“When’s the last time anyone saw them?” I asked.
“A little after ten last night. That’s when the humongous reception ended downstairs.”
“And not after that?”
“I know this isn’t exactly your terrain, Boxer,” Jacobi said. He broke into a grin. “But generally people don’t see the bride and groom for a while after the party.”
I smiled thinly, stood up, looked back across the large, lavish suite. “So surprise me, Jacobi. Who springs for a room like this?”
“The groom’s father is some Wall Street big shot from back east. He and his wife are down in a room on the twelfth floor. I was told it was quite a shindig downstairs. Up here, too. Look at all these goddamn roses.”
I went back over to the groom and spotted what looked like a gift box of champagne on a marble console near the door. There was a spray of blood all over it.
“Assistant manager noticed it,” Jacobi said. “My guess is, whoever did this brought it in with him.”
“They see anyone around?”
“Yeah, a lot of people in tuxes. It was a wedding, right?”
I read the champagne bottle label. “Krug. Clos du Mesnil, 1989.”
“That tell you something?” Jacobi asked.
“Only that the killer has good taste.”
I looked at the blood-smeared tuxedo jacket. There was a single slash mark on the side where the fatal knife wound had gone through.
“I figure the killer must’ve stripped it off after he stabbed him.” Jacobi shrugged.
“Why the hell would he do that?” I muttered out loud.
“Dunno. We’ll have to ask him.”
Charlie Clapper was eyeing me from the hallway to see if it was okay to get started. I nodded him in. Then I went back to the bride.
I had a bad, bad feeling about this one. If it’s not about money… then…sex.
I lifted the fancy tulle lining of her skirt. The coldest, bitterest confirmation sliced through me.
The bride’s panties had been pulled down and were dangling off one foot.
A fierce anger rose in my chest. I looked into the bride’s eyes. Everything had been ahead of her, every hope and dream. Now she was a slaughtered corpse, defiled, possibly raped on her wedding night.
As I stood there, blinking as I stared down at her face, I suddenly realized that I was crying.
“Warren,” I said to Jacobi, “I want you to speak with the groom’s parents,” I said, sucking in a breath. “I want everyone who was on this floor last night interviewed. If they’ve checked out, I want them traced. And a list of all hotel staff on duty last night.”
I knew if I didn’t get out now, I couldn’t hold back the tide any longer. “Now, Warren. Please…now.”
I avoided his eyes as I skirted past him out of the suite.
“What the hell’s wrong with Boxer?” Charlie Clapper asked.
“You know women,” I heard Jacobi reply. “They always cry at weddings.”
PHILLIP CAMPBELL was walking along Powell Street toward Union Square and the Hyatt. The police had actually blockaded the street, and the crowd outside the hotel was growing quickly. The howling screams of police and emergency vehicles filled the air. This was so unlike civilized and respectable San Francisco. He loved it!
Campbell almost couldn’t believe he was headed back to the crime scene. He just couldn’t help himself. Being here again helped him to relive the night before. As he walked closer and closer on Powell, his adrenaline surged, his heart pounded, almost out of control.
He edged through the mob that populated the final block outside the Hyatt. He heard the rumors swirling through the crowd, mostly well-dressed businesspeople, their faces creased with anguish and pain. There were rumors of a fire at the hotel, a jumper, a homicide, a suicide, but nothing came close to the horror of the actual event.
Finally, he got close enough so that he could watch the San Francisco police at work. A couple of them were surveying the crowd, looking for him. He wasn’t worried about being discovered, not at all. It just wasn’t going to happen. He was too unlikely, probably in the bottom 5 percent of the people the police might suspect. That comforted him, thrilled him, actually.
God, he had done it — caused all of this to happen, and he was only just beginning. He had never experienced anything like this feeling, and neither had the city of San Francisco.
A businessman was coming out of the Hyatt, and reporters and other people were asking him questions as if he were a major celebrity. The man was in his early thirties and he smirked knowingly. He had what they all wanted and he knew it. He was lording it over everyone, enjoying his pitiful moment of fame.
