He'd read in a book from the prison library that according to a theory by Napoleon Bonaparte, if you draw three equal triangles on the legs of any triangle and you connect up the centers of those triangles, you get another equal triangle. At the time, he'd wondered if having triangles on its legs would be heavy if the first triangle had to swim anywhere. They'd probably all drown.
The car light flickered as the door opened and closed. Rayborn settled into the leather of the backseat. Charlie couldn't have said if the leather was soft. The Buddha said that it was better to travel well than to arrive, and it was certainly possible to travel well in this car.
Rayborn said, "Take me home, Finn." He looked at the front of the car. Rayborn sighed, "You're not Finn." He leaned back into the possibly soft leather. "He's in the trunk, isn't he." It was not a question. Both hands pounded against the trunk in not-answer, but it was a good car and a good trunk. Rayborn shook his head. "Why won't you call my office?"
Charlie smiled at the rear-view mirror. "But then I wouldn't be making the world with my thoughts. I thought of you and what you said about Roman and here you are."
"It is my car." Rayborn laughed. "My driver that you've thrown in my trunk."
"I also handcuffed your security to a chain link fence in Oxnard." It was important to be truthful. To be full of truth. Although, he contained other things too that the truth covered with a lid. Like a box that held the lid down.
"So, Detective. What is it that you have gone to all this trouble to ask of me?" Rayborn leaned back in his possibly soft seat and smiled. Rayborn had lost weight. It was in his face. Or not in his face. Definitely not in his face and body. Eaten from the inside.
Charlie had been eaten from the inside once, which was why there was room to fill himself with truth. He changed lanes and clover leafed onto the 110. "As I was creating you with my mind, I thought, it doesn't make sense that you're helping me. If Roman kills you now, then you won't have six months to live. You'd be dead now. So, I asked myself, why would you want to feed me Roman? And then I thought, this would work much better if I asked you and not me."
Rayborn looked straight ahead into the mirror and smiled all the way across his face, although Charlie couldn't have been sure about the eyes. His eyes might have twinkled if there'd been light, but the back of the car was dark. It was hard to twinkle when there was no light. Rayborn said, "Terrible is the temptation to be good."
Charlie said, "Is it terrible? The temptation to be good? I want to be good. Do good actions. There's weight in actions. Our karma is formed by that weight. Like gravity. Maybe you have a gravity. I think we all have a gravity. I wonder how heavy you are and what weighs you down?"
"What did I tell you about words, Detective? They won't pull you into the light." The passing city lights flashed across the dark. "Anyway, it's a line from a play. The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Like our Russian friend. You'd like it. It's about a fruit farm. And other things." Rayborn shrugged. "I'll have someone send you tickets. You could take your partner. She always liked the theater. She played a strawberry in a school play when she was eight. Jack still has the picture."
"I'm not here to talk about Reese or her father, who come to think of it is also Reese." Charlie got into the carpool lane, because they were a carpool. Although, this wasn't a pool for cars. This was a freeway. Except where you paid. "Maybe you should invite Roman. We could all go to the play together. I've been to prison. He's been to prison. You're dying. We're all dying. We could all go out for blended coffee drinks after." This non-pool for cars carried them into a separate cement channel over the rest of the freeway. The lights of the sprawl twinkled flatly through the smog night.
Perhaps Rayborn twinkled flatly. "Roman and I don't have a play sort of relationship."
"And what kind of relationship do you have?" Charlie sped up down their cement channel.
Rayborn looked straight ahead. "Like I said, he was an investment. I was a cop and you're a cop, and now I want to help you. By sending you tickets to a play. You should really get out more. Enjoy yourself. Life's too short." Rayborn asked, "Is that all?" Although it really wasn't a question, because they both knew that it wasn't all. Charlie took Rayborn home anyway.
A teacher once told her a joke about two squaws on deer hides being equal to the squaw on the hippopotamus hide. After she'd slashed three, but not four, of his tires, she'd wondered what that equaled.
Dani handed Crews a white paper cup of coffee with one cream, two sugars and a squirt of some red fruity crap. She'd considered getting him an ironic fruit rollup, but he might have eaten it.
