Sidney Sheldon’s Angel of the Dark
HE GOT THE CALL AT AROUND NINE P.M.
“Unit 8A73. Come in, please.”
“Yeah, this is 8A73.”
The patrolman yawned into the radio. It had been a long, boring night making the rounds in West Hollywood and he was ready for his bed. “What’s up?”
“We got a 911. Female. Hysterical.”
“Probably my wife,” he joked. “I forgot our anniversary yesterday. She wants my balls in a jar.”
“Your wife Spanish?”
“Then it ain’t her.”
He yawned again.
“Four-twenty Loma Vista.”
“Nice neighborhood. What happened, the maid forgot to put enough caviar on her toast?”
The operator chuckled.
“Probably a DV.”
“The lady was screaming so much it was tough to make out what she was saying. We’re sending backup, but you’re closest. How soon can you guys be there?”
The patrolman hesitated. Mickey, his partner, had ducked out of their shift early to hook up with yet another skank on Hollywood Boulevard. Mickey got through hookers the way that other men got through socks. He knew he shouldn’t cover for him, but Mickey was so goddamn charming, saying no to the guy was like trying to swim against a riptide. What to do? If he admitted he was alone, they’d both get canned. But the alternative—showing up solo at a DV—wasn’t an appealing prospect either. Violent husbands were not usually the LAPD’s biggest fans.
“We’ll be there in five.”
Mickey’s skank had better be worth it.
FOUR-TWENTY LOMA VISTA TURNED OUT TO be a vast, sprawling, Spanish Mission–style 1920s estate, perched high in the Hollywood Hills. A discreet, ivy-clad gate set into a fifteen-foot wall gave little clue of the opulence that hid behind it: a dramatic, sweeping driveway and gardens so enormous and perfectly manicured they looked more like a country club than the grounds of a private residence.
The patrolman barely registered the fancy real estate. He was looking at a crime scene.
Front door ajar.
No signs of forced entry.
The place was eerily quiet. He drew his weapon.
No answer. As the echo of his own voice faded, from somewhere above him he heard a low moaning sound, like a not quite boiling teakettle. Nervously, he mounted the stairs.
Goddamn you, Mickey.
“Police!” he shouted again, more loudly this time. The moaning was coming from one of the bedrooms. He burst in, gun drawn. What the fuck? He heard a woman screaming, then the sickening crunch of his own skull as it slammed against the floor. The wooden boards were as slick as an oil spill.
But they weren’t slick with oil.
They were slick with blood.
DETECTIVE DANNY MCGUIRE FROM HOMICIDE DIVISION tried to hide his frustration. The maid was making no sense.
“¡Pudo haber sido el diablo! ¡El diablo!”
It’s not her fault, Detective Danny McGuire reminded himself. The poor woman had been alone in the house when she found them. No wonder she was still hysterical.
“¡Esa pobre mujer! ¿Quién podía hacer una cosa terrible como esa?”
After six years in homicide, it took a lot to turn Detective Danny McGuire’s stomach. But this had done it. Surveying the carnage in front of him, Danny was aware of the In-N-Out burger he’d eaten earlier fighting its way up into his esophagus in a desperate bid for freedom. No wonder the officer who’d arrived at the scene had lost it. In front of him was the work of a maniac.
If it weren’t for the crimson sea of blood seeping into the floorboards, it might have looked like a burglary. The bedroom had been ransacked, drawers opened, jewelry boxes emptied, clothes and photographs strewn everywhere. But the real horror lay at the foot of the bed. Two bodies, a man and a woman. The first victim, an elderly male in his pajamas, had had his throat slashed in such a repeated, frenzied manner that his head was almost completely severed from his neck. He’d been bound, trussed almost, like an animal in an abattoir, with what looked like climbing ropes. Whoever killed him had tied his mutilated corpse to the naked body of the second victim, a woman. A very young, very beautiful woman, judging from the taut perfection of her figure, although her face had been so badly beaten it was hard to tell for sure. One glance at her bloodied thighs and pubic area, however, made one thing abundantly clear: she had been violently raped.
