Sample Chapter Two
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Warning: This novel contains profanity and graphic violence.

The Sergeant paused from stretching the yellow police tape to take in the scene with a jaundiced eye. It was a mess that was about to become a fucking mess. The barricades had been set up too late and rubberneckers had overrun the beach and dunes, ruining any clues the sand might have held. Then the barricades had been set up in the wrong places and had to be moved, trapping a matched set of his and her Range Rovers, and the two people were now out of their cars, yelling about important appointments (hairdresser, tennis) and brandishing their cell phones, threatening to call their lawyers.

That wet sound over his shoulder was the shit already hitting the fan. It was the sixteenth of October in Southampton, Long Island, and the townís most notorious resident had just been found murdered in bed.

He heard Lieutenant Braskieís voice. "Sergeant, you havenít done these hedges! Didnít I tell you I wanted the whole crime scene taped?"

Without bothering to respond, the Sergeant began hanging the yellow tape along the hedge surrounding the Grove estate. As if the twelve foot hedge with the concertina wire hidden within wasnít enough to stop a reporter, but the plastic tape was. He could see the TV trucks already arriving, vans with satellite uplinks, and could hear the distant dull thud of a chopper. The local press were piling up against the Dune Road barricade, arguing with the cops. Meanwhile, backup squad cars were arriving from Sag Harbor and East Hampton along with the South Fork homicide squad. The lieutenant was deploying these newcomers along the beaches and dunes in a failing attempt to keep the public at bay. The SOC boys were arriving and the Sergeant watched them entering the house, carrying their metal crime lab suitcases. There was a time when he would have been with them, even directing themó but that was a long time ago, in another place.

He continued hanging tape on the hedges until he reached the dunes along the beach. A few cops were already there, keeping back the curious. They were pretty much a docile crowd, staring like dumb animals toward the shingled mansion with its peaks and turrets and funny-looking windows. It was already turning into a party. Someone had fired up a boom box and some buffed-up guys were cracking beers. It was an unusually hot Indian summer day and they were all in shorts or swimming trunks, as if in denial over the end of summer. The Sergeant scoffed, imagined what those cut bodies would look like after twenty years of beer and chips. Probably a lot like his.

He glanced back at the house and saw the SOC boys crawling across the lawn on hands and knees, the Lieutenant striding alongside. The guy didnít have a clue. He felt another pang. Here he was, pulling crowd control, his training and talent wasted while the real police work went on somewhere else.

No use thinking about that now.

Now the TV trucks had unpacked and their cameras were set up in a cluster, with a good angle on the mansion, while the glamor-boy correspondents yammered into their microphones. And wouldnít you know it: Lieutenant Braskie had left the SOC boys and was heading over to the cameras like a fly to a fresh pile.

The Sergeant shook his head. Unbelievable.

He saw a man running low through the dunes, zigzagging this way and that, and he took off after him, cutting him off at the edge of the lawn. It was a photographer. By the time the Sergeant reached him heíd already dropped to his knee and was shooting with a telephoto as long as an elephantís dick toward one of the homicide detectives from East Hampton, who was interviewing a maid on the verandah.

The Sergeant laid a hand on the lens, gently turning it aside.

"Out."

"Officer, come on, pleaseó"

"You donít want me to confiscate your film, do you?" He spoke kindly. Heíd always had a soft spot for people who were just trying to do their job, even if they were press.

The man got up, walked a few paces, turned for one final quick shot and then scurried off. The Sergeant walked back up toward the house. He was downwind of the rambling old place and there was a funny smell in the air, like fireworks or something. He noticed the Lieutenant was now standing in the middle of the semicircle of TV cameras, having the time of his life. Braskie was planning to run for chief in the next election, and with the current chief on vacation he couldnít have gotten a better break than if heíd committed the murder himself.

The Sergeant took a detour around the lawn and cut behind a small duck pond and fountain, keeping out of the way of the SOC team. As he came around some hedges he saw a man in the distance, standing by the duck pond, throwing pieces of bread to the ducks. He was dressed in the gaudiest day-tripper style imaginable, complete with Hawaiian shirt, Oakley Eye Jacket shades, and giant baggy shorts. Even though summer had ended over a month ago, it looked like this was the manís first day in the sun after a long, cold winter. Maybe a dozen winters. While the Sergeant had some sympathy for a photographer or reporter trying to do their job, he had absolutely no tolerance for tourists. They were the scum of the earth.

"Hey. You."

The man looked up.

"What do you think youíre doing? Donít you know this is a crime scene?"

"Yes, officer, and I do apologizeó"

"Get the hell out."

"But Sergeant, itís important the ducks be fed. Theyíre hungry. I imagine that someone feeds them every morning, but this morning, as you knowó" He smiled and shrugged.

The Sergeant could hardly believe it. A guy gets murdered and this idiot is worried about ducks?

"Letís see some I.D."