Cruz warmed his hands against the morning with the cup she'd given him with his typical wide-eyed, half glass empty, now I'm going to ramble look. "Do you think it looks like a sugared strawberry? I think it looks like a sugared strawberry. Although, I've always wondered, why would you sugar a strawberry? They're sweet without the sugar. Did you like strawberries when you were a kid? Once we bought strawberries from a roadside stand, but I wouldn't eat them. But I bet they were good. Big juicy strawberries. I could go for a big juicy strawberry right now. Did you really play a strawberry in a play when you were kid? Not that I mean, yeah, I really think it looks like a sugared strawberry."
This was why she wore sunglasses. So no one could see the what-the-fuck in her eyes. Apparently it came across in every other part of her, because Crews smiled at her some more while his eyes did that half full flicker thing. She did not want to know what he was thinking. If he saw her father in her. If he'd seen her father. If he'd lied when she'd asked what she'd asked. But this thinking got nothing done. This ride went all the way to the bottom. And she'd already taken this ride.
Dani scowled down at the vic, who aside from being dead had no apparent injuries. Short blonde hair in perfect sausage curls. The sort of thing that took hours. Perfect pancaked makeup. Not even a smudge. She was laid out in a sort of pleated black evening dress on a deck chair by the black and white marble pool at the Annenberg Community Beach House. Like something out of an old movie. Something noir.
Dani swallowed some coffee, let the scalding liquid battle it out with the vodka of the night before, as she crouched down. She could still feel the after affects of the night before, of fighting morning gridlock on the PCH getting here, but now it was all beach sunshine and stupid palm trees. If she said something Crewes would start going on about only now is now and right now she had a hangover that exercise couldn't cure. She said, "No, I don't think it looks like a sugared strawberry." She examined the wet not at all sugared strawberry heart in the vic's hands. Not her heart, that would make sense, but no, the vic's heart was still under the vic's evening dress. Someone else's heart. Dani touched the vic's wrists gently. "Her hands are tied together with clear ties." She looked up, and she was talking to no one. Forensics, who snapped a picture, smirked at her. She did not shoot Forensics. She stood up and looked for her partner.
Crews had wandered away to examine a giant sandcastle because he had the attention span of a six year old, and she was not his mother. Except when he didn't. She walked over to the castle. She was just stretching her legs. Five foot tall sand castle that the ocean was just going to knock over, and she was not going to say anything, because this was probably Zen and she did not care. Crews stared at the castle. She stared at the castle. It was a sand castle. She asked because she wanted to know. "What do you see, Crews?"
He pulled his non-regulation knife out of his overpriced suit pocket. Flicked it open with his thumb and pointed. "Strawberries." He tiled his head right and then left. "That is some beautiful workmanship. Real pride in this castle." Halfway down the castle, she saw it then. There was a spot of pink sand. A tiny spot. They stood there and looked at it. He said, "This castle took a lot of time to build. A lot of love."
Dani looked out at the ocean. The seaweed lines were dry and swarming with flies. Tide was coming in. "A long time to build."
He cut into the middle of the top tower. A sand arch crumbled and a pale hand tumbled out. Crews looked back at her. "Looks like we found the our heart doner."
"Looks like." She sipped her coffee and welcomed its burn on the roof of her mouth.
Some mornings she got up, and she was scalene and nothing approaching rational. She liked it that way.
Rayborn was an asshole. He'd been an asshole when he'd caught her sneaking peppermint schnapps when she was a kid. He'd been an asshole at all those horrible Wednesday night dinners growing up. Smiling at mom and asking about her plans for Christmas or Easter or Eid. He asked and then he'd leaned back smiling while the verbal bomb shells went off and shrapnel words shredded the room. He'd been with her father in SWAT and knew how to aim. He was an asshole then, and he was an asshole right now.
She folded her arms against his eyes and said, "You look like crap." The word was a whip crack. A back off. Except she'd called him. She'd invited herself to his expensive boat in the harbor, and in that moment, she was glad that Crews didn't own a boat or she just might have to shoot him herself. Except she was here about Crews. And not about Crews. She had a question that she didn't want to ask. That she'd already asked. Gotten lies for truth.
