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The detective rubbed the knife scars on his fingers. Etch could tell Kelsey wanted to say something, some half-formed doubt fluttering in his throat.

Etch decided to beat him to the punch. “Santos’ death will raise questions. Also, you know about the autopsy report, the rumors about the murder weapon being a nightstick.”

Kelsey nodded.

“Ana would’ve investigated that,” Etch said. “She wouldn’t have been afraid to bust a cop, even if nobody in the department ever trusted her again. She would’ve done whatever she could to save Arguello.”

Etch let the words slip under Kelsey’s mind like a crowbar.

Even if nobody in the department ever trusted her again.

Etch’s career was ending. He had nothing to lose. Kelsey was a different story.

“I came on in ’87,” Kelsey said. “I had a nightstick like that. A lot of times . . . things happened. People looked the other way. It wasn’t like now.”

“No,” Etch agreed.

“But no cop would shoot one of our own. Somebody tried to kill Ana. Arguello is the one who ran. He and Navarre are out of control.”

“Miss Lee will not see it that way. If she follows Ana’s line of inquiry . . . it may be very easy for her to pin blame on the department.”

“Can’t let her. We need to bring in Navarre and Arguello, one way or the other.”

Etch put on his best aggrieved face—the even-keeled lieutenant, trying to restrain the hot-tempered subordinate. He’d had a lot of practice playing that role opposite Kelsey. “We agreed to a forty-eight-hour delay before we publicize the DNA match.”

“Navarre won’t turn in his friend.”

“Even so,” Etch said, “if we make the DNA public, and the White family finds out . . .”

Kelsey had to believe this was his idea. He had to believe Etch hated it.

“I want to do the press conference tomorrow morning,” Kelsey said. “We can’t afford another day like today.”

Etch gazed at the curb. “Twenty-four hours early. I don’t know, Kelsey. I can’t sign off on that.”

“Are you going to stop me?”

Etch said nothing.

“First thing in the morning, then,” Kelsey said.

Etch watched as his predictable tank stormed off toward the Arsenal Street Bridge.

AFTER THE CRIME SCENE CLEARED, ETCH drove north into Olmos Park. He parked at the ridge above the dam and stared at the lights of San Antonio.

He needed to go home. He needed sleep.

But there was so much to decide.


He had called the hospital, a confidential talk with the doctor: Ana was expected to pull through. By tomorrow evening, it was possible she’d be conscious, and able to tell who shot her.

Etch exacted grave promises from the doctor that the information not be shared, for Ana’s own safety. The doctor promised, clearly moved by Etch’s concern. Etch hung up. Then he cursed Ana for inheriting her mother’s toughness.

He couldn’t do anything about her tonight. He was too tired. The men on guard duty would find it odd if he simply showed up. But tomorrow . . . Etch had already volunteered to take the morning shift by himself.

Everyone knew Ana was his favorite, his protégée. They imagined him by her bedside, holding her hand, waiting anxiously for her eyelids to flutter open.

He would wait anxiously, all right. He would see for himself how Ana looked. Then he could decide.

He rested his hand on the empty seat next to him. He remembered the night he and Lucia had made love here, at this very spot, for the first time.

They had shared their secrets. She had cried, weeping out years of frustration. Finally, Etch remembered thinking. Finally, she will open up.

And it seemed like she had, at first. She made love with a hunger that left him breathless . . .

You shot my daughter, Lucia said, somewhere in the back of his mind.

Etch tried to insist: He hadn’t meant to.

He had rotated Ana to cold case because it was standard routine, given her a stack of old homicides, never dreaming that she’d come across Lucia’s handwritten report, and see, behind the words, some truth about why her mother had fallen apart.

Ana had sensed the connection immediately, though she hadn’t understood it.

Etch discouraged her, but she kept asking questions. He ran out of excuses for postponing the DNA test. She started pulling away from him, looking at him differently.

And inside, the old anger started to build. After all he had done for Ana, after all her mother had sacrificed . . . Ana had nearly ruined her career by marrying a criminal. She had repaid Etch’s trust by digging into the one case he absolutely could not let her solve.

Finally, he had fixed the evidence. He had thrown some convenient facts her way about her husband’s dealings with Frankie White. Then, and only then, he let her do the DNA test.

And why not? If he could save Ana from her marriage, remove Ralph Arguello, and protect his own secrets all in one act, why the hell not?

Only she hadn’t believed it. She had refused to accept hard evidence.

And so Etch had gone to her house that night to push and provoke. To prove Ralph was a killer. He had learned that lesson from Lucia. Make them aim at you, then shoot them down. He hadn’t meant to find Ana alone. He certainly never dreamed she would corner him like that.

If he could take it back . . .

You’re lying to yourself, Lucia said. If you wanted to hurt Ralph Arguello, you could have done so years ago. Same with the Whites. If you wanted to hurt them, you’ve had chances. It’s not them you’re mad at. You meant to do exactly what you did. That’s why you took a .357, the same make as Arguello’s gun.

