A Darkness More Than Night
Terry McCaleb's enforced quiet lifestyle on the island of Catalina is a far cry from the hectic excitement of his former role as an FBI profiler. However, when small-time criminal Edward Gunn is found dead, McCaleb becomes embroiled in a disturbing and complex case leading him to cross the path of Harry Bosch.
This infamous detective has always teetered on the brink of darkness in order to get inside the head of the killer. Is it possible that he has stepped across that finely drawn line and embraced darkness?
Read by Michael Beck
(p) 2001 Hachette Audio
Release date: January 23, 2001
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Print pages: 443
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A Darkness More Than Night
Terry McCaleb looked at his wife and then followed her eyes down to the winding road below. He could see the golf cart making its way up the steep and winding road to the house. The driver was obscured by the roof of the cart.
They were sitting on the back deck of the house he and Graciela had rented up on La Mesa Avenue. The view ranged from the narrow winding road below the house to the whole of Avalon and its harbor, and then out across the Santa Monica Bay to the haze of smog that marked overtown. The view was the reason they had chosen this house to make their new home on the island. But at the moment his wife spoke, his gaze had been on the baby in his arms, not the view. He could look no farther than his daughter’s wide blue and trusting eyes.
McCaleb saw the rental number on the side of the golf cart passing below. It wasn’t a local coming. It was somebody who had probably come from overtown on the Catalina Express. Still, he wondered how Graciela knew that the visitor was coming to their house and not any of the others on La Mesa.
He didn’t ask about this—she’d had premonitions before. He just waited and soon after the golf cart disappeared from sight, there was a knock at the front door. Graciela went to answer it and soon came back to the deck with a woman McCaleb had not seen in three years.
Sheriff’s detective Jaye Winston smiled when she saw the child in his arms. It was genuine, but at the same time it was the distracted smile of someone who wasn’t there to admire a new baby. McCaleb knew the thick green binder she carried in one hand and the videocassette in the other meant Winston was there on business. Death business.
“Terry, howya been?” she asked.
“Couldn’t be better. You remember Graciela?”
“Of course. And who is this?”
“This is CiCi.”
McCaleb never used the baby’s formal name around others. He only liked to call her Cielo when he was alone with her.
“CiCi,” Winston said, and hesitated as if waiting for an explanation of the name. When none came, she said, “How old?”
“Almost four months. She’s big.”
“Wow, yeah, I can see… And the boy… where’s he?”
“Raymond,” Graciela said. “He’s with some friends today. Terry had a charter and so he went with friends to the park to play softball.”
The conversation was halting and strange. Winston either wasn’t really interested or was unused to such banal talk.
“Would you like something to drink?” McCaleb offered as he passed the baby to Graciela.
“No, I’m fine. I had a Coke on the boat.”
As if on cue, or perhaps indignant about being passed from one set of hands to another, the baby started to fuss and Graciela said she would take her inside. She left them standing on the porch. McCaleb pointed to the round table and chairs where they ate most nights while the baby slept.
“Let’s sit down.”
He pointed Winston to the chair that would give her the best view of the harbor. She put the green binder, which McCaleb recognized as a murder book, on the table and the video on top of it.
“Beautiful,” she said.
“Yeah, she’s amazing. I could watch her all—”
He stopped and smiled when he realized she was talking about the view, not his child. Winston smiled, too.
“She’s beautiful, Terry. She really is. You look good, too, so tan and all.”
“I’ve been going out on the boat.”
“And your health is good?”
“Can’t complain about anything other than all the meds they make me take. But I’m three years in now and no problems. I think I’m in the clear, Jaye. I just have to keep taking the damn pills and it should stay that way.”
He smiled and he did appear to be the picture of health. As the sun had turned his skin dark, it had worked to the opposite effect on his hair. Close cropped and neat, it was almost blond now. Working on the boat had also defined the muscles of his arms and shoulders. The only giveaway was hidden under his shirt, the ten-inch scar left by transplantation surgery.
“That’s great,” Winston said. “It looks like you have a wonderful setup here. New family, new home… away from everything.”