The crowd around Phillip Campbell gasped, and his heart soared.
WHAT A SCENE! Cindy Thomas pushed her way through the murmuring crowd, the lookyloos surrounding the Grand Hyatt. Then she groaned at the sight of the line of cops blocking the way.
There must’ve been a hundred onlookers tightly pressed around the entrance: tourists carrying cameras, businesspeople on their way to work; others were flashing press credentials and shouting, trying to talk their way in. Across the street, a television news van was already setting up with the backdrop of the hotel’s facade.
After two years spent covering local interest on the Metro desk of the Chronicle, Cindy could feel a story that might jump-start her career. This one made the hairs on her neck stand up.
“Homicide down at the Grand Hyatt,” her city editor, Sid Glass, had informed her after a staffer picked up the police transmission. Suzie Fitzpatrick and Tom Stone, the Chronicle’s usual crime reporters, were both on assignment. “Get right down there,” her boss barked, to her amazement. He didn’t have to say it twice.
But now, outside the Hyatt, Cindy felt her brief run of luck had come to an end.
The street was barricaded. More news crews were pulling up by the second. If she didn’t come up with something now, Fitzpatrick or Stone would soon be handed the story. What she needed was inside. And here she was, out on the curb.
She spotted a line of limos and went up to the first one — a big beige stretch. She rapped on the window.
The driver looked up over his paper, the Chronicle, of course, and lowered the window as she caught his eye.
“You waiting for Steadman?” Cindy asked.
“Uh-uh,” the driver replied. “Eddleson.”
“Sorry, sorry.” She waved. But inside she was beaming. This was her way in.
She lingered in the crowd a few seconds longer, then elbowed her way to the front. A young patrolman blocked her path. “Excuse me,” said Cindy, looking harried. “I’ve got a meeting in the hotel.”
“Eddleson. He’s expecting me.”
The entrance cop paged through a computer printout fastened to a clipboard. “You have a room number?”
Cindy shook her head. “He said to meet him in the Grill Room at eleven.” The Grill Room at the Hyatt was the scene of some of San Francisco’s best power breakfasts.
The entrance cop gave her a careful once-over. In her black leather jacket, jeans, sandals from Earthsake, Cindy figured she didn’t look the part of someone arriving for a power brunch.
“My meeting,” said Cindy, tapping her watch. “Eddleson.”
Distractedly, the cop waved her through.
She was inside. The high glass atrium lobby, gold columns rising to the third floor. It gave her a giggle, all that high-priced talent and all those recognizable faces still outside on the street.
And Cindy Thomas was first in. Now she only had to figure out what to do.
The place was definitely buzzing: cops, business-people checking out, tour groups, crimson-suited hotel staff. The chief had said it was a homicide. A daring one, given the hotel’s prominent
She didn’t know which floor. Or when it had taken place. She didn’t even know if it involved a guest.
She may be inside, but she didn’t know shit.
Cindy spotted a cluster of suitcases unattended on the far side of the lobby. They looked as if they were part of some large tour. A bellhop was dragging them outside.
She wandered over and knelt by one of the bags, as if she were taking something out.
A second bellhop passed by. “Need a taxi?”
Cindy shook her head no. “Someone’s picking me up.” Then, sweeping a view of the chaos, she rolled her eyes. “I just woke up. What did I miss?”
“You haven’t heard? You must be the only one. We had some fireworks in the hotel last night.”
Cindy widened her eyes.
“Two murders. On thirty.” He lowered his voice as if he were letting her in on the secret of her life. “You happen to run into that big wedding last night? It was the bride and groom. Someone broke in on them in the Mandarin Suite.”
“Jesus!” Cindy pulled back.
“Sure you don’t need these brought out to the front?” the bellhop asked.
Cindy forced a smile. “Thanks. I’ll wait in here.”
