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Authors: Faye Kellerman

Blindman's Bluff

BOOK: Blindman's Bluff
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Blindman’s Bluff
Faye Kellerman

To Jonathan:
forever my inspiration

A
H, FANTASY:
the stuff of life.

As he dressed for work, he looked in the mirror. Staring back at him was a handsome man around six feet four…

No. That was way too tall.

Staring back at him was a six-foot-one, devilishly handsome angular man with a surfer mop of sun-kissed hair and preternatural blue eyes, so intense that whenever any woman looked at him, she had to avert her eyes in embarrassment.

Well, the eyes part was probably true.

How about this?

In the mirror, staring back at him was an angular face topped by a nest of curly, dark hair and a shy smile that made women swoon-so boyish and charming, yet masculine at the same time.

He felt his lips turn into a smile, and he raked fingers through his own curly locks, which were on the thin side—not thinning, but not a lot of weight to the fibers. Pulling up on the knot of his tie, he eased it into the folds of his collar and felt the fabric: deluxe, heavy silk handpainted with an array of colors that would go with almost
anything randomly chosen from his closet. As he tucked his shirttail into his pants, his hands ran over the rises and falls of a six-pack courtesy of crunches and weight lifting and a very strict eating regimen. Like most bodybuilders, his muscles craved protein, which was fine as long as he trimmed the fat. That was why whenever he looked in the mirror, he liked what he saw. More like what he imagined he saw.

 

DECKER WAS GENUINELY
perplexed. “I don’t understand how you got past the voir dire.”

“Maybe the judge believed me when I said I could be objective,” Rina answered.

Adding artificial sweetener to his coffee, Decker grunted. He had always taken his java straight up, but of late he had developed a sweet tooth, especially after a meat meal. Not that dinner was all that heavy—skirt steaks and salad. He liked simple cooking whenever it was just the two of them. “Even if the judge shamed you into serving, the public defender should have booted your attractive derriere off the panel.”

“Maybe the P.D. believed that I could be objective.”

“For the last eighteen years, you’ve heard me piss and moan about the sorry state of the justice system. How could you possibly be objective?”

Rina smiled behind her coffee cup. “You’re assuming I believe everything you tell me.”

“Thank you very much.”

“Being a detective lieutenant’s wife has not leeched all rationality from my brain. I can think for myself and be just as rational as the next person.”

“It sounds to me like you want to serve.” Decker took a sip of his coffee—strong and sweet. “More power to you, darlin’. That’s what our jury system needs, smart people doing their civic duties.” He gave her a sly smile. “Or it could be that Mr. P.D. enjoys looking at you.”

“It’s a she and maybe she does.”

Decker laughed. Anyone would enjoy staring at Rina. Over the past years, her face had grown a few laugh lines, but she still cut a regal pose: an alabaster complexion tinged with pink at the cheekbones, silken black hair, and cornflower-colored eyes.

“It wasn’t that I
didn’t
want to get out of it,” Rina explained. “It’s just that past a certain point, if you want to be excused, you have to start lying. Saying things like ‘no, I can’t ever be objective,’ and that makes you sound like a doofus.”

“What’s the case?”

“You know I can’t talk about it.”

“Ah, c’mon!” Decker bit into a sugar cookie, home baked courtesy of his sixteen-year-old daughter. Crumbs nested in his mustache. “Who am I going to tell?”

“An entire squad room perhaps?” Rina replied. “Do you have any court appearances in L.A. coming up?”

“Not that I know of. Why?”

“I thought maybe we could meet for lunch.”

“Yeah, let’s get crazy and spend those fifteen dollars a day the courts give you.”

“Plus gas, but only one way. Indeed, serving on a jury is not the pathway to riches. Even selling blood pays more. But I am doing my public duty and as one employed to protect and serve, you should be grateful.”

Decker kissed her forehead. “I’m very proud of you. You’re doing the right thing. And I won’t ask you about the case anymore. Just please tell me it isn’t a murder case.”

“I can’t tell you yes or no, but because you have seen the worst of humanity and have a very active imagination, I will tell you not to worry.”

“Thank you.” Decker checked his watch. It was past nine in the evening. “Didn’t Hannah say she’d be back home by now?”

“She did, but you know your daughter. Time is a fluid concept with her. Want me to call her?”

“Will she answer her cell?”