Rayborn sat down slowly in a deck chair. Racked an impressive series of coughs. "Yeah, kiddo. With what I've got, looks like I'll have to take a miss on your mom's lamb Tass Kebab." He pulled a champagne bottle out of its bucket and removed the cage from around the cork in quick neat motions. He smiled at her over the top and clamped this metal vice thing around the cork. Twisted. The champagne bottle opened with a soft pop and exhaled frost. He smiled at her.
He hadn't been to her parents' house in years. Long before she'd stopped going for the weekly torture. But still he smiled at her like they were best friends. Such good friends that he poured her a glass of champagne from that damn bottle on his damn table and held it out to her like he expected her to take it. It was in his eyes that he knew. Because, of course, he'd heard, like she gave a crap who knew what about her. Not that it was anyone's business but hers. He held out the glass and he said, "It's Cristal. Price has gone up since those rappers started drinking it like water, but what the hell. It's not like I can take it with me." He looked at her like they were in a club. Like there was a secret that they shared. Like her parents were just in the next room, but he'd slip her a shot of booze if she wanted. If she asked. All she had to do was ask.
She took the glass and she held it in her fist like she was going to shove it through his skull, which she kind of wanted to do. She slammed it back and felt a certain pride that however good or bad it was, the taste was wasted on her. She felt the familiar courage take hold of her. Not from the alcohol, which was hardly enough to give her a buzz. She set the glass down on the table just hard enough to chip. She gave him a thin smile back to slice through his.
"So, what did you want to see me about?" He leaned back in his chair and smiled like some old uncle. He was not her uncle. They were not friends.
She wished that she had another glass then, or a fifth of vodka. Thick and slightly slow from living its half life in the freezer. But she didn't, and she'd invited herself here.
He spun his own glass between his fingers and watched her over the top. "You want to know if I've seen your father? Or is there something else that you're here to know?"
Her question hovered in her mouth. She didn't ask it. She glared at him. She turned away from him and glared at the clean harbor where no one was sitting in their own vomit waiting for their next fix. At least not on deck. Below deck, they were all powerless.
In that moment, she decided that she was not going to give Rayborn her question. But when he said, "Have a seat kiddo. Have another glass." She sat down and let him give her more champagne punishment. This wasn't the first time she'd come with questions that she didn't ask. It wouldn't be the last. At least until he died. She raised her glass to him then and smiled. Drank it all down.
He'd have preferred to be the 90 in a 30-60-90.
Rayborn never brought Roman to his rooftop home with its view of the Lost Angels city. He never stood with Roman in the thick brown sunlight, while Rayborn's yellow dog swam in a blue rooftop pool. Never met with Roman on his white boat that he took out on the green water with his beautiful women.
This was fine. This was good. Roman prefered it inside. He had always preferred it inside. Even when he was a boy. It had always been this way. Everyone knew this.
Rayborn coughed as if he were dying, which Roman did not believe. Roman would not believe in Rayborn's death unless his body was spread open on the table. Unless his ribcage was spread wide into wings to expose his dead meat heart. Unless he put his gun in Rayborn's mouth and squeezed. Although, it might not be Rayborn's mouth. It might not be Roman's gun.
Roman looked at a painting of a black scorpion riding a red fox across an black-blue river. The images were vague shapes, but Roman knew that it was a scorpion. He knew that it was a fox. The fox had the same color hair as Detective New Money. Roman looked at the painting, he thought of guns and mouths, and he said, "It is a long time since you invited me here."
Rayborn had not invited Roman. He offered, and Roman took. There was a difference.
Rayborn smiled and did not tell Roman that he should smile more. Roman always smiled. He had always been happy. Ever since he was a boy. Everyone was always nice to him and he always smiled. Rayborn coughed. Roman said, "Our construction investment, it is almost done." The word 'our' was round in his mouth. He wanted to roll it like a cigarette. He wanted to smoke it so the fumes would rise up. He wanted Rayborn to cough with it.
Roman looked at the painting. Roman thought to himself that inside was better. He held 'our' in his mouth and thought that inside had a large screen t.v. and a comfortable couch. They were not sitting on the couch. Roman smiled at Rayborn and waited for him to offer one of the sandwiches on the silver tray. They were made with white bread with the crusts cut off. They were cut in triangles. Rayborn did not offer Roman a sandwich.
