivialized Hollywood Cemetery by referring to it as the City of the Dead.

As Brazil and Weed walked deeper into having-no-idea-where-they-were, Brazil's respect for history and its dead was greatly diluted by fatigue and frustration. The famous cemetery became nothing more than a heartless, unhelpful metropolis of ancient carriage paths, now paved and named, that had been laid out by first families who already knew where they were going.

It wasn't possible to find sections or lot owners or the way out unless one had a map or an a priori knowledge or was lucky as hell. Brazil, sad to say, was heading west instead of east.

'Is it hurting?' Brazil asked his prisoner.

Weed had cut his chin when Brazil tackled him. Weed was bleeding and Brazil's day had just gotten worse, if that was possible. The sheriff's department would not accept a juvenile who was visibly injured. Weed would have to get a medical release, meaning Brazil would have no choice but to take Weed to an emergency room where the two of them would probably sit all day.

'I don't feel nothing.' Weed shrugged, holding one of Brazil's socks against his chin for lack of any other bandage.

'Well, I'm really sorry,' Brazil apologized again.

They were walking along Waterview to New Avenue where Weed stopped to gawk at tobacco mogul Lewis Ginter's granite and marble tomb. He couldn't believe the heavy bronze doors, Corinthian columns and Tiffany windows.

'It's like a church,' Weed marveled. 'I wish Twister could have something like that.'

They walked in silence for a moment. Brazil remembered to turn his radio back on.

'You ever had anybody die on you?' Weed asked.

'My father.'

'Wish mine was dead.'

'You don't really mean that,' Brazil said.

'What happened to yours?' Weed looked up at him.

'He was a cop. Got killed on duty.'

Brazil thought of his father's small, plain grave in the college town of Davidson. The memories of that spring Sunday morning when he was ten and the phone rang in his simple frame house on Main Street were still vivid. He could still hear his mother screaming and kicking cabinets, wailing and throwing things while he hid in his room, knowing without being told.

Again and again the television showed his father's bloody sheet-covered body being loaded into an ambulance. An endless motorcade of police cars and motorcycles with headlights on rumbled through Brazil's head, and he envisioned dress uniforms and badges striped with black tape.

'You ain't listening to me,' Weed insisted.

Brazil came to, shaken and unnerved. The cemetery began closing in, suffocating him with its pungent smells and restless sounds. The radio reminded him that he should call again for a 10-25, but he wasn't going to do it. Brazil was not going to let the entire police department, including West, know he was lost inside Hollywood Cemetery with a fourteen-year-old graffiti artist.

They headed out again on New Avenue. It eventually curved around the western edge of the cemetery and turned into Midvale, where in the distance they could see what appeared to be a long black hearse traveling toward them at a high rate of speed.

Cemetery monuments and markers and holly trees streamed past Governor Feuer's tinted windows as he ended another phone call, having by now lost all patience and willingness to give second chances.

Jed was driving too fast. It was taking longer to find Jefferson Davis's statue than it had probably taken to paint it. The unmarked Caprices and their EPU drivers were nowhere to be seen.

'Jed.' This time Governor Feuer hummed down the glass partition first. 'What happened to our backups?'

'They went on, sir.'

'Went on where?'

'Back to the mansion, I believe, sir. I'm not sure, but I think Mrs. Feuer needed to run an errand or something.'

'Mrs. Feuer is on her way to the Homestead.'

'I hear that's quite a resort, up there in the mountains with spas, unbelievable food and skiing and everything. I'm glad she's going to relax a little,' Jed prattled on nervously.

'Where the hell are we, Jed?' Governor Feuer restrained himself from raising his voice.

'There's a lot of detours, sir,' Jed replied. 'From funerals, I guess.'

'I don't see any funerals or any sign of them.'

'Not on this street, no sir.'

'In fact, I haven't seen another car,' the governor said testily.

'This is for through traffic, sir.'

'Through traffic? Through to where? There is no through. There's only one way in and out of the cemetery. If you went through, you'd end up in the James River.'

'What I meant, sir, was that this isn't a funeral route,' Jed explained, slowing down a bit.

'For God's sake, Jed.' The governor lost his cool. There's no such thing as a funeral route in a cemetery. The cars go where the person's being buried. You don't bury people along routes. We're lost.'

'Not at all, sir.'

'Turn around. Let's go back,' Governor Feuer said as a cop and a little kid suddenly flowed past his right window.

Governor Feuer turned around in his seat, staring out the back window at a uniformed officer and a boy dressed like the Bulls. They were walking slowly and unsteadily, as if their legs would go out from under them any minute.

'Stop the car!' Governor Feuer ordered.

Jed slammed on the brakes, sending newspapers sliding across the carpeted floor.

The scene behind Kmart was slowing down and thinning out. The medical examiner's van was en route to the morgue where Ruby Sink would be autopsied later this day, and uniformed officers had begun to scatter, returning to the streets.

Detectives sought out witnesses and Miss Sink's next of kin while the media tried to get there first. The fire department was long gone, leaving West and two crime-scene technicians to finish up.

