Faye Kellerman: The Mercedes Coffin

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Faye Kellerman The Mercedes Coffin
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    The Mercedes Coffin
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    Триллер / на английском языке
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The Mercedes Coffin: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Billionaire genius Genoa Greeves never got over the shocking death of her favorite teacher, Bennett "Dr. Ben" Alston Little, murdered execution-style and stuffed into the trunk of his Mercedes-Benz. No arrests were ever made, no killer charged for the brutal crime. Fifteen years later, the high-tech CEO reads about another execution-style murder; this time the victim is a Hollywood music producer named Primo Ekerling. There is no obvious connection, but the case is eerily similar to Little's and Genoa feels the time is right to close Dr. Ben's case once and for all – offering the L.A.P.D. a substantial financial "incentive" if justice is finally served for Little. Lieutenant Peter Decker resents having to commit valuable manpower to a fifteen-year-old open case simply because a rich woman says "Jump!" Still, the recent murder of Primo Ekerling does bear a disturbing resemblance to Little's case, even though two thug suspects are currently behind bars for the Ekerling murder. Decker can't help but wonder about a connection. His first phone calls are to the two primary investigators in the Little case, retired detectives Calvin Vitton and Arnie Lamar. Lamar is cooperative, but Vitton is not only reluctant to talk, he winds up dead of a suspicious suicide twelve hours later. Plunging into this long-buried murder, Decker discovers that even though the two slayings are separated by a decade and a half, there is still plenty of greed, lust, and evil to connect the dots. Decker's team of top investigators not only includes his favorite homicide detectives, Scott Oliver and Marge Dunn, but also his newly minted Hollywood detective daughter, Cindy Kutiel, whose help proves to be invaluable. His wife, Rina Lazarus, continues to be his backbone of support, offering a cool, rational outlook despite her growing concern for her husband's welfare and safety. Rina's worries and fears begin to build at a fevered pitch as past and present collide with a vengeance, catapulting an unsuspecting Peter Decker closer and closer to the edge of an infinite dark abyss. A relentlessly gripping tale spun by a master, Faye Kellerman's The Mercedes Coffin races through a dangerous urban world of fleeting fame and false dreams, making heart-pumping hairpin turns at each step of a terrifying journey, where truth and justice are fine lines between life and death.

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Fifteen years came and went. And then, quite by happenstance, Genoa picked up a copy of the Los Angeles Times and read about a homicide with overtones of Dr. Ben’s murder. When she saw the article, she was sitting in the president’s chair, located in the CEO’s office of Timespace, which was housed on the fifteen through the twentieth stories of the Greeves Building in Cupertino. But unlike Dr. Ben’s murder, suspects had been arrested for this carjacking.

She wondered…

Then she picked up the phone and called up LAPD. It took a while to get through to the right person, but when she did, she knew she was talking to someone with authority. Though Genoa didn’t demand that the Little case be reopened, her intent was crystal. It was true that she had money to hire a battalion of private detectives to investigate the murder herself, but she didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes-and why should she shell out money when she paid an exorbitant amount of California state taxes? Surely the cash that she would have had to expend in private investigations could be put to better use in LAPD, aiding the homicide detectives in their investigation.

Lots of money, in fact, should the department decide to reopen the Ben Little homicide and actually solve it.

The inspector listened to her plaints, sounding appropriately eager and maybe just a tad sycophantic.

Genoa wanted to reopen the case to do right by Bennett Alston Little.

Genoa wanted to reopen the case because the more recent homicide brought to mind the Little case and she thought about a connection.

Genoa wanted to reopen the case to bring a murderer to justice.

Genoa wanted to reopen the case to bring peace and solace to all of the victims’ friends and families.

Genoa wanted to reopen the case because at this stage in her life, and sitting on 1.3 billion dollars, she could do whatever the hell she pleased.


THE CONVERSATION WENT like this: ‘The case is fifteen years old,’ I say. Then Mackinerny responds, ‘Strapp, I don’t give a solitary fuck if it’s from the Jurassic era; there’s a seven-figure endowment riding on this solve, and you’re going to make it happen.’ I respond, ‘Not a problem, sir.’”

“Good comeback.”

“I thought so.”

Lieutenant Peter Decker regarded Strapp, who within the last ten minutes seemed to have gained a few more wrinkles from frowning. He was turning sixty this year, but still had the bull frame of a weight lifter. The man had a steel-trap mind and a matching metallic personality. “I’ll do what I can, Captain.”