She was silent a moment, turning her head as if to take in all of the view and the island and McCaleb’s life at once. McCaleb had always thought Jaye Winston was attractive in a tomboyish way. She had loose sandy-blond hair that she kept shoulder length. She had never worn makeup back when he worked with her. But she had sharp, knowing eyes and an easy and somewhat sad smile, as if she saw the humor and tragedy in everything at once. She wore black jeans and a white T-shirt beneath a black blazer. She looked cool and tough and McCaleb knew from experience that she was. She had a habit of hooking her hair behind her ear frequently as she spoke. He found that endearing for some unknown reason. He had always thought that if he had not connected with Graciela he might have tried to know Jaye Winston better. He also sensed that Winston intuitively knew that.
“Makes me feel guilty about why I came,” she said. “Sort of.”
McCaleb nodded at the binder and the tape.
“You came on business. You could have just called, Jaye. Saved some time, probably.”
“No, you didn’t send out any change-of-address or phone cards. Like maybe you didn’t want people to know where you ended up.”
She hooked her hair behind her left ear and smiled again.
“Not really,” he said. “I just didn’t think people would want to know where I was. So how did you find me?”
“Asked around over at the marina on the mainland.”
“Overtown. They call it overtown here.”
“Overtown, then. They told me in the harbor master’s office that you still kept a slip there but you moved the boat over here. I came over and took a water taxi around the harbor until I found it. Your friend was there. He told me how to get up here.”
McCaleb looked down into the harbor and picked out The Following Sea. It was about a half mile or so away. He could see Buddy Lockridge bent over in the stern. After a few moments he could tell that Buddy was washing off the reels with the hose from the freshwater tank.
“So what’s this about, Jaye?” McCaleb said without looking at Winston. “Must be important for you to go through all of that on your day off. I assume you’re off on Sundays.”
“Most of them.”
She pushed the tape aside and opened the binder. Now McCaleb looked over. Although it was upside down to him, he could tell the top page was a standard homicide occurrence report, usually the first page in every murder book he had ever read. It was the starting point. His eyes went to the address box. Even upside down he could make out that it was a West Hollywood case.
“I’ve got a case here I was hoping you’d take a look at. In your spare time, I mean. I think it might be your sort of thing. I was hoping you’d give me a read, maybe point me someplace I haven’t been yet.”
He had known as soon as he saw the binder in her hands that this was what she was going to ask him. But now that it had been asked he felt a confusing rush of sensations. He felt a thrill at the possibility of having a part of his old life again. He also felt guilt over the idea of bringing death into a home so full of new life and happiness. He glanced toward the open slider to see if Graciela was looking out at them. She wasn’t.
“My sort of thing?” he said. “If it’s a serial, you shouldn’t waste time. Go to the bureau, call Maggie Griffin. She’ll—”
“I did all of that, Terry. I still need you.”
“How old is this thing?”
Her eyes looked up from the binder to his.
“New Year’s Day?”
“First murder of the year,” she said. “For L.A. County, at least. Some people think the true millennium didn’t start until this year.”
“You think this is a millennium nut?”
“Whoever did this was a nut of some order. I think. That’s why I’m here.”
“What did the bureau say? Did you take this to Maggie?”
“You haven’t kept up, Terry. Maggie was sent back to Quantico. Things slowed down in the last few years out here and Behavioral Sciences pulled her back. No outpost in L.A. anymore. So, yes, I talked to her. But over the phone at Quantico. She ran it through VICAP and got zilched.”
McCaleb knew she meant the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program computer.
“What about a profile?” he asked.
“I’m on a waiting list. Do you know that across the country there were thirty-four millennium-inspired murders on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day? So they have their hands full at the moment and the bigger departments like us, we’re at the end of the line because the bureau figures the smaller departments with less experience and expertise and manpower need their help more.”
She waited a moment while letting McCaleb consider all of this. He understood the bureau’s philosophy. It was a form of triage.
“I don’t mind waiting a month or so until Maggie or somebody else over there can work something up for me, but my gut on this one tells me time is a consideration, Terry. If it is a serial, a month may be too long to wait. That’s why I thought of coming to you. I am banging my head on the wall on this one and you might be our last best hope of coming up with something to move on now. I still remember the Cemetery Man and the Code Killer. I know what you can do with a murder book and some crime scene tape.”