On the far side of the lobby, she noticed an elevator opening. A bellhop came out, wheeling a cart of luggage. It must be a service elevator. From what she could see, the cops hadn’t blocked it off.
She wound through the lobby traffic toward the elevator. She punched the button, and the shiny gold door opened. Thank God, it was empty.
Cindy jumped in and the door closed. She couldn’t believe it. She couldn’t believe what she was doing. She pressed 30.
The Mandarin Suite.
A double homicide.
AS THE ELEVATOR CAME TO A STOP, Cindy held her breath. Her heart was pumping like a turbine.
She was on 30. She was in. She was really doing this.
The doors had opened to a remote corner of the floor. She thanked God there wasn’t a cop waiting in front of them.
She heard a buzz of activity coming from the other end of the hall. All she had to do was follow the noise.
As she hurried down the hallway, the voices grew louder. Two men in yellow jackets bearing “CSU” in large black letters walked past her. At the end of a hall, a group of cops and investigators stood in front of an open double doorway marked “Mandarin Suite.”
She wasn’t only inside; she was right in the fucking middle of it.
Cindy made her way toward the double doors. The cops weren’t even looking in her direction; they were letting in police staff who had come from the main elevators.
She had made it all the way. The Mandarin Suite. She could see inside. It was huge, opulent, with lavish decor. Roses were everywhere.
Then her heart almost stopped. She thought she might be sick.
The groom, in a bloodstained tuxedo shirt, lay there on the floor.
Cindy’s legs buckled. She had never seen a murder victim before. She wanted to lean forward, to let her eyes memorize every detail, but her body wouldn’t move.
“Who the hell are you?” a brusque voice suddenly demanded. A large, angry cop was staring directly at her face.
All of a sudden, she was grabbed and pushed hard against the wall. It hurt. In a panic, Cindy pointed to her bag and her wallet, in which a photo press credential was displayed.
The angry cop began leafing through her IDs and credit cards as if they were junk mail.
“Jesus.” The thick-necked patrolman scowled with a face like a slobbering Doberman. “She’s a reporter.”
“How in hell did you get up here?” his partner came over and demanded.
“Get her the hell out,” Doberman barked to him. “And keep the ID. She won’t get within a mile of a police briefing for the next year.”
His partner dragged her by the arm to the main elevator bank. Over her shoulder, Cindy got a final glimpse of the dead man’s legs splayed near the door. It was awful, terrifying, and sad. She was shaking.
“Show this reporter the front door,” he instructed a third cop manning the elevator. He flicked her press ID as if it were a playing card. “Hope losing this was worth the ride up.”
As the doors closed, a voice yelled, “Hold it.”
A tall woman in a powder blue T-shirt and brocade vest with a badge fastened to her waist stepped in. The cop was nice looking, with sandy blond hair, but she was clearly upset. She let out a deep sigh as the doors closed.
“Rough in there, Inspector?” the cop accompanying Cindy inquired.
“Yeah,” the woman said, not even turning her head.
The word inspector went off like a flash in Cindy’s mind.
Cindy couldn’t believe it. The scene must be beyond awful for an inspector to be that upset. As the elevator descended, she rode the entire thirty floors just blinking her eyes and looking straight ahead.
When the doors opened to the lobby, the inspector rushed off.
“You see the front door,” the cop said to Cindy. “Go through it. Don’t come back.”
As soon as the elevator doors had closed, she spun around and scanned the vast lobby for a sight of the detective. She caught a flash of her going into the ladies’ room.
Cindy hurriedly followed her in. Just the two of them in there.
The detective stood in front of a mirror. She looked close to six feet tall, slender and impressive. To Cindy’s amazement, it was clear she had been crying.
Jesus, Jesus. She was back on the inside again. What had the inspector seen to get her so upset?
“You okay?” Cindy finally inquired in a soft voice.
The detective tensed up when she realized she wasn’t alone. But she had this look on her face, as if she were on the verge of letting it all out. “You’re that reporter, aren’t you? You’re the one who got upstairs.”