So far, dozens of latent prints in addition to the three nine-millimeter cartridge cases had been recovered from inside the car, which soon would be carried off in a flatbed truck for further processing by forensic scientists in the shelter of a bay. Eventually, firing pin impressions would be scanned into ATF's computer system to determine if they matched those recovered from other crimes.

Prints would be run through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System known as AFIS. Hairs, blood and fibers would go to DNA and the trace evidence labs.

'We need to get this out of the sun, or the blood and any other biological evidence are going to start decomposing really fast,' West said to crime-scene technician Alice Bates, who was taking photographs of the inside of the Chevy Celebrity.

'We've got it covered,' Bates said.

A second technician named Bonita Wills was focusing on the scattered contents of the victim's pocketbook that were strewn on the floor of the passenger's side. West leaned inside the open driver's door to look, her suit jacket brushing against the frame.

'Oh great,' she muttered as she tried to brush black fingerprint powder off her jacket.

West studied blood spatter on the rearview mirror, on the roof near it, the drips on the steering wheel and the pool of coagulating blood on the passenger's seat. When she had first arrived at the scene, Miss Sink had been slumped over on her right side, her head on the passenger's seat. There were blood spatters on her forearms and elbows and the roof above the driver's seat, and all this gave West a depressing picture.

It appeared that Ruby Sink had been sitting behind the wheel, elbows raised, hands under something, perhaps her face, when she had been shot execution style. Then the killer had climbed out of the car, and Miss Sink's body had slumped over on the passenger's seat where she had bled very briefly before dying.

'The bastard,' West said. 'Doing that in front of a baby. For two hundred fucking bucks. Goddamn son of a bitch.'

'Don't touch anything,' Wills warned her, as if West had sat behind a desk all her life.

West checked her temper. She was tired of being treated like an interloper, like an idiot, when it hadn't been so long ago that she was regarded with respect and even friendliness by a department a lot bigger and better than this one.

She stepped back from the car, looking around, hot and impatient in her smudged suit. The perimeter behind Kmart was secured by yellow crime-scene tape and West had no intention of letting anyone in anytime soon, and this included drivers making deliveries to the department store.

'Where's the truck?' West was all business. 'I don't like this. Everybody's flown the coop and other than the body, the car is the most important piece of evidence.'

'I wouldn't sweat it too much,' Wills said. 'This thing's a pigpen of prints. They could be anybody's, depending on how many people have been inside it, outside it, whatever. Most will probably be hers.'

'Some will be his,' West said. 'This guy doesn't wear gloves. He doesn't care if he leaves spit, hairs, blood, seminal fluid because he's probably some fucking piece of shit who's just got out of some juvenile training school and all his records have been destroyed to protect his precious confidentiality.'

'Hey, Bates,' Wills called to her partner, 'make sure you get the trunk good around the lock. In case he went in there.'

'I'm way ahead of ya.'

West got on her radio and requested an officer to guard the crime scene. She got back in her car and drove around to the front of Kmart. The parking lot was full of shoppers looking for a deal. A few of them were standing in front of the store, staring at First Union Bank and speculating in hushed, excited voices. Most were inside, probably pushing carts up and down aisles, oblivious.

West pulled up to the bank and was surprised to see that Hammer was still talking to Bubba, both of them standing in the bright sun. West got out and walked toward them. She slowed her pace when the stench reached her. She stared at Bubba's camouflage.

'Certainly I think it's a good idea for citizens to get involved,' Hammer was saying to Bubba. 'But within limits. I don't want our volunteer police carrying guns, Mr. Fluck.'

'Then a lot of us won't do it,' he let her know.

'There are other ways to help.'

'What about pepper spray or tactical batons? Could they carry those?'

'No,' Hammer replied.

West knew exactly what her boss was doing. Chief Hammer was an expert at playing people, dribbling the conversation in many directions, faking and passing until she saw an opening to score. West went along with it.

'Well, Chesterfield's auxiliary police carry guns,' Bubba pointed out, swatting at flies. 'I know a bunch of the guys. They work hard and really like it.'

Hammer noticed West's suit. She stared at the black fingerprint powder on the jacket.

'How'd you get smudge on…' Hammer said without finishing, laying the trap.

'I didn't,' Bubba replied. 'Actually he's been trying to get me on, but I'd have to move to Chesterfield.'

Hammer gave him a feigned puzzled look. 'Excuse me?'

'My buddy Smudge.' Then Bubba looked puzzled, too.

'How'd you know about him?'

'Sorry for your inconvenience, Mr. Fluck,' Hammer said. 'Why don't you go on home and freshen up. Deputy Chief West? A word with you.'

The two women walked away from Bubba.

'That was pretty clever,' West marveled. 'I guess you were referring to my jacket but made it sound like you knew about Smudge.'

'I was lucky,' Hammer said as a car pulled into the parking lot and sped toward them. 'And I want him under surveillance. Now.'

Roop jumped out in such a hurry he didn't bother turning off the engine or shutting the door.

'Chief Hammer!' he said excitedly. 'I got another phone call. Same guy." 'You sure?' Hammer asked.

'Yes!' Roop exclaimed. 'The Pikes are claiming responsibility for the ATM homicide!'

Chapter Twenty-Nine | Southern Cross | Chapter Thirty-One