"Of course, of course." The man started fishing in his pocket, fished in another, then looked up, sheepishly. "Sorry about that, officer. I threw on these shorts as soon as I heard the terrible news, but it appears my wallet is still in the pocket of the jacket I was wearing last night." His New York accent grated on the Sergeantís nerves.

The Sergeant looked at the guy. Normally he would just chase him back behind the barriers. But there was something about him that didnít quite wash. For one thing, the clothes he was wearing were so new they still smelled of a menswear shop. For another thing, it was such a hideous mixture of colors and patterns that it looked like heíd plucked them randomly from a rack in the village boutique. This was more than just bad tasteó this was a disguise.

"Iíll be goingó"

"No, you wonít." The Sergeant took out his notebook, flipped back a wad of pages, licked his pencil. "You live around here?"

"Iíve taken a house in Amagansett for a week."

"Address?"

"The Brickman House, Windmill Lane."

Another rich asshole. "And your permanent address?"

"That would be The Dakota, Central Park West."

The Sergeant paused. Now, thatís a coincidence. Aloud, he said: "Name?"

"Look, Sergeant, honestly, if itís a problem Iíll just go on backó"

"Your first name, sir?" he said more sharply.

"Is that really necessary? Itís difficult to spell, even more difficult to pronounce. I often wonder what my mother was thinkingó"

The Sergeant gave him a look that shut him up quick. One more quip from this asshole and it would be the cuffs.

"Letís try again. First name?"

"Aloysius."

"Spell it."

The man spelled it.

"Last?"

"Pendergast."

The pencil in the Sergeantís hand began writing this down, too. Then it paused. Slowly, the Sergeant looked up. The Oakleys had come off and he found himself staring into that face he knew so well, with the blond-white hair, grey eyes, finely chiseled features, skin as pale and translucent as Carrara marble.

"Pendergast?"

"In the very flesh, my dear Vincent." The New York accent was gone, replaced by the cultured Southern drawl he remembered vividly.

"What are you doing here?"

"The same might be asked of you."

Vincent DíAgosta felt himself coloring. The last time he had seen Pendergast he had been a proud New York City Police Lieutenant. And now here he was in Shithampton, a lowly Sergeant decorating hedges with police tape.

"I was in Amagansett when the news arrived that Jeremy Grove had met an untimely end. How could I resist? I apologize for the outfit, but I was hard-pressed to get here as soon as possible."

"Youíre on the case?"

"Until Iím officially assigned to the case I can do nothing but feed the ducks. I worked on my last case without full authorization and it, shall we say, strained some high level nerves. I must say, Vincent, running into you is a most welcome surprise."

"For me too," said DíAgosta, coloring again. "Sorry, Iím really not at my best hereó"

Pendergast laid a hand on his arm. "We shall have plenty of time to talk later. For now, I see a large individual approaching who appears to be suffering from emphraxis."

A low pitched, menacing voice intruded from behind. "I hate to break up this little conversation." DíAgosta turned to see Lieutenant Braskie.

Braskie stopped, stared at Pendergast, then turned back to DíAgosta. "Perhaps Iím a little confused here, Sergeant, but isnít this individual trespassing at the scene of a crime?"

"Well, uh, Lieutenant, we wereó" DíAgosta looked at Pendergast.

"This man isnít a friend of yours, now, is he?"

"As a matter of factó"

"The Sergeant was just telling me to leave," interjected Pendergast smoothly.

"Oh he was, was he? And if I may be so bold as to inquire what you were doing here in the first place, sir?"

"Feeding the ducks."


"Feeding the ducks." DíAgosta could see Braskieís face flushing. He wished Pendergast would hurry up and pull out his shield.

"Well, sir," Braskie went on, "thatís a beautiful thing to do. Letís see some I.D."

DíAgosta waited smugly. This was going to be good.

"As I was just explaining to the officer here, I left my wallet back at the houseó"

Braskie turned on DíAgosta, saw the notebook in his hand. "You got this manís information?"

"Yes." DíAgosta looked at Pendergast almost pleadingly, but the FBI agentís face had shut down completely.

"Did you ask him how he got through the police cordon?"

"Noó"

"Donít you think maybe you should ask him?"

"I came through the side gate in Little Dune Road," Pendergast said.

"Not possible. Itís locked. I checked it myself."

"Perhaps the lock is defective. At least, it seemed to fall open in my hands."

Braskie turned to DíAgosta. "Now, at last, thereís something useful you can do. Go plug that hole, Sergeant. And report back to me at eleven oíclock sharp. We need to talk. And as for you, sir, I will escort you off the premises."

"Thank you, Lieutenant."

DíAgosta looked with dismay at the retreating form of Lieutenant Braskie, with Pendergast strolling along behind him, hands in the pockets of his baggy surfer shorts, head tilted back as if taking the air.

 


BRIMSTONE is copyright © 2004 by Lincoln Child and Splendide Mendax, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this text, or any portion thereof, in any form.
BRIMSTONE is available in paperback from Grand Central Publishing, www.HachetteBookGroup.com.


© 2018 Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child