This was fine. This was good. Roman did not want a sandwich. These were small sandwiches. He prefered sandwiches with crusts and real bread. He had since he was a boy. It had always been this way. Everyone knew this.
Once, Rayborn offered him a black scorpion to eat. He'd fried it with his own hands. He gave it to Roman on a white plate. Roman had eaten it. He had eaten all of it. Rayborn did not give Roman a scorpion now. Instead he said, "Jack Reese's daughter came to see me the other day. She's certainly grown up. Not that I'd call her hot. Not Jack Reese's daughter." He looked at Roman out of the side of his eyes and he smiled.
Roman said, "Detective Junky. She came to see me, too." Roman's fingers did not move to take a sandwich. His lips did not stop smiling.
"Sure she did," said Rayborn with his sideways eyes. "Do you like the painting? It's the fox and the Spartan boy."
Roman did not say that he saw a scorpion, because he had not. The blue was clearly the boy's pants. The black his shirt as he held the red fox. He did not ask who the Spartan boy was. This was the purpose of the internet. That and the pornography. "No. The painting is new money. I prefer something with women. Maybe they kiss." He slid his gaze to see what Rayborn had say to that.
All he got for his trouble was, "Sure you do." Rayborn walked to the carpetted stairs. Rayborn climbed away from him. He did not look back. He did not tell him to leave. He did not tell Roman to stay. He did not invite him upstairs. Rayborn never invited Roman.
Roman looked down at the silver tray of sandwiches that he did not want. He reached out to take one. He consumed them all. They had no flavor. They were the texture of cardboard, but still he ate and smiled as he chewed. Then he left out the door into the garage full of cars that Rayborn did not drive.
It wasn't that he thought he was acute in an obtuse world. It was just that he treasured thinking that he held all the angles. Angels, too. They fell out of windows when you threw them hard enough.
Detective Junky came to see him first. She sent a very pleasant officer with a mother, who lived in Pasadena, to get him from the cell that they had put him in. The officer very carefully handcuffed him to the table, but that was normal. People had always cared about Roman's well being. It had always been that way. Ever since he was a small boy.
Roman sat in the room for a very long time by himself. He thought about pleasing things that made him happy until Detective Junky became bored. She smelled like cheap coffee and old sweat. He smiled very brightly at her. "I do not think I can hire you looking like that. Bad for business." There were grey smudges under her eyes. Her clothes had been worn for more than one day and not because of no-names sex.
"I'm not looking for a job, Roman." She stood up. She paced like she was a caged animal. A dog running round and round in a pit.
He sat very still and watched her. It was very amusing, so he laughed. "Where is your partner? I hoped that you would come to see me together. Maybe he is off looking into things that he does not tell you about. It is because he doesn't trust you. Do you think he not trust you because you are a junky or because your father framed him for murder?" He spread his fingers out on the table.
Detective Junky leaned across the table. "This time your FBI connections won't help you. You screwed up, Roman. We've got you dead to rights. But you weren't in this alone." This was not why he was here. She had other questions in the coiled tension in her shoulders, one slightly higher than the other.
He smiled some more. "It is a shame when partners cannot trust each other. Maybe you should have sex with him. Then he will trust you like your Captain trusts you."
"Shut your mouth." She wanted to hit him. She wanted to reach across the table and pull out his heart. She did not. She paced and talked until she left.
He sat at the table until another nice officer with a sister, who lived in Pomona with her husband and two children, came to take him back to his cell. He decided that he wanted both bunks. His cell mate gave him both, which was very friendly of him, but then people were always friendly with Roman.
Detective New Money came to see him last. He sent his old partner to get him from his cell. Officer Boring did not seem to want to talk about how he had betrayed Detective New Money. He cuffed Roman roughly to the same table. Roman played with the chain that connected his hands to the table. It made a sound. He had liked this sound since he was a boy. He said to Detective New Money, "I still like this room. I like this place. I have met many very pleasant people. It is a good place to meet new people."
Detective New Money smiled. More of his foolish Zen. He said, "You won't like where you're going. There's yelling and crying and a wierd laugh that sounds like a cry, and there isn't any fruit. But you already know all of that."
Roman shrugged. "I prefer to eat meat." This was true. "But I think I will take a piece of your fruit now. Did you bring me an apple? Maybe I learn about the difference between good and evil."