The last few lines were gratuitous and her only false move so far, McCaleb thought. Otherwise he believed she was sincere in the expression of her belief that the killer she was looking for might strike again.
“It’s been a long time for me, Jaye,” McCaleb began. “Other than that thing with Graciela’s sister, I haven’t been involved in—”
“Come on, Terry, don’t bullshit me, okay? You can sit here with a baby in your lap every day of the week and it still won’t erase what you were and what you did. I know you. We haven’t seen each other or talked in a long time but I know you. And I know that not a day goes by that you don’t think about cases. Not a day.”
She paused and stared at him.
“When they took out your heart, they didn’t take out what makes you tick, know what I mean?”
McCaleb looked away from her and back down at his boat. Buddy was now sitting in the main fighting chair, his feet up on the transom. McCaleb assumed he had a beer in his hand but it was too far to see that.
“If you’re so good at reading people, what do you need me for?”
“I may be good but you’re the best I ever knew. Hell, even if they weren’t backed up till Easter in Quantico, I’d take you over any of those profilers. I mean that. You were—”
“Okay, Jaye, we don’t need a sales pitch, okay? My ego is doing okay without all the—”
“Then what do you need?”
He looked back at her.
“Just some time. I need to think about this.”
“I’m here because my gut says I don’t have much time.”
McCaleb got up and walked to the railing. His gaze was out to the sea. A Catalina Express ferry was coming in. He knew it would be almost empty. The winter months brought few visitors.
“The boat’s coming in,” he said. “It’s the winter schedule, Jaye. You better catch it going back or you’ll be here all night.”
“I’ll have dispatch send a chopper for me if I have to. Terry, all I need from you is one day at the most. One night, even. Tonight. You sit down, read the book, look at the tape and then call me in the morning, tell me what you see. Maybe it’s nothing or at least nothing that’s new. But maybe you’ll see something we’ve missed or you’ll get an idea we haven’t come up with yet. That’s all I’m asking. I don’t think it’s a lot.”
McCaleb looked away from the incoming boat and turned so his back leaned against the rail.
“It doesn’t seem like a lot to you because you’re in the life. I’m not. I’m out of it, Jaye. Even going back into it for a day is going to change things. I moved out here to start over and to forget all the stuff I was good at. To get good at being something else. At being a father and a husband, for starters.”
Winston got up and walked to the railing. She stood next to him but looked out at the view while he remained facing his home. She spoke in a low voice. If Graciela was listening from somewhere inside, she could not hear this.
“Remember with Graciela’s sister what you told me? You told me you got a second shot at life and that there had to be a reason for it. Now you’ve built this life with her sister and her son and now even your own child. That’s wonderful, Terry, I really think so. But that can’t be the reason you were looking for. You might think it is but it’s not. Deep down you know it. You were good at catching these people. Next to that, what is catching fish?”
McCaleb nodded slightly and was uncomfortable with himself for doing it so readily.
“Leave the stuff,” he said. “I’ll call you when I can.”
On the way to the door Winston looked about for Graciela but didn’t see her.
“She’s probably in with the baby,” McCaleb said.
“Well, tell her I said good-bye.”
There was an awkward silence the rest of the way to the door. Finally, as McCaleb opened it, Winston spoke.
“So what’s it like, Terry? Being a father.”
“It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times.”
His stock answer. He then thought a moment and added something he had thought about but never said, not even to Graciela.
“It’s like having a gun to your head all the time.”
Winston looked confused and maybe even a little concerned.
“Because I know if anything ever happens to her, anything, then my life is over.”
“I think I can understand that.”
She went through the door. She looked rather silly as she left. A seasoned homicide detective riding away in a golf cart.
SUNDAY dinner with Graciela and Raymond was a quiet affair. They ate white sea bass McCaleb had caught with the charter that morning on the back side of the island near the isthmus. His charters always wanted to keep the fish they caught but then often changed their minds when they got back to the harbor. It was something about the killing instinct in men, McCaleb believed. It wasn’t enough just to catch their quarry. They must kill it as well. It meant fish was often served at dinner at the house on La Mesa.
