Home > Triptych (Will Trent #1)

Triptych (Will Trent #1)
Author: Karin Slaughter

PART I

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

FEBRUARY 5, 2006

 

 

Detective Michael Ormewood listened to the football game on the radio as he drove down DeKalb Avenue toward Grady Homes. The closer he got to the projects, the more tension he felt, his body almost vibrating from the strain by the time he took a right into what most cops considered a war zone. As the Atlanta Housing Authority slowly devoured itself, subsidized communities like Grady were becoming a thing of the past. The in-town real estate was too valuable, the potential for kickback too high. Right up the road was the city of Decatur, with its trendy restaurants and million-dollar houses. Less than a mile in the other direction was Georgia’s gold-encrusted capitol dome. Grady was like a worse-case scenario sitting between them, a living reminder that the city too busy to hate was also too busy to take care of its own.

With the game on, the streets were fairly empty. The drug dealers and pimps were taking the night off to watch that rarest of miracles occur: the Atlanta Falcons playing in the Super Bowl. This being a Sunday night, the prostitutes were still out making a living, trying to give the churchgoers something to confess next week. Some of the girls waved at Michael as he drove past, and he returned the greeting, wondering how many unmarked cars stopped here during the middle of the night, cops telling Dispatch they were taking a ten-minute break, then motioning over one of the girls to help blow off some steam.

Building nine was in the back of the development, the crumbling red brick edifice tagged by the Ratz, one of the new gangs that had moved into the Homes. Four cruisers and another unmarked car were in front of the building, lights rolling, radios squawking. Parked in the residents’ spaces were a black BMW and a pimped-out Lincoln Navigator, its ten-thousand-dollar razor rims glittering gold in the streetlights. Michael fought the urge to jerk the steering wheel, take some paint off the seventy-thousand-dollar SUV. It pissed him off to see the expensive cars the bangers drove. In the last month, Michael’s kid had shot up about four inches, outgrowing all his jeans, but new clothes would have to wait for Michael’s next paycheck. Tim looked like he was waiting for a high tide while Daddy’s tax dollars went to help these thugs pay their rent.

Instead of getting out of his car, Michael waited, listening to another few seconds of the game, enjoying a moment’s peace before his world turned upside down. He had been on the force for almost fifteen years now, going straight from the army to the police, realizing too late that other than the haircut, there wasn’t that much difference between the two. He knew that as soon as he got out of his car it would all start up like a clock that was wound too tight. The sleepless nights, the endless leads that never panned out, the bosses breathing down his neck. The press would probably catch on to it, too. Then he’d have cameras stuck in his face every time he left the squad, people asking him why the case wasn’t solved, his son seeing it on the news and asking Daddy why people were so mad at him.

Collier, a young beat cop with biceps so thick with muscle he couldn’t put his arms down flat against his sides, tapped on the glass, gesturing for Michael to roll down his window. Collier had made a circling motion with his meaty hand, even though the kid had probably never been in a car with crank windows.

Michael pressed the button on the console, saying, “Yeah?” as the glass slid down.

“Who’s winning?”

“Not Atlanta,” Michael told him, and Collier nodded as if he had expected the news. Atlanta’s previous trip to the Super Bowl was several years back. Denver had thumped them 34–19.

Collier asked, “How’s Ken?”

“He’s Ken,” Michael answered, not offering an elaboration on his partner’s health.

“Could use him on this.” The patrolman jerked his head toward the building. “It’s pretty nasty.”

Michael kept his own counsel. The kid was in his early twenties, probably living in his mother’s basement, thinking he was a man because he strapped on a gun every day. Michael had met several Colliers in the Iraqi desert when the first Bush had decided to go in. They were all eager pups with that glint in their eye that told you they had joined up for more than three squares and a free education. They were obsessed with duty and honor, all that shit they’d seen on TV and been fed by the recruiters who plucked them out of high school like ripe cherries. They had been promised technical training and home-side base assignments, anything that would get them to sign on the dotted line. Most of them ended up being shipped off on the first transport plane to the desert, where they got shot before they could put their helmets on.

Ted Greer came out of the building, tugging at his tie like he needed air. The lieutenant was pasty for a black man, spending most of his time behind his desk basking in the fluorescent lights as he waited for his retirement to kick in.

He saw Michael still sitting in the car and scowled. “You working tonight or just out for a drive?”

Michael took his time getting out, sliding the key out of the ignition just as the halftime commentary started on the radio. The evening was warm for February, and the air-conditioning units people had stuck in their windows buzzed like bees around a hive.

Greer barked at Collier, “You got something to do?”

Collier had the sense to leave, tucking his chin to his chest like he’d been popped on the nose.

“Fucking mess,” Greer told Michael. He took out his handkerchief and wiped the sweat off his forehead. “Some kind of sick perv got ahold of her.”

Michael had heard as much when he’d gotten the call that pulled him off his living-room couch. “Where is she?”

“Six flights up.” Greer folded the handkerchief into a neat square and tucked it into his pocket. “We traced the nine-one-one call to that phone.” He pointed across the street.

Michael stared at the phone booth, a relic of the past. Everybody had cell phones now, especially dealers and bangers.

“Woman’s voice,” Greer told him. “We’ll have the tape sometime tomorrow.”

“How long did it take to get somebody out here?”

“Thirty-two minutes,” Greer told him, and Michael’s only surprise was that it hadn’t taken longer. According to a local news team investigation, response times to emergency calls from Grady averaged around forty-five minutes. An ambulance took even longer.

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