Officer New Money gave him a small orange. It pealed easy and pulled apart easy too. Like everything did. Officer New Money talked about eating sunshine, but it only tasted like an orange to Roman.
Then Officer New Money asked a question about a dead woman at the beach with her dead junky daughter, who owed money to a man Roman knew because junkys always owed someone, which was very boring and had nothing to do with Roman and therefore Roman did not care. The pictures were nice, not enough skin, but the blood was dark red. He smiled at a picture. "The mother has given her daughter her heart. How sweet. Do you think it would make a good Valentine's Day card?" But Detective New Money was already talking about something Zen and Roman could not see what Rayborn saw in him. He decided that he was bored with this room now.
When he ran his own circumcircle, he came back to the beginning. Fortunately, she arrived at the same point.
Reese started. Reese always started. She faced their wall. Not that it was their-their wall. It was a wall. Perhaps the wall thought that they were its detectives. They faced it so often. Placed items of importance on it.
Reese picked up Rose Lake's photo from the surveillance tapes and pinned it to not-their wall next to Patty Lake's picture. Reese said, "What do we have." It was not a question. Reese made it an answer. She said, "We've got two sisters. Patty asks for her cut of the inheritance early. Gets it. Splits. spends it all in under two years." When Reese started it was not poetry. She was not a spaceman-woman poet. She was not a detective poet. She was Reese. Even if her father was Reese too. "Patty hits the bottom fast and keeps going." She tapped the photo. "And here's Rose. Keeps her nose clean. Works hard. Then little sister Patty comes home and gets the fatted calf treatment. Rose seem pissed to you."
"She did seem upset. Definitely not in the moment." Charlie pulled an orange out of his pocket. He held it out to Reese. "Clementine. They're easy to peel and seedless. They're also known as Christmas Oranges. Want one?" It was from his orange grove. He was thinking of giving them for Christmas if he had anyone that he gave gifts to. Ted was already tired of them in boxes in the kitchen. Maybe he'd give Ted a basket of apples.
Her look said that she did not want a Clementine, but he decided that he'd send her a box of them later with a red bow. Everything was better with a red bow. Maybe not a lead pipe to the skull. Reese turned away from him. Tapped her fingers against their wall, which maybe it was their wall. They put their dead on it. That must make it theirs. She said, "Then Patty ends up full of tainted smack. Mom's heart in her hands. I gotta think it's the sister. She's got motive and she's got opportunity."
"The sand castle was a sand cathedral." He looked at the photo of the sand cathedral with its high pointed tower, the face emerging from the main sand building, on their-their wall.
"Yes, Crews, it was a sand cathedral." Her voice agreed with him. Her body said, get to the point. She wanted to be in the future where he was somewhere. He was still in the now of not knowing what. He stared at the sand cathedral until she said, "What do you see Crews?" Like starting, she always said that. When she asked, he could frame an answer.
In this now, he answered the only possible answer. "It's what I don't see."
She gave him a pointed look that could puncture. "I knew you were going to say that."
He knew that she knew he was going to say that. They did not finish each other's sentences. But she knew when he wasn't seeing something. "A lot of love went into that cathedral." He looked at their-their wall. "We need to talk to the docent, Sister Marian."
"The quadriplegic nun." She glared at him. Her whole self glared at him, except for the part that didn't. "You think the quadriplegic nun killed two people, cut out one of their hearts and then built a sand castle, no," her no came with an index finger, "cathedral over one of them." She got in his face. "Not Patty's dealer." She was close enough to breath his air. It was their air now. "Not the sister, who hated both their guts." She turned away from him to glare at their wall. "You think the quadriplegic nun killed them."
That wasn't what he'd said, but he knew they were headed to the same place when Reese crossed her arms at their-their wall.
He said the only thing he had to say. "A lot of love went into that cathedral."
He knew what he didn't see. He knew that she didn't see it too. Maybe not the same not thing he wasn't seeing. Maybe a different angle of the same not-thing, looking different from her direction.
They were not the same.
There was something missing, but they'd find it. What was important was that Reese started.
If Reese never started, then they couldn't go forward to the truth. The Buddha said that it was better to travel well than to arrive. But as long as Reese started, they were on their way.