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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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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She thought a moment. “No…no, not at all.”

“He was around forty. The papers listed him as an independent music producer and an entrepreneur.”

“That’s L.A. speak for a slacker.”

“I must admit that nonspecific occupations tweak my antennas. But the case isn’t mine, and Hollywood has plenty of well-trained homicide detectives. I’m sure they have their reasons for arresting the punks.”

“I’m sure they do.”

“Still, now that I’ve been assigned your husband’s case, I’d like to know more about the Hollywood carjacking. If I’m going to get anywhere, I can’t just cover old ground.”

“I agree.”

“I’m glad you do because there were people who were not interviewed the first time around that I’d like to talk to. Your sons, for instance.”

“My boys?” Melinda was taken aback. “They were just kids.”

“Kids have memories, Mrs. Warren. They see things, they hear things, they experience things. Oftentimes, they won’t volunteer any information because that road has gotten them into trouble before. But many times if you ask them a question point-blank, they’re not likely to lie. Your sons are adults now, so I don’t need your permission to contact them. However, it would help if I had your cooperation.”

Her mouth frowned although her forehead remained smooth-Botox. “Let me call them up and get back to you. I’m sure they won’t mind talking. Ten years of therapy has taught them how to talk to anyone.”


WHEN HOMICIDE DETECTIVES were a hair shy of a solve, the last thing they needed was a hotshot from some other substation messing around with their cases. Two similar felonies fifteen years apart did not a criminal pattern make, and while Decker had no intention of gumming up anyone’s finely oiled conviction machine, he did feel it was incumbent to review the files of the recent Hollywood carjacking/homicide, just in case. To make the cold call to the detectives was an unpleasant prospect.

Lucky for him that he had an in, and that brought a smile to his face. He had done umpteen favors for his daughter and that was to be expected because he was the parent. This little assignment would give Cindy a chance to reciprocate

From the winding roads of Sunset, Decker hooked onto the 405 heading north into his home turf of the San Fernando Valley. Morning clouds had given way to full sun, necessitating air-conditioning. Although the car was old, it valiantly sputtered a stream of Freon-laden air, which felt good on Decker’s sweaty face. He loosened his tie and waited for phone reception as the Vic chugged through the mountain pass. When he reached the top of the hill, he used his voice-activated earpiece to talk hands-free. Cindy picked up on the third ring.

“Are you busy?” he said without introduction.

“Just sitting down to a vegetarian club salad.”

Decker checked his watch. It was eleven-thirty. “Early lunch?”

“Joe’s hungry and the timing works. What’s up?”

“I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes. It would be helpful if you had some privacy.”

“Hold on.” Decker heard Cindy talking to her partner. Several moments later, she was back on the line. “Is everything okay?”

“Just fine. Did I make you nervous?”

“Of course you did. You never call me during working hours.”

“That’s because the call is business. Sorry if I scared you. I need a favor, Cin.”

“A favor, huh?” A pause. “Well, now I know I’ve arrived.”

“Weren’t you involved in the car recovery of the Primo Ekerling case?”

“Initially Joe and I were assigned to the case until we popped the trunk and discovered the body. Then it immediately went over to Homicide.”

“So the car was reported as stolen?”

“Yes, but the vehicle wasn’t the main issue. Ekerling’s girlfriend reported that he, along with the car, went missing. About a week later, a traffic officer was about to write a ticket on the Mercedes when he noticed that the car already had a ticket on the windshield. The car was parked on Prince right off Hollywood Boulevard.”

“That’s a residential area, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. The car was being ticketed because it was parked on the wrong side on a street cleaning day. The first ticket was for the same violation. The car had been sitting there for at least a week.”

“And no one called it in?”

“It was a brand-new Mercedes. I suppose it didn’t look out of place. The miracle was that no one vandalized or stole it, especially with all the bars in the area. Lots of bars mean lots of drunks doing stupid things.”

“That is often the case.”

“Anyway, the officer ran the plates and the car came back hot. Joe and I caught the call. When we got to the location, we peeked inside the vehicle. Something just didn’t look right. Just as important, something didn’t smell right. Joe jimmied the lock on the trunk and the rest is history.”

“And no one complained about the smell?”

“It wasn’t that strong, and you know how it is in L.A. No one really walks and you’d have to pass by to notice an odor.”

“Most of the gas and bloat was gone?”

“Most of it, yes, but we got a whiff of something funky as soon as we got close enough.”

“Was the body in the open or was it wrapped up in garbage bags?”

“It was curled up in the trunk.” A pause. “Daddy, I have to get back to my lunch or Joe’s going to get suspicious. Can we talk about this later?”

“I need the file.”

“And you don’t want to just call up Homicide and ask for it.”

“Exactly. They’ve got suspects in custody, and I don’t want to inject something new unless there’s good reason.”

There was a long pause. “We should talk later. I never fully bought into the carjacking/murder theory. How soon do you want it?”

“As soon as possible, but a day or two won’t make a difference. Do you remember the name of Ekerling’s girlfriend?”

“Marilyn Eustis. I’d like to hear the details of what you’re working on. Can we meet for dinner?”

“Love to.”

“I’ll call you up when I get the file and we’ll have a date. How about Italian?”

“You get the file, princess, I’ll take you anywhere you want. I’ll even pay.”

“You always pay, Daddy.”

“I do, don’t I.” Decker smiled. “See how much your father loves you?”

TAKING ON THE cold case didn’t mean that Decker’s paperwork didn’t pile up. As soon as he hit the squad room, he became the lieutenant in charge and was bombarded with questions, comments, and complaints. Lucky for him he had a few genuine allies that he now considered close friends.

Marge Dunn in specific.

Dunn had worked for or with Decker for over twenty years, starting out as a rookie detective under his tutelage in Juvenile and Sex Crimes for the Foothill Division of the LAPD. He had brought Marge with him to Homicide in West Valley because of her insights and work ethic. A winning personality made her a gem among dross. The woman was tall and big boned with light brown hair that had grown blonder since her involvement with Will Barnes, a former Berkeley detective who had moved to Santa Barbara to be within commuting distance. It was wonderful to see Marge happy, not only from a friendship point of view but also because Marge worked better when she was in good spirits.

Who didn’t?

Dunn had filtered out all the nonsense, leaving Decker with the nuts and bolts of what needed to be dealt with to successfully run the detective’s squad room. She sat in his office as he rummaged through a forest’s worth of phone messages.

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