Nocturnal: A NovelScott Sigler
ALSO BY SCOTT SIGLER
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Scott Sigler
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown
Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
CROWN and the Crown colophon are registered trademarks
of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Nocturnal / Scott Sigler. — 1st ed.
1. Detectives — California — San Francisco — Fiction. 2. Homicide
investigation — Fiction. I. Title.
813’.6 — dc23 2011040389
Jacket design by Jarrod Taylor
Jacket photograph: © Andres Rodriguez/Alamy
Author photograph: © Amy Davis-Roth, surlynamics.com
For Byrd Leavell, who makes things happen.
For Julian Pavia and the amazing job he did helping me
make this novel what it is.
And for A. Kovacs, who keeps me sane.
Other Books by This Author
Book I - People Penance
Good Morning, Sunshine
The Morning News
All in the Family
Fade In, Fade Out
Rex Wakes Up
Aggie James, Duckies and Bunnies
Van Ness and Fern
Chief Zou’s Office
The White Room
Rex Gets in Trouble
Sharrow Sends Bryan Home
Robin Gets the Call
Bryan Clauser: Morning Person
Bryan’s Dose of Reality
Pookie and His Partner
Nothing to See Here …
Robin and Spoiled Milk
Rex Gets Good News
Black Mr. Burns
Hair of the Dog
Pookie’s Pimpin’ Gear
The Babushka Lady
Robin Runs the Show
The Artist and His Subject
Pookie Phones a Friend
Mr. Sandman …
Alex Panos Gets Gone
Another Day, Another Body
The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is …
Bryan Lets Pookie Do the Talking
A Visit from Chinatown
Coal for the Engine
Like Father, Like Son
Parlar, J. —?
Too Cool for School
The Golden Gate Slasher
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
An Offer Aggie Can’t Refuse
BMB, B & P Trade Notes
Verde & the Birdman
The Long Night
Pay the Piper
Robin Has House Guests
Mr. Biz-Nass and the Arrow
Jebediah Erickson’s House
Amy Zou’s Tea Time
The Delivery Boy
Come and Play
The Rumpus Room
Book II - Monsters Sly, Pierre, Sir Voh & Fort
Pookie Gets His Friend to the Hospital
Up on the Roof
Late to the Party
Tard’s First Time
The RapScan Machine
Aggie Gets a Roommate
Fathers and Sons
A Hospital Visit
Murder Was the Case
The Hidey Hole
The Groom’s Walk
Long Live the King
A New Day
In the Maze
A Blast from Amy’s Past
Zou Talks to Bryan
Chillin’ Like a Villain
A New Need
None More Black
Home Sweet Home
Aggie Gets Out!
Bryan & Pookie Meet Aggie James
Calling in the Troops
Taking a Bullet
Into the Breach
Bryan Fights Sly, Rex, Pierre
Pedal to the Metal
All the Teeth
The Rude Awakening
Cloaks and Daggers
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Can’t You Smell That Smell?
Pookie Chang’s Last Moments
Books That Influenced This Novel
You’re not welcome here, Paul.”
Most places in the world, a statement like that sounded normal. Unfriendly, perhaps, but still common, still acceptable.
Most places, but not at a Catholic church.
“But someone’s following me,” Paul said. “And it’s cold out.” Paul’s eyes flicked left, flicked right, too fast to take anything in. He looked haunted.
That wasn’t Father Esteban Rodriguez’s problem. This man, if he could be called that, would never again be allowed in the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. Never again.
“You’ve been told,” Esteban said. “You’re not part of this church anymore.”
Paul’s eyes narrowed, cleared. For a moment, Esteban saw a glimmer of the wit that had made Paul so popular, so engaging.
“What about forgiveness?” Paul said. “That’s what we’re all about, forgiveness of our sins. Or are you better than Our Savior?”
Esteban felt rage — a rare emotion — and quickly fought to bring it under control. “I am only a man,” he said. “Perhaps a weak one at that. Maybe the Lord can forgive you your sins, but I can’t. You may not seek shelter here.”
Paul looked down. He shivered. Esteban shivered, too. San Francisco’s evening chill — a wet, clinging thing — rolled through the church door that Esteban blocked with his body.
Paul wore a saggin
g blue coat that had once probably been puffy and shiny. Maybe it had looked nice on the original owner, whomever that might be, however many years ago that was. Paul’s pants were dirty — not caked with filth, but spotted here and there with finger streaks of food, grease, other things. Years ago, this man had helped care for the homeless; now he looked like one of them.