McCaleb had grilled the fish along with corn still in the husks on the porch barbecue. Graciela had made a salad and biscuits. They both had a glass of white wine in front of them. Raymond had milk. The meal was good but the silence wasn’t. McCaleb looked over at Raymond and realized the boy had picked up on the vibe passed between the adults and was going along with the tide. McCaleb remembered how he had done the same thing when he was a boy and his parents were throwing silence at each other. Raymond was the son of Graciela’s sister, Gloria. His father had never been part of the picture. When Glory died—was murdered—three years before, Raymond had come to live with Graciela. McCaleb met them both when he investigated the case.
“How was softball today?” McCaleb finally asked.
“It was okay, I guess.”
“Get any hits?”
“You will. Don’t worry. Just keep trying. Keep swinging.”
McCaleb nodded. The boy had wanted to go out on the charter that morning but had not been allowed. The charter was for six men from overtown. With McCaleb and Buddy, that made eight on The Following Sea and that was the limit the boat could carry under the rules of safety. McCaleb never broke those rules.
“Well, listen, our next charter isn’t until Saturday. Right now it’s only four people. In winter season I doubt we’ll pick up anybody else. If it stays that way, you can come.”
The boy’s dark features seemed to lighten and he nodded vigorously as he worked his fork into the pure white meat of the fish on his plate. The fork looked big in his hand and McCaleb felt a momentary sadness for the boy. He was exceedingly small for a boy of ten. This bothered Raymond a great deal and he often asked McCaleb when he would grow. McCaleb always told him that it would happen soon, though privately he thought the boy would always be small. He knew that his mother had been of average size but Graciela had told McCaleb that Raymond’s father had been a very small man—in size and integrity. He had disappeared before Raymond was born.
Always picked last for the team, too small to be competitive with other boys his age, Raymond had gravitated toward pastimes other than team sports. Fishing was his passion and on off days McCaleb usually took him out into the bay to fish for halibut. When he had a charter, the boy always begged to go and when there was room he was allowed to come along as second mate. It was always McCaleb’s great pleasure to put a five-dollar bill into an envelope, seal it and hand it to the boy at the end of the day.
“We’ll need you in the tower,” McCaleb said. “This party wants to go down south for marlin. It’ll be a long day.”
McCaleb smiled. Raymond loved being the lookout in the tower, watching for black marlin sleeping or rolling on the surface. And with a pair of binoculars, he was becoming adept at it. McCaleb looked over at Graciela to share the moment but she was looking down at her plate. There was no smile on her face.
In a few more minutes Raymond had finished eating and asked to be excused so he could play on the computer in his room. Graciela told him to keep the sound down so as not to wake the baby. The boy took his plate into the kitchen and then Graciela and McCaleb were alone.
He understood why she was silent. She knew she could not voice her objection to his getting involved in an investigation because her own request that he investigate her sister’s death was what had brought them together three years before. Her emotions were caught in this irony.
“Graciela,” McCaleb began. “I know you don’t want me to do this but—”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t have to. I know you and I can tell by the look that’s been on your face ever since Jaye was here that—”
“I just don’t want everything to change, that’s all.”
“I understand that. I don’t want anything to change either. And it won’t. All I’m going to do is look at the file and the tape and tell her what I think.”
“It won’t be just that. I know you. I’ve seen you do this. You’ll get hooked. It’s what you are good at.”
“I won’t get hooked. I’ll just do what she asked and that’s it. I’m not even going to do it here. I’m going to take what she gave me and go over to the boat. So it won’t even be in the house. Okay? I don’t want it in the house.”
He knew he was going to do it with or without her approval but he wanted it from her just the same. Their relationship was still so new that he seemed to always be seeking her approval. He had thought about this and wondered if it was something to do with his second chance. He had fought through a lot of guilt in the past three years but it still came up like a roadblock every few miles. Somehow he felt as though if he could just win this one woman’s approval for his existence, then it would all be okay. His cardiologist had called it survivor’s guilt. He had lived because someone else had died and must now attain some sense of redemption for it. But McCaleb thought the explanation was not as simple as that.
