The Address of Murder
I was in that zone between a sleep-dream state and the real world. Fantastic events unfolded in my mind’s eye and the cold details of daily life overlapped each other. In the dream I was soaring on imaginary wings sweeping me up a mountainside that guarded a verdant valley below. In the real world the telephone next to my bed was tearing me away from the magic of flight. I just lay there, not moving, hoping it would stop.
I turned toward Jannine who was asleep in her own dream world and she responded by moving closer so that various parts of our bodies touched. That nudged me further back into the real world. Suddenly touching was better than soaring. As I put my arm around her, cool and inviting, my iPhone, somewhere in the room, rang. I lifted my head just far enough to see the digital clock; its red-orange letters glowing 3:32 AM. Jannine stirred, turned to face me, and whispered, “Ignore it.”
After the fourth ring she lifted herself onto her elbows and said, “Oh my God, no. Maybe someone in the family has died.” So, she too was awake when our bodies touched, and faked sleep. Why would she do that? The phone was on its sixth ringtone. Soon the message machine would go on.
I not only felt naked, I was naked as I climbed out of bed and searched for my pants and my iPhone. When I saw the caller ID I stood bolt upright at attention. “It’s Captain Wilson,” I told Jannine.
“Oh God, someone is dead. Why are they calling you? Let it ring and come back to bed,” she said as she reached out and playfully patted my naked butt. That was unfair of her to put me such a momentary crisis: the captain or Jannine. My eyes shifted from her dreamy swoon to my police uniform draped over a chair. Her warm hand on my cheek produced a paralysis of mind and body akin to the deer in the headlights syndrome. I took a short step away.
“Hello,” I said.
Jannine sat up and pulled the sheet up over the most beautiful breasts in the San Fernando Valley: maybe even all of LA. “Victor, no. Tell him no,” she pleaded.
I put my finger over the tiny holes on the mouthpiece.
Jannine slumped down and shook her head back and forth. Saying no to my captain would not fly when you’re a routine patrol cop. Saying no to Jannine’s naked body would not be a violation of the Fair Employment Practices Act. I tapped the screen.
. “Why didn’t you just let it ring?” she whispered.
“Did I get you out of bed?” Captain Wilson’s feeble attempt at humor went right over my head. Nothing is funny at 3:30 in the morning.
“Yes sir. I mean no. I had to get up to answer the phone, sir.” That was stupid.
“That’s good.” He rattled on about duty, honor, public safety and other forms of official LAPD bullshit, all of which were drilled into me at the Police Academy. He wondered if I could report to a murder scene. When he said it was an unusual case and perhaps I could help, I didn’t have to think twice. Besides, he didn’t have to ask, he could have ordered me.
“Of course, sir. I will. Where, sir?”
“I’ll call you right back,” he said.
I turned off the phone and pumped a fist into the air. I looked weird, butt naked, prancing around the room shouting, “Yeah!” at the top of my lungs. “This could be the break I’ve been waiting for. This is great, Jannine.” She covered her head with the sheet.
“I gotta go. It’s probably nothing and I’ll be right back.” I was manic. “On the other hand I don’t know what he wants me to do.” I suddenly remembered the last gig I did for the Narcotics Division. It came to nothing. They were baiting me with promises of promotion and future benefits, but it depended, of course, on budgets and priorities. Money never materialized nor did any promotion.
Jannine stood, pulled the sheet around her and started to pace about the room. Not a good sign. She was pissed but I tried not to notice while I dressed and avoided eye contact. When she stopped at the foot of the bed, I suspected it was the beginning of a battle we had fought in the past. The sheet twisted around her ankles so many times she almost tripped.
“I arranged to take off today--- if you remember--- we’re going to the Dodger game.” Her voice changed from reasonable to full battle dress, code blue and not Dodger blue. “I paid ninety dollars apiece for the tickets. Did you forget how much you hate the Giants?” I thought not answering was the best plan. “You do this to me all the time,” she said. Actually her all the time meant it had happened twice before. I wasn’t going to argue because I had no choice. I had to meet the captain at a crime scene. I was unofficially ordered to. I wanted to be able to count on adding a murder investigation to my background.
“Not all the time,” I said, “maybe twice.” I hoped she wouldn’t pick up the pathetic pleading in my voice.
“What? What about the time you had to go undercover at that crazy high school. We hardly ever saw each other for more than three months. Damn it, Victor, What kind of a relationship do we have?” Here it comes. “Why is it we never seem to have the time to start making plans for ourselves? It’s been five years, Victor, five. What the hell are we waiting for?”
“Let’s not start this again. I have to go.” I buckled my boots.
“Why?” she demanded. “It’s your day off. Take it. The victim’s dead already so what’s the big hurry?”
“Because it’s my job.” There was a tone of indifference in my voice which annoyed her even more.
I checked my weapon, snapped it into its holster, and then spoke in a low soothing tone. “We’ve been over this before.” Now it was my turn to get pissed. “I don’t want to be a patrol cop all my life. I want to be a detective. I’ve passed the exam. I would LIKE to be a detective; I NEED to be a detective. And in order to get it, I have to take whatever duty they give me. I want to be considered when an opening occurs. Be reasonable, Jannine.” I hated to plead. It diluted my testosterone.