“That’s the idea, Lieutenant. You’ll do what you can. I want you to handle this personally, Decker, not pass it off to someone in Homicide.”

“My homicide squad is more up to date on the latest techniques and forensics. They’d probably do a better job since most of my time is spent doing psychotherapy and scheduling vacations.”

“Horseshit!” Strapp rubbed his eyes. “Last summer you spent way more time in the field than in your office, judging from the amount of overtime you racked up flying Southwest to San Jose and to Santa Fe. Surely you got a couple of free trips out of that.”

“We cleared two homicides.”

“One of which was twenty-five years old, so this one should be a snap. We’ve got a hell of lot riding on this solve.”

A potential seven-figure gift could lift LAPD into state of the art. Equipping the department with the newest in forensic machinery could potentially put more felons behind bars. Still, Decker has found that in the end, it was always the human factor: men and women sweating hours on end to extract confessions, noticing a detail that was overlooked, doing just one more interview.

Not that technology didn’t have its place. And with a big endowment…

Money talks, etc.

“What prompted the call?” Decker asked Strapp.

“She read about the Primo Ekerling carjacking in Hollywood and it reminded her of the unfinished business with the Little case.”

“Doesn’t Hollywood have a few cholos in custody for that one?”

“It does, but that’s not the point. The parallels were similar enough to strike a chord in her very wealthy mind.”

“What’s her connection to Little other than the fact that he was her guidance counselor?”

“I think it’s as simple as that. She told Mackinerny that Little was the only one who had been kind to her during her awkward years, and now she has enough money to get people to jump,” Strapp said. “We were both in Foothill when the Little murder happened. From what I remember, he was a good guy.”

Decker hadn’t followed the details closely. He did recall that the case had occupied space in the local newspapers. “How soon do you want me on this?”

“How does yesterday sound, Lieutenant? Top priority. Got it?”

“Got it, and over and out.”

THOUGH HE COULDN’T delegate the thinking, Decker could certainly dole out the grunt work. He assigned one of the newest detectives the necessary but excruciatingly frustrating task of driving from the West Valley to downtown to pick up the Little file. In morning rush-hour traffic that was a heavy one-to two-hour commute, depending on the amount of Sigalerts on L.A. ’s arteries. In the meantime, Decker went over his current assignments, clearing most of his paperwork to devote his attention to the Little case.

The department had detectives who worked cold cases routinely, and why they didn’t pick this one up was anyone’s guess. Decker suspected that if West Valley got the solve, a substantial slab of the coveted cash would be directed to Strapp. Also, it was logical that the local detectives might have better luck concluding a case that happened in their own backyard.

By the time Decker could actually turn his attention to the six boxes that had been checked out from storage, it was after six in the evening. Too many miscreants had occupied the day, and if he was to get anywhere, he needed solitude to read and think. He decided to work from his home office, and though it wasn’t proper procedure to carry out official material, it happened all the time.

The drive to his house took less than fifteen minutes, down Devonshire Boulevard to his ranch-style wood-sided house. Decker’s property was over a third of an acre, not nearly as big as the ranch he had owned when the Little case broke through to the media, but the space was large enough for him to spread out his workbench on a lovely spring day and play with his tools. The grounds had become a feast for the eyes since Rina had taken up gardening about two years ago. She had turned what had been a boring sheet of green lawn into lush gardens with riotous colors. Last spring, it had made the L.A. Garden list of places to visit. One entire Sunday had been taken up by troupes of gardening aficionados traipsing through his property oohing and aahing and congratulating Rina on a job well done.

Upon arriving home, Decker could smell garlic coming from the kitchen. His wife’s cooking skills even surpassed her eminent prowess as a landscaper. Balancing three of the boxes while fiddling with the front door key, he managed to make an entrance, place the boxes on his dining room table, and not fall on his ass. It was a good sign.

Rina emerged from the kitchen, her hair maddeningly black without a hint of gray even though the woman was in her forties. Her lack of aging never ceased to painfully remind Decker that he was in his fifties and had a head streaked with silver. The follicles that retained the most of Decker’s original carrot red coloring were embedded in his mustache. The facial hair was maybe a bit out of style, but Rina claimed it made him look very masculine and handsome, and she was the only one he was still trying to impress.

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