T. Parker: The Triggerman Dance

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  • Название:
    The Triggerman Dance
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    Триллер / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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The Triggerman Dance: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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T. Jefferson Parker


The Triggerman Dance


CHAPTER 1

In the most widely published of all photographs of the aftermath Rebecca lies beside a raised brick planter, arms gracefully extended, her face to the camera, legs together but relaxed. Her shoes are visible beneath the pastel, rain-punished petals of the Iceland poppies that had bloomed two weeks earlier. Above her droops a eucalyptus tree with a thick white trunk and branches heavy with leaves that curve like scimitars. Rebecca seems to b leaning the small of her back against the bricks. There, her waist opens skyward and her torso makes a feminine turn that allow her shoulders to lie flat upon the asphalt while her face confront the photographer and her arms rest above her head. Her left hand, cupped yet not quite closed, appears to be catching rain She wears no ring. She is still wrapped in the raincoat she had worn into the gathering storm; a hat is still atop her head. In the photograph, her blond hair spills from beneath the hat and blends in wet waves with the pavement.

The picture was taken just moments after the incident, by Journal staffer who had been in the darkroom pouring solution A photo editor barged in and told him something had just "gone down" in the parking lot. As would any professional, the photographer grabbed his camera and ran from the eternal red twilight of the lab in search of a shot that might make his reputation.

This was his lucky day. Print 1B26 on the proof sheet turned out to be the best of his or anyone else's pictures. It appeared not only in the Orange County Journal, where Rebecca Harris was serving an internship, but also in papers across the globe-New York, London, Tokyo, Sidney, and many thousands of journals in between. It is one of those shots that just flat-out has it all: a worthy subject, perfect lighting and composition, and the loaded visual hush common to many great news photographs.

Adding to its greatness are the background characters. These are the five unnamed employees of the Journal who were the first to arrive and comprehend what had happened. These onlookers form a not-quite focused chorus beside the planter, and are caught in postures that might well have been arranged by Titian. A woman sobs into one hand while with the other she tries to cover her head from the downpour. Another runs back toward the Journal lobby but is caught mid-stride, as if she wants nothing more in the world than to escape from this image. A uniformed security guard speaks into a belt radio, his jaw histrionically agape. The center of the five, a young man in a long leather coat and a fedora, steps through the rain toward Rebecca, his expression indecipherable but the squared shoulders and alert angle of his head suggest that something can and will be done to correct this. .. mistake. The young man seems to speak for the millions of people who later saw the photograph. He is hope itself, deluded as he was. Of course, in the minds of some foreign observers his action was just one more example of the sadly skewed American concept that, with good intentions, anything can be fixed.


Costa Mesa Police arrived first, followed by the Orange County Sheriffs. The young police officers went about their work with an air of confidence far beyond their experience, which is part of their training. They began by interviewing briefly the two witnesses closest to Rebecca Harris when the first shot rang out, then they tried to seal off the crime scene. Wearing clear slickers to repel the rain, they dragged yellow-and-black folding sawhorses from the trunks of their patrol cars and began stringing up the yellow crime scene-do not enter tape.

But this procedure went inexactly. Because the reporters and photogs had so long endured the rigid protocols of police investigations while on assignment they felt that this event-in their own parking lot-entitled them to do pretty much what they pleased. So they did. The television side of the Journal operation used Rebecca's body-draped with a blanket-as a backdrop for their live, on-scene coverage. Photographers meandered within the taped perimeters, setting up lights and reflectors, snapping away. A dispute broke out regarding the best angles. Reporters took notes or spoke into tape recorders. Editors loitered, and the copy desk people rubbed their eyes. The young police officers were ignored. It was full access.

Through this rainsoaked tableau marched the Journal's most celebrated columnist, a tallish and solid woman named Susan Baum. She limped slightly, which gave her a kind of embattled dignity. She was wrapped in a tan Burberry, with the collar: turned up around a hot violet scarf. From beneath her hat bobbed sand-colored curls of hair that framed a square face, deep brown eyes, furiously thick brows, and a mouth set in a perpetual frown. Behind her trailed the Journal publisher, who was apparently too flabbergasted by what had happened to even put on a coat. His white shirt, sleeves still rolled to his elbows, clung to his body like old skin. Next to him was head of plant security and beside him, the executive editor. They approached Rebecca near the raised brick planter.

"M'am," said one of the officers. "Please remain behind the tape."

"Shut up, you fool," said Susan Baum, freezing him with a look of such hostility that the officer actually nodded and backed off.

Susan Baum barged past the TV crew, ruining the intro segment. The attractive on-air reporter, Ensley Moffett, shook he head, ducked under an assistant's umbrella and watched Susan with an air of respectful resignation.

Baum stood some ten feet away from Rebecca and looked down at the body. First she put her hands on her hips and leaned slightly forward, like someone measuring the depth of a hole. Then she stuffed her hands into the Burberry's side pockets and brought out a small notepad. She scribbled something. She gazed past the planter toward the massive Journal building, her eye settling on the young man in the felt hat and leather coat soaked all the way past the knees. She hadn't even known he was there just thirty feet away, stuck in the rain like a post. The "Sporting Life" writer, she thought-John? Jim? Mike?

She turned to her publisher and spoke in a quiet voice. 'I asked Rebecca to bring my car so I wouldn't have to go out in the storm. This was clearly intended for me."

She nodded to the new Lincoln Town Car the Journal supplied for her as a sign of her high status. It sat just to the right of the planter, behind a little sign that said, simply, "Baum." There was a small round hole near the top of the driver's side window, surrounded by an opaque aura of shatters and a spray of what could only be Rebecca Harris's blood. A bulky key chain dangled from the door lock.

With this, two large tears ran down her unquivering cheeks, and Susan Baum took one last look at her part-time assistant lying beside the planter. Then the columnist walked toward the TV crew, accurately assuming that they would want to interview her, limping due to chronically bad circulation in her left foot which today was aggravated by the cold wet weather.


Within an hour, the local police had assembled some apparent facts, scant as they were. Rebecca Harris was shot at least twice-once in the back as she unlocked the door of Susan Baum's Town Car, and once in the chest. The latter could have happened either as she turned when the first bullet hit her, or perhaps after she had fallen by the planter. Firearms and Tool-marks would determine the caliber of the gun. One of the crime scene investigators had already dislodged from the interior of the car next to the Lincoln, a slug which had apparently passed through the young woman, through the Town Car and into the Acura Legend beside it. It had stopped in the burnished wood of the sedan's right-side dash. To the police it looked like a big-bore rifle slug, but that was only a guess.

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