She plopped down on the bed. “And I suppose our dream to get married and start a family doesn’t count? Or am I being unreasonable after five years?” It blossomed into a full-fledged argument. “It’s always what you want and never mind me and what I want.” Her hazel eyes darted back and forth as though searching for an escape route.
“And I want that too, but we can’t talk about it; not now. If I can make detective it will mean more money and then we’ll be able to afford for you to have…” I stopped myself before I said the wrong thing which would escalate to an even bigger argument. She tipped her head forward and her long blonde hair cascaded over those magnificent breasts. I thought she began to cry. I hated that part, especially the crying. I felt so helpless. Women always seem to pick the worst time to take a stand with tears, logic, and emotion. However, she wasn’t crying, instead she was seething with anger.
My iPhone rang again. It was Captain Wilson. He was just leaving for the crime scene. “This is a case I want you to be involved in. I want you in every phase of the investigation. Are you up for it?”
“Now when you get there try not to ruffle the feathers of Detectives Fryman and Murray. It’s their case and they may not like you poking around. Murray’s the lead on this. I’ll explain the whole thing to you and to them when I get there.”
“Understood.” I sounded like a buck private taking orders.
“And another thing. Don’t discuss this with anyone. Got that?”
“By the way, how the hell old are you anyway?”
“I’m 27, sir. Does it matter?”
“How tall are you?”
“Under the new rules, I qualified and passed my basic, sir. Does it matter?”
There was a long pause. Captain Wilson answered, “Probably.”
“Never mind that now. Just get yourself down there as soon as you can. Here is the address.” I jotted down the numbers and estimated that I could be there in about fifteen minutes considering the early hour and no traffic. After I hung up, Jannine stopped raging and began to dress herself.
“Why don’t you go back to bed? Get some more sleep. I’ll probably be back in a couple hours.”
“No. I’m going home.” She sounded definite. I marveled at how stunningly beautiful she looked. Even though Jannine was two years older than me, and three inches taller, she was blessed with the freshness and vigor of a teenager. Whenever she smiled at me, my knees felt like I’d just swung at a low curve ball.
“This is probably going to amount to nothing so I might be back in time for us to go to the game.” I inched my way toward the door as I checked my belt for all the 14 pounds of equipment strapped to it.
“I’ll put the tickets on the dresser,” she said. “If you finish early, you can take one of your buddies.”
She looked up and gave me a glare that would penetrate a Kevlar vest.
“I can’t believe that I’m still going on with the same old routine of yours,” she said. “On your priority scale, just where do I fit?” At that moment I didn’t need conversation; I had to go.
When I walked over to give her a good-bye kiss she remained motionless like the statue of Aphrodite; cold and indifferent, and I, at that moment lacked the courage, the words and the time to change her mind.
“You have as much chance of becoming a detective as I do,” she whispered. I stopped at the bedroom door and looked back. “Can’t you see they just use you to get what they want?” She shouted. “And me, I get nothing I want. Five years. Oh, Jesus why am I wasting my time?”
“Let’s talk tonight, okay?” I said as she turned her back to me.
I left and grabbed an apple on the way out, happy to get away from the turmoil. I was certain all this would smooth over as it always did. The East Valley air was crisp and refreshing with the predawn stillness that heightened my excitement at the prospect of real police work. The night blooming Jasmine that lined the driveway of my house was at the end of its blossom time but still hinted its sweetness.
When I backed the car out of the garage I stopped at the curb and looked at the windows of my house just as she pulled back the curtain to watch me leave. In that instant I remembered her cool body and our naked touching but mostly her anger. I jumped out and ran back into the house. Without saying a word I took her in my arms and kissed not from passion but from love. I truly did love her. She didn’t really kiss me back; it was more like a neutral response. Her eyes remained open and unfocused. Her arms dangled at her side. We just stood and looked into each other’s faces. She bent down, gave me a quick peck on the cheek and said, “Go. Your captain awaits,” then gave me a mocking salute.
“I just couldn’t start our day this way,” I said and I meant it. “You know I love you and I want us to get married.”
She smiled, walked to the bedroom and pulled back the tangled bedcovers. I hoped she wouldn’t jump back in and force me into making another choice. After picking up the note I had written the address on, she handed it to me like it was contaminated contraband; her forefinger and her thumb barely touched the paper.
“Oh! Officer Espinoza, I think you’re going to need this,” she said, sarcasm dripping from every word.
“Oh wow. You’re right.” It was way too late to try to explain that I really did come back for her and not the address of the murder. I wondered if she knew that I wanted and needed both. It felt like her anger had cooled from rage to indifference. As I left I noticed the Dodger tickets on the dresser and remembered that Keller was pitching that day.
Excerpted from "Dressed to Kill" by Charles Alvarez. Copyright © 0 by Charles Alvarez. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.