“I have nowhere to go,” Paul said to the ground.
“That is not the church’s problem. That is not my problem.”
“I’m a human being, Father.”
Esteban shook his head. This disgusting, demonic creature before him thought himself human? “You don’t belong here. You’re not wanted here. This is a sanctuary — one doesn’t let wolves in among the sheep. Why don’t you go somewhere you do belong? If you don’t leave, I’ll call the police.”
Paul looked away, down the street. He seemed to be searching for something, something … specific. Something that wasn’t there.
“I told the police,” Paul said. “Told them someone was following me.”
“What did they say?”
Paul looked Esteban in the eyes.
“Pretty much the same thing you did, Father.”
“Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap,” Esteban said. “Hell has a special place for people like you. Leave, now.”
Sadness filled Paul’s eyes. Desperation, despair — perhaps the final understanding that this part of his life was over. Paul looked beyond Esteban, through the door to the church interior. The look of sadness changed to one of longing. Paul had spent many years in this very building.
Those days were gone forever.
Paul turned and walked down the church’s wide steps. Esteban watched him reach the sidewalk of Gough Street, then cross and continue down O’Farrell.
Esteban shut the door.
Paul Maloney hunched his shoulders high, tried to burrow his ears into his coat. He needed a hat. So cold out at night. Wind drove the fog, a fog thick enough that you could see wisps of it at eye level. He walked down O’Farrell Street, home to strip clubs, drug dealers and whores, an asphalt swath of sin and degradation. Part of him knew he belonged here. Another part, an older part, wanted to scream and yell, tell all these sinners where they would go unless they took Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The gall of Father Esteban. Hell has a special place? Maybe for Esteban, maybe for men like him who purported to preach the Word when they didn’t even understand it. God loved Paul Maloney. God loved everyone. Someday, Paul would stand by his side — it would be Esteban who would feel the fires.
Esteban, and the others who had kicked Paul out of the only life he’d ever known.
Paul turned left on Jones Street. Where would he go? He had a constant, churning need for human contact that continued to surprise him. Not the type of contact that had changed his life, just the normal act of a kind word, a conversation. A connection. He’d spent so many years in the church, so many years in front of a steady stream of people. Even during the long periods of study, of contemplation, his isolation was self-imposed; people were always a few rooms away. There was always someone out there to talk to if he so chose.
But for the past couple of years, no one had wanted to talk to Paul Maloney. He had to be careful everywhere he went — some of the sinners around here would pass judgment with their fists and feet.
Two in the morning. People were still on the street, especially in this part of town, but not many. No kids out at this hour. A shame.
Behind him, a noise, the sound of metal scraping lightly against brick.
Paul whirled. No one there.
His heart hammered. He’d turned thinking he would see the man with the shaggy black beard and the green John Deere ball cap. How many times had Paul seen that man in the past week? Four? Maybe five?
Please, Heavenly Father, please don’t let that man be a parent.
The sound came again.
Paul turned so fast he stumbled. What had made that scraping noise? A pipe? Maybe some bag lady pushing a cart with a broken wheel? He looked for the bearded man, but the bearded man wasn’t there.
Paul put his cold hands on his face. He rubbed hard, trying to shake away the fear. How had it come to this? He hadn’t done anything wrong, not really. He just loved so much, and now this was his life: one foot in front of the other, walking through loneliness, until he died.
“I must be strong,” he said. “I will fear no evil, because you are with me, thy—”
A whisper of air behind him, the sound of something heavy falling, the slap of shoe soles against damp concrete.
Paul started to turn, but before he could see what it was, strong hands locked onto his shoulders.
Good Morning, Sunshine
As the sun rose, the shadows crawled along the streets of San Francisco, shrinking away into the buildings that spawned them.
Bryan sat on the ledge of his apartment building’s roof, watching the dawn. Bathrobe, boxers, a cup of coffee, feet dangling six stories above the sidewalk below — a little slice of the good life. He loved his daily rooftop ritual, but normally his work ended with the rising sun. At dawn, Bryan Clauser usually went to sleep.
He rarely had to work the day shift, a perk of both his seniority and the fact that few other people wanted to pursue murder investigations from eight at night until four in the morning. His beloved night shift would have to wait, however — the Ablamowicz case had stagnated, and Chief Amy Zou had to show some kind of movement or the press would eat her alive.
When a local, loaded businessman is found floating in three separate barrels in the San Francisco Bay, the media wants answers. Zou would masterfully ration pieces of information, steadily feeding the media hounds what they wanted to hear until those hounds gradually lost interest and moved on to the next story.