Graciela frowned but it did not detract from his view of her as beautiful. She had copper skin and dark brown hair that framed a face with eyes so darkly brown that there was almost no demarcation between iris and pupil. Her beauty was another reason he sought her approval of all things. There was something purifying about the light of her smile when it was cast on him.
“Terry, I listened to you two on the porch. After the baby got quiet. I heard what she said about what makes you tick and how a day doesn’t go by that you don’t think about it, what you used to do. Just tell me this, was she right?”
McCaleb was silent a moment. He looked down at his empty plate and then off across the harbor to the lights in the houses going up the opposite hillside to the inn at the top of Mount Ada. He slowly nodded and then looked back at her.
“Yes, she was right.”
“Then all of this, what we are doing here, the baby, it’s all a lie?”
“No. Of course not. This is everything to me and I would protect it with everything I’ve got. But the answer is yes, I think about what I was and what I did. When I was with the bureau I saved lives, Graciela, plain and simple. And I took evil out of this world. Made it a little less dark out there.”
He raised his hand and gestured toward the harbor.
“Now I have a wonderful life with you and Cielo and Raymond. And I… I catch fish for rich people with nothing better to do with their money.”
“So you want both.”
“I don’t know what I want. But I know that when she was here I was saying things to her because I knew you were listening. I was saying what I knew you wanted to hear but I knew in my heart it wasn’t what I wanted. What I wanted to do was open that book right then and go to work. She was right about me, Gracie. She hadn’t seen me in three years but she had me pegged.”
Graciela stood up and came around the table to him. She sat on his lap.
“I’m just scared for you, that’s all,” she said.
She pulled him close.
McCaleb took two tall glasses from the cabinet and put them on the counter. He filled the first with bottled water and the second with orange juice. He then began ingesting the twenty-seven pills he had lined up on the counter, intermittently taking swallows of water and orange juice to help them go down. Eating the pills—twice a day—was his ritual and he hated it. Not because of the taste—he was long past that after three years. But because the ritual was a reminder of how dependent he was on exterior concerns for his life. The pills were a leash. He could not live long without them. Much of his world now was built around ensuring that he would always have them. He planned around them. He hoarded them. Sometimes he even dreamed about taking pills.
When he was done, McCaleb went into the living room, where Graciela was reading a magazine. She didn’t look up at him when he stepped into the room, another sign that she was unhappy with what was suddenly happening in her home. He stood there waiting for a moment and when things didn’t change he went down the hallway into the baby’s room.
Cielo was still asleep in her crib. The overhead light was on a dimmer switch and he raised the illumination just enough so that he could see her clearly. McCaleb went to the crib and leaned down so he could listen to her breathe and see her and smell her baby scent. Cielo had her mother’s coloring—dark skin and hair—except for her eyes, which were ocean blue. Her tiny hands were balled in fists as if she were showing her readiness to fight for life. McCaleb fell most in love with her when he watched her sleep. He thought about all the preparation they had gone through, the books and classes and advice from Graciela’s friends at the hospital who were pediatric nurses. All of it so that they would be ready to care for a fragile life so dependent on them. Nothing had been said or read to prepare him for the opposite: the knowledge that came the first moment he held her, that his own life was now dependent on her.
He reached down to her, the spread of his hand covering her back. She didn’t stir. He could feel her tiny heart beating. It seemed quick and desperate, like a whispered prayer. Sometimes he pulled the rocking chair over next to the crib and watched over her until late into the night. This night was different. He had to go. He had work to do. Blood work. He wasn’t sure if he was there to simply say good-bye for the night or to somehow gain inspiration or approval from her as well. In his mind it didn’t quite make sense. He just knew that he had to watch her and touch her before he went to his work.
McCaleb walked out on the pier and then down the steps to the skiff dock. He found his Zodiac among the other small boats and climbed aboard, careful to put the videotape and the murder book in the shelter of the inflatable’s bow so they wouldn’t get wet. He pulled the engine cord twice before it started and then headed off down the middle lane of the harbor. There were no docks in Avalon Harbor. The boats were tied to mooring buoys set in lines that followed the concave shape of the natural harbor. Because it was winter there were few boats in the harbor, but McCaleb didn’t cut between the buoys. He followed the fairways, as if driving a car on the streets of a neighborhood. You didn’t cut across lawns, you stayed on the roadway.