“Not true,” he said aloud. “I never meant to hurt her. She’s your daughter. She’s the only thing left of you.”

Exactly, Lucia said. Exactly.

He closed his eyes, tried to change Lucia’s voice. He wanted to remember the night they’d made love, the night he’d decided they might actually have a chance together. For a few weeks, before Frankie’s murder, it had seemed possible.

Everything I’ve done, I did to protect you, Etch said.

Even that is not true, Etch, Lucia said. Even that.

He opened his glove compartment. The small glass vial was still there, the one he’d brought with him on his first visit to Ana’s bedside.

Tomorrow, he told himself. Tomorrow, he would know what to do.

He drove toward home, the ghost of his partner riding beside him, silent and disapproving.

Chapter 12


Ralph, Maia and I stood in a semicircle around our prize.

The sauna room was tiled in milky white. Every drop of water or creak of the pipes echoed. Even White’s anemic voice resonated. The air was thick and warm. I was getting nostalgic for the tamale truck.

In the middle of the floor, the hit man knelt, his hands tied behind his back. His face had had a close encounter with a steering wheel. His left eye was swollen shut. I wasn’t inclined to feel sorry for a guy who’d tried to murder my girlfriend, but he was doing a pretty good job looking pathetic.

“Titus Roe,” Ralph said. “Washed-up assassin.”

“I know who he is.” Guy White leaned forward on his cane.

He looked like he’d been made up for the party by a skilled mortician. His wasted face glowed with an unnatural mix of rouge and cream. His silver hair was freshly trimmed. His collar was starched, his tuxedo perfectly pressed, the shoulders padded. No doubt this was supposed to give the impression that Guy White was still healthy and powerful. Instead, he reminded me of some frail, soft-bodied creature slipped into a shell much too large for him.

Alex Cole stood at his side. His tuxedo matched Mr. White’s down to the cuff links.

Madeleine was not present. As soon as we pulled into the gates, she’d been summoned for some “words with her father,” and we hadn’t seen her since.

“Roe was a suspect in Frankie’s case,” Ralph said. “The cop Drapiewski told us that. Now he’s tried to kill Maia.”

“And he refuses to speak,” White observed. “How surprising.”

Roe said nothing. He was doomed, and he knew it. His slumped posture told me he was conserving his energy for the last thing that would matter—withstanding pain.

“He’s a pawn,” Maia said.

A faint scowl played on White’s lips. “I respect your opinion, Miss Lee. But a pawn for whom? That’s what we need to know.”

White held out his palm. Alex placed a nine-millimeter pistol in it.

White checked the magazine of the gun. “Twelve shots. They can be measured out judiciously, I think.”

He offered the gun butt-first to Maia.

“No,” she told him. “I’m not going to be party to torture.”

“This man tried to kill you.”

“He’s an incompetent. Someone forced him to do it. He’s a diversion.”

White studied Maia, as if noticing small, unfortunate flaws in an otherwise valuable vase. “So . . .”

He turned to Ralph. “Titus Roe may be the man who shot your wife. At the very least, he is our best lead to find the one who did.”

“Yeah.” Ralph’s voice was ragged.

“Mr. Arguello—Ralph—I understand you want to separate yourself from your past life, now that you have a family.” White’s face took on a look of sympathy that seemed as unnatural as the makeup. “Trust me, my boy, you can’t. Neither of us can.”

He offered Ralph the gun.

All I could think: This was my fault. I had brought Titus Roe here.

I hadn’t looked any further than my gut reaction—to protect Maia by bringing her closer to me, to confront the man who’d dared to shoot at her. I hadn’t thought through the obvious: what would happen to the shooter once he was in Guy White’s grasp.

Water pipes shuddered. Somewhere above, someone was running a faucet, washing hands or scrubbing a wine stain from party clothes.

Ralph took the gun.

“Ralph, no,” I said. “Don’t.”

“I should return to my party,” White said. “Miss Lee, Mr. Navarre, accompany me.”

“Ralph,” I said, “wait—”

“Go on, vato.” He looked at the nine-millimeter pistol in his hand as if it were a new part of him, a prosthetic limb he’d have to learn to live with. “You don’t want to see what I’m cut out for.”

“You heard him, Navarre.” Alex smiled at me. He brushed his tuxedo jacket so I could see the other gun tucked in his cummerbund. No shortage of persuasion tools in the White household. “You need to enjoy the party.”

I left my best friend alone with the hit man, Ralph’s voice echoing richly against the tiles as he told Titus Roe he had five seconds to begin talking.


She stormed out the double glass doors, down the veranda steps into a throng of guests. Some of the tuxedoed men I recognized as business magnates, some politicians, some criminals. Mariachis strolled across the back lawn playing “Feliz Navidad.” Luminarias glowed along the walkways. The pavilion tent was lit up white. The woods glittered with Christmas lights.