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45

Hood sat on the dais in Captain Wytes fortress in Long Beach. The room was dark except for scattered indicator lights in red and blue, some blinking and some not. Outside the great cranes of the Port of Long Beach hovered over the containers and the powerful lights made the port look as if it were the most important place in all the night.

He heard the elevator moan. His Glock sat on the table next to one of Wytes custom computers, a brushed aluminum masterpiece that shivered with subtle colors even in the near darkness of the room.

Hood heard the elevator come to a stop, then the door slide open. Wyte stepped from the lighted box, a leather briefcase in one hand and a bottle-sized brown paper bag in the other.

He went to the wall and turned on the lights low, then adjusted them lower. He had taken just two steps toward Hood when he realized he was being watched and he tried to not react. Hood placed his hand on his pistol as he spoke.

Ive got a weapon in my hand, Captain.

Wyte stopped and looked up at him.

This is private property and you are trespassing.

Youre a sworn peace officer. Within the Sheriffs Department you have fewer rights than a convicted rapist.

Youve been talking to IA.

I have.

Wyte nodded to the space around him. All of this can and will be explained. I look forward to it.

Me, too.

Suzanne started you down this path, no doubt. Something about a computer in the safe house, right?

Hood shrugged.

Charlie, she should never have gone after blood diamonds.

You shouldnt have either. All those lives for forty-five grand? What a fuckin waste.

You have no idea of the truth.

I know a lie when I hear it.

Why are you here, Charlie?

Just to see the look on your face.

Lets talk.

Lets.

Drink?

First, say hello to some friends of mine.

One of the IA pack turned up the lights and the others emerged from their respective corners and shadows. Wyte broke for the elevator, but one of the scruffy undercovers shot him straight in the chest with a Taser. Wyte flew backward with a scream and crashed to the floor. The briefcase went one way and the bottle went the other, exploding when it hit. It looked to Hood as if Wyte had been struck by lightning. The cops disarmed him and cuffed him and dragged him upright and dumped him onto the leather sofa below the dais that Suzanne had described to Hood.

Hood stood and holstered his sidearm, went down the stairs then through a side door.

A short hallway led to another room, a windowless, high-ceilinged warehouse filled with neat rows of industrial shelving nearly twenty feet high. Hood saw the big rolling platform ladders like in a home improvement store. Hundreds of televisions, DVD players, computers and peripherals, telephones, faxes, stereo equipment, cameras, musical instruments, coffeemakers, toys-all new and still in their boxes. Near the big roll-up door in the back he saw the pallets heaped with cases of liquor and wine and beer and soft drinks and candy, wrapped in heavy translucent packing plastic. Pallets of tile and car wheels and cigarettes. Pallets of porno magazines and service china and sprinkler heads and hand tools and ready-to-assemble bicycles and swimming pool chlorine and extra-virgin olive oil. Bins of granite and marble and electrical cable and shiny new copper pipe.

Hood shook his head and walked back out to where the cops were interviewing Wyte. He walked past them looking at no one, took the elevator down and drove home.



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