Zou had a press-conference playbook so predictable that the cops she commanded had labeled the steps — Step I: Gather Information but Don’t Make Assumptions, then Step II: Put Our Senior People on the Case. She had already moved past Step III: Creation of a Multidisciplinary Task Force and sailed headlong into the media-pleasing Step IV: Assign Additional Resources. In this instance, additional resources meant pulling in the night-shift guys. Zou gave orders to Jesse Sharrow, the Homicide department captain, and Sharrow gave orders to Bryan.
So, day shift it was.
Bryan scratched at his short, dark-red beard and his hands came away wet; sometimes he forgot to dry that off. It was getting a little long — not too bad yet, but he’d have to trim it in a day or two or his look would slide from casually cool to newly homeless.
He pulled his black terrycloth robe a little tighter. Chilly up here. He sipped his coffee and looked north to his “view” of San Francisco Bay. Not much of a view, really: a postage-stamp-size space at the far end of Laguna that showed a strip of blue water, then the dark mass of Angel Island, and beyond that the faraway, starry-light-twinkling of sleepy Tiburon. He couldn’t even see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge from here — too many taller buildings in the way. Views were for the rich.
Cops don’t get rich. Not the clean ones, anyway.
People called his job “homicide inspector,” but that wasn’t how it felt to Bryan. He didn’t inspect, he hunted. He hunted murderers. It was his life, his reason for being. Whatever might be missing from his world, those things faded away when the hunt began. As corny as it sounded, this city was his home and he was one of its protectors.
He’d been born here, but his dad had moved around during Bryan’s childhood and teenage years. Indianapolis for grade school, Atlanta in junior high, Detroit for his freshman and sophomore years. Bryan had never really felt at home anywhere, not until they moved back to the city for his junior year in high school. George Washington High. Good times.
From his robe pocket, his cell phone sounded the tone of an incoming two-way message. He didn’t have to check who it was, because only his partner used that feature. Bryan raised the phone to his ear and th
umbed the two-way button, the bee-boop sound chiming when he called out, the opposite boo-beep sound signaling Pookie calling in.
“I’m ready,” Bryan said.
“No, you’re not,” Pookie said. “You’re probably up on your roof drinking coffee.”
“No, I’m not,” Bryan said, then took a sip.
“You probably aren’t even dressed.”
“Yes, I am,” Bryan said.
“You’re an L-L-W-T-L.”
Pookie and his made-up acronyms. Bee-boop: “What the hell is an L-L-W-T-L?”
Boo-beep: “A lying liar who tells lies. It puts on the clothes, or it gets the horn again.”
Bryan drained the coffee mug and set it on the ledge to his left. Three other mugs were already sitting there. He made a mental note to grab them the following night. He usually didn’t bother with the orphaned mugs until there were five or six sitting there like a little ceramic calendar marking the last time he’d bothered to clean up after himself.
He hurried to the fire escape and started down to his apartment. If he wasn’t down on the street by the time Pookie’s Buick rolled up, the man would lean on the horn until Bryan came out. Bryan’s neighbors just loved Pookie Chang.
The damp metal steps felt cold on Bryan’s bare feet. Two flights down he reached the narrow landing just outside his kitchen window and climbed inside.
His kitchen was so small you couldn’t fit two people in there and open the fridge at the same time. Not that he ever had two people in the kitchen. Six months he’d lived in the one-bedroom, and he still hadn’t unpacked most of his boxes.
Bryan dressed quickly. Black socks, black pants and a black T-shirt. His black Bianchi Tuxedo shoulder holster came next, followed by a nylon forearm knife sheath. He scooped up his weapons from his coffee table. Tomahawk tactical fighting knife for the forearm sheath. SOG Twitch XL folding knife, clipped inside the pants to the left of the crotch, hidden from sight but within easy reach. Sig Sauer P226 in the holster. The SFPD issued the .40-caliber version to the entire force. It wouldn’t have been his first choice for a main weapon, but that’s what they gave you and that’s what you carried. The shoulder holster was equipped with two additional magazine pouches and a small handcuff holster. Bryan dutifully filled these as well.
Where a lot of cops carried a backup piece in an ankle holster, Bryan wanted the full effect of an onion field gun — a gun that might be missed by perps should he be taken hostage. His was a tiny Seecamp LWS32, a .32-caliber pistol so small it fit in an imitation wallet and slid into his back left pants pocket. He’d actually been a hostage once, been at the mercy of a perp who’d missed several days of meds. Bryan never wanted to experience anything like that ever again.