“Probably not, especially if she’s driving…Wait. That’s her pulling up.”

A moment later, their daughter came barreling through the front door, lugging a two-ton knapsack on her back and carrying two paper bags filled with groceries. Decker relieved her of the backpack, and Rina took the food.

“What’s all this for?” Rina asked.

“I’m having a few girlfriends over for Shabbos. Other than what I bake, we don’t have anything good in the house anymore. Do you want me to put the groceries away?”

“I’ll do it,” Rina said. “Say hello to your father. He’s been worried about you.”

Hannah checked her watch. “It’s ten after nine.”

“I know I’m overprotective, I don’t care. I’ll never change. And we don’t have junk in the house, because if it’s there, I eat it.”

“I know, Abba. And being as you pay all the bills, I respect your wishes. But I’m only sixteen and this is probably one of the few times in my life that I’ll be able to eat junk without gaining massive amounts of weight. I look at you and I look at Cindy and I know I’m not always going to be this thin.”

“What’s wrong with Cindy? She’s perfectly normal.”

“She’s a big girl like I am, and she watches her weight like a hawk. I’m not at that point yet, but it’s only a matter of time before my metabolism catches up with me.”

Decker patted his belly. “Well, what’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing’s
wrong
with you, Abba. You look great for…” Hannah stopped herself.
For your age
were the unspoken words. She kissed his cheek. “I hope my husband will be as handsome as you.”

Decker smiled despite himself. “Thank you, but I’m sure your husband will be much handsomer.”

“That would be impossible. No one is as handsome as you are and with the exception of pro athletes, hardly anyone is as tall as you. It gets a tall girl down sometimes. We either have to wear flats or tower over most of the class.”

“You’re not that tall.”

“That’s only because to you everyone is short. I’m already taller than Cindy and she’s five nine.”

“If you’re taller, it’s not by much. And there are many boys over five nine.”

“Not Jewish boys.”

“I’m a Jewish boy.”

“Not Jewish boys who are still in high school.”

Decker liked that. It meant she’d have to wait until college to find a boyfriend. Hannah noticed the subtle smile. “You’re not being very sympathetic.”

“I’m sorry I gave you the Big T gene.”

“That’s okay,” Hannah said. “It comes with its benefits but also its detriments. When you’re tall and thin and dress nicely, people think you’re trying to be a model and that you don’t have a brain in your head.”

“I’m sure you get lots of sympathy from your friends about that.”

“I don’t tell my friends that, I’m telling you.” She looked at the dining room table. “Did you like the cookies?”

“Too much. That’s precisely why I don’t want junk in the house.”

“Enjoy the cookies, Abba,” Hannah told him. “Life is short even if you’re not.”

 

IT STARTED AS
a soft tinkling in the background of her dream until Rina realized it was the phone. Marge Dunn was on the line and her voice was a monotone.

“I need to speak to the boss.”

Rina regarded her husband. He hadn’t changed positions since falling asleep four hours ago. The nightstand clock said it was almost three in the morning. Because Peter was a lieutenant, he didn’t get many middle-of-the-night calls. The West Valley didn’t teem with crime, and his elite squad of homicide investigators usually fielded whatever mayhem happened in the wee hours. Murders were rare,
but when they occurred, they were usually nasty. But even nasty did not necessitate waking up the Loo at three in the morning.

A sensational story was another animal altogether.

Rina rubbed goose bumps on her arm, then gently shook him awake. “It’s Marge.”

Decker bolted up in bed and took the phone from Rina. His voice was still heavy with sleep. “What’s going on?”

“Multiple homicide.”

“Dear God—”

“At last count, there were four murdered and one attempted homicide. The survivor—a son of the couple murdered—is on his way to St. Joe’s; he was shot but he’ll probably live.”

Decker stood up and grabbed his shirt, buttoning it while he spoke. “Who’re the victims?”

“For starters, how about Guy and Gilliam Kaffey—as in Kaffey Industries.”

Decker gasped. Guy and his younger brother, Mace, were responsible for most of the shopping malls in Southern California. “Where?”

“Coyote Ranch.”

“Someone broke into the ranch?” He tucked the phone underneath his chin and talked as he slipped on his pants. “I thought the place was a fortress.”

“I don’t know about that, but it’s gigantic—seventy acres abutting the foothills. Not to mention the mansion. It’s its own city.”