“So how did you make it all the way up there?”
“I don’t know. Luck, maybe.”
The detective pulled out a tissue and dabbed at her eyes. “Well, I’m afraid your luck’s over, if you’re looking for something from me.”
“I didn’t mean that,” Cindy said. “You sure you’re all right?”
The cop turned around. Her eyes shouted, I’ve got nothing to say to you, but they lied. It was as if she needed to do exactly that, talk to someone, more than anything in the world.
It was one of those strange moments when Cindy knew there was something under the surface. If the roles just shifted, and she had the chance, the two of them might even become friends.
Cindy reached into her pocket, pulled out a card, and placed it on the sink counter in front of the detective. “If you ever want to talk…”
The color came back into the inspector’s pretty face. She hesitated, then gave Cindy the slimmest, faintest edge of a smile.
Cindy smiled in return. “As long as I’m here…” She went up to the sink and took out her makeup kit, catching the policewoman’s eye in the mirror.
“Nice vest,” she said.
I WORK out of the Hall of Justice. The Hall, as we referred to the gray, ten-story granite slab that housed the city’s Department of Justice, was located just west of the freeway, on Sixth and Bryant. If the building itself, with its faded, antiseptic halls, didn’t communicate that law enforcement lacked a sense of style, the surrounding neighborhood surely did. Hand-painted bail bondsman shacks, auto parts stores, parking lots, and dingy cafés.
Whatever ailed you, you could find it at the Hall: Auto Theft, Sex Crimes, Robbery. The district attorney was on eight, with cubicles filled with bright young prosecutors. A floor of holding cells on ten. One-stop shopping, arrest to arraignment. Next door, we even had the morgue.
After a hasty, bare-bones news conference, Jacobi and I agreed to meet upstairs and go over what we had so far.
The twelve of us
who covered homicide for the entire city shared a twenty-by-thirty squad room lit by harsh fluorescent lights. My desk was choice — by the window, “cheerily” overlooking the entrance ramp to the freeway. It was always covered with folders, stacks of photos, department releases. The one really personal item on it was a Plexiglas cube my first partner had given me. It was inscribed with the words You can’t tell which way the train went by looking at the tracks.
I made myself a cup of tea and met Jacobi in Interrogation Room 1. I drew two columns on a freestanding chalkboard: one for what we knew, one for what we had to check out.
Jacobi’s initial talk with the groom’s parents had produced nothing. The father was a big-time Wall Street guy who ran a firm that handled international buyouts. He said that he and his wife had stayed until the last guest had left, and “walked the kids upstairs.” They didn’t have an enemy in the world. No debts, addictions, threats. Nothing to provoke such a horrible, unthinkable act.
A canvass of guests on the thirtieth floor had been slightly more successful. A couple from Chicago had noticed a man lingering in the hallway near the Mandarin Suite last night around 10:30 p.m. They described him as medium build, with short, dark hair, and said he wore a dark suit or maybe a tuxedo. He was carrying what may have been a box of liquor in his hands.
Later, two used tea bags and two empty push-throughs of Pepcid tablets on the table were the clearest signs that we’d been bouncing these questions back and forth for several hours. It was quarter past seven. Our shift had ended at five.
“No date tonight, Lindsay?” Jacobi finally asked.
“I get all the dates I want, Warren.”
“Right, like I said — no date tonight.”
Without knocking, our lieutenant, Sam Roth, whom we called Cheery, stuck his head into the room. He tossed a copy of the afternoon Chronicle across the table. “You see this?”
The boldface headline read, “WEDDING NIGHT MASSACRE AT HYATT.” I read aloud from the front page. “Under a stunning view of the bay, in a world only the rich would know, the body of the twenty-nine-year-old groom lay curled up near the door.” He knotted his brow. “What, did we invite this reporter in for a house tour of the crime scene? She knows the names, maps out the scene.”