It was cold on the water and McCaleb zipped up his windbreaker. As he approached The Following Sea he could see the glow of the television behind the curtains of the salon. This meant Buddy Lockridge had not finished up in time to catch the last ferry and was staying over.
McCaleb and Lockridge worked the charter business together. While the boat’s ownership was in Graciela’s name, the marine charter license and all other documentation relating to the business were in Lockridge’s name. The two had met more than three years earlier when McCaleb had docked The Following Sea at Cabrillo Marina in the Los Angeles Harbor and was living aboard it while restoring it. Buddy was a neighbor, living on a sailboat nearby. They had struck up a friendship that ultimately became a partnership.
During the busy spring and summer season Lockridge stayed most nights on The Following Sea. But during the slow times he usually caught a ferry back overtown to his own boat at Cabrillo. He seemed to have greater success finding female companions in the overtown bars than in the handful of places on the island. McCaleb assumed he would be heading back in the morning since they did not have a charter for another five days.
McCaleb bumped the Zodiac into the fantail of The Following Sea. He cut the engine and got out with the tape and the binder. He tied the Zodiac off on a stern cleat and headed for the salon door. Buddy was there waiting, having heard the Zodiac or felt its bump on the fantail. He slid the door open, holding a paperback novel down at his side. McCaleb glanced at the television but couldn’t tell what it was he had on.
“What’s up, Terror?” Lockridge asked.
“Nothing. I just need to do a little work. I’m going to be using the forward bunk, okay?”
He stepped into the salon. It was warm. Lockridge had the space heater fired up.
“Sure, fine. Anything I can do to help?”
“Nah, this isn’t about the business.”
“It about that lady who came by? The sheriff’s lady?”
McCaleb had forgotten that Winston had come to the boat first and gotten directions from Buddy.
“You working a case for her?”
“No,” McCaleb said quickly, hoping to limit Lockridge’s interest and involvement. “I just need to look at some stuff and give her a call back.”
“Very cool, dude.”
“Not really. It’s just a favor. What are you watching?”
“Oh, nothing. Just a show about this task force that goes after computer hackers. Why, you seen it?”
“No, but I was wondering if I could borrow the TV for a little while.”
McCaleb held up the videotape. Lockridge’s eyes lit up.
“Be my guest. Pop that baby in there.”
“Um, not up here, Buddy. This is—Detective Winston asked me to do this in confidence. I’ll bring the TV back up as soon as I’m done.”
Lockridge’s face registered his disappointment but McCaleb wasn’t worried about it. He went over to the counter that separated the galley from the salon and put down the binder and tape. He unplugged the television and removed it from the locking frame that held it in place so it wouldn’t fall when the boat encountered high seas. The television had a built-in videocassette player and was heavy. McCaleb lugged it down the narrow stairway and took it to the forward stateroom, which had been partially converted into an office. Two sides of the room had been lined with twin bunk beds. The bottom berth on the left had been changed into a desk and the two top bunks were used by McCaleb to store his old bureau case files—Graciela didn’t want them in the house where Raymond might stumble upon them. The only problem was that McCaleb was sure that on occasion Buddy had gone through the boxes and looked at the files. And it bothered him. It was an invasion of some kind. McCaleb had thought about keeping the forward stateroom locked but knew that could be a deadly mistake. The only ceiling hatch on the lower deck was in the forward room and access to it ought not be blocked in case there was ever a need for an emergency evacuation through the bow.
He put the television down on the desk and plugged it in. He turned to go back up to the salon to retrieve the binder and tape when he saw Buddy coming down the stairs, holding the tape and leafing through the binder.
“Looks like a weird one, man.”
McCaleb reached out and closed the binder, then took it and the tape from his fishing partner’s hands.
“Just taking a peek.”
“I told you, it’s confidential.”
“Yeah, but we work good together. Just like before.
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