Decker remembered a magazine feature someone had done on the ranch a while ago. It was a series of compounds, although the main quarters were big enough to house a convention. Along with the numerous other buildings on the ranch, there were the requisite swimming pool, hot tub, and tennis court. It also had a kennel, a riding corral big enough for Olympic equestrian courses, a ten-stall stable for the wife’s show horses, an airstrip long enough for any prop plane, and its own freeway exit. About a year ago, Guy Kaffey made a bid to purchase the L.A. Galaxy after the team had secured David Beckham, but the deal fell through.

As Decker recalled, there were two sons and he wondered which one had been shot. “What about all the bodyguards?”

“Two in the guardhouse at the front and both of them dead,” Marge answered. “We’re still searching. There’s something like ten different structures on the property. So there may be more bodies. What’s your ETA?”

“Maybe ten minutes. Who’s down there now?”

“About a half-dozen squad cars. Oliver called in Strapp. Only a matter of time before the press gets wind.”

“Secure the property. I don’t want the press messing up the crime scene.”

“Will do. See you soon.”

Decker hung up and made a mental checklist of what he’d need—a notepad and pens, gloves, evidence bags, face masks, magnifying glass, metal detector, Vaseline, and Advil, the last item not for forensic use but because he had a pounding headache, the result of being awakened from a deep sleep.

Rina said, “What’s going on?”

“Multiple homicide at Coyote Ranch.”

She sat up straight. “The Kaffey place?”

“Yes, ma’am. No doubt, it’s going to be a circus by the time I arrive.”

“That’s horrible!”

“It’s going to be a nightmare in logistics. The place is around seventy acres—absolutely no way to totally wall off the area.”

“I know, it’s tremendous. About a year ago, they did a showcase home there for some kind of charity. I heard the gardens were absolutely magnificent. I wanted to go but something came up.”

“Doesn’t look like you’ll get a second chance.” Decker opened the gun safe, took out his Beretta, and slipped it into his shoulder harness. “That’s a terrible thing to say but I make no excuses. Dealing with the press in high-profile cases brings out the bastard in me.”

“They’ve called the press at three-fifteen in the morning?”

“Can’t stop death and taxes—and you can’t stop the news.” He gave her a peck on the top of her head. “I love you.”

“Love you, too.” Rina sighed. “That’s really sad. All that money is a deadly magnet for leeches, con artists, and just plain evil people.” She shook her head. “I don’t know about being too thin, but you certainly can be too rich.”

 

THE ONLY GOOD
thing about being called in the early hours of the morning was ripping through the city sans traffic. Decker zipped through empty streets, dark and misty and occasionally haloed by streetlamps. The freeway was an eerie, endless black road fading into fog. In 1994, the Southland had been pummeled by the Northridge earthquake, a terrifying ninety seconds of doomsday that had brought down buildings and had collapsed the concrete bridges of the freeways. Had the temblor occurred just a few hours later during the morning commute, the casualties would have been tens of thousands instead of under a hundred.

The Coyote Road off-ramp was blocked by two black-and-whites, nose to nose. Decker displayed the badge around his neck to the police officers, and it took a few minutes for the cars to part to allow him forward. One of the cops directed him to the ranch. It was a straight shot—no turnoffs anywhere—and the packed dirt road seemed to go on for about a mile before the main house came into view. Once it did, it grew like a sea monster surfacing for air. The outdoor lights had been turned on to the max with almost every crevice and crack illuminated, giving the place a theme park appearance.

The mansion was Spanish villa in style and, in its own blown-up way, harmonious with the surroundings. The final height was three stories of adobe-colored stucco with wood-railed balconies, stained-glass windows, and a red Spanish tiled roof. The structure sat on the rise of a man-made knoll. Beyond the mansion were vast, empty acres and the shadows of the foothills.

About two hundred yards into the drive, Decker saw a parking lot filled with a half-dozen squad cars, the coroner’s van, a half-dozen TV vans with satellites and antennas, several forensic vans,
and another eight unmarked cars, and there was
still
room to spare. The media had set up shop, with enough artificial illumination to do microsurgery because each network and cable TV station had its own lighting, its own camera and sound people, its own producers, and its own perky reporter waiting for the story. The mob longed to be closer to the hot spot, but a barrier of yellow crime scene tape, cones, and uniformed officers kept them corralled.

BOOK: Blindman's Bluff
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