Covering his mouth, Detective Danny McGuire moved closer to the bodies. The smell of fresh blood was overpowering. But that wasn’t what made him recoil.
“Get a knife,” he said to the maid.
She looked at him blankly.
“Cuchillo,” he repeated. “Now! And someone call an ambulance. She’s still breathing.”
THE KNIFE WAS PRODUCED. GINGERLY DANNY McGuire began cutting through the ropes binding the man and woman together. His touch seemed to rouse the woman. She began crying softly, slipping in and out of consciousness. Danny bent low so his mouth was close to her ear. Even in her battered state, he couldn’t help but notice how beautiful she was, dark-haired and full-breasted with the soft, milky skin of a child. “I’m a police officer,” he whispered. “You’re safe now. We’re gonna get you to a doctor.” As the ropes loosened, the old man’s head lolled grotesquely against Danny’s shoulder, like some hideous Halloween mask. He gagged.
One of his men tapped him on the shoulder. “Definite burglary, sir. The safe’s been emptied. Jewelry’s gone, and some paintings.”
Danny nodded. “Victims’ names?”
“The house belongs to Andrew Jakes.”
Jakes. The name was familiar.
“He’s an art dealer.”
“And the girl?”
The cop laughed.
“No, sir. She’s his wife.”
Stupid, thought Danny. Of course she’s his wife. This is Hollywood, after all. Old Man Jakes must have been worth a fortune.
At last the ropes gave way. Till death us do part, thought Danny as Angela Jakes literally tumbled free from her husband’s corpse into his arms. Slipping off his overcoat, Danny draped it over her shoulders, covering her nakedness. She was conscious again and shivering.
“It’s all right,” he told her. “You’re safe now. Angela, isn’t it?”
The girl nodded mutely.
“Can you tell me what happened, sweetheart?”
She looked up at him and for the first time Danny saw the full extent of her injuries. Two black eyes, one so swollen that it had closed completely, and lacerations all over her upper body. Scratch marks. Danny thought, She must have fought like hell.
“He hurt me.”
Her voice was barely a whisper. The effort of speaking seemed to exhaust her.
“Take your time.”
She paused. Danny waited.
“He said he would let Andrew go if…if I…” Catching sight of her husband’s bloodied corpse, she broke into uncontrollable sobs.
“Someone cover him up, for Christ’s sake,” Danny snapped. How was he supposed to get any sense out of the girl with that horror show lying right next to her?
“We can’t, sir. Not yet. Forensics isn’t finished with the body.”
Danny flashed his sergeant a withering look. “I said cover him.”
The sergeant blanched. “Sir.”
A blanket was draped over Andrew Jakes’s body, but it was too late. His wife was already in deep shock, rocking back and forth, eyes glazed, muttering to herself. Danny wasn’t sure what she was saying. It sounded like: “I have no life.”
“Is the ambulance here yet?”
“Yes, sir. Just arrived.”
Detective Danny McGuire moved away out of the victim’s earshot, beckoning his men around him in a tight huddle. “She needs a doctor and a psych evaluation. Officer Menendez, you go with her. Make sure the medical examiner sees her first and we get a full rape kit, swabs, blood tests, the lot.”
“Of course, sir.”
Tomorrow, Detective Danny McGuire would question Angela Jakes properly. She was in no fit state tonight.
“You’d better take the maid with you while you’re at it,” he added. “I can’t hear myself think with her wailing in my ear.”
A skinny, blond young man with horn-rimmed glasses walked into the room.
“Sorry I’m late, sir.”
Detective David Henning might be a card-carrying nerd, but he had one of the best, most logical, deductive brains on the force. Detective Danny McGuire was delighted to see him.
“Ah, Henning. Good. Call the insurers, get me an inventory of everything that was taken. Then check out the pawnshops and Web